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Flames and smoke rise from the site of Israeli air strikes at the port of Hodeidah, Yemen July 21, 2024.

REUTERS/Stringer

Israel and the Houthis escalate their fight

In support of Palestinians now under fire in Gaza, Houthi rebels based in Yemen have attacked ships they say are affiliated with Israel in the Red Sea and have sent missiles and drones flying toward Israeli targets. Israel, with help from the US and neighboring Arab countries, has blocked most of those attacks.

But last Friday, the Houthis claimed credit for adrone attack on a Tel Aviv apartment building that killed one Israeli man and injured eight more. Israel responded with air strikes on the Houthi-controlled Red Sea port of Hodeidah in Yemen. Authorities there said the Israeli attack killed three civilians and injured 80.

The Biden administration has designated the Houthis a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist Group,” but has so far stopped short of the more serious label as a ”Global Terrorist Organization” for fear that automatically resulting sanctions would do little to deter the group but deepen the misery of Yemen’s large number of starving people.

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Israeli police search the scene of an explosion near a branch of the US embassy in Tel Aviv early Friday.

Ilia Yefimovich/Reuters

Deadly drone attack hits Tel Aviv ahead of Bibi’s visit to Washington

The Houthi militia in Yemen claimed responsibility for a drone attack in Tel Aviv early Friday that killed at least one person and wounded 10 others. The drone crashed into an apartment building not far from the US Embassy in Israel’s second-largest city.

This was the first time the Iran-backed group carried out a lethal attack in Israel – and it involved an Iran-made drone. The Israeli military is investigating how the drone evaded its defense systems. The drone was detected, but it wasn’t intercepted due to an “error,” said Israeli military spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari.

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FILE PHOTO: A soldier stands at Trident Pier, a temporary pier to deliver aid, off the Gaza Strip, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, near the Gaza coast, June 25, 2024.

REUTERS/Amir Cohen/File Photo

US to scrap Gaza pier project

US military officials announced Wednesday they would dismantle the floating pier they had attempted to operate off the coast of Gaza, ending a difficult, expensive, monthslong mission to provide aid to civilians in the enclave.

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Palestinians flee the area after an Israeli attack on July 13, 2024 in Khan Younis, Gaza Strip.

Habboub Ramez/ABACA

Hamas says Mohammed Deif lives and denies halting truce talks

Hamas claimed it had not withdrawn from Gaza truce talks on Sunday, despite earlier reports to the contrary, after Saturday’s Israeli offensive targeted Hamas military commander Mohammed Deif. Hamas says Deif survived, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Deif’s fate remains unclear. The strike killed 92 other Palestinians, including women and children, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.

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Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men protest against attempts to change government policy that grants ultra-Orthodox Jews exemptions from military conscription, in Jerusalem April 11, 2024.

REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

Israel’s high court: Yeshiva students must be drafted

Israel’s Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Tuesday that ultra-Orthodox Jewish seminary studentsmust be drafted into the military like any other citizens. This ends the exemptions that young Israeli men registered in full-time religious study have enjoyed for decades. In the past, about 1,200 ultra-Orthodox have volunteered for service per year, but63,000 yeshiva students are now eligible for conscription. The IDF doesn’t publish its numbers, but an estimated 170,000 Israelis are now serving.

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the state memorial ceremony for the Altalena martyrs at the Nachalat Yitzhak cemetery in Givatayim, Israel, June 18, 2024.

Shaul Golan/Pool via REUTERS

Too late to prevent an Israel-Hezbollah war?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in an interview on Sunday said the “intense phase” of the war in Gaza will soon end while effectively rejecting a US-backed proposal meant to pave the way to a permanent cease-fire. But in an apparent effort to contain the potential fallout from his comments, the Israeli leader reversed course Monday and said he remains committed to the cease-fire plan.

During the Sunday interview, however, Bibi also said the IDF could shift its focus to Lebanon amid an escalating tit-for-tat with Hezbollah, the powerful Iran-backed militant group. “After the end of the intense phase, we will have the possibility to shift some of the power north, and we will do it,” he said.

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FILE PHOTO: Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant speaks during his meeting with U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin (not pictured) at the Pentagon in Washington, U.S., March 26, 2024.

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

Israeli leaders visit Washington amid rising tensions

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant traveled to Washington, DC, this weekend to discuss the final phase of Israel’s offensive in Gaza — and to address growing concern over hostilities with the Lebanon-based terror group Hezbollah.

Since Hamas’ attacks of Oct. 7, Hezbollah has ramped up its rocket and drone attacks on Israel, forcing the evacuation of northern border towns. Now, as Israel targets the last Hamas strongholds in Gaza, the concern is that the conflict could shift north to Lebanon.Last Wednesday, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah posted a video threatening to destroy key Israeli infrastructure with missiles if they are attacked.

The London Sunday Telegraph reported a significant increase in Iranian shipments of rockets to the group via Beirut's Rafic Al Hariri International Airport. “We are prepared for any action in Gaza, Lebanon, and more areas,” Gallant said before meeting US officials this week.

Netanyahu’s DC drama. Meanwhile, the politics are becoming increasingly perilous on Capitol Hill. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to address the US Congress on July 24, and many Democrats are conflicted about whether to attend. After Bibi released a video last week chastising Washington for withholding military aid – the US has only withheld one shipment while providing $12 billion in aid since Oct. 7 – some fear furthernegativity about US support for Israel from Bibi could complicate Biden’s reelection campaign.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a cabinet meeting at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem on June 5, 2024.

Gil Cohen-Magen/Reuters

Bibi bites the hand that feeds him

The White House is scratching its head after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a video published Tuesday, accused the Biden administration of “withholding weapons and ammunitions” from the Jewish state over “the past few months.”

“We genuinely do not know what he is talking about. We just don't,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierresaid in response to Netanyahu’s comments.

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