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KIBBUTZ YAD MORDECHAI, Israel (AP) — A couple of hundred Israelis protested near the Gaza Strip on Friday to demand the return of a captive and the remains of two Israeli soldiers held by the territory’s militant Hamas rulers.

The protest came amid heightened tensions following the arrest of a senior Palestinian militant in the occupied West Bank earlier this week.

Israel has closed roads near Gaza and sent in troop reinforcements as it braces for a possible revenge attack.

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz visited communities near Gaza on Friday, saying authorities were preparing “actions that will remove the threat from this region,” without elaborating.

The protesters were led by the family of Hadar Goldin, who along with Oron Shaul was killed in the 2014 Gaza war. Hamas is still holding their remains, as well as two Israeli civilians who strayed into Gaza and are believed to be mentally ill, hoping to exchange them for some of the thousands of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

The protesters pushed through two police checkpoints on a road near the heavily-guarded Gaza frontier before stopping at a third.

They held a large sign demanding the return of the soldiers’ remains as well as Avraham Mengistu, an Israeli of Ethiopian descent in his late 20s or early 30s. Mengistu’s family took part in the protest.

In June, Hamas released a rare video showing another captive, Hisham al-Sayid, an Arab citizen of Israel, in a hospital bed with an oxygen mask and an IV drip. It said his health has recently deteriorated. Reporters covering the protest did not hear any mention of al-Sayid.

Israel and Hamas are bitter enemies that have fought four wars and dozens of smaller skirmishes since Hamas seized control of Gaza 15 years ago.

Israel and Egypt have maintained a tight blockade over the territory throughout that time. Israel says the closure is needed to prevent Hamas from building up its military capabilities, while critics say the policy amounts to collective punishment of Gaza’s 2 million Palestinian residents.

Israel says there can be no major moves toward lifting the blockade until the soldiers’ remains and captive civilians are released. Israel and Hamas have held numerous rounds of Egyptian-mediated talks on a possible swap.

Gantz meanwhile warned Hamas and other militant groups that Israel would not tolerate threats on communities near Gaza.

“We will operate with internal resilience and external strength in order to restore routine life in Israel’s south,” he said, “We do not seek conflict, yet we will not hesitate to defend our citizens, if required.”

The latest escalation began when Israeli forces arrested a senior member of the Islamic Jihad militant group in the West Bank town of Jenin late Monday. A teenage member of the group was killed in a gunbattle between the Israeli troops and Palestinian militants.

Ahmed Mudalal, an Islamic Jihad official in Gaza, said the group had made demands of Israel through Egyptian mediators, including the release of the detained militant and another prisoner, a halt to West Bank raids and the lifting of the Gaza blockade. He said they have not yet received a response.

___

Associated Press writer Fares Akram in Gaza City, Gaza Strip, contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

News Source: wtop.com

Tags: soldiers’ remains the soldiers’ palestinian militant israel and hamas associated press israelis protest israel says militant group the protesters member was killed islamic jihad the return the protest two israeli the protest

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Ravens Still Having Conversations with In-Demand Free Agent

Getty The Ravens are still talking to this in-demand free agent.

The Baltimore Ravens are looking more like themselves during the 2022 NFL season. They’re leading the AFC North behind a powerful running game and a tough, opportunistic defense.

Familiarity breeds contempt, though, and while these Ravens look like a playoff team, something’s missing. This year’s group won’t go far in the postseason without a difference-maker in the passing game.

General manager Eric DeCosta and head coach John Harbaugh know franchise quarterback Lamar Jackson needs an elite receiver. Perhaps that’s why the Ravens are still talking to an in-demand free agent with a Super Bowl win on his CV.

Ravens 1 of 5 Talking to Dynamic Pass-Catcher

Odell Beckham Jr. has yet to make a decision on who he’ll play for this season. The field is narrowing though, with the Ravens one of five teams talking to the 30-year-old, according to CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson:

Current order for OBJ's free agent visits in early December: #Giants, #Bills, #Cowboys.

Conversations continue with the #Chiefs & #Ravens as well.@CBSSportsHQ

Read More From Heavy

Get Coached Into the Best Shape of Your Life

— JosinaAnderson (@JosinaAnderson) November 24, 2022

Anderson’s assertion “conversations continue” between Beckham, the Ravens and the Kansas City Chiefs is good news for Jackson. It means there’s still a chance the big-name QB playing in a contract year will finally be equipped with a wide receiver capable of elevating his game.

Jackson has thrown for just 1,977 yards this season and is averaging a mere 6.8 yards per completion. Those numbers are the direct result of not having a premier playmaker on the outside.

Beckham still fits the bill, despite tearing his left ACL for the second time in his career during the Los Angeles Rams’ 23-20 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI. Before the injury, Beckham more than did his part to help the Rams lift the Lombardi Trophy, catching five touchdowns during eight regular-season games, then grabbing 21 receptions for 288 yards and two more scores during the playoffs.

The numbers explain why the Ravens face such heavy competition for the three-time Pro-Bowler. It’s a competition the Ravens will have a hard time winning.

The Dallas Cowboys and Beckham’s former team the New York Giants are firmly in the mix for his signature, but the Chiefs will also be tempting. They’re the best team in the league when healthy. Then there’s the Buffalo Bills, at least as strong a contender as the Ravens for supremacy within the conference.

Beckham has his pick of some loaded teams, but barring the Giants, the Ravens have the greatest need for his services.

Offense Still Lacking Marquee Receiver

Jackson doesn’t have a marquee receiver, aside from All-Pro tight end Mark Andrews. He can boss the middle of the field, but there’s still a need for somebody who can beat coverage on the perimeter.

The Ravens have been searching for solutions, with former Chiefs wideout Demarcus Robinson earning praise from Jackson after his busy performance against the Carolina Panthers in Week 11:

.@Demarcus came to play! #NextGenStats, powered by @awscloud. pic.twitter.com/codh0uAT83

— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) November 21, 2022

Robinson is an intriguing option, but like versatile fellow wideout Devin Duvernay, he’s not going to frighten defenses. Putting Beckham on the field would draw focus away from Jackson’s other targets.

It would also give the dual-threat signal-caller a receiver with a flair for making the difficult catches and turning errant throws into completions. Jackson needs somebody with that skill because he’s had some issues with accuracy when trying to push the ball vertically this season.

The problem showed up on this play against the New Orleans Saints in Week 10, highlighted by Ryan Mink of Ravens.com:

Here's the missed throw and possible TD Lamar Jackson was so ticked off at himself about. Even on this, Lamar does a great job avoiding a sack from free blitzing All-Pro Saints LB Demario Davis up the middle (Linderbaum misses the pick-up). pic.twitter.com/EXnYzCXMX4

— Ryan Mink (@ryanmink) November 9, 2022

Having Beckham to aim for would improve Jackson’s deep passing game. It would also ensure the Ravens have more variety in the red zone, where the plan is often to look for a tight end or run the quarterback.

Beckham proved the catalyst to put the Rams over the hump when he moved to L.A. midway through last season. He’ll be primed to make a similar impact if he lands in Baltimore.

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