US troops told to prepare to deploy


As President Joe Biden considers traveling to Israel in a show of solidarity, about 2,000 U.S. troops have been told to get ready to deploy − possibly to the Middle East − in anticipation of an Israeli ground invasion of Gaza aimed at crushing the Hamas militant group that rules the war-battered enclave.

The American soldiers would not be sent to Israel but could be assigned to other countries in the region for support roles such as medical assistance or providing security at gate crossings, the Associated Press reported Monday, citing U.S. officials.

Also Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Iran and Hezbollah not to interfere in his country’s military actions prompted by Hamas’ brutal killing rampage into Israel nine days ago. Netanyahu spoke at an Israeli parliamentary session that required a 40-minute break when rockets fired on Jerusalem forced attendees to take cover in bomb shelters.

“Don’t test us in the north. Don’t make the mistake of the past,” Netanyahu said, referring to the 2006 war with Hezbollah. “Today, the price you will pay will be far heavier.”

Hezbollah later said its fighters targeted five Israeli posts along the Lebanese border Monday afternoon.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken returned to Israel on Monday − his second visit in less than a week − after a whirlwind tour of six Arab states aimed at keeping the war from expanding across the Middle East. Blinken met with Netanyahu, reaffirming U.S. determination to provide Israel whatever is needed to protect its citizens, Blinken said in a statement. The two also discussed coordination with the U.N. and “regional partners” to provide humanitarian aid to civilians as well as the U.S. commitment to the speedy release of hostages, Blinken said.

“We discussed U.S. support for Israel’s right to defend itself and its citizens from Hamas’ terrorism,” Blinken said.

No spillover: Blinken says Arab leaders don’t want spillover from Israel-Hamas war


∎ A senior Biden administration official, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, said Biden was pondering a trip to Israel. Biden abruptly called off a trip to Colorado but made no announcement of alternative travel plans.

∎ More than 1 million Gazans have evacuated their homes. Last week Israel ordered an evacuation of northern Gaza, an edict that fueled chaos across the Israeli-occupied territory of about 2.3 million Palestinians.

∎ The Israeli military has ordered people living in 28 communities near the Lebanese border to evacuate amid increasing cross-border fire between Israel and the Lebanese Shiite militia, Hezbollah.

∎ The European Union said it has tripled humanitarian aid for civilians in Gaza to nearly $80 million and will send two flights this week through Egypt with provisions for the territory’s residents.

∎ Russian President Vladimir Putin, who ordered the current invasion of neighboring Ukraine that has killed tens of thousands and led to war crime charges against him, urged Netanyahu to seek “a peaceful settlement through political and diplomatic means,” the Kremlin said.

What’s happening in Israel? After Hamas attack, understanding the conflict in Gaza

Almost 300 Floridians who had been trapped in Israel because of flight cancellations have arrived in Florida on a flight arranged by the state and the global rescue agency Project Dynamo. Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is seeking the Republican presidential nomination, took a dig at the Biden administration, saying he was “proud of how quickly we have been able to activate resources and do what the federal government could not – get Floridians and other Americans back home, reunited with their families, free of charge.”

DeSantis said the state also is sending medical supplies, hygiene products, clothing and children’s toys to Israel to help Israelis affected by the war. And he said Gazans should not be welcomed into the U.S., saying Arab nations should “open their borders and absorb” Gaza refugees.

“As president, the number of people I will bring in from Gaza is zero,” he said.

The death toll on both sides of the war has surpassed 4,000, and thousands more are wounded. At least 199 people were being held hostage in Gaza, Israeli officials said.

The U.S. death toll rose to 30, and the State Department said 13 Americans remained missing but could provide no count on the number of U.S. hostages. “State Department personnel have been in contact with their families,” a spokesperson said.

Thieves using trucks purportedly from the Gaza Health Ministry have stolen desperately needed fuel and medical supplies from a U.N. agency compound in Gaza City, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency says. The agency was forced to evacuate the compound Friday and has no access to the site. Security cameras at the entrance and exit to the compound were damaged, the agency said.

@UNRWA fuel & other types of material are kept for strictly humanitarian purposes − any other use is strongly condemned,” the agency said in a social media post.

Palestinians crowded into hospitals and schools Monday as supplies of food, water and medicine ran low during a tight Israeli blockade of Gaza. Some relief was not far away but still unreachable.

Trucks carrying necessities have waited for days at the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt amid negotiations for a cease-fire that would allow them to enter Gaza and allow foreigners to leave. Gaza’s only border link to Egypt was shut down several days ago following Israeli airstrikes.

“The conflict in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory is an awful reminder of how quickly the health of millions of people can be put at risk,” World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a social media post. “War will bring nothing but destruction and horror.”

The Justice Department opened a federal hate-crimes investigation into the Illinois stabbing death of 6-year-old Wadea Al-Fayoume, a Palestinian American boy. His mother, Hanaan Shahin, 32, was seriously injured in the attack.

Their landlord, Joseph Czuba of Plainfield Township, about 40 miles southwest of Chicago, is facing murder and hate crime charges, Czuba, 71, was denied bail at a court hearing Monday and must remain behind bars.

Czuba was charged Sunday with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder and two counts of a hate crime for what authorities believe was a targeted attack against a Muslim family in response to the Israel-Hamas war, according to the Will County Sheriff’s office.

The alleged assault has stoked fears among Arab Americans about possible reprisals stemming from the Israel-Hamas war.

“No one in the United States of America should have to live in fear of violence because of how they worship or where they or their family come from,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in announcing the hate crime investigation.

Bart Jansen, Thao Nguyen and Cybele Mayes-Osterman

Stabbing death of 6-year-old Muslim boy: llinois incident to be investigated as hate crime

The national average for a gallon of gas fell last week despite a tumultuous period for oil prices after Hamas launched the attack on Israel. A gallon of regular unleaded fell about 12 cents to $3.628 on Friday, according to AAA, a nonprofit federation of motor clubs that tracks fuel costs. The decline comes even as oil rose by about $5 to around $90 per barrel last week. The price of crude, which is refined into gasoline, makes up more than half the price of a gallon of fuel. The cost at the pump is dropping because of lower demand from drivers and less expensive blends of winter gasoline coming into the market, AAA says.

“As long as this war does not spread to include more countries in the region, the effect on the oil market will remain muted,” AAA spokesperson Andrew Gross said in a statement. Read more here.

Medora Lee

Numerous organizations are attempting to provide assistance to civilians in need on both sides of the confrontation. The Alliance for Middle East Peace (ALLMEP) is a coalition of over 170 non-governmental organizations that includes tens of thousands of Palestinians and Israelis who share the goal of building state peace between the two communities. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) also aims to protect victims of conflicts and provide them with assistance. And Doctors Without Borders is a non-governmental organization that provides humanitarian aid to people affected by conflict, disease outbreaks and natural and human-made disasters.

For links and other options, read more here.

Sarah Al-Arshani and Thao Nguyen

Monday is the official tax deadline for those who requested an automatic six-month extension for filing 2022 income taxes, but the Internal Revenue Service is providing a special extension of nearly another year to “individuals and businesses affected by the terrorist attacks in the State of Israel.”

The relief applies to an individual with a principal residence in Israel, the West Bank or Gaza Strip, as well as a business or sole proprietor whose principal place of business is in the covered area. Other circumstances qualify, too. More details here.

Susan Tompor, Detroit Free Press

Health situation is ‘dire’: Groups providing aid as Israeli-Palestinian crisis worsens

Hamas has been responsible for numerous suicide bombings and other deadly attacks in Israel since the militant group was formed in 1987. On Oct. 7, about 1,000 Hamas fighters stormed across the Israeli border by land and sea. Hamas says the attack was partially a response to Israeli police activity at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, the third holiest site in Islam. The Jerusalem mosque is located on a holy site for Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount.

But Hamas leaders also blame unrelenting Israeli crackdowns and a 16-year blockade in Gaza and the West Bank, continued construction of Israeli settlements − which the international community considers illegal − and Israel’s tight military control of Gaza.

Also, the attack came amid thawing relations between some Arab nations and Israel. Hamas refuses to recognize Israel, and the attack and Israel’s harsh response could slow or derail those diplomatic overtures.

Hamas – an acronym for Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiya, or the Islamic resistance movement – was founded by activists connected to the Muslim Brotherhood during the first Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. The State Department designated Hamas a terrorist group in 1997, a decade after its founding. Several other nations also consider Hamas a terrorist organization.

In 2006, Hamas won parliamentary elections, and in 2007 the group violently seized control of Gaza from the Palestinian Authority, which was controlled by the rival Fatah movement that still governs the West Bank. There have been no elections since. The group calls for establishment of an Islamic Palestinian state that would replace the current state of Israel and believes in the use of violence to carry out the destruction of Israel.

Hamas receives financial, material and logistical support from Iran. So far, however, the U.S. and other nations have said there is no evidence that Iran was directly involved in Hamas’ attack.

Contributing: The Associated Press

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