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February 6, 2024 Israel-Hamas war

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10:46 p.m. ET, February 6, 2024

Deadly Israeli airstrikes target Homs province, Syrian state media claims

Israeli forces carried out deadly nighttime strikes on Syria's Homs province, Syrian state news agency SANA reported on Wednesday.

A Syrian military source, quoted by SANA, said that at about 12:30 a.m. local time on Wednesday, Israel "launched an air aggression from the direction of Lebanese airspace, targeting a number of positions in the city of Homs and its countryside.” 

Several civilians are reported to have been killed in the attack, with more injured, SANA quoted the source as saying, without providing further details. Public and private property had been damaged in the raid, the source told SANA.

Syrian air defenses responded to the attack and "shot down some of the missiles," the source told the news agency.

Asked for comment on the alleged strikes, the Israeli military told CNN they are unable to comment on foreign reports.

10:18 p.m. ET, February 6, 2024

Houthis fire missiles at cargo ships in Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, US military says

Iran-backed Houthi militants on Tuesday fired six anti-ship ballistic missiles from Yemen toward commercial vessels, US Central Command said.

One missile exploded in the Gulf of Aden near the MV Star Nasia, causing minor damage to the Marshall Island-flagged, Greek carrier, CENTCOM said. No injuries were reported.

Other Houthi missile attacks likely targeting MV Morning Tide, a Barbados-flagged, UK-owned cargo ship operating in the southern Red Sea, "impacted the water near the ship without effect," CENTCOM said.

In a statement Tuesday, a spokesperson for the Houthis vowed the militants would increase their attacks on US and UK ships if Israel's war in Gaza does not stop.

9:42 p.m. ET, February 6, 2024

"Why did they not warn the residents?": Family of Iraqi student killed in airstrikes blames US

A destroyed building at the site of a US airstrike in Al Qaim, Iraq, February 3, 2024. Stringer/Reuters

The brother of an Iraqi student killed as a result of US airstrikes on Iraq and Syria on Friday says the family holds the United States responsible for his death.

Abdulrahman Khaled, 20, was killed in the town of Al Qaim, on the Iraq-Syria border, in what the family believes was a secondary explosion after the strikes hit three houses being used by an Iran-backed Shia militia to store weapons.

“When we all started hearing more explosions, Abdulrahman decided to go out and check on our dad, who was alone in his house,” Abdulrahman's eldest brother, Anmar Khaled, told CNN.
“If the American administration knew there were weapon warehouses there, why did they not warn the residents in the area? At least drop leaflets before the attack so we have enough time to leave our houses."

According to the Iraqi government, Abdulrahman is one of at least 16 people killed as a result of the strikes, which the US conducted on 85 targets across seven locations in the two countries last week in response to a deadly drone strike by Iran-backed militants on a US military outpost in Jordan  

Read the full story.
10:01 a.m. ET, February 7, 2024

Saudi Arabia: No diplomatic relations with Israel "unless an independent Palestinian state is recognized"

Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry said in a Wednesday statement that the kingdom will have no diplomatic relations with Israel without an independent Palestinian state being recognized.
“The Kingdom has communicated its firm position to the US administration that there will be no diplomatic relations with Israel unless an independent Palestinian state is recognized on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital," the Saudi Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Another condition would be that, "Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip stops and all Israeli occupation forces withdraw from the Gaza Strip," the statement said.
Some context: Most Arab and Islamic states don’t recognize Israel and the demand for the establishment of a Palestinian state is a long-held Saudi position.
But just weeks before Hamas launched its October 7 attack on Israel, Riyadh said it was inching closer to normalizing diplomatic ties with the Jewish state. Experts say the price that Saudi would demand in exchange for normalization would be higher now than before the Gaza war, as Riyadh may feel compelled to extract more concessions from the United States and Israel.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday that Saudi still has a “strong interest” in normalizing relations with Israel.

Correction: An earlier version of this post mischaracterized the statement from Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry.
8:09 p.m. ET, February 6, 2024

Iran provided short- and medium-range ballistic missiles and cruise missiles to Houthis, Pentagon agency says

Iran has provided the Houthis with a "diverse arsenal" of weapons, including short- and medium-range ballistic missiles and cruise missiles, since 2015, according to a new report that details the group's use of weapons published by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA)

Between 2015 and 2023, the US and its partners have interdicted at least 18 Iranian vessels trying to smuggle weapons to the Houthis, the report said. Those shipments have contained ballistic missile components, drones and anti-tank guided missiles, the report said, as well as thousands of assault rifles.

Here's what the report found:
  • The Houthis have used the Asif anti-ship ballistic missile against international shipping lanes in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Oman since late November, according to the DIA report. The Asif has a claimed range of 250 miles and a payload of more than 1,000 pounds. It's nearly identical to Iran's Fateh-110 anti-ship missile.
  • The Quds-4, a Houthi land-attack cruise missile, is a derivative of Iran's Paveh missile, the report said. The two missiles share similar features, including the engine, rear fins and booster. The Houthis have used the Quds missiles to attack Israel, and debris from the Houthi missile in October of last year matches debris from an Iranian missile fired against Saudi Arabia in 2019.
  • The report noted the "nearly identical" features between the Houthis' Saqr surface-to-air missile and Iran's 358 missile. The Houthis have used the Saqr missile to attack US drones near Yemen and in the Gulf of Oman.
The Defense Intelligence Agency provides military intelligence to the Department of Defense and the intelligence community, according to its website.
9:48 p.m. ET, February 6, 2024

US House of Representatives fails to pass standalone package for $17.6 billion in Israel aid 

House Speaker Mike Johnson speaks to reporters outside of his office at the US Capitol on February 5, 2024 in Washington, DC. Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

The US House of Representatives failed to pass a stand-alone funding bill that would have provided $17.6 billion to Israel, after a late shift by members on both sides of the aisle to sink the bill. 

Because of resistance among members of the right-flank House Freedom Caucus, House Speaker Mike Johnson was forced to bring up the bill under a procedure that requires 2/3 majority of the House – including at least 72 Democrats – to approve it.

That support did not come, defeating the measure by a 250-180 vote.

Read more about the Israel aid bill
6:51 p.m. ET, February 6, 2024

Pentagon reports 146 US casualties in Iran-backed attacks in Iraq, Syria and Jordan since October

There have been 146 US casualties — the majority of which have been determined to be non-serious injuries — in the ongoing attacks by Iran-backed groups in Iraq, Syria and Jordan since October 18 of last year, according to a Pentagon spokesperson.

"Of those 146 casualties, three were killed in action, two sustained very serious injuries, nine had serious injuries, and 132 had non-serious injuries," Pentagon spokesperson Maj. Pete Nguyen said Tuesday.

As of Tuesday, there have been at least 168 attacks on US and coalition forces since October 17 — the majority of which have occurred in Iraq and Syria.

Three US soldiers were killed in the only attack in Jordan at the end of January. 

6:33 p.m. ET, February 6, 2024

Blinken arrives in Israel for high-stakes meetings on hostage release proposal. Here's what you should know

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has arrived in Israel ahead of high-stakes meetings with top officials to discuss a proposal for a sustained cessation in the Gaza fighting in exchange for Hamas' release of hostages held since October 7.

Hamas gave a “positive” response to the proposal, according to a short statement Tuesday, but offered few details. 
Blinken said the United States is reviewing the Hamas response, as is Israel's intelligence service, according to a statement from Mossad released by the prime minister's office.
US President Joe Biden described the Hamas response as “a little over the top” in remarks to the press, but did not provide further details. “We’re not sure where it is. There’s a continuing negotiation right now,” he said.
The framework of the proposal calls for a first phase of civilian hostage releases to take place over a six-week pause, with three Palestinian prisoners held by Israel released for each civilian hostage returned from Gaza.

That ratio would be expected to go up for Israel Defense Forces soldiers and a longer pause is possible beyond the six weeks for the later phases.

Here are other headlines you should know:
  • More on the hostage proposal: Hamas’ counteroffer to a hostage and truce framework is “reasonable,” a source familiar with the discussions told CNN. It does not include two of its most prominent and public demands: that Israeli soldiers leave Gaza or for a deal to end the war. 
  • Saudi Arabia's position: Before arriving in Israel, Blinken said Saudi Arabia still has a "strong interest" in normalizing relations with Israel, but that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman made clear that the war in Gaza must end and there should be "a clear, credible, time-bound path to the establishment of a Palestinian state."
  • Senate border bill: US President Joe Biden said Tuesday that those who oppose a Senate border bill are “denying aid” to Palestinian people who are “really suffering.” The bill includes security assistance for Israel and humanitarian assistance for civilians in Gaza and the West Bank.
  • Meanwhile in Gaza: There was fighting between between Israel and Hamas in multiple parts of the Gaza Strip, with operations in Khan Younis and "targeted raids in the northern and central Gaza Strip," the Israel Defense Forces said. Journalists working for CNN in Gaza reported that Israeli fire, including the shelling of an apartment block, caused multiple casualties across the territory since Monday.