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

Female IDF cadets tasked with guarding Oct. 7 terrorists

Female cadets in the army have been tasked with guarding over Hamas terrorists who took part in the October 7 attacks on Israel, Kan news reported earlier.

The report did not name the holding facility in question, but said the cadets were disturbed by the work with the male terror suspects and quoted one of the cadets as saying they preferred “to fight in Gaza than to watch over the terrorists.”

Prior to the war the posting of young female servicemenbers as guards in prison facilities came under scrutiny after reports of sexual harassment and assault of female guards by Palestinian terror convicts as well as improper relationships.

The netowrk reported the cadets are forced to watch the male suspects’ every action, and that in one case one of jailed men carried out an indecent act before the soldiers.

The IDF told Kan the guard work was one of the tasks given to both male and female cadets. Responding to the question of whether the cadets could face harassment, the army said: “If an irregular incident occurs, it is dealt with severely by the facility commanders.”

US says it welcomes nomination of new Palestinian Authority cabinet

The US welcomes the nomination of a new Palestinian Authority (PA) cabinet, the US State Department says.

“A revitalized PA is essential to delivering results for the Palestinian people in both the West Bank and Gaza and establishing the conditions for stability in the broader region,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller says in a statement.

Good Friday draws thousands to solemn processions in Jerusalem and Haifa

Christians attend a religious procession in Haifa on Good Friday, March 29, 2024. (Canaan Lidor/Times of Israel)
Christians attend a religious procession in Haifa on Good Friday, March 29, 2024. (Canaan Lidor/Times of Israel)

Thousands of Arab Israelis celebrate Good Friday in two Haifa processions where multiple participants prayed for an end to the war.

The annual processions Friday, one around the Saint Louis the King Cathedral and the other in the vicinity of the Elias Cathedral, are among countless processions worldwide on Good Friday, when Christians commemorate Jesus’s crucifixion.

In Jerusalem, thousands march slowly, many of them singing hymns and some carrying crucibles, along the Via Dolorosa — the cobblestone path where tradition says Jesus bore the cross to his crucifixion.

Traditionally solemn affairs, the events in Haifa are particularly toned down amid the war and a relatively low turnout –- many Christians from the Galilee stayed away this year, likely because of rocket fire by Hezbollah in Lebanon.

“It’s a sad day during a sad time,” says Maya Da’abul, participates in the march with her husband and two teenaged children. Normally the family spends Good Friday at a church in Kafr Bir’im near the Lebanese border, but “because of the war we stayed in Haifa, where it’s safe” Maya says.

Kafr Bir’im “is where our family comes from, before 1948,” she adds, referencing the expulsion of the village’s
population by Israel during the War of Independence. It remains uninhabited but for the church.

The family recites hymns and prayers about Jesus as they walk through a cloud of incense billowing from a priest’s thurible. “But we also pray in our hearts this war will end,” Maya says.

Biden cites ‘pain being felt by so many’ Arab Americans over Israel-Hamas war

US President Joe Biden boards Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on March 29, 2024. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP)
US President Joe Biden boards Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on March 29, 2024. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP)

WASHINGTON — Joe Biden acknowledges “the pain being felt” by many Arab Americans over the war in Gaza and over United States support of Israel and its military offensive against Hamas that has left Arabs, Muslims and anti-war activists angry and disappointed.

Many Muslims and Arabs in the US have urged the Democratic president to call for a permanent ceasefire, stop the sale of weapons to Israel and use more leverage to protect civilian lives as a humanitarian crisis unfolds in Gaza amid the ongoing war that was triggered by the Hamas terror group’s devastating October 7 attack against Israel.

“We must also pause to reflect on the pain being felt by so many in the Arab American community with the war in Gaza,” Biden says in a proclamation on Arab American Heritage Month released by the White House, adding he was “devastated” by the suffering.

Biden says he’s working to increase humanitarian aid into Gaza, free hostages taken by Hamas and establish an immediate ceasefire lasting at least six weeks.

US slaps new visa restrictions on current and former Syrian government officials

WASHINGTON — The US State Department announces new visa restrictions for current and former Syrian government officials and other individuals “who are believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, the repression of Syrians, especially through violence and serious human rights abuses.”

Biden administration said to approve transfer of over 2,000 bombs, 25 F-35s to Israel

A picture taken from Israel's southern city of Sderot shows an IAF F-35 over the northern Gaza Strip, on October 29, 2023. (Jack Guez/AFP)
A picture taken from Israel's southern city of Sderot shows an IAF F-35 over the northern Gaza Strip, on October 29, 2023. (Jack Guez/AFP)

The United States in recent days authorized the transfer of billions of dollars worth of bombs and fighter jets to Israel even as it publicly expresses concerns about an anticipated military offensive in Rafah, The Washington Post reports.

Citing Pentagon and State Department officials, the American daily says the new arms package includes 1,800 MK-84 2,000-pound bombs and 500 MK-82 500-pound bombs, along with 25 F-35s that were initially approved as part of a larger package by Congress in 2008. Israel requested the third squadron of 25 F-35s last July, which when delivered will bring the total size of the fleet to 75.

Washington gives $3.8 billion in annual military assistance to Israel, its longtime ally. The US has been rushing air defenses and munitions to Israel as it fights against Hamas in Gaza, but some Democrats and Arab American groups have criticized the Biden administration’s steadfast support of Israel, and called for leveraging military aid.

“We have continued to support Israel’s right to defend itself,” a White House official tells The Washington Post. “Conditioning aid has not been our policy.”

9 Eurovision participants call for ‘immediate and lasting ceasefire, safe return of all hostages’

Olly Alexander poses for photographers at the Royal Albert Hall, in London, December 1, 2023. (Millie Turner/Invision/AP)
Olly Alexander poses for photographers at the Royal Albert Hall, in London, December 1, 2023. (Millie Turner/Invision/AP)

A group of nine participants in the upcoming Eurovision song contest release a joint statement expressing their concern over “the current situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, and particularly in Gaza, and in Israel.”

“We do not feel comfortable being silent,” they say in the statement, following calls to boycott Eurovision over Israel’s participation.

The performers add: “It is important to us to stand in solidarity with the oppressed and communicate our heartfelt wish for peace, an immediate and lasting ceasefire, and the safe return of all hostages. We stand united against all forms of hate, including antisemitism and islamophobia.”

“We firmly believe in the unifying power of music, enabling people to transcend differences and foster meaningful conversations and connections.”

“We feel that it is our duty to create and uphold this space, with a strong hope that it will inspire greater compassion and empathy.”

The statement was signed by the representatives of Ireland, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Switzerland, Denmark, Lithuania and Finland.

The UK’s Olly Alexander puts out a separate statement on Instagram, saying he “understands and respects” the decision of those boycotting Eurovision, but won’t do so himself.

“It is my current belief that removing myself from the contest wouldn’t bring us any closer to our shared goal,” he says. “I hope and pray that our calls are answered and there is an end to the atrocities we are seeing taking place in Gaza.”

Marking 1 year since WSJ’s Gershkovich jailed, Biden vows to continue ‘imposing costs’ on Russia

WASHINGTON — US President Joe Biden says the United States will continue to “impose costs” on Russia for its imprisonment of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who was arrested one year ago.

The Journal marked the March 29 anniversary by leaving most of its front page empty below a headline reading, “HIS STORY SHOULD BE HERE.” Every other article and headline on the front page involved Gershkovich.

“Today we mark a painful anniversary: one year of American journalist Evan Gershkovich’s wrongful detention in Russia,” Biden says in a statement.

“As I have told Evan’s parents, I will never give up hope either,” he says. “We will continue working every day to secure his release. We will continue to denounce and impose costs for Russia’s appalling attempts to use Americans as bargaining chips.”

Gershkovich, the 32-year-old American son of Jewish immigrants from the Soviet Union, has been held on espionage charges since March 29, 2023, when he was arrested by Russian agents while on a reporting trip in the city of Yekaterinburg. Gershkovich, the US government and The Wall Street Journal deny the allegations, for which the Russian government has not provided evidence. His arrest came amid an ongoing crackdown on the press in Russia during its war on Ukraine.

Israel said advancing initiative for Arab peacekeepers to secure Gaza aid deliveries

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

Israel is pushing for the establishment of an international peacekeeping force to secure humanitarian aid deliveries to the Gaza Strip, with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant informing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he made headway on the matter during his visit to Washington this week, according to Hebrew media reports.

The reports say the force would be composed of troops from three different unnamed Arab countries, but not Saudi Arabia or Qatar, a longtime patron of Hamas that is one of the mediators in hostage-for-truce talks between Israel and the Gaza-ruling terror organization.

The outlets also say that the idea is backed by the United States and that the force will likely be armed to ensure law and order and will work with Gazans who don’t have links to Hamas, ostensibly figures linked to the Palestinian Authority.

Channel 12 news reports that Netanyahu has been resistant to the idea, but Gallant suggested it was their best option, telling the premier “the Swiss” will not take up the task.

It is unclear whether Arab allies will actually be willing to participate in the scheme, given that they have repeatedly asserted that they will not take part in the management of Gaza after the war unless it is part of a broader initiative that includes the establishment of a pathway to a future Palestinian state — something the current government utterly rejects.

Rocket alerts activated in two northern towns

Rocket warning sirens are activated in two northern Israeli towns, indicating another cross-border attack from Lebanon.

Israelis protest outside UN Women’s HQ over its ‘complete silence’ on sexual violence by Hamas

Along with the families of hostages held in Gaza, women’s rights advocacy group Bonot Alternativa demonstrates outside the New York headquarters of UN Women to protest the organization’s “compete silence” on sexual violence by Hamas-led terrorists during the October 7 terror onslaught.

The rally was held after freed hostage Amit Soussana revealed she was sexually assaulted and attacked by her Hamas guard while captive in Gaza, with the group hailing her “brave testimony.”

‘F***king murderous kike’: Pro-Palestinian protesters accost Biden fundraiser attendees on NYC streets

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators accost a woman who attended a fundraiser for US President Joe Biden, in New York City on March 28, 2024. (X screenshot, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Pro-Palestinian demonstrators accost a woman who attended a fundraiser for US President Joe Biden, in New York City on March 28, 2024. (X screenshot, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Video clips show pro-Palestinian demonstrators accosting people on the street in New York City after they attended a big-name reelection fundraiser for US President Joe Biden.

In one video, several protesters can be seen screaming at a woman as they walk alongside her, with one man whose face is covered with a keffiyeh calling her a “fucking murderous cunt.”

“Fucking murderous kike,” he then shouts at her. He also told her to “fucking die” and “keep it moving bitch.”

Another clip shows demonstrators screaming at a couple walking by them, with one trying to snatch a poster from the man.

Russia denounces alleged Israeli strikes as ‘completely unacceptable’

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova attends a news conference in Moscow, Russia, January 18, 2023. (Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP)
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova attends a news conference in Moscow, Russia, January 18, 2023. (Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP)

MOSCOW — Russia condemns alleged Israeli strikes in Syria as “completely unacceptable,” after several dozen were reported killed in an overnight bombardment near Aleppo.

“Such aggressive actions against the Syrian Arab Republic, which constitute a flagrant violation of the country’s sovereignty and the basic norms of international law, are categorically unacceptable,” Russia’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova says in a statement.

IDF says aircraft struck Hezbollah launcher in south Lebanon, minutes after rocket fire

The IDF says it carried out an airstrike on a Hezbollah rocket launcher in southern Lebanon earlier today, minutes after the terror group used it to fire projectiles at the Biranit army base.

According to a statement from the Israel Defense Forces, fighter jets also later struck a Hezbollah “military building” adjacent to the launch site in the town of Ayta ash-Shaab.

The military says fighter jets also struck a “military facility” in Mays al-Jabal where a Hezbollah operative was spotted.

The IDF adds that several more Hezbollah sites, including additional buildings, were targeted in Chebaa today, and an observation post in Yaroun was hit overnight.

Funeral service held for Joe Lieberman at his hometown synagogue

The casket of former US senator Joe Lieberman is shown in the sanctuary of Congregation Agudath Sholom, before his funeral in Stamford, Connecticut, March 29, 2024. (AP Photo/Bryan Woolston)
The casket of former US senator Joe Lieberman is shown in the sanctuary of Congregation Agudath Sholom, before his funeral in Stamford, Connecticut, March 29, 2024. (AP Photo/Bryan Woolston)

STAMFORD, Connecticut — Political dignitaries, family and friends gather to honor the late Joe Lieberman at a funeral service in Stamford, Connecticut, the hometown of the four-term US senator who grew up as the son of a liquor store owner and came within hundreds of votes of becoming the first Jewish vice president in 2000.

Lieberman died Wednesday in New York City from complications from a fall, according to his family. He was 82.

Services are being held at Congregation Agudath Sholom in Stamford. For Lieberman, a self-described observant Jew who followed the rules of the Jewish Sabbath from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, the congregation played a key role early on in his life.

He once recalled how the congregation’s former synagogue building was “a place that gave me the first sense of religion; a very special uplift,” according to a posting on the congregation’s website.

“I feel very lucky — my adherence to the Jewish tradition is really an asset,” he said. “Religious Catholics and Protestants find a bond of common value with my beliefs and stand. It is this that makes me so proud of being an American.”

Former US vice pesident Al Gore, who tapped Lieberman as his 2000 presidential running mate, is in attendance at the service morning along with top Connecticut Democrats including Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy and Governor Ned Lamont, Lieberman’s one-time rival for the Senate seat. A second public memorial is expected to be held at a future date.

Commando killed, 16 other soldiers wounded during fighting in southern Gaza

Sgt. First Class Alon Kudriashov. (Israel Defense Forces)
Sgt. First Class Alon Kudriashov. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israel Defense Forces announces the death of a soldier killed during fighting against Hamas in the Khan Younis area of the southern Gaza Strip earlier today.

He is named as Sgt. First Class Alon Kudriashov, 21, of the Commando Brigade’s Egoz unit, from Modiin.

His death brings the toll of slain troops in the ground offensive against Hamas to 254.

Kudriashov was killed and 16 other troops of the Egoz unit were wounded, including six seriously, after a Hamas operative fired an RPG at a building used as an encampment near Nasser Hospital, according to an IDF probe.

Hamas published footage of the Friday morning incident, showing it launching an RPG at the building where the Egoz troops were.

All of the wounded troops have been taken to hospitals.

Egoz troops had killed a Hamas gunman near their encampment a few hours before the RPG fire, according to the IDF.

Senior State Department official: Famine ‘quite possibly’ present in parts of northern Gaza

WASHINGTON – Famine is both a risk and “quite possibly” present in at least some areas in northern Gaza, a senior State Department official tells Reuters, while adding that the scarcity of trucks is a key obstacle for more humanitarian aid in the densely populated enclave that has been battered by the Israel-Hamas war.

“While we can say with confidence that famine is a significant risk in the south and center but not present, in the north, it is both a risk and quite possibly is present in at least some areas, which accounts for the urgency with which we need to move goods, food at scale into the north,” the senior State Department official, speaking with Reuters on the condition of anonymity, says.

The number of trucks distributing aid in south and central Gaza has nearly topped 200 a day, an increase compared to a month ago, but more are needed, the State Department official says.

“You need to address the full nutrition needs of the population of Gaza of all ages. That means more than just that minimal survival level feeding,” the official says, adding that malnutrition, infant newborn and young child mortality are significant problems that are growing.

“It has to be addressed by additional assistance coming and the right kind of assistance coming in,” he says.

Hinting at Syria strikes, Gallant says Israel will ‘expand the campaign’ against Hezbollah

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant visits the IDF Northern Command HQ in Safed, March 29, 2024. (Shachar Yurman/Defense Ministry)
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant visits the IDF Northern Command HQ in Safed, March 29, 2024. (Shachar Yurman/Defense Ministry)

Hinting at Israel’s alleged overnight airstrike in Syria, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant says the military will “expand the campaign [against Hezbollah] and increase the rate of attacks in the north.”

“Israel is turning from defending to pursuing Hezbollah, we will reach wherever the organization operates, in Beirut, Damascus and in more distant places,” Gallant says following an assessment at the IDF Northern Command in Safed.

In the past day, a top Hezbollah commander was killed in an IDF drone strike in southern Lebanon, and five other Hezbollah terrorists were among 38 dead in alleged Israeli airstrikes in Syria’s Aleppo.

Gallant says he observed the strike on Ali Naim, the deputy commander of Hezbollah’s rocket unit, this morning.

“The one responsible for the serious damage in Lebanon is Hezbollah and the one responsible for the many casualties in the Hezbollah group is [Hassan] Nasrallah personally. They have over 320 terrorists killed, and we will exact a price for any action that comes out of Lebanon,” he says.

“Wherever we need to act, we will act,” Gallant adds.

Warning sirens sound in several more northern communities

Rocket warning sirens are activated in several towns in the Western Galilee, close to the Lebanese border.

Rocket alerts activated in towns near Lebanon border

Incoming rocket sirens sound in several northern communities near the border with Lebanon.

On 3rd Friday of Ramadan, prayers again pass without incident at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount

Thousands of Muslim worshipers attend Friday prayers during Ramadan, at the Al-Aqsa compound atop the Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City, March 29, 2024. (Jamal Awad/Flash90)
Thousands of Muslim worshipers attend Friday prayers during Ramadan, at the Al-Aqsa compound atop the Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City, March 29, 2024. (Jamal Awad/Flash90)

Afternoon prayers for the third Friday of Ramadan have ended at the Al-Aqsa Mosque atop the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City, with the Israel Police reporting they passed without incident.

The Islamic Waqf says 125,000 people took part in the prayers, slightly up from last week, while police put turnout in the tens of thousands and the Foreign Ministry “over 50,000.”

Along with the Ramadan prayers, hundreds of Christians participated in a customary Good Friday procession through the limestone walls of the Old City, commemorating one of the faith’s most sacred days with noticeably thinner crowds amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.

Police say they arrested 11 people in the Old City throughout the day, including several suspects for chanting “incitement and support for terrorism” following morning prayers at the Temple Mount.

IAF cancels this year’s Independence Day flyover, citing focus on war

A fighter jet flies over the beach in Tel Aviv during Israel's 75th Independence Day celebrations, April 26, 2023. (Erik Marmor/Flash90)
A fighter jet flies over the beach in Tel Aviv during Israel's 75th Independence Day celebrations, April 26, 2023. (Erik Marmor/Flash90)

The Israeli Air Force will not hold its annual Independence Day flyover this year, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant decided.

The IDF says that the flyby, as well as the Navy’s flotilla in Eilat, will not be held due to the military’s focus on the war, and per the recommendation of IAF chief Maj. Gen. Tomer Bar and Navy chief Vice Adm. David Saar Salama.

Four fighter jets will still fly over the Mount Herzl military cemetery and Har Tayyasim as a “salute” during national memorial day ceremonies.

Netanyahu okays departure of Shin Bet, Mossad officials to further hostage talks in Cairo, Doha

File: Ronen Bar, head of the Shin Bet security services, left, and Mossad chief David Barnea at the annual IDF Armored Corps memorial ceremony, marking the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, in Yad La-Shiryon, on September 27, 2023. (Jonathan Shaul/Flash90)
File: Ronen Bar, head of the Shin Bet security services, left, and Mossad chief David Barnea at the annual IDF Armored Corps memorial ceremony, marking the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, in Yad La-Shiryon, on September 27, 2023. (Jonathan Shaul/Flash90)

After Hamas rejected compromises hammered out by Israel, Qatar, Egypt and the United States in Doha earlier this week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approves a high-level delegation to continue talks in the coming days, the Prime Minister’s Office says in a statement.

Netanyahu speaks with Mossad chief David Barnea and Shin Bet head Ronen Bar to tell them that they will have “room to operate” in upcoming negotiations in Cairo and Doha.

Israel will send Shin Bet and Mossad officials to conduct the negotiations in Cairo. Barnea and Bar are not expected to attend the talks there, but they may join consultations in Doha later on.

A mid-level Mossad team has remained in Doha since Barnea flew back to Israel earlier this week.

Four arrested at anti-war protest in Jerusalem

Four people have been arrested at an anti-war protest at Jerusalem’s Paris Square, the left-wing Free Jerusalem movement says on X, formerly Twitter.

In video footage shared online, police officers can be seen pushing several of the protesters to the ground and physically restraining them.

At the same time, a man who didn’t appear to be part of the group of protesters picks up a drum that had been thrown to the ground and walks away while the person filming shouts at him to stop and bring it back.

In addition to the four protesters, Ynet reports that one journalist was detained by the police.

WATCH: IDF says it eliminated deputy commander of Hezbollah rocket unit in drone strike

The IDF says it eliminated the deputy commander of Hezbollah’s rocket unit in a drone strike in southern Lebanon earlier today.

Ali Naim was struck while in a car in the town of Bazouriye, close to Tyre, this morning.

According to the IDF, Naim is “considered to be a significant source of knowledge in the terror group, and leader in the field of rockets.”

“He was also one of the leaders for heavy-warhead rocket fire and responsible for conducting and planning attacks against Israeli civilians,” the IDF says.

Hezbollah also announced his death a short while ago, but did not call him a commander.

The IDF releases footage of the strike.

Hezbollah official killed in Israeli strike on car in south Lebanon – security source

A military security source says an Israeli strike a short while ago on a car in south Lebanon killed a Hezbollah official in the town of Bazouriye, close to the coastal city of Tyre.

Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency (NNA) says “a raid by an enemy drone targeted a car” in the south Lebanon district, killing at least one.

The army security source, requesting anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to the media, says the person killed was “a Hezbollah official.”

An AFP correspondent reports the targeted vehicle was destroyed and debris scattered nearby, and said authorities had cordoned off the area.

Hezbollah did not immediately comment on the strike, but announced it had carried out attacks on Israeli positions on Friday.

Hezbollah says six members killed in Israeli strikes, bringing terror group’s death toll to 263

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

They are named as Ahmed Shehimi from Markaba; Mustafa Makki from Tebnine; Ibrahim al-Zein from Chehour; Ali al-Haf from Halloussiyeh; Mustafa Nassif from Haffir; and Ali Naim from Selaa.

Naim was reported to have been killed in an Israeli strike on a car in the Lebanese town of Bazouriye, close to Tyre this morning, while the other five are believed to have been killed in an alleged IDF strike in Syria’s Aleppo overnight.

Their deaths bring the terror group’s toll since the beginning of the war in the Gaza Strip to 263.

COGAT: 9 World Food Programme trucks reached northern Gaza last night

Nine trucks operated by the United Nations’ World Food Programme reached the northern Gaza Strip last night, COGAT, the Defense Ministry body responsible for civilian affairs in the Palestinian territories says on X.

In total, COGAT says 47 trucks have reached northern Gaza via a new land route opened by the IDF earlier in March.

IDF: Drone infiltration sirens in Kiryat Shmona were false alarms

Suspected drone infiltration alarms that sounded in Kiryat Shmona a short while ago were false alarms, according to the IDF.

An hour ago sirens sounded in the city due to an interceptor missile being fired at a “suspicious aerial target” that entered Israeli airspace from Lebanon.

The IDF says the target was successfully downed, and the alarms were activated due to fears of falling shrapnel.

UTJ’s Degel Hatorah faction advised by rabbinic scholar to stay in government ‘for the time being’

Rabbi Moshe Hirsch, the dean of Bnei Brak’s Slabodka yeshiva and a member of Degel Hatorah’s Council of Torah Sages, has advised the ultra-Orthodox party’s MKs not to bolt the coalition in the wake of Thursday’s High Court order to halt the funding for the monthly stipends of at least some yeshiva students.

According to the ultra-Orthodox news site Bhadrei Haredim, the US-born rabbi told the lawmakers that they should hold off on pulling out “for the time being” and instead pursue all possible remedies from within the government.

This includes advancing legislation to provide an alternate framework for funding the yeshivas, the site reported, adding that Rabbi Hirsch’s recommendation paralleled one by the Hasidic rabbis who provide the leadership of the Hasidic Agudat Yisrael party.

Together, the Degel HaTorah and Agudat Yisrael parties comprise the United Torah Judaism faction in the Knesset.

Speaking with the Times of Israel on Thursday, Agudat Yisrael MK Moshe Roth stated that “if the yeshiva students are drafted, UTJ will leave the coalition, although the decision lies with the council of Torah elders.”

Shas’s Deri: High Court decision on yeshiva funds is ‘unprecedented maltreatment of Torah scholars’

Shas party leader MK Aryeh Deri in the Knesset, Jerusalem, March 13, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Shas party leader MK Aryeh Deri in the Knesset, Jerusalem, March 13, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Shas chairman Aryeh Deri slams Thursday’s High Court decision to bar the government from funding the monthly stipends of at least some ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students, declaring it a “mark of Cain” and “an unprecedented maltreatment of Torah scholars in the Jewish state.”

“Precisely in the days when the people of Israel need the mercy of heaven in the south and in the north, the High Court of Justice takes an offensive approach toward the Torah scholars on whom the world stands,” he says in a statement.

“Shas will continue to fight for the right of yeshiva students to study the Torah and will examine its next steps,” he adds.

Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says more than 32,600 killed since start of war

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says at least 32,623 people have been killed and 75,092 have been injured in Gaza since October 7.

The terror group’s figures are unverified and don’t differentiate between civilians and combatants. Israel has said it has 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: Troops in the West Bank arrested two Palestinians who allegedly fired at army post

IDF troops operate in the West Bank in an undated handout photo released on March 29, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
IDF troops operate in the West Bank in an undated handout photo released on March 29, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

In overnight operations in the West Bank, the IDF and police say troops nabbed two Palestinians who allegedly opened fire at an army post several hours earlier.

The two suspects had opened fire at the military position near Nablus. The IDF says during their arrest in the West Bank city, a gun believed to have been used in the attack was seized.

In another raid in the Nur Shams refugee camp near Tulkarem, police and IDF troops detained a wanted Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist.

Omar Abu Halal is suspected of being involved in previous shooting attacks and manufacturing explosive devices, the IDF says.

Turkey’s Erdogan to visit US on May 9, security official says

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attends a joint press conference with Ukrainian President at the Dolmabahce Presidental office in Istanbul on March 8, 2024. (Ozan Kose/AFP)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attends a joint press conference with Ukrainian President at the Dolmabahce Presidental office in Istanbul on March 8, 2024. (Ozan Kose/AFP)

Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan will visit the United States on May 9, a Turkish security official says, setting the stage for his first White House meeting during the Biden Administration.

Separately, Turkish MIT intelligence agency head Ibrahim Kalin will meet with US House of Representatives members today to discuss Erdogan’s planned visit and other bilateral issues, the official also says.

Eisenkot presented war cabinet with alternative to Netanyahu’s plan for post-war Gaza – report

War cabinet observer Gadi Eisenkot attends a press conference at the Knesset in Jerusalem, March 13, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
War cabinet observer Gadi Eisenkot attends a press conference at the Knesset in Jerusalem, March 13, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

War cabinet observer Gadi Eisenkot presented a plan for post-war Gaza to the war cabinet earlier this week as an alternative to an outline drawn up by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last month, Ynet reports.

Following the removal of Hamas from power and the return of all hostages held by the terror group, Eisenkot’s plan proposes that the responsibility for Gaza’s civilians be transferred to a local Palestinian entity operating under the supervision of a coalition led by Arab states and the US, the report says.

The reported outline also stipulates that a reformed Palestinian entity would be crucial to the success of post-war Gaza. It would be required to actively work to stop terrorism against Israel, refresh the education system so it no longer incites terror against Israel, and end “pay to slay” policies.

Should an entity be established that meets the requirements, Israel would then present it as a viable temporary alternative to the US’s demand for an independent Palestinian state, Ynet reports.

Eisenkot’s plan is also said to require any future Palestinian entity or state to be completely demilitarized.

Rocket warning sirens sound in northern Israel

Rocket warning sirens sound in northern Israel close to the Lebanon border.

The sirens can be heard in several locations including in Kiryat Shmonah and Tel Hai.

Lebanese media reports Israeli drone strike on vehicle in town close to Tyre, south Lebanon

Lebanese media outlets report an Israeli drone strike on a vehicle in the town of Bazouriye, close to the coastal city of Tyre.

Further details are not immediately available.

Footage posted to social media shows the aftermath of the alleged bombing.

IDF: Troops in central Gaza destroyed rocket launchers aimed at Israel

Handout image of destroyed rocket launchers in the central Gaza Strip, released March 29, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
Handout image of destroyed rocket launchers in the central Gaza Strip, released March 29, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The IDF says troops of the Nahal Brigade operating in the central Gaza Strip located and destroyed several rocket launchers that were aimed at Israel.

Over the past day, Nahal soldiers also killed numerous gunmen, including by calling in airstrikes, the IDF says.

Separately, the Israeli Air Force struck what the IDF says was a building used by Hamas for terror activities in central Gaza’s Nuseirat district.

Fighting against Hamas also continues at Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital, as well as in southern Gaza’s al-Qarara and the al-Amal neighborhood of Khan Younis, where the IDF says troops have killed Hamas operatives, seized weapons, and destroyed sites belonging to the terror group.

Amid the operations, the IAF struck dozens of sites, largely in support of the maneuvering ground troops, the military adds.

Japan restores UNRWA funding but stresses importance of ‘transparency and traceability’

Japan is preparing to resume funding to the UN’s crisis-hit Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA), which coordinates nearly all aid to Gaza, the government says.

Once the sixth-largest contributor to UNRWA, Japan joined more than a dozen countries in pausing funding after Israel accused at least a dozen of its 13,000 Gaza employees of being involved in the deadly October 7 Hamas assault.

Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa met UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini in Tokyo on Thursday to discuss measures taken by the agency to strengthen governance and transparency.

“Japan and the UNRWA confirmed that they will advance final coordination about necessary efforts to resume Japan’s contribution,” the foreign ministry says in a statement.

Japanese media reports say the resumption of funding, suspended in January, is expected to come in the first half of April.

The abrupt suspension of funding threatened UNRWA’s efforts to deliver desperately needed aid in Gaza, where the UN has warned of an impending famine.

This month, Australia, Canada, Sweden and others said they were resuming aid.

Lazzarini said Tuesday that the agency has enough funds to keep operating until at least the end of May.

Kamikawa on Thursday “pointed out the importance of ensuring transparency and traceability of fund flows and the neutrality of UNRWA staff”, the ministry says.

The United Nations has launched both an internal and an independent investigation but says Israel has not provided it with any evidence to support the claims against its workers.

33 Syrian troops and civilians, 5 Hezbollah members killed in Aleppo strikes — sources

Israeli strikes on Syria’s Aleppo early on Friday killed 33 civilians and military personnel, two security sources tell Reuters.

The strikes also killed five Hezbollah fighters, the sources add.

War monitor claims 36 Syrian soldiers killed in alleged strikes near Aleppo

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, says 36 Syrian soldiers were killed and dozens more were injured in alleged Israeli strikes near Aleppo early Friday.

The war monitor’s claim cannot be verified. It has been accused in the past of inflating death tolls and damage from alleged Israeli attacks.

The group claims the attack hit missile depots for Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group in Aleppo’s southern suburb of Jibreen near the Aleppo International Airport.

The Observatory said explosions were still heard two hours after the strikes.

Biden, Obama and Clinton heckled over Israel support at New York fundraiser

US President Joe Biden and former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton participate in a fundraising event at Radio City Music Hall, Thursday, March 28, 2024, in New York. (AP/Alex Brandon)
US President Joe Biden and former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton participate in a fundraising event at Radio City Music Hall, Thursday, March 28, 2024, in New York. (AP/Alex Brandon)

US President Joe Biden, and former Democratic presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton are heckled over Israel’s war against Hamas at a New York City fundraiser.

During a discussion moderated by “The Late Show” host Stephen Colbert at the iconic Radio City Music Hall, protesters rise at several different moments to shout over the discussion and criticize Biden’s backing of Israel.

“Shame on you, Joe Biden” one yells.

Obama says Biden has “moral clarity” on the Israel issue and is willing to listen to all sides in this debate and find common ground.

When a protestor inside the theater interrupts Obama, the former president snaps back: “You can’t just talk and not listen… That’s what the other side does.”

The protests draw a pledge from Biden to keep working to stop civilian deaths, particularly of children. But he adds, “Israel’s existence is at stake.”

Outside, hundreds of protesters demonstrate against Israel in Midtown Manhattan.

Also attending the event was Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who recently hinted that Democrats could pull support for Israel if it does not hold elections and oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Tickets for Thursday’s Biden event, expected to bring some buzz to his reelection effort, cost between $250 and $500,000, according to a Democrat familiar with the planning. The campaign said it raised more than $25 million.

More than 5,000 people were expected to attend. The event was not televised.

 

Syria says several troops, civilians killed in alleged Israeli strike

Syria’s army says an unspecified number of soldiers and civilians were killed in an Israeli attack on several points around the north of the country early Friday, according to Damascus state-run media.

The attacks were centered around the town Ithiriya, about 100 kilometers (60 miles) southeast of Aleppo, SANA says.

“The aggression resulted in the martyrdom and injury of a number of civilians and military personnel and caused material losses to public and private property,” the statement says.

The report says the attacks occurred at 1:45 a.m., just as a drone assault by rebels from Idlib on the city of Aleppo and areas west of the city was also taking place.

There is no comment from the Israel Defense Forces.

Alleged Israeli airstrike reported at Aleppo airport in northern Syria

Large explosions are being reported in Aleppo in northern Syria, in what is being described as an Israeli attack.

According to reports, the attack has targeted the city’s main airport, which has been blown up in alleged Israeli strikes several times in the past few years.

Unverified videos show a large fireball rising over the city. One video also appears to show anti-aircraft fire streaking into the sky.

There is no comment from official Syrian sources, nor from the Israel Defense Forces.

By policy, Israel’s military does not generally comment on individual strikes.

The alleged strike comes hours after Syria’s state-run SANA news agency said Israel struck a residential building in Damascus, injuring two civilians and causing “material losses.”

US blasts four Houthi drones threatening warships in Red Sea

The US military said it has destroyed four unmanned drones launched by Iran-backed Houthi forces in Yemen.

The US Central Command says on the social media site X that the drones “presented an imminent threat to merchant vessels and US Navy ships in the region.”

The drones “were aimed at a coalition vessel and a US warship and were engaged in self defense over the Red Sea,” the statement from the US Central Command says, adding there were no injuries or damage reported to the US or coalition ships.

 

‘I have to dissociate’: Freed hostage hints at sexual abuse in Gaza captivity

Freed hostage Moran Stela Yanai, 40, speaks with Channel 12's 'Uvda' program, March 28, 2024. (Screenshot, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Freed hostage Moran Stela Yanai, 40, speaks with Channel 12's 'Uvda' program, March 28, 2024. (Screenshot, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Moran Stela Yanai, a former hostage in Gaza who was freed in late November, hints at having been subject to sexual abuse during her time in captivity but says she is not yet ready to talk about it in detail.

“There was this constant fear of being raped at any moment. And then a day passes, and another one passes. So you prepare yourself — you neglect yourself,” she says. “I’m not especially beautiful, I don’t smell very good at all. You know, so that you repel them. I’m old, I’m 40, I’m ‘hatiar,'” she tells Channel 12’s “Uvda” investigative program, using an Arab slang term that means old person.

Yanai, 40, was taken from the Supernova festival at Kibbutz Re’im on October 7. It was the scene of a bloody massacre of some 360 people and widespread abductions by Hamas terrorists. She returned with 104 others over the course of a weeklong truce in late November, after some 50 days as a hostage in Gaza.

Her testimony offers a window into the hesitancy of some sexual assault survivors to open up publicly about their deeply personal suffering, amid attempts by some anti-Israel activists and international media outlets to cast doubt on claims of rape and other sexual abuses by Hamas terrorists on October 7 and in captivity in Gaza.

Yanai says their captors would make them “go through ‘necessary’ [bodily] inspection when we’d arrive at certain places,” declining to elaborate.

Noa Argamani, 26, who was taken captive by Hamas terrorists on October 7, 2023 during a massacre at the Supernova desert rave. (Courtesy)

“From my point of view, the sexual harassment I suffered doesn’t quite fit the definition of the term,” she says, becoming emotional. “When [the hostages] come back, I will deal with the accurate definition of it.”

“For me, right now, I have to dissociate myself from it. Because however you look at it, they took away your freedom, they took everything, you have nothing, nothing is really yours, you don’t belong to yourself. The only thing that belongs to you is what you have up here,” she gestures to her head.

Yanai reveals that she was held with Noa Argamani, 26, who was also taken from the music festival on October 7. Argamani was seen in one of the first Hamas videos released during the massacre at the Supernova desert rave, seated on the back of a motorcycle behind her Hamas captor, screaming, “Don’t kill me!”

Yanai says she left thinking that Argamani would also be released in the coming days and feels immense guilt for being the one to go free.

The moment in November when the captors told them that one of them would be freed was “absolutely terrible,” she says. “It was like a reality show. They sat us down. A terrorist comes in and says ‘One of you is going home,'” she gestures with her finger from one person to the other to demonstrate a selection process.

She also reveals that she was held at least part of the time with Itay Svirsky, 38, who was killed in captivity.

Itay Svirsky was taken captive on October 7, 2023, from his mother’s house in Kibbutz Be’eri, when Hamas terrorists assaulted the community. He was declared dead on January 16, 2024. (Courtesy)

“I’m not [really] here,” she says. Everything I do…[drinking coffee, shopping, strolling] for a moment it [may] bring a smile to my face because it’s pleasant…but then it falls after a second because I remember that there’s someone [a female hostage] who is sitting on the same mattress you sat on until just a moment ago.”

Foreign Ministry says it is working to up aid into Gaza after ICJ order

Israel’s Foreign Ministry says the country will continue looking for new ways to facilitate the entry of increased aid into Gaza, after the International Court of Justice ordered it to increase the provision of basic humanitarian goods to the Gaza Strip, including food, water, fuel and shelter, due to what it said are worsening living conditions for Palestinians in the war-torn territory.

“Israel will continue to promote new initiatives, and to expand existing ones, in order to enable and facilitate the flow of aid to the Gaza Strip in a continuous and extensive manner, by land, air, and sea, together with UN bodies and other partners in the international community,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lior Hayat says in a statement posted on X. “This includes ongoing efforts to increase the scale, and means of access for such aid despite the operational challenges on the ground and Hamas׳s active and abhorrent efforts to commandeer, hoard, and steal aid.”

“Israel is committed to meeting its legal obligations, including with respect to humanitarian assistance,” it adds.

At the same time, the Foreign Ministry appears to reject the premise for South Africa’s application to the ICJ for measures aimed at stopping what Pretoria contends in a genocide taking place in Gaza.

“South Africa has failed yet again in its cynical attempts to exploit the ICJ in order to undermine Israel’s inherent right and obligation to defend its citizens from the ongoing Hamas attacks and to secure the release of hostages still held in Gaza in brutal captivity,” Hayat writes.

The statement blames Hamas for dire conditions in the Strip, noting that it triggered the war with the October 7 onslaught and continued abduction of people kidnapped from Israel.

“Israel goes to great lengths in order to mitigate the harm to the civilian population while fighting Hamas, in the complicated circumstances that Hamas created. To this day, Hamas terrorists continue to attack the citizens of Israel and are using the civilian population of Gaza as human shields. Hamas displays utter disdain for international law and the lives of civilians, Israelis and Palestinians alike, and deliberately harms the humanitarian efforts aimed at helping the population of Gaza,” the statement reads.

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