The Palestinian death toll in Gaza from the Israel-Hamas war has surpassed 17,700, around two-thirds of them women and children, according to the Health Ministry in the Hamas-controlled territory.
Israel’s ground offensive in southern Gaza Strip intensified on Saturday with further airstrikes and artillery fire, a day after the United States blocked a U.N. resolution calling for a cease-fire.
Israel says 97 of its soldiers have died in the ground offensive after Hamas raided southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking about 240 hostages.
Amid concerns about a wider conflict, Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen threatened to prevent any ship heading to Israeli ports from passing through the Red Sea and Arabian Sea until food and medicine can enter Gaza freely. With only a trickle of humanitarian aid reaching a small portion of Gaza, residents have reported severe food shortages.
Despite growing international pressure, President Joe Biden’s administration remains opposed to an open-ended cease-fire, arguing it would enable Hamas to continue posing a threat to Israel. The administration approved the emergency sale to Israel of nearly 14,000 rounds of tank ammunition worth more than $106 million, the State Department said.
— U.S. vetoes U.N. resolution backed by many nations demanding immediate humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza
— ‘Shadows of children:’ For the youngest hostages, life moves forward in whispers
— Bloodshed, fear, hunger, desperation: Palestinians try to survive war’s new chapter in southern Gaza
— Find more of AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war
Here’s what’s happening in the war:
HOUTHIS AIM TO BLOCK RED SEA SHIP TRAFFIC TO ISRAEL
BEIRUT — Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen threatened Saturday to prevent any ship heading to Israeli ports from passing through the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea until enough food and medicine are allowed into the Gaza Strip.
Iran-backed fighters in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen have claimed responsibility for attacks on Israeli and U.S. targets since the Israel-Hamas war broke out.
Over the past weeks, the Houthis have attacked several vessels in the Red Sea, as well as launching drones and missiles targeting Israel.
On Dec. 3, ballistic missiles fired by the Houthis struck three commercial ships in the Red Sea, while a U.S. warship shot down three drones in self-defense during the hourslong assault.
In November, the Houthis seized a vehicle transport ship linked to Israel in the Red Sea off Yemen. The rebels still hold the vessel near the port city of Hodeida.
Houthi military spokesman Brig. Gen. Yahya Saree said in a televised speech Saturday evening that all ships heading to Israel, no matter their nationality, will be a target unless aid is allowed to enter Gaza freely.
“We warn all ships and companies against dealing with Israeli ports,” Saree said. He said Houthis have no intention to interrupt international trade “except for the ships that carry products to Israeli ports.”
He said the decision goes into effect immediately.
AID GROUPS CALL FOR U.N. TO TRY AGAIN AT CEASE-FIRE RESOLUTION
NEW YORK — The International Rescue Committee and seven other aid agencies have called for the U.N. Security Council to pass a resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire and the release of hostages held by Hamas,
The statement late Friday came hours after a similar Security Council cease-fire resolution was vetoed by the United States.
“This was a missed opportunity to stop the violence,” said the joint statement by aid groups including Mercy Corps, Oxfam and Save the Children.
“The only way for civilian lives to be protected and for adequate humanitarian assistance to be provided is for the fighting to stop,” the groups said.
ISRAELI AND GERMAN LEADERS DISCUSS WAR IN PHONE CALL
BERLIN — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed the ground offensive in southern Gaza with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in a phone call on Saturday, Scholz’s office said.
The two leaders “spoke about the necessary efforts for the greatest possible protection of civilians and a substantial improvement of the humanitarian situation of people in the Gaza Strip,” according to a statement.
It added that Scholz “stressed that more humanitarian aid must reach people in the Gaza Strip and this must happen on a reliable basis,” and that the leaders discussed the situation in the West Bank and “acts of violence by settlers.”
The statement doesn’t specify who initiated the call.
MEN AND BOYS IN GAZA SAY THEY WERE BEATEN BY ISRAELI TROOPS
DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip — Several men and a teenage boy released from five days of detention and interrogation by Israeli troops said Saturday that they were beaten, given only minimal water and often prevented from using the toilet.
They spoke to The Associated Press at a hospital in the central Gaza town of Deir al-Balah. Several had bruises on their bodies or deep cuts from zip ties.
The Israeli military had no immediate comment when asked about the alleged abuse.
The detainees shed more light on what appears to be a widening army practice of rounding up teenage boys and men as troops sweep through neighborhoods. Earlier this week, photos emerged showing soldiers guarding dozens of men who were kneeling or sitting in the streets, stripped down to their underwear, with hands tied behind their backs.
A government spokesman said Friday that those being rounded up were being interrogated to determine if they had ties to Hamas militants.
The detainees released Saturday said they had been pulled out of a building in the Shujaiyah area of Gaza City, a scene of intense battles in recent days.
One of those freed, Osama Oula said troops ordered all men to come down to the street in their underwear. He said the men were were taken to a yard, handcuffed and dropped off at a warehouse.
During days of questioning, the men were beaten and forced to walk or sleep on raw rice, causing great pain, he said.
Another man, Ahmad Nimr Salman, said older men suffering from diabetes, high blood pressure or heart problems were ignored when they asked soldiers to remove their zip ties. Salman showed his swollen hands from the zip ties that left clear dark marks on his wrists.
Salman said his 17-year-old son Amjad is still held by the troops.
Soldiers would ask the detainees if they are with Hamas. If the answer was no, “they would slap or kick us,” he said.
After five days, the group was released and told to walk south. Ten freed detainees arrived at the hospital in Deir al-Balah on Saturday after flagging down an ambulance.
BIDEN APPROVES EMERGENCY TANK AMMUNITION SALE TO ISRAEL
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden’s administration has approved the emergency sale to Israel of nearly 14,000 rounds of tank ammunition worth more than $106 million as it intensifies its military operations in the southern Gaza Strip, the State Department said Saturday.
The department said it had notified Congress of the sale late Friday after Secretary of State Antony Blinken determined that “an emergency exists that requires the immediate sale” of the munitions in the U.S. national security interest.
The emergency determination means that the purchase will bypass the congressional review requirement for foreign military sales. Such determinations are rare, but not unprecedented, when administrations see an urgent need for weapons to be delivered without waiting for congressional approval.
“The United States is committed to the security of Israel, and it is vital to U.S. national interests to assist Israel to develop and maintain a strong and ready self-defense capability,” the department said in a statement. “Israel will use the enhanced capability as a deterrent to regional threats and to strengthen its homeland defense.”
The sale is worth $106.5 million and includes 13,981 120 mm High Explosive Anti-Tank Multi-Purpose with Tracer tank cartridges as well as U.S. support, engineering and logistics.
NEPHEW OF MEMBER OF ISRAEL’S WAR CABINET KILLED IN GAZA
JERUSALEM — A nephew of a member of Israel’s War Cabinet has been killed while fighting in Gaza, dealing another blow to the family of former military chief Gadi Eizenkot, whose son died in battle earlier this week.
The Israeli military said Saturday that Sgt. Major Cohen Eizenkot, 19, died in a battle in southern Gaza.
His uncle, Gadi Eizenkot, served as military chief of staff from 2015 to 2019. He joined the newly formed War Cabinet as an observer on Oct. 12.
More than 90 Israeli soldiers have been killed so far in combat in Gaza.
GAZA HOSPITALS REPORT 133 DEAD IN PAST 24 HOURS
DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip — Two hospitals in central and southern Gaza received the bodies of 133 people killed in Israeli bombings over the past 24 hours, the Health Ministry in the Hamas-run territory said Saturday.
Seventy-one bodies were brought to the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Hospital in the central city of Deir al-Balah. The hospital also received 160 wounded people, the ministry said.
Dozens of people were holding funeral prayers Saturday morning in the hospital’s courtyard, before taking the bodies for burial — a scene that has become routine over the past two months of war.
In the southern city of Khan Younis, which has been the focus of Israel’s military operations over the past week, Nasser Hospital received the bodies of 62 people, the ministry said.
The hospital, which is one of the main medical facilities still operating in southern Gaza, also received 99 wounded people, the ministry added.
AN ISRAELI HOSTAGE IS REPORTED DEAD
JERUSALEM — An Israeli man who was taken hostage by Hamas militants has died in captivity, his community announced Saturday.
His captors said Sahar Baruch was killed during a failed rescue mission by Israeli forces early Friday. The Israeli military has only confirmed that two soldiers were seriously wounded in an attempted hostage rescue and that no hostages were freed.
Baruch, 25, was among about 240 people taken hostage during Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel, in which militants from Gaza also killed about 1,200 people. Baruch’s brother was killed in the attack on their community, Kibbutz Be’eri.
The kibbutz confirmed Sahar Baruch’s death Saturday.
More than 130 hostages remain in captivity.
2 PALESTINIANS KILLED IN THE WEST BANK
JERUSALEM — Israeli forces shot and killed a Palestinian man in the West Bank on Saturday and a second Palestinian man died from wounds he sustained in an Israeli raid the day before, health officials said.
The deaths brought to 274 the number of Palestinians killed in the occupied territory since the start of the Israel-Hamas war two months ago. Most of the Palestinians were killed during shootouts that the Israeli military says began during operations to arrest suspected militants.
The Palestinian Health Ministry said a 25-year-old man died of his wounds Saturday after being shot during an arrest raid in the Faraa refugee camp on Friday, bringing the death toll there to seven. Among those killed was a local commander of the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade.
Also Saturday, Israeli forces killed a 25-year-old Palestinian man during a raid on his home near the city of Hebron. The military said the man had shot at a military post earlier in the week. During the raid Saturday, the military said that he attacked soldiers with a knife, injuring one.