More airstrikes have ravaged swaths of the Gaza Strip — leaving it looking like a wasteland from space — and residents are running out of food, water and other supplies. The bombardment continued as the Israeli military said its troops and tanks briefly entered northern Gaza to prepare for a full-scale incursion, the Israeli raid since the war began more than two weeks ago.
Meanwhile, a senior Hamas official told The Associated Press that the Palestinian militant group needs greater intervention from its allies, including Iran-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon, in its war with Israel.
The war, now in its 20th day, is the deadliest of five Gaza wars for both sides. The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry said Thursday that more than 7,000 Palestinians have been killed so far — more than three times the number killed in the six-week-long Gaza war in 2014. In the occupied West Bank, more than 100 Palestinians have been killed in violence and Israeli raids following Hamas’ surprise rampage on Oct. 7 in southern Israel.
The Associated Press couldn’t independently verify the death tolls cited by Hamas, which says it tallies figures from hospital directors.
The fighting has killed more than 1,400 people in Israel, according to Israeli officials, mostly civilians who died in the initial Hamas attack. Israel’s military has raised the number of remaining hostages in Gaza to 222 people, including foreigners believed captured by Hamas during the incursion. Four hostages have been released so far.
U.S. and other officials fear the fighting could spill over into a wider regional conflict.
1. Palestinians plead “stop the bombs” at U.N. meeting, but Israel insists Hamas must be “obliterated.”
2. What is Gaza’s Ministry of Health, and how does it calculate the war’s death toll?
3. A Palestinian activist is expelled by Israeli forces from his home in a volatile West Bank city.
4. Fearing airstrikes and crowded shelters, Palestinians in north Gaza defy Israeli evacuation orders.
5. Find more of AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war.
Here’s what’s happening in the latest Israel-Hamas war:
KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza Strip — A cloud of grey dust fills a street as men and ambulances rush to the site of an Israeli airstrike. An AP videojournalist sprints beside them, the chaos growing more intense as they draw closer to the destroyed residence.
Dozens of people pick their way across the remains of the building, which has been reduced to a jumble of concrete and metal. They scramble to pull the living and the dead from the wreckage.
A survivor, his face chalk-white with dust and eyes wide open, is carried in a blanket to a waiting ambulance. A woman who can still walk is led away from the blast area, with a man throwing a blanket over her shoulders. “Where’s the ambulance?” someone yells.
Israeli airstrikes on Thursday hit a densely populated refugee camp in Gaza’s southern city of Khan Younis, leveling more than eight homes belonging to the extended Abu Shamala family and killing at least 15 people.
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon said Thursday that there was an attempted attack at Irbil air base in Iraq but there were no casualties and only minor damage to the facilities.
Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, Pentagon press secretary, declined to detail which Iranian-backed groups may be responsible for the recent spate of attacks at bases in Iraq and Syria.
He said there have been at least 12 attacks in Iraq and four in Syria, and 21 U.S. personnel sustained minor injuries in two separate attacks early last week. Of those, 19 had some type of traumatic brain injury, and all 21 returned to duty.
There have been no reported injuries since those two attacks on Oct. 17-18.
ANAHEIM, Calif. — Family members of six American citizens trapped in Gaza pleaded Thursday for President Joe Biden to help their relatives get out from what started as a long-awaited vacation and turned into a horrific nightmare of bombardments and smoke.
Shamiss Kaoud, 33, of Moreno Valley, California, said she and her sister have been calling the U.S. State Department daily to try to get her 68-year-old father, Jamal, his four brothers and one of her cousins evacuated from the war zone.
“No one is listening. No one is helping. It’s as if nobody cares,” she told reporters at a press conference in Anaheim, California. “Shouldn’t being a U.S. citizen matter?”
The group traveled to Gaza in late September to visit family and has since gone three times to Gaza’s Rafah crossing but been unable to get out.
Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in greater Los Angeles, said the State Department has estimated 600 Palestinian Americans are stuck in Gaza.
“The life of every citizen in America should be the priority of our government,” he said.
WASHINGTON — A White House spokesman said Thursday that the United States would respond at a “time of our choosing and a manner of our choosing” to a recent spate of attacks said to have been carried out by Iranian-backed groups against U.S. troops stationed in the Middle East.
The blunt warning from White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby came a day after President Joe Biden said Iran Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had been directly warned that the U.S. would respond if Iran or its proxies continued to attack U.S. troops. Attacks on U.S. troops in the region have increased since the start of the Israel-Hamas war on Oct. 7.
Asked on Thursday to provide further details on how that message was delivered to Khamenei, Kirby declined to elaborate.
BAGHDAD — An Iranian-backed militia says it carried out an attack Thursday with two suicide drones against a base housing U.S. troops in northern Iraq.
The Islamic Resistance, an umbrella group for several Iran-backed militias, said in a statement that it attacked the “American occupation base” near the airport of the city of Irbil with two drones that directly hit their targets.
It gave no further details.
The past week has seen more than a dozen attacks on U.S. military facilities in Iraq and Syria. Most were claimed by the same group, which has said it is retaliating against U.S. backing of Israel in its war with Hamas.
NICOSIA, Cyprus — Cyprus President Nikos Christodoulides says the island nation is ready to act as a hub for humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip.
Christodoulides told reporters in Brussels on Thursday that he proposed to fellow European Union leaders the establishment of a “humanitarian aid corridor” linking Cyprus’ main port of Limassol to Gaza. The Cypriot president said he discussed the idea with both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah el-Sissi.
Government spokesman Constantinos Letymbiotis told The Associated Press that EU leaders “showed interest” in the proposal.
PARIS — The absence of more than 200 people held hostage by Hamas is being felt — and seen — in places around the world.
Thirty empty baby strollers were displayed on a lawn in front of the Eiffel Tower on Thursday, each with a photo of one of the children being held. Two hundred empty plastic chairs were also lined up outside the United Nations’ European headquarters in Geneva with photos of the missing.
Family members and Jewish groups are keeping the spotlight on the people taken captive by Hamas militants Oct. 7 as Israel continues to pound the Gaza Strip with airstrikes and prepares for a ground invasion.
“Our goal is to … raise the level of public awareness regarding the situation of these children,” Yonathan Arfi, president of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France, said of the Eiffel Tower display. “It is not acceptable to have hostages, and it is even more unacceptable to have children hostages.”
Arfi’s group also arranged empty baby carriages in the French coastal cities of Nice and Marseille.
A day earlier, blindfolded teddy bears with photos of abducted children were placed in front of a fountain in Tel Aviv.
Demonstrators and family members of hostages taken from the kibbutz Kfar Azza called Thursday for their release in a street protest in Tel Aviv.
A poster said 62 people from the kibbutz had been slain, 17 were kidnapped and one was missing. Hundreds more were wounded.
“I want my brother back,” said Ido Shamriz, brother of Alon Shamriz. “I want him (back) now. Bring all the kidnapped people now to Israel, now.”
UNITED NATIONS — Iran’s foreign minister says Hamas is ready to release civilian prisoners abducted from Israel and is stressing that the international community must take responsibility for releasing 6,000 Palestinian prisoners held in Israel.
Hossein Amirabdollahian told an emergency meeting of the U.N. General Assembly on Thursday that Iran “stands ready to play its part in this very important humanitarian endeavor, along with Qatar and Turkey.”
Iran is a key backer of Hamas, and Qatar has already played a key role in the release of four Israeli civilians, among the more than 200 taken captive.
Amirabdollahian accused the United States of directly participating in the Israeli-Hamas war and what he called a “genocide” against Palestinians.
He also issued a strong warning “against the uncontrollable consequences of the unlimited financial, arms and operational support by the White House to the Tel Aviv regime.”
“I say frankly to the American statesman, who are now managing the genocide in Palestine, that we do not welcome to expansion of the war in the region,” Iran’s top diplomat said in English at the start of his remarks.
“But I warn, if the genocide in Gaza continues, they will not be spared from this fire,” Amirabdollahian said. “It is our home, and west Asia is our region. We do not compromise with any party and any side, and we have no reservation when it comes to our home security.”
MOSCOW — A senior Iranian diplomat discussed the situation in the Gaza Strip with a Kremlin Mideast envoy Thursday.
Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri met with Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, who serves as the Kremlin envoy for the Middle East.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said diplomats emphasized “the need for a cessation of hostilities in and around the Gaza Strip and the prompt provision of humanitarian assistance to the affected Palestinian population.”
It added that they also reaffirmed a shared commitment by Moscow and Tehran to “continue close coordination of efforts in the interests of stabilizing the situation in the Middle East.”
MOSCOW — The Russian Foreign Ministry said it discussed the release of hostages in the Gaza Strip and the evacuation of Russian nationals and other foreign citizens with a Hamas representative who visited Moscow Thursday.
The ministry said in a statement carried by Russian news agencies that talks with Abu Marzouk, a member of Hamas’ political bureau, were part of Moscow’s efforts to secure the immediate release of foreign hostages held in Gaza. It said issues related to organizing the evacuation of Russian and other foreign citizens were also discussed.
The ministry noted that the Russian side “reaffirmed its unwavering position in favor of implementing the well-known decisions of the international community, including the relevant resolutions of the United Nations Security Council and the U.N. General Assembly, which envisage the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state within the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital and coexisting in peace and security with Israel.”
BRUSSELS — Spanish Acting Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez called Thursday for an international peace conference on the Middle East conflict.
“From Spain, we propose that an International Peace Conference be held within six months so that the entire international community feels involved, is involved, and we can definitively find a two-state solution to Israel and Palestine,” he said ahead of a European Union Council meeting.
Sánchez also called for a humanitarian cease-fire to get aid into Gaza and called on Hamas to release people who are being held hostage.