Mon, Dec 11, 2023 10:50 PM
By The Associated Press, AP
Israel says it's prepared to fight for months or longer to defeat Gaza's Hamas rulers, as its ground offense intensifies with more airstrikes and artillery fire.
Israel faces international outrage after its military offensive has killed more than 17,700 Palestinians in Gaza, around two-thirds of them women and children, according to the Health Ministry in the Hamas-controlled territory. About 90% of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have been displaced within the besieged territory, where United Nations agencies say there is no safe place to flee.
With only a trickle of humanitarian aid reaching a small portion of Gaza, residents face severe shortages of food, water and other basic goods. Some observers worry that Palestinians will be forced out of Gaza altogether.
Israel says 97 of its soldiers have died in its ground offensive after Hamas raided southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking about 240 hostages. Qatar, which has played a key mediating role, says efforts to stop the war and have all hostages released will continue, but a willingness to discuss a cease-fire is fading.
— A Norwegian-owned ship was reportedly attacked near Yemen as threats from Houthi rebels grow.
— Blinken defends bypassing Congress to sell weapons to Israel.
— Holocaust survivors will mark Hanukkah amid worries over war in Israel, global rise of antisemitism.
— U.S. vetoes U.N. resolution backed by many nations demanding immediate humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza.
— Find more of AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war
Here’s what’s happening in the war:
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — A missile suspected to have been fired by Yemen’s Houthi rebels slammed into a Norwegian-flagged tanker in the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen, a key maritime chokepoint, authorities said Tuesday.
The assault on the oil and chemical tanker, Strinda, expands a campaign by the Iranian-backed rebels targeting ships near the Bab el-Mandeb Strait into apparently now striking those that have no clear ties to Israel. That potentially imperils cargo and energy shipments coming through the Suez Canal and further widen the international impact of the Israel-Hamas war now raging in the Gaza Strip.
The Houthis did not immediately claim responsibility for the attack, though rebel military spokesperson Brig. Gen. Yahya Saree said an important announcement would be coming from them soon.
Private intelligence firms, as well as Geir Belsnes, the CEO of the Strinda’s operator J. Ludwig Mowinckels Rederi, confirmed the attack took place.
“All crew members are unhurt and safe,” Belsnes said. “The vessel is now proceeding to a safe port.”
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The pan-Arab broadcaster Al Jazeera says an Israeli bombing in the Gaza Strip’s Jabalia refugee camp killed the father of one of its journalists reporting on the Israel-Hamas war from within the enclave.
The bombing that killed the 90-year-old father of Anas al-Sharif “comes after a series of threats received by the correspondent last November in an attempt to deter him from carrying out his duty," the network said late Monday.
It’s “a continuation of targeting the families of the Network’s correspondents and of those working with Al Jazeera in Gaza to conceal the truth and the crimes committed by the Israeli occupation forces,” the Qatar-funded satellite network said.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists also condemned the bombing and reiterated “its call for the protection of journalists in Gaza and their family members.”
JERUSALEM — Israel says it is opening a second crossing to inspect cargo entering the Gaza Strip — a step meant to increase the amount of humanitarian aid for the besieged territory.
Israeli security officials said the Kerem Shalom crossing would open Tuesday for inspections of Gaza-bound goods. Currently, Israel’s Nitzana crossing is the only inspection point in operation.
Israel has greatly restricted the amount of goods entering Gaza since war with Hamas erupted Oct. 7, causing shortages in food, medicine and basic supplies. The United Nations and international aid agencies have warned of a humanitarian crisis.
Israel does not allow any aid to enter Gaza directly. Instead, it inspects all Gaza-bound cargo before it is delivered by the aid organizations through Egypt.
In a joint statement, the Israeli military and COGAT, a defense agency responsible for Palestinian civilian affairs, said the opening of Kerem Shalom would “improve and upgrade the capabilities and volume of security screening of the humanitarian aid being admitted into the Gaza Strip.”
White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said the United States is “concerned” about reports that Israel deployed U.S.-provided white phosphorus munitions in October in southern Lebanon.
“We’ve seen the reports — certainly concerned about that,” Kirby said. “We’ll be asking questions to try to learn a little bit more.”
Reports about possible use of white phosphorous munitions by Israel were first reported Monday by the Washington Post. Kirby said white phosphorus does have a “legitimate military utility” when used for illumination and producing smoke to conceal movements.
“Obviously, anytime that we provide items like white phosphorus to another military, it is with a full expectation that it will be used in keeping with those legitimate purposes and in keeping with the law of armed conflict.”
Kirby said the administration has repeatedly made clear that it does not want to see a second front open in the Israel-Hamas war.
“We absolutely don’t want to see this conflict spill over into Lebanon,” Kirby said. “And so it is also in the context of that we’re concerned about these reports.”
ROME — The French, German and Italian foreign ministers are pushing for speedy adoption of new EU sanctions against Hamas for its “atrocious and indiscriminate terror attacks” against Israel on Oct. 7.
“The swift adoption of this sanctions regime will allow us to send a strong political message about the European Union’s commitment against Hamas and our solidarity with Israel," the three ministers wrote in a letter Monday to Josep Borrell, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs.
The letter does not detail possible sanctions, but said it should enable the targeting of Hamas members, affiliated groups and supporters. The ministers said they broadly support a framework that Borrell outlined last week.
Foreign ministers of the 27-member bloc are meeting in Brussels on Monday. The EU on Friday froze the funds and other assets in Europe of the commander general of Hamas’ military wing, Mohammed Deif, and deputy commander Marwan Issa.
UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. General Assembly has scheduled an emergency meeting on Tuesday to vote on a draft resolution demanding an immediate humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza.
Assembly President Dennis Francis sent a letter to the 193 U.N. member states on Sunday saying the meeting had been requested by the 22-member Arab Group and 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador to the United Nations, told The Associated Press that the draft resolution to be voted on Tuesday afternoon is similar to the Security Council resolution the United States vetoed on Friday.
Mansour said that resolution was cosponsored by 103 countries and he is hoping for more cosponsors and a high vote for the General Assembly resolution when it is put to a vote.
There are no vetoes in the General Assembly, but unlike the Security Council its resolutions are not legally binding. They are important nonetheless as a barometer of global opinion.
WASHINGTON — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has defended the emergency sale to Israel of nearly 14,000 rounds of tank ammunition and also called for quick congressional approval of more than $100 billion in aid for Israel, Ukraine and other national security priorities.
Blinken said the needs of Israel’s military operations in Gaza justify the rare decision to bypass Congress. “Israel is in combat right now with Hamas,” he said during television interviews on Sunday. “And we want to make sure that Israel has what it needs to defend itself against Hamas.”
The tank ammunition and related support constitute only a small portion of military sales to Israel and the rest remains subject to congressional review, Blinken said. “It’s very important that Congress‘ voice be heard in this,” he said.
The decision to proceed with the sale of more than $106 million in tank shells came as the Biden administration’s larger aid package is caught up in a debate over U.S. immigration policy and border security.
BERLIN — Holocaust survivors from around the globe will mark the start of the fifth day of Hanukkah together with a virtual ceremony as Jews worldwide worry about the Israel-Hamas war and a spike of antisemitism in Europe, the United States and elsewhere.
Survivors can join an online ceremony of a menorah lighting on Monday to pay tribute to the 6 million European Jews killed by the Nazis in the Holocaust.
Several dozen survivors were also expected to gather in person for a menorah lighting at Jerusalem’s Western Wall — the holiest place where Jews can pray.
The New York-based Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany is organizing the event in observance of International Holocaust Survivors Night.
WASHINGTON — U.S. President Joe Biden is hosting a White House reception on Monday to mark Hanukkah, celebrating the Jewish holiday as he has continued to denounce rising antisemitism in the U.S. and abroad during the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.
Hanukkah continues through Friday.
The Biden administration in May announced what it called the first-ever national strategy to counter antisemitism. That laid out more than 100 actions, including a series of steps to raise awareness and understanding of antisemitism and the threat it poses around the U.S.
Still, antisemitism has only intensified in some quarters since the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas and other militants sparked Israel’s ongoing war in Gaza, which faces heightened criticism for the mounting Palestinian death toll.
Philippe Lazzarini, the commissioner-general of the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, said Israel appears to be trying to clear Gaza of its Palestinian population through its military offensive and evacuation orders.
“The developments we are witnessing point to attempts to move Palestinians into Egypt, regardless of whether they stay there or are resettled elsewhere,” he wrote in the Los Angeles Times.
On Sunday, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi also accused Israel of being determined to push Palestinians out of Gaza. “We are seeing a systematic effort, it seems, to empty Gaza from its people,” he said at a conference in Doha, Qatar.
Eylon Levy, an Israeli government spokesperson, called the allegations “outrageous and false.”
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has asked for continued prayers for populations suffering from war.
“We’re getting near Christmas. Will we be able, with the help of God, to take concrete steps of peace?” the pontiff asked the public gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his weekly window appearance on Sunday. “It’s not easy, we know, some conflicts have historic roots that are deep.”
“But we have also the witness of men and women who have worked with wisdom and patience for peaceful coexistence,” he said.
He called for “every effort to face and remove causes of conflicts.” Invoking human rights, Francis also urged that civilians, hospitals and houses of worship be protected and that hostages be freed and the delivery of humanitarian aid guaranteed.
PARIS — France says one of its warships in the Red Sea was targeted by drones coming from Yemen and shot them down.
A short statement on Sunday from the Armies Ministry did not say who fired the two drones at the French Navy frigate Languedoc on Saturday night.
It said they came directly at the ship two hours apart from the direction of Yemen. The ministry said the warship intercepted and destroyed both of them about 110 kilometers (70 miles) off the Red Sea port of Al Hudaydah on the Yemeni coast.
It did not say what weapons the Languedoc used to bring down the drones. The frigate is on a French Navy mission in the Red Sea.
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 in the week, photos emerged of 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 spokesperson 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 site of intense battles in recent days.