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The Latest | Israeli military raids Gaza’s main hospital, claiming Hamas is using it as a base

Mar 18, 2024, 12:54 AM | Updated: 12:24 pm

Israeli forces launched a raid on Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on Monday, accusing Hamas militants of using it as a base, while the U.N. food agency warned that “famine is imminent” in northern Gaza.

The military said it killed a Hamas commander who was armed and hiding inside the medical center, and that one of its own soldiers was killed in the operation.

Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the chief military spokesman, earlier said that senior Hamas militants had regrouped and were directing attacks from the compound.

Gaza’s Health Ministry said the army attacked the hospital, directing gun and missile fire at a building used for specialized surgeries.

Israel raided the medical center in November after claiming that Hamas was concealing a major command and control center within and beneath the compound. It revealed a tunnel running to an underground bunker beneath the hospital, and some weapons discovered inside, but not the elaborate facilities it had described before the raid.

The Gaza Health Ministry said at least 31,645 Palestinians have been killed in the war. The ministry doesn’t differentiate between civilians and combatants in its count, but says women and children make up two-thirds of the dead.

Palestinian militants killed some 1,200 people in the surprise Oct. 7 attack out of Gaza that triggered the war, and they took another 250 people hostage. Hamas is still believed to be holding some 100 captives, as well as the remains of 30 others.

Currently:

— Netanyahu snaps back against growing US criticism after being accused of losing his way on Gaza

— Israel strikes several sites in Syria, wounding a soldier, Syrian military says

— The European Union announces an $8 billion aid package for Egypt as concerns mount over migration

— How should Israel bring to justice the perpetrators behind the worst attack in its history?

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

Here’s the latest:

FRENCH PRESIDENT VOWS TO COMBAT RESURGENT ANTISEMITISM

PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron has vowed to combat resurgent antisemitism that is seeding fears and doubts among France’s Jewish population, the largest in Europe.

‘’There is no place for antisemitism’’ in France, Macron said at a ceremony Monday marking the 80th anniversary of France’s leading Jewish organization, called CRIF.

He decried a rise in anti-Jewish attacks since the Oct. 7 Hamas massacre and acknowledged fears of Jewish people questioning whether they are still safe in France. He said the government is punishing antisemitism relentlessly, ‘’whether in the street, on screens, in our universities.’’

Tensions erupted at the prestigious Sciences Po in Paris last week after pro-Palestinian demonstrators were accused of barring entrance to a member of a Jewish student union.

‘’Wherever antisemitism prospers, all other forms of hatred prosper — hatred of differences, of minorities, of foreigners, of Muslims, of women, of homosexuals,’’ Macron said.

France’s government initially sought to restrict pro-Palestinian protests after Oct. 7. In recent months, Macron has been increasingly critical of Israel’s protracted and deadly offensive on Gaza.

“To defend and love Israel, to want its security, does not mean subscribing to all the choices of the democratic government of the moment,’’ he said.

UN AID OFFICIAL CALLS FOR USE OF ROADS TO EXPEDITE AID INTO GAZA

GENEVA — A top U.N. aid official for Palestinian areas is calling for an opening of “all roads” into Gaza to help avert what food security experts say could be imminent famine in the coming weeks.

Jamie McGoldrick, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory, said that roads from Ashdod in Israel into beleaguered north Gaza, the military road, coast road and middle road into Gaza should be used. He said Israeli scanners should check trucks in Jordan and elsewhere to expedite deliveries of needed food and other supplies.

“Unless we can put significant supply increases into those areas, those people who are at catastrophic levels of malnutrition or food insecurity will face real serious problems and imminent death,” McGoldrick said by videoconference to reporters in Geneva. “We have to get all roads open and get all opportunities open for us to actually do more in the current situation.”

McGoldrick spoke shortly after the U.N. food agency said “famine is imminent” in northern Gaza, where 70% of the remaining population is experiencing catastrophic hunger, and that a further escalation of the war could push around half of Gaza’s total population to the brink of starvation. Israel has faced mounting pressure from even its closest allies to streamline the entry of aid into the Gaza Strip.

He downplayed the prospects that maritime shipments or air drops, carried out by some Western countries, into Gaza could be a substitute for entry by land, saying the only real way to sufficient amounts of food and other supplies “into all parts of Gaza would only be by roads.”

SCORES OF ISRAELIS HAVE ACQUIRED GUN LICENSES SINCE OCT. 7 ATTACK BY HAMAS

JERUSALEM — More than 100,000 Israeli citizens have acquired gun licenses since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas war last October, Israel’s far-right minister of National Security said Monday.

Itamar Ben-Gvir called the figure a “milestone” in a speech to Israel’s parliament.

“We see today on the streets of Israel that when citizens have weapons, they feel safe, they can counter and neutralize armed terrorists,” he said.

The figure released Monday represented a massive jump from the roughly 150,000 Israelis who held gun licenses before the war, according to his ministry.

Ben-Gvir, an ultranationalist West Bank settler, has urged Israelis to arm themselves and after the war erupted, pushed for new regulations through parliament making it easier to acquire a gun. Ben-Gvir said Monday an additional 200,000 citizens are waiting for their license applications to be approved.

Rights groups have cautioned of the dangers of so many guns on the streets, saying they can lead to accidentalshootings, vigilante violence and domestic abuse.

UN CHIEF SAYS 1.1 MILLION PEOPLE IN GAZA FACE “CATASTROPIC HUNGER” WITHOUT IMMEDIATE CEASE-FIRE

UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations chief says 1.1 million people — half the population of Gaza — are facing “catastrophic hunger” as he again called for an immediate humanitarian cease-fire.

“We must act now to prevent the unthinkable, the unacceptable and the unjustifiable,” Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said.

While not blaming Israel, the secretary-general’s comments to reporters Monday were clearly aimed at its ongoing military offensive in Gaza following Hamas’ surprise Oct. 7 attack in southern Israel that killed about 1,200 people and saw about 250 taken hostage. The offensive has killed over 31,000 people, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which says about two-thirds of the dead are women and children.

Referencing a report issued Monday by the Integrated Food Security Classification System, or IPC, Guterres said that “Palestinians in Gaza are enduring horrifying levels of hunger and suffering.”

“The world’s leading experts on food insecurity clearly document that famine in the northern part of Gaza is imminent,” he said.

The IPC report states that the latest evidence confirms that famine “is imminent in the northern governorates of the Gaza Strip and projected to occur anytime between mid-March and May 2024.”

Guterres called on Israel to “ensure complete and unfettered access for humanitarian goods throughout Gaza” and for the international community to fully support U.N. humanitarian efforts.

ISRAEL ASKS UN COURT TO REJECT LATEST REQUEST FOR EMERGENCY ORDERS IN GENOCIDE CASE

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Israel has urged the top United Nations court to reject the latest request by South Africa for interim orders to prevent starvation in Gaza, as part of a case accusing Israel of breaching the Genocide Convention with its military offensive against Hamas.

In a written response published Monday by the International Court of Justice, Israel said that claims by South Africa filed earlier this month are “wholly unfounded in fact and law, morally repugnant, and represent an abuse both of the Genocide Convention and of the Court itself.”

Israel’s response was published on the day that the U.N. food agency said that famine is imminent in northern Gaza and that a further escalation of the war could push around half of Gaza’s total population to the brink of starvation.

Israel fervently denies that it is breaching the Genocide Convention, but acknowledged in a written response to South Africa’s allegations that there are “also tragic and agonizing civilian casualties in this war. These realities are the painful result of intensive armed hostilities that Israel did not start and did not want.”

No date has been set for judges to rule on the South African request for more measures.

AL-JAZEERA SAYS ITS REPORTER HAS BEEN DETAINED IN A HOSPITAL RAID IN GAZA

CAIRO — The Al-Jazeera television network says Israeli troops arrested one of its correspondents during their raid on Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital on Monday.

In a statement, it said the troops severely beat correspondent Ismail Alghoul while he was covering the raid on the hospital and destroyed the network’s broadcast vehicle as well as cameras and equipment. It said he was detained along with other journalists and that his whereabouts are unknown.

The Qatari-owned network demanded Alghoul’s release and called the arrest “an intimidation tactic against journalists” to prevent them from reporting on the military’s “crimes against innocent civilians.”

The Israeli military said it had no comment.

Israeli forces launched a raid early Monday on Shifa, the Gaza Strip’s largest hospital, saying Hamas militants had regrouped there and had fired on them from inside the compound where Palestinian officials say tens of thousands of people have been sheltering.

People sheltering in the hospital said troops backed by tanks and artillery had surrounded the medical complex and that snipers were shooting at people inside. They said the army raided a number of buildings and detained dozens of people.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 90 Palestinian journalists have been killed in Israel’s assault in Gaza, while two Israeli journalists were killed in Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel that triggered the offensive.

ISRAEL SAYS IT KILLED A SENIOR HAMAS OPERATIVE IN GAZA HOSPITAL

TEL AVIV, Israel — The Israeli military says it has killed a senior Hamas operative in an assault on Gaza’s main hospital.

The military said Faiq Mabhouh was a top official in Hamas’ internal security. It said Mabhouh operated and directed militant activity from inside the Shifa Hospital compound in Gaza City.

A soldier was killed during Monday’s operation, it said.

The military earlier said it was conducting a “high-precision operation” in parts of the medical complex after intelligence indicated senior Hamas militants had regrouped there and were directing attacks from the compound.

Gaza’s Health Ministry said the army attacked the hospital, directing gun and missile fire at a building used for specialized surgeries.

Israel raided the medical center in November after claiming that Hamas was concealing a major command and control center within and beneath the compound. It revealed a tunnel running to an underground bunker beneath the hospital, and some weapons discovered inside, but not the elaborate facilities it had described before the raid.

Israel accuses Hamas of using hospitals and other civilian facilities to shield its fighters.

GERMAN FM BAERBOCK SAYS SANCTIONS PLANNED AGAINST HAMAS AND WEST BANK SETTLERS

BRUSSELS — German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told reporters Monday ahead of an EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels that they were planning to impose sanctions on both Hamas and West Bank settlers.

“We will finally initiate sanctions against Hamas … in light of this terrible rape, the sexual violence against women in Israel,” she said, referring to acts allegedly committed by Hamas during its surprise attack in southern Israel on Oct. 7.

“And at the same time we are making it clear here in Brussels: The suffering in Gaza must finally come to an end,” the minister said.

“This war, but this conflict as a whole, can only come to an end if we reach a two-state solution,” Baerbock added. “That is why it is so important for us to make it clear that the construction of settlements, and in particular the violence of radical settlers, is not in line with international law. We will also initiate a sanctions regime for this.”

EU’S TOP DIPLOMAT ACCUSES ISRAEL OF USING STARVATION AS A WEAPON OF WAR

BRUSSELS — The European Union’s top diplomat on Monday accused Israel of using starvation as a weapon of war by preventing humanitarian aid from reaching Gaza.

“We are in a state of famine, effecting thousands of people,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said at an international aid conference in Brussels. He said that this famine “is entirely man-made.”

“This is unacceptable. Starvation is used as a weapon of war. Yes, starvation is used as a weapon of war,” Borrell said.

He said that Israel is preventing hundreds of aid trucks from entering Gaza, and he urged the Israeli authorities to stop hindering the aid effort.

“It’s absolutely imperative to make crossing points work effectively, and open additional crossing points,” Borrell said. “It’s just a matter of political will. Israel has to do it. It is not a question of logistics. It is not because the United Nations has not provided enough support. The support is there, waiting. Trucks are stopped. People are dying, while the land crossings are artificially closed.”

“We cannot stand by and watch Palestinians starve,” he said.

ISRAELI MILITARY RAIDS SHIFA HOSPITAL IN GAZA

RAFAH, Gaza Strip — Israeli forces have launched another raid on the Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, accusing Hamas militants of using it as a base.

Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the chief military spokesman, said the army had launched a “high-precision operation” in parts of the medical complex. He said senior Hamas militants had regrouped there and were directing attacks from the compound, without providing evidence. The military said militants had opened fire from within the hospital.

Gaza’s Health Ministry says the army attacked the hospital early Monday, directing gun and missile fire at a building used for specialized surgeries. It says a fire broke out at the hospital’s gate.

The ministry says around 30,000 people are sheltering at the hospital, including patients, medical staff and people who have fled their homes seeking safety.

Hagari said the patients and medical staff could remain in the compound and that a safe passage was available for civilians to leave.

Israel raided the medical center in November after claiming that Hamas was concealing a major command and control center within and beneath the compound. It revealed a tunnel running to an underground bunker beneath the hospital, and some weapons discovered inside, but not the elaborate facilities it had described before the raid.

Israel accuses Hamas of using hospitals and other civilian facilities to shield its fighters.

The army has raided other hospitals across the territory. Most of Gaza’s medical facilities have been forced to shut down for lack of fuel and medical supplies, even as scores of people are killed and wounded each day in Israeli strikes.

NETANYAHU PUSHES BACK AGAINST GROWING US CRITICISM

TEL AVIV, Israel — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu railed Sunday against growing criticism from top ally the United States against his leadership amid the devastating war with Hamas, describing calls for a new election as “wholly inappropriate.”

In recent days, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the highest-ranking Jewish official in the country and a strong Israel supporter, called on Israel to hold a new election, saying Netanyahu had “lost his way.” President Joe Biden expressed support for Schumer’s “good speech,” and earlier accused Netanyahu of hurting Israel because of the huge civilian death toll in Gaza.

Netanyahu told Fox News that Israel never would have called for a new U.S. election after the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001, and denounced Schumer’s comments as inappropriate.

“We’re not a banana republic,” he said. “The people of Israel will choose when they will have elections, and who they’ll elect, and it’s not something that will be foisted on us.”

When asked by CNN whether he would commit to a new election after the war ends, Netanyahu said: “I think that’s something for the Israeli public to decide.”

ISRAEL HITS SEVERAL SITES IN SYRIA, SYRIAN MILITARY SAYS

BEIRUT — Israeli airstrikes hit several sites in southern Syria early Sunday wounding a soldier, Syrian state media reported.

State news agency SANA, citing an unnamed military official, said air defenses shot down some of the missiles, which came from the direction of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights at around 12:42 a.m. local time. The strikes led to “material losses” and the wounding of a soldier, the statement said.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, said Israeli strikes also hit two military sites in the Qalamoun mountains northeast of Damascus, an area where the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah has operations. One of the targets was a weapons shipment, the observatory said.

The observatory said the strikes represented the 24th time Israel has struck inside Syria since the beginning of 2024. They have killed 43 fighters with various groups — including Hezbollah and Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard — and nine civilians.

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The Latest | Israeli military raids Gaza’s main hospital, claiming Hamas is using it as a base