The Times, The Telegraph, The Guardian, and the Independent report that Israel has confirmed the deaths of 31 of the hostages.
BBC News, The Guardian, and Reuters report that Hamas says it has given its response to a framework proposal for a new ceasefire in Gaza. Israel and the US have both said they are reviewing Hamas’s response. The Guardian publishes an article on whether Hamas’s leadership is fracturing.
BBC News, Sky News, the Independent and The Financial Times report that McDonald’s has missed a key sales target, partly due to customers boycotting the firm for its perceived support of Israel. The fast food chain reported its first quarterly sales miss in nearly four years due to weak growth in its international business division. Its boss previously acknowledged the impact of the conflict, blaming “misinformation”. Shares in McDonald’s fell about 4 percent after the announcement.
BBC News also reports that a three-mile long line of old children’s clothes has been strewn along Bournemouth beach in a protest at the war in Gaza. Activists from the Led by Donkeys group said they were laying more than 11,000 sets of clothes to represent children killed on both sides of the conflict since 7 October.
Channel 4 has explored the recent allegations levied against UNRWA.
The Times reports that Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf was attempting to send NHS supplies to Gaza via UNRWA in December. Civil servants contacted UNRWA, with an email that said: “We’ve been fielding a number of requests and offers from stakeholders in Scotland, and I have been asked to explore the possibility of sending NHS medical supplies to Gaza.”
The Financial Times has published a piece on Israel’s business and commerce ties to the UAE and how they have been impacted by the ongoing war.
Reuters reports that Saudi Arabia has told the US its position stands that there will be no normalised relations with Israel unless an independent Palestinian state is recognised on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem, and Israeli “aggression” on the Gaza Strip stops, the Saudi foreign ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.
The Guardian publishes an article on how Hamas’s attacks on Israel on 7 October have had a huge impact on Israelis’ sense of security, with more than 260,000 new applications for weapons licences being submitted, according to the ministry of national security. 300,000 reservists often carrying their weapons with them.
The Guardian also publishes an article on whether peace is possible: “One question has been frequently asked since the beginning of the Hamas-Israel war: “What will happen when hostilities end in Gaza?” And the only positive answer thus far has been a call to resume peace negotiations endorsing a two-state solution. This solution, it’s been claimed, is the only way to prevent what happened on and since 7 October from ever happening again. The hope of establishing a Palestine state alongside the existing state of Israel is not impossible to achieve as long as sincere efforts are made by all concerned parties. According to Gordon Brown, such hope was actually within inches of being reached during his premiership in 2008. But would that have been sufficient to bring about a lasting solution?”
In The Telegraph, Robert Clark publishes an opinion: “Events in the Middle East may be about to spiral out of control. With Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, and the Houthis in Yemen all targeting Israel and the West, the hand of Iran looms large. But is Tehran in danger of losing control of the escalation it started?”
The Telegraph reports that a 46-year-old man has been arrested after Mike Freer MP, a Tory minister and MP for Finchley and Golders Green, received a threatening phone call on the day he announced he was standing down over the abuse he had received for supporting Israel.
Channel 12 reports that Shin Bet Director Bar, National Security Council Director Hanegbi, and Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj. Gen. Aliyan met secretly yesterday in Tel Aviv with PLO Executive Committee Secretary General Hussein al-Sheikh. The four did not discuss the ‘day after’ in Gaza, but focussed on reducing West Bank tensions ahead of Ramadan. The Israeli officials told al-Sheikh that the question of allowing Palestinian workers back to Israel is being considered, and that a pilot programme would soon get underway in which Palestinians over the age of 45 would be permitted to enter Israel after being vetted by security officials. The intelligence, security, and military echelons have advocated the labourers’ return as part of their wider assessment that it is in Israel’s interests to support the stability of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. They have been opposed by some cabinet ministers.
Commenting on Hamas’s response to the hostage deal proposal, Israel Hayom’s Yoav Limor writes that “the tough position Hamas has taken, as reflected in its response to the proposal, would appear to indicate that it doesn’t yet feel that it has its back to the wall. It seems that more effort, time and mediation will be required to begin to bridge the gaps between the two sides. Still, despite the high price being demanded, it is important to keep the lines of communication open and the negotiations active, even if only due to the real moral debt that Israel owes the hostages. They were already forsaken once. The State of Israel needs to show that it truly intends to leave no stone unturned in its effort to get them home.”
Army Radio covers the arrival in Israel today of US Secretary of State Blinken. The station reports that Blinken is expected to try to make progress on two main issues: increasing the scope of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip and a hostage deal. I24 adds that despite Prime Minister Netanyahu initially rebuffing Blinken’s request that he receive a briefing from IDF Chief of Staff Halevi in private, a one-on-one meeting will now be held.
Kan Radio reports Syria accusing Israel of carrying out an attack in the Homs area last night, in which it says civilians were killed and wounded. Syrian opposition figures said that the Israeli attack had targeted Iran and its proxies.
Elsewhere in the north, Israel Hayom reports two Israeli soldiers wounded yesterday from an anti-tank missile hit in the Margaliot area. The missile hit an open area but the two soldiers were impacted by the blast and suffered from minor injuries. The IDF attacked a Hezbollah military building and operational infrastructure in the Mays Al-Jabal area in southern Lebanon in response. It also shelled southern Lebanon with artillery.
Haaretz suggests that Israel is considering the possibility of replacing UNRWA operations in the Gaza Strip with those of the UN World Food Programme. This follows the concerns of Ministers Gantz and Eisenkot (see yesterday’s Israeli Media Summary) that 60 percent of aid to Gaza currently ends up in the hands of Hamas. “However, a source familiar with the discussions stated that the World Food Programme lacks the necessary infrastructure in Gaza to replace the agency’s activities, noting that establishing such infrastructure would cost hundreds of millions of dollars and take a long time. ‘Unlike UNRWA, which already has a ready and active infrastructure in the area,’ the source added.” Ynet adds that another option being considered is USAID, while Israel Hayom writes that Finance Minister Smotrich has instructed legal advisers in his ministry to draft orders cancelling all the financial benefits currently enjoyed by UNWRA.
Ynet features a special report released this morning by global Microsoft, led by Microsoft Israel, which sheds light on Iranian cyber activities following Hamas’s attack on Israel on October 7. The report suggests that Iran was not initially part of the secret planning of the attack but was “subsequently drawn into action by Hamas’s designs.” According to the report, “since Hamas attacked Israel in October 2023, Iranian government-aligned actors have launched a series of cyberattacks and influence operations (IO) intended to help the Hamas cause and weaken Israel and its political allies and business partners.” Researchers said that Iranian groups “made use of new techniques we’ve not seen from Iranian actors, including using AI as a key component to its messaging” in order to “undermine Israeli security and intimidate the citizens of Israel and its supporters by delivering threatening messaging and convincing target audiences that their state’s infrastructure and government systems are insecure.”
I24 News reports Argentine President Javier Milei paying an emotional visit to the Western Wall, as part of his first visit to Israel since his election last November. Milei also pledged to move the Argentine Embassy to Jerusalem. Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz welcomed Milei at Ben Gurion Airport, along with Argentine Foreign Minister Diana Mondino, Presidential Chief of Staff Carina Elizabeth Milei, and his spiritual guide, Rabbi Shimon Axel Wahnish. Katz thanked Milei “for his support for Israel and for coming to strengthen the Jewish people against Hamas terrorists.”
Haaretz reports the US House of Representatives rejecting Republican efforts to pass a standalone bill yesterday, which would have provided Israel with over $17 billion in emergency aid to Israel. “Even if it advanced, however, the bill would have had zero chance of advancing given Senate Democrats’ insistence that Israel aid be included in U.S. President Joe Biden’s national security supplemental aid package, which includes over $14 billion in Israel aid. Biden further warned he would veto the standalone bill if it managed to reach his desk, illustrating the unrealistic nature of the bill ever advancing.” Biden’s package includes further aid to Ukraine, and Democrats argue that Republican opposition is not due to wanting more for Israel, but rather less for Ukraine.