Middle East crisis live: Biden and Netanyahu ‘to speak in first call since aid workers killed in Gaza’ | Israel-Gaza war

Key events

Reuters has spoken with Israelis who have been displaced from their communities in the far north of the country, close to the UN-drawn blue line that has separated Israel from Lebanon since 2000.

Israel evacuated a number of communities, totalling about 60,000 people, almost immediately after the 7 October attack in southern Israel. There has been an almost constant exchange of fire between Israel’s military and Hezbollah and other anti-Israeli forces inside Lebanon.

Shay Hanegbi said they had only expected the evacuation to last a few weeks, but “It has ended up going on and on. You don’t see the end. We feel adrift.”

Natalie Levy, 29, has been displaced with her husband and two young children from Liman, 2 miles from Lebanon. She said that after the 7 October Hamas attack, “I felt like we were next.”

Israel has long feared an attack from the north, and a security official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, told the news agency:

What we saw in the south on 7 October was basically Hamas “stealing the thunder” from Hezbollah. If anything, Hezbollah is more of a border threat than Hamas was.

There were appeals for peace among the displaced. Sarit Oved, displaced from kibbutz Matsuva, said “I don’t want any more loss of life, on either side.”

Levy said “The people of Gaza that are not involved in terror are going through a very hard time. And my heart is with them. But my heart is also with the people of Israel who are also going through a hard time.”

Reuters notes that about 90,000 people have also been displaced in Lebanon, being forced to move north away from the blue line. Israeli military strikes inside Lebanon have killed about 270 Hezbollah fighters and about 50 civilians.

Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982, and partially occupied parts of the country from 1985 to 2000.

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Overnight the Palestinian news agency Wafa, citing the foreign ministry of Oman, reported that “a number of wounded Palestinians affected by the Israeli military operations in the Gaza Strip have arrived in the Sultanate to receive treatment.”

It said that Oman’s foreign ministry thanked Egypt for facilitating the transportation of the wounded.

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Israel’s military has issued its daily operational briefing in which it claims to have killed “a number of terrorists” and to have “located weapons over the past day”. It also claims it has “struck terrorist infrastructures and eliminated terrorists using tank fire.”

In the update, Israel’s military says it is operating in central Gaza and in the area of Al Amal in Khan Younis.

It said that on Wednesday “numerous launches were identified crossing from the Gaza Strip into Israeli communities adjacent to the Gaza Strip”, and that Israeli forces struck at the sources of the launches.

None of the information supplied by the Israeli military has been independently verified.

There is limited access to Gaza for journalists. In February a coalition of broadcasters wrote an open letter appealing for the Israeli government to allow more access for foreign journalists, without success. Casualty counts being issued during the conflict also cannot be independently verified.

Authorities in Gaza state that over 32,000 people have been killed as a result of the continuous Israeli aerial bombardment and ground offensive inside Gaza since 7 October. Israel has previously claimed that it has killed over 9,000 fighters from Hamas and other anti-Israeli groups in the territory.

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World Central Kitchen (WCK), whose aid workers were killed by Israel’s military in Gaza on Monday, have demanded that Israel retain all the relevant documents, communications, video and audio recordings of the fatal strikes on their convoy to facilitate an independent investigation.

PA Media reports that in a statement the charity said:

This was a military attack that involved multiple strikes and targeted three WCK vehicles. All three vehicles were carrying civilians; they were marked as WCK vehicles; and their movements were in full compliance with Israeli authorities, who were aware of their itinerary, route, and humanitarian mission.

An independent investigation is the only way to determine the truth of what happened, ensure transparency and accountability for those responsible, and prevent future attacks on humanitarian aid workers.

The charity said it had asked the Israeli government to retain all the necessary evidence.

One of the vehicles marked with the WCK logo that was struck by Israel in the attack on Monday. Photograph: Ismael Abu Dayyah/AP

Previously WCK founder José Andrés said:

This was not just a bad luck situation where ‘oops’ we dropped the bomb in the wrong place. This was over 1.5km, 1.8km, with a very defined humanitarian convoy that had signs in the top, in the roof, a very colourful logo that we are obviously very proud of. It’s very clear who we are and what we do.

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Aid groups demand Israel improve measures to keep their workers safe

Ruth Michaelson

Aid organisations working in Gaza have said they are demanding the Israeli military improve and adhere to security procedures intended to keep their workers safe, following Israeli airstrikes that killed all seven members of a convoy of humanitarian workers from World Central Kitchen (WCK).

“What happened is above all else a tragedy, but I would be surprised if coordination [with Israeli forces] continues in the same way it did in the past,” said one aid worker from a leading humanitarian organisation, who asked not to be named.

They said their organisation was constantly pushing for improvements to the deconfliction system, including improved lines of communication and “command and control” within the Israeli military.

A second senior aid official at a different organisation said they felt attacks on aid workers were due to “a loophole in the chain of command within the Israeli army”.

“We do this everywhere in the world: every time we move into a dangerous area we coordinate to deconflict with the army in charge. We are doing our job. What the Israeli army needs to do is theirs – which means respect the laws of war,” they said.

Read more of Ruth Michaelson’s report here: Aid groups demand Israel improve measures to keep their workers safe

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Here is a video clip of Australia’s prime minister Anthony Albanese speaking about the killing of aid worker Zomi Frankcom. He said it was not good enough for Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to say that “this is just a product of war”.

PM responds to Netanyahu: not ‘good enough’ to call aid worker killings a ‘product of war’ – video

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Caitlin Cassidy

Caitlin Cassidy

A snap protest has been held outside the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Dfat) offices in Sydney, Australia, after the Israeli killing of seven aid workers in Gaza on Monday, including Australian Zomi Frankcom.

The rally, attended by union members and grassroots community group Families for Palestine, called for an end to the deaths of innocent civilians and aid workers in Gaza.

People attend a pro-Palestinian demonstration in Sydney, Australia, protesting against the death of aid workers and civilians in Israel’s military assault on Gaza. Photograph: Dan Himbrechts/EPA
People attend a pro-Palestinian demonstration in Sydney, Australia, protesting against the death of aid workers and civilians in Israel’s military assault on Gaza. Photograph: Dan Himbrechts/EPA

Australian prime minister Anthony Albanese yesterday said he used a phone call with the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to express Australia’s anger and outrage over the killing of Frankcom.

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In the broader region, state media in Iran has reported that at least five Iranian security officers have been killed and ten wounded in two separate attacks on Iranian military installations in the south-east of the country.

Reuters reports that militants from the Balochistan separatist group Jaish al-Adl attacked Iranian bases in Rask and Chabahar.

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Biden and Netanyahu expected to speak

US president Joe Biden and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu are expected to have their first call since the Israeli strike that killed seven aid workers in Gaza, according to a US official.

“I can confirm president Biden and prime minister Netanyahu will speak tomorrow,” a US official with knowledge of the matter told Agence France-Presse on Wednesday.

The call comes after Biden expressed outrage over the deaths of the employees of the US-based World Central Kitchen group and said Israel must do more to protect aid workers and civilians.

Netanyahu has said the Israeli military “unintentionally” killed the aid workers in the attack in Gaza on Monday. The victims included a US-Canadian national along with three Britons, a Pole, an Australian and a Palestinian.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has urged Israel to take concrete steps to protect aid workers and Palestinian civilians in Gaza, in a call with Israeli minister of defense Yoav Gallant.

“Secretary Austin expressed his outrage at the Israeli strike on a World Central Kitchen humanitarian aid convoy that killed seven aid workers, including an American citizen,” a statement of the call between the two defense leaders said.

Austin also urged Gallant to conduct “a swift and transparent” investigation, to share the conclusions publicly, and to hold those responsible to account, the Pentagon said.

I spoke to Israeli Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant today about our shared commitment to defeating Hamas and releasing hostages.  I expressed my outrage at the Israeli strike on a World Central Kitchen humanitarian aid convoy that killed seven brave aid workers, including an…

— Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III (@SecDef) April 4, 2024

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Welcome and opening summary

Welcome to our latest live blog on the Israel-Gaza war and the wider Middle East crisis. I am Martin Belam and I will be with you for the next while.

US President Joe Biden and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu will speak on Thursday in their first call since an Israeli strike killed seven aid workers in Gaza, according to a US official.

That comes after the US secretary of defence Lloyd Austin urged Israel to take concrete steps to protect aid works and Palestinian civilians in a call with the Israeli defence minister Yoav Gallant on Wednesday. He said in a post on social media: “I expressed my outrage at the Israeli strike on a World Central Kitchen humanitarian aid convoy”. The US appears to have made no move, though, to limit the arms supply to Israel.

More on that in a moment but first, here’s a summary of the latest developments:

  • Israel is facing mounting international pressure to justify its conduct in the war in Gaza as the bodies of six foreign aid workers killed in a drone attack were repatriated to their families. Seven members of World Central Kitchen (WCK) were killed when a drone repeatedly hit their convoy of three cars, which were clearly identified as belonging to the charity, after it left an aid warehouse in the central town of Deir al-Balah on Monday night.

  • Early on Wednesday, the IDF chief of staff Herzi Halevi put the strike down to “misidentification”, adding that the “the strike was not carried out with the intention of harming WCK aid workers,” and that it was a mistake that should not have happened.

  • Australian prime minister Anthony Albanese said on Thursday that Israel’s explanation for the deaths was “not good enough”. The dead included citizens of Australia, Britain and Poland as well as Palestinians and a dual citizen of the US and Canada.

  • Aid organisations working in Gaza have said they are demanding the Israeli military improve and adhere to security procedures intended to keep their workers safe, following Israeli airstrikes that killed all seven members of a convoy of humanitarian workers from World Central Kitchen (WCK).

  • The Israeli military’s bombing campaign in Gaza used a previously undisclosed AI-powered database that at one stage identified 37,000 potential targets based on their apparent links to Hamas, according to intelligence sources involved in the war. In addition to talking about their use of the AI system, called Lavender, the intelligence sources claim that Israeli military officials permitted large numbers of Palestinian civilians to be killed, particularly during the early weeks and months of the conflict.

  • Three former supreme court justices, including the court’s former president Lady Hale, are among more than 600 lawyers, academics and retired senior judges warning that the UK government is breaching international law by continuing to arm Israel.

  • A majority of voters in Britain back a ban on arms sales to Israel, according to a YouGov poll. One of the first up-to-date assessments of whether Israel is losing public support in key allied states, the research also suggests most people believe the Israeli government is violating human rights in Gaza.

  • The UN Human Rights Council will consider a draft resolution on Friday calling for an arms embargo on Israel, citing the “plausible risk of genocide in Gaza”. If the draft resolution is adopted, it would mark the first time that the UN’s top rights body has taken a position on the war in Gaza.

  • Israeli minister Benny Gantz, a member of the war cabinet and main rival of prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has called for snap parliamentary elections in September, as pressure builds over the war in Gaza.

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