All the latest developments on the Israel – Hamas war and the conflict in the Middle East.
Hamas expected to respond soon to ceasefire proposal including hostage releases
A senior Hamas official said on Friday the group would respond “very soon” to a proposal that includes extended pauses in the fighting in Gaza and a phased exchange of Hamas-held hostages for Palestinians detained in Israel.
Hamas and other Gaza militants are holding dozens of hostages after kidnapping about 250 during their deadly October 7 attack on southern Israel that killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and sparked Israel’s blistering offensive on the enclave.
More than 100 hostages were released during a week-long ceasefire in November in exchange for 240 Palestinian prisoners.
Iran ‘will not start a war’ but will respond to bullies, president says
Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi assured on Friday that his country would not start a war but would “respond strongly” to anyone who tried to bully it, reported Reuters news agency.
The remarks follow days of tension between the US and Iran after three US soldiers were killed and at least 34 wounded in a drone attack by Iranian-backed militants on US troops in northeastern Jordan near the Syrian border.
US President Joe Biden blamed Iranian-backed militias for the first US deaths after months of attacks by such groups against American forces in the Middle East, and said the US would “respond”.
“Before, when they (the US) wanted to talk to us, they said the military option was on the table. Now they say they have no intention of a conflict with Iran,” Raisi said.
“The Islamic Republic’s military power in the region is not and has never been a threat to any country. Rather, it provides security that the countries of the region can rely on and trust,” he added.
‘We cannot abandon the people of Gaza,’ says UNICEF
UNICEF’s executive director has called on the world not to forget the children of Gaza.
“The allegations of involvement of several UNRWA staff in the heinous attacks on Israel on 7 October are horrifying. As the Secretary-General has said, any UN employee involved in acts of terror will be held accountable,” said the statement released by the organisation.
“However, we must not prevent an entire organisation from delivering on its mandate to serve people in desperate need,” it added.
Hamas brigade in Khan Younis dismantled, Israel says
Israeli forces have dismantled the Hamas brigade in the southern Gaza Strip town of Khan Younis, Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said on Thursday, as part of a nearly four-month war in which 10,000 Palestinian fighters have been killed and as many wounded.
Israel has said it will now concentrate its operations at Rafah.
Seven detained in Turkey for allegedly selling information to Mossad
Turkish police arrested seven people on Friday on suspicion of selling information to Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency, the state-run Anadolu news agency said.
The suspects, who allegedly passed details to Mossad through private detectives, were detained in a joint operation with Turkey’s National Intelligence Organisation (MIT).
Acting on warrants issued by the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, police anti-terrorism and intelligence officers carried out raids in Istanbul and the western coastal city of Izmir, Anadolu reported.
Two other suspects in the investigation were said to have been detained earlier.
Last month, 34 people were detained by Turkish police on suspicion of spying for Israel. They were accused of planning to carry out activities including reconnaissance and the “pursuit, assault and kidnapping” of foreigners living in Turkey.
At the time, Justice Minister Yilmaz Tunc said most of the suspects were accused of committing “political or military espionage” on behalf of Israeli intelligence.
The Mossad is said to have recruited Palestinians and Syrians in Turkey as part of an operation against foreigners living in the country.