The Latest | Netanyahu dissolves war Cabinet that directed Gaza conflict, Israeli officials say – Metro US

The Latest | Netanyahu dissolves war Cabinet that directed Gaza conflict, Israeli officials say

Israel Palestinians
People take part in a protest against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, demanding new elections and the release of the hostages held in the Gaza Strip by the Hamas militant group, outside of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, in Jerusalem, Monday, June 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)

Israeli officials say Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has dissolved the influential war Cabinet that was tasked with steering the war in Gaza.

The three-person war Cabinet was dissolved a week after Benny Gantz, a popular opposition lawmaker and former military chief, quit Netanyahu’s governing coalition in frustration over how the war was being handled. In the early days of the war, Gantz demanded a small Cabinet with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant be formed as a way to sideline far-right lawmakers in Netanyahu’s government.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the change with the media, said Monday that going forward Netanyahu would hold smaller forums with some of his government members for sensitive issues.

Critics say Netanyahu’s wartime decision-making has been influenced by ultranationalists in his government who oppose a deal with Hamas for a cease-fire in exchange for the release of hostages. Those hard-line politicians have voiced support for the “voluntary migration” of Palestinians out of Gaza, currently home to some 2.3 million people, and a return to military occupation over the territory.

Netanyahu denies the accusations and says he has the country’s best interests in mind.

Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza has killed more than 37,100 people, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between combatants and civilians in its count. The war has largely cut off the flow of food, medicine and other supplies to Palestinians who are facing widespread hunger.

Israel launched the war after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack, in which militants stormed into southern Israel, killed some 1,200 people — mostly civilians — and abducted about 250.


— The war in Gaza is wiping out entire Palestinian families, one branch at a time. This is how

— AP documents 60 Palestinian families who lost dozens or more members in the war

— Israel’s army says it will pause daytime fighting along a route in southern Gaza to help flow of aid

Eight Israeli soldiers killed in southern Gaza in deadliest attack on Israeli forces in months

US aircraft carrier counters false Houthi claims with ‘Taco Tuesdays’ as deployment stretches on

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

Here’s the latest:

DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip — Palestinian health officials say nine people have been killed in an Israeli strike in eastern Rafah, a day after the Israeli military pledged new steps to increase the flow of humanitarian aid through the area.

Mohammed Daloul, who said he lost three relatives in Monday’s strike, said some of the people killed were merchants who were waiting to pick up deliveries near the Israeli border.

The European Hospital in the nearby city of Khan Younis confirmed the nine deaths.

Israel on Sunday declared a “tactical pause” in a section of eastern Rafah to allow trucks to reach Kerem Shalom, the main cargo crossing for goods entering from Israel. The U.N. and aid organizations say they have not been able to reach the crossing since Israel sent ground troops into Rafah in early May, resulting in large pileups of goods.

It was not immediately clear if the strike took place in the Israel-declared aid corridor and whether it was during the 11-hour window when Israel has pledged to allow trucks to move safely. The Israeli military had no immediate comment.

U.N. officials said earlier that they did not send any trucks to pick up supplies on Monday because of lingering concerns about the precarious security situation.

COGAT, the Israeli security body responsible for the aid shipments, said that only 62 trucks reached the Gazan side of the crossing on Monday — all of them privately owned.

WASHINGTON — A spokesman for the U.S. Department of State says the Biden administration plays no part in deciding who is and who is not part of Israel’s war Cabinet and will work with whatever government Israel decides on.

Matthew Miller spoke at a briefing for reporters on Monday, hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dissolved the influential war Cabinet following the departure days earlier of Benny Gantz, a centrist former military chief.

Miller said that though the Biden administration will not hesitate to speak out on policy differences with Israeli officials, it has no say on who makes up the government and that Israel can select its own leaders.

He also said the United States remains concerned about the amount of aid entering parts of Gaza because of attacks on trucks by what he called looters and criminals.

JERUSALEM — Israel’s military said they have killed more than 500 Hamas militants during the monthlong operation in Rafah, the southernmost city in the Gaza Strip.

The military said they had identified 20 smuggling tunnels which totaled more than 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) and more than 230 tunnel shafts. The army said that 100 of the tunnel shafts were in the Philadelphi corridor, a thin, demilitarized buffer zone along Gaza’s border with Egypt. Israel has long maintained that Hamas has significant tunnels in the Philadelphi corridor to smuggle weapons from Egypt into Gaza, a claim that Egypt denies. Future control over the Philadelphi corridor will be a major aspect of any cease-fire negotiations.

Hundreds of Palestinians have died during Israel’s operation in Rafah, including at least 45 people who were burned alive when a tent encampment located next to what Israel said

was a Hamas military building caught fire in May. Israel acknowledged that deaths were a “tragic mishap,” but even its closest allies have expressed outrage at the high toll of civilian deaths in Rafah and across Gaza. Israel insists it adheres to international law even as it faces scrutiny in the world’s top courts, one of which last month demanded that it halt the offensive in Rafah.

U.S. President Joe Biden had issued his strongest warning to Israel over the operation in Rafah, threatening that the U.S. could cut its supply of offensive weapons if Israel carried out a wide-ranging operation. Thus far, the Biden administration has said that Israel’s military maneuvers in Rafah do not yet cross their red line.

JERUSALEM — Tens of thousands of people who say they’ve lost faith in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu protested in Jerusalem on Monday, calling for immediate elections and an end to the war in Gaza.

Police scuffled with the protesters outside of Netanyahu’s residence, using water canons against those who burst through police barriers. Israeli media said eight protesters were arrested.

Many Israelis, anguished over the hostages still held in Gaza and the ongoing war, accuse Netanyahu of putting political interests ahead of all else. They accuse the government of having lost control of the 8-month-old war and demand a deal to stop the fighting and return the hostages.

Netanyahu denies the accusations and says he has the country’s best interests in mind.

The prime minister on Monday dissolved the influential war Cabinet that was tasked with steering the war in Gaza, a week after one of its three members quit Netanyahu’s coalition government. Benny Gantz, an opposition lawmaker, had joined the war Cabinet in the early days of the war as a show of national unity.

“We came to demonstrate again, the 50th time, we are here, in Tel Aviv, everywhere,” said protester Dror Katzman, “to get rid of this corrupted government, that does not release the hostages, that runs the war in a clumsy way and is responsible for the worst, worst terror attack on us since the Holocaust.”

Large anti-government protests have taken place weekly on Saturday night. Monday’s protest in Jerusalem was led by many of the same activists who led the protests against Netanyahu and his attempts to overhaul the judiciary in 2023.

Protesters marched from outside the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, to Netanyahu’s private residence carrying Israeli flags and chanting anti-government slogans.

“Because of you we are dying, get out of our lives” one protesters’ sign proclaimed, with a photo of Netanyahu and bloody handprints.

Others referenced the 11 soldiers killed in Gaza over the weekend, one of the deadliest for Israeli soldiers in months, holding a sign that read “Combat soldiers refuse to be killed because of Bibi,” using a nickname for Netanyahu.

JERUSALEM — The United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees has not yet sent aid convoys down a road the Israeli army promised to secure to help with distribution in Gaza’s hunger-ravaged south, a U.N. official told the AP Monday.

The U.N. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter with the media, said there were persistent concerns with law and order along the road despite Israeli assurances that it was safe for trucks to travel down the route.

International humanitarian officials have repeatedly said deliveries are impeded by Israeli inspections, ongoing fighting, and desperate residents taking cargo off aid trucks. Israeli ground troops have been operating in the southern city of Rafah since early May.

Israel said Sunday that it would observe “tactical pauses” along the road to allow deliveries from Kerem Shalom, a main aid crossing for the south to the city of Khan Younis that’s packed with displaced civilians.

As of Sunday, the humanitarian organizations no longer need to coordinate with Israeli forces to move their trucks along the route, said Shimon Freedman, a spokesperson for COGAT, the Israeli military body in charge of facilitating aid into the territory. Freedman said the military would protect the route so aid convoys could travel safely.

An Associated Press reporter stationed on the route saw about eight trucks traveling down the road Monday, although it was unclear who they belonged to. Before the Rafah operation, the number of trucks entering the strip’s south stood in the hundreds.

In a reminder of the challenging climate, the Israeli military said Palestinian militants fired a rocket that landed near the Kerem Shalom crossing late Monday. It said there were no injuries or damage.

AP writers Julia Frankel in Jerusalem and Mohammad Jahjouh in Rafah contributed to this report.

UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations is welcoming Israel’s announcement of a “tactical pause” in fighting on some roads in Gaza, and is hopeful this will lead to Israeli authorities lifting all obstacles to aid deliveries for all of the territory.

“As we have reiterated, humanitarian operations in Gaza must be fully facilitated, and all impediments must be lifted,” U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq told The Associated Press on Monday. “We need to be able to deliver aid safely throughout Gaza.”

The Israeli military on Sunday announced a “tactical pause” in daytime fighting along roads leading from Kerem Shalom, a main goods crossing with southern Israel, to a north-south highway in Gaza. Shimon Freedman, a spokesman for COGAT, an Israeli defense body that oversees aid distribution in Gaza, said Monday the U.N. has yet to “take full advantage of the new route.”

In welcoming the announcement, Haq said, “The U.N. and its humanitarian partners are ready to engage with all parties to ensure critical, lifesaving assistance reaches those in need across Gaza, where catastrophic hunger is widespread.”

“We hope this leads to further concrete measures by Israel to address longstanding issues preventing a meaningful humanitarian response in Gaza,” he said.

With the war between Israel and Hamas in its ninth month, Haq said, displaced Palestinians in Gaza urgently need food, water, sanitation, shelter and healthcare, “with many living near piles of solid waste, heightening health risks.”

He said Israel needs to ensure that the movement of aid convoys and staff members through checkpoints is expedited, that all roads are operational, and that fuel — which is in critically short supply — enters Gaza regularly.

“It means providing the necessary communications equipment and logistical materials, which have long been denied by Israeli authorities,” Haq said.

“And most importantly, the rule of law must be addressed immediately,” he said. “Desperation and scarcity of aid have led to a near-total breakdown in law and order.”

Meanwhile, U.N. humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said in an opinion piece in The New York Times that the impoverished and blockaded Gaza Strip has been turned into “hell on earth” as famine looms.

He said humanitarian aid is obstructed and politicized while hunger and disease spread, “and humanitarian workers, health care workers, and journalists have all endured unacceptable losses.”

JERUSALEM — A top U.S. diplomat tasked with quelling tensions between Israel and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah has arrived in Israel for talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other top leaders.

Amos Hochstein, a senior adviser to President Joe Biden, arrived Monday at a time of heightened tensions between Israel and Hezbollah. Few details were made public about the visit, which was announced by Netanyahu’s office.

Also Monday, Israel’s military said it killed a member of the Hezbollah militant group in a strike in southern Lebanon. Hezbollah has not claimed any attack on northern Israel since Saturday night.

The ongoing fighting has raised concerns that tensions could escalate into a full-blown war. Hochstein is expected to travel to Lebanon on Tuesday

The Iran-backed militant group began attacking Israel almost immediately after the Israel-Hamas war erupted on Oct. 7, with daily exchanges of fire since. In recent weeks, the exchanges have intensified, sparking fires that have burned trees and grassland on both sides of the border.

Israel killed one of Hezbollah’s top commanders in south Lebanon last week, sparking a huge barrage of rocket fire from the militant group toward Israel.

Israel and Hezbollah fought a month-long war in 2006 that ended in a stalemate. Hezbollah is the Arab world’s most significant paramilitary force with a robust internal structure as well as a sizable arsenal. It seeks to exert pressure in support of its Palestinian ally Hamas during elusive negotiations with Israel over a cease-fire in Gaza.

BEIRUT — A member of the Hezbollah militant group was killed by an Israeli drone strike on a car in southern Lebanon, the country’s state-run National News Agency reported.

The airstrike came as Hezbollah has not claimed any attack on northern Israel since Saturday night, apparently because of the Muslim feast of Eid al-Adha that began Sunday morning.

The drop in Hezbollah attacks also came shortly before a visit to the region by a top U.S. official for talks on calming tensions on the border. Amos Hochstein, a senior adviser to U.S. President Joe Biden, arrived in Israel Monday and is set to meet with Lebanese officials in Beirut on Tuesday. He has made several trips to the region in recent months.

Hezbollah issued a statement later Monday identifying the member killed in the drone strike near the village of Chehabiyeh as Mohammed Ayoub.

The Israeli military said Ayoub was a key operative in Hezbollah’s rocket and missile department in the group’s Nasr Unit, which is active along the border. It said Ayoub was involved in recent months in promoting and planning attacks from southern Lebanon against Israel.

Israel said it killed Ayoub as part of its activities “to impede Hezbollah’s military build-up in terms of weaponry and its stockpiling of weapons” that would be used against Israel.

After the Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza broke out in October, the Lebanese-Israeli border has witnessed almost daily exchanges of fire between Hezbollah and Israeli troops. Hezbollah says it will only stop fighting when Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip ends.

Since Oct. 8., more than 400 people have been killed in Lebanon — most of them Hezbollah fighters but also more than 70 civilians and non-combatants. On the Israeli side, at least 15 soldiers and 10 civilians have been killed.

TEL AVIV, Israel — Israel’s Defense Ministry said Monday that the country made record sales last year in defense exports.

The Ministry said the country made $13 billion in sales in 2023, a period that includes the Hamas attack against Israel on Oct. 7 and the first three months of the war it sparked.

With the war now stretching into its ninth month and with no end in sight, the figure may not entirely reflect the impact of the war on Israel’s ability to sell defense products to foreign countries.

Israel has faced mounting global isolation over its conduct during the war in Gaza. On Monday, a major defense and security industry show outside Paris said a French court has banned Israeli exhibitors from participating, following a government decision on the matter.

The ministry said a third of the exports were missile, rocket and air defense systems. They also included radar, weapon launchers and cyber systems, among others.

Nearly half of exports went to Asia and the Pacific region, while 35% went to Europe, the ministry said, adding that 3% of exports went to Arab countries that normalized ties with Israel over recent years.

KEREM SHALOM CROSSING, Israel — Israel said Monday the United Nations, the main aid provider in war-ravaged Gaza, is yet to “take full advantage” of a new route meant to ease the flow of aid into the enclave.

The military announced on Sunday a “tactical pause” in daytime fighting along roads leading from a main goods crossing to a north-south highway. The route is meant to help address a backlog of aid waiting for pickup on the Gaza side of the crossing.

“We have not seen the U.N. take full advantage of this step,” said Shimon Freedman, a spokesman for COGAT, an Israeli defense body that oversees aid distribution in Gaza. Freedman was speaking at a briefing for reporters at the Kerem Shalom crossing.

Jens Laerke, spokesperson for the U.N. humanitarian office, said workers on the ground were unable to use the route on Sunday, blaming a breakdown in law and order in the territory.

At the Israeli briefing, officials did not say how many trucks had made use of the route.

Freedman said the route would have military presence and Israeli military spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said Israel would “make sure the road is safe.”

Israeli authorities have continually said the lack of aid reaching desperate Palestinians in Gaza is due to the failure of the U.N. to distribute supplies within the war-stricken territory. Meanwhile, the U.N. has blamed Israel for enforcing unnecessary and drawn-out inspection procedures at the crossing, and said that fighting in Gaza, along with violence and truck looting, has hampered their distribution efforts.

Freedman said there were more than 1,000 trucks on the Gaza side of the crossing waiting to be picked up for delivery.

TEL AVIV, Israel — Israeli officials say Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has dissolved the influential war Cabinet that was tasked with steering the war in Gaza.

The war Cabinet was dissolved following the departure from the government of Benny Gantz, an opposition lawmaker who had joined the coalition in the early days of the war. He had demanded that a small Cabinet be formed as a way to sideline far-right lawmakers in Netanyahu’s government. Gantz, Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant were its members and they made key decisions together throughout the war.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the change with the media, said Monday that going forward, Netanyahu would hold smaller forums with some of his government members for sensitive issues.

Gantz, a longtime political rival of Netanyahu’s, joined the government as a show of unity after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel. He left the government earlier this month, citing frustration with Netanyahu’s handling of the war.

Critics say Netanyahu’s wartime decision-making has been influenced by ultranationalists in his government who oppose a deal that would bring about a cease-fire in exchange for the release of hostages. They have voiced support for “voluntary migration” of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip and reoccupying the territory.

Netanyahu denies the accusations and says he has the country’s best interests in mind.

Associated Press writer Tia Goldenberg contributed to this report from Tel Aviv, Israel.

VILLEPINTE, France — A major defense and security industry show outside Paris says a French court has banned Israeli exhibitors from participating.

Event organizers said in a press release posted at the entrance of the Eurosatory exhibition, seen Monday by Associated Press journalists, that the court order issued Friday prohibited “the participation of employees or representatives, of any nationality whatsoever, of Israeli companies” in the show.

“In addition, all exhibiting companies are prohibited from receiving, selling or promoting Israeli weapons,” the press release said. It also said exhibitors cannot act as intermediaries at the show for Israeli companies “in any way whatsoever.”

It did not say what motivated the court’s decision. But it said the ruling came on the heels of a French government decision two weeks ago to prohibit Israeli companies from exhibiting at the show “in the current context.”

The event organizers said they’ll appeal the court decision “as soon as possible.” The Eurosatory exhibition, held every two years at Villepinte northeast of Paris, opened Monday and runs to Friday.

JERUSALEM — Israel’s military announced on Sunday that it would pause fighting during daytime hours along a route in southern Gaza to free up a backlog of humanitarian aid deliveries for desperate Palestinians enduring a humanitarian crisis sparked by the war, now in its ninth month.

The “tactical pause,” which applies to about 12 kilometers (7½ miles) of road in the Rafah area, falls far short of a complete cease-fire in the territory that has been sought by the international community, including Israel’s top ally, the United States. It could help address the overwhelming needs of Palestinians that have surged in recent weeks with Israel’s incursion into Rafah.

The army said that the daily pause would begin at 8 a.m. and last until 7 p.m. and continue until further notice. It’s aimed at allowing aid trucks to reach the nearby Israel-controlled Kerem Shalom crossing, the main entry point, and travel safely to the Salah a-Din highway, a main north-south road, the military said. The crossing has had a bottleneck since Israeli ground troops moved into Rafah in early May.

COGAT, the Israeli military body that oversees aid distribution in Gaza, said the route would increase the flow of aid to other parts of Gaza, including Khan Younis, the coastal area of Muwasi and central Gaza. Hard-hit northern Gaza, an early target in the war, is served by goods entering from the north.