The latest developments from the Israel Hamas war.
Netanyahu rejects calls for ceasefire until Israeli hostages are released by Hamas
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ruled out a temporary cease-fire in the Gaza Strip, saying he will press ahead with a devastating military offensive until hostages held by the Hamas militant group are released.
Netanyahu spoke shortly after meeting Friday with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who pressed Israel for a temporary pause in its offensive to improve humanitarian conditions in Gaza. Blinken also urged Israel to do more to protect civilians from its attacks.
In a statement, Netanyahu said Israel is continuing with “all of its power” and “refuses a temporary cease-fire that doesn’t include a return of our hostages.”
Hamas kidnapped about 240 people in its 7 October cross-border attack that triggered the Israel-Hamas war.
The attack killed about 1,400 people, while over 9,200 Palestinians in Gaza have died in Israeli strikes that began the same day, according to Palestinian health officials.
Top US diplomat says Israel has 'right' to 'self-defence'
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Tel Aviv on Friday, where he urged Israel to ensure the safety of Palestinian civilians trapped in the Gaza Strip.
At the same time, he reiterated Israel's "right" to "defend itself" so that Hamas' deadly attack could "never happen again".
Blinken - on his second trip to the Middle East since the start of the Israel-Hamas war on 7 October - met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and participated in a security cabinet meeting.
He discussed with Israel's leader the possibility of "humanitarian pauses" in order to protect Palestinian civilians and increase aid deliveries.
“We believe all these efforts would be facilitated by humanitarian pauses with arrangements on the ground increasing security for civilians and allowing more effective and sustained distribution of humanitarian aid,” he said during a press conference in Tel Aviv.
Israel would "never be alone", he emphasised.
Before Friday's trip to Tel Aviv, Blinken set out several objectives. These included: Putting pressure on the Israeli army to protect civilians in Gaza and the occupied West Bank and ensure a continuous flow of humanitarian aid to the besieged Palestinian enclave.
“We are going to talk about concrete steps that can and must be taken to minimise the harm to the men, women and children of Gaza,” he said before leaving Washington.
UN warns situation in the West Bank 'alarming and urgent'
Alongside the blistering Israeli military campaign in Gaza, the UN human rights office warned Friday that the situation in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is “alarming and urgent” because of “multi-layered human rights violations of Palestinians” there.
Large-scale raids overnight by Israeli forces in the West Bank killed seven Palestinians, Palestinian health officials said, raising the death toll to 144 since 7 October.
Spokesperson Liz Throssell said Israeli forces have increasingly used military tactics and weapons in law enforcement operations, and settler violence “which was already at record levels” has escalated.
“We have serious concerns that the principles of distinction and proportionality are not being respected by both sides,” Throssell said at a news briefing in Geneva.
“We strongly urge Palestinian armed groups to immediately stop launching inherently indiscriminate rockets into Israel.”
Scotland's First Minister in-laws left Gaza
Scotland’s first minister, Humza Yousaf, said Friday his in-laws have managed to leave Gaza for Egypt as part of the limited evacuations of foreign nationals from the besieged territory
The parents of his wife, Nadia El-Nakla, had been trapped inside Gaza since 7 October. They were in Gaza visiting relatives.
Her parents, Elizabeth and Maged El-Nakla, were among the 100 or so British nationals permitted to pass through the Rafah border crossing into Egypt on Friday morning.
Yousaf, who has regularly shared updates on his in-laws’ plight, including that they had to drink sea water, spoke of the “deep personal relief" felt by his family.
He said the last four weeks have been “a living nightmare” and that he and his wife will continue to call for an immediate ceasefire in the conflict.
“Although we feel a sense of deep personal relief, we are heartbroken at the continued suffering of the people of Gaza,” the couple said in a statement.
Risk of regional spillover 'real' - UAE
The minister of state at the United Arab Emirates’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs has cautioned regional tensions are “approaching a boiling point”.
“The risk of regional spillover and further escalation is real, as well as the risk that extremist groups will take advantage of the situation to advance ideologies that will keep us locked in cycles of violence,” Noura al-Kaabi told a policy conference in Abu Dhabi.
Al-Kaabi said the UAE, which established full diplomatic relations with Israel in a US-brokered deal in 2020, is working “relentlessly” for a humanitarian ceasefire.
“Every effort must be made to protect civilians and immediately put an end to this conflict,” she added.
Washington approves billions in Israel military aid
The House approved a nearly $14.5 billion (€13.6 bn) military aid package on Thursday for Israel, a muscular US response to the war with Hamas.
In a departure from norms, the Republican package required that the emergency aid be offset with cuts in government spending elsewhere.
Biden has said he would veto the bill, which was approved 226-196, with 12 Democrats joining most Republicans on a largely party-line vote.
New speaker Mike Johnson said the package would provide Israel with the assistance needed to defend itself, free hostages held by Hamas and eradicate the militant Palestinian group.
Israel sends back Gazan workers
Israel announced Thursday night it would send all Gazan workers, who have been stranded since the Hamas attack, back to the Palestinian enclave.
It vowed to "cut all ties" with the territory.
“Gaza workers who were in Israel on the day the war began will be sent back to Gaza,” the Israeli security cabinet said in a statement.
“Israel cuts all ties with Gaza, there will be no more Palestinian workers from Gaza,” it stressed.
Some 18,500 Gazans had work permits in Israel at the start of the war, according to Cogat, the Israeli Defense Ministry's arm overseeing civilian activities in the Palestinian Territories.
Contacted by AFP, Cogat did not say how many Gazan workers were in Israel at the start of the conflict. This figure has been put at up to 4,000 people by Israeli media.
Israel is currently battering the Gaza Strip with continued strikes, following the Hamas attack which killed at least 1,400 in the country's south.
Strikes in Gaza have killed more than 9,000 people, mostly civilians, since fighting broke out, with UN experts warning Palestinians "are at serious risk of genocide".