Salem Radio Network News Tuesday, March 5, 2024

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Live updates | Widening Israeli offensive in southern Gaza worsens dire humanitarian conditions

The Israeli military hit Rafah in southern Gaza twice overnight, residents said, as United Nations officials warned there are no safe places left in the besieged territory.

The center of Gaza’s second-largest city, Khan Younis, has also seen fighting amid Israel’s widening air and ground offensive in the southern part of the territory that has displaced tens of thousands more Palestinians and worsened dire humanitarian conditions.

Distribution of food, water and medicine have been prevented outside a sliver of southern Gaza, and new military evacuation orders are squeezing people into ever-smaller areas.

The United Nations said 1.87 million people — more than 80% of Gaza’s population — have been driven from their homes since the start of the Israel-Hamas war, triggered by the deadly Oct. 7 Hamas assault on southern Israel.

Around 1,200 people have died on the Israeli side, mainly civilians killed during Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack. The Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza said the death toll in the territory has surpassed 17,100, with more than 46,000 wounded. The ministry does not differentiate between civilian and combatant deaths, but said 70% of the dead were women and children.

Currently:

— Israel designates safe zone in Gaza. Palestinians and aid groups say it offers little relief.

— Israel and the U.S. at odds over conflicting visions for postwar Gaza.

— U.N. chief uses rare power to warn Security Council of impending “humanitarian catastrophe” in Gaza.

— Rights groups say Israeli strikes on journalists in Lebanon were likely deliberate.

— Find more of AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war.

Here’s what’s happening in the war:

WASHINGTON — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken says there is “a gap” between what Israel pledged to do to protect Palestinian civilians and the results so far since it began intensive military operations against Hamas in the southern Gaza Strip.

Blinken said Thursday that it remains “imperative” that Israel do more to ensure civilians are not killed or wounded as it seeks to eradicate Hamas from Gaza. He recalled that Israeli officials had assured him on a visit to Israel last week that they would take extra precautions to protect civilian life. He said he raised the issue again on Thursday.

“As we stand here almost a week into this campaign in the south and after the end of the humanitarian pause, it is imperative, it remains imperative, that Israel put a premium on civilian protection,” Blinken told reporters at a joint news conference in Washington with visiting British Foreign Secretary David Cameron.

“And there does remain a gap between exactly what I said when I was there between the intent to protect civilians and the actual results that we’re seeing on the ground,” he said.

A senior U.S. State Department official said Blinken spoke earlier Thursday with Israel’s Minister of Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer to say the U.S. is pleased with new deliveries of fuel to Gaza but still wants to see those and other assistance deliveries increased. At the same time, Blinken told Dermer that civilian casualties remain too high and that Israel must step up its efforts to reduce them, according to the official who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity to discuss the private diplomatic discussion.

— Associated Press reporter Matthew Lee contributed from Washington

GENEVA, Switzerland — The United Nations humanitarian chief says efforts to provide food, water and other supplies to millions in the Gaza Strip are in tatters.

Martin Griffiths said no place in the territory is safe because the pace of the Israeli military assault in southern Gaza is similar to the assault in the north.

“What’s happening in Gaza is forcing the people of Gaza to choose where to be and to choose on the basis of violence – and pressure,” Griffiths said.

He said trucks with aid are still coming into Gaza through the Rafah crossing from Egypt, but that the U.N. and its partners are trying to find roads that haven’t been mined or destroyed.

Griffiths said the U.N. has been negotiating for weeks to open the Kerem Shalom crossing from Israel to allow trucks to go directly to northern Gaza as well as through Rafah and into the south.

“There are some promising signs now that that may be able to open soon,” he said.

JERUSALEM — Israeli police on Thursday blocked a planned parade by several dozen Jewish ultranationalists through the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City.

The group had planned to enter the Muslim Quarter and make their way across the Old City to the Western Wall, which is the holiest site where Jews can pray.

But as the event began, police said the protesters began chanting racist anti-Arab chants, then tried to proceed without authorization. Police said some participants tried to run around police, and the event was prevented from taking place.

The march had raised fears that it could prompt new violence in Jerusalem. A similar event in 2021 by thousands of participants helped spark an 11-day Gaza war.

WASHINGTON — A dozen Senate Democrats, along with independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, expressed support Thursday of requiring that pending U.S. military aid for Israel and other allies be used in compliance with the laws of war and international and U.S. law.

Led by Sen. Chris Van Hollen, the senators proposed their amendment in response to nearly two months of Israeli bombardment of neighborhoods, refugee camps and other heavily populated sites across the Gaza Strip after the Oct. 7 Hamas attack in Israel.

The proposal, outlined in a joint letter Thursday, would attach the conditions in an amendment to a supplemental aid package pushed by the Biden administration that includes $14.3 billion in wartime aid for Israel.

Israel has enjoyed strong bipartisan support from Congress for decades. The proposal to condition the upcoming wartime aid is not expected to pass either the Democratic-controlled Senate or Republican-held House. But the move signals that the rising civilian death toll in Gaza is leading to an erosion of support among some lawmakers in the U.S., Israel’s most important ally.

JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has threatened to flatten parts of Lebanon if the Hezbollah militant group escalates its attacks on Israeli targets.

Netanyahu delivered the threat on Thursday during a visit to a military base in northern Israel. The visit came as a 54-year-old Israeli farmer was killed by an anti-tank missile fired from Lebanon.

Netanyahu said images of destruction in the war-ravaged Gaza Strip provide a glimpse of what could lie ahead for Lebanon.

“If Hezbollah chooses to launch an all-out war, then it will single-handedly turn Beirut and southern Lebanon, not far from here, to Gaza and Khan Yunis,” he said.

The Israeli military said it struck Hezbollah infrastructure in response to rocket fire Thursday.

Hezbollah began firing rockets and targeting military installations along Israel’s northern border after Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7 and triggered the war.

UNITED NATIONS — Arab and Islamic nations are calling for a vote Friday on a draft U.N. Security Council resolution demanding a humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza.

The proposed resolution is a response to a letter U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres sent the council Thursday warning of an impending “humanitarian catastrophe” in Gaza and urging its 15l members to deliver a humanitarian cease-fire.

The draft resolution was sponsored by the United Arab Emirates, the Arab representative on the council.

Guterres is scheduled to brief members Friday on the letter he sent under Article 99 of the U.N. Charter.

Surrounded by many ambassadors from Arab and Islamic nations, Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian U.N. ambassador, told reporters Thursday that they all hope council members will adopt the UAE resolution.

The United States, Israel’s closest ally, has not supported a cease-fire and has veto power in the Security Council.

Mansour said officials from Arab and Islamic nations are meeting with U.S. officials to press for American support.

BEIRUT — Israel’s air force conducted intense airstrikes on southern Lebanon Thursday as a rocket attack from Lebanon killed an Israeli civilian.

The Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and Israeli forces have clashed on the Lebanon-Israel frontier since Oct. 8, a day after the Palestinian militant Hamas group attacked southern Israel, triggering a war that has claimed the lives of thousands.

Hezbollah says that by activating the Lebanon-Israel front, it is keeping three Israeli army divisions busy and diverting them from carrying out ground and aerial attacks on the Gaza Strip.

The militant group said its fighters attacked 10 Israeli army posts along the border Thursday.

The Israeli military said an anti-tank missile fired from Lebanon toward the village of Mattat that injured an Israeli civilian. A spokesman for Israel’s emergency response service Magen David Adom said an injured 60-year-old man was pronounced dead.

Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency said Israel’s air forces struck several areas in southern Lebanon including the villages of Aita al-Shaab and Kounine. There was no word on casualties.

The Israeli military said its helicopters, tanks and artillery struck the sources of the launches from Lebanon.

JERUSALEM — In photos and video published Thursday, dozens of Palestinian men are seen sitting or kneeling in the streets of a northern Gaza town, stripped down to their underwear and hands bound behind their backs as they are guarded by Israeli troops.

The images were the first showing such detentions in the Israeli-Hamas war, now in its third month. The Israeli military had no immediate comment.

Israeli media said some of the images appeared to show suspected Hamas militants who had surrendered to Israeli forces.

However, the London-based news outlet Al-Araby al-Jadeed, or The New Arab, said one of the men seen in the photos is its Gaza correspondent Diaa al-Kahlout, and that he was rounded up with other civilians.

In a statement on its website, the news outlet said he was among dozens of men arrested in the northern town of Beit Lahiya, along with his brothers, relatives and others.

The report said the detained men were forced to strip and were searched before being taken to an unknown destination.

The images published Thursday were taken from the vantage point of Israeli troops.

JERUSALEM — The son of a former Israeli military chief and member of Israel’s war cabinet has been killed while fighting in Gaza.

The Israeli military said Thursday that Master Sgt. Gal Meir Eizenkot, 25, died in a battle in northern Gaza.

His father, Gadi Eizenkot, served as military chief of staff from 2015 to 2019.

He recently entered politics as a member of the centrist National Unity Party. He joined the newly formed war cabinet as an observer on Oct. 12.

BEIRUT — Two Israeli strikes that killed a Reuters videographer and wounded six other journalists in south Lebanon nearly two months ago were apparently deliberate and a direct attack on civilians, two international human rights groups said Thursday.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said the strikes should be investigated as a war crime. Their findings were released simultaneously with similar investigations by Reuters and Agence France-Presse.

Israeli officials have said that they don’t deliberately target journalists.

The investigations by the rights groups found that two strikes 37 seconds apart targeted the group of journalists near the village of Alma al-Shaab on Oct. 13.

The strikes killed Issam Abdallah and wounded Reuters journalists Thaer Al-Sudani and Maher Nazeh, Qatar’s Al-Jazeera television cameraman Elie Brakhya and reporter Carmen Joukhadar, and AFP’s photographer Christina Assi, and video journalist Dylan Collins.

The seven journalists were among many who deployed in southern Lebanon to cover the daily exchange of fire between members of Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah group and Israeli troops. The violence began a day after the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas on southern Israel that triggered the latest Israel-Hamas war.

Amnesty International said it had verified more than 100 videos and photographs, analyzed weapons fragments from the site, and interviewed nine witnesses. It found that the group “was visibly identifiable as journalists and that the Israeli military knew or should have known that they were civilians yet attacked them.”

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