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Live updates | Intense bombardments strike in southern Gaza as the war rages on



Palestinians wait to cross into Egypt at the Rafah border crossing in the Gaza Strip, on Monday, Oct.16, 2023. (AP Photo/Fatima Shbair)(AP/Fatima Shbair)

Palestinians described intense bombardments early Tuesday near two towns in southern Gaza, where Israel had ordered civilians to seek refuge.

Thousands of people trying to escape Gaza are gathered in Rafah, which has the territory’s only border crossing to Egypt. Mediators are pressing for an agreement to let aid in and refugees with foreign passports out. The U.S. hoped to break a deadlock with President Joe Biden set to head to Israel and Jordan on Wednesday.

Aid workers warned that life in Gaza was near complete collapse because of the Israeli siege that followed a Hamas attack on Israel.

The war that began Oct. 7 has become the deadliest of five Gaza wars for both sides. The Gaza Health Ministry said 2,778 Palestinians have been killed and 9,700 wounded. Another 1,200 people across Gaza are believed to be buried under the rubble, alive or dead. More than 1,400 Israelis have been killed, and at least 199 others, including children, were captured by Hamas and taken into Gaza, according to Israel.

Currently:

Here’s what’s happening in the latest Israel-Hamas war:

HAMAS’ MILITARY WING SAYS TOP COMMANDER KILLED BY ISRAELI AIRSTRIKE

JERUSALEM — Hamas’ military wing, the Qassam Brigades, said Tuesday that an Israeli airstrike in the central Gaza Strip killed top militant commander, Ayman Nofal.

Nofal is most high-profile militant to be killed so far in Israeli bombardment on the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli military says it is targeting Hamas hideouts, infrastructure and command centers.

AT LEAST 16 JOURNALISTS KILLED IN GAZA AND ISRAEL SINCE THE WAR BEGAN

JERUSALEM — The Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York-based watchdog, says it has confirmed the deaths of at least 13 Palestinian journalists in Gaza and three journalists in Israel since the war erupted. Several Palestinian journalists were killed in Israeli airstrikes on Gaza Tuesday, said the group, which was still working to investigate the latest deaths.

Over the past week, some Palestinian journalists were killed when Israeli airstrikes struck their homes across the Gaza Strip or the area housing their offices in the Rimal neighborhood, in central Gaza City. Others were killed while reporting on the evacuations of Palestinian houses under Israeli bombardment. Some were freelancers and others worked for a range of little-known local outlets. One of them worked for the Hamas-linked Al Aqsa Radio.

Three Israeli journalists, meanwhile, were killed during the brutal Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel, including an editor for Israeli public broadcaster Kan, an editor for Hebrew-language daily Ma’ariv and a photographer for the Hebrew-language Israel Hayom newspaper.

The CPJ count did not include the death of Reuters videographer Issam Abdallah, who was killed on Friday in south Lebanon when an Israeli shell landed in a gathering of international journalists covering clashes on the border. Six other journalists were injured.

HOSPITAL IN SOUTHERN GAZA SAYS IT HAS RECEIVED EVACUATION ORDER

RAFAH, Gaza Strip — A hospital in the southern Gaza city of Rafah says it has received two Israeli warnings to evacuate the facility even though it is in the area where Israel told civilians to take refuge.

Sohaib al-Hams, director of the Kuwaiti Specialist Hospital, said staff would not abandon the hospital, which continues to receive patients amid relentless Israeli airstrikes.

“We will not leave our places and we will not let our people down,” al-Hams said in a video on the hospital’s official Facebook page, adding that Gazan hospitals are the final red line and that Israel had crossed all the others.

Officers in the office of the Israeli army spokesman were not immediately available for comment on why a hospital located in an area where civilians were told to flee was receiving an evacuation order.

US RESPONDS TO HOSTAGE VIDEO BY CALLING FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE OF ALL THOSE HELD

WASHINGTON — The United States has responded to Hamas’ release of a hostage video by calling on the group to immediately release all hostages.

“There should be no reason for them to have any hostages in the first place,” said U.S. National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby on American TV Tuesday.

Asked if he believed the woman in the video, identified as 21-year-old Mia Schem, was being treated OK, Kirby said she was “probably forced” to record the message.

“There’s no question in my mind that that woman gave that video testimony under duress, probably forced to do it,” Kirby said on NBC’s “Today.”

“It’s a propaganda video much more than it is proof of life or, certainly, proof of concept for Hamas. It’s despicable, deplorable that they would take these hostages and then advertise how well they’re treating them when they’re the ones who hurt them in the first place.”

FOREIGN PASSPORT-HOLDERS WAIT IN VAIN FOR RAFAH CROSSING TO OPEN

RAFAH, Gaza Strip — For a third straight day, dual Palestinian nationals’ hopes to leave the Gaza Strip were dashed as the border remained closed.

Jameel Abdullah, a Swedish passport holder, said he had been told by his embassy to return to the border, but after waiting many hours he turned back toward Gaza where Israeli airstrikes continue to pound densely populated residential areas.

“We come to the border crossing hoping that it will open, but so far there is no information,” he said. “We plead with the Egyptian people to look at us with compassion because frankly we are in a very dangerous place. There is shelling all around us, and even if I wanted to return home (to Gaza), I would be risking my life.”

The sound of bombs falling echoed in the distance as he spoke.

INTERNATIONAL ENERGY AGENCY SEES BAD NEWS FOR MARKETS FROM MIDEAST WAR

FRANKFURT, Germany — The Israel-Hamas war is affecting oil markets already stretched by cutbacks in oil production from Saudi Arabia and Russia and expected stronger demand from China, the head of the International Energy Agency said Tuesday.

“As we see the tensions in the Middle East, the market becomes much more jittery, and it is definitely not good news coming out of this crisis,” Fatih Birol, executive director of the Paris-based IEA, told The Associated Press.

“We may very well see much more volatile prices, and it can push prices higher, which is definitely bad news for inflation,” he added.

Developing countries that import energy would be the most affected by higher prices, Birol said.

International benchmark Brent crude traded close to $90 per barrel on Tuesday, up from $85 on Oct. 6, the day before Hamas attacked Israel. Fluctuations last week pushed prices as high as $96.

WFP WARNS FOOD IS RUNNING OUT IN GAZA

CAIRO — In addition to dire water shortages, Gaza is running out of food stocks with only a few days worth of supplies remaining in shops, the World Food Program says.

Shops only have four or five days’ worth of essential food stocks available, said spokeswoman Abeer Etefa. There is enough food in warehouses to last about two weeks, but these are difficult to access because they are located in Gaza City, where Israel has ordered residents to evacuate.

Out of five mills in Gaza, only one is operating due to security concerns and the unavailability of fuel and electricity. Etefa said the primary challenge for WFP is being able to get food to shops amid the constant bombardment. Long lines have formed outside the few bakeries that are still able to operate.

UN HUMAN RIGHTS OFFICE CONDEMNS REPORTED KILLING OF FLEEING CIVILIANS

GENEVA — The U.N. human rights office is decrying “appalling reports” that civilians who were trying to flee to southern Gaza were hit and killed by a military strike.

Spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani urged Israeli forces to avoid “aerial bombardments, indiscriminate or disproportionate attacks” and to “take precautions to avoid – and in any case, to minimize – loss of civilian life, injury to civilians and damage to civilian objects.”

She said those who managed to evacuate are now trapped in southern Gaza with scant access to shelter, food, water, sanitation and medicine.

“Appalling reports that civilians attempting to relocate to southern Gaza were struck and killed by an explosive weapon, must be independently and thoroughly investigated as must all allegations of serious violations of international humanitarian law,” she said.

Shamdasani also reiterated the call from the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights to Palestinian armed groups “to immediately and unconditionally release all civilian hostages and to halt the use of inherently indiscriminate projectiles against Israel.”

FRENCH PRESIDENT CALLS FOR AN END TO ‘ODIOUS’ HOSTAGE-TAKING

TIRANA, Albania — French President Emmanuel Macron said the situation of hostages is “absolutely odious and unacceptable” after Hamas’ military wing released a hostage video showing a dazed woman having her arm bandaged.

The woman identified herself as Mia Schem, 21, a French-Israeli national.

Speaking at a news conference during a visit to Albania, Macron said he watched the video and expressed “support and affection” to Schem’s family and all other hostages’ loved ones.

“To have taken hostages, both civilian and military, of all nationalities and to use blackmail at this time is absolutely odious and unacceptable,” he said.

Macron said France is using contacts with Israeli authorities and also with Hamas “through friendly intermediary powers,” which he did not identify, to get the release of French and other hostages.

In her statement, Schem said she was taken from Kibbutz Reim, where she was attending a rave near the Israel-Gaza border.

The Israeli military said Schem’s family was told of her abduction last week, and officials dismissed the video as propaganda.

A CRUISE SHIP CARRYING FOREIGN NATIONALS FROM ISRAEL DOCKS IN CYPRUS

A cruise ship carrying some 160 U.S. citizens and other foreign nationals who opted to leave Israel has arrived in Cyprus’ main port of Limassol.

The Rhapsody of the Seas docked at dawn Tuesday and were met by the U.S. ambassador to Cyprus, Julie Fisher. Passengers were processed by Cypriot authorities and local U.S. embassy officials before being bussed to temporary accommodation prior to their flight back home.

Barbara Zwillick, 73, was escorting her granddaughter to New York City at the request of her daughter, who has stayed behind to continue her work as a nurse.

“She doesn’t want to leave. I don’t want her to leave. But she wants her daughter out,” Zwillick told The Associated Press.

Naama Kopelman, who has relatives believed to be Hamas hostages, said she decided to leave Israel for the sake of her daughter.

“It’s a big relief to be out of there in a safe place. No alarms, no sounds of the planes going about all the time,” Kopelman said.

IRANIAN LEADER CALLS ISRAEL’S ASSAULT ON GAZA ‘GENOCIDE’

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s supreme leader Tuesday has insisted that his country will not stop Hamas, and repeated a call for Israeli leaders to be tried for war crimes.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said, “If the crimes continue, Muslims will be impatient, resistances forces will be impatient, and nobody will be able to prevent them.”

“Bombardments should be immediately stopped, Muslim nations are angry,” said Khamenei.

He reiterated Iran’s stance in calling Israel’s assault against Hamas,” genocide” and urged the prosecution of the Israeli government for its killing of civilians in Gaza.

He also urged the U.S. to “pay attention to its responsibility” in the war.

FAMILIES KILLED IN ISRAELI AIRSTRIKES ON GAZA

DEIR AL BALAH, Gaza Strip — Palestinians in Gaza are taking stock of the latest deadly airstrikes from Israel.

A strike in Deir al Balah, south of Gaza City, reduced a house to rubble, killing nine members of the family living there, mostly women and children. Three members of another family that had evacuated from Gaza City were killed in a neighboring home. Witnesses said there was no warning before the strike.

In Khan Younis, in a neighborhood just a few hundred meters away from Nasser Hospital, Samiha Zoarab looked around at the destruction in shock as children rummaged through the piles of debris and detritus around a leveled home, which lies within a dense cluster of buildings. At least four people from the same family were killed in the attack, locals said. “There are only two survivors,” Zoarab said.

ANTI-TANK MISSILE FIRED FROM LEBANON INTO ISRAEL, WHICH RESPONDS WITH SHELLING

BEIRUT — An anti-tank missile fired from Lebanon landed in the town of Metula in northern Israel Tuesday morning. Three people were injured in the attack, according to the Ziv Medical Center in Safed, which was expecting to receive them.

No group in Lebanon immediately took responsibility for the rocket. It was not immediately clear if the injured were civilians or soldiers, but Israel has ordered civilians to evacuate from the area near the Lebanese border.

Israel responded by striking several areas along the border in southern Lebanon with shelling and white phosphorus, the state-run National News Agency in Lebanon reported. The Israeli military said its tanks fired back into Lebanon over the anti-tank missile fire it received.

TURKISH OFFICIAL SUGGESTS NATION COULD BE 2-STATE GUARANTOR

ISTANBUL — Turkey and other regional powers should act as guarantors of a two-state solution between Israel and Palestinians to ensure peace, Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan said late Monday.

The international community should insist that Israel accept the creation of a Palestinian state, Fidan said in a briefing with the Turkish media.

“After an agreement is reached … the guarantor countries should assume responsibility for fulfilling its requirements,” state-run Anadolu news agency quoted Fidan following a briefing with Turkish media.

He added: “Unless peace is guaranteed, the state of Israel and its people can never feel safe in the region.” The minister did not provide further detail on the plan. Turkey, along with the U.K. and Greece, has acted as a guarantor on the divided island of Cyprus since 1960.

Fidan has had a series of diplomatic meetings focused on Gaza in recent days and has others scheduled Tuesday and Wednesday.

Fidan said he had presented to idea of guarantors to those he had spoken with.

“The important thing is to realize the two-state solution by using this crisis as an opportunity,” he said. “It is to bring permanent peace to the region.”

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© 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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