U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration says Israel will allow a 4-hour humanitarian pause each day in combat operations in northern Gaza to allow civilians to flee to the south, starting on Thursday.
Biden also told reporters that he had asked the Israelis for a “pause longer than three days” during negotiations over the release of some hostages held by Hamas, although he ruled out the chances of a general cease-fire.
In Europe, French President Emmanuel Macron has opened a Gaza aid conference with an appeal for Israel to protect civilians, saying that “all lives have equal worth” and that fighting terrorism “can never be carried out without rules.”
France wants Thursday’s aid conference that brings together more than 50 nations to address the besieged Palestinian enclave’s growing needs including food, water, health supplies, electricity and fuel.
The war, now in its second month, was triggered by the Oct. 7 Hamas attack into southern Israel.
The number of Palestinians killed in the war has risen to 10,818, including more than 4,400 children, the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza said.
In the occupied West Bank, more than 160 Palestinians have been killed in the violence and Israeli raids. More than 1,400 people in Israel have been killed, most of them in the Hamas attack, and 239 hostages were taken from Israel into Gaza by the militant group.
— Israeli strikes pound Gaza City as ground forces battle Hamas militants in dense urban neighborhoods
— White House says Israel agrees to 4-hour daily pauses to allow civilians to flee
— French President Macron opens Gaza aid conference with appeal to Israel to protect civilians
— U.S. airstrike hits site in Syria after Iran-backed militia attacks bases housing U.S. troops
— Americans divided over Israel’s response to Hamas attacks, AP-NORC poll shows
— Find more of AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war
Here’s what is happening in the latest Israel-Hamas war:
CIA CHIEF IS IN QATAR WORKING TO RELEASE HOSTAGES, OFFICIAL SAYS
WASHINGTON – CIA Director William Burns was in Doha on Thursday to discuss efforts to win the release of hostages in Gaza with the Qatari prime minister and the head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency, according to a U.S. official.
Burns met with Mossad chief David Barnea and Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, the official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters.
The Hamas militant group that rules Gaza is holding what officials estimate to be some 240 hostages seized in Hamas’s deadly Oct. 7 incursion into Israel. International officials are believed to be pursuing a deal in which Hamas could free some hostages in exchange for a pause in Israel’s air, ground and sea assault on Gaza.
Qatar is a frequent go-between in international dealings with Hamas, and some top Hamas political leaders make their home in the Gulf country.
The U.S. official stressed Burns was not playing a lead role in the negotiations.
AP writer Ellen Knickmeyer contributed.
WHITE HOUSE SAYS ISRAEL AGREES TO 4-HOUR DAILY PAUSES IN NORTHERN GAZA FIGHTING TO ALLOW CIVILIANS TO FLEE
The White House says Israel has agreed to put in place four-hour daily humanitarian pauses in its assault on Hamas in northern Gaza. The Biden administration says it has secured a second pathway for civilians to flee fighting.
President Joe Biden had asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to institute the daily pauses during a Monday call.
U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the first humanitarian pause would be announced Thursday, and that the Israelis had committed to announcing each four-hour window at least three hours in advance. Biden says he asked the Israelis for a “pause longer than three days” during negotiations over the release of some hostages held by Hamas.
PALESTINIAN HEALTH MINISTRY SAYS NEARLY 11,000 KILLED IN GAZA
The Palestinian Health Ministry says the number of Palestinians killed in Gaza has risen to 10,818.
In its latest update Thursday, the ministry said the figure includes 4,412 children and 2,198 women. The vast majority have been killed in Israeli airstrikes that have pounded the enclave following Hamas’ assault on Israel.
An additional 26,905 Palestinians in Gaza have been injured.
GERMANY’S FOREIGN MINISTER BACK IN THE MIDDLE EAST
BERLIN — German Foreign Minister Baerbock is traveling to the Middle East for the third time in a month with stop-overs planned in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Israel.
Germany’s foreign ministry said Thursday Baerbock’s meetings will focus on the release of the German hostages held by Hamas in Gaza, the humanitarian situation there, and efforts to prevent a regional conflagration of the conflict.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz has also traveled to Israel and other countries in the region since the Hamas attack on Israel on Oct. 7.
SAUDI ARABIA SENDS CARGO PLANE LOADED WITH FOOD, AID FOR GAZA
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – Saudi Arabia has sent a cargo plane loaded with 35 tons of food and humanitarian aid to Egypt for delivery to the Gaza Strip.
The state-run Saudi Press Agency announced the first such aid shipment from the kingdom on Thursday.
Before the onset of the Israel-Hamas war, Saudi Arabia was in talks with the U.S. to normalize relations with Israel in return for an American defense pact, aid in setting up a civilian nuclear program and major progress toward resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Saudi Arabia has condemned the violence and called for a cease-fire.
Several countries have flown aid for Gaza to El-Arish, in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, which borders Gaza and Israel. Under a diplomatic arrangement, the aid is shipped overland through Egypt’s Rafah crossing with Gaza after being inspected inside Israel.
Aid workers say the hundreds of trucks allowed into Gaza in recent weeks are nowhere near enough to meet the mounting needs of the territory’s 2.3 million Palestinians.
WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION CAUTIONS ABOUT INFECTIOUS DISEASES IN GAZA
The World Health Organization is cautioning about infectious diseases spreading in Gaza from contaminated water and limited access to hygiene facilities.
WHO reported Thursday that since mid-October 2023, over half of the 33,551 reported cases of diarrhea are among children under age five.
The organization said that’s a significant increase compared to an average of 2,000 cases monthly in children under five throughout 2021 and 2022.
Also reported where 8,944 cases of scabies and lice, 1,005 cases of chickenpox, 12,635 cases of skin rash and 54,866 cases of upper respiratory infections.
PALESTINIAN OFFICIALS SAY 7 KILLED IN ISRAELI RAID ON JENIN
Palestinian officials say an Israeli raid into the flashpoint city of Jenin in the northern West Bank has killed seven Palestinians and injured 13.
Thursday’s raid was the latest in a series of stepped-up operations in the West Bank that Israel says it is staging to root out militancy in the territory.
The Israeli military described the raid as a “counterterrorism” operation.
Mustafa Sheta, the manager of a prominent cultural center in the Jenin refugee camp said residents feel “so helpless under this growing pressure, there is nothing we can do.”
The Palestinian Red Crescent said that one of its paramedics, Sabreen Obeidi, had been shot in the back by Israeli forces targeting an ambulance.
The group posted a picture to the platform X, formerly known as Twitter, of an ambulance with a single bullet hole. The armed wing of Fatah released a statement claiming that its forces were still engaging in gun battles with Israeli forces in Jenin.
MACRON URGES PROTECTION OF GAZA CIVILIANS
PARIS – French President Emmanuel Macron is appealing for Israel to protect civilians in Gaza and is repeating calls for a humanitarian pause to allow aid to reach those who need it.
Macron told a Gaza aid conference in Paris on Thursday that “all lives have equal worth” and that fighting terrorism “can never be carried out without rules” while protecting civilians ”is non-negotiable.” b
He said that by attacking Israel on Oct. 7, Hamas “shouldered the responsibility for exposing Palestinians to terrible consequences,” and he again defended Israel’s right to defend itself.
Officials from Western and Arab nations, the United Nations and nongovernmental organizations are meeting in Paris with the aim of providing urgent aid to civilians in the Gaza Strip. Macron’s office said Israeli authorities aren’t participating.
More than 1.5 million people — or about 70% of Gaza’s population — have fled their homes, and an estimated $1.2 billion is needed to respond to the crisis in Palestinian areas.
DENMARK BOOSTS HUMANITARIAN AID TO GAZA
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Denmark says it will increase its humanitarian aid to the civilian population in Gaza by 75 million kroner ($10.7 million).
The country’s Development Cooperation Minister Dan Jørgensen on Thursday called the situation “catastrophic and is worsening day by day.”
The aid will be channeled via U.N. agencies and the International Red Cross.
TURKEY’S PRESIDENT ACCUSES WEST OF “WEAKNESS”
ANKARA, Turkey – Turkey’s president is accusing Western nations of “weakness” in the face of civilian deaths in Gaza and called on Muslim nations to display unity against Israel’s actions.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has been a vocal critic of Israel’s actions in Gaza, made the comments Thursday at a meeting of the 10-member Economic Cooperation Organization in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
Erdogan said Western nations and organizations are observing these “massacres by Israel” from afar but are “too weak to even call for a cease-fire, let alone criticize child murderers.”
He added: “If we, the Economic Cooperation Organization, as Muslims, are not going to raise our voices today … when will we raise our voices?”
Erdogan also said Turkey would continue with its diplomatic efforts to implement a cease-fire and prevent the spread of the conflict.
The Economic Cooperation Organization regroups five Central Asian nations as well as Turkey, Iran, Azerbaijan, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
ISRAELI LABOR MINISTER SAYS NETANYAHU WILL HAVE TO CALL EARLY ELECTIONS
JERUSALEM — Israel’s labor minister says Benjamin Netanyahu will have to call early elections right after the war.
Labor Minister Yoav Bentzur made the unusually public suggestion in remarks quoted Thursday by the Maariv daily.
Bentzur from the ultraorthodox Shas party said Netanyahu ” will be forced to go to elections within 90 days, even before a commission of inquiry of some sort (into the war) is established.”
He added: “We can’t go on like this. The public will have its say, and then we will see if Netanyahu is given the mandate.”
Bentzur later tried to walk back the comments, saying they were taken out of context and don’t reflect the position of Shas, a close ally of Netanyahu.
Polls show Netanyahu’s support has dropped over Hamas’ shock attack, which killed more than 1,400 and left over 240 hostage, touching off a devastating Israeli war in the militants’ Gaza Strip stronghold.
PROMINENT LEADERS IN ISRAEL’S PALESTINIAN COMMUNITY ARRESTED
JERUSALEM – An advocacy group for Israel’s Arab citizens says six prominent leaders in Israel’s Palestinian community has been arrested in route to a protest against the military’s war in the Gaza Strip.
The detainees include Mohammed Barakeh, a former lawmaker and head of the High Follow-up Committee for Arab Citizens; and former lawmakers Hanin Zoabi and Sami Abou Shahadeh.
Police said in a statement that the protest in Nazareth was “liable to incite and harm the public’s welfare.” Police recently banned antiwar protests.
Adalah, the advocacy organization, said Barakeh was detained for questioning after he was followed by an unmarked police car. He had notified police on Wednesday that the committee planned to hold a protest with fewer than 50 people and therefore did not need a permit.
Adalah said Barakeh’s arrest was illegal and evidence of a policy “designed to muzzle any dissent and to suppress the freedom to protest of Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel.”
SCORES WOUNDED AFTER OVERNIGHT ISRAELI SHELLING
The general director of Gaza City’s main hospital says scores of wounded people are being treated at the Al-Shifa Hospital following overnight Israeli strikes and shelling.
Dr. Mohammad Abu Selmia told the Associated Press by phone that at least one shell landed very close to the hospital at around dawn Thursday, resulting in only a few people sustaining minor injuries. He said it would’ve been a “catastrophe” had the shell landed any closer, adding that conditions at the hospital are “disastrous in every sense of the word.”
Abu Selmia said the hospital is in short supply of medicine and other medical equipment while doctors and nurses are exhausted, while staff is “unable to do much for the patients.”
He said the hospital has also been acting as makeshift shelter for some 60,000 displaced Palestinians.
A convoy of medical aid from the United Nations World Health Organization and the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, reached al-Shifa Hospital Wednesday night. The heads of both agencies said in a joint statement that this the second convoy to reach the hospital since the onset of the Hamas-Israel war on Oct. 7. It did not include fuel, as Israel has banned it in its blockade of the Palestinian enclave.
“It would help us get by for another few hours, not days,” Abu Selmia said the aid was enough to help doctors get by “for another few hours, not days”, adding that a steady stream of such aid convoys are needed to mee the hospital’s needs.
NEGOTIATIONS UNDERWAY FOR 3-DAY HUMANITARIAN CEASE-FIRE IN GAZA
CAIRO — Negotiations are underway to reach a three-day humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza in exchange for the release of about a dozen hostages held by Hamas. That’s according to two officials from Egypt, one from the United Nations and a Western diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive diplomatic efforts.
The deal would enable more aid, including limited amounts of fuel, to enter the besieged territory to alleviate worsening conditions for the 2.3 million Palestinians trapped there. It is being brokered by Qatar, Egypt and the United States, according to the officials and the diplomat.
One of the Egyptian officials says details of the deal were discussed this week in Cairo with the visiting CIA chief and an Israeli delegation. The official said mediators are finalizing a draft deal.
A senior U.S. official said the Biden administration has not put forward any specific time frame for a pause in Israel’s military operations but has suggested that Israel consider tying the length of a pause to the release of a certain number of hostages.
If an agreement on the duration of the pause and the number of hostages to be freed can be reached and the deal successfully implemented, the same formula could be revisited for additional pauses and releases, according to the official.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said any temporary cease-fire would have to be accompanied by the release of the hostages who were seized by Hamas during the militant group’s Oct. 7 assault on southern Israel. Israel has said around 240 hostages, both Israelis and those with foreign passports, are currently held in Gaza.
A three-day cease-fire would allow the delivery of humanitarian aid across Gaza, including the northern area, the focus of Israel’s military campaign to crush the territory’s Hamas rulers. Under the proposed deal, some fuel would also enter Gaza for the first time since the start of the war, to be distributed to hospitals and bakeries under U.N. supervision.
Israel has barred fuel shipments to Gaza since the start of the war, arguing Hamas would divert them for military use. Over the past month, only limited amounts of aid, such as medicine, food and water, have entered Gaza. Aid workers say it’s not nearly enough to meet mounting needs.
Under the proposed truce deal, Hamas would release a dozen civilian hostages, most of them foreign passport holders, and provide a complete list of hostages to mediators, according to the officials. The International Committee of the Red Cross would be allowed to visit the hostages.
The diplomat said the talks are complex because of the involvement of different parties in the region and in Western capitals.
Associated Press writers Samy Magdy in Cairo and Matthew Lee in Seoul, South Korea, contributed.