1704436498 Israeli Hamas Live Updates Islamic State behind suicide bombings in

Israeli Hamas Live Updates: Islamic State behind suicide bombings in Iran – USA TODAY

Israeli Hamas Live Updates Islamic State behind suicide bombings inplay

Gaza City is in ruins after fighting between Israel and Hamas

Huge parts of the city center in war-ravaged Gaza City were badly damaged after fighting between Israel and Hamas, and many streets are no longer recognizable.

The Islamic State claimed responsibility Thursday for the two bombings that killed dozens of people at a memorial for a slain general in Iran. This was the latest development to rock the Middle East amid the chaos caused by the Hamas-Israel war.

Israel and its key ally the United States are battling repeated attacks from Iran-backed militant groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen as they try to prevent the war from expanding.

An Israeli connection to Wednesday's suicide bombings in the central Iranian city of Kerman, which killed at least 84 people and injured more than 280, had the potential to provoke Iranian retaliation and further destabilize the region.

But according to the Associated Press, experts tracking the Islamic State confirmed that the claim of responsibility statement circulating online among jihadists came from extremists likely trying to exploit unrest in the region.

The European Union's chief diplomat, Josep Borrell, said this week he feared the Middle East could “go up in flames.”

Israel destroys Shifa Hospital tunnel: Further “terrorist infrastructure” in view


∎ Former Vice President Mike Pence visited southern Israel on Thursday and said the U.S. stands with Israel even though the global community “always seems to find a way to criticize Israel at some point, especially in places like the United Nations.”

∎ Palestinians fleeing combat zones came under renewed attack when an Israeli airstrike killed a couple, seven of their children and three other children in a southern Gaza home in an area the Israeli military had declared safe.

∎ United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations said it had received reports that gunmen had boarded a merchant vessel approximately 500 miles east of Eyl, Somalia. Shipping companies including global giant Maersk have restricted passage through the nearby Red Sea as Houthi attacks on ships believed to be of Israeli origin or bound for Israel increase.

∎ Israel's Defense Ministry rejected a United Nations claim that it was unable to deliver humanitarian aid to the northern Gaza Strip for three days due to fighting and difficulties accessing the area. The ministry said it had expanded access to border crossings and accused the United Nations of “hesitancy.”

∎ The Beirut apartment destroyed in the attack that killed Arouri was used by Hamas for the first time since the militant group evacuated it before its Oct. 7 attack on Israel, the Lebanese News Agency reported Al Akhbar. Al-Akhbar reported that Arouri had just returned after spending several weeks in Qatar and Turkey.

Saleh Aruri killed: Top Hamas leader dies in apparent Israeli attack

The Pentagon confirmed Thursday an airstrike that killed a senior commander of an Iranian-backed militia in Baghdad. The Iraqi military condemned this attack.

Brigade commander Mushtaq Jawad Kazim al-Jawari, known as Abu Taqwa, was among at least two men killed when their vehicle was struck near the headquarters of the Harakat al-Nujaba militia, which the U.S. believes was American personnel attacked in the region.

Militias in Iraq and Syria have launched at least 100 operations against coalition forces since the start of the Hamas-Israel war. The USA is trying to prevent this war from spreading to other countries.

Harakat al-Nujaba is nominally under the control of the Iraqi military, which said in a statement it blamed U.S.-led coalition forces for the “unprovoked attack on an Iraqi security agency operating under government authority.”

Pentagon spokesman Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said the attack was “necessary and proportionate” and that no civilians were harmed. “Abu Taqwa was actively involved in planning and executing attacks on American personnel,” Ryder said.

A day after the U.S. and 12 allies gave Yemen's Houthi rebels an ultimatum to stop attacks on ships in the Red Sea, an armed maritime drone from the militant group came within about two miles of the U.S. Navy in the Red Sea and merchant ships approached before it exploded Thursday.

Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, who leads the Navy's operations in the Middle East, did not provide details about the reasons for the unmanned surface ship's explosion, but said it was “filled with explosives.”

Cooper told reporters that there had been 25 attacks on merchant ships in the southern Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden since November 18. In mid-December, the US announced the formation of a multinational coalition called Operation Prosperity Guarding, intended to deter attacks and protect merchant ships.

Noting the operation's defensive mission, Cooper said: “We are keenly aware of the ongoing threat and expect Houthi attacks to continue.”

An Israeli fighter jet bombed an observation post and “infrastructure” of Hezbollah fighters in southern Lebanon on Thursday. The Israeli military said its attack on Hezbollah positions in Lebanon, which came a day after Hezbollah rockets struck Israel, also included an attack on an anti-tank unit and a mortar attack to “eliminate a threat.”

Lebanon-based Hezbollah and Israel have fired sporadic rockets back and forth across the border since the war began on October 7, but Hezbollah attacks have increased in recent days, the Israeli military said. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has vowed to “punish” Israel for Tuesday's drone strike that killed several militants, including deputy Saleh Arouri.

Nasrallah said Hezbollah tried to balance the need to support Gaza with concern for Lebanon's national interests. However, if the Israelis start a war against Lebanon, the group is ready for a “fight without borders,” he said.

“You’ll regret it,” he said. “It’s going to be very, very, very expensive.”

There is still a chance to prevent growing tensions with Hezbollah from escalating into a major confrontation, although that time frame is becoming increasingly tight, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Thursday.

“There is a short window of opportunity for diplomatic understandings, which is what we prefer,” Gallant told White House envoy Amos Hochstein in Tel Aviv. “We will not tolerate the threats from Iran’s proxy, Hezbollah, and will ensure the safety of our citizens.”

Israel is pushing for the safe return of 80,000 residents of northern Israel who were forced from their homes near the Lebanese border by Hezbollah shelling. Israel has demanded that Hezbollah respect a 2006 U.N. ceasefire that requires it to withdraw from Israel's border.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also spoke with Hochstein and said he was seeking a “fundamental change” on Israel's border with Lebanon, but did not elaborate.

Thousands of mourners waved Palestinian and Hamas flags and marched through the streets of Beirut on Thursday for the funeral of Hamas deputy Saleh Arouri, who was killed days earlier in an apparent Israeli drone strike in the Lebanese capital.

The remains of Arouri, with his rifle on his coffin, and two of the other victims of Tuesday's attack were taken to a mosque in Beirut for prayers and then carried by the crowd to the Palestine Martyrs' Cemetery. The funeral was attended by senior Palestinian, Hamas and even some Lebanese officials.

“The enemy is fleeing his failures and defeats (in Gaza) to Lebanon,” senior Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said in a speech broadcast during the funeral. He called Arouri's death “evidence of (Israel's) bloody mentality.”

Lebanese officials and state media said Arouri was one of seven Hamas members killed in the attack. Israel, which has not claimed responsibility, has been on high alert amid increasing military activity on the Lebanese border.

The escalation comes despite efforts by the Biden administration and other governments to prevent the Israeli-Hamas war from spreading in the region.

Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich refused to allow the transfer of Palestinian tax money to Gaza, saying he feared the money could be funneled to Hamas. The United States and other nations are pressing Israel to release the funds so the Palestinian Authority can pay state employees' salaries and other bills. But Smotrich focused on the agency's plan to provide some relief to the families of “martyrs, prisoners and wounded” Palestinians.

“I greatly appreciate the US and President Biden's support for Israel, but as long as I am Treasury Secretary, we will not transfer a single shekel to the Palestinian Authority that goes to the families of terrorists and Nazis in Gaza,” Smotrich said.

Smotrich, leader of the far-right Religious Zionism party, drew the ire of the US, Britain and France earlier this week when he unveiled his “voluntary emigration” plan that would encourage Palestinians to leave Gaza after the war.

Contribution: The Associated Press