United States fighter jets struck Houthi rebel sites in Yemen for a sixth time Friday, taking out anti-ship missile launchers that were prepared to fire. The Iranian-backed Houthi militants say their attacks on global shipping in the Red Sea corridor are aimed at stopping Israel’s war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Now in its fourth month, the war in Gaza is one of the deadliest and most destructive military campaigns in recent history and has increased tensions across the Middle East.
Gaza’s Health Ministry says nearly 25,000 Palestinians have been killed in the conflict, and the United Nations says more than half a million people in Gaza — a quarter of the population — are starving.
In Israel, around 1,200 people were killed during the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas that sparked the war, which saw some 250 people taken hostage by militants. More than 100 hostages are believed to be held captive in Gaza.
— Analysis: Simmering conflicts reach a boil as the Mideast remains unsettled by Israel’s war on Hamas.
— Biden and Netanyahu have finally talked, but their visions still clash for ending the Israel-Hamas war.
— The U.N. says women and children are the main victims of the Israel-Hamas war with 16,000 killed.
— African leaders criticize Israel’s military campaign in Gaza and call for an immediate cease-fire.
— Find more of AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war.
Here’s the latest:
WAR IN GAZA HAS KILLED 16,000 WOMEN AND CHILDREN — ABOUT 2 MOTHERS PER HOUR — UNITED NATIONS SAYS
UNITED NATIONS — The war in Gaza has killed an estimated 16,000 women and children including about two mothers ever hour since Hamas’ surprise invasion of Israel on Oct. 7, the United Nations agency promoting gender equality says.
UN Women also estimated that at least 3,000 women may have become widows and heads of households during the more than 100-day conflict, and at least 10,000 children may have lost their fathers.
In a report released Friday on “The Gendered Impact of the Crisis in Gaza,” UN Women pointed to gender inequality and the burden on women fleeing the fighting and being displaced again and again. Of the territory’s 2.3 million population, it said, 1.9 million are displaced and “close to one million are women and girls” seeking shelter and safety in a territory where no place is safe.
UN Women’s Executive Director Sima Bahous said there is a need for much more aid to get to Gaza, especially to women and children, and for an end to the war. “This is a time for peace,” she said. “We owe this to all Israeli and Palestinian women and girls. This is not their conflict. They must no longer pay its price.”
SEVERE LACK OF WATER IN GAZA WORSENS RISK OF DISEASE, UNITED NATIONS SAYS
UNITED NATIONS – The United Nations is reporting that water supplies in Gaza have dropped significantly, posing health and environmental threats and leading to 152,000 cases of diarrhea. More than half of those affected are children under the age of five.
According to the U.N.’s humanitarian partners, municipal wells that produce substandard, salty water are currently producing just one-tenth of what they did before the war began on Oct. 7, the U.N. said, which is more than 21,000 cubic meters a day compared to 255,000 cubic meters.
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Friday that prior to hostilities, water from Israeli-operated lines had been the best source of safe drinking water, but at present only one of the three lines – the Bani Said point – is functional. It is producing less than half of what would have been available if all the lines had been working, he said.
The U.N. humanitarian office says Israel shut down one water line into Gaza and another one was damaged in the war, leaving only the one functioning water line.
Water from desalination plants is also currently at just 7% of pre-crisis capacity, Dujarric said, and according to U.N. partners testing kits and chlorine to treat water throughout Gaza are unavailable due to import restrictions.
The water shortage has also severely impacted sanitation, he said.
The World Health Organization reports that on average, 500 people are sharing one toilet, and more than 2,000 people sometimes are forced to use one single shower while some shelters have none, Dujarric said.
“Lack of toilets and sanitation services have forced people to resort to open air defecation, increasing concerns over disease outbreaks,” the U.N. spokesman said.
HAMAS OFFICIALS VISIT MOSCOW TO DISCUSS ENDING WAR IN GAZA
CAIRO — Hamas said that a delegation of top officials met with the Russia’s Foreign Ministry in Moscow on Friday to discuss ways to end the conflict in Gaza. It’s the second time a Hamas delegation has traveled to Moscow since the start of the war.
In a statement, the militant group said the delegation was headed by Moussa Abu Marzouk, the head of Hama’s office for international relations, who spoke with Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, about the hostages held by the group and ways of reaching a potential cease-fire agreement with Israel.
Senior Hamas official Bassem Naim was also part of the three man delegation. No further information on the meeting was immediately available.
Russia has condemned Hamas for the Oct. 7 assault on southern Israel that triggered the conflict, but has also criticized Israel for using excessive force in its responding bombardment of Gaza. Moscow has called for an immediate cease-fire since the war broke out.
Asked about the Moscow meeting, United Nations spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told reporters that the U.N. wasn’t involved, but has no reservations about talks through a variety of diplomatic channels. Key parties need to talk, he said, and the U.N. just hopes the discussions lead to an immediate humanitarian cease-fire and the immediate and unconditional release of the Israeli hostages held in Gaza.
GAZA PHONE AND INTERNET GRADUALLY COMING BACK ONLINE AFTER 8-DAY OUTAGE
RAMALLAH, West Bank — The Palestinian telecoms provider, Paltel, said Friday that communication services across Gaza are gradually returning after a nearly eight-day outage, the longest of the war.
Communication services have completely dropped at least seven times since the war started on Oct. 7, according to Paltel.
The phone and internet blackouts made it nearly impossible for people in Gaza to communicate with the outside world or within the territory, hampering deliveries of humanitarian aid and first responders’ rescue efforts as Israel continues to bomb what it says are militant targets in all parts of Gaza.
Despite the restoration, Paltel said that communication services across Gaza remain basic, without elaborating.
“Our technical teams worked over the past days to repair many of the major malfunctions caused by the ongoing aggression against the Strip,” the providers said in a post on X.
The telecommunications company is used by people in both the Israeli-occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
FATHER OF ISRAELI HOSTAGE GOES ON HUNGER STRIKE OUTSIDE NETANYAHU’S HOME
JERUSALEM — The father of an Israel hostage held in Gaza has begun a hunger strike outside the private residence of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to protest the government’s lack of visible progress on a new hostage deal.
Eli Shtivi, whose 28-year-old son Idan has been held in Gaza since he was kidnapped from the Supernova music festival on Oct. 7, told Israel’s Channel 13 news that he planned to camp outside Netanyahu’s vacation home in the coastal town of Caesarea until the prime minister meets with him.
He says he will eat only a quarter of a pita bread each day, in keeping with the reported diet of hostages held in Gaza, and says other relatives of hostages will soon join him.
“We will not stop until the prime minister comes out to us,” Shtivi said. “This is what is important to me at the moment.”
Shtivi’s actions were just the latest in a string of intensifying outbursts of frustration from hostage families as the hostage crisis drags on without resolution. Dozens of relatives of hostages planned to spend the night in tents outside Netanyahu’s home to demand the government move secure a hostage deal.
Hamas has said it will not release the more than 100 hostages it is believed to be holding without an end to Israel’s devastating military offensive in Gaza.
As divisions emerge in Israel’s War Cabinet over plans to get the hostages home, some families have taken to spontaneous protest actions, fearing the lives of their loved-ones are in increasing danger.
EUROPEAN UNION SANCTIONS SIX PEOPLE ACCUSED OF FINANCING PALESTINIAN MILITANTS
BRUSSELS — The European Union on Friday imposed sanctions on six people it accuses of financing or supporting Hamas or the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group, including alleged backers in Algeria, Lebanon and Beirut.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the move show “we are ready to take decisive steps to react to the brutality shown by terrorists on October 7. Israelis and Palestinians deserve to live in a just, lasting, and secure peace.”
The six were named as Sudan-based financier Abdelbasit Hamza Elhassan Mohamed Khair, the owner of “Shuman for Currency Exchange SARL,” Nabil Shuman and his son Khaled, “senior Hamas financier” Rida Ali Khamis, “senior Hamas operative” Musa Dudin and Algeria-based financier Aiman Ahmad Al Duwaik.
Listing means that their assets in Europe will be frozen and EU citizens will be banned from providing them with financial support for at least a year. They are also banned from traveling to or through the 27 EU nations.
U.S. WARPLANES BOMB YEMEN’S HOUTHIS FOR A SIXTH TIME, OFFICIAL SAYS
WASHINGTON — U.S. fighter jets struck Houthi rebel sites in Yemen for the sixth time Friday, taking out anti-ship missile launchers that were prepared to fire, according to a U.S. official.
The official said the strikes were carried out by F/A-18 aircraft off the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing military operations.
Al-Masirah, a Houthi-run satellite news channel, said Friday that there were air raids in the western port city of Hodieda on Friday, targeting the al-Jabaana neighborhood in the west of the city. The location of the U.S. strikes could not be immediately confirmed.
The strikes come as President Joe Biden acknowledged Thursday that the bombardment of Houthi sites, including last Friday’s massive array of strikes by U.S. and British forces, has yet to stop the Iranian-backed militants’ attacks on vessels in the Red Sea that have disrupted global shipping.
The Houthis say their attacks are aimed at stopping Israel’s war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Associated Press writer Lolita Baldor contributed.
BIDEN AND NETANYAHU DISCUSS WAR IN FIRST PHONE CALL IN ALMOST A MONTH
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden spoke Friday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the leaders’ first call in almost a month amid sharp disagreements over what should happen in Gaza after the ongoing war concludes.
The White House said they discussed “the latest developments in Israel and Gaza.” It comes a day after Netanyahu reiterated his opposition to a Palestinian state, which the U.S. has insisted is necessary to bring about a sustainable peace.
The U.S. has also pressed Israel to take additional steps to protect Palestinian civilians and scale back the intensity of its military efforts to root out Hamas in Gaza after the militant group’s deadly assault on Israel on Oct. 7 that killed more than 1,200.
SWISS PROSECUTORS RECEIVE CRIMINAL COMPLAINTS OVER ISRAELI PRESIDENTS TRIP TO DAVOS AMID GAZA WAR
ZURICH, Switzerland — Swiss prosecutors said Friday they have received criminal complaints in connection with Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s trip to the Swiss ski resort of Davos for the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting.
The office of the Attorney General said the complaints would be examined as part of the regular course of such complaints filed by outside organizations, which were not identified. It did not provide details or identify the complainants.
Prosecutors are in touch with the Swiss Foreign Ministry to “examine the question of the immunity of the person concerned,” the office said in a statement, stressing such requests did not amount to official criminal proceedings.
The complaints come in the wake of a case filed by South Africa at the International Court of Justice against Israel over its military campaign in Gaza after Hamas militants attacked southern Israel on Oct. 7.
Herzog was among the high-profile guests at the annual meeting of political and business leaders and others in Davos, where he stressed the plight of Israeli hostages held by Hamas, among other things.
Herzog’s office declined to comment on the criminal complaints, but noted that Herzog returned to Israel Thursday.
Philip Grant, executive director of Geneva-based legal advocacy group Trial International, said he didn’t know the group reportedly behind the complaints, but said anyone in Switzerland can make such a “denunciation” to state prosecutors.
“That doesn’t meant that prosecutors are necessarily going to take legal action,” he said by phone.
Grant said under international law, one state cannot exercise its jurisdiction over a sitting head of state of a foreign country, and as such said the case is “not going to go far.”
“There will certainly be a multiplication of this type of filings in the future,” whether in Switzerland or elsewhere, he said.
SCUFFLES ON TEL AVIV HIGHWAY AS HOSTAGES’ FAMILIES PROTEST
TEL AVIV, Israel — Israeli police scuffled with relatives of hostages held by Hamas after the group of family members blocked a major Tel Aviv highway, a sign of growing tensions over the government’s lack of visible progress in reaching a new deal to secure the hostages’ release.
Shahar Mor, whose nephew Avraham remains in Gaza, said he was one of seven protesters detained by police after the protest late Thursday. Footage showed demonstrators holding up signs reading “Deal Now” as they faced long lines of cars.
Eventually, police showed up and scuffled with some of the demonstrators, pushing them as they tried to clear the road. Mor said that after he reached his vehicle, rifle-toting police chased after him and other protesters before detaining them. He told Israel’s Channel 13 TV on Friday that he and the others were later released.
Mor said the spontaneous protest was an expression of the families’ frustration with what they believe is the government’s failure to pursue another hostage deal.
About 250 hostages were dragged into Gaza during Hamas’ deadly Oct. 7 assault on southern Israel. Just under half were freed during a temporary cease-fire deal with Hamas in November, but dozens more remain in Gaza.
BRITAIN IS LOOKING AT WAYS OF GETTING MORE AID INTO GAZA, DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS
NICOSIA, Cyprus — Britain’s Defense Minister says the UK is looking into different ways of shipping additional humanitarian aid from Cyprus to the Gaza Strip more directly, including offloading aid in Israel from where it could enter the Palestinian enclave through the Kerem Shalom border crossing instead of through Egypt.
Defense Minister Grant Shapps says the aid “could go to Israel directly and even through Kerem Shalom that the Israelis have opened.”
Speaking after talks with Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides on Friday, Shapps said these options, that would allow large quantities of aid to be delivered to the people of Gaza more quickly, require “quite a lot of organization work.”
Earlier this month, the British Royal Navy ship Lyme Bay delivered 96 tons of heating blankets, tents and Cyprus-donated medicine to Egypt’s Port Said from where it would enter Gaza through the Rafah crossing.
The delivery was part of a Cypriot initiative for a continuous supply of large quantities of aid more directly to Gaza from the eastern Mediterranean island nation some 240 miles (386 kilometers) away.
ISRAEL KILLS PALESTINIAN WITH LINKS TO ISLAMIC JIHAD GROUP
RAFAH, Gaza Strip — The Israeli military says it has killed a man it identified as a senior member of the militant group Islamic Jihad. Palestinian media outlets said he was a journalist heading a local TV station.
The Israeli military identified the man on Friday as Wael Abu Fanounah, saying he was killed a day earlier in an Israeli airstrike.
Abu Fanounah was the director general of Al-Quds Today TV, a channel linked to Islamic Jihad. The station said Thursday that Abu Fanounah was killed in an airstrike in Gaza City. The station said he was killed on the “road to liberation” and that it would continue spreading its message.
Islamic Jihad gunmen participated in the Hamas-led Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel in which some 1,200 people were killed, mostly civilians, and about 250 were taken hostage. The attack triggered Israel’s devastating military offensive in Gaza in which close to 25,000 Palestinians have been killed so far, including scores of journalists and media workers.
Islamic Jihad continues to fight Israeli troops in Gaza, alongside Hamas.
A MEMBER OF ISRAEL’S WAR CABINET SAYS LOUD OBJECTIONS PREVENTED A ‘STRATEGIC MISTAKE’ EARLY IN THE WAR
JERUSALEM — A member of Israel’s War Cabinet confirmed reports that, early in the war against Hamas, an Israeli preemptive strike against Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia was called off at the last minute.
Gadi Eisenkot, a former army chief, said he was among those arguing against such a strike in what he described as a stormy Oct. 11 Cabinet meeting that left him hoarse from shouting.
Such a strike would have been a “strategic mistake” and would likely have triggered a regional war, Eisenkot said in a wide-ranging interview late Thursday with the investigative program “Uvda” on Israel’s Channel 12 TV. The interview marked the first time Eisenkot spoke in public about the handling of the war.
Eisenkot said loud objections raised by him and others during the Cabinet session were key to preventing the strike.
Since the Oct. 7 start of the war, Israel and Hezbollah have traded cross-border strikes with gradually escalating intensity. Neither side is believed to seek an all-out war which is bound to devastate both countries. Hezbollah is believed to have tens of thousands of missiles that can reach any target in Israel.
NETANYAHU’S REJECTION OF A TWO-STATE SOLUTION GOES AGAINST THE OSLO ACCORDS, NORWAY’S FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide told Norway’s news agency NTB that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rejection of a two-state solution was “completely contrary to the agreements Israel and the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) entered into in Oslo.”
“The Israeli Prime Minister’s statements are out of step with an almost unified international community,” Barth Eide said in a statement to NTB.
The Norwegian foreign minister said that “a real political solution is needed” to solve the situation.
“Norway believes that there is no credible alternative to a two-state solution, just like the Palestinians themselves, the USA, the EU, the U.N. and the neighboring Arab countries,” Barth Eide said.
A MEMBER OF ISRAEL’S WAR CABINET SAYS ONLY A CEASE-FIRE DEAL CAN BRING HOSTAGES HOME
JERUSALEM — A member of Israel’s War Cabinet said that only a cease-fire deal can win the release of dozens of hostages held by Hamas in Gaza and that those claiming they can be freed through military pressure are spreading illusions.
Former army chief Gadi Eisenkot, whose son was killed several weeks before while fighting in Gaza, told the investigative program “Uvda,” broadcast on Israel’s Channel 12 television station late Thursday, that “the hostages will only return alive if there is a deal, linked to a significant pause in fighting.”
He said dramatic rescue operations are unlikely because the hostages are apparently spread out, many of them in underground tunnels. Claiming hostages can be freed by means other than a deal “is to spread illusions.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant have said the fighting will continue until Hamas is crushed, and argued that only military action can win the release of the hostages.
In a thinly veiled criticism of Netanyahu, Eisenkot also said strategic decisions about the direction of the war, now in its fourth month, must be made urgently, and that a discussion about an endgame should have begun immediately after fighting started Oct. 7 in response to the deadly Hamas attack on southern Israel.
THERE CAN BE NO SECURITY WITHOUT A PALESTINIAN STATE, WEST BANK LEADER SAYS
RAMALLAH, West Bank — The spokesperson for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says there can be “no security and stability in the region” without a Palestinian state.
The remarks come in response to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rejection Thursday of calls by the United States to take steps toward the establishment of a Palestinian state after the war.
“Without the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital on the borders of 1967, there will be no security and stability in the region,” Palestinian state news agency Wafa quoted Abbas’ spokesperson Nabil Abu Rdeineh as saying Thursday.
The Palestinians seek Gaza, the West Bank and east Jerusalem — which were captured by Israel in 1967 — for their state.
Abbas heads the Palestinian Authority, which administers semi-autonomous areas of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
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