The Latest | Israel orders all Palestinians to leave Gaza's largest city

Israel is ordering all Palestinians to leave Gaza City in the north as bombardment appears to escalate throughout the besieged territory. Israel says it is pursuing Hamas fighters who are regrouping in parts of Gaza that had been targeted early in the war.

Israel's heavy strikes throughout Gaza in recent days, which have killed dozens of people, could be aimed at increasing pressure on Hamas during negotiations for a cease-fire. U.S., Egyptian and Qatari mediators are meeting with Israeli officials in Qatar for talks trying to push through a deal.

Israel launched the war in Gaza after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack in which militants stormed into southern Israel, killed some 1,200 people — mostly civilians — and abducted about 250. Since then, Israeli ground offensives and bombardments have killed more than 38,000 people in Gaza, according to the territory’s Health Ministry. It does not distinguish between combatants and civilians in its count.

The war has caused massive devastation and displaced most of Gaza's 2.3 million people, often multiple times. Israeli restrictions, fighting and the breakdown of law and order have limited humanitarian aid efforts, causing widespread hunger and sparking fears of famine. The top United Nations court has ordered Israel to take steps to protect Palestinians as it examines genocide allegations against Israeli leaders. Israel denies the charge.

Currently:

— Israeli military orders the evacuation of Gaza City, an early target of its war with Hamas.

— The U.S.-built pier will be put back in Gaza for several days to move aid before being permanently removed.

— A suspected attack by Yemen’s Houthi rebels targets a ship transiting the Bab el-Mandeb Strait.

Iran encourages Gaza war protests in the U.S. to stoke outrage and distrust, intelligence chief says.

— A university student who yelled ‘Free Palestine’ is reportedly deported as the UAE weighs the Israel-Hamas war.

— Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Gaza at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war.

Here’s the latest:

Very little aid is getting to Palestinians due to lawlessness and combat in Gaza, UN says

UNITED NATIONS – The United Nations is stressing that very little aid is getting to Palestinians from the Kerem Shalom border crossing because of lawlessness, ongoing fighting, and the lack of effective coordination with Israeli forces in Gaza.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric was responding Wednesday to the head of the Israeli military body in charge of Palestinian civilian affairs who told reporters at Kerem Shalom earlier that the United Nations needs to step up its ability to receive and distribute aid in Gaza.

Col. Elad Goren, head of the body known as COGAT, said it has facilitated the entry of more than 40,000 trucks to Gaza but the U.N. has only received and distributed aid from 26,000. He called for the U.N. to increase trucks, manpower and warehouses.

Dujarric said the U.N. is trying its best to get to people in need, especially in central and southern Gaza, but “you have utter lawlessness, plus you have continuing conflict.”

Some U.N. and private sector trucks are trying to pick up aid from Kerem Shalom, “often at great cost, because they are being either looted or attacked by criminal elements,” he said, adding that “we’ve had convoys also being fired on by Israeli forces.”

As a result, very little is getting through, Dujarric said.

“We’re discussing with various parties, but the facts on the ground remain the facts on the ground, unfortunately,” the U.N. spokesman said.

“Unless there is a cease-fire which allows for full and unfettered humanitarian access, which will see the release of the hostages, will see an end to the fighting, every day is a challenge to get aid and to deliver it,” Dujarric said.

US sends hundreds of bombs to Israel after pausing shipment over concerns about civilian casualties in Gaza, officials say

WASHINGTON — The U.S. has agreed to send Israel hundreds of 500-pound bombs from a shipment that the Biden administration withheld because of concerns about Israeli operations in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, according to three U.S. officials.

U.S. President Joe Biden announced in May that he would not supply offensive weapons that Israel could use to launch an all-out assault on Rafah over concern for the well-being of hundreds of thousands civilians sheltering there.

The White House announced at the time that they were holding up a shipment of 1,800 of the larger 2,000-pound (900-kilogram) bombs and 1,700 of the relatively smaller 500-pound (225-kilogram) bombs because of the president’s concerns.

The officials, who were not authorized to comment on the matter and spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the Biden administration had been more concerned about the use of the larger bombs and recently agreed to fulfill Israel’s request for the 500-pound bombs in the shipment.

The U.S. is continuing to hold up the 2,000-pound bombs, the officials said. One of the officials said the U.S. remains concerned about how these bombs could be used in Gaza.

One of the officials said the shipment of the 500-pound bombs is still being processed and the bombs have not yet arrived in Israel.

Israel says it has nearly defeated Hamas forces in Rafah after two months of fighting there. Before Israeli troops invaded, the city had sheltered most of Gaza’s more than 2 million people. Today it is a dust-covered ghost town.

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Associated Press writers Aamer Madhani and Lolita C. Baldor contributed.

United Nations says Israel's operations in Gaza City will fuel mass suffering for Palestinians

UNITED NATIONS – The United Nations is warning that Israel’s order for Palestinians to leave Gaza City will fuel mass suffering and is insisting that civilians must be protected and their needs must be met whether they flee or stay.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters Wednesday that this warning from the U.N. humanitarian office means that all parties involved in the conflict in Gaza must respect international humanitarian law at all times. Protection of civilians and the infrastructure for their survival are key requirements of the law.

“The level of fighting and destruction that we are seeing in recent days, as the cease-fire talks are ongoing, is truly shocking,” Dujarric said.

He said Muhannad Hadi, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories, briefed Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday about his visit into the Gaza Strip a day earlier and the dire situation there.

“He saw firsthand the consequences of the breakdown in public order and safety as he entered and exited Gaza through the Kerem Shalom crossing,” Dujarric said.

“He saw groups of men with sticks waiting for trucks to leave the Kerem Shalom crossing into Gaza,” the U.N. spokesman said. “All the trucks that he passed were badly damaged, with broken windshields, mirrors and hoods.”

Hadi also saw bags of fortified flour from the U.N. World Food Program and the U.N. agency helping Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, scattered on the side of the road coming out of the crossing, Dujarric said.

In Khan Younis, Hadi reported that the southern city “has largely been reduced to sand and rubble,” the spokesman said. “Every building that he saw had been damaged in some way, shape or form.”

Hadi also met with women’s groups at a U.N. guesthouse who told him about harrowing conditions at sites for displaced Palestinians, he said.

“Many women have cut off their hair due to lice and difficulties in accessing the necessary hygiene products such as shampoo, and because of the lack of privacy at sites for displaced people,” Dujarric said.

He said “others voiced despair over their inability to provide for their families, in particular for relatives living with disabilities and those who are sick and cannot get treatment,” and for having to send their children to bed without eating and drinking.

“One woman said that living with many different families in the same room meant that she wasn’t removing her hijab for days and that she couldn’t brush her hair or change clothes without being watched,” Dujarric said. “Others told him that overcrowding, despair and the breakdown in public order and safety is leading to an increase in sexual and gender-based violence.”

Leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah says he backs Hamas fully in its cease-fire talks with Israel

BEIRUT – Hezbollah’s top leader Hassan Nasrallah said Wednesday that the Lebanese militant group will support Hamas in whatever decision the Palestinian group makes during negotiations with Israel for a cease-fire in Gaza.

“What satisfies Hamas, satisfies us all,” Nasrallah said, adding that he’s made this point clear during regular meetings with Hamas officials.

“They update us and like to hear our opinion. … I always tell them, ‘Whatever you prefer, we are with you,’” he said in a televised address honoring a senior commander killed in an Israeli drone strike.

Iran-backed Hezbollah has been launching rockets into northern Israel since a day after the Oct. 7 Hamas attack. The limited but escalating clashes along the tense border have raised concerns of a wider regional war.

Israel has threatened a larger military operation into Lebanon to silence Hezbollah’s attacks. The group says it will keep up its pressure on Israel until there is a cease-fire in Gaza.

Nasrallah claimed Lebanon benefits from Israeli failures to uproot Hamas’ military capabilities in Gaza, asserting that Israel’s 2-month-old operation in the southern city of Rafah is taking far longer than Israeli leaders anticipated. He also said Hezbollah’s attacks have weakened Israel’s ability launch a war in Lebanon.

“Those who threaten to invade south of the Litani (River) should look at what’s happening in Rafah, in its small area, where they have failed to achieve a victory,” he said. An Israeli win in Gaza would leave its military unchecked and able to “impose its conditions on all the people of the region,” he asserted.

Hezbollah is far more powerful than its allies in the Gaza Strip, equipped with a larger and more sophisticated arsenal of rockets, and has recently revealed its fleet of exploding drones and anti-aircraft defense systems.

Still, Nasrallah urged caution and being prepared for the worst — both among Hezbollah’s fighters and other Iran-backed armed groups in the region who collectively call themselves the "axis of resistance."

“We tell the (Israeli) occupation that the resistance in Lebanon is prepared, ready and strong, and the evidence of this is its response to the assassinations,” he said, referring to Israel’s killing of senior militant commanders in recent months.

Poll says 56% of Israelis support ending the war in Gaza with a cease-fire and hostage release deal

TEL AVIV, Israel — A slight majority of Israelis supports ending the war in Gaza as part of a cease-fire deal that would free all hostages held by Hamas, according to a poll released Wednesday.

The poll by the Israel Democracy Institute, a Jerusalem think-tank, found that 56% of Israelis favor a complete cease-fire to return all the hostages and Israel’s full withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. That figure stands in contrast to a key position of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in ongoing cease-fire talks – that Israel won’t commit to ending the war as part of any deal.

The poll also found that nearly 30% of Israelis support a temporary cease-fire that will return some of the hostages.

The survey of 850 Israelis had a margin of error of 3.85%.

Israel and Hamas are engaged in some of the most serious talks in months to try to strike a deal that would halt the war and release some of the roughly 120 hostages still held by the militant group. A main sticking point has been Hamas’ demand that Israel commit to ending the war as part of any deal, a term Netanyahu has rejected.

Netanyahu says that military pressure is the best way to prompt Hamas to free the hostages, about a third of whom are said to be dead. He has faced pressure from his far-right governing partners not to move ahead on a deal, saying doing so would keep Hamas intact and put Israel at risk of more attacks like the one on Oct. 7.

Netanyahu's political partners have threatened to quit the government if a deal moves ahead. That would topple the coalition and could trigger new elections, threatening Netanyahu’s hold on power.

France condemns deadly Israeli strikes on schools in Gaza

PARIS — France sharply criticized recent Israeli strikes on schools in Gaza, especially those filled with displaced Palestinians seeking shelter, saying these attacks were “unacceptable” and demanding a thorough investigation.

The Foreign Affairs Ministry in a written statement Wednesday said France expresses “its grave concerns" about the attacks and said Israel must do all it can to protect civilians and follow international humanitarian law.

An Israeli strike Tuesday “on the Al-Awda school, which left several people dead, is the third to target a school for displaced persons since last Saturday. We call for these strikes to be fully investigated.”

France is calling for an immediate and lasting cease-fire “which alone will enable the protection of civilian populations, the release of hostages and the massive entry of humanitarian aid through all access points to the Gaza Strip.”

In Gaza City, new confusion and fear over evacuation order

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — There is confusion and fear among Palestinians in Gaza City after Israel's order for everyone there to leave.

For the moment, there appears to be no mass exodus southwards to central Gaza. Some residents are concerned they could be shot or detained.

Maha Mahfouz, a mother of two, says she and five other families will head to Jabaliya refugee camp, which is north of Gaza City. “We will stay in the north to be close to our homes,” she said.

Medical charity warns that Gaza City hospitals could become inaccessible

CAIRO — A medical charity is warning that Gaza City's remaining hospitals could become inaccessible as Israel escalates its incursion into Gaza's largest city.

Medical Aid for Palestinians says in a statement that Israel's new order for all Palestinians to leave Gaza City is sowing terror among the population and that people in health facilities no longer feel safe.

It notes how staff and patients at al-Ahli hospital fled the facility on Sunday due to attacks in the “immediate vicinity.” Already, many hospitals in Gaza are not functioning or badly damaged.

Israel orders all Palestinians out of Gaza City

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — The Israeli military has dropped leaflets ordering all Palestinians from Gaza City, the largest city in the besieged territory.

Israel has been fighting in several outlying neighborhoods in recent days, sending thousands of Palestinians fleeing. Hamas militants have been regrouping in areas that Israel targeted in the earliest weeks of the war.

But heavy Israeli bombardment throughout the territory could be aimed at increasing pressure on Hamas during negotiations for a cease-fire. U.S., Egyptian and Qatari mediators are meeting with Israeli officials in Qatar for talks trying to push through a deal.

The main United Nations agency supporting Palestinians in Gaza has said around 200,000 Palestinians remain in the north of the territory.

A suspected attack by Yemen’s Houthi rebels targets a ship transiting the Bab el-Mandeb Strait

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — A suspected attack by Yemen’s Houthi rebels has targeted a ship in the narrow Bab el-Mandeb Strait.

The attack Wednesday targeted a ship south of Mocha. That’s according to the British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations center.

The vessel’s captain reported explosions off the side of the vessel. The Houthis did not immediately claim the attack.

However, a sudden burst of attacks by the Houthis come after unexplained pause of a week and a half by the rebels. The rebels may be regrouping ahead of the arrival of a new U.S. aircraft carrier to the region after the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower began heading back home.

Israeli military says UN should do more to distribute aid inside Gaza

KEREM SHALOM, Israel — The Israeli military said on Wednesday the United Nations, the main organization responsible for delivering aid in war-ravaged Gaza, must step up their ability to receive and distribute aid in Gaza.

“They need to increase their logistical capacity: more trucks, more manpower, more warehouses,” said Col. Elad Goren, the Head of the Civilian Department at the COGAT, the Israeli defense body in charge of Palestinian civilian affairs, during a press conference at the Kerem Shalom crossing in southern Israel.

“Even if we will bring 1,000 trucks today, there’s nowhere to put it on the Palestinian side, that’s the main problem,” he said.

Goren said COGAT has facilitated the entry of more than 40,000 trucks into Gaza, but the U.N. had only been able to receive and distribute 26,000 trucks.

The U.N. says aid distribution within Gaza is dangerous due to lawlessness and chaos in Gaza. Goren said that “two or three criminal families in critical places” have threatened many of the aid routes.

Goren’s comments come the day before a visit from the head of the head of the agency overseeing American foreign humanitarian and development aid. USAID Administrator Samantha Power will meet with Israeli officials over concerns about the challenges with distributing humanitarian aid in Gaza.

International law says the Israeli military, as the occupying power, must protect Palestinian civilians. The International Court of Justice has ordered Israel to do all it can to prevent deaths in the besieged enclave and ramp up humanitarian aid.

USAID leader will meet with Israeli officials about security of aid workers in Gaza

TEL AVIV, Israel — A United States official says the head of the agency overseeing American foreign humanitarian and development aid will visit Israel on Thursday to address security concerns around aid workers and aid distribution in Gaza.

U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power will meet with Israeli officials to discuss improving communication and coordination to protect humanitarian workers in the ongoing Gaza war. She was last in the region in March, when she visited Israel, Jordan, and the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

The United Nations chief has said “total lawlessness” and chaos in Gaza prevents the distribution of desperately needed humanitarian aid in the enclave. Humanitarian conditions are dire as many families are displaced multiple times. According to the U.N., more than 200 aid workers have been killed in Gaza since the war began.

Ahead of Power's visit, the Israeli military asserted that the U.N. must step up its ability to receive and distribute aid in Gaza. “Even if we will bring 1,000 trucks today, there’s nowhere to put it on the Palestinian side, that’s the main problem,” said Col. Elad Goren, the head of the civilian department at the Israeli defense body in charge of Palestinian civilian affairs, during a press conference.

USAID has said thousands of tons of food, medicine and other aid are piled up uncollected on a beach near the U.S.-built pier because of the lawlessness on the ground.

07/10/2024 20:14 -0400

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