Israel Latest: Biden, Netanyahu Discuss Hostages, US Deployments

(Bloomberg) -- US President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed the release of two hostages held in Gaza on Monday, as well as plans for additional US military deployments in the region during a phone call.

Most Read from Bloomberg

Hamas released two elderly women who were among the hostages taken when the militant group — designated as a terrorist organization by the US and European Union — attacked Israel on Oct. 7. Qatar and Egypt were intermediaries in arranging their freedom.

Israel’s currency and bonds extended losses after the country’s central bank left interest rates at their highest since 2006 and lowered growth forecasts for this year and next on the fallout from the conflict with Hamas.

(All time stamps are Israeli time)

US Weighs Evacuation Plan If War Widens, Post Says (6:41 a.m.)

The Biden administration is looking into the possibility that thousands of US citizens will need to be evacuated from the Middle East if the Israel-Hamas conflict expands, the Washington Post reported, citing four officials familiar with the contingency planning.

One official said it would be irresponsible not to have a plan, which the people called a worst-case scenario. There were about 600,000 Americans in Israel and another 86,000 believed to be in Lebanon when Hamas first attacked this month, the Post reported.

Biden-Netanyahu Call Centers on Hostages, US Military (5:25 a.m.)

Biden and Netanyahu discussed by phone the release of two hostages from Gaza on Monday, as well as plans for additional US military deployments in the region.

Biden also emphasized the need to sustain the transport of humanitarian assistance into Gaza, the White House said in a statement, adding that the two leaders plan to speak again in the coming days.

US, Europe to Meet Over Hamas Fundraising, Ukraine (3:51 a.m.)

US Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo will travel to Europe from Oct. 27-Nov. 1 to discuss efforts “to deny Hamas and other terrorist organizations the ability to raise and use funds.” They will also discuss initiatives to “degrade Russia’s ability to financially sustain its illegal war in Ukraine,” the department said in a statement.

On Friday, Adeyemo will discuss the effort to prevent Hamas from accessing funds during a speech at the Royal United Services Institute in London. On Oct. 31, he’ll speak at a conference in Berlin.

Official Blinken Plans UN Meetings on Tuesday (3:25 a.m.)

Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to New York to take part in a ministerial meeting at the United Nations Security Council about the Middle East, his spokesperson said in a statement, without detailing who the top US diplomat would be meeting with.

China Repeats View That Israel Must Protect Civilians (2:55 a.m.)

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi reiterated that Israel must protect civilians even as it has the right to defend itself in a conflict. The remarks come as Wang prepares for a high-profile visit to Washington.

“Every country has the right to self-defense but should abide by international humanitarian law and protect civilians,” Wang told his Israeli counterpart Eli Cohen in a telephone call Monday, according to China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency.

War Will Be on Agenda When China’s Wang Visits US (1:25 a.m.)

Wang will visit Washington this week for high-level meetings, according to senior Biden administration officials, as the US and China continue a series of diplomatic engagements intended to manage tensions even as a new war in the Middle East shows the limits of potential cooperation.

Wang will be in Washington Oct. 26 to Oct. 28 and will meet with Blinken and White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, the officials said on a briefing call with reporters on Monday.

Hostages Released by Hamas Were Seized When Kibbutz Was Overrun (11:15 p.m.)

The elderly women released by Hamas late Monday are Nurit Cooper and Yocheved Lifshitz, who lived on the Nir Oz kibbutz, which was overrun by Hamas on Oct. 7, according to the Jerusalem Post and the Times of Israel. Their release came three days after Hamas released an American mother and her daughter on Friday in a deal mediated by Qatar and Egypt.

The hostages were turned over to the International Committee of the Red Cross and were on their way home, the ICRC said in a statement. The women had been seized along with their husbands, who weren’t released, according to the Associated Press. Hamas is designated a terrorist organization by the US and European Union.

Hamas Credits Qatar and Egypt in Release of Two More Hostages (9:40 p.m.)

Hamas said it agreed to the release of two more hostages after mediation with Qatar and Egypt.

The release came days after two other hostages from Illinois, mother and daughter Judith and Natalie Raanan, were freed.

Earlier: American Mother and Daughter Freed from Hamas Captivity

US Says It’s Sending More Forces to the Middle East (9:30 p.m.)

John Kirby, spokesman for the National Security Council, said the US will be deploying more military forces to the Middle East. “The president has added additional military forces to the region and more forces will be coming in days and weeks ahead, to try to deter any actor from widening or deepening this conflict,” Kirby told reporters

The US has already deployed two carrier strike groups to the region, and over the weekend shot down missiles and drones from Yemen suspected to be headed toward Israel.

Israelis Confident About Defeating Hamas, Poll Finds (7:45 pm)

Israel’s public is confident that the country will win the war with Hamas and has a high level of trust in the military, a survey by the Jewish People Policy Institute in Jerusalem found.

At the same time, Israelis are losing confidence in the government, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu specifically, according to the poll of 800 people, including 600 in the Jewish community and 200 in the Arab sector.

UK Says Israel Wasn’t Behind Gaza Hospital Blast (6:04 pm)

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said British intelligence and weapons experts concluded Israel wasn’t behind the deadly blast at a hospital in Gaza that the Gaza Health Ministry said killed hundreds of Palestinians last week.

“The British government judges that the explosion was likely caused by a missile or part of one that was launched from within Gaza towards Israel,” Sunak told Parliament in London on Monday – a finding that echoes those of the US and Israel. Sunak also announced an additional £20 million ($24 million) in aid for civilians in Gaza.

Google Suspends Live Traffic Conditions (5:43 p.m.)

Google’s Maps and Waze navigation applications are temporarily blocking access to live traffic conditions in Israel at the request of the Israeli military.

“As we have done previously in conflict situations and in response to the evolving situation in the region, we have temporarily disabled the ability to see live traffic conditions and busyness information out of consideration for the safety of local communities,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement.

Google previously took similar action in Ukraine during its war with Russia, according to a spokesperson.

Egyptian Red Crescent Says More Aid Has Crossed to Gaza (5:38 p.m.)

Egypt’s Red Crescent said that 35 trucks carrying 600 tons of aid have crossed over to Gaza, the state-run Middle East News Agency reported. The organization’s executive director said the priority for the kind of aid being sent over is determined in coordination with the Palestinian Red Crescent.

Israel Fails to Stop Shekel’s Rout (4:48 p.m.)

Israel’s currency and bonds extended their declines even after the Bank of Israel kept its policy interest rate unchanged as investors worried over the war’s hit on the economy. The Bank of Israel’s new forecasts assume the conflict is contained to the country’s south.

The shekel declined as much as 0.15% to 4.0635 per dollar, extending its run of losses to an 11th day, the longest since 1984. Ten-year dollar bonds tumbled for an eighth successive day, while credit default swaps surged to the highest level in 11 years. The benchmark TA-35 Index of stocks was poised for the lowest since April 2021.

Read more: Israel Rate Hold Fails to Stop Shekel’s Longest Rout Since 1984

Gaza Reports 436 Deaths in Past 24 Hours (2:40 p.m.)

Authorities in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip said Israeli airstrikes killed 436 Palestinians in the past 24 hours, increasing the death toll to 5,087 and number of injured to 15,000 since Oct. 7.

Gaza’s Health Ministry said thousands of people have been killed in strikes on Gaza since Oct. 7, many of them children. “Hospitals have lost their treatment capacity, and medical teams are treating the wounded with very limited capabilities,” spokesperson Ashraf Al-Qidra said.

Egypt, Iran Stress Need for Gaza Aid (2:16 p.m.)

Egypt and Iran’s foreign ministers stressed the need for regional and international coordination to allow aid into Gaza, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said in a statement, in another sign of efforts to improve ties between the two countries.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry warned of the danger that the Israel-Hamas war could widen into a broader conflict with unpredictable consequences.

US Bolsters Military Presence (1:42 p.m).

The US said it will further bulk up its military presence in the Middle East in response to “recent escalations” by Iran and its allied groups.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered the military to send more air-defense equipment to the region. The Pentagon had already deployed two aircraft carriers — the USS Gerald R. Ford and the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower.

EU Leaders Plan to Endorse Humanitarian Pause (1:30 p.m.)

European Union leaders are aiming to endorse a United Nations call for a “humanitarian pause” in the Israel-Hamas war to allow for the distribution of Gaza aid.

The 27 EU leaders are also set to pledge to work closely with regional partners to bolster humanitarian relief efforts, according to draft conclusions for a leaders’ summit in Brussels later this week. The document, which also calls for the immediate unconditional release of hostages and stresses the need to avoid regional escalation, could still change before governments sign off on it.

Read More: EU Leaders Plan to Back Call for Humanitarian Pause in Gaza

Hamas, Islamic Jihad Tell Iran They’ll Continue Fight (1:08 p.m.)

“The position of the resistance in the field and in spirit is extremely good and we’ll continue to strongly oppose” Israel, Ziad Al-Nakhala, secretary general of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group, told Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian in a call, according to a ministry statement.

Amirabdollahian also spoke separately by phone with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, who thanked Iran for its “support of the Palestinian people.”

Read More: What’s Islamic Jihad, Accused in Gaza Hospital Strike: QuickTake

Israel Says 222 Hostages Held in Gaza (10:40 a.m.)

Israel’s army says it’s notified the families of 222 people being held hostage in Gaza. It also said the bodies of 1,000 Palestinian militants who carried out the Oct. 7 attacks have been located in southern Israel.

Israel has approved the transfer of 14 trucks of humanitarian aid to southern Gaza after inspections to ensure they didn’t carry materials or weapons that could be used by Hamas, military spokesman Daniel Hagar said at a briefing. Israel will intervene if it sees any attempts by the militants to commandeer the aid, he added.

(Earlier versions of this story were corrected to remove a statement that China had changed its stance on the Israel-Hamas war and to correct the spelling of the Chinese foreign minister’s name.)

Most Read from Bloomberg Businessweek

©2023 Bloomberg L.P.