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Latest Israel-Hamas war news: Gantz poised to resign amid lack of plan

Latest Israel-Hamas war news: Gantz poised to resign amid lack of plan
Latest Israel-Hamas war news: Gantz poised to resign amid lack of plan

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Opposition leader Benny Gantz appears poised to follow through with his threat to resign from Israel’s war cabinet if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu doesn’t put forward a comprehensive postwar plan by Saturday.

Such a plan was nowhere in sight on Friday evening as Netanyahu continued to distance himself from a cease-fire deal presented by President Biden last week as an Israeli proposal.

Gantz is set to give remarks to the media Saturday evening after the end of Shabbat, according to a statement from his office. Israel’s Channel 12 news network reported that a meeting this week between Gantz and Netanyahu seeking to bring the pair to a consensus was unproductive.

Gantz — one of three voting members of the war cabinet led by Netanyahu — gave the prime minister the ultimatum last month, urging him to develop a plan to find an alternative government for the Gaza Strip and facilitate the return of the dozens of Israeli hostages still held by Hamas there. “The choice is in your hands,” he said at the time, addressing Netanyahu.

Should Gantz make good on his promise to leave the war cabinet and pull his party out of the government, it would deal another blow to Netanyahu as he becomes further isolated in Israel and beyond, amid concerns that he is dithering and dragging the war in Gaza on for political gain. Biden, in an interview with Time magazine published this week, said there was “every reason for people” to assess that Netanyahu was prolonging the war for political purposes.

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Netanyahu’s government can survive Gantz’s departure, but it could push the embattled prime minister to lean more heavily on support from Israel’s far right, said Shalom Lipner, a nonresident senior fellow for Middle East programs at the Atlantic Council.

If Gantz resigns, it “will put Netanyahu at the complete mercy of his right-wing and religious fellow travelers who — in the absence of Gantz’s fig leaf — will try to steer policy in a direction that is anathema to the Biden administration and puts Israel’s essential ties with the United States at risk,” Lipner said.

Amid the threat of a growing chasm between Netanyahu and the Biden administration, House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) announced late Thursday that the prime minister will address a joint meeting of Congress on July 24.

An invitation was extended to Netanyahu last week by a bipartisan group of lawmakers that said it was looking to “build on our enduring relationship and to highlight America’s solidarity with Israel.”

“The existential challenges we face, including the growing partnership between Iran, Russia, and China, threaten the security, peace, and prosperity of our countries,” Johnson, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) wrote in the invitation.

The invitation comes against the backdrop of U.S. political divisions over Israel’s destructive war in Gaza. Officials in Washington, Israel’s strongest ally, have increasingly voiced frustration with Netanyahu as he faces worldwide condemnation over an Israeli assault in Rafah and warnings of famine in the besieged Palestinian enclave.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Israel as part of a wider visit to the region next week, the State Department said Friday, to push for a cease-fire deal that would secure the release of all hostages.

Netanyahu on Friday rebuked the United Nations following news reports that the body is set to add Israel, as well as Hamas, to a list of entities known to harm children during conflict.

“The UN put itself on the black list of history today when it joined the supporters of the Hamas murderers,” Netanyahu wrote in a post on X. “The IDF is the most moral army in the world and no delusional decision by the UN will change that.”

Stéphane Dujarric, spokesman for U.N. Secretary General António Guterres, said in a Friday briefing that Guterres’s chief of staff notified Israeli U.N. Ambassador Gilad Erdan of the listing in a call Friday before the release of the report “as a courtesy afforded to countries that are newly listed” on its annex.

Erdan said he recorded himself on video receiving the call, then posted on X a brief portion of it, in which he berated Guterres and said the U.N. chief had made an “immoral decision” that will “reward Hamas.” Dujarric called the recording and its release “shocking and unacceptable and, frankly, something I’ve never seen in my 24 years serving this organization.”

The U.N. General Assembly established the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict in 1996, and its annual report is mandated by the Security Council. Last year’s report verified 3,133 “grave violations” against 1,139 Palestinian children, most of them by Israeli security forces.

That report, covering 2022, also verified a much smaller number of violations by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. But none of the three was among actors formally listed as failing to take action to rectify violations. The upcoming report lists Israel, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and spells out alleged violations in detail, according to a diplomat who spoke on the condition of anonymity about the yet-to-be-released document. The diplomat said Erdan had also been briefed on what the report says about Hamas.

“As per usual practice,” Dujarric said, “an advance copy will be delivered” to U.N. Security Council members next week. The report is to be published June 18, after which council members will hold a public meeting on its contents.

Israel’s foreign minister, Israel Katz, said the decision was “further evidence” of Guterres’s “hostility towards Israel and his deliberate disregard, and not for the first time, of the Hamas attack on October 7 and Israel’s right to self-defense.”

Residents in Gaza on Friday reported Israeli tanks advancing westward on the Philadelphi Corridor, which separates Gaza and Egypt, toward the sea. “The sounds of shells were heard all night long” on the southern side of Rafah, said Fathi Muhammed, 57, who stays in a tent west of Rafah with his family. Wissam Rajab, 50, who also lives in Western Rafah, said there was an “exodus” all night of residents who lived in an area known as the Swedish Village, which sits along the sea, as a result of bombing.

Israeli jets appear to have used a U.S.-made munition in a deadly strike on a U.N. school in Gaza on Thursday, according to weapons experts. The attack killed 33 people, including nine children, the Associated Press reported. An Israeli military spokesman said 20 to 30 Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters were operating from a compound inside the school. The head of the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees said the school in central Gaza had been sheltering thousands of displaced people when it was hit “without prior warning.” The Israeli military said Friday that it was continuing operations, including airstrikes, against militants in Deir al-Balah in central Gaza and in Rafah in southern Gaza.

The temporary pier built by the United States off Gaza’s coast was “successfully reestablished” on Friday, U.S. Central Command said. The mission to deliver aid to starving Palestinians via the pier immediately faced obstacles when it began last month and was suspended after severe setbacks, as well as bad weather. It will cost at least $22 million to repair the pier, according to two Pentagon officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss military plans.

The Houthi militant group has detained at least nine U.N. employees in Yemen, human rights advocates said Friday. The detentions come amid an escalating conflict between the Houthis and the United States and Britain over the militant group’s targeting of maritime traffic in the Red Sea. Niku Jafarnia, Yemen researcher for Human Rights Watch, said the detentions of the U.N. employees occurred as the Houthis had begun stepping up arrests of civil society activists.

At least ​​36,654 people have been killed and 83,309 injured in Gaza since the war started, 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. It says 294 soldiers have been killed since the launch of its military operations in Gaza.

John Hudson, Kareem Fahim, Steve Hendrix, Louisa Loveluck, Karen DeYoung, Hajar Harb, Cate Brown and Niha Masih contributed to this report.

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