Hundreds of foreign nationals and dozens of seriously injured Palestinians have been allowed to leave Gaza for the first time since the Israel-Hamas war began more than three weeks ago. Their departures through the Rafah crossing into Egypt follow the release of four hostages by Hamas and the rescue of an Israeli soldier.
The opening of the border crossing came as Israeli forces advanced deeper into Gaza and airstrikes on Wednesday struck a refugee camp for a second time in as many days.
Communications and internet services were gradually being restored after the second major cut in five days, according to Paltel, the main telecommunications provider. Humanitarian aid agencies have warned that such blackouts severely disrupt their work in an already dire situation in Gaza.
The Palestinian death toll in the Israel-Hamas war has reached 8,805, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza. In the occupied West Bank, 130 Palestinians have been killed in violence and Israeli raids.
More than 1,400 people in Israel have been killed, most of them civilians slain in the initial Oct. 7 Hamas rampage that started the fighting. In addition, around 240 hostages were taken from Israel into Gaza by the militant group. One of the captives, a female Israeli soldier, was rescued in a special forces operation.
Here’s what is happening in the latest Israel-Hamas war.
3:50 p.m. EDT
Blinken to visit Israel and Jordan on Friday
WASHINGTON — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit Israel and Jordan this week as the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza and international criticism of it intensify, the State Department said Wednesday.
Blinken will depart Washington on Thursday and will be in Israel and Jordan on Friday.
Further stops in the Middle East are possible, meaning the trip may follow the frenetic pace of Blinken’s last trip to the region shortly after the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks in Israel. Blinken traveled to Israel three times and visited six Arab nations during that trip.
Blinken will be entering a diplomatic maelstrom that will likely complicate his mission. Jordan announced Wednesday that it had recalled its ambassador to Israel and would not permit Israel’s ambassador to Jordan to return to the country. It also said it would not revisit those moves until the Gaza conflict was over.
State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said Blinken would once again underscore the Biden administration’s support for Israel’s right to defend itself but also stress the importance of minimizing civilian casualties and ensuring that humanitarian assistance reaches innocent Palestinians in Gaza.
UK nationals among those allowed to leave Gaza, British government says
LONDON — The British government says the first group of UK nationals allowed to leave Gaza have crossed into Egypt through the Rafah crossing.
The Foreign Office did not disclose numbers or identities on Wednesday. It said more British citizens would be able to leave Gaza when the crossing reopens for “controlled and time-limited periods” in the coming days.
1:53 p.m. EDT
Several U.S. citizens among foreign nationals that have departed Gaza, State Department says
WASHINGTON — The State Department has confirmed that a number of U.S. citizens trapped in Gaza have crossed into Egypt after a deal was reached to allow foreigners to leave the enclave.
“An initial group of foreign nationals, including U.S. citizens, departed Gaza through Rafah today, and we expect exits of U.S. citizens and foreign nationals to continue over the next several days,” department spokesman Matthew Miller said.
He declined to say how many Americans had made it to Egypt on Wednesday but said there were consular officials on hand to assist them.
Roughly 400 American citizens in Gaza have told the State Department they want to leave the territory and, with family members, U.S. officials say they are looking at about 1,000 people who they are seeking to get out, Miller said.
“In the past 24 hours we have informed U.S. citizens and their family and family members with whom we are in contact that they will be assigned specific departure dates. We’ve asked them to continue to monitor their email regularly over the next 24 to 72 hours for specific instructions about how to exit,” Miller said.
UN secretary-general condemns civilian killings, says he’s appalled by escalating violence
UNITED NATIONS — U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “is appalled over the escalating violence in Gaza” including the killing of Palestinians by Israeli airstrikes in the Jabaliya refugee camp on Tuesday and Wednesday, his spokesman says.
“He condemns in the strongest terms, any killings of civilians,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters Wednesday.
Dujarric said: “The secretary-general reiterates that all parties must abide by international law, international humanitarian law including the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution.”
The U.N. chief also reiterated his call for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages taken from Israel by Hamas during its surprise attacks on Oct. 7, Dujarric said. And he called again “for the entry of vital humanitarian assistance at a scale needed to meet the mounting needs of the Palestinian population.”
1:19 p.m. EDT
5 French citizens among those to leave Gaza through Rafah crossing
PARIS — Five French citizens were among dozens of dual passport holders and seriously injured who were able to leave the Gaza Strip via the Rafah crossing Wednesday, the French Foreign Ministry said. A team from the French Embassy in Egypt awaited for the group and France thanked Egyptian authorities for facilitating the exit.
“We reiterate our call to protect all civilian populations in Gaza,” the ministry said in a statement.
The ministry said last month that several dozen French citizens and their families were in Gaza — including residents and those visiting family or in a humanitarian capacity. France has been working for weeks to get its citizens out of the strip. Nine French nationals remain missing and thought to be held hostage by Hamas militants.
French President Emmanuel Macron reiterated on Wednesday during a visit to Kazakhstan the need for protection of the civilian population caught up in the Israel-Hamas war that has killed thousands, including 1,400 Israelis and more than 8,700 Palestinians.
“We say the way to protect yourself should be compliant with international law … You have to attack and punish the terrorist group Hamas (but) you have to protect civilians in your counter-attack,” Macron said.
His remarks to students in Astana were in response to a question and directed at Israel.
Jewish human rights organization criticizes Bolivia for severing diplomatic ties with Israel
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — A Jewish human rights organization has criticized Chile and Colombia for recalling their ambassadors to Israel, as well as Bolivia for breaking its diplomatic relations with Israel in protest of the continuing military operation in the Gaza Strip.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center noted Wednesday that Bolivia never mentioned the Oct. 7 Hamas attack against Israel in its decision to sever diplomatic ties with Israel and said the Andean country’s decision on Tuesday has to do with Bolivia’s partnership with Iran.
“Bolivia’s alliance with Iran is becoming clearer every day considering that the breakup is not due to the real interests of the Bolivian people,” Ariel Gelblung, the center’s director for Latin America, said.
The center characterized the decision by the governments of Colombia and Chile to recall their ambassadors on Tuesday evening “a clearly coordinated action.”
“Both leaders have always been hostile toward Israel and both have a history of diplomatic disagreements with representatives of the Jewish State,” the organization said.
Colombian President Gustavo Petro has devoted much of his account on X, formerly Twitter, to posting and retweeting criticism of Israel.
“The head of state who carries out this genocide is a criminal against humanity,” Petro wrote late Tuesday.
Bolivia, Chile and Colombia are all led by leftist governments.
Cypriot ships loaded with humanitarian aid to head to Gaza
NICOSIA, Cyprus — Cyprus’ government spokesman says a Cypriot initiative for the continuous flow of humanitarian assistance from Cyprus to Gaza will see ships sailing directly to the enclave where the United Nations personnel will receive it for distribution.
Spokesman Constantinos Letymbiotis said Wednesday that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “saw the initiative in a positive light” during a long telephone call with Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides Tuesday evening.
Cyprus is working with other European Union member states and Arab countries to work out the logistics of delivering aid to Gaza as soon as conditions on the ground permit it.
Ships loaded with medical supplies, food and clothing will depart from Cyprus’ main port of Limassol after being vetted to ensure that nothing being transported can be weaponized against Israel.
Head of UN agency for Palestinian refugees crosses into Gaza, meets with staff and others
CAIRO — Philippe Lazzarini, head of the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, crossed into Gaza Wednesday, where he met with Palestinian communities and other UNRWA colleagues working in the territory.
He said he was shocked by the scale of humanitarian needs Gaza and called for scaling up assistance delivered to the strip’s 2.3 million population.
“I was shocked by the fact that everyone there was asking for food, was asking for water … I never, ever have seen something similar in Gaza,” he said in comments to journalists.
Lazzarini is the most senior U.N official to enter the besieged enclave since the conflict erupted on Oct. 7.
4 Italian citizens leave Gaza Strip via Rafa crossing
ROME — Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani says a handful of Italian citizens have crossed out of the Gaza Strip.
“I just spoke with the first four Italians who departed from the Gaza Strip,” Tajani wrote on the social media platform X. “They are tired but in good condition, assisted by the Italian consul in Cairo. We will continue to work so all the others can get out.”
Tajani last week said there were 14 Italians in the Gaza Strip — seven with Italian citizenship and seven with dual Italian citizenship.
Palestinian man shot and killed in the West Bank, human rights group says
JERUSALEM — A 65-year-old Palestinian father with mental disabilities was killed in the occupied West Bank with a single shot to the head Wednesday as Israeli forces operated nearby, according to an Israeli rights group with footage of the shooting.
The video, which came from a CCTV camera in the flashpoint city of Tulkarem in the northern West Bank, shows a Palestinian man — identified as Majdi Awad by human rights group B’Tselem — walking down an alley in the early morning, before suddenly being shot and collapsing to the ground.
B’Tselem spokesperson Roy Yellin said it was not yet clear whether the man was shot by Israeli forces, but that the incident occurred just 100 meters (328.08 feet) from an area where Israeli forces stood. Awad was pronounced dead upon arrival at a nearby hospital and identified by his family members, Yellin said, adding that B’Tselem’s preliminary investigation showed that Awad was likely shot by a sniper.
Since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas war, 130 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank either by Israeli forces or by Jewish settlers. U.N. monitors say the period is the deadliest on record in the territory.
The military did not immediately respond to request for comment on the video or confirmation that soldiers had operated in Tulkarem Wednesday morning.
11:54 a.m. EDT
Key U.S. ally Jordan recalls its ambassador from Israel
AMMAN, Jordan — Jordan, a key U.S. ally, said Wednesday it has recalled its ambassador from Israel and told Israel’s ambassador to remain out of the country in protest over the “humanitarian catastrophe” in Gaza.
Jordan’s deputy prime minister, Ayman al-Safadi, who is also the foreign minister, said the return of the ambassadors is linked to Israel “stopping its war on Gaza … and the humanitarian catastrophe it is causing.”
Jordan signed a peace deal with Israel in 1994, the second Arab country after Egypt to do so.
Israeli forces raid refugee camp in the West Bank, kill 3 Palestinians
Israeli forces raided the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank early Wednesday, killing three Palestinians, injuring scores more, and arresting a high-ranking Palestinian official, Palestinian health and Israeli military officials said.
The raid, which the military said was to root out militancy, included a drone strike — a once rare, but now increasingly common attack mode in the West Bank. The military said the strike targeted and hit several militants. Soldiers and militants exchanged fire in the camp. The military said soldiers found and destroyed an underground shaft full of ammunition.
In the overnight raid, soldiers arrested Ata Abu Rmeileh, Jenin’s highest-ranking Fatah official. Fatah is the party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas’ main rival. The military said that Rmeileh, who was arrested with his son, was involved in promoting militancy in the area. Israel’s military arrested 70 Palestinians overnight, bringing the total number of Palestinians arrested since the war began to 1,830, according to the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club.
Videos circulating on social media showed lines of Israeli military vehicles streaming into the city, Israeli bulldozers traversing the camp’s narrow streets and a puddle of blood on the floor of a major hospital.
Violence has surged in the West Bank since the war between Israel and Hamas broke out on Oct. 7. Since then, Israeli forces and settlers killed 125 Palestinians there, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.
9:35 a.m. EDT
Israeli airstrikes hit refugee camp for a second day, Gaza government says
DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip — The Hamas-run government in Gaza says Israeli airstrikes have hit apartment blocks in a refugee camp near Gaza City for a second day in a row, causing many deaths and injuries.
The toll from Wednesday’s strikes was not immediately known. Al-Jazeera television, which is still reporting from northern Gaza, aired videos of devastation and of several wounded people, including children, being brought to a nearby hospital.
Lebanese leader says ‘time is of the essence’ in stopping war from ‘going out of control’
BEIRUT — Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister said Wednesday that time is of the essence in stopping the Hamas-Israel war from “going out of control” and affecting Lebanon and the wider region.
Najib Mikati has been scrambling with international governments to keep Lebanon away from the war, as militants from the Hezbollah group and Israeli troops have been clashing along the tense Lebanon-Israel border since the onset of the war on Oct. 7. The clashes so far have mostly been limited to areas along the border.
His comments come days before Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah is scheduled to give his first speech since the start of the war. Lebanon is experiencing political paralysis and economic turmoil, leaving many worried of the consequences of a fully fledged war in the crisis-hit country.
He condemned both Israeli strikes in southern Lebanon and attacks in the blockaded Palestinian Gaza Strip.
“A humanitarian cease-fire for five days is necessary, where there can be active international talks to secure prisoner swaps and reach a permanent truce in order to reach an agreement on the conditions for regional peace,” Mikati said before a government meeting.
Israel and Hezbollah fought a monthlong war in 2006 that ended in a draw. Israel sees Hezbollah as its most immediate threat, estimating that it has some 150,000 precision-guided missiles pointed at it.
“Enough war in Lebanon, for we are with the choice of peace,” Mikati said.
Heads of Israeli universities condemn antisemitic comments at schools overseas
JERUSALEM — Heads of Israeli universities sent a letter to colleagues around the world expressing deep concern over anti-Israel and antisemitic discourse at some universities following Hamas’s deadly attack on Israel and the war it triggered in the Gaza Strip.
The Association of University Heads in Israel also criticized what it sees as the inadequate response of some academic leaders.
“It’s unsettling to note that many college campuses have become breeding grounds for anti-Israel and antisemitic sentiments, largely fueled by a naïve and biased understanding of the conflict,” the letter said.
“Freedom of speech is a cornerstone of academic freedom, but it should not be manipulated to legitimize hate speech or to justify violence.”
Tensions on campuses in the U.S. and Europe have been inflamed since the Hamas attack. Some students and faculty have expressed support for the militant group and its attack.
At Harvard, a coalition of more than 30 student groups said Israel was “entirely responsible” for the Hamas attack that killed more than 1,400 people.
At Cornell University, police were sent to guard the Center for Jewish Living over intimidating posts.
The comments have raised fundamental questions regarding free speech and its limits.
“Just as it would be unthinkable for an academic institution to extend free speech protections to groups targeting other protected classes, so too should demonstrations that call for our destruction and glorify violence against Jews be explicitly prohibited and condemned,” the Israeli university heads said in their letter.
Media watchdog group says 34 journalists have been killed
CAIRO — The group Reporters Without Borders says 34 journalists have been killed in the war between Israel and Hamas militants, accusing both sides of committing possible war crimes.
In a statement Wednesday, the media watchdog called on the International Criminal Court to investigate the killings.
“The scale, seriousness and recurring nature of international crimes targeting journalists, particularly in Gaza, calls for a priority investigation by the ICC prosecutor,” said Christophe Deloire, head of the group.
It said it filed a complaint with the ICC’s prosecutor regarding eight Palestinian journalists it said were killed in Israel’s bombardment of civilian areas in Gaza, and an Israeli journalist killed during Hamas’ bloody Oct. 7 attack in southern Israel, which ignited the war.
It said the complaint cited “the deliberate, total or partial, destruction of the premises of more than 50 media outlets in Gaza” since the war began.
It’s the third such complaint to be filed by the group since 2018 alleging war crimes against Palestinian journalists in Gaza. Israel says it makes every effort to avoid killing civilians and accuses Hamas of putting them at risk by operating in residential areas.
Communications being gradually restored in Gaza
CAIRO — Communications were gradually being restored in parts of Gaza, hours after the besieged territory suffered its second major blackout in five days, according to Paltel, the main service provider.
Paltel said in an announcement on social media that fixed line and cellular services and the internet were beginning to return in various areas across Gaza.
Associated Press journalists in Gaza confirmed the restoration.
Connectivity was previously cut from late Friday to early Sunday, coinciding with the entry of large numbers of ground troops into Gaza in what Israel at the time described as a new stage in the war.
Humanitarian aid agencies have warned that such blackouts severely disrupt their work in an already dire situation in Gaza.
The aid group Doctors Without Borders said Wednesday’s blackout hampered its activities. Guillemette Thomas, medical coordinator for the group, also known as Médecins Sans Frontières, said the blackout made it “impossible to coordinate” its activities. She said it had been unable to reach its team in Gaza hospitals since Tuesday evening.
Iranian leader calls for Muslim nations to stop exporting food and oil to Israel
TEHRAN, Iran — Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Wednesday called on Muslim nations to stop exporting food and oil to Israel over its airstrikes and military offensive in the Gaza Strip.
Khamenei made the comments to students in Tehran. He had earlier praised Hamas after its Oct. 7 attack on Israel.
“What the Islamic governments should insist is an immediate halt to the crimes (the Israelis) are committing in Gaza. The bombardments should immediately stop,” Khamenei said, according to state media. “They should block the flow of oil and food to the Zionist regime. Islamic governments shouldn’t have economic cooperation with the Zionist regime.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian earlier suggested an oil embargo on Israel, though there has been no sign that energy flows to the country have been affected.
Associated Press writer Nasser Karimi contributed.
Dozens of people enter the Rafa crossing from Gaza to Egypt
RAFAH, Gaza — Dozens of people could be seen entering the Rafah crossing from Gaza to Egypt on Wednesday. It appeared to be the first time foreign passport holders have been allowed to leave the besieged territory since the start of the war.
Hundreds have gathered at the crossing at different times in recent weeks, but have not been allowed out due to disagreements among Egypt, Israel and Hamas. No one has been allowed to leave Gaza, except for four hostages released by Hamas. Another captive was rescued by Israeli forces earlier this week.
Egyptian state-run media reported that more than 80 wounded Palestinians would be brought from Gaza to Egypt on Wednesday for medical treatment. Ambulances were seen entering the Rafah crossing from the Egyptian side, and a field hospital has been set up in the nearby town of Sheikh Zuweid.
The Palestinian crossing authority said more than 400 foreign passport holders would be permitted to leave Gaza on Wednesday. Egypt has said it will not accept an influx of Palestinian refugees because of fears Israel will not allow them to return to Gaza after the war.
Pakistan urges action after Israeli airstrikes on a refugee camp
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s interim Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar on Wednesday denounced the latest Israeli airstrikes on a refugee camp near Gaza City, urging the international community to play its role in ending such strikes.
“Yesterday’s air raid on Jabalia camp, where hundreds of lives were lost, including women and children, was a stark reminder of ongoing Israeli brutalities and war crimes in Gaza,” Kakar said in a statement.
He said that “such reprehensible acts can never be condoned or forgotten. The world must act now to end this carnage.”
Three Arab states denounce Israel’s airstrikes on a refugee camp
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Three Arab states have strongly criticized Israel’s airstrikes on a refugee camp near Gaza City as its war on Hamas rages.
Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates each issued statements denouncing the strikes on the Jabaliya camp. The exact number of casualties was not immediately clear in the strikes, though one doctor said hundreds were killed and wounded.
Qatar, which as been mediating talks with Hamas over the more than 200 hostages it holds from its Oct. 7 attack on Israel, described the strike as “a new massacre against the defenseless Palestinian people, especially women and children.” The country warned that “the expansion of Israeli attacks in (the) Gaza Strip … is a dangerous escalation in the course of confrontations, which would undermine mediation and de-escalation efforts.”
Associated Press writer Jon Gambrell contributed.
Blinken to travel to Israel on Friday
WASHINGTON — United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced plans to travel to Israel on Friday to consult with Israeli officials about their ongoing war on Hamas.
State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said Tuesday that Blinken would visit Israel “and then will make other stops in the region.” He did not identify the other planned stops.
Blinken made an urgent trip to the Middle East earlier in October, visiting Israel, Jordan, Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.