Israel Latest: Blinken Warns Iran’s Proxies on US Troop Strikes

A second convoy of trucks carrying aid to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip crossed through the Rafah border point on Sunday, even as Israel stepped up airstrikes on Gaza, including one it said killed the deputy head of the Hamas regional artillery array.

(Bloomberg) — A second convoy of trucks carrying aid to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip crossed through the Rafah border point on Sunday, even as Israel stepped up airstrikes on Gaza, including one it said killed the deputy head of the Hamas regional artillery array. 

Israel’s military and its prime minister warned that Iran-backed Hezbollah risks dragging neighboring Lebanon into war and said it responded after anti-tank missiles were fired from Lebanon. An airbase in Iraq that hosts US and international forces was targeted overnight by rockets in an ongoing escalation of hostilities drawing in regional militia. The US secretary of state warned against attacks on American troops. 

Israel’s military said it would embark on the next phase of the Gaza campaign, without giving a time-frame for its widely expected ground invasion against Hamas, which is designated a terrorist group by the US and EU. 

(All time stamps are Israeli time)

Hostage Talks May Delay Ground Invasion (6 p.m.) 

Israel supports diplomatic efforts to get Hamas to release hostages from Gaza quickly and in large numbers, a move that could delay and possibly alter its ground war, according to people familiar with the negotiations. 

Read more: Israel’s Support For Hostage Talks May Delay Invasion of Gaza

Hezbollah Fires Rockets After Five Members Killed (5:55 p.m.)

Hezbollah said it fired guided missiles and artillery shells at four Israeli sites after it announced that five members were killed while carrying out “jihadist duty,” the militant group’s Al Manar TV reported. Hezbollah also launched missiles at another Israeli site, claiming “direct hits” from its operation.  

The skirmishes come as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened to strike the Iranian-backed group “with a force it cannot even imagine.”  

Blinken Warns Iran’s Proxies (5 p.m.)

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US would “respond decisively” if Iran-backed groups attacked American forces. “We are concerned at the possibility of Iranian proxies escalating their attacks against our own personnel,” Blinken said on CBS News on Sunday. 

In a separate interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Blinken referenced a “likelihood of escalation.”

Blinken declined to say whether an Israeli ground invasion into Gaza is imminent. US military advice to Israel is “focused on both how they do it and how best to achieve the results that they seek,” he said on CBS without elaborating. While citing human suffering on both sides of the war, “Hamas is an active threat and that needs to be dealt with,” Blinken said.   

40 Aid Trucks Proposed for Monday, Says WFP Chief (4:30 p.m.)

Forty more trucks carrying aid to Gaza could cross Egypt’s Rafah border with Israel on Monday, said Cindy McCain, executive director of the UN’s World Food Program.    

UN officials have said that Gaza needs closer to 100 trucks a day in humanitarian aid for its roughly 2.3 million residents. The 20 trucks that crossed the border on Saturday with food and medical supplies were the first since Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7. 

“We were able to get 17 more trucks in just now,” McCain said on ABC’s “This Week.” “And there is a proposed 40 more tomorrow. But this dribbling of the system is not going to work.” 

France’s Macron Expected to Visit Israel on Tuesday (4:20 p.m.)

Emmanuel Macron will visit Israel on Tuesday, according to the office of Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu. Macron’s office declined to comment on the potential trip. 

The French president would be the latest in a string of world leaders, diplomats and lawmakers to travel to Israel since the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas, including US President Joe Biden, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Italian PM Giorgia Meloni. 

Israel Disputes Report That Fuel Aid Trucks Entered Gaza (4:10 p.m.)

An Israeli official disputed a report that fuel trucks had entered the Gaza Strip on Sunday along with vehicles carrying other aid. 

The news agency Agence France Presse reported that six trucks carrying fuel to power generators at two hospitals in Gaza had entered from Egypt, citing an official at the Rafah border crossing and an eyewitness report from an AFP journalist. 

The Israeli official said the trucks photographed on Sunday were transporting fuel within Gaza, from a UN fuel depot to hospitals.  

Touring North, Netanyahu Warns Hezbollah Not to Enter War (3:15pm)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Iran-backed Hezbollah not to join the war during a meeting with military officials in northern Israel. 

“We will strike it with force it cannot even imagine and the ramifications for it and for Lebanon would be devastating,” Netanyahu said. 

UN in Gaza Says Aid Convoys ‘Far From Enough’ (2:53 pm)

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency serving Palestinian refugees said it would “run out of fuel, critical for our humanitarian response across the Gaza Strip” in three days and that the aid convoys rolling into Gaza were “far from enough,” according to a statement. 

UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini called on all parties to immediately allow fuel supplies into Gaza. “Without fuel, there will be no humanitarian assistance,” he said. The agency is currently hosting more than half a million people out of nearly 1 million displaced across the Gaza Strip.  

Second Aid Convoy Crosses Rafah to Gaza (2:39 p.m.)

A second convoy of trucks carrying aid for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip crossed through the Rafah border point Sunday, according to footage on Egypt’s ExtraNews TV. Local media had reported earlier that 17 trucks were being prepared to cross the border.

The trickle of aid that’s entered Gaza this weekend falls — 20 trucks on Saturday and an estimated 17 on Sunday — for short of meeting the needs of the territory’s 2.3 million residents. 

Israel Says Hezbollah Dragging Lebanon Toward War (2:48 p.m.)

Israel said Hezbollah risks dragging Lebanon into a wider regional war after another night of intense cross-border fire with the Iran-backed militant group.

In one of its most serious warnings yet, the military said Hezbollah was “playing a very, very dangerous game” and “dragging Lebanon into a war that it will gain nothing from but stands to lose a lot.” 

More than 60,000 people in Israel have been evacuated along the border with Lebanon, and residents of an additional 14 communities are set to leave, according to the Israeli Ministry of Defense. 

Read more: Israel Says Hezbollah Dragging Lebanon Toward War as Towns Empty

Israeli Stocks Fall Again Amid Fears of Widening Conflict (1:25 p.m.)

Israel’s benchmark TA-35 Index fell again on Sunday as increasing attacks from Iran-backed Hezbollah militants prompted a warning from Israeli authorities that neighboring Lebanon could be pulled into the war. The decline was broad-based and led by Nova Ltd, a maker of measurement systems for the chip manufacturing industry. The gauge has fallen more than 10% since the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas and is down almost 9% for the year to date. 

Russia’s Lavrov Will Visit Iran on Monday (12:30 p.m.)

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov will travel to Iran on Monday, ministry spokesman Maria Zakharova told reporters. The main purpose of the trip will be the Armenian-Azerbaijani “normalization process,” with ministers from Turkey and Georgia also on hand. 

Israel Army Says Intercepts Unmanned Aircraft From Lebanon (11:56 a.m.)

The Israeli military said that anti-tank missiles were fired from Lebanon and that it intercepted a drone from its northern neighbor. Israel Defense Forces responded with fire to an attempted missile launch. Israel said its aircraft struck earlier in the day a cell planning to launch anti-tank missiles from Lebanon.

Army Says Next Steps in Gaza Await Government Guidance (11:30 a.m.)

Israel’s defense force awaits guidance from the government before embarking on the next phase of the military campaign in Gaza, IDF spokesman Daniel Hagari said in a briefing. 

In the meantime, the army has stepped up its aerial strikes over the Gaza Strip in what it describes as “part of the preparations for the next phase,” which is widely expected to include a ground invasion. 

“Overnight, dozens of terrorists were killed, including the deputy commander of the Hamas rocket fire array,” Hagari said in a televised statement.  

Cathay Pacific Suspends Flights to Tel Aviv for Rest of 2023 (11:16 a.m.)

Hong Kong-based carrier Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. said it has canceled all flights between the Asian financial hub and Tel Aviv for the rest of this year, citing “the ongoing situation in Israel.” 

The company first stopped flights there earlier this month, along with many other airlines, after Hamas launched its attack on Israel on Oct. 7. Cathay Pacific until then offered three flights a week to Hong Kong, according to the flight data company Cirium. 

Rockets Target Iraq’s Ain Al-Asad Air Base, Reuters Says (10:24 a.m.) 

Katyusha rockets targeted the base, which hosts US and international forces, and one blast was heard inside the base, Reuters reported, citing army officials it didn’t identify. 

On Saturday, defense systems at the base in the western Anbar province intercepted and shot down two drones. 

India Sends Humanitarian Aid for Gaza (8:07 a.m.)

An Indian Air Force flight carrying nearly 6.5 tons of medical aid and 32 tons of disaster relief material departed for Egypt, according to a spokesperson for India’s Ministry of External Affairs, Arindam Bagchi.

The supplies include life-saving medicines, surgical items, tents, sleeping bags, sanitary utilities, water purification tablets and other items, Bagchi said in a post on X.

Syria Says Israel Attacks Airports (7:57 a.m.)

Israel conducted simultaneous airstrikes at 5:25 am local time, targeting Damascus and Aleppo airports and putting them out of service, Syria’s state-run Sana news agency reported. Both facilities had been hit earlier in the Israel-Hamas war.

Al Jazeera reported Syria was diverting flights to the airport at its Mediterranean city of Latakia.

Israel to Evacuate More Communities in the North (7:45 a.m.)

Israel will evacuate 14 additional communities that are close to its northern border following exchanges of fire with Hezbollah in Lebanon, according to the Ministry of Defense.

Israel already evacuated 50,000 residents from about 30 communities along the border last week, including Kiryat Shmona, the area’s largest city and service hub.

In southern Israel, 70,000 residents have already been evacuated from communities following the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas.

US Strengthens Mideast Defense Posture (5:20 a.m.)

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said he had taken steps to strengthen the department’s posture in the Middle East after talks with President Joe Biden.

The government will add more Patriot battalions to locations in the region and activate a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense battery to increase protection for US forces. Additional staff have been placed on “prepare to deploy orders” to increase readiness, Austin said in a statement.

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