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Middle East updates: Israel's intel chief quits over Oct. 7

Published April 22, 2024last updated April 22, 2024

Military intelligence chief Aharon Haliva is the first senior Israeli official to resign over failing to prevent the October 7 terror attacks. Meanwhile, a rocket attack was reported at a US base in Syria. DW has more.

Israeli protesters hold candles and a sign 'Bring them home'
Israelis have protested the Netanyahu government, calling for the release of hostages abducted by Hamas on October 7Image: Hannah McKay/REUTERS
Skip next section What you need to know

What you need to know

Israel's military intelligence chief stepped down over failures during the October 7 terror attacks.

Families in Israel marked Passover with empty chairs for those still held hostage in Gaza.

A US coalition base in Syria was reportedly targeted by rocket fire from Iraq.

Here are the latest developments from the Middle East on Monday, April 22:

Skip next section Hezbollah fires dozens of rockets into northern Israel
April 22, 2024

Hezbollah fires dozens of rockets into northern Israel

Hezbollah said it fired dozens of rockets into northern Israel, drawing retaliatory strikes. 

The Israeli military said "approximately 35 launches were identified crossing from Lebanon into the area of Ein Zeitim in northern Israel" and that no injuries were reported.

It said "troops struck the sources of the launches"

Since the start of the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, the pro-Iranian Hezbollah has fired rockets, artillery and anti-tank shells from Lebanon into northern Israel on an almost daily basis.

Hezbollah says it is acting in solidarity with the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which sparked the war with its October 7 attack on southern Israel. 

Skip next section US: Columbia University cancels in-person classes amid pro-Palestinian protests
April 22, 2024

US: Columbia University cancels in-person classes amid pro-Palestinian protests

New York City's Columbia University on Monday announced that it was cancelling in-person classes over concerns about student safety as pro-Palestinian protests become increasingly confrontational and the mood on-campus more tense.

"To deescalate the rancor and give us all a chance to consider next steps, I am announcing that all classes will be held virtually on Monday," said Columbia President Minouche Shafik, who made no mention of when normal, in-person attendance would resume.

Pro-Palestinian students at Columbia recently set up an encampment in the heart of campus, a move that was repeated at several other schools including the University of Michigan and MIT, among others. More than 100 students were arrested when the Columbia encampment was broken up last week. 

Pro-Palestinian student protesters established a protest encampment at the university
A protest encampment sprung up at Columbia on WednesdayImage: Lokman Vural Elibol/Anadolu/picture alliance

On Monday, police in New Haven, Connecticut, arrested some 45 protesters at a similar encampment at Yale University.

Columbia President Shafik said she was "deeply saddened" by the situation in which she has seen herself forced to denounce antisemitism, harassment and intimidation on campus and tell students living off campus to stay away. 

Acknowledging the horror of the current situation in Gaza and the moral distress felt by many on campus, Shafik also made clear, "we cannot have one group dictate terms and attempt to disrupt important milestones like graduation to advance their point of view."

"Even in recent days," said US President Joe Biden on Sunday, "we’ve seen harassment and calls for violence against Jews. This blatant antisemitism is reprehensible and dangerous — and it has absolutely no place on college campuses, or anywhere in our country."

Skip next section Report found Israel still to provide evidence of UNRWA staff terror links
April 22, 2024

Report found Israel still to provide evidence of UNRWA staff terror links

Israel has not provided evidence of its allegations that significant numbers of UN Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA)staff fare members of terrorist organizations, an independent review led by the former French foreign minister Catherine Colonna has said.

In a wide-ranging 48-page report released Monday, the panel said UNRWA has robust frameworks to ensure compliance with humanitarian neutrality principles though issues persist.

It found some "neutrality-related issues" including staff publicly expressing political views, textbooks with "problematic content" and staff unions disrupting operations.

It however found UNRWA remains "irreplaceable and indispensable to Palestinians' human and economic development."

The report was commissioned by the UN in the wake of Israeli allegations that 12 UNRWA workers took part in the October 7 terror attacks on southern Israel. 

Israel stepped up its accusations in March, saying over 450 UNRWA staff were military operatives in Gaza terrorist groups.

The agency lost much of its funding in the wake of the Israeli allegations.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres ordered the UN internal watchdog, the Office of Internal Oversight Services, to carry out a separate investigation into the Israeli allegations that 12 UNRWA staffers participated in the October 7 attacks. 

Skip next section More bodies recovered from Khan Younis mass grave
April 22, 2024

More bodies recovered from Khan Younis mass grave

According to Gaza's Hamas-controlled Civil Defense organization, 73 more bodies have been recovered from a mass grave in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis. 

The find brings the total number of bodies found buried near the Nasser Hospital — which the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) forcibly entered in February in pursuit of Hamas militants — to 283.

Civil Defense did not provide information on the identities of those recovered, that is, whether they were Hamas or civilians. They said exhumation operations continued and that they expect to find hundreds more bodies in the mass grave.

The IDF says its soldiers killed "suspected terrorists" near the site during the Nasser Hospital raid and that they are currently trying to get more information on the matter, adding that the Civil Defense figures could not be independently verified.

Skip next section French presidency: Macron urged Israel's Netanyahu to avoid escalation
April 22, 2024

French presidency: Macron urged Israel's Netanyahu to avoid escalation

In a phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, French President Emmanuel Macron has reaffirmed France's wish to avoid an escalation in the Middle East and to resist Iran's efforts to destabilize the region.

The French presidency said Macron had also repeated to Netanyahu that France wanted an immediate and lasting ceasefire in Gaza.

Macron's office said the presidency was working on trying to ease tensions from clashes on the border between Israel and Lebanon.

Skip next section UN chief Guterres accepts recommendations from UNRWA review
April 22, 2024

UN chief Guterres accepts recommendations from UNRWA review

Antonio Guterres, the secretary-general of the UN, has accepted the recommendations made by an independent review of the organization's agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA.

The agency lost much of its funding after Israel said a number of its staff had been involved in the October 7 attacks.

"He has agreed with Commissioner General Philippe Lazzarini that UNRWA, with the Secretary-General’s support, will establish an action plan to implement the recommendations," UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.

"Moving forward, the Secretary-General appeals to all stakeholders to actively support UNRWA, as it is a lifeline for Palestine refugees in the region."

The findings of the review, which was carried out by former French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna, are expected to be made public later on Monday.

UK newspaper The Guardian reported, however, that the review had still found no evidence from Israel that backed up its original claims.

An interim report from the review praised the agency but identified "critical areas that still need to be addressed."

Skip next section Israel's military intelligence chief steps down over October 7
April 22, 2024

Israel's military intelligence chief steps down over October 7

Aharon Haliva
Aharon Haliva said he has accepted responsibility for intelligence failuresImage: Israel Defense Forces via AP/picture alliance

The head of Israel's military intelligence has requested termination of his position, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said on Monday.

"Major General Aharon Haliva, in coordination with the chief of the general staff, has requested to end his position, following his leadership responsibility as the head of the intelligence directorate for the events of October 7," the military said in a statement.

Haliva was head of the intelligence corps during the October 7 terror attacks.

Last year, Haliva said he accepted responsibility for the intelligence failures that allowed the Hamas-led attacks to take place. He is the most senior official to step down because of the attacks.

Around 1,200 people were killed when Hamas launched a large-scale terror attack on southern Israel. Some 250 people were taken hostage.

October 7 in Israel: A day of terror and carnage

Skip next section Rockets fired at US-led coalition base in Syria from Iraq — reports
April 22, 2024

Rockets fired at US-led coalition base in Syria from Iraq — reports

Rockets have been fired from northern Iraq at US military base in northeast Syria, according to news agencies citing Iraqi security forces and a US official.

"No US personnel were injured," AFP news agency reported, quoting a statement from Iraqi security forces.

Iraqi forces said they had launched a search operation in the northern Nineveh province and found the vehicle used in the attack.

The statement from Iraqi security forces accused "outlaw elements of having targeted a base of the international coalition with rockets in the heart of Syrian territory," at around 9:50 pm (1850 GMT).

Iraqi armed faction Kataib Hezbollah meanwhile denied issuing a statement saying it had resumed attacks on US forces. The group said it was "fabricated news" after a post circulated on groups thought to be affiliated with the Iran-backed faction.

Sunday's attack comes amid heightened regional tensions following Iran's barrage attack on Israel involving drones and missiles earlier this month.

Iranian government plays down suspected Israeli air attack

Skip next section Jews mark Passover with empty chairs for hostages
April 22, 2024

Jews mark Passover with empty chairs for hostages

An table with a white tablecloth, place settings and yellow flowers, surrounded by empty chairs and a woman waving an Israeli flag
The 'empty seder table' installation in London has 133 empty chairs for the hostages still in Hamas captivity Image: Amanda Rose/Avalon/Photoshot/picture alliance

As Jewish people mark the start of Passover on Monday, many Jewish households in Israel and around the world are displaying empty chairs symbolizing the hostages still held by Hamas militants in Gaza.

The weeklong Jewish festival, also known in Hebrew as the "holiday of freedom," celebrates the Israelites' liberation from Egyptian slavery, as told in the Bible.

Passover is traditionally observed with a seder — a holiday feast when families eat symbolic foods and read traditional Jewish texts 

On October 7, Hamas militants killed around 1,200 people and took some 250 people hostage.

Around 100 hostages, many but not all of them Israelis, were released during a one-week truce in November in exchange for Palestinian prisoners being held in Israeli jails.

Israel has said it believes some 130 hostages are still being held in Gaza, but that nearly a quarter have died.

Health authorities in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip have said Israel's retaliatory invasion has killed over 34,000 people, mostly women and children.

kb/wmr (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)