Gaza Strip (AP) Israeli airstrikes hit two refugee camps in the central Gaza Strip on Sunday, killing scores of people, health officials said. The strikes came as the U.S. keeps urging Israel to take a humanitarian pause from its relentless bombardment of Gaza and rising civilian deaths.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken traveled to Ramallah in the West Bank for a previously unannounced meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Blinken on Saturday met with Arab foreign ministers in Jordan, after holding talks in Israel with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who insists there could be no temporary cease-fire until all hostages held by Hamas are released. President Joe Biden suggested that progress was being made on the humanitarian pause.
The Palestinian death toll in the Israel-Hamas war reached 9,700, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza. In the occupied West Bank, more than 140 Palestinians have been killed in violence and Israeli raids.
More than 1,400 people in Israel have been killed, most of them in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack that started the fighting, and 242 hostages were taken from Israel into Gaza by the militant group.
Roughly 1,100 people have left the Gaza Strip through the Rafah crossing since Wednesday under an apparent agreement among the United States, Egypt, Israel and Qatar, which mediates with Hamas.
1. Blinken meets Palestinian leader in West Bank, stepping up Mideast diplomacy as Gaza war escalates.
2. Protest marches from U.S. to Berlin call for immediate halt to bombing.
3. These numbers show the staggering toll of the Israel-Hamas war.
4. Israel deports thousands of Palestinian workers back to Gaza’s war zone.
5. A U.N. official says the average Palestinian in Gaza is living on two pieces of bread a day.
6. Find more of AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war.
Here’s what is happening in the latest Israel-Hamas war:
ISRAEL AMBASSADOR TO US CALLS GAZA THE WORLD’S “BIGGEST TERROR COMPLEX”
Michael Hertzog, the Israeli ambassador to the U.S., says Gaza is “the biggest terror complex in the world,” with tens of thousands of fighters and rockets, among other weaponry — and 310 miles (500 kilometers) of underground tunnels.
“This is what we’re up against. And we have to uproot it, because if we do not, they will strike again and again,” Hertzog told CBS’ “Face the Nation” in an interview aired Sunday.
He also said Israel was making every effort to distinguish between “terrorists and the civilian population” in its war with the Hamas militant group that rules Gaza.
“This is a very complicated military operation in a densely populated area, and we’re trying to move the population away from that war zone,” he said.
FORMER PRESIDENT OBAMA SAYS ALL SIDES OF CONFLICT ARE “COMPLICIT TO SOME DEGREE”
Former President Barack Obama says “nobody’s hands are clean” in the Israel-Hamas war and acknowledged that he’s questioned in recent days whether his administration could have done more to push for a durable peace when he was in power.
“If you want to solve the problem, then you have to take in the whole truth,” Obama said in an interview on “Pod Save America.” “And you then have to admit nobody’s hands are clean. That all of us are complicit to some degree.” The former president went on to tell his interviewers, Obama administration alumni Dan Pfeiffer and Tommy Vietor, that he has asked himself since the start of the war, “Was there something else I could have done?”
The former president did make an attempt at peace between Israel and Palestinians during his second term, but months of talks collapsed in 2014 amid disagreements on Israeli settlements, the release of Palestinian prisoners and other issues.
“I look at this and I think back what could I have done during my presidency to move this forward — as hard as I tried, I’ve got the scars to prove it,” Obama said in excerpts of interview released on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.
The entire interview is scheduled to be released on Tuesday.
GAZA EXPERIENCES THIRD COMMUNICATIONS BLACKOUT SINCE START OF WAR
JERUSALEM — Gaza on Sunday fell under its third total communications blackout since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas.
Palestinian communications company Paltel announced that all of its “communication and internet services” were down once again. Internet-access advocacy group NetBlocks.org confirmed that communications were curtailed across the besieged enclave.
Alp Toker, the group’s executive director, said that the blackout was likely to be experienced by most residents as a total or near-total loss of connectivity.
Juliette Touma, spokesperson for the Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA, told The Associated Press that the agency has lost communication with most of its team.
STATE-RUN NEWS IN IRAN SAYS SUPREME LEADER HAS MET WITH HAMAS LEADER
TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency says the country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei met with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh.
The date of the meeting was not disclosed in the report on Sunday.
According to IRNA, Khamenei praised the patience and endurance of the people of Gaza and emphasized Iran’s policy in supporting the Palestinians in the war between Israel and Hamas.
Khamenei urged Islamic countries and international organizations to take serious actions in support of Gaza’s people.
Israel’s military last week accused Haniyeh, who lives in exile, of flying to Iran on a “private jet” as the people of Gaza suffer in a devastating Israeli offensive against Hamas.
Israel accuses Iran of destabilizing the region by supporting proxies like Hamas and the Hezbollah group in Lebanon.
NEW US AMBASSADOR TO ISRAEL SAYS RELEASE OF HOSTAGES IS A TOP PRIORITY
JERUSALEM — Israel’s president received the diplomatic credentials of the newly minted U.S. ambassador to Israel on Sunday, with both men expressing the strong bond between the two countries during wartime.
Ambassador Jacob Lew said he had met with the families of those held hostage in Gaza during his visit, and that the release of the hostages was a top priority for the U.S. He reiterated U.S. support for Israel in the war effort.
“As President Biden has said so passionately, Israel has a right and indeed a responsibility to defend this nation and its people in a manner that reflects the values that we share,” Lew said.
President Isaac Herzog thanked Lew and said he was “speaking for all Israelis when I say: never has American friendship been more evident or more valued than it is right now.”
ISRAELI TROOPS FIND WEAPONS CACHE IN GAZA
JERUSALEM — The Israeli military said Sunday that it discovered an extensive stash of weapons in a home in Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip as it searched the area. It found rifles, grenades, explosives, suicide drones and missiles in the residence, bringing some of the weapons back to Israel to inspect them. The military said that forces had also destroyed a nearby explosives lab.
US FORCES SHOOT DOWN ATTACK DRONE NEAR BASE IN SYRIA
WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. forces shot down another one-way attack drone Sunday that was targeting American and coalition troops near their base in Tel Baider, Syria, a U.S. official said on the condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss the strike.
There was no information immediately available on the origin of the attack drone, but it marked at least the 32nd attack on U.S. and coalition military facilities in Iraq and Syria since Oct. 17. To date there have been at least 17 attacks in Iraq and 15 in Syria. At least 21 servicemembers have been injured by the attacks but all have returned to duty, the Pentagon said.
RELATIVES OF SCOTLAND’S FIRST MINISTER RETURN HOME FROM GAZA
LONDON — Scotland’s first minister Humza Yousaf says his in-laws have returned home after being allowed to leave the Gaza Strip. The parents of his wife, Nadia El-Nakla, were visiting relatives when the conflict erupted on Oct. 7, trapping them in Gaza.
Elizabeth and Maged El-Nakla were among about 100 British nationals permitted to pass through the Rafah border crossing into Egypt on Friday. But they had to leave behind Maged El-Nakla’s mother, son and grandchildren.
“We are, of course, elated. But my father-in-law said, ‘My heart is broken in two,’” Yousaf said on X. “He then broke down telling me how hard it was saying goodbye to them.”
Yousaf has regularly shared updates on his in-laws’ plight including that they had to drink sea water. He said his brother-in-law is a doctor treating the wounded in Gaza.
The past four weeks had been “a living nightmare for our family,” Yousaf said on Friday. He said he and his wife will continue to call for an immediate ceasefire in the conflict.
“Although we feel a sense of deep personal relief, we are heartbroken at the continued suffering of the people of Gaza,” the couple said in a statement on Friday.
PROTESTERS IN TURKEY MARCH TO THE US EMBASSY
ISTANBUL – Supporters of an Islamist group marched to the U.S. Embassy in Ankara on Sunday, hours ahead of Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s expected arrival in the Turkish capital.
Several hundred protesters chanted “God is great” and held their index fingers skywards as they approached the compound in the city’s Cukurambar neighborhood.
Riot police lined up in front of the U.S. complex as the crowd, many carrying black and white flags with Arabic script, called for Turkish soldiers to be sent to Gaza.
The demonstration was organized by Radical Change, which says it promotes the “living of authentic Islamic ideas” and “the intellectual and political aspects of Islam.”
The demonstration was the latest in Turkey to highlight the deaths of Palestinian civilians in Israel’s operations in Gaza.
“We, as Muslims, gathered to state that we will speak out against this genocide and that we will not accept it, that our armies and our nation are against Israel and on the side of the people of Gaza,” protester Ebru Petek told The Associated Press.
NETANYAHU REITERATES NO CEASE-FIRE UNTIL HOSTAGES ARE FREED
RAMON AIR FORCE BASE, Israel — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Ramon Air Force base in southern Israel on Sunday and reiterated his opposition to a cease-fire in Gaza.
Addressing pilots, Netanyahu said, “There will be no cease-fire without the return of our hostages.”
“We say this to both our enemies and our friends. We will continue until we beat them,” he added.
ISRAELI JETS HIT A HOUSE NEAR A SCHOOL, KILLING AT LEAST 13
BUREIJ REFUGEE CAMP, Gaza Strip — Israeli jets struck a house near a school at the crowded Bureij refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip on Sunday. At least 13 people were killed, hospital workers said.
Dozens of residents scrambled to remove the wounded and dead trapped under the rubble. Young men rushed carrying the wounded to ambulances near the school, which took them to Al-Aqsa Hospital. Hospital workers told The Associated Press that at least 13 people died.
The Bureij refugee camp is home to an estimated 46,000 people. Many Palestinians fleeing northern Gaza have stayed in refugee camps and schools as temporary shelters.
SOME PALESTINIANS HEED ISRAEL’S ORDERS AND HEAD SOUTH ON FOOT
BUREIJ, Gaza Strip — Some Palestinians appear to have heeded Israeli orders to head to the southern part of the Gaza Strip during a four-hour window Sunday as intense bombardment rages on in the northern part of the territory.
Crowds of people, including women and children, were seen walking down Gaza’s main north-south highway with only what they could carry in their arms. Others were seen leading donkey carts on the road.
One man said they had to walk 500 meters (547 yards) with their hands raised while passing Israeli troops and tanks on the road. Another described seeing dead bodies in damaged cars along the road linking northern Gaza to the southern part.
“We saw tanks, we saw bodies lying around … the children saw tanks for the first time. Oh world, have mercy on us, have mercy on us,” said one Palestinian, who declined to give his name.
Earlier, Israeli planes once again dropped leaflets urging people to head south as its forces advance in the outskirts of Gaza City.