UNITED STATES NEWS

Live updates | US-owned ship attacked near Yemen, medicine for Israeli hostages enters Gaza

Jan 17, 2024, 2:23 AM | Updated: 5:40 pm

Yemen’s Houthi rebels launched a bomb-carrying drone into a U.S.-owned ship on Wednesday, officials said, the second such attack in recent days targeting vessels directly linked to America after U.S.-led strikes against the Houthis in recent days. The U.S. military launched another wave of ship- and submarine-launched missile strikes against Houthi-controlled sites Wednesday, U.S. officials said.

In Gaza, a shipment of medicine for dozens of hostages held by Palestinian militant group Hamas entered the territory late Wednesday, Qatar’s foreign ministry said. The Gulf nation and France worked out a deal between Israel and Hamas to deliver medicine to both the hostages and for Palestinians.

More than 100 days into the Israel-Hamas war, Palestinian militants are still putting up stiff resistance across the besieged enclave. The conflict shows no sign of ending and has inflamed tensions across the Middle East, with a dizzying array of strikes and counterstrikes in recent days.

The Palestinian death toll in Gaza has risen to 24,285 people, Health Ministry said Tuesday. In Israel, around 1,200 people were killed during Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack that sparked the war and saw some 250 people taken hostage by militants.

Currently:

— How watermelon imagery, a symbol of solidarity with Palestinians, spread around the planet

— U.S. pledges new sanctions over Houthi attacks will minimize harm to Yemen’s hungry millions.

— A freed Israeli hostage relives the horrors of captivity. She fears for her husband, still held in Gaza.

— U.S. senators reject Bernie Sanders’ effort to curb Israel-Hamas war. The vote signals rising unease.

— A chaotic wave of attacks and reprisals in the Middle East fuel worries of a broader regional war.

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

Here’s the latest:

US military launches more missile strikes against Houthi sites in Yemen

WASHINGTON — The U.S. military launched another wave of ship- and submarine-launched missile strikes against Houthi-controlled sites Wednesday, U.S. officials said, marking the fourth time in days it has targeted the group in Yemen as violence ignited by the Israel-Hamas war continues to spill over in the Middle East.

The strikes followed the official announcement that the U.S. has put the Houthis back on its list of specially designated global terrorists. The sanctions that come with the formal designation are meant to sever violent extremist groups from their sources of financing.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss details that had not been made public.

The Houthis are continuing their campaign of harassment of commercial and military ships. On Wednesday, an attack drone launched from a Houthi-controlled area in Yemen struck the U.S.-owned bulk carrier Genco Picardy in the Gulf of Aden.

Pentagon Press Secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said the U.S. would continue to take military action to prevent further attacks.

— By Tara Copp and Lolita C. Baldor.

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Yemen’s Houthi rebels attack a US-owned ship in the Gulf of Aden with bomb-carrying drone

JERUSALEM — A U.S.-owned ship in the Gulf of Aden was hit Wednesday by a bomb-carrying drone launched by Yemen’s Houthi rebels, officials said.

The attack on the Genco Picardy was the second this week targeting vessels directly linked to the United States after U.S.-led strikes targeting the Houthis. It happened about 70 miles (110 kilometers) southeast of Aden, said the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, an arm of the British navy that oversees Mideast waterways.

The ship’s captain reported that a fire onboard had been extinguished, it said.

In a statement, the Genco Picardy’s owner, New York City-based Genco Shipping & Trading Ltd., said the ship was carrying a load of phosphate rock. “All seafarers aboard the vessel are confirmed to be uninjured,” the company said, adding that “the vessel has remained stable and underway on a course out of the area.”

Satellite-tracking data had put the vessel off Saudi Arabia in recent days as it was bound for India.

On Monday, a Houthi missile hit the U.S.-owned bulk carrier Gibraltar Eagle. The U.S. military’s Central Command said the ship reported no injuries or significant damage.

The Houthis say their attacks on shipping are aimed at backing Hamas and Palestinians trapped in the Gaza Strip during Israel’s war on Hamas. The U.S. and its allies have carried out three rounds of airstrikes targeting Houthi sites over the last week to try to deter the militants.

UNTREATED WOUNDS, OVERCROWDED HOSPITALS AS GAZA’S HEALTH SYSTEM COLLAPSES

UNITED NATIONS — People are dying every day from untreated injuries in Gaza’s overwhelmed hospitals as the territory’s health care system collapses, a U.N. health emergency expert says.

The World Health Organization’s Sean Casey, who left Gaza recently after five weeks of trying to get more staff and supplies to the 16 partially functioning hospitals, told a U.N. news conference Wednesday about the health emergency he witnessed which deteriorated during his time in the territory.

At Al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza City, “I saw patients who were lying on church pews, basically waiting to die in a hospital that had no fuel, no power, no water, very little in the way of medical supplies and only a handful of staff remaining to take care of them,” he said.

Shifa Hospital in northern Gaza City, once the territory’s leading hospital with 700 beds, has been reduced to treating emergency trauma victims, and is reportedly filled with tens of thousands of people who have fled their homes and are now living in operating rooms, corridors and stairs, he said.

“Literally five or six doctors or nurses” are seeing hundreds of mainly trauma victims a day, Casey said, and there were “so many patients on the floor you could barely move without stepping on somebody’s hands or feet.”

Last week, Casey said, he visited the Nasser medical complex, the main hospital further south in Khan Younis, which is at 200% of its bed capacity with only 30% of its staff, so “patients are everywhere, in the corridors, on the floor.”

He said a cease-fire is what’s needed, first and foremost, to help some 60,000 injured people and several hundred new arrivals every day. To address the crisis, he said, safe and secure access to hospitals and health facilities is essential — and medical supplies need to be delivered to facilities where there is adequate staff and electricity to help the thousands in need.

MEDICINE SHIPMENT FOR ISRAELI HOSTAGES ENTERS GAZA STRIP, QATAR SAYS

CAIRO — A spokesperson for Qatar’s Foreign Ministry says that a shipment of medicine for dozens of hostages held by Hamas has reached the Gaza Strip.

The medicine arrived Wednesday as part of a France- and Qatar-mediated deal that was the first agreement between Israel and Hamas since a truce in late November that freed dozens of captives, mostly women and children. For every box that arrives for a hostage, 1,000 boxes will arrive to Palestinians in Gaza, a senior Hamas official said.

In a post on X, formerly Twitter, Qatar Foreign Ministry spokesman Majed al-Ansari did not say whether the aid had been distributed.

More than 100 captives remain, among them several older men. A group representing the hostages says about a third of those in captivity suffer from chronic diseases that require medical care.

IRAN SAYS ITS STRIKES IN IRAQ AND SYRIA WERE IN SELF-DEFENSE

UNITED NATIONS — Iran has told the United Nations that it exercised its right to self-defense in carrying out “targeted attacks against the bases and facilities of terrorist groups situated in Syria and Iraq.”

Iran’s U.N. Ambassador, Amir Saeid Iravani, reiterated his government’s “inherent rights, as recognized by international law, to safeguard its sovereignty, national security, and its citizens against any threats or attacks.”

“This commitment reflects Iran’s resolve to protect its interests and maintain peace and security within its borders,” he said in letters to the U.N. Security Council and Secretary-General Antonio Guterres obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press.

He said the anti-terrorism operations were undertaken in response to two bombings on Jan. 3 targeting a commemoration of the fourth anniversary of the slaying of Gen. Qassem Soleimani that he said killed over 100 civilians and injured many others. The Islamic State extremist group, a battlefield foe of Soleimani’s, claimed responsibility for the attack.

Iravani said ballistic missile attacks in the early hours of Jan. 16 targeted facilities of the Islamic State and al-Qaida-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham in Syria’s northwestern Idlib region and in northeast Syria.

In addition, he said, Iran targeted a facility in Irbil in Iraq’s Kurdistan region used by “anti-Iranian terrorist groups associated with the Israeli regime … for intelligence and sabotage operations in Iran.” Iraq protested the violation of its sovereignty and recalled its ambassador to Iran.

Iravani reiterated Iran’s “unwavering commitment” to respect the sovereignty of Syria and Iraq.

The strikes heightened tensions in the region amid fears of a wider spillover of the war in Gaza between Israel and Hamas following the militants’ Oct. 7 surprise attacks in southern Israel.

The letter, dated Jan. 16, did not mention Iran’s airstrikes in Pakistan’s restive southwestern Baluchistan province on Tuesday. Iran claimed it targeted bases for a militant Sunni separatist group. Pakistan denounced the attack as a “blatant violation” of its airspace, said it killed two children, and recalled its ambassador to Tehran.

A BRITISH NATIONAL WAS KILLED IN IRAQ BY RECENT IRANIAN STRIKES, UK SAYS

BAGHDAD — The U.K.’s ambassador to Iraq said Wednesday that a British national, Karam Mikhael, was among the civilians killed by an Iranian strike on the city of Irbil in northern Iraq earlier this week. Ambassador Stephen Hitchen issued condolences to Mikhael’s family and those of the others killed in the attack in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Iran fired missiles late Monday at what it said was a Israeli “spy headquarters” in an upscale neighborhood near the sprawling U.S. Consulate compound in Irbil. Iraqi officials have denied that the location struck had any connection to Israeli intelligence.

The Iranian strike in Irbil killed at least four people, among them Mikhael, a British-Iraqi businessman, and Peshraw Dizayi, a prominent local businessman with a portfolio that included real estate and security services companies. Iraq recalled its ambassador from Tehran for consultations and summoned Iran’s chargé d’affaires in Baghdad to protest the attack.

HAMAS FIRES ROCKETS FROM LEBANON INTO NORTHERN ISRAEL

BEIRUT – Hamas said it fired 20 missiles from Lebanon toward a military barracks near Israel’s northern coast on Wednesday.

It was first rocket attack from Lebanon by the Palestinian militant group since late December and came a day after at least 25 rockets were fired from Gaza into southern Israel in one of the strongest bombardments in more than a week.

A statement from Hamas said Wednesday’s attack was partly a response to the presumed Israeli airstrike that killed top Hamas official Saleh Arouri on Jan. 2 in the Beirut suburbs.

It was not immediately clear if there were damage or casualties in Israel. The Israeli military said its warplanes and artillery struck launch sites in southern Lebanon.

Hamas later announced that one of its fighters, from the Mieh Mieh Palestinian refugee camp near the city of Sidon, had been killed in an Israeli strike in southern Lebanon.

In recent days, the intensity of cross-border fighting between Israel and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah has escalated.

Regarding the prospects for another cease-fire agreement in Gaza and a release of hostages, Hamas political official Osama Hamdan told reporters in Beirut that the group had “presented a vision” to Egypt in Qatar in response to proposals put forward by those two countries, but accused Israel of “stalling” in its response.

The Hamas official also criticized the international community for its concern about getting medication to the dozens of hostages held by Hamas in Gaza, when more than 2 million Palestinians there have been living for months in dire conditions without access to health care.

IRAN’S TOP DIPLOMAT WARNS THE WAR COULD EXPAND AS LONG AS ISRAEL TRIES TO CRUSH HAMAS

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s foreign minister warned that fighting could intensify in the Mideast if Israel does not end its war against Hamas.

“Today, we are witnessing genocide in Gaza and the West Bank. This means that war is ongoing, so there is possibility of extension,” Foreign Affairs Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said, speaking Wednesday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Amirabdollahian added that Lebanon’s Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran, was not itching to enter the conflict directly. Offering support for what he said was the militant group’s desire to limit bloodshed, he said Hezbollah had been committed to upholding a weeklong November cease-fire in Gaza.

Amirabdollahian also claimed that Iran’s airstrikes on a Kurdish area of northern Iraq had targeted Israeli sites. He called Israel “a mutual enemy of Iran and Iraq.”

A SECOND ISRAELI AIRSTRIKE IN THE WEST BANK KILLS 4 MORE PALESTINIANS

JERUSALEM — An Israeli airstrike killed four Palestinians during a Wednesday raid in the occupied West Bank.

The military says it targeted a group of militants who had opened fire and were throwing explosives at Israeli soldiers in the Tulkarem refugee camp, a built-up residential area in the northern West Bank.

The Palestinian Health Ministry said four people were killed. The Israeli army said a soldier was seriously wounded.

The army said the troops arrested seven others who Israel alleges were involved in planting roadside bombs during the raid.

An earlier airstrike near another West Bank refugee camp Wednesday killed five Palestinians. Israel said the target, a senior militant allegedly involved in attacks against Israelis, was killed along with members of his cell.

At least 360 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank since the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza started, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. Most were killed in confrontations during violent protests or Israeli arrest raids.

Israel’s military says it has arrested some 2,700 Palestinians in the West Bank since Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack from Gaza into Israel, which ignited the war. It says around 1,300 are suspected Hamas members.

MOOD AND CONDITIONS ARE DETERIORATING IN SOUTHERN GAZA, HEAD OF U.N. AGENCY SAYS

JERUSALEM — The head of the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees says he is shocked by how poor conditions in the Gaza Strip have become after 3 1/2 months of war.

UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini spoke to reporters on Wednesday, a day after wrapping up his fourth visit to Gaza since Oct. 7.

Lazzarini said he was struck by the moods and circumstances of the masses of displaced people who have sought safety in the southern part of the territory, many living in sprawling tent camps. The U.N. estimates that over 80% of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have been displaced.

He said the conditions have steadily worsened with each of his trips. His previous visit came just before Christmas.

“Now you have a plastic makeshift site having mushroomed almost everywhere,” Lazzarini said. “Hundreds of thousands of people living now in the street, living in this plastic makeshift, sleeping on the concrete.”

He said U.N. shelters are not an option because they are overcrowded and suffering from poor sanitary conditions.

In some places, women have all but stopped eating or drinking because they do not want to use the filthy bathrooms, Lazzarini said. Diarrhea and skin diseases are fast spreading, he said.

Lazzarini said he also was struck by the sense of helplessness in the people he saw. He said they are in “survival mode,” exhausted and demoralized by the appalling hygiene conditions and lack of hope. Many think it will be impossible to return home when the fighting stops because the destruction is so vast, and many talk of leaving Gaza in hope of building new lives elsewhere.

“They don’t see how they can continue to bring up their children in this type of environment,” Lazzarini said.

U.N. AGENCY SEEKS REVIEW OF ALLEGED PRO-HAMAS ACTIVITY IN ITS RANKS

JERUSALEM — The head of the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees says he has requested an independent review of claims by pro-Israel groups of unchecked pro-Hamas activity in his organization.

Philippe Lazzarini told reporters Wednesday he would soon appoint a professional consulting group or some other “independent entity” to look into the claims.

Israeli officials and their allies have repeatedly alleged that the refugee agency, known by its acronym UNRWA, allows anti-Israeli incitement to be taught in its hundreds of schools. They also alleged that some of the agency’s tens of thousands of staff members support or collaborate with the Hamas militant group or have written inappropriate social media posts.

UNRWA serves millions of Palestinians across the Middle East whose families fled or were forced from properties inside what is Israel during the war surrounding Israel’s creation in 1948. Israel rejects a return of the refugees to their former lands, saying it would undermine the country’s Jewish character.

Those pushing back against the allegations say the refugee agency is being tarnished as part of a campaign to diminish the long-festering issue of Palestinian refugees and their descendants. Israeli critics have accused UNRWA of perpetuating the Palestinian refugee issue – a charge Lazzarini rejected.

Lazzarini said that “constant scrutiny” has had an impact on the agency’s already-stretched operations by encouraging some donor nations to consider defunding the organization. He said it also has hurt morale at a time when UNRWA is conducting “this huge humanitarian operation in Gaza.”

Lazzarini said he wants the review to determine “what is true or untrue” and to look at how the agency deals with problematic cases. He says he is confident the investigation will find there is “no systemic policy” violating U.N. standards and that there is a proper system of oversight in place.

He said the assessment would also look at “what is disingenuous, what is politically motivated” among the critics.

JORDAN SAYS A MEDIC FROM A HOSPITAL IT RUNS WAS WOUNDED IN GAZA

AMMAN, Jordan — The Jordanian military says a medic working at a field hospital it operates in Gaza was wounded by clashes nearby.

An army statement released Wednesday said the individual was wounded in the thigh and hand and would be evacuated to the kingdom. It did not provide further details about the individual.

It said a Palestinian who was receiving treatment was also wounded. It says the hospital in Khan Younis suffered “severe material damage” as a result of “continuous Israeli bombing” nearby.

The Israeli military said it was looking into the incident.

Jordan’s military says it holds Israel responsible for the safety of the hospital’s staff and described the attack on the hospital as a “flagrant violation of international humanitarian law.”

Jordan, a close Western ally, made peace with Israel in 1994 but supports the Palestinian cause and has repeatedly called for a cease-fire in Gaza.

ISRAELI ARMY TRAINS FOR A POSSIBLE OFFENSIVE IN LEBANON

JERUSALEM — The Israeli army has held a training exercise simulating an offensive in southern Lebanon as it continues to exchange fire with Hezbollah fighters along the border.

Maj. Gen. Ori Gordin, head of the army’s Northern Command, said in a statement issued Tuesday: “We’re more prepared for this than ever before, even for tonight if needed.”

More than 2,000 rockets have been fired toward Israel from Lebanon, the home of Hezbollah, since the start of the war in Gaza, killing 12 Israeli soldiers and six civilians, including a mother and son on Monday.

Israel’s airstrikes in Lebanon have killed around 150 militants and 20 civilians, according to Hezbollah. Earlier this week, Israel said it stopped an infiltration of militants into the contested Golan Heights.

Gordin says reserve soldiers are spread out along the border to bolster Israel’s defenses.

Hezbollah says its attacks are aimed at tying down Israeli forces and will continue until there is a cease-fire in Gaza. Israel has warned of an all-out war if Hezbollah does not pull back from the border in accordance with a U.N. resolution that ended the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war.

HAMAS OFFICIAL: GAZA RESIDENTS TO GET MEDICINE AS PART OF HOSTAGE AID DEAL

CAIRO — Hamas has provided more details about an agreement brokered by France and Qatar to deliver medicine to Israeli hostages held by its fighters in Gaza.

Senior Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk said Wednesday that for each box of medicine provided to the hostages, 1,000 boxes would be sent for use by Palestinian civilians.

In a posting on X, he said the International Committee of the Red Cross would deliver all the medicines, including those destined for the hostages, to hospitals serving all parts of Gaza.

The agreement also includes the delivery of additional food and humanitarian aid to Gaza.

Abu Marzouk says Israeli authorities will not have the chance to inspect the shipments. He says Hamas insisted that Qatar provide the medications and not France because of the European country’s support for Israel.

This is the first agreement reached between the warring sides since a weeklong cease-fire in November. Hamas and other militants are still holding around half of the estimated 250 hostages they captured during the Oct. 7 attack that triggered the war. Most of the rest were freed in November in return for the release of Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.

Those remaining in captivity in Gaza include several older men and others who require medication for chronic illness.

ISRAELI AIRSTRIKE IN WEST BANK KILLS SENIOR PALESTINIAN MILITANT, ARMY SAYS

JERUSALEM — The Israeli army says it killed a senior Palestinian militant in an airstrike in the West Bank.

Ahmed Abdullah Abu Shalal, whom the Israeli military said was responsible for infrastructure and had planned multiple attacks against Israelis in Jerusalem, was killed along with four others early Wednesday near the built-up Balata refugee camp in the city of Nablus.

The Palestinian Red Crescent says Israeli forces prevented medics from reaching the site of the strike, saying in a social media post that “gunfire was directed at our teams.”

The military alleged that Abu Shalal and his cell planned to carry out an imminent attack and had received funding and guidance from “Iranian sources.” It did not provide evidence for the allegation.

Violence has surged in the Israeli-occupied West Bank since the start of the war in Gaza. Over 350 Palestinians have been killed in the last three months, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry, mainly during Israeli arrest raids and violent protests.

Israel has increasingly used airstrikes in the West Bank as the fighting has grown more intense, but targeted killings are still relatively rare in the territory.

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Live updates | US-owned ship attacked near Yemen, medicine for Israeli hostages enters Gaza