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Blinken Returns to Mideast to Push for Postwar Plan for Gaza Amidst Ongoing Israel-Hamas Conflict

Israel Destroys 18 of 24 Hamas Battalions, Netanyahu Says

Israeli PM Highlights Progress in Confronting Hamas

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Monday that 18 out of 24 Hamas military battalions have been destroyed, and over half of the militant group’s fighters have been killed or wounded. In his address, Netanyahu emphasized that anything short of “total victory” would prevent the return of thousands of Israelis to their homes near the Gaza border. He warned against the celebration of Iran, Hezbollah, and other militant groups, asserting that they would seize the opportunity to further destabilize the region. During the war, Israel estimated that Hamas had around 40,000 fighters.

Israel Urges Demands Above Hamas’ Tolerance

Netanyahu spoke at the Likud party’s weekly faction meeting, highlighting that cease-fire negotiations were ongoing but indicated that a deal was not close. Israel seeks a similar agreement to the one achieved in releasing over 100 hostages in November. Nevertheless, Netanyahu emphasized that any future agreement would not be linked to a complete Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. The Prime Minister firmly stated that Israel would not agree to Hamas’ unacceptable demands.

American Porn Star Promotes Palestinians in Iran, Putting Herself at Risk

American porn actor Whitney Wright, an advocate for Palestinians, has recently traveled to Iran and filmed herself in various locations throughout Tehran. It should be noted that pornography is illegal in Iran and is punishable by the death penalty. Wright’s actions and her stated support for Palestinians have raised concerns about her safety.

Drone Attack on Syrian Base Kills Six Allied Kurdish Fighters

A base in eastern Syria hosting American troops was hit by a drone attack on Sunday. The attack, claimed by an umbrella group of Iran-backed militants called the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, resulted in the death of six Kurdish fighters. The incident occurred two days after the United States launched airstrikes against the same militia in Iraq and Syria. There were no reported casualties among U.S. troops.

Ayatollah Calls for Islamic World to Sever Ties with Israel

Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, the Iranian leader, called upon leaders of Islamic nations to cut off all economic relations with Israel. During an interview with the state-affiliated Tasnim News Agency, Khamenei described the situation in Gaza as a critical matter and emphasized the potential role of Islamic elite, including scholars, scientists, politicians, and the media, in addressing the issue.

Secretary of State Blinken in Middle East to Halt Gaza Bloodshed

Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh, marking the start of his Middle East trip aimed at brokering a deal to cease the bloodshed in Gaza and secure the release of hostages in Israel. Blinken plans to visit Egypt, Qatar, Israel, and the West Bank during his trip. The discussions with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman mainly focused on addressing humanitarian needs in Gaza and fostering regional integration and prosperity. The U.S. declared its commitment to defend its personnel and the right to freedom of navigation in the Red Sea, which remains affected by Iran-backed Houthi rebel attacks on commercial shipping.

Conflicting Reports on U.S. Notification of Airstrikes to Iraq

Contradictory information has emerged regarding the U.S. notification to Iraq about the recent airstrikes on Iranian-backed militias in Iraqi and Syrian territories. State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel stated that Iraq was informed shortly after the strikes, highlighting the response to the killing of American soldiers. This contradicted previous White House information which claimed that Iraq was notified before. The Iraqi government has officially protested the attacks, citing the killing and injuring of Iraqi citizens, including civilians. Pentagon spokesman Maj. Gen. Patrick Ryder admitted that casualties were expected, but stressed that there was no indication of Iranian casualties. Ryder also clarified that the U.S. has no plans for a prolonged “full-scale war” against Iranian proxies.

Hamas Reestablishes Presence in Northern Gaza, Israel Takes Action

Reports indicate that Hamas is progressively regaining control in northern Gaza after Israel’s withdrawal of some troops from the area. Witnesses claim that Hamas-led security forces, which previously numbered in the tens of thousands, have reappeared and are engaged in distributing civil salaries and cracking down on looters. Recent video footage featuring masked gunmen and detainees in northern Gaza suggests the reestablishment of Hamas’ enforcement activities, although the authenticity of the video remains unverified. The Israeli military continues to conduct targeted operations in the north to prevent Hamas from reclaiming a foothold, in addition to their concentrated efforts in the south.

Contributing: The Associated Press

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