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Israel-Hamas war: US names group behind Jordan attack

Published January 31, 2024last updated February 1, 2024

The US has vowed a "consequential" response to a deadly drone attack blamed on Iran-backed proxies. Meanwhile, the UN has warned of "catastrophic" consequences to aid funding cuts in Gaza.

Kataib Hezbollah fighters seen in Iraq
An umbrella group of Iran-backed militants, including 'Kataib Hezbollah' is thought by the US to have carried out the attackImage: Alaa al-Marjani/REUTERS
Skip next section What you need to know

What you need to know

  • The US hints at a multi-tiered response to Jordan drone attack
  • The White House says Iran-backed militant group in Iraq carried out attack
  • UN bodies warn against cutting funds to UNRWA
  • Gaza death toll approaches 27,000, according to Palestinian health authorities
  • The US says it intercepted a Houthi missile in the Red Sea
Skip next section Netanyahu calls for closure of UNRWA
February 1, 2024

Netanyahu calls for closure of UNRWA

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday called for the closure of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). He said the agency was "totally infiltrated" with Hamas.

"I think it's time that the international community and the UN itself understand that UNRWA's mission has to end. There are other agencies in the UN. There are other agencies in the world. They have to replace UNRWA," Netanyahu told a delegation of UN Ambassadors in Jerusalem.

He added it should be replaced by other aid organizations "if we are going to solve the problem of Gaza as we intend to do."

The agency has recently faced allegations that some of its employees were involved in the attack by Hamas in Israel on October 7. Since then, several countries such as the US, Germany and Japan have suspended their funding to the UNRWA.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres terminated the contract of some employees, and has said a review will be carried out. 

Skip next section US destroys Houthi missile in Yemen
January 31, 2024

US destroys Houthi missile in Yemen

The US military said on Wednesday it destroyed a missile belonging to the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.

US Central Command (CENTCOM) said in a statement posted on social media platform X that US forces "struck and destroyed a Houthi surface-to-air missile prepared to launch."

"US forces identified the missile in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen and determined that it presented an imminent threat to US aircraft."

US and UK forces have launched several joint strikes aimed at reducing the Houthi's ability to target ships transiting the vital Red Sea trade route.

The Houthis say the attacks are being carried out in support of Palestinians in Gaza amid the ongoing war involving Israel and the militant Islamist group Hamas. 

Skip next section US says response to Jordan attack 'won't be a one-off'
January 31, 2024

US says response to Jordan attack 'won't be a one-off'

US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby on Wednesday said US President Joe Biden was continuing to consider a response to the attack on US troops in Jordan, but added, "The first thing you see won't be the last thing — it won't be a one-off."

"We will respond in a time and in a manner of our choosing, on our schedule," Kirby said. "Just because you haven't seen anything in the last 48 hours, it doesn't mean that you're not going to see anything."

On Tuesday, Biden told reporters that he holds Iran responsible for the incident "in the sense that they are supplying the weapons to the people who did it."

Biden added that the US is "not looking for a wider war" in the Middle East nor confrontation with Iran.

Iran has denied any involvement in the drone attack, and its Foreign Ministry called the US claims "baseless accusations" and warned it would respond "immediately" to any threats.  

Skip next section US says umbrella group of Iran-backed militias behind Jordan drone attack
January 31, 2024

US says umbrella group of Iran-backed militias behind Jordan drone attack

US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby on Wednesday said an umbrella group of Iran-backed militias was behind a drone attack on a US base in Jordan that killed three US servicemembers and injured dozens more. 

The "attribution that our intelligence community is comfortable with is that this was done by the umbrella group" Islamic Resistance in Iraq, Kirby told reporters at the White House.

The Pentagon had said previously the attack bore the "footprint" of "Kataib Hezbollah," one of the Iran-aligned militant outfits included in the umbrella group. 

Kirby said US President Joe Biden was continuing to consider options on how to retaliate to the attack, but added "the first thing you see won't be the last thing" It "won't be a one-off."

US think tank, the Washington Institute, said in a report that the group's focus is on US targets in Iraq and Syria, which stems from the role of the US in the Israel-Hamas war.

It added that the group has claimed responsibility for over 20 attacks on US forces in Iraq and Syria since October 17.

The report said one tactic used by the group — and other Iranian-supported militias — was to remain a "a generic, no-logo brand" to avoid accountability for attacks on Americans.

"The militias may see benefit in obscuring which exact groups are attacking US bases," it added. 

On Tuesday, Kataeb Hezbollah announced the "suspension of military and security operations" against US troops in the region, saying they wished to "avoid any embarrassment for the Iraqi government."

US vows response to deadly drone attack


Skip next section 'Efforts' taking place to get hostages back, says Netanyahu
January 31, 2024

'Efforts' taking place to get hostages back, says Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday said efforts were underway to get hostages back. He did not specify how that process would take place.

"This is a real effort," Netanyahu said in a meeting with families of the hostages, according to a statement released by his office.

"It's too early to say how it will take place, but efforts are being made in these days, in these moments, these very hours," the statement said.

On October 7, the Islamist militant group Hamas launched a large-scale terror attack in southern Israel, killing over 1,100 people and taking 250 hostages, of which 130 remain in captivity.

Netanyahu under pressure, even as hostage deal rumors grow

Skip next section Iran warns of 'decisive' response to any US action
January 31, 2024

Iran warns of 'decisive' response to any US action

Iran vowed to respond to any threat from the United States as Washington considers its response to a drone strike at a base in Jordan on Sunday that killed three US servicemembers and injured dozens more. 

The US has said "radical Iran-backed militant groups operating in Syria and Iraq" were behind the attack. 

On Tuesday, US President Joe Biden said a decision had been made on how to respond, but did not elaborate. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby later said, "It's very possible that what you'll see is a tiered approach here, not just a single action but potentially multiple actions."

"Iran's response to threats is decisive and immediate," Iran's foreign minister, Hossein Amirabdollahian, said at a Cabinet meeting, according to the official IRNA news agency.

He also said the "US has to stop its threats and focus on a political solution."

Biden has said the US is "not looking for a wider war" in the Middle East nor confrontation with Iran.

The head of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), Hossein Salami, also vowed a response to any US action.

"We hear threats coming from American officials. We tell them that they have already tested us, and we now know one another. No threat will be left unanswered," he said, according to semi-official Tasnim news agency.

Jordan: Fatal drone attack increases pressure on USA

Skip next section Israeli warplanes strike Syrian army targets — IDF
January 31, 2024

Israeli warplanes strike Syrian army targets — IDF

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said on Wednesday that its fighter jets had struck Syrian army infrastructure overnight in response to rocket fire from the country.

"Last night, a number of launches from Syria toward the southern Golan Heights were identified," the IDF said in a statement. "In response, IDF fighter jets struck military infrastructure belonging to the Syrian regime in the area of Daraa."

It did not offer any details of casualties or damage the strikes caused on the region in southern Syria within striking distance of the Golan Heights, which Israel captured from Syria in 1967 and later annexed in a move the international community has never recognized.

The Israeli military rarely comments on individual strikes in Syria but has repeatedly said it will not allow Iran, a supporter of Syrian President Bashar Assad, to expand its presence.

Israel has intervened in Syria's civil war regularly over the past decade, launching air strikes primarily against Iran-backed forces but also against Syrian army positions.

Earlier this month, several members of Iran's Revolutionary Guards were killed in an Israeli airstrike on the Syrian capital, Damascus.

Also on Wednesday, the IDF reported rocket launches from inside neighboring Lebanon and said it had launched retaliatory strikes in response.

Skip next section Iranian-backed Iraqi militia to suspend attacks on US forces
January 31, 2024

Iranian-backed Iraqi militia to suspend attacks on US forces

A key Iraqi militia has said it is suspending its attacks on US forces to spare the Baghdad government "embarrassment."

The Iranian-backed Kataib Hezbollah group said that, while they were announcing the suspension of military operations against American troops, they would continue to express their solidarity with Palestinians in unspecified "other ways."

Since October, pro-Iranian militias from Iraq have stepped attacks on US military bases in Iraq and neighboring Syria in response to the ongoing Israeli military campaign in Gaza. They are also demanding the withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq.

The militia's announcement came after three American soldiers were killed in a drone strike on a US base in northeastern  Jordanon Sunday, which the Pentagon says bore the "footprint" of Kataib Hezbollah.

US President Joe Biden has blamed Iranian-backed militant groups operating in Syria and Iraq for the attack as the White House weighs up a response.

Iraq has condemned the attack and called for de-escalation, but the US has said it expects the Iraqi government to share any information it has on the operations of Iranian-backed groups on its territory.

"These are, as a whole, groups that are actively using and abusing Iraq and its financial systems and structure in order to perpetuate these acts, and we have to address that directly," a senior US Treasury official told the Reuters news agency.

"Frankly, I think it is clearly our expectation that there is more we can do together to share information and identify exactly how these militia groups are operating here in Iraq," the official added.

Skip next section At least 25 Palestinian militants and 3 Israeli soldiers killed — IDF
January 31, 2024

At least 25 Palestinian militants and 3 Israeli soldiers killed — IDF

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said at least 25 Palestinian militants have been killed in the last 24 hours, as have three Israeli soldiers.

The IDF said at least 15 Hamas fighters were killed in northern Gaza on Tuesday, while 10 members of Islamic Jihad, a terrorist organization allied to Hamas, were arrested during a raid on a school that the IDF claimed the terrorists had been using as a hideout. They said they had also destroyed five rockets.

Elsewhere, Israeli troops said they had killed "more than 10 armed terrorists" in the center of the Gaza Strip, where raids revealed further large caches of weapons and military equipment.

Fighting also continued in the southern city of Khan Younis, where the IDF said it attacked an "armed terror cell" and a Hamas military base. Eyewitnesses say vast areas of the city have been reduced to a muddy wasteland of bombed-out buildings.

On Tuesday, Israeli forces said they had begun flooding Hamas' network of tunnels beneath the Gaza Strip, which Israeli troops have dubbed "the Gaza metro," in an effort to "neutralize the threat of Hamas' subterranean network."

"Every war has its own characteristics, and this war is about over- and underground maneuvers," an Israeli paratrooper commander explained to the AFP news agency outside the entrance to a tunnel in Khan Younis, which he claimed had been used as a Hamas command center.

Gaza: No safety, nowhere left to go

Skip next section Gaza death toll approaches 27,000 — Palestinian health authorities
January 31, 2024

Gaza death toll approaches 27,000 — Palestinian health authorities

The Palestinian death toll in the Gaza Strip since October 7 has increased to at least 26,900, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry in the enclave, after another 150 people were killed overnight.

The ministry also revised its injury figures to 65,949 after a further 313 people were wounded by Israeli strikes in the last 24 hours.

Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union, including Germany.

The Health Ministry in Gaza does not separate civilians from combatants in its casualty figures, but international observers generally consider the tally to be accurate.

The current conflict erupted after Hamas militants murdered over 1,100 people — mostly civilians — during a terrorist attack on Israel on October 7 and abducted more than 240 others.

But Israel's retaliatory strikes have also attracted widespread condemnation due to civilian casualties and destruction of civilian infrastructure, including accusations of genocide.

ICJ: Israel must act to prevent genocide in Gaza

Skip next section US says it intercepted Houthi missile in Red Sea
January 31, 2024

US says it intercepted Houthi missile in Red Sea

A United States destroyer has intercepted a missile that Houthi rebels in Yemen fired toward the Red Sea, the US military said.

"On Jan. 30, at approximately 11:30 p.m. (Sanaa time), Iranian-backed Houthi militants fired one anti-ship cruise missile from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen toward the Red Sea. The missile was shot down by USS Gravely (DDG 107)," the US Central Command (CENTCOM) said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

No damage or injuries were reported.

The Iran-backed Houthi militia have repeatedly targeted ships in the region since the start of the war between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas in Gaza. The Houthis say their actions are a protest against Israel's military campaign in the Palestinian territory.

In response, the US and UK have carried out several attacks on Houthi targets in recent weeks.

Shipping firms have also diverted hundreds of vessels around southern Africa's Cape of Good Hope to avoid attacks on ships traveling via the Red Sea and Suez Canal. 

Skip next section UN bodies warn against cutting UNRWA funding
January 31, 2024

UN bodies warn against cutting UNRWA funding

The heads of multiple UN bodies have made a joint warning that cutting off funding to the UN's Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA) will have "catastrophic consequences" for Gaza.

"Withdrawing funds from UNRWA is perilous and would result in the collapse of the humanitarian system in Gaza, with far-reaching humanitarian and human rights consequences in the occupied Palestinian territory and across the region," said the statement from heads of organizations that form the UN Inter-Agency Standing Committee.

"As the Secretary-General has said, any UN employee involved in acts of terror will be held accountable. However, we must not prevent an entire organization from delivering on its mandate to serve people in desperate need," the statement added.

Several key UNRWA donors, including the United States, Germany, and Japan, halted funding to the agency following allegations from Israel that some staff played a role in the October 7 Hamas terror attacks.

The UNRWA said it acted promptly over the Israel allegations, immediately sacking several of its staff and launching an investigation and review. 

The joint statement urged nations to reconsider the suspension of funding, saying that no other agency was equipped to provide Gaza with the scale of aid that UNRWA did.

UNRWA has some 13,000 staff and is the primary humanitarian agency in Gaza.