April 2, 2024 - Israel-Hamas war

By Chris Lau, Antoinette Radford, Maureen Chowdhury, Elise Hammond, Aditi Sangal and Tori B. Powell, CNN

Updated 0419 GMT (1219 HKT) April 3, 2024
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12:53 a.m. ET, April 2, 2024

Iran's foreign minister says Israel carried out consulate attack, but that the US is responsible

From CNN's Hamdi Alkhshali

Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian speaks during a press conference at the Lebanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in Beirut, Lebanon February 10.
Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian speaks during a press conference at the Lebanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in Beirut, Lebanon February 10. Mohamed Azakir/Reuters

Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian has blamed Israel for Monday's attack on the Iranian consulate in Damascus, Syria, but also said that the United States was responsible for it because it supports Israel.

The top diplomat's comments underscore the increasing strain between Tehran and Washington, with Iran pointing fingers at the US for its support of Israel.

Conveying the stern message in a post on X, Amir-Abdollahian said the Swiss chargé d'affaires in Tehran was summoned by Iran's Foreign Ministry early Tuesday to discuss the incident, given Switzerland's role in representing US interests in Iran.

"The dimensions of the Israeli regime’s terrorist attack and crime were explained, and the American administration’s responsibility underlined" in the meeting, the minister said.
“An important message was relayed to the American administration as the Zionist regime’s supporter,” he added. “The United States should be answerable.”

Some background: The Israel Defense Forces hasn't commented publicly on the strike that Iran said killed two commanders and several others. But IDF spokesperson Daniel Hagari disputed that the building was a consulate. "This is a military building of Quds forces disguised as a civilian building in Damascus," he said. Separately, The New York Times reported that four unnamed Israeli officials acknowledged that Israel carried out the attack.

11:53 p.m. ET, April 1, 2024

Biden administration set to approve $18 billion deal to send fighter jets to Israel

From CNN's Natasha Bertrand, Jennifer Hansler, Katie Bo Lillis and Kylie Atwood

An Israeli air force F-15 war plane flies near the southern Israeli city of Beersheba, Israel, in June 2023.
An Israeli air force F-15 war plane flies near the southern Israeli city of Beersheba, Israel, in June 2023. Tsafrir Abayov/AP

The Biden administration is close to approving the sale of as many as 50 American-made F-15 fighter jets to Israel, in a deal expected to be worth more than $18 billion, according to three people familiar with the matter.

The transaction, which would amount to the largest US foreign military sale to Israel since the country went to war with Hamas on October 7, comes as the administration is also expected to notify Congress soon of a large new sale of precision-guided munitions to Israel, the people said.

The new sales of some of the US’ most sophisticated weaponry underscore the extent to which the US continues to support Israel militarily, even as Biden administration officials criticize Israel’s operations in Gaza, which have killed more than 32,000 Palestinians since October, according to the Gaza Ministry of health.

The sale is likely to be hotly debated in Congress, particularly by members of the president’s party. US weapons sales to Israel have come under intense scrutiny in recent months and Democratic lawmakers have called for restricting military aid to Israel until it allows more humanitarian aid into Gaza and does more to protect civilians there.

Since Hamas’ attack on Israel in October, which killed over 1,200 Israelis, the United States has made more than 100 foreign military sales to Israel. Most of those have fallen under the specific dollar amount that requires a notification to Congress, an official familiar with the matter previously told CNN.

11:53 p.m. ET, April 1, 2024

Netanyahu says he will temporarily shut down Al Jazeera news network in Israel

From CNN staff

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to shut down news network Al Jazeera following the passage Monday of a sweeping law allowing the government to ban foreign networks perceived as posing a threat to national security.

Netanyahu said he intended “to act immediately in accordance with the new law” to stop the Qatari-based news outlet’s activity, according to a post on social media platform X following the passage of the law.

Al Jazeera, which has produced dogged, on-the-ground reporting of Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza, slammed the decision in a statement, vowing it would not stop the network from continuing its “bold and professional coverage.”

The new law gives the prime minister and communications minister authority to order the temporary closure of foreign networks operating in Israel – powers that rights groups say could have far-reaching implications on international media coverage of the war in Gaza.

Read the full story.

11:45 p.m. ET, April 1, 2024

Analysis: Middle East on the brink of an expanded war after attack on Iranian consulate in Damascus

From CNN's Tamara Qiblawi

The attack on the Iranian consulate in Damascus on Monday may be the most dangerous escalation outside of Gaza since the start of the Hamas-Israel war nearly six months ago.

The attack is the latest in a recent string of apparent Israeli strikes in Syria that targeted the IRGC and Iran-backed Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. So far, the attacks have not provoked a response outside the scope of months-long skirmishes on Israel’s border with Lebanon — despite repeated threats by Iran and Hezbollah’s leadership to respond to Israeli attacks in kind.

Monday’s incident, however, may be the last straw.

Iran’s regional allies say they entered confrontations with Israel on behalf of Palestinians in Gaza, where over 32,000 people have been killed, according to local authorities. This has boosted their regional popularity and shored up their political positions domestically. But they have sought to avoid an all-out conflagration, a relief to Washington, which has thrown its weight into preventing a regional war.

That may be an untenable position after today’s strike, which has again brought the region to the brink of an expanded war.

11:45 p.m. ET, April 1, 2024

Iran threatens to retaliate against Israel after blaming it for deadly airstrike on its consulate in Damascus

From CNN's Adam Pourahmadi in Abu Dhabi, Lauren Kent in London and Jim Sciutto 

Iran has promised a "decisive" response after a deadly strike on its consulate in Damascus, Syria, that it blamed on Israel.

Iranian ambassador in Damascus, Hossein Akbari, accused Israel of the attacks, alleging that the building “was targeted with six missiles from Israeli F-35 warplanes.”

Syrian state media Syrian Arab News Agency reported that “an Israeli act of aggression targeted on Monday afternoon a building in Mezzeh neighborhood in Damascus,” causing “massive destruction.” CNN cannot independently verify the claims.

Akbari said Israel's attack was "against all international laws" and Iran "will be decisive in our response."

Seven Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp officials were killed in the attack, including senior Iranian commanders Mohammed Reza Zahedi and Mohammad Hadi Haji Rahimi, according to an IRGC statement.

"This is perhaps the first time that the Zionist regime allows itself to attack an official building of the Islamic Republic of Iran embassy, which had the flag of the Islamic Republic raised on top of it," he claimed.
"Iran preserves the right to take reciprocal measures and will decide the type of response and punishment against the aggressor," Iran’s foreign ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani said, according to IRGC-affiliated Fars News.

Israel response: Israel's military said it does not comment on foreign reports, but a military spokesperson said:

"According to our intelligence, this is no consulate and this is no embassy. I repeat, this is no consulate and this is no embassy. This is a military building of Quds forces disguised as a civilian building in Damascus," Daniel Hagari said in an interview with CNN.
11:56 p.m. ET, April 1, 2024

Israeli troops left trail of destruction after withdrawing from Al-Shifa Hospital

From CNN's Abeer Salman, Lucas Lilieholm, Jessie Yeung and Christian Edwards

Israel’s military has withdrawn from Gaza’s largest hospital, Al-Shifa, after a 14-day siege that witnesses and Palestinian officials say has left buildings largely destroyed and bodies strewn across the complex.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said its troops had killed Hamas militants and seized weaponry and intelligence documents.

Medical crews are working to recover hundreds of bodies scattered across the grounds at Al-Shifa, with at least 300 bodies found so far, according to Gaza’s Civil Defense.

Determining the precise number of people killed is difficult, it added, because Israeli troops had buried bodies inside and around the complex and bulldozed nearby roads.

Raed al-Dahshan, director of operations at Gaza’s Civil Defense, told CNN it is “almost impossible” for ambulances to reach the hospital due to damaged roads in the city.

IDF spokesman Daniel Hagari said 900 suspected militants had been detained during its two-week operation. More than 500 of these had been identified as members of Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), Hagari said Monday, adding some of those detained are “commanders and significant people.”

CNN is unable to verify the number of bodies inside Al-Shifa independently because of the lack of reporting access in Gaza.

Read the full story.