The Latest | Israel denies Palestinian claim its forces killed 20 near Gaza aid distribution center

Mar 15, 2024, 12:17 AM | Updated: 10:32 am

The Palestinian Health Ministry accused Israeli forces of launching an attack near an aid distribution point in war-wracked northern Gaza, killing 20 people and wounding 155. The Israeli military said Friday that Palestinian gunmen opened fire in that attack and that none of its forces fired toward the waiting crowd or the aid convoy.

Some of those in the crowd near the Kuwaiti Roundabout, the aid distribution point, were run over by the trucks, the military said. The Israeli forces were securing a convoy of 31 aid trucks when the violence erupted late Thursday, it added.

Meanwhile, an aid ship loaded with some 200 tons of food was seen approaching Gaza’s shores on Friday morning in a mission to inaugurate a sea route from Cyprus to help alleviate the humanitarian crisis in the enclave, five months into the war.

The ship, operated by the Spanish aid group Open Arms, left Cyprus on Tuesday towing a barge laden with food sent by World Central Kitchen, the charity founded by celebrity chef José Andrés.

The international community has been pushing for more aid to enter Gaza, frustrated with the growing humanitarian crisis and with Israel’s restrictions that have prevented more aid getting in by land. Australia announced early Friday it would resume funding to the United Nations relief agency for Palestinians and pledged additional money to UNICEF to provide urgent services in Gaza.

A quarter of Gaza’s population is starving, the United Nations has warned, and the territory’s Health Ministry said Friday that at least 31,490 Palestinians have been killed in the war in Gaza. The ministry doesn’t differentiate between civilians and combatants in its count, but says women and children make up two-thirds of the dead.

Some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, were killed in southern Israel during the Hamas-led incursion on Oct. 7 that sparked the war. Around 250 people were abducted, and Hamas is believed to still be holding about 100 hostages.


— A proposed U.S. resolution would back global efforts for an immediate and sustained cease-fire in Gaza.

— Palestinian leader Abbas appoints his longtime adviser as prime minister in the face of calls for reform.

— A suspected attack by Yemen’s Houthi rebels strikes a ship in the Red Sea.

— Top Democrat Chuck Schumer calls for new elections in Israel, saying Netanyahu is an obstacle to peace.

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

Here’s the latest:


THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The top United Nations court said Friday it will hold hearings next month into a case filed by Nicaragua accusing Germany of breaching the genocide convention by providing arms and support to Israel during its assault on Gaza.

Israel strongly denies allegations that the military offensive it launched on Gaza following the deadly Oct. 7 incursion by Hamas militants in southern Israel amounts to genocide. Israel argues the country is acting within international law to defend itself.

In its case filed March 1 at the International Court of Justice, Nicaragua accuses Germany of facilitating genocide and failing “to do everything possible” to prevent it.

On Wednesday, German Foreign Ministry spokesperson Sebastian Fischer said that Berlin considers the case “unfounded.”

“We will set out our arguments and are convinced that they will resonate,” he said.

Nicaragua has asked the court to hand down preliminary orders including that Germany “immediately suspend its aid to Israel, in particular its military assistance including military equipment in so far as this aid may be used in the violation of the Genocide Convention” and international law.

The court will hold initial hearings April 8 and 9. Hearings on the case will be held at a later date.

Earlier this year the court held similar hearings after South Africa accused Israel of breaching the genocide convention in Gaza, which Israel denied in court hearings.

The court issued orders for Israel to do all it can to prevent death, destruction and any acts of genocide in Gaza, but stopped short of ordering an end to the military offensive that has laid waste to the Palestinian enclave.


WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said Friday during an Oval Office chat with Ireland’s prime minister that “a whole lot more” needs to be done in Gaza.

Prime Minister Leo Varadkar told Biden he wanted discuss getting Israel and Hamas to agree to a cease-fire “as soon as possible,” as well as how to go about achieving lasting peace by creating two states for the Israelis and Palestinians to live side by side.

“My view is that we need a cease-fire as soon as possible to get food and medicine in, to get the hostages out. We need to talk about how we can make that happen and move towards a two state solution,” Varadkar said.

Varadkar, who was in Washington for the upcoming March 17 St. Patrick’s Day holiday, said a two-state solution, also supported by Biden, is “the only way we’ll have lasting peace and security.”


JERUSALEM — Israel has approved military plans to attack Rafah, the southernmost town in Gaza where the majority of the embattled strip’s population is sheltering, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said Friday.

The operation will involve the evacuation of the civilian population, the statement said, without specifying how or when this would take place. There are 1.4 million displaced Palestinians living in Rafah.

The military had said on Wednesday that it planned to direct them to “humanitarian islands” in the center of the territory ahead of its planned offensive in the area.

Officials from the United States and other countries have expressed concerns over Israel’s plans to invade Rafah, fearing for the safety of the civilians.

However Netanyahu has said he had no intention of backing down, saying that attacking Hamas in Rafah was crucial to his goal of eliminating the militant group.


BEIRUT — Hamas’ latest cease-fire proposal calls for a three-stage process, starting with a partial Israeli pullback from Gaza and the release of dozens of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for freeing all female hostages the militants are holding in the enclave.

The details of the proposal were first reported by the Al-Jazeera network and confirmed to The Associated Press by a Palestinian official on Friday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to reveal the content of the negotiations.

International mediators had been working to broker a six week truce before the onset of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan that started earlier this week. Hamas rejected any deal that would not lead to an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and a permanent truce.

Hamas’ new proposal suggests three phases, six weeks each, according to the report.

In the first phase, Israeli forces would pull back from two major streets linking north and south Gaza and would allow hundreds of thousands of displaced people to return home and aid to reach the isolated north. Hamas would the release all the female Israeli soldiers being held in Gaza while Israel would release Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.

In the second stage, a permanent cease-fire would be declared and Hamas would release all the Israeli soldiers the militants have taken hostage.

In the third and last stage, reconstruction of Gaza would begin and the Israeli blockade of the Hamas-run enclave would be lifted.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called the proposal for the hostage release “unrealistic,” but said Israel would send negotiators to Doha for more talks.

— Bassem Mroue in Beirut


BERLIN – German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is making his second trip to the Middle East since Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel. He plans meetings with the leaders of Jordan and Israel.

Spokesperson Steffen Hebestreit said Scholz will depart Saturday for Jordan, where he will meet King Abdullah II. He plans to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Isaac Herzog in Israel on Sunday.

Germany is a staunch ally of Israel and has repeatedly expressed its solidarity with the country in its war against Hamas. But it has pressed for better aid supplies and for an eventual two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Berlin plans to have its air force participate in Jordanian-initiated airdrops of aid to Gaza. But Hebestreit stressed on Friday that deliveries by sea or air are “at best a second-best solution” and aid should be sent to Gaza overland, as well as renewing calls for Hamas to free Israeli hostages.


WADI GAZA, Gaza Strip — A ship carrying 200 tons of aid that set off from Cyprus was approaching the shores of Gaza on Friday.

The shipment was intended to inaugurate a sea route from Cyprus to bring more assistance into Gaza to alleviate the humanitarian crisis brought by Israel’s offensive in the enclave.

On Friday morning, the boat could be seen far in the distance from the beaches of Wadi Gaza in the middle of the Gaza Strip.

Israel has been under increasing pressure to allow more aid into Gaza after five months of war between Israel and Hamas.


UNITED NATIONS — The United States circulated the final draft of a United Nations Security Council resolution late Thursday that would support international efforts to establish “an immediate and sustained cease-fire” in the Israel-Hamas war as part of a deal to release hostages taken captive during Hamas’ surprise attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7.

No time has been set for a vote, and the draft, obtained by The Associated Press, could still be changed.

The U.S. circulated the initial draft on Feb. 19, a day before it vetoed a widely supported Arab-backed resolution demanding an immediate humanitarian cease-fire in the war in the embattled Gaza Strip, saying it would interfere with negotiations on a deal to free the hostages.

The U.S. draft would demand that all parties comply with international law requiring protection of civilians and “civilian objects,” which include hospitals, schools and homes. The draft would also express the council’s “deep concern about the threat of conflict-inducted famine and epidemics presently facing the civilian population in Gaza, as well as the number of undernourished people,” and the “catastrophic” levels of hunger.

If the resolution is approved, it would for the first time condemn “the Hamas-led attacks of Oct. 7, 2023, as well as its taking and killing of hostages, murder of civilians, and sexual violence including rape,” as well as “its use of civilian infrastructure for military purposes and to hold hostages.” It would also demand that Hamas and other armed groups immediately grant humanitarian access to all remaining hostages.


DEIR-AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip — The Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza accused Israeli forces of launching an attack near an aid distribution point in war-wracked northern Gaza, killing 20 people and wounding 155 others.

The Israeli military said in a statement that Palestinian gunmen were the ones to open fire and that none of its forces, who were securing a convoy of 31 aid trucks, fired toward the waiting crowd or the convoy. Some of those in the crowd were run over by the trucks, it said.

The violence occurred late Thursday near the Kuwaiti Roundabout, which has been a point for the distribution of aid in north Gaza over the past weeks. The health ministry said a group waiting there for aid was hit by Israeli shelling.

The Health Ministry said Friday that 149 people were killed over the past 24 hours, bringing to at least 31,490 the number of Palestinians killed in the war.

The United Nations says one-quarter of Gaza’s 2.3 million people face starvation, many of them in the isolated north, the largely devastated target of Israel’s initial offensive in Gaza.

Bloodshed surrounding an aid convoy on Feb. 29 killed 118 Palestinians in northern Gaza. The Israeli military said some of its forces fired at people in the crowd who were advancing toward them.

Witnesses and hospital officials said many of the casualties were from bullet wounds. The Israeli military said many of the casualties were caused by a stampede over the food and people being run over by the aid trucks.

Following the violence, the United States announced plans to build a temporary pier in Gaza to bring in food by sea and joined with other countries to airdrop food into the isolated north.

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The Latest | Israel denies Palestinian claim its forces killed 20 near Gaza aid distribution center