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Welcome back to our live coverage of the war between Israel and Hamas.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) carried out a “targeted raid” in Gaza overnight, with tanks rolling into the Strip. It said the raid was carried out as “preparation for the next stage of combat” in the war against Hamas, sparked by the October 7 attacks which left 1400 dead and more than 220 taken hostage.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said a date has been set for a ground incursion into Gaza — but has refused to reveal how many troops will enter the area or when it will begin.

In a televised address on Wednesday night, the Israeli Prime Minister described the war against the Palestinian terror group as a battle of “light” versus “darkness” and said Israel would “realise the prophecy of Isaiah”.

It comes as human rights organisations warn not enough aid is making it into Gaza, with the WHO saying an “unimaginable catastrophe” is looming.

Read on for the latest updates.

Escalation as US carries out airstrikes

US President Joe Biden sent a message to Iran warning against strikes on US troops, as the Pentagon confirmed the US military struck two facilities in Syria used by Iranian-backed militia groups.

The US military struck two facilities in eastern Syria used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and affiliated groups, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Thursday.

“The precision self-defence strikes are a response to a series of ongoing and mostly unsuccessful attacks against US personnel in Iraq and Syria by Iranian-backed militia groups that began on October 17,” he said in a statement.

One US citizen contractor died from a cardiac incident during the attacks, and 21 US military personnel suffered “minor injuries, but all have since returned to duty”, Mr Austin added.

The strikes in Syria follow a direct warning earlier on Thursday from President Joe Biden to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei against the strikes on US troops, the White House said.

“There was a direct message relayed. That’s as far as I’m going to go,” US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters, declining to say how it was delivered.

In his statement, Mr Austin sought to distance the strikes against facilities used by the IRGC in Syria from the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza.

“These narrowly tailored strikes in self-defence were intended solely to protect and defend US personnel in Iraq and Syria,” he said.

“They are separate and distinct from the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, and do not constitute a shift in our approach to the Israel-Hamas conflict.”

‘Hell on earth’: Arab nations’ grim warning

Representatives from Israel and Arab countries exchanged sharp accusations on Thursday at the UN General Assembly, as the body discussed the Israel-Hamas war following the Security Council’s failure to take action.

The matter has exposed deep divisions in the Security Council, with a total of four resolutions gaining insufficient traction or being blocked by a veto in less than two weeks.

Arab countries are hoping that the General Assembly, which has a different power balance and where no country holds a veto, will be able to act, even if any resolution would be nonbinding.

But the back-and-forth on Thursday remained in attack mode, with Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi, who spoke on behalf of 22 Arab countries, accusing Israel of “making Gaza a perpetual hell on Earth”.

“The trauma will haunt generations to come,” he said, adding that “the right to self defence is not a license to kill with impunity … collective punishment is not self defence, it is a war crime”.

The death toll in Gaza is expected to rise substantially if Israeli troops massed near the border move into the Palestinian territory.

“To stop this madness, you have a chance to do something, to give an important signal. Choose justice, not vengeance,” said Palestinian Ambassador to the UN Riyad Mansour.

Jordan has circulated a draft resolution that is still under discussion, which is meant to be put to vote on Friday.

The text focuses largely on the humanitarian situation, calling for an “immediate ceasefire” and “unhindered humanitarian access” to the Gaza Strip. It also calls on all parties to comply with the “protection of civilians”, but makes no mention of the Hamas attack.

Israeli UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan blasted the text.

“The drafters of the resolution claim to be concerned about peace,” he said. “Yet the depraved murderers who initiated this war are not even mentioned in the resolution. The only place this resolution belongs is in the dustbin of history.”

‘Harsh’: White House spokesman hits back

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby has angrily hit back at a reporter during a press briefing after she suggested President Joe Biden’s stance on Palestinian casualties was “harsh”.

Mr Biden on Wednesday cast doubt on the figures produced by the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza, saying he was “sure innocents have been killed, and it’s a price of waging war, but I have no confidence in the number that the Palestinians are using”.

“Don’t you think this is insensitive?” Brazilian journalist Raquel Krahenbuhl asked Mr Kirby on Thursday, noting there had been “very harsh criticism” of the comments by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which called on Mr Biden to apologise.

Mr Kirby said there would be no apology.

“What’s harsh — what’s harsh is the way Hamas is using people as human shields,” he said.

“What’s harsh is taking a couple of hundred hostages and leaving families anxious, waiting and worrying to figure out where their loved ones are. What’s harsh, is dropping in on a music festival and slaughtering a bunch of young people just trying to enjoy an afternoon.

“I could go on and on. That’s what’s harsh. That is what’s harsh and being honest about the fact that there have been civilian casualties and that there likely will be more is being honest because that’s what war is.

“It’s brutal, it’s ugly, it’s messy. I’ve said that before. The President also said that yesterday.

“That doesn’t mean we have to like it, and it doesn’t mean that we’re dismissing any one of those casualties — each and every one is a tragedy in its own right, and each and every one we should try to prevent. That is why we’re in close contact with our Israeli counterparts to do everything we can to help them minimise the risk to civilians that are in harm’s way.

“It would be helpful if Hamas would let them leave. Leave their homes, leave areas, not shelter in tunnels underneath their houses and in hospitals, and let them get out, let them get out of Gaza if they want to leave. We know that there are thousands waiting to leave Gaza writ large and Hamas is preventing them from doing it. That is what is harsh.”

Families say ‘patience has run out’

Families of some of the hostages held by Hamas have demanded the Israeli government act immediately, saying in a statement obtained by CNN on Thursday that their “patience has run out”.

“They have been there for 20 days, 20 days that we have no idea of their condition, if they are being cared for, if they are breathing, 20 days that we are asked to be patient,” Meirav Leshem Gonen, whose daughter Romi Gonen was kidnapped from the Nova music festival, said in the statement.

“We have been extremely patient, but enough. Our patience has run out. All of us families of the hostages and the entire State of Israel that stands behind us say — enough! Our patience has ended.”

Ditza Or, the mother of Avinatan Or, who was also kidnapped from the Nova music festival, said if the hostages were not returned Israel had “an existential problem”.

“I call on all the rulers in this country — I do not call them leaders because they do not lead us,” she said. “This is not right or left-wing. If you do not bring them back, your place is in the garbage bin of history.”

The statement came as Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Thursday promised a “supreme effort” to return the hostages.

“I am determined to make every effort to return the hostages to their families, this is my supreme obligation, along with the effort for absolute victory in the war,” he told reporters.

Local media on Thursday suggested Israel may be considering offering something in exchange to release a significant number of hostages, but the IDF has pushed back on a reported fuel-for-captives deal as Hamas “relies on fuel”.

On Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged he would “have to give answers” for the intelligence failures that led to the worst terror attack in the country’s 75-year history.

US forces attacked 16 times this month

American and allied forces in Iraq and Syria have been attacked at least 16 times this month, the US Defense Department said on Thursday, blaming “Iranian-backed militia groups”.

The latest attack took place in the autonomous Kurdistan region in northern Iraq on Thursday, causing “no casualties” and “some minor damage to infrastructure”, Pentagon spokesman Brigadier General Pat Ryder told journalists.

Since October 17, “US and coalition forces have been attacked at least 12 separate times in Iraq [and] four separate times in Syria,” Mr Ryder said, referring to the international coalition against the Islamic State jihadist group.

The attacks were carried out with “a mix of one-way attack drones and rockets”, he said.

“We know that these are Iranian-backed militia groups that are supported by Iran and of course we hold Iran responsible for these groups,” Mr Ryder said of who is behind the attacks.

American forces in the Middle East are facing a spike in attacks linked to the latest war between Israel and Hamas.

There are roughly 2500 American troops in Iraq and some 900 in Syria as part of efforts to prevent a resurgence of IS, which once held significant territory in both countries but was pushed back by local ground forces backed by international air strikes in a bloody multi-year conflict.

Hamas says 50 hostages killed

Approximately 50 hostages have been killed in Israeli air strikes on Gaza, the spokesman for Hamas’ al-Qassam Brigades has claimed.

“Al-Qassam Brigades estimates that the number of Zionist prisoners killed in the Gaza Strip as a result of Zionist bombing and massacres reached approximately 50 people,” Abu Obaida wrote in a statement on the group’s Telegram channel on Thursday.

The claim has not been independently verified.

Israeli authorities say Hamas kidnapped 224 hostages during the October 7 attacks on southern Israel that left 1400 dead, mainly civilians.

Israel has retaliated with relentless strikes that Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry claims have killed more than 7000 people, also mainly civilians.

Hamas has previously executed hostages as revenge for Israeli bombings, then claimed they died during the air strikes.

The Palestinian terror group made a similar claim earlier this month, announcing Israeli air strikes had killed nine hostages, including four foreign nationals.

At the time, Hamas wrote on Telegram that the hostages were killed “because of the Zionist bombardment on the areas they were staying in”, according to The Jerusalem Post.

Al Jazeera subsequently reported those hostages had been executed by Hamas as revenge for attacks on its military buildings.

Bachar Houli asked to remove video

AFL great Bachar Houli was asked by senior figures in the sport to take down a controversial pro-Palestine video posted on social media, the Herald Sun reports.

The video, originally posted by rugby player turned boxer Sonny Bill Williams, describes Israel’s actions in Gaza as “genocide” and says “don’t let biased media push you to support the oppressor”.

Houli shared the video, but was requested by Richmond management to take it down.

When the 35-year-old refused, the matter was then escalated to the AFL, according to the Herald Sun. AFL commissioner Paul Bassat spoke to Houli, as well as prominent Jewish community member and Richmond fan Paul Naphtali.

The three-time premiership player deleted the video on Sunday and replaced it with a statement stressing he does “not condone killings of any innocent people regardless of their faith or culture”.

Iran’s dark warning for US

Iran, a nation that has bankrolled and is a major supporter of Hamas, has continued to make threats about Israel’s actions in Gaza.

On Thursday at the United Nations in New York, Tehran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said the US “will not be spared from the fire” if the “genocide” continues in Gaza.

He was speaking at an emergency meeting of the United Nations General Assembly to discuss the conflict.

“I say frankly to the American statesmen, who are now managing the genocide in Palestine, that we do not welcome [an] expansion of the war in the region,” said Mr Amir-Abdollahian.

“But if the genocide in Gaza continues, they will not be spared from this fire.”

Mr Amir-Abdollahian added that Iran was ready to act as an intermediary on the hostage situation alongside the roles played by Qatar and Turkey.

The Foreign Minister continued that while Israel was pushing for the release of around 200 hostages in Gaza then around 6000 Palestinians in Israeli prisons should also be released.

Why Israel hasn’t invaded yet

Israel’s looming, much-discussed ground invasion has been anticipated for quite some time now. You might wonder what it’s waiting for — and here we might have an answer.

The Wall Street Journal reports Israel has agreed to temporarily delay its invasion to give the United States time to move air defence systems in place, the point being to protect American troops in the region.

The US is reportedly “rushing” to deploy about a dozen of these systems, and they could be in place by the end of the week.

Senior Hamas leader visits Russia

Russian state media reports a delegation representing Hamas is in Moscow.

And Russia’s Foreign Minister says the Deputy Foreign Minister of Iran, Ali Baghiri Kani, is also in the city. Those two facts aren’t necessarily connected — but Russia has ties to both Iran and Hamas.

Officially, the Putin regime’s position on the war in Israel is that a ceasefire should be declared, with the resumption of talks for a permanent peace deal.

Diplomacy is a matter of emphasis though. Russia has blamed the current explosion of violence between Israel and Hamas on American foreign policy — a sign that it finds the whole situation quite useful.

One member of the Hamas delegation is reportedly Abu Marzuk, who’s among the terrorist group’s senior leaders. He is from Hamas’s political wing, not its military wing, but the entire group is considered a terrorist organisation by most major Western countries.

Gaza Strip ‘becoming a graveyard’

Philippe Lazzarini is head of the UNRWA, the United Nations agency responsible for helping Palestinian refugees. He has written a piece for The Guardian in which he warns that Gaza is becoming a “graveyard” and “hell on Earth”.

“Entire neighbourhoods are being flattened over the heads of civilians in one of the most overcrowded spots on Earth,” Mr Lazzarini says.

“The IDF has been warning Palestinians in Gaza to move to the southern part of the Strip as it bombs the north, but the strikes also continue in the south. There is nowhere safe in Gaza.

“Gaza has been described over the last 15 years as a large open-air prison, with an air, sea and land blockade choking 2.2 million people within 365 square kilometres. Most young people have never left Gaza. Today, this prison is becoming the graveyard of a population trapped between war, siege and deprivation.

“The generations to come will know that we watched this human tragedy unfold over social media and news channels. We will not be able to say we did not know. History will ask why the world did not have the courage to act decisively and stop this hell on Earth.”

Warning of ‘explosion’ of refugees

Israel has been accused of “politicising” the humanitarian aid it’s allowing into Gaza, and limiting it to such an extent that an “explosion” of refugees is becoming inevitable.

Several dozen trucks carrying aid have been allowed into the Gaza Strip via its border with Egypt in recent days. Human rights advocates claim it’s nowhere near enough.

“They are politicising the aid. They have put conditions on the type of aid that is allowed into Gaza. They are asking Palestinians to choose between water or food,” Tamer Qamout, a professor of public policy at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, told Al Jazeera.

“All these items are crucial. It is a crime, by all means.

“They are also keeping the scale very low. They are building the momentum for a huge crisis. There will be an explosion. There will be hundreds of thousands of people, at some point, marching to Egypt if aid is not scaled up.

“We are heading into a disaster.”

Meanwhile the World Health Organisation has renewed its calls for “immediate and uninterrupted access into and across Gaza”, saying its “ailing health system” needs to be revived urgently.

“Without fuel, medicines and health supplies, Gaza’s hospitals are on the precipice of an unimaginable humanitarian catastrophe,” it said.

‘Excruciating decision’ must be made

The United Nations agency helping displaced Palestinians in the Gaza Strip says its supply of fuel, which it has been sharing, will run out today unless it makes an “excruciating” choice.

The fuel has been used to help hospitals keep vital equipment, like life support machines and incubators, working. It’s also been used to power bakeries, ensuring people in shelters can be fed. But there isn’t enough fuel left to continue doing all of those things at once.

“Do we give [it to] the incubators or the bakeries? It is an excruciating decision,” a spokeswoman, Tamara Alrifai, told the Associated Press.

The World Health Organization says a third of Gaza’s hospitals have already stopped running.

Israel conducts ‘targeted raid’ in Gaza

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has conducted a “targeted” night raid in northern Gaza, with tanks seen rolling into the area ahead of the “next stages” of conflict.

“Overnight, the IDF conducted a targeted raid using tanks in the northern Gaza Strip, as part of preparations for the next stages of combat,” the army said in a statement on X.

During the raid, the military said tanks and infantry struck a number of terrorist cells, infrastructure and antitank missile launch posts.

Accompanying footage shows bulldozers and tanks driving into northern Gaza, before armoured vehicles fire at a number of targets.

“The soldiers exited the area at the end of the activity,” the IDF said.

‘Genocide’: Law firm threatens PM

The Prime Minister and federal government have been threatened with legal action by a Sydney-based law firm acting on behalf of Palestinian Australians.

Birchgrove Legal has sent a letter of demand to Anthony Albanese saying the government “appears to have contravened domestic and international law” over its stance on Israel and warned it was considering whether comments made by senior ministers amounted to “complicity in genocide and other crimes”.

The 32-page letter references public statements made by the Prime Minister, Foreign Minister Penny Wong, Defence Minister Richard Marles and Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil. It includes Mr Albanese’s October 10 statement that “we will stand with Israel, we always will”.

The letter issues a series of demands to avoid legal action being taken, stating, “Immediate action must be taken to ensure that Australian government policy towards the unfolding catastrophe in Gaza complies with international law and places the core humanitarian principles of proportionality, distinction, precaution and humanity at its heart.”

Birchgrove Legal solicitor Rita Jabri Markwell told radio station 3AW while it’s “within the right of Australian government ministers to stand with an ally” the line is crossed when the government is “standing with an ally that is acting outside the bonds of the rules of law”.

“Under international criminal law if you know that another country is committing a crime, and you don’t say anything or you say just encouraging things and give moral support, that can have an encouraging effect on the person. And if they’re aware of your support, that brings you into the bounds of being complicit,” she said.

“We’ve called for Albanese to issue a statement which acknowledges the breaches by Israel of international law, and … to take all means available to the Australian government to protect civilians in Gaza.”

with AFP

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