Palestinians inspect the rubble of destroyed buildings of the Abo...

Palestinians inspect the rubble of destroyed buildings of the Abo al Hanood family after an Israeli airstrike in Rafah refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, Wednesday, April 17, 2024. Palestinian medics said several residents, including children, were killed in the airstrike. Credit: AP/Ismael Abu Dayyah

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is calling for “urgent de-escalation” of hostilities in the Middle East.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Tuesday that Guterres made the comments during a phone conversation with Iran’s foreign minister following Tehran’s weekend attack on Israel. Dujarric said Guterres spoke to Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian on Monday.

During an emergency Security Council meeting on Sunday, Guterres warned that “the Middle East is on the brink” and it's time to step back.

World leaders have urged Israel not to retaliate after Iran launched hundreds of drones and missiles over the weekend in an unprecedented mission that pushed the Middle East closer to a regionwide war. The attack happened less than two weeks after a suspected Israeli strike in Syria killed two Iranian generals in an Iranian consular building.

Tensions in the region have increased since the start of the latest Israel-Hamas war on Oct. 7, when Hamas and Islamic Jihad, two militant groups backed by Iran, carried out a cross-border attack that killed 1,200 people in Israel and kidnapped 250 others. Israel responded with an offensive in Gaza that has caused widespread devastation and killed over 33,800 people, according to local health officials.

Currently:

— Israel says it will retaliate against Iran, despite the risks

An Israeli air force F-15 warplane is seen before landing...

An Israeli air force F-15 warplane is seen before landing in an airbase in central Israel, Monday, April 15, 2024. Credit: AP/Ohad Zwigenberg

— US Treasury Secretary Yellen says Iran’s actions could cause global ‘economic spillovers’ and warns of more sanctions

— Citing safety, University of Southern California cancels speech by valedictorian who has publicly supported Palestinians

— Artist and curators refuses to open Israeli pavilion at Venice Biennale until cease-fire, hostage deal

— US House speaker pushes toward a vote on aid for Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan

Demonstrators wave a huge Iranian flag in their anti-Israeli gathering...

Demonstrators wave a huge Iranian flag in their anti-Israeli gathering in front of an anti-Israeli banner on the wall of a building at the Felestin (Palestine) Sq. in Tehran, Iran, Monday, April 15, 2024. World leaders are urging Israel not to retaliate after Iran launched an attack involving hundreds of drones, ballistic missiles and cruise missiles. The sign on the banner reads in Hebrew: "Your next mistake will be the end of your fake country." And the sign in Farsi reads: "The next slap will be harder." Credit: AP/Vahid Salemi

Here is the latest:

IRAQ'S PM SAYS HE URGED CALM AMONG ALL PARTIES IN TALKS WITH BIDEN

WASHINGTON - Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani says he pressed President Joe Biden on the need “for all parties to calm down” as conflict threatens to worsen further between Iran and U.S. ally Israel.

Al-Sudani spoke to reporters Tuesday night on a Washington visit that included talks with Biden at the White House on Monday.

Saturday’s drone and missile launches by Iran targeting Israel, including some that overflew Iraqi airspace and others that were launched from Iraq by Iran-backed groups, have underscored the delicate relationship between Washington and Baghdad.

Al-Sudani said Iraq, like some other Arab nations, had tried unsuccessfully to talk Iran out of the strikes on Israel. Iran’s attack was in retaliation for a suspected Israeli strike that killed senior Iranian military leaders at Iran’s embassy complex in Syria.

Al-Sudani said the decision on allowing Iraqi airspace or soil to be used in any future attacks between Israel and Iran was Iraq’s to make.

Iraqis “reaffirmed Iraq is an independent and sovereign nation,” he said. “We do not want to be a part in this conflict. We discussed this with Iran and with Biden.”

UN APPEALS FOR $2.8 BILLION TO PROVIDE AID TO 3 MILLION PALESTINIANS

UNITED NATIONS – The United Nations is appealing for $2.8 billion to provide desperately needed aid to 3 million Palestinians, stressing that tackling looming famine in war-torn Gaza doesn’t only require food but sanitation, water and health facilities.

Andrea De Domenico, the head of the U.N. humanitarian office for Gaza and the West Bank, told reporters Tuesday that “massive operations” are required to restore those services and meet minimum standards – and this can’t be done during military operations.

He pointed to the destruction of hospitals, water and sanitation facilities, homes, roads and schools, adding that “there is not a single university that is standing in Gaza.”

De Domenico said there is an initial sign of Israel’s “good intention” to get humanitarian aid into Gaza, but the U.N. keeps pushing because it’s not enough.

He pointed to Israeli denials and delays on U.N. requests for aid convoys to enter Gaza.

The U.N. humanitarian official called for a complete change of focus to recognize that preventing famine goes beyond providing flour for bread or pita and to recognize that “water, sanitation and health are fundamental to curb famine.”

US WILL IMPOSE NEW SANCTIONS ON IRAN, WHITE HOUSE SAYS

WASHINGTON — The U.S. will impose new sanctions on Iran after Tehran launched its first ever direct aerial assault on Israel on Saturday, said National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.

Sullivan said in a statement that the sanctions will target Iran’s missile and drone programs, as well as groups backing the country’s Revolutionary Guard Corps and its defense ministry.

The U.S. said that it anticipates other Group of Seven allies adding their own sanctions.

“These new sanctions and other measures will continue a steady drumbeat of pressure to contain and degrade Iran’s military capacity and effectiveness and confront the full range of its problematic behaviors,” Sullivan said.

Israel says Iran launched over 300 missiles and attack drones in the barrage. Iran said the attack was a response to an alleged Israeli airstrike that killed two Iranian generals in Syria on April 1.

GUTERRES CALLS LOOKS TO CALM TENSIONS

UNITED NATIONS – U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for “urgent de-escalation” of hostilities in a phone conversation with Iran’s foreign minister following Tehran’s weekend attack on Israel.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Tuesday that Guterres also called for “a renewed focus on bringing peace to the Middle East.” Dujarric said Guterres spoke to Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian on Monday.

Dujarric said the U.N. chief didn’t speak to any senior Israeli officials but that Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Gilad Erdan heard his call during an emergency Security Council meeting on Sunday for an immediate cessation of hostilities.

Guterres reiterated his condemnation of the attack on the Iranian consulate in Syria’s capital, Damascus, on April 1, which violated the principle of “inviolability” of diplomatic premises under the Vienna conventions.

Dujarric told reporters Tuesday that the secretary-general’s call for restraint was clear: “We do not want to see another cycle of an eye for an eye, which is not a policy that will lead to peace.”

ITALY URGES RESTRAINT FROM ISRAEL

ROME — Italy’s defense minister says Iran “crossed a precise red line” with its direct attack on Israel, but is calling on Israel to avoid fueling a spiral of violence in the region.

Defense Minister Guido Crosetto spoke by telephone Tuesday with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. He expressed Italy’s continued friendship with Israel, according to a ministry statement.

According to the statement, Crosetto told Gallant “the crossing of a precise red line with the direct attack on Israel, on its territory, is worrying but it is precisely now that we need to be mature and act according to the rules of international law to avoid fuelling the spiral of violence that would see us all defeated.”

The message urging restraint is expected to be delivered this week as Italy, the current president of the Group of Seven countries, hosts G7 foreign ministers for a meeting in Capri starting Wednesday.

Italy has provided significant aid to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, first with a hospital ship anchored off the territory. Later, three humanitarian flights transported Palestinian children to Italian paediatric hospitals.

ISRAELI MILITARY DISPLAYS IRANIAN MISSILE

JULIS MILITARY BASE, Israel -- The Israeli military has displayed one of the Iranian ballistic missiles that was intercepted over the weekend.

Israel says Iran launched over 300 missiles and attack drones in the barrage. Iran said the attack was a response to an alleged Israeli airstrike that killed two Iranian generals in Syria on April 1.

Israel says that 99% of the incoming fire was intercepted, either by Israel’s air defense systems or by an international coalition that included Israel, British, French and Jordanian pilots.

Showing reporters the remnants of one of the missiles at an army base in southern Israel on Tuesday, military spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said each warhead carried 500 kilos (over half a ton) of explosives.

Hagari said the coalition sent a powerful “message” to Iran.

He also said Iran would not get off “scot-free” and vowed an Israeli response. “We will respond in our time, in our place, in the way that we will choose,” he said.

SPANISH PRIME MINISTER CALLS FOR RECOGNIZING A PALESTINIAN STATE

LJUBLJANA, Slovenia -- Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said Tuesday that an independent Palestinian state should be recognized as soon as possible.

Sanchez was visiting Slovenia on a tour aimed at boosting support among European Union nations who favor such a move. He was received by his Slovenian counterpart Robert Golob to discuss the situation in the Middle East, with an emphasis on Gaza.

“Spain will strive for Palestine to become a full member of the U.N.,” Sanchez said.

He is among European leaders and government officials who have said that they could support a two-state solution in the Middle East as international frustration grows with Israel’s actions in the Palestinian territories.

Spain, Ireland, Malta and Slovenia in late March signed a joint statement saying they stand ready to recognize a Palestinian state when the move could “make a positive contribution and the circumstances are right.”

“For Slovenia the key question is when to recognize Palestine,” Golob said Tuesday. “Not if but when.”

ERDOGAN ACCUSES THE WEST OF DOUBLE STANDARD

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused Western nations of double standards for speaking out against Iran over its weekend attacks on Israel but not condemning Israel for targeting the Iranian consulate in the Syrian capital earlier.

In a televised speech on Tuesday, Erdogan also said his government would continue with diplomatic efforts that he says are aimed at de-escalating tensions in the Middle East.

“Israel’s targeting of the Iranian (mission) in Damascus in violation of international laws and the Vienna convention was the last drop," Erdogan said.

“Those who remained silent toward Israel’s aggressive attitude immediately raced to condemn Iran’s response,” he later added.

The Turkish leader accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of escalating tensions to “prolong his political life.”

PAKISTAN AND SAUDI ARABIA CALL FOR CEASE-FIRE IN GAZA

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have called for an immediate cease-fire and uninterrupted delivery of humanitarian aid in Gaza.

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan, on a visit to Islamabad, said Tuesday that international efforts toward a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas have been “wholly insufficient.”

Without mentioning an Iranian attack on Israel over the weekend, he said: “We are already in an unstable region, and the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza is already inflaming the region.”

Pakistan’s foreign minister described the killings in Gaza as “genocide” and said that the “world’s conscience must wake up.” Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif called for closer cooperation with Saudi Arabia to help his cash-strapped nation.

A DRONE STRIKE KILLS 1 IN SOUTHERN LEBANON

BEIRUT — An Israeli drone strike on a car in southern Lebanon killed a commander with the militant Hezbollah group and wounded two others Tuesday while another strike later in a nearby area inflicted casualties, state-run National News Agency reported.

Hezbollah identified the commander killed in the strike near the coastal city of Tyre as Ismail Baz.

The Israeli military said Baz served as a senior and veteran official in several positions of Hezbollah’s military wing. It added that as part of his position, Ismail was involved in the promotion and planning of rocket and anti-tank missile launches toward Israel from the coastal area of Lebanon.

Later Tuesday, another drone strike hit two cars in the village of Chehabiyeh killing and wounding several people, NNA said. It gave no further details.

Shortly before the strike that killed Baz, Hezbollah said it attacked Israel’s Iron Dome air defense units in the area of Beit Hillel and inflicted casualties. It later fired rockets toward the same area, the group said.

The Israeli military said two armed unmanned aerial vehicles crossed from Lebanon into Israeli territory and exploded in Beit Hillel. That is under review, it said.

Hezbollah militants and Israeli forces have been exchanging fire since a day after the Israel-Hamas war began on Oct. 7. Nearly 260 Hezbollah members and about 50 civilians have been killed on the Lebanese side of the border since then. The fighting has killed nine civilians and 11 soldiers in Israel.

EASYJET SUSPENDS ISRAEL FLIGHTS UNTIL OCTOBER

LONDON — The U.K.-based budget airline EasyJet said it won't fly to Israel for the rest of the spring and summer season, after Iran attacked the country with a barrage of drones and missiles last weekend.

The carrier said it wouldn’t resume flights to Tel Aviv before late October.

“As a result of the continued evolving situation in Israel, EasyJet has now taken the decision to suspend its flights to Tel Aviv for the remainder of the summer season until 27 October,’’ the company said. “Customers booked to fly on this route up this date are being offered options including a full refund.”

German airline Lufthansa on Tuesday resumed flights to and from Tel Aviv, Amman and Erbil. Flights to Beirut and Tehran remain suspended until at least Thursday.

AN OFFICIAL SAYS IRAN WILL RESPOND WITHIN SECONDS OF AN ISRAELI COUNTER-STRIKE

TEHRAN, Iran — An Iranian official says his country will respond within “seconds” if Israel seeks to retaliate for its attack over the weekend.

Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani said late Monday that Israel will face a “resolute and hard response” if it takes further action against Iran.

Iran launched hundreds of drones and missiles at Israel over the weekend in response to an apparent Israeli strike on its embassy compound in Syria on April 1 that killed two Iranian generals.

With help from the United States, the United Kingdom, Jordan and other countries, Israel managed to intercept nearly all the projectiles and prevent major casualties or damage. It was the first time Iran has launched a direct military strike on Israel after decades of enmity going back to Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.

But Bagheri Kani said “there will not be a 12 or 13-day gap between a Zionist regime move and Iran’s powerful response anymore. The Zionists must now reckon in seconds, not hours.”

Israel’s military chief, Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, said Monday that his country will respond to the Iranian attack without saying when or how. The U.S. and other allies of Israel have urged against any further escalation.

GERMAN FOREIGN MINISTER HEADS TO ISRAEL

BERLIN — German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said she will fly to Israel on Tuesday to help de-escalate the tense situation after Iran’s weekend attack and express Germany’s support for Israel.

She called on all sides to prevent the conflict from spreading to other countries in the region and for new sanctions against Iran.

“I will assure our Israeli partners of Germany’s full solidarity,” she said. “And we will discuss how a further escalation with more and more violence can be prevented. Because what matters now is to put a stop to Iran without encouraging further escalation.”

Referring to Iran’s attack, the German minister said that “of course, this further military escalation now also has further consequences.”

Speaking to reporters in Berlin after a meeting with her Jordanian counterpart, Ayman Safadi, she said she would push for further European Union sanctions against Iran, specifically pointing out the country’s drone program.

Baerbock also said she would use her Tel Aviv visit to again demand that more humanitarian aid be let into Gaza. She also condemned the latest violence in the West Bank, where a 14-year-old Israeli boy was killed in what authorities say was a militant attack, followed by the deaths of seven Palestinians who were killed Israeli forces or settlers since Friday.

“I condemn the violent death of an Israeli boy in the strongest possible terms. At the same time, this must not be misused as a pretext for further violence. I also strongly condemn the attacks by extremist settlers in the West Bank, in which four or more Palestinians were killed,” she said.

UN HUMAN RIGHTS OFFICE CALLS ON ISRAELI FORCES TO STOP SETTLER ATTACKS ON PALESTINIANS

GENEVA — Israeli security forces “must immediately end their active participation in and support for settler attacks on Palestinians," according to a Tuesday statement from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights after a wave of settler attacks on Palestinian towns and villages in the West Bank triggered by the killing of a 14-year-old Israeli boy in what authorities say was a militant attack.

The Palestinian Health Ministry says seven Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces or settlers since the attacks began Friday, and another 75 have been wounded.

Israeli authorities have urged people not to resort to vigilante attacks as tensions soar. But rights groups have long accused Israeli forces of routinely ignoring settler attacks or even taking part in them.

The U.N. statement said “Palestinians have been subjected to waves of attacks by hundreds of Israeli settlers, often accompanied or supported by Israeli Security Forces.” It said that in addition to deaths and injuries, the attacks have also included the torching of hundreds of homes and other buildings, as well as cars.

“Israel, as the occupying power, must take all measures in its power to restore, and ensure, as far as possible, public order and safety in the occupied West Bank,” it said.

Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war and has built scores of settlements there that are now home to over 500,000 Jewish settlers. The Palestinians want the West Bank, which is home to some 3 million Palestinians, to form the main part of their future state.

Violence has surged in the West Bank since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack out of Gaza that triggered the war. The Palestinian Health Ministry says at least 468 Palestinians have been killed since the start of the war in Gaza. Most were shot dead by Israeli security forces during arrest raids or violent protests.

DEATH TOLL IN GAZA SURPASSES 33,800, HEALTH MINISTRY SAYS

RAFAH, Gaza Strip — The Gaza Health Ministry says the bodies of 46 people killed by Israeli strikes have been brought to local hospitals over the Past 24 hours. That brings the overall Palestinian death toll from the Israel-Hamas war to at least 33,843, the ministry said Tuesday.

The Health Ministry does not distinguish between fighters and civilians in its tallies but has said that women and children make up most of those killed.

Israel blames civilian casualties on Hamas because the militants fight in dense, urban neighborhoods. The military says it has killed over 13,000 militants, without providing evidence.

Israel withdrew more forces from Gaza earlier this month after wrapping up its offensive in the southern city of Khan Younis. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to invade the southernmost city of Rafah, where over half of Gaza’s population has sought refuge from fighting elsewhere.

The war erupted when Hamas launched a wide-ranging attack into southern Israel on Oct. 7. Palestinian militants killed some 1,200 people that day and took around 250 hostage. Israel’s offensive has driven some 80% of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million from their homes and pushed the besieged territory to the brink of famine.

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