The travails of Palestinians in headlines & world news

Tank Rounds Slam Into Crowded Gaza Shelter, Killing 9, UN Says

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By The Associated Press

Fierce battles are tearing through the Gaza Strip’s second-largest city, Khan Younis, where United Nations officials say tank rounds hit a U.N. facility sheltering displaced Palestinians, killing at least nine people and wounded 75 others. world news

The Israeli military said its forces were battling militants in Khan Younis on Wednesday, after encircling the city a day earlier. Thousands of people have rushed to escape further south in recent days, crowding into shelters and tent camps near the border with Egypt. Thousands more are trapped inside the city’s largest hospital because of the combat.

In other developments, the world court at The Hague says it will make a decision Friday on South Africa’s request as part of its genocide case for an interim order halting Israel’s offensive in Gaza.

Diplomatic efforts to try to secure a truce are also underway, but the sides are still far apart on their positions.

The Health Ministry in Gaza says more than 25,400 people have been killed and another 63,000 wounded in the enclave since the Oct. 7 attack in southern Israel, when militants from Gaza killed around 1,200 people and took about 250 hostages.


Cease-fire efforts for Israel-Hamas war gain steam. But an agreement still appears elusive.

Freed Israeli hostage says she met Hamas’ leader in a tunnel, where she was kept in dire conditions.

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Two US-flagged ships with cargo for Defense Department come under attack by Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

Rifts within Israel resurface as war in Gaza drags on. Some want elections now.

US bombs Iraq and Yemen as regional fight with Iran-allied militants intensifies.

UN chief warns that Israel’s rejection of a two-state solution threatens global peace.

Find more of AP’s coverage at

Here’s the latest:

JERUSALEM — A 72-year-old Israeli woman held captive by Hamas militants for nearly 50 days has told an Israeli TV channel that she was held at length in a dark, humid tunnel where she met Hamas’ leader. She says she helped pass the time with a makeshift lecture series by her knowledgeable fellow hostages.

Adina Moshe was taken captive from Kibbutz Nir Oz on Oct. 7. She was freed in late November as part of a deal that saw roughly 100 hostages, mostly women and children, released in exchange for a temporary cease-fire. Diplomatic efforts are underway to try to secure a deal to free the remaining captives.

Moshe said militants raided the home she shared with her husband, David. Before being killed, he blew her a farewell kiss, she said.

She was then taken into Gaza on a motorcycle flanked by two armed militants. She said one of them painfully ripped an earring from her ear and that before he could swipe the other one she offered it up. He took all her jewelry and a passerby stole her glasses, she said.

Moshe and a group of other hostages were marched into Hamas’ extensive tunnel network, walking for five hours down five underground flights through dark and airless shafts until they reached a subterranean room where they were told they’d be released in the coming days.

“We believed them. We believed that would be the first thing Israel would do,” she said.

It ended up taking nearly 50 until she was freed.

“I told all the guys, ’We’ll be here for at least two months and not because of Hamas,’” she said, indicating she harbored anger toward Israel for not securing her release earlier.

Moshe spent her days with other hostages — men, women and children — as armed guards stood by. They ate small portions of canned goods and rice that dwindled with time, she said. The room was lit only by a small LED light.

From so deep underground, she did not hear Israel’s massive bombardment. But she said she could tell they were happening because it felt like the tunnels were moving.

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UNITED NATIONS – Russia’s top diplomat says the first step toward the establishment of a Palestinian state must be for the divided Palestinians to rebuild unity of all factions.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said without unity “there will be no bedrock foundation for the Palestinian state.” He said the lack of unity will be used as a pretext to keep Hamas-controlled Gaza “in some kind of special status where somebody will ensure security,” separated from the occupied West Bank, parts of which are controlled by the Palestinian Authority.

“They themselves need to determine which principles will establish the basis for the restoration of the unity of their people,” he said.

Lavrov told U.N. reporters Wednesday that Arab nations and the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation he just met with are “very resolute” that an official decision should be made about the creation of a Palestinian state, and negotiations should start and be accompanied “by neutral and effective mediators.”

Unfortunately, he said, the so-called Quartet of Mideast mediators – the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia – “exists no longer.” He blamed the U.S. for thwarting its efforts and insisting it could handle mediation alone.

Lavrov said regional countries led by the Arab League should take the initiative to establish “a mediation mechanism that would prepare ideally an international conference on the Palestinian issue” to move toward a two-state solution where Israel and the Palestinians live side-by-side in peace.

But he warned repeatedly that without unity among the Palestinians, there cannot be a viable Palestinian state.

JERUSALEM — Qatar says it is “appalled” by comments made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticizing the mediation efforts of the Gulf Arab state with Hamas.

In a meeting with relatives of Israeli hostages held by Hamas in Gaza, Netanyahu said Qatar’s role as mediator was “problematic.”

In a leaked recording of the meeting, Netanyahu told the families that he has intentionally not thanked Qatar for its mediation efforts, claiming it could put more pressure on the Islamic militant group.

“Qatar in my opinion is no different in essence from the U.N. It is no different in essence from the Red Cross and in some ways it is even more problematic,” he said.

He also said he had expressed anger at the U.S. for renewing a military base in the Gulf state. He said he told the Americans to put pressure on Qatar to put pressure on Hamas.

Qatar helped secure a weeklong truce in November in which over 100 hostages were released. It also is involved in efforts to broker a new deal to bring home the roughly 130 hostages that remain in captivity.

Qatar’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Majed al-Ansari, said his government was “appalled” by the reported remarks by Netanyahu.

“These remarks if validated, are irresponsible and destructive to the efforts to save innocent lives, but are not surprising,” he said.

“If the reported remarks are found to be true, the Israeli PM would only be obstructing and undermining the mediation process, for reasons that appear to serve his political career instead of prioritizing saving innocent lives, including Israeli hostages,” al-Ansari said.

TEL AVIV, Israel — Hundreds of protesters briefly blocked the main highway in Tel Aviv on Wednesday night, calling on the government to secure the immediate release of more than 100 hostages held captive in the Gaza Strip.

It was the latest show of displeasure with the government by families of the hostages and their many supporters. They say that the hostages are in grave danger and time is running out to bring them home safely.

Police cleared the protesters off the Ayalon Highway before the crowd gathered outside the nearby building where the Israeli military and Defense Ministry are headquartered.

Hamas militants captured some 250 hostages in the cross-border Oct. 7 attack that triggered the war.

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Over 100 hostages were freed in exchange for Palestinian prisoners during a weeklong cease-fire in late November. But about 110 hostages are believed to remain in captivity. Israel also believes about 25 hostages were either killed on Oct. 7 or died in captivity.

Israeli troops last month accidentally killed three hostages who escaped captivity in Gaza.

U.S. and Egyptian officials have said efforts are underway to reach a new cease-fire deal that would free additional hostages.

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The United Nations’ top court will issue a decision Friday on South Africa’s request for interim orders in a genocide case against Israel, including that Israel halt its offensive in Gaza.

The decision is a preliminary stage of a case filed by South Africa at the International Court of Justice alleging that Israel’s military action in its war with Hamas in Gaza amounts to genocide. Israel strongly rejects the accusation and has asked the court to throw out the case.

The court announced the timing of the interim ruling on Wednesday.

Israel launched its massive air and ground assault on Gaza soon after Hamas militants stormed through Israeli communities on Oct. 7 and killed some 1,200 people, mainly civilians.

Israel often boycotts international tribunals and U.N. investigations, saying they are unfair and biased. But the country’s leaders sent a high-level legal team to two days of hearings earlier this month — a sign of how seriously they regard the case and and an indication of likely concerns that any court order to halt operations would be a major blow to the country’s international standing.

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If the court grants some or all of South Africa’s eight requests for so-called provisional measures, it is unclear if Israel will comply.

ANKARA, Turkey — Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said the conflict in Gaza had shown that the United Nations and other world bodies have lost their effectiveness, and he called on Muslim countries and other nations to unite for a new “fair world order.”

Speaking alongside Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday during a visit to Ankara, Raisi also renewed a call for a political and economic isolation of Israel, saying “cutting the lifelines” would be an effective way of ending “Israel’s oppression and murders.”

Both Turkey and Iran agree in the importance of “supporting the resistance in Palestine,” Raisi said, declaring Israel to be the “defeated party” in the war that began on Oct. 7.

Erdogan said the two leaders discussed the need for a rapid end to Israel’s “inhumane attacks” on Gaza as well as steps toward the establishment of “just and lasting peace.”

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During the visit, the two leaders oversaw the signing of 10 cooperation agreements between the neighbors.

ROME — Italy’s far-right leader, Premier Giorgia Meloni, told lawmakers on Wednesday that she disagrees with Netanyahu’s position opposing a two-state solution.

“Italy has always reiterated that the Palestinian people have the right to have a state, an independent, secure state,’’ Meloni said during debate on various issues in Italy’s lower Chamber of Deputies.

“It is a just and necessary solution, both in the interests of the Palestinians but also in those of Israel. For this (reason), I don’t share the position expressed by the Israeli prime minister,” she said.

The sufferings of Palestinians in headlines & world news
Palestinians look at a mosque destrooyed in an Israeli strike in Rafah, Gaza Strip. Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Hatem Ali)

She added: “However, recognition can’t be requested unilaterally. The precondition is the recognition of the right of existence of the Jewish state and of the right of its citizens to live in peace and security.”

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rejection of a Palestinian state in any postwar scenario opened a wide rift with Israel’s closest ally, the United States, which says the war must lead to negotiations for a two-state solution where Israel and the Palestinians can live side-by-side in peace. That goal is supported by countries around the world.

UNITED NATIONS — An tank attack on a United Nations center sheltering thousands of displaced Palestinians has killed at least nine people and wounded 75 others in Gaza’s second largest city, senior U.N. humanitarian officials said Wednesday.

Two tank shells hit a building filled with 800 people at a training center compound where 10,000 Palestinians have sought refuge from Israel’s ground invasion, said Thomas White, the director of UNRWA, the U.N. agency that helps Palestinian refugees.

In a post on X, White said UNRWA employees were unable to reach the area in Khan Younis because the route there has been blocked by an earth bank, without elaborating. Another attack on the same facility on Monday killed six people, UNRWA said earlier this week.

No other information was immediately available.

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Later Wednesday, the Israeli military said it did not believe the blast was “a result of an aerial or artillery strike” by its forces, without specifically addressing the U.N.’s mention of tank fire, and said it was reviewing operations in the area.head

James McGoldrick, the acting U.N. humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories, said in a video conference with reporters that intensified Israeli military activity is also taking place in the area, which includes Nasser Hospital and other health facilities where medical staff are hunkering down with patients and displaced people.

For weeks, Khan Younis has been one of the frontlines of the war between Israeli forces and Hamas militants, a conflict now entering its fourth month. On Tuesday, the Israeli army said forces had completely encircled the city.

Elsewhere in Gaza, at least five people were killed when a strike hit a mosque in the far southern city of Rafah Wednesday, according to Associated Press journalists.

The dead and the injured were taken to nearby Abu Youssef al-Najjar hospital where they were counted by AP staff.

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Two American-flagged ships carrying cargo for the U.S. Defense and State departments came under attack off Yemen on Wednesday, officials said, with the U.S. Navy intercepting some of the incoming fire. Suspicion immediately fell on Yemen’s Houthi rebels for carrying out the assault.

The attacks on the container ships Maersk Detroit and Maersk Chesapeake further raise the stakes of the group’s ongoing attacks on shipping through the vital Bab el-Mandeb Strait. The U.S. and the United Kingdom have launched multiple rounds of airstrikes seeking to stop the attacks.

Danish shipper Maersk, in a statement to The Associated Press, identified two of its vessels affected by the attacks as the U.S.-flagged container ships Maersk Detroit and Maersk Chesapeake. It said the U.S. Navy was accompanying its ships at the time.

“While en route, both ships reported seeing explosions close by and the U.S. Navy accompaniment also intercepted multiple projectiles,” Maersk said. “The crew, ship, and cargo are safe and unharmed. The U.S. Navy has turned both ships around and is escorting them back to the Gulf of Aden.”

Maersk said both vessels carried cargo belonging to the U.S. Defense and State Departments, as well as other government agencies, meaning they were “afforded the protection of the U.S. Navy for passage through the strait.”

The ships were operated by Maersk Line, a U.S. subsidiary of Maersk that is “suspending transits in the region until further notice,” the company said.

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The U.S. military’s Central Command did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Houthis, who have been launching attacks on ships since November over Israel’s war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip, did not immediately acknowledge the

CAIRO — Dozens of Palestinians in Gaza have protested in support of an immediate cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas.

The demonstration in the central Gaza city of Deir al-Balah Wednesday was a rare show of protest in the devastated territory, where people are struggling to get by amid the war and the humanitarian crisis it sparked.

Demonstrators, mostly women and children, chanted: “People want to end the war,” and “we want to go back to the north (of Gaza).”

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One sign held up by young girl read: “Yes to returning the prisoners,” a reference to the hostages kidnapped by Hamas and other militant groups when they stormed southern Israel and killed 1,200 people on Oct. 7., the event that triggered the war.

There have been few public protests or demonstrations in Gaza since the war erupted.

Avichay Adraee, an Israeli military spokesman, seized on the protest to show that Palestinians were demanding that Hamas release the hostages to end the war. But there was no indication the protesters directed their demonstration at Hamas specifically.

And the protest did not appear to indicate any change in public opinion against Hamas which according to a survey in December found a rise in support since the war erupted for the militant group among Palestinians, including those in Gaza.

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JERUSALEM — Qatar, one of the world’s top exporters of liquified natural gas, warned Wednesday that its deliveries were affected by ongoing attacks from Yemen’s Houthi rebels on shipping over Israel’s war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Ships carrying liquified natural gas from Qatar had been delayed previously before heading through the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea. That’s where the Houthi attacks have snarled shipping in a key route for Asia and the Middle East to ship cargo and energy to Europe.

Qatar, which has served as a key mediator between Hamas and Israel, has yet to see any of its ships attacked, however. A statement from its state-owned QatarEnergy producer said that its “production continues uninterrupted, and our commitment to ensuring the reliable supply of LNG to our customers remains unwavering.”

“While the ongoing developments in the Red Sea area may impact the scheduling of some deliveries as they take alternative routes, LNG shipments from Qatar are being managed with our valued buyers,” the statement said.

The statement suggests QatarEnergy’s cargos now are traveling around Africa’s Cape of Good Hope, likely adding time to their trips.

JERUSALEM — An explosion struck near a U.S.-flagged ship on Wednesday traveling through a crucial strait near Yemen, although no damage or injuries were reported, the British military said.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but suspicion immediately fell on Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, an organization monitoring Mideast waterways overseen by the British military, reported the blast happened near the Bab el-Mandeb Strait off Yemen.

The explosion happened some 100 meters (325 feet) from the vessel, but caused no damage and its crew is safe, the British said.

The Houthis, who have been launching attacks on ships since November over Israel’s war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip, did not immediately acknowledge the attack.

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The U.S. and the U.K. have launched rounds of airstrikes targeting suspected missile storage and launch sites used by the Houthis over the attacks.

London — British Foreign Secretary David Cameron is visiting the Middle East to meet with regional leaders this week to call for an “urgent humanitarian pause” in Gaza.

Cameron’s first stop Wednesday is Israel, where he is expected to raise concerns about the high number of civilian casualties in talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and push for water and electricity to be restored to Gaza. He will stress the need for more crossing points to enable more aid deliveries to Gaza, including the port at Ashdod and the Kerem Shalom crossing.

“No one wants to see this conflict go on a moment longer than necessary. An immediate pause is now necessary to get aid in and hostages out. The situation is desperate,” he said in a statement. He added that a permanent cease-fire would require Hamas to relinquish its hostages and control in Gaza, as well as an agreement for the Palestinian Authority to return to the enclave.

Cameron is expected to visit Qatar and Turkey later in the week.

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