Gaza’s Health Ministry says 150 people have been killed in the territory in the last 24 hours and an additional 313 were wounded as Israeli forces continue to battle militants, even in the northern part of the territory.
The north, where entire neighborhoods have been flattened, was the initial target of Israel's ground offensive in late October.
Israel's military said Wednesday that its forces killed more than 15 Hamas militants in northern Gaza over the past day and targeted militant infrastructure in a school.
The latest deaths bring the Palestinian death toll from Israel’s offensive to 26,900, according to the Hamas-controlled Health Ministry. It does not distinguish between civilian and combatant deaths but says most of those killed were women and children.
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres reiterated his call for a cease-fire in Gaza.
Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack in southern Israel that sparked the war killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and about 250 people were taken hostage, according to Israeli authorities.
Here's the latest:
US SAYS ISLAMIC RESISTANCE IN IRAQ IS RESPONSIBLE FOR DRONE ATTACK
WASHINGTON — The United States has attributed the drone attack that killed three U.S. service members in Jordan to the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, an umbrella group of Iran-backed militias that includes the militant group Kataib Hezbollah.
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Wednesday the U.S. believes the attack was planned, resourced and facilitated by the group.
The Sunday drone attack on a military base in Jordan killed the three troops and injured at least 40 others. Kirby says President Joe Biden will continue to weigh response options to the attack but “the first thing you see won’t be the last thing.”
NETANYAHU MEETS WITH A GROUP OF UN AMBASSADORS
JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has told a group of ambassadors to the United Nations from primarily European countries that Hamas has “infiltrated” the main aid provider to Palestinians in Gaza and that it must be shut down.
Netanyahu’s remarks on Wednesday follow Israel's allegations that 12 employees with the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, known as UNRWA, participated in Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks in Israel that sparked the war in Gaza.
Those allegations prompted several countries to freeze funding to the agency, which fired nine of the workers. UNRWA said the agency, which employs 13,000 workers in Gaza, should not be punished for the alleged actions of a dozen employees.
Netanyahu told the group of eight visiting ambassadors that an alternative and impartial aid provider should be found.
Israel has long railed against UNRWA, accusing it of tolerating or even collaborating with Hamas and of perpetuating the 76-year-old Palestinian refugee crisis. The Israeli government has accused Hamas and other militant groups of siphoning off aid and using U.N. facilities for military purposes.
RELATIVE OF HOSTAGE SAYS ISRAEL'S LEADERS SHOULDN'T PUT POLITICS ABOVE CAPTIVES' FATE
TEL AVIV, Israel — A relative of a hostage being held in Gaza says he is concerned Israeli leaders are putting their political fortunes above the fate of the captives.
The families of hostages have been following with hope and anguish reports about a potential agreement emerging between Israel and Hamas that could set roughly 100 hostages free and bring about a halt in the war. They have also watched with trepidation as political considerations have seeped into the deliberations, with far-right members of Israel’s governing coalition vowing to topple the government if the deal makes too many concessions to Hamas.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday confirmed that talks were underway.
Gil Dickmann, whose cousin Carmel Gat was abducted on Oct. 7 from southern Israel, said he feels “insecure” about the chances for a deal. At the same time, he said the current talks appeared serious and were the first chance at progress since the one previous deal in late November.
He said he hoped Netanyahu wouldn’t prioritize his political survival over the hostages’ freedom.
“The life of the coalition should not come before the lives of the hostages,” Dickmann told The Associated Press.
ISRAELI PROTESTERS TRY TO BLOCK AID TRUCKS
JERUSALEM — Dozens of Israeli protesters have tried to block humanitarian aid from entering Gaza, despite an order barring them from approaching a border crossing the trucks are using.
According to video released by an activist group behind the demonstrations, police, including mounted officers, scuffled with the protesters Wednesday.
The protesters have been gathering near the Kerem Shalom crossing for several days, saying aid should not be allowed into Gaza while hostages are still being held there. They say the aid could act as leverage to force Hamas to release the hostages.
Activists said up to 40 people were detained, a figure that could not be independently confirmed. Police did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Israeli military this week sealed the area to prevent such protests from recurring. It was not immediately clear how close the crowd got to the crossing, and deliveries into Gaza did not appear to be disrupted.
Kerem Shalom is the main goods crossing between Israel and Gaza.
Israel imposed a siege on Gaza in the first days of the war barring the entry of aid. While it relented under U.S. pressure, the amount of aid has been a fraction of what went into the territory before the war.
UN HUMANITARIAN AID CHIEF SAYS RELIEF TO GAZA IS ‘GROSSLY INADEQUATE’
UNITED NATIONS — In a passionate address to the U.N. Security Council, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths called for Israel to allow more aid into Gaza.
Griffiths frequently broke from his prepared remarks as he made his address Wednesday.
“The relief remains grossly inadequate. And to say it’s grossly inadequate, as it says here, is grossly inadequate. It’s much, much more difficult,” Griffiths said. “It’s the congestion, it’s the rain, it’s the lack of certainty about what tomorrow will bring.”
NETANYAHU SAYS EFFORTS UNDERWAY TO TRY TO SECURE RELEASE OF HOSTAGES
JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has told the families of hostages held in the Gaza Strip that efforts were underway to bring about the captives’ release.
Netanyahu told the representatives of 18 families that efforts were being made “at these moments” to return the hostages. In a statement about the meeting from his office Wednesday, he did not disclose details on talks on a new hostage release agreement.
Netanyahu met the families as Qatar, Egypt and the U.S. were mediating talks meant to strike a deal between Israel and Hamas that could free the roughly 100 remaining hostages and usher in a temporary cease-fire in Gaza.
Hamas-led militants captured about 250 people, including children, women and older people, in their Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel, an assault that triggered the war.
More than 100 captives, mostly women and children, were released during the first and only deal between the sides in late November.
WHO SAYS GAZA HEALTH SYSTEM IS USING DONKEY CARTS TO TRANSPORT PATIENTS
GENEVA — The head of the World Health Organization said the destroyed health system in Gaza has resorted to using donkey carts to transport injured patients, and that one major hospital has only one functional ambulance.
At a press briefing Wednesday, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said more than 100,000 Gaza residents are either dead, injured, missing or presumed dead in the war with Israel.
Tedros added that the risk of famine is high, with many medical staff and patients receiving only one meal per day.
He warned that decisions by donor countries to pause funds for UNWRA, the biggest supplier of humanitarian aid in the crisis, will have “catastrophic consequences” for the people of Gaza.
The United States and more than a dozen other countries have announced plans to suspend contributions to UNRWA after Israel alleged that 12 of its workers participated in the Oct. 7 attacks in Israel. U.N. officials fired most of the workers and vowed an investigation.
US SANCTIONS COMPANIES AND PERSON IN LEBANON AND TURKEY
BEIRUT — The U.S. slapped sanctions Wednesday on three companies and one person in Lebanon and Turkey, accusing them of funneling funds to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.
The U.S. Treasury announced sanctions on Turkish company Mira Ihracat Ithalat Petrol (Mira), which it said “purchases, transports, and sells Iranian commodities on the global market;” on its chief executive, Ibrahim Talal al-Uwayr; and on Lebanon-based Yara Offshore SAL and Hydro Company for Drilling Equipment Rental, both of which it said have sold large quantities of Iranian goods to Syria.
The sanctioned companies “generated hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of revenue from selling Iranian commodities, including to the Syrian government,” the U.S. Treasury said in a statement.
The move comes as the region is waiting for Washington’s response to a strike, likely launched by one of the region’s Iranian-back militias, that killed three U.S. troops Sunday at a base in Jordan near the Syrian border.
UN SECRETARY-GENERAL AGAIN CALLS FOR A CEASE-FIRE
UNITED NATIONS — U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres called again for a cease-fire in Gaza.
Speaking to the U.N.’s Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, Guterres said he condemned “the horrifying attacks by Hamas and other groups” but “at the same time, nothing can justify the collective punishment of the people in Gaza.”
“The ongoing conflict and relentless bombardment by Israeli forces across Gaza have resulted in killings of civilians and destruction at a pace and scale unlike anything we have witnessed in recent years,” Guterres said. “I am horrified by incessant military strikes that have killed and maimed civilians and protected personnel, and that have damaged or destroyed civilian infrastructure.”
EU AIMS TO LAUNCH A RED SEA NAVAL MISSION WITHIN 3 WEEKS
BRUSSELS — The European Union plans to launch a naval mission in the Red Sea within three weeks to help defend cargo ships against attacks by Houthi rebels in Yemen that are hampering trade and driving up prices, the bloc’s top diplomat said Wednesday.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said he wants the mission to be up and running by Feb. 17. Officials say that seven EU countries are ready to provide ships or planes. Belgium has already committed to send a frigate. Germany is expected to do the same.
Last week, U.S. and British forces bombed multiple targets in eight locations used by the Iranian-backed Houthis. It was the second time the two allies have conducted coordinated retaliatory strikes on the rebels’ missile-launching capabilities.
The Houthis have waged a persistent campaign of drone and missile attacks on commercial ships since the start of the Israel-Hamas war in October, but Borrell insisted that the EU mission will not take part in any military strikes. (AP)