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ConflictsMiddle East

Israel-Hamas war: Biden still believes in two-state solution

Published January 19, 2024last updated January 20, 2024

US President Joe Biden and Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu have spoken for the first time in roughly a month, the call coming after Netanyahu seemed to reject the two-state solution.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs a cabinet meeting at the Kirya military base
Netanyahu has knocked heads with his closest allies in the US, rejecting calls for a Palestinian stateImage: Ohad Zwigenberg/AFP/Getty Images
Skip next section What you need to know

What you need to know

  • The White House said Biden and Netanyahu spoke during the first phone call in weeks
  • Biden discussed possibility of two-state solution and Israeli security
  • Netanyahu appeared to question the two-state solution in comments the previous day
  • US military says it struck three Houthi "missiles" that were "prepared to launch" in Yemen

  • China has called for an end to the "harassment" of shipping in the Red Sea

This live updates article has been closed. Thank you for reading. For the latest development on the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, please click here.

Skip next section US military announces fresh strikes in Yemen
January 20, 2024

US military announces fresh strikes in Yemen

US Central Command (CENTCOM) said that at around 6:45 p.m. (or 21:45 GMT/UTC) on Friday, the US military "conducted strikes against three Houthi anti-ship missiles that were aimed into the Southern Red Sea and were prepared to launch."

CENTCOM said that US forces had identified the missile sites "in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen and determined that they presented an imminent threat to merchant vessels" and US vessels in the region.

"US forces subsequently struck and destroyed the missiles in self-defense. This action will make international waters safe and secure for US navy vessels and merchant vessels," it said. 

The strikes are the sixth to be conducted over the course of 10 days and began in response Houthis launching dozens of attacks on commercial vessels moving through the vital shipping corridor.

The Houthis, who have controlled most of Yemen including the capital for almost a decade now, started attacking commercial shipping more often amid Israel's military operations in Gaza. They say the attacks are in support of Gazans, and are aimed at Israeli interests, though few of their targets have connections to Israel. 


Houthi attacks: Escalation in the Middle East?

Skip next section White House: Biden told Netanyahu he still believes in two-state solution
January 20, 2024

White House: Biden told Netanyahu he still believes in two-state solution

White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said Friday that US President Joe Biden still believes in the promise and possibility of a two-state solution in the Middle East.

Kirby made the remarks following a phone call between Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, during which they discussed the Israel-Hamas war.

"The president also discussed his vision for a more durable peace and security for Israel fully integrated within the region and a two-state solution with Israel’s security guaranteed," the White House said in a statement about their call.

On Thursday, Netanyahu appeared to dismiss a future independent Palestinian state, saying Israel must have security control over all land west of the River Jordan.

"The president still believes in the promise and the possibility of a two-state solution. He recognizes that it's going to take a lot of hard work," Kirby told reporters.

This is the first call between the two leaders in almost a month and White House spokesperson John Kirby told reporters that Thursday's comments from Netanyahu had not prompted Biden's call the next day, instead saying that the US had been trying to schedule the call "for quite a bit of time."

What is the two-state solution?

Skip next section EU sanctions 6 people accused of financing Palestinian militants
January 19, 2024

EU sanctions 6 people accused of financing Palestinian militants

The European Union sanctioned six people under a new framework that seeks to up the pressure on those who support Hamas militants in any way. 

The EU established a dedicated framework of restrictive measures to hold any person or entity who supports or facilitates Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad to account, the European Council, which is made up of the heads of 27 member states, said in a statement.

The six were named as Sudan-based financier Abdelbasit Hamza Elhassan Mohamed Khair, the owner of "Shuman for Currency Exchange SARL," Nabil Shuman and his son Khaled, "senior Hamas financier" Rida Ali Khamis, "senior Hamas operative" Musa Dudin and Algeria-based financier Aiman Ahmad Al Duwaik.

Their European assets will be frozen, and EU citizens will be banned from providing them with financial support for at least a year.

The EU, US, Israel and others have designated Hamas as a terrorist organization. 

EU's Borrell accuses Israel of funding Hamas

Skip next section Biden and Netanyahu speak for the first time in weeks
January 19, 2024

Biden and Netanyahu speak for the first time in weeks

US President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a phone conversation on Friday, the White House said.

"President Biden spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel to discuss the latest developments in Israel and Gaza," a White House statement said, adding that the readout of the call will be issued soon.

The phone call between the leaders comes nearly a month after the two touched base on the war in Gaza on December 23.

It comes a day after Netanyahu reiterated his opposition to a two-state solution to the longstanding conflict between Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Netanyahu rejects US calls for two-state solution

Skip next section Russia hosts Hamas delegation
January 19, 2024

Russia hosts Hamas delegation

The Russian Foreign Ministry says a delegation of Hamas group members has visited Moscow.

The ministry said the Russian side had emphasized the need to release hostages.

It said in a statement that Mikhail Bogdanov, a deputy foreign minister, had received Hamas Politburo member Abu Marzouk.

"During the conversation, the focus was on the ongoing confrontation in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict zone, against the backdrop of which the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip has reached catastrophic proportions," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

"The Russian side stressed the need for the speedy release of civilians captured during the attacks of 7 October
2023 and held by Palestinian factions, including three Russian citizens."

Hamas is listed as a terrorist organization by the European Union, the United States and Israel.

Russia has not designated Hamas as a terrorist organization, but it has condemned Hamas's October 7 attacks, in which Russian citizens were killed and abducted, as terrorist in nature.

Israel keeps up military pressure on Gaza

Skip next section Israel accused of humiliating Gaza detainees
January 19, 2024

Israel accused of humiliating Gaza detainees

A UN official has accused Israel of mistreating Palestinian detainees in Gaza.

Ajith Sunghay, an official at the UN Human Rights Office, said he met men who described being held for weeks, beaten and blindfolded.

Some of them were released "only in diapers, without any adequate clothing in cold weather," he added.

"These are men who were detained by the Israeli security forces in unknown locations for between 30 to 55 days," Sunghay told reporters in Geneva by video link from Gaza. "So we're not exactly sure why they were put in diapers and sent out, but they were clearly visibly shocked and even shaken when I met them."

The official called on Israel to ensure that its treatment of the detainees conforms with international human rights norms.

There was no immediate comment from the Israeli government.

The Israeli military spokesperson's office has previously said all Palestinian detainees were treated in accordance with international law.

The detainees were often required to hand over clothes to ensure they were not carrying weapons or explosives, the office said.

Skip next section Israel says it killed key Palestinian Islamic Jihad figure in Gaza
January 19, 2024

Israel says it killed key Palestinian Islamic Jihad figure in Gaza

Israeli soldiers photographed in Gaza, in an image released on January 19
Israel began its military operation in Gaza in response to Hamas's October 7 deadly attacksImage: Israeli Army Handout/REUTERS

Israel said that its forces had killed Wael Abu Fanuna, the deputy head of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad's (PIJ) information wing, in an air strike.

The PIJ is regarded as one of the most radical militant groups in the Middle East and has vied with Hamas for support in Gaza.

Its militants have repeatedly fired rockets at Israel. 

The Israeli military also said its troops were still fighting Hamas militants in the territory on Friday, aided by the air force and naval units off the coast.

Hamas is designated a terror organization by Germany, the US and Israel, among others. 

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said on X, formerly Twitter, that they were continuing its operations in "northern Gaza" and had "eliminated several armed terrorists."

The Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza reported on Friday that the number of people killed in the enclave since October 7 had reached 24,762, with another 62,108 wounded.

Neither Israel's report of killing the senior PIJ leader nor the Health Ministry's death toll figures could be independently verified.

Skip next section China urges end to attacks on ships in Red Sea
January 19, 2024

China urges end to attacks on ships in Red Sea

China called for an end to "harassment" of civilian vessels in the Red Sea following attacks on ships by Yemen’s Houthi rebel group.

Some shipping firms are avoiding the key waterway, causing trade delays and supply chain issues.

Beijing stressed that the area was an "important international trade route for goods and energy."

"At the same time, fueling tensions in the Red Sea and heightening security risks in the whole region should be avoided," Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said at a press conference on Friday.

"China calls for a halt to the harassment and attacks on civilian ships to keep global industrial and supply chains unimpeded and safeguard the international trade order," she added.

"The priority now is to end the fighting in Gaza as soon as possible to avoid further escalation and prevent the situation from getting out of control."

Escalating situation in the Red Sea

Skip next section Benjamin Netanyahu rejects US call for a Palestinian state
January 19, 2024

Benjamin Netanyahu rejects US call for a Palestinian state

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has once again expressed his opposition to a two-state solution to the longstanding conflict between Israel and the Palestinian territories.

He said a Palestinian state would become a launching pad for future attacks on Israel.

Netanyahu said Israel "must have security control over the entire territory west of the Jordan River."

He added: "That collides with the idea of sovereignty. What can we do?"

"This truth I tell to our American friends, and I put the brakes on the attempt to coerce us to a reality that would endanger the state of Israel," he said.

The remarks come after the US, Israel's closest ally, called for steps toward the establishment of a Palestinian state.

"Israel's prime minister must be able to say 'no' when necessary, even to our best friends," Netanyahu said.

Speaking Wednesday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the two-state solution was the best way to protect Israel.

Without a "pathway to a Palestinian state," he said, Israel would not "get genuine security."

Israeli President Isaac Herzog, also speaking in Davos, said that "Israelis lost trust in the peace processes because they could see that terror is glorified by our neighbors."

Netanyahu has also pushed back against US calls for a winding down of the conflict, saying on Thursday: "We will not be satisfied with anything less than total victory."

"Victory will take many months," he added.


Blinken says toll on Gaza civilians 'far too high'

Skip next section Houthis say US ship hit in Gulf of Aden attack
January 19, 2024

Houthis say US ship hit in Gulf of Aden attack

The US military said that an attack on a US-owned tanker by Houthis in Yemen resulted in zero injuries and no damage to the ship.

The Iran-backed group had claimed the attack on Thursday, saying that they had hit the vessel.

US Central Command said that the two anti-ship ballistic missiles were fired at the tanker were the third attack on commercial vessels in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden region in three days.

Attacks by Houthi rebels over the last few weeks have led several major shipping companies to stop using the Red Sea route, adding days to the journey as ships are redirected around Africa.

They say their acts are in solidarity with the Palestinian people in Gaza amid the ongoing war.

The US and UK have responded to the attacks from Yemen's Houthis by launching their own strikes against rebel targets. The US also added the group back to its terrorism list.

Houthi attacks: Escalation in the Middle East?