Israeli airstrikes killed at least 13 people overnight into Thursday in Rafah, on the border with Egypt, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected Hamas’ cease-fire terms and said he would expand the offensive into the southern Gaza town.
Rafah is the main entry point for humanitarian aid and more than half of Gaza’s population has fled there seeking refuge. Egypt has said any operation there or mass displacement across the border would undermine its four-decade-old peace treaty with Israel.
Two women and five children were among those killed in the airstrikes, according to the Kuwaiti Hospital, which received the bodies.
Israel’s military has so far ordered Palestinians to evacuate two-thirds of the tiny coastal enclave. Many of the displaced are living in squalid tent camps near Gaza’s southern border with Egypt and in overflowing U.N.-run shelters. A quarter of Gaza’s residents are starving.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken left the Middle East on Thursday with public divisions between the United States and Israel at perhaps their worst level since the Israel-Hamas war began.
The Palestinian death toll has surpassed 27,000 people, the Health Ministry in Gaza said.
The war began with Hamas’ Oct. 7 assault into Israel, in which militants killed some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducted around 250. Hamas is still holding over 130 hostages, but around 30 of them are believed to be dead.
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— Find more of AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war.
Here’s the latest:
TEL AVIV, Israel — The Israeli military says a missile attack from Lebanon wounded three soldiers, one of them severely.
The Israeli military says it struck infrastructure and a military compound linked to the Hezbollah militant group in retaliation for Thursday’s attack, which involved an anti-tank missile.
Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah have traded fire on a daily basis since the start of the war in Gaza. Hezbollah, an ally of Hamas, says it’s pressuring Israel in support of the Palestinians.
In Israel, 18 people have been killed and more than 170 wounded in attacks from Lebanon. More than 200 people, mostly Hezbollah fighters but also more than 20 civilians, have been killed on the Lebanese side. Tens of thousands have been displaced on both sides. There are no immediate prospects for their return.
Israeli political and military leaders have warned Hezbollah that war is increasingly probable unless the militants withdraw from the border, though neither side wants to be dragged into a wider conflict.
NICOSIA, Cyprus — Egypt’s foreign minister says the international community must “shoulder its responsibility” to push for a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip and to turn up the pressure on getting larger quantities of much needed humanitarian aid to the Palestinian enclave.
Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry says the international community and especially aid donor countries should also throw their full support behind UNRWA, the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees whose role in providing assistance and services to Palestinians in Gaza and elsewhere in the region is “indispensable.”
Shoukry said after talks Thursday with Cypriot counterpart Constantinos Kombos that his country believes the UNRWA’s role “should not be tainted by any misactions of the few” that resulted in restricting support for the organization.
The U.S. and other donor nations have suspended new assistance to UNRWA pending completion of a U.N. investigation into Israeli allegations of alleged hostility toward Israel and that a dozen of its employees took part in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack that ignited the war.
Replying to a question by the Associated Press, Shoukry said providing humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza prior to any cease-fire is of “fundamental importance.” But that shouldn’t detract from the necessity to enact an immediate cessation of hostilities which would help expedite delivery of larger aid quantities.
Egypt’s top diplomat said the displacement of 1.3 million Palestinians to the south of Gaza is compounding conditions of famine, lack of medical supplies and deteriorating sanitary conditions. He cited figures from the U.N. agency for children, UNICEF, which said that 17,000 children in Gaza have lost either one or both parents.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken left the Middle East on Thursday with public divisions between the United States and Israel at perhaps their worst level since Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza began in October.
Wrapping up a four-nation trip — his fifth to the region since the conflict erupted — Blinken was returning to Washington after getting a virtual slap in the face from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said the war would continue until Israel is completely victorious and appeared to reject outright a response from Hamas to a proposed cease-fire plan.
Relations between Israel and its main international ally, the United States, have been tense for months, but Netanyahu’s public dismissal of a plan the U.S. says has merit, at least as a starting point for further negotiation, highlighted the divide.
Yet Blinken and other U.S. officials said they remained optimistic that progress could be made on their main goals of improving humanitarian conditions for Palestinians civilians, securing the release of hostages held by Hamas, preparing for a post-conflict Gaza and preventing the war from spreading.
UNITED NATIONS – The United Nations’ top Mideast envoy is warning of “catastrophic” consequences from a looming Israeli offensive into the southern Gaza city of Rafah, which would cut off the only working entry point for humanitarian aid.
Tor Wennesland told a U.N. news conference that intense discussions are taking place between Israel and Egypt on what can be done along the Philadelphia Corridor, a tiny buffer zone on Gaza’s border with Egypt. The corridor is demilitarized under under the terms of the 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace accord.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last month that Hamas continues to smuggle weapons under the border – a claim Egypt vehemently denies – and that the war cannot end “until we close this breach,” referring to the corridor.
Wennesland said he sees no way of getting out of this dispute than having the two parties sitting and talking, adding that he is certain this issue was on the agenda of U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s recent visit to Cairo and current talks in Israel.
The U.N. special coordinator for the Middle East peace process said any agreement on a lasting ceasefire in Gaza “will be incredibly difficult to set up” because of the details and arrangements that need to be worked out.
Wennesland said he will be talking to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Security Council permanent members in New York and then go to Washington for meetings with U.S. officials on “how we can chart a way out of this crisis” and overcome the serious impediments to an agreement.
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