Israeli military operations in Gaza are focused on the southern city of Khan Younis and urban refugee camps in the territory’s center. Hundreds of people have been killed in recent days in strikes across the territory, including in areas of the far south where Israel told people to seek refuge.
A heavy strike on Wednesday brought down a two-story building in the central city of Deir al-Balah, close to its main Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital, killing at least 20 people, according to hospital officials. A strike killed six people in an ambulance near Deir al-Balah, including four crew, a medical aid group said.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is on a whirlwind trip to the Mideast, seeking to rally the region behind postwar plans for Gaza. Blinken spoke with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday about a reformed Palestinian Authority governing Gaza once the war is over. Blinken then flew to Manama, the capital of the tiny Gulf nation of Bahrain.
Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack from Gaza into southern Israel triggered the war and killed around 1,200 people, and militants took some 250 others hostage. Israel’s air, ground and sea assault in Gaza has killed more than 23,000 people, two-thirds of them women and children, according to the Health Ministry in the Hamas-ruled territory. The count does not differentiate between civilians and combatants.
— Video appears to show the Israeli army shot 3 Palestinians, killing 1, without provocation in West Bank.
— Yemen’s Houthis launch the largest Red Sea drone and missile attack to date.
— Hezbollah launches a drone strike on base in northern Israel.
— Blinken urges Israel to engage with the region on postwar plans that include a path to a Palestinian state.
— Israel taps top legal minds, including a Holocaust survivor, to battle a genocide claim at world court.
— Find more of AP’s coverage at: https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war.
Here’s what’s happening in the war:
JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his country’s war in Gaza is in “full compliance” with international law and does not aim to expel the Palestinian population.
The video statement was released Wednesday, a day before the International Court of Justice begins a hearing on a South African compliant that Israel is committing genocide in its military offensive.
“I want to make a few points absolutely clear: Israel has no intention of permanently occupying Gaza or displacing its civilian population,” Netanyahu said.
He repeated his position that Israel is fighting a war of self-defense after Hamas militants launched the Oct. 7 attack, “in full compliance with international law.”
Far-right members of Netanyahu’s government have called for Palestinians to be resettled elsewhere, which critics say would amount to ethnic cleansing. Netanyahu has said such calls do not reflect his policy.
GENEVA — The head of the U.N. World Health Organization is urgently calling on Israel to allow humanitarian aid to all parts of the Gaza Strip, saying these deliveries “face nearly insurmountable challenges.”
“We have the supplies, the teams, and the plans in place. What we don’t have is access,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Wednesday in a video statement on X.
Israel says it is willing to increase the amount of aid entering Gaza and has blamed international aid groups for struggling to deliver the assistance.
The WHO cancelled six aid missions to northern Gaza in recent weeks, Tedros said, because Israel rejected its requests and wouldn’t give the WHO assurance of safe passage. He said safe delivery corridors can be established, even without a complete cease-fire.
He also called for Hamas to release the Israeli hostages being held in Gaza and for all sides to protect health care: “It cannot be attacked and it cannot be militarized.”
BEIRUT — A civilian was killed in an Israeli strike his car in south Lebanon on Wednesday, according to state media and his family.
The state-run National News Agency reported that Hassan Ali Tawil was killed by an Israeli artillery shell falling near his house in the town of Kfar Kila on the Lebanon-Israel border. A funeral announcement circulated by his family said that he was “unjustly killed” in a strike on his vehicle.
Hezbollah, which normally sends out statements announcing the deaths of its fighters, did not claim Tawil. An official with the group, who spoke on condition of anonymity according to their regulations, said he was a civilian.
There was no immediate comment from the Israeli military, and it was not clear whether Tawil was the intended target of the strike.
Nearly 200 people have been killed on the Lebanese side of the border in three months of clashes between Hezbollah and Israeli forces, most of them fighters but also including about 20 civilians.
UNITED NATIONS — U.N. humanitarian officials report that intense Israeli bombing in Gaza is causing more casualties and destruction of critical civilian facilities. The officials warn that health services could collapse in the cities of Deir al-Balah and Khan Younis, where fighting has intensified.
“The ongoing hostilities in Deir al-Balah and Khan Younis – coupled with evacuation orders in nearby areas – are putting three hospitals at the risk of closures: Al-Aqsa, Nasser and the Gaza European hospital,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Wednesday.
The U.N.’s humanitarian partners report that as of Tuesday, “just one-fifth of the 5,000 beds needed to meet trauma and emergency needs in Gaza are available,” he said. And they also report that more than three-quarters of the 77 primary health centers are not functioning.
“Some 350,000 people with chronic illnesses and about 485,000 people with mental health disorders continue to experience disruptions in their treatments in Gaza,” Dujarric said. And some 1.9 million displaced people are at risk of communicable diseases because of poor living conditions, overcrowded shelters, and lack of access to proper water, sanitation and hygiene facilities.
AMMAN, Jordan — The leaders of Jordan, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority repeated their calls for Israel to halt its offensive in Gaza and rejected plans floated by some Israeli officials to remove Palestinians from the battered territory.
Jordan’s King Abdullah II, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas are regional allies and have met several times during the three-month war between and Israel and the Hamas militant group.
The summit came just after Abbas met with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The secretary is set on Thursday to meet with Egypt’s president, who serves as a key mediator between Israel and Hamas. Egypt and Jordan have both signed peace treaties with Israel, and the Palestinian Authority administers semi-autonomous areas of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
In Wednesday’s joint statement, the three leaders repeated their calls for an immediate cease-fire and “the need to condemn” calls for mass displacement of Palestinians from Gaza or the occupied West Bank. Far-right members of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government have called for them to be resettled elsewhere, which critics say would amount to ethnic cleansing. Netanyahu has said such calls do not reflect his policy.
The U.S. has called for a “revitalized” Palestinian Authority to govern Gaza after the war ends. Hamas ousted the Palestinian Authority from Gaza in 2007, after Hamas won parliamentary elections the previous year.
DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza: The Palestinian Red Crescent said six people were killed, including members of its ambulance crew, when a strike hit an ambulance near Gaza’s central city of Deir al-Balah on Wednesday.
In a post on X, the aid group said four members of its crew and two wounded patients were killed and that the ambulance was struck on Salah al-Din Street, the main north-south road running the length of Gaza.
The aid group blamed the strike on Israel.
JERUSALEM — The Israeli government has launched a website with gruesome photos and videos from Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks, which Israel says it published Wednesday in anticipation of the genocide case against it at The Hague.
Israeli government official Moshik Aviv said the site will “assist Israel in its goal to remind the world that we are the victim in this unprecedented terror event.” The government noted the site, aimed at an international audience, was created as Israel faces accusations it is committing genocide in its war against Hamas in Gaza.
The website comes with an advisory urging “extreme viewer discretion,” and shows photos of charred bodies, militants posing next to dead Israelis and blood-splattered floors, among others. It follows a video compilation Israel has shown to journalists, diplomats and others around the world of the atrocities committed on Oct. 7.
The website is in English and blocked in Israel, because the government says it doesn’t want to expose Israelis to the explicit content.
About 1,200 people, mostly civilians, were killed in the Hamas-led attack and some 250 were taken hostage into Gaza, Israeli authorities say. The attack sparked the war in Gaza, where more than 23,000 people have been killed, two-thirds of them women and children, according to the Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza.
JERUSALEM — Thousands of people are praying at Jerusalem’s Western Wall in a call for the hostages held in the Gaza Strip to be released.
The site where Wednesday’s mass prayer was taking place is the holiest place where Jews can pray. The plight of the captives has gripped Israelis and their release remains one of Israel’s goals in its war against Hamas.
In its Oct. 7 attack, Hamas and other militants took captive roughly 250 people, including men, women, children and older people. Around 110 people have been released and some 110 remain, along with about 20 people who were killed while in captivity, Israeli authorities say.
The freed hostages have recounted harrowing details from their time in captivity, where some were given meager food, slept on the floor and constantly feared for their lives.
KEREM SHALOM, Israel — An Israeli defense official says that sufficient aid is entering Gaza and that there is no food shortage in the beleaguered enclave.
Moshe Tetro, an official with the Israeli defense body in charge of Palestinian civilian affairs, said Wednesday that Israel has been willing to increase the amount of aid entering Gaza. He blamed international aid groups for struggling to process and receive the aid.
“The assessment we all, with the U.N. and other organizations, show that there is sufficient aid,” he said. “In terms of food, the reserves in the Gaza Strip are sufficient for the near term. There is no food shortage in Gaza.”
Tetro spoke near Kerem Shalom, the central goods crossing between Israel and Gaza that Israel last month reopened for humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza, becoming the second point of entry for aid to Gaza after Egypt’s Rafah crossing.
The U.S. has been pressing Israel for weeks to let greater amounts of food, water, fuel, medicine and other supplies into Gaza, and the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution on Dec. 22 calling for an immediate increase in deliveries.
Last week, two U.S. senators who visited the Rafah crossing said a cumbersome process is slowing relief to the Palestinian population in the besieged territory — largely due to Israeli inspections of aid cargos, with seemingly arbitrary rejections of vital humanitarian equipment.
Tetro said aid delivery would be more streamlined if the U.N. increased the amount of workers able to receive and pack the aid. He said more trucks were needed to transfer the aid to Israel for security checks and that the working hours at Rafah needed to be extended.
Almost the entire 2.3 million population of Gaza depends on the trucks coming across the border for their survival. One in four Palestinians in Gaza is starving, according to the U.N. More than 85% of Gaza’s people have been driven from their homes by Israeli bombardment and ground offensives.
GENEVA — The World Health Organization chief is appealing to Israel’s government to approve its requests and those by its partners to deliver humanitarian aid to northern Gaza.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the U.N. health agency has been forced to cancel six planned missions to the northern parts of the embattled enclave since Dec. 26 because requests for access were rejected — including one planned for Wednesday.
“The barrier to delivering humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza is not the capabilities of the U.N., WHO or our partners,” said the WHO chief, who goes by Tedros, at a briefing from its headquarters in Geneva. “The barrier is access. We call on Israel to approve requests by WHO and other partners to deliver humanitarian aid.”
He said the situation in the conflict between Israel and the militant group Hamas, which runs Gaza, was “indescribable” and that nearly 90% of Gaza’s population had been displaced from their homes.
TEL AVIV, Israel — A deputy speaker of the Israeli parliament has doubled down on calls to destroy large parts of Gaza — comments that were cited in South Africa’s complaint to the world court that Israel is committing genocide against Palestinians.
The International Court of Justice will start hearing the case Thursday. South Africa has submitted an 84-page document in which it argues that Israel’s actions, including killing Palestinians and causing serious mental and bodily harm, “are genocidal in character” and that Israeli officials have expressed genocidal intent. Israel has vehemently denied the claims.
“I said to burn the terrorists. I don’t think this is inappropriate, and I stand behind my words,” Nissim Vaturi, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party, told an ultra-Orthodox radio station Tuesday.
Vaturi added that after the Israeli military called for the evacuation of more than a million Palestinians from northern Gaza, those who remained should be assumed to be involved in fighting and “should be eliminated.”
Vatari provided no evidence for his claims that those who remained in northern Gaza did so by choice and were all combatants. The U.N. said its shelters in the northern part of the territory currently house about 160,000 people, including many women and children. Other civilians have sought refuge in homes and hospitals.
The hardline lawmaker said he was banned from X, formerly Twitter, in November for posting “Burn Gaza and no less!” He is known for making incendiary statements, including calling former Prime Minister Ehud Barak “human waste” and saying Barak “could be executed” for his activism against the Likud government’s judicial overhaul.
CAIRO — An Israeli delegation landed in Cairo on Wednesday for a new round of talks with Egypt on a possible swap of hostages held by Hamas for Palestinians imprisoned by Israel, an Egyptian official said.
Egypt, the Gulf nation of Qatar and the United States have served as mediators between Israel and Hamas, the Islamic militant group that has ruled Gaza for almost 17 years. Israel has vowed to crush Hamas following its deadly Oct. 7 attack in which the militants killed about 1,200 people in southern Israel and took some 250 hostages.
About half the hostages were released during a weeklong cease-fire in November, and mediators have tried since then to reach agreement on another round of exchanges, accompanied by a halt in fighting.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has been meeting with leaders in the Middle East since the weekend, and is expected in Cairo on Thursday.
Efforts to negotiate another swap were disrupted by the assassination of a top Hamas official in Beirut last week, widely blamed on Israel.
The Egyptian official said Wednesday that Egypt and Qatar were trying to win freedom for civilian hostages held by Hamas and other militant groups in return for a cease-fire and the release of additional Palestinian prisoners by Israel. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to brief reporters.
In addition to civilians, Hamas and other militant groups also hold Israeli soldiers. Hamas still insists on ending the war before talking about releasing the hostages, a demand Israel has rejected outright.
“They will never recover their hostages unless all our prisoners in the occupation prisons are released,” Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh said Tuesday in Qatar.
Associated Press writer Samy Magdy contributed.
UNITED NATIONS – The U.N. Security Council plans to vote Wednesday on a resolution proposed by the United States that would condemn attacks by Yemen’s Houthi rebels on merchant and commercial vessels in the Red Sea area and demand an immediate halt.
The draft resolution, obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press, says at least two dozen Houthi attacks are impeding global commerce “and undermine navigational rights and freedoms as well as regional peace and security.” The resolution would demand the immediate release of the first ship the Houthis attacked, the Galaxy Leader, a Japanese-operated cargo ship with links to an Israeli company that was seized on Nov. 19 along with its crew.
Without naming Iran, the Houthis’ main arms supplier, the draft to be voted on would condemn all arms dealings with the rebels, which violate Security Council sanctions.
It also “urges caution and restraint to avoid further escalation of the situation in the Red Sea and the broader region.” And it “encourages enhanced diplomatic efforts by all parties to that end, including continued support for dialogue and Yemen’s peace process under the U.N. auspices.”
Associated Press writer Edith Lederer contributed.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Yemen’s Houthi rebels unleashed a barrage of drones and missiles targeting shipping in the Red Sea, though it initially appeared no ship was damaged, authorities said Wednesday.
The assault happened late Tuesday off the Yemeni port cities of Hodeida and Mokha, according to the private intelligence firm Ambrey. In the Hodeida incident, Ambrey said ships described over radio seeing missiles and drones, with U.S.-allied warships in the area urging “vessels to proceed at maximum speed.”
Off Mokha, ships saw missiles fired, a drone in the air and small vessels trailing them, Ambrey said.
The British military’s United Kingdom Marine Trade Operations, which monitors shipping attacks in the region, said there were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.
The Houthis did not immediately issue a formal statement acknowledging launching the attacks. But the pan-Arab satellite news network Al Jazeera quoted an anonymous Houthi military official as saying their forces “targeted a ship linked to Israel in the Red Sea,” without elaborating.
The Iran-backed militants have carried out more than two dozen attacks on commercial shipping in the Red Sea in response to the Israel-Hamas war, disrupting international trade and leading to increased efforts by the United States and its allies to patrol the vital waterway.