The Latest | Four more Israeli hostages declared dead, and Palestinians seek to join genocide case

Jun 3, 2024, 12:26 AM | Updated: 6:42 pm

Israel’s military confirmed the deaths of four more hostages held by Hamas — including three men in their 80s who were seen in a Hamas video begging for their release. Around 80 hostages captured on Oct. 7 are believed to still be alive in Gaza, alongside the remains of 43 others.

Monday’s announcement came days after U.S. President Joe Biden announced that Israel has offered Hamas a deal to release all the hostages in Gaza and potentially end the war. Biden says the militant group is sufficiently depleted, however Israeli leaders say destroying Hamas will require more military operations in Gaza, raising doubts about the cease-fire efforts.

At the top U.N. court, Palestinian officials asked Monday to join South Africa’s case accusing Israel of committing genocide in Gaza. Israel faces growing international criticism over the huge cost in civilian lives and the widespread destruction caused by the nearly eight-month war. Israel strongly denies the accusations of genocide.

Israel’s expanding offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah — once the main hub of humanitarian aid operations — has largely cut off the flow of food, medicine and other supplies to Palestinians facing widespread hunger.

Israeli bombardments and ground operations in Gaza have killed more than 36,000 Palestinians, according to the Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between combatants and civilians.

Israel launched the war in Gaza after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack, in which militants stormed into southern Israel, killed some 1,200 people — mostly civilians — and abducted about 250.


— Israel declares four hostages are dead in Gaza, including three older men who appeared in video.

— Biden says Hamas is sufficiently depleted. Israeli leaders disagree, casting doubts over cease-fire.

— U.S. call for a cease-fire in Gaza puts Netanyahu at a legacy-shaping crossroads.

— The Israeli army says it investigates itself. Where do those investigations stand?

— Israel seeks a ‘ governing alternative ’ to Hamas in Gaza. It’s been tried and failed before.

— Israel maintains a shadowy hospital in the desert for Gaza detainees. Critics allege mistreatment.

— Condemnations mount over Israeli proposal to label U.N. aid agency a terrorist group.

Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Gaza at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war

Here’s the latest:


DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Yemen’s Houthi rebels claimed late Monday to have made a direct strike at Israel.

Brig. Gen. Yahya Saree said in a prerecorded message that the Houthis launched a ballistic missile.

Earlier Monday, the Israeli military said it shot down a surface-to-surface missile fired toward southern Israel from the Red Sea.

There were no reports of casualties or damage in Monday’s incident, which set off air raid sirens in the southernmost Israeli city of Eilat.

The Iran-backed Houthis have repeatedly attacked international shipping in the Red Sea, portraying their actions as a blockade of Israel in support of the Palestinians. But most of the ships that have been targeted have no known ties to Israel.


UNITED NATIONS — The United States is seeking support from the U.N. Security Council for the three-phase Gaza plan announced by President Joe Biden that would start with a six-week cease-fire and the release of some hostages and lead to an end to the nearly eight-month war and reconstruction.

U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the U.S. circulated a draft resolution Monday to the 14 other council members that would back the proposal.

“Numerous leaders and governments, including in the region, have endorsed this plan and we call on the Security Council to join them in calling for implementation of this deal without delay and without further conditions,” she said in a statement.

The brief draft resolution, obtained by The Associated Press, would welcome the May 31 deal announced by Biden and call on Hamas “to accept it fully and implement its terms without delay and without condition.” Hamas has said it views the proposal “positively.”

The proposed resolution makes no mention of Israeli acceptance of the deal.

When Biden made the announcement he called it an Israeli offer that includes an “enduring cease-fire” and Israeli withdrawal from Gaza if Hamas releases all hostages it is holding.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his hardline governing partners Monday that the proposal announced by Biden would meet Israel’s goal of destroying Hamas, according to local media. The ultranationalists have threatened to bring down his government if Netanyahu agrees to a deal that doesn’t eliminate Hamas.

Biden said the first phase of the proposed deal would last for six weeks and include a “full and complete cease-fire,” a withdrawal of Israeli forces from all populated areas of Gaza, the release of some hostages including women, the elderly and the wounded in exchange for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, and a surge in humanitarian assistance.

In the second phase, all remaining living hostages would be released including soldiers, and Israeli forces would withdraw from Gaza. Biden said if Hamas lives up to its commitments, the temporary cease-fire would become a “cessation of hostilities permanently.”

The third phase calls for the start of a major reconstruction of Gaza, which faces decades of rebuilding from devastation caused by the war.


UNITED NATIONS – U.N. humanitarian officials are calling public health concerns in Khan Younis and Deir al-Balah “beyond crisis levels,” where thousands of Palestinians have fled from Israeli attacks in Gaza’s south, and local officials are calling several areas in northern Gaza “disaster zones.”

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported Monday that Israel is bombarding much of the Gaza Strip from the air, sea and land. It said aid operations are severely hindered by Israel’s ground operations and fighting, especially in Rafah.

The office, known as OCHA, said about one million Palestinians who sought safety in Rafah have now fled the Israeli attacks. U.N. and other organizations operating there also had to take flight, OHCA said, including the SOS Children’s Village, the only shelter in Gaza for children without parents, which was forced to relocate to central Gaza with limited tents and no room for any more kids.

Andrea De Domenico, head of OCHA’s office for the Palestinian territories who returned Friday from three weeks in Gaza, told U.N. reporters from Jerusalem on Monday that destruction and hunger are rampant and the space for Palestinians to flee fighting is narrowing, stressing that nowhere in Gaza is safe. He said OCHA estimates that about 100,000 Palestinians are still in Rafah city.

For those who fled, he said, living conditions are “progressively eroding the social fabric of the community in Gaza,” as Palestinians struggle to survive without electricity, often without shelter, and very little food which they try to heat using plastic and garbage as fuel.

De Domenico said, “the rule of the strongest is becoming the only rule that is prevailing,” giving as an example two brothers fighting over a can of chickpeas, and now not talking to each other.

OCHA said the Emergency Committee for North Gaza municipalities has declared Jabaliya town, Jabaliya refugee camp, Beit Lahiya and Beit Hanoun as “disaster zones.”

De Domenico pointed to the ongoing breakdown of law and order saying two days ago, 70% of the goods picked up by a convoy of trucks on the Gaza side of the Kerem Shalom crossing were looted, “I think by criminals but also by desperate people.”


SAN FRANCISCO — Police in San Francisco arrested pro-Palestinian demonstrators who occupied the lobby of a building that houses the Israeli Consulate on Monday.

It was not immediately clear how many arrests were made but an Associated Press journalist saw police arresting at least a dozen people.

A group of pro-Palestinian demonstrators entered the building and occupied it for several hours Monday. The protesters posted signs on the front doors of the building calling for an end to the Israel-Hamas war.

Consul General of Israel to the Pacific Northwest Marco Sermoneta said the protesters arrived around 9 a.m. at the Financial District’s high-rise but didn’t enter the consulate’s offices. He said his office was telling people that they might need to change their appointments.


ROME — The Group of Seven industrialized nations has fully endorsed a cease-fire proposal announced by the United States to try to end Israel’s war in Gaza, and has called on Hamas to accept it.

In a statement released by the Italian presidency Monday, the G7 urged countries with influence over Hamas to ensure that it accepts the deal.

U.S. President Joe Biden detailed the three-phase deal on Friday, which calls for a full and complete cease-fire, the withdrawal of Israeli forces from densely populated areas of Gaza, and the release of a number of hostages in exchange for the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners.

In the statement, the G7 said its leaders “fully endorse and will stand behind the comprehensive deal” that Biden outlined. They reaffirmed support for a credible pathway to peace and a two-state solution.

“We call on Hamas to accept this deal, that Israel is ready to move forward with, and we urge countries with influence over Hamas to help ensure that it does so,” the statement said.


JERUSALEM — The Israeli military on Monday confirmed the deaths of four more hostages held by Hamas — including three older men seen in a Hamas video begging for their release.

The three men, Amiram Cooper, Yoram Metzger and Haim Peri, were all age 80 or older. Looking weak and wary, they appeared in a video in December released by Hamas under the title, “Don’t let us grow old here.”

The fourth hostage was identified as Nadav Popplewell.

Israel’s military spokesman, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, said the four men died together in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis when Israel was operating there. The cause of death was not immediately known.

“We are checking all of the options,” Hagari said. “There are a lot of questions.”

Israel carried out a major offensive in Khan Younis, a Hamas stronghold, early this year.

Hamas claimed in May that Popplewell had died after being wounded in an Israeli airstrike, but provided no evidence.


THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Palestinian officials have applied at the top U.N. court for permission to join South Africa’s case accusing Israel of genocide in Gaza.

The request published Monday says that Israel’s ongoing military operation is “part of a systematic effort to wipe Palestinian society and its culture and social institutions from the map.”

The request to the International Court of Justice was made on behalf of the “State of Palestine” and signed by Palestinian Authority foreign ministry official Ammar Hijazi. South Africa filed its case with the International Court of Justice late last year accusing Israel of breaching the genocide convention in its military assault that has laid waste to large swaths of Gaza.

Israel denies it is committing genocide.

The court has issued three preliminary orders in the case calling on Israel to do all it can to prevent deaths in the enclave, ramp up humanitarian aid and, most recently, halt its offensive in Rafah.

It is unclear how long the court’s judges will take to rule on the request. If granted, Palestinian officials will be able to address the court in writing and during public hearings.


JERUSALEM — Palestinian authorities said Israeli forces fatally shot two men during a raid in the northern occupied West Bank on Monday.

According to Israeli police, the raid was in the northern city of Nablus and an exchange of fire took place between security forces and militants near the Balata refugee camp.

The Palestinian General Authority for Civil Affairs said the two slain men were in their 20s. Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a militant group active in the area, identified one of the slain men as one of its fighters.

Violence has flared in the Israeli-occupied territory since the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza broke out in October. Israeli forces launched a multi-day raid into Jenin, another city in the West Bank has long been a bastion of armed struggle against Israel’s occupation.

Since the war in Gaza began, over 500 Palestinians in the West Bank have been killed by Israeli fire according to the Palestinian Health Ministry, some in gun battles with Israeli forces, and others shot dead for posing no apparent threat.


AMMAN, Jordan — Five key Arab nations say they support efforts to negotiate a permanent cease-fire between Israel and Hamas that would lead to freeing hostages and detainees as well as bringing enough humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip.

The foreign ministers of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates held a virtual meeting Monday. In a statement from Jordan, they emphasized “dealing seriously and positively” with U.S. President Joe Biden’s proposal. The deal offers the possibility of ending Israel’s war against Hamas, returning scores of hostages held by the Islamic militant group, quieting the northern border with Lebanon and potentially advancing a historic agreement for Israel to normalize ties with Saudi Arabia.

The minsters called for the complete withdrawal of Israel’s military from the Gaza Strip and starting reconstruction in war-ravaged Gaza, with a framework for reaching a two-state solution “with specific timings and binding guarantees.”

Qatar and Egypt, along with the U.S., have been mediating the cease-fire negotiations between Israel and Hamas.


BEIRUT — The Lebanese militant group Hezbollah said Monday that two of its members were killed, announcing the names a few hours after a deadly Israeli drone strike on a car in southern Lebanon.

The Israeli military said its air force targeted an official with Hezbollah’s air defense units identifying him as Ali Hussein Sabra. Hezbollah identified one of the two killed with the same name without giving any details about his work within the group.

The strike came two days after Hezbollah shot down an Israeli Hermes 900 Kochav, a medium-altitude and long-endurance drone that can carry four anti-tank guided missiles.

Cross-border fighting between Israel and Hezbollah has intensified in recent weeks, after Israel launched its offensive into the key southern Gaza city of Rafah.

Israeli drone strikes have killed dozens of Hezbollah members since exchanges of fire began on Oct. 8, a day after the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza began.

Since then, more than 400 people have been killed in Lebanon, most of them Hezbollah members. The dead also include more than 70 civilians and non-combatants. On the Israeli side, at least 15 soldiers and 10 civilians have been killed.


BUCHAREST, Romania — A foreign citizen has been detained in Romania’s capital after allegedly attacking the entrance of the Israeli Embassy with a Molotov cocktail. The attack caused a small fire but no casualties, local media and police reported.

A 34-year-old man was apprehended by antiterrorism officers from the Romanian Intelligence Service before police arrived at the scene, police in Bucharest said, adding that the suspect allegedly also tried to set himself on fire.

A police spokesperson told local news channel Digi24 that the incident was motivated by personal grievances and not by the international context of Israel’s ongoing war in the Gaza Strip. Police said that investigations are underway to establish the circumstances of the incident.


JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he has not backed down from his goal of destroying Hamas and told his hard-line governing partners that a cease-fire proposal pushed by U.S. President Joe Biden would meet that goal, or else Israel would return to war, according to local media.

Netanyahu has faced a backlash from ultranationalists in his coalition who have threatened to bring down his government if he agrees to a deal that would end the war in Gaza without eliminating Hamas.

Biden last week announced what he called an Israeli offer that includes an “enduring cease-fire” and Israeli withdrawal from Gaza if Hamas releases all hostages it is holding. The outline released by the Biden administration does not explicitly talk of removing Hamas from governing Gaza or eliminating it. But in a speech Friday, Biden said Israel’s 8-month-old offensive had degraded the militants to a point where they could no longer carry out an Oct. 7 attack.

Netanyahu told the parliament’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday that there are certain “gaps” in Biden’s announcement. “Biden spoke about the outline but not all of the details,” he said during the closed-door session, according to Israeli media. He said that in the Biden plan, there are built-in measures to ensure all sides are upholding the deal before it progresses to the next stage.

“We reserve the right to return to war,” Netanyahu told the committee, according to the media reports.

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The Latest | Four more Israeli hostages declared dead, and Palestinians seek to join genocide case