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Israel-Gaza latest: Biden says US support for Israel is 'ironclad' following Iran threats


Israel-Gaza latest: Biden says US support for Israel is 'ironclad' following Iran threats

German airline Lufthansa has said it has suspended flights to Tehran due to the situation in the Middle East.

Israel is currently on alert for an Iranian retaliation following a suspected Israeli airstrike on Iran's embassy in Syria earlier this month.

An Iranian news agency briefly caused concern when it published a report saying all airspace over Tehran had been closed for military drills. This story was then removed and the agency denied it had issued such news.

Lufthansa says it suspended flights to and from Tehran from 6 April until probably today.

"We are constantly monitoring the situation in the Middle East and are in close contact with the authorities. The safety of our guests and crew members is Lufthansa's top priority," a spokesperson for the company told Reuters news agency.

Lufthansa and its subsidiary Austrian Airlines are the only two Western carriers operating international flights into Tehran, which is mostly served by Turkish and Middle Eastern airlines.

We've just been hearing from our Middle East correspondent Alistair Bunkall, who says reports suggest an attack from Iran on Israel is "imminent".

Security circles in the US and Israel have likely accepted that the killing of a top Iranian commander in Damascus earlier this month means Iran will have to "retaliate in some form".

That killing was more than 10 days ago, but Bunkall says the Iranians "tend to be quite calculated in what they do" and "don't often act rashly".

Reports from the US which cite intelligence sources say Iran is planning to target military or government infrastructure, rather than Israeli civilians.

This would be seen by Iran as a "like for like" response, but Bunkall says it's not clear whether the US and Israel would agree.

The US has been warning Iran "not to push it too far" as there is a "big risk of it spiralling dangerously out of control".

Bunkall says the Iranians have a "network of proxies around the Middle East that they leverage to their own interests" and they may well use these again for their attack.

Until now, Iran has not wanted to be directly involved in the war with Israel.

The US president has said that Washington will do "all it can" to protect Israel's security in the face of Iranian threats.

Joe Biden said support for Israel was "ironclad" on the issue, despite his frustration with Benjamin Netanyahu over his approach to the war in Gaza.

Antony Blinken has reiterated the US's support for Israel when it comes to threats from Iran.

The US secretary of state told Israeli defence minister Yoav Gallant in a late call yesterday that Washington would stand with Israel against the threats.

The pair also discussed the effort to release hostages from Gaza as talks over a potential ceasefire continue.

The US's Middle East envoy has called on the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar and Iraq to step in and urge Iran to lower tensions with Israel.

Tensions between the rival powers have been heightened since the killings of Iranian generals in an attack on the Iranian consulate building in Damascus, Syria, earlier this month.

Tehran blames Israel for the attack. Israel has not commented.

According to a source with knowledge of the situation, White House Middle East czar Brett McGurk asked officials to send a message to Iran that it should de-escalate with Israel, which they did.

Iran said yesterday that its foreign minister had spoken with his Saudi, UAE, Qatari and Iraqi counterparts.

It comes after Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Israel"must be punished and it shall be" for the Damascus blast.

We reported last night on a story in Iranian media that air traffic over the capital of Tehran was suspended for "military drills" (see 22.55 post).

In a later update, the semi-official Mehr news agency removed its report that Iran was closing the airspace and denied it had published such news.

The original report, which it posted to X, cited the Iranian defence minister as saying all air traffic had been halted from 8.30pm UK time "due to military drills".

Hello and welcome back to our live coverage of the Israel-Hamas war and wider Middle East crisis.

Yesterday saw the Israel Defence Forces strike and kill seven members of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh's family.

His sons Hazem, Amir and Mohammed were killed alongside four of his grandchildren near Gaza City.

But the leader, who lives in Qatar, was defiant that the killings would not change Hamas's stance on a ceasefire - with the group said to be considering the latest Israeli proposal as of Tuesday.

Before we get into today's updates, here are the other key happenings from the past 24 hours:

Air traffic over the Iranian capital was suspended from midnight local time (9.30pm in the UK) for "military drills", the country's defence minister told local media.

The reports are unverified.

It comes following suggestions by Bloomberg and other outlets that Iranian military action against Israel is expected "imminently".

Tehran has threatened to retaliate for an attack it suspects Israel was behind - on a compound in Syria last week - that killed senior Iranian military officials.

Germany's Lufthansa airline said tonight it had suspended flights to and fromTehran from 6 April probably until 11 April, "due to the currentsituation in the Middle East".

A far-right Israeli politician has warned Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh that he is "next", after his three sons and four grandchildren were killed in Israeli airstrikes.

Reacting to the news in a video shared online, Almog Cohen said: "Ismail Haniyeh, you are next in line".

Mr Cohen serves as an equivalent to an MP in Israel (known as MK - or member of the Knesset, Israel's parliament) representing the Otzma Yehudit far-right political party, which is also known as 'Jewish Power'.

He briefly served on the Knesset's foreign affairs and defence committee in 2022, before Itamar Ben-Gvir, a similarly outspoken far-right politician, removed him.

In January last year, Mr Cohen was suspended from X following his calls to "keep killing them" after an IDF raid in the Jenin refugee camp that led to the deaths of nine Palestinians.

Israel Defence Forces (IDF) troops have been manoeuvring and making preparations on the Gaza border despite a mass pull-out of personnel from the territory.

Benjamin Netanyahu has said that he has a date in mind for the planned IDF offensive in Rafah - the only major city in Gaza yet to be assaulted by Israeli ground forces - although that date has not yet been made public.

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29 of May 2024