Israeli troops tightened their encirclement of Gaza City on Friday as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Israel to press for a humanitarian “pause” in the fighting with Hamas and for more aid to be allowed into besieged Gaza.
Tensions continued to escalate along the northern border with Lebanon ahead of a speech planned later Friday by Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, a Hamas ally. It is his first public speech since Hamas attacked Israel last month, stoking fears the conflict could become a regional one.
Roughly 800 people — including hundreds of Palestinians with foreign passports and dozens of injured — have been allowed to leave the Gaza Strip via the Rafah crossing under an apparent agreement among the U.S., Egypt, Israel and Qatar, which mediates with Hamas.
Israel has allowed more than 260 trucks carrying food and medicine through the crossing, but aid workers say it’s not nearly enough. Israeli authorities have refused to allow fuel in.
The Palestinian death toll in the Israel-Hamas war has reached 9,061, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza. In the occupied West Bank, more than 140 Palestinians have been killed in violence and Israeli raids.
More than 1,400 people in Israel have been killed, most of them in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack that started the fighting, and 242 hostages were taken from Israel into Gaza by the militant group.
1. Following an Israeli airstrike, crowded Gaza hospital struggles to treat wounded children
2. As more Palestinians with foreign citizenship leave Gaza, some families are left in the lurch
3. Stay in Israel, or flee? Thai workers caught up in Hamas attack and war are faced with a dilemma
4. Netanyahu has sidestepped accountability for failing to prevent Hamas attack, instead blaming others
5. Find more of AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war.
Here’s what is happening in the latest Israel-Hamas war:
UN TO MORE THAN QUADRUPLE FUNDING APPEAL TO $1.2 BILLION
GENEVA — The U.N. humanitarian aid coordinator says it will more than quadruple its initial appeal for funds to help respond to the crisis in Palestinian areas to about $1.2 billion.
Spokesperson Jens Laerke of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said the current appeal, launched Oct. 12, for $297 million has been only about one-quarter funded -– by countries and donors led by the United States, which has provided $24 million.
Laerke told reporters in Geneva on Friday that the number of people displaced within Gaza has swelled to nearly 1.5 million, or about 70% of its population.
OCHA said nearly 700,000 are sheltering in almost 150 facilities of the U.N. agency for Palestinians, more than four times their intended capacity.
“This means that in some shelters up to 240 people are living in classrooms of 40 to 60 square meters (430 to 645 square feet),” it said.
ISRAELI SHELLING HITS CARS CARRYING PEOPLE FLEEING FROM NORTH GAZA
DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip — Israeli shelling has repeatedly struck cars carrying people fleeing from north Gaza along the two main roads to southern Gaza.
Because the Gaza Strip’s main road, Salah al-Din, and the coastal highway are so dangerous, medics say it’s virtually impossible to recover bodies or save the wounded without being targeted.
Israeli shelling struck a convoy of mostly women and children who had tried to escape bombardment in the north on Friday, killing about 10-15 people, according to a freelance journalist who traveled with emergency workers to the site.
The local journalist, Fuad Abu Khamad, said he saw the bloodied bodies sprawled on the road with the few belongings they managed to take with them — mostly just bread and some canned food.
Israeli forces resumed shelling before the medics had time to determine who was alive or dead, he said. Rescuers grabbed two survivors and rushed to Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Hospital in central Gaza, south of the Israeli military’s evacuation zone.
“It was a painful scene, women with their heads blown off, dead children who had just wanted to flee,” he said.
TURKISH PRESIDENT DENOUNCES ‘CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY’
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday denounced Israeli actions in the Gaza Strip as “crimes against humanity.”
“An unprecedented human tragedy is taking place in Palestine before the eyes of the whole world,” Erdogan said at a summit of the Turkey-led Organization of Turkic States in Astana, Kazakhstan.
“Hospitals, schools, mosques, churches and refugee camps are being bombed. There is no concept that can explain this brutality,” he said.
“There is no excuse for the brutal murder of innocent children that we have witnessed since Oct. 7,” the start of the war, he said. “To be frank, crimes against humanity have been committed in Gaza for exactly 28 days.”
Erdogan called for a quick humanitarian cease-fire, and said Turkey is working on ways to “guarantee the security of everyone, whether they are Muslims, Christians or Jews” and to lay the groundwork for an international peace conference.
IRAN-BACKED IRAQI MILITIAS ANNOUNCE EXPANDED ATTACKS ON US BASES
BAGHDAD — The Islamic Resistance in Iraq, a coalition of Iran-backed Iraqi militias, announced Friday that it will launch a more “intense and expansive” phase of operations against U.S. bases in the region starting next week.
It said the escalation is “in support of our people in Palestine and to avenge the martyrs” in the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.
The group has launched a string of attacks on U.S. bases in Iraq and Syria in recent weeks, some of which have injured U.S. personnel. As of Tuesday, the Pentagon said there had been 27 rocket and drone attacks on U.S. bases in Iraq and Syria and that the U.S. was deploying an additional 300 troops to the Middle East to bolster those already there.
PALESTINIAN OFFICIALS SAY ISRAELI RA
IDS KILLED 7 IN WEST BANK
JERUSALEM — In large-scale raids in the occupied West Bank overnight, Israeli forces killed seven Palestinians and arrested scores more, Israeli military officials and Palestinian health officials said.
Israeli forces killed three in Jenin, two in Hebron, one in Nablus and one in Qalandiya, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.
The military said the attack in Jenin included an airstrike — a once rare but now increasingly common form of attack in the territory. It said Israeli forces killed Hamas militants after they threw explosives at the soldiers. Forces also found explosives buried under the roads of the Jenin refugee camp, as well as an underground space with ammunition.
In Nablus, Israeli forces demolished the home of a Palestinian militant whom they accused of carrying out a shooting attack in the town of Huwara earlier this year, killing two Israelis.
Across the West Bank, the military arrested 37 Palestinians, identifying 17 of them as Hamas militants. Israel has stepped its raids on Palestinian towns and cities in the West Bank since the start of the war, leaving at least 141 Palestinians dead in what U.N. monitors say is the deadliest period in the territory on record.
BLINKEN ARRIVES IN ISRAEL FOR URGENT TALKS ON WAR
TEL AVIV, Israel — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has arrived in Israel for urgent talks with Israeli officials about their escalating war with Hamas in Gaza.
Blinken landed in Tel Aviv on Friday for his third trip to Israel since the war began with Hamas’ incursion into Israel on Oct. 7. Blinken will also visit Jordan and may make additional stops in the region before traveling to Asia early next week.
He will meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other top officials at a highly charged and sensitive time as Israel intensifies its military operations in Gaza and international criticism of its tactics increases over the large number of civilian casualties.
U.S. President Joe Biden has called for a “humanitarian pause” in the fighting in order to arrange the evacuation of dual citizens and foreigners still trapped in Gaza as well as to try to secure the release of more than 240 hostages Hamas is holding and to increase humanitarian aid to civilians in Gaza.
Blinken will again stress Israel’s right to defend itself but will also be making the case for Israel to respect the rules of war as well as consider postwar scenarios for how the territory can be run if and when it succeeds in eradicating Hamas.
For the past week, the U.S. administration has been pushing a two-state resolution to establish a durable and lasting peace, although neither the current Israeli nor Palestinian leaderships have shown interest in such negotiations, which have failed multiple times.
Blinken will also urge Israeli authorities to rein in violence against Palestinians in the West Bank by Jewish settlers.
LEBANON REPORTS ISRAELI SHELLING ALONG BORDER
BEIRUT — In the hours before a much-anticipated speech by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah on Friday, his first since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas war, Lebanon’s state news agency reported Israeli shelling on the outskirts of several towns along the Lebanese border.
Nasrallah’s speech comes as low-level clashes have increased between Hezbollah and Palestinian armed groups on one side and Israeli forces on the other.
On Thursday, Hezbollah announced a simultaneous attack against 19 Israeli military posts with mortar fire and anti-tank missiles and also launched suicide drones for the first time in the conflict, targeting an Israeli post in the disputed Chebaa Farms area. Also Thursday evening, Hamas claimed responsibility for rocket strikes on the northern Israeli town of Kiryat Shmona that injured two people.
Israel responded with airstrikes and artillery shelling of Lebanese border areas, with Lebanese state media reporting four civilians were killed in the Saluki Valley area. At least 10 civilians and dozens of fighters with Hezbollah and allied groups have been reported killed in Lebanon since Oct. 7.
ISRAEL RELEASES HUNDREDS OF PALESTINIAN WORKERS
RAFAH CROSSING, Gaza Strip — Israel on Friday released hundreds of Palestinian workers who said they had been held in an Israeli-run jail since the Israel-Hamas war broke out Oct. 7.
The workers were dropped off by buses early Friday near Gaza and walked into the southern edge of the besieged enclave through the Kerem Shalom border crossing.
The workers were among what Israeli rights groups believe are thousands of laborers marooned in Israel since the outbreak of the war. They say some of the workers were detained by Israel without charge or due process.
The rights groups say the workers had their work permits revoked and any trace of their status wiped from their records, leaving them vulnerable and in legal limbo at a time when their families in Gaza are enduring Israel’s massive bombardment.
Some of those walking into Gaza early Friday said they had been held at Ofer, an Israeli-run detention center in the occupied West Bank.
One of those released, Mohammed Shalaya, said treatment was bad during the first five to six days but that conditions then improved.
Shalaya said he worked at a quarry in northern Israel. He said he and the other workers were forced to hand over their money, cellphones and identity cards after being detained and didn’t get their possessions back before being dropped off near Gaza.
UN FINDS ISRAEL USED DISPROPORTIONATE FORCE IN WEST BANK IN RECENT YEARS
UNITED NATIONS – U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a report that Israel used disproportionate force against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and some killings “appeared to amount to extrajudicial executions.”
In the report circulated Thursday, Guterres said Israeli forces have escalated the use of deadly force in recent years across the West Bank, while attacks by Palestinians also rose. He said Israeli security forces killed 304 Palestinians, including 61 boys and two girls, in the West Bank and east Jerusalem during the two-year period ending May 31.
In numerous instances monitored by the U.N. human rights agency, Guterres said, “Israeli security forces apparently used force unnecessarily or in a disproportionate manner, resulting in a possible arbitrary deprivation of life,” which is prohibited under international humanitarian law.
The secretary-general said the number of Palestinians in Israeli detention increased considerably in those two years, and Israel continued restricting the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association, and to freedom of movement.
ISRAEL WILL BAR PALESTINIANS IN GAZA FROM WORKING IN ISRAEL
JERUSALEM — Israel will stop providing funding to the Palestinian Authority earmarked for the Gaza Strip and will bar Palestinians in Gaza from working in Israel.
Though Hamas seized control of Gaza from the Palestinian Authority in 2007, the PA has continued to pay tens of thousands of civil servants in the strip. The decision by Israel’s Security Cabinet on Thursday would punish the cash-strapped PA for continuing those salaries.
“Israel is severing off all contact with Gaza,” the government’s statement said.
Under interim peace accords from the 1990s, Israel collects tax funds on behalf of Palestinians and transfers the money to the PA each month.
The statement also said Israel was revoking permits for the roughly 18,000 Palestinians from Gaza who were allowed to work inside Israel. The jobs were highly coveted in Gaza, which has an unemployment rate of roughly 50%.