UNITED STATES NEWS

Israel strikes across Gaza as US says it will block another cease-fire resolution at the UN

Feb 18, 2024, 1:19 AM | Updated: 11:18 am

RAFAH, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israeli strikes across Gaza killed at least 18 people overnight into Sunday, according to medics and witnesses, while the United States said it would veto another draft U.N. resolution calling for a cease-fire.

The U.S., Israel’s top ally, said it instead hopes to broker a cease-fire and hostage-release agreement between Israel and Hamas, and envisions a wider resolution on the war sparked by the militant group’s Oct. 7 attack. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called Hamas’ demands “delusional.”

Netanyahu also opposes Palestinian statehood, which the U.S. calls a key element in a broader vision for the normalization of relations between Israel and regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia. His Cabinet adopted a declaration Sunday saying Israel “categorically rejects international edicts on a permanent arrangement with the Palestinians” and opposes any unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state.

Netanyahu has vowed to continue the Gaza offensive until Israel achieves a “total victory” over the Hamas militant group and plans to expand it to Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah, where more than half the enclave’s 2.3 million Palestinians have sought refuge.

In response to international concern about what would happen to the people in Rafah, the Israeli leader has said residents will be evacuated before a ground offensive begins there. Where they will go in largely devastated Gaza is not clear.

An airstrike in Rafah overnight killed six people, including a woman and three children, and another strike killed five men in Khan Younis, the main target of the offensive in southern Gaza in recent weeks. Associated Press journalists saw the bodies arrive at a hospital.

“All those who were martyred were those whom the Jews asked to move to safe places,” said a bystander after the Rafah strike, Ahmad Abu Rezeq.

In Gaza City, which suffered widespread destruction in the initial weeks of the war, an airstrike flattened a home, killing seven people, including three women, according to Sayed al-Afifi, a relative.

Israel’s military rarely comments on individual strikes and blames civilian casualties on Hamas because the militants operate in dense residential areas.

In the central Gaza town of Zawaida, people dug through rubble from a Saturday airstrike to search for bodies, including those of children. “Our message is to the Israeli government and the Hamas government present in Gaza: Please stop the war. Enough war,” said Samah al-Karnz, who lived near the building hit in the strike.

In the occupied West Bank, a shootout erupted when Israeli forces went to arrest an armed suspect in the town of Tulkarem. The military said the suspect was killed, and a member of Israel’s paramilitary Border Police was severely wounded. It described the target of the raid as a senior militant. The Palestinian Health Ministry said two Palestinians were killed.

UN SAYS RAIDED HOSPITAL NO LONGER FUNCTIONS

The head of the World Health Organization said the main medical center serving southern Gaza, Nasser Hospital, “is not functional anymore” after Israeli forces raided the facility in Khan Younis last week.

Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said a WHO team was not allowed to enter on Friday or Saturday to assess patients and medical needs. In a post on X, he said about 200 patients remain, including 20 who need urgent referrals elsewhere.

Israeli Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant said at least 200 militants surrendered at the hospital. The military says it is looking for the remains of hostages inside the facility and does not target doctors or patients. Ruth Munder, freed by Hamas last year, told Army Radio she was kept on the hospital’s second floor with others.

The Gaza Health Ministry said 70 medical personnel were among those arrested, along with patients in hospital beds. Ashraf al-Qidra, a ministry spokesperson, said soldiers stripped and beat detainees. There was no immediate comment from the military on the allegations.

The Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took around 250 hostage. Militants still hold around 130 hostages, a fourth of them believed to be dead. Most of the others were released during a weeklong cease-fire in November.

The war has killed at least 28,985 Palestinians, mostly women and children, according to the Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between civilians and combatants in its records. On Sunday it said 127 bodies were brought to hospitals in the past 24 hours.

Around 80% of Gaza’s population have been driven from their homes, and a quarter face starvation. Wael Abu Omar, a spokesman for the Palestinian Crossings Authority, said 123 aid trucks entered Gaza through the Kerem Shalom border crossing Sunday and four trucks of cooking gas entered through Rafah. That’s well below the 500 trucks that entered daily before the war.

US OPPOSES A NEW CEASE-FIRE RESOLUTION

Algeria, the Arab representative on the U.N. Security Council, has circulated a draft resolution demanding an immediate humanitarian cease-fire and unhindered humanitarian access to Gaza, and rejecting the forced displacement of Palestinians.

U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the draft “will not be adopted” and runs counter to Washington’s efforts to end the fighting. She warned against measures that could jeopardize “the opportunity for an enduring resolution of hostilities.”

The U.S. vetoed previous resolutions that had wide international support.

The U.S., Qatar and Egypt have spent weeks trying to broker a cease-fire and hostage release, but there’s a wide gap between Israel and Hamas’ demands. Qatar said Saturday the talks “have not been progressing as expected.”

Hamas has said it will not release all remaining hostages without Israel ending the war and withdrawing from Gaza. It also demands the release of hundreds of Palestinians imprisoned by Israel, including top militants.

Netanyahu has publicly rejected the demands and any scenario in which Hamas would rebuild its military and governing capabilities. He said he sent a delegation to cease-fire talks in Cairo last week at Biden’s request but doesn’t see the point in sending them again.

In an interview with Israel’s Kan public broadcaster, Netanyahu’s national security adviser, Tzachi Hanegbi, said military pressure and sticking to a strict line in negotiations could lead Hamas to drop its “absurd demands.”

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Magdy reported from Cairo and Goldenberg from Tel Aviv, Israel. Associated Press writer Melanie Lidman in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

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

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Israel strikes across Gaza as US says it will block another cease-fire resolution at the UN