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

Hamas accuses PA security forces of trying to sneak into Gaza with aid trucks

Palestinian boys ride a donkey-pulled cart near a building destroyed in Israeli bombardment in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on March 31, 2024. (MOHAMMED ABED / AFP)
Palestinian boys ride a donkey-pulled cart near a building destroyed in Israeli bombardment in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on March 31, 2024. (MOHAMMED ABED / AFP)

Hamas is charging that the Palestinian Authority sent security officers into Gaza under cover of securing aid trucks.

The terror group’s Al-Aqsa TV says six members of the force, who escorted aid trucks coming through the Rafah crossing with Egypt, were arrested and police forces were in pursuit to round up other members.

A senior Hamas interior ministry official tells al-Aqsa that the PA gambit was supervised by Majed Faraj, Ramallah’s chief of intelligence.

“The suspicious security force that entered yesterday with Egyptian Crescent trucks coordinated its operations entirely with the [Israeli] occupation forces,” says the Hamas official, without providing evidence.

A PA official denies the Hamas accusations.

“The statement by the so-called Hamas interior ministry over the aid entry into Gaza Strip is incorrect,” the official says in a statement.

The US has pushed for the PA to retake civilian administrative control of Gaza once Israeli forces pull out, a plan rejected by both Israel and Hamas.

Reports: Suspected knifeman worked illegally inside Israel

Hebrew media reports indicate that the suspected terrorists in the Gan Yavne stabbing attack was working illegally at a store in the Friendly shopping center.

According to the reports, the 19-year-old had previously held a work permit for the Israeli-run Mishor Adumim industrial zone in the West Bank, but did not meet the criteria for permission to work inside Israel. The Mishor Adumim permit expired in August, reports say.

The reports are unconfirmed and the Shin Bet does not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Teen, young men identified as stabbing attack victims

The scene of a stabbing attack in Gan Yavne, March 31, 2024. (Liron Moldovan/Flash90)
The scene of a stabbing attack in Gan Yavne, March 31, 2024. (Liron Moldovan/Flash90)

The three victims of a stabbing attack in Gan Yavne were all young men, including one minor, the Magen David Adom emergency service says in a statement.

The three, all in serious condition, are identified as a 25-year-old man,  a 20-year-old man and a 17-year-old boy. Their names have not been publicly released.

Medics found the teen on a sidewalk some 100 meters (325 feet) away from the two other victims at the Friendly shopping center, with extensive stab wounds all over his body, a first responder says. He was rushed to a hospital fully conscious, according to the ambulance service.

The two others were found next to a cafe in the shopping center.

A first responder says the 25-year-old was partially conscious, and medics had to fight to keep him alive while en route to Ashdod’s Assuta Hospital. The 20-year-old was found unconscious, and both victims had been stabbed multiple times in the upper body.

“This was a tough scene,” paramedic Shiri Barlev says in the MDA statement.

Police: Gan Yavne terrorist attacked three people with two knives, killed by security officer

Handout photo of one of the knives used by a terrorist in Gan Yavne who seriously wounded three, March 31, 2024. (Israel Police)
Handout photo of one of the knives used by a terrorist in Gan Yavne who seriously wounded three, March 31, 2024. (Israel Police)

Police say the terrorist who carried out the stabbing attack at Gan Yavne’s “Friendly” mall attacked three people with two knives.

The three were taken to a hospital in serious condition.

A police officer and a municipal security officer who heard a commotion rushed to the scene, where they then fatally shot the terrorist.

According to Hebrew-language media, the suspected terrorist, identified as a 19-year-old Palestinian from the Hebron area in the southern West Bank, had worked at a store at the mall.

Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai heading to scene of Gan Yavne terror attack

Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai is heading to the scene of the stabbing attack in Gan Yavne, police spokesman Eli Levy says.

In the attack at Gan Yavne’s “Friendly” mall, three people were seriously wounded, and the stabber was “neutralized,” police and medics said.

Police say the incident is a terror attack.

3 seriously wounded in suspected terror stabbing in Gan Yavne

United Hatzala operate at the scene of a suspected terror stabbing in Gan Yavne, March 31, 2024. (United Hatzala)
United Hatzala operate at the scene of a suspected terror stabbing in Gan Yavne, March 31, 2024. (United Hatzala)

Three people are seriously wounded in a suspected terror stabbing attack in the southern town of Gan Yavne, police and medics say.

The Magen David Adom ambulance service says it is taking the victims to Ashdod’s Assuta Hospital.

Police say the assailant has been “neutralized.”

CENTCOM says US forces ‘engaged and destroyed’ two Houthi UAS launched from Yemen

The United States Central Command (CENTCOM) says it “engaged and destroyed two unmanned aerial systems in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen” earlier today.

It says the aerial systems were determined to present a threat to US and coalition forces in the area, as well as to vessels transiting in nearby waters.

“These actions are necessary to protect our forces, ensure freedom of navigation, and make international waters safer and more secure for US, coalition and merchant vessels,” the statement says.

Syrian state media says Israeli airstrikes wounded two civilians, caused ‘material losses’

Syria’s state-run SANA news agency, citing a military source, says Israeli airstrikes in the Damascus area this evening wounded two civilians.

The report also says that unspecified “material losses” were caused by the strikes.

Israel has allegedly carried out several airstrikes in Syria over the past week, killing Iranian-linked operatives, including members of Lebanon’s Hezbollah, and reportedly also targeting weapon depots.

Protesters pitch tents outside the Knesset on first night of four-day protest event

Protesters set up tents outside of the Knesset in Jerusalem, March 31, 2024. (Sam Sokol/Times of Israel)
Protesters set up tents outside of the Knesset in Jerusalem, March 31, 2024. (Sam Sokol/Times of Israel)

Protesters set up more than 100 tents outside the Knesset following Sunday evening’s massive anti-government demonstration, settling in at the beginning of what is set to be a four-day protest event in Israel’s capital.

“I have no other choice. I think that we have a ‘crime’ minister,” says Devora, a protester from the northern village of Timrat, as she places her belongings in her tent.

“We’re in the middle of a terrible hell. Enough. How much is possible,” she asks. “There will be nothing left.”

The line of tents reaches nearly between the Knesset and the Foreign Ministry, several blocks away. Next to the individual sleeping tents are larger logistics tents set up by the various protest movements involved in the demonstration, as well as two life-size mock-ups of tanks brought by veterans of the Yom Kippur War.

Protesters sprayed with foul-smelling ‘skunk spray’ after blocking Jerusalem’s Begin Highway

Protesters call for the government to agree to a hostage release deal at a protest in Jerusalem, March 31, 2024. (Danor Aharon/Pro-Democracy Protest Movement)
Protesters call for the government to agree to a hostage release deal at a protest in Jerusalem, March 31, 2024. (Danor Aharon/Pro-Democracy Protest Movement)

Israel Police forces sprayed protesters with foul-smelling “skunk spray” in an attempt to disperse crowds blocking traffic and lighting bonfires on Jerusalem’s Begin Highway, Hebrew media reports.

Mounted police were dispatched to disperse the protesters, who then continued marching in the direction of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Jerusalem residence.

In a statement, the police say that one “rioter” was arrested near the Chords Bridge and that the majority of the roads that had been closed to traffic have since been reopened.

Haredi youth in Mea Shearim set fire to Israeli flag during Brothers in Arms protest

An Israeli flag is set on fire by a Haredi teen during a Brothers in Arms protest in Jerusalem's Mea Shearim neighborhood, March 31, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)
An Israeli flag is set on fire by a Haredi teen during a Brothers in Arms protest in Jerusalem's Mea Shearim neighborhood, March 31, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)

A Haredi teen set fire to an Israeli flag in Jerusalem’s Mea Shearim neighborhood earlier this evening after the Brothers in Arms movement staged a protest against IDF conscription inequality in the insular ultra-Orthodox neighborhood.

Also during the event, protesters were pelted by eggs, Hebrew media outlets report, and several violent incidents broke out between members of the community and protesters.

During the protest, Brothers in Arms member Dror Erez addressed the onlookers in Yiddish, Channel 12 reports.

“Tell your leaders enough is enough, we want to be part of the Jewish people in the State of Israel,” he told the crowd. “We need you to join the army, we can’t carry you on our backs. We want to share the burden equally, what was in the past cannot continue.”

Syrian media reports alleged Israeli airstrike near Damascus

Syrian media report an alleged Israeli airstrike in the Damascus area.

The pro-government Sham FM radio says blasts were heard near the town of Dimas, northwest of the capital.

Labor MK Naama Lazimi: Protests are saving the State of Israel

The thousands of anti-government demonstrators who came out on Sunday evening to demand elections are “saving the state,” Labor MK Naama Lazimi tells The Times of Israel.

Speaking on the sidelines of a massive protest outside the Knesset, the liberal lawmaker says that the government did not support canceling this spring’s Knesset recess because it “doesn’t care about what is happening.”

“It’s not just something symbolic, that the hostages are there and we’re here. It’s also a substantive matter. If we can’t help the public during a time of war, then the public has fewer answers from the overseeing authority, the Knesset. It’s a great disconnect. Wartime is a unique time. There are the displaced and the hostages and people who need us to be there for them now. Reservists who came home.”

Noting that the Knesset had a shortened recess in 2020, she says: “At least they could leave us parliamentary tools.”

Asked if the protests would have an impact, Lazimi responds that a year of anti-government protests helped to block Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Justice Minister Yariv Levin from passing their controversial judicial overhaul program.

“Yariv Levin wanted a dictatorship within two months. So certainly protests help,” she says. “They saved Israel from dictatorship and they will help now. They will help save Israel from the destroyers within, from those who endanger the security of Israel, [from those] who sit in the government who endanger the existence of this nation.”

Netanyahu: Whole world is ganging up on us. It’s a combination of ignorance and antisemitism

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a press conference at his office in Jerusalem, March 31, 2024. (Screenshot, GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a press conference at his office in Jerusalem, March 31, 2024. (Screenshot, GPO)

In the final minutes of his press conference, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu returns to an earlier partial question put to him about why it is that the world is apparently siding against Israel.

“What has happened in the past few months was that the terrible massacre” of October 7 “was quickly forgotten,” he says, “and the whole world is ganging up on us. And there are people here and abroad who say maybe there’s something to this; maybe we’re really not ok.”

He says the criticism, including international and US criticism, focuses on the claim that Israel and the IDF are “not doing enough to minimize civilian casualties. That’s simply not so,” he insists. “And it’s not just me saying this.”

He cites world-renowned experts in urban war like David Petraeus and John Spencer who, he says, argue that “there is no army in the world that has done and does what the IDF has done to minimize the number of casualties and achieve achievements no other army has managed.”

Speaking more passionately than hitherto, he asks how it can be that “good people” in the world are teaming up against Israel, that there are major demonstrations in world capitals, and yet “not a word was said about the millions massacred or uprooted from their homes in the Syrian civil war, or in Yemen’s internal war and elsewhere? And on the much smaller number — every dead civilian, every such loss is, of course, a tragedy, but it can’t be compared; we are talking about very small numbers, compared to the massacre of millions… how can it be that the worst things are believed: genocide, those claims against the state of Israel?”

He says, “I once asked that question of my father, a world-renowned historian who dealt at length with antisemitism. I asked him, How can it have been that they believed, in ancient times, 500 years before Christianity, the worst against the Jews; in the Middle Ages, that we used the blood of Christian babies to bake matzah; and in the modern era, what the Nazi disseminated? How can it be that millions around the world believed this? It must be ignorance, I said.”

His father, says Netanyahu, answered: “Not only ignorance.”

“Ignorance can’t explain why a great French philosopher like Voltaire believed the antisemitic allegations,” Netanyahu recalls his father saying, “or a great Russian writer like Dostoevsky believed the antisemitic lies.”

“There is a virus that has accompanied us for millennia now,” says the prime minister, “a virus of antisemitism” that changes shape but abides. “The question is what do we do about it.”

Two things, he answers.

“First of all, we established a state to be able to physically fight against those who would kill us. And second, we also need by every means to rebuff these attacks — and if we don’t stand together to rebuff these attacks, then nobody else will for us.”

So, he concludes, “We have to unite in the physical defense, and in the moral defense against the accusers — and accuse them of the lies, the hypocrisy, the falsehood. That, I’d say, is our mission, the fight against antisemitism in our generation.”

Lapid: Netanyahu claims elections would paralyze Israel but it’s already paralyzed

Opposition Leader Yair Lapid slams Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for claiming that elections would paralyze the country, declaring that the country is already paralyzed because of his leadership.

Lapid’s comments come after Netanyahu declared that a general election would paralyze the country — “in the midst of the war, the moment before victory” — for up to eight months.

“Mr. Netanyahu, elections will not paralyze the country — it is paralyzed now,” Lapid says in a statement. “The war with Hamas is paralyzed, the hostage deal is paralyzed, the north is paralyzed and especially the government under your leadership is paralyzed and has failed.”

“The only thing that will please Sinwar and Deif is if your disastrous government of paralysis continues in office. For the fighters, for the hostages, for the conscription law, for saving the economy: we must have elections now,” he declares.

Speaking to reporters, Netanyahu contended that elections “would paralyze negotiations for freeing our hostages and would bring an end to the war before the goals are completely achieved.”

“And the first who would welcome this is Hamas, and that says everything,” he said.

Protest leader slams government for going ahead with Knesset recess: Every three days, a hostage dies

Protesters call for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resign at protest outside the Knesset in Jerusalem, March 31, 2024. (Moshe Schiff/Pro-Democracy Protest Movement)
Protesters call for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resign at protest outside the Knesset in Jerusalem, March 31, 2024. (Moshe Schiff/Pro-Democracy Protest Movement)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government does not represent the Israeli public, protest leader Moshe Radman states on the sidelines of a massive anti-government demonstration in Jerusalem, demanding the Knesset postpone its upcoming break.

“Everyone is here today. Brothers in Arms, Kaplan Force, everyone,” he says naming various protest movements.

“We’re here from now until Wednesday. First of all, we want elections because we think this government is not representing the public and second of all we think it is not a good time to take a recess when the hostages are still there,” he states.

Last week, the Knesset House Committee voted to approve a six-week break despite vociferous objections by parties in both the opposition and coalition. The recess is slated to run from April 7 to May 19.

“Every three days a hostage dies. They are leaving for 42 days. That means that 14 hostages will die,” Radman says, at the beginning of what is set to be a four-day protest event in Israel’s capital.

Protest leader Moshe Radman with Labor MK Na’ama Lazimi, March 31, 2024. (Sam Sokol/Times of Israel)

The organizers of the protest are calling for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government to resign, for Israel to hold early elections, and for the country’s leaders to agree to a hostage deal that will bring about the release of the 130 captives held in Gaza since October 7.

Protests will be centered around the Knesset but will also be held in other key locations, including close to Netanyahu’s Jerusalem residence.

Earlier on Sunday, the Haaretz daily reported that Radman told a small group of followers on social media that the goal of the Jerusalem rallies was to “create a big event that moves the needle” and pressure the government to schedule the next elections before Independence Day, set for May 13-14.

Asked if he thinks the demonstrations would change Netanyahu’s mind on any of the issues, Radman tells The Times of Israel that the prime minister “can’t listen because he’s in the middle of [ensuring] his [political] survival [and the preservation] of his leadership but I hope that the people in the coalition will hear us and will understand that the only way that Israel will recover from this disaster is by elections.”

IDF announces death of soldier killed in southern Gaza fighting, bringing ground op toll to 255

Sgt. First Class Sivan Weil (Israel Defense Forces)
Sgt. First Class Sivan Weil (Israel Defense Forces)

The IDF announces the death of a soldier who succumbed to wounds sustained during fighting against Hamas in the Khan Younis area of the southern Gaza Strip on Friday.

He is named as Sgt. First Class Sivan Weil, 20, of the Commando Brigade’s Egoz unit, from Ra’anana.

His death brings the toll of slain troops in the ground offensive against Hamas to 255.

In the Friday incident, a Hamas operative fired an RPG at a building near Nasser Hospital, used by Egoz troops as an encampment, leading to the death of Sgt. First Class Alon Kudriashov and the injury of 16 other Egoz troops.

Weil was among six seriously wounded troops in the incident, succumbing to his wounds earlier today.

Jerusalem protest organizers say 100,000 in attendance, making it largest rally since Oct. 7

Over 100,000 people are gathered in front of the Knesset for what Hebrew media reports is the largest protest in Jerusalem since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war.

Crowd size estimates come from protest organizers.

The event, accompanied by a plethora of smaller anti-government protests occurring simultaneously throughout the city, marks six months since the Hamas invasion of October 7.

Ynet reports that protesters plan to construct a “tent city” at the Knesset following the rally, continuing the protest throughout the coming week.

Labor’s Gilad Kariv: Israel has ‘woken up’ and is ready for a change in government

The Israeli public has “woken up” and wants a new prime minister, Labor MK Gilad Kariv tells The Times of Israel amid what appears to be the biggest protest in Jerusalem since the beginning of the war on October 7.

Speaking on the sidelines of a massive demonstration calling for new elections and the immediate return of the hostages, the liberal lawmaker asserts that “it is clear that in order to win and bring back the hostages we need a different leadership.”

“And today there is a very clear call that represents big parts in the Israeli public,” he says. “We need to go to elections. This is not a six-day war, it’s a six-month war and this is the time for elections, after we end and complete the next hostages deal.”

The public no longer has faith in Netanyahu, protesters say at anti-government rally

Tens of thousands attend an anti-government protest outside the Knesset in Jerusalem on March 31, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
Tens of thousands attend an anti-government protest outside the Knesset in Jerusalem on March 31, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

Attendees at the anti-government rally in Jerusalem express disbelief that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is still in power and that the country hasn’t held elections yet, six months after the October 7 Hamas terror onslaught.

“It is beyond belief that this country, which was so successful…is being led down [this] path by one man and his henchmen,” says a rally participant, referring to Netanyahu.

“We need elections,” another participant says. “The government doesn’t have the public’s faith. And [now] they want to pass a law allowing one in five people to avoid army service,” he adds, referring to the government’s recent controversies regarding ultra-Orthodox exemption from mandatory IDF enlistment.

The political battle over enlistment has thrown Netanyahu’s coalition into disarray, with National Unity’s Benny Gantz threatening to bolt if the Knesset passes a bill allowing blanket exemptions to remain — even if it does satisfy the court — while the Haredim have said they will quit if the government fails to pass legislation to prevent the draft.

Netanyahu: We need English-language spokespeople to fight lies of ‘global flood of a billion Muslims’

Asked about former international media spokesman Eylon Levy, who was suspended by the Public Diplomacy Directorate in the Prime Minister’s Office and who formally stepped down today, Netanyahu says he didn’t deal with Levy’s suspension.

Netanyahu, as he did when his comments to ministers about the lack of qualified English-language spokespeople came out last week, stresses that the public diplomacy staff is doing good work.

“I meant one thing,” Netanyahu explains. “Against the global flood of a billion Muslims, many of whom are active on social networks, we’re missing forces. It’s the truth, we are few against the many.”

Ben Gvir slams Brothers in Arms for ‘stirring up fratricidal war’ and dividing Israeli society

Brothers in Arms members scuffle with police and ultra-Orthodox Jews in the ultra orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Mea Shearim in Jerusalem calling for equal conscription laws to be implemented. March 31, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)
Brothers in Arms members scuffle with police and ultra-Orthodox Jews in the ultra orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Mea Shearim in Jerusalem calling for equal conscription laws to be implemented. March 31, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir condemns the Brothers in Arms movement as a “provocation organization” that is “engaged time and time again in stirring up fratricidal war and the division of Israeli society.”

The far-right minister’s statement comes after dozens of members of the protest group staged a demonstration inside Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox Mea Shearim neighborhood, calling for Haredim to be drafted to the IDF.

Police were deployed to keep the protesters and local ultra-Orthodox residents apart as water and eggs were thrown from nearby buildings.

“Those who led a campaign of refusal before 7/10, and now continue the tradition of provocation and hatred, are the last to pretend to care about Israel’s security,” Ben Gvir declares.

Netanyahu pledges to restore safety to the north, allow for return of evacuated citizens

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he will create a commission with municipal leaders in the north to take care of the needs of the 60-70,000 evacuated citizens, and the return to their homes.

“We will not leave the situation as it is,” he pledges.

“I am committed to bringing them back,” Netanyahu insists, adding that that includes both security and civil needs.

He repeats that he prefers to find a solution to the threat from Hezbollah through diplomatic means, but if that fails, through “other means.”

 

PM on cancellation of Washington delegation: We value dialogue with US but needed to send message

Asked about the decision to delay the delegation to Washington after last week’s Security Council vote, Netanyahu says he told the Americans the night before the vote that he would keep top aides Tzachi Hanegbi and Ron Dermer home if the administration withheld its veto and the resolution went through.

He repeats that there had been no previous UN Security Council resolution that did not condition a pause in the fighting on the release of hostages.

“I told them, ‘Don’t do it. It will send an extremely grave message to Hamas: They don’t have to release a single hostage, and they can get a ceasefire.”

“We are still and always interested in hearing from our American friends, even when we have disagreements with them. They have things to say on the humanitarian issue and on the evacuation of the population. We hear it, we will hear it in the future.

“We will find the way to dialogue on this issue. But I thought it was important to send the message on that very day to the entire international community, and also to Hamas. And that was an important message that I stand behind.”

He is asked about this month’s state inquiry report into the Meron disaster, which said he bore personal responsibility, and says Israel had “learned the lessons even before the report.”

He promises to deal with the operational conclusions. As for the issue of his own personal responsibility, he says, “Israel is a democratic state and the citizens of Israel will decide on this.”

PM says war took attention away from solving Haredi draft issue but believes there is a solution

On the issue of Haredi enlistment, Netanyahu says that his government had given itself nine months to solve the problem, but the October 7 attacks took up six months of attention.

He says a lot of work has been done, and he is happy that the Supreme Court gave another 30 days to find a solution. He praises the “real desire” on the part of Haredim to find a compromise.

“I think the problem can be solved,” Netanyahu says.

“We need to advance the equality [of sharing the burden],” he says. “It can be done in a positive spirit and with widespread agreement.”

Protesters boo Yair Netanyahu for staying put in Miami rather than returning to Israel amid war

Protesters boo Yair Netanyahu for staying in Miami rather than returning to Israel. Blowing horns and screaming, they express anger that the outspoken son of the prime minister remains abroad despite being nearly half a year into the war against Hamas.

The younger Netanyahu left Israel in the aftermath of massive protests on March 26, 2023, when hundreds of thousands took to the streets around the country in anger over his father’s decision to oust Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who had called on the government to pause its planned judicial overhaul, saying it threatened national security.

Last month, Channel 12 reported that Yair enjoys a security detail there to which he does not appear to be entitled.

Securing Yair Netanyahu’s stay in an extravagant apartment complex in Miami, Florida, with a chauffeur and a pair of bodyguards from the Shin Bet’s elite Unit 730, costs the state an estimated NIS 200,000 ($55,000) a month, according to the report, for a total of NIS 2.5 million ($680,000) to date.

The younger Netanyahu has long been an outspoken social media critic of his father’s political opponents.

Yesh Atid’s Moshe Tur-Paz: We’ll do everything in our power to free the hostages before Passover

Yesh Atid MKs Meir Cohen, Vladimir Beliak and Moshe Tur-Paz attend an anti-government protest in Jerusalem, March 31, 2024. (Sam Sokol/Times of Israel)
Yesh Atid MKs Meir Cohen, Vladimir Beliak and Moshe Tur-Paz attend an anti-government protest in Jerusalem, March 31, 2024. (Sam Sokol/Times of Israel)

The Israeli people demand the immediate return of the hostages from Gaza, Yesh Atid MK Moshe Tur-Paz tells The Times of Israel, as he stands amidst a crowd of thousands of protesters outside the Knesset in Jerusalem.

“We came to this demonstration to bring the voice of the people that are demanding the hostages back now. We need every hostage to come home now and we’re determined to do that before Passover,” the lawmaker declares.

“We want to celebrate Passover with all of them at home with us. We will do everything in our power to do that, I myself as an MK, and all the demonstrators here. We want our people home.”

Netanyahu claims US pressure isn’t the reason for delayed Rafah operation

Asked about the delay in a Rafah operation, Netanyahu says the impending incursion is not delayed because of Ramadan, US pressure, or “any hesitancy.”

The Rafah operation “requires certain preparations,” he explains. He says the IDF’s operational plans have been approved, and “we’re preparing for the evacuation and humanitarian aid” aspects. “It won’t take a lot of time. Nothing will stop us; not US or other pressure.”

Destroying Hamas’s battalions in Rafah “is essential to victory,” he says, and without victory, Israel faces “an existential threat.”

Netanyahu says he told US President Joe Biden that he appreciates US support, “but I did not appreciate the decision in the Security Council. I thought it was a deplorable decision.” The problem was that the resolution severed the conditioning between a temporary ceasefire and the release of hostages, he elaborates. “That’s why I thought I had to send a clear message on this issue.”

“If we have to, we will fight with our fingernails,” Netanyahu says he told Biden.

IDF says it struck additional Hezbollah targets in south Lebanon

The IDF says it struck additional Hezbollah sites in southern Lebanon in the past few hours.

The targets include buildings in Mays al-Jabal and Blida where Hezbollah operatives were gathered, rocket launching positions in Markaba and an observation post in Kafr Kila, the IDF says.

Several rockets were fired by Hezbollah at the Mount Dov and Arab al-Arabshe areas, with the IDF saying the Iron Dome intercepted some of the projectiles.

PM decries ‘lies’ about his health, says he’ll be back in action soon after tonight’s hernia procedure

Netanyahu is now taking questions.

Responding to the first question, about his health and whether he would release his entire medical report, Netanyahu says the report is “available, known.”

He decries “lies” about the health of him and his wife, including the allegation that she spent a week in a sanitorium in Vienna when in fact she had an appendix operation..

“I promise you, I will get through this treatment successfully,” he says, ahead of surgery on a hernia later tonight. “I will return to action very quickly.”

Asked about the hostage talks, he says, “I’m not interested in appearing to try hard … but in succeeding” to achieve their return.

“Not every demand Hamas makes — some of which are delusional and very dangerous — has to be accepted,” he says.

At anti-government protest, Lapid says all Netanyahu cares about is staying in office

Protesters gather outside the Knesset in Jerusalem at the start of a four-day protest event against the government and in support of a hostage deal, March 31, 2024. (Sam Sokol/Times of Israel)
Protesters gather outside the Knesset in Jerusalem at the start of a four-day protest event against the government and in support of a hostage deal, March 31, 2024. (Sam Sokol/Times of Israel)

All that matters to Benjamin Netanyahu is to stay in office, Opposition Leader Yair Lapid tells demonstrators outside the Knesset, accusing the prime minister of focusing more on keeping his coalition partners happy than helping citizens impacted by the war.

“The lights have been on in his office for a week” as Netanyahu works “to make sure that the ultra-Orthodox can continue to evade conscription despite the war. The IDF is begging for more soldiers. They don’t care,” he says.

“If a hundredth, a thousandth, a fraction of this organizational efficiency had been devoted to the hostages, or the evacuees, or the management of the war, or the economy, our situation would be completely different [but] there is only one thing that is important to Netanyahu — to stay in office,” he continues.

“Let the state burn, the main thing is the office,” Lapid declares. “That’s all that matters to him, to remain in office. He destroys the relations with the Americans, destroys the security system, abandons the hostages and helps the evaders to continue to evade. Everything is for politics, nothing for the country.”

“This week they are taking the Knesset into recess in the middle of the war,” he adds. “The reservists don’t get a break. The hostages don’t get a break. It doesn’t interest them. Everyone who sits in this government today, the responsibility is on them. Every minister who doesn’t resign, every Knesset member who doesn’t vote against the government, who doesn’t help us send them home, it’s on them. This stain will stick to them for the rest of their life.”

“We can’t live like this. We can’t go on like this. We don’t have to either. We can live differently. We can continue otherwise. As long as we are a democracy, there is a tool that changes reality. It is called: elections. Election now,” he declares.

“Elections now! Elections now,” the crowd screams in response.

Netanyahu: Hamas would be the first to celebrate if we held elections now

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a press conference at his office in Jerusalem, March 31, 2024. (Screenshot, GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a press conference at his office in Jerusalem, March 31, 2024. (Screenshot, GPO)

Netanyahu turns to calls for a general election, saying it would paralyze the country — “in the midst of the war, the moment before victory” — for up to eight months.

“It would paralyze negotiations for freeing our hostages and would bring an end to the war before the goals are completely achieved,” he says. “And the first who  would welcome this is Hamas, and that says everything.”

He finishes his prepared statement with a pledge to bring all hostages home, “men and women, civilians and soldiers, the living and the casualties.”

“I won’t leave anybody behind,” he vows.

Lapid slams government decision not to cancel Knesset recess in light of war

The fact that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition has refused to cancel the upcoming Knesset recess has confounded Israelis, Opposition Leader Yair Lapid tells The Times of Israel, as thousands of demonstrators gather outside the Knesset to call for new elections.

“I’m a politician but this is not a political demonstration. These are just worried Israelis who do not understand how come this building over there is going on recess during such a hectic time when there is no recess for the hostages,” he says, waving his arm toward the nearby parliament building.

“We have no recess for the people who are fighting in Gaza. Why should the Knesset go on vacation at times like this? So the whole thing together is to try to influence the government and the Knesset to behave like human beings in times like these,” he says.

Brought from all over the country by a coalition of anti-government protest movements, including Kaplan Force and Brothers in Arms, the demonstrators are calling for Netanyahu and his government to resign, for Israel to hold early elections, and for the country’s leaders to agree to a hostage deal that will bring about the release of the 130 captives held in Gaza since October 7.

PM says Israel is showing flexibility in hostage talks but Hamas demands would harm country’s security

Netanyahu says that Israel is showing flexibility in the talks, while Hamas is hardening its position. For example, Hamas, says the prime minister, is demanding the unchecked return of Gazans to the northern Strip, “including Hamas terrorists.”

He says that Hamas’s demands would have security implications, but that he cannot go into them publicly.

“If we give in to another demand every two days, this will bring about a deal?” Netanyahu asks rhetorically. “This is the opposite of the truth.”

He says this approach would only make it harder to get the hostages home.

Netanyahu: Those claiming I’m not doing everything to bring hostages home are causing their families pain

Turning to the hostages held in Gaza, Netanyahu says that “it is hard to imagine the torment of the families who are worried about the fate of their loved ones.”

“Their loved ones are our loved ones,” insists Netanyahu.

He refers to the testimony freed hostages have given about the sexual violence they suffered at the hands of Hamas, and blasts silence from the world, including from women’s organizations and from the mother of the Emir of Qatar, to whom Sara Netanyahu sent a letter asking her to secure the release of the hostages. The testimony of those such as released hostage Amit Soussana “makes the blood boil,” and the world silence “screams out to the heavens,” he says.

As protests by the hostage families and their supporters grow in Jerusalem, Netanyahu says he “understands the despair and the desire to do everything to get back [the hostages]. And I am a full partner to that desire.”

“As Israel’s prime minister, I am doing everything, and will do everything to bring our loved ones home,” he says.

Efforts to bring them back are ongoing, Netanyahu continues. “Every time we get precise intelligence and operational conditions allow it, I approve rescue operations.”

Netanyahu says the main effort is a combination of “military pressure and determined negotiations.”

He says he is balancing a firm position against Hamas and flexibility in talks.

Netanyahu argues that anyone who claims he and the rest of the leadership is not doing everything to bring the hostages home “is mistaken and is causing others to be mistaken.”

Those who “know the truth and still repeat this lie cause unnecessary agony for the families of the hostages,” he insists.

Netanyahu: IDF is ready to operate in Rafah, evacuate civilian population

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a press conference at his office in Jerusalem, March 31, 2024. (Screenshot, GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a press conference at his office in Jerusalem, March 31, 2024. (Screenshot, GPO)

Speaking at a press conference in his Jerusalem office, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the IDF is ready to operate in Rafah, to evacuate the civilian population and to distribute humanitarian aid.

“It’s the right thing to do operationally and internationally,” he says.

“It takes time, but it will be done,” Netanyahu adds, pledging that the Hamas battalions in the city will be eliminated. “There is no victory without it,” he says.

He praises the IDF’s ongoing operation against Hamas in Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital. “This is not what a hospital looks like anywhere in the world,” he says. “This is what a house of terrorism looks like.”

Attorney General tells defense, education ministries to begin working to draft Haredim from tomorrow

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)

Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara sends a letter to the legal advisers for the Defense Ministry and Education Ministry stating that the defense establishment will have to start working to draft ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students into military service starting April 1, and that it will need to tell the High Court of Justice by the end of the month what steps it is taking to do so.

“Beginning April 1, 2024, there will be no source of authority for a blanket exemption from military conscription for yeshiva students, and the defense establishment must act to draft them into military service in accordance with the law,” writes Baharav-Miara, in a letter first published by Channel 13 news.

She adds that the state must present the court with a “supplementary declaration” by April 30 as to how it is fulfilling that obligation.

The letter comes as a cabinet resolution from June 2023 ordering the military not to enforce conscription on young Haredi men is set to expire at midnight tonight, after the law granting Haredi yeshiva students unlimited annual conscription deferrals expired that month.

It also comes following an interim order issued by the High Court on Thursday freezing the state financial support provided to ultra-Orthodox yeshivas for students who receive annual deferrals from military service after the cabinet resolution expires.

Baharav-Miara also writes in her letter that the Education Ministry may not circumvent this High Court order by increasing the amount of money it pays to yeshivas per yeshiva student. Since some yeshiva students still have a valid military service deferral from before June 2023, it was theoretically possible to bypass the court order by paying more money for each student with a valid deferral, thereby maintaining the previous income level of a given yeshiva.

“The Education Ministry will refrain from any step which would circumvent the interim order… whether by increasing the budget and the ‘points value’ of the support criteria, or through other funding channels, or any other way,” the attorney general writes.

Protesters in Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox Mea Shearim neighborhood call for equal conscription laws

Protesters from the Brothers and Sisters in Arms movement blocked by the police in the ultra-Orthodox Mea Shearim neighborhood of Jerusalem, March 31, 2024. (@barakdor / Pro-Democracy Protest Movement)
Protesters from the Brothers and Sisters in Arms movement blocked by the police in the ultra-Orthodox Mea Shearim neighborhood of Jerusalem, March 31, 2024. (@barakdor / Pro-Democracy Protest Movement)

Dozens of protesters from the Brothers in Arms movement stage a demonstration inside Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox Mea Shearim neighborhood, calling for Haredim to be drafted to the IDF.

“I believe, I believe, I believe in enlisting in the military!” the protesters sing to the tune of a popular Jewish song as air horns blare.

An ultra-Orthodox man in Jerusalem’s Mea Shearim neighborhood argues with a protester from the Brothers and Sisters in Arms movement, which is calling for equal military service for all, March 31, 2024 (Yair Palti / Pro-Democracy Protest movement)

Police are deployed to keep the protesters and local ultra-Orthodox residents apart.

Channel 12 says water and eggs have been thrown at the protesters from nearby buildings.

Police are seen pushing some of the protesters, as increasing numbers of locals come out onto the streets.

WATCH: IDF says it eliminated top Hezbollah operative in targeted drone strike

The IDF says it eliminated a top operative in Hezbollah’s elite Radwan force in a drone strike a short while ago in southern Lebanon’s Kounine.

Ismail Ali al-Zin, according to the IDF, was a senior commander in Radwan’s anti-tank missile unit.

The IDF describes al-Zin as a “significant source of knowledge regarding anti-tank missiles and was responsible for dozens of anti-tank missile attacks against Israeli civilians, communities and security forces.”

The IDF releases footage of the strike on al-Zin’s vehicle.

 

Lapid: I’ve never been more worried for Israel

Opposition Leader Yair Lapid attends a meeting of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on February 26, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Opposition Leader Yair Lapid attends a meeting of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on February 26, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Asked how worried he is about the situation in Israel at present, Opposition Leader Yair Lapid says “I’ve never been more worried in my life.”

The families of hostages are protesting, and the response of the government “is to attack them,” he protests, in a Channel 12 interview.

He says today’s demonstrations, which he will shortly address, underline that while going to elections in mid-war “is not ideal,” it is necessary “because this government won’t fix the budget, won’t fix the [Haredi] draft and, especially, won’t bring home the hostages. And you know what? It also won’t win the war because we won’t have the world with us and won’t have the people of Israel [fully united].”

“This is an existential moment” for Israel, he says. “The people who were supposed to keep our children safe failed to do so… The soul of the state is bleeding.”

Faith in the leadership has to be restored, and so too the sense that the leadership is committed to protecting the people,” he says.

Protesters begin to assemble in Jerusalem for four-day demonstration against government

Protesters gather in Jerusalem ahead of an evening demonstration that will kick off a four-day protest event in Israel’s capital.

The organizers of the protest are calling for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government to resign, for Israel to hold early elections, and for the country’s leaders to agree to a hostage deal that will bring about the release of the 130 captives held in Gaza since October 7.

Protests will be centered around the Knesset but will also be held in other key locations, including close to Netanyahu’s Jerusalem residence.

In videos shared on social media, protesters are seen exiting the Yitzhak Navon train station waving Israeli flags and sounding air horns.

High Court issues stay until April 10 for plan to end health care for Ukrainian refugees

Today’s deadline set by the government to end health care coverage for Ukrainian refugees is passing thanks to a stay issued by the Supreme Court.

Following two appeals to the Supreme Court in 2023 demanding the continuation of coverage for the approximately 10,000 Ukrainians who fled here after the Russian invasion of their country in February 2022, the state agreed to extend funding until today’s date.

A third appeal has been submitted to the Supreme Court by Physicians for Human Rights Israel, Assaf – Aid Organization for Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Israel, Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, HIAS and several other human rights organizations.

Prof. Nadav Davidovitch, director of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev’s School of Public Health, Prof. Hagai Levine, chairman of Israel’s Association of Public Health Physicians and two patients are also parties to the appeal.

The appellants claim that new proposed regulations and promises by the Health Ministry for health coverage for refugees and asylum seekers will not provide coverage for Ukrainians who are not children or over 65.

The Court has given the government until April 10 to respond. In the meantime, it must continue to provide all required medical care for the refugees, including scheduled surgeries and procedures.

Jordanian protest group calls for more demonstrations against Gaza war, peace treaty with Israel

Jordanians chant slogans during a demonstration near the Israeli embassy in Amman on March 28, 2024, in support of Palestinians amid ongoing war between Israel and the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip. (Khalil Mazraawi/AFP)
Jordanians chant slogans during a demonstration near the Israeli embassy in Amman on March 28, 2024, in support of Palestinians amid ongoing war between Israel and the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip. (Khalil Mazraawi/AFP)

Activists in Jordan call for further protests after days of demonstrations that have brought thousands onto the streets against the war in Gaza and the country’s peace treaty with Israel.

Jordan, where nearly half the population is of Palestinian origin, has seen regular rallies in Amman and elsewhere in solidarity with Gaza since the October 7 Hamas terror onslaught and subsequent war in Gaza.

Recent protests have seen rare clashes between demonstrators and security forces in the capital and in Jordan’s largest Palestinian refugee camp.

The group Jordanian Youth Gathering urges people to return later Sunday to the Israeli embassy in Amman “to support the resistance in Gaza and demand the cancellation of the Jordanian-Israeli peace treaty and cut all ties with Israel.”

In 1994, Jordan became the second Arab country, after Egypt in 1979, to sign a peace treaty with Israel.

“No to a Zionist embassy on Jordanian territory,” read one banner at Saturday’s embassy protest, where people have gathered every evening since the holy Muslim month of Ramadan began more than two weeks ago.

Security forces say they have arrested a number of protesters 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of Amman at the Beqaa refugee camp.

Public security spokesman Amer Al-Sartaawi says in a statement that a “number of rioters” were arrested after “acts of rioting and vandalism, setting fires, and hurling stones at vehicles on the public road.”

A second statement says women were among an unspecified number of people arrested at a protest the previous night near the Israeli embassy who had also caused disturbances and “attempted to assault” security forces.

Netanyahu to hold press conference in Jerusalem this evening ahead of hernia surgery

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will hold a press conference in his office in Jerusalem tonight. This will be his first press conference in over a month.

He is scheduled to have surgery on a hernia shortly afterward.

Gallant: Captured Hamas operatives told interrogators that group is ‘collapsing from within’

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant meets with troops at an army base, March 31, 2024. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant meets with troops at an army base, March 31, 2024. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant says senior Hamas operatives captured by troops in the Gaza Strip have told interrogators that “the group is collapsing from within.”

“In the last week or two, hundreds of terrorists have been captured and what they say about what happened to them tells the whole story. They say that Hamas is collapsing from within. The prices they pay are very heavy,” Gallant says following an assessment at the 98th Division’s headquarters.

He says the arrest of the senior Hamas officials is leading the IDF to “eliminate everyone who was involved in the events of October 7, the junior [officials], the senior ones. and the very senior ones, who were inside [Israel] or who gave instructions.”

He says the IDF will continue fighting until it reaches all of the terrorists in the Gaza Strip.

“In the last few days, we have also seen very great progress, both in the terrorists in the field, and with more senior commanders, even very senior ones,” Gallant adds, referring to the IDF’s operations at Shifa Hospital, where more than 500 members of terror groups have been captured and some 200 have been killed, including several senior commanders.

Christians in Gaza celebrate grim Easter as war rages across the Palestinian enclave

A priest leads the Easter Sunday Mass at the Palestinian Catholic Holy Family Church in Gaza City, on March 31, 2024. (AFP)
A priest leads the Easter Sunday Mass at the Palestinian Catholic Holy Family Church in Gaza City, on March 31, 2024. (AFP)

Christians celebrate a grim Easter in Gaza and Jerusalem, with the tiny Catholic community in the war-torn Palestinian enclave holding their vigil service as fighting rages on outside.

Around 100 people gathered by candlelight on Saturday night at the Holy Family Church in Gaza City in the north of the Strip to mark the resurrection, when Christians believe Christ rose from the dead.

The church is a short drive from Al-Shifa hospital where heavy combat has been raging for two weeks between Israeli troops and Hamas fighters.

The atmosphere in Jerusalem was equally heavy, with few people at the sacred sites that are usually crowded at Easter.

Even the main Catholic Easter Sunday service at the Holy Sepulchre Church — built on what is said to be the tomb of Jesus — was not full.

Sister Angelica, an Italian nun from Perugia, says she is heartbroken to see so few people at the ancient church, regarded as Christianity’s holiest shrine.

“We were so few. It breaks my heart. But we are like the first Christians, they were few too.”

She says pilgrims were staying away because of the “suffering and death (in Gaza).”

Comedian Ramy Youssef calls to free ‘the people of Palestine and the hostages’ in ‘SNL’ monologue

US comedian Ramy Youssef delivers a monologue on 'Saturday Night Live,' March 30, 2024. (Screenshot: YouTube, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
US comedian Ramy Youssef delivers a monologue on 'Saturday Night Live,' March 30, 2024. (Screenshot: YouTube, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

American comedian Ramy Youssef says he is praying for God to “free the people of Palestine” and “free the hostages” during a monologue on US sketch-comedy show “Saturday Night Live.”

Youssef, who is a practicing Muslim, recounts being asked recently by his friend to pray for his family in Gaza.

“That night I go to pray and my prayers are… complicated, I’ve got a lot to fit in,” he says as part of a longer joke about his irreligious friends asking him to pray for them despite not believing in doing so themselves.

“I’m like ‘God, please, please help Ahmed’s family, please stop the suffering, stop the violence. Please free the people of Palestine, please,” he says to cheers and applause.

“And please free the hostages, all the hostages, please,” he adds, again to renewed applause.

Youssef has called repeatedly for a ceasefire in the war between Israel and Hamas and wore an Artists for Ceasefire pin at the Oscars award show earlier in March.

At the time, he told Variety magazine that the call for an “immediate, permanent ceasefire” was a “universal message of, ‘let’s stop killing kids, let’s not be part of more war.”

Youssef worked in Israel alongside Israeli actors when filming the third season of his show “Ramy” in 2022.

Netanyahu feeling fine, continuing work as normal ahead of surgery, official says

Prime Minister Benjamin’s Netanyahu hernia operation will take place tonight at 9 p.m. at Hadassah University Hospital — Ein Kerem, an official in the Prime Minister’s Office tells The Times of Israel.

Netanyahu feels fine and is keeping to his planned schedule, including the war cabinet meeting, before the operation, says the official.

WATCH: Police share footage of Beersheba terrorist’s route to bus station ahead of attack

Police release footage showing the route taken by the terrorist who carried out this morning’s attack at the Beersheba central bus station, as well as the stabbing itself.

The series of clips from surveillance cameras show Naji Abu Freh, 28, setting out from his home in Rahat, getting on a bus to Beersheba, where he scouts for a victim.

The footage shows Abu Freh attacking an off-duty IDF officer, injuring him in the arm, before being fatally shot by another soldier.

Lebanese media reports alleged Israeli strike on vehicle in south Lebanon

Lebanese media outlets report an alleged Israeli strike on a vehicle in the southern Lebanon town of Kounine.

No further details are immediately available.

 

PM Netanyahu and wife meet with families of captive female IDF soldiers

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara begin their meeting with the families of female soldiers held by Hamas in Gaza.

The discussion is taking place in the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem.

Later today, a team of Mossad, Shin Bet, and IDF representatives will participate in talks on a potential hostage release deal in Cairo. The war cabinet will also meet tonight to discuss the talks.

English-language spokesman Eylon Levy, suspended by Prime Minister’s Office, formally steps down

File: Israeli government spokesman Eylon Levy makes the most of an off-camera moment, November 2023. (Avner Hofstein/Times of Israel)
File: Israeli government spokesman Eylon Levy makes the most of an off-camera moment, November 2023. (Avner Hofstein/Times of Israel)

Eylon Levy, the resonant English-language spokesman at the Prime Minister’s Office who was suspended three weeks ago, has formally stepped down from the role.

Levy, who was suspended until further notice after the British Foreign Office complained about a tweet in which he responded to remarks by Foreign Secretary David Cameron concerning aid to Gaza, has changed his bio on X to “Former Israeli Government Spokesman” and tweeted: “You don’t need to be a spokesperson to speak up for Israel.” In a Hebrew tweet, he writes that he and his public diplomacy team are embarking on “an independent path.”

In an interview with The Times of Israel published earlier today, Levy, 32, said he found it “difficult to believe” that his suspension was “really about the tweet to David Cameron because I tweeted government policy and facts.”

Levy, a former adviser to President Isaac Herzog, also said: “I definitely think that one of the lessons that will have to be learned for the next war — please God, there won’t be a next war — is improving our response to crisis communications.”

Asked in the interview about reports that Sara Netanyahu had sought his ouster because last year he was among the hundreds of thousands of people who demonstrated against the judicial overhaul, Levy told The Times of Israel: “The closest I’ve ever come to the prime minister’s wife was on ‘Eretz Nehederet’. I’ve never met her. I’ve never spoken to her. When I saw that report on Channel 12 [in late January claiming she wanted me fired], no one at the Prime Minister’s Office had ever mentioned anything about that. Before or after.”

He also said he had never met the prime minister.

“Sara Netanyahu” and “Eylon Levy” on Eretz Nehederet. (Channel 12 screenshot; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

When doing public diplomacy on behalf of Israel, Levy said in the interview, “The information architecture is completely stacked against us.”

“This really is a fight for the future of our country and the future of our people and what the world is going to look like for the Jewish people when Hamas and its propagandists at the United Nations have managed to convince so many people that Israel is guilty of genocide,” he said. “It’s been the wet dream of every anti-Semite since 1945 to haul the Jews up in the dock for the crimes of the Nazis. Now they’re doing it. We have to push back. We just don’t have the luxury to say, Um-Shmum, it will pass, things will revert to normal.

Related: The stunning rise, curious suspension and insistent return of Israel’s star spokesman

“And that’s why I’m saying three weeks after this suspension till further notice, when no further notice has come, I think I’ve been doing a decent job making the case for Israel. I’m needed in the trenches. I want to continue giving interviews and speaking and influencing. If it’s not going to be as an official government spokesman, it’ll be as a former government spokesman.”

Netanyahu to undergo surgery for hernia discovered during routine checkup

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 Netanyahu will undergo surgery for a hernia tonight after the meeting of the war cabinet, his office announces.

Netanyahu will be under full anesthesia during the operation.

The hernia was discovered during a routine checkup last night.

Justice Minister Yariv Levin, who is also deputy prime minister, will fill Netanyahu’s role temporarily.

London police officer tells woman that swastika placard at pro-Palestinian protest should be ‘taken in context’

A London Metropolitan Police officer told a Jewish woman that a swastika is only antisemitic depending on the “context” it is used in after she complained about a placard being displayed during a pro-Palestinian march in London yesterday.

In video footage shared online, the woman asks two police officers: “If someone is carrying a sign with a swastika, you said you wouldn’t arrest them on the spot? They’d have to be investigated online?”

In response, the officer standing further back interjects, saying, “A swastika on its own, I don’t think it’s…” to which the woman filming the interaction says “Yes, it is.”

The first officer then tells the woman that she should “go away and have a look at” the Public Order Act legislation, as “it’s all about it it’s something likely to cause vast alarm and distress,” apparently suggesting that a swastika placard may not fit the legal definition of disturbing the public order.

Asked why he believes that displaying a swastika at a pro-Palestinian march could be deemed anything other than antisemitic, the officer says, “Everything needs to be taken in context, doesn’t it?”

Pushed again to explain a context in which the swastika can be displayed in a way that isn’t antisemitic, the officer tells the woman that he doesn’t have “an in-depth knowledge of signs and symbols.”

He does admit, however, that he knows “the swastika was used by the Nazi party during their inception and the period of them being in power in Germany in 1934.”

In response to the video of the interaction, the Metropolitan Police says on X, formerly Twitter, that the clip is “a short excerpt of what was a 10-minute conversation with an officer.”

“During the full conversation, the officer establishes that the person the woman was concerned about had already been arrested for a public order offense in relation to the placard.”

The police statement does not address the officer’s claims that displaying a swastika is only antisemitic in certain context-specific situations.

Israeli delegation at Cairo hostage talks to gauge if Mossad, Shin Bet chiefs should participate

The mid-level delegation taking part in indirect truce talks between Israel and Hamas is in Egypt today to gauge whether there is any point in having Mossad chief David Barnea and Shin Bet head Ronen Bar participate in negotiations in the coming days, an Israeli official tells The Times of Israel.

Israel is disappointed with Qatari mediation of late, says the official. “They are not putting enough pressure on Hamas,” argues the official as talks take place in Egypt, a country with which Israel shares deep, long-standing security ties.

The el-Sissi regime in Cairo also sees Hamas and its parent movement the Muslim Brotherhood as a mortal enemy, whereas Qatar aligns itself with such Islamist movements across the region.

Israel is willing to show some flexibility on prisoner releases, says the official, but is not willing to let masses of Gazans move back to the northern part of the Strip as Hamas demands.

“We will not let Hamas re-establish itself in the north,” says the official.

IDF says it hit Islamic Jihad command center in Gaza hospital courtyard; medical center undamaged

The IDF says it struck a Palestinian Islamic Jihad command center located in the courtyard of al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in central Gaza’s Deir al-Balah.

According to the IDF, Islamic Jihad operatives were in the command room when it was hit.

The IDF says that after a “lengthy procedure,” the command center was struck “in a precise manner to reduce the harm to the uninvolved [civilians] in the area of ​​the hospital.”

The hospital itself was not damaged in the strike, the IDF says.

Video footage from the scene appeared to show a number of wounded individuals.

“The presence of the command room and the terrorists who operated in the hospital yard are further proof of the systematic use of humanitarian and medical infrastructure by the terror organizations in the Gaza Strip as a cover for terrorist activities,” the IDF adds in a statement.

IDF: Drone launched by Hezbollah from Lebanon hit open area in Mount Dov

A drone launched by the Hezbollah terror group from Lebanon struck an open area in Mount Dov a short while ago, the IDF says.

According to the IDF, no damage or injuries were caused in the attack.

After spot check, Health Ministry orders closure of Tel Aviv fertility clinic facing criminal probe

The Health Ministry orders today the immediate closure of the L.B. IVF clinic in Tel Aviv following an unannounced check by officials as part of an ongoing criminal investigation and legal proceedings for alleged fraud by medical staff.

The spot check was conducted after additional complaints were lodged against the clinic and the check uncovered serious problems posing an immediate danger to public health.

Allegations that an owner of the clinic knowingly imported from Georgia embryos affected by the serious genetic disease hemophilia were reported in mid-March. Some of the embryos had already been implanted in patients, with one woman giving birth to a baby with hemophilia and another suffering a stillbirth at 20 weeks of pregnancy.

The unannounced check revealed severe misconduct indicating that the clinic was operating in contravention of Israeli laws regarding assisted reproduction.

After initially withholding the identity of the owner of the L.B. IVF clinic accused of fraud, the Tel Aviv District Court named him on March 22 as Prof. David Bider.

IDF: Soldier lightly wounded in this morning’s rocket strike near Kiryat Shmona

The IDF says a soldier was lightly wounded in a rocket strike in the Kiryat Shmona area earlier today, amid attacks from Lebanon.

The soldier was taken to hospital for treatment.

Hezbollah fired additional projectiles at the Margaliot and Malkia areas, the IDF says.

In response, fighter jets struck Hezbollah sites in Khiam and Rab El Thalathine, and troops shelled areas near Houla with artillery to “remove threats,” the IDF says.

The IDF says that last night, another Hezbollah building in Jebbayn was struck.

Hamas-run health ministry says Gaza death toll nearing 33,000

Palestinian women and children walk near a building destroyed in an Israeli strike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on March 31, 2024 (MOHAMMED ABED / AFP)
Palestinian women and children walk near a building destroyed in an Israeli strike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on March 31, 2024 (MOHAMMED ABED / AFP)

At least 32,782 Palestinians have been killed and 75,298 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.

Sirens in northern border towns warn of suspected drone infiltration

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

In Easter message, pope calls for hostages to be released and immediate Gaza ceasefire

Pope Francis presides over the Easter Mass as part of the Holy Week celebrations, at St Peter's square in the Vatican on March 31, 2024. (Tiziana FABI / AFP)
Pope Francis presides over the Easter Mass as part of the Holy Week celebrations, at St Peter's square in the Vatican on March 31, 2024. (Tiziana FABI / AFP)

Pope Francis renews his calls for the release of hostages held in Gaza and an immediate ceasefire, as fresh truce negotiations between Israel and Hamas were due to begin in Cairo.

“I appeal once again that access to humanitarian aid be ensured to Gaza, and call once more for the prompt release of the hostages seized on October 7 and for an immediate ceasefire in the Strip,” the Pope says in his Easter message in the Vatican.

Rocket sirens sound in Malkia

Sirens sound in Malkia, close to the Lebanon border, warning of incoming rocket fire.

The towns closest to the border have been largely evacuated of civilians since October 8, when Hezbollah began launching rockets, missiles and drones at communities and military posts in the north.

Hezbollah claims responsibility for rocket fire toward Kiryat Shmona

Hezbollah takes responsibility for the earlier rocket fire toward Kiryat Shmona, Hebrew-language media reports.

The Kiryat Shmona municipality said a number of projectiles impacted close to the northern border town.

According to the reports, the Israel Defense Forces responded with shelling at the source of the rocket fire.

IDF says troops seized weapons cache hidden in beds, pillows at Shifa Hospital’s maternity ward

Weapons captured by troops of the Nahal Brigade's reconnaissance unit at the maternity ward of Gaza City's Shifa Hospital, in a handout image published March 31, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
Weapons captured by troops of the Nahal Brigade's reconnaissance unit at the maternity ward of Gaza City's Shifa Hospital, in a handout image published March 31, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The IDF says troops of the Nahal Brigade’s reconnaissance unit seized a cache of weapons in Shifa Hospital’s maternity ward.

The weapons, including mortars, explosive devices, sniper rifles, assault rifles, handguns, and other military equipment, were found hidden inside patient pillows and beds, and in the drop ceilings and walls of the building, according to the IDF.

Some 350 patients and medical staff at Shifa Hospital were evacuated by the IDF to a “designated compound” in another part of the complex, where the military has provided them with humanitarian aid and supplies.

The reconnaissance unit also encountered and killed senior Hamas operatives Fadi Dweik and Zakaria Najib during a chase and exchange of fire in the maternity ward last week.

Smotrich slams ‘irresponsible pressures’ amid growing protests for hostage deal, elections

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich holds a press conference at the Knesset in Jerusalem, March 13, 2024 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich holds a press conference at the Knesset in Jerusalem, March 13, 2024 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich calls the growing protests calling for a hostage deal and elections “irresponsible pressures.”

“The demand for flexible positions on our part in the negotiations — as has been proven over and over again — only makes [Hamas leader Yahya] Sinwar harden his positions even more, and makes the return of the hostages even more distant,” Smotrich writes on X.

“I call on the prime minister to stand firm in the face of irresponsible pressures that endanger the State of Israel and harm the goals of the war,” Smotrich says.

Smotrich’s comments came ahead of four days of action by the families of some of those held in Gaza, and anti-government protesters. The initiative was announced yesterday, with the relatives of some of the hostages saying that it had become clear that the policy of using military pressure to secure their release was not effective.

Earlier this week, Mossad chief David Barnea reportedly informed the war cabinet that a hostage deal was still possible if Israel would be willing to be more amenable to the return of Gazans to their home in the northern part of the Strip, a Hamas demand.

Channel 12 reported Friday that Smotrich, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir were the three ministers who were against greater flexibility in the indirect talks with Hamas.

Bank of Israel chief urges government to set ‘appropriate’ fiscal priorities in budget

Bank of Israel governor Amir Yaron attends a Finance Committee meeting, in the Knesset in Jerusalem on January 30, 2024 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Bank of Israel governor Amir Yaron attends a Finance Committee meeting, in the Knesset in Jerusalem on January 30, 2024 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Bank of Israel Governor Amir Yaron urges the government to establish “appropriate” fiscal priorities in the state budget considering the need for higher defense spending in coming years, stressing the importance of “responsible” economic policy while dealing with current challenges of the war.

“During the war, the government implemented an expansionary policy” related to “the costs of the fighting, programs supporting households from the conflict areas, and assistance for workers and businesses across the country,” Yaron says in a letter sent to the government alongside the Bank of Israel’s annual report for 2023. “Looking ahead, the economy is facing significant challenges deriving from the war, in addition to structural challenges related to fundamental problems that have existed for some time already.”

In the annual report, the Bank of Israel notes that the budget increase for the years 2023-2024 to finance the costs of the war, which was sparked by the Hamas onslaught on October 7, has already reached NIS 100 billion.

Yaron calls for the establishment of a committee to determine the size of the defense budget in light of the growing security challenges.

“It should delineate Israel’s defense needs in the coming years and formulate an appropriate multiyear budget program that will take into account all the ramifications on the economy,” says Yaron. “It is important that if there is an additional increase in that budget, beyond what was already decided, it should be accompanied by fiscal adjustments that will at least prevent an enduring increase in the public debt-to-GDP ratio.”

Yaron notes that Israel entered the war with good economic fundamentals such as a low public debt-to-GDP ratio and high foreign exchange reserves, as well as low unemployment.

“The low debt-to-GDP ratio in Israel is a strategic asset, and the level of this ratio just before the war facilitated the economy’s dealing with the immediate fiscal ramifications of the war and illustrated once again its importance in the economy’s resilience to shocks,” Yaron says.

Rocket sirens sound in Kiryat Shmona and Margaliot, near the northern border

Sirens warn of incoming rocket fire sound in Kiryat Shmona and Margaliot, close to the northern border.

Starting October 8, Hezbollah-led forces have attacked Israeli communities and military posts along the Lebanese border on a near-daily basis, with the group saying it is doing so to support Gaza and the Hamas terror group.

Mother of Gaza hostage Naama Levy says daughter survived ‘difficult things’

Naama Levy was taken hostage by Hamas terrorists on October 7, 2023. (Courtesy)
Naama Levy was taken hostage by Hamas terrorists on October 7, 2023. (Courtesy)

With Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expected to meet later today with the families of the female soldiers held hostage in Gaza, the mother of Naama Levy says that hostages released in November had endured harsh circumstances.

“We heard from the hostages who returned at the end of November that they saw her for a short time just before they left. They told us that she is a hero and amazing, and went through very difficult things and survived them,” Ayelet Levy Shahar tells the Kan public broadcaster.

“They said she was wounded in the legs but standing and walking and talking, and that she talked and talked. She was on her own for a long time and couldn’t talk because she was only with her captors,” she says.

“I thanked the hostages who were released because they listened to her. It was so important to hear and for her to be able to speak. The fact that she can speak indicates her state of mind, so it’s encouraging to hear,” she says.

Of the expected meeting with the premier later today, Levy Shahar says that they will ask questions about the negotiations for a potential hostage deal.

“The situation in which we, as families, have to convince the prime minister, the cabinet, the state that it is their job to consider the abandoned girls, all the hostages, is unimaginable,” says Levy Shahar. “So maybe this is what should be said to [Netanyahu]: ‘We are not the ones who should need to convince you, this is your job.”

Naama Levy was seen in a video from Gaza on October 7 following her kidnapping with her hands tied and bloodied sweatpants, giving rise to widespread speculation that she had been sexually abused by her abductors.

In December, Levy Shahar published a heartfelt plea for her daughter’s release and warned time was running out.

“There are 17 young women still in captivity. They range in age from 18 to 26. I think of what they, and my Naama, could be subjected to at every moment of the day. Each minute is an eternity in hell,” she wrote.

Last Thursday, Netanyahu met for the first time with the relatives of the male soldiers held hostage. Family members of some of those soldiers said they had been “scared” into silence for months by the government and security establishment.

Court overturns protest leader’s conviction for blocking police water cannon in 2020

Gonen Ben Yitzhak lies under a water cannon at a demonstration against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on July 18, 2020 (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Gonen Ben Yitzhak lies under a water cannon at a demonstration against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on July 18, 2020 (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court overturns the conviction of protest leader Gonen Ben Yitzhak, who lay under a water cannon to prevent its use during an anti-government demonstration in 2020.

Despite the cancellation of the conviction for obstructing police work, the court rules Ben Yitzhak perform 500 hours of community service.

“A morning that gives impetus to the protests,” Ben Yitzhak tells the Ynet news site.

Forum representing 200 largest businesses says workers can join Jerusalem protest

The Israel Business Forum, which represents most workers in the private sector in Israel from 200 of the country’s largest companies, says employees will be permitted to participate in a protest in Jerusalem that is scheduled to start this evening and will continue till Wednesday, without sanctions.

“This is an emergency for Israel and those who are interested should be allowed to participate in the democratic act,” the forum says in a statement.

Each company in the forum will set the terms for its own workers.

In addition, dozens of tech firms have also said their employees can join the protests without sanctions.

The organizers of the demonstration against the Netanyahu government are demanding elections, the cancellation of the Knesset recess scheduled to start on April 7, and the return of all hostages that remain in Gaza.

Military says Beersheba terror attack victim is IDF soldier

The scene of a terror attack at the Beersheba Central Bus Station, March 31, 2024 (Dudu Greenspan/Flash90)
The scene of a terror attack at the Beersheba Central Bus Station, March 31, 2024 (Dudu Greenspan/Flash90)

The victim of the stabbing attack at Beersheba’s central bus station this morning is an IDF officer, the military says.

He was lightly hurt and taken to hospital for treatment.

Another soldier at the scene shot the terrorist dead.

Lapid slams government for attacks on hostages’ families: ‘You’re out of your minds’

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 slams the government for attacks on the families of the hostages held in Gaza.

“One after the other, the ministers of the government go on air this morning and attack the families of the hostages,” Lapid writes on X.

“You are out of your minds. Young women, elderly people, children were kidnapped on your watch,” Lapid says. “For half a year, you failed to bring them home, and then you blame their families? This government of destruction must go home. Elections now.”

A number of coalition lawmakers took to the airwaves this morning to attack the protesters after the weekly demonstrations in Tel Aviv by the hostages’ families and their supporters took a dramatic turn last night when speakers called on attendees to “take to the streets” and join the anti-government protesters in the heart of the city.

The protesters will be setting up a tent city outside the Knesset later today, with Lapid set to speak at tonight’s rally there.

Hostages’ families, anti-government protesters to set up tent city outside Knesset

A woman holds up a sign with images of hostages held captive by Hamas in the Gaza Strip as she attends a rally calling for their release in Tel Aviv, March 30, 2024. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)
A woman holds up a sign with images of hostages held captive by Hamas in the Gaza Strip as she attends a rally calling for their release in Tel Aviv, March 30, 2024. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

Anti-government groups and hostages’ families are readying to set up a tent city for four days outside the Knesset to demand a deal to free their loved ones, and new elections.

The four-day protest will see nightly rallies in the capital.

Tonight at 6:15 p.m., protesters will begin a march from Givat Ram to the Knesset, ahead of a 7 p.m. demonstration.

Speakers will include: Opposition Leader Yair Lapid; Shirel Hogeg, whose family members were wounded on October 7 at Kibbutz Kfar Aza; Sigalit Hillel, whose son Uri Tchernihovski was murdered at the Nova party; Yaakov Godo, whose son Tom was murdered at Kissufim; Rabbi Benny Lau; protest leader Moshe Radman; and Dina Zilber, a former deputy attorney general.

Last night, tens of thousands of people turned out for mass protests nationwide, as the weekly demonstrations in Tel Aviv by the hostages’ families took a dramatic turn when speakers called on attendees to “take to the streets” and join the anti-government protesters in the heart of the city, announcing an apparent discontinuation of the separate gathering.

Police say Beersheba terrorist was killed; attacker reportedly from Rahat

Police say the terrorist who carried out the stabbing attack at Beersheba’s central bus station, wounding one person, was killed.

“The terrorist who carried out the stabbing attack was neutralized by security forces with gunfire and later pronounced dead,” police say in a statement.

According to Hebrew-language media, he is a resident of the Bedouin city of Rahat.

IDF says fighting ongoing in central, south Gaza Strip

Troops operating in the Gaza Strip in an undated image released by the military for publication on March 31, 2024 (Israel Defense Forces)
Troops operating in the Gaza Strip in an undated image released by the military for publication on March 31, 2024 (Israel Defense Forces)

The IDF says its operation against Hamas at Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital continues, with troops killing gunmen in close-quarters combat and seizing weapons over the past day.

Nearby, in Gaza City’s Rimal neighborhood, the IDF says it carried out airstrikes on several buildings that had been used to fire anti-tank missiles at troops yesterday, as well as sniper fire. At least one terror operative was killed in the strikes, the IDF says.

In central Gaza, the Nahal Brigade killed at least 15 gunmen over the past day, including with sniper fire and by calling in airstrikes, the IDF says.

Fighting also continues in the southern Gaza Strip.

The IDF says troops of the 7th Armored Brigade and Israeli Air Force killed several gunmen in the Khan Younis area, and combat engineers destroyed sites belonging to terror groups.

The Commando Brigade has been operating in the al-Amal neighborhood of Khan Younis, where the troops killed several more operatives over the past day, the IDF says.

In another operation in the Khan Younis area, the IDF says the Givati Brigade killed 15 terror operatives with sniper fire and by calling in tank shelling. The troops also seized weapons.

Over the past day, the IAF struck also some 80 targets across the Gaza Strip, including buildings and infrastructure used by terror groups, according to the IDF.

Police say Beersheba stabbing was terror attack; assailant ‘neutralized’ but condition unclear

Police say the stabbing at Beersheba’s central bus station was a terror attack.

The victim, in his 20s, has been taken to Soroka Hospital in good condition, the Magen David Adom ambulance says.

“The terrorist who carried out the stabbing attack was neutralized at the scene,” police say.

The assailant’s condition is not immediately known, although footage appears to show him lying on the ground after being shot.

Man stabbed, wounded in suspected terror attack at Beersheba’s central bus station – medics

A man in his 20s was stabbed in a suspected terror attack at Beersheba’s central bus station, medics say.

The Magen David Adom ambulance service says the man is lightly hurt.

The alleged assailant was shot, according to eyewitnesses.

Man shot and killed in Abu Snan

A man aged around 20 was shot and killed in the northern village Abu Snan, Hebrew-language media reports.

Police have reportedly opened an investigation into the killing, which is suspected to have a criminal motive rather than terror.

A wave of violent crime has swept the Arab Israeli community, much of it tied to warring organized crime groups. Many Arab Israeli community leaders put the blame on the police, who they say have failed to crack down on powerful criminal organizations and largely ignore the violence, which includes family feuds, mafia turf wars, and violence against women.

Communities have also suffered from years of neglect by state authorities. Some 40% of Arab Israelis live below the poverty line, and their cities and towns often have crumbling infrastructure and poor public services.

The minister in charge of police, National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, has a long history of incendiary comments and stances against Arab Israelis, and the community’s leaders have argued that his policies have only intensified the epidemic of violence over the last year.

Reports: Terrorist who opened fire at school buses and cars in West Bank last week turns himself in

The scene of a shooting attack on Route 90 near the West Bank town of Al-Auja, March 28, 2024. (Magen David Adom)
The scene of a shooting attack on Route 90 near the West Bank town of Al-Auja, March 28, 2024. (Magen David Adom)

A terrorist who carried out a shooting attack in the West Bank on Thursday has turned himself in, Hebrew-language media reports.

According to reports, the suspect gave himself up to troops who were searching for him.

Three Israelis were wounded when the attacker opened fire toward school buses and other cars in al-Auja on Route 90, the main north-south artery in the Jordan Valley.

An image from a dashcam video showed the gunman, who appeared to be dressed in all green, opening fire with an assault rifle.

Two bulletproof school buses and at least two cars were hit in the shooting.

IDF removes restrictions on a number of locations near Gaza border, including Nova party site

Israelis visit the site of the Supernova music festival massacre, in Re'im, southern Israel, February 28, 2024. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Israelis visit the site of the Supernova music festival massacre, in Re'im, southern Israel, February 28, 2024. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

The Israel Defense Forces says that following an assessment, a number of sites in the area surrounding the Gaza border will no longer be classified as part of the closed military zone.

Parts of the Re’im forest will be opened up, in addition to a number of agricultural areas in Kibbutz Yad Mordechai and Kibbutz Mefalsim.

The forest was the site of the Nova rave on October 7, where over 360 people were killed by terrorists.
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Thousands gather for London anti-Israel rally; police arrest four for hate crimes, public disorder

Pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel activists and supporters wave flags as they gather for a protest in Trafalgar Square in central London on March 30, 2024, calling for a ceasefire in the Israel/Hamas conflict. (BENJAMIN CREMEL / AFP)
Pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel activists and supporters wave flags as they gather for a protest in Trafalgar Square in central London on March 30, 2024, calling for a ceasefire in the Israel/Hamas conflict. (BENJAMIN CREMEL / AFP)

Thousands of pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel protesters rallied in London today, in the latest demonstration in the British capital demanding a ceasefire in Gaza and more aid for the war-ravaged territory.

The event, organized by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, began at Russell Square in the city center before attendees marched to Trafalgar Square for a mid-afternoon rally.

A smaller number of demonstrators also turned out for a counter-protest in support of Israel, with lines of police separating the two gatherings.

London has seen numerous large-scale anti-Israel protests since Israel mounted its military response to Hamas’s unprecedented attack on October 7, as well as smaller pro-Israel counter-demonstrations.

The rallies for Palestinians have proved contentious, attracting criticism for fueling a hostile environment towards Jewish people. Some ruling Conservative lawmakers have branded them “hate marches.”

Police have made dozens of arrests over those months for antisemitic chanting and banners, promoting a proscribed organization, and assaulting emergency workers.

That included on Saturday, with officers making four arrests for hate crime, public disorder and terrorism offences.

A man was detained for the terror-related offence related to “inviting support for a proscribed organization,” London’s Metropolitan Police say.

Organizers have insisted throughout they are exercising their democratic rights and that law-breakers make up a tiny minority of the sometimes tens of thousands of people who have turned out.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak earlier this month called for officers to take tougher action against protesters at such events, saying they “had descended into intimidation, threats and planned acts of violence”.

Top US general said to lay out Washington’s proposed alternative to Rafah offensive — report

A top US general laid out Washington’s proposal for an alternative to a ground IDF offensive sought by Israel in Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah during a recent conversation with IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, Israel’s public broadcaster Kan reports tonight.

According to the report, Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, conveyed that the US would not “accept” mass civilian casualties in Rafah, given the toll of civilian deaths in north and central Gaza.

The report says Brown summed up Washington’s proposal which includes securing Gaza’s border with Egypt with technological advances to prevent the smuggling of weapons through the Philadelphi Corridor, the isolation of the city of Rafah and the launch of targeted raids, and the establishment of a joint control room to coordinate on the targeted operations.

The conversation occurred last week during a visit to Washington by Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, Kan reports.

Israel is intent on operating in Rafah, Hamas’s last stronghold in Gaza, to dismantle its last four battalions in the city. Washington and much of the Western world have signaled their opposition to the plan, amid mounting concern for over a million Gazans who have taken refuge in the city from fighting in other areas.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Biden administration have been locked in a growing public spat over the potential ground operation in Rafah.

Last week, a plan to send a senior Israeli delegation to Washington to discuss a Rafah offensive was scrapped by Netanyahu after the US abstained from a UN Security Council vote on a resolution calling for a Gaza ceasefire, ensuring it would pass.

A US official then said the sides were working on a new date for the inter-agency meeting.

France to advance UNSC resolution calling for ‘permanent’ Gaza ceasefire, two states, release of hostages

France’s top diplomat Stephane Sejourne says his government will put forward a draft resolution at the UN Security Council setting out a “political” settlement of the war.

Speaking at a joint press conference in Cairo, he says the text will include “all the criteria for a two-state solution” of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the peace blueprint long championed by the international community but opposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his coalition.

Sejourne was speaking alongside the Egyptian and Jordanian foreign ministers and together they called for an “immediate and permanent ceasefire” in Gaza and the release of all hostages held by Palestinian terrorists since the October 7 massacre.
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Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said Gaza “can endure no more destruction and humanitarian suffering”, and called on Israel to open its land crossings with the Gaza Strip to humanitarian aid.

Nearly all aid into the territory has trickled through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, where world leaders and the United Nations have accused Israel of impeding deliveries due to security inspections.

Israel has blamed the UN and other aid agencies for the crisis and has argued the hold-up is on their side.

On Thursday, Channel 12 reported that France was circulating a UN Security Council draft resolution that calls for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and recognition of a Palestinian state.

The draft also includes a condemnation of the Palestinian terror group Hamas, unlike the resolution that passed earlier this week, and a call for the release of the hostages taken from Israel on October 7, according to the report.

Israel’s envoy to the UN told Channel 12 that the French proposal “plays into Hamas’s hands and rewards terrorism.”

The proposal “breaks all the principles of negotiations and advances unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state,” he said, adding that Israel will “strongly oppose this terrible proposal.”

France has advocated for a permanent ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, whereas the United States, Israel’s main ally, recently let pass a UN Security Council resolution that calls for a ceasefire during the month of Ramadan and a release of all the hostages.

UN chief condemns explosion in south Lebanon that injured 4 UN peacekeepers

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemns the explosion in southern Lebanon earlier today where four United Nations peacekeepers were hurt in a strike Lebanon has blamed on Israel, and which Israel has denied.

The UN said earlier four of its military observers were wounded when a shell exploded near them. The United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) did not identify the source of the shelling.

Guterres’s office says an investigation by the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) is underway.

Earlier, two unnamed security sources accused Israel of the strike in comments to Reuters, saying it took place outside the southern Lebanese border town of Rmeish. A source told Reuters the car was carrying three UN technical observers and one Lebanese translator when it was struck.

Israel and Lebanese terror group Hezbollah have been locked in cross-border skirmishes since the start of the war in Gaza, with Hezbollah attacking Israeli towns and military targets on a near-daily basis, claiming it is doing so in support of Hamas terrorists in Gaza.

In the statement, Guterres’s office says the situation on the “Blue Line between Lebanon and Israel since 8 October last year, with daily exchanges of fire between non-state armed groups based in Lebanon and the Israel Defense Forces, continues to be of grave concern,” and that “hostilities are in violation of Security Council resolution 1701” which was intended to resolve the 2006 Lebanon War.

“The impact on civilian areas, with dozens of civilian fatalities reported, destruction of residential and agricultural areas, and displacement of tens of thousands of people on both sides of the Blue Line, is unacceptable,” Guterres’s office says.

These actions “pose a grave threat to the security and stability of Lebanon, Israel, and the region.”

IDF: Fighter jet intercepts ‘suspicious aerial target’ from Syria

The Israel Defense Forces says a fighter jet intercepted “a suspicious aerial target” that was making its way into Israel from Syria.

The target was not detected as having crossed into Israeli territory, the IDF says.

Syrian sources report an alleged Israeli strike in southwestern area of Daraa

Syrian sources are reporting an alleged Israeli airstrike in southwestern Syria, in the Daraa area, according to multiple reports in the Hebrew-language media, which cited no further details.

The strike is not yet reported in Syrian media.

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