30 May 2024
0 7 mins 1 mth

Israeli leaders thanked the United States after the House passed a foreign aid bill Saturday that provides $26.4 billion in military aid to Israel and humanitarian assistance, including some for Gaza.

Calling it a “much appreciated” step, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on X that the measure “demonstrates strong bipartisan support for Israel and defends Western civilization.” Israeli President Isaac Herzog thanked members of Congress and President Biden: “When the U.S. is strong, Israel is stronger; when Israel is strong, the U.S. is more secure,” he wrote in a statement.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said that at a time when Israel is facing threats on several fronts, including from Iran, the United States showed “unwavering support.”

The package includes, among other items, $4 billion for replenishing the Iron Dome and David’s Sling defense systems and $1.2 billion for procuring the Iron Beam defense system.

It also includes $9 billion in humanitarian assistance, some of which will be allotted to Gaza. None of the assistance, however, can go toward the largest humanitarian group serving Gaza, the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), for which the United States suspended funding after Israel alleged that a handful of its employees participated in Hamas’s Oct. 7 attacks.

The measure received bipartisan support, passing 366 to 58 in the chamber that’s narrowly controlled by the GOP. Twenty-one Republicans and 37 Democrats voted against the bill. More than a dozen of those Democrats said in a statement that, while they support Israel’s right to self-defense, supplying more offensive weapons to Israel “could result in more killings of civilians” in Gaza. “Most Americans do not want our government to write a blank check to further Prime Minister Netanyahu’s war in Gaza,” they said.

The Senate is expected to take up the bill this week, and Biden is expected to sign it.

Israeli forces carried out strikes in the city of Rafah overnight, killing 16 people, including nine children, the Palestinian state news agency Wafa reported. A pregnant woman was killed alongside her husband and their child when the couple’s house in the Shaboura camp was bombed, Wafa said. Doctors were able to save the woman’s baby, the Kuwaiti Hospital said, adding that the baby would be sent to the Emirati Hospital for further care.

Suhaib al-Hams, director of the Kuwaiti Hospital, said by phone Sunday that at about 10:30 p.m. on Saturday, three patients arrived at the hospital: Malak Jouda, 5, her father, Shukri Jouda, 29, and her mother, Sabreen Al-Sakani, 25. Hams said the hospital conducted tests and found that the mother was seven months pregnant, and doctors operated on her to save her baby. The hospital gave the baby, a boy, first aid, before transferring him to the Emirati Hospital in stable condition, Hams said.

The Israel Defense Forces, when asked for comment about the reports of strikes Saturday on the Shaboura refugee camp, said, “at the given times, the IDF struck several military targets of the terrorist organizations in Gaza including military compounds, launch posts and armed terrorists.”

Palestinians have for months been bracing for an expected Israeli assault on Rafah. Israel’s allies, including the United States, have warned Israel not to invade the southern city, where over a million Palestinians are sheltering — but Netanyahu has repeatedly promised to go after the last Hamas battalions in Rafah. On Thursday, U.S. and Israeli officials discussed the situation and “agreed on the shared objective to see Hamas defeated in Rafah,” the White House said in a statement. U.S. participants in the talks “expressed concerns with various courses of action in Rafah, and Israeli participants agreed to take these concerns into account and to have further follow up discussions,” the statement said.

Here’s what else to know

A flotilla of aid ships bound for Gaza is preparing to sail from Turkey in the coming days, organizers told The Washington Post, on a mission aimed at breaching Israel’s naval blockade and highlighting the lack of aid reaching Palestinians in the besieged enclave. A similar mission gained worldwide attention in 2010 after an Israeli raid on a flotilla that included a Turkish ship, the Mavi Marmara, killed 10 people and sparked a diplomatic crisis between Turkey and Israel.

At least 14 people were killed in a days-long raid by Israel’s military at the Nur Shams refugee camp in the occupied West Bank, including a 15-year-old boy, the Palestinian Health Ministry in Ramallah said Saturday. The Israel Defense Forces said all 14 were militants killed in close-quarters combat, adding that its forces arrested 15 “wanted suspects” and destroyed two “explosives laboratories.”

Separately, an ambulance driver was fatally shot Saturday near the village of al-Sawiya, south of Nablus, the Palestinian Health Ministry said. The Israel Defense Forces said it received a report late Saturday of “a violent confrontation” between Palestinians and Israeli civilians around al-Sawiya. IDF and Israel Border Police forces responded to the scene “and operated to diffuse the riot,” the IDF said, adding that “an ambulance driver for the Palestine Red Crescent was killed” during the incident. The IDF said the military police would investigate.

At least a dozen people were killed in a days-long raid by Israel’s military in a refugee camp near Tulkarm in the West Bank, Palestinian health officials said. (Video: Reuters)

Thousands of protesters in Tel Aviv called for the Israeli government’s resignation and for the release of hostages held by Hamas. They gathered on Saturday ahead of Passover, the Jewish holiday that begins Monday. A video shown at the protest in Tel Aviv said, “Until they return, it’s not a holiday, and it’s not Seder.”

At least 34,097 people have been killed and 76,980 injured in Gaza since the war began, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between civilians and combatants but says the majority of the dead are women and children. Israel estimates that about 1,200 people were killed in Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack, including more than 300 soldiers, and says that 260 soldiers have been killed since its military operation in Gaza began.

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