The Times of Israel liveblogged Thursday’s events as they unfolded.

IDF says suspected infiltration of settlement was a false alarm

The IDF’s Home Front Command says a suspected infiltration at the Amihai settlement was a false alarm and that residents can now leave their homes.

Israel said building large facility to check Palestinians returning to northern Gaza

The Israel Defense Forces is constructing a large facility in the Gaza Strip to inspect displaced Palestinians returning to the north of the enclave, the Kan public broadcaster reports.

According to the report, the facility is the size of two soccer fields and is located near the coast along the Netzarim Corridor that cuts across Gaza from east to west.

In addition to security checks, Kan says Israel will look into also using the facility to house humanitarian aid sent to Gaza.

IDF image appears to show alleged Hamas operations chief among those captured at Shifa

This photo collage released by the IDF on March 21, 2024 shows some of 358 confirmed terror operatives captured by troops at Gaza City's Shifa Hospital. In all, more than 650 terror suspects were detained. (Israel Defense Forces)
This photo collage released by the IDF on March 21, 2024 shows some of 358 confirmed terror operatives captured by troops at Gaza City's Shifa Hospital. In all, more than 650 terror suspects were detained. (Israel Defense Forces)

An image released by the IDF earlier this evening of some of the 358 confirmed terror operatives captured by troops at Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital apparently shows that Raad Saad is among those detained.

Saad has been previously reported to be the chief of Hamas operations.

In a press conference earlier this evening, IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said there were “very significant” senior Hamas commanders who were captured at Shifa, but that their identities could not immediately be disclosed due to their ongoing interrogations.

2 ZAKA volunteers suspended after videos show one hugging a woman, speaking at church fundraiser

Yossi Landau, center, stands on stage with his brother Jacob and Pastor George Pearsons on February 2, 2024 in Newark, Texas. (Screenshot taken from the Facebook page of Eagle Mountain International Church)
Yossi Landau, center, stands on stage with his brother Jacob and Pastor George Pearsons on February 2, 2024 in Newark, Texas. (Screenshot taken from the Facebook page of Eagle Mountain International Church)

Two prominent volunteers of ZAKA, the Orthodox emergency response organization, have been suspended after videos surfaced of one of them hugging a woman at a church in Texas and calling his Christian interlocutors “brothers and sisters.”

The Orthodox interpretation of Jewish law largely forbids men from touching members of the opposite sex. Under that interpretation, Jews are also not to enter a church. Many ultra-Orthodox Jews are deeply suspicious of Christians, and object to any union with them.

One video shows Yossi Landau, a senior ZAKA volunteer from Ashdod, standing next to his brother Jacob on February 2 at the Eagle Mountain International Church in Newark, Texas. He thanks the hundreds of people who gathered at the church to donate to ZAKA volunteers struggling with trauma following the aftermath of the October 7 onslaught by Hamas in Israel. The event that Yossi and Jacob Landau attended was one of multiple gatherings held by the church to express solidarity with Israel.

“Lord has His way to bring us together and we are brothers and sisters and the definition of ZAKA in Hebrew is to bring brothers together,” says Yossi.

Another video published on X by Army Radio reporter Yoeli Brim shows him briefly hugging Julie Sironi, the Israel liaison for the church.

The video sparked complaints by Haredi Jews from ZAKA and beyond, Brim reports, and the emergency service has since suspended the Landaus. “They said things that contradict the halacha of our holy Torah,” reads a statement from ZAKA. The letter does not mention the hug.

Sirens sound in West Bank settlement due to suspected infiltration

Warning sirens sound in Amihai, with the IDF’s Home Front Command reporting there’s a suspicion that assailants entered the northern West Bank settlement.

EU leaders urge ‘immediate humanitarian pause leading to sustainable ceasefire’ in Gaza

BRUSSELS — European Union leaders call for an “immediate” humanitarian pause in Gaza that would lead to a ceasefire.

“Strong and unified statement of EU leaders on the Middle East at #EUCO tonight!” Charles Michel, the president of the council, posts on social media platform X.

“The EU calls for an immediate humanitarian pause leading to a sustainable ceasefire.”

3 treated for shock after explosive reportedly hurled at bus in West Bank

The Magen David Adom ambulance service says it’s treating three people for shock after an explosive device was reportedly hurled at a bus in the southern West Bank.

MDA says no one was physically harmed.

At least 10 West Bank Palestinians killed in strikes, clashes with Israeli forces in past day

An armored IDF convoy leaves after a raid at the Nur Shams camp near Tulkarem in the northern West Bank on March 21, 2024. (Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP)
An armored IDF convoy leaves after a raid at the Nur Shams camp near Tulkarem in the northern West Bank on March 21, 2024. (Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP)

At least ten Palestinians in the West Bank have been killed in IDF strikes or while clashing with Israeli forces over the past day, according to official figures from the Palestinian Authority.

The toll includes four terror operatives targeted in Jenin by a drone, one of whom died of his wounds today, as well as four in the Nur Shams refugee camp near Tulkarem, two of whom were killed in an airstrike and the other two in gun battles with Israeli troops.

It also includes a 19-year-old Palestinian shot in Al-Bireh near Ramallah, according to the Palestinian Authority’s health ministry, and another man shot in the area of Jericho. They were both fatally wounded during confrontations with Israeli forces.

Additionally, a Palestinian convert to Judaism was shot dead by a reservist soldier in the southern West Bank. The military has opened an investigation into the shooting, which it called a “serious incident,” after Hebrew media outlets reported the man had his hands in the air when shot.

US to bring UN motion urging immediate Gaza ceasefire up for vote on Friday

The UN Security Council meets before voting on a resolution concerning a ceasefire in Gaza at United Nations headquarters, February 20, 2024. (AP/Seth Wenig)
The UN Security Council meets before voting on a resolution concerning a ceasefire in Gaza at United Nations headquarters, February 20, 2024. (AP/Seth Wenig)

WASHINGTON — The United States on Friday morning will bring a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza as part of a hostage deal to the United Nations Security Council for a vote, a spokesperson says.

“The United States has been working in earnest with Council members over the last several weeks on a resolution that will unequivocally support ongoing diplomatic efforts aimed at securing an immediate ceasefire in Gaza as part of a hostage deal, which would get hostages released and help enable a surge in humanitarian aid,” says Nate Evans, spokesperson for the US mission to the United Nations.

High Court to hear rights groups’ petition demanding Israel increase aid flow to Gaza

A truck carrying humanitarian aid for the Gaza Strip passes through the Kerem Shalom Crossing in southern Israel, March 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)
A truck carrying humanitarian aid for the Gaza Strip passes through the Kerem Shalom Crossing in southern Israel, March 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)

The High Court of Justice agrees to hear a petition filed by five human rights organizations earlier this week asking the court to order the government to allow unfettered entry of all necessary “humanitarian aid, equipment and staff to Gaza, especially to the north of the territory.”

The petition, filed by Gisha together with HaMoked: Center for the Defense of the Individual, Physicians for Human Rights Israel, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and Adalah, also asks the court to order the government to “significantly increase the volume of aid to Gaza, including by opening land crossings between Gaza and Israel, and to provide for all the needs of the civilian population in keeping with Israel’s obligations as the occupying power.”

The organizations assert in their petition that Israel is failing to increase the flow of aid to the war-torn enclave, which they say constitutes “a flagrant violation of its obligations under international law both as an occupying power and as a party to the hostilities,” and is also “a breach of the provisional measure set by the International Court of Justice on facilitation of aid.”

Supreme Court Justice Yechiel Kasher says a hearing for the petition will be set as soon as possible, and that the panel of justices to be assigned to the case will give the prime minister, defense minister and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories agency — who are all named as respondents — a deadline for filing their responses.

Border cops detain Palestinian near Jericho allegedly set to carry out suicide bombing

Border Police officers detained a Palestinian man in the West Bank who allegedly planned to carry out a suicide bombing, law enforcement officials say.

Undercover officers raided the Aqbat Jabr refugee camp near Jericho following intelligence provided by the Shin Bet security agency on a suspect who was planning to commit a suicide bombing in the “immediate time-frame,” police say.

The suspect was captured following a brief chase, which also included a gun battle with other Palestinians in the area.

Police say the officers returned fire at three suspects hurling explosive devices and shooting at the troops. One of them was killed, according to Palestinian health officials.

The detained suspect was handed over to the Shin Bet for questioning.

Blinken reiterates opposition to Rafah offensive, says ‘very good progress’ on Israel-Saudi deal

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken holds a joint press conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, during his visit to Cairo, Egypt, March 21, 2024. (Evelyn Hockstein/Pool Photo via AP)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken holds a joint press conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, during his visit to Cairo, Egypt, March 21, 2024. (Evelyn Hockstein/Pool Photo via AP)

CAIRO — US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says a major military operation by Israel in Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah would be “a mistake.”

Blinken calls the looming ground offensive “unnecessary,” in a joint press conference with his Egyptian counterpart in Cairo, adding “there is a better way to deal with the ongoing threat posed by Hamas.”

Commenting on truce-for-hostages talks in Qatar, Blinken says the “gaps are narrowing.”

The United States is “continuing to push for an agreement in Doha,” Blinken says, adding “it’s difficult to get there, but I believe it is still possible.”

He also reports “very good progress” toward a normalization agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia, saying his visit to the Gulf kingdom yesterday had yielded “a very good discussion” with Saudi leaders on closer ties between the two states.

The US top diplomat says he cannot “put a time frame on it,” but that discussions were “getting close to a point where we’ll have agreements.”

IDF spokesman says ‘very significant’ Hamas commanders among those detained at Shifa

IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari speaks outside Gaza City's Shifa Hospital on March 20, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari speaks outside Gaza City's Shifa Hospital on March 20, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari says there are additional “very significant” senior Hamas commanders who were captured by troops at Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital.

He does not detail their identities due to their ongoing interrogations.

Hagari in a press conference does detail some additional senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad operatives who were captured by troops at Shifa, including the commander of PIJ’s Shejaiya Battalion, the deputy commander of PIJ’s Northern Gaza Brigade, and the PIJ commander charged with the terror group’s tunnels in northern Gaza.

He says there is still a group of terror operatives holed up in Shifa’s emergency room, and the IDF is working to evacuate civilians from the area first before battling them.

On new cover, The Economist declares ‘Israel alone’ amid global criticism of Gaza war

The cover of the latest edition of The Economist declares that Israel finds itself internationally isolated as it faces increasing global criticism over the war in Gaza against Hamas.

Under the text “Israel alone,” the cover of the British weekly newspaper shows an Israeli flag planted in the sand with damaged buildings in Gaza behind it.

Sara Netanyahu said to gripe freed hostages ‘didn’t even say thanks to us’

Sara Netanyahu arrives for a hearing at the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court on June 12, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Sara Netanyahu arrives for a hearing at the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court on June 12, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Sara Netanyahu complained that hostages freed from Hamas captivity during a truce in late November did not thank her and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Channel 12 news reports.

“Did you see how many hostages came back? They didn’t even say thanks to us,” the network quotes the premier’s wife as saying to an unidentified opposition lawmaker.

Netanyahu’s office adamantly denies his wife made the comments, saying the report “contains lies and far-fetched fabrications.”

Liam Or, who was released in November after being taken hostage in the October 7 terror onslaught, takes a swipe at Sara Netanyahu over the report.

“Sorry I was kidnapped,” he writes on his Instagram account.

Islamic Jihad commander targeted in Jenin strike dies of wounds

Palestinians stand near a car that was hit by an Israeli airstrike, in the West Bank city of Jenin, March 20, 2024. (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)
Palestinians stand near a car that was hit by an Israeli airstrike, in the West Bank city of Jenin, March 20, 2024. (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)

Muhammad Hawashin, a Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander in Jenin targeted in an Israeli airstrike in the West Bank city yesterday, has died of his wounds, Palestinian health officials say.

In all, four PIJ operatives were killed in the strike.

Hawashin and Ahmed Barakat, one of the four operatives, were behind attempts to send a suicide bomber into Israel on March 11, and had directed a bombing and shooting attack against troops near the Homesh outpost on March 8, according to the IDF.

Diaspora minister: London is the most antisemitic city in the West

Minister of Diaspora Affairs Amichai Chikli speaks at a Knesset committee meeting, on December 19, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Minister of Diaspora Affairs Amichai Chikli speaks at a Knesset committee meeting, on December 19, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

As Britain sees a record surge in antisemitism since the Hamas-led October 7 attack and Israel’s subsequent war on the Gaza-ruling terror group, Diaspora Affairs Minister Amichai Chikli charges that London is now the most hostile city to Jews in the West.

“Today in the UK, Jews are hiding their Jewishness, the mezuzah, the kippah,” Chikli tells a group of European journalists in Jerusalem, according to The Times of London. “They know that if they speak Hebrew on the subway they might get hit. And this is the reality for Jews in Europe.”

Chikli, a member of the ruling Likud party, hails the UK as “a center of Western civilization, the country of the Magna Carta and one of the leading democracies of the West with a rich legacy of freedom of speech, of human rights.”

“But it seems what is happening now in Britain is that freedom of speech no longer exists,” he adds.

Poll shows 54% of US Jews have favorable view of Israeli government

According to the new Pew poll, a majority of Jewish adults — 54 percent — hold a favorable view of Israel’s government versus 44% with an unfavorable view.

Among all Americans, the poll says 41% have a favorable view and 51% unfavorable.

The survey was conducted last month, but its release comes days after US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer gave a speech calling on Israel to hold new elections to replace Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, saying he was speaking for “so many mainstream Jewish Americans — a silent majority.”

Houthis confirm they won’t target Chinese and Russian ships in Red Sea

Yemen’s Houthis have provided assurances to both China and Russia that their vessels will pass safely through the Red Sea, the chief negotiator for the Iran-backed movement, Mohammed Abdulsalam, tells Reuters.

Poll: Most Americans say Israel has valid reasons to fight Hamas; young Americans far less supportive

Pro-Israel demonstrators gather during an pro-Palestinian rally outside Columbia University in New York on February 2, 2024. (Yuki IWAMURA / AFP)
Pro-Israel demonstrators gather during an pro-Palestinian rally outside Columbia University in New York on February 2, 2024. (Yuki IWAMURA / AFP)

A majority of Americans — 58 percent — believe that Israel has valid reasons for fighting Hamas, while just under four in ten US adults say Israel’s prosecution of the war has been acceptable, a new survey from the Pew Research Center finds.

The 34% of respondents who say Israel’s conduct in the war is unacceptable is less than the 38% who support how the Jewish state has fought Hamas, while the remaining 26% don’t know.

Just 22% of respondents say Hamas’s reasons for fighting Israel are valid and just 5% of them say the terror group’s October 7 attack was acceptable.

Respondents under 30 years old are significantly more critical of how Israel is fighting than older Americans, with 46% describing it as unacceptable, including 32% who call it completely unacceptable.

These younger respondents are similarly likely to say that Israel (38%) and Hamas (34%) have valid reasons for fighting.

Three in ten Americans (31%) sympathize entirely or mostly with the Israeli people, while 16% sympathize entirely or mostly with the Palestinian people and 26% say they sympathize with both sides equally. Another 18% are unsure where their sympathies lie.

Eight percent of Americans have a favorable view of Hamas, compared to 84% who have an unfavorable view. Twenty-three percent of respondents have a favorable view of the Palestinian Authority.

Twice as many Americans favor the US providing humanitarian aid to Gaza as those who oppose it, 50% vs. 19%.

Thirty-six percent are in favor of the US providing Israel with military aid, while 34% oppose it.

Only 20% want the US to play a major role in diplomatically resolving the conflict, with another 35% supporting a minor role.

Democratic respondents are divided over whether US President Joe Biden is tilting too far toward Israel’s position, with 34% saying he has, compared to 29% who say he’s striking the right balance and 3% who say he’s favoring the Palestinian position too much.

A plurality of Americans (40%) say the best outcome to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would be a two-state solution.

Thirty-three percent of Republicans say they support a two-state solution, compared to 38% of Democrats. Support for a single state governed by Israel is up from 18% to 26% among Republicans.

Forty-one percent of respondents say they have a favorable view of the current Israeli government — down from 47% in 2022. The number who expressed “very unfavorable views” has doubled in that same period.

Nearly 13,000 US adults participated in the survey that took place last month. It has a margin of error of 1.5%.

US seeks swift vote on new UN resolution urging ‘immediate and sustained ceasefire’ in Gaza

Robert Wood, deputy permanent representative of the United States to the United Nations, speaks to delegates during a Security Council meeting at UN headquarters in New York, January 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)
Robert Wood, deputy permanent representative of the United States to the United Nations, speaks to delegates during a Security Council meeting at UN headquarters in New York, January 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)

UNITED NATIONS – The United States is seeking a swift vote on a newly revised and tougher UN Security Council resolution demanding “an immediate and sustained ceasefire” in the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza to protect civilians and enable humanitarian aid deliveries for more than 2 million hungry Palestinians.

The draft resolution obtained by The Associated Press also “unequivocally supports ongoing international diplomatic efforts to secure such a ceasefire in connection with the release of all remaining hostages.”

The previous US draft would have unequivocally supported diplomatic efforts “to establish an immediate and sustained ceasefire as part of a deal that releases the hostages.”

It was not widely supported in the 15-member council, where 13 members had voted in favor of an Arab-backed resolution demanding an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza that the US vetoed on February 20.

The new US draft states in strong language that the Security Council “determines the imperative of an immediate and sustained ceasefire,” while changing the language calling for the release of hostages taken during Hamas’s surprise terror attack against Israel on October 7.

US Deputy Ambassador Robert Wood tells reporters who ask when a vote will take place, “We would like to do it as soon as possible… maybe before the end of the week.”

“We think it is a good text. Everyone should be able to get behind it,” Wood says. “And we’re going to continue to work to the last minute to make sure that we get as many votes as possible.”

Meanwhile, the 10 elected members of the Security Council have been drafting their own resolution that would demand an immediate humanitarian ceasefire for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan which began March 10 “respected by all parties leading to a permanent sustainable ceasefire.” It also demands “the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

Jerusalem mayor agrees to change name of Purim parade after complaints by hostages’ families

Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion meets with representatives of the hostage families after they asked that the city change the name of the Purim Adloyada parade. Jerusalemites and relatives of hostages have complained for several days that it isn’t appropriate for the capital city to hold a parade during a time of war and sorrow.

The parade in Jerusalem, its first in 42 years, is planned for Shushan Purim on March 25.

During the meeting, the mayor and families agree that the parade will now be called United Purim rather than Adloyada.

Adloyada is shorthand for an Aramaic phrase in the Talmud describing the commandment to drink oneself into a stupor as part of the holiday celebration.

There will also be fewer musical performances along the one-kilometer route in downtown Jerusalem and the volume will be lowered, says a spokesperson for the parade.

The mayor was personally introduced to each person at the meeting, says the spokesperson, and explained the process that brought Jerusalem to decide on holding the parade this year.

IDF says fighter jets struck cell, other Hezbollah targets in southern Lebanon

The IDF says fighter jets struck a Hezbollah cell in southern Lebanon’s Tayr Harfa a short while ago.

Additionally, three Hezbollah sites in Yaroun, Yarine and Ayta ash-Shab and three buildings in Mays al-Jabal and Houla were targeted, the IDF adds.

Several rockets and missiles were fired at northern Israel in the past few hours, with the IDF saying it shelled the launch sites.

Lebanon arrests 2 for allegedly passing info that Israel used to hit Hamas deputy chief

People gather at the site of a strike, reported by Lebanese media to be an Israeli strike targeting a Hamas office in the southern suburb of Beirut on January 2, 2024; Inset: Hamas deputy leader Saleh al-Arouri, who was killed in the blast. (Anwar Amro/AFP; social media)
People gather at the site of a strike, reported by Lebanese media to be an Israeli strike targeting a Hamas office in the southern suburb of Beirut on January 2, 2024; Inset: Hamas deputy leader Saleh al-Arouri, who was killed in the blast. (Anwar Amro/AFP; social media)

BEIRUT— Judicial officials in Lebanon say an investigative judge has issued arrest warrants for two people on suspicion of giving information to Israel, including the digital mapping of a Beirut street where the Palestinian Hamas terror group’s deputy leader was killed in January.

The officials say that Fadi Sawwan, the investigative judge at the military tribunal, issued the arrest warrants earlier this week for the two Lebanese citizens weeks after they were detained while using sophisticated digital mapping equipment.

The Israeli military doesn’t immediately return requests for comment.

The officials, who speak on condition of anonymity in line with regulations, say the two men had earlier mapped streets in different parts of Lebanon, including in Beirut’s southern suburbs that are home to the leadership of the Hezbollah terror group. They say the men said they thought they were sending the information to a US-based company that does virtual tourism business.

The two officials say among the streets that they mapped was the one where Saleh al-Arouri was killed, along with six other terror operatives in a January strike that hit an apartment. They say the street was mapped nearly two weeks before Arouri was killed.

The officials say the two are in custody and are charged with spying for a foreign country and obtaining information that should remain secret because of national security. The officials say the two could get a sentence of up to life in prison.

Mossad chief to return to Doha for talks with CIA head, Qatari PM and Egyptian spymaster

Israel's Mossad Director David Barnea speaks during the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) World Summit in the central coastal city of Herzliya on September 10, 2023. (Gil Cohen-Magen/AFP, File)
Israel's Mossad Director David Barnea speaks during the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) World Summit in the central coastal city of Herzliya on September 10, 2023. (Gil Cohen-Magen/AFP, File)

Mossad chief David Barnea will fly to Qatar tomorrow to meet CIA director William Burns, Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani and Egypt’s intelligence head Abbas Kamel to discuss a potential hostage deal, the Prime Minister’s Office says in a statement.

Barnea was in Qatar on Monday before flying back to brief the war cabinet.

Praying for hostages and soldiers, mass recitation of Shema held at Western Wall

A gathering to say the 'Shema' prayer for the hostages held in Gaza, at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City on March 21, 2024. (Screenshot)
A gathering to say the 'Shema' prayer for the hostages held in Gaza, at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City on March 21, 2024. (Screenshot)

Before the recitation of the Shema prayer at 5:30 p.m., intended as the largest recitation of the prayer in the history of the Jewish people, Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch leads family members of hostages in reading from Psalms.

The father of hostage Yigal Sarusi recites the prayer for the hostages, followed by former MK and Kibbutz Be’eri resident Haim Jelin, who reads from Psalms.

The sound of young boys’ voices and hundreds of people echo Rabinovitch and Jelin, reciting the familiar words of “Song of the Ascents.”

Sarusi’s father asks everyone to clear their minds, in order to hear the Shema prayer — “Hear O Israel” — that will be recited together.

“Let us think together about the hostages, about our soldiers and the unity of the State of Israel, to open the gates of heaven,” says Sarusi.

Rabinovitch tells everyone to cover their eyes, as he recites the prayer.

Dozens of twisted shofar horns are blown in unison as the hostage family members keep their eyes closed and their heads bowed in prayer.

Rabinovitch continues with the rest of the Shema, adding blessings and prayers that are usually recited only on the High Holidays.

Schumer suggests he’s on board with House GOP proposal to have Netanyahu address Congress

US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (right) and House Speaker Mike Johnson listen to remarks during a Hanukkah gathering at the Capitol in Washington, December 12, 2023. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (right) and House Speaker Mike Johnson listen to remarks during a Hanukkah gathering at the Capitol in Washington, December 12, 2023. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer appears to take up House Speaker Mike Johnson’s proposal to host Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak at a joint session of Congress.

Johnson said yesterday that he was considering the idea, and went further in a CNBC interview this morning, saying “we’ll certainly extend that invitation” and “we’re just trying to work out schedules on all this.”

A spokesperson for Schumer says the Republican House speaker hasn’t discussed the matter with him. However, Schumer says in a statement, “I will always welcome the opportunity for the Prime Minister of Israel to speak to Congress in a bipartisan way.”

Yesterday, Schumer’s office confirmed that he declined a request from Netanyahu to address the Democratic caucus in the Senate, explaining that such a meeting shouldn’t be held in a partisan format. The GOP’s Senate leadership, on the other hand, accepted the proposal and Netanyahu spoke to them yesterday during a closed luncheon.

An address to a joint session of Congress would require approval from the Senate majority leader in addition to an invitation from the House speaker. Johnson told CNBC that he would be fine with the possibility of Netanyahu just addressing the House if Schumer were to decline to cooperate.

“But I think a big majority that Senate would want to come and stand in support of Netanyahu and Israel,” Johnson said.

Dozens of Democrats boycotted Netanyahu’s last joint session address in 2015, after it was organized behind the back of then-president Barack Obama so that the Israeli premier could lobby Congress against the Iran nuclear deal negotiated by the White House.

Netanyahu’s popularity among Democrats has since only further sunk, with Schumer — a longtime pro-Israel stalwart — giving a speech last week on the Senate floor calling for early elections to replace the longtime prime minister. The highest-ranking Jewish elected representative in US history argued that Netanyahu has lost his way in prioritizing his political survival over the good of the country and represented an obstacle to peace, along with Hamas, the Israeli far-right right and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Johnson again blasted Schumer’s “outrageous” speech. “To suggest to our strongest ally in the Middle East, the only stable democracy [there], that he knows better how to run their democracy is just patently absurd. Imagine if I came on your show this morning and called for regime change in Ukraine in the middle of their crisis fighting for their very survival. That’s what Israel is facing right now.”

Hostage’s mother tells story of him saying Shabbat blessings while captive in Gaza

Jon Polin and Rachel Goldberg with Jamie Geller on March 21, 2024 (Screenshot)
Jon Polin and Rachel Goldberg with Jamie Geller on March 21, 2024 (Screenshot)

Actor Aviv Alush sits overlooking the Western Wall, hosting a Hostages and Missing Families Forum event on the Fast of Esther.

He speaks to Shelly Shem Tov, whose son Omer Shem Tov was taken hostage by terrorists at the Supernova desert rave on October 7.

Shem Tov says she hasn’t yet tidied Omer’s room, which was a mess when he left for the party.

“Every day, I go in, I say, ‘Good morning, Omer, be strong, have belief, we’re doing everything we can to get you home,'” she says. “I pray in his room and then I go out to take on the task of my life.”

Shem Tov tells Alush that Omer always made the blessing over the wine on Friday evenings for the family. She was told by Itay Regev, a freed hostage who was held with Omer, that they got grape juice one day and saved it, along with a bit of bread and salt. They counted the days until Friday, put a piece of toilet paper over their heads and Omer recited the Kiddush and the blessing over the bread.

“Itay said that was the moment when they felt closest to home and to family,” says Shem Tov.

Singer Shai Gabso performs and says he believes the nation needs unity for the hostages to come back.

He thanks the family members for being so strong.

Jon Polin and Rachel Goldberg, parents of hostage Hersh Goldberg-Polin, appear on a simultaneous English-language broadcast with Jamie Geller.

Polin says there have been no updates about their son since he was taken captive, and that none of the freed captives had met or heard of Hersh.

Hersh’s parents learned that same of the injured hostages who arrived early in Gaza were taken to hospitals, and there’s reason to believe that he may have received medical treatment and even surgery for his arm, which was blown off from the elbow down.

Goldberg says that the prayer at the Western Wall is “a big opportunity to take this painful, challenging moment and manifest it into something for the good.”

“Before you can ask for peace, you have to create an opening for it and I think that’s something we should all challenge ourselves to do with all kinds of people. That is our challenge as a nation, and as a people,” she says.

IDF says it downed ‘suspicious aerial target’ coming from Red Sea

The IDF says a “suspicious aerial target” heading toward Israel from the direction of the Red Sea was downed by air defenses.

The target did not enter Israeli airspace, the IDF says, adding that the incident is over.

Residents of Eilat, Israel’s southernmost city, reported hearing a large blast.

The incident comes amid repeated attempts by the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen to launch missiles and drones at Eilat amid the war in the Gaza Strip.

Rocket sirens activated in northern border town that hosts military base

Rocket warning sirens sound in the northern border town of Avivim, which also hosts a military base.

Arab ministers meet in Cairo with Mahmoud Abbas confidant ahead of talks with Blinken

Arab ministers held talks today with a Palestinian official in Cairo to discuss efforts to end the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, and are due to meet US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who is seeking to secure a ceasefire of at least six weeks.

The ministers met with Palestine Liberation Organization executive committee general secretary Hussein al-Sheikh to discuss “efforts to stop the Israeli war against Gaza, the inevitability of achieving a ceasefire, and full access to aid,” the Egyptian foreign ministry’s spokesperson says.

Along with his post in the PLO, Sheikh is the Palestinian Authority’s minister for civilian affairs.

Blinken is also due to meet with Sheikh — a confidant of PA President Mahmoud Abbas and an intermediary in contacts with Israel — along with the foreign ministers of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates’ state minister for international cooperation, according to an Egyptian foreign ministry note.

Houthis have attacked ships in Red Sea at least 50 times — US official

Supporters of Yemen's Iran-backed Houthis march in the capital Sana'a on March 15, 2024, in support of Palestinians amid the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip. (Mohammed Huwais/AFP)
Supporters of Yemen's Iran-backed Houthis march in the capital Sana'a on March 15, 2024, in support of Palestinians amid the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip. (Mohammed Huwais/AFP)

WASHINGTON — The Houthi rebels have attacked civilian and military ships sailing off Yemen’s shores at least 50 times since their assaults began late last year, a senior US Defense Department official says.

The Iran-backed Houthis have been striking merchant vessels transiting the vital Red Sea trade route for months despite repeated US and British airstrikes against them.

“In the Red Sea, the Houthis seek to affect this vital channel for global trade with at least 50 attacks against commercial shipping and naval vessels,” Assistant Secretary of Defense Celeste Wallander tells lawmakers.

The Houthis began attacking ships in the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea in November, a campaign they say is intended to signal solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza amid the Israel-Hamas war there.

They have vowed to strike Israeli, British and American ships, as well as vessels heading to Israeli ports, disrupting traffic through the vital trade route off Yemen’s coasts.

The Houthi attacks have sent insurance costs spiraling for vessels plying the key Red Sea trade route and prompted many shipping firms to take the far longer passage around the southern tip of Africa instead.

IDF says 650 terror operatives captured at Shifa, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad commanders

This infographic released by the Israel Defense Forces on March 21, 2024, shows senior Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad commanders who were captured during an Israeli operation at Gaza City's Shifa Hospital. (Israel Defense Forces)
This infographic released by the Israel Defense Forces on March 21, 2024, shows senior Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad commanders who were captured during an Israeli operation at Gaza City's Shifa Hospital. (Israel Defense Forces)

The IDF and Shin Bet security agency say troops have captured some 650 terror operatives during the ongoing operation at Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital, including several senior Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad commanders.

The Islamic Jihad operatives holed up at the medical center surrendered to troops, the IDF says.

Among them were Hussam Salameh, the commander of PIJ’s observation and intelligence unit in Gaza City, and his brother, Wissam Salameh, head of the terror group’s propaganda unit in Gaza City, according to the IDF.

Also captured at Shifa are three senior officers in Hamas’s so-called West Bank headquarters, which is tasked with advancing attacks against Israel from the West Bank, the IDF says.

They are named by the Shin Bet as Amr Asida, the head of the Nablus unit; Mahmoud Qawasmeh, one of the planners of the 2014 kidnapping and murder attack of three Israeli teens; and Hamdallah Hassan Ali, who was also involved in directing recent attacks in the West Bank.

The detained terror operatives are taken to Israel for further interrogation by the Shin Bet.

According to the IDF, troops have so far killed more than 140 gunmen in the raid, which began early Monday and is being carried out by the 401st Armored Brigade, Navy’s Shayetet 13 commando unit,and other forces.

During scans of the hospital, the IDF says soldiers seized weapons and intelligence documents “which contribute to the continuation of the fighting.”

The fighting at Shifa is still ongoing and is expected to last several more days until all the terror operatives in the area are captured or killed, according to military officials.

Rocket warning sirens sound in numerous northern towns

Warning sirens sound in the northern city of Kiryat Shmona and a number of other Israeli communities near the Lebanese border, indicating incoming rocket fire.

Gallant says Shifa raid shows military’s fighting prowess has improved in Gaza

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant meets with surveillance soldiers at an army base, on March 21, 2024. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant meets with surveillance soldiers at an army base, on March 21, 2024. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant hails the IDF’s ongoing operation at Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital, saying it “surprised the terrorists.”

“Nobody expected us to do what we did. There was an assault on a location that half a year ago took us a month to reach; now we did it in a flash,” Gallant says to soldiers of the 414th Combat Intelligence Collection Unit.

He says the terror operatives still holed up at the hospital “are considering their future: surrender or death.”

EU’s Borrell says European leaders to call for ‘sustainable ceasefire’ at Brussels summit

Josep Borrell, the EU's foreign minister, speaks to the press as he arrives to attend a European Council summit at the EU headquarters in Brussels on March 21, 2024. (John Thys/AFP)
Josep Borrell, the EU's foreign minister, speaks to the press as he arrives to attend a European Council summit at the EU headquarters in Brussels on March 21, 2024. (John Thys/AFP)

BRUSSELS — EU leaders will call for a sustainable ceasefire in Gaza at their summit in Brussels today, the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell says.

“Today the council goes much further” than in previous months, Borrell says before the summit. “Asking for a sustainable ceasefire, certainly asking also for the freedom of hostages, but showing a strong concern for the situation of the people in Gaza, which is unacceptable.”

Borrell calls on Israel to make sure more aid reaches Gaza and says he hopes EU leaders will do the same.

“They are starving. So I hope that the council will send a strong message to Israel, stop blocking, stop preventing the food to come into Gaza and take care of the civilians,” he says.

“Certainly Israel has the right to defend, (but) not to revenge.”

Conservative Jews fast in Hostages Square in pre-Purim prayer event for release of captives from Gaza

Masorti Jews pray in Tel Aviv for the release of hostages from Gaza on March 21, 2024. (Courtesy of Masorti Foundation for Conservative Judaism)
Masorti Jews pray in Tel Aviv for the release of hostages from Gaza on March 21, 2024. (Courtesy of Masorti Foundation for Conservative Judaism)

Several dozen people attend a prayer at Tel Aviv’s Hostages Square organized by the Masorti Foundation for Conservative Judaism to mark the Fast of Esther.

The event, in which participants are praying for the return of the hostages held in Gaza, is part of the Masorti movement’s activities for the Jewish holiday of Purim, which begins this weekend.

On Sunday, members of the Masorti movement plan to read the Book of Esther at the square and prepare mishloach manot — packages with sweets and delicacies that Jews are traditionally exchange on Purim — containing some of the hostages’ favorite treats, a spokesperson for the movement says.

Among the participants in today’s prayer event led by Rabbi Natalie Lesterger is Yarden Gonen, a sister of hostage Romi Gonen.

Labor joins motion for Knesset to cancel spring recess

The Labor Party joins Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman’s initiative to cancel the Knesset’s spring recess.

Labor faction chair Efrat Rayten joins a letter sent by representatives of Yisrael Beytenu, Yesh Atid and National Unity to Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana requesting lawmakers continue their legislative activities over the break, which runs from April 7 to May 19.

“Ever since the October 7 massacre, Israel has found itself at war and it is wrong that the Israeli Knesset should choose to go into recess, shutting down its activities and not carrying out its work for the citizens,” they write.

The lawmakers state that they are acting on behalf of Israel’s soldiers, internally displaced persons and other groups affected by the ongoing fighting and that “it is incumbent on us, the public’s representatives, not to stop taking care of the citizens of Israel’s problems at normal times and all the more so in a time of war.”

Speaking at his party’s faction meeting in the Knesset on Monday, Liberman argued that it was “unacceptable” for the Knesset to go on recess during the ongoing current national security crisis.

Israeli official says around 200 aid trucks due to enter Gaza today

A truck carrying humanitarian aid for the Gaza Strip passes through the Kerem Shalom Crossing in southern Israel, March 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)
A truck carrying humanitarian aid for the Gaza Strip passes through the Kerem Shalom Crossing in southern Israel, March 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)

Some 200 trucks are expected to enter Gaza today, an Israeli official tells The Times of Israel.

In addition, Jordan airdropped 77 aid packages.

Last night, 15 trucks filled with aid successfully made their way from the southern Gaza Strip to the north, where it has been more difficult to get food in.

Rights expert awarded Israel Prize for bringing attention to Hamas crimes against women

Cochav Elkayam-Levy
Cochav Elkayam-Levy

Cochav Elkayam-Levy has been selected to receive the Israel Prize for solidarity for working to bring attention to Hamas’s crimes against women and children in the October 7 atrocities.

“It is with great privilege that we work to raise awareness and give voice to the silenced victims and families whose lives were shattered by the October 7th atrocities,” she says in a statement released by Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where she is a human rights law expert. “We must stand firm against the stark denial and the increasing tide of antisemitism.”

“I also want to express my heartfelt gratitude to the numerous individuals who have tirelessly dedicated themselves to this vital cause alongside me,” she adds.

Blinken to meet with Netanyahu and war cabinet on Friday

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) meets US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Jerusalem, February 7, 2024. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) meets US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Jerusalem, February 7, 2024. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

On Friday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his war cabinet, an Israeli official tells The Times of Israel.

Blinken is currently in Egypt, and was in Saudi Arabia yesterday.

Olive trees planted by settlers on Palestinian land removed; coalition lawmakers fume

Security forces securing area as Civil Administration uproots trees planted by settlers on private Palestinian land, March 21, 2024 (Gush Etzion Regional Council)
Security forces securing area as Civil Administration uproots trees planted by settlers on private Palestinian land, March 21, 2024 (Gush Etzion Regional Council)

Several dozen olive trees planted by settlers on private Palestinian land abutting the Nokdim settlement in the West Bank are uprooted by Civil Administration personnel accompanied by Border Police and IDF forces, leading to political condemnation from senior government and coalition figures.

Gush Etzion Regional Council head Yaron Rosenthal says that his personal intervention along with a legal petition filed against the Civil Administration stopped the operation to uproot the trees before it could be completed. Rosenthal thanked Nokdim residents and gives “a massive congratulations to the residents and activists who demonstrated Zionist activism” in stopping all the trees being removed.

The Civil Administration notes that the land on which the trees were planted was privately owned by Palestinians, and that this is not the first time trees have been illegally planted there and removed.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir attacks Defense Minister Yoav Gallant over the incident, accusing him of “carrying out a provocation during a fast day and sending forces to uproot trees in the heart of a settlement,” and of “preferring Abu Mazen [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] and [US Secretary of Defense Lloyd] Austin to the settlements.”

MK Simcha Rothman also hits out at Gallant, slamming him for carrying out the action during the Fast of Esther and accusing him of failing to take similar action against illegal Palestinian construction close to the nearby town of Zaatara.

“Don’t believe anyone who tells you that the IDF lacks manpower,” snipes Rothman, in reference to the political controversy in which the government is seeking to lengthen reservists’ military duty but also to maintain ultra-Orthodox military service exemptions at the same time.

Swedish city hosting Eurovision braces for potential unrest over Gaza war

Red paint is seen on a Eurovision sign in Malmo, Sweden, on March 11, 2024, after it was vandalized in a protest against Israel. (SVT screenshot; used in accordance with clause 27a of the copyright law)
Illustrative: Red paint is seen on a Eurovision sign in Malmo, Sweden, on March 11, 2024, after it was vandalized in a protest against Israel. (SVT screenshot; used in accordance with clause 27a of the copyright law)

STOCKHOLM — Swedish city Malmo, host of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest in May, expects guests from 80 countries for the event and is also bracing for possible unrest on its sidelines, city officials say.

The annual music competition, the world’s biggest of its kind, bills itself as a non-political event.

However, the global political backdrop often weighs, and this year the European Broadcasting Union, which organizes the contest, has resisted calls for Israel to be excluded due to its offensive against Hamas in Gaza.

“There is currently, according to the information we have from our partners, no direct threat to Eurovision,” Malmo Safety Director Per-Erik Ebbestahl tells a news conference. “Given the situation, things could change.”

Cultural events across Europe have in recent months been affected by protests and boycotts over the war in Gaza.

Israel this month tweaked its Eurovision submission to exclude lyrics that appeared to refer to the October 7 Hamas attack, after organizers said they would disqualify contestants who did not maintain the non-political spirit of the event.

Malmo Mayor Katrin Stjernfeldt Jammeh says that while many would visit the city for the competition and related festivities, many would also want to stage protests and express political opinions in connection with the event.

“We stand behind the right of all people to express their democratic views. Then there is also always a risk that someone will use the attention for less peaceful purposes or to disrupt and fight,” she tells the news conference.

“I have great confidence in the police’s ability to work for a safe city even when so many different people come to visit,” she adds.

The contest is due to take place May 7-11.

Forensic chief gets Israel Prize for work identifying murdered, fallen since Oct. 7

Dr. Chen Kugel, head of the National Center of Forensic Medicine (Abu Kabir) in Jaffa, speaks at a press conference about the identification process of the victims of the murderous Hamas attack on southern communities on October 7, 2023. Jaffa, October 16, 2023. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Dr. Chen Kugel, head of the National Center of Forensic Medicine (Abu Kabir) in Jaffa, speaks at a press conference about the identification process of the victims of the murderous Hamas attack on southern communities on October 7, 2023. Jaffa, October 16, 2023. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Dr. Chen Kugel, director of the National Institute of Forensic Medicine (Abu Kabir), has been awarded the Israel Prize for civilian bravery, one of two new categories announced to highlight contributions made in the wake of October 7.

The Israel Prize committee recommended to Education Minister Yoav Kisch that Kugel be recognized for his work leading the institute and his efforts to identify the murdered and fallen since October 7. The most difficult cases for identification of human remains were directed to Abu Kabir, where Kugel and other staff worked day and night to provide answers to the families of the murdered and missing.

“I am very grateful to the Israel Prize committee for awarding me the prize for civilian bravery. I am very moved, and it is a great honor for me. However, the prize is not for me personally but rather for the institute’s entire staff who worked with me nonstop to make sure that everyone who died or was murdered — cruelly slaughtered — can be memorialized, and that we can provide a balm for their families. This is our routine work for the state and our work during painful times of national crisis,” Kugel says.

“This prize is given for civilian bravery, but during these days I am unable to label myself as such because, in the past months, I have encountered real heroes — people who endangered themselves to save others, sometimes at the cost of their lives,” he says.

The public became more aware of the critical work done at Abu Kabir because of the challenges its staff faced in trying to extract DNA from tiny, burned bone shards, which was all that remained of some of the victims of October 7. However, the institute has long faced challenges due to understaffing and underfunding.

“In the last year, the Health Ministry has begun working to expand and strengthen the institute. We have laid the cornerstone for a new building suiting the institute’s needs,” says Health Ministry director-general Moshe Bar Siman Tov.

“Together with the Finance Ministry and the Israeli Medical Association, we must work to improve the salaries of the institute’s doctors and other employees so that they are properly compensated. We are determined to do this so that there will be a next generation of professionals who will be able to address the state’s needs in all situations,” he says.

The ceremony will be held on Yom Ha’atzmaut, May 14.

The Israel Prize this year is mired in controversy.

In mid-February, the government announced that the traditional categories for the prize, the country’s highest civilian honor, would be canceled for 2024, and two new categories related to the ongoing war against Hamas in Gaza would be awarded instead — “Societal Responsibility” for civic efforts and volunteering, and “Citizen Heroism” for civilian acts of bravery. The move was reportedly made to avoid giving a prize to a prominent critic of the government. However, the Education Ministry backtracked this week and reinstated the traditional categories in addition to the two new ones.

4 projectiles fired at Metula from south Lebanon, causing damage but no injuries

Four projectiles, including anti-tank missiles, were fired from Lebanon at the northern community of Metula a short while ago, according to the IDF.

There are no reports of injuries, but damage is reportedly caused.

The IDF is shelling the launch sites with artillery in response.

Houthis agree not to attack Chinese, Russian ships in Red Sea and Gulf of Aden – report

Supporters of Yemen's Iran-backed Houthis march in the capital Sana'a on March 15, 2024, in support of Palestinians amid the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip. (Mohammed Huwais/AFP)
Supporters of Yemen's Iran-backed Houthis march in the capital Sana'a on March 15, 2024, in support of Palestinians amid the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip. (Mohammed Huwais/AFP)

Yemen’s Houthis have told China and Russia that their ships can sail through the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden without being attacked, Bloomberg News reports.

The Iran-backed rebels began attacking ships in the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea last November, a campaign they say is intended to signal solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza amid the war between Israel and Hamas, which began with the terror group’s devastating October 7 assault on southern Israel.

The Houthi attacks have disrupted global shipping, forcing firms to reroute to longer and more expensive journeys around southern Africa. The cost of insuring a seven-day voyage through the Red Sea has risen by hundreds of thousands of dollars. Beyond economic damage, the attacks have also served to stoke fears that the Israel-Hamas war could spread to destabilize the wider Middle East.

US official: Blinken, Sissi discussed deal to see all hostages freed, ceasefire of at least 6 weeks

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken sits during a meeting with Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry at the Tahrir Palace in Cairo, on March 21, 2024. (Khaled DESOUKI / AFP)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken sits during a meeting with Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry at the Tahrir Palace in Cairo, on March 21, 2024. (Khaled DESOUKI / AFP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi discussed the negotiations to secure an immediate ceasefire for at least six weeks in the war between Israel and Hamas and the release of all hostages kidnapped by the Palestinian terror group, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller says.

The top US diplomat is in Egypt after visiting Saudi Arabia a day earlier, as part of his latest Middle East tour.

He also discussed with Sissi the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with security guarantees for Israel.

Blinken and Sissi together reviewed progress in the talks, Sissi’s office and the US State Department say.

Sissi stressed the need for a truce to address the escalating humanitarian crisis in Gaza and warned of the dangers of a military operation in Rafah.

Burning object hurled at Israeli embassy in The Hague

Dutch Police police say they detained a suspect in The Hague in connection with the hurling of a burning object at Israel’s embassy.

“At about 10:50 a.m. an individual hurled a burning object at the Israeli embassy on Johan de Wit Avenue in The Hague,” police write on X.

“We have apprehended a suspect. No one was injured. We are investigating and the area around the embassy is being evacuated,” the statement reads.

The Foreign Ministry says it is aware of the incident and overseeing the response on the ground.

In a Dutch-language statement, a spokesperson for the Israeli embassy writes on its official account on X: “It is unacceptable that such an attack occurs in the Netherlands. Fortunately, no one was hurt. We are confident that authorities will take all possible measures to prevent the recurrence of such attacks. The attack is evidence of the worrisome consequences of growing hate and incitement. This hate cannot be tolerated.”

All staff from the embassy, which moved in recent years from the city center to a quieter area in the beachside Scheveningen neighborhood, are safe and out of the building, according to De Telegraaf daily.

US official: Only ‘handful of issues’ unresolved in US-Saudi component of Israel normalization plan

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, March 20, 2024. (Evelyn Hockstein/Pool Photo via AP)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, March 20, 2024. (Evelyn Hockstein/Pool Photo via AP)

A senior State Department official traveling with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says talks in Saudi Arabia focused on the bilateral portion of a larger plan in which Saudi Arabia would recognize Israel in return for credible progress on the creation of a Palestinian state.

Israel’s hardline government is staunchly opposed to Palestinian statehood, which Saudis have said is an essential component to any normalization agreement.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss private diplomatic talks, says only a “handful of issues” remain to be resolved in the US-Saudi component of the plan. That part of the plan is widely believed to include US defense guarantees and aid in building a civilian nuclear program in Saudi Arabia.

In January, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly rejected a proposal from Blinken that would have seen Saudi Arabia normalize relations with Israel in exchange for Jerusalem agreeing to provide the Palestinians with a pathway toward statehood.

Breakdown in trust over supply of military equipment leading reservists to take home gear – report

Military reservists arrive near the border with Lebanon, northern Israel, October 7, 2023 (Ayal Margolin/Flash90)
Military reservists arrive near the border with Lebanon, northern Israel, October 7, 2023 (Ayal Margolin/Flash90)

Unnamed senior military officers tell the Walla news site that the massive delays in getting military equipment to reservists at the start of the war has led to many taking supplies home with them when released from duty, so that they are prepared for when they are next called in to serve.

The officers tell the outlet that the situation is a reflection on the breakdown in trust between reservists and senior leadership.

“The crisis is reflected in the fact that soldiers took valuable equipment to their homes at the end of their reserve duty in preparation for the next operational deployment, or if a war breaks out in the north,” they say.

“The call-up [at the start of the war] was traumatic. There were huge shortages,” an officer says. “Everyone was afraid of entering Gaza without the proper equipment, so they started fundraising for donations.”

“A very large portion of the equipment came from donations and because there was no control over it and no registration of it, it was then taken home by the soldiers,” an officer says.

Some 360,000 reserve soldiers were mobilized when Hamas launched its brutal assault on October 7.

Soldiers and units from across the army said they received substandard military equipment and weapons, and there was a particular lack of vests with ceramic plates, which protect against bullets and shrapnel.

Civilian groups quickly sprang up to raise funds for, buy, and distribute that equipment directly to the troops.

Satellite images show 35% of Gaza’s buildings damaged or destroyed, UN says

Destroyed buildings stand inside the Gaza Strip, as seen from southern Israel, March 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Destroyed buildings stand inside the Gaza Strip, as seen from southern Israel, March 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Satellite images analyzed by the United Nations Satellite Centre show that 35% of the Gaza Strip’s buildings have been damaged or destroyed since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas.

In its assessment, the United Nations Satellite Centre, UNOSAT, used high-resolution satellite images collected on Feb. 29 and compared them with images taken before and after the start of the war.

It found that 35% of all buildings in the Gaza Strip — 88,868 structures — had been damaged or destroyed.

Among these, it identified 31,198 structures as destroyed, 16,908 as severely damaged, and 40,762 as moderately damaged.

This represents an increase of nearly 20,000 damaged structures compared to the previous assessment it did based on images taken in January, UNOSAT says.

“The governorates of Khan Younis and Gaza have experienced the most significant rise in damage, with Khan Younis seeing 12,279 additional damaged structures and Gaza experiencing 2,010,” UNOSAT says.

“Khan Younis City has been hit particularly hard, with 6,663 newly destroyed structures.”

Israel launched its military campaign after Hamas’s devastating October 7 onslaught, during which some 3,000 terrorists burst into Israel from Gaza, killing some 1,200 people and seizing 253 hostages, mostly civilians.

IDF says jets hit building used by Hezbollah in south Lebanon

The IDF says fighter jets struck a building used by Hezbollah in southern Lebanon’s Kafr Kila a short while ago.

Last night, another building in Dhayra was struck, the IDF says,

Overnight, rockets were fired from Lebanon toward Yiftah, with the IDF saying it shelled the launch sites.

IDF says it wrapped up counter-terror operation in West Bank’s Nur Shams refugee camp

IDF troops operate in the West Bank's Nur Shams refugee camp, early March 21, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
IDF troops operate in the West Bank's Nur Shams refugee camp, early March 21, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The IDF says it has wrapped up its brigade-level counter-terrorism operation in the West Bank’s Nur Shams refugee camp, close to Tulkarem.

The raid was launched late last night, and began with a deadly airstrike on two Palestinians who were allegedly hurling explosive devices at troops.

The IDF releases footage showing the airstrike in Nur Shams.

The IDF says troops detained three wanted Palestinians and uncovered explosive devices hidden under the roads in the camp during the operation.

Troops killed two more gunmen in Nur Shams amid a gun battle, and seized an assault rifle from one, the IDF says.

In a separate operation in Ramallah, the IDF says troops opened fire at suspects hurling stones, explosive devices, and launching fireworks.

Palestinian health officials say a 16-year-old boy was killed.

Since October 7, the IDF says troops have arrested some 3,600 wanted Palestinians across the West Bank, including more than 1,600 affiliated with Hamas.

IDF releases drone footage of Hamas gunman waiting to ambush troops in Khan Younis

The IDF releases footage captured by a drone showing a Hamas gunman waiting to ambush troops inside a building in the Hamad Town residential complex in Khan Younis.

The gunman, after being spotted, was killed by troops of the elite Egoz commando unit, the IDF says.

The IDF wrapped up its operation against Hamas in the Hamad area earlier this week.

IDF launches probe into fatal shooting of Palestinian convert to Judaism said to have had hands up

Security forces at the scene where a Palestinian man was shot by troops near Elazar, in Gush Etzion, in the West Bank, on March 21, 2024 (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)
Security forces at the scene where a Palestinian man was shot by troops near Elazar, in Gush Etzion, in the West Bank, on March 21, 2024 (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

The IDF says the Military Police has launched an investigation into the fatal shooting of a Palestinian man near the West Bank settlement of Elazar this morning.

A reservist opened fire at Sameh Muhammad Abd al-Rai Zaytoun, 63, after he “aroused suspicion” at a bus station at the Elazar junction.

“Immediately upon receiving the report about the serious incident, the Military Advocate General ordered the opening of an investigation by the Military Police,” the IDF says.

According to Hebrew-language media reports Zaytoun, who had converted to Judaism, had his hands in the air when he was shot. A small knife was later found in his bag.

Officials from 36 nations, UN agencies hold talks on expediting humanitarian aid to Gaza

The United Nations Senior Humanitarian and Reconstruction Coordinator for Gaza, Sigrid Kaag, left, talks during a meeting with Cyprus' foreign minister Constantinos Kombos, right, at the foreign ministry house in capital Nicosia, Cyprus, on March 20, 2024 (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)
The United Nations Senior Humanitarian and Reconstruction Coordinator for Gaza, Sigrid Kaag, left, talks during a meeting with Cyprus' foreign minister Constantinos Kombos, right, at the foreign ministry house in capital Nicosia, Cyprus, on March 20, 2024 (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

Officials from 36 countries and UN agencies are gathering in Cyprus to discuss how to expedite aid to Palestinians in Gaza via a sea route launched last week.

The gathering is being attended by Sigrid Kaag, the UN’s senior humanitarian and reconstruction coordinator for Gaza, as well as Curtis Ried, chief of staff of the US National Security Council.

As famine looms over Gaza, agencies are increasingly looking for alternative routes to get aid into the enclave other than land crossings. But lack of infrastructure is an issue; one charity which dispatched aid from Cyprus last week made a landing jetty out of rubble, while the US has also announced plans to create a floating pier.

Under an agreement hammered out with Israel, cargoes can undergo security inspections in Cyprus by a team including Israel, eliminating the need for screenings at its final offloading point to remove potential hold-ups in aid deliveries.

One vessel left Cyprus last week and distributed aid in Gaza, while another two are expected to depart in coming days, subject to weather conditions.

“We are discussing how we can max up operational capacity both in terms of departure and means of transport and also in relation to the reception and distribution methodology,” says Constantinos Kombos, Cyprus’s foreign minister.

Delegates will also discuss the creation of a fund to coordinate operational activities of the initiative, Kombos says, although he clarified it was not a donor’s conference.

Asked how many vessels could be departing Cyprus with aid once the initiative is at full operational capacity, Kombos says “as many as possible.”

“We have to remember there are limitations in terms of the reception and distribution and the whole point is not to just stockpile aid here but about a quick turnaround so we are as efficient as possible.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

High Court orders Population Authority to issue birth certificates with 2 women listed as moms

Thousands protest in support of the right of LGBT couples to adopt children at a demonstration in Tel Aviv on July 20, 2017. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Thousands protest in support of the right of LGBT couples to adopt children at a demonstration in Tel Aviv on July 20, 2017. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

The High Court of Justice orders the Population and Immigration Authority to issue birth certificates with the names of two women listed as mothers of their children

The case involves nine lesbian couples who had children through anonymous sperm donations and who requested that the Population and Immigration Authority issue new birth certificates on which the names of both women would appear as the mothers of the children.

The authority refused, stating that a birth certificate reflects biological parentage at the time of birth, and is a document that is “frozen in time.”

Acting Supreme Court President Justice Uzi Vogelman rejects the argument regarding biological parentage, writing that if at the time of birth the child had two parents, excluding the non-biological parent from the birth certificate would constitute preferential treatment to biological parentage over legal parentage.

Vogelman also writes that this would give “a harmful message… that while biological parentage is ‘real’ parentage, non-biological parentage is inferior and suspicious parenting, a sort of ‘conditional’ parentage.”

“Therefore it was determined that there is no place for distinguishing between [different types of] parents in the field of certification when in the field of substantive law there is equality between parents,” the court says in a statement on the ruling.

Military police to question reservist for fatal shooting of Palestinian who allegedly had hands in the air – report

Security forces at the scene where a Palestinian man was shot by troops near Elazar, in Gush Etzion, in the West Bank, on March 21, 2024 (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)
Security forces at the scene where a Palestinian man was shot by troops near Elazar, in Gush Etzion, in the West Bank, on March 21, 2024 (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

The IDF Military Police is set to question a reservist under caution for fatally shooting a Palestinian man who allegedly put his hands in the air, Channel 12 news reports.

The man, identified by Palestinian media as Sameh Muhammad Abd al-Rai Zaytoun, 63, from Hebron, was shot dead at a bus stop near the settlement of Elazar this morning.

Details surrounding the incident are murky, and it remains unclear if Zaytoun had posed a threat to the soldiers.

Hebrew-language media claimed a knife was later found in the man’s bag.

Channel 12 says the reservist who opened fire is to be questioned under caution by the Military Police’s investigatory unit.

The IDF has not responded to requests for comment on the incident.

Vessel near Yemen reports gunmen opened fire, no injuries — British maritime security firm

A merchant vessel reported shots from a skiff approximately 109 nautical miles south of Yemen’s Nishtun, British security firm Ambrey says.

Four armed people aboard a skiff approached the vessel and reportedly shot at the merchant vessel, and a private armed security team aboard returned fire, Ambrey adds.

The vessel reportedly increased speed and was no longer under threat by the skiff, with no damage or injuries reported, Ambrey says.

Yemen’s Houthis have threatened to expand their operations against shipping to the Indian Ocean region. The Iran-backed group has been carrying out the attacks in what they say is retaliation for Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza.

Hamas-run health ministry says Gaza death toll nearing 32,000

People and first responders inspect the rubble and debris of a building that collapsed following an Israeli air strike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on March 20, 2024 (SAID KHATIB / AFP)
People and first responders inspect the rubble and debris of a building that collapsed following an Israeli air strike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on March 20, 2024 (SAID KHATIB / AFP)

At least 31,988 Palestinians have been killed and 74,188 have been wounded in Gaza since October 7, the Hamas-run health ministry in the enclave says.

The terror group’s figures are unverified, don’t differentiate between civilians and combatants, and list all the fatalities as caused by Israel — even those believed to have been caused by hundreds of misfired rockets or otherwise by Palestinian fire.

Israel has said it killed some 13,000 Hamas members in Gaza fighting, in addition to some 1,000 killed inside Israel in the aftermath of the terror group’s October 7 invasion and onslaught.

Blinken says he discussed efforts to increase humanitarian aid to Gaza with Saudi crown prince

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, March 20, 2024. (Evelyn Hockstein/Pool Photo via AP)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, March 20, 2024. (Evelyn Hockstein/Pool Photo via AP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says he met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the kingdom’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan to discuss the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and efforts to increase aid to Palestinians.

Blinken began a tour of the Middle East on Wednesday. He arrived in Egypt this morning and is set to visit Israel on Friday.

Denmark security service: Terror threat increased amid Israel-Hamas war, Quran burnings

A soldier of the Danish Army (Forsvaret) guards the Copenhagen Synagogue, Dec. 16, 2023. (Nils Meilvang/Ritzau Scanpix via AP, File)
A soldier of the Danish Army (Forsvaret) guards the Copenhagen Synagogue, Dec. 16, 2023. (Nils Meilvang/Ritzau Scanpix via AP, File)

The threat of terrorism in Denmark and against its interests abroad has increased, the Nordic country’s PET security and intelligence service says.

The Gaza war between Israel and Hamas, and a series of Quran burnings in Denmark last year, contributed to the deteriorating security situation, the agency says.

The PET maintained an overall threat level assessment of 4, the second-highest on its scale from 1 to 5, but says the risks within that level had increased.

Centcom deputy commander visited Israel for talks on construction of Gaza aid pier – report

US Navy Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, who heads the Navy's Bahrain-based 5th Fleet, speaks at an event at the International Defense Exhibition and Conference in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Feb. 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell, File)
US Navy Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, who heads the Navy's Bahrain-based 5th Fleet, speaks at an event at the International Defense Exhibition and Conference in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Feb. 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell, File)

Centcom Deputy Commander Vice Adm. Brad Cooper visited Israel in recent days for talks on the US construction of a port in Gaza for humanitarian aid, the Kan public broadcaster reports.

The outlet says he met with a number of Israeli officials.

Amid a humanitarian crisis in the Strip, the temporary pier will allow for the direct delivery of humanitarian assistance via the Mediterranean Sea.

The US is coordinating with Israel to ensure Israeli security concerns are met, and with the UN and humanitarian organizations on the ground to ensure the aid is properly distributed.

Jacob Magid contributed to this report.

2 Palestinians killed in clashes in West Bank’s Nur Shams refugee camp, taking toll to 4

An Israeli armored vehicle drives on a road following a raid at the Nur Shams camp for Palestinian refugees near Tulkarm on March 21, 2024 (Jaafar ASHTIYEH / AFP)
An Israeli armored vehicle drives on a road following a raid at the Nur Shams camp for Palestinian refugees near Tulkarm on March 21, 2024 (Jaafar ASHTIYEH / AFP)

Two Palestinians have been killed in clashes during an Israeli army raid in the West Bank’s Nur Shams refugee camp, close to Tulkarem, according to the Palestinian Authority health ministry.

Two other men were killed in an airstrike late last night, which the IDF said targeted gunmen posing an immediate threat to troops.

IDF says troops found weapons caches, terror infrastructure at Shifa Hospital

IDF troops operate at Shifa Hospital in the Gaza Strip, in a handout image published by the military on March 19, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
IDF troops operate at Shifa Hospital in the Gaza Strip, in a handout image published by the military on March 19, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The IDF is continuing its ongoing operation against Hamas at Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital, where the military says troops killed more than 50 gunmen over the past day.

Since the beginning of the operation at Shifa, some 140 terror operatives have been killed by troops, according to the IDF.

Also amid the raid at Shifa, carried out by the Navy’s Shayetet 13 commando unit and the 401st Armored Brigade, the IDF says troops located infrastructure belonging to terror groups and caches of weapons.

Meanwhile, in central Gaza, the IDF says the Nahal Brigade killed some 20 more Hamas operatives over the past day.

In southern Gaza’s Khan Younis, the IDF says the 7th Armored Brigade launched an offensive against Hamas in the al-Qarara area.

The IDF says the troops have killed numerous gunmen and struck dozens of sites belonging to Hamas in the area, including a rocket launcher.

The raid in al-Qarara began with a wave of airstrikes, targeting Hamas sites and operatives, the IDF adds.

Report: Israeli proposal sees Gazans without Hamas ties distributing aid, then transitioning into governing body

Palestinians transport bags of flour on the back of trucks as humanitarian aid arrives in Gaza City on March 6, 2024 (AFP)
Palestinians transport bags of flour on the back of trucks as humanitarian aid arrives in Gaza City on March 6, 2024 (AFP)

Israel is working on a plan that would see Palestinian leaders and businessmen with no ties to Hamas take a key role in distributing aid in Gaza, which would eventually develop into a Palestinian-led governing authority, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The report says an unnamed top Israeli defense official has held talks with Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan on the matter with the aim of building regional support for the proposal.

However the plan reportedly does not have the support of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Officials tell the outlet that aid would be inspected by Israel before it enters Gaza by land and sea and is transported to large warehouses in the center of the Strip.

Those who are in charge of the distribution of the aid from the warehouses will “assume authority to govern, backed up by security forces funded by wealthy Arab governments,” officials tell the newspaper.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have repeatedly made clear that they will not play any role in the rehabilitation of Gaza unless it is part of a framework aimed at an eventual two-state solution.

A senior unnamed official from the Prime Minister’s Office tells the Journal: “Gaza will be run by those who do not seek to kill Israelis.”

However, another official says the plan could be thwarted by strong opposition from Hamas.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has apparently held off holding substantive security cabinet discussions regarding the so-called “day after” the war, fearing this could lead to fractures in his mainly right-wing coalition.

The US has been pushing for a reformed PA to take over the governance of Gaza the day after the war, which Israel under the leadership of Netanyahu has rejected outright.

The war was sparked on October 7, when Hamas carried out a massive cross-border attack from the Gaza Strip in which terrorists killed some 1,200 people in Israel, mostly civilians. Terrorists also abducted 253 people of all ages including the elderly and children, who were taken as hostages to Gaza.

In response to the massacre, Israel launched an aerial offensive and ground campaign, vowing to eradicate the terror group, which has ruled the Gaza Strip since 2007, and release the hostages.

With a spiraling humanitarian crisis in Gaza, Israel has been under increasing pressure from the international community and aid agencies to allow more goods into the territory. It has blamed the UN for not delivering supplies fast enough after they are cleared, and for leading to a general fall-off in deliveries. It also accuses Hamas of stealing aid deliveries for itself, depriving civilians of resources.

Agencies contributed to this report.

Blinken: US circulated draft UN Security Council resolution calling for ‘immediate ceasefire linked to the release of hostages’

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken steps out of a car as he departs for Cairo, in Jeddah on March 21, 2024. (EVELYN HOCKSTEIN / POOL / AFP)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken steps out of a car as he departs for Cairo, in Jeddah on March 21, 2024. (EVELYN HOCKSTEIN / POOL / AFP)

The United States has circulated a draft UN Security Council resolution calling for an “immediate ceasefire linked to the release of hostages” in the Gaza Strip, Secretary of State Antony Blinken says.

“Well, in fact, we actually have a resolution that we put forward right now that’s before the United Nations Security Council that does call for an immediate ceasefire tied to the release of hostages, and we hope very much that countries will support that,” Blinken says.

“I think that would send a strong message, a strong signal,” he tells Saudi media outlet Al Hadath during a visit to Saudi Arabia to discuss the war between Israel and Hamas, sparked by the terror group’s devastating October 7 attack.

Washington had previously been averse to the word “ceasefire.”

During the five-month-long war, it has vetoed three draft resolutions, two of which would have demanded an immediate ceasefire. Most recently, the US justified its veto by saying such council action could jeopardize efforts by the US, Egypt and Qatar to broker a pause in the war and the release of hostages.

The US traditionally shields Israel at the UN, but it has also abstained twice, allowing the council to adopt resolutions that aimed to boost aid to Gaza and called for extended pauses in fighting.

‘Large, unprecedented’ deployment of armed Hezbollah members in Beirut suburb – Lebanese report

Hezbollah has a “large and unprecedented” deployment of armed members on the streets in the southern Beirut suburb of Dahiya, a stronghold of the terror group, Lebanon’s An-Nahar newspaper reports.

The report says the terror group members are masked and are checking the identities of individuals walking on the streets.

In addition to being dominated by Hezbollah, the neighborhood was home to Hamas deputy leader Saleh al-Arouri, killed in a January strike widely attributed to Israel.

Reports of ongoing exchanges of fire in IDF raid on West Bank’s Nur Shams refugee camp

There are reports of ongoing exchanges of fire in the West Bank’s Nur Shams refugee camp, hours after the IDF said it launched a brigade-level raid.

Last night, the army confirmed an airstrike was carried out against two gunmen who were a threat to troops.

IDF troops shoot, injure Palestinian found to have knife in bag at West Bank checkpoint

A Palestinian man arrived at a checkpoint in the West Bank with a knife in his bag and was shot by soldiers, Hebrew-language media reports.

The Ynet news site reports the knife was found during a search of the man’s possessions. The Kan public broadcaster says the incident occurred near the Elazar intersection in Gush Etzion.

It is unclear what prompted the troops to open fire.

The man is reportedly wounded in his lower body.

There is no comment from the Israel Defense Forces.

US military, coalition forces destroy Houthi drone, unmanned surface vessel

Houthi supporters attend a rally against the US airstrikes on Yemen and the war in Gaza, in Sanaa, Yemen, March 8, 2024. (AP Photo/Osamah Abdulrahman)
Houthi supporters attend a rally against the US airstrikes on Yemen and the war in Gaza, in Sanaa, Yemen, March 8, 2024. (AP Photo/Osamah Abdulrahman)

The US military and coalition forces destroyed an unmanned aerial vehicle and an unmanned surface vessel launched by Yemen’s Houthis in the Red Sea on Wednesday, the US Central Command (CENTCOM) said in a statement.

“There were no injuries or damage reported to US or coalition ships,” the statement read.

US official confirms receipt of Israeli assurance that its using US weapons in accordance with int’l law

This picture taken from Israel's southern border with the Gaza Strip shows Israeli army battle tank at a position along the border with the Palestinian territory on March 19, 2024. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)
This picture taken from Israel's southern border with the Gaza Strip shows Israeli army battle tank at a position along the border with the Palestinian territory on March 19, 2024. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)

Israel has submitted written assurances as required by the US State Department stating its use of American-supplied weapons are not being used to violate humanitarian laws in Gaza, a US official tells Reuters on condition of anonymity.

The US has yet to publicly confirm having received this assurance from Israel despite reports that Defense Minister Yoav Gallant signed the relevant letter last week.

Israel had until a Sunday deadline to submit written assurances. The State Department will assess by early May whether Israel’s assurances are credible and report to the US Congress.”

The written assurance is a new condition that the US placed on all aid recipients, laid out in a memo signed by Biden on February 8. The directive does not single out Israel, but came at a time of increasing calls from progressive lawmakers for conditions on US aid to the Jewish state, amid concerns that Jerusalem was not doing enough to protect civilians in Gaza.

US security aid recipients were already required to use it in line with international law, though the request for written assurances was new.

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said Monday that the US had not yet received the written assurance from Israel.

High Court blocks Defense Ministry from deporting ill Palestinians receiving treatment in Israel

Illustrative: Israeli security forces stand next to ambulances on stand-by at Tel Aviv's Schneider children's hospital on November 24, 2023. (FADEL SENNA / AFP)
Illustrative: Israeli security forces stand next to ambulances on stand-by at Tel Aviv's Schneider children's hospital on November 24, 2023. (FADEL SENNA / AFP)

The High Court of Justice has ordered the Defense Ministry to halt its plan to deport a group of ill Palestinians receiving treatment in Israel back to Gaza along with their relatives who have been staying with them.

The group of 22 Palestinians is largely made up of cancer patients who have been hospitalized in Israel for the past several months for treatment, Haaretz reports.

Most of them no longer require continued hospitalization, but sending them back to Gaza would jeopardize their continued care, given that they would likely be unable to leave the Strip in order to receive subsequent treatments and make follow-up appointments.

The bulk of the patients are being hospitalized in Palestinian medical centers in East Jerusalem, but two of the patients are minors hospitalized at Safra Children’s Hospital in the Medical Center and are accompanied by their relatives, Haaretz says.

Physicians for Human Rights and the Hamoked Center for the Defense of the Individual filed a High Court petition urging the Defense Ministry to reverse its decision, arguing that it would endanger the lives of the patients.

The court agreed to interfere at the last minute.

In a statement responding to the Haaretz report, the Defense Ministry’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories says, “Before October 7 2023, the day Hamas opened a cruel war in which it murdered some 1,200 Israelis, abducted hundreds of additional Israelis to Gaza and completely destroyed the Erez Crossing, Gazan residents could obtain an entrance permit to Israel for medical treatment, under certain conditions.”

“Now the Gaza residents and their companions who have received medical treatments in Israeli hospitals and don’t need any continued medical treatment are being returned to the Gaza Strip. In cases where there’s need for further medical treatment, COGAT is coordinating their continued sojourn with the hospitals to ensure their health. The passage of the Gaza residents back to the Strip will be done in coordination with international aid organizations and forces on the ground.”

Blinken: ‘Gaps narrowing’ between Israel and Hamas in hostage talks

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken walks as he arrives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, March 20, 2024. (Evelyn Hockstein, Pool Photo via AP)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken walks as he arrives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, March 20, 2024. (Evelyn Hockstein, Pool Photo via AP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says “the gaps are narrowing, and I think an agreement is very much possible” between Israel and Hamas on a six-week ceasefire that would see some 40 Israeli hostages released.

“We worked very hard with Qatar, Egypt and Israel to put a strong proposal on the table… Hamas wouldn’t accept it. They came back with other demands. The negotiators are working on that right now, but I believe it’s very much doable, and it’s very much necessary,” Blinken tells Al Hadath.

“If Hamas cares at all about the people it purports to represent, then it would reach an agreement because that would have the immediate effect of a ceasefire, alleviating the tremendous suffering of people, bringing more humanitarian assistance in and then giving us the possibility of having something more lasting,” he adds.

Poll: Over 70% Palestinians still maintain Hamas ‘correct’ to commit Oct. 7 atrocities

Illustrative: Hamas supporters in the West Bank city of Hebron demonstrate on January 2, 2024, against an Israeli strike in Lebanon that killed the terror group's deputy leader. (Hazem Bader/AFP)
Illustrative: Hamas supporters in the West Bank city of Hebron demonstrate on January 2, 2024, against an Israeli strike in Lebanon that killed the terror group's deputy leader. (Hazem Bader/AFP)

A new poll released by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research finds declining levels of support for Hamas in both the Gaza Strip and West Bank, though the percentage who believe the terror group’s October 7 onslaught was “correct” is virtually unchanged.

According to the survey, 71% of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank back the October 7 massacres in which in terrorists killed some 1,200 people and kidnapped 253 others, versus 72% who said so when the organization’s previous poll was published in December.

While the overall figure remained steady, support for atrocities increased from 57% to 71% in Gaza the past three months and dipped from 82% to 71% in the West Bank.

Along with Islamist group itself, respondents gave high marks to the Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar over his conduct in the war, with 61% approving, though this was down some from 69% in December.

Among the other questions in the survey are who Palestinians would vote for if new parliament elections were held today. A plurality — 30% — say Hamas, followed by 14% for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement, which was just below the 15% for none of the above. Six percent of respondents say they’ll back third parties while 36% won’t vote.

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