The Latest | Netanyahu vows to carry out Rafah invasion, which US says would be a mistake – Metro US

The Latest | Netanyahu vows to carry out Rafah invasion, which US says would be a mistake

APTOPIX Israel Palestinians
Palestinians walk through the destruction in the wake of an Israeli air and ground offensive in Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip, Monday, April 8, 2024. Israel says it has withdrawn its last ground troops from the city, ending a four-month operation. (AP Photo/Fatima Shbair)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has escalated his pledge to invade the southern Gaza city of Rafah, which is filled with around 1.4 million Palestinians, most of whom are displaced from other parts of the Gaza Strip.

“It will happen. There is a date,” Netanyahu declared in a video statement Monday, without elaborating.

The United States, Israel’s closest ally, has said a ground operation into Rafah would be a mistake and has demanded to see a credible plan to protect civilians. Netanyahu spoke as Israeli negotiators are in Cairo discussing international efforts to broker a cease-fire deal with the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

Israeli troops withdrew Sunday from Khan Younis, another city in southern Gaza, ending a key phase of the war. Defense officials say they’re regrouping ahead of a push into Rafah.

Palestinians who visited Khan Younis on Monday say the city is now unlivable, offering them little immediate chance to return. Many have been sheltering in Rafah.

The Palestinian death toll from the war has passed 33,200, with nearly 76,000 wounded, Gaza’s Health Ministry said. The ministry doesn’t differentiate between civilians and combatants in its tally, but says women and children make up two-thirds of the dead.

The war began Oct. 7 when Hamas-led militants stormed into southern Israel, killing some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking around 250 people hostage.


Palestinians returning to Khan Younis find an unrecognizable city after Israeli withdrawal.

— These Palestinian mothers in Gaza gave birth Oct. 7. Their babies have known only war.

— AP Photos chronicle 6 months of devastation in Gaza war with no sign of an end.

Israel finds the body of a hostage killed in Gaza, while talks will resume on a cease-fire.

For families of hostages, it’s a race against time as Israel’s war reaches six-month mark.

— Find more AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war

Here’s the latest:

ANKARA, Turkey — Israel has rejected a Turkish request for its military cargo planes to join a humanitarian aid operation for Gaza, Turkey’s foreign minister said Monday, adding that Ankara would respond by imposing a series of measures against Israel.

In a televised announcement, Hakan Fidan said Turkey — of the strongest critics of Israel’s military actions in Gaza — would continue to implement the measures until Israel declares “a cease-fire and allows aid to enter into Gaza without interruption.” The minister did not say what those measures would entail.

Fidan said Jordan had approved NATO-member Turkey’s planes joining an operation to air drop aid, but Israel rejected the request

“There is no excuse for Israel to block our attempt to deliver aid by air to starving people of Gaza,” Fidan said. “Faced with this situation, we decided to take a series of new measures against Israel. These measures, approved by our President (Recep Tayyip Erdogan) will be implemented step by step, without delay.”

JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has escalated his pledge to invade the southern Gaza city of Rafah, declaring: “There is a date.”

Netanyahu has repeatedly said Israel must send ground forces into Rafah, saying it is Hamas’ last stronghold in Gaza.

But the international community, including the U.S., opposes the operation, saying the roughly 1.4 million civilians seeking shelter there will be in danger.

Israel has insisted it has a plan to protect the civilians.

In a video statement Monday, Netanyahu said the Rafah operation is essential for victory. He said, “It will happen. There is a date,” without elaborating. He spoke as Israeli negotiators were in Cairo discussing international efforts to broker a cease-fire deal with Hamas.

JERUSALEM – A pair of mapping experts say Israel’s offensive in the southern Gaza City of Khan Younis appears to have left over half of the city’s buildings with damage or destruction visible from space.

As of last week, over 55% of the city’s buildings were likely damaged or destroyed, according to an analysis of Copernicus Sentinel-1 satellite data by Corey Scher of the CUNY Graduate Center and Jamon Van Den Hoek of Oregon State University. They say that accounts for 45,000 buildings.

Still, the damage in Khan Younis and other parts of the Strip’s south is considerably less than in the north of Gaza, where the researchers estimate 70% of buildings were likely damaged or destroyed.

Israel’s ground and aerial bombardment campaign, begun after the Hamas attack Oct. 7, has wreaked unprecedented damage on the strip, leveling entire apartment buildings and leaving much of the territory in ruins, a moonscape from war.

Israel withdrew its last ground troops from Khan Younis on Sunday, marking the end of a key phase in its war against Hamas.

JERUSALEM — An Israeli official confirms that Israel is purchasing 40,000 tents to prepare for the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

Israel says Rafah is Hamas’ last stronghold and is vowing to send ground troops into the city. But the international community, including the U.S., opposes the offensive, saying it would endanger Palestinian civilians.

More than 1 million Palestinians, over half of Gaza’s population, have fled to Rafah after being displaced by fighting elsewhere in the territory.

Israel has said it has a plan to evacuate civilians ahead of its offensive, and Israel’s Defense Ministry on Monday published a tender seeking a supplier of tents.

The Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media, said the tents were part of the Rafah preparations.

Associated Press writer Josef Federman contributed.

JERUSALEM — The Israeli army said its forces shot dead a Palestinian women in the northern West Bank on Monday, after she attempted to stab a soldier at a checkpoint.

The army said the incident took place at the Tayasir checkpoint near the northern West Bank town of Tubas.

In a statement, the Palestinian Health Ministry identified the deceased as a young woman but did not state her name or age.

At least 460 Palestinians in east Jerusalem and the West Bank have been killed by Israeli fire since the Israel-Hamas war erupted six months ago, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.

Many have been shot dead in armed clashes, some while attempting to stab Israeli forces, and others for throwing stones at troops.

The Associated Press has reported on several cases where Palestinians have been shot dead for posing no apparent threat to nearby troops.

Knife attacks by Palestinian women are rare.

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis met Monday with relatives of hostages taken by Hamas on Oct. 7, marking the six-month anniversary of the attack in southern Israel with an hourlong audience.

The Vatican released photos of the encounter, showing the relatives of the several of the hostages sitting in a semicircle in front of Francis in his private library in the Apostolic Palace. Each one held a poster with a photo and the name of their loved one.

It was the second time Francis has met with relatives of the hostages. On Nov. 22, he met with a delegation of Israelis, and then separately a delegation of Palestinians whose relatives had been harmed during the long Mideast conflict.

Francis has called for the immediate release of the hostages and a cease-fire in Gaza, and for humanitarian aid to urgently reach desperate Palestinians.

CAIRO — The Health Ministry in Gaza on Monday said the bodies of 32 people killed in Israel’s bombardment have been brought to hospitals in the beleaguered territory in the past 24 hours. Hospitals also received 47 wounded people, it said.

The fresh fatalities brought the death toll in the strip to 33,207 since the war began on Oct. 7, it said.

The ministry doesn’t differentiate between civilians and combatants, but said two thirds of the dead are children and women. The Israeli military says it has killed 12,000 militants, without providing evidence.

The ministry said 75,933 people have been wounded.

The ministry said many casualties remain under the rubble and first responders have been unable to retrieve them amid the relentless bombing.

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have called on Israel to halt its military operations in Gaza and seek a peaceful solution to the conflict in line with UN resolutions.

The two countries made the demands in a joint statement on Monday after a meeting between Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Mecca.

The two sides called for international efforts “to halt Israeli military operations in Gaza, mitigate humanitarian impact and underscored the imperative for the international community to pressure Israel to cease hostilities, adhere to international law, and facilitate unhindered humanitarian aid access to Gaza,” according to the statement.

They also discussed the need for a peace process in accordance with UN resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative “aimed at finding a just and comprehensive solution, for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.”

BEIRUT — Israel’s military says it has killed a commander of Hezbollah’s secretive Radwan Force in southern Lebanon.

Ali Ahmad Hussein is one of the most senior militants killed since Israel and Hezbollah began exchanging fire at the start of the war in Gaza. His killing comes as regional tensions soar after an apparent Israeli attack last week on Iran’s consulate in Syria, threatening to spark a wider conflagration.

The Israeli military said two other Hezbollah militants were also killed in the strike early Monday.

Hezbollah announced the death of Ali Ahmad Hussein but did not give any details on the circumstances or his role within the group, in line with how they announce the deaths of their members.

The Israeli military said he was killed in an Israeli airstrike in the southern Lebanese village of Sultaniyeh. It said in a statement that Hussein was responsible for carrying out attacks on northern Israel.

Hezbollah militants and Israeli troops have clashed along the tense Lebanon-Israel border since Oct. 8. Hezbollah says it would stop firing rockets once a cease-fire is reached in the Gaza Strip that would end the Israel-Hamas war.

Israeli officials have been demanding that the Radwan Force withdraw from the border area in order to allow tens of thousands of displaced Israelis to return home.

MELBOURNE, Australia — Australia has appointed retired national defense chief Mark Binskin to look into how Israel Defense Forces came to kill seven World Central Kitchen aid workers, including Australian Zomi Frankcom, in Gaza last week.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Monday he expected Israel would fully cooperate with Binskin as Australia’s special adviser on Israel’s response to the missile strikes on three aid vehicles.

“We would expect that someone of Mr. Binskin’s stature, frankly, will be given every cooperation from the Israel Defense Forces and the Israeli government,” Albanese told Australian Broadcasting Corp.

“We don’t find the explanations to be satisfactory to this point,” Albanese added.

The seven aid workers’ deaths had “shaken the world,” Albanese said, adding it is “unacceptable” that almost 200 aid workers have died since the conflict began in October last year.

Binskin, who served as Australian Defense Force chief from 2014 to 2018, will advise the government on the “sufficiency and appropriateness of steps taken by the Israeli government” in response to the fatal attack, which the Israeli military has described as a tragic error, a government statement said.

TEL AVIV, Israel — Israeli authorities say a Palestinian prisoner convicted in the 1984 killing of a soldier has died in a hospital after he was battling cancer.

Walid Daqa, who was an Israeli citizen, was sentenced to life in prison following the killing of soldier Moshe Tamam. The Palestinian Prisoners Club, which represents former and current prisoners, said he was slated for release next year. He was one of the longest-serving Palestinian prisoners held by Israel. Israeli media said he died Sunday.

The plight of prisoners in Israeli jails is deeply sensitive to Palestinians, many of whom have relatives who have served time in Israeli prisons. Their conditions in prison are closely followed and deaths while in custody, even under natural circumstances, can heighten tensions, which are already high amid the war in Gaza.

The fate of the prisoners is under particularly close watch now because Israel is expected to release many as part of a deal that emerges between it and Hamas meant to bring about a cease-fire in the war and the release of hostages taken captive into Gaza.

The prisoners club said Israel had excluded Daqa from all previous prisoner exchange deals, as he had been characterized as a high-risk prisoner.

Hamas accused Israel of “deliberate medical negligence” in Daqa’s death. In a statement Monday, Israel’s National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir said Daqa died of natural causes.

JERUSALEM — Israel’s military announced Sunday it had withdrawn its forces from the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis, wrapping up a key phase in its ground offensive against the Hamas militant group and bringing its troop presence in the territory to one of the lowest levels since the six-month war began.

But defense officials said troops were merely regrouping as the army prepares to move into Hamas’ last stronghold, Rafah. “The war in Gaza continues, and we are far from stopping,” said the military chief, Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi.

Local broadcaster Channel 13 TV reported that Israel was preparing to begin evacuating Rafah within one week and the process could take several months.

Still, the withdrawal was a milestone as Israel and Hamas marked six months of fighting. Military officials, speaking on condition of anonymity under army policy, said a “significant force” remained in Gaza to continue targeted operations including in Khan Younis, hometown of the Hamas leader, Yehya Sinwar.

AP video in Khan Younis showed some people returning to a landscape marked by shattered multistory buildings and climbing over debris. Cars were overturned and charred. Southern Gaza’s main hospital, Nasser, was in shambles.

CAIRO — Israel’s military says it has recovered the body of a 47-year-old farmer who was held hostage in Gaza.

Israel’s army said Saturday it found the body of Elad Katzir and believed he was killed in January by militants with Islamic Jihad, one of the groups that entered southern Israel in the Oct. 7 attack, killed more than 1,200 people and took about 250 hostages. Katzir was abducted from Nir Oz, a border community that suffered some of the heaviest losses.

The discovery renewed pressure on Israel’s government for a deal to get the remaining hostages freed, and thousands gathered in Tel Aviv to call for a deal as well as early elections. Hostages’ families have long feared time is running out. At least 36 hostages have been confirmed dead. About half of the original number have been released.

“He could have been saved if a deal had happened in time,” Katzir’s sister Carmit said in a statement. “Our leadership is cowardly and driven by political considerations, and that is why (a deal) did not happen.”

Israelis are divided on the approach by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government. A week ago, tens of thousands of Israelis thronged central Jerusalem in the largest anti-government protest since the war began.