Israel Latest: Saudis Pause Israel Normalization in Blow to US

Saudi Arabia has paused diplomacy to normalize ties with Israel after the flareup in violence between Israeli forces and Hamas, in a major blow to US President Joe Biden’s ambitions for the Middle East.

(Bloomberg) — Saudi Arabia has paused diplomacy to normalize ties with Israel after the flareup in violence between Israeli forces and Hamas, in a major blow to US President Joe Biden’s ambitions for the Middle East.

Palestinians in northern Gaza flooded streets in cars and on foot, heading south after Israel gave residents 24 hours to evacuate amid continued bombing and fears of a looming ground invasion. The United Nations warned of a disaster and said it would be impossible to move the million or so inhabitants of north Gaza to the south, as demanded by Israeli authorities.

Hamas, designated a terrorist group by the US and the European Union, called for a “Day of Rage” across the Muslim world and mass protests Friday against Israel, which the group attacked last weekend, killing 1,300. More than 1,500 people have been killed in Gaza in retaliatory airstrikes.

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

(All time stamps are Israeli time)

White House Meets Lawmakers On Aid Package for Israel, Ukraine (8:05 p.m.)

Officials are meeting Friday with lawmakers about their request — expected next week — for a supplemental aid package to arm Israel and Ukraine, the White House said Friday.

The fate of the funding package remains unclear as congressional Republicans remain split over whether to continue providing support to Ukraine – and who to name as the lower chamber’s leader after the ouster of former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

Saudi Puts Normalization Talks With Israel on Hold in Blow to Biden (8:02 p.m.)

Saudi Arabia has decided to pause diplomacy to normalize ties with Israel given the flareup in violence between Israeli forces and Hamas, people familiar with the matter said, in a major blow to President Joe Biden’s ambitions for the Middle East.

Saudi officials communicated Riyadh’s position to the US in recent days, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing private communications. They described the move as a pause and not as an end to the diplomacy.

Suspending the talks runs counter to the Biden administration’s push to proceed with normalization talks even in the wake of the latest violence. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is traveling to Saudi Arabia this weekend for talks.

Too Early to Say Whether Hostage-Release Efforts Will Succeed, Qatari Says (7:15 p.m.)

It’s too early to say yet whether diplomatic efforts to win the release of Israeli hostages held by Hamas will be successful, according to Qatar, a country widely seen as a likely potential mediator.

“The progress will be determined in the next few days, hopefully, and we will see if there will be a positive prospect for that,” Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al Thani told a press conference after talks with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. “But we are doing our best, our partners are doing their best in order to get them released safely.”

Israel Strikes Kill Reporter, Wound 2 Others on Lebanon Border (6:49 pm)

Israel airstrikes on the southern Lebanese village of Alma Al-Shaab killed a reporter and wounded two others, Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency said.

Reuters said videographer Issam Abdallah was killed while providing a live video signal in southern Lebanon and said it was seeking more information.

A reporter and a photographer with Al-Jazeera were wounded when Israel fire hit their car, the Arabic news network said.

Israel Army Carries Out Local Raids in Gaza (7:21)

Israel army said it has carried out local raids in Gaza in the past 24 hours in an effort to locate hostages and eliminate threats.

In a statement, Israel Defense Forces said they searched and collected evidence that would assist in the effort to locate hostages. Soldiers also thwarted cells and infrastructure in the area.

Biden Holds Call With Families of Missing Americans (7:16 p.m.)

President Biden called family members of the 14 American citizens still unaccounted for following the Hamas-led attack over the weekend in Israel.

The president was joined by top national security aides, including Roger Carstens, who serves as a special envoy responsible coordinating the US response to Americans being held hostage or unjustly detained overseas. The attacks killed 27 American citizens, according to the US.

Hezbollah Says Launched Attack on Israel Army Posts Near Border (6:44pm)

The Iran-backed Hezbollah group attacked four Israel military posts near the border with Lebanon in what it said was retaliation for strikes on several southern Lebanese towns, the group’s Al-Manar TV reported. 

Israel Defense Forces said earlier they’d responded to incoming fire in the area.

Hezbollah said earlier Friday that it’s prepared to act against Israel over its war in Gaza after its sponsor, Iran, warned the continued blockade of the Palestinian enclave could open up a new front in the conflict.

“We are fully prepared — when the time comes — for any action that we will carry out,” Hezbollah’s Deputy Secretary General Sheikh Naim Qasem said, according to the group’s Al Manar TV station.

France’s Macron Calls Stabbing of Teacher ‘Islamic Terrorism’ (6:42 p.m.)

French President Emmanuel Macron called the fatal stabbing of a teacher in northern France an act of the “barbarity of Islamic terrorism” and said authorities thwarted a second potential attack in a different region.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said earlier this week that the country had boosted its police presence, especially around synagogues and Jewish schools. He also banned pro-Palestinian demonstrations citing high risk of violence, though thousands of people gathered on Thursday in Paris and other cities for pro-Palestinian rallies that were subsequently dispersed.

Israeli Poll Shows Netanyahu’s Popularity Drops as Gantz Surges (6:00 p.m.)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s popularity has dropped while that of Benny Gantz, a former general who’s now part of Israel’s “war cabinet,” has surged, according to a poll conducted by Israeli research institutes.

The survey, published by Maariv newspaper on Friday and carried out by Lazar Research in partnership with Panel4All, showed opposition parties would win a crushing majority against Netanyahu’s coalition if elections were held now.

Of the roughly 600 people surveyed, 48% said Gantz was their preferred prime minister, while 29% chose Netanyahu.

World Bank to Continue Projects in Gaza, Official Says (5:45 p.m.)

The World Bank is monitoring the situation and has no intention for now to suspend its programs and financing for Palestine, the lender’s vice president for the MENA region Ferid Belhaj told Bloomberg in Marrakech.

World Bank projects in Gaza pertain mostly to energy, water and sanitation and are funded out of the $80 million a year the lender grants the Palestinian Authority.

Iran Diplomat Meets Hamas, Islamic Jihad in Beirut (5:13 p.m.)

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian discussed the situation in Gaza with senior officials from Palestinian militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad in a meeting in Beirut, according to a statement.

The visits followed an earlier meeting with the leader of Hezbollah, as Iran tries to rally regional support for Hamas’s attacks while denying involvement in them.

Amirabdollahian said Iran’s “diplomatic efforts” to end Israeli “war crimes” in Gaza would continue.

Explosion at Israeli Northern Border Prompts Artillery Fire Into Lebanon (4:58 p.m.)

An explosion on the perimeter fence near the Israeli kibbutz of Hanita on the northern border caused limited damage, and Israel responded with artillery fire toward the source, the Israeli army said. There was also an alert that the community was infiltrated and troops are searching the area.

Palestinians Flee South After Evacuation Order (4:56 pm)

Previously deserted streets of Gaza City were flooded with Palestinians fleeing southward after Israel gave them 24 hours to evacuate this morning. The scale of the evacuation order—which covers an area holding half of Gaza’s population—and of the flight are unprecedented. 

Still, many residents remain in the north, fearing the journey under bombardment and saying they have nowhere to go. Hamas has asked people to stay put, saying the order by Israel is misinformation. 

Four Palestinians Killed Trying to Damage Perimeter Fence In West Bank (4:35 p.m.)

Undercover border police officers killed four Palestinians who were trying to damage a perimeter fence and throw explosives near the West Bank town of Tulkarm, the Israel police spokesman’s office said in a statement.

JP Morgan’s Dimon Warns on Geopolitical Risks (4:30 p.m.)

JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon warned of serious geopolitical risks amid expectations Israel will make a ground assault on Gaza.

“This may be the most dangerous time the world has seen in decades,” the CEO of the biggest US bank said in its third-quarter earnings statement. “The war in Ukraine compounded by last week’s attacks on Israel may have far-reaching impacts on energy and food markets, global trade, and geopolitical relationships.”

US Working to Establish Safe Areas in Gaza as Conflict Escalates (4:01 p.m.)

The US is working with the United Nations and other international relief agencies to establish safe areas within Gaza for Palestinian civilians as Israel ramps up retaliatory strikes following attacks by Hamas, a senior State Department official said. 

But those efforts are complicated by the militant group’s track record of using civilians as human shields, the official said. US and Israeli officials discussed opening the Rafah border crossing to allow Americans and other foreign nationals to leave Gaza and enter Egypt while Secretary of State Antony Blinken was in Tel Aviv on Thursday.

NYC Preps for ‘All Out for Palestine’ Protest With More Security (3:35 p.m.)

Some New Yorkers weighed whether to stay home Friday amid surging tensions spurred by the war, even as Mayor Eric Adams said the city had “no credible or specific threats.”

Morgan Stanley told staff they could work from home Friday, when an “All Out For Palestine” rally was scheduled to be held in Times Square, not far from the bank’s headquarters. Google parent Alphabet Inc. said New York employees could decide whether to stay at home, while at least one Jewish school in Queens told parents it would close for the day.

Israeli Army Says It Intercepts Rockets (3:15 p.m.)

Air raid sirens sounded across northern Israel and Hamas said it was firing rockets at the area in response ‘’to the displacement and massacre of civilians” in Gaza. The Israeli army said it identified the rockets, adding they were successfully intercepted.

‘Unrealistic’ for A Million People to Leave in 24 Hours, Borrell Says (3:05 p.m.)

Civilians in Gaza must be warned about military operations but it “is utterly unrealistic that one million people can move in 24 hours,” Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy chief, said Friday in a press briefing in Beijing.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said at the same event that Zhai Jun, China’s special envoy on Middle East issues, would visit the region soon, without giving further details on his itinerary.

US Defense Secretary Says Support For Israel Is ‘Ironclad’ (3:00 p.m.)

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met with Israel’s prime minister and defense minister, and said Washington’s support for Israel is “ironclad.” In a press conference in Tel Aviv, Austin said US military aid – including munitions, air defense capabilities and interceptors for the Iron Dome missile defense system – is already flowing to Israel.

“We will continue to coordinate closely with Israel to help secure the release of the innocent men, women, and children in the clutches of Hamas, including American citizens,” he said.

Pro-Hamas Protests Take Place in West Bank (2:30 p.m.)

A large pro-Hamas protest took place in Ramallah in the West Bank on Friday, according to regional TV station al-Jazeera. The West Bank is run by the Palestinian Authority, while Hamas rules Gaza.

Elsewhere in the West Bank, there were clashes between Palestinians and the Israel Defense Forces. At least three Palestinians died, according to West Bank authorities.


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