Israel’s military ordered hundreds of thousands of civilians living in Gaza City to evacuate Friday ahead of a feared Israel ground offensive. The directive came on the heels of what the United Nations said was a warning they received from Israel to evacuate 1.1 million people living in northern Gaza within 24 hours.
Suffering in Gaza has been rising dramatically with Palestinians desperate for food, fuel and medicine and the territory’s only power plant shut down for lack of fuel. The morgue at Gaza’s biggest hospital overflowed as bodies came in faster than relatives could claim them.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin visited Israel on Friday, a day after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was in Israel to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The war has claimed at least 2,800 lives on both sides since Hamas launched an incursion on Oct. 7.
Here’s what’s happening on Day 7 of the latest Israel-Hamas war:
PRO-PALESTINIAN STUDENTS BRIEFLY CLASH WITH POLICE AT RALLY IN ROME
ROME — A few hundred pro-Palestinian students clashed briefly with police in Rome Friday as they tried to detour from a rally route that had been approved by authorities.
Helmeted police, using shields and batons, pushed back the surging students near Sapienza University when the protesters, many waving or clutching Palestinian flags, tried to head toward a rally being held by right-wing students, Italian media said.
A rally in Milan — with some participants holding a giant, rainbow-colored peace flag, and others carrying Palestinian flags — went forward without any issues.
70 PEOPLE KILLED IN ISRAELI AIRSTRIKE ON CONVOYS FLEEING GAZA CITY, HAMAS PRESS OFFICE SAYS
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Hamas officials say that 70 people, mostly women and children, have been killed in Israeli airstrikes on convoys fleeing Gaza City.
Hamas’ media office says the cars were struck in three places as they headed south from Gaza City. It was not immediately clear who the target of the airstrikes was, or whether militants were among the passengers.
The army ordered residents to evacuate the city early Friday ahead of an expected ground invasion.
ISRAELI MILITARY LAUNCHES DRONE AT HEZBOLLAH TARGETS
JERUSALEM — The Israeli military has announced that an Israeli drone is currently striking Hezbollah targets in Lebanon.
ISRAELI SHELLING ALONG LEBANON BORDER KILLS 1 JOURNALIST, WOUNDS 6
ALMA Al-SHAAB, Lebanon — An Israeli shell has landed in a gathering of international journalists covering clashes on the border in south Lebanon, killing one and leaving six injured.
An Associated Press photographer at the scene saw the body of the dead journalist and the six who were wounded. Some of them were rushed to hospitals in ambulances. One nearby car was charred.
Al-Jazeera identified two of its employees among the wounded. The Lebanon-Israel border has been witnessing sporadic acts of violence since Saturday’s attack by the militant Palestinian group Hamas on southern Israel.
ISRAEL MILITARY SAYS IT HAS CARRIED OUT SMALL RAIDS INTO GAZA STRIP
JERUSALEM — The Israeli military says for the first time that ground troops have been operating inside the Gaza Strip.
In a statement Friday, the army said troops had entered Gaza to battle militants, destroy weapons and search for evidence about the missing hostages held by Hamas.
The announcement did not appear to be the beginning of an expected ground invasion of Gaza. Israel has been massing troops along the Gaza border since last Saturday’s deadly incursion by Hamas militants.
WHITE HOUSE MEETS VIRTUALLY WITH FAMILIES OF MISSING AMERICANS
WASHINGTON — The White House hosted a virtual conversation on Friday with family members of 14 Americans who are unaccounted for after the Hamas attacks on Israel.
President Joe Biden addressed the families. Other participants included Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser; Roger Carstens, hostage affairs special envoy; John Bass, undersecretary of state; and Brett McGurk, National Security Council coordinator for the Middle East.
EGYPT CALLS ON UN SECURITY COUNCIL TO STOP THE EVACUATION IN GAZA
CAIRO — In a statement Friday, Egypt’s Foreign Ministry condemned the Israeli army’s decision to tell some 1 million people in Gaza to evacuate toward the southern part of the besieged territory.
It said the move “constitutes a grave violation of the rules of international humanitarian law, and will expose the lives of more than a million Palestinian citizens and their families to the dangers of remaining in the open without shelter.”
The evacuation order comes ahead of an expected ground invasion, hiking fears of a massive influx of refugees across the heavily fortified border into its territory.
In the statement, Egypt called on the United Nations Security Council, which is scheduled to meet Friday, to stop the evacuation.
PALESTINIAN ENVOY SAYS EVACUATION ORDER COULD COMPARE TO DISPLACEMENT OF HUNDREDS IN 1948
UNITED NATIONS — The Palestinian envoy to the United Nations says his people’s mass exit from northern Gaza under Israeli military orders may compare to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians amid the 1948 war surrounding Israel’s creation — an event that Palestinians call the “nakba,” or catastrophe.
Ambassador Riyad Mansour called the current flight “potentially a second nakba” as he spoke to reporters at U.N. headquarters Friday before a meeting of Arab countries’ ambassadors.
The Israeli military told people to leave northern Gaza ahead of an expected ground invasion against the Hamas militants who launched an assault on southern Israel last weekend. While the evacuation order involves the northern part of the territory, Mansour said “there is no place in Gaza that is safe.”
He called for a ceasefire to allow food, medicine and water into the territory.
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH ACCUSES ISRAEL OF USING WHITE PHOSPHORUS
LONDON — Human Rights Watch has called on Israel to stop using munitions containing white phosphorus in the Gaza Strip after verifying video and witness accounts of these “indiscriminate” incendiary weapons being used in densely populated areas.
White phosphorus catches fire spontaneously when it comes in contact with oxygen, releasing toxic fumes and generating temperatures of up to 815 degrees Celsius (1,500 Fahrenheit). Because it continues to burn until all of the material is used up or it is smothered, white phosphorus exposure can leave victims with permanent disabilities, scarring and chronic pain.
“The issue is that white phosphorus is indiscriminate,’’ Yasmine Ahmed, the U.K. director of Human Rights Watch, said Friday. “It is used in a way that it cannot distinguish between a civilian population and a military target … particularly in the context of a densely populated area.”
The Israeli Defense Force has denied using white phosphorus as a weapon in Gaza.
UN SECURITY COUNCIL TO DISCUSS ISRAEL-HAMAS WAR ON FRIDAY
UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. Security Council is set to meet behind closed doors Friday afternoon to discuss the Israel-Hamas war as Palestinians stream out of northern Gaza on orders from the Israeli military.
Friday’s council meeting was scheduled before the evacuation order was issued and added still more urgency to the discussion. The U.N. has said the order affects 1.1 million people, about half Gaza’s population, and could turn an already dire humanitarian crisis into a calamity.
The council emerged without any collective message or action from another closed-door meeting Sunday on the Israel-Hamas fighting. At that meeting, the United States pressed unsuccessfully for a strong condemnation of Hamas from all 15 members of the U.N.’s most powerful body, where divisions have sharpened amid Russia’s war in Ukraine.
EVACUEES FROM ISRAEL ARRIVE IN CYPRUS AS THEY AWAIT REPATRIATION
NICOSIA, Cyprus — Cypriot authorities say they’re gearing up to host significant numbers of third-country evacuees from Israel as the first 268 foreign nationals have used Cyprus as a waystation for their repatriation.
Cyprus Foreign Ministry spokesman Theodoros Gotsis said Friday most of the people were Portuguese citizens flown out on Portuguese Air Force C-130 transport aircraft on three flights. Others among them included Austrians and Spaniards.
Gotsis said cruise ships are also ferrying foreign nationals including Germans out of Israel. The arrival of Danish and British citizens is expected later Friday.
Cyprus has set aside temporary accommodations for evacuees until they can be repatriated.
PRO-PALESTINIAN DEMONSTRATORS GATHER IN ISTANBUL, DEFEND HAMAS’ ATTACK
ISTANBUL — Hundreds of pro-Palestinian demonstrators gathered in Istanbul after Friday prayers, many voicing support for the Hamas attack on Israel.
Fifty-year-old Guler Ayar said she was “proud” of Saturday’s assault in which the Israeli military says more than 1,300 were killed and dozens more abducted.
“What Hamas did was an act of resistance to protect its women, children and land,” she added.
Muyesser Yagiz, 49, defended Hamas’ actions as a counter to Israel’s “excuse to continue to occupy Palestinian homes and to kill Palestinians.”
The protest outside Beyazit mosque on Istanbul’s European side saw a crowd of around 1,000 people waving Palestinian, Hamas and Turkish flags and chanting “Murderer Israel, get out of Palestine!”
Turkey has supported Hamas and hosted members of the group. Unlike the U.S. and EU, Ankara does not view Hamas as a terrorist organization.
GUNMEN IN LEBANON CLASH WITH ISRAELI TROOPS, STATE MEDIA REPORTS
BEIRUT — Gunmen in Lebanon and Israeli troops are clashing along the border with Israeli Apache helicopters flying overhead, Lebanese state media reported. They did not specify the identity of the gunmen.
A security official told The Associated Press that an unidentified group fired several rockets into northern Israel, and the Israeli military responded with shelling. They spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulation.
The Israeli military reported earlier that sirens went off in its north near the Lebanese border.
Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV and other local media reported that the Israeli military targeted a Lebanese army position as well a post for Green Without Border, a non-governmental organizational that the U.S. sanctioned in August accusing it of being army for Hezbollah. The Lebanese military didn’t immediately respond to the AP’s inquiry on the matter.
Associated Press writers Kareem Chehayeb and Bassem Mroue contributed to this report.
PUTIN SAYS ISRAEL HAS A RIGHT TO DEFEND ITSELF, BUT WARNS AGAINST HURTING CIVILIANS IN GAZA
MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday that Israel has the right to defend itself after the brutal Hamas attack but warned against hurting civilians in Gaza.
Speaking to reporters after a meeting with leaders of ex-Soviet nations in Kyrgyzstan, Putin said that “Israel faced an attack that was unprecedented not only in its scale, but also its cruelty.” He charged that Israel is responding to the attack “on a large scale also using cruel methods,” adding that “Israel certainly has the right to ensure its security.”
Putin warned against an onslaught on Gaza, saying it would be unacceptable. He noted that “not all people there support Hamas.”
He emphasized that Russia has had longtime friendly ties with both Israel and the Palestinians and would be ready to help mediate a settlement.
VATICAN OFFERS TO MEDIATE A POSSIBLE TRUCE BETWEEN ISRAEL AND HAMAS
ROME — The Vatican offered Friday to mediate any possible truce between Israel and Hamas while acknowledging there is “little room” for dialogue between them.
The Holy See Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, reaffirmed Israel’s right to defend itself following the Hamas attack last weekend. But in an interview with the Holy See’s in-house media, Parolin said “even legitimate defense must respect the parameter of proportionality.”
He expressed concern for Palestinian civilians in Gaza, including the estimated 150 Christian families who live there, following Israel’s bombardments, and called anew for the release of hostages taken during the incursion. He brought that message in person during a visit to Israel’s embassy on Friday.
The Holy See has helped facilitate prisoner swaps in the Russia-Ukraine war and Parolin offered similar mediation in the war. But he said any peace talks must also take into account the issue of Israeli settlements, overall security and the status of Jerusalem.
ISRAEL MILITARY DENIES ALLEGATIONS IT USED WHITE PHOSPHORUS IN GAZA
JERUSALEM — The Israeli military denied accusations Friday that it has used white phosphorus as a weapon in Gaza, after Human Rights Watch published a report alleging that Israel had deployed it several times in the recent Israel-Hamas war.
“The current accusation made against the IDF is unequivocally false,” a statement from the military said. “The IDF has not deployed the use of such munitions.”