Live updates | Israel bombards Gaza with airstrikes and readies troops for a ground assault
(AP) - Israeli airstrikes on Gaza continue and Israel’s defense minister has told troops to be ready for a ground assault on the Palestinian territory, although he has not said when that will begin.
More than 1 million Palestinians, roughly half of Gaza’s population, have fled homes in the north and Gaza City after Israel told them to evacuate. The airstrikes early Thursday continued across the entire territory, including in areas in the south that Israel had declared as “safe zones.”
The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that limited humanitarian aid would be allowed into Gaza from Egypt following a request from U.S. President Joe Biden.
The war that began on Oct. 7 after Hamas militants stormed into Israel, and Israel vowed to destroy the militant group, has become the deadliest of five Gaza wars for both sides. The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry said Thursday that 3,785 Palestinians have been killed and nearly 12,500 others have been wounded.
More than 1,400 people in Israel have been killed, mostly in the initial attack. An Israeli military spokesperson said Thursday that the families of 206 people believed to have been captured by Hamas and taken into Gaza had been notified.
1. EU demands Meta and TikTok detail efforts to curb disinformation from Israel-Hamas war.
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3. Egypt and other Arab countries typically don’t want to take in Palestinian refugees.
4. Relatives of people taken hostage by Hamas militants tell their stories as they hope for their safe return.
Here’s what’s happening in the latest Israel-Hamas war:
ISRAEL SAYS ALMOST 30 CHILDREN AMONG HOSTAGES TAKEN BY HAMAS
JERUSALEM — Nearly 30 of some 200 hostages held by Hamas in Gaza are children, the Israeli military said Thursday.
More than 10 are over the age of 60, the statement said.
Authorities have no information about the location of more than 100 missing Israelis, it said.
US INTELLIGENCE ESTIMATES 100 TO 300 DIED IN GAZA HOSPITAL BLAST
WASHINGTON — An unclassified U.S. intelligence assessment delivered to Congress on Thursday estimates casualties in an explosion at a Gaza City hospital on the “low end” of 100 to 300 deaths.
That death toll “still reflects a staggering loss of life,” U.S. intelligence officials said in the findings, which were seen by The Associated Press. Officials were still assessing the evidence, and the estimate may evolve.
The explosion at Gaza’s al-Ahli hospital on Tuesday left body parts strewn on the hospital grounds, where crowds of Palestinians had clustered in hopes of escaping Israeli airstrikes.
Officials in Hamas-ruled Gaza quickly said an Israeli airstrike had hit the hospital. Israel denied it was involved. The Associated Press has not independently verified any of the claims or evidence released by the parties.
President Joe Biden and other U.S. officials already have said that U.S. intelligence officials believed the explosion was not caused by an Israeli airstrike. Thursday’s findings echoed that.
The U.S. assessment noted “only light structural damage” to the hospital itself was evident, with no impact crater visible.
UN FORCE HELPS TO RECOVER 7 PEOPLE CAUGHT IN LEBANESE-ISRAELI FIGHTING
BEIRUT — The U.N. peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon says Lebanese troops requested assistance to bring back seven individuals stranded along the border with Israel. One person was killed in the operation.
The U.N. force known as UNIFIL said the seven became stranded during an exchange of fire.
UNIFIL urged the Israeli military to suspend fire to facilitate the rescue operation, and Israel complied, allowing Lebanese troops to recover the seven. It said one person was killed.
Lebanese TV stations reported that the group included several Iranian journalists.
Mohsen Maghsoodi, an Iranian state TV host, posted on X, formerly Twitter, that he was with the group and that they were stranded for “five or six hours” in the crossfire. Their car “was seriously damaged by bullets and mortars,” he said.
The journalists are safe but one Lebanese person was killed, he wrote.
ISRAELI FORCES RAID WEST BANK REFUGEE CAMP
JERUSALEM — An Israeli border police officer was killed Thursday during a military raid into a refugee camp in the northern West Bank, the police and border guard said in a joint statement.
Israeli forces killed at least seven Palestinians during the daylong raid into the Nur Shams camp, and prevented ambulances from retrieving the wounded, according to Palestinian state media.
US NAVY INTERCEPTS MISSILES HEADED NORTH FROM YEMEN
CAIRO — A U.S. Navy warship took out three missiles that had been fired from Yemen and were heading north, U.S. officials said Thursday.
The officials said the USS Carney, a Navy destroyer, was in the Red Sea and intercepted the three missiles. It wasn’t immediately certain if they were aimed at Israel. One of the officials said the U.S. does not believe the missiles were aimed at the ship.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss military operations not yet announced.
Iranian-backed Houthi rebels have expressed support for the Palestinians and threatened Israel. Last week, in Yemen’s Sanaa, which is held by the Houthi rebels still at war with a Saudi-led coalition, demonstrators crowded the streets waving Yemeni and Palestinian flags. The rebels’ slogan long has been, “God is the greatest; death to America; death to Israel; curse of the Jews; victory to Islam.”
Last week, Abdel-Malek al-Houthi, the rebel group’s leader, warned the United States against intervening in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, threatening that his forces would retaliate by firing drones and missiles.
Associated Press writer Jack Jeffery in Cairo contributed.
UK LEADER ASKS CROWN PRINCE TO PREVENT SPREAD OF WAR IN REGION
LONDON — British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has met Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler and encouraged him to use his influence to stop the Israel-Hamas war from spreading.
Sunak’s office said the U.K. leader and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman agreed on the need to get humanitarian aid into Gaza and “underscored the need to avoid any further escalation in the region.”
The U.K. said Sunak “encouraged the Crown Prince to use Saudi’s leadership in the region to support stability, both now and in the long-term.”
Sunak flew to Saudi Arabia after visiting Israel on Thursday to show support after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack.
CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR PLANS 1-DAY TRIP TO ISRAEL
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday that he plans to make a one-day trip Israel to meet some of those affected by the war.
The Democratic governor will arrive in Israel Friday and will depart the same day. The announcement by Newsom’s office did not specify where the governor would go.
His office said California will send medical supplies to the region, including to the Gaza Strip.
California is home to the largest population of Arab Americans in the United States, according to the Arab American Institute. It also has the second largest populations of Jews in the U.S., according to the American Jewish Population Project at Brandeis University.
UN CHIEF URGES AID ACCESS FOR GAZA AND CALLS FOR CEASE-FIRE
CAIRO — United Nations Secretary General António Guterres is urging Hamas and Israel to agree to a humanitarian cease-fire and for Palestinians in Gaza to be allowed access to fuel, food, water and medicine.
“Civilians in Gaza need core services and supplies and for that we need rapid and immediate humanitarian access, we need water, food and medicine now. We need it at scale, and we need it to be sustained,” António Guterres said.
Guterres was speaking during a news conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry in Cairo, where the U.N. chief is supervising preparations for the delivery of aid into Gaza via Egypt’s Rafah crossing, which could begin Friday.
Guterres also urged Hamas to release the hostages captured during their assault on southern Israel on Oct. 7.
INDIA’S PM PROMISES AID FOR PALESTINIAN PEOPLE
NEW DELHI — India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday spoke to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and conveyed his condolences for the loss of civilian lives at the al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza.
“We will continue to send humanitarian assistance for the Palestinian people,” Modi said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.
He said he “reiterated India’s long-standing principled position on the Israel-Palestine issue.” At a briefing earlier, India’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said India was in favor of negotiations to establish a two-state solution, which allows for an independent Palestinian state.
Modi told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week that “the people of India stand in solidarity with Israel in this difficult hour.”
During the Cold War, India leaned heavily in favor of the Palestinians, but its ties to Israel have grown since 1992 when the two countries established diplomatic relations. In 2017, Modi became the first prime minister to visit Israel.
HUMANITARIAN AGENCIES PREPARE TO COORDINATE FLOW OF SUPPLIES TO GAZA
ZUWAIDA, Gaza Strip — Oxfam is working with other humanitarian agencies to provide a quick response when supplies begin flowing into Gaza.
Najla Shawa, a spokesman for Oxfam in Gaza, said they’re waiting for a cease-fire to be able to provide assistance to people who have had electricity, food and fuel supplies cut off.
“This is going to be a big challenge because there’s a lot to be done and we still don’t have enough information about what’s going to come in tomorrow,” Shawa told The Associated Press from Gaza on Thursday. Authorities have said the Egypt-Gaza border crossing in Rafah could open as soon as Friday.
Oxfam will probably focus on providing water and cash assistance once there’s clarity on what’s happening.
She said any response will take longer than usual because so many aid workers have been driven from their homes.
“All the team is displaced,” she said. “They’re all in shelters and schools and different apartments. Nobody has full electricity. They hardly have maybe a few hours of electricity at best. So the situation is extremely challenging.”
UN TO INSPECT AID SHIPMENTS INTO GAZA UNDER ISRAEL-EGYPT DEAL
CAIRO — A U.N. flag will be raised at the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza to protect against Israeli airstrikes under a U.N.-brokered deal between Israel and Egypt to allow aid into the Palestinian territory.
An Egyptian official and a European diplomat said observers from the U.N. will also inspect trucks carrying aid before crossing into Gaza.
They said the U.N will oversee the aid, along with the Egyptian and Palestinian Red Crescent societies, to ensure it is given to civilians and not used by Palestinian militants.
The Egyptian official said they are still negotiating with Israel over allowing fuel into Gaza, where a shortage has forced the closure of multiple hospitals.
The official and the diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief media.
Associated Press reporter Sam Magdy in Cairo contributed.
TURKISH OFFICIALS SAY ISRAEL WTHDRAWS DIPLOMATS CITING SAFETY
ANKARA, Turkey -- Israel has withdrawn all of its diplomats from Turkey over concerns for their security, according to two Turkish officials.
The move follows a spate of protests outside Israeli diplomatic missions in Turkey after a blast at a Gaza hospital that killed hundreds of Palestinians. Some protesters tried to storm the ambassador’s residence in Ankara and a building housing the consulate in Istanbul.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to make public statements, said diplomats including ambassador Irit Lillian have already left Turkey.
They insisted the diplomats had left over safety concerns and that their withdrawal was not political.
Turkey and Israel recently restored full diplomatic relations after withdrawing ambassadors in 2018 amid tensions sparked by the United States’ decision to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
Associated Press reporter Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey, contributed.
GROUP SAYS 5 TRUCKLOADS OF MEDICAL SUPPLIES READY FOR DELIVERY TO GAZA
GENEVA — The World Health Organization says it’s ready to enter Gaza with five truckloads of medical supplies if a border crossing with Egypt reopens on Friday.
Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Thursday that WHO was working with Egypt and Palestine Red Crescent Societies, and that “our trucks are loaded and ready to go” through the Rafah crossing from Egypt.
Dr. Teresa Zakaria, a WHO technical officer for health emergency interventions, said the U.N. health agency is ready with five truckloads of medical supplies as soon as the border is open.
WHO emergencies chief Dr. Michael Ryan said any convoy would require guarantees for safety and joint planning on both sides for “a fully supported humanitarian operation.”
DEFENSE MINISTER TELLS ISRAELI TROOPS TO PREPARE FOR GROUND INVASION OF GAZA
JERUSALEM — Israel’s defense minister has told ground troops to be ready to enter the Gaza Strip, though he is not saying when the invasion will start.
In a meeting with Israeli infantry soldiers on the Gaza border Thursday, Yoav Gallant urged the forces to “get organized, be ready” for an order to move in.
“Whoever sees Gaza from afar now, will see it from the inside,” he said. “I promise you.”
Israel has massed tens of thousands of troops along the border following a bloody Oct. 7 cross-border massacre by Hamas militants.
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