U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday to press for a humanitarian pause in the fighting with Hamas, as Israeli troops tightened their encirclement of Gaza City.
Tensions escalated along the northern border with Lebanon ahead of a speech planned later Friday by Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed Hamas ally. It is his first public speech since Hamas attacked Israel last month, stoking fears the conflict could become a regional one.
Roughly 800 people — including hundreds of Palestinians with foreign passports and dozens of injured — have been allowed to leave the Gaza Strip via the Rafah crossing under an apparent agreement among the U.S., Egypt, Israel and Qatar, which mediates with Hamas.
Israel has allowed more than 260 trucks carrying food and medicine through the crossing, but aid workers say it’s not nearly enough. Israeli authorities have refused to allow fuel in, leaving hospitals with dwindling supplies.
The Palestinian death toll in the Israel-Hamas war reached 9,227, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza. In the occupied West Bank, more than 140 Palestinians have been killed in violence and Israeli raids.
More than 1,400 people in Israel have been killed, most of them in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack that started the fighting, and 242 hostages were taken from Israel into Gaza by the militant group.
- Following an Israeli airstrike, crowded Gaza hospital struggles to treat wounded children
- As more Palestinians with foreign citizenship leave Gaza, some families are left in the lurch
- Stay in Israel, or flee? Thai workers caught up in Hamas attack and war are faced with a dilemma
- Netanyahu has sidestepped accountability for failing to prevent Hamas attack, instead blaming others
Here’s what is happening in the latest Israel-Hamas war:
Hezbollah leader gives first speech since start of the Israel-Hamas war
BEIRUT — Celebratory gunshots rang out over Beirut as thousands packed into a square in the Lebanese capital’s southern suburbs on Friday to watch a televised speech by Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the militant Lebanese Hezbollah group, which is an ally of Hamas.
It was Nasrallah’s first public remarks since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas war, sparked by the Palestinian militants’ deadly Oct. 7 incursion into southern Israel.
The speech came a day after the most significant escalation in clashes between Hezbollah and Israeli forces on the border since the war started, and on the same day as a visit to Israel by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to urge protections for civilians in the fighting with Hamas.
In his lengthy remarks, Nasrallah praised the Hamas attack four weeks ago on farming villages and military posts in southern Israel. More than 1,400 people were killed in Israel in the attack.
“This great, large-scale operation was purely the result of Palestinian planning and implementation,” Nasrallah said, suggesting his militia had no part in the attack. “The great secrecy made this operation greatly successful.”
Nasrallah’s speech had been widely anticipated throughout the region as a sign of whether the Israel-Hamas conflict would spiral into a regional war.
Since the beginning of the war, Hezbollah has taken calculated steps to keep Israel’s military busy on its border with Lebanon, but not to the extent of igniting an all-out war.
The Israeli military said seven of their soldiers and one civilian had been killed on the northern border as of Friday. More than 50 Hezbollah fighters and 10 militants with allied groups, as well as 10 civilians, including a Reuters journalist, have been killed on the Lebanese side of the border.
U.S. using drones in an attempt to locate hostages
The United States is flying MQ-9 drones over Gaza to gather intelligence and help Israel locate more than 240 hostages taken into the territory by Hamas during its Oct. 7 attack on Israel, a U.S. official said on condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing operations.
Since the attacks, families of the hostages have increased pressure on the Israeli and U.S. governments to find them and bring them home before Israel carries through with any large-scale ground operations. The drone use was first reported by Reuters.
Reported by Tara Copp in Washington, DC.
10 more Italian citizens allowed to leave Gaza
ROME — Italian authorities say seven people with dual Italian-Palestinian citizenship and three minors who are among their family members left the Gaza Strip safely on Friday and were traveling to Cairo before continuing onward to Italy.
Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said the group included two pregnant women who were being taken by ambulance to the Egyptian capital.
A total of 17 Italian citizens have now left Gaza. Tajani said the Italians still in the Gaza Strip include two people who work for the International Red Cross and the United Nations “and who in the last days decided to stay in Gaza to continue to assist persons in need.”
In-laws of Scotland’s first minister permitted to leave Gaza
LONDON — Scotland’s first minister, Humza Yousaf, said Friday his in-laws have managed to leave Gaza for Egypt as part of the limited evacuations of foreign nationals from the besieged territory.
The parents of his wife, Nadia El-Nakla, had been trapped inside Gaza since Oct. 7, when Hamas launched its incursion into Israel and killed more than 1,400 people. They were in Gaza visiting relatives.
Her parents, Elizabeth and Maged El-Nakla, were among the 100 or so British nationals permitted to pass through the Rafah border crossing into Egypt on Friday morning.
Yousaf, who has regularly shared updates on his in-laws’ plight, including that they had to drink sea water, spoke of the “deep personal relief” felt by his family.
He said the last four weeks have been “a living nightmare” and that he and his wife will continue to call for an immediate cease-fire in the conflict.
“Although we feel a sense of deep personal relief, we are heartbroken at the continued suffering of the people of Gaza,” the couple said in a statement.
UN warns that the situation in the West Bank is ‘alarming and urgent’
GENEVA — Alongside the blistering Israeli military campaign in Gaza, the U.N. human rights office warned Friday that the situation in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is “alarming and urgent” because of “multi-layered human rights violations of Palestinians” there.
Large-scale raids overnight by Israeli forces in the West Bank killed seven Palestinians, Palestinian health officials said, raising the death toll to 144 since the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas militants in Israel left at least 1,400 people dead.
Spokesperson Liz Throssell said Israeli forces have increasingly used military tactics and weapons in law enforcement operations, and settler violence “which was already at record levels” has escalated.
“We have serious concerns that the principles of distinction and proportionality are not being respected by both sides,” Throssell said at a news briefing in Geneva. “We strongly urge Palestinian armed groups to immediately stop launching inherently indiscriminate rockets into Israel.”
France to send 2 flights to Egypt with aid for Gaza citizens
PARIS — France is sending two new flights to Egypt with aid for Palestinian civilians in Gaza and is seeking to augment its military deployment in the area to provide medical support, the defense minister said Friday.
Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu told BFM television that the new flights would leave Friday and Sunday. France sent an initial flight last week with 54 tons of aid, and is urging the creation of a humanitarian corridor that would allow Palestinian civilians to flee Gaza and for aid to be brought in.
Lecornu spoke from a French helicopter carrier sent to the eastern Mediterranean to serve as a mobile hospital for people from Gaza.
‘’While Israel should defend itself and should ensure that Hamas can no longer inflict harm, … the civilian populations of Gaza must be preserved and the best way to protect them is to give them medical care,’’ he said.
Two French children have been killed in northern Gaza and their mother and another sibling were injured, according to the French Foreign Ministry.
They are among more than 30 French citizens who have been killed since the conflict began Oct. 7, most in the initial Hamas attacks. Nine remain missing, including some believed held hostage by Hamas, according to the government.
Five French citizens were evacuated from Gaza this week, and the French government is demanding safe passage out for the remaining French citizens in Gaza -– around 50 people, the ministry said.
Gaza Health Ministry says death toll has risen to 9,227
GAZA — The Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza says 196 people were killed over the past day, raising the total death toll in the territory since the Israel-Hamas war started on Oct. 7 to 9,227.
The ministry said the dead include 3,826 children and 2,405 women. It said 2,100 people are still missing under the rubble.
Health Ministry spokesperson Ashraf al-Qidra said Friday that hospitals in Gaza are running out of fuel, with two, al-Shifa and the Indonesian hospital, shifting to smaller generators that only keep the intensive care units, incubators and operating rooms running.
He called on the International Committee of the Red Cross to help bring all types of blood from outside Gaza for use in treating people.
He thanked Egypt for evacuating dozens of wounded people for treatment over the past three days, adding that there are hundreds of serious cases that still need to be evacuated.
Blinken meets with Netanyahu to press calls for humanitarian pause
TEL AVIV, Israel — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Israel’s prime minister on Friday to press American calls for a humanitarian pause in the fighting with Hamas in Gaza.
Blinken landed in Tel Aviv on Friday for his third trip to Israel since the war began with Hamas’ incursion into Israel on Oct. 7. Blinken will also visit Jordan and may make additional stops in the region before traveling to Asia early next week.
He met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other top officials at a highly charged and sensitive time as Israel intensifies its military operations in Gaza and international criticism of its tactics increases over the large number of civilian casualties.
U.S. President Joe Biden has called for a “humanitarian pause” in the fighting in order to arrange the evacuation of dual citizens and foreigners still trapped in Gaza as well as to try to secure the release of more than 240 hostages Hamas is holding and to increase humanitarian aid to civilians in Gaza.
Blinken is expected to stress Israel’s right to defend itself but also make the case for Israel to respect the rules of war as well as consider postwar scenarios for how the territory can be run if and when it succeeds in eradicating Hamas.
For the past week, the U.S. administration has been pushing a two-state resolution to establish a durable and lasting peace, although neither the current Israeli nor Palestinian leaderships have shown interest in such negotiations, which have failed multiple times.
Blinken will also urge Israeli authorities to rein in violence against Palestinians in the West Bank by Jewish settlers.
UN to more than quadruple funding appeal to $1.2 billion
GENEVA — The U.N. humanitarian aid coordinator says it will more than quadruple its initial appeal for funds to help respond to the crisis in Palestinian areas to about $1.2 billion.
Spokesperson Jens Laerke of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said the current appeal, launched Oct. 12, for $297 million has been only about one-quarter funded -– by countries and donors led by the United States, which has provided $24 million.
Laerke told reporters in Geneva on Friday that the number of people displaced within Gaza has swelled to nearly 1.5 million, or about 70% of its population.
OCHA said nearly 700,000 are sheltering in almost 150 facilities of the U.N. agency for Palestinians, more than four times their intended capacity.
“This means that in some shelters up to 240 people are living in classrooms of 40 to 60 square meters (430 to 645 square feet),” it said.
Israeli shelling hits cars carrying people fleeing from North Gaza
DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip — Israeli shelling has repeatedly struck cars carrying people fleeing from north Gaza along the two main roads to southern Gaza.
Because the Gaza Strip’s main road, Salah al-Din, and the coastal highway are so dangerous, medics say it’s virtually impossible to recover bodies or save the wounded without being targeted.
Israeli shelling struck a convoy of mostly women and children who had tried to escape bombardment in the north on Friday, killing about 10-15 people, according to a freelance journalist who traveled with emergency workers to the site.
The local journalist, Fuad Abu Khamad, said he saw the bloodied bodies sprawled on the road with the few belongings they managed to take with them — mostly just bread and some canned food.
Israeli forces resumed shelling before the medics had time to determine who was alive or dead, he said. Rescuers grabbed two survivors and rushed to Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Hospital in central Gaza, south of the Israeli military’s evacuation zone.
“It was a painful scene, women with their heads blown off, dead children who had just wanted to flee,” he said.
Turkish president denounces ‘crimes against humanity’
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday denounced Israeli actions in the Gaza Strip as “crimes against humanity.”
“An unprecedented human tragedy is taking place in Palestine before the eyes of the whole world,” Erdogan said at a summit of the Turkey-led Organization of Turkic States in Astana, Kazakhstan.
“Hospitals, schools, mosques, churches and refugee camps are being bombed. There is no concept that can explain this brutality,” he said.
“There is no excuse for the brutal murder of innocent children that we have witnessed since Oct. 7,” the start of the war, he said. “To be frank, crimes against humanity have been committed in Gaza for exactly 28 days.”
Erdogan called for a quick humanitarian cease-fire, and said Turkey is working on ways to “guarantee the security of everyone, whether they are Muslims, Christians or Jews” and to lay the groundwork for an international peace conference.
Iran-backed Iraqi militias announce expanded attacks on U.S. bases
BAGHDAD — The Islamic Resistance in Iraq, a coalition of Iran-backed Iraqi militias, announced Friday that it will launch a more “intense and expansive” phase of operations against U.S. bases in the region starting next week.
It said the escalation is “in support of our people in Palestine and to avenge the martyrs” in the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.
The group has launched a string of attacks on U.S. bases in Iraq and Syria in recent weeks, some of which have injured U.S. personnel. As of Tuesday, the Pentagon said there had been 27 rocket and drone attacks on U.S. bases in Iraq and Syria and that the U.S. was deploying an additional 300 troops to the Middle East to bolster those already there.
Palestinian officials say Israeli raids killed 7 in West Bank
JERUSALEM — In large-scale raids in the occupied West Bank overnight, Israeli forces killed seven Palestinians and arrested scores more, Israeli military officials and Palestinian health officials said.
Israeli forces killed three in Jenin, two in Hebron, one in Nablus and one in Qalandiya, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.
The military said the attack in Jenin included an airstrike — a once rare but now increasingly common form of attack in the territory. It said Israeli forces killed Hamas militants after they threw explosives at the soldiers. Forces also found explosives buried under the roads of the Jenin refugee camp, as well as an underground space with ammunition.
In Nablus, Israeli forces demolished the home of a Palestinian militant whom they accused of carrying out a shooting attack in the town of Huwara earlier this year, killing two Israelis.
Across the West Bank, the military arrested 37 Palestinians, identifying 17 of them as Hamas militants. Israel has stepped its raids on Palestinian towns and cities in the West Bank since the start of the war, leaving at least 144 Palestinians dead in what U.N. monitors say is the deadliest period in the territory on record.