Israel-Gaza live updates: US sanctions 16 people, 2 groups after Iran attacks

(NEW YORK) — Iran on Saturday night unleashed a retaliatory strike against Israel, sending a volley of more than 300 uncrewed drones and missiles toward targets throughout the country, Israeli military officials said. All but a few were intercepted by Israel and its allies, including the United States, officials said.

The attack on Israel came more than six months after Hamas terrorists invaded the country on Oct. 7, after which the Israeli military began its bombardment of the Gaza Strip.

Here’s how the news is developing:

Apr 18, 4:19 PM
In meeting with Israelis, US officials ‘expressed concerns’ over Rafah

In a Thursday meeting between U.S. and Israeli officials, the two sides discussed the attack by Iran as well as the Israeli military’s plans for an operation in Rafah in Gaza, according to the White House.

During the meeting, the “U.S. participants expressed concerns with various courses of action in Rafah,” according to a White House readout.

“Israeli participants agreed to take these concerns into account and to have further follow up discussions between experts, overseen by the U.S.-Israel Strategic Consultative Group,” and the officials agreed to meet again “soon,” according to the White House.

National security adviser Jake Sullivan convened the meeting and the Israeli side was led by Minister for Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer and national security adviser Tzachi Hanegbi.

Apr 18, 2:38 PM
Israel makes significant process in preparations for Rafah evacuations: Source

Israel has made significant progress in preparations for the evacuation of around 1 million civilians from Rafah ahead of the Israeli military’s impending operation in the southern Gaza city, according to an Israeli source.

Preparations have been ongoing for over a month, including repairing water and sewage pipes and amassing thousands of tents, the source said

There are around 1.5 million Palestinians estimated to be in the Khan Younis and Rafah areas in southern Gaza. It’s believed around 1 million people would evacuate north. The evacuation process, which could take weeks, would not start until after Passover.

State Department principal deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel stressed to reporters that “any kind of forced relocation or displacement of the Palestinian people within Gaza cannot and should not be part of any plan or an operation.”

Apr 18, 12:52 PM
US, Israeli officials to hold high-level meeting on Rafah plans

U.S. and Israeli officials will hold a high-level, virtual meeting on Thursday about alternative plans for an Israeli military operation in Rafah, a White House official confirmed to ABC News.

The official said that it will be a secure video meeting that will follow up on discussions from earlier this month. National security adviser Jake Sullivan will lead the meeting for the U.S. side, the official said.

The meeting was first reported by Axios.

“The main purpose really is to talk about Rafah … and also share our continued concerns over a major ground offensive there,” White House National Security Communications Adviser John Kirby said.

Apr 18, 9:41 AM
US sanctions 16 people, two groups after Iran attacks

The U.S. is sanctioning two groups and 16 people it says enabled Iran’s drone production following Iran’s attack on Israel last weekend.

“Today, in coordination with the United Kingdom and in consultation with partners and allies, we are taking swift and decisive action to respond to Iran’s unprecedented attack on Israel,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said. “We’re using Treasury’s economic tools to degrade and disrupt key aspects of Iran’s malign activity, including its UAV program and the revenue the regime generates to support its terrorism.”

The Treasury Department said it’s sanctioning Khuzestan Steel Company, Iran’s largest steel producer. The Treasury Department said Iran’s metals sector generates “several billion dollars in revenue annually.”

The U.S. is also targeting the Iranian carmaker Bahman Group for its role in making vehicles used by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps for military operations.

The sanctions also target people who work for Iran-based drone manufacturers, including executives of the Mado Company, which the U.S. says produced drone engines used in Iran’s Shahed UAVs. The U.S. also sanctioned members of the IRGC who it says help supply proxy groups, like the Houthis in Yemen, with drones that have attacked U.S. service members in the Red Sea.

Yellen added that the U.S. would “continue to deploy” sanctions to counter any further action by Iran, with the goal of making it harder and more expensive for Iran to undertake destabilizing actions.

Apr 17, 6:16 PM
Israel not likely to carry out strike until after Passover: US official

Israel is unlikely to carry out a strike on Iran until after Passover, a senior U.S. official told ABC News, although that could always change.

Passover begins on Monday and ends after nightfall on April 30.

The Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and other leadership are still on a high state of alert, with some in safe houses and underground facilities, the official said.

Apr 17, 5:50 PM
Israel aborted strikes against Iran 2 nights this week: Sources

Israel prepared for and then aborted retaliatory strikes against Iran on at least two nights this past week, three Israeli sources told ABC News.

Iran attacked Israel with more than 300 drones and missiles on Saturday night into Sunday morning local time in Israel. Israel has been weighing how and when to respond to Iran’s attack since then, holding war cabinet meetings on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.

The members of the Israeli war cabinet are Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Minister Benny Gantz and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

A range of responses have been presented to the Israeli war cabinet. The potential responses include options ranging from attacking Iranian proxies in the region but not on Iranian soil to a potential cyber attack, sources told ABC News.

There was no war cabinet meeting on Wednesday, but Netanyahu told his government cabinet that while he appreciates the advice from allies, Israel will “make our own decisions, and the State of Israel will do everything necessary to defend itself.”

-ABC News’ Matt Gutman and Jordana Miller

Apr 17, 3:02 PM
Iranian president: Israel invasion would be met with ‘massive’ response

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said at an army parade Wednesday that “the tiniest invasion” from Israel will be met with a “very massive and harsh response.”

Apr 17, 2:26 PM
House GOP package totals $14.1 billion for Israel

House Republicans have posted the legislative text for three national security bills, addressing Ukraine, Israel and the Indo-Pacific.

For Israel, lawmakers have crafted a package totaling $14.1 billion, including: $4 billion for missile defense; $1.2 billion for Iron Beam; $4 billion replenishment of stocks to the Department of Defense; and $3.5 billion for Israel to purchase U.S. weapons.

“The House must pass the package this week and the Senate should quickly follow,” President Joe Biden said in a statement. “I will sign this into law immediately to send a message to the world: We stand with our friends, and we won’t let Iran or Russia succeed.”

Apr 17, 1:12 PM
Netanyahu: Israel ‘will make our own decisions’ on how to respond to Iran

After meeting with U.K. Foreign Secretary David Cameron and German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock on Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he appreciates their advice, but added, “We will make our own decisions and the State of Israel will do everything necessary to defend itself.”

Cameron told reporters after the meeting in Jerusalem, “It’s clear the Israelis are making a decision to act.”

“We hope they do so in a way that does as little to escalate this as possible, and in a way that — as I said yesterday — is smart as well as tough,” Cameron added.

Cameron also reiterated that the “real need is to refocus back on Hamas, back on the hostages, back on getting the aid in, back on getting a pause in the conflict in Gaza.”

“That’s why I’m here today to talk to the Israeli government, to talk to the Palestinian Authority to try and push those things forward,” Cameron said.

-ABC News’ Ellie Kaufman

Apr 16, 7:04 PM
US says it will impose new sanctions on Iran in coming days

The United States announced Tuesday it will impose new sanctions targeting Iran in the coming days following its “unprecedented air attack against Israel.”

The sanctions include targeting Iran’s missile and drone program and new sanctions against entities supporting the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Iran’s Defense Ministry, according to the White House’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan.

“We anticipate that our allies and partners will soon be following with their own sanctions,” Sullivan said in a statement. “We will not hesitate to continue to take action, in coordination with allies and partners around the world, and with Congress, to hold the Iranian government accountable for its malicious and destabilizing actions.”

The U.S. is telegraphing its sanction plan in advance to underscore the large international response that the U.S. is coordinating and to signal to Iran there will be diplomatic costs to what they’ve done, a senior administration official told ABC News. The official said they believe this will have an impact, in part, by bringing other countries on board.

Apr 16, 4:08 PM
IDF’s conduct, ethics under scrutiny following soldiers’ social media posts

Six months into the Israel-Hamas conflict, the conduct and ethics of some Israel Defense Forces members have increasingly come under the microscope.

Incidents ranging from pranks to potentially criminal acts are being exposed to the world, often by videos soldiers themselves have posted online, according to critics and Israeli officials.

In many pictures and videos that have circulated since the conflict began, and which were reposted by pro-Palestinian activists to millions of followers, IDF soldiers are seen blowing up buildings in Gaza while in combat, waving women’s underwear like flags and rifling through the possessions of Gazans with gleeful expressions.

Younis Tirawi, a Palestinian activist, says he’s seen thousands of videos of IDF soldiers reportedly behaving improperly.

“You can see all the soldiers liking their posts,” Tirawi told ABC News.

Apr 16, 3:48 PM
Blinken to Israeli war cabinet: ‘We do not want to see further escalation’

Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Israeli war cabinet minister Benny Gantz, during which Blinken “continue(d) to send the same messages in all his conversations — which is we do not want to see further escalation of the conflict,” according to spokesperson Matt Miller.

Miller declined to say whether the U.S. assessed the threat of escalation had fallen, but an administration official said the amount of time that has already elapsed since Iran’s weekend attack had boosted hopes that Israel would exercise constraint.

Miller batted down reports that Iran and the U.S. were communicating through intermediaries in the wake of Tehran’s attack on Israel.

“There have not been such messages delivered. It’s been days since we’ve communicated — since we’ve sent messages to the government of Iran,” Miller said. “And I say that as a reminder of something we’ve said before: Oftentimes, the Iranian government has misled the world about either messages they’ve passed to us or messages that we have passed to them.”

-ABC News’ Shannon Crawford

Apr 16, 3:36 PM
UK prime minister ‘gravely concerned’ about humanitarian situation in Gaza

U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak spoke on the phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday. While Netanyahu thanked Sunak for the U.K.’s support to counter Iran’s weekend attack on Israel, Sunak also had harsh words for Netanyahu about the deepening humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

“On Gaza, the Prime Minister said he remained gravely concerned about the deepening humanitarian crisis,” a Downing Street spokesperson said. “The U.K. wanted to see a massive step change in aid access to flood Gaza with vital supplies, including Israel opening up new aid routes as quickly as possible. The Prime Minister said it was deeply disappointing that Hamas blocked a deal at the weekend that would have saved Palestinian lives and secured the safe release of hostages.”

Apr 16, 3:23 PM
Israeli war cabinet meeting ends again with no final decision on response: Source

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s war cabinet met for the third day in a row on Tuesday to consider an Israeli response to Iran’s weekend attack.

But Tuesday’s meeting ended with no final decision made about an Israeli response, according to an Israeli source with knowledge of the meeting. A variety of options are still being considered, the source said.

Apr 16, 2:13 PM
Iran foreign minister says ‘no intention of further escalating the situation’

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian told Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on a call that “Iran is willing to exercise restraint and has no intention of further escalating the situation,” according to the Chinese foreign ministry’s readout of the conversation.

Apr 16, 1:56 PM
More than 19,000 children orphaned in Gaza

Over 10,000 women have been killed in Gaza during the war, according to a report from UN Women, the United Nations’ entity for gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Out of those 10,000 women, 6,000 were mothers, who have left behind 19,000 orphaned children, according to the report.

-ABC News’ Kori Skillman

Apr 16, 11:18 AM
Israel focused too intensely on Iran’s nuclear threat at expense of ballistic threat: IDF

Israel Defense Forces spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said Israel focused too intensely on the Iranian nuclear threat at the expense of its ballistic threat.

A senior U.S. official told ABC News the U.S. also relied too heavily on the misguided conception that Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was cautious and would never order a direct attack on Israel, and that this weekend’s attack and the general U.S. assessment of Iran now requires study and reassessment.

Sima Shine, a former head of the Iran desk at Israeli espionage agency Mossad, also said Israel’s assessment was wrong, and said “the rules of the game” have changed. A huge barrage of missiles was considered possible, but highly unlikely, Shine said.

Shine said any Israeli response under the new conception requires the assumption that Iran will follow up with its threat of another salvo of missiles. That said, Shine believes that Iran and the supreme leader do not want a full-scale war because it would be unpopular in Iran and the U.S. could get involved.

-ABC News’ Matt Gutman

Apr 16, 9:18 AM
Yellen to Iran: US ‘will not hesitate’ to issue new sanctions

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is warning Iran that the U.S. “will not hesitate” to impose new sanctions in response to Iran’s “unprecedented attack” on Israel.

“Treasury will not hesitate to work with our allies to use our sanctions authority to continue disrupting the Iranian regime’s malign and destabilizing activity,” Yellen is expected to say at a Tuesday press conference. “The attack by Iran and its proxies underscores the importance of Treasury’s work to use our economic tools to counter Iran’s malign activity.”

Yellen’s message follows President Joe Biden’s Sunday meeting with the G7 nations, during which the leaders discussed a coordinated effort on sanction measures.

Apr 16, 6:31 AM
Israeli war cabinet to consider response again Tuesday

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s war cabinet is expected to meet again on Tuesday to consider an Israeli response to Iran’s weekend attack.

“We are closely assessing the situation. We remain at our highest level of readiness,” Herzi Halevi, chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, said on Monday. “Iran will face the consequences for its actions.”

Halevi added Israel would “choose our response accordingly.”

Apr 16, 6:14 AM
UN watchdog calls for de-escalation in Israel-Iran conflict

United Nations officials called on Tuesday for Israel and Iran to de-escalate their conflict, saying the retaliatory military attacks “violate the right to life and must cease immediately.”

“All countries are prohibited from arbitrarily depriving individuals of their right to life in military operations abroad, including when countering terrorism,” the U.N.’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a press release, quoting U.N. officials described as “experts.”

The retaliatory strikes by both countries may constitute the “international crime of aggression by civilian and military leaders responsible,” those officials said, according to the statement.

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