Aid deliveries have begun moving into the besieged Gaza Strip, two weeks after the militant group Hamas rampaged through southern Israel and Israel responded with airstrikes.
Israel says Hamas has freed two American hostages who had been held in Gaza since the war began Oct. 7. Israeli airstrikes continued to hit southern Gaza, an area swollen by civilians who fled there from the north on Israeli instructions. Israel’s military spokesman said the country planned to step up its attacks starting Saturday as preparation for the next stage of its war on Hamas.
The war, which is in its 15th day on Saturday, is the deadliest of five Gaza wars for both sides. The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry said Saturday that the death toll has reached 4,385, while 13,561 people have been wounded.
More than 1,400 people in Israel have been killed, mostly in the initial attack on Oct. 7 when Hamas militants stormed into Israel. In addition, 203 people were believed captured by Hamas during the incursion and taken into Gaza, the Israeli military has said.
1. Egypt is hosting dozens of regional leaders and senior Western officials for a summit on the war.
2. The father of freed American teenage hostage Natalie Raanan says she’s doing well after her release by Hamas.
3. Tens of thousands of pro-Palestinian demonstrators are marching in London and other cities.
4. A tent camp for displaced Palestinians in southern Gaza reawakens old traumas.
5. The fallout from the Israel-Hamas war has spilled into workplaces everywhere.
Here’s what’s happening in the latest Israel-Hamas war:
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced late Saturday he was sending additional air defense systems to the Middle East as well as putting more troops on prepare-to-deploy orders.
Austin said the U.S. would be delivering a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, battery along with additional Patriot missile defense system batteries “to locations throughout the region to increase force protection for U.S. troops.” Bases in Iraq and Syria have been repeatedly targeted by drones in the days since hundreds were killed in a hospital blast in Gaza, and the destroyer USS Carney intercepted land attack cruise missiles in the Red Sea shot from Yemen on Thursday.
Austin said he had also placed additional forces on prepare-to-deploy orders, “part of prudent contingency planning” as the U.S. and others brace for the potential of a wider regional conflict and as Israel prepares to launch a ground assault into Gaza. He said he gave the orders after detailed discussions with President Joe Biden on the recent escalations by Iran and its proxy forces across the region.
Israeli Defense Forces said a military aircraft launched a strike early Sunday on the Al-Ansar mosque at the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank.
The IDF said via X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, that Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants had been using an “underground terror route” beneath the mosque. One Palestinian was killed in the shelling, Palestinian Red Crescent said.
Tensions have risen in the West Bank, where dozens of Palestinians have been killed in clashes with Israeli troops, arrest raids and attacks by Jewish settlers.
ROME — Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni has made a trip to Israel to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, her office said.
The meeting Saturday came after Meloni participated in a summit in Cairo focused on ways to de-escalate the raging Israel-Hamas war.
Meloni’s office said that in her meeting she reiterated “the right of Israel to defend itself under international law and to live in peace” while also underlining “the importance of guaranteeing humanitarian access to Gaza and a prospect of peace for the region.’’
Her office said she brought “a message of solidary and Italy’s closeness” following Hamas’ unprecedented attack on Oct. 7.
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden has spoken on the phone with two freed Americans who had been held hostage by Hamas in Gaza.
Judith Raanan and her 17-year-old daughter, Natalie, were released Friday. It was the first such hostage release from among the roughly 200 people the militant group abducted from Israel during its Oct. 7 rampage.
Video of Biden speaking with them by phone was posted Saturday on the X platform, formerly known as Twitter. He told the mother and daughter that he was glad they had been released.
“We’re going to get them all out, God willing,” he said.
Natalie thanked Biden for his “services” to Israel. Judith said they are in good health.
Hamas said it released the mother and daughter for humanitarian reasons in an agreement with the Qatari government.
Family members have said Judith and Natalie had been on a trip from their home in the Chicago suburb of Evanston to Israel to celebrate Judith’s mother’s birthday and the Jewish holidays.
This item has been corrected to reflect that the video was posted Saturday, not that Biden spoke to them on Saturday.
Israel plans to step up its attacks on the Gaza Strip starting Saturday as preparation for the next stage of its war on Hamas, Israel’s military spokesman says.
Asked about a possible ground invasion into Gaza, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari told reporters Saturday night that the military was trying to create optimal conditions beforehand.
“We will deepen our attacks to minimize the dangers to our forces in the next stages of the war. We are going to increase the attacks, from today,” Hagari said.
He repeated his call for residents of Gaza City to head south for their safety.
CAIRO — United Nations aid agencies said a first 20-truck convoy of assistance that reached Gaza Saturday was “only a small beginning and far from enough.”
The agencies, including the World Health Organization, the World Food Program and others, said in a joint statement that more than 1.6 million people are in critical need of humanitarian aid.
“Vulnerable people are at greatest risk and children are dying at an alarming rate and being denied their right to protection, food, water and health care,” they said.
The agencies, which also include the U.N. population fund and UNICEF, called for a humanitarian cease-fire, along with immediate, unrestricted humanitarian access throughout Gaza.
“Gaza was a desperate humanitarian situation before the most recent hostilities. It is now catastrophic. The world must do more,” they said.
CAIRO — Doctors Without Borders says Gaza’s health care system is “facing collapse.”
The global medical group said Saturday that hospitals in Gaza are “overwhelmed and lacking resources” amid continued Israeli airstrikes and siege following Hamas’ unprecedented attack on Oct. 7.
The group’s warning come after Medhat Abbas, an official with the Gaza health ministry, said early Saturday that five hospitals has stopped functioning and two others were partly out of service.
“We recently made a large donation of medical stock, including medicines, narcotics and medical equipment to Al Shifa hospital, the main surgical facility in the strip,” the group, known by its French acronym MSF, wrote on X platform.
An nurse with the aid group in Gaza, Loay Harb, said that when the supplies were delivered to the hospital, she and others “saw hundreds of people taking shelter and it was difficult to walk inside.”
CAIRO — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is calling for an international peace summit to bring about the end of the Israel-Hamas war.
Speaking at a conference in Cairo on Saturday, Abbas reiterated his “complete rejection of the killing of civilians on both sides.” He also urged the “release of all civilians, prisoners, and detainees,” likely alluding to some 210 hostages held by Hamas in Gaza and the Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.
Abbas leads the Palestinian Authority, a government exercising semi-autonomous control in the West Bank. The government is deeply loathed among Palestinians, who view it as corrupt and collaborationist with Israel.
Hamas seized control of the Palestinian Authority in the Gaza Strip in 2007 and enjoys a strong base of support in the West Bank.
KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza Strip — A barrage of Israeli airstrikes on Gaza’s southern city of Khan Younis near a U.N. school struck several residential buildings, prompting a frantic rescue effort as medics rushed several dead bodies and dozens of wounded Palestinians to the hospital.
At the Hamouda family home seven people were killed and 40 others were wounded, survivors told The Associated Press at the scene of the attack.
CAIRO — At a summit of world leaders in Cairo focused on ways to de-escalate the raging Israel-Hamas war, representatives from Arab and European nations called for more humanitarian aid to flow into Gaza and appealed for protection of civilians in the strip.
Several Arab leaders, including Egypt and Jordan, took the opportunity to castigate the international community over its inaction and a double standard they said that the world displayed on the devastating Israeli bombing campaign on Gaza.
The response of the world, the office of President Abdel Fatah el-Sissi said, displayed a “shortcoming in the values of the international community in addressing crises.”
“While we see one place officials rushing and competing to promptly condemn the killing of innocent people, we find incomprehensible hesitation in denouncing the same act in another place,” it said in reference to fierce Western condemnation of Hamas’ attack on Israel and a weaker reaction to Palestinian suffering.
The summit did not immediately produce any statements about the prospects of a cease-fire
JERUSALEM —- A United Nations monitor says the 20 trucks of aid delivered to Gaza are just a “tiny fraction” of what is needed by some 1.4 Palestinians who have been displaced since the start of the Israel-Hamas war.
Normally, 500 trucks pass through crossings into Gaza every day. The 20 trucks that arrived Saturday were the first to arrive there in two weeks.
Andrea De Domenico is the head of the U.N. office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs in the occupied Palestinian Territories. He says UNWRA, the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, is working the World Food Program, UNICEF, and the World Health Organization to direct the aid to those most in need. But he said it will be challenging to get aid into the hands of people who are not staying at U.N. facilities.
The aid consists of canned food such as tuna, basic medical supplies, medicines, and water. He said the U.N. is pushing for an “unimpeded” flow of aid into the strip through the Rafah crossing, but that discussions of further aid are mired in deliberations “between parties.”
“If we don’t stabilize the supply pipeline,” Domenico said, “we head toward catastrophe.
RAFAH, Gaza Strip — Palestinian Americans and other dual citizens rushed to southern Gaza’s Rafah crossing with Egypt on Saturday as 20 trucks loaded with humanitarian aid entered the besieged strip that has staggered under shortages of medicine and food.
Even as embassies asked their citizens in Gaza to stand ready at the border, crowds of disappointed Palestinians holding American, Canadian, German and British passports waited hours in vain for at least fifth time this week.
“There is no opening of the crossing, and the suffering is the same,” said U.S. citizen Dina al- Khatib. “They communicate with us, but there is no change.”
With a humanitarian disaster brewing in Gaza, al-Khatib said she and her family were desperate to get out.
“It’s is not like previous wars,” she said. “There is no electricity, no water, no internet, nothing.”
JERUSALEM — A senior Israel Defense Forces official says the military will try not to strike zones in Gaza where humanitarian aid is being distributed, unless rockets are fired from the area.
“It’s a safe zone. We have a system which every time we decide that an area … is a safe zone, we declare no attack in this area. We won’t attack them,” he told a group of foreign journalists.
He added that the definition of what constitutes a “legitimate target” has changed, because the use of civilian infrastructure by Hamas “turns a private home into a legitimate target. And anyone who supports that home is a legitimate target.”
He acknowledged that the IDF has attacked houses where there are civilians living among militants.
— Julia Frankel in Jerusalem.