Israel Latest: Blinken Set for Talks With Netanyahu and Cabinet

(Bloomberg) -- US Secretary of State Antony Blinken heads to Tel Aviv for talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his War Cabinet as Israeli troops encircled Gaza City, insisting a cease-fire isn’t on the table.

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Gaza’s death toll climbed as Israel intensified its ground offensive against Hamas. Authorities in Gaza said more than 9,000 people have died due to the war, while the Israel Defense Forces announced the death of a senior officer during battles with Hamas, which is designated a terrorist group by the US and European Union.

In Washington, House Republicans, led by newly installed Speaker Mike Johnson, passed a $14.3 billion Israel aid package tied to cuts in Internal Revenue Service funding, triggering a clash with Democrats over tax law enforcement that risks delaying US assistance.

(All time stamps are Israeli time)

Blinken to Meet Israeli Prime Minister (2:39 a.m.)

Blinken will meet with Netanyahu in Tel Aviv at 10 a.m. local time, according to a statement from the State Department. Blinken will also meet the War Cabinet and President Isaac Herzog.

The US wants to talk about steps that can be taken to better protect civilians in the Gaza Strip, Blinken told reporters before heading to the region.

Japan Plane Brings Back Its Nationals, South Koreans (1:31 a.m.)

A Japanese military plane evacuated 46 people from Israel that included Japanese nationals as well as South Koreans, Vietnamese and a person from Taiwan, the Ministry of Defense said in a statement.

White House Threatens to Veto House Measure (1:20 a.m.)

The House passed the aid package 226 to 196, with most Democrats opposing the measure because it requires cuts to the IRS. The White House threatened to veto the bill over the provision, which the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office forecast would cost the federal government $27 billion in revenue lost to tax cheaters.

Lawmakers from both parties are largely united in supporting assistance for Israel in its war against Hamas. Yet approval of the aid is now wrapped up in battles over other emergencies such as Ukraine aid, conservative demands to cut domestic spending and partisan disagreements over taxation.

Israel Says Cease-fire ‘Not On The Table’ (10:20pm)

The Israeli military said a cease-fire is “not on the table,” ahead of Blinken’s visit. Israel Defense Forces spokesperson Daniel Hagari said the army has surrounded Gaza City and will press on with its efforts to “dismantle Hamas” and free hostages.

Biden Says 74 Americans Evacuated From Gaza (7:14 p.m.)

“Good news - we got out today 74 American folks, dual citizens,” President Joe Biden said during a meeting with President Luis Abinader of the Dominican Republic.

The White House has said around 400 American families have been trapped in Gaza since the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack on Israel, which prompted an air and ground offensive by Israeli defense forces. On Wednesday, Biden called for a “pause” to fighting to allow aid to flow into the country and hostages and refugees to exit.

Hezbollah Says It Attacks Israeli Barracks Near Lebanese Border (4:20 p.m.)

The militant group said it has attacked Israeli barracks near border with Lebanon with two drones, Hezbollah’s TV Al-Manar reports.

The Lebanese group said they “hit their targets accurately.”

Israel Says Senior Officer Killed in Gaza Fighting (1:10 p.m.)

Israel said a lieutenant colonel was killed in fighting in Gaza. He was 33.

The IDF has announced the deaths of 18 soldiers in Gaza since its ground offensive began over the weekend.

Israel Says More Soldiers Killed in Gaza Amid Clashes

Gaza Death Toll Exceeds 9,000, Health Ministry Says (12:52 p.m.)

The ministry of health in Hamas-run Gaza said that 9,061 people in Gaza have died due to the war and 32,000 others injured, while 2,060 are missing.

The ministry’s spokesman Ashraf Al-Qudra warned of an “imminent health catastrophe” resulting from the shutdown of the main power generators at two major hospitals.

Israel Strikes Group Trying to Launch Missiles From Lebanon (12:36 p.m.)

Israeli troops struck a group attempting to launch anti-tank missiles from Lebanon toward northern Israel, the IDF said. They also struck two anti-tank missile-launching posts in Lebanon.

Separately, militants launched anti-tank missiles toward an Israeli military post in Lebanon; no injuries were reported.

Israel Stocks, Shekel Set for Weekly Gains (11:35 a.m.)

Israeli assets looked set to post their first weekly gain since the start of the conflict, with the TA-35 equity index rising 1.4% on Thursday, extending its weekly increase to 4.5%. The shekel appreciated 0.5% to below 4 per dollar, headed for the strongest on a closing basis since Oct. 13.

Israel’s War Effort Is Giving Its Economy a Covid-Like Shock

Even after the rebound, the shekel remains more than 3% weaker than when hostilities began on Oct. 7, while stocks are more than 8% lower.

Israel Army Advance Further into Gaza (10:50 a.m.)

Israeli soldiers continue to advance in the area of Gaza City and are “conducting close combat battles with Hamas terrorists and expanding the fighting,” military spokesman Hagari said.

They are destroying Hamas defense lines in the north of the Gaza Strip, where Gaza City is located, and are taking control of some central areas, Hagari said.

Flaring Tensions in West Bank Risk New Front for Israel at War

Ex-National Security Advisor McMaster Says It’s Already a Regional War (10.15 a.m.)

“The hand behind this is Iran,” H.R. McMaster, a US national security advisor under ex-President Donald Trump, said, referring to Hamas’s actions and Israeli skirmishes with militants in Lebanon and Syria. “They’re trying to place proxy armies on the border with Israel. They’re executing that strategy. It’s already a regional war.”

Iran is using proxy forces for its “ring of fire strategy to destroy Israel,” McMaster said to Bloomberg Television. “Sadly, it’s a conflict that’s likely to escalate, at least within the region.”

Egypt Preparing to Receive Around 7,000 Foreigners From Gaza (10 a.m.)

Egypt’s foreign ministry says it’s working with other states to facilitate the evacuation from Gaza of around 7,000 foreigners, representing more than 60 countries.

The ministry said it had met with foreign ambassadors and other officials to brief them on the efforts being made to bring the foreign passport holders out through the Rafah border crossing.

(An earlier version was corrected to say Joe Biden said there ‘should’ be a pause in fighting.)

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