ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 146

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Jan. 8: Blinken says normalization possible, but requires ending war, pathway to Palestinian state

Rocket barrage triggers sirens across southern, central Israel; no reports of injuries * Netanyahu and Gallant: War won’t end soon * Blinken lands in Israel * Ground op toll at 176

  • US Secretary of State Antony Blinken walks on the tarmac before departing for Tel Aviv, during his week-long trip aimed at calming tensions across the Middle East, at the airport in Al Ula, Saudi Arabia, January 8, 2024. (Evelyn Hockstein/Pool Photo via AP)
    US Secretary of State Antony Blinken walks on the tarmac before departing for Tel Aviv, during his week-long trip aimed at calming tensions across the Middle East, at the airport in Al Ula, Saudi Arabia, January 8, 2024. (Evelyn Hockstein/Pool Photo via AP)
  • US President Joe Biden delivers remarks at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, on January 8, 2024, where nine worshippers were killed in a mass shooting by a white supremacist in 2015.  (AP Photo/Mic Smith)
    US President Joe Biden delivers remarks at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, on January 8, 2024, where nine worshippers were killed in a mass shooting by a white supremacist in 2015. (AP Photo/Mic Smith)
  • IDF troops operate in Gaza in a handout image published January 8, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
    IDF troops operate in Gaza in a handout image published January 8, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, speaks to IDF reservists during a visit to the northern border town of Kiryat Shmona on January 8, 2024 (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, speaks to IDF reservists during a visit to the northern border town of Kiryat Shmona on January 8, 2024 (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)
  • A vehicle that was carrying a senior Hezbollah member burns after it was hit in an alleged Israeli strike in southern Lebanon on January 8, 2024 (screencapture/ X:  used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
    A vehicle that was carrying a senior Hezbollah member burns after it was hit in an alleged Israeli strike in southern Lebanon on January 8, 2024 (screencapture/ X: used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
  • An Israeli airstrike light the skyline of Khan Yunis, pictured from Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip late on January 7, 2024 (Photo by AFP)
    An Israeli airstrike light the skyline of Khan Yunis, pictured from Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip late on January 7, 2024 (Photo by AFP)
  • IDF troops operate in Gaza in a handout image published January 8, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
    IDF troops operate in Gaza in a handout image published January 8, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Smoke rises over buildings on the outskirts of the southern Lebanese border village of Khiam following reported Israeli strikes on January 7, 2024. (Rabih Daher/AFP)
    Smoke rises over buildings on the outskirts of the southern Lebanese border village of Khiam following reported Israeli strikes on January 7, 2024. (Rabih Daher/AFP)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s events as they happened.

Blinken speaks with UN’s new humanitarian coordinator for Gaza

The US State Department says Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with the UN’s new coordinator for humanitarian and reconstruction in the Gaza Strip.

According to the State Department, Blinken and Sigrid Kaag called for “strengthening the coordination mechanism delivering humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza, and facilitating assistance to the northern part of the Gaza Strip to enable the return of displaced people.”

“They emphasized a shared commitment to reach the most vulnerable including urgently expanding the entry of aid and commercial goods into Gaza, increasing use of localized aid to meet immediate needs, and enhancing funding for humanitarian assistance,” says the readout from the State Department.

The State Department statement is released following Blinken’s arrival in Tel Aviv, where he’s slated to meet with Israeli leaders to discuss the ongoing war against Hamas.

Jordan launches strikes in Syria on Iran-linked drug smugglers — intel sources

AMMAN — Jordanian jets conducted four strikes inside Syria early Tuesday in the second such raid within a week against suspected farms and hideouts of Iran-linked drug smugglers, regional intelligence sources say.

Jordan’s army has stepped up a campaign against drug dealers after clashes last month with dozens of people suspected of links to pro-Iranian militias, who were carrying large hauls over its border with Syria along with weapons and explosives.

Jordan and its Western allies have blamed Lebanon-based, Iran-backed Hezbollah and other pro-Iranian militia who control much of southern Syria as being behind the surge in smuggling.

Iran and Hezbollah have dismissed the allegations as a Western plot against Syria, which itself denies complicity with Iran-backed militia which opponents link to its security forces.

The sources confirm reports by Syrian newsportal Suwayda 24 that three strikes targeted leading drug dealers in the towns of Shaab and Arman in Sweida province near the Jordan-Syria border. The fourth strike hit a farm near the village of Malah.

Last Thursday, Jordan hit similar locations in Sweida, where officials suspect much of the cross-border smuggling operations take place.

Pentagon says no plans to withdraw US troops from Iraq

Illustrative: US Army soldiers stand outside their armored vehicle on a joint base with the Iraqi army, south of Mosul, Iraq, Feb. 23, 2017. (Khalid Mohammed/AP)
Illustrative: US Army soldiers stand outside their armored vehicle on a joint base with the Iraqi army, south of Mosul, Iraq, Feb. 23, 2017. (Khalid Mohammed/AP)

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon says it’s not currently planning to withdraw its roughly 2,500 troops from Iraq, despite Baghdad’s announcement last week it would begin the process of removing the US-led military coalition from the country.

“Right now, I’m not aware of any plans (to plan for withdrawal). We continue to remain very focused on the defeat ISIS mission,” Air Force Major General Patrick Ryder tells a news briefing, using an acronym for Islamic State. He adds that US forces are in Iraq at the invitation of its government.

Ryder says he’s also unaware of any notification by Baghdad to the Department of Defense about a decision to remove US troops, and refers reporters to the US State Department for any diplomatic discussions on the matter.

Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani’s office announced on Friday the moves to evict US forces following a US drone strike in Baghdad that was condemned by the government. The Pentagon said the strike killed a militia leader responsible for recent attacks on US personnel.

Sudani’s office released a statement saying a committee would be formed to “put arrangements to end the presence of the international coalition forces in Iraq permanently.”

“We stress our firm position in ending the existence of the international coalition after the justifications for its existence have ended,” Sudani was quoted as saying in the statement.

The US strike on Thursday, which came four years after another one in Baghdad that killed a prominent Iranian general, triggered outrage among Iran-aligned groups which demanded the government end the presence of the coalition in Iraq.

The strike was pre-authorized by US President Joe Biden and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin before the latter was admitted to a hospital on New Year’s Day, where he remains.

The US has 900 troops in Syria in addition to its troops in Iraq on a mission it says advises and assists local forces trying to prevent a resurgence of Islamic State, which in 2014 seized large parts of both countries before being defeated.

Since the Israel-Hamas war began in October, the US military has come under attack at least 100 times in Iraq and Syria, usually with a mix of rockets and one-way attack drones.

Sudani has limited control over some Iran-backed factions, whose support he needed to win power a year ago and who now form a powerful bloc in his governing coalition.

Last month, the United States also carried out retaliatory air strikes in Iraq after a drone attack by Iran-aligned militants that left one US service member in critical condition and wounded two others.

Herzog speaks with Harris, hails US backing for Israel’s ‘right and duty to defend itself – on all its borders’

US Vice President Kamala Harris shakes hands with President Isaac Herzog as they speak to the media prior to a meeting at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, July 19, 2023. (SAUL LOEB / AFP/File)
US Vice President Kamala Harris shakes hands with President Isaac Herzog as they speak to the media prior to a meeting at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, July 19, 2023. (SAUL LOEB / AFP/File)

President Isaac Herzog spoke with US Vice President Kamala Harris earlier today, their offices say.

“I was pleased to speak this evening with US Vice President Kamala Harris who stressed the steadfast commitment of US President Joe Biden along with her own and that of the Administration, to the well-being and security of the State of Israel,” Herzog tweets.

“I thanked her for the US’s continued support for Israel’s right and duty to defend itself — on all its borders. I also thanked her for the US’s ongoing efforts to see all the hostages returned home, which must be an urgent priority for the whole world,” he adds.

The White House readout repeats old talking points, saying that Harris “reiterated our steadfast support for Israel and its right to defend itself in the face of threats from Hamas, and she again condemned Hamas as a barbaric terrorist organization that perpetrated a horrific massacre on October 7 and engaged in brutal sexual violence.”

The pair “discussed efforts to prevent the conflict in Gaza from spreading to the broader region, including in Lebanon and the Red Sea.”

They also “spoke about the shift to lower intensity operations in Gaza, securing the release of all hostages, and the importance of protecting of civilian lives and increasing humanitarian assistance into Gaza,” the White House readout says, adding that they also “discussed ongoing planning for post-conflict Gaza and progress made on that front.”

Harris “reiterated US positions, including that Israel must be secure, there must be no forced displacement of Palestinians from Gaza, and the Palestinians must have a hopeful political horizon,” the White House says, adding that the vice president “also reiterated that the United States wants to see a more integrated, connected and prosperous Middle East.”

Israeli TV airs new footage from GoPro cameras of Hamas terrorists who invaded Israel uninhibited on Oct. 7

Footage from the GoPro camera of a Hamas operative on October 7, 2023. (Screen capture/X)
Footage from the GoPro camera of a Hamas operative on October 7, 2023. (Screen capture/X)

Channel 12 airs 30 minutes of new footage uncovered from the GoPro cameras of Hamas operatives, showing the early hours of the terror group’s October 7 onslaught.

The footage shows how, within minutes, the Hamas terrorists managed to bust through the fences, barriers, and walls along the Gaza border and ride into Israel in cars and motorcycles to carry out mass murder on the other side of the border completely unconfronted by Israeli security forces.

Breaking rule of ambiguity, minister says Israel behind killing of senior Hezbollah commander

Likud MK Israel Katz speaks at a conference organized by the Makor Rishon newspaper at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem, February 21, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90/ File)
Likud MK Israel Katz speaks at a conference organized by the Makor Rishon newspaper at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem, February 21, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90/ File)

Foreign Minister Israel Katz says Israel was behind the strike in southern Lebanon earlier today that killed Wissam al-Tawil, a commander in Hezbollah’s elite Radwan force.

“Regarding the attack in southern Lebanon, yes, we did take responsibility for the assassination of the commander of the Quds Force,” Katz tells the far-right Channel 14 network, which corrects him for saying Quds Force instead of Radwan force.

“This is part of the war,” says Katz.

Until then, no Israeli official had announced that the IDF was behind the killing, even if it was widely understood to be the case.

Israel typically prefers to maintain a policy of ambiguity regarding its alleged operations abroad and the new foreign minister makes a point of saying that Israel has not taken public responsibility for the strike last week that killed Hamas deputy leader Saleh al-Arouri in Beirut.

Settlers filmed stealing from Palestinian olive grove in northern West Bank

Israeli settlers allegedly stealing from Palestinian olive trees in the northern West Bank on January 8, 2024. (Screen capture/X)
Israeli settlers allegedly stealing from Palestinian olive trees in the northern West Bank on January 8, 2024. (Screen capture/X)

A fieldworker from the Yesh Din rights group filmed a pair of Israeli settlers stealing olives from a grove belonging to residents of the village of Awarta in the northern West Bank.

“As this was taking place near the settlement of Itamar, Israeli security forces vehicles drove by and did nothing to stop them,” Yesh Din says.

Report: Israel plans to tell Blinken: Gazans’ return to their homes contingent on hostage deal advancement

Families of Israelis held hostage by Hamas terrorists in Gaza who returned from talks in Qatar hold a press conference at Hostages Square, outside the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, January 7, 2024. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Families of Israelis held hostage by Hamas terrorists in Gaza who returned from talks in Qatar hold a press conference at Hostages Square, outside the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, January 7, 2024. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Israeli leaders plan to tell US Secretary of State Antony Blinken during their meetings tomorrow that they will only be willing to allow Palestinians to begin returning to their homes in northern Gaza if there is progress on the effort to return the 132 Israelis still held hostage in Gaza, the Walla news site reports.

The US has said coaxing Israel to allow Palestinians to return to their homes would be a top objective of Blinken’s during his trip along with efforts to secure the release of the hostages.

Gaza death toll climbs to 23,084, Hamas-run health ministry says

Al Jazeera journalist Wael Dahdouh mourns his son Hamza, who also worked for Al Jazeera and who was killed in an Israeli airstrike in Rafah, Gaza Strip, January 7, 2024. (AP Photo/Hatem Ali)
Al Jazeera journalist Wael Dahdouh mourns his son Hamza, who also worked for Al Jazeera and who was killed in an Israeli airstrike in Rafah, Gaza Strip, January 7, 2024. (AP Photo/Hatem Ali)

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says the war death toll has climbed to 23,084 people, while the injury toll has risen to 58,926 injured.

The ministry does not differentiate between Palestinian civilians and combatants and includes those killed by errant rockets launched by terror groups in Gaza.

Israel said last week that it has killed 8,500 Palestinian terrorists, since launching its war to topple Hamas in response to the terror group’s October 7 onslaught during which some 1,200 people were massacred and roughly 240 were taken hostage.

Houthi Red Sea attacks disrupting 20% of global shipping, including aid for Gaza — Blinken

Armed Yemenis chant slogans during a march in solidarity with the people of Gaza on November 24, 2023, in the Houthi-controlled capital Sanaa. (MOHAMMED HUWAIS / AFP)
Armed Yemenis chant slogans during a march in solidarity with the people of Gaza on November 24, 2023, in the Houthi-controlled capital Sanaa. (MOHAMMED HUWAIS / AFP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweets that Houthi attacks in the Red Sea “have disrupted or diverted nearly 20% of global shipping.”

“This increases the cost and time of moving food, fuel, medicine, and humanitarian assistance,” he adds, condemning the Houthi attacks and declaring that the Gaza conflict must not expand.

202 aid trucks entered Gaza on Monday — Israeli authorities

Trucks carrying humanitarian aid line up at the Rafah Border Crossing, Egypt, on the way to Gaza, November 19, 2023. (AP/Amr Nabil, File)
Trucks carrying humanitarian aid line up at the Rafah Border Crossing, Egypt, on the way to Gaza, November 19, 2023. (AP/Amr Nabil, File)

The COGAT military liaison to the Palestinians says that 202 trucks carrying humanitarian aid entered Gaza today after inspection by Israel.

Seventy-five percent of the trucks carried food, the rest carried water, medical supplies and shelter equipment, COGAT says

“There is no limit to the amount of humanitarian aid that can enter the Gaza Strip,” COGAT adds.

The UN says Israeli limits on fuel and targeting of areas where storage warehouses are located have severely inhibited its efforts to deliver aid.

Israel says it is inspecting hundreds of trucks a day and that the UN has simply been unable to keep up with the pace.

Blinken: Countries willing to normalize with Israel but it’ll require ending war, creating pathway to Palestinian state

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in a tent on January 8, 2024. (Saudi Press Agency)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in a tent on January 8, 2024. (Saudi Press Agency)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says after meeting with the leaders of Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi that countries in the region are interested in pursuing normalization of relations with Israel, but that it will require a clear path toward a Palestinian state.

“There’s a clear interest in the region in pursuing that, but it will require that the conflict end in Gaza and it will also clearly require that there be a practical pathway to a Palestinian state,” Blinken says.

“But the interest is there, it’s real, and it could be transformative.”

Blinken, speaking to reporters in Saudi Arabia after meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the oasis town of Al Ula, says he discussed the region’s future and there was broad agreement on a few objectives.

Those included that the West Bank and Gaza should be united under Palestinian-led governance and that the region needs to work toward normalizing ties, not division or conflict.

“For that to happen, we need to see the establishment of an independent Palestinian state,” Blinken says.

“Everywhere I went, I found leaders who are determined to prevent the conflict that we are facing now from spreading,” Blinken says.

He also says that countries expressed willingness to help Gaza stabilize and revitalize, adding that Washington would work with them on what that would require and what countries are prepared to do.

While in Israel, Blinken says he “will press on the absolute imperative to do more to protect civilians and to do more to make sure that humanitarian assistance is getting into the hands of those who need it.”

He says he will also focus on efforts to bring back hostages.

Blinken lands at Ben Gurion ahead of meetings tomorrow with Israeli leaders on war

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken waves as he arrives in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, October 14, 2023. (Jacquelyn Martin/ AP)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken waves as he arrives in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, October 14, 2023. (Jacquelyn Martin/ AP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has landed at Ben Gurion Airport ahead of meetings tomorrow with Israeli leaders about the war in Gaza.

He was in Saudi Arabia and Qatar earlier today for meetings, as the Biden administration works to prevent the conflict from spreading.

“We agreed to work together and coordinate our efforts to help Gaza stabilize and recover, to chart a political path forward for Palestinians, and to work toward long-term peace and security and stability,” he said in Saudi Arabia, the sixth leg of his visit.

US envoy: China allowing antisemitic content to skyrocket on its tightly-controlled internet since Oct. 7

Spectators wave Chinese flags as military vehicles carrying DF-41 nuclear ballistic missiles roll during a parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the founding of Communist China in Beijing on October 1, 2019. (AP/ Mark Schiefelbein/ File)
Spectators wave Chinese flags as military vehicles carrying DF-41 nuclear ballistic missiles roll during a parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the founding of Communist China in Beijing on October 1, 2019. (AP/ Mark Schiefelbein/ File)

Antisemitic content on China’s tightly controlled internet has skyrocketed since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war, according to a senior Biden administration official.

“What we saw after October 7 was a drastic change in the social media within China. The antisemitism became more unplugged, more free-flowing,” US deputy antisemitism envoy Aaron Keyak tells The Washington Post.

“Because we know that the Chinese internet is not free, that’s a conscious decision by the Chinese government to allow that kind of rhetoric to be greatly increased,” Keyak says.

“This is not some kind of uptick, this was a tsunami of antisemitic rhetoric that was allowed to spread on China’s social media,” Keyak says. “This sort of drastic increase that has been sustained since October 7 coming out of China does not happen by accident.”

The Chinese government denies that it promotes or allows antisemitism to fester online.

Sirens in Sderot triggered by 14 Gaza rockets, municipality says; no injuries or damage

A picture taken from Israel's southern city of Sderot shows rockets fired from northern Gaza towards Israel on October 30, 2023. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)
A picture taken from Israel's southern city of Sderot shows rockets fired from northern Gaza towards Israel on October 30, 2023. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)

Sirens earlier this evening in the southern town of Sderot were triggered by 14 rockets fired at the town from Gaza, the municipality says.

Several of the rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, while others fell in open fields.

No one was injured and no property was damaged, the Sderot municipality says.

Police: 3 Palestinian gunmen killed during West Bank arrest raid

Weapons seized from a wanted Palestinian gunman following a raid in the West Bank town of Iktaba, January 8, 2024. (Israel Police)
Weapons seized from a wanted Palestinian gunman following a raid in the West Bank town of Iktaba, January 8, 2024. (Israel Police)

Border Police officers killed three Palestinian gunmen during an arrest raid in the West Bank town of Iktaba, security officials say.

A joint police, IDF, and Shin Bet statement says undercover Border Police officers entered Iktaba to detain a Palestinian suspected of involvement in terror activities.

It says an exchange of fire broke out between Palestinian gunmen and the troops during the raid.

“The undercover forces killed three armed terrorists who tried to escape,” police say.

The wanted man was also shot while trying to flee, police say. He was arrested and officers seized an assault rifle and handgun from him, it adds. He was handed over to the Shin Bet for interrogation.

As the troops left Iktaba, gun battles continued, during which two more Palestinians were shot by the undercover Border Police officers, the statement adds.

Star singer, Fauda actor Idan Amedi seriously wounded fighting in Gaza; father says injury not life-threatening

Star singer and actor Idan Amedi (R) with IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi, in an undated photo. (Israel Defense Forces)
Star singer and actor Idan Amedi (R) with IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi, in an undated photo. (Israel Defense Forces)

Star singer and actor Idan Amedi was seriously injured while fighting in Gaza and has been airlifted to Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer, where he is currently sedated and receiving treatment.

His cousin Ayelet posts the update on Instagram and asks for the Israeli public to pray for the recovery of Idan ben Tova (Amedi’s Hebrew name).

Amedi’s father confirms the injury to the Walla news site, but says his life is now not in danger.

The Fauda star had been carrying out reserve duty in the Combat Engineering Corps when he was injured.

He was brought to the hospital at about 4 p.m. and underwent urgent, serious and lengthy surgery, Channel 12 reports. “It can be cautiously said that he is out of life-threatening danger,” a reporter says from the hospital. “That is to say, people who arrive in conditions similar to him, mostly manage to survive injuries such as these.”

In a video message recorded last week from amid the war, Amedi urged a halt to internal dissent among Israelis: “After 90 days of fighting, we are continuing to destroy the short-range missile sites, the launch sites and the command facilities of the Hamas terrorist organization. I join my brother reservists in calling on the politicians, all the media outlets and everyone: Whoever doesn’t have something good to say, simply shut your mouths. The people of Israel live.”

IDF says carried out strike on Hezbollah operatives in southern Lebanon who were preparing to launch anti-tank missile at Israel

An IDF airstrike in Lebanon on January 8, 2024. (Screen capture/X)
An IDF airstrike in Lebanon on January 8, 2024. (Screen capture/X)

The IDF says it carried out a strike on a group of Hezbollah operatives in southern Lebanon, preparing to launch anti-tank guided missiles at northern Israel.

It says troops also hit infrastructure belonging to the terror group and shelled areas in southern Lebanon, presumably to foil planned attacks by Hezbollah.

Several projectiles were fired from Lebanon at northern Israel in the last few hours, and the IDF says it shelled the sources of fire with artillery.

IDF spokesman addresses concerns over revelation to NYT that IDF rolling back northern Gaza fighting

IDF spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari gives a statement on October 27, 2023. (Screenshot)
IDF spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari gives a statement on October 27, 2023. (Screenshot)

IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari attempts to clarify remarks he made earlier today to the New York Times, in which he said the military had “shifted a stage” to less intense combat in the northern Gaza Strip.

“There are still terror operatives and weapons in the north of the Gaza Strip, but they do not function within an organized military framework and now we operate there in [a different] way, and with a different mix of forces,” he says in an evening press conference.

“At this stage, we are focusing on the center of the Gaza Strip and the south of the Gaza Strip. This is still an intense and complex operational activity,” he says adding that the fighting in Gaza will continue throughout 2024.

Military and defense officials have said the IDF will continue intensive operations in the Strip’s center and south, while carrying out smaller operations in the north, where Hamas is largely defeated.

Hagari does not deny that the intensity of the IDF’s fighting has waned in northern Gaza.

He had come under fire for making the announcement about the shift for the first time in English to American media, and not directly to the Israeli public in Hebrew.

Chikli resigns from Social Equality Ministry to cut spending during war

Diaspora Affairs Minister Amichai Chikli at the Knesset, June 26, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)
Diaspora Affairs Minister Amichai Chikli at the Knesset, June 26, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)

Amichai Chikli has stepped down from his post as minister for social equality in an effort to limit spending on what has widely been seen as an excessive number of government offices, the continued operation of which has come under renewed scrutiny since the war.

Chikli will continue to serve as diaspora affairs minister, but will return to the Knesset in what will ostensibly force one of the extra “Norwegian” lawmakers to resign.

Hebrew media reports that Mai Golan will become the new Social Equality Minister and that her women’s advancement office, which was established just for her upon the formation of the government in December 2022, will be folded into Chikli’s old office.

Security chiefs reportedly warn Netanyahu that West Bank on brink of major deterioration

Smoke billows from burning tires as Palestinians clash with Israeli troops in the northern West Bank town of Huwara on October 6, 2023, following a funeral for a Palestinian man who the military says soldier shot for throwing a cinderblock at an Israeli-driven vehicle. (Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP)
Smoke billows from burning tires as Palestinians clash with Israeli troops in the northern West Bank town of Huwara on October 6, 2023, following a funeral for a Palestinian man who the military says soldier shot for throwing a cinderblock at an Israeli-driven vehicle. (Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP)

Security chiefs have several times warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in recent days that the West Bank is on the brink of a major escalation, Channel 12 reports.

The heightened concern comes on the heels of Israel’s withholding of hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenues that belong to the PA in addition to refusing to allow some 150,000 Palestinian workers return to their jobs in Israel and the settlements, Channel 12 says, noting Netanyahu’s refusal to hold security cabinet votes to reverse both decisions, given pressure from his far-right coalition partners.

Biden: I’m quietly working with Israel to ‘significantly’ reduce IDF presence in Gaza

US President Joe Biden delivers remarks at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, on January 8, 2024, where nine worshippers were killed in a mass shooting by a white supremacist in 2015.  (AP Photo/Mic Smith)
US President Joe Biden delivers remarks at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, on January 8, 2024, where nine worshippers were killed in a mass shooting by a white supremacist in 2015. (AP Photo/Mic Smith)

US President Joe Biden is again heckled by far-left protesters calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, this time during a speech at a church in South Carolina where a white supremacist killed nine Black worshipers in 2015.

Unfazed by the interruption, Biden responds, “I understand their passion, and I’ve been quietly working with the Israeli government to get them to reduce and significantly get out of Gaza.”

A man in the crowd then shouts, “You’re a good man”

PM defends appointment of ex-court chief hated by his right-wing base to defend Israel at The Hague

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then-Supreme Court president Aharon Barak at a September 1998 Supreme Court ceremony marking 50 years of the Israeli court system. (GPO via Wikipedia)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then-Supreme Court president Aharon Barak at a September 1998 Supreme Court ceremony marking 50 years of the Israeli court system. (GPO via Wikipedia)

Netanyahu defends his decision to appoint former Supreme Court president Aharon Barak to represent Israel before the International Court of Justice, in a case brought against it by South Africa that is accusing Jerusalem of perpetrating a genocide in Gaza.

“He’s a Holocaust survivor with international standing,” Netanyahu tells fellow Likud lawmakers during a faction meeting, amid uproar from far-right lawmakers over the decision to pick Barak, whom they blame for the current state of the Israeli judiciary, which they say has become too activist and requires an overhaul.

IDF says it killed Hamas official in Syria responsible for firing rockets at northern Israel

Illustrative: Footage purported to show a strike on the Aleppo airport in Syria, October 14, 2023. (Screenshot: X; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Illustrative: Footage purported to show a strike on the Aleppo airport in Syria, October 14, 2023. (Screenshot: X; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

The IDF says it has eliminated a Hamas official in Syria who was responsible for launching rockets at northern Israel in recent weeks.

In a statement, the IDF says Hassan Akasha was killed in the southern Syrian town of Beit Jinn. It does not elaborate on how he was killed.

It says he was behind several rocket attacks from Syria on the north on behalf of Hamas.

“We will not allow terror from Syrian territory, and it is responsible for any action that emanates its territory. We will continue to act against any threat,” the IDF adds.

Israel believes Blinken expecting to see noticeable change in humanitarian situation

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken gestures as he arrives in Abu Dhabi on January 7, 2024. (EVELYN HOCKSTEIN / POOL / AFP)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken gestures as he arrives in Abu Dhabi on January 7, 2024. (EVELYN HOCKSTEIN / POOL / AFP)

Israel believes that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expecting to come away from his meetings in Israel with tangible results, The Times of Israel has learned.

Specifically, the White House and other Western partners want a noticeable change in humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, and a major increase in the amount of aid reaching Gazan civilians.

Blinken is also coming to verify that Israel is indeed moving to the third stage of the war, as it announced today.

Israel also expects Blinken to focus on the “day after” — who will rule Gaza, who will be responsible for security, who will handle civil matters and where will funds come from.

Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer and National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi have been working on answers to the questions in recent days to prepare for Blinken’s visit.

Shtayyeh: Israel refused US proposal to solve crisis over Palestinian tax revenues

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh attends a cabinet meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah, October 16, 2023. (Jaafar Ashtiyeh/Pool Photo via AP)
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh attends a cabinet meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah, October 16, 2023. (Jaafar Ashtiyeh/Pool Photo via AP)

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh says during a cabinet meeting that Israel refused a US proposal for Norway to transfer to Ramallah the sum of the tax revenues Israel has been withholding from the PA.

Israel refused last month to transfer roughly $275 million in Palestinian tax revenues that it collects on Ramallah’s behalf, as required by the Oslo Accords. The sum amounts to what the PA allocates for services and salaries in the Gaza Strip, from which the Israeli cabinet is seeking to disconnect following the October 7 onslaught. The figure also makes up roughly 30 percent of the total monthly revenues owed to Ramallah.

In response to the decision, the cash-strapped PA refused to accept any of the funds, daring Israel to allow it to collapse in what would place Israel responsible for providing services to millions of Palestinians in the West Bank.

The US has been pressuring Israel to reverse its decision, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has refused to budge amid pressure from far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich.

Netanyahu reportedly agreed to a US proposal for Norway to send a loan to the PA amounting in the funds Israel owes to Ramallah, and then Israel would later pay Norway back for the loan.

However, Shtayyeh says that Netanyahu walked back on the agreement.

Sirens in central Israel were triggered by 8 rockets fired from southern Gaza — army

The smoke of rockets fired from the Gaza Strip toward Israel lingers above a building on January 7, 2024. (AFP)
The smoke of rockets fired from the Gaza Strip toward Israel lingers above a building on January 7, 2024. (AFP)

The sirens in central Israel earlier this evening were triggered by eight rockets fired from southern Gaza, Army Radio reports.

Three of them were intercepted by Iron Dome, while the IDF let the other five fall in open territories.

No one was reported injured as a result of the barrage.

Islamic Jihad publishes propaganda video of hostage Elad Katzir

Elad Katzir in a hostage video published by Palestinian Islamic Jihad on January 8, 2024. (Screen capture)
Elad Katzir in a hostage video published by Palestinian Islamic Jihad on January 8, 2024. (Screen capture)

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group releases a new propaganda video featuring hostage Elad Katzir.

The 47-year-old was taken hostage from Nir Oz. His mother Hanna was also taken hostage, and was released in November. His father Rami was killed on October 7.

The latest video shows Katzir mourning the death of his friend Tamir Adar and calling on the Israeli government to do more to bring about his release.

Katzir was featured in another PIJ propaganda video on December 20 alongside another hostage, Gadi Mozes.

Lebanon FM calls for implementation of Resolution 1701 to end Israel-Hezbollah tensions

Smoke rises above the southern Lebanese border village of Khiam following Israeli strikes on January 6, 2024 (Karim DAHER / AFP)
Smoke rises above the southern Lebanese border village of Khiam following Israeli strikes on January 6, 2024 (Karim DAHER / AFP)

Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Abdullah Abu Habib during a meeting with United Nations Coordinator-General in Lebanon Joanna Wronecka calls for a diplomatic solution to tensions between Israel and Hezbollah through “full implementation” of UN Security Council Resolution 1701.

“That is, through Israeli withdrawal from all occupied Lebanese territories and an end to land, sea and air violations,” he says in a statement.

Israel says Hezbollah routinely violates Resolution 1701 by bringing its forces south of the Litani River, sometimes all the way to the border with Israel.

But Lebanon points to Israel’s annexation of the northern part of the town of Ghajar, which extends past the Blue Line.

Israel carrying out unprecedented wave of deadly strikes against Iranian weapon shipments in Syria

Smoke billows above buildings after an alleged Israeli strike on the outskirts of Damascus on November 22, 2023. (AFP)
Smoke billows above buildings after an alleged Israeli strike on the outskirts of Damascus on November 22, 2023. (AFP)

Israel has been carrying out an unprecedented wave of deadly strikes in Syria targeting Iranian weapons shipments to its regional proxies, Reuters reports.

Citing six sources, including a Syrian military intelligence officer and a commander in the regional alliance backing Damascus, Reuters says that the intensification of its campaign in Syria took place after the October 7 Hamas massacre.

Israel has been striking trucks, infrastructure and operatives more frequently in more deadly strikes, according to the anonymous sources. Israel has abandoned the “rules of the game,” they say.

“They used to fire warning shots – they’d hit near the truck, our guys would get out of the truck, and then they’d hit the truck,” says the commander.

“Now that’s over. Israel is now unleashing deadlier, more frequent air raids against Iranian arms transfers and air defense systems in Syria. They bomb everyone directly. They bomb to kill.”

UAE refused PM’s request to pay 150,000 Palestinian workers barred by Israel – report

Palestinian workers line up at the entrance to the Jewish settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim, February 23, 2023. (Erik Marmor/Flash90)
Palestinian workers line up at the entrance to the Jewish settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim, February 23, 2023. (Erik Marmor/Flash90)

UAE President Mohammed bin Zayed reportedly rebuffed a request from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for Abu Dhabi to pay unemployment benefits to the Palestinian workers who Israel has refused to allow to return to their jobs since October 7.

“Ask Zelensky for money,” bin Zayed told Netanyahu, according to the Axios news site, sarcastically suggesting that the Ukrainian president could foot the bill with all of the international support Kyiv has been getting since Russia’s invasion.

“The notion that Arab countries will come in to rebuild and pay the bill for what’s currently happening is wishful thinking,” an Emirati official tells Axios.

Prior to the Hamas onslaught and subsequent war in Gaza, some 150,000 Palestinians from the West Bank had permits to enter Israel for work, according to the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT).

MBZ couldn’t believe Netanyahu thought the UAE would be willing to pay for a problem that was created due to Israel’s decision not to allow the workers in, a source familiar with the matter tells Axios.

Four hostage families release photos of their daughters shortly after they were taken captive

An inside page from the Daily Mail, January 8, 2024.
An inside page from the Daily Mail, January 8, 2024.

The families of four hostages in Gaza have released photos of their daughters taken shortly after they were taken captive by Hamas on October 7.

The photos are shared with the Daily Mail at the three-month anniversary of their captivity in an effort to intensify international pressure for a hostage deal.

Gazan detained by IDF: We waited for you to free us from Hamas tyranny, our children are dying of hunger

A group of Palestinians detained by the IDF in northern Gaza on January 8, 2024. (Screen capture/12)
A group of Palestinians detained by the IDF in northern Gaza on January 8, 2024. (Screen capture/12)

Channel 12 airs a video ostensibly leaked by an IDF source showing a group of Palestinians stripped and bound after being detained by the Israeli military in northern Gaza.

One of the detainees is heard telling the troops, “For 17 years, we’ve lived under tyranny,” ostensibly referring to Hamas.

“When you arrived, we remained in our homes because we live in peace and love peace. If we were guilty of something, we would have left our homes and fled, but we live in our homes in peace,” he says.

“I swear to God, we waited for you to free us from the tyranny.”

But now, he says, “our children are hungry, our wives are begging on the street for food. Our wives have started eating scraps. Our children have died in front of our eyes due to hunger. There’s no water. I’m sick and I cannot get any medical care.”

“You know what the situation is like in Gaza. Everything has turned upside down on us,” the man continues.

“Whose fault is that?” asks one of the soldiers filming the clip.

“Because of Hamas! Because of Hamas!” several of the detained Gazans shout.

Netanyahu and Gallant: War in the south and the north won’t end anytime soon

In this handout photo, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (R) visit an IDF Central Command base, August 1, 2023. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
In this handout photo, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (R) visit an IDF Central Command base, August 1, 2023. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

The Prime Minister’s Office releases a joint statement from Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant after their briefing to Likud lawmakers, in which they stress that neither the war in the south nor the north will end anytime soon, and that “it will continue for many months.”

“In order to continue to prosecute the war for many more months, we need international support in order to continue, and we are working to secure it,” the statement adds.

The joint statement comes amid widespread reports that Netanyahu and Gallant are barely on speaking terms.

Rocket barrage from Gaza triggers sirens in central Israel; no injuries

Screen capture from video of a rocket barrage from the Gaza Strip being intercepted over Israel, January 1, 2024. (X. Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Screen capture from video of a rocket barrage from the Gaza Strip being intercepted over Israel, January 1, 2024. (X. Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

A barrage of rockets fired from Gaza has triggered sirens in the Dan and Shfela regions of central Israel.

The Magen David Adom emergency service says it hasn’t received any immediate reports of injuries.

There are several reports of rocket impacts, though.

IDF has begun new, less intensive phase of Gaza war, spokesman says

IDF troops operate in Gaza in a handout image published January 8, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
IDF troops operate in Gaza in a handout image published January 8, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israeli military has begun a new, less intensive phase in its war against Hamas in Gaza, IDF spokesman Daniel Hagari tells The New York Times.

The transition already in place has featured fewer ground troops and airstrikes, he says.

“The war shifted a stage… But the transition will be with no ceremony. It’s not about dramatic announcements,” Hagari says, notably choosing an American news outlet to make the announcement rather than addressing the Israeli public directly in Hebrew.

The comments come hours before US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is slated to arrive in Israel, where one of his top agenda items was slated to be discussing the transition to the next phase in fighting and preventing the conflict from spreading — a goal that might have been hampered by the alleged Israeli airstrike in Lebanon earlier today that killed a senior Hezbollah commander.

It’s also unclear whether the lower-intensity fighting in Gaza will mean fewer Gazan deaths as the death count continues to rise by dozens each day.

Hagari tells NYT that the IDF will continue reducing the number of its troops in Gaza, as it began to do earlier this month.

IDF spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari gives a statement on October 17, 2023, saying that the Palestinian terror group Islamic Jihad was responsible for a rocket misfire that hit a hospital in the Gaza Strip, killing hundreds. (Screenshot)

The intensity of fighting in the northern Strip in particular has started to ebb as the IDF has shifted toward conducting more targeted raids, instead of more widescale operations, Hagari tells The Times.

The focus will now be on Hamas strongholds in central and southern Gaza, such as Khan Younis and Deir al Balah, Hagari says.

Israel is also aiming to facilitate the delivery of more humanitarian aid into Gaza, including tents to house the nearly two million people who have been displaced from their homes, the IDF spokesman says.

Hagari insists that Israel is not committing genocide, as the International Court of Justice readies to adjudicate on the matter later this week. The military spokesman says the IDF takes precautions to avoid civilian casualties, while Hamas embeds its fighters among civilians and “butchered” over 1,200 people on October 7.

Smotrich: Mistake to put keys in Aharon Barak’s hands at The Hague

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich holds a press conference in Jerusalem, December 26, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/FLASH90)
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich holds a press conference in Jerusalem, December 26, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/FLASH90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s choice of retired Supreme Court President Aharon Barak as Israel’s appointee to the 15-judge panel at the International Court of Justice in The Hague was made “without consulting us,” Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich says, joining a chorus of critical voices on the right.

Speaking with reporters ahead of his Religious Zionism party’s faction meeting in the Knesset, Smotrich argued that “putting the keys in the hands of Aharon Barak, who is an honorable man, is a mistake” and said that “this is a decision made by the prime minister without consulting us.”

Responding to reports “that we supposedly ended the war and moved to the stage of special operations,” Smotrich says that the war “cannot end before we have fully achieved the goals of the war and that is first of all the destruction of the political and military capabilities of Hamas and of course the return of the hostages.”

Smotrich’s comments come after National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir rails against Yoav Gallant after the defense minister tells the Wall Street Journal that the IDF will be shifting from what he called the “intense maneuvering phase of the war” toward “different types of special operations” in northern Gaza.

Smotrich also defends himself from criticism of his recommendation of “voluntary” Palestinian emigration from Gaza, arguing that “this is not about deporting residents by coercion or force” and that many Palestinians want to move abroad due to the humanitarian situation in the coastal territory.

“If I’m right and many want to leave, it’ll happen” and if not then it won’t, he says.

Smotrich also pushes back against US criticism of his refusal to allow the transfer of Palestinian tax funds to Gaza.

“Is it conceivable that Washington would transfer hundreds of millions of dollars every month to Al Qaeda?” he asks.

State Comptroller urges MKs set to approve 2024 budget to better address rising cost of living

State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman, undated. (State Comptroller's Office)
State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman, undated. (State Comptroller's Office)

State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman urges lawmakers to address the deficiencies in tackling the rising cost of living in Israel, as the cabinet is set to approve a 2024 wartime budget later this week.

In a report on the cost of living, Englman finds that high market concentration and lack of competition continue to fuel rising prices in the country, as the government has neglected the matter.

“The cost of living in Israel soared even before the outbreak of the war, and 2024 commenced with further increases,” says Englman. “The damage caused by the war on the various sectors, combined with a high interest rate environment, are taking a heavy toll on households in Israel, including households of reservists who risk their lives for the State of Israel and those of many evacuees from the south and the north.”

The State Comptroller’s review on the cost of living in Israel was conducted and prepared before the October 7 atrocities and the outbreak of the war. In light of the findings in the report that Israelis continue to grapple with rising living costs, Englman calls on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and government ministers to include the issue in their set of priorities along with dealing with the repercussions of the ongoing war against the Hamas terror group.

“With regard to the formulation of the 2024 budget – the government must also give its opinion of the war’s effect on the issue of the cost of living in Israel and correct the failures that emerged from the report,” Englman demands.

One of the findings in the report shows that food prices in Israel are about 51 percent higher compared to EU countries and 37% higher than among OECD countries. For example, whole wheat bread is 82% more expensive in Israel than in the US, England, New Zealand, and Spain, according to the report.

Hezbollah confirms death of senior commander in alleged Israeli airstrike

Senior Hezbollah commander Wissam al-Tawil (L) with the terror group's chief Hassan Nasrallah in an undated photo. (Courtesy)
Senior Hezbollah commander Wissam al-Tawil (L) with the terror group's chief Hassan Nasrallah in an undated photo. (Courtesy)

Hezbollah confirms that its senior commander Wissam al-Tawil has been killed.

The terror group doesn’t elaborate, but it has been widely reported that Israel was behind the strike in southern Lebanon that killed Tawil.

Israeli lightly injured after Hezbollah anti-tank missile strikes apartment building in northern border town

A building in Shtula stuck with an anti-tank missile from Lebanon on January 8, 2024. (Screen capture/Channel 12)
A building in Shtula stuck with an anti-tank missile from Lebanon on January 8, 2024. (Screen capture/Channel 12)

An Israeli has been lightly injured after an anti-tank missile fired by Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon struck an apartment building in the northern border town of Shtula.

Most people living in Shtula evacuated the town upon the war’s outbreak.

Arab lawmaker accuses government of ‘legitimizing’ genocide against Gazans, citing minister’s comments

Joint List party members Ahmad Tibi, left, and Ofer Cassif during a court hearing at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem August 22, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Joint List party members Ahmad Tibi, left, and Ofer Cassif during a court hearing at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem August 22, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Hadash-Ta’al party chairman Ahmad Tibi accuses the Israeli government of “legitimizing” genocide against the Palestinian population of Gaza, declaring that “this is how the Nazis spoke about the Jews.”

“The finance minister said that there are two million Nazis in Gaza,” Tibi says, referring to recent statements by Bezalel Smotrich. “This is how you legitimize genocide.”

“And when it sounds Nazi, looks Nazi, it’s neo-Nazi. Even if the minister is Jewish,” he says.

Tibi’s comments come on the heels of Yisrael Beytenu MK Oded Forer’s announcement that he is collecting lawmakers’ signatures in an effort to expel Hadash-Ta’al lawmaker Ofer Cassif from the Knesset over his public support for a South African motion accusing Israel of genocide before the International Court of Justice.

His “treasonous words must no longer be heard while the blood of our soldiers and citizens screams from the ground,” Forer declared, accusing the Cassif of joining “one of the most destructive initiatives for the security of the State of Israel, thus supporting the fight of Hamas against Israel.”

Tibi asserts, “The prosecution in the Hague is based on the words of Smotrich, of Ben-Gvir, and Eliyahu, and not on the words of Cassif. Those who talk like this want the war to continue, and do not want to bring back the hostages.”

Both Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir have called for the “voluntary” migration of Palestinians from Gaza, while Heritage Minister Amichai Eliyahu had suggested that Israel could drop a nuclear bomb on the coastal territory.

In its application filed last week, South Africa accused Israel of actions during its war against Hamas in Gaza that are “genocidal in character, as they are committed with the requisite specific intent… to destroy Palestinians in Gaza as a part of the broader Palestinian national, racial and ethnical group.”

Responding to the petition, Israel accused South Africa of a “blood libel” and the United States denounced the motion as “meritless, counterproductive and completely without any basis in fact whatsoever.”

13,000 people, including 2,500 soldiers, have been treated in Israeli hospitals since war outbreak

Illustrative: President Isaac Herzog visits wounded soldiers at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv on November 8, 2023. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)
Illustrative: President Isaac Herzog visits wounded soldiers at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv on November 8, 2023. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Since the beginning of the war, the health system has treated 13,000 wounded people, including 2,500 soldiers, says Health Minister Uriel Busso.

Testifying before the Knesset Health Committee, Busso states that NIS 2 billion ($538 million) has been budgeted for mental health and that the rehabilitation system will be strengthened by increasing the number of available beds from 900 to 1,500.

An additional 2,300 hospital beds will be added and multiple resilience centers will be opened in the coming years, he adds.

Israel lacks the capacity to treat all of those injured and traumatized in the ongoing war, a representative of the Defense Ministry’s Rehabilitation Division informed the Knesset Labor and Welfare Committee last month.

“If we don’t get additional resources and standards, we won’t be able to take care of everyone,” the representative declared, adding that despite its commitment to do so, the ministry has not established a separate department for treating soldiers suffering from PTSD.

UN experts demand accountability for sexual torture during Hamas onslaught

Protestors gather outside the UN headquarters in New York City on December 4, 2023, to protest the international community's perceived silence on sexual violence committed by Hamas terrorists against Israeli women during the October 7 massacre. (Carli Fogel)
Protestors gather outside the UN headquarters in New York City on December 4, 2023, to protest the international community's perceived silence on sexual violence committed by Hamas terrorists against Israeli women during the October 7 massacre. (Carli Fogel)

UN experts demand accountability for sexual violence against Israeli civilians during the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks, saying that mounting evidence of rapes and genital mutilation point to possible crimes against humanity.

Israeli authorities have opened an investigation into possible sexual crimes during the most deadly attack on Israel in its history.

“The growing body of evidence about reported sexual violence is particularly harrowing,” two UN-appointed independent experts say in a statement.

The statement referred to allegations of sexual torture including rape and gang rape as well as mutilations and gunshots to genital areas.

“These acts constitute gross violations of international law, amounting to war crimes which, given the number of victims and the extensive premeditation and planning of the attacks, may also qualify as crimes against humanity,” the experts say.

“Each and every victim deserves to be recognized, regardless of their ethnicity, religion or sex, and our role is to be their voice,” they add.

Israel has previously criticized the global body for not doing enough to address the issue.

The two experts on torture and on executions – Alice Jill Edwards and Morris Tidball-Binz – have raised the issue with Hamas, they say.

They have also written to Israel’s government and called for cooperation with their investigators.

On northern border, Netanyahu says Israel ready for war with Hezbollah if necessary

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, speaks to IDF reservists during a visit to the northern border town of Kiryat Shmona on January 8, 2024 (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, speaks to IDF reservists during a visit to the northern border town of Kiryat Shmona on January 8, 2024 (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

In the northern city of Kiryat Shmona, Prime Minister Netanyahu tells IDF reservists that Israel prefers to restore security in the area without going to war with Hezbollah, but that it is ready to do so.

“Hezbollah got us wrong in a major way in 2006, and is getting us seriously wrong even now,” he tells soldiers from the 769th Regional Brigade.

“It sees here tremendous power, the unity of a people, a determination to do whatever is necessary to restore security to the north, and I tell you – this is my policy,” he continues.

Netanyahu spoke to the soldiers hours after a Hezbollah anti-tank missile hit the city.

“Of course, we prefer that this be done without a widespread campaign, but that will not stop us,” says the prime minister. “We gave them an example of what is happening to their friends in the south; this is what will happen here in the north. We will do everything to restore security.”

The prime minister is accompanied by Economy Minister Nir Barkat, his Chief of Staff Tzachi Braverman and his Military Secretary General Avi Gil

Lapid urges Gantz’s party to quit government

Opposition Leader Yair Lapid leads a Yesh Atid party faction meeting at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, on December 25, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Opposition Leader Yair Lapid leads a Yesh Atid party faction meeting at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, on December 25, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Opposition Leader Yair Lapid calls on National Unity ministers Benny Gantz, Gadi Eisenkot and Gideon Sa’ar to leave the coalition, declaring that “this government is not qualified to lead the war” and Prime Minister “Netanyahu is not qualified to lead the country.”

The former opposition lawmakers entered the government after October 7 “because they believed it was in the best interest of the country. It may have been true three months ago. It is certainly not true now,” he says.

“This is not a unity government, this is not an emergency government. They are not saving the State of Israel, they are saving Netanyahu.

“For weeks now, the poison machine of Netanyahu and his aides has been attacking the chief of staff, the army, the commanders and the fighters. Every meeting of the cabinet turns into a poisonous attack on the army,” he argues, adding that “as long as they are there, as long as they sit under Netanyahu, they give [his actions] legitimacy.”

Asked about MK Oded Forer’s effort to expel MK Ofer Cassif from the Knesset over his public support for a South African motion accusing Israel of genocide before the International Court of Justice, Lapid says that while it has not been discussed by his party, he “assumes” that they will support such a move — adding that it is a “shame” that far-right Heritage Minister Amichai Eliyahu, who suggested Israel could drop a nuclear bomb on Gaza, couldn’t also be kicked out.

G7 nations say pressing Israel for a rapid end to war

Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani meets with British Foreign Minister David Cameron during a press point as part of the XVI Italian Ambassadors Conference, in Rome, Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2023. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani meets with British Foreign Minister David Cameron during a press point as part of the XVI Italian Ambassadors Conference, in Rome, Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2023. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

G7 major powers are working with Israel to secure a “rapid” end to the war with Hamas and to reduce civilian casualties, Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani says.

An Italian foreign ministry statement said Tajani had phone calls with British Foreign Secretary David Cameron and French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna and suggested “joint forms of pressure, at G7 level, on the parties involved (in the conflict) to achieve certain objectives.”

“G7 countries are working with the Israeli government to find a rapid way out of the military phase,” it quotes Tajani as saying as Italy begins its one-year presidency of the Group of Seven major industrialized powers.

One “absolute objective” is “to limit immediately the number of Palestinian civilian casualties,” and a second is “to put pressure on the Israeli government to end military operations” in Gaza, the statement says.

Drone inflitration warnings sound in northern Israel

A drone infiltration alert sounds in several communities across northern Israel.

This is the second alert in the past hour.

There is no immediate comment from the IDF.

The warnings come after a senior Hezbollah leader was killed in an apparent Israeli strike on his car.

Hadassah petitions Red Cross to ‘stop ignoring’ the hostages

From right to left: National President of HWZOA Carol Ann Schwartz, immediate past National President Rhoda Smolow, and Executive Director of Hadassah Offices in Israel Suzanne Patt Benvenisti had over a petition calliong on the Red Cros to do more to help the hostages in Gaza  (HWZOA/Avi Hayun)
From right to left: National President of HWZOA Carol Ann Schwartz, immediate past National President Rhoda Smolow, and Executive Director of Hadassah Offices in Israel Suzanne Patt Benvenisti had over a petition calliong on the Red Cros to do more to help the hostages in Gaza (HWZOA/Avi Hayun)

Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America (HWZOA), submits a petition to the International Committee of the Red Cross offices in Israel urging them to do more to help the hostages held in Gaza.

According to a HWZOA statement, the petition “expresses shock at the ICRC’s unacceptable failure to fulfill its humanitarian role on behalf of citizens of Israel and other countries, over the past three months since Hamas infiltrated Israel and committed thousands of atrocities.”

“The petition calls on the ICRC to stop ignoring 136 hostages still being held in Gaza in inhumane conditions while being subjected to continuous physical, psychological, and sexual abuse.”

The petition, which was signed by more than 5,000 members and supporters of HWZOA, was handed over by national president of HWZOA Carol Ann Schwartz, immediate past national president Rhoda Smolow, and executive director of Hadassah Offices in Israel Suzanne Patt Benvenisti

 

Netanyahu taps Yaron Cohen to head bureau overseeing hostage matters

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appoints Col. (res.) Yaron Cohen to head the Hostages, Missing Persons and Returnees Division in the Prime Minister’s Office.

The appointment is approved by the Civil Service Commission.

Cohen served in manpower positions in the IDF General Staff, and as a staff officer in the 98th and 91st Divisions. He has worked as a senior executive in Maccabi Healthcare Service’s manpower department.

Cohen has been working with Netanyahu’s hostage envoy Gal Hirsch as the official in charge of situation assessments.

Cohen will head the department tasked with coordinating all the government efforts to return the hostages from Gaza, and to assist those who have made it back to Israel.

MK slams lack of women involved in war leadership

MK Sharon Nir seen at a court hearing on three petitions regarding the service of women in combat units in the IDF, at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on December 8, 2022.(Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
MK Sharon Nir seen at a court hearing on three petitions regarding the service of women in combat units in the IDF, at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on December 8, 2022.(Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The lack of women in senior positions, including the war cabinet, is a “serious problem,” Yisrael Beytenu MK Sharon Nir says, arguing that if people in power had only heeded the warnings of female soldiers ahead of October 7, “we might be in a different place.”

“There is not even one woman in the war cabinet,” the former brigadier general, who had previously served as a gender affairs adviser to the IDF chief of staff, declares in a Facebook post, asking how it can be that women “are hardly seen in senior positions” given that they comprise more than half of the state’s population.

“We are in 2024, it’s time that we wake up and stop acting according to dark and gendered stigmas that belong to history,” she says. “It is in the power of women to improve the decision-making processes in Israel and reshape reality.”

Israel declared war on Hamas after the terror group burst across its southern border from Gaza on October 7, slaughtering some 1,200 people — mostly civilians who were massacred amid horrific acts of brutality — and kidnapping more than 240 others.

Following the attack, the Haaretz daily reported that senior commanders refused to heed the warnings of the young female surveillance soldiers tasked with watching the Gaza border in the weeks before the Hamas onslaught, and the soldiers believe sexism was a factor in their being ignored.

Israel Defense Forces female surveillance soldiers, referred to in Hebrew as tatzpitaniyot, belong to the Border Defense Corps and operate along the country’s borders, as well as throughout the West Bank.

Government advances legislation for extending detention of captured Oct 7 terrorists

Screen capture from video released October 28, 2023, showing a captured Hamas terrorist explaining how the Shifa hospital in Gaza City is used by Hamas as a military site. (Screenshot: Israel Defense Forces)
Screen capture from video released October 28, 2023, showing a captured Hamas terrorist explaining how the Shifa hospital in Gaza City is used by Hamas as a military site. (Screenshot: Israel Defense Forces)

The government advances legislation that would enable the state to keep in prison Hamas terrorists who perpetrated the October 7 atrocities and were subsequently captured.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Justice Minister Yariv Levin submit a draft bill for extending the emergency regulations relating to the detention of the terrorists, which would otherwise expire on February 7.

Some 150 Hamas terrorists were captured on Israeli territory on October 7 and its aftermath.

The explanatory notes for the legislation maintain that the need to continue to hold these terrorists before indicting them stems from the complex, unprecedented and “unique” nature of the investigative and interrogation process.

It adds that the interrogation of the terrorists is also designed to collect “valuable information for the continuation of combat.”

The new legislation will enable Israeli courts to extend the detention of these terrorists for a 45-day period, and then extend that detention for another 45 days.

The emergency legislation will be in effect for three months.

Lebanese officials say killing of elite force leader a ‘painful’ blow for Hezbollah

Lebanese sources say the killing of a senior commander in Hezbollah’s elite Radwan force in an apparent Israeli strike is a “painful” blow for the terror group.

Security sources identified him as Wissam al-Tawil, the deputy head of a unit within the Radwan force. They say he and another Hezbollah fighter were killed when their car was hit in a strike on the Lebanese village of Majdal Selm.

“This is a very painful strike,” one of the security sources tells Reuters. Another said, “Things will flare up now.”

The commander “had a leading role in managing Hezbollah’s operations in the south,” a security official tells AFP requesting anonymity for security concerns, adding he “was killed in an Israeli raid targeting his car in the south.”

Pope again condemns October 7 Hamas assault, expresses concern for Gaza

Pope Francis attends his weekly general audience in the Pope Paul VI hall at the Vatican, Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2023. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini, File)
Pope Francis attends his weekly general audience in the Pope Paul VI hall at the Vatican, Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2023. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini, File)

In his annual State of the World address to the diplomatic community in the Vatican, Pope Francis again condemns Hamas’s October 7 attacks, while offering more qualified concern over Israel’s campaign to topple Hamas.

The pontiff says he feels “deep concern regarding the events taking place in Israel and Palestine.”

“All of us remain shocked by the October 7 attack on the Israeli people in which great numbers of innocent persons were horribly wounded, tortured and murdered and many taken hostage,” he says, without naming Hamas.

Francis also emphasizes his “renewed condemnation of this act.”

He seems to blame Hamas at least partly for the fate of Gazans, saying that the “attack provoked a strong Israeli military response in Gaza that has led to the deaths of tens of thousands of Gazans, mostly civilians.”

Francis argues that the world is experiencing a growing number of conflicts that are slowly turning from “a third world war fought piecemeal into a genuine global conflict.”

Lebanese sources: Israeli strike in Lebanon kills senior Hezbollah leader

An alleged Israeli strike in Lebanon has killed a senior official in Hezbollah’s elite Radwan force, the Reuters news agency reports, citing three security sources.

There is no immediate comment from Israel.

Reports from Lebanon indicate the official was killed when a missile hit a car he was traveling in.

Ben Gvir slams Gallant for saying war in northern Gaza to transition to new phase

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir leads a faction meeting of his far-right Otzma Yehudit party, at the Knesset  in Jerusalem, on January 1, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir leads a faction meeting of his far-right Otzma Yehudit party, at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on January 1, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir rails against Yoav Gallant after the defense minister tells the Wall Street Journal that the IDF will be shifting from what he called the “intense maneuvering phase of the war” toward “different types of special operations” in northern Gaza.

Responding to Gallant’s assertion that Israel is “close to the next phase in the north,” the minister says that such a statement is tantamount to an announcement “of the end of the war of subjugation and a transition to the war of attrition.”

“The small cabinet has no mandate to announce this,” he argues, referring to the war cabinet, which comprises Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Gallant and Minister Benny Gantz. “This is not how we will win!”

On Saturday, the IDF said it had completed the dismantlement of Hamas’s “military framework” in the northern Gaza Strip.

I had eye surgery, I understand your suffering: Likud MK tells hostages’ families

MK Keti Shitrit attends a Education, Culture, and Sports Committee meeting at the Knesset on May 29, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
MK Keti Shitrit attends a Education, Culture, and Sports Committee meeting at the Knesset on May 29, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Likud MK Keti Shitrit sparks widespread outrage on social media when she tells the families of those taken hostage in Gaza that she understands their suffering because she just had eye surgery.

“One morning I woke up and could not see out of my one eye and I was taken for surgery,” Shitrit tells the families at a meeting of the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality.

“Recovery was long. I can’t get dressed or shower or do other things I did before,” she says. “Why am I telling you this? Because I can so clearly understand how your lives were so suddenly turned upside down.”

Hamas terrorists stormed across the border on October 7, killing some 1,200 people and taking 240 hostages amid acts of horrific brutality.

It is believed that 132 of the hostages remain in Gaza, not all of them alive.

Shitrit is widely slammed on social media for her tone-deaf comments, with some suggesting the public hold vigils for her suffering.

Blinken meets UAE leader, stresses need to keep conflict from expanding

This handout picture provided by the UAE Presidential Court shows UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan (R) meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at al-Shati Palace in Abu Dhabi on January 8, 2024 (Photo by Abdulla AL-BEDWAWI / UAE PRESIDENTIAL COURT / AFP)
This handout picture provided by the UAE Presidential Court shows UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan (R) meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at al-Shati Palace in Abu Dhabi on January 8, 2024 (Photo by Abdulla AL-BEDWAWI / UAE PRESIDENTIAL COURT / AFP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken opens his third day of meetings on an urgent Mideast diplomatic mission to prevent Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza from exploding into a broader regional conflict.

Blinken was meeting with United Arab Emirates leader Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed before traveling to Saudi Arabia for talks with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman aimed at enlisting the key Arab leaders in a push to not only keep the war contained but also prepare for post-conflict Gaza’s future.

With Sheikh Mohammed in Abu Dhabi, Blinken “emphasized the importance of preventing further spread of the conflict and stressed continued US commitment to securing lasting regional peace that ensures Israel’s security and advances the establishment of an independent Palestinian state,” the US State Department said.

Blinken arrived in Abu Dhabi from similar meetings in Qatar, Jordan, Turkey and Greece.

He arrives in Israel later today.

Report: Israel knows where Sinwar is but can’t hit him because he’s surrounded by hostages

Yahya Sinwar (C), Hamas's Gaza Strip chief, waves to supporters in Gaza City, on April 14, 2023. (MOHAMMED ABED / AFP)
Yahya Sinwar (C), Hamas's Gaza Strip chief, waves to supporters in Gaza City, on April 14, 2023. (MOHAMMED ABED / AFP)

Israel knows the exact location of Hamas military leader Yahya Sinwar, the mastermind of the October 7 terror attacks, reports the Israel Hayom newspaper.

However, Sinwar has surrounded himself with a large number of living Israeli hostages, which is preventing the IDF from carrying out a strike on him, according to the report.

The report follows a similar statement on Kan radio yesterday by former Military Intelligence head Amos Yadlin.

Gallant says IDF to soon switch to next phase of operations in northern Gaza

IDF troops operate in Gaza in a handout image published January 8, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
IDF troops operate in Gaza in a handout image published January 8, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant says Israeli forces will soon switch to a less intense phase of operations in northern Gaza.

Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, Gallant says the IDF will be shifting from what he called the “intense maneuvering phase of the war” toward “different types of special operations.”

“We’re close to the next phase in the north, including Gaza City,” Gallant says.

Following the publication of the interview, Gallant’s office issues a statement clarifying that the transition would start “soon.”

On Saturday, the IDF said it had completed the dismantlement of Hamas’s “military framework” in the northern Gaza Strip.

Intense fighting continues in central Gaza and the south.

MK starts process to expel far-left lawmaker who supports genocide charges against Israel

MK Ofer Cassif takes part in a protest against the expulsion of Palestinian families from their homes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood Sheikh Jarrah, on September 8, 2023.(Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
MK Ofer Cassif takes part in a protest against the expulsion of Palestinian families from their homes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood Sheikh Jarrah, on September 8, 2023.(Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

Yisrael Beytenu MK Oded Forer is pushing to expel Hadash-Ta’al MK Ofer Cassif from the Knesset after the far-left lawmaker publicly endorsed South Africa’s charges of genocide against Israel before the International Court of Justice.

“My constitutional duty is to Israeli society and all its residents, not to a government whose members and its coalition are calling for ethnic cleansing and even actual genocide,” Cassif tweeted yesterday after it was reported that he had signed a petition supporting the South African case.

In response, Forer announces that he is working to collect signatures from 70 MKs in order to start to process of expelling Cassif from the Knesset in accordance with Basic Law: the Knesset, which allows lawmakers to remove a colleague who expresses “support for an armed struggle by an enemy state, or of a terrorist organization, against the State of Israel.”

If Forer manages to reach that goal, the matter will be taken up by the Knesset House Committee and will then go to a vote in the plenum, where Cassif’s expulsion will require 90 votes in order to pass.

“MK Kasif’s treasonous words can no longer be heard while the blood of our soldiers and citizens screams from the ground,” Forer declares.

“Kasif, who was previously disqualified from running for the Knesset following a petition I submitted to the Elections Committee, chose during the war to join one of the most destructive initiatives for the security of the State of Israel, thus supporting the fight of Hamas against Israel. He must soon find himself beyond the borders of the Knesset and preferably also beyond the borders of the State of Israel.”

Soldiers find terror tunnel, evidence of children being trained with weapons in Gaza school

Troops operating in Khan Younis discover evidence of Palestinian school students receiving weapons training in a picture released by the IDF on January 8, 2024 (Israel Defense Forces)
Troops operating in Khan Younis discover evidence of Palestinian school students receiving weapons training in a picture released by the IDF on January 8, 2024 (Israel Defense Forces)

The IDF says that during recent operations by the 7th Armored Brigade in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis, troops killed several terrorists and discovered large weapons caches and evidence that children were being trained to use weapons in schools.

The military says that forces from the brigade “killed many terrorists at close range with tank shelling and airstrikes directed by the troops.” This included several terror cells that fired RPGs at the soldiers.

The forces carried out widespread searches in the area, in which they discovered “explosives, guns, grenades, communications equipment and many intelligence documents,” the army says.

In one school, they discovered a terror tunnel and evidence children were being trained to use weapons, including toy Kalashnikov rifles and pictures of students posing and training with weapons.

IDF hits Hezbollah targets; anti-tank missile fired at Kiryat Shmona

The IDF says fighter jets carried out strikes on Hezbollah targets in Lebanon, including sites where the terror group’s members were operating.

The IDF also says an anti-tank missile was fired from Lebanon at Kiryat Shmona. It says troops are striking in response.

Local officials say the missile hit a building, but there were no injuries reported.

WHO says medical supply delivery to northern Gaza canceled due to unsafe conditions

The World Health Organization (WHO) says it had been compelled to cancel a mission to bring medical supplies to northern Gaza yesterday after failing to receive security guarantees.

It was the fourth time WHO had had to call off a planned mission to bring urgently needed medical supplies to Al-Awda Hospital and the central drug store in northern Gaza since Dec. 26, it says.

“It has now been 12 days since we were last able to reach northern Gaza,” the WHO writes on the X social media platform.

“Heavy bombardment, movement restrictions, and interrupted communications are making it nearly impossible to deliver medical supplies regularly and safely across Gaza, particularly in the north,” it says.

The delivery planned for yesterday, WHO says, had been designed to sustain the operations of five hospitals in the northern part of the enclave.

3 Palestinians arrested for role in deadly West Bank terror shooting

The scene of a terror shooting attack on the West Bank's Route 465 on January 7, 2024. (Magen David Adom)
The scene of a terror shooting attack on the West Bank's Route 465 on January 7, 2024. (Magen David Adom)

Officers of police’s Yamam counter-terrorism unit arrested overnight three Palestinians suspected of involvement in a deadly terror shooting attack in the West Bank yesterday, officials say.

In a joint statement, police, Shin Bet, and IDF say the trio were detained some 15 hours after the attack on Route 465, near the settlement of Ateret.

Two of the suspects were detained in Ramallah, and the third was nabbed in the nearby Jalazone refugee camp, the statement says.

Officials say the three “linked themselves” to the attack in a preliminary questioning. They are now being interrogated by the Shin Bet.

Amar Mansour, a 33-year-old resident and father of two from the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina, was killed, and a 42-year-old Palestinian woman, a pharmacist at Jerusalem’s Hadassah Medical Center, was seriously wounded in the attack.

Gallant warns Hezbollah: Israel can ‘copy-paste’ Gaza war to Beirut

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant receives a situational assessment at the IDF's Northern Command base on January 5, 2024. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant receives a situational assessment at the IDF's Northern Command base on January 5, 2024. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Israel isn’t afraid to go to war with the Hezbollah terror group in Lebanon, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant tells the Wall Street Journal and warns the Iran-backed group that the destruction in Gaza can be “copy-pasted” to  Beirut.

Since October 8, Hezbollah and allied Palestinian terror factions have engaged in daily border clashes with Israeli troops, targeting civilian communities with drone, rocket and missile attacks and forcing tens of thousands of Israelis to evacuate.

While Israel’s priority isn’t to get entangled in a war with Hezbollah, Gallant says that “80,000 people need to be able to go back to their homes safely,” and so if all else fails, “we are willing to sacrifice.”

“They see what is happening in Gaza,” he says. “They know we can copy-paste to Beirut.”

Minister slams appointment of Barak to Hague genocide hearing: He does not represent us

Heritage Minister Amichai Eliyahu attends the funeral of Israeli soldier Moshe Yedidia Leiter, at Mount Herzl Military Cemetery in Jerusalem on November 12, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
Heritage Minister Amichai Eliyahu attends the funeral of Israeli soldier Moshe Yedidia Leiter, at Mount Herzl Military Cemetery in Jerusalem on November 12, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

Heritage Minister Amichai Eliyahu of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party joins the voices slamming the appointment of retired Supreme Court president Aharon Barak as Israel’s appointee to the 15-judge panel at the International Court of Justice in The Hague that will this week hear South Africa’s case accusing Israel of genocide in Gaza.

Eliyahu tells the Ynet news site that Barak, 87, “holds a worldview that harms the IDF. His positions and values destroyed the IDF’s deterrence.”

“We should not lie, he doesn’t represent us,” Eliyahu says.

Barak has long been reviled by many on the hard-right for his activist judicial approach.

IDF says it carried out 30 strikes on Hamas targets amid fierce fighting in south Gaza

IDF Troops operate in Gaza in a handout image published January 8, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
IDF Troops operate in Gaza in a handout image published January 8, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The IDF reports intensive fighting in southern Gaza’s Khan Younis overnight, with the Israeli Air Force carrying out strikes on some 30 “significant” Hamas targets in the area.

According to the IDF, the targets included underground sites, weapons depots. and other infrastructure belonging to the terror group.

“These strikes help the forces that are maneuvering in the area to continue fighting,” the IDF says.

The IDF says that troops of the Maglan commando unit meanwhile spotted a group of more than 10 Hamas operatives at a rocket launching site in Khan Younis, and directed a drone strike against them.

Also in Khan Younis, troops of the 55th Reserve Paratroops Brigade identified a Hamas operative coming out of a building while “collecting intelligence on the force,” the IDF says. An attack helicopter struck the operative within a number of minutes, it adds.

The Paratroopers Brigade, also in the Khan Younis area, spotted a Hamas operative in a building and directed an airstrike against it, the IDF says. A short while later another operative was spotted in the building, and was killed by the troops, it adds.

Elsewhere in Gaza, during operations to open up routes for forces to move through, the IDF says troops of the Kfir Brigade located a car used by Hamas operatives, which contained weapons.

In a field in central Gaza, the IDF says reservists of the 179th Armored Brigade located a tunnel shaft, and found in it thousands of dollars and weapons.

In the Maghazi area of central Gaza, the IDF says Golani troops directed an airstrike on a Hamas weapons depot, where the terror group stored long-range rockets.

Hamas says 73 Palestinians killed in Gaza in past 24 hours

An Israeli airstrike light the skyline of Khan Yunis, pictured from Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip late on January 7, 2024 (Photo by AFP)
An Israeli airstrike light the skyline of Khan Yunis, pictured from Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip late on January 7, 2024 (Photo by AFP)

Seventy-three Palestinians were killed and 99 injured by Israeli forces and airstrikes in Gaza in the past 24 hours, the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says.

That number includes eight people killed in an apparent strike near Deir Al-Balah in central Gaza, the ministry says.

There is no immediate IDF comment on the strike.

Hamas says 22,835 Palestinians have been killed since the start of the war. The figures do not differentiate between civilian and combatant deaths or those killed by the hundreds of rockets fired by terror groups that fell in the Strip. Israel estimates that about 8,500 terrorists have been killed since it launched its ground offensive into Gaza in late October.

IDF airstrikes hit Hezbollah military compound

Overnight, the IDF says it carried out a series of airstrikes against Hezbollah sites in Lebanon.

The targets hit by fighter jets included a military compound in the town of Marwahin and a rocket launcher and other infrastructure in Ayta ash-Shab, according to the IDF.

The IDF says it also carried out a drone strike on a rocket launcher used to carry out an attack, and an attack helicopter hit an area from which an anti-tank missile was fired at northern Israel.

Dozens protesting outside Knesset, calling for elections

Dozens of people are protesting outside the Knesset in Jerusalem, calling on the government to quit and call new elections.

The activists are sitting on the floor, blocking the entrance to the building and chanting “Elections now.”

“Any hopes that the government would raise to the occasion of this time of emergency have been shattered by their failed actions, expressed by their dysfunction, the abandonment of the hostages, the fatal damage to Israel’s international reputation, their continued incitement and divisiveness and the diversion of budgets in favor of personal interests at the expense of the public as a whole,” organizers say in a statement.

” We came to the Knesset to demand elections now, the immediate replacement of the government, and the expulsion of the extremists,” they say.

Australia ban on Nazi salute, public display of terror group symbols comes into effect

Laws banning the Nazi salute and the display or sale of symbols associated with terror groups came into effect in Australia today (Monday) as the government responds to a rise in antisemitic incidents following the Israel-Hamas war, triggered by the Palestinian terror group’s October 7 murderous onslaught.

The law makes it an offense punishable by up to 12 months in prison to publicly perform the Nazi salute or display the Nazi swastika or the double-sig rune associated with the Schutzstaffel (SS) paramilitary group.

The sale and trade of these symbols is similarly prohibited.

Attorney General Mark Dreyfus said in a statement the legislation sent a clear message there was no place in Australia for those who glorify the Holocaust or terrorist acts.

“This is the first legislation of its kind and will ensure no one in Australia will be allowed to glorify or profit from acts and symbols that celebrate the Nazis and their evil ideology.”

Introduced in June and passed in December, the law has taken on new significance amid a surge in antisemitism and Islamophobia following the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas, where thousands of terrorists killed some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took another 240 hostage.

Unverified footage showing a small group of men outside the iconic Opera house shouting “gas the jews” during a pro-Palestinian protest a day after the Hamas massacre triggered outrage around the world and a police investigation.

Separately, police arrested three men in October for performing the Nazi salute outside the Jewish Museum of Australia. There were more anti-Jewish incidents in October and November last year than the twelve months prior, according to the Executive Council of Australian Jewry.

The new law also bans the public display or trade in symbols associated with prohibited terror organizations, such as Hamas, the Islamic State, and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Exemptions exist for academic, educational, or artistic use.

In Israel, German FM says Berlin ready to sell Eurofighter jets to Saudi Arabia

Germany is ready to allow sales of Eurofighter jets to Saudi Arabia, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Sunday, having for years blocked arms deals with the Gulf kingdom.

Germany, Britain, Italy and Spain jointly build the jet and each can veto deals.

Berlin has blocked one deal, sought by London, since 2018.

“We do not see ourselves, as the German federal government, opposing British considerations on other Eurofighter (sales),” Baerbock told journalists on a trip to Israel, in which she highlighted the Saudi role in the Middle East security crisis since the eruption of the Israel-Hamas war on October 7.

Germany has blocked arms sales to Riyadh since the 2018 murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

That includes blocking a deal for 48 Eurofighter jets signed by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in London.

Baerbock noted that Saudi Arabia and Israel had “not renounced their policy of normalization” since the war with Hamas broke out on October 7, when thousands of terrorists killed 1,200 people across southern Israel, amiid shocking atrocities, and took 240 hostage.

“The fact that Saudi Arabia is now intercepting missiles fired by the Houthis at Israel underlines this, and we are grateful for that,” she added.

“The fact that the Saudi air force also uses Eurofighters in this context is an open secret,” the minister continued.

“Saudi Arabia is a key contributor to Israel’s security, even these days, and is helping to stem the risk of a regional conflagration,” she said.

Blinken travels to UAE, Saudi Arabia for next leg of Mideast tour

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will hold talks in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia later today (Monday) before heading to Israel, as he continues his Mideast tour to discuss postwar Gaza and head off a wider regional conflagration amid intensifying skirmishes between Iran-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon and Israel.

He is set for talks with Israeli leaders on Tuesday.

Blinken was in Jordan and Qatar Sunday at the start of a five-day diplomatic effort in the Middle East seeking to avert a wider war in the region. He is also due to visit the West Bank and Egypt this week.

“This is a moment of profound tension for the region. This is a conflict that could easily metastasize, causing even more insecurity and suffering,” Blinken said in Doha before heading to Abu Dhabi.

Blinken said he would tell Israeli officials that it is imperative they do more to prevent civilian casualties in Gaza and that Palestinian civilians must be allowed to return home and not be pressed to leave Gaza.

The trip comes after an alleged Israeli drone strike in Beirut killed deputy Hamas chief Saleh al-Arouri and Israel exchanged fire with Hezbollah across its northern border with Lebanon. Washington is also rallying allies to deter attacks on Red Sea shipping by Houthi rebels who control most of Yemen.

Washington wants Israel’s Arab neighbors to play a role in reconstruction, governance, and security in Gaza in the expectation that Israel’s assault will remove Hamas, which has run the territory since 2007, officials have said.

The US delegation aims to gather Arab states’ views on the future of Gaza before taking those positions to Israel, the US official said, acknowledging that stances would be far apart.

Israeli lawmaker signs petition supporting Hague genocide hearings on Gaza war

A lawmaker from the Arab-majority Hadas-Ta’al party, MK Ofer Cassif, expresses his support for the upcoming hearing at the International Court of Justice in The Hague this week to consider South Africa’s case accusing Israel of genocide in Gaza.

“My constitutional duty is to Israeli society and all its residents, not to a government whose members and its coalition are calling for ethnic cleansing and even actual genocide. They are the ones who harm the country and the people, they are the ones who led to South Africa’s appeal to The Hague, not me and my friends,” he writes on X.

Cassif is one of some 200 Israelis who are signing onto a petition of support for South Africa’s case, Ynet reports. In the petition, they say they wish to “add our voice as citizens of Israel to the claims…that South Africa submitted to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, in the hope that our voice will help reach a decision that will bring an immediate end to the war.”

Israel declared war on Hamas after the terror group burst across its southern border from Gaza on October 7, slaughtering some 1,200 people — mostly civilians who were massacred amid horrific acts of brutality — and kidnapping more than 240 others.

It rejects any assertion that it is targeting civilians or engaged in anything other than a campaign for its security. Israel says it is making an effort to avoid harm to civilians while fighting a terror group embedded within the civilian population. It has also long accused Gaza-based terror groups of using Palestinians in the Strip as human shields, operating from sites, including schools and hospitals, which are supposed to be protected.

In his X post, Cassif wrote: “When the government acts against society, the state, and its citizens, especially when it sacrifices them and commits crimes in their name on the altar of maintaining its existence, it is my right and even my duty to warn about this and do everything I can within the law to stop it.”

“I will not give up the fight for our existence as a moral society. This is true patriotism…not unnecessary bloodshed, and not sacrificing kidnapped citizens and soldiers in senseless wars,” he goes on.

In its application filed last week, South Africa accused Israel of actions during its war against Hamas in Gaza that are “genocidal in character, as they are committed with the requisite specific intent… to destroy Palestinians in Gaza as a part of the broader Palestinian national, racial and ethnical group.”

Israel responded to the petition, accusing South Africa of a “blood libel,” while confirming that it will send a representative to defend the country against the charges. The US, too, denounced the motion as “meritless, counterproductive and completely without any basis in fact whatsoever.”

Earlier Sunday, Israel said retired Supreme Court President Aharon Barak, 87, will be Israel’s appointee to the 15-judge panel.

Beyond the permanent panel of the ICJ, both parties to a case may themselves nominate a judge to join the deliberations. Decisions are made by a simple majority of the presiding judges.

South Africa will present its case at The Hague on Thursday, followed by Israel on Friday.

Israel is reportedly seeking to screen before the court a compilation of harrowing scenes of murder, torture and decapitation from the October 7 onslaught, including raw videos from the terrorists’ bodycams that it has shown, among others, to journalists, international leaders and diplomats in the weeks since the Hamas invasion.

2 medical groups say they are pulling teams from central Gaza hospital due to IDF operations

Two medical organizations announced that they were withdrawing from a central Gaza hospital due to IDF operations in the area, CNN reports.

CNN cited a statement by the the International Rescue Committee and UK-based charity Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) that says the organizations are withdrawing their emergency medical teams from Al Aqsa Hospital in the city of Deir al-Balah in central Gaza after the IDF dropped flyers in the area telling Palestinian civilians to evacuate.

MAP and the IRC said they are “deeply appalled that our EMT has been effectively forced to stop working at a hospital where they have been saving lives.”

They said the IDF “dropped leaflets designating areas surrounding the hospital as a ‘red zone.'”

Security forces said to arrest 3 suspects in earlier West Bank terror shooting

Israeli security forces have reportedly nabbed three Palestinian suspects in this morning’s West Bank terror attack north of Ramallah in which an East Jerusalem man was killed.

According to Hebrew media, forces made the three arrests tonight.

Ynet reports that the suspects are two physicians and a nurse from the West Bank.

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