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Israel-Hamas war: Biden warns cease-fire is 'essential'

Published April 4, 2024last updated April 5, 2024

US policy on Gaza will depend on Israel reducing harm to civilians, President Joe Biden told Benjamin Netanyahu. Meanwhile, Israel has reopened some aid routes into Gaza.

Civil defense teams and local residents conduct search and rescue operations after an Israeli attack hit residential area in Tel al-Sultan district of Rafah, Gaza on April 04, 2024
Israel has continued its strikes on Gaza after killing a group of aid workers, which sparked international outrageImage: Jehad Alshrafi/Anadolu/picture alliance
Skip next section What you need to know

What you need to know

  • Biden tells Netanyahu that Israel must take specific steps to protect civilians, aid workers
  • Israel says it will allow 'temporary' reopening of key crossing into Gaza
  • Poland's president demands Israeli apology after  deaths of aid workers, including one Pole
  • Israel stops leave for combat units amid fears of Iranian retaliation over Damascus strike

Here are the main headlines from the Israel-Hamas war on Thursday, April 4:

Skip next section White House calls for Israel to 'fully and rapidly' open new Gaza aid routes
April 5, 2024

White House calls for Israel to 'fully and rapidly' open new Gaza aid routes

The White House is urging Israel to swiftly open new aid routes into the Gaza Strip that were announced earlier on Thursday by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office.

"These steps, including a commitment to open the Ashdod port for the direct delivery of assistance into Gaza, to open the Erez crossing for a new route for assistance to reach north Gaza, and to significantly increase deliveries from Jordan directly into Gaza, must now be fully and rapidly implemented," National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said in a statement.

Netanyahu announced Israel would allow the "temporary" delivery of aid through its Ashdod port and the Erez crossing into Gaza after he spoke with US President Joe Biden over the phone.

Biden had urged Netanyahu to take steps to increase aid deliveries and ensure the safety of humanitarian workers.

Skip next section Israel to allow 'temporary' Gaza aid through Erez crossing
April 5, 2024

Israel to allow 'temporary' Gaza aid through Erez crossing

Israel's Security Cabinet has approved "immediate steps" to allow more humanitarian aid into Gaza, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office announced Friday.

A statement said the Erez crossing would be temporarily reopened for the first time since the Hamas terror attacks of October 7.

The key crossing into northern Gaza was destroyed during the attacks on Israel by the Palestinian Islamist group. 

Israel also said it would allow its port in Ashdod to process aid shipments bound for Gaza.

"This increased aid will prevent a humanitarian crisis and is necessary to ensure the continuation of the fighting and to achieve the goals of the war," Netanyahu's office said.

It comes after Netanyahu spoke to US President Joe Biden on the phone.

Biden told the Israeli prime minister that US policy towards Gaza would be determined by whether Israel implements concrete and measurable steps to address civilian harm and the safety of aid workers in the Gaza Strip, the White House said.

Netanyahu and Biden spoke two days after an Israeli airstrike killed seven aid workers, one of which was a dual US-Canadian citizen.

Skip next section Israel 'acting against Iran' — Netanyahu
April 4, 2024

Israel 'acting against Iran' — Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke at a Security Cabinet meeting and said that Israel will harm its enemies, including Iran and its proxies.

"For years, Iran has been acting against us both directly and via its proxies; therefore, Israel is acting against Iran and its proxies, defensively and offensively," Netanyahu said.

"We will know how to defend ourselves and we will act according to the simple principle of whoever harms us or plans to harm us, we will harm them," he said.

Iran has sworn retaliation for an airstrike on Monday on its embassy in the Syrian capital, Damascus, that killed 16 people. Israel has neither confirmed nor denied involvement in the strike.

Skip next section White House spokesperson: Israel must change how it conducts war in Gaza
April 4, 2024

White House spokesperson: Israel must change how it conducts war in Gaza

White House spokesperson John Kirby elaborated on US President Joe Biden's phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and reiterated that Israel must take steps to change its wartime policies in Gaza.

Israel has been fighting Hamas in Gaza after the Islamist militant group carried out the October 7 terror attacks. But the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the recent killing of seven aid workers by an Israeli airstrike means that Israel must take steps to reduce civilian harm, Kirby said. 

"What we are looking to see and hope to see here in the coming hours and days is a dramatic increase in the humanitarian assistance getting in, additional crossings opening up, and a reduction in the violence against civilians and certainly aid workers," Kirby said.    

The White House official said the Biden administration wishes to see an announcement of Israeli steps in the "coming hours and days."   

Kirby said the Biden call reflected increasing "frustration" that Israel is not listening to his administration's demands to do more to protect civilians.  

At the same time, Kirby reiterated that US "support for Israel's defense remains ironclad. They face a range of threats, and the United States isn't going to walk away," he added.  

Skip next section Biden tells Netanyahu: 'Immediate cease-fire is essential' in Gaza
April 4, 2024

Biden tells Netanyahu: 'Immediate cease-fire is essential' in Gaza

US President Joe Biden spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by phone, their first call since an Israeli airstrike killed seven aid workers in Gaza. The call between the two leaders was less than half an hour in duration. 

Biden emphasized to Netanyahu that strikes on humanitarian workers and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza are "unacceptable," according to the readout of the call provided by the White House.

One of the World Central Kitchen employees killed in the strike was a dual US-Canadian citizen, with victims also including three British and one Australian national, a Polish citizen and a Palestinian.

"Biden made clear the need for Israel to announce and implement a series of specific, concrete, and measurable steps to address civilian harm, humanitarian suffering and the safety of aid workers," the readout added.    

Biden said "US policy with respect to Gaza will be determined by its assessment of Israel's immediate action on these steps." 

In addition, the US president said an "immediate cease-fire is essential" in Gaza and urged Netanyahu to reach a deal "without delay" to bring hostages trapped in Gaza home.   

Skip next section Israel says plot to kill national security minister foiled
April 4, 2024

Israel says plot to kill national security minister foiled

Israeli security services say they have thwarted a plot to kill the country's far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir.

Internal security service Shin Bet said 11 people, including seven Palestinian Israeli citizens, were arrested in a joint operation involving the police and the army.

"Shin Bet dismantled a terrorist cell that was preparing attacks in Israel, notably against the Minister Itamar Ben Gvir," the agency said in a statement. 

According to officials, the suspects had planned to kill Ben Gvir with a rocket launcher in an attack on the West Bank settlement where he lives. They also planned attacks against military bases, Ben Gurion Airport, and government offices in Jerusalem.

Ben Gvir, who leads the Jewish Power party, is known for employing inflammatory rhetoric against Palestinians.

Skip next section Poland's President Duda demands apology from Israel over aid worker death
April 4, 2024

Poland's President Duda demands apology from Israel over aid worker death

Polish President Andrzej Duda demanded an apology and investigation from Israel into the circumstances that killed a Polish national and other aid workers from the World Central Kitchen organization on Tuesday.

Duda also hit back at the Israeli ambassador, saying "the ambassador is the biggest problem for the state of Israel in its relations with Poland."

Ambassador Yacov Livne said in a post on X, formerly Twitter, on Tuesday that the "extreme right and left" in Poland were accusing Israel of intentional murder, adding that "antisemites will always remain antisemites."

"The authorities in Israel speak in a very subdued and sensitive manner. Unfortunately, their ambassador in Poland is unable to maintain such delicacy and this is unacceptable," Duda said during a televised speech on NATO's anniversary.

"Today Mr. Ambassador is making these relations very difficult. This is my assessment," Duda added. The Polish Foreign Ministry has summoned the ambassador for Friday. 

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk also told a news conference Thursday that they expect "an immediate explanation of the circumstances and compensation for the victims' relatives."

Skip next section Israel stops leave for combat units amid Iranian retaliation threats
April 4, 2024

Israel stops leave for combat units amid Iranian retaliation threats

Israel's military has suspended leave for all combat units after Iran threatened retaliation for the killing of two Iranian generals in Damascus this week in an airstrike on the Iranian Consulate there.

Israel has yet to comment on the strike.

"In accordance with the situational assessment, it has been decided that leave will be temporarily paused for all IDF (Israel Defence Forces) combat units. The IDF is at war and the deployment of forces is under continuous assessment according to requirements," the military said in a statement.

The move comes amid concerns of an escalation in hostilities after Iran's ambassador to Syria, Hossein Akbari, said his country's response to the strike would be "at the same magnitude and harshness."

Akbari also said Tehran would continue to support Palestinians in Gaza amid the offensive against the Islamist militant group Hamas, which Israel launched in response to Hamas' deadly attack on Israel on October 7.

Why would Israel target Iran's Damascus consulate?

Skip next section Gaza death toll exceeds 33,000
April 4, 2024

Gaza death toll exceeds 33,000

At least 33,037 people have been killed in Gaza in the past six months, the Hamas-run Health Ministry in the besieged territory said.

According to the statement of the ministry, 62 people were killed in the past 24 hours.

Additionally, 75,668 people have been wounded in the Gaza Strip since October 7, when Hamas carried out a terrorist attack in Israel. Hamas is designated a terrorist organization by many countries, including Israel, the United States and Germany.

The Gaza Health Ministry does not differentiate in its figures between combatants and civilians, but the UN considers the data to be generally reliable. The true death toll is expected to be higher.

Skip next section World Central Kitchen demands independent probe into Israeli airstrikes that killed aid workers
April 4, 2024

World Central Kitchen demands independent probe into Israeli airstrikes that killed aid workers

World Central Kitchen (WCK) has called for an independent investigation into the Israeli airstrike that killed seven of its aid workers in Gaza earlier this week.

On Thursday, the aid agency issued a statement and said, "This was a military attack that involved multiple strikes and targeted three WCK vehicles."

"The aid workers killed were nationals of Australia, Canada/US (dual citizen), Gaza, Poland, and the United Kingdom," the statement said.

WCK also said that the aid workers were coordinating with the Israeli military and Israeli authorities were aware of the aid convoy's itinerary route, and humanitarian mission.

"We have asked the governments of Australia, Canada, the United States of America, Poland, and the United Kingdom to join us in demanding an independent, third-party investigation into these attacks, including whether they were carried out intentionally or otherwise violated international law," the statement further said.

There have been increasing calls on Israel, from its allies, to carry out a full investigation into the deaths.

Israel admits to strike that killed Gaza aid workers

Skip next section UK government under pressure to block arms sales to Israel
April 4, 2024

UK government under pressure to block arms sales to Israel

A group of legal experts has called on the UK government to stop the sale of weapons to Israel amid the rising Palestinian death toll, the planned ground offensive in Rafah and the warnings from international aid agencies that a famine is imminent in Gaza.

More than 600 lawyers, as well as former Supreme Court justices, signed a letter that said the government risked violating international humanitarian law by continuing to allow the export of ammunition to Israel.

The signatories, which also include former Supreme Court President Lady Hale and dozens of senior lawyers — known as King's Counsels — said the "catastrophic" situation in Gaza as well as the conclusion by the International Court of Justice that there was a "plausible risk of genocide" obliges the UK to take action to prevent it.

The letter said the UK government's "obligations under international law" included working to secure a cease-fire in Gaza, ending the provision of weapons to Israel and the consideration of imposing sanctions against Israel.

UK opposition lawmakers have also called on the government to publish legal advice it had received and to consider suspending arms sales if it turned out that Israel had broken international law.

The UK government does not directly provide weapons to Israel but does issue export licenses to British companies to sell arms and can block those sales by suspending the licenses.

Skip next section US Defense chief Lloyd Austin calls Israeli counterpart over strike on aid workers
April 4, 2024

US Defense chief Lloyd Austin calls Israeli counterpart over strike on aid workers

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Wednesday expressed his outrage over Israel's airstrike at an aid convoy that killed seven aid workers in Gaza.

In a phone call with his Israeli counterpart Yoav Gallant, Austin urged for more concrete steps to protect aid workers and Palestinian civilians in Gaza "after repeated coordination failures" with aid organizations.

"Secretary Austin expressed his outrage at the Israeli strike on a World Central Kitchen humanitarian aid convoy that killed seven aid workers, including an American citizen," a statement from the Pentagon said.

The call between the two leaders came after an Israeli airstrike killed seven World Central Kitchen workers in Gaza this week.

Austin also urged Israel to conduct "a swift and transparent" investigation, make its findings public and hold those responsible to account.

Skip next section Israel's explanation for aid workers' death 'not good enough,' Australian PM says
April 4, 2024

Israel's explanation for aid workers' death 'not good enough,' Australian PM says

Condemning the attack on a convoy of aid workers, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Thursday said Israel's explanation for the death of aid workers in Gaza was "not good enough."

The seven aid workers who died in Gaza included an Australian woman named Zomi Frankcom.

Israel's airstrike which it says was a "mistake" has drawn widespread condemnation from its allies, including the United States.

"We need to have accountability for how it has occurred, and what is not good enough is the statements that have been made, including that this is just a product of war," Albanese said during a press conference in Sydney.

Albanese appeared to be referring to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's video message in which he said that "this happens in war."

World Central Kitchen, the organization that the aid workers had been working for, said they had been coordinating their movements with the Israeli military. Founder and celebrity chef Jose Andres said the attack had targeted his workers "systematically, car by car."

In his call with Netanyahu, Albanese demanded full accountability from Israel.

"They have committed to a full and proper investigation. I want that to be transparent and I want those findings to be made public so that we find out how exactly this can occur," he said.

Australia's PM Albanese condemns Israeli strike on Gaza aid workers

mfi/ab (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP, EFE)