June 18, 2024

(Bloomberg) — President Joe Biden vowed to provide Israel with full support, calling the Hamas attack on the country “an act of sheer evil.”

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Biden said Washington is sending munitions and providing intelligence support and stands ready to take additional steps to support Israel. Some 14 Americans were killed in the attack and others are being held hostage, he said, following a telephone call with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Tuesday. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit Israel this week in a further show of support, the State Department said.

The combined death toll from the war approached 2,000 and Israel’s military said it’s building a base for thousands of soldiers in preparation for the next phase of its retaliation. Hamas, which the US and Europe have declared a terrorist group, said late Monday it was prepared to kill hostages that it had taken if Israel attacks.

All time stamps are Israeli time.

Israel Responds to Fire From Syria With Artillery (11:30 p.m.)

Israel’s military said Tuesday that it was responding with artillery and mortar shells in response to weapons fire from Syria. “Part of the launches crossed into Israeli territory and presumably fell in open areas,” the Israel Defense Forces said in a post on X, the former Twitter.

Israel army radio said there were no reports of anyone wounded.

Blinken to Visit Israel This Week, US Says (10:15 p.m.)

Secretary of State Blinken will travel to Israel this week in a show of “solidarity and support,” State Department Spokesman Matthew Miller said.

Blinken wants “to hear from them directly about what they need, how to support them,” Miller said.

Iran likely knew Hamas was planning the attacks, but the US has no confirmation Tehran was involved in the preparations, he said.

US Believes At Least 20 Americans Missing After Attack (10:02 p.m.)

The US believes at least 20 American citizens are missing after the Hamas attack over the weekend but still doesn’t know the number of US hostages being held, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said.

President Biden said 14 Americans were killed in the attack.

US Says No Confirmation Iran Planned Hamas Attack (10:00 p.m.)

The US has no confirmation that Iran planned or directed the Hamas attack on Saturday, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said.

“While Iran plays this broad role — a sustained deep and dark role — in providing all of this support and capabilities to Hamas,” Sullivan told reporters. “In terms of this particular gruesome attack on Oct. 7, we don’t currently have that information, we will continue to look for it.”

“We did not see anything that suggested an attack of this type was going to unfold any more than the Israelis,” he said.

‘We Stand With Israel,’ Biden Says, Promising Full Support (9:30 p.m.)

President Biden said the US is sending munitions and other military aid for Israel and his administration will push for congressional approval of a new aid package soon.

“In this moment, we must be crystal clear: We stand with Israel,” he said in a White House address. “This was an act of sheer evil,” he said of the weekend attack by Hamas.

“Israel has the right to respond, indeed has the duty to respond,” Biden said, adding that he’d told Netanyahu that if the US had been attacked in a similar way, “our response would be swift, decisive and overwhelming.”

Israel-Hamas Conflict Adds to Dangers for Ukraine’s War Effort (8:51 p.m.)

Russia is set to benefit from the Gaza conflict, as Israel’s requests for US military aid risk diverting weapons and focus from Ukraine while the rising price of oil bolsters Moscow’s economy.

There’s a clear understanding in the Kremlin that the war between Israel and Hamas will work to Russia’s favor, according to two people with knowledge of the situation, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue. The conflict may, at the very least, work to distract US and European attention from the war in Ukraine, the people said, even while Russia has concerns about its escalation.

Publicly, US and European leaders have rebuffed concerns about their ability to continue supporting Ukraine militarily.

Bipartisan US House Bill Seeks $2 billion for Israel’s Iron Dome System (8:32 p.m.)

US House lawmakers introduced bipartisan bill to appropriate $2 billion for Israel’s Iron Dome air-defense system, a measure that’s likely to draw wide support.

The initiative “will make sure that Israel has the resources it needs to defeat Hamas, rescue hostages, and protect innocent civilians,” Democratic Representative Brad Schneider said. The House could take up the measure even before a new Speaker is selected if lawmakers authorize the current interim one, Patrick McHenry, to move legislation.

Most EU States Want to Keep Up Aid to Palestinian Authority, Borrell Says (8:15 p.m.)

An “overwhelming majority” of EU member states are against cutting any funding or cooperation with the Palestinian Authority, the bloc’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said after an emergency gathering of foreign ministers to discuss the Israel-Hamas conflict.

The comments come after initial confusion about the bloc’s aid plans following a social media post by a senior European Commission official saying funding to Palestine would be cut. The commission later walked back the remarks, saying it was launching a review to ensure no EU support is used to fund Hamas.

“This review should not be an excuse for delaying implementation of our cooperation, it has to be done quickly,” Borrell said. “It would be a big mistake to stop our support to the Palestinian Authority, it would be the best present we could give to Hamas.”

Israeli Military Distributes Weapons to Volunteer Defense Teams in Towns (8:10 pm)

The Israel Defense Forces is distributing thousands of weapons in order to strengthen volunteer defense teams in towns all over the country, according to a military spokesman.

Switzerland Moves to Label Hamas Terrorist Organization (7:45 p.m.)

A Swiss parliamentary committee has called on the government to label Hamas a terrorist organization — something traditionally neutral Switzerland has so far refrained from doing.

This would oblige Swiss banks to report transactions related to Hamas. Yet, a final decision on the issue usually requires a vote by the full parliament, that will only meet again in December. The US and EU already have categorized Hamas as a terrorist group.

Boeing Sped 1,000 Smart Bombs to Israel After the Hamas Attacks (7:00 p.m.)

Boeing accelerated delivery of 1,000 smart bombs to Israel after the devastating weekend attack by Hamas, industry and defense officials said.

The 250-pound Small Diameter Bombs, part of a 2021 contract, were flown from an Air Force base in the US by Israeli Air Force transport, according to an industry official who asked not to be identified discussing the arrangements. A Boeing spokesperson declined to comment.

Separately, the Biden administration is expected to announce fresh supplies of weapons to Israel, which receives more than $3 billion in US military aid every year.

Turkey’s Erdogan Criticizes US Military Support for Israel (6:58 p.m.)

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blasted the US for dispatching naval ships to support Israel, his first public criticism of his NATO ally over its handling of the crisis.

“What is a US aircraft carrier doing in Israel?” Erdogan asked at a press conference with Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer in Ankara. “It is going to shoot around Gaza and cause a very serious massacre.”

Erdogan later held a phone call with Russia’s Vladimir Putin, the latest of a series of calls he’s already held with leaders across the region

Yemen’s Houthis Threaten Israel if US Supports Gaza Strikes (6:30 p.m.)

Yemen’s Houthi rebels, backed and financed by Iran, said they would send drones and missiles against Israel if the US joined in the attack on Hamas in Gaza.

The Houthis have claimed damaging drones and missile strikes far beyond the territory they hold — including in Saudi Arabia in 2019, when they briefly knocked out half the kingdom’s oil production. Still, they’ve never struck targets as far away as Israel.

Israel Uses Tanks, Artillery after Rocket Barrage from Southern Lebanon (5:13 p.m.)

Israeli soldiers responded with tanks and artillery fire against Hezbollah observation posts in Southern Lebanon after rocket launches were detected there, the Israel Defense Forces said.

In response to anti-tank missile launched form Lebanese territory, an Israeli military helicopter struck a Hezbollah observation post.

State-run Lebanon news agency says rockets were fired from Sahl Al-Qlayleh toward western Galilee.

Hamas Says 830 Killed, 4,250 Wounded in Israeli Strikes (4:45 p.m.)

A third day of Israeli strikes on targets in Gaza killed 830 people and left 4,250 wounded, the Gaza Health Ministry said.

Israel Says Two Members of Gaza Politburo Killed (3:59 p.m.)

An Israeli airstrike killed two members of the Gaza politburo, Hamas’s decision-making body, the Israel Defense Forces said on Tuesday. It named them as Zakarya Abu Muamar, who was in charge of coordination between the different Palestinian factions, and Jawad Abu Shamalla, who held the economic portfolio.

The 20-member politburo was formed following internal Hamas elections in 2021.

Putin Says Israel-Palestine ‘Vivid’ Example of US Policy Failure (3:51 p.m.)

The Israel-Hamas conflict is a “vivid example of the failure of US policy in the Middle East,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said.

Hamas Got Around Israel’s Surveillance Prowess by Going Dark

Putin, speaking a meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani in Moscow, accused the US of trying to monopolize efforts toward a resolution, putting pressure on both sides “without taking into account the fundamental interests of the Palestinians.” He said an independent, sovereign Palestinian state was a necessity.

EU’s Borrell Says Israel Has Right to Self-Defense, Must Follow International Law (3:27 p.m.)

The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said Israel has the right to defend itself, but said “it has to be implemented according to the principles of international humanitarian law.” He also called for allowing people in Gaza access to food, water and medicine.

Israeli Death Toll Rises to More Than 1,000 (3:02 p.m.)

More than 1,008 Israelis have been killed in the attacks, the Israeli Embassy in the US said on X. Over 3,418 others have been injured and some 4,969 rockets launched, it said.

US’s Kirby: $6 Billion Iran Funds Can Be ‘Refrozen’ (2:41 p.m.)

Access the US gave Iran to $6 billion in suspended funds as part of a prisoner-swap deal can be “refrozen at any time, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told MSNBC.

President Joe Biden’s Republican rivals have harshly criticized his decision to grant Iran access to the funds for humanitarian purposes, saying it emboldened Iran and its proxies such as Hamas.

“Not a single dinar of that $6 billion has ever gone into Iran for humanitarian purposes,” Kirby said. “None of it has been allocated; none of it has been spent. So it’s all still sitting in a Qatari bank and that is an option that’s available to us.”

Ruling Coalition Wants to Form Emergency Government (2:20 p.m.)

Israel’s ruling coalition said it wants to form a rare emergency government with the opposition following Saturday’s attacks by Hamas that killed more than 900 Israelis.

“All the heads of the coalition, without exception, supported the establishment of a national emergency government and authorized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to act for its establishment,” Likud, the premier’s party, said in a statement on Tuesday.

Some opposition leaders, including former Prime Minister Yair Lapid and ex-Defense Minister Benny Gantz, said over the weekend that they’d favor such a move.

France Says Plausible Iran Helped Hamas (1 p.m.)

French President Emmanuel Macron said there wasn’t any definite trace of Iran’s direct involvement in Saturday’s attacks at this stage, but added it was plausible the country cooperated with Hamas and provided help.

He told a joint news conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Hamburg that public statements made by Iran were “unacceptable.” “We very clearly condemn all the countries who cheered the horrors committed by Hamas, which is the case of Iran,” he said.

Hamas Leader Says Hostages Won’t Be Discussed Till After War (12:57 p.m.)

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said the group “informed all parties that contacted us” regarding hostages that “this file will not be discussed before the end of the battle,” according to a statement. It “will only be at a price that the resistance will accept,” he said.

He urged other “resistance groups” to join Hamas’s fight.

Egypt’s state-run Ahram Online website on Monday reported the country was working to facilitate a prisoner-exchange deal, looking to secure the release of Palestinian women and children held by Israel in return for that of Israeli “civilian women” taken by Hamas. It cited people it didn’t identify.

Number of Palestinians Displaced in Gaza Rises to 180,000 (11:59 a.m.)

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency said 180,000 people had now been internally displaced in Gaza due to the violence. Some 137,500 are sheltering in 83 UNRWA schools.

Israel Expects Gaza to Lose Electricity Within Days (11:47 a.m.)

Energy Minister Israel Katz says he expected electricity in Gaza to completely cut within days, with local suppliers disabled. Electricity supply coming from Israel has already been shut down. Water is likely to cut within a week, once pumping wells are emptied, he said.

Khamenei Warns Against Attacks on Gaza (11:23 a.m.)

“The massacre and mass killing of the people of Gaza will bring a greater calamity” on Israel, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said at a military graduation ceremony. “They should know that the reaction to these atrocities will be a heavier slap”

Khamenei repeated his country’s denial of involvement in the attacks, and said the Hamas operation was a response to Israeli “crimes.”

“The incumbent government of the Israeli regime is the culprit,” he said. “Of course, we defend Palestine and their fight,” said Khamenei, who’s previously criticized Arab countries for normalizing ties with Israel.

Israel Builds Up Forces Near Gaza (10:01 a.m.)

The Israeli military is building a base next to the Gaza Strip to accommodate tens of thousands of soldiers.

“Israel is going to respond very severely and aggressively and there will be more loss of life,” Richard Hecht, a spokesman for the Israeli military and lieutenant-colonel, told journalists in Tel Aviv on Tuesday. “We should all change the paradigm here. This is not tit for tat.”

The mass and rapid mobilization means the military is stretched for equipment, leaving some troops with older items, Hecht said. He warned there could be errors when it comes to hitting targets in Gaza.

–With assistance from Gwen Ackerman, Alisa Odenheimer, Galit Altstein and Marissa Newman.

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