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Latest news on Gaza conflict

Netanyahu meets with Blinken

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is currently in a private meeting with visiting U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Tel Aviv, the Israeli prime minister’s office said in a social media update Friday morning.

The two will also meet with members of the Israeli war cabinet.

Blinken, U.S. President Joe Biden and a spate of other top-level White House officials have visited Israel to reassure Netanyahu’s administration of Washington’s solidarity and coordinate efforts against Palestinian militant group Hamas.

The top U.S. envoy is widely expected to ask for a pause in the fighting in the Gaza Strip and measures to protect the civilian population in the enclosure.

Ruxandra Iordache

IDF says ‘terrorists were killed’ in ‘heroic’ overnight battle in Gaza

The IDF in a statement said that one of its brigades “clashed with a number of terror squads inside the Gaza Strip” on Thursday night.

It described a “lengthy battle” during which it said that “terrorists fired anti-tank missiles at them and activated a number of IEDs.”

“The forces on the ground directed aircraft and artillery airstrikes. The terrorists were killed and the danger to the troops was removed,” the statement read.

IDF ground troops are expanding into Gaza, intensifying their operations in the densely urban Gaza City, which is said to be a Hamas stronghold.

Hamas has governed Gaza since 2007, the same year Israel imposed a land, air and sea blockade on the territory of now 2.3 million people. The IDF says ground operations are necessary to eliminate Hamas, which carried out the deadly Oct. 7 attack on Israel that killed more than 1,300 people.

Israel’s heavy retaliatory airstrike campaign and recently launched ground offensive has killed more than 9,000 people in Gaza, Palestinian health authorities said Thursday.

— Natasha Turak

IDF says four more Israeli soldiers killed in Gaza fighting

The Israeli Defense Forces announced the names of four soldiers killed in fighting in Gaza on Thursday, the Times of Israel reported. An additional two soldiers were severely wounded, the IDF said.

That brings the death toll of Israeli soldiers since the start of its ground operations against Hamas to 23.

Israeli troops are expanding their combat operations in Gaza City, a heavily urban environment in the northern part of the Gaza Strip described by the IDF as a Hamas stronghold. Fighting there is expected to be difficult, with urban combat known for its high risks to invading forces.

— Natasha Turak

Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei posts in Hebrew, says Israel is ‘lying to you’

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei speaks on the death anniversary of the leader of the Iranian revolution, Ruhollah Khomeini during a live broadcast on state television in Tehran, Iran on June 03, 2020.

Anadolu Agency

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called Israel “helpless and confused” and accused it of lying to its people, in a post on social media.

“The Zionist entity is lying to you, and it is also lying when it expressed concern about its prisoners with the Palestinians,” Khamenei wrote in Hebrew, according to a Google translation.

“But she also destroys them with the shelling she does. The occupying entity is helpless and confused now, and without American support will be silenced within days,” he added.

Iran — a top adversary of Israel — is the primary financial and military backer of Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that governs the Gaza Strip.

Hamas launched the terror attack on Israel on Oct. 7 that killed more than 1,300 people and is currently holding more than 240 hostages.

— Natasha Turak

Blinken lands in Israel for talks with Netanyahu

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken waves as he disembarks from an aircraft for the start of his visit to Israel, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, at Ben Gurion International airport near Tel Aviv on November 3, 2023. Blinken arrived in Israel on November 3, an AFP correspondent travelling with him said, in a trip focused on measures to minimise harm to civilians in the war in Gaza. (Photo by JONATHAN ERNST / POOL / AFP) (Photo by JONATHAN ERNST/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Jonathan Ernst | Afp | Getty Images

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken landed in Israel Friday to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other top officials in the country. The visit was a part of Blinken’s second trip to the Middle East since the war between Israel and Hamas broke out on Oct. 7.

With Blinken is U.S. Ambassador to Israel Jack Lew, who was only confirmed to the position on Tuesday. Lew, 68, served as treasury secretary in the Obama administration.

Blinken told press before his departure Thursday said he would speak with Israeli leaders about “the ongoing campaign against the Hamas terrorist organization” and “steps that need to be taken to protect civilians.” 

He said he would also discuss the hostages taken captive by Hamas, the flow of humanitarian aid, the passage of civilians from Gaza and preventing a broader regional conflict.

— Natasha Turak

Bahrain says envoy to Israel returned home; Israel says ties stable

Bahrain said on Thursday that the Gulf state’s ambassador to Israel had returned home and the Israeli ambassador in Manama had left the kingdom “a while ago,” confirming an earlier statement by parliament linked to the Israel-Hamas conflict.

Israel’s bombardment of the Gaza Strip in its war with Hamas which has killed thousands of people has angered Arab states who are concerned with sharply rising civilian casualties and Israel’s blockade of the densely populated coastal enclave.

The government statement did not confirm that economic ties had been severed, as the parliament had earlier stated, but said that flights between the two countries had been suspended for several weeks.

The statement did not clarify whether that meant the Israeli ambassador had been expelled.

Israel had earlier said it received no word of any such actions, saying its relations with Bahrain were “stable.”

In its statement, the parliament — a consultative body with no powers in the area of foreign policy — said the moves “confirmed Bahrain’s historic position in support of the Palestinian cause.”

“The Council of Representatives affirms that the Israeli ambassador in the kingdom of Bahrain has left Bahrain and the kingdom of Bahrain has decided on the return of the Bahrain ambassador to Israel,” the parliament said in a statement.

“The cessation of economic relations was also decided,” it said, without making clear who had made the decision.

Israel’s foreign ministry said in a statement: “We would like to clarify that no notification or decision has been received from the government of Bahrain and the government of Israel to return the countries’ ambassadors. Relations between Israel and Bahrain are stable.”

Any suspension of diplomatic and economic ties, if confirmed, would mark a significant setback for Israel.

— Reuters

House passes Republican Israel-only aid, Democrats say dead on arrival in Senate

The Republican-led House on Thursday passed a bill that would provide $14.3 billion in aid to Israel as it wages war against Hamas, but Democrats say it’s dead on arrival in the Senate and President Joe Biden has vowed to veto the measure.

The Republican proposal would also rescind funds for the IRS in the same amount, from funding approved in last year’s climate, health and tax law.

Democrats said the IRS cuts amounted to a a poison pill, as the money was intended to amp up enforcement and catch tax cheats. A new Congressional Budget Office report says that the overall measure would add nearly $27 billion to the deficit.

President Biden and Senate Democrats are backing a broader approach, pushing for $106 billion for both Israel and Ukraine aid, humanitarian aid for Gaza, as well as funding for U.S. border operations in one package.

Read the full story here.

NBC News

Israeli military says it has surrounded Gaza City

People check buildings destroyed in an Israeli strike on the Bureij refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip on November 2, 2023, as battles between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas movement continue. 

Majdi Fathi | Nurphoto | Getty Images

Israeli troops fought with Hamas militants and encircled Gaza City on Thursday, the military said, as the Palestinian death toll rose above 9,000. U.S. and Arab leaders raised pressure on Israel to ease its siege of Gaza and at least briefly halt its attacks in order to aid civilians.

The Israeli military’s chief of staff, Herzi Halevy, said his forces were encircling Gaza City from several directions and “fighting in a built-up, dense, complex area.”

Military spokesman Brig. Gen. Daniel Hagari said Israeli forces were in “face to face” battles with militants, calling in airstrikes and shelling when needed. He said they were inflicting heavy losses on Hamas fighters and destroying their infrastructure with engineering equipment.

Nearly four weeks after Hamas’ deadly rampage in Israel sparked the war, U.S Secretary of State Antony Blinken was heading to the region for talks Friday in Israel and Jordan following President Joe Biden’s suggestion for a humanitarian “pause” in the fighting. The aim would be to let in aid for Palestinians and let out more foreign nationals and wounded. Around 800 people left over the past two days.

Israel did not immediately respond to Biden’s suggestion. But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has previously ruled out a cease-fire, said Thursday: “We are advancing … Nothing will stop us.” He vowed to destroy Hamas rule in the Gaza Strip.

Associated Press

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