UNITED STATES NEWS

Live updates | Gaza death toll tops 24,000 as UN agencies call urgently for more aid

Jan 15, 2024, 3:49 AM | Updated: 1:10 pm

Israeli strikes hit Gaza City and soldiers battled militants in southern Gaza on Monday as the heads of three major U.N. agencies said the enclave desperately needs more aid to ward off famine and disease outbreaks.

More than 100 days into Israel’s war against Hamas, Palestinian authorities said the death toll in the enclave passed 24,000.

The Oct. 7 Hamas attack from Gaza into southern Israel that triggered the war killed around 1,200 people and saw some 250 others taken hostage by militants.

Currently:

— White House says ‘it’s the right time’ for Israel to scale back Gaza war as fighting hits 100 days

— As Israel-Hamas war reaches 100-day mark, here’s the conflict by numbers

— From Berlin to Karachi, thousands demonstrate in support of either Israel or the Palestinians

— Families of hostages held in Gaza for 100 days hold 24-hour rally, beg government to bring them home

— A defiant Netanyahu says no one can halt Israel’s war to crush Hamas, including the world court

— Hamas fights with a patchwork of weapons built by Iran, China, Russia and North Korea

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

Here’s the latest:

OFFENSIVE IN SOUTHERN GAZA SOON WILL BE SCALED BACK, ISRAELI DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS

TEL AVIV, Israel — Israel’s defense minister says the intense Israeli military offensive in the southern Gaza Strip will soon be scaled back, but he is ruling out a cease-fire.

At a news conference Monday, Yoav Gallant said Israel recently ended its intensive ground operation in northern Gaza after taking military control of the area. He said he expected similar results in the south as well.

“It will end soon,” he said. “In both places we will reach the moment for the next stage.”

The statement comes a day after the White House called on Israel to curtail its offensive.

Gallant gave no details on timing and said Israel is still targeting Hamas’ leaders. He called them the “head of the snake” and said they are believed to be hiding in Khan Younis, the southern city where the offensive has been focused in recent weeks.

Gallant also ruled out a cease-fire, saying military pressure is the only way to win the release of the more than 100 hostages still in Hamas captivity.

“Only from a position of strength can we ensure the release of hostages,” he said.

UN CHIEF WARNS OF STARVATION AND DISEASES IN GAZA AS AID STAGGERS

UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. secretary-general says Gaza faces “the long shadow of starvation” and the risk of disease outbreaks because of barriers to delivering vital aid.

Antonio Guterres did not mention Israel by name in his remarks Monday, but blamed the inability to meet Gaza’s growing humanitarian needs on widespread bombardment, barriers to entering the territory and restrictions on distribution inside of it – all under Israel’s control.

He said he was “deeply troubled by the clear violation of international humanitarian law that we are witnessing.”

Israeli officials have denied hindering aid delivery, saying the U.N. needs to provide more workers and trucks.

But Guterres said the U.N. and its partners “cannot effectively deliver humanitarian aid while Gaza is under such heavy, widespread and unrelenting bombardment.” He pointed to the deaths of 152 U.N. staffers in Gaza since the start of the war, “the largest single loss of life in the history of our organization.”

He called for an immediate humanitarian cease-fire and the release of all hostages captured by Hamas in its Oct. 7 rampage into southern Israel, which triggered the war.

HAMAS RELEASES VIDEO OF TWO HOSTAGES IT CLAIMS WERE KILLED IN ISRAELI AIRSTRIKES

JERUSALEM — Hamas has released a video showing what it says are the bodies of two Israeli hostages it claims were killed in Israeli airstrikes.

The video shows three hostages speaking to the camera, likely under duress. The three – Noa Argamani, 26, Yossi Sharabi, 53, and Itay Svirsky, 38 – urge Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to halt the war and say they are living in difficult conditions without enough food and water and in danger of Israeli airstrikes. At the end of the video, it then displays what it says are the lifeless bodies of Sharabi and Svirsky.

Argamani then tells the camera that separate airstrikes killed Sharabi and Svirsky and that she was injured in her head and body by shrapnel. She then pleads for Israel to bring the hostages home before the video shows what appear to be the bodies of Sharabi and Svirsky.

Hamas had released a video of the three late Sunday, saying it would deliver an update on their conditions on Monday. It was not known when the video was made.

The claims could not be verified, and there was no immediate comment from the Israeli military or the forum representing Israeli hostages and their families.

But in a news conference, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant accused Hamas of waging “psychological abuse” against Israeli families at a time when it is suffering heavy battlefield casualties.

Argamani’s case has drawn heavy attention because her mother is dying from cancer and has tearfully called for the release of her daughter while she is still alive.

PALESTINIAN AUTHORITIES SAY ISRAELI FORCES FATALLY SHOOT 2 IN WEST BANK

RAMALLAH, West Bank — The Palestinian Health Ministry says two Palestinians were shot dead by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank.

The ministry says a 22-year-old man and a 24-year-old woman were shot dead in the southern town of Dura.

The Israeli military said its forces opened fire at group of around 100 Palestinians taking part in a violent protest, some of whom had hurled bricks and firebombs at soldiers. The man who was shot had thrown a firebomb, the military said, without providing evidence.

The West Bank has experienced a surge in violence since the war in Gaza erupted on Oct. 7. The war was triggered by Hamas’ surprise attack from Gaza into southern Israel.

The Palestinian Health Ministry says Israeli forces have killed some 350 Palestinians in the West Bank since Oct. 7. Most have been killed in confrontations with Israeli forces during arrest raids or violent protests.

UN AGENCIES CALL URGENTLY FOR MORE AID TO GAZA

The heads of three major U.N. agencies are warning that Gaza urgently needs more aid or its desperate population will suffer widespread famine and disease.

While the U.N. agency chiefs did not directly point a finger at Israel, they said aid delivery is hobbled by the opening of too few border crossings, a slow vetting process for trucks and goods going into Gaza, and continuing fighting throughout the territory. Israel plays a deciding factor in all of those things.

The World Food Program, UNICEF and the World Health Organization said Monday that new entry routes need to be opened to Gaza, more trucks need to be allowed in each day, and aid workers and those seeking aid need to be allowed to move around safely.

“People in Gaza risk dying of hunger just miles from trucks filled with food,” said WFP Executive Director Cindy McCain. “Every hour lost puts countless lives at risk.”

CAR-RAMMING AND STABBING ATTACK KILLS 1

JERUSALEM — Israeli police say at least two Palestinians carried out an attack north of Tel Aviv, ramming cars into pedestrians and stabbing people. One woman was killed and 12 people were wounded.

The police say they arrested two Palestinian suspects from the West Bank. They say the suspects stole three different cars and attempted to run down pedestrians Monday and that the two suspects had been working in Israel without permits.

Israeli rescue services say they treated 13 people, including three in serious condition and seven minors. Some of the victims had stabbing wounds.

France’s Foreign Ministry says two French citizens are among the wounded. In a statement, it said “nothing justifies terrorism″ and that France “assures Israel of its solidarity in this ordeal.″

The attack took place in Ra’anana, a Tel Aviv suburb. Police were searching the area for additional suspects.

Hamas praised the attack but neither it nor other armed groups claimed responsibility.

ISRAELI SOCCER PLAYER RETURNS HOME AFTER SHOWING SUPPORT FOR HOSTAGES

ANKARA, Turkey — Israeli soccer player Sagiv Jehezkel returned to Israel on Monday evening to a cheering crowd, hours after he was briefly detained in Turkey for allegedly inciting hatred after he expressed solidarity with hostages being held by Hamas in Gaza during a top-flight league game.

Jehezkel landed in Israel in a small plane and was draped in an Israeli flag upon disembarking. Dozens of fans mobbed him as he left the airport, cheering, singing, and waving flags.

“There’s nowhere like Israel in the world,” Jehezkel told reporters. “I’m very happy to be here, and I couldn’t wait to arrive.”

The Antalyaspor player had been detained in Turkey for questioning late Sunday after he displayed a bandage on his wrist with the words “100 Days 7.10” — in reference to Oct. 7, the day Hamas attacked Israel and the hostages were abducted — next to a Star of David.

AUTHORITIES SAY DEATH TOLL IN GAZA PASSES 24,000

CAIRO — Gaza’s Health Ministry said Monday that the bodies of 132 people killed in Israeli bombardment have been brought to the enclave’s hospitals in the past 24 hours.

According to Gaza’s Civil Defense group, 33 of those were killed in Israeli airstrikes on Gaza City.

Hospitals also received 252 wounded, the ministry in the Hamas-ruled territory said in its daily briefing.

The fatalities brought the death toll in the strip to 24,100 dead since the war began on Oct. 7, the ministry said, adding that over 60,834 others were wounded.

The ministry, which does not distinguish in its count between fighters and noncombatants, says two-thirds of those killed in the war were women and children.

Israel says it has killed roughly 8,000 militants in the war.

POPE SAYS WAR ITSELF IS A CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis equated war itself with crimes against humanity.

In remarks to the public gathered in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday for his weekly window appearance, the pontiff said: “Let’s not forget how many suffer the cruelty of war in so many parts of the world, especially in Ukraine, in Palestine and in Israel.”

Francis lamented that “at the start of the year, we exchanged wishes for peace, but arms continue to kill and destroy.”

He urged reflection on the fact that war “sows death among civilians and destroys cities and infrastructure. In other words, today, war itself is a crime against humanity.”

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Live updates | Gaza death toll tops 24,000 as UN agencies call urgently for more aid