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The Latest | Failed rocket strike launched on US-led coalition forces base in Syria

Israeli police work at the scene of an apparent car ramming that wounded three people on the eve of the Jewish holiday of Passover, in Jerusalem, Monday, April 22, 2024. Israeli police say a car slammed into pedestrians in Jerusalem on Monday, wounding three people lightly in an apparent attack. The three were injured when a car ran them over in the neighborhood of Romema, northeast of the city center. Police said two attackers exited the vehicle with a submachine gun and fled the scene. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)
Original Publication Date April 21, 2024 - 11:56 PM

A failed rocket strike was launched at a base housing U.S.-led coalition forces at Rumalyn, Syria, marking the first time since Feb. 4 that Iranian-backed militias have attacked a U.S. facility in Iraq or Syria, a U.S. defense official said. No personnel were injured in the attack.

Iraqi authorities said early Monday that they were searching for “outlaw elements” who launched an estimated five missiles across the border from Iraq into Syria late Sunday night targeting the base. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Also on Monday, a U.S. official said American forces had shot down two drones near al-Asad Air Base in Iraq. The circumstances are under investigation.

Israel’s defense minister on Monday visited members of an infantry battalion that could soon be blocked from receiving American aid because of human rights violations.

Yoav Gallant on Monday told members of Netzah Yehuda battalion stationed on the Gaza border that they have the full backing of the Israeli state and its military.

The decision by the U.S. may come this week and would mark the first time the country has imposed sanctions on a unit inside the Israeli military and would further strain relations between the two allies, which have grown increasingly tense during the Israel-Hamas war.

The conflict, now in its seventh month, has sparked regional unrest pitting Israel and the U.S. against Iran and allied militant groups across the Middle East. Israel and Iran traded fire directly this month, raising fears of all-out war.

The war was sparked by the unprecedented Oct. 7 raid into southern Israel in which Hamas and other militants killed around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducted around 250 hostages. Israel says militants are still holding around 100 hostages and the remains of more than 30 others.

The Israel-Hamas war has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians, according to local health officials, at least two-thirds of them children and women. It has devastated Gaza’s two largest cities and left a swath of destruction. Around 80% of the territory’s population have fled to other parts of the besieged coastal enclave.

The U.S. House of Representatives approved a $26 billion aid package on Saturday that includes around $9 billion in humanitarian assistance for Gaza, which experts say is on the brink of famine, as well as billions for Israel. The U.S. Senate could pass the package as soon as Tuesday, and President Joe Biden has promised to sign it immediately

Currently:

— Israel's chief of military intelligence resigns, citing failure to prevent Oct. 7 attacks

— Israeli strikes on Rafah kill 22, mostly children

— A Palestinian baby in Gaza is born an orphan

— Iran’s supreme leader tacitly acknowledges that Tehran hit little in its attack on Israel

— Israel and Iran’s apparent strikes and counterstrikes give new insights into both militaries

— Israeli leaders criticize expected U.S. sanctions against military unit in West Bank

Here is the latest:

FAILED ROCKET STRIKE LAUNCHED AT U.S.-LED COALITION FORCES BASE IN SYRIA

WASHINGTON — A U.S. defense official said that a failed rocket strike was launched at a base housing U.S.-led coalition forces at Rumalyn, Syria, marking the first time since Feb. 4 that Iranian-backed militias have attacked a U.S. facility in Iraq or Syria. No personnel were injured in the attack.

Iraqi authorities said early Monday that they were searching for “outlaw elements” who launched an estimated five missiles across the border from Iraq into Syria late Sunday night targeting the base. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Also on Monday, a U.S. official said American forces had shot down two drones near al-Asad Air Base in Iraq. The circumstances are under investigation.

Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity to provide details that have not been made public.

From October to February, an umbrella group of Iran-backed militias calling itself the Islamic Resistance in Iraq launched regular drone attacks on bases housing U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria, which they said was in retaliation for Washington’s support of Israel in the ongoing war in Gaza and were aimed at forcing U.S. forces to withdraw from Iraq.

Those attacks halted after three U.S. soldiers were killed in a strike on a base in Jordan, near the Syrian border in late January, prompting U.S. retaliatory strikes in Iraq, including one in central Baghdad that killed a militia commander. It was not immediately clear what prompted the attacks to begin again.

ISRAEL'S DEFENSE MINISTER VISITS INFANTRY BATTALION THAT FACES POSSIBLE U.S. SANCTIONS

JERUSALEM — Israel’s defense minister has visited members of an infantry battalion that could soon be blocked from receiving American aid .

Yoav Gallant told members of Netzah Yehuda battalion stationed on the Gaza border that they have the full backing of the Israeli state and its military.

“The fact that one or two soldiers did something wrong… does not cast blame on the entire battalion,” he said.

The decision, which could come this week, would mark the first time the United States has imposed sanctions on a unit inside the Israeli military and would further strain relations between the two allies, which during the Israel-Hamas war.

“If a soldier makes a mistake, we will hold him accountable,” Gallant said on Monday, just before the start of the Passover holiday. “This is the responsibility of the military establishment. No one in the world will teach us what are morality and what are norms.”

While U.S. officials declined to identify the unit expected to be sanctioned, Israeli leaders and local media identified it as Netzah Yehuda — an infantry battalion founded roughly a quarter of a century ago to incorporate ultra-Orthodox Jews into the military.

The unit came under heavy American criticism in 2022 after an elderly Palestinian-American man was found dead shortly after he was detained at a West Bank checkpoint.

A Palestinian autopsy said Omar Assad, 78, had underlying health conditions, but had suffered a heart attack caused by “external violence.”

HEZBOLLAH FIRES DOZENS OF ROCKETS INTO NORTHERN ISRAEL, DRAWING RETALIATORY STRIKES

JERUSALEM — Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group fired dozens of rockets into northern Israel on Monday, drawing retaliatory strikes.

The Israeli military said 35 projectiles were launched at one of its bases, without causing any casualties. It said it struck the sources of the rocket fire.

The attack came at the start of Passover, a major Jewish holiday, and set off air raid sirens as far south as Safed, a sizable town in northern Israel that has rarely been targeted.

Hezbollah claimed the attack, which it said was in response to recent Israeli strikes on towns and villages in southern Lebanon.

The two sides have traded fire on a near-daily basis along the border since the start of the war in Gaza. Hezbollah says it is acting in solidarity with the Palestinian Hamas militant group, which triggered the war with its Oct. 7 attack into southern Israel.

The low-intensity fighting has repeatedly threatened to boil over as Israel has targeted senior Hezbollah militants in recent months.

Tens of thousands of people have been displaced on both sides of the border.

Hezbollah said earlier Monday that its fighters shot down an Israeli drone, the fourth to be brought down since the war began.

ISRAELI HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP SAYS ISRAEL COMMITTING CRIMES OF STARVATION IN GAZA, VIOLATING INTERNATIONAL LAW

JERUSALEM — An Israeli human rights group says Israel has been “committing the crime of starvation” in Gaza for months in violation of international law.

B’Tselem is the latest rights group to accuse Israel of purposely starving Palestinians as part of its war against Hamas.

In a report released Monday, B’Tselem said the severe hunger in Gaza is “the product of a deliberate and conscious Israeli policy.”

International experts said in late March that famine was imminent in northern Gaza, which has been isolated and under Israeli control since late last year, and that hunger was worsening across the entire territory.

The Israeli military body responsible for civilian affairs in the Palestinian territories did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Israel has sought to blame U.N. agencies, saying they are unable to distribute aid that piles up at border crossings. U.N. officials say distribution is hampered by the difficulty of coordinating with the military, which regularly turns back deliveries, and by the breakdown of law and order.

B’Tselem noted that Israel imposed a total blockade on Gaza immediately after the Oct. 7 Hamas attack that triggered the war, only relenting weeks later under U.S. pressure. It said Israel’s cumbersome inspections system stifled deliveries, and that its offensive has almost completely destroyed the capacity to grow or produce food inside Gaza.

B’Tselem also pointed to comments from senior Israeli officials implying that the restrictions on aid were part of the war effort and aimed at putting pressure on Hamas.

Under heavy U.S. pressure after an Israeli strike that killed seven aid workers, Israel promised earlier this month to ramp up aid to Gaza.

PALESTINIAN CIVIL DEFENSE SAYS 283 BODIES UNCOVERED FROM TEMPORARY BURIAL GROUND

CAIRO — The Palestinian civil defense in the Gaza Strip said Monday it had uncovered 283 bodies from a temporary burial ground inside the main hospital in the southern city of Khan Younis.

The burial area in the Nasser hospital was built when Israeli forces were besieging the facility last month. At the time, people were not able to bury the dead in a cemetery and dug graves in the hospital yard, the group said.

In a statement, the department said a total of 283 bodies have been recovered from the hospital yard since Friday.

The civil defense said some of the bodies were of people killed during the hospital siege. Others were killed when Israeli forces raided the hospital, also last month.

HEAD OF U.N. HEALTH AGENCY CALLS FOR SAFE PASSAGE FOR ITS GAZA MISSIONS

CAIRO — The head of the World Health Organization on Monday called for safe passage for humanitarian aid missions throughout Gaza after an aid team failed to complete its most recent trip to hard-hit northern Gaza.

United Nations agencies and aid groups say the ongoing hostilities, Israeli military restrictions on goods and the breakdown of order inside Gaza make it increasingly difficult to bring vital aid to much of the coastal enclave.

WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement that a mission by the WHO and its partners on Saturday at Kamal Adwan and Awda hospitals in northern Gaza was only partly completed “due to severe delays at checkpoints and ongoing hostilities.”

“As a result, fuel and medical supplies did not reach Kamal Adwan, for the second time in the last seven days, and partners were also unable to assess needs at Awda to support restoration of services,” he said.

He said the team managed to evacuate four patients from Kamal Adwan, along with their caretakers, including a 9-year-old boy suffering from a head tumor.

“We again call for compliance with international humanitarian law, including access to health care and humanitarian aid for civilians in desperate need of help.” He also called for a cease-fire.

GAZA HEALTH OFFICIALS REPORT 54 KILLED IN THE LAST 24 HOURS

CAIRO — The Gaza Health Ministry said the bodies of 54 people killed by Israeli strikes have been brought to hospitals over the past 24 hours. Hospitals also received 104 injured, it said Monday.

That brings the overall Palestinian death toll from the Israel-Hamas war to at least 34,151, the ministry said. Another 77,084 have been injured, it said.

The Health Ministry does not distinguish between fighters and civilians in its tallies but has said that women and children make up most of those killed.

The Israeli military says it has killed 12,000 militants, without providing evidence to back up the claim.

283 BODIES FOUND IN SOUTHERN GAZA HOSPITAL

CAIRO — The Palestinian civil defense in the Gaza Strip said Monday it had uncovered 283 bodies from a temporary burial ground inside the main hospital in the southern city of Khan Younis.

The burial area in the Nasser hospital was built when Israeli forces were besieging the facility last month. At the time, people were not able to bury the dead in a cemetery and dug graves in the hospital yard, the group said.

In a statement, the department said a total of 283 bodies have been recovered from the hospital yard since Friday.

The civil defense said some of the bodies were of people killed during the hospital siege. Others were killed when Israeli forces raided the hospital, also last month.

After the military withdrew from Khan Younis earlier this month, residents have been returning to the site in search of the bodies of their loved ones with the aim of burying them in permanent graves elsewhere.

Civil defense workers began recovering bodies from the cemetery more than a week after Israel’s military withdrew its forces from the city. The International Committee of the Red Cross has given 1,500 body bags and protective gear to the civil defense to help dig up the cemetery and move the bodies, it said.

Israel sent troops into Khan Younis in December, part of its blistering ground offensive that came in response to Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack into southern Israel.

ISRAELIS PREPARE TO CELEBRATE PASSOVER WITH RELATIVES STILL IN CAPTIVITY

JERUSALEM — Israelis were set to begin celebrating Passover, a holiday meant to symbolize freedom, on Monday, against the backdrop of a brutal war in Gaza and the continued captivity of over 100 hostages in the strip.

Passover is a major Jewish holiday, celebrated over the course of a week, that commemorates the biblical story of the exodus of ancient Israelites from slavery in Egypt. Jews will gather for a meal, called a “seder,” on Monday night to read the Passover story aloud.

In Israel, some prepared to leave chairs at the seder table empty to symbolize the captives remaining in Gaza.

Of some 250 hostages captured during the Hamas attack on Oct. 7, roughly 130 remain in captivity. Efforts to strike a deal to secure their return have stalled, and Israeli officials say at least 30 are now dead.

Many Israelis also have friends or family members killed or wounded in the Hamas attack, which killed 1,200 across southern Israel, according to Israeli authorities.

“I can’t imagine celebrating Pesach, the freedom holiday, without my son,” said Dalit Shtivi, whose son Idan Shtivi is being held hostage in Gaza. “I’m begging there will be a deal.”

In Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Mea Shearim, families threw bread into small fires on the street and dunked dishes into cauldrons of boiling water. It’s typical for observant Jews to cleanse their homes of “chametz,” or grains, before the start of passover to commemorate the unleavened bread the Jews ate in their flight from Egypt.

2 ARRESTED AFTER JERUSALEM CAR ATTACK

JERUSALEM — Israeli police say they have arrested two suspects believed to have rammed a car into a group of ultra-Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem Monday morning, lightly wounding three.

The police said the two suspects were found after fleeing the scene and hiding near a closed business.

The Monday attack was the latest to strike Israeli cities and towns since the war against Hamas broke out on Oct. 7. Palestinians have during that time carried out a number of attacks against Israelis, some of them deadly. During that time, violence has also surged in the West Bank.

ISRAEL ARRESTS SUSPECT IN KILLING OF 14-YEAR OLD SETTLER

TEL AVIV, Israel — Israeli authorities said they had arrested a suspect in the killing of a 14-year-old Jewish West Bank settler.

The teen’s disappearance earlier this month sparked rampages by Israeli settlers in a number of Palestinian communities. At least one Palestinian man was killed, Palestinian health officials said, and dozens were injured in the rampages and in confrontations with the settlers.

A joint statement Monday by the Israeli internal security agency, Shin Bet, Israeli police and the military said Ahmed Dawabsheh, 21, was arrested in an overnight raid in the Palestinian village of Duma. Duma was one of the areas where the settlers rampaged after 14-year-old Binyamin Achimair’s disappearance.

The developments were the latest tensions roiling the West Bank, which has seen surging violence since the war in Gaza began on Oct. 7.

News from © The Associated Press, 2024
The Associated Press

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