UNITED STATES NEWS

Live updates | Blinken presses Israel on Gaza’s postwar future as Lebanon border clashes escalate

Jan 9, 2024, 1:02 AM | Updated: 7:52 pm

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is back in Tel Aviv and, after meeting with top leaders Tuesday, said Israel must do more to lessen the Gaza war’s toll on civilians and said Washington rejects any proposal for settling Palestinians outside the territory.

Hundreds of people have been killed in recent days as the Israeli offensive’s focus shifts to the southern city of Khan Younis and built-up refugee camps in the central Gaza. The entire 2.3 million population is also in a food crisis, with 576,000 people at catastrophic or starvation levels.

Israeli strikes in southern Lebanon killed at least four members of the militant group Hezbollah members, a day after a similar attack killed a commander with the militant Hezbollah group. Israel claimed it killed Ali Hussein Barji, who it said was in charge of Hezbollah’s drones in the south, but a Hezbollah official, speaking on condition of anonymity in accordance with the group’s regulations, said he was only a fighter.

Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack from Gaza into southern Israel triggered the war and killed around 1,200 people, and militants took some 250 others hostage. Israel’s air, ground and sea assault in Gaza has killed more than 23,000 people, two-thirds of them women and children, according to the Health Ministry in the Hamas-ruled territory. The count does not differentiate between civilians and combatants.

Currently:

— Hezbollah launches drone strike on northern Israel base, Israeli military says there’s no damage.

— Blinken urges Israel to engage with region on postwar plans that include path to Palestinian state.

— Israeli strike kills an elite Hezbollah commander in the latest escalation linked to the war in Gaza.

— Former U.K. opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn will join South Africa’s delegation accusing Israel of genocide.

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

Here’s what’s happening in the war:

U.N. SECURITY COUNCIL TO VOTE ON HOUTHI ATTACKS IN RED SEA

UNITED NATIONS – The U.N. Security Council has scheduled a vote Wednesday on a U.S.-proposed resolution that would condemn attacks by Yemen’s Houthi rebels on merchant and commercial vessels in the Red Sea area and demand an immediate halt.

The draft resolution, obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press, says at least two dozen Houthi attacks are impeding global commerce “and undermine navigational rights and freedoms as well as regional peace and security.”

The resolution would demand the immediate release of the first ship the Houthis attacked, the Galaxy Leader, a Japanese-operated cargo ship with links to an Israeli company that was seized on Nov. 19 along with its crew.

Without naming Iran, the Houthis’ main arms supplier, the draft to be voted on would condemn all arms dealings with the rebels, which violate Security Council sanctions.

It also “urges caution and restraint to avoid further escalation of the situation in the Red Sea and the broader region.” And it “encourages enhanced diplomatic efforts by all parties to that end, including continued support for dialogue and Yemen’s peace process under the U.N. auspices.”

___

Associated Press writer Edith Lederer contributed.

YEMEN’S HOUTHI REBELS LAUNCH DRONE AND MISSILE ATTACK ON RED SEA SHIPPING

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Yemen’s Houthi rebels unleashed a barrage of drones and missiles targeting shipping in the Red Sea late Tuesday, though it initially appeared no ship was damaged, authorities said Wednesday.

The assault happened off the Yemeni port cities of Hodeida and Mokha, according to the private intelligence firm Ambrey. In the Hodeida incident, Ambrey said ships described over radio seeing missiles and drones, with U.S.-allied warships in the area urging “vessels to proceed at maximum speed.”

Off Mokha, ships saw missiles fired, a drone in the air and small vessels trailing them, Ambrey said.

The British military’s United Kingdom Marine Trade Operations, which monitors shipping attacks in the region, said there were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

The Houthis did not immediately issue a formal statement acknowledging launching the attacks. But the pan-Arab satellite news network Al Jazeera quoted an anonymous Houthi military official as saying their forces “targeted a ship linked to Israel in the Red Sea,” without elaborating.

The Iran-backed militants have carried out more than two dozen attacks on commercial shipping in the Red Sea in response to the Israel-Hamas war, disrupting international trade and leading to increased efforts by the U.S. and its allies to patrol the vital waterway.

UNITED STATES DEFENDS VETOING A RUSSIAN AMENDMENT TO U.N. CEASE-FIRE PLAN

UNITED NATIONS — The United States defended its veto last month of a Russian-proposed amendment to a Security Council resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza. U.S. deputy ambassador Robert Wood said the Russian proposal on Dec. 22 had been “disconnected from the situation on the ground.”

At a U.N. General Assembly meeting on Tuesday, the Palestinian and Arab delegations were joined by many other countries demanding an immediate halt to the Israel-Hamas war — calls that were echoed by a group of anti-war rabbis in the gallery.

Wood repeated that Washington is working to secure a “pause” in the Israel-Hamas war and the release of 136 Israeli hostages in Gaza. He said it was “striking” that those urging an end to the conflict have made very few demands of Hamas, whose Oct. 7 attack on Israel sparked the war.

The U.N. adopted a resolution in 2022 requiring any Security Council member who vetoes a resolution to explain why to the General Assembly.

The U.S. only got support from Israel. A cease-fire would be “a victory for Hamas … to continue the reign of terror in Gaza,” said Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Gilad Erdan. He said Israel supports delivering aid to Gaza but accused Hamas of “looting” humanitarian assistance before it gets to civilians. He also accused the U.N. of doing “nothing” to bring the hostages home.

Some 36 rabbis from the group Rabbis 4 Ceasefire, who oppose Israel’s ongoing military action, came to the U.N. as tourists. The majority of them briefly held signs in the empty Security Council chamber saying “Biden Stop Vetoing Peace.” A small group did the same in the gallery of the General Assembly chamber before being hustled out by U.N. security officers.

Riyad Mansour, the U.N. Palestinian ambassador, told the assembly his people are “being slaughtered,” with entire families killed, and stressed that “the horrors need to end, and the only way to end them is a cease-fire.”

“The whole world is calling for an immediate humanitarian cease-fire,” he said, accusing Israel of “destroying everything to make Gaza livable.” However, he said, “The Palestinian people are here to stay.”

ISRAEL APPROVES NEARLY 700 NEW SETTLEMENT UNITS IN EAST JERUSALEM

JERUSALEM — Almost 700 housing units for Jewish settlers in east Jerusalem were given final approval by a local committee on Tuesday, according to Ir Amim, an anti-settlement monitoring group.

The announcement came as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was meeting with Israeli leaders and reiterating his calls for movement toward the establishment of a Palestinian state after the Gaza war. A similar announcement during a visit by then-Vice President Joe Biden in 2010 caused a diplomatic incident at the time.

The Givat HaShaked development is part of a cluster of settlements on the southern edge of east Jerusalem, many of which have already been built up into full-fledged residential neighborhoods.

Critics say the settlements further undermine any hopes for a two-state solution.

Israel captured the West Bank and east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war, and some 700,000 Jewish settlers now live in settlements built across both territories. The Palestinians seek both areas for their future state.

Aviv Tatarsky, a researcher at Ir Amim, says another plan for 1,500 settler homes was approved just weeks ago. He says settlement planning in the city has been unaffected by the war.

“Nothing to do with settlements has stopped,” Tatarsky said. “Oct. 7 didn’t change anything.”

Israel considers all of Jerusalem to be its undivided capital. But its annexation of the eastern sector is not internationally recognized.

Beit Safafa is already mostly encircled by Jewish settlements and the Givat HaShaked development further prevents its growth, said Tatarsky.

ISRAELI HOSTAGE SAYS OTHER CAPTIVE WOMEN WERE SEXUALLY ABUSED AND TORTURED

JERUSALEM — An Israeli woman who spent 51 days in captivity in the Gaza Strip says other female hostages suffered sexual abuse and torture.

Aviva Spiegel delivered the testimony Tuesday in a special hearing at the Knesset, or Israeli parliament, dedicated to the 136 hostages still held in Gaza.

Spiegel says that after one female hostage went to the bathroom, she returned looking agitated.

“I’m going to say words that are not pretty, but that bastard touched her,” she said. “And he didn’t even allow me to hug her after it happened. It’s awful, just awful.”

Siegel said in another episode, their captors tortured a woman they believed was an officer in the Israeli army while she was right next to Siegel.

Siegel did not elaborate on how her fellow hostages were abused, but she appeared visibly upset as she spoke.

Siegel, 62, was among some 250 people taken hostage during Hamas’ Oct. 7 cross-border attack. She was released in late November during a weeklong cease-fire.

She pleaded with lawmakers to take action to release her husband, Keith Siegel, 64, who is still being held in captivity.

BLINKEN CALLS ON ISRAEL TO WORK WITH MODERATE PALESTINIANS ON POSTWAR PLANS

TEL AVIV, Israel — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday called on Israel to take greater steps to protect civilians, allow more aid into Gaza and work with moderate Palestinian leaders, saying regional countries would only invest in the reconstruction of Gaza if there is a “pathway to a Palestinian state.”

He also said he was “crystal clear” that Palestinians must be able to return to their homes “as soon as conditions allow” and said the U.S. rejects any proposal for settling them outside the territory — something far-right members of Israel’s governing coalition have called for.

He also dismissed a case filed by South Africa against Israel at the International Court of Justice accusing it of genocide, calling the allegations “meritless” and saying they distract from efforts to improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza. He said it was “particularly galling” as Hamas and other groups attacking Israel call for its annihilation.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday in Tel Aviv, Blinken said the case, filed in the International Court of Justice, is a distraction from efforts to halt the Israel-Hamas war.

LEADERS OF EGYPT, JORDAN AND PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY WILL MEET TO DISCUSS WAR

AMMAN, Jordan — The leaders of Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, will meet this week to discuss the war in Gaza and surging violence in the West Bank.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas have continually called for an immediate cease-fire and have met several times during the Israel-Hamas conflict.

According to a statement issued by Jordan’s royal court, Wednesday’s meeting will be held in the southern Red Sea city of Aqaba. Few further details about the summit were made public. It comes as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in the region.

Egypt and Jordan have acted as peace brokers in past conflicts between Israel and Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip.

Both nations have accused Israel of trying to liquidate Palestinian demand for statehood by driving Palestinians off Gaza.

BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY IS CONCERNED ISRAEL MAY HAVE BROKEN INTERNATIONAL LAW IN GAZA WAR

LONDON — British Foreign Secretary David Cameron says he is worried Israel may have acted unlawfully during its war in Gaza against Hamas.

During a question session with lawmakers on Tuesday, Cameron was asked whether he had been advised that Israel was breaking international humanitarian law.

The former prime minister replied: “Am I worried that Israel has taken action that might be in breach of international law in Gaza, because this particular premises has been bombed, or whatever? Yes, of course.”

Cameron urged Israel to restore the water supply in Gaza, but would not say whether depriving the territory of water broke international law.

Asked by a member of Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee whether U.K. government lawyers think Israel is vulnerable to challenge at the International Court of Justice in the Hague, Cameron said: “It’s close to that.”

Britain has said it supports Israel’s right to defend itself following the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas, but urged it to act within international rules.

FUNERAL FOR HEZBOLLAH COMMANDER KILLED BY ISRAEL DRAWS THOUSANDS OF MOURNERS

KHIRBET SELM, Lebanon — The funeral for an elite commander of the Lebanese militia Hezbollah was attended by thousands of mourners on Tuesday, a day after he was killed by an Israel drone strike.

Wissam al-Tawil’s coffin, draped in Hezbollah’s yellow flag, was carried through streets of the southern Lebanese village of Khirbet Selm to the cemetery where he was laid to rest.

Al-Tawil, 48, is the most senior Hezbollah militant killed in the three months of war in Gaza between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, and was the latest escalation in the daily skirmishes skirmishes between Israel and Hezbollah skirmishes on the Lebanese border.

“The enemy should never one day think that we will be afraid,” said al-Tawil’s sister-in-law Samira on Tuesday.

Israeli officials have been demanding for weeks that the Hezbollah withdraws its fighters from the border area to allow tens of thousands of Israelis displaced by the fighting to return to their homes.

ISRAELI FORCES FATALLY SHOOT PALESTINIAN MAN AFTER ALLEGED STABBING

JERUSALEM — The Israeli military says its forces shot and killed a Palestinian man following an alleged stabbing attack in the West Bank, as violence surges across the occupied territory.

An army statement says the Palestinian was shot Tuesday after attempting to stab a soldier near the city of Ramallah. The Palestinian Health Ministry says the 31-year-old man was killed in the nearby village of Ein Sinya.

The West Bank has seen a spike in deadly violence since Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack into Israel set off the war in Gaza.

The Palestinian Health Ministry says Israeli forces have killed 341 Palestinians in the West Bank during that time. Most have been killed in confrontations with Israeli forces during arrest raids or protests.

MORE THAN 23,000 HAVE NOW BEEN KILLED IN GAZA, UN AGENCY SAYS

GENEVA — A top World Health Organization official in Gaza says he’s seeing no letup in the intensity of the conflict between Israel and Hamas. The U.N. health agency, citing the latest figures from the Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza, also says the conflict that erupted Oct. 7 has now killed more than 23,000 people in the enclave.

Sean Casey, WHO’s emergency medical teams coordinator based in southern Rafah, decried dire food shortages in the north. He said some health workers are now fleeing out of fear for their own lives — after sticking it out for months to treat patients.

“I’ve been in Gaza for five weeks. I have not seen a lowering of the intensity of the conflict,” Casey told a U.N. briefing in Geneva by video from the southern Gaza city of Rafah. “I went to Nasser Medical Complex just a few days ago and saw multiple explosions just in the few minutes that I was driving down the roads.”

Dr. Rik Peeperkorn, WHO representative for the occupied Palestinian territory, said from Jerusalem that in addition to the more than 23,000 people killed, nearly 59,000 people had been injured.

He cited multiple trauma cases: “spinal trauma, crush injuries, severe burns, amputees — I’ve never seen so many amputees in my life, including among children.”

“This will have such a long-term impact for everything,” he said.

A PROJECTILE FALLS AT AN ARMY BASE IN NORTHERN ISRAEL, MILITARY SAYS

TEL AVIV, Israel — The Israeli military says a projectile fell at an army base in northern Israel after Hezbollah said it launched an exploding drone toward the area.

The military said its air defense system was activated to try to intercept a “hostile aircraft,” and that the aircraft fell at the base.

The military said no damage was caused to the base Tuesday. It did not specify where exactly the base was located but Hezbollah said it targeted Safed, a city farther away from where the daily Israel-Hezbollah skirmishes have been taking place.

AN ISRAELI DRONE STRIKE HITS A CAR IN LEBANON, KILLING 3, OFFICIALS SAY

BEIRUT — An Israeli drone strike hit a car Tuesday morning in southern Lebanon, killing three people inside it, security officials in the area and the state news agency said.

There was no immediate word on the identities of the three. The strike on the village of Ghandouriyeh came a day after a similar attack killed a commander with the militant Hezbollah group. Ghandouriyeh is about 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the border with Israel.

Two security officials said Israeli drones carried out three strikes in the area including one that hit the car killing the three instantly. They spoke on condition of anonymity due to briefing regulations.

The state-run National News Agency said the strike in Ghandouriyeh inflicted casualties without giving further details. Hezbollah officials did not immediately respond to calls for comment.

Tuesday’s strike is the latest along the Lebanon-Israel border since Hezbollah started attacking Israeli military posts following the deadly Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel by Hamas. Since then, Hezbollah has lost 150 fighters in the near-daily exchanges of fire.

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Associated Press writer Bassem Mroue contributed.

ISRAELI ACTOR REPORTEDLY SERIOUSLY WOUNDED IN GAZA

TEL AVIV, Israel — Israeli media reported Tuesday that an actor on the hit Netflix show “Fauda” has been seriously wounded in the Gaza Strip.

Idan Amedi, 35, was sedated and intubated at an Israeli hospital and covered in shrapnel wounds, the Israeli news site Ynet said. He was in stable condition. Ynet said Amedi has been on reserve duty since Hamas launched its attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7 and was wounded Monday.

“Fauda” follows a team of undercover agents from Israel’s domestic security agency Shin Bet in their operations against Palestinians. While the show is critically acclaimed, some Palestinians say it trivializes their experience under Israel’s open-ended military occupation of the West Bank. Amedi played Sagi Tzur, a rookie undercover agent, during the series’ second to fourth seasons, and is also a successful singer-songwriter in Israel.

Israel has enlisted roughly 360,000 reserve soldiers from all walks of life in its war against Hamas.

GROUP WARNS THAT HOSTAGES HELD BY HAMAS FACE HEALTH RISKS

TEL AVIV — A group representing people held hostage by Hamas and other militants in the Gaza Strip warned Tuesday of the detrimental health risks to many of those held captive.

In a report released Tuesday, the medical team of The Hostages and Missing — Families Forum said at least one-third of the roughly 108 hostages said to be alive in captivity suffer from chronic illnesses or conditions like diabetes, cancer or heart disease that require medical care or medication. It said 10% of hostages were over 65 and were vulnerable without nursing assistance. The report also expressed concern for the hostages’ mental health and for those who had been wounded during Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack against Israel.

“If no medical care is provided urgently for all hostages, the result could be irreversible health problems at best and death at worst,” the group said.

Hamas and other militants took some 250 people hostage in their October attack, according to Israeli authorities. Roughly 105 people were freed in a cease-fire deal at the end of November, while around 24 have been killed in captivity.

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Live updates | Blinken presses Israel on Gaza’s postwar future as Lebanon border clashes escalate