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

South Africa welcomes adoption of UN Security Council resolution on Gaza

South Africa welcomes the adoption of a UN Security Council resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

“It is now the responsibility of the United Nations Security Council to ensure that there is compliance with the resolution, which is binding on the parties,” South Africa’s department of international relations and cooperation says in a statement.

It was the first time that the Security Council passed a resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire in Gaza since war erupted after Hamas’s October 7 massacre.

South Africa hauled Israel before the International Court of Justice late last year to allege it is committing genocide in the war. Israel has denied allegations of deliberately causing humanitarian suffering in the enclave, where around 1.1 million people — about half the population — are said to be experiencing “catastrophic” hunger.

Hamas tells mediators it’s ‘sticking to original position on full ceasefire’

Hamas says it has informed mediators that the terror group will stick to its original position on reaching a comprehensive ceasefire, which includes the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza, a return of displaced Palestinians and a “real” exchange of prisoners.

The response is because Israel “did not respond to any of the basic demands of our people and our resistance (Hamas): a comprehensive ceasefire, withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, the return of the displaced, and a real exchange of prisoners,” the terror group says in a statement.

“[Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his extremist government bear full responsibility for thwarting all negotiation efforts and obstructing reaching an agreement so far,” Hamas adds.

Israel has continuously rejected Hamas demands for a full military withdrawal and a permanent ceasefire, while the terror group has conditioned any further hostage releases on an Israeli commitment to end the war. Israel has dismissed this demand as delusional, and insisted that its military campaign to destroy Hamas’s military and governance capabilities will resume once any hostage-truce deal is implemented.

Reports circulating in Hebrew media yesterday reports indicated that Jerusalem had softened its position and could be willing to release hundreds more Palestinian prisoners than initially agreed to in an initial phase of an accord.

The hostages have been held in Gaza since Hamas’s October 7 massacre, which saw terrorists kill some 1,200 people and kidnap another 253, mostly civilians.

Protesters clash with Jordanian police at Israeli embassy in Amman for second day

Jordanian police are clashing with pro-Palestinian protesters in Amman for the second day in a row, near the Israeli embassy, according to unverified reports on social media.

Videos posted online show police officers dispersing crowds of protesters.

Other footage appears to show a large crowd of pro-Palestinian protesters marching in the direction of the Israeli embassy.

Yesterday, Jordanian riot police fired tear gas to push back hundreds of demonstrators marching on the Israeli embassy in Amman in protest of the war in Gaza.

The Israeli embassy, where protesters gather daily, has long been a flashpoint of anti-Israel protests at times of turmoil in Gaza and the West Bank. Israeli ambassador Amir Weissbrod has been in Israel since leaving for security reasons in the wake of the October 7 massacre.

IDF: Fighter jet strikes Hezbollah building in southern Lebanon

The IDF says a fighter jet carried out an airstrike on a building used by Hezbollah in southern Lebanon’s Mays al-Jabal a short while ago.

In a separate incident, the IDF says a drone spotted Hezbollah operatives at a post in Abou Chach, and directed a fighter jet to strike it.

The IDF says it also shelled rocket and missile launching positions in southern Lebanon with artillery, following attacks on northern Israel throughout the day.

‘We’re still in Simhat Torah’: Hostage families in Tel Aviv stage sukkah protest on Purim

Family members of hostages being held captive in Gaza since October 7 stage a protest in Tel Aviv, March 25, 2024. (Hostage and Missing Families Forum)
Family members of hostages being held captive in Gaza since October 7 stage a protest in Tel Aviv, March 25, 2024. (Hostage and Missing Families Forum)

Families of hostages being held captive by Hamas in Gaza are staging a protest in Tel Aviv sitting inside a sukkah under the banner “We’re still in Simhat Torah.”

The protest comes in contrast of the Jewish holiday of Purim which ends today.

Kobi Ben Ami, whose brother Ohad Ben Ami has been held hostage in Gaza since October 7, says, “Now the Purim holiday is ending, a holiday of miracles. I remember my brother’s face, but imagine that for 171 days now, I can’t recall the sound of his voice.”

Hamas’s October 7 massacre, which saw terrorists kill some 1,200 people murdered and kidnap another 253 kidnapped, mostly civilians, was perpetrated on the Simhat Torah holiday last year, which falls at the end of Sukkot.

Ditza Or, whose son Avinatan Or, 30 was kidnapped on October 7 along with his girlfriend Noa Argamani, 26, directs her comments to the government: “I call on the leaders of the State of Israel, the people’s spirit is strong, the people are behind you, and if you reflect that outwards, they will see our strength all over the world.”

It is believed that 130 hostages abducted by Hamas on October 7 remain in Gaza — not all of them alive — after 105 civilians were released from Hamas captivity during a weeklong truce in late November, and four hostages were released prior to that. Three hostages have been rescued by troops alive, and the bodies of 11 hostages have also been recovered, including three mistakenly killed by the military.

Gallant tells Sullivan: Gaza war outcome will affect Middle East ‘for years to come’

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant arrives for a meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the US State Department in Washington, DC, on March 25, 2024. (Roberto Schmidt/AFP)
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant arrives for a meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the US State Department in Washington, DC, on March 25, 2024. (Roberto Schmidt/AFP)

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant tells US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan that “the results of the war will determine the outcome of the region for years to come,” according to a readout from his office issued after the meeting.

During the meeting at the White House, which lasted an hour and a half, the pair “discussed the steps required to continue defeating Hamas and dismantling its military and governmental capabilities and the efforts to return the hostages,” the Defense Ministry says.

Gallant “stressed to the national security adviser that the manner in which the war in Gaza ends will affect the State of Israel and the entire region for decades to come and will send a clear message,” his office adds.

US national security adviser meets Gallant in DC, conveys ‘Biden’s iron-clad support’

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan says he held a “constructive discussion on how best to ensure Hamas’s lasting defeat in Gaza,” earlier today with visiting Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

“I conveyed President Biden’s iron-clad support for Israel’s security and defense against all threats, including Iran,” Sullivan posts on X, formerly Twitter, as the Biden administration apparently seeks to calm tensions with Israel that seemed to reach a new low after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled plans to send a delegation to Washington after the US allowed a Security Council resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire and hostage release earlier today.

“I welcomed Yoav’s commitment to take additional steps to address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza,” Sullivan adds, noting that he was pleased to host Gallant.

Netanyahu invites coalition party chairs to consult, ahead of Haredi draft vote

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu invites the heads of the coalition parties to the Prime Minister’s Office for consultations on the eve of a government vote on his proposed Haredi enlistment outline, state broadcaster Kan reports.

Netanyahu is expected to present his plan for drafting the ultra-Orthodox for approval during tomorrow’s cabinet meeting.

He has already amended the plan, which initially contained a clause raising the military exemption age for yeshiva students to 35, which had generated widespread pushback among both opposition and coalition lawmakers.

The revised plan calls for setting annual recruitment targets in pursuit of a “significant and gradual increase” in enlistment by yeshiva students and graduates of ultra-Orthodox educational institutions and would impose financial penalties on yeshivas that fail to meet these quotas.

National Unity party chairman and war cabinet minister Benny Gantz has come out against the proposal, stating that, while his party wants to come to an agreement on enlistment, it needed to see “a solution for recruitment, not an exemption from recruitment.”

“I cannot be part of a government that passes such a law at all, and especially during wartime,” Gantz said earlier today, reiterating his earlier threat to bolt the coalition.

IDF strikes Hamas rocket launch site next to civilian shelter, used in earlier attack on Ashdod

This infographic released by the IDF shows the location from which Hamas fired a rocket barrage at the southern city of Ashdod, March 25, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
This infographic released by the IDF shows the location from which Hamas fired a rocket barrage at the southern city of Ashdod, March 25, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The IDF says it struck a Hamas rocket launching position used in a barrage earlier today on the southern coastal city of Ashdod.

The launchers, according to the IDF, were located adjacent to a civilian shelter in central Gaza’s Deir al-Balah.

Eight rockets were fired in the attack on Ashdod, with two being intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system and the others striking open areas.

Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack, the first on Ashdod in more than two months.

“The launches were carried out from a humanitarian zone in the Deir al-Balah area… where a civilian population was residing,” the IDF says.

Fighter jets struck the rocket launchers a short while after the attack, the IDF says, adding that secondary blasts seen after the strike indicated additional weaponry in the area.

“The attack was carried out precisely while avoiding harm to civilians who had evacuated the area before the attack was carried out,” the IDF says.

The IDF says the rocket barrage is “further evidence of Hamas’s cynical exploitation of civilian infrastructure, placing its assets in civilian areas, using them as human shields.”

US Central Command: 46,000 meals airdropped into northern Gaza today

People commute along the coastal road, as humanitarian aid is dropped on the Gaza Strip, west of Gaza City, on March 25, 2024. (AFP)
People commute along the coastal road, as humanitarian aid is dropped on the Gaza Strip, west of Gaza City, on March 25, 2024. (AFP)

The US airdropped 46,000 meals into northern Gaza earlier today, US Central Command announces.

“The Defense Department humanitarian airdrops contribute to ongoing US and partner-nation government efforts to alleviate human suffering. These airdrops are part of a sustained effort, and we continue to plan follow-on aerial deliveries,” CENTCOM says.

Some 250,000 to 300,000 Palestinians are believed to be living in this part of the Strip despite an IDF directive for civilians to evacuate at the beginning of the war.

The area is largely cut off to prevent a Hamas resurgence in zones already cleared by the army.

With the center of the humanitarian operation located in the southern Gaza border city of Rafah, where most of the Strip’s two million civilians are sheltering, those in the north have had extremely limited access to aid for months.

US says ceasefire resolution non-binding; less influential Security Council members object

The United Nations Security Council meets on the situation in the Middle East, at the UN headquarters in New York on March 25, 2024. (ANGELA WEISS / AFP)
The United Nations Security Council meets on the situation in the Middle East, at the UN headquarters in New York on March 25, 2024. (ANGELA WEISS / AFP)

The resolution passed earlier today by the UN Security Council is not legally binding, the US asserts.

“It’s a non-binding resolution, so there’s no impact at all on Israel’s ability to continue to go after Hamas,” White House National Security Council John Kirby says in a press briefing, echoing a stance made after the vote by US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield.

The position appears to be shared by South Korea and other members as well.

However, Algeria, Malta, Mozambique, Sierra Leone have all disputed this interpretation.

Given that the US can block members from trying to sanction Israel for failing to abide by the resolution, Washington’s interpretation seems to carry more weight.

Accordingly, it demonstrates the highly limited influence the UN has when weighing into conflicts around the world.

White House suggests Netanyahu manufacturing crisis in US-Israel ties

White House National Security Council  adviser John Kirby answers questions about Israel during a press briefing, March 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
White House National Security Council adviser John Kirby answers questions about Israel during a press briefing, March 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

The White House suggests Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to manufacture a crisis in US-Israel ties over the Biden administration’s decision to allow the adoption of a UN Security Council resolution calling for an immediate Gaza ceasefire and hostage release.

“It seems like the Prime Minister’s Office is choosing to create a perception of daylight here when they don’t need to do that,” White House National Security Council John Kirby says in a press briefing, after Netanyahu announced his decision to cancel a planned Israeli delegation to Washington aimed at discussing a potential IDF invasion of the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

“We’re kind of perplexed by this. It’s a non-binding resolution, so there’s no impact at all on Israel’s ability to continue to go after Hamas,” Kirby says. “The Prime Minister’s Office seems to be indicating through public statements that we’ve somehow changed here. We haven’t,” he says after Netanyahu’s office claimed the US had shifted its stance by not blocking the resolution that did not explicitly condition a ceasefire on the release of the hostages.

Kirby adds that Netanyahu is wrong to claim that the US abstention will give Hamas hope that it can secure a ceasefire through means other than a hostage release.

But he clarifies, “We still have Israel’s back. As you and I are speaking, we are still providing tools, capabilities and weapons systems so that Israel can defend itself against what we agree is still a viable threat [from] Hamas.”

Pressed on whether the US might now begin conditioning aid to Israel, the White House spokesman indicates that this is not in the cards, “I would take issue with this idea that we’re not leveraging everything we can. [But] it’s not a leveraging exercise. It’s not about trying to use some sort of power dynamics here with our good friend and ally, Israel. It’s about helping them defend themselves,” Kirby says.

The Biden administration will still have opportunities to present its alternatives to a major Rafah invasion during meetings with visiting Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, even though those will not be a replacement for the inter-agency gathering it was hoping to hold with some of Netanyahu’s other top aides later this week, Kirby acknowledges.

However, he says the US will continue to pursue other avenues to discuss the matter with Israel, even though a Rafah operation appears to be a “ways off.”

After another US official anonymously briefing reporters said Netanyahu’s decision to cancel the delegation was likely motivated by domestic Israeli politics, Kirby is pressed as to whether Biden is not influenced by his own domestic politics.

The White House spokesman rejects the idea outright, saying Biden’s decisions regarding the Israel-Hamas war are based strictly on national security concerns.

Sa’ar announces resignation after missing out on war cabinet appointment

New Hope party chair Gideon Saar speaks during a press conference in Tel Aviv on March 25, 2024. (Avshalom Sassoni/ Flash90)
New Hope party chair Gideon Saar speaks during a press conference in Tel Aviv on March 25, 2024. (Avshalom Sassoni/ Flash90)

New Hope chair Gideon Sa’ar announces his resignation from the government after he was not appointed to the war cabinet, following the recent dissolution of his political alliance with Benny Gantz.

Declaring that his New Hope – The United Right party had not joined the emergency government following October 7 in order to “warm chairs,” Sa’ar states that, while he had put aside his disagreements with Netanyahu’s coalition for “the good of the country,” the government had failed to achieve its war aims in Gaza and he felt that he had “no more possibility to influence” its prosecution of the conflict.

“I believed and I still believe – that [our goals] are ambitious but achievable,” and “our soldiers have fought and are fighting bravely,” but under Netanyahu, military progress has slowed down, prolonging the campaign, he says.

“But I cannot bear responsibility as long as I have no…practical possibility to influence the direction of policy. I just don’t see any use in it anymore. We did not come to the government to warm chairs. We came to the government – which we opposed – to help the people of Israel in a difficult time.”

Sa’ar’s announcement comes less than two weeks after the former senior Likud member announced the breakup of the National Unity faction, dissolving his alliance with Gantz’s Blue and White party.

Explaining at the time that Gantz and his colleagues did “not convey the voice, positions and emphasis” that he would bring to the war cabinet, Sa’ar demanded that he be appointed to the narrow decision-making body.

While Gantz was against it, Netanyahu was open to the possibility of adding Sa’ar, but was pulled up short by ultranationalist National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir’s demand to be appointed to the war cabinet alongside him, according to Hebrew media reports.

The war cabinet currently has three voting members: Netanyahu, Gantz, and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. Blue and White’s Gadi Eisenkot is an observer, as are Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer and ultra-Orthodox Shas party leader Aryeh Deri, both confidantes of Netanyahu.

Iron Dome intercepts rocket fired from Gaza towards Ashkelon; none hurt

One rocket was fired from the Gaza Strip toward Ashkelon a short while ago, setting off sirens in the coastal city’s southern industrial zone and the nearby community of Zikim.

According to the IDF, the rocket was intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system.

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group claims responsibility for the rocket fire.

There are no reports of injuries or damage.

Turkey calls UNSC demand for Gaza ceasefire ‘a positive step’

Turkey calls a UN Security Council resolution passed earlier today demanding an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip and the release of all hostages “a positive step.”

“We hope that Israel will comply with the requirements of this resolution without delay,” Turkish foreign affairs spokesman Oncu Keceli writes on X, formerly Twitter.

“We call on the international community to take a united stand against Israel to end the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza and to find a lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” he adds.

‘Standing up to the US makes Israel look stronger’ — senior Israeli official

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was aware and not concerned that calling off an Israeli delegation’s trip to the US this week would further strain already tense relations between Washington and Jerusalem, Channel 12 reports.

“This conflict with the US doesn’t make Israel look weaker, it shows strength. The world, and in particular our enemies, can see that Israel knows how to stand up to pressure, even at the cost of conflict with our best friend,” Channel 12 quotes a senior Israeli official as saying.

Netanyahu canceled a planned trip to Washington by his top aides to discuss plans for an offensive in the Gaza city of Rafah today after the US refrained from vetoing a United Nations Security Council resolution that called for a ceasefire without conditioning it on the release of hostages held by Hamas since October 7.

Channel 12 adds that Netanyahu’s office informed the Biden administration last night that it would call off the delegation’s trip to Washington, DC, this week if the US did not use its veto in the ceasefire vote.

Netanyahu’s announcement that he was canceling the trip came to the apparent surprise of US officials.

Israel using weapons in line with international law, not blocking Gaza aid — US

IDF troops operate inside the Gaza Strip in this undated handout photo published on March 22, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
IDF troops operate inside the Gaza Strip in this undated handout photo published on March 22, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The US has deemed Israel to be in compliance with a new national security memorandum after it received a written assurance from Jerusalem that it is using American weapons in line with international law and is not blocking humanitarian assistance in Gaza.

This assurance came last week via a “credible high-level official who has the ability and authority to make decisions and commitments about the issues at the heart of the assurances,” State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller says, referring to the letter sent by Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

“These assurances are prospective, but of course our view of them is informed by our ongoing assessments of Israel’s conduct in the war in Gaza,” Miller says during a press briefing.

“We’ve had ongoing assessments of Israel’s compliance with international humanitarian law. We have not found them to be in violation, either when it comes to the conduct of the war or the provision of humanitarian assistance. We view those assurances through that ongoing work we have done.”

The State Department now has until May 8 to provide Congress with a report on Israel’s compliance with the memo.

Hamas official targeted in Lebanon ‘escaped’ Israeli strike — security source

Lebanese soldiers cordon off the site of an alleged Israeli drone attack targeting a vehicle in the town of Souairi, in western Bekaa Valley in central Lebanon on March 24, 2024. (Hassan Jarrah/AFP)
Lebanese soldiers cordon off the site of an alleged Israeli drone attack targeting a vehicle in the town of Souairi, in western Bekaa Valley in central Lebanon on March 24, 2024. (Hassan Jarrah/AFP)

A Hamas official allegedly targeted in an Israeli drone strike yesterday “escaped” the attempted assassination, according to a Lebanese security source.

Lebanon’s official National News Agency says yesterday’s strike near the village of Souairi in the Bekaa Valley killed a Syrian civilian in his vehicle.

The security source, speaking on condition of anonymity, tells AFP that the Hamas official was traveling along the same road.

“A Hamas official was targeted by the Israeli drone attack on Sunday but escaped,” says the source, without naming the official.

Since October 8, Hezbollah-led forces have attacked Israeli communities and military posts along the border on a near-daily basis, with the group saying it is doing so to support Gaza during the war that erupted there on October 7.

The strike in the Souairi area, near Lebanon’s border with Syria, was the first alleged Israeli attack there in nearly six months of fighting.

Another security source says yesterday’s pre-dawn Israeli strikes wounded four people, including a Hezbollah member, in Baalbek, further north in the Bekaa Valley.

PA hails UN Gaza vote, calls for ‘permanent cessation to this criminal war’

The Palestinian Authority hails the UN Security Council’s demand for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and says the fighting between Israel and Hamas must end permanently.

“We welcome the UN Security Council resolution,” Hussein al-Sheikh, top aide to PA president Mahmoud Abbas writes on X, formerly Twitter.

“We call for a permanent cessation to this criminal war and Israel’s immediate withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.”

UN: Humanitarian chief to step down due to health reasons

The United Nations’ humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths will step down in June, after three years due to health reasons, the UN announces.

Griffiths has been heavily critical of Israel since the outbreak of the war in Gaza and made headlines last month when he said Hamas is not considered a terror group.

US perplexed by Netanyahu ‘over-reaction’ to UNSC vote, thinks it’s about domestic politics

The Biden administration is perplexed by what it views as a major overreaction by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to cancel a planned Israeli delegation to Washington in response to the US allowing a UN Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire and hostage release to be adopted, according to a US official.

Briefing a small group of reporters, the official speculates that the move by Netanyahu had more to do with Israeli domestic politics.

US President Joe Biden has no plans to call Netanyahu about the cancellation nor did Netanyahu call Biden about it in advance, the official adds.

Netanyahu, Gantz spar over canceled DC trip; premier ‘rejects suggestion’ to visit US

File: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and War Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz at a press conference in the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, Oct. 28, 2023. (Abir Sultan/Pool Photo via AP)
File: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and War Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz at a press conference in the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, Oct. 28, 2023. (Abir Sultan/Pool Photo via AP)

A public spat breaks out between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and war cabinet minister — and erstwhile political rival — Benny Gantz in the wake of the former’s decision to cancel a trip for his top aides to Washington, DC, after the Biden administration declined to veto a problematic UN Security Council resolution.

Gantz says not only should the delegation set out for the US, but “it would have been good if the prime minister would travel to the US himself, and hold a direct dialogue with President Biden and senior officials.”

Netanyahu responds in a statement panning Gantz for suggesting the trip take place, especially after Hamas praised the UN Security Council vote calling for a ceasefire without conditioning it on the release of the hostages.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu rejected the suggestion,” says his office.

Due to Gaza war, 2025 European Gymnastics championship won’t be held in Tel Aviv

Israel's Pavel Gulidov competes on the pommel horse during the men's all-round final at the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Antwerp, Belgium, October 5, 2023. (AP Photo/ Geert vanden Wijngaert/ File)
Israel's Pavel Gulidov competes on the pommel horse during the men's all-round final at the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Antwerp, Belgium, October 5, 2023. (AP Photo/ Geert vanden Wijngaert/ File)

LAUSANNE, Switzerland — The 2025 European gymnastics championships will not be staged in Tel Aviv as scheduled because of Israel’s war with Hamas.

The governing body of gymnastics in Europe announces the decision “due to the current situation in Israel,” and says it is reopening the bidding process for a host.

Member federations have a month to submit their bids.

“We acknowledge the efforts done by the Israeli Gymnastics Federation, the excellent host of several European Championships in the past eight years,” European Gymnastics adds in a brief statement.

“The executive committee welcomes a bid for later editions.”

Smotrich: US failure to veto UNSC ceasefire resolution ‘plays into Hamas’s hands’

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich joins a chorus of Israeli officials to slam the US for refraining from using its veto power to block a UN Security Council demand for an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.

“The US decision not to impose a veto in the Security Council plays into Hamas’s hands and harms efforts to return the hostages and stabilize the region by eliminating the radical forces and strengthening the moderate forces,” Smotrich says in a statement.

“The State of Israel will not stop until Hamas is completely destroyed and the hostages are returned,” he adds.

He says that Israel’s relationship with the US has “always been one of partners, not a patron state.”

“This is not the first time that an Israeli government has needed to make decisions contrary to the US government’s position,” he adds, voicing support for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government and calling for national unity during the ongoing war with Hamas.

Trump: ‘Israel has to do better with PR, right now they’re in ruin’; ‘finish up your war, get on to peace’

Former US president Donald Trump speaks to the press in a hallway outside the courtroom during a recess in a hearing to determine the date of his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments linked to extramarital affairs, at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City on March 25, 2024. (Brendan McDermid/Pool/AFP)
Former US president Donald Trump speaks to the press in a hallway outside the courtroom during a recess in a hearing to determine the date of his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments linked to extramarital affairs, at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City on March 25, 2024. (Brendan McDermid/Pool/AFP)

Asked about growing tensions between Jerusalem and Washington over the ongoing war in Gaza, US presidential hopeful Donald Trump says support for Israel in the US has been dropping for the past 15 years.

“Israel has to get better with the promotional and with the public relations, because right now they’re in ruin. They’re being hurt very badly,” he says in a filmed interview with the Israel Hayom newspaper.

He also blames US President Joe Biden for Hamas’s October 7 attack on southern Israel, which he claims the terror group perpetrated “because they have no respect for him.”

War erupted in Gaza after thousands of Hamas-led terrorists burst across the border into Israel by land, air and sea, killing some 1,200 people and seizing 253 hostages, mostly civilians, many amid horrific acts of brutality and sexual assault.

Trump says he would have reacted in “very much the same way” as Israel did after the massacre.

“I would say I would act very much the same way as you did. You would have to be crazy not to. Only a fool would not do that. That was a horrible attack.”

He says, “What I saw October 7 was one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen,” but adds that Israel should end the war. “You have to finish up your war. To finish it up. You gotta get it done. And, I am sure you will do that. And we gotta get to peace, we can’t have this going on.”

He adds: “Israel has to be very careful, because you’re losing a lot of the world, you’re losing a lot of support, you have to finish up, you have to get the job done. And you have to get on to peace, to get on to a normal life for Israel, and for everybody else.”

Trump also appears to explain the rise in antisemitism in the US since October 7 as resulting from images of destruction coming out of Gaza from the ongoing war.

Asked how he would counter the antisemnitism spike, he says: “Well, that’s because you fought back. And I think Israel made a very big mistake. I wanted to call [Israel] and say don’t do it. These photos and shots. I mean, moving shots of bombs being dropped into buildings in Gaza. And I said, ‘Oh, that’s a terrible portrait.'”

‘Israeli blood is cheap’: Erdan blasts Gaza truce demand for ignoring hostages

Israel's Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan speaks during a United Nations Security Council meeting at UN headquarters in New York on March 25, 2024. (Angela Weiss/AFP)
Israel's Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan speaks during a United Nations Security Council meeting at UN headquarters in New York on March 25, 2024. (Angela Weiss/AFP)

Israeli Ambassador to the UN blasts the Security Council for adopting a resolution that doesn’t condition a ceasefire on the release of the hostages.

“On the one hand, the resolution says that taking civilians hostage is in violation of international law, yet on the other hand — despite the fact that you know Hamas won’t listen to your calls and release the hostages — you demand a ceasefire,” Erdan says in remarks to the body after the vote.

Erdan says that the council’s failure to condition a ceasefire on the hostages’ release “not only isn’t helpful, but it undermines the effort to secure their release. It is harmful to these efforts because it gives Hamas terrorists hope to get a ceasefire without releasing the hostages.”

He then reads out a text of a resolution that he thinks should’ve been adopted by the council today — one that condemns human rights abuses such as hostage-taking and rape and demands the terror group responsible to immediately cease its abuses.

Erdan reveals that this was actually the text of the resolution that the council adopted ten years ago to condemn Boko Haram’s kidnapping of schoolgirls in Nigeria.

“Why can this Council call on Boko Haram to lay down their arms, but the same can’t be demanded of the murderous Hamas terrorists?” Erdan asks. “Is the life of little baby Kfir Bibas worth less than the life of a Nigerian child?”

“Sadly, it’s for the same reason why you can condemn terror attacks in Russia and Iran, but not in Israel. To this Council, Israeli blood is cheap. This is a travesty and I’m disgusted,” he adds.

Soldier seen on security camera slapping Palestinian boy to be disciplined – IDF

The IDF says surveillance camera footage circulated by Palestinian media showing a soldier pulling a Palestinian boy’s shirt off and slapping him is a “very serious incident.”

The incident, which occurred in a store in the West Bank city of Hebron “is contrary to IDF values and protocols,” the military says.

The soldier is expected to face disciplinary action.

IDF: Troops kill dozens of gunmen in Khan Younis neighborhood in new offensive

Troops operate in Gaza in an undated handout image released for publication March 25, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
Troops operate in Gaza in an undated handout image released for publication March 25, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The IDF says troops of the Maglan and Egoz commando units, along with other forces, have killed dozens of gunmen during a new offensive against Hamas in the Al-Amal neighborhood of Khan Younis.

The raid, which began Sunday, is being carried out by the Commando Brigade, the Paratroopers Brigade’s reconnaissance unit, and the 7th Armored Brigade’s 77th Battalion.

The IDF says it has “precise intelligence” indicating that Hamas operatives are using civilian infrastructure, including hospitals, in the Al-Amal neighborhood for terror activities. Troops have also captured a large amount of weapons and located Hamas sites in the area, the IDF says.

Meanwhile, the IDF releases new details into its 10-day operation at the Hamad Town residential complex in southern Gaza’s Khan Younis, which was wrapped up last week, where the military says troops captured some 300 terror operatives and killed around 100 gunmen. That raid was also carried out by the Maglan and Egoz commando units, along with other forces.

The commandos had raided the multi-story buildings in the Qatari-funded neighborhood, where the IDF said there was Hamas infrastructure. Amid the raid at Hamad, troops also found the weapon of Col. Jonathan Steinberg, the commander of the Nahal Brigade who was killed during the October 7 onslaught.

Gallant in US: Israel has ‘no moral right’ to stop Gaza war until all hostages are home; calls UN vote ‘scandalous’

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant issues a video statement from Washington DC, March 25, 2024. (Elad Malka/Defense Ministry)
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant issues a video statement from Washington DC, March 25, 2024. (Elad Malka/Defense Ministry)

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who is currently visiting the United States for an official trip, says Israel has “no moral right to stop the war in Gaza until we return all the hostages to their homes.”

The remarks are released by his office ahead of Gallant’s meetings with US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, and shortly after the UN Security Council passed a resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, after the US withheld its veto and abstained from the vote.

Gallant calls the UN decision “scandalous.”

“In the first meeting, with National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, I will make clear the importance of collapsing the Hamas regime and returning the hostages to their homes. We will act against Hamas everywhere, even in areas where we have not been yet. We will create an alternative to Hamas so that the IDF can complete its mission,” Gallant says.

“We have no moral right to stop the war in Gaza until we return all the hostages to their homes. If we don’t reach a clear and absolute victory in Gaza, it could bring a war in the north closer,” he adds.

Hamas praises UN Gaza vote, signals willingness for hostage deal

Hamas thanks the UN Security Council for its demand for an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, calling for “a permanent ceasefire that leads to the withdrawal of all Zionist forces from the Gaza Strip, and the return of the displaced to the homes from which they left.”

In a statement posted online, the terror group also says that it is willing “to engage in an immediate prisoner exchange process that leads to the release of prisoners on both sides.”

The war in Gaza erupted after Hamas’s October 7 massacres, which saw some 3,000 terrorists burst across the border into Israel by land, air and sea, killing some 1,200 people and seizing 253 hostages, mostly civilians, many amid horrific acts of brutality and sexual assault. Over 100 of the hostages remain in Gaza.

The statement adds that the pause in fighting is needed to “bury our martyrs who have remained under the rubble for months” and for access to “humanitarian needs.”

“Hamas calls on the Security Council to pressure the occupation to adhere to the ceasefire and stop the war of genocide and ethnic cleansing against our people,” the statement says, while also calling for Palestinian statehood.

US ‘disappointed’ by Netanyahu’s decision to cancel delegation’s trip to discuss Rafah

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby says the US is “disappointed” by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision not to send an Israeli delegation to Washington to discuss alternatives to a major invasion of Rafah.

“We’re very disappointed that they won’t be coming to Washington DC to allow us to have a fulsome conversation on the viable alternatives to going in on the ground in Rafah,” Kirby tells reporters in a briefing.

Netanyahu canceled the planned trip a short while ago directly after the US refrained from using a veto to block a UN Security Council resolution that called for a ceasefire without conditioning it on the release of hostages.

White House: US abstention on UNSC resolution does not indicate shift in policy

White House National Security Communications Advisor John Kirby speaks during the daily press briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC, March 1, 2024. (Saul Loeb / AFP)
White House National Security Communications Advisor John Kirby speaks during the daily press briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC, March 1, 2024. (Saul Loeb / AFP)

The US abstention on today’s UN Security Council resolution does not amount to a “shift in our policy” that believes a ceasefire must be obtained through a hostage deal, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby tells reporters.

“We have been consistent in our support for a ceasefire as part of a hostage deal,” he says.

Kirby says the US could not support the resolution because it failed to condemn Hamas.

France calls for ‘permanent ceasefire’ in Gaza after UNSC demands Ramadan truce

After the UN Security Council for the first time demanded a truce in Gaza for the ongoing month of Ramadan, France urges work on a permanent ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

“This crisis is not over. Our council will have to remain mobilized and immediately get back to work. After Ramadan, which ends in two weeks, it will have to establish a permanent ceasefire,” says France’s UN representative, Nicolas de Riviere.

Text of Security Council Resolution 2728, demanding immediate ceasefire, immediate release of hostages

(From left) US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Algeria's Ambassador to the UN Amar Bendjama and Chinese Ambassador to the UN Zhang Jun applaud during a United Nations Security Council meeting demanding an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, at the UN headquarters in New York on March 25, 2024. (Angela Weiss/AFP)
(From left) US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Algeria's Ambassador to the UN Amar Bendjama and Chinese Ambassador to the UN Zhang Jun applaud during a United Nations Security Council meeting demanding an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, at the UN headquarters in New York on March 25, 2024. (Angela Weiss/AFP)

The Security Council,

Guided by the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations,

Recalling all of its relevant resolutions on the situation in the Middle East,
including the Palestinian question,

Reiterating its demand that all parties comply with their obligations under
international law, including international humanitarian law and international human rights law, and in this regard deploring all attacks against civilians and civilian objects, as well as all violence and hostilities against civilians, and all acts of terrorism, and recalling that the taking of hostages is prohibited under international law;

Expressing deep concern about the catastrophic humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip,

Acknowledging the ongoing diplomatic efforts by Egypt, Qatar and the United States, aimed at reaching a cessation of hostilities, releasing the hostages and increasing the provision and distribution of humanitarian aid,

1. Demands an immediate ceasefire for the month of Ramadan respected by all parties leading to a lasting sustainable ceasefire, and also demands the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages, as well as ensuring humanitarian access to address their medical and other humanitarian needs, and further demands that the parties comply with their obligations under international law in relation to all persons they detain;

2. Emphasizes the urgent need to expand the flow of humanitarian assistance to and reinforce the protection of civilians in the entire Gaza Strip and reiterates its demand for the lifting of all barriers to the provision of humanitarian assistance at scale, in line with international humanitarian law as well as resolutions 2712 (2023) and 2720 (2023);

3. Decides to remain actively seized of the matter.

Following France, Italy raises security alert after Moscow attack

Police patrol in front of Milan gothic cathedral in Milan, March 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
Police patrol in front of Milan gothic cathedral in Milan, March 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

BERLIN (AP) — Italy follows France in stepping up security following the attack on a suburban Moscow concert hall and the claim of responsibility by an affiliate of the Islamic State group.

The attack has renewed attention in Europe on the risk from the extremists, and particularly the Central Asian affiliate, as the continent gears up for big events such as the Paris Olympics and the European Championship in Germany.

Yesterday, France increased its security alert posture to the highest level. In Italy, a national security council meeting today resulted in a decision to increase security around Holy Week observances leading up to Easter this weekend.

Both surveillance and checks will be increased, “paying the most attention to the places of greatest aggregation and transit of people, as well as sensitive targets,” the Italian Interior Ministry says in a statement.

Pope Francis has a busy schedule of events in Rome and at the Vatican in the days leading up to Easter Sunday.

In Germany, Interior Ministry spokesperson Cornelius Funke says the threat from Islamic extremists “remains acute,” but authorities’ risk assessment hasn’t changed so far as a result of the Moscow attack.

US abstained from UNSC Gaza vote because it didn’t condemn Hamas – ambassador

US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield speaks during a United Nations Security Council meeting at the UN headquarters in New York on March 25, 2024. (Angela Weiss/AFP)
US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield speaks during a United Nations Security Council meeting at the UN headquarters in New York on March 25, 2024. (Angela Weiss/AFP)

US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield says she had to suffice with abstaining today’s resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire and release of the hostages chiefly because it did not include a condemnation of Hamas.

She reiterates the US position that a ceasefire could be reached immediately if Hamas were to release the hostages and urges Security Council members to condemn the terror group.

Notably, she brands the resolution as “non-binding” in a hint at how the US views the weight of this resolution. Other members are calling it binding, but history has shown that Security Council resolutions are often ignored by member states.

“This resolution rightly acknowledges that, during the month of Ramadan, we must recommit to peace. Hamas can do that by accepting the deal on the table. A ceasefire can begin immediately with the release of the first hostage. And so, we must put pressure on Hamas to do just that,” Thomas-Greenfield says.

“This is the only path to securing a ceasefire and the release of hostages.”

Netanyahu calls off aides’ DC trip after US abstains on UN Gaza vote; says US hurt war effort, hostage release prospects

File: From left to right: Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Council chairman Tzachi Hanegbi at the State Department in Washington on March 7, 2023. (Antony Blinken/Twitter)
File: From left to right: Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Council chairman Tzachi Hanegbi at the State Department in Washington on March 7, 2023. (Antony Blinken/Twitter)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cancels the planned trip to Washington by his top aides Ron Dermer and Tzachi Hanegbi after the US  refrained from using a veto to block a UN Security Council resolution backed by Russia and China that called for a ceasefire without conditioning it on the release of hostages.

In a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office, Israel says the US is harming the war effort and attempts to free hostages by the decision.

“The US today did not veto the new draft that calls for a ceasefire without conditioning it on the release of the hostages,” it says.

The statement calls the decision “a clear retreat from the consistent US position in the Security Council since the beginning of the war.”

This retreat “harms the war effort and the effort to release the hostages,” it adds, and therefore “gives Hamas hope that international pressure will allow them to get a ceasefire without releasing our hostages.”

Swiss authorities: Suspect in antisemitic stabbing was radicalized online, in Tunisia

Police officers stand guard at the Synagoge Agudas Achim in Zurich, on March 3, 2024, after an Orthodox Jewish man was stabbed, late on March 2, 2024. (Arnd Wiegmann/AFP)
Police officers stand guard at the Synagoge Agudas Achim in Zurich, on March 3, 2024, after an Orthodox Jewish man was stabbed, late on March 2, 2024. (Arnd Wiegmann/AFP)

A teenager who allegedly stabbed an Orthodox Jewish man in Switzerland was radicalized in Tunisia and online, Zurich’s regional security minister says.

Investigations into the March 2 attack are progressing at a swift pace, Mario Fehr says during a press briefing on cantonal crime statistics.

The 15-year-old suspect claimed responsibility for the attack in a video in Arabic in which he pledged allegiance to the Islamic State jihadist group and called for a “global fight against the Jews,” police have said.

The boy is a Tunisian immigrant who was naturalized in Switzerland in 2011.

“There is a strong link with Tunisia,” where the teenager spent four years between 2017 and 2021, Fehr says, according to Switzerland’s Keystone-ATS news agency.

An important factor in his radicalization was also the amount of time he spent on internet forums, says Fehr, who heads the Zurich cantonal administration.

US ambassador to UN: Resolution means Gaza ceasefire must be part of hostage deal

US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield says that the meaning of the resolution passed today in the Security Council is that a ceasefire in Gaza must be part of an agreement to release the hostages.

In adopting the resolution, the Security Council “spoke out in support” of the ongoing diplomatic efforts to bring about an immediate and sustainable ceasefire, secure the immediate release of all hostages, and help alleviate the tremendous suffering of Palestinian civilians in need in Gaza, she says. “The United States fully supports these critical objectives.”

She adds: “In fact, they were the foundation of the resolution we put forward last week – a resolution that Russia and China vetoed.”

She urges council members to be clear that a ceasefire could have come “months ago” had Hamas been ready to release the hostages. “So today my ask to the members of this Council…is ‘speak out and demand unequivocally that Hamas accepts the deal on the table,’” she says.

The UNSC resolution demands an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip and the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages, after the United States abstained from the vote.

The remaining 14 council members voted for the resolution, which was proposed by the 10 elected members of the body.

WATCH: IDF drone strike on two Hezbollah operatives in southern Lebanon

The IDF says it carried out a drone strike against two Hezbollah operatives in southern Lebanon’s Mays al-Jabal a short while ago.

It releases footage of the strike.

UN Security Council passes resolution demanding ‘immediate ceasefire’ in Gaza as US withholds veto

The United Nations Security Council meets on the situation in the Middle East at the UN headquarters in New York on March 25, 2024. (Angela Weiss/AFP)
The United Nations Security Council meets on the situation in the Middle East at the UN headquarters in New York on March 25, 2024. (Angela Weiss/AFP)

The United Nations Security Council passes a resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip and the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages, after the United States withholds its veto and abstains from the vote.

The remaining 14 council members vote for the resolution, which was proposed by the 10 elected members of the body.

This is the first time that the Security Council has passed a resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire in Gaza since the start of the war.

Washington had been averse to the word ceasefire earlier in the nearly six-month-old war in the Gaza Strip and had used its veto power to block previous resolutions.

The resolution “demands an immediate ceasefire for the month of Ramadan respected by all parties leading to a lasting sustainable ceasefire, and also demands the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages.”

One hundred and thirty hostages are still held by terror groups in Gaza since Hamas’s October 7 massacre, which saw thousands of terrorists burst into Israel, killing some 1,200 people and kidnapping another 253, mostly civilians, many amid horrific acts of brutality.

The Security Council resolution also “emphasizes the urgent need to expand the flow of humanitarian assistance to and reinforce the protection of civilians in the entire Gaza Strip and reiterates its demand for the lifting of all barriers to the provision of humanitarian assistance at scale.”

The vote comes after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened to cancel a planned delegation to Washington if the US did not veto the resolution.

The resolution’s cosponsors — Algeria, Ecuador, Guyana, Japan, Malta, Mozambique, South Korea, Sierra Leone, Slovenia and Switzerland — sought to include the phrase “permanent sustainable ceasefire” into that line, but the US rejected the term and the final text uses the phrase “lasting sustainable ceasefire.”

The US had previously vetoed three resolutions calling for an immediate ceasefire which made no mention of the hostage talks.

The acknowledgment of those negotiations, while not directly linking them to the demanded ceasefire, appeared to be the compromise struck by Security Council members.

The US had also previously abstained twice, allowing the council to adopt resolutions that aimed to boost aid to Gaza and called for extended pauses in fighting.

Russia and China had also vetoed two US-drafted resolutions on the conflict – in October and on Friday.

A US resolution voted down by the council on Friday directly tied the Gaza ceasefire it demanded with the talks being brokered by Qatar, Egypt and the US.

Official: US 5th fleet commander heading to Israel to prep for Gaza aid pier

As the US prepares to begin building a pier on the northern Gaza coast, US Fifth Fleet Commander Vice Adm. George Wikoff is expected in Israel tomorrow to meet Navy commander Vice Adm. David Saar Salama, an Israeli official tells the Times of Israel.

Humanitarian aid is expected to be landed on Gaza’s coast next week, according to the Israeli official, who would not expand on which country would be delivering it.

COGAT figures: 22 aid trucks headed for northern Gaza overnight; some looted

Palestinians line up during the distribution of humanitarian aid in Gaza City on March 17, 2024. (AFP)
Palestinians line up during the distribution of humanitarian aid in Gaza City on March 17, 2024. (AFP)

Some 22 trucks bearing humanitarian aid made their way into the northern Gaza Strip overnight, according to COGAT figures seen by The Times of Israel.

Some of the trucks were looted.

In all, some 103 trucks bearing 2,050 tons of aid entered the Gaza Strip over the past 24 hours, 81 of them bearing food.

Twenty of the trucks carried materials for building shelters, and 2 carried medical aid.

Three tanks of fuel and 4 tanks of cooking gas also were sent in.

To this point in the war, 18,500 truckloads of aid have been sent into the Gaza Strip, carrying 345,740 tons. Some 1,666 of the trucks carried medical aid, 11,252 carried food, and 1,389 water. In addition, 200 tanks of fuel and 385 tanks of cooking gas have been sent in.

PM says he’ll call off senior aides’ trip to DC if US doesn’t veto UNSC Gaza resolution

File: From left to right: Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Council chairman Tzachi Hanegbi at the State Department in Washington on March 7, 2023. (Antony Blinken/Twitter)
File: From left to right: Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Council chairman Tzachi Hanegbi at the State Department in Washington on March 7, 2023. (Antony Blinken/Twitter)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will call off the visit of his senior aides to Washington DC this week if the US does not use its veto to block a UN Security Council resolution today calling for a ceasefire that is not conditioned on a release of the hostages held by Hamas, his office says.

National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi and Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer are set to fly to the US capital to hear American proposals for expanded humanitarian aid in Gaza and alternatives to a major land operation in Rafah.

The trip was planned at the request of US President Joe Biden after his call with Netanyahu last week, their first in a month.

Netanyahu’s threat to cancel the trip comes after Dermer was informed early this morning by the Biden Administration that the US would support two separate UN resolutions, one calling for a ceasefire and one for the release of the Hamas hostages, according to the Prime Minister’s Office.

The ceasefire call would not be conditioned on the release of hostages.

IDF: Troops find weapons cache at Shifa Hospital’s MRI center

The IDF says troops of the Nahal Brigade’s reconnaissance unit located a cache of weapons at Shifa Hospital’s MRI center, during the military’s ongoing raid against Hamas at the medical center, the largest in the Gaza Strip.

Mortars, grenades, firearms and ammunition were found hidden within the building, in some cases under the floors and in the drop ceiling, according to the IDF.

The IDF says the Nahal troops killed several gunmen during their scans of the MRI center and Shifa’s maternity ward.

Weapons were also found in the maternity ward, the IDF says.

Gantz warns again: Passing Netanyahu’s Haredi draft proposal ‘will harm unity and security’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s proposed Haredi enlistment law poses a security threat and will harm the unity of the governing coalition, National Unity chairman Benny Gantz warns.

Speaking during a tour of the northern front, Gantz says that “it is not possible that precisely while all of society is mobilized and making an effort for their home that the government will promote a law that crumbles its foundations.”

“In National Unity, we see the importance of preserving tradition and learning the Torah, and alongside this importance, we have placed a clear outline of service that includes the establishment of an administration, quotas, targets, financial sanctions, as well as service incentives,” he says.

But while his party wants to come to an agreement on enlistment, “we want a solution for recruitment, not an exemption from recruitment,” Gantz states, asserting that the “enactment of a law such as the government intends to pass will harm unity and harm security.”

“I cannot be part of a government that passes such a law at all, and especially during wartime,” Gantz says, reiterating his Sunday threat to bolt the coalition.

Gantz’s comments come after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, responding to Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara’s warning that she would be unable to defend his proposed Haredi enlistment law as currently formulated, releases a revised version of the plan.

The new plan scraps a clause raising the exemption age for yeshiva students to 35 and instead sets annual recruitment targets and imposing financial penalties on yeshivas that fail to meet these quotas.

In a separate statement, Opposition Leader Yair Lapid reiterates his earlier criticism that the proposal is a “fraud” that will not lead to even one Haredi man enlisting.

Netanyahu releases amended version of Haredi draft law after AG raises concerns

In the wake of a warning by Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara that she will be unable to defend his proposed Haredi enlistment law as currently formulated, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu releases an amended version setting annual recruitment targets and imposing financial penalties on yeshivas that fail to meet these quotas.

The revised legislation stipulates that the IDF look into establishing a new ultra-Orthodox battalion as well as a civil-technological service track and that the Defense Ministry take steps to prepare for the enlistment of previously exempt ultra-Orthodox men, Channel 12 reports.

It also calls for the legislation to be submitted to the Knesset by May 22, so that it can be completed by the end of June, and that if the proposal expires without being implemented, the government’s previous instructions regarding not enlisting Haredim will no longer apply.

The initial version of the legislation, which is due to be presented to the cabinet for approval today, elicited opposition from multiple members of both the opposition and coalition due to its initial call to raise the exemption age for yeshiva students to 35.

The attorney general had warned that she would be unable to defend the proposal if it was challenged in court, due to unspecified “significant and essential difficulties.”

Shin Bet says it foiled Iranian plan to smuggle advanced weapons to West Bank terrorists

Iranian weapons smuggled into the West Bank captured by Israeli forces, in a handout image published March 25, 2024. (Shin Bet)
Iranian weapons smuggled into the West Bank captured by Israeli forces, in a handout image published March 25, 2024. (Shin Bet)

The Shin Bet security agency reveals that it recently foiled attempts by Iran to smuggle large shipments of advanced weapons to terror operatives in the West Bank to be used to carry out attacks on Israeli targets.

According to the Shin Bet, behind the plot was Iran’s unit 4000, the Special Operations Division of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Intelligence Organization, headed by Jawad Ghafari, and the special operations unit of the IRGC’s Quds Force in Syria, known as unit 18840, which is subordinate to the head of Iran’s unit 840, Asghar Bakri.

Jawad Ghafari, the head of the Special Operations Division of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Intelligence Organization, in an undated image. (Courtesy, via Shin Bet)

The plot was uncovered by the Shin Bet and IDF during the interrogations of detained Palestinians, who were suspected of planning terror attacks.

The investigation also revealed that a senior Fatah official, Munir Makdah, a resident of Lebanon’s Ein el-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp, was involved in the plans, the Shin Bet says.

Makdah, according to the Shin Bet, has been known to Israel for years as “working for Hezbollah and the IRGC, and continues to try and advance terror attacks these days.”

Munir Makdah, a senior Fatah official from Lebanon’s Ein el-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp, in an undated image (Courtesy, via Shin Bet)

During the interrogation of the detained Palestinian suspects, the Shin Bet says it emerged that Makdah worked to recruit West Bank Palestinians to carry out terror attacks and smuggle in Iranian weapons, as well as fund them.

The Shin Bet says the IDF captured a “significant” amount of advanced arms from Iran that were smuggled into the West Bank, as part of the investigation into Makdah and the Iranian plot.

Among the weapons captured were two large BTB15 fragmentation bombs, five YM-2 anti-tank landmines with fuses, four M203 grenade launchers, 15 kilograms of C4 explosives, 10 kilograms of Semtex plastic explosives, 13 shoulder-launched anti-tank missiles, 15 RPG launchers, 16 RPG-7 rockets and propellent, 15 hand grenades, 33 M4 assault rifles and 50 handguns.

The Shin Bet says it and the IDF are working to locate additional Iranian weapons smuggled into the West Bank, as well as kill or capture terror cells recruited by Iranian operatives.

The agency says that it views Iran’s and its proxies’ attempts “with severity,” adding that it will “continue to carry out active measures at all times to monitor and thwart any activity that endangers the security of the State of Israel and its citizens, to expose and harm the Iranians’ efforts to carry out terror activities within Israel’s territory and will work to bring those involved to justice.”

Sirens sound near northern border, warning of suspected drone attack

Sirens sound in two communities close to the northern border, warning of a suspected incoming drone attack.

Alerts are heard in Sha’al and Kela in the Golan Heights.

Coalition to advance bill allowing parents to watch security cameras in daycare for kids up to age 3

The coalition announces it will advance a bill that will allow parents to watch security cameras in daycares.

The move will be subject to the consent of at least 70 percent of the parents in daycares for children up to the age of three.

It comes after a number of high-profile cases of abuse by carers in recent years.

Coalition Whip Ofir Katz says: “We must do everything to ensure the safety of our children, and cameras have been proven to be the most effective tool for dealing with the phenomenon of child abuse.”

Rocket sirens sound in Rosh HaNikra

Sirens sound in the northern town of Rosh HaNikra, warning of incoming rocket fire.

Hezbollah-led forces have been launching daily attacks on Israeli communities and military posts along the border with Lebanon since October 8.

Controversial Jerusalem Purim parade sees lower turnout than expected – report

People celebrate Purim in Jerusalem on March 25, 2024. (Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP)
People celebrate Purim in Jerusalem on March 25, 2024. (Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP)

Turnout at the Jerusalem Purim parade was far below the numbers expected by the municipality, Channel 12 news reports.

While preparations had been made for tens of thousands of revelers, only a few thousand attended the event in the capital.

Jerusalem’s first Purim parade in 42 years raised ire among city residents, relatives of hostages held in Gaza and others affected by October 7 and the war against Hamas.

The “Adloyada” event (shorthand for an Aramaic phrase in the Talmud describing the commandment to drink oneself into a stupor as part of the holiday celebration) was adjusted after relatives met with Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion last week.

The Hostages and Missing Families Forum says among those leading the parade were relatives of Lior Rudaeff, Romi Gonen, Carmel Gat, Itzik Elgarat, Ofer Kalderon, Omer Shem-Tov, Uriel Baruch and Omri Miran.

A small protest against the parade was held close to the parade route.

“In a year where there are 134 hostages, hundreds of dead, more than a hundred thousand Israelis who [are evacuated and] do not live in their homes — they have no joy,” protester Nir Argov tells Channel 12.

“And now to hold Adloyada in Jerusalem? It is impossible to be happy. An entire nation is traumatized. The children can have parties and celebrations in the schools and kindergartens, but it is not appropriate to celebrate outside in the city,” Argov says.

Sirens sound in towns close to northern border, warning of suspected drone attack

Sirens sound in a number of communities close to the northern border, warning of a suspected incoming drone attack.

Hezbollah-led forces have been launching daily attacks on Israeli communities and military posts along the border with Lebanon since October 8.

IDF says 8 rockets fired from Gaza Strip toward Ashdod; Hamas claims responsibility

A barrage of eight rockets was fired from the Gaza Strip at Ashdod, according to the IDF.

Two of the rockets were intercepted, while the rest apparently struck open areas, the IDF says.

There are no immediate reports of damage or injuries.

Hamas claims responsibility for the attack.

The last time rockets were fired at the southern coastal city, some 25 kilometers from the Gaza Strip, was on January 14.

Rockets fired at Ashdod for first time in over two months

Sirens are sounding in the coastal city of Ashdod after rockets are fired from the Gaza Strip.

It marks the first time in more than two months that rocket sirens sound in Ashdod.

The rate of rocket fire from Gaza has slowed significantly in recent months as the IDF continues its ground operation against Hamas.

Revelers enjoy Jerusalem Purim parade, largely ignoring protest against the event

The crowds at Zion Square during the 'United in Purim' parade in Jerusalem, on March 25, 2024. (Gavriel Fiske/Times of Israel)
The crowds at Zion Square during the 'United in Purim' parade in Jerusalem, on March 25, 2024. (Gavriel Fiske/Times of Israel)

After a quiet start, thousands now pack Jaffa Street as the Jerusalem Purim parade winds down. Zion Square is full of revelers of all ages who clap and sing along with music from the passing floats.

Pictures of the hostages line the route, but a small protest against the parade is largely ignored by the crowd.

Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion, wearing a “Bring Them Home Now” shirt, poses for pictures with a group of hostage families at the end of the route.

A passing street band is called over to play the Israeli national anthem “Hatikvah,” and afterward the crowd applauds the families.

Red Crescent says IDF forced staff, patients to evacuate south Gaza’s Al-Amal hospital

The Palestine Red Crescent Society says the Israeli military forced staff and patients at southern Gaza’s Al-Amal hospital to evacuate the medical center’s premises last night.

“While attempting to leave through the military checkpoint, the teams encountered difficulty moving due to extensive excavation and infrastructure destruction,” the PRCS says on X.

“During the attempt to clear the rubble and obstacles on the road, the occupation forces opened fire towards two of the teams trying to remove the rubble, directly injuring them,” the medical authority claims.

The PRCS also claims that later, Israeli forces “forced the teams to return to” Al-Amal Hospital, where “they found the hospital gate closed, making it impossible for the teams to re-enter.”

“The teams remained waiting on the street until now,” it alleges.

Yesterday, the IDF announced that it had begun a new offensive against Hamas in the Al-Amal neighborhood of Khan Younis, saying it had “precise intelligence” indicating terror operatives were using civilian infrastructure, including hospitals, for terror activity.

This morning, the IDF said that dozens of suspects were questioned by field interrogators as it enabled hundreds of Palestinian civilians to evacuate the Al-Amal area.

Hamas-run health ministry says Gaza death toll passed 32,330

Palestinians mourn over the covered bodies of relatives, killed in an overnight Israeli strike, at the al-Najjar hospital in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on March 25, 2024. (Said Khatib/AFP)
Palestinians mourn over the covered bodies of relatives, killed in an overnight Israeli strike, at the al-Najjar hospital in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on March 25, 2024. (Said Khatib/AFP)

At least 32,333 Palestinians have been killed and 74,694 have been wounded in Gaza since October 7, the Hamas-run health ministry in the enclave says.

The terror group’s figures are unverified, and don’t differentiate between civilians and combatants. 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.

IDF: Hamas is firing from inside the Shifa Hospital Emergency Room and Maternity Ward

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi at Gaza City's Shifa Hospital, March 20, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi at Gaza City's Shifa Hospital, March 20, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari in an English-language video statement says Hamas is “destroying Shifa Hospital,” as the military operates against the terror group at the medical center, the largest in the Gaza Strip.

“170 terrorists were neutralized in or around the Shifa Hospital compound while firing at our forces. The IDF apprehended hundreds of terror suspects with confirmed ties to Hamas or Islamic Jihad, making this one of the most successful operations since the start of the war,” Hagari says.

“A large number of these terrorists were involved in planning and executing the brutal massacre of October 7,” he says.

Hagari says the “operation is not over.”

“Right now, Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists are barricading themselves inside Shifa hospital wards. Hamas is destroying Shifa Hospital,” he says.

“Hamas is firing from inside the Shifa Emergency Room and Maternity Ward and throwing explosive devices from the Shifa Burn Ward. Terrorists hiding around the hospital fired mortars at our forces, causing extensive damage to the hospital buildings,” Hagari continues.

“I repeat: Hamas is firing mortars at the Shifa hospital. Hamas is destroying the Shifa hospital. Hamas hijacked the Shifa Hospital and hides behind the sick and injured, waging war from inside Shifa Hospital,” he says.

IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari delivers an English-language video statement, March 24, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

Hamas has claimed that at least 13 patients have died during the ongoing IDF raid, alleging that they were deprived of medication or that their ventilators stopped working after Israeli forces cut the hospital’s electricity, The New York Times reported.

Hagari says that the IDF “operates with precision and acts with care towards the patients and medical staff inside the hospital.”

“We do this because we distinguish between Hamas terrorists and the civilians they are hiding behind,” he says.

A Palestinian man lies on the ground as he awaits medical attention at the Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City on March 15, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. (Photo by AFP)

“We do this because our war is against Hamas, not against the people of Gaza, and our actions prove this,” Hagari continues.

“Since the beginning of this operation against Hamas at Shifa Hospital, the IDF has assisted the sick and wounded and helped move many of them out of harm’s way,” he says.

“We brought dozens of medical devices; over 10 thousand units of medications; hundreds of medical supplies; as well as food, water and other equipment into Shifa Hospital. When Hamas’s attacks resulted in the failure of the hospital generator, our troops helped restore electricity to the hospital,” Hagari says.

“Our operation at Shifa Hospital proves once again: Hamas systematically uses hospitals to wage war and consistently uses the people of Gaza as human shields,” he adds.

Aid delivered by IDF troops to a designated compound at Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, in a handout image released March 23, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

Hamas official: Importance of terror commanders detained at Shifa Hospital should not be underestimated

Troops of the Navy's Shayetet 13 commando unit operate at Gaza City's Shifa Hospital, in a handout image published March 25, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
Troops of the Navy's Shayetet 13 commando unit operate at Gaza City's Shifa Hospital, in a handout image published March 25, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

An unnamed Hamas official tells Lebanon’s Al-Akhbar newspaper that the significance of the commanders from the terror group who have been detained or killed during the Israel Defense Forces’ ongoing operation at Shifa Hospital should not be underestimated.

“Nobody should underestimate the size of the infiltration carried out by the enemy army at Al-Shifa Hospital, nor underestimate the importance of the figures who were arrested or executed,” the source tells the outlet, which is linked to the Hezbollah terror group.

“The [Palestinian] resistance dealt with the current situation and was able to reshape its ranks, given the possibility that the enemy would obtain new information as a result of the investigation of the detainees,” the source says. “There are indications that the resistance is still fine, and that all the current losses can be absorbed and coexisted with.”

IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said last week that there were “very significant” senior Hamas commanders who were captured by troops at Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital. He did not detail their identities due to their ongoing interrogations.

Troops raided the hospital, the largest medical center in the Gaza Strip, after Israeli intelligence indicated that Hamas operatives, including commanders, had returned to the complex to use it as a command center for planning attacks against Israel and troops in Gaza. It was previously raided by the military in November.

Emanuel Fabian contributed to this report.

Katz warns 4 European nations against Palestinian statehood recognition: ‘Prize for terrorism’

Foreign Minister Israel Katz tours the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial museum in Jerusalem, February 19, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
Foreign Minister Israel Katz tours the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial museum in Jerusalem, February 19, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

Israel tells four European countries that their plan to work toward recognition of a Palestinian state constitutes a “prize for terrorism” that will reduce the chances of a negotiated resolution to the conflict.

Spain said on Friday that it had agreed with Ireland, Malta and Slovenia to take first steps toward recognizing Palestinian statehood.

“Recognition of a Palestinian state following the October 7 massacre sends a message to Hamas and the other Palestinian terrorist organizations that murderous terror attacks on Israelis will be reciprocated with political gestures to the Palestinians,” Foreign Minister Israel Katz says on X.

“A resolution of the conflict will only be possible through direct negotiations between the parties. Any engagement in the recognition of a Palestinian state only distances reaching a resolution and increases regional instability.”

He does not specify what kind of resolution he had in mind. Israel’s hardline coalition has long ruled out Palestinian statehood.

Kisch said to be mulling shifting Israel Prize ceremony from Jerusalem to Sderot

Education Minister Yoav Kisch attends a hearing of the Knesset Education, Culture, and Sports Committee, January 30, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Education Minister Yoav Kisch attends a hearing of the Knesset Education, Culture, and Sports Committee, January 30, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Education Minister Yoav Kisch is considering moving this year’s Israel Prize ceremony from Jerusalem to Sderot, the Walla news site reports.

The outlet says the proposal to move the ceremony — set to be attended by many top dignitaries — has prompted concerns from the Shin Bet, given the town’s proximity to the Gaza Strip amid the ongoing war against Hamas.

The ceremony is attended by the president, the prime minister, the speaker of the Knesset, the president of the Supreme Court, the mayor of Jerusalem and the education minister.

The event is set to be held on Independence Day, which falls on May 14 this year.

Kisch announced last week he was reversing his decision not to award the Israel Prize in traditional categories this year and to instead hand out prizes only in two new war-related categories.

The Israel Prize, which is overseen by the Education Ministry, has been mired in controversy since the mid-February announcement of its curtailment.

The Maariv news outlet reported in late February that Kisch had made the change to avoid bestowing the Entrepreneurship Award on the leading candidate, businessman Eyal Waldman, a prominent critic of the government’s judicial overhaul agenda, whose daughter was murdered in the Supernova massacre on October 7.

Singapore says it made Israeli embassy take down ‘insensitive’ post about Palestinians

Singapore’s interior ministry says it made the Israeli embassy in the city-state take down an “insensitive” social media post about the Palestinians over the weekend after warning it could inflame tensions.

The post reportedly said Israel was mentioned 43 times in the Quran, but Palestine was not, according to local media.

Singaporean Minister for Home Affairs K. Shanmugam says he asked Singapore’s foreign ministry to tell the Israeli embassy to remove the post made on Sunday after learning about it, which the mission immediately did.

“That post on the Israeli embassy social media page is completely unacceptable. I was very upset when I was told about it,” Shanmugam tells reporters, according to a transcript.

“It is insensitive and inappropriate. It carries the risk of undermining our safety, security and harmony in Singapore.”

Shanmugam says the post has been taken down.

“Posts like these can… inflame tensions, and can put the Jewish community here at risk. The anger from the post can potentially spill over into the physical realm,” he adds.

The Israeli embassy was not immediately available for comment.

Photo said to show children’s bedroom in Gaza where Liri Albag, other hostages initially held

Liri Albag, who was taken hostage by Hamas terrorists October 7, 2023. (Courtesy)
Liri Albag, who was taken hostage by Hamas terrorists October 7, 2023. (Courtesy)

The Daily Mail releases an exclusive image showing what it says is a children’s bedroom in the Gaza Strip where hostage Liri Albag and other captives were held by the Hamas terror group in their first few days in captivity.

According to the report, soldiers identified traces of blood in the room, which following DNA tests, were confirmed to be from Albag and other female hostages.

Photos of the room, which is seen to contain children’s toys and a pink wardrobe, were shared by soldiers with the British newspaper.

“At first when I saw it, I was happy because she was in a child’s room. There were kids clothes in the cupboard and it gave me a little relief that she wasn’t in a scary place,” Albag’s mother, Shira, tells the Mail.

“But then I understood that she is with a family — they kidnapped her, not Hamas. It’s the equivalent of me keeping someone else’s children locked in my house,” Shira Albag adds.

Speaking with the Kan public broadcaster last week, Shira Albag said released hostages told her that Liri was forced to go between homes in the Gaza Strip and cook and clean for them.

Netanyahu appears to backtrack on raising Haredi military exemption age to 35

Ultra-Orthodox men protest outside the army recruitment office in Jerusalem, March 4, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
Ultra-Orthodox men protest outside the army recruitment office in Jerusalem, March 4, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears to be backtracking on parts of his proposed Haredi enlistment law following widespread public criticism, including from within his own coalition.

According to Hebrew-language news reports, the government has decided to remove a clause raising the exemption age for yeshiva students to 35 from the measure, which is expected to be brought to the cabinet on Tuesday.

Channel 12 says the backtrack came as a result of the warning from Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara that she would be unable to defend the proposed bill, and the Finance Ministry figures showing the economy taking a hit of over NIS 100 billion ($27.5 billion) over the next decade if the army extended the time recruits must serve rather than drafting Haredi Jews into the military.

An ultra-Orthodox political source who spoke with Ynet states that a new version of the proposal containing provisions for financial sanctions — and possibly annual enlistment goals — is set to be distributed to members of the cabinet today.

Ultra-Orthodox, or Haredi, men of military age have been able to avoid the draft for decades by enrolling for study in yeshivas and obtaining repeated one-year service deferrals until they reach the age of military exemption at 26.

Responding to the news of the potential reversal, Opposition Leader Yair Lapid accuses the government of engaging in “fraud,” asserting that raising the exemption age was a ruse “intended to hide the fact that the evasion law has no conscription obligation, no financial sanctions, and that not a single ultra-Orthodox person will enlist” because of it.

“This law is a disgrace and an insult to the fighters,” he tweets.

The Movement for Quality Government in Israel, which has petitioned the High Court of Justice to enlist the ultra-Orthodox, accuses the government of engaging in “the same shticks and tricks” by floating and then reversing a change to the age of exemption.

‘Equality in the burden is an existential necessity for the State of Israel and Israeli society, and there is no way to achieve it other than the enactment of a uniform and equal recruitment law that will apply to all,” the watchdog group says in a statement.

On Sunday, National Unity leader Benny Gantz threatened to exit the coalition if the controversial legislation is approved.

Hostages’ families lead Jerusalem Purim parade as contentious event gets underway

Relatives of the hostages held in the Gaza Strip by the Hamas terror group lead the Purim parade in Jerusalem alongside mayor Moshe Lion, March 25, 2024 (AP Photo/Leo Correa)
Relatives of the hostages held in the Gaza Strip by the Hamas terror group lead the Purim parade in Jerusalem alongside mayor Moshe Lion, March 25, 2024 (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

The “United in Purim” parade in Jerusalem gets underway, with the procession through the capital led by relatives of hostages held in Gaza alongside Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion.

Jerusalem’s first Purim parade in 42 years raised ire among city residents, relatives of hostages held in Gaza and others directly affected by October 7 and the war against Hamas.

The “Adloyada” event (shorthand for an Aramaic phrase in the Talmud describing the commandment to drink oneself into a stupor as part of the holiday celebration) was adjusted after relatives met with Lion last week.

“We feel the pain of the families of those killed, we continue to embrace the families of the hostages and pray for their swift return,” Lion says, according to the Ynet news site.

A small protest against the parade is being held near the Mamilla mall, with demonstrators holding signs reading: “It’s still October 7.”

China says it supports UN resolution on immediate Ramadan ceasefire in Gaza

The UN Security Council meets on a motion for a Gaza ceasefire and hostage deal vote at UN headquarters in New York, on March 22, 2024. (Angela Weiss/AFP)
The UN Security Council meets on a motion for a Gaza ceasefire and hostage deal vote at UN headquarters in New York, on March 22, 2024. (Angela Weiss/AFP)

China says it supports a new draft resolution at the UN Security Council on an “immediate” ceasefire in Gaza during Ramadan, after it and Russia vetoed an earlier text proposed by the United States.

“China supports this draft resolution and commends Algeria and other Arab countries for their hard work in this regard,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Lin Jian says, adding: “We hope the Security Council will pass it as soon as possible and send a strong signal for the cessation of hostilities.”

“This draft takes a clear stand in demanding a ceasefire and expanding humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, and thereby accord with the correct orientation of the Security Council’s actions,” Lin says.

“At present, the conflict in Gaza is dragging on, causing a humanitarian crisis,” he says.

“The international community expects the Security Council to practically and comprehensively fulfill its duties,” he adds.

On Friday, the Security Council voted on a draft submitted by the US that called for an “immediate” ceasefire linked to the release of hostages. China and Russia vetoed the resolution, criticizing it for stopping short of explicitly demanding Israel halt its campaign.

The new text, according to the version seen by AFP, “demands an immediate ceasefire” for the ongoing Muslim holy month of Ramadan, “leading to a permanent sustainable ceasefire.”

It also “demands the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages,” as well as the “lifting of all barriers to the provision of humanitarian assistance at scale.”

IDF denies reports of infiltration into Israel from Gaza Strip

The IDF denies media reports claiming there had been an infiltration into Israeli territory from the Gaza Strip.

“IDF forces are deployed and prepared in the area,” the IDF adds.

Hezbollah announces death of member in Israeli strike

The Hezbollah terror group announces the death of a member killed “on the road to Jerusalem,” its term for operatives slain in Israeli strikes.

He is named as Muhammad al-Zein, from the southern Lebanon town of Chehour.

His death brings the terror group’s toll since the beginning of the war in the Gaza Strip to 247.

The announcement comes following several recent IDF strikes on Hezbollah targets over the past day.

Jerusalem Purim parade set to get underway with changes after outcry from hostages’ families

Golden cranes representing the hostages on Gaza, at the Jerusalem 'Unity in Purim' parade, on March 25, 2024. (Gavriel Fiske/Times of Israel)
Golden cranes representing the hostages on Gaza, at the Jerusalem 'Unity in Purim' parade, on March 25, 2024. (Gavriel Fiske/Times of Israel)

The “United in Purim” parade in Jerusalem is set to get underway, with dozens of floats and performance troupes getting ready to march through the closed streets of central Jerusalem.

The “Adloyeda” event is dedicated to the hostages held by terrorists in Gaza after a public outcry.

The parade is now to be led by a group of hostage families, and 134 yellow cranes, one for each hostage still in Gaza, will be at the vanguard.

Some elements of the parade were toned down or eliminated in response to the outcry.

A small protest against the parade is being held near the Mamilla mall, with demonstrators holding signs reading: “It’s still October 7.”

“The ‘Heroes’ Children’ themed parade will feature puppets designed by Jerusalem cultural institutions, local children, and children evacuated to the capital – all promoting national unity and resilience,” the Hostages’ Families Forum says in a press release.

Thousands are expected to attend the event, which is to run from 10:45 a.m. until 2 p.m.

IDF: Some 15 rockets fired overnight from Lebanon toward military positions

Overnight, the IDF says some 15 rockets were fired from Lebanon at military positions along the border, near the northern community of Menara.

Hezbollah claimed responsibility for the attack.

According to the IDF, all the rockets struck open areas, causing no injuries. Sirens did not sound, as the projectiles were not heading for populated areas.

The IDF says it also targeted a building in southern Lebanon’s Mays al-Jabal overnight, where Hezbollah operatives were spotted gathered.

It releases footage of the strike.

UN chief Guterres: ‘Growing international consensus to tell the Israelis that ceasefire is needed’

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks at the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, March 23, 2024. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks at the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, March 23, 2024. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said during a visit to Jordan that there is growing international consensus to tell Israel that a ceasefire is needed and that an assault on Rafah would cause a humanitarian disaster.

“We see a growing consensus emerging in the international community to tell the Israelis that the ceasefire is needed and I also see a growing consensus, I heard in the US, I heard from the European Union, not to mention of course the Muslim world, to tell clearly to Israelis that any ground invasion of Rafah could mean a humanitarian disaster,” Guterres tells a news conference.

Israel launched its war on Hamas following the group’s devastating October 7 attack, when thousands of terrorists killed some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducted 253 people of all ages to Gaza, where more than half remain. The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says more than 32,000 people have been killed in the ensuing war, an unverified figure that does not differentiate between combatants and civilians.

IDF says 500 Hamas, Islamic Jihad members captured at Gaza’s Shifa Hospital

Troops operate in Gaza in an undated handout image released for publication March 25, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
Troops operate in Gaza in an undated handout image released for publication March 25, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The IDF says the number of confirmed members of the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror groups captured by troops at Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital rises to 500, as the raid at the medical center continues.

In the southern Gaza Strip, the IDF says troops killed some 20 gunmen during an ongoing and new offensive against Hamas in Khan Younis’s Al-Amal neighborhood, led by the 98th Division.

The military says that dozens of suspects were also questioned by field interrogators of the Shin Bet security agency and the Military Intelligence Directorate’s Unit 504, as the IDF enabled hundreds of Palestinian civilians to evacuate the Al-Amal area.

In central Gaza, the IDF says the Nahal Brigade killed several terror operatives, including one who was targeted in an airstrike after being spotted entering and exiting a tunnel.

Over the past day, Israeli Air Force fighter jets targeted some 50 sites across the Gaza Strip, according to the IDF. Attack helicopters and drones struck several more targets and killed some 10 gunmen, the IDF adds.

Aid groups describe ‘unimaginable’ situation at hospital near Khan Younis

A surgeon operates on a patient in a surgery operating theatre at the Gaza European Hospital in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on December 31, 2023. (AFP)
A surgeon operates on a patient in a surgery operating theatre at the Gaza European Hospital in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on December 31, 2023. (AFP)

Aid groups release a statement after they visited a Gaza hospital where they witnessed an “unimaginable” situation in which large open wounds were left untreated.

An emergency medical team organized by three aid groups spent two weeks carrying out surgeries and other care at the European Gaza Hospital near Khan Younis.

The team says healthcare workers were forced to evacuate or were unable to access the hospital.

It charges that Israeli restrictions led to shortages of medical supplies, including basics like gauze and plates and screws used to stabilize broken bones.

The visiting surgeons “reported large infected open wounds on patients and having to administer emergency nutritional supplies to patients as the lack of food was jeopardizing patient treatment.”

Hospitals in Gaza are struggling amid the ongoing war that erupted when Palestinian terror group Hamas launched a massive cross-border attack on Israel that killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians. The terrorists also abducted 253 people who were taken as hostages in Gaza, over half of whom remain captive.

Israel responded with an air, sea and ground military campaign to destroy Hamas, remove it from power in Gaza and free the hostages.

Many of the enclave’s hospitals have been shut at various times, with some of them directly hit or raided, and those still functioning are under growing pressure. Israel has provided evidence Hamas uses such facilities as cover for terror purposes and says the group plunders humanitarian aid to take supplies for its fighters, depriving the civilian population.

International aid officials say the entire population of the Gaza Strip — 2.3 million people — is suffering from food insecurity and that famine is imminent in the hard-hit north.

Israel insists that there are no limits to the amount of inspected aid whose entry into Gaza it’s willing to facilitate and that the UN is failing to keep pace, while Hamas and armed groups divert assistance from civilians.

Coalition holding talks on Haredi draft law after AG warned proposal legally unsound – report

Attorney-General Gali Baharav-Miara arrives to casts her ballot for the head of the Israel Bar Association at a voting station in Tel Aviv on June 20, 2023. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Attorney-General Gali Baharav-Miara arrives to casts her ballot for the head of the Israel Bar Association at a voting station in Tel Aviv on June 20, 2023. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The Ynet news site reports the coalition is holding discussions on the proposed draft law this morning after Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara reportedly warned that she would be unable to defend the proposal.

The outlet says that setting annual quotas for conscripting graduates of Haredi educational institutions is among the potential areas for adjustment in the proposed legislation.

According to Channel 12 news, Baharav-Miara told Cabinet Secretary Yossi Fuchs yesterday that the law as written would leave her unable to defend it should it be challenged in court, due to unspecified “significant and essential difficulties.”

Lapid: Gantz and Eisenkot should leave government if Haredi draft law is approved by cabinet

Opposition leader MK Yair Lapid leads a Yesh Atid faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on March 18, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Opposition leader MK Yair Lapid leads a Yesh Atid faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on March 18, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Opposition Leader Yair Lapid says war cabinet minister Benny Gantz should pull his National Unity party out of the government if contentious Haredi draft legislation is approved by the cabinet this week, en route to becoming law.

“If the conscription law passes on Tuesday, Gantz and [minister Gadi] Eisenkot should leave the government,” he tells the Kan public broadcaster.

“[The government is] playing with Israel’s security. It’s not just an ideological discussion anymore,” Lapid says. “It’s a security disaster. There are not enough soldiers, the army is stretched to the limit. There are more soldiers in the West Bank than in Gaza at the moment, the actual war is not going on right now.”

Ultra-Orthodox men of military age have been able to avoid the draft for decades by enrolling in yeshivas for Torah study and obtaining repeated one-year service deferrals until they reach the age of military exemption. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s proposed outline, to be discussed tomorrow by lawmakers, would see the age of exemption raised to 35.

According to the IDF’s Personnel Directorate, some 66,000 young men from the Haredi community received an exemption from military service over the past year, reportedly an all-time record.

A law that authorizes these exemptions expired in June 2023, and a temporary regulation that extended it is set to expire next week, after which the military will not be legally authorized to exempt Haredi young men from the draft and will need to start enlisting them.

As the deadline nears, the government has been rushing to legislate a new version of the law, with the ultra-Orthodox parties demanding continued exemption while other coalition factions, including members of Likud and the far-right Religious Zionist party, have been demanding that the Haredi community performs military service.

Last month, Gantz and Eisenkot — both former Israel Defense Forces chiefs of staff — presented an outline for the enlistment of Arabs and ultra-Orthodox Jews into the Israeli army.

Sam Sokol contributed to this report.

Netanyahu tells Likud ministers there’s no government unless Haredi draft law passes – report

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu heads the weekly cabinet meeting at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv on January 7, 2024. (RONEN ZVULUN / POOL / AFP)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu heads the weekly cabinet meeting at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv on January 7, 2024. (RONEN ZVULUN / POOL / AFP)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyhau has sent a message to ministers in his Likud party that he will not give up on the contentious Haredi draft law, the Kan public broadcaster reports.

The outlet says the premier told them that without the law, there will be no government.

The ministers reportedly spoke to people close to the premier to explore the possibility of not supporting the law when they received the message.

As the deadline to present new legislation draws closer, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said yesterday that he would not support Netanyahu’s outline for a Haredi draft law, and criticized his fellow coalition members for refusing to be “flexible” on the issue of blanket exemptions from the IDF for the ultra-Orthodox community. Hours later, National Unity leader Benny Gantz threatened to exit the coalition if the controversial legislation is approved.

Since the beginning of the war against Hamas, the government has called up a total of 287,000 reservists, announced earlier-than-planned draft dates for some 1,300 members of pre-army programs, and pushed to significantly increase both conscripts’ and reservists’ periods of service.

That latter plan, presented by the defense establishment last month, generated fierce backlash among lawmakers from across the political spectrum and encouraged multiple legislative pushes to end the de facto exemptions for the Haredim.

Netanyahu’s proposed outline does not set a quota of ultra-Orthodox men enlisting per year, the Ynet news outlet reported. Instead, it raises the age of exemption from service to 35, while ensuring that Haredi men who don’t enlist will not face criminal sanctions. It also includes a plan to set up special ultra-Orthodox battalions in the IDF and add Haredi positions in the country’s emergency services and government offices.

According to a report on Sunday by Channel 12, the proposal also stipulates that the process of passing a conscription law will only begin at the end of June — shortly before a Knesset recess.

Ministers are set to discuss the planned legislation on Tuesday.

Sam Sokol contributed to this report.

UN Security Council to vote on new resolution calling for immediate Gaza ceasefire, release of hostages

A general view shows a Security Council meeting at United Nations headquarters, March. 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)
A general view shows a Security Council meeting at United Nations headquarters, March. 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

The UN Security Council is set to vote on a new draft resolution on an “immediate” ceasefire in Gaza, after Russia and China vetoed an earlier text proposed by the United States.

The new text, according to the version seen by AFP, “demands an immediate ceasefire” for the ongoing Muslim holy month of Ramadan, “leading to a permanent sustainable ceasefire.”

It also “demands the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages as well as the “lifting of all barriers to the provision of humanitarian assistance at scale.”

The text is being put forward by non-permanent members of the Security Council, which worked with the United States over the weekend to avoid a veto, according to diplomats speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity.

“We expect, barring a last-minute twist, that the resolution will be adopted and that the United States will not vote against it,” one diplomat tells AFP.

On Friday, the United Nations Security Council failed to pass a resolution calling for an “immediate and sustained ceasefire” in Gaza for around six weeks as part of a hostage deal after Russia and China, who are permanent members, vote against the measure proposed by the United States.

The resolution called for an “immediate and sustained ceasefire” lasting roughly six weeks that would protect civilians and allow for the delivery of humanitarian assistance to Gaza, and condemned the devastating October 7 attack by Hamas.

Moscow accused Washington of a “hypocritical spectacle” that does not pressure Israel.

The Russian veto appeared to be at least a partial extension of Moscow’s rivalry with the US, which has peaked since the invasion of Ukraine.

The resolution marked a further toughening of Washington’s stance toward Israel. Earlier in the five-month-long war, the US was averse to the word ceasefire and vetoed measures that included calls for an immediate ceasefire.

Trump: Only an idiot wouldn’t respond to October 7 like Israel

Former US President Donald Trump appears to back Israel’s response to the October 7 massacre in a comment published by the Israel Hayom free tabloid.

“Only a crazy or an idiot wouldn’t respond like Israel did to October 7,” he is quoted saying, in a single comment published in Hebrew previewing a fuller interview to be released by the paper later today.

Trump’s comments on Israel’s response have been somewhat muddled until now, with him largely responding to questions about the military operation by repeating the mantra that Hamas’s long-planned attack would not have occurred if he were still president.

In the immediate aftermath of the attack he also drew jeers for calling Defense Minister Yoav Gallant a “jerk” over warnings to Hezbollah in the north. Trump also appeared to praise the terror group as “very smart.”

Japan leader asking to meet with North Korea’s Kim, sister says

This photo provided by the North Korean government on September 10, 2023, shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un waving from a train in Pyongyang as he leaves for Russia. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)
This photo provided by the North Korean government on September 10, 2023, shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un waving from a train in Pyongyang as he leaves for Russia. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida requested a summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, Kim’s powerful sister says, adding that any meeting was unlikely without a policy shift by Tokyo.

“Kishida recently conveyed his wish to meet with the Chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea at the earliest date possible,” Kim Yo Jong says in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.

“The prime minister should know that just because he wants to and has made a decision, it doesn’t mean he can or the leadership of our country will meet him,” Kim is quoted as saying in the KCNA report in Korean.

“What is clear is that when Japan antagonizes the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and violates its sovereign rights, it is considered our enemy and will become part of the target,” Kim adds.

Hezbollah claims it carried out pre-dawn attack near border

The Hezbollah terror group claims to have shelled a group of soldiers near the border southwest of Kiryat Shmona in the Galilee panhandle. It says the attack occurred at 3 :15 a.m.

There are no reports on the Israeli side of an attack on troops, or missiles fired near the border.

The Iran-backed Lebanese organization has been known to inflate its battlefield exploits.

 

Moscow says two attackers copped to concert hall bombing

Police officers pass the gate of the Basmanny District Court in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, March 24, 2024. There was a heavy police presence around Moscow's Basmanny District Court on Sunday amid unconfirmed reports to some of the suspects could appear in court. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
Police officers pass the gate of the Basmanny District Court in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, March 24, 2024. There was a heavy police presence around Moscow's Basmanny District Court on Sunday amid unconfirmed reports to some of the suspects could appear in court. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

A Russian court statement says two of the four men accused of staging the Russia concert hall attack that killed more than 130 people have claimed guilt in the attack, after being charged in the preliminary hearing.

Earlier accounts said three or all four had pleaded guilty, but court officials now say only Dalerdzhon Mirzoyev and Saidakrami Rachabalizoda admitted guilt for the attack after being charged.

The two appeared before a Moscow court Sunday along with Shamsidin Fariduni, and Mukhammadsobir Faizov to face charges of committing a group terrorist attack resulting in the death of others. The offense carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

All four showed signs of severe beatings, raising questions about whether they were speaking freely. Faizov appeared to be barely conscious during the hearing.

The court ordered that the men, all of whom are citizens of Tajikistan, be held in pre-trial custody until May 22.

 

Palestinians report arrest raids, clashes throughout West Bank

Palestinian reports say that clashes have broken out between Israeli troops and locals as the army carries out arrest raids in several areas around the West Bank.

Videos published online show military convoys moving through cities near Ramallah, Jenin and Hebron.

According to official Palestinian news outlet WAFA, firefights broke out in two areas near Jenin, and soldiers used live ammunition in al-Arroub camp near Hebron, though no injuries are reported in either location.

Battered and bruised, three of four Russia bombing suspects plead guilty

Mukhammadsobir Faizov, suspected of taking part in the attack of a  Russian concert hall that killed 137 people, is escorted by Russian law enforcement officers prior to his pre-trial detention hearing at the Basmanny District Court in Moscow on March 25, 2024. (TATYANA MAKEYEVA / AFP)
Mukhammadsobir Faizov, suspected of taking part in the attack of a Russian concert hall that killed 137 people, is escorted by Russian law enforcement officers prior to his pre-trial detention hearing at the Basmanny District Court in Moscow on March 25, 2024. (TATYANA MAKEYEVA / AFP)

Three of the four suspects charged with carrying out the concert hall attack in Moscow that killed more than 130 people have admitted guilt for the incident in a Russian court.

Moscow’s Basmanny District Court formally has charged Dalerdzhon Mirzoyev, 32; Saidakrami Rachabalizoda, 30; Mukhammadsobir Faizov, 19; and Shamsidin Fariduni, 25, with committing a group terrorist attack resulting in the death of others. The offense carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

The court orders that the men, all of whom are citizens of Tajikistan, be held in pre-trial custody until May 22.

Dalerdjon Barotovich Mirzoyev suspected of taking part in the attack of a Russian concert hall that killed 137 people sits in the defendant cage as he waits for his pre-trial detention hearing at the Basmanny District Court in Moscow on March 24, 2024. (Olga MALTSEVA / AFP)

Mirzoyev, Rachabalizoda and Fariduni all admit guilt after being charged. The fourth, Faizov, is brought to court directly from a hospital in a wheelchair and sits with his eyes closed throughout the proceedings. He wears a hospital gown and trousers and is seen with multiple cuts, as medics attend him.

The other three suspects are also heavily bruised with swollen faces amid reports in Russian media that they were tortured during interrogation by the security services.

Rachabalizoda, has a heavily bandaged ear. Russian media reported Saturday that one of the suspects had his ear cut off during interrogation. The Associated Press couldn’t verify the report or the videos which purported to show this.

Saidakrami Rachabalizoda suspected of taking part in the attack of a Russian concert hall that killed 137 people sits inside the defendant cage as he waits for his pre-trial detention hearing at the Basmanny District Court in Moscow on March 24, 2024. (Olga MALTSEVA / AFP)

The hearing comes as Russia observed a national day of mourning, following the attack Friday on the suburban Crocus City Hall concert venue that killed at least 137 people.

The attack, which has been claimed by an affiliate of the Islamic State group, is the deadliest on Russian soil in years.

Russian authorities arrested the four suspected attackers Saturday, with seven more people detained on suspicion of involvement in the attack, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an address to the nation Saturday night. He claimed they were captured while fleeing to Ukraine, something that Kyiv firmly denied.

Jordanians marching on Israeli embassy clash with police, call to ‘bomb Tel Aviv’

Several people have been arrested in Amman amid clashes between riot police and Jordanian demonstrators marching on the Israeli embassy to protest Israel’s military operation in Gaza.

“No Zionist embassy on Jordanian land,” some protesters chant as others shout slogans back Hamas and attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians.

“We want to go the borders and kill and kidnap Zionist soldiers. Revenge … revenge … Oh Hamas, bomb Tel Aviv,” they shout.

Authorities had sent in riot police to disperse demonstrators gathered in the Kaloti mosque in the capital who were planning to march on the heavily fortified Israeli embassy nearby.

Several protesters were beaten and several arrested as they tried to break a heavy police cordon around the embassy, witnesses say. Police have deployed teargas to push back the demonstrators.

Police are not immediately available for comment.

Jordan has allowed peaceful protesters to gather outside the Israeli embassy daily but authorities say they cannot tolerate any attempt to storm the embassy, instigate civic unrest or try to reach a border zone with the West Bank or Israel.

Israel’s ambassador has been absent since October 7 due to security precautions.

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