Israel Latest: Blinken Heads to Israel, Hostages in Spotlight

Secretary of State Antony Blinken departed for Israel on Wednesdayas part of a US push to show support for Israel, with evidence growing that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is preparing for a major ground assault into Gaza.

(Bloomberg) — Secretary of State Antony Blinken departed for Israel on Wednesdayas part of a US push to show support for Israel, with evidence growing that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is preparing for a major ground assault into Gaza.

Netanyahu formed a rare emergency government with the opposition to see through the war. Attention also grew on the fate of the hostages taken by Hamas and what will happen to them if Israel attacks.

Electricity went out in the Gaza Strip after its only power plant stalled. Israel cut fuel supplies to the territory following Saturday’s attack which has killed at least 1,200 Israelis. Retaliatory strikes on Gaza have left more than 1,000 Palestinians dead. Hamas, which is designated a terrorist group by the US and EU, is holding an unknown number of Israelis hostage. 

Israel Mourns ‘Another Level of Cruelty’ as Gazans Await Attack

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All time stamps are Israeli time.

Blinken Heads to Israel With Fate of Hostages Uncertain (9:45 p.m.)

Blinken said the point of his trip, which may include other stops in the region, is to show the US has Israel’s back at a time of crisis.

The US is also investigating the fate of the at least 17 Americans who remain unaccounted for following the Hamas attack in Israel. The White House is only aware of a “very small” number who are believed to be hostages, spokesman John Kirby said Wednesday.

The US has not received proof of life regarding the suspected hostages and does not know where they are, Kirby added. 

Israel Says Reports of Intrusion Were ‘False Alarm’ (8:30 p.m.)

Air-raid sirens sounded in northern Israel and local residents were told to go to bomb shelters, but authorities later said reports of an “airspace intrusion” from Lebanon were a false alarm.

Israelis have been on high alert for any sign Iran-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon to the north might step up attacks after Hamas’ deadly attacks from Gaza in the south over the weekend. 

About 90 minutes after the first report of an intrusion in the north, the Israel Defense Force said, “a suspected infiltration has been ruled out.” It blamed “human error” for an earlier alert telling residents across the country to remain in shelters. 

Biden Speaks to Netanyahu as US Death Toll Rises (7:21 p.m.)

Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris spoke to Netanyahu “to discuss ongoing U.S. support for Israel as Israel defends itself and protects its people,” the White House said in a statement. 

Around the time of the call, the US State Department said the death toll among US citizens rose to at leaset 22. It’s still not clear how many Americans are being held hostage by Hamas.

Israel Engaged in ‘War of Extermination,’ Palestinian Official Says (7:15 p.m.)

The Palestinian people are facing a “war of extermination” by Israel, the Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Malki said Wednesday, adding that Israel is heading toward an option of “total destruction” of Gaza.

“We have repeatedly warned about the danger of the continued occupation of our land and the Israeli violations,” Malki told an Arab League foreign ministers meeting in Cairo.

Malki detailed what he said were Israeli transgressions, including using illegal weapons in a blitz aimed at destroying Gaza’s infrastructure and its ability to support its residents.

Shale Boss Warns of Oil-Market Peril If Iran Is Swept Into War (6:38 p.m.)

Oil prices will surge if the Israel-Hamas war escalates to include Iran, shale magnate Scott Sheffield told Bloomberg Television.

The founder and chief executive officer of Pioneer Natural Resources Co. issued the warning during an interview on Wednesday, hours after Exxon Mobil Corp. agreed to buy the shale giant for $59.5 billion.

“If Iran gets involved, [the war is] going to get bigger and bigger and it’ll significantly affect oil prices,” he said.

US to Send Iron Dome Interceptor Missiles, Other Munitions (6:12 p.m.)

The US is sending interceptor missiles for Israeli’s Iron Dome air-defense system, as well as other munitions as part of initial support, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in Brussels.

The first munitions arrived Tuesday and the interceptors will be sent soon, Austin said, speaking after a meeting of the contact group supporting Ukraine. He said the US will keep supporting Ukraine and Israel.

“We’re going to do what’s necessary to help our allies and partners and we’re going to also do what’s necessary to make sure that we maintain the capability to protect our interests and defend our country,” Austin said.

UK Foreign Secretary Runs for Cover Amid Rocket Fire During Visit (5:56 p.m.)

UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly had to run for cover amid rocket fire during a visit to southern Israel, Sky News reported, citing video from the Israeli foreign ministry. 

Israel Forms Rare Emergency Government (5:30 p.m.)

Israel formed a rare emergency government with some opposition members on Wednesday to see the country through its war with Hamas.

A “war management cabinet” will be established with three members, according to Netanyahu’s office. They are Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and ex-Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who now heads an opposition party.

Gaza Runs Out of Power After Plant Stalls (4:02 p.m.)

Electricity went out in Gaza after its only power plant stopped working. The station is unable to receive additional fuel after Israel cut off supplies in the wake of the Hamas attack. The Palestinian Ministry of Health said hospitals in Gaza will soon be without power. Hospitals are using backup generators to provide “reduced” emergency services, it said.

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