The Times of Israel liveblogged Saturday’s events as they unfold.

Shooting in Detroit suburb leaves ‘numerous wounded victims,’ authorities say

ROCHESTER HILLS, Michigan — Gunfire erupted at a splash pad in the Detroit suburb of Rochester Hills as families were frolicking in the water to beat the summer heat, leaving multiple people wounded, authorities say.

Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard tells reporters that “it sounds like we have nine, maybe 10 victims with gunshot wounds, victims of varying kinds of injuries.”

Authorities say they believe they had a possible suspect contained in a home nearby. A handgun and three empty magazines were recovered, according to the sheriff.

“So, preliminarily, it looks like the suspect fired potentially 28 times, reloading multiple times,” Bouchard says.

The Oakland County Sheriff’s Office says there are “numerous wounded victims.”

In a social media post, authorities say there is still an active crime scene. People are asked to avoid the area.

Officials do not immediately provide additional information, and the condition of the victims isn’t immediately known.

Rochester Hills is about 15 miles (24 kilometers) south of Oxford, where in 2021 a 15-year-old shot and killed four high school students.

Bouchard says Saturday’s shooting is “a gut punch” for the county.

“We’ve gone through so many tragedies,” the sheriff says. “You know, we’re not even fully comprehending what happened at Oxford. And, you know, now we have another complete tragedy that we’re dealing with.”

US accuses Iran of ignoring distress calls from cargo vessel hit by Houthi missiles

The United States Central Command (CENTCOM) has accused Iran of ignoring distress calls from Palauan-flagged, Ukrainian-owned bulk cargo carrier M/V Verbena, after it was struck in two separate missile attacks by the Iranian-backed Houthis on Thursday.

In a statement issued Saturday, CENTCOM stated that the crew on board Verbena issued a distress call indicating they were abandoning the ship.

“M/V Anna Meta responded to render assistance,” CENTCOM said. “Anna Meta has recovered the mariners and is transporting them to safety. The crew abandoned ship due to continued fires and an inability to control them.”

According to CENTCOM, Iranian frigate IRIN Jamaran was eight nautical miles (approximately 9 miles) from Verbena “and did not respond to the distress call.”

“This continued malign and reckless behavior by the Iranian-backed Houthis threatens regional stability and endangers the lives of mariners across the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden”, Centcom added, stating it will “continue to act with partners to hold the Houthis accountable and degrade their military capabilities.”

Sirens blare in Western Galilee

Sirens blare in the Western Galilee, near Mitzpe Hila.

Early reports indicate the IDF intercepted a drone.

Air raid sirens in northern border towns were due to false alarm

Air raid sirens that were activated in numerous northern communities near the Lebanon border were due to a false alarm.

Video shows police arresting Haaretz photographer at Tel Aviv protest; 12 held in total

Video from the anti-government on Kaplan Street shows police arresting a photographer for the Haaretz daily.

In the clip, which begins with a policeman holding another demonstrator in a headlock, an undercover officer can be seen grabbing Itay Ron and pushing him in the direction of a bus carrying detainees, despite appeals from passersby that he is a journalist.

According to a police, 12 people in total were arrested for alleged violations of public order, including blocking roads and demonstrating past the permitted time.

Air raid sirens sound in numerous towns near Lebanon due to suspected drone

Air raid sirens are activated in numerous communities near the Lebanon border due to a suspected hostile aircraft in Israeli skies.

At least one arrested as police disperse anti-government protesters in Tel Aviv

At least one person has been arrested as police begin to disperse the crowds of anti-government protesters in Tel Aviv.

In video footage posted online, several police officers can be seen grabbing the protester and dragging him away as people chant “Police! Police! You’re protecting me!” to warn against police brutality.

Labor MKs Gilad Kariv and Na’ama Lazimi are both present at the scene of the arrest, where they are met with jeers from right-wing demonstrators.

IDF says fighter jets struck Hezbollah weapons depot in southern Lebanon

A Hezbollah weapons depot was struck by Israeli fighter jets in southern Lebanon’s Aitaroun a short while ago, the military says.

The IDF says jets hit several more Hezbollah targets in the town, including a building used by the terror group.

Additional Hezbollah infrastructure was struck in Chihine, and another building used by the terror group was hit in Ayta ash-Shab, the military adds.

The strikes come following several Hezbollah missile and drone attacks on northern Israel today.

 

Protesters set fire to tents in Tel Aviv to highlight government inaction in face of Hezbollah attacks

A tent is set ablaze in Tel Aviv as part of a protest on June 15, 2024, against what organizers say is the abandonment of northern Israel to Hezbollah attacks. A sign in the background reads "And the north? What about the north?" (Yehuda Bergstein / Pro Democracy Protest Movement)
A tent is set ablaze in Tel Aviv as part of a protest on June 15, 2024, against what organizers say is the abandonment of northern Israel to Hezbollah attacks. A sign in the background reads "And the north? What about the north?" (Yehuda Bergstein / Pro Democracy Protest Movement)

Protesters set fire to tents on Tel Aviv’s Kaplan Street in a demonstration against the government’s handling of the near-daily Hezbollah attacks on northern Israel, which, over the last two weeks alone, have caused fires that burned tens of thousands of acres of land.

The tents were set up as part of an installation entitled “We Lost the North,” by the Change Generation protest group following the main anti-government protest earlier in the evening.

In a post on X, the group says that the installation “makes it clear to passersby that when they arrive in the country’s north, they are leaving Israel’s borders.”

Palestinian media reports series of Israeli strikes in central Gaza’s Deir al-Balah

Palestinian media report a series of Israeli strikes in the eastern areas of Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip.

There is no immediate information on possible casualties and no comment from the IDF on the strikes.

Days after resigning from government, Gantz attends hostage deal protest in southern Israel

National Unity chair Benny Gantz attends a hostage deal rally along with MK Alon Schuster at the Sha'ar HaNegev Intersection in southern Israel, June 15, 2024. (Courtesy)
National Unity chair Benny Gantz attends a hostage deal rally along with MK Alon Schuster at the Sha'ar HaNegev Intersection in southern Israel, June 15, 2024. (Courtesy)

National Unity chair Benny Gantz attends a weekly hostage deal protest at the Sha’ar HaNegev Intersection in southern Israel, less than a week after resigning from government and returning to the opposition.

He is joined by fellow National Unity lawmaker MK Alon Schuster.

IDF soldier dies of wounds sustained days earlier in southern Gaza’s Rafah

Sgt. Yair Roitman (Israel Defense Forces)
Sgt. Yair Roitman (Israel Defense Forces)

An IDF soldier seriously wounded on Monday in southern Gaza’s Rafah has succumbed to his wounds, the military announces.

He is named as Sgt. Yair Roitman, 19, of the Givati Brigade’s reconnaissance unit, from Karnei Shomron.

Roitman was wounded in a blast in a booby-trapped building on June 10, in an incident that killed four other soldiers and wounded six others, including four seriously.

His death brings the toll of slain soldiers in the IDF’s ground offensive against Hamas and amid operations along the Gaza border to 308.

Shas minister slams Bennett over Haredi enlistment comments

Interior Minister Moshe Arbel attends a Knesset committee meeting, Jerusalem, April 1, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Interior Minister Moshe Arbel attends a Knesset committee meeting, Jerusalem, April 1, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Interior Minister Moshe Arbel of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party slams Naftali Bennett after he insists that the war means the long-standing Haredi exemption from the army must end.

“Bennett! No one is allowed to make a political campaign on the blood of the IDF’s martyrs,” Arbel says after the former prime minister posted on X about the deaths of eight IDF servicemen on Saturday morning.

In his statement, Bennett expresses his pain at the incident, in which a Namer armored combat engineering vehicle was hit by an explosive, possibly a planted bomb.

“A cruel and active enemy is attacking us from the north, east and south, and the State of Israel finds itself in a difficult time and needs soldiers,” Bennett says, adding that “there is no more room for a blanket exemption for an entire population. We need everyone together in the war against the enemy.”

In response, Arbel says that he and other Shas lawmakers have “close family members who are currently serving in significant combat positions in the south and north, passing sleepless nights for the security of the country.”

“Don’t dance on the blood. Politics is not everything,” he insists.

The cabinet is set to discuss extending an emergency measure delaying retirement for IDF reservists on Sunday, less than a week after the coalition voted to apply “continuity” to a bill from the previous government lowering the current age of exemption from mandatory service for Haredi yeshiva students.

In Jerusalem, father of murdered festival-goer accuses Netanyahu of abandoning Oct. 7 victims

Protesters rally in support of a hostage deal and against the government in Jerusalem's Paris Square on June 15, 2024. (Charlie Summers/Times of Israel)
Protesters rally in support of a hostage deal and against the government in Jerusalem's Paris Square on June 15, 2024. (Charlie Summers/Times of Israel)

Some thousand demonstrators are rallying in support of a hostage deal and against the government in Jerusalem’s Paris Square, outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s official residence.

Protesters are chanting, “No to a Kahanist government” while awaiting speeches to begin onstage, under a banner that reads: “All of them home! You [the government] failed!”

Tom Barkai, an organizer with the Jerusalem Hostages and Missing Families Forum, accuses Netanyahu of torpedoing a prospective hostage deal.

“A true leader puts his political interests to the side to bring an immediate deal,” she says.

The rally is a joint effort of the Jerusalem branch of the Hostages and Missing Families Forum and Safeguarding our Shared Home, the city’s foremost anti-government protest group.

Attorney Roni Moalem, whose daughter Naama was murdered by Hamas at the Supernova rave massacre, rips into Netanyahu in his speech, saying that he is “not worthy to be a leader, and certainly not prime minister.”

He accuses the premier of abandoning his daughter and the others murdered on October 7, saying he continues to serve as prime minister “only for himself, his wife and 35 corrupt ministers” in the current government.

Eisenkot accuses PM of delaying Rafah offensive by three months due to personal, political interests

National Unity lawmaker Gadi Eisenkot is seen in an interview with Channel 12, June 15, 2024. (Screenshot, Channel 12, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
National Unity lawmaker Gadi Eisenkot is seen in an interview with Channel 12, June 15, 2024. (Screenshot, Channel 12, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

National Unity party lawmaker Gadi Eisenkot, who served as a war cabinet observer from the start of the war in Gaza until his party’s departure from government last Sunday, accuses Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of refusing to hold a vote authorizing the IDF’s operating in Rafah, causing it to be delayed by three months.

In an interview with Channel 12, Eisenkot, a former IDF chief of staff, says that the Netanyahu he worked with over the last eight months was “a different Netanyahu” to the one he previously worked with when it came to making decisions.

In previous years, Netanyahu would have made decisions “based purely on security considerations,” Eisenkot says. “Here, I saw decisions being made entirely differently, with delays…with antics.”

“Even the story of the invasion of Rafah was simmering away for three months,” he continues. “Over on their [media] channels, they report that Gadi Eisenkot and Benny Gantz are the ones who deleted the attack on Rafah, that the prime minister is determined and wants to proceed in Rafah, only we’re the ones holding him back.

“On the contrary,” Eisenkot says, accusing the prime minister of stretching out the process “like chewing gum.”

He tells Channel 12 that he believes Netanyahu did so both for personal and political interests.

In a statement released minutes after Eisenkot’s accusation, the Likud party accuses him of lying.

“In stark contrast to Eisenkot’s claim, the prime minister was the one who pushed for action in Rafah, even at the cost of a confrontation with the Americans,” the statement reads. “The Prime Minister makes decisions all the time, just not the ones which Eisenkot and Gantz pushed for, which would mean surrendering to Hamas.

“The prime minister’s stances are derived solely from national security considerations, which the majority of the public supports, and not from any kind of political pressure,” Likud adds, accusing Gantz and Eisenkot of bolting the emergency coalition due to a downward trend in election polls.

IDF says rocket launched from Gaza sparked fire near southern community of Kissufim

A rocket launched from the Gaza Strip earlier this evening struck an open area near the southern community of Kissufim, sparking a fire, the military says.

There are no injuries, and firefighters are working to extinguish the blaze.

After 8 soldiers killed in Rafah, Hagari says IDF checking if armored vehicle was hit by anti-tank missile

Regarding this morning’s deadly incident in southern Gaza’s Rafah, in which eight combat engineers were killed, IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari says the military is also investigating the possibility that the Namer armored combat engineering vehicle (CEV) was hit by an anti-tank missile.

According to an initial IDF probe, the CEV was hit by an explosive, possibly a planted bomb.

“Following this difficult incident, a team of experts of the Defense Ministry and IDF will examine the armored vehicle and all the details of the incident, until we reach findings,” he says in a press conference.

Arms show organizers to appeal French court’s decision to ban Israeli firms from participating

After a French district court rules that organizers of the Eurosatory 2024 defense and security trade show must ban anyone working for or representing Israeli firms from participating, Coges – the event organizer – is expected to release a statement saying that they will appeal the decision, and that the ruling goes far beyond what was requested by the French government, The Times of Israel has learned.

The French government will also issue a reaction to the ruling.
The ban on employees of Israeli companies would also extend to non-Israelis employed by such firms, while Israelis working for outside companies would be allowed to enter.

At rally, Lapid accuses Netanyahu of trying to distance himself from Oct. 7 by stalling for time

Opposition Leader Yair Lapid attends a protest calling for the release of Israeli hostages held in the Gaza Strip and against the current Israeli government outside the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, June 15, 2024. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Opposition Leader Yair Lapid attends a protest calling for the release of Israeli hostages held in the Gaza Strip and against the current Israeli government outside the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, June 15, 2024. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Addressing thousands at an anti-government protest in Tel Aviv — said to be the largest since October 7 — Opposition Leader Yair Lapid accuses Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of passing discriminatory laws and “stalling so people forget he’s guilty and responsible” for the Hamas terror onslaught in southern Israel.

When four Givati soldiers were killed last Monday, the Knesset was preparing to vote on renewing the legislative process for a controversial ultra-Orthodox enlistment bill, Lapid says.

“The whole Knesset already knew,” he says. “We were all in a bad mood, depressed, and then we looked up and saw that there was one person who didn’t feel that way. We saw the smile.

“Netanyahu was standing there, with a huge smile, pleased, condescending, blasé. He already knew — we all already knew — that Tal, Eitan, Almog and Yair were killed in Rafah, and he smiled. Five more were seriously injured, and he was smiling.”

“What was he smiling about? That as soldiers were being killed, he passed a law discriminating between the blood of some and of others. A law that tears the country apart even more,” Lapid continues.

Netanyahu “wants to stall, put some more distance between him and October 7 so maybe someone will forget that he’s guilty and responsible for the worst day in the history of Israel,” he adds.

In addition to Kaplan Street in Tel Aviv and Moria Avenue in Haifa, which was blocked by police to facilitate the demonstration, protesters without the correct permits also blocked multiple traffic arteries intermittently Saturday, including Amiad Junction in Israel’s north and Route Four.

Several people are detained at those and other locales for disrupting traffic, according to protest organizers, via their WhatsApp groups.

They also say the turnout on Kaplan Street, which drone images show is packed by masses of people, is the largest to date since October 7.

After 8 soldiers killed in Gaza, Ben Gvir, Smotrich say fighting must continue to ensure deaths weren’t in vain

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir calls on Israel “to continue fighting” following the deaths of eight soldiers in Gaza whose Namer armored combat engineering vehicle was hit by a major explosion on Saturday morning.

“A difficult and painful day upon learning of the tragic and unfortunate death in Rafah of eight of our best warriors,” he tweets following the end of Shabbat. “I bow my head together with all the citizens of Israel and mourn the fall of our warriors.”

After writing that he sends condolences to the families of the fallen, the far-right minister insists that “we must continue fighting. To topple Hamas, return all our hostages and assure their families and all bereaved families that the death of their loved ones was not in vain.”

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich also calls for a continuation of the fighting, stating that “we are in a war for our existence.”

“Our sons fell so that we would win and so that this generation could live in a safe Jewish state,” he writes on X, declaring that “the heavy price of the war obliges us to continue until the complete destruction of the enemy.”

“I bow my head in pain and send a big hug to the families and promise that we will do everything to be worthy of them,” he says.

Netanyahu: Deaths of 8 soldiers in Rafah is the ‘heartbreaking price of a just war’

Declaring that the deaths of eight IDF servicemen in Gaza on Saturday morning are the “heartbreaking price in our just war of the defense of the homeland,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expresses his “deep mourning” but insists that “despite the heavy and staggering cost, we must stick to the goals of the war.”

These include “destroying the military and governmental capabilities of Hamas, returning all our hostages, making sure that Gaza will no longer pose a threat to Israel and returning our residents safely to their homes – both in the north and in the south,” he says in a video message.

“When the price is so heavy, we will remember what we are fighting for: we are fighting to ensure our existence and our future, we are fighting to return all our hostages,” he insists — stating that “this hard war was forced upon us by a loathsome and murderous enemy” who “slaughtered and raped” on October 7, attacking “babies and children, women and men, young and old.”

“This monstrous enemy has no intention of stopping here. Along with the rest of Iran’s axis of evil, it will continue to try to destroy us. If we don’t stop it — it won’t stop. Therefore, there is no substitute for victory,” Netanyahu declares.

At the same time, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant expresses condolences over the latest casualties, writing on X that he was “deeply saddened when, in the early hours of the morning, I received the difficult news about the death of eight IDF soldiers in the battle in Rafah.”

“The pain is great, my heart and thoughts are with their families,” he writes. “I bow my head together with all the people of Israel in memory of the heroes who fell in defense of our people and land. May their memory be a blessing.”

Rescued hostage Andrey Kozlov calls for hostage deal in recorded message at Tel Aviv rally

Andrey Kozlov says he and the four hostages rescued by Israeli troops from Hamas on June 8 saw images from weekly rallies for their return.

“Nearly every Saturday night they showed us rallies from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. I didn’t count how many people were there but we saw many,” Kozlov says in a recorded message aired to thousands of people at the weekly rally in Tel Aviv.

“I remember how Almog [Meir Jan] saw his picture for the first time [on a poster at the rally] and it was like a breath of fresh air for him. You put in so much effort and time into getting us back home and it gave me hope. You are heroes.”

He calls on the government to “make a deal” with Hamas, which is demanding a permanent ceasefire, among other demands, as a prerequisite for returning the 120 hostages still held in Gaza, many of them not alive.

Rotem Calderon, whose father Ofer is held hostage in Gaza, says at the rally: “The people of Israel died on October 7 and will be revived only when everyone is back. A deal now. Love you dad.”

Michal Lubnov, whose husband Alex is presumed to be held hostage, notes that Father’s Day will be celebrated on June 21 and that Saturday’s rally focuses on men and fathers in captivity in Gaza.

“It’s Father’s Day and Alex doesn’t even know he has a boy,” she says, holding back tears. She gave birth in February to the couple’s second child, Kai, and their firstborn, who is two-and-a-half years old, is potty trained and learning to ride a bicycle, she adds, listing moments that her husband has missed.

PA says IDF troops killed teen during Nablus raid; army says it opened fire at suspects throwing rocks

The Palestinian Authority health ministry says Israeli troops shot dead a Palestinian teenager in the West Bank, as an army official confirms troops opened fire during a raid.

Sultan Abdul Rahman Khatatbeh, 16, was killed by Israeli fire in the northern West Bank town of Beit Furik, the ministry says in a statement published on Facebook.

Palestinian news agency Wafa reports that two others were injured when Israeli forces stormed the town, east of Nablus, “firing live bullets at local residents.”

An Israeli military official tells AFP that troops were operating in the Nablus area when “dozens of suspects hurled rocks at Israeli security forces, who responded with riot dispersal means and live fire.”

“Hits were identified,” the official says, without elaborating.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

Police release clip showing rescue of Gaza hostage Noa Argamani

Police release new footage showing the rescue of hostage Noa Argamani from Hamas captivity in the Gaza Strip last weekend.

The video shows members of the elite Yamam counter-terrorism unit storming an apartment in central Gaza’s Nuseirat and reaching Argamani.

“Everything is ok Noa, we are taking you home,” an officer says to Argamani.

Once brought into the extraction vehicle, Noa is heard saying: “I am very excited, just very scared about the journey.”

“Everything is ok, you are with us, it’s all ok,” an officer says back.

Hostages and Missing Families Forum spokesperson says Israel ‘can’t win’ in Gaza

Protesters demand early elections and a deal to release hostages held in the Gaza Strip, in Tel Aviv on June 15, 2024. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)
Protesters demand early elections and a deal to release hostages held in the Gaza Strip, in Tel Aviv on June 15, 2024. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)

Israel will never fully win the war against Hamas, “who are like cockroaches that resurface after you spray them with pesticide,” a top spokesperson for the Hostages and Missing Families Forum says hours after eight Israel Defense Forces troops were killed in Gaza.

The remarks by Rami Beja, emcee of the weekly Saturday night rally for the hostages, are unusual from the Forum, which has mostly avoided offering commentary on the war against Hamas on matters that don’t concern hostages directly.

“We all know the heavy losses that the Americans had in Vietnam and even the Germans did not snuff out the partisans,” Beja tells thousands gathered on Tel Aviv’s Hostages Square. “Hamas are like cockroaches, spray pesticides on them and they will keep returning. We need to strike them but don’t tell me we can win, you can’t win entirely here,” says Beja.

Israelis “cannot present a united front about the war until all the hostages return,” adds Beja. “We need trust-establishing steps, not vis-à-vis the enemy but between the government and the people,” Beja adds. “We cannot have trust until the hostages are back.”

IDF says interceptor missile fired at ‘suspicious aerial target’ launched from east overnight

Overnight, an interceptor missile was launched at a “suspicious aerial target” heading toward Israel from the eastern direction, the military says.

The IDF says the target did not enter Israeli airspace amid the incident. It does not say if the target was shot down.

Due to fears of falling shrapnel from the interceptor, a siren was activated in the northern town of Na’ura.

The military has described past attacks from Iraq as “from the east.”

Meanwhile, the Iran-backed Islamic Resistance in Iraq claims to have launched a cruise missile at Haifa early this morning.

Thousands of protesters gather in dozens of locales to demand early elections

Anti-government protesters call for elections at Amiad Junction in northern Israel, June 15, 2024. (Amir Yarhci/Pro-Israel Democracy Movement)
Anti-government protesters call for elections at Amiad Junction in northern Israel, June 15, 2024. (Amir Yarhci/Pro-Israel Democracy Movement)

Tel Aviv, Haifa, Beersheba, Rehovot, Caesarea, and Ness Ziona are among the 60 locales where demonstrations, some of them attended by thousands, are being held to demand early elections.

The Saturday evening protests have been taking place in those locales for months. They are now occurring for the first time since Benny Gantz, leader of the National Unity party, returned to the opposition and left the cabinet of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Gantz had joined the cabinet shortly after the outbreak of war with Hamas on October 7.

This development may galvanize the protest movement against Netanyahu’s government.

In one of the earliest clashes Saturday between protesters and police, officers detain and drag away a senior citizen in Amiad junction in northern Israel after he participated in a road blockage.

Some protests, including the one in Beersheba, feature a screening of the film “Bringing Down a Dictator” about Slobodan Milosevic, the late Serbian leader who died in 2006 while being tried by a UN tribunal on 66 counts of crimes against humanity, including genocide.

Separately, the Hostages and Missing Families Forum, which represents some families of hostages seeking a temporary ceasefire with Hamas to increase the chances of retrieving their loved ones, is organizing its weekly rally on Hostages Square in Tel Aviv. Themed around Father’s Day, which is on June 21, the Forum’s rally is focused on the men and fathers in captivity, the group says.

Rocket alerts activate in Kissufim near Gaza border

Incoming rocket sirens are sounding in the Gaza border community of Kibbutz Kissufim.

At weekly address, group of hostage families urge government to reach deal with Hamas

A group of relatives of hostages held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip give their weekly address, in Tel Aviv, June 15, 2024. (Marcelo Sznaidman/Pro-Democracy Protest Movement)
A group of relatives of hostages held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip give their weekly address, in Tel Aviv, June 15, 2024. (Marcelo Sznaidman/Pro-Democracy Protest Movement)

Several relatives of hostages held in Gaza urge the government to close the gaps in talks with Hamas on a deal to free their loved ones, in a weekly press conference.

Eyal Eshel, the father of Roni Eshel, who was killed on October 7, says: “Saving the hostages is the key to saving the country.”

Einav Zangauker, whose son Matan is held hostage by Hamas, urges the government to take the proposal currently on the table for a deal.

“Hostages have no time for blame games. We demand the government: take the initiative, turn over every stone, do not miss the deal that is on the table,” she says.

Addressing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Ayala Metzger, whose father-in-law Yoram’s body is held by Hamas, says “The country is burning,” warning of an additional major war in the north.

“The continuation of the war will bring a continuation of the loss of life, among the abducted soldiers and civilians. A deal means security. A deal will bring security in all arenas,” she says.

Eight soldiers killed in Rafah explosion, IDF announces

Cpt. Wassem Mahmoud, 23, a deputy company commander in the Combat Engineering Corps' 601st Battalion from Beit Jann, who was killed fighting in Gaza on June 15, 2024. (Courtesy)
Cpt. Wassem Mahmoud, 23, a deputy company commander in the Combat Engineering Corps' 601st Battalion from Beit Jann, who was killed fighting in Gaza on June 15, 2024. (Courtesy)

Eight Israeli soldiers were killed in a blast in southern Gaza’s Rafah this morning, the military announces, in what marks the deadliest incident for the IDF in the Strip since January.

Only one of the soldiers is named: Cpt. Wassem Mahmoud, 23, a deputy company commander in the Combat Engineering Corps’ 601st Battalion from Beit Jann.

The families of the other seven soldiers have been notified, and their names are due to be released later.

According to an initial IDF probe, the troops were all killed inside a Namer armored combat engineering vehicle (CEV).

The soldiers had been driving in a convoy at around 5 a.m. on Saturday following an overnight offensive against Hamas in the northwestern areas of Rafah’s Tel Sultan neighborhood, during which troops under the 401st Armored Brigade killed some 50 gunmen, according to the IDF.

The convoy was heading to buildings captured by the army, for the troops to rest following the overnight operation.

The Namer CEV was the fifth or sixth vehicle in the convoy, and at some point, it was hit by a major explosion. It was not immediately clear if it was a bomb planted ahead of time or if Hamas operatives had approached the vehicle with an explosive device and directly placed it on the CEV.

The military was also investigating the possibility that explosives stored on the outside of the CEV contributed to the massive blast. Normally, the mines and other explosives stored on the outside of a CEV would not manage to cause injuries to troops inside if they detonated.

There was no gunfire amid the incident, and the vehicle was not at a standstill when the blast occurred, the probe found.

Their deaths bring the toll of slain IDF soldiers in the ground offensive against Hamas and amid operations along the Gaza border to 307. A police officer was killed in a hostage rescue operation last week, and a civilian Defense Ministry contractor has also been killed in the Strip.

The deadliest incident in Gaza occurred in January, during which 21 soldiers were killed in a blast following Hamas RPG fire that collapsed two buildings.

Islamic Jihad names member killed in Israeli strike in southern Lebanon

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad announces the death of a member in an Israeli strike in southern Lebanon. He is named as Zuhair Jalbout, 45.

No further details are given on the circumstances of his death.

Numerous PIJ operatives have been killed in Israeli strikes on Hezbollah positions in southern Lebanon amid the ongoing fighting.

Gallant set to visit US later this month

File: Defense Minister Yoav Gallant in Washington, DC, on March 26, 2024. (Drew Angerer/AFP)
File: Defense Minister Yoav Gallant in Washington, DC, on March 26, 2024. (Drew Angerer/AFP)

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant will visit the United States later this month, his office confirms to The Times of Israel.

It will be the second time the minister has visited the US since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war on October 7.

A Pentagon spokesperson says Gallant’s visit aims “to further discuss ongoing security developments in the Middle East.”

Man seriously hurt in stabbing during brawl in southern kibbutz

Police say a man was seriously injured after he was stabbed during a brawl with two others in Kibbutz Yotvata in the south.

The man is taken to Yoseftal Medical Center in Eilat for treatment.

Police arrest a 23-year-old suspect and resident of the kibbutz.

Hadash-Ta’al MK: Despite their actions, Hamas still ‘part of the Palestinian people’

Hadash-Ta'al MK Aida Touma-Sliman speaks at a Knesset Finance Committee meeting on the approval of budgetary transfers in the education system, at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, September 26, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
Hadash-Ta'al MK Aida Touma-Sliman speaks at a Knesset Finance Committee meeting on the approval of budgetary transfers in the education system, at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, September 26, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

Hadash-Ta’al MK Aida Touma-Sliman says that despite Hamas’s actions, the terror group is still “part of the Palestinian people,” in an apparent reference to the massacre terrorists carried out on October 7.

Touma-Sliman answers a question from an audience member at the left-wing aligned Rosa Luxemburg Foundation conference in Berlin, who asks the Israeli-Arab lawmaker how it is possible to have peace while Hamas exists.

While she says she doesn’t compare with Hamas’s actions, she says “there are people among the Jewish society, the Israeli society, that is terrorizing people every day, that are committing violence in the West Bank, that are committing horrors, and nobody is asking what we are going to do about them,” referencing settler violence in the West Bank.

Her answer draws a round of applause from the auditorium.

Iran and Iraq reportedly discuss opening Hamas media office in Baghdad

Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein (R) and Iran's Acting Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani shake hands during a joint press conference in Baghdad, on June 13, 2024. (Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP)
Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein (R) and Iran's Acting Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani shake hands during a joint press conference in Baghdad, on June 13, 2024. (Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP)

Iran’s Acting Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani discussed opening up a Hamas media office in Baghdad with the Iraqi government, according to the Lebanese Al-Akhbar news outlet.

Citing informed sources, the outlet says that Hamas has also discussed potentially opening an office in Iraq’s capital, which would be focused on media and public relations.

IDF says rockets launched Friday night from Gaza ‘humanitarian zone’

An IDF graphic showing the location of rocket launches and impacts from the Gaza Strip on June 14, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
An IDF graphic showing the location of rocket launches and impacts from the Gaza Strip on June 14, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

Rockets fired by Hamas at southern Israel last night were launched from the Israeli-designated “humanitarian zone” in the Gaza Strip, the military says.

Five rockets were launched in the barrage, two of which crossed the border, impacting open areas near Kibbutz Kissufim. The other three fell short in the Strip.

Hamas claimed to have targeted a military base in the area.

In a statement, the IDF says Hamas’s use of the humanitarian zone to launch rockets at Israel is “a further example of the cynical exploitation of humanitarian infrastructure and the civilian population as human shields by terror organizations in the Gaza Strip for their terrorist attacks.”

Rocket hits open area near Gaza border

One rocket launched from the Gaza Strip a short while ago struck an open area in the Eshkol Regional Council, causing no injuries, the military says.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad claimed to have launched a barrage of rockets at a military base near the community of Sufa.

Sirens had sounded in Sufa, as well as the adjacent towns of Sdei Avraham, Holit, Pri Gan, and Talmei Yosef.

Iran says ex-prison official serving life sentence in Sweden freed as part of exchange

Courtroom sketch shows Iranian defendant Hamid Noury (2nd from left) sitting in the District Court of Stockholm with his defense attorney Daniel Marcus (3rd from left) on the opening of his trial for war crimes and murder, on August 10, 2021. (Anders Humlebo/AFP)
Courtroom sketch shows Iranian defendant Hamid Noury (2nd from left) sitting in the District Court of Stockholm with his defense attorney Daniel Marcus (3rd from left) on the opening of his trial for war crimes and murder, on August 10, 2021. (Anders Humlebo/AFP)

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran says that Hamid Noury, a former Iranian prison official jailed for life in Sweden, has been freed and will return to the Islamic Republic soon, as part of a prisoner swap.

“Hamid Noury, who has been in illegal detention in Sweden since 2019, is free and will return to the country in a few hours,” Kazem Gharibabadi, head of Iran’s High Council for Human Rights, said in a post on social media platform X.

Noury was sentenced to life in jail for crimes against humanity and war crimes for being involved in what a Swedish court heard were the executions of a large number of prisoners in the 1980s.

In exchange, Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson says two Swedes who were detained in Iran, Johan Floderus and Saeed Azizi, were on their way back to Sweden.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

Several Hezbollah drones explode in north, causing fire

Several explosive-laden drones launched by Hezbollah from Lebanon impacted near the northern community of Goren, sparking a fire.

Hezbollah in a statement claims to have targeted a military base in the area.

The IDF says it is investigating why it failed to down the drones.

France, Germany and Britain slam Iran’s expansion of nuclear program

PARIS, France — France, Germany and Britain condemn Iran’s latest steps, as reported by the IAEA, to further expand its nuclear program.

“Iran has taken further steps in hollowing out the JCPoA, by operating dozens of additional advanced centrifuges at the Natanz enrichment site as well as announcing it will install thousands more centrifuges at both its Fordow and Natanz sites.” the joint statement says.

“This decision is a further escalation of Iran’s nuclear program, which carries significant proliferation risks,” it adds.

Yair Netanyahu shares post casting top security chiefs as ‘fatal failures’

An Instagram story posted by Yair Netanyahu, showing an image of National Unity chair Benny Gantz captioned, 'King of the conception,' shared June 15, 2024. (Instagram screenshot: used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
An Instagram story posted by Yair Netanyahu, showing an image of National Unity chair Benny Gantz captioned, 'King of the conception,' shared June 15, 2024. (Instagram screenshot: used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Yair Netanyahu, the prime minister’s son, shares a post on his Instagram story labeling National Unity party chair Benny Gantz as the “king of the conception,” and three top security chiefs as “fatal failures.”

The video shows pictures of IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi, Shin Bet security agency Ronen Bar, and Military Intelligence chief Aharon Haliva, captioned “Who appointed,” followed by each of their names.

“Three fatal failures — they are the appointments of one man,” the text on the video reads, before switching to a video of Gantz, the “king of the conception.”

The three were appointed under the government of Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid, while Gantz served as defense minister.

Yair Netanyahu arrives for a court hearing in Tel Aviv, on November 29, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

The “conception” is what many have termed officials’ deeply mistaken paradigm in the years leading up to the October 7 assault, that Hamas preferred calm on the Gaza border and to receive funding from the international community to all-out war with Israel.

Many government critics have accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the “father of the conception.” The premier has claimed he never fell for the idea, which he says was pushed by members of the security establishment.

French court rules anyone working for Israeli defense firm cannot attend arms show in Paris next week

Visitors stand at the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) booth at the Eurosatory international land and air defense and security trade fair, in Villepinte, a northern suburb of Paris, on June 13, 2022. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP)
Visitors stand at the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) booth at the Eurosatory international land and air defense and security trade fair, in Villepinte, a northern suburb of Paris, on June 13, 2022. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP)

A French district court rules that organizers of the Eurosatory 2024 defense and security trade show must ban any one working for or representing Israeli firms from participating, according to a copy of the ruling obtained by the Le Parisien news outlet.

The French Defense Ministry last month ordered organizers to ban the Israeli defense industry from setting up a stand at the event, saying that “the conditions are no longer right to host Israeli companies at the Paris show, given that the French president is calling for the cessation of IDF operation in Rafah.”

Seventy-four Israeli firms had been set to be represented at the June 17 to 21 event at fairgrounds close to Paris’s main international airport, with Coges previously saying around 10 of them were to exhibit weapons.

However, organizers said that Israelis would still be allowed to visit the fair.

Agencies contributed to this report.

Three Israelis killed in car crash while vacationing in Sinai desert

Three Israelis have been killed in a car accident in Egypt’s Sinai desert, media outlets report

The three were residents of the Arab city of Kafr Qasim and were vacationing in the Red Sea resort town of Nuweiba.

Public split over who should lead anti-Netanyahu bloc at next election, poll finds

Then-prime minister Naftali Bennett, then-Foreign Affairs Minister Yair Lapid and MK Boaz Toporovsky during a discussion and a vote on a bill to dissolve the Knesset, June 22, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Then-prime minister Naftali Bennett, then-Foreign Affairs Minister Yair Lapid and MK Boaz Toporovsky during a discussion and a vote on a bill to dissolve the Knesset, June 22, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The public is divided over who should lead an opposition bloc against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to a Channel 12 news poll, with none of the seven candidates surveyed receiving more than 15 percent of backing from respondents.

The poll finds former prime minister Naftali Bennett to be the most popular candidate to lead an anti-Netanyahu bloc, with 15%, followed by National Unity party chair Benny Gantz with 14%, former Mossad spy agency chief Yossi Cohen (11%), Opposition Leader Yair Lapid (9%), Yisrael Beytenu party chair Avigdor Liberman (8%), National Unity MK Gadi Eisenkot (4%), and Labor party chair Yair Golan (3%).

The poll finds that 25% of respondents don’t know who should lead the bloc, while 11% want someone not listed in the survey.

Ruling Likud party voters are asked by the poll who they think should lead the party if Netanyahu decides not to run in the next elections, with Yossi Cohen coming out on top with 18% of respondents giving him their backing.

Cohen is followed by Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (12%), Justice Minister Yariv Levin (11%), Economy Minister Nir Barkat (8%), UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan (4%), Transportation Minister Miri Regev (4%), Agriculture Minister Avi Dichter (3%), Foreign Minister Israel Katz (3%), Energy Minister Eli Cohen (3%), former Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein (3%) and current Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana (2%).

Nine percent of respondents want someone else, and 20% don’t know who to support.

Hezbollah fires two missiles at Mount Meron air traffic control base

Two missiles launched from Lebanon this morning struck the Israeli military’s sensitive Mount Meron air traffic control base.

The IDF says there are no injuries and “no harm to the unit’s capabilities” in the attack.

Hezbollah took responsibility for the incident, claiming to have targeted equipment at the base with guided missiles.

The terror group has attacked Mount Meron, located some eight kilometers (five miles) from the Lebanon border, several times amid the ongoing war, launching large barrages of rockets at the mountain, as well as guided missiles at the air traffic control base that sits atop it.

IDF confirms it struck Hezbollah operative on motorcycle in southern Lebanon

The IDF confirms carrying out a strike against a Hezbollah operative in southern Lebanon’s Aitaroun this morning.

A video released by the military shows the strike against the operative riding a motorcycle.

US officials worry deeper Israeli strikes in Lebanon, intensifying Hezbollah rocket attacks, could spark war

IDF soldiers deploy along a road near the site where rockets fired by terrorists in south Lebanon landed near Kfar Szold in the Upper Galilee in northern Israel on June 14, 2024. (Jalaa Marey/AFP)
IDF soldiers deploy along a road near the site where rockets fired by terrorists in south Lebanon landed near Kfar Szold in the Upper Galilee in northern Israel on June 14, 2024. (Jalaa Marey/AFP)

US officials are increasingly concerned that an all-out war could break out between Israel and Hezbollah due to increasingly deeper attacks by the two sides, according to a CBS news report.

Some US officials tell the American network they believe recent Israeli strikes deeper in Lebanese territory are setting the stage for a broader operation, which would spark a war Israel cannot complete with Washington’s support.

Other US officials speaking to CBS say they are concerned over the scenario that intensifying Hezbollah rocket attacks will result in “unintended consequences” that give Israel cause to launch a major assault.

Hezbollah has upped its attacks after a strike this week that killed Taleb Sami Abdullah, its most senior commander to die by Israel’s hand since the round of violence started eight months ago.

The terror group began launching daily attacks on northern communities on October 8, saying it was doing so to support Hamas amid the war in Gaza.

Motorcycle targeted in reported Israeli drone strike in southern Lebanon

Lebanese media report an Israeli drone strike on a motorcycle between the southern towns of Bint Jbiel and Aitaroun a short while ago.

Causalities are reported in the strike.

There is no immediate comment from the IDF.

Jets hit Hezbollah center next to rocket launch site, projectiles fired at north

Israeli fighter jets struck a building in southern Lebanon’s Kafr Kila last night, which the IDF says was used by Hezbollah and was adjacent to an area from which the terror group fired rockets at Metula yesterday.

Meanwhile, sirens that sounded this morning in the northern community of Tziv’on were triggered by two projectiles fired from Lebanon at the Mount Meron area, the military says.

There were no injuries in the attack.

US military says it destroyed Houthi radars, vessels

A fighter jet lands on the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, also known as "IKE," in the Red Sea on Tuesday, June 11, 2024. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
A fighter jet lands on the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, also known as "IKE," in the Red Sea on Tuesday, June 11, 2024. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

The US military says it destroyed two uncrewed surface vessels in the Red Sea belonging to Yemen’s Houthis, as well as one drone and seven radars that allowed the rebels to target ships.

The Iran-backed Houthis, who control much of Yemen, have launched dozens of drone and missile strikes into the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden since November, describing them as retaliation for the Israel-Hamas war.

In the last 24 hours, “forces successfully destroyed one uncrewed aerial system” launched over the Red Sea, US Central Command (CENTCOM) says in a social media post.

It says US forces also destroyed two Houthi uncrewed surface vessels plus “seven Iranian-backed” Houthi radars in a Houthi-controlled area of Yemen.

The radars allowed the Houthis “to target maritime vessels and endanger commercial shipping,” CENTCOM says.

“It was determined these systems presented an imminent threat to U.S., coalition forces, and merchant vessels in the region,” CENTCOM says in the post.

The rebel attacks have prompted strikes by US and British forces and the formation of an international coalition to protect the vital shipping lanes through the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea.

The moves come as the Houthi rebels increase attacks on maritime traffic.

Yesterday, the crew of the MV Tutor ship was evacuated from the drifting vessel, which was struck by a sea drone on Wednesday.

It was among the surge of attacks this week, one of which badly injured a sailor who was evacuated by US forces from the MV Verbena in the Gulf of Aden on Thursday.

California schools hold graduation ceremonies without disruption over Gaza war

The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and other institutions in the state conducted graduation ceremonies on Friday without the disruption of protests over Israel’s war on Gaza, with proceedings largely undisturbed.

The United States, Israel’s key ally, has seen months of pro-Palestinian protests ranging from marches in Washington and vigils near the White House to the blocking of bridges and roads near train stations and airports in multiple cities, along with encampments on many college campuses.

UCLA commencement ceremonies were “poignant and simply beautiful,” the school said. UCLA’s commencement celebrations had over 60 events scheduled from Friday to Sunday.

US preparing to temporarily remove Gaza pier due to sea conditions, official says

The US military is preparing to temporarily remove its humanitarian pier off the coast of Gaza because of anticipated sea conditions, a US official says, the latest challenge to the effort that has been hampered by bad weather since it was put into place in May.

The floating US military pier off Gaza had just resumed bringing humanitarian aid into the enclave after being suspended over the weekend.

The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, says that the pier will likely be moved to the Israeli port of Ashdod until sea conditions improve.

Aid began arriving via the US-built pier on May 17, and the UN said it transported 137 trucks of aid to warehouses, some 900 metric tons, before the US announced on May 28 that it had suspended operations so repairs could be made.

The United Nations said on Friday it had still not resumed transportation of aid from the pier to UN World Food Programme warehouses.

“Our security colleagues are still working to ensure that secure conditions for humanitarian work can be re-established,” said deputy U.N. spokesperson Farhan Haq.

Two young men shot dead overnight in northern Arab town

Two young men were shot dead overnight in the town of Jadeidi-Makr in the Galilee.

The two were identified as cousins Amir and Ashraf Bassal, both in their twenties.

Police were investigating the murders.

Since the beginning of the year 96 Arabs have been killed in Israel in violent criminal incidents, according to the Abraham Initiatives coexistence advocacy group. It is a slightly lower number than last year’s record-breaking figures, which stood at 102 at this date.

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