Israel Latest: Biden Sees Israel-Saudi Thaw as Motive for Attack

President Joe Biden said Hamas attacked Israel in part to stymie its efforts to normalize relations with Saudi Arabia, his most illuminating comments yet on the impetus for the crisis in the Middle East.

(Bloomberg) — President Joe Biden said Hamas attacked Israel in part to stymie its efforts to normalize relations with Saudi Arabia, his most illuminating comments yet on the impetus for the crisis in the Middle East.

Hamas released two US citizens who had been held captive in Gaza. US and European officials have been pressing Israel to delay a ground invasion of the territory and allow time for talks aimed at freeing hostages. Biden later spoke to the two freed Americans, the White House said on Friday evening.

Leaders from around the region are heading to Cairo for a Saturday summit on the crisis, with China and Germany also sending envoys. 


(All time stamps are Israeli time)

US, Israel Look to a Future Gaza Without Hamas (6:40 a.m.)

US and Israeli officials looking to the future of the Gaza Strip after dislodging Hamas have begun discussing possibilities, including potentially installing an interim government backed by the United Nations and with the involvement of Arab governments, people familiar with US government deliberations said.

The discussions are still at an early stage and hinge on developments yet to unfold, not least of which would be success in an Israeli ground assault, according to the people, who asked not to be identified detailing private deliberations. And any such possibility would need buy-in from Arab nations around the region, which is by no means certain.

Biden Says Attack Intended to Disrupt Pact (1:50 a.m.) 

Biden said Hamas attacked Israel in part to stymie its efforts to normalize relations with Saudi Arabia, his most illuminating comments yet on the impetus for the crisis in the Middle East.

“One of the reasons why they acted like they did, why Hamas moved on Israel, is because they knew I was about to sit down with the Saudis,” Biden said on Friday at a campaign fundraiser in Washington. “Because the Saudis wanted to recognize Israel and that would in fact unite the Middle East.”

Biden Speaks to Two US Hostages (12:40 a.m.)

Biden talked to the two American hostages who were released by Hamas, according to a White House statement on Friday evening. 

In the call, the president “relayed that they will have the full support of the US government as they recover from this terrible ordeal.”   

Israel Tells Military Censor to Crack Down (11:30 p.m.)

Israel’s national security adviser wrote to the country’s military censor demanding a stricter approach to approving publication of details from cabinet discussions during the war, according to a statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office.

Some publications already approved by the censor have caused “severe, certain and immediate damage,” Netanyahu’s office said. Israel requires articles that touch on military operations to be cleared by the censor’s office.

Macron Says Seven French Likely Among Hostages (11:15 p.m.)

President Emmanuel Macron said six French citizens missing since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack are likely being held hostage, in addition to one French national who’s been shown to be in captivity in videos released by Hamas. 

France hopes that other hostages, including its own citizens, will be released in the coming days via the same channels that resulted in the freeing of two American captives on Friday, Macron told reporters. The president said he’d consider a visit to the region if he felt he would be able to accomplish something useful.

Turkey Slams Biden’s Israel Visit (10:45 p.m.)

Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan criticized the American president’s trip to Israel this week, saying it gave Israel a green light to inflict suffering on civilians. “Biden’s going there in these conditions, and in effect giving approval for the destruction in Gaza, will be noted by history,” Fidan told state broadcaster TRT.

The minister, who’ll attend Saturday’s crisis summit in Cairo, said that there are some 300 Turkish citizens in Gaza and the government is working to get them evacuated. He said Turkey understands Egypt’s reluctance to open the border to people seeking to escape from the territory.

Two US Hostages Released by Hamas, Israel Says (10:30 p.m.)

Hamas released two US citizens — a mother and her daughter — who’d been held hostage in Gaza. They were met at the border by Israeli security forces, who took them to a military base where family members were waiting, Netanyahu’s office said. Hamas said it released the captives after mediation by Qatar.  

US and European governments have been putting pressure on Israel to delay its ground invasion of Gaza to buy time for secret talks under way to win the release of hostages, according to people familiar with the efforts. The US and EU classify Hamas as a terrorist group.

Biden Says Aid From Egypt to Start Within 2 Days (7:49PM)

President Joe Biden said the first trucks of humanitarian aid would make their way from Egypt to Gaza within the next day or two. “I believe that within the next 24 to 48 hours, the first 20 trucks will come across the border,” he told reporters Friday.

Biden previously said he left Israel with a promise from the Egyptian and Israeli governments to let food, water and medical supplies pass through the Rafah Gate as soon as Friday, but the crossing has remained closed.

Israel to Get Air Defense Upgrade in Biden Aid (6:40 p.m.)

The Biden administration’s congressional request for Israel includes $4 billion to procure missile interceptors for the Iron Dome and short-range David Sling that comprise the mainstay of its layer air defense system.

The request also includes $1.2 billion to help Israel develop the Iron Beam laser defense system that can counter short-range rockets and mortars, and the removal of curbs on the amount of US military equipment stockpiled in Israel that the Israeli military can withdraw.

Gaza Church Says 18 Dead in Israeli Strike (6:10 p.m.)

Members of the small Christian community in Gaza held a funeral for 18 Christian Palestinians killed at a church as a result of an Israeli airstrike, according to church officials and the Hamas-run Health Ministry. 

Church leaders and witnesses said more than 400 Christians, close to half the Christian population of Gaza, were sheltering at the church when it was struck Thursday night. The Israeli military said it had targeted a Hamas control center nearby, and the church was not the target of any strike.

China to Send Envoy to Cairo Summit on Gaza (6:00 p.m.)

China will send its Middle East envoy Zhai Jun to the summit scheduled in Cairo Saturday on the Israel-Hamas war, according to a statement from the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

China reiterated that it’s willing to work with other nations to push for a Gaza cease-fire, avoid humanitarian disaster and resume peace talks. China has stepped up its involvement in Middle East diplomacy this year by brokering a detente between longtime rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Hezbollah Says It’s Targeting Sites in Israel (4:21pm)

Iran-backed Hezbollah said it targeted multiple sites in Israel with guided missiles, according to the militant group’s Al Manar TV. The Israeli military reported about 20 launches into Israel from Lebanon, as well as several anti-tank missiles fired at military posts near the border. It reported no casualties and responded with artillery fire.

UN Chief Working on Aid for Gazans (1:15 p.m.)

The United Nations is currently “engaging” all parties including Israel, the US and Egypt to clarify conditions for the delivery of humanitarian aid to the 2 million people in Gaza, UN chief Antonio Guterres said at the Rafah Crossing.

“It is absolutely essential to solve these problems as soon a possible,” he said, as lines of trucks awaited on the Egyptian side of the border with Gaza. “Unfortunately this is not an ordinary humanitarian operation. It is an operation in a war zone,” he said.


Israel Evacuates Northern Residents (12:00 p.m.)

Israel announced on Friday it’s evacuating all 22,000 residents of Kiryat Shmona, which is a mile from the border with Lebanon. The town, one of the largest in the far north, has come under rocket and mortar assault from Hezbollah and Palestinian groups in southern Lebanon. Three people were wounded in one of the attacks. 

The inhabitants will go into government-subsidized guesthouses, part of a general order to move all those who live within 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) of the Lebanese border out of concern that the war in Gaza will inspire anti-Israel groups in Lebanon to attack in full force. The military also said the evacuation will allow it to operate more freely in the area.


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