Israel Latest: Biden and Abbas Talk as Gaza Invasion Nears

Israel said it’s preparing for “the next stages of the war” against Hamas that would include “an integrated and coordinated attack from the air, sea and land” on the Gaza Strip. The statement from the Israeli military didn’t specify a time frame.

(Bloomberg) — Israel said it’s preparing for “the next stages of the war” against Hamas that would include “an integrated and coordinated attack from the air, sea and land” on the Gaza Strip. The statement from the Israeli military didn’t specify a time frame. 

Israel also acknowledged for the first time that it had intelligence of something happening at Gaza two hours before last week’s attack.

Ahead of the invasion, protests took place around the world, with tens of thousands of people believed to have attended the biggest rally in London.  

(All timestamps are Israeli time)

US Deploys Second Aircraft Carrier Group (2:17 a.m.)

The US is sending a second aircraft carrier group to the eastern Mediterranean in support of Israel, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement. The USS Eisenhower carrier strike group will join the USS Gerald Ford, sent shortly after the Hamas attacks from Gaza last week.

Austin said the deployments “signal the United States’ ironclad commitment to Israel’s security and our resolve to deter any state or non-state actor seeking to escalate this war.”

US Says 29 Citizens Dead, 15 Missing Since Hamas Attacks (12:04 a.m.) 

At least 29 Americans are confirmed to have died in the violence in Israel since the Hamas attacks, while the US is aware of 15 citizens and one lawful permanent resident who are unaccounted for, the State Department said in a statement late Saturday.

The US is sharing intelligence with Israel and deploying US government experts “to advise the Israeli government on hostage recovery efforts,” the statement said.

Biden Speaks With Abbas, Netanyahu On Civilian Aid (11:49 p.m.)

US President Joe Biden spoke with Palestinian Authority President Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday to discuss efforts to ensure civilians in Gaza had access to food, water and medical care.

In the call with Abbas, the first known talk between the two since last week’s attacks, Biden condemned Hamas and offered the Palestinian Authority his “full support” on efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to Palestinians, the White House said in a statement. Biden spoke with both leaders about joint efforts to work with the United Nations, Egypt and Jordan to help secure the delivery of supplies to civilians in Gaza.

Biden also provided an update on US military support for Israel in his call with Netanyahu, the fifth since last weekend’s attacks.

Liberman to Join Emergency Government (8:33 p.m.)

Israel’s Likud Party announced that Avigdor Liberman, who heads the opposition party Yisrael Beitenu, agreed to join the emergency war government as a cabinet member. His party has six seats in parliament. Earlier this week, Benny Gantz, leader of a bigger opposition party, helped form the emergency government by joining with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Blinken Urges China to Use Its Influence in Israel Conflict (8:25 p.m.)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged Beijing to use its influence to prevent other state or non-state actors from attacking Israel and widening its war with Hamas, the State Department said.

Blinken spoke with Foreign Minister Wang Yi before departing from Riyadh, where the top US diplomat was attempting to shore up support for Israel among Arab nations, said State Department spokesman Matthew Miller. 

Israel Acknowledges Reports of Gaza Activity Before Attacks (8:18 p.m.)

Israel confirmed for the first time that there were intelligence indications of something happening in Gaza two hours before the attacks last week. The head of Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service, spoke with military personnel about the reports, said Tzachi Hanegbi, head of Israel’s National Security Council.

“Both sides assessed that this is something other than it turned out to be,” he said.

Israeli Army Preparing Land-Sea-Air Attack on Gaza (7:36 pm)

The Israel Defense Forces said it’s preparing to “to implement a wide range of offensive operative plans which include, among other things, an integrated and coordinated attack from the air, sea and land,” according to a military statement. It didn’t give any indication of timing.

Soldiers are deployed all over the country and are prepared for the next stage of the war “with an emphasis on a significant ground operation.”

The army will be backed by hundreds of thousands of service members after it completed a mobilization of reservists.

Thousands March in London in Pro-Palestinian Rally (7:17 p.m.)

Thousands of people took to the streets across the UK in a series of pro-Palestinian demonstrations, with tens of thousands believed to have attended the biggest rally in London. 

More than 1,000 police were deployed in London and the rallies remained peaceful, even after authorities threatened to arrest anyone demonstrating in support of Hamas. 

Macron Calls on Netanyahu to Spare Civilians (7:03 p.m.)

French President Emmanuel Macron urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a phone call to abide by humanitarian law and spare civilians, an Elysee official said.

France has also warned Lebanese group Hezbollah to stay away from the war, the official added.

Turkey Opposes Forced Migration of Palestinians Toward Gaza (5:06 p.m.)

Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan says Turkey is standing with Cairo in opposing Israel’s policy of “driving Palestinians toward Egypt.”

Turkish military cargo planes, carrying food and medical supplies for the Gaza Strip, arrived in Egypt, Fidan said at a briefing with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry in Cairo.

Border Crossing to Egypt From Gaza Remains Closed (5 p.m.)

Egypt is refusing to allow foreign nationals in Gaza to cross the Rafah border point, the local media outlet Al Qahera News reported. 

Cairo’s position that the crossing should be used to provide aid is clear, the TV channel said on X, formerly Twitter, citing what it called informed sources in Egypt.  

Foreigners living in or visiting Gaza weren’t being allowed out by Israel on Saturday due to an unspecified operational concern related to security, according to a person familiar with the situation. 

Israel, Hezbollah Exchange Fire (2:45 p.m.) 

Hezbollah struck Israeli army posts with guided missiles and artillery fire, the militant group’s Al Manar television reports. Live footage shows artillery fire striking the post near Shebaa Farms, a politically disputed border area. 

Israel is responding to the fire, the Israeli defense forces said, striking sites in southern Lebanon.  

Hamas Says Nine More Hostages Die in Strikes (2:30 p.m.)

Hamas’s military wing said Israeli air strikes in Gaza killed another nine hostages in the past 24 hours, including four foreigners. This takes the number of captives who’ve died from Israeli bombing to 26, according to Hamas.

The Palestinian militant group abducted about 120 people, mostly civilians, and took them back to Gaza during the mass incursion into southern Israel a week ago.

Blinken Underlines Need to Look Out for Civilians (1 p.m.)

The US and Saudi Arabia need to ensure that the conflict doesn’t spread to other fronts, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in Riyadh after meeting with his Saudi counterpart Faisal bin Farhan.

Americans Might Be Allowed to Leave Gaza (12:30 p.m.)

American citizens in the Gaza Strip may be allowed to leave on Saturday, according to a US official with knowledge of the situation.

Americans May Leave Gaza on Saturday, Says US Official

Still, while Israel and Egypt have said they can exit via the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt, it’s unclear if Hamas will agree to that, said the official, who declined to be identified discussing private talks.

Water Running Out in Gaza, Says UNRWA (12:05 p.m.)

Across the Gaza Strip, more than 2 million people are at risk as water runs out, said the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which serves Palestinian refugees.

People are now forced to use dirty water from wells, increasing risks of waterborne diseases, it said.

“We need to truck fuel into Gaza now,” said Juliette Touma, a UNRWA spokesperson. “Fuel is the only way for people to have safe drinking water. If not, people will start dying of severe dehydration, among them young children, the elderly and women.”

Israel Says It Kills Senior Hamas Commander (8:15 a.m.)

Israel said it killed Hamas’s head of aerial systems for Gaza City, Merad Abu Merad, in an airstrike. He was, Israel says, in large part responsible for directing last Saturday’s attacks.

The Israel Defense Forces said he was killed when jets struck operational headquarters used by Hamas. The group hasn’t confirmed his death.

Overnight, Israeli fighter jets conducted wide-scale strikes throughout the Gaza Strip, the IDF said.

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China, EU Discuss Middle East Tensions (5:30 a.m.)

The Middle East was one of the most important topics in the latest talks between the European Union and China, top EU diplomat Josep Borrell said Saturday at the end of his trip to the Asian nation.

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Both sides agreed the only long-term solution to the Palestinian issue is a two-state plan, Borrell said. While Israel has a right to defend itself, “like any right, it has a limit,” which in this case is international humanitarian law, he said.

It is “utterly, utterly impossible to implement” an evacuation of Gaza, he added.

Israel Hits Hezbollah Sites in Lebanon (3:50 a.m.) 

Israel said strikes had been carried out on Hezbollah posts in southern Lebanon in response to “unidentified” objects that had entered northern Israeli airspace hours earlier.

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The objects were shot down by unmanned Israeli aircraft, the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement on Friday night. Hezbollah, a militia and political party that is backed by Iran, said earlier that it was prepared to act against Israel over its war in Gaza. The US designates Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.

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