Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected U.S. calls for a humanitarian pause in the Israel-Hamas war, telling U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday “we are going full steam ahead,” unless the hostages held by Hamas are released.
Blinken is on his third visit to Israel since the war erupted last month and is set to meet with leaders in Jordan on Saturday.
Amid fears that the conflict will regionalize, Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Lebanon’s Iranian-backed Hezbollah militant group, said in a public speech that his group was undeterred by U.S. warnings to stay out of the war. However, he stopped short of saying Hezbollah would engage fully in the war.
Israeli troops also further closed in on Gaza City, launching targeted attacks within the city on militant cells on Friday.
The Palestinian death toll in the Israel-Hamas war has reached 9,227, 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 U.S., Egypt, Israel and Qatar, which mediates with Hamas.
1. As more Palestinians with foreign citizenship leave Gaza, some families are left in the lurch.
2. Stay in Israel, or flee? Thai workers caught up in Hamas attack and war are faced with a dilemma.
3. Trapped in hell: Palestinian civilians try to survive in northern Gaza, focus of Israel’s offensive.
4. Israel-Hamas war misinformation is everywhere. Here are the facts.
5. Emotional outburst on live TV from Gaza over death of reporter encapsulates collective grief.
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:
U.S. BELIEVES ‘PAUSE’ IN FIGHTING NEEDED TO SECURE RELEASE OF HOSTAGES HELD BY HAMAS, OFFICIAL SAYS
WASHINGTON — Israel and the U.S. appear to be taking divergent approaches to securing the release of the more than 200 hostages held by Hamas in Gaza.
A senior Biden administration official said Friday the U.S. believes the fighting will need to take a “fairly significant pause” to allow for their release — modeled on a smaller-scale letup last month that allowed two American hostages to be freed.
The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity under White House rules, said the release was a “testing pilot” for how a broader deal could be struck and that negotiations on a “larger package” of hostages are ongoing. The official emphasized it would require a significant halt in fighting to ensure their safety.
Israel has insisted hostage releases must precede any pause, as it seeks to up the pressure on Hamas and force the militant group’s hand.
HAMAS TRIED TO PUT WOUNDED FIGHTERS ON LIST OF APPROVED PALESTINIAN EVACUEES, SENIOR U.S. OFFICIAL SAYS
WASHINGTON — Hamas attempted to slip some of its wounded fighters onto a list of people approved to pass from Gaza into Egypt at the Rafah crossing, a senior Biden administration official said, contributing to a slowed effort this week to evacuate hundreds of foreign nationals and dozens of seriously injured Palestinians.
The official, who briefed reporters in Washington on Friday, spoke on the condition of anonymity under ground rules set by the White House.
Hamas agreed to allow foreign nationals out of Gaza if some wounded Palestinians also could cross to receive medical treatment in Egypt. But when Egyptian authorities vetted the list, they found several of the wounded Palestinians were suspected Hamas militants, the U.S. official said.
The official said Egypt, the U.S. and Israel made clear it was “unacceptable” to include Hamas fighters on the list. Hamas eventually withdrew the wounded militants from the list, and dozens of badly injured Palestinians were allowed to leave with foreign nationals, the official said.
PEOPLE IN GAZA DESPERATE FOR FOOD AND WATER, U.N. OFFICIAL SAYS
UNITED NATIONS — “Maya! Maya! Water! Water!” is now the refrain from people on Gaza streets, the Gaza director for the UNRWA, the United Nation’s agency for Palestinian refugees, said Friday.
Thomas White said “having traveled the length and breadth of Gaza in the last few weeks, it is a scene of death and destruction.” No place is safe now, he said, and people fear for their lives, their futures, and that they will not be able to feed their families.
UNRWA is supporting about 89 bakeries across Gaza aiming to get bread to 1.7 million people, White said in a video briefing to diplomats from the U.N.’s 193 member nations. The average person in Gaza is living on two pieces of Arabic bread made from flour the U.N. had stockpiled in the territory, he said.
But “now people are beyond looking for bread. It’s looking for water,” he said.
U.N. deputy Middle East coordinator Lynn Hastings, who is also the humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories, said only one of three water supply lines from Israel is operational and “many people are relying on brackish or saline ground water, if at all.”
“People are braving airstrikes to line up outside bakeries to obtain bread, a number of which have already been closed down due to lack of fuel,” she said.
HONDURAS RECALLS ITS AMBASSADOR TO ISRAEL, CONDEMNS SITUATION IN GAZA
TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — Honduras recalled its ambassador to Israel for consultations Friday as it condemned what it called “genocide and other serious violations of international law” in the Israel-Hamas war.
The Central American country’s Foreign Affairs Minister Eduardo Enrique Reina wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, that President Xiomara Castro had decided to immediately recall the ambassador in light of “the serious humanitarian situation the civilian Palestinian population is suffering in the Gaza Strip.”
The Foreign Affairs Ministry added in a statement that “Honduras energetically condemns the genocide and serious violations of international humanitarian law that the civilian Palestinian population is suffering in the Gaza Strip.”
Castro, a leftist who took office in January 2022 as the first female president in Honduras, has sought to align with other leftist governments in the hemisphere like Venezuela and Cuba, but without completely alienating the United States.
PROTESTORS BLOCK ENTRANCES TO US FEDERAL BUILDING, CALL FOR CEASE-FIRE IN ISRAEL-HAMAS WAR
SEATTLE — A couple hundred people calling for a cease-fire as Israel continues its bombardment of the Gaza Strip blocked entrances to a federal building in downtown Seattle Friday where U.S. Sen. Patty Murray has an office.
Protesters, many wearing black sweatshirts that said “Cease Fire Now,” sang songs about freedom and chanted while one person climbed a ladder and hung a banner on the building that said: “Murray: Ceasefire Now!”
Participants linked arms, blocking the building’s entrances for several hours despite attempts by federal and other law enforcement officers to shove them away.
Advocacy group Jewish Voice for Peace organized the demonstration, one of several similar events that have happened across the United States in recent days.
Murray, who is president pro tempore of the Senate, on Thursday called for a “humanitarian pause” in the war to “allow critical humanitarian aid to reach innocent civilians in Gaza.” She also reiterated Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorism.
ISRAEL TARGETED FRENCH INSTITUTE OF GAZA IN AIRSTRIKE, FRENCH FOREIGN MINISTRY SAYS
PARIS — Israeli authorities informed France that the French Institute of Gaza was targeted in an Israeli strike, the Foreign Ministry said on Friday.
No one working at the institute, nor any French national, was inside the institute, the statement said.
“We asked Israeli authorities to communicate to us without delay by appropriate (channels) the tangible elements that motivated this decision,” the ministry said.
Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna said the strike occurred several days ago, and expressed “surprise” and “incomprehension” that a cultural institute would be a target. She spoke from Nigeria and was quoted by French media with her on the trip.
BLINKEN ARRIVES IN JORDAN, WILL MEET WITH KING ABDULLAH II AND OTHERS ON SATURDAY
AMMAN , Jordan — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has arrived in Jordan to continue his latest diplomatic mission to increase humanitarian aid deliveries into Gaza and prevent Palestinian civilian casualties as Israel intensifies its war against Hamas.
Blinken, whose call for Israel to temporarily pause some military operations to allow assistance in and foreign nationals out appeared to be rejected by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after they met in Tel Aviv earlier Friday, will meet Jordan’s King Abdullah II and the foreign ministers of Jordan and perhaps other Arab nations on Saturday.
Earlier this week, Jordan recalled its ambassador to Israel and told Israel’s envoy not to return to Amman at least until conditions in Gaza have improved, further complicating Blinken’s efforts.
In addition to aid distribution, allowing foreigners out of Gaza and securing the release of hostages held by Hamas, Blinken is looking to persuade Jordan and other Arab states to begin thinking about the future of Gaza — if and when Israel succeeds at eradicating Hamas.
34 MORE FRENCH CITIZENS EVACUATE FROM GAZA STRIP
PARIS — The French Foreign Ministry announced on Friday that 34 more of its citizens were evacuated from the Gaza Strip, after five French citizens left the war zone earlier this week.
They are among hundreds of Gaza residents with dual citizenship who have been able to exit via the Rafah crossing into Egypt.
Meanwhile, President Emmanuel Macron said he plans to hold a humanitarian conference next Thursday, a day ahead of an annual peace forum that draws government leaders and luminaries from various sectors. It was not immediately known who would attend or the aim of the conference.
Macron reiterated France’s call for a “humanitarian pause” in the war between Israel and Hamas.
“The fight against terrorists doesn’t justify sacrificing civilians,” he said. The Defense and Foreign ministries said that France is sending two more military aircraft stocked with emergency aid for civilians in Gaza, to be handed over to the Egyptian Red Crescent after the initial delivery.
UN HUMANITARIAN CHIEF SAYS PROGRESS HAS BEEN MADE ON FUEL NEGOTIATIONS
UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations humanitarian chief has raised the possibility of desperately needed fuel getting into Gaza.
Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths, who just returned from the region, told diplomats from U.N. member nations at a briefing Friday that intense humanitarian negotiations are taking place between authorities from Israel, Egypt, the United States and the United Nations.
“I heard just this morning as I came in, that there has been some progress on allowing some more fuel in through these negotiations,” Griffiths said. “I have to see that confirmed during today.”
He added: “Fuel is essential for the functioning of institutions, of hospitals, of the distribution of water, of electricity. We must allow these supplies reliably, repetitively and dependently into Gaza.”
U.N. deputy Mideast coordinator Lynn Hastings, who is also the humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories, told diplomats that “for the 22nd consecutive day Gaza remains under full electricity blackout following Israel’s halt of the electricity and fuel supply.”
Hastings said backup generators which have been essential to keep hospitals, water desalination plants, food production facilities and other essential services operating are “one by one grinding to a halt as fuel supplies run out.”
NUMBER OF ROMANIANS HELD HOSTAGE BY HAMAS RISES TO 6
BUCHAREST, Romania — Romania’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Friday that two more Romanian citizens are among the hostages held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, bringing the total number of Romanian hostages to six.
The ministry said that Romania’s embassy in Tel Aviv and its consulate in Haifa are in contact with the Israeli authorities over the matter. All six hostages hold dual Romanian-Israeli citizenship.
Since Hamas launched its attack on Israel nearly a month ago, at least five Romanian citizens, all of whom resided in Israel and held dual Israeli citizenship, have been confirmed dead.
TARGETED ATTACKS ON MILITANT CELLS IN GAZA CITY HAVE STARTED, ISRAELI ARMY SAYS
JERUSALEM — The Israeli military said ground troops continued to exchange fire with Hamas militants Friday in Gaza, as Israeli aircraft killed numerous Hamas militants exiting tunnels.
Footage released by the military showed troops and tanks advancing through grassland toward bombed out buildings as smoke clouds from airstrikes rose in the distance.
The military said it encircled Gaza City on Thursday and was beginning to launch targeted attacks within the city Friday to target militant cells.