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Israeli defence minister Gallant heads to US for ‘critical’ talks on Gaza war, arms delays, Lebanon

The Israeli premier on Sunday told his cabinet that “about four months ago, there was a dramatic drop in the supply of armaments arriving from the US to Israel. We got all sorts of explanations, but … the basic situation didn’t change.”

However, he voiced hope the issue would now be cleared up: “In light of what I have heard in the last day, I hope and believe that this issue will be resolved in the near future.”

Tensions have also flared on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon, whose Iran-backed Hezbollah movement has traded daily cross-border fire with the army, heightening fears of all-out war.

Gallant said he would “discuss developments in Gaza and Lebanon”, vowing that “we are prepared for any action that may be required in Gaza, Lebanon and in additional areas”.

He stressed that “our ties with the United States are more important than ever. Our meetings with US officials are critical to this war.”

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin (front right) meets Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (front left) at the Pentagon on March 26. Photo: AFP

The defence chief plans to discuss developments in Gaza and Lebanon, including the transition to a “Phase C” in the war against Hamas. Gallant has said in the past that the third phase of the war would be the creation of a new security regime in Gaza.

Gallant, a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, has sparred with the premier in the past few months, calling for a clearer post-war plan for Gaza that will not leave Israel in charge, a demand echoed by the White House.

Netanyahu has been walking a tightrope as he seeks to keep his government together by balancing the demands of the defence establishment, including ex-generals like Gallant, and far-right coalition partners who have resisted any post-Gaza strategy that could open the way to a future Palestinian state.

In Gaza, Israeli forces kept striking targets and battling Hamas, the Islamist militant group Israel has vowed to destroy over its October 7 attack, in a war that has devastated much of the coastal territory.

Warplanes had struck “dozens of terror targets throughout the Gaza Strip, including military structures, terrorists and terrorist infrastructure” over the past 24 hours, a military statement said.

The Gaza war broke out with Hamas’s October 7 attack on southern Israel that resulted in the deaths of 1,194 people, mostly civilians, according to Israeli official figures.

The militants also seized hostages, 116 of whom remain in Gaza, although the army says 41 are dead.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed more than 37,500 people, also mostly civilians, Gaza’s health ministry said.

An Israeli siege has deprived Gaza’s 2.4 million people of most drinking water, food, fuel and other essentials.

“This war must stop,” said Umm Siraj al-Balawi, surviving in a makeshift shelter amid a field of rubble, with strung-up sheets protecting her young children from the blazing sun.

“People are getting displaced from house to house, tent to tent, school to school,” she said. “This is a war of displacement. It’s a war of annihilation.”

Lebanon’s Hezbollah meanwhile said it had targeted a military position in northern Israel “with an attack drone” in response to the killing of a commander of the Jamaa Islamiyya group in a strike in eastern Lebanon.

Israel said no one was injured in the attack on Sunday.

Hezbollah had hours earlier published a video excerpt purporting to show locations in Israel along with their coordinates, amid heightening fears of an all-out conflict.

Israel’s military said last Tuesday that a plan for a Lebanon offensive had been “approved and validated”.

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah responded with threats that no part of Israel would be spared in the event of a full-scale war.

In this screengrab, a Palestinian is strapped onto an Israeli military jeep during a raid in Jenin, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, on Saturday. Photo: Reuters TV

Meanwhile, Israeli army forces strapped a wounded Palestinian man to the bonnet of a military jeep during an arrest raid in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin on Saturday. A video circulating on social media showed a Palestinian resident of Jenin, Mujahed Azmi, on the jeep that passes through two ambulances.

The Israeli military in a statement said Israeli forces were fired at and exchanged fire, wounding a suspect and apprehending him.

Soldiers then violated military protocol, the statement said. “The suspect was taken by the forces while tied on top of a vehicle,” it said.

The military said the “conduct of the forces in the video of the incident does not conform to the values” of the Israeli military and that the incident will be investigated and dealt with.

The individual was transferred to doctors for treatment, the military said.

Reporting from Agence France-Presse, Reuters, Bloomberg

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