Israel Latest: IDF Jets Target Hamas Leaders; Blinken Lands

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken landed in Tel Aviv Thursday on a hastily arranged diplomatic trip. Israeli jets hit key targets in Gaza after the nation vowed to wipe out Hamas, which is designated a terrorist group by the US and European Union.

(Bloomberg) — US Secretary of State Antony Blinken landed in Tel Aviv Thursday on a hastily arranged diplomatic trip. Israeli jets hit key targets in Gaza after the nation vowed to wipe out Hamas, which is designated a terrorist group by the US and European Union.

Israel’s emergency unity government hasn’t yet decided on a widely anticipated ground invasion, though the military is preparing for it. The conflict has killed at least 2,400 people in total on both sides, and the Israeli defense minister warned of a “long and difficult” war.

Earlier, the US cautioned its citizens against traveling to Israel and Sky News reported that families of British diplomats are being told to leave.

For more on the Israel-Hamas war, click here.

(All time stamps are Israeli time)

Families of British Diplomats Told to Leave : Sky (11:15 a.m.)

The families of British diplomats in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv are today being told to leave, while airports and border crossings remain open, Sky News reported. They likely won’t be able to return for at least two months, it added.

Israel Targets Hamas Leaders Across Gaza (10:50 a.m.)

Israel is targeting Hamas’ political leaders in Gaza as well as military ones as it seeks to crush the Palestinian group that launched a brutal attack on its civilians last weekend, military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Richard Hecht said. Hamas’s elite Nukhba forces led the Saturday assault and the military’s focus is to hit that group’s command centers in Gaza, Hecht told reporters on Thursday.  

He said a widely anticipated ground invasion has not yet been decided upon by the new emergency unity government announced last night, in which an opposition leader, Benny Gantz, joins Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition for the duration of the war.

The military is nonetheless preparing for such a move, he said, should it be ordered. 

Israel Says Hamas Attack Worst Event for Jews Since Holocaust (10:38 a.m.)

Israeli Defense minister Yoav Gallant called Saturday’s incursion the worst event for Jewish people since 1945. In a video statement to NATO defence ministers he said: “make no mistake. 2023 is not 1942. We are the same Jews but we have different abilities.”

Galant vowed to destroy Hamas, saying that “it will be a long and difficult war” and that “Israel is prepared to defend its citizens against any threat.” Over 100 people had been kidnapped from Israel, and that 5,000 rockets had been fired since Saturday from the Gaza strip to Israel, he said.

Scholz Says Germany Will Outlaw Hamas (10:15 a.m.)

Chancellor Olaf Scholz said his government will ban Hamas from operating in Germany and will also outlaw Palestinian group Samidoun, whose members he said “celebrate the most brutal acts of terror in the open streets.”

In a statement to the lower house of parliament in Berlin, Scholz also said that while Germany has “no solid evidence” that Iran provided concrete support for the assault on Israel, “it is clear to all of us that without Iranian support over the past several years, Hamas would not have been capable of these unprecedented attacks.”

Blinken Arrives in Israel (10:10 a.m.)

“The United States has Israel’s back,” Blinken told reporters on the tarmac before departing Washington. The top US diplomat, who will be on the ground in Israel for less than a day, is scheduled to meet with Netanyahu and President Isaac Herzog, as well as other senior officials.

Blinken will then continue on and visit other countries in the region as part of a broader diplomatic effort to ensure other countries and non-state actors don’t take advantage of Israel as it retaliates against Hamas, according to a senior State Department official who briefed reporters traveling with Blinken.

Palestinian President Abbas will meet King Abdullah in Jordan Thursday and Blinken on Friday to discuss the situation in Gaza, Palestinian authorities said.

Iran’s Foreign Minister to Tour Region (10:05 a.m.)

Hossein Amirabdollahian will start a tour of regional countries on Thursday to discuss the war, Iran’s semi-official Tasnim reported, citing the country’s ambassador to Lebanon. Amirabdollahian’s first stop will be Iraq, the semi-official Iranian Students’ News Agency reported. He’ll also visit Lebanon, according to Tasnim.

Germany to Send Drones to Israel (9:04 a.m.)

Germany received an Israeli request for Heron drones and on Wednesday decided to make two of the unmanned aerial vehicles available, German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius told reporters in Brussels before a meeting of NATO defense ministers.

Israel also asked for ammunition and medical equipment, Pistorius added. “We’re standing by Israel’s side,” Pistorius said, adding “We should all do everything and anything to avoid and escalation in the region.”

Iran’s Push to Rally Support for Palestinians (8:40 a.m.)

Iran’s president and foreign minister spoke with counterparts in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Syria, calling for unity among Muslim countries in supporting Palestinians.

“Iran will try to establish coordination by contacting the heads of Muslim countries as fast as possible” President Ebrahim Raisi told Syria’s Bashar Al-Assad Thursday. Iran backs Hamas with funds and training but has denied involvement in the group’s latest operation.

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