Israel evacuates town near Lebanese border in sign of impending Gaza ground assault
(AP) - Israeli airstrikes are hitting southern Gaza, an area swelled by civilians who fled there from the north on Israeli instructions. Meanwhile, Israel is evacuating a sizable town near the Lebanese border in the latest sign of a potential ground invasion of Gaza that could trigger regional turmoil.
Palestinians in Gaza reported heavy airstrikes in the southern city of Khan Younis, where civilians had been told to seek safety amid Israel’s bombardment of areas closer to the Israeli border. Ambulances streamed into Gaza’s second largest hospital, already overflowing with patients and people seeking shelter.
The U.N. secretary general is at the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza trying to find a way to get badly needed aid into the enclave.
The war, which is in its 14th day on Friday, is the deadliest of five Gaza wars for both sides. The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry said Friday that 4,137 Palestinians have been killed and more than 13,000 others wounded.
More than 1,400 people in Israel have been killed, mostly in the initial attack on Oct. 7 when Hamas militants stormed into Israel. In addition, 203 people were believed captured by Hamas during the incursion and taken into Gaza, the Israeli military has said.
1. U.S. President Joe Biden meets with European leaders to assure them the U.S. can deliver wartime aid to Ukraine and Israel.
2. Israel says it wants to eradicate Hamas and other resistance fighters in Gaza Strip but doesn’t plan to take responsibility for the besieged region after the war.
3. In Nir Oz, a quarter of the residents are dead or missing after the Hamas attack.
4. Thousands have been displaced from Lebanese border towns.
5. The current crisis in the Middle East has the potential to disrupt global oil supplies and push prices higher.
6. Demonstrations have erupted in cities worldwide to protest the war.
Here’s what’s happening in the latest Israel-Hamas war:
GUNFIRE, CHANTS PUNCTUATE FUNERAL FOR 13 IN WEST BANK
TULKAREM, West Bank — Militants carried rifles and shots rang out Friday during a funeral in the West Bank for 13 people killed in a battle with Israeli troops in the Nur Shams refugee camp.
Some of the bodies carried through the streets of Tulkarem were draped in the flags of the Hamas and the Islamic Jihad militant groups.
Chants of “There is no God but Allah, and the martyrs are the beloved ones of Allah,” were punctuated by the crack of gunshots.
Five of the Palestinians killed were minors, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.
An Israeli border police officer was also killed in the fighting, Israeli authorities said.
TURKEY’S PRESIDENT URGES ISRAEL TO HALT ATTACKS IN GAZA
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has urged Israel to end its operations in Gaza that he said were “bordering on genocide.”
In a statement posted Friday on X, formerly Twitter, Erdogan said the increasing attacks on Gaza would bring “nothing but more pain, death and tears.”
“It is clear that security cannot be ensured by bombing hospitals, schools, mosques and churches,” Erdogan said. “I reiterate our call on the Israeli government not to expand the scope of its attacks against civilians and to immediately stop its operations that are bordering genocide.”
BIDEN SEEKS $14.3B FOR MILTARY ASSISTANCE TO ISRAEL
WASHINGTON — U.S. President Joe Biden wants $14.3 billion to support Israel in its war with Hamas, the White House announced Friday. The money is part of a supplemental funding request that totals more than $105 billion, including Ukraine, border security and more.
The White House said the assistance for Israel would be geared toward air and missile defense systems.
There’s also $9.15 billion for humanitarian aid, which would be split among Ukraine, Israel, Gaza and other hotspots. Administration officials said the money can be directed to where it’s most needed.
All of the funding requires approval from Congress.
EGYPT SAYS ISRAEL IS RESPONSIBLE FOR CLOSURE OF RAFAH CROSSING
CAIRO — Egypt’s Foreign Ministry has accused Western media of unfairly holding it responsible for closing the Rafah border crossing.
In a brief statement on X, formerly Twitter, the ministry’s spokesperson accused Israel of attacking the crossing at Rafah and refusing to allow aid to enter Gaza.
Spokesperson Ahmed Abu Zeid also denied Israeli claims that Egypt has stopped foreign nationals from leaving Gaza.
“Rafah crossing is open and Egypt is not responsible for obstructing third-country nationals’ exit,” he said.
Egypt has repeatedly said it did not close the crossing at Rafah, saying instead that it is not functioning because of damage inflicted by Israeli airstrikes.
FRENCH PRESIDENT MEETS WITH FAMILIES OF HAMAS HOSTAGES
PARIS — President Emmanuel Macron on Friday chatted with families of French hostages captured by Hamas militants in their Oct. 7 surprise attack on Israel.
A day earlier, the Foreign Ministry said 28 French citizens were killed during the Hamas attacks in southern Israel, while seven French people remained missing. The ministry also confirmed for the first time that at least some of those were “hostages of Hamas.”
Macron said on X, formerly Twitter, that he told the families via video that “France does not abandon its own.”
“We are doing all we can to obtain the liberation and the return of our compatriots,” he said.
SATELLITE IMAGES SHOW IMPACT OF AIRSTRIKES ON GAZA
UNDATED — The misery of life in Gaza can be seen from space.
The destruction and impact from Israeli airstrikes in retaliation for the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas militants is visible in satellite imagery of blocks leveled by missiles and smoke rising over the blast zones.
Images by Maxar Technologies showed people sheltering in the courtyards at two schools in Gaza City and one in Deir al Balah on Thursday.
A tractor appeared to be overturning fresh soil to make way for new graves as the Marzouq Street cemetery expands in Gaza City.
An overview of Shifa Hospital showed where tents were set up in what used to be a grassy, tree-covered area next to the hospital. Some hospitals have set up tents to treat the wounded and temporarily house the dead.
Along a stretch of road near the beach, a series of round craters marked the spots where airstrikes hit the dirt and didn’t flatten homes.
GAZA HOSPITAL STRUGGLES TO FUNCTION WITH DWINDLING POWER
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — The director of Shifa Hospital, Gaza’s largest, says generators in the hospital are operating at the lowest setting to provide power to vital departments that cannot function without electricity, while others work in darkness.
The hospital is prioritizing intensive care, nursery, dialysis, oxygen generation, obstetrics and gynecology, heart care and the blood bank, Mohammed Abu Selmia said.
“I don’t know how long it will last. Every day we evaluate the situation,” he said.
The numbers of wounded coming to the hospital is so high it’s difficult to identify them, he said. Water is scarce, and patients with chronic diseases and cancer are suffering.
Asked what medical supplies were needed most, he said all medicines related to emergency care, intensive care and operations, obstetrics and gynecology and dialysis medications. He said the hospitals can’t function without these supplies.
AID GROUP CARITAS SAYS A LOCAL EMPLOYEE KILLED IN GAZA
BERLIN — Aid organization Caritas International says a local employee was killed in an explosion at a Greek Orthodox church in Gaza, where she and her family had sought shelter.
Caritas didn’t release the name of the woman, an employee of Caritas Jerusalem. It said in a statement Friday that she, her family and four other Caritas employees had sought shelter on the grounds of the Church of Saint Porphyrios.
Palestinian authorities blamed the blast late Thursday on an Israeli airstrike. The Associated Press has not been able to verify that claim.
NO PLANS FOR ISRAEL TO CONTROL LIFE IN GAZA, MINISTER SAYS
JERUSALEM — Israel’s defense minister said Friday that after the country destroys the Hamas militant group, the military does not plan to control “life in the Gaza Strip.”
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant’s comments to lawmakers were the first by an Israeli leader on the country’s long-term plans for Gaza.
Gallant said Israel expects three phases to its war with Hamas: first it would attack the group in Gaza with airstrikes and ground maneuvers; then it would defeat pockets of resistance; and finally it would cease its “responsibility for life in the Gaza Strip.”
U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL ARRIVES AT RAFAH CROSSING
CAIRO — U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres arrived at the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip on Friday and urged all international parties to work together to ensure humanitarian aid reaches Palestinians in besieged Gaza.
Speaking to the media at the border crossing, he said the trucks packed with aid were a “lifeline” for Palestinians in Gaza, “the difference between life and death,” and that they must be moved into the enclave as quickly as possible.
Guterres pointed out that the deal reached between Egypt and Israel to allow aid to flow into the Gaza Strip has some conditions and restrictions.
“We are actively engaging with Egypt, Israel and the United States in order to make sure that we can clarify those conditions and limit those restrictions in order to have these trucks headed to where they are needed,” he said. He did not provide a time frame for when the trucks of aid would enter Gaza.
The U.N chief also reiterated his call for a cease-fire.
GULF AND ASIAN NATIONS END SUMMIT WITH CALL FOR A CEASE-FIRE
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Arab Gulf and Southeast Asian nations are calling for a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war and for humanitarian aid to be permitted to enter Gaza.
The final statement of a summit hosted by Saudi Arabia on Friday also condemns “all attacks against civilians.”
The joint summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations brought together 16 member states.
Saudi Arabia, which has launched a number of diplomatic initiatives across the Middle East over the past year, has called for a halt to the fighting.
Before the latest war, the kingdom had been in talks with the United States on normalizing relations with Israel in exchange for a U.S. defense pact, help in establishing a civilian nuclear program, and unspecified concessions to the Palestinians.
U.N. SAYS PALESTINIANS ARE RETURNING HOME
GENEVA — A spokesperson for the U.N. human rights office says there are new signs that some Palestinians who initially moved south in response to the Israeli order to evacuate are returning to their homes because Israeli strikes are taking place in the south, too.
“We remain very concerned that Israeli Forces’ heavy strikes are continuing across Gaza, including in the south,” Ravina Shamdasani told reporters. “The strikes, coupled with extremely difficult living conditions in the south, appear to have pushed some to return to the north, despite the continuing heavy bombing there.”
Shamdasani said the rights office had heard accounts about people wanting to migrate back north, including from one unidentified Palestinian who said “I might as well die in my own house.”
SATELLITE IMAGES SHOW AID TRUCK CONVOY WAITING TO ENTER GAZA
JERUSALEM — Satellite photos analyzed Friday by The Associated Press show a massive convoy of semitruck trailers lined up at the Rafah border crossing on the Egyptian side, likely waiting for approval to cross into the besieged Gaza Strip as the Israel-Hamas war rages.
The images, shot Thursday by Planet Labs PBC, show 55 trucks waiting in two lines, just half a kilometer (a third of a mile) from the border. There are also over 50 smaller vehicles visible in the image, many apparently with aid organizations, waiting at the crossing.
The Gaza Strip, home to over 2 million Palestinians, has been cut off from food, water, fuel and electricity by Israel since Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack. There have been days of high-level negotiations over aid getting into the besieged seaside enclave, including officials all the way up to U.S. President Joe Biden.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is in northern Sinai as the world body works on getting aid through, said Jens Laerke, spokesman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
The deal to get aid into Gaza through Rafah, the territory’s only crossing not controlled by Israel, remains fragile. Israel said the supplies could only go to civilians and that it would “thwart” any diversions by Hamas. More than 200 trucks and some 3,000 tons of aid were positioned at or near Rafah.
Work began Friday to repair the road at the crossing that had been damaged in airstrikes, with trucks unloading gravel and bulldozers and other road repair equipment filling in large craters.
This story has been corrected to show that Israel said the number of suspected captives is 203, not 206.
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