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Netanyahu says Israel preparing for Gaza ground invasion but reportedly has agreed to U.S. request to delay the move

This live coverage has now ended. Find the latest up-to-date information on the Israel-Hamas war here.

  • Israeli soldiers patrol along to the border fence of Kibutz Beeri near the border with Gaza Strip.ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images

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Israel-Hamas war day 19

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6 p.m. ET

Pro-Israel resolution is first act from new U.S. House leader

Speaker Mike Johnson called up a resolution supporting Israel in his first action as leader of the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday, after a three-week leadership vacuum that left the Republican-led chamber unable to respond to the Middle East crisis.

“The first bill I’m going to bring to this floor in a little while will be in support of our dear friend Israel and we are overdue in getting that done,” Johnson said as he accepted the speakership.

The House backed the resolution by 412 to 10, with six members voting “present,” reflecting traditional strong support in Congress for the Jewish state. The non-binding measure reaffirms U.S. commitment to Israel and calls on Hamas to immediately cease attacks and release every hostage.

The House had been without a speaker since Oct. 3, when eight Republicans joined Democrats to oust Kevin McCarthy, the first time a U.S. speaker has been removed from the position. Johnson, a social conservative with little leadership experience, was elected speaker on Wednesday.

– Reuters

5:40 p.m. ET

Florida orders state universities to disband pro-Palestinian student group, saying it backs Hamas

Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s administration is linking a pro-Palestinian student organization to terrorism and is ordering state universities to ban the group from campuses, saying it illegally backs Hamas militants who attacked Israel earlier this month.

As Israel’s attacks on Gaza have intensified, some college students have expressed solidarity with Palestinians, resulting in swift censure from some Jewish academics and even some prospective employers. However, Florida says Students for Justice in Palestine is supporting Hamas, a terrorist organization.

State university system Chancellor Ray Rodrigues wrote to university presidents Tuesday at Gov. Ron DeSantis’ urging, directing them to disband chapters of SJP after the national group took the position that “Palestinian students in exile are PART of this movement, not in solidarity with this movement.”

“It is a felony under Florida law to ‘knowingly provide material support ... to a designated foreign terrorist organization,’” Rodrigues said in the letter. The U.S. State Department designated Hamas a terrorist group in 1997.

– The Associated Press

5:10 p.m. ET

Reports of use of white phosphorus in attacks in Lebanon increase tensions in an already tenuous situation

United Nations peacekeepers say they have received numerous complaints from people who believe Israeli troops are using white phosphorus in attacks along the border with Lebanon.

White phosphorus ignites when exposed to air, burning with an intense heat and releasing a stifling smoke. That makes it an attractive smokescreen for soldiers, although it is toxic and inhalation can cause serious health effects. In southern Lebanon, border residents and medical staff have in the past two weeks repeatedly accused Israel of deploying such munitions in civilian areas, where its use can constitute a violation of international treaties.

“This is something we are looking into, because we are getting a lot of reports,” said Andrea Tenenti, the chief of strategic communications for the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, or UNIFIL.

But a proper investigation would require a technical expertise that does not exist with UNIFIL at the moment, he said. Neither does UNIFIL currently have the mandate to look into whether Israel has used white phosphorus.

You can continue reading here.

– Nathan VanderKlippe

4:55 p.m. ET

‘Anywhere we go war is following us’: Those who fled Ukraine face a new conflict zone in Israel

Open this photo in gallery:

A view shows a rocket being launched from the Gaza Strip towards central Israel, as seen from Ashkelon in southern Israel on Oct. 25, 2023.AMIR COHEN/Reuters

In a youth centre just outside Tel Aviv, dozens of Jewish-Ukrainian children are recovering after fleeing war for the second time in two terrifying years.

The children were living in a group home in the Zhytomyr region of northern Ukraine when they were awakened by explosions on Feb. 24, 2022, the first morning of the Russian invasion. With enemy troops attacking their country from three directions, a plan was quickly developed to evacuate the more than 100 kids and the group home’s staff to what seemed like the safety of Israel.

On Oct. 7, the nightmare was repeated for 40 of the children when air-raid sirens screamed over their new home in the southern Israeli port city of Ashkelon. They were just 10 kilometres from the Gaza Strip, and Hamas fighters were pouring through holes in the Israeli security perimeter, killing and kidnapping men, women and children.

The kids, who are between seven and 18 years old, spent six hours in a bomb shelter that Saturday before emerging during a moment of apparent quiet for food and a trip to the synagogue. Then, amid rumours that Hamas gunmen were inside the city, they returned to their safe house. The staff who had accompanied them from Ukraine began making plans to flee again.

“The kids immediately noticed something was not normal. We went to the shelter and stayed there for a few hours. Some kids really panicked and started crying. We understood that we must take them away from Ashkelon as soon as possible,” said Malki Bukiet, who was the director of the Alumim-Chabad Home for Jewish Children in Zhytomyr and has remained with the kids in Israel.

The children are now at the youth facility on the outskirts of Tel Aviv, where sirens – usually followed by the sounds of Israel’s air defence systems intercepting Hamas rockets – are still a near-daily occurrence. “We feel as if anywhere we go war is following us,” said a 12-year-old girl named Chani, in a statement relayed via the International Federation of Christians and Jews, a charity headquartered in the United States that sponsored the evacuation from Ukraine. “I really don’t know where I can feel safe any more and I’m so scared that I’ll need to get on another plane to escape war.”

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– Mark Mackinnon

4:40 p.m. ET

Russia and China veto U.S. push for UN action on Israel, Gaza

Russia and China on Wednesday vetoed a U.S.-drafted United Nations Security Council resolution on the war between Israel and Palestinian militants Hamas in the Gaza Strip, while a rival Russian-drafted text failed to win the minimum number of votes.

The U.S. draft aimed to address a worsening humanitarian crisis in Gaza, calling for pauses the violence to allow aid access. The United Arab Emirates also voted no, while 10 members voted in favour and Brazil and Mozambique abstained.

The council then voted on a Russian-drafted resolution that called for a humanitarian ceasefire. Only Russia, China, the UAE and Gabon voted in favour of the draft, while nine members abstained and the United States and Britain voted no.

A resolution needs at least nine votes and no vetoes by the United States, France, Britain, Russia or China to be adopted.

The votes came after the council twice voted unsuccessfully last week – only five members voted in favour of a Russian draft resolution on Oct. 16 and then the U.S. vetoed a Brazilian draft text on Oct. 18, which had received 12 yes votes. The United States proposed its own draft text on Saturday that initially shocked some diplomats with its bluntness in stating Israel has a right to defend itself and demanding Iran stop exporting arms to militant groups.

It then toned down the overall draft, removing direct references to Iran and to Israel’s right to self-defence. But Russia announced on Tuesday that it could not support the U.S. plan for action and put forward its own text.

– Reuters

4:10 p.m. ET

Iraqi militant group says it attacked based housing U.S. forces in Syria

An Iranian backed group in Iraq claimed responsibility for an attack on a military base housing U.S. forces in eastern Syria Wednesday, as a string of attacks targeting U.S. military facilities in Iraq and Syria persist.

The Islamic Resistance group in Iraq, an umbrella organization for several Iran-backed militias, said in a statement Wednesday that it had struck the Kharab al-Jir base in the northeastern Hassakeh province with rockets. They said they hit their target, without making any mention of casualties.

Washington did not immediately comment on the attack. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in a call Monday with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shiaa al-Sudani, urged Sudani “to pursue those behind the attacks and fulfill Iraq’s commitment to maintain the security at these installations,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a statement Tuesday.

The past week has seen a spate of more than a dozen attacks on U.S. military facilities in Iraq in Syria, most of them claimed by the same group, which has said it is retaliating against America’s backing of Israel in its war with Hamas.

– The Associated Press

3 p.m. ET

Biden condemns ‘extremist settlers’ over attacks against Palestinians in West Bank

President Joe Biden has condemned attacks by “extremist” Israeli settlers against Palestinians in the West Bank as the U.S. tries to stop Israel’s war with Hamas from spreading. Mr. Biden made the comments unprompted at the start of an unrelated White House news conference Wednesday with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

“I continue to be alarmed about extremist settlers attacking Palestinians in the West Bank. Pouring gasoline on fire is what it’s like,” Mr. Biden said. “They are attacking Palestinians in places that they’re entitled to be and it has to stop. They have to be held accountable.”

The President did not specify how he wanted settlers held accountable.

The statement appeared to reflect Mr. Biden’s concern that escalating violence in the West Bank could open another front in the war Israel is currently waging against Hamas in the Gaza Strip following Hamas’s massacre of more than 1,400 Israelis on Oct. 7. The government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his allies have expanded Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which have been under Israeli occupation since the Six-Day War in 1967.

Containing the war to Gaza is one of the White House’s main objectives. Mr. Biden has rushed warships and air defence batteries to the region in a bid to deter Iran and its proxy groups, including Hezbollah, from entering the war.

The U.S. has been dealing with a string of attacks by Iranian-backed groups on U.S. military bases in Iraq and Syria. The President, however, insisted that these were not connected to the Israel-Gaza war.

“My warning to the Ayatollah was that, if they continue to move against those troops, we will respond and he should be prepared,” Mr. Biden said, referring to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. “It has nothing to do with Israel.”

He also said he did not believe casualty figures in Gaza published by the territory’s Hamas-run government even as he reiterated that Israel must avoid killing civilians in its war. According to Gaza’s health ministry, which is controlled by Hamas, more than 6,500 people have been killed in Gaza since Oct. 7.

“I have no notion that the Palestinians are telling the truth about how many people are killed. I’m sure that innocents have been killed and it’s the price of waging a war,” Mr. Biden said. “The Israelis should be incredible careful to be sure that they’re focusing on going after the folks that are propagating this war against Israel.”

– Adrian Morrow

2:15 p.m. ET

Biden says Israel has right to defend itself, must protect innocent civilians

U.S. President Joe Biden said on Wednesday he believes Israel needs to defend its citizens while protecting innocent civilians in Gaza who are victims of the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

“Israel has to do everything in its power, as difficult as it is, to protect innocent civilians,” Biden said during a news conference as part of a White House visit by Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

Biden also said the region must prepare for the end of the Israeli-Hamas conflict and “what comes next.” and that the U.S. maintained its position on a “two-state solution” for Israelis and Palestinians.

Biden also expressed concern about “extremist settlers” attacking Palestinians in the West Bank, accusing them of adding fuel to fire.

“They’re attacking Palestinians in places that they’re entitled to be,” he said

– Reuters

2 p.m. ET

Canada’s defence minister offers little on how ‘humanitarian pauses’ in Israel-Hamas war would work

The federal government supports humanitarian pauses in the Israel-Hamas conflict to clear a path for critical aid to get to civilians in the Gaza Strip, but isn’t quite sure yet how that would work, Defence Minister Bill Blair said Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Canada joined international partners including the United States and France in calling for a temporary halt to fighting as the humanitarian crisis in the Hamas-controlled Palestinian territory gets worse.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said before question period on Wednesday that a humanitarian pause would have three purposes. Speaking in French, he said that it would allow aid to flow, it would allow hostages to be released and it would allow the exit of foreign nationals who have been unable to leave Gaza since the latest conflict began.

It differs from a ceasefire, which would require a long-term halt to the fighting, and which Canada does not support. Israel has the right to defend itself, Trudeau repeated.

Many Israel supporters, including the United States, have indicated that a ceasefire would disproportionately benefit Hamas, arguing the group would not abide by its terms. Canada has labelled the group a terrorist organization since 2002.

Blair had said on Tuesday that Hamas cannot be trusted to respect international law or follow any ceasefire agreement. He did not clarify on Wednesday whether a humanitarian pause could work if Hamas ignored it.

– The Canadian Press

1:40 p.m. ET

Netanyahu says Israel is preparing ground invasion of Gaza

Israel is preparing a ground invasion of Gaza, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a televised statement on Wednesday, but he declined to provide any details on the timing or other information about the operation.

He said the decision on when forces would go into the blockaded Palestinian enclave would be taken by the government’s special war cabinet.

– Reuters

1:10 p.m. ET

Al-Jazeera says family of one of its journalists killed in Israeli strike on Gaza

The Pan-Arab Al-Jazeera TV said the family members of its correspondent in Gaza – his wife, daughter and son – were killed in an Israeli air strike on Gaza on Wednesday night.

There was no immediate comment from the Israeli military on the incident.

The channel posted lived footage of its reporter Wael Al Dahdouh crying as he saw them laying lifeless in hospital.

– Reuters

1 p.m. ET

See the al-Zahra municipality south of Gaza City before and after it was struck by missiles

Photos on October 22 and 15 by Planet Labs PBC
Open this photo in gallery:A Palestinians boy walks by the the rubble of buildings destroyed in the Israeli bombardment on al-Zahra, on the outskirts of Gaza City, Friday, Oct. 20, 2023.

Palestinians boy walks by the buildings destroyed in the Israeli bombardment on al-Zahra, on the outskirts of Gaza City, Oct. 20, 2023.Ali Mahmoud/The Associated Press

Newly released satellite images show the al-Zahra municipality south of Gaza City before and after Israeli bombardment. More than 20 buildings were flattened during an attack on October 20.

12:45 p.m. ET

U.S. Senate panel approves Jacob Lew to be Israeli ambassador, and final confirmation vote could come next week

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Jacob Lew, former treasury secretary under President Barack Obama, arrives to a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing to examine his nomination as Ambassador to the State of Israel, Oct. 18, 2023, in Washington.Stephanie Scarbrough/The Associated Press

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has approved Jacob Lew to be ambassador to Israel, moving quickly to get him in place during the country’s new war with Hamas. The panel voted 12-9 on Wednesday to move Lew’s nomination to the Senate floor for a final vote, which could come as soon as next week. All Republicans on the panel except Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul voted against him.

Lew, a former treasury secretary and budget director under President Barack Obama, told the committee at his confirmation vote last week that “there is no greater mission” at this moment than to help strengthen ties between the United States and Israel. He said he would ensure Israel has what it needs to defend itself in the war, which started after brutal surprise attacks by Hamas earlier this month. He said he would also address the humanitarian crisis facing civilians in Gaza after Israeli military strikes.

The Senate is moving quickly to confirm Lew, who was nominated by President Joe Biden last month after Tom Nides left as ambassador in July. Democrats say Lew’s wealth of government experience makes him the right person to fill the post at a critical moment in the two countries’ relationship.

Republicans have criticized Lew for his role in the Obama White House when it negotiated the Iran nuclear agreement in 2015, among other foreign policy moves. The deal with Iran – the chief sponsor of Hamas – was later scuttled by President Donald Trump.

Idaho Sen. Jim Risch, the top Republican on the committee, told Lew at the hearing that he had concerns that Lew would not be tough enough on Iran. Lew defended his work in the Obama White House and called Iran an “evil, malign government.”

– The Associated Press

12:25 p.m. ET

More than half of Hamas’s hostages have foreign nationality, Israel says

More than half the estimated 220 hostages held by Palestinian group Hamas have foreign passports from 25 different countries, including 54 Thai nationals, the Israeli government said on Wednesday.

In providing updated figures, the government also said 328 people from 40 countries were confirmed as dead or missing after the surprise Oct. 7 attack by Hamas fighters on southern Israel. In all, an estimated 1,400 people were killed in the assault.

Israel said 138 of the hostages had foreign passports, including 15 Argentinians, 12 Germans, 12 Americans, six French and six Russians.

Many were believed to have had dual Israeli nationality, however some, like the Thais and five Nepalese hostages, almost certainly did not. There was also one Chinese hostage, one Sri Lankan, two from Tanzania and two from the Philippines.

Thais also made up the largest single group of foreign dead and missing, with 24 confirmed killed and 21 unaccounted for.

Among other foreign nations that suffered heavy losses were the United States, with 34 killed and five missing, Ukraine, with 25 killed and two missing, France, with 23 killed and one missing, and Russia with 23 killed and four missing.

– Reuters

12:05 p.m. ET

UNRWA says one killed, 44 injured in close proximity strike on Rafah school

One internally displaced person was killed and 44 others were injured in a close proximity strike on an UNRWA school in Rafah, the United Nations Palestinian refugee agency in Gaza said in a statement on Wednesday.

The school was sheltering 4,600 people and sustained severe collateral damage, the agency said.

– Reuters

11:15 a.m. ET

Israel reportedly agrees to U.S. request to delay Gaza invasion

Israel has agreed to delay an expected invasion of Gaza for now so that the United States can rush missile defences to the region to protect U.S. troops there, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday, citing U.S. and Israeli officials.

U.S. officials have so far persuaded Israel to hold off until U.S. air-defence systems can be placed in the region, as early as later this week, the WSJ said.

Israel is also taking into account in its planning the effort to supply humanitarian aid inside Gaza, as well as diplomatic efforts to free hostages held by Hamas militants, the news report said.

Threats to the U.S. troops were of paramount concern, it said.

Washington was scrambling to deploy nearly a dozen air defence systems, including for its troops serving in Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria and the United Arab Emirates, the Journal said.

The U.S. military and other officials believe their forces will be targeted by militant groups once Israel launches its ground invasion of the Hamas-ruled Palestinian territory, according to the report.

– Reuters

10:50 a.m. ET

Humanitarian aid must enter into Gaza without obstacles, France’s Macron says

French President Emmanuel Macron, at a joint news conference with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo, said on Wednesday that humanitarian aid must enter into Gaza without obstacles.

Macron said that it was essential to get fuel supplies to hospitals, adding that a French navy ship would arrive soon to help bring support to Gaza hospitals and that a plane will arrive in Egypt with key supplies.

Macron also said that it was necessary to avoid regional escalation following the conflict between Israel and Hamas, adding that a two-state solution was necessary for peace in the Middle East.

Sisi said he had agreed with Macron to work to contain the crisis in Gaza, introduce aid and seek to prevent other parties from entering the conflict.

He added that Macron understood that any displacement of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip towards Egyptian territory would be “extremely dangerous.”

“We condemn all actions that affect all civilians and this should be addressed with one standard,” Sisi added.

– Reuters

10:40 a.m. ET

UN chief rejects Israeli accusations he justified Hamas attacks

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday rejected accusations by Israel that, in a statement to the Security Council, he had justified attacks by the Palestinian militant group Hamas on Israel.

“I am shocked by the misrepresentations by some of my statement … as if I was justifying acts of terror by Hamas. This is false. It was the opposite,” he told reporters, without specifically naming Israel.

Guterres on Tuesday pleaded for civilians to be protected in the war between Israel and Hamas, voicing concern about “clear violations of international humanitarian law” in the Gaza Strip.

He told the 15-member UN Security Council that it was vital to be clear that war has rules, starting with the fundamental principle of respecting and protecting civilians.

“It is important to also recognize the attacks by Hamas did not happen in a vacuum. The Palestinian people have been subjected to 56 years of suffocating occupation,” Guterres said.

“But the grievances of the Palestinian people cannot justify the appalling attacks by Hamas. And those appalling attacks cannot justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people,” he said.

Israel’s UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan described Guterres’ speech as “shocking” and called on Guterres to resign immediately, while Israel’s visiting Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said he would not meet with Guterres on Tuesday as planned.

Guterres instead met with family representatives of the hostages held in Gaza.

– Reuters

10:30 a.m. ET

Man arrested in Germany over suspected plot to attack a pro-Israel demonstration

A man with a previous conviction for membership in the Islamic State group has been arrested in Germany on suspicion that he may have agreed to attack a pro-Israel demonstration, prosecutors said Wednesday.

The 29-year-old, whose identity wasn’t released in keeping with German privacy rules, was detained Tuesday at his apartment in the western city of Duisburg.

Prosecutors in Duesseldorf said that a court on Wednesday ordered him kept in custody pending a possible indictment on suspicion of agreeing to commit murder and manslaughter.

They said he is suspected of telling a “chat partner” in Syria “in a sufficiently concrete manner” that he was prepared to commit an attack and that the possible target was a pro-Israel demonstration.

Prosecutors said the Duesseldorf state court in 2017 gave the man a five-year sentence under juvenile law for membership in IS and other offences, which he served.

– Associated Press

9:40 a.m. ET

British PM Rishi Sunak backs pause in Gaza conflict to allow aid in

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said on Wednesday he supported a humanitarian pause in the conflict in Gaza between Israel and Hamas to allow the safe delivery of aid to civilians, but he rejected calls for a full ceasefire.

Sunak told parliament that Israel has the right to respond militarily to Hamas’s attack earlier this month – the deadliest attack on Jews since the Holocaust.

The prime minister also said the government wanted Hamas to release Israeli hostages, help Britons leave Gaza, and ensure humanitarian aid could make it to those in need.

“We recognize for all of that to happen, there has to be a safer environment, which of course necessitates specific pauses – as distinct from a ceasefire,” Sunak said to lawmakers at a weekly parliamentary question and answer session.

Britain had discussed with other countries on Tuesday at the United Nations a possible humanitarian pause, he said.

Sunak was speaking as a British plane was en route to Egypt on Wednesday to deliver humanitarian supplies to people in Gaza.

– Reuters

9 a.m. ET

Israel accuses UN chief of justifying terrorism, says it will refuse visas to UN representatives

Israeli officials were outraged Wednesday over UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ comment that the deadly Hamas attack on southern Israel “did not happen in a vacuum,” calling it justification for terrorism. Foreign Minister Eli Cohen canceled a scheduled meeting with Guterres while Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Memorial, said the UN chief “failed the test.”

“I will not meet with the UN secretary-general. After the Oct. 7 massacre, there is no place for a balanced approach. Hamas must be erased off the face of the planet!” Cohen posted Tuesday on social platform X, formerly known as Twitter.

Israel’s envoy to the U.N. Gilad Erdan called for his resignation, saying Israel must rethink its relations with the world body.

“We will refuse to grant visas to UN representatives. We have already refused to give one to Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths,” Erdan told Army Radio, accusing Guterres of justifying a slaughter. “It’s time to teach them a lesson.”

Israel historically has had tense relations with the United Nations, accusing it of being biased against it.

– Associated Press

8 a.m. ET

UN Security Council to vote on rival U.S, Russian plans for Israel-Hamas action

The United Nations Security Council will vote later on Wednesday on rival proposals by the United States and Russia for action on the conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants Hamas in the Gaza Strip, diplomats said.

Both countries seek UN Security Council resolutions to address shortages of food, water, medical supplies and electricity in Gaza. But the United States has called for pauses to allow aid to enter Gaza, while Russia wants a humanitarian ceasefire.

– Reuters

7:45 a.m. ET

Turkey’s Erdogan says Hamas is not a terrorist organization, draws rebuke from NATO ally

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, in his strongest comments yet on the Gaza conflict, said on Wednesday the Palestinian militant group Hamas was not a terrorist organization but a liberation group fighting to protect Palestinian lands and people.

Speaking to lawmakers from his ruling AK Party, Erdogan also called for an immediate ceasefire between Israeli and Palestinian forces and said Muslim countries must act together to secure a lasting peace in the region.

“Hamas is not a terrorist organization, it is a liberation group, ‘mujahideen’ waging a battle to protect its lands and people,” he said, using an Arabic word denoting those who fight for their faith.

Many of Turkey’s NATO allies consider Hamas a terrorist group, and Erdogan’s comments drew a swift rebuke from Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, who said they were “grave and disgusting and did not help with de-escalation.”

– Reuters

7:20 a.m. ET

Israel-Hamas conflict a new cloud among many, IMF chief says

The head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Wednesday said the war between Israel and Hamas was another cloud on a horizon with plenty of them, warning that the global economic outlook could worsen.

“What we see is more jitters in what has already been an anxious world,” Kristalina Georgieva told an audience at the FII investment conference in Riyadh.

“And on a horizon that had plenty of clouds, one more – and it can get deeper.”

Dubbed “Davos in the desert,” the conference has drawn senior finance industry figures, many of whom have already struck a pessimistic tone about the global economy.

An event traditionally focused on cutting deals has been overshadowed by Israel’s intensifying bombardment of Gaza, following the Oct. 7 attack by militant group Hamas inside Israel.

– Reuters

7:05 a.m. ET

Air Canada said procedure was followed after being accused of holding up British MP ‘because his name is Mohammad’

Air Canada staff followed procedure when they held back a British member of Parliament for extra questions during a recent diplomatic trip to Canada, the airline said in a statement on Wednesday.

Labour MP Mohammad Yasin was pulled aside for questioning at London’s Heathrow Airport while other lawmakers he was travelling with were allowed through. He was stopped again at airports in Montreal and Toronto.

Clive Betts, another Labour MP, rose in the British House this week to say that Yasin was stopped and questioned by Air Canada and Canadian government staff, and that the incident was “racist and Islamophobic” in nature.

“He was told this because his name was Mohammad,” Betts told the House.

An authorized government agency prompted the additional screening procedures before Yasin’s flight, the airline said.

“After receiving such a prompt, we followed the prescribed procedures for this customer and, although this resulted in some discomfort for him, for which we have apologized, the customer was cleared and able to board and stay on his travel schedule,” Air Canada said in the statement.

– The Canadian Press

7 a.m. ET

Gaza needs billions in aid to reverse years of restrictions, UN trade body says

Gaza needs billions of dollars in international economic aid to compensate for years of restrictions that have stifled its economy and curbed its development, according to a report published on Wednesday by the United Nations trade body.

In its report on the economic development of the Occupied Palestinian Territory for 2022, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) highlighted the dire economic conditions in Gaza, even prior to Israeli strikes on the enclave in reprisal for the deadly Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas gunmen in southern Israel.

“Donors and the international community need to extend significant economic aid to repair the extensive damage Gaza has experienced under prolonged restrictions and closures and frequent military operations, which has stifled the economy and decimated infrastructure,” the report said.

“While donor aid is important to assist the people of Gaza, it should not be viewed as a substitute for ending the restrictions and closures and calling on Israel and all parties to bear their responsibilities under international law.”

Speaking to reporters in Geneva, Richard Kozul-Wright, director of UNCTAD’s division on globalization and development strategies, said it was difficult to fully assess how much money would be needed to buttress the economy in Gaza, which is controlled by the Hamas militant group.

“It’s very difficult to make a proper assessment until things stop,” he said, referring to the current conflict. “But it’s going to be in the billions of dollars.”

– Reuters

6:55 a.m. ET

Canadian niece of released Hamas hostage shares relief and fear

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Yocheved Lifshitz, one of the two women released from Hamas captivity late Monday, Oct. 23, 2023, meets people at the hospital in Tel Aviv, Israel.The Associated Press

After two weeks of horrific news, Rutie Mizrahi wasn’t about to trust the hopeful headlines that appeared on Monday.

They said that Ms. Mizrahi’s 85-year-old aunt, Yocheved Lifshitz, was among two hostages being released that day from the more than 200 being held by Hamas, the militant Islamist group that launched a deadly attack on Israel on Oct. 7.

Ms. Mizrahi didn’t trust the reports.

“I just really needed to hear her voice,” said Ms. Mizrahi, from her Vancouver home.

On Tuesday morning, she finally got through to Ms. Lifshitz, who made worldwide headlines the same day for becoming the first of the four released hostages to talk publicly about the harrowing experience.

“She sounded very tired,” Ms. Mizrahi, said of her conversation with her aunt. “She told me how much she loved me and my kids.”

The chat was brief. They didn’t talk about the last two weeks, much of which Ms. Lifshitz spent in a web of tunnels as a hostage of Hamas.

After the call, Ms. Mizrahi said she felt happy, while also remaining concerned about the other hostages, including her uncle, Oded Lifshitz, whose fate remains uncertain.

“The only thing I know is that my aunt knows nothing about her husband, because they were separated,” said Ms. Mizrahi.

Patrick White

Family members of hostages held by Hamas rally outside the United Nations

Relatives of some of the hostages being held by Hamas in Gaza gathered outside the U.N. headquarters in New York. Over 200 pairs of shoes symbolizing each hostage were put on display.

The Associated Press

6:45 a.m. ET

UNRWA says hundreds of thousands of displaced people in Gaza are sheltering in its facilities

Nearly 600,000 internally displaced people are sheltering in 150 facilities of the United Nations Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA) in Gaza, while at least 40 UNRWA installations have been impacted, the UN agency posted on Wednesday on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.

“Our shelters are four times over their capacities – many people are sleeping in the streets as current facilities are overwhelmed,” the agency added.

– Reuters

6:40 a.m. ET

Qatar’s PM hopes for breakthrough on hostages’ release ‘soon’

Qatar’s prime minister said on Wednesday there was some progress on hostage negotiations after Palestinian militant group Hamas abducted more than 200 hostages during its Oct. 7 rampage in southern Israel.

Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, who is also the minister of foreign affairs, said at a news conference with his Turkish counterpart that he hoped there would be breakthroughs on hostage releases “soon.”

Wealthy gas-producer Qatar has had an open dialogue with both Israel and Hamas, which has brought about the release of four hostages held by Hamas, including two Israeli women on Monday.

The Gulf state, in co-ordination with the U.S., is leading mediation talks with Hamas and Israeli officials over the hostages’ release as Israel prepares a ground assault on the enclave.

– Reuters

6:30 a.m. ET

Israel to amend budget, war with Hamas estimated to cost $246-million daily

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said on Wednesday the 2023-2024 national budget was “no longer relevant” given the Israel-Hamas war and would be amended, and sounded unfazed by S&P Global’s downgrade of Israel’s outlook to “negative” from “stable.”

While putting the direct cost of the war at about 1 billion shekels (US$246 million) a day to Israel, Smotrich said in an Army Radio broadcast that he did not yet have an assessment of the indirect costs on an economy partly paralyzed by the mass mobilization of military reservists and extensive Palestinian rocket salvoes.

Smotrich described the S&P downward revision published on Tuesday as “alarmist” and said he did not anticipate major Israeli deficits despite the crisis.

– Reuters

5:05 a.m. ET

UN warns Gaza blockade could force it to sharply cut relief operations as bombings rise

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees warned Wednesday that without immediate deliveries of fuel it will soon have to sharply curtail relief operations across the Gaza Strip, which has been blockaded and devastated by Israeli air strikes since Hamas militants launched an attack on Israel more than two weeks ago.

The warning came as hospitals in Gaza struggled to treat masses of wounded with dwindling resources. Health officials said the death toll was soaring as Israeli jets pounded the territory overnight into Wednesday.

The Health Ministry in Gaza, which is controlled by Hamas, said air strikes killed more than 750 people over the past 24 hours. Officials did not give a breakdown of how many killed were militants. The Associated Press could not independently verify the death tolls cited by Hamas, which says it tallies figures from hospital directors.

The Israeli military said its strikes killed militants and destroyed tunnels, command centres, weapons storehouses and other military targets. It accuses Hamas of magnifying the suffering of Gazan civilians by hiding among them.

Hamas and other militants have launched unrelenting rocket barrages into Israel since the conflict started.

The rising death toll in Gaza – following a reported 704 killed the day before – was unprecedented in the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Even greater loss of life could come if Israel launches an expected ground offensive aimed at crushing Hamas militants.

The UN says about 1.4 million of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents are now internally displaced, with almost 600,000 crowded into UN shelters.

Gaza’s residents have been running out of food, water and medicine since Israel sealed off the territory following the attack on southern Israel by Hamas, which is sworn to Israel’s destruction.

In recent days, Israel allowed a small number of trucks filled with aid to come over the border with Egypt but barred deliveries of fuel – needed to power hospital generators – to keep it out of Hamas’ hands.

The UN said it had managed to deliver some of the aid in recent days to hospitals treating the wounded. But the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, the largest provider of humanitarian services in Gaza, said it would run out of fuel by Wednesday night.

Officials said they were forced to reduce their operations as they rationed what little fuel they had.

– Associated Press

Open this photo in gallery:

Lebanon's Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah meets Jihad Secretary General Ziyad al-Nakhalah and deputy leader of Hamas, Sheikh Saleh al-Arouri at an unidentified location in this handout image released on Oct. 25, 2023.HEZBOLLAH MEDIA OFFICE/Reuters

4:39 a.m. ET

Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders discuss how to achieve ‘victory’

The head of Lebanon’s Hezbollah met top leaders of the Palestinian militant factions Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and discussed what their alliance must do to “achieve a real victory for the resistance,” Hezbollah said on Wednesday.

Part of an Iran-backed regional alliance, the heavily armed Hezbollah has had daily exchanges of fire with Israeli forces along the Israeli-Lebanese frontier since war broke out between Israel and Hamas on Oct. 7.

The meeting involved Hezbollah’s Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, Hamas deputy chief Saleh al-Arouri and Islamic Jihad chief Ziad al-Nakhala, Hezbollah said in a statement. It did not say when the meeting took place.

“An assessment was made of the international positions being taken and what the parties of the Axis of Resistance must do … to realize a real victory for the resistance in Gaza and Palestinian and to halt the brutal aggression,” Hezbollah said.

“There was agreement on continuing the co-ordination.”

Hezbollah announced on Wednesday that two more of its fighters had been killed, increasing the death toll in its ranks to 40 fighters since the start of the conflict.

– Reuters

4:34 a.m. ET

Israeli air strikes hit military sites in Syria

Israeli air strikes hit a number of military sites in southern Syria on Wednesday, killing eight soldiers and wounding seven others, according to Syrian state media.

The strikes targeted the Daraa countryside overnight and came from the direction of Syria’s Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, the SANA state-run news agency said, citing military officials.

The Israeli military said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, that its fighter jets struck “military infrastructure and mortar launchers” of the Syrian army “in response to rocket launches from Syria toward Israel yesterday.”

Since the war between Israel and Hamas started on Oct. 7, raising tensions in the region, Israel has carried out several reported strikes in Syria including two on the Damascus airport and three on Aleppo’s airport that put them out of service.

Israel has targeted airports and sea ports in the government-held parts of Syria in an apparent attempt to prevent arms shipments from Iran to militant groups backed by Tehran, including Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

– Associated Press

UN distributes aid to displaced Palestinians in Khan Younis in Gaza Strip

Food and other supplies have been delivered to about 150 displaced Palestinian families sheltering at an encampment in southern Gaza.

The Associated Press

Oct. 24, 9:53 p.m. ET

Canada joins U.S., others in call for ‘humanitarian pauses’ to allow more aid into Gaza

OTTAWA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday called for a temporary pause in fighting between Israel and Hamas to allow for humanitarian relief in Gaza and for hostages to be freed, joining a growing chorus of leaders urging a break in hostilities.

The new stance from Canada, which has aligned itself closely with Israel in the conflict, came as the UN compared the Gaza aid deliveries made so far with a drop in the ocean and warned the fuel supplies in the enclave will run out within a matter of days.

“We’re calling for humanitarian corridors and we are open to – and support – the idea of humanitarian pauses to allow access to necessary resources for civilians,” Mr. Trudeau told reporters after a three-hour cabinet meeting in Ottawa.

“We must remain rooted in the need to protect innocent people and free hostages,” he said.

Marieke Walsh

Open this photo in gallery:

Palestinians inspect the damage of a destroyed house that was hit by an Israeli airstrike in the town of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, on Oct. 24.Mohammed Dahman/The Associated Press

Oct. 24, 10:40 P.M.

Hamas strikes Israeli cities in massive rocket assault as Gaza death toll rises

The conflict between Israel and Hamas continued to get deadlier, and humanitarian aid in the Gaza Strip became yet more scarce on Tuesday, as the Palestinian territory reported its highest daily death toll of the war so far.

Israel kept up its siege and non-stop air strikes on Hamas-ruled Gaza. Hamas, meanwhile, launched its most audacious assaults on Israel since its deadly cross-border invasion on Oct. 7.

The ministry of health in Gaza said Tuesday that 704 people had been killed in the strip over the previous 24 hours. The Israeli military said it had hit more than 400 Hamas targets in waves of air strikes meant to prepare the way for an anticipated ground invasion of Gaza. Hamas retaliated by firing a massive barrage of rockets Tuesday afternoon, setting off sirens and sending residents running for cover in Tel Aviv and the southern city of Beersheba. The militant group said the barrage was “in response to the massacres against civilians.”

Two Israelis were injured by falling debris after the Hamas rockets were intercepted by Israeli air defences. Three others were hurt while scrambling to shelter. One rocket got through and struck a building in Alfei Menashe, an illegal Jewish settlement built on Palestinian territory in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Hamas also claimed via its Telegram channel that a group of its “frogmen” had infiltrated southern Israel by landing on a beach near the southern port of Ashkelon. The Israeli military said it had rebuffed the assault, killing several Hamas fighters, though Israeli media reported late Tuesday that gunfire was still audible in the area. Two other rockets were launched from Syria toward the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights. Israeli artillery replied by targeting the launch sites.

In recent days, Israel has allowed a trickle of aid – though no fuel – through the siege of Gaza’s 2.3 million citizens. Since Friday, Hamas has released four of the more than 200 hostages it has been holding, including an 85-year-old Israeli woman who shook her captor’s hand and said “shalom,” a Hebrew word of greeting or farewell that also means “peace,” before she left Gaza on Monday night.

But peace doesn’t appear to be on the horizon.

Mark MacKinnon and Geoffrey York

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