Israel says it will make its 'own decisions' on how to retaliate against Iran: Updates

Editor's Note: This page is a summary of news on Iran and the Israel-Hamas war for Wednesday, April 17. For the latest news view our story for Thursday, April 18.

Western leaders have announced plans to impose new sanctions against Iran following the country's first direct attack on Israel in decades with hopes to both penalize Iran and limit the force and scope of Israel's retaliation as fears grow over a wider regional conflict.

The United States and the European Union on Tuesday said they were considering a fresh round of sanctions against Iran, including those targeting the country's missile and drone program. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said he anticipates additional allies to announce sanctions in the coming days.

During a visit to Israel, British Foreign Secretary David Cameron said Wednesday that while Israel has clearly decided to retaliate against Iran, he and other diplomatic leaders hope Israel shows restraint in its action. He added that, through sanctions, Iran "needs to be given an unequivocal message" by the G7, a forum of advanced economies that includes the U.S., Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Canada and Italy.

"It's clear the Israelis are making a decision to act," Cameron said in Jerusalem. "We hope they do so in a way that does as little to escalate this as possible."

After meeting with Cameron and German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he appreciates their support and advice, but said Israel alone will decide how to protect itself and how to respond to the Iranian attack.

"I want to make it clear − we will make our own decisions, and the State of Israel will do everything necessary to defend itself," said a statement released by the prime minister's office.

Iran launched more than 300 missiles and drones toward Israel on Saturday over a suspected Israeli airstrike on its embassy compound in Syria on April 1 that killed seven Iranian military officers. Damage was limited as a U.S.-led coalition of warplanes and naval assets helped intercept the vast majority of the weapons, 99% of them according to Israel.


∎ The U.N. is requesting $2.822 billion in funding for its agencies and other humanitarian groups to "address the most urgent needs'' of 3.3 million people in Gaza and the occupied West Bank from April through the rest of the year. That "flash appeal'' is just part of the nearly $4.1 billion the U.N. is seeking to fund its services to Palestinians in those territories through 2024.

∎ U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield said she does not believe a resolution recommending the Palestinian Authority become a full U.N. member would help efforts for a two-state solution. The 15-member U.N. Security Council is expected vote as early as Thursday on such a resolution, Reuters reported.

∎ More than 33,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since the start of the war, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which does not differentiate between combatant and civilian deaths. More than 76,000 Palestinians have been injured and thousands more are missing, the Health Ministry said. The Israel-Hamas war began Oct. 7, when Hamas militants brutally attacked Israeli border communities, killing 1,200 people and taking 253 hostages.

People walk amid the rubble of buildings destroyed during Israeli bombardment in Khan Yunis, on the southern Gaza Strip on April 16, 2024, as fighting continues between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
People walk amid the rubble of buildings destroyed during Israeli bombardment in Khan Yunis, on the southern Gaza Strip on April 16, 2024, as fighting continues between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

UNRWA says Israeli forces beat, threatened its workers

U.N. workers and Gaza detainees alike were treated harshly by Israeli forces, who in some instances severely beat them and forced them to take their clothes off, the agency for Palestinian aid known as UNRWA said in a report.

UNRWA said its employees were detained while performing their duties and also subjected to other forms of abuse, including threats of rape and electrocution and treatment similar to waterboarding.

"UNRWA has made official protests to the Israeli authorities about the reported treatment of Agency staff members while they were in Israeli detention centers," the agency said, adding it has not received a response.

The Israeli military has denied claims of mistreatment by released detainees. When asked about the report Wednesday, State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel said the U.S. is "deeply concerned" about the allegations and would ask Israel to investigate and take appropriate measures.

UNRWA, which performs a critical role in distributing aid and providing services to Palestinian refugees, has long been at odds with Israel, which accused it in January of employing a dozen people who participated in the Hamas-led attacks of Oct. 7.

On Wednesday, UNRWA head Philippe Lazzarini told the U.N. Security Council that Israel is trying to drive the agency out of Gaza, saying “an insidious campaign to end UNRWA’s operations is underway, with serious implications for international peace and security.”

Israel responds to Hezbollah attack that injured 14

The Israel Defense Forces said it fired a projectile Wednesday at the launch site identified as the source of incoming fire from Lebanon that injured 14 Israeli soldiers − six of them severely − earlier in the day. The IDF said it also struck a military compound in southern Lebanon used by the Iran-backed Hezbollah militant group.

The Hezbollah attack came in response to Israeli airstrikes Tuesday that killed three militants, including coastal-sector field commander Ismail Baz, whom the IDF described as an organizer and planner of "a number of terrorist attacks.''

Israel and Hezbollah have been involved in cross-border exchanges since the start of the war in Gaza, stoking fears of escalation, especially in light of the current Israel-Iran face-off. Wednesday's assault was among the most impactful for Israel despite the lack of fatalities. According to Reuters, more than 240 Hezbollah fighters and 68 Lebanese civilians have been killed in the fighting, as well as 18 Israelis, including soldiers and civilians.

Israeli military participated in deadly settler attacks in West Bank: Human Rights Watch

Israeli settler violence against Palestinians has surged in the occupied West Bank since the start of the war in Gaza, displacing thousands of civilians and leaving hundreds of others injured and dead, according to a new report from Human Rights Watch, which says the Israeli military has participated in much of the violence and displacement.

The international organization has found that the Israeli military "either took part in or did not protect" Palestinians in the West Bank from attacks that displaced civilians from 20 communities and have "entirely uprooted" at least seven communities, the report said.

In investigating attacks that pushed all residents out of five West Bank communities in October and November 2023, Human Rights Watch found that armed Israeli settlers, with "the active participation of army units," detained, assaulted and tortured residents. Evidence showed settlers have chased Palestinians out of their homes at gunpoint and prevented them from taking their belongings, the report says.

In a statement to USA TODAY, the Israeli Defense Forces did not address the specific claims by Human Rights Watch, including that soldiers were involved in the displacement of entire Palestinian communities in the West Bank, but said violence perpetrated by Israeli settlers is handled mainly by the Israeli Police. The statement added that soldiers encountering violence by Israelis must step in or face disciplinary action.

Since Oct. 7, the U.N. has documented more than 700 settler violence incidents across the occupied West Bank, with soldiers in uniform present in nearly half of the attacks. From early October to April, 428 Palestinians, including 110 children, have been killed by Israeli forces across the West Bank and thousands have been injured, according to the U.N. Over 1,200 Palestinians, including 600 children, have been displaced because of the violence. In the same period, 16 Israelis, including five members of Israeli forces and seven settlers, have been killed and 111 have been injured in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and Israel, the U.N. said.

Cease-fire talks at a 'delicate phase,' Qatari PM says

The ongoing cease-fire and hostage negotiations are at a "delicate phase" as mediators continue monthslong talks to strike an agreement, Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said on Wednesday.

"We are trying as much as possible to address this stumbling block," he said of the negotiations being mediated by the U.S., Qatar and Egypt, according to Reuters.

On Tuesday, Hamas cut down the number of hostages it would be willing to hand over during the first phase of a cease-fire from 40 to less than 20. Last week Israel asked about 40 female, elderly and sick hostages it says were being held captive in Gaza. Hamas said it could not locate many of them and offered fewer than 20 hostages in the latest counterproposal, CNN reported.

Aid arriving in Israel's Ashdod Port enters Gaza for first time

Food supplies that arrived in Israel through the Ashdod Port reached Gaza for the first time Wednesday, the IDF said.

Israel recently made that port north of the Gaza Strip available for transportation of humanitarian aid, seeking to increase the flow of such assistance under international pressure following the killing of seven World Central Kitchen aid workers by an Israeli airstrike April 1.

Eight trucks carrying flour from the U.N.'s World Food Program went into Gaza on Wednesday. "The trucks underwent a thorough security inspection at the Ashdod Port and then admitted into Gaza via the Kerem Shalom Crossing,'' the IDF said.

US to ask Israel about death of 6-year-old Palestinian girl, her family

The U.S. State Department said it will ask Israel about the death of 6-year-old Palestinian Hind Rajab and her family in January after The Washington Post published an investigation that raised doubts about the Israeli account of the incident.

The girl called emergency dispatchers from inside a car in Gaza City, surrounded by the bodies of her dead relatives, according to The Washington Post. Two paramedics with the Palestinian Red Crescent Society got in an ambulance and headed toward her but were killed before they could reach her. Twelve days later, relatives found Hind's body along with those of her aunt, uncle and their three children not far from the bullet-riddled ambulance.

While Israel said it was not within firing range at the time, the Post investigation found Israeli armored vehicles were in the area, gunfire was picked up in Hind's frantic call to dispatchers and damage to the ambulance was consistent with Israeli weapons.

"The death of Hind Rajab is an unspeakable tragedy, something that never should have occurred and never should occur," State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said at a press briefing. "So what we are going to do is take the information that is contained in that Washington Post story, we’re going to go back to the government of Israel and ask them for further information. We would still welcome a full investigation into this matter, and how it occurred in the first place."

Iraq is 'making every effort' to prevent escalation, PM says

Iraq’s leader said on a visit to Washington that his country is “making every effort” to keep the Middle East conflict from spiraling after Iran launched a barrage of missiles and drones at Israel over the weekend.

"We don't want to be part of this escalation,” Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani said at a news conference Tuesday evening.

Iraq is in the unusual position of being an ally to both Iran and the U.S., and al-Sudani met with President Joe Biden this week to press his case for tamping down the conflict. Al-Sudani said he told Biden on Monday that a wider war would be detrimental to Iraq’s security and stability and would not be in the interest of the region. He added that Iraq has tried to convince the Iranians “not to react and expand the conflict area.”

Iraqi airspace, however, was used by Iran in its weekend assault on Israel, though there were no reports of drones or missiles launched from Iraq.

“During the last attack, Iraq was not included, it was not a part of this operation, we tried to use diplomatic and legal channels, to protect our land” from an attack from either side, he said.

– Francesca Chambers

Contributing: Reuters

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Israel war updates: 'We will make our own decisions,' Netanyahu says