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The Latest | Netanyahu says he will only accept a partial cease-fire deal that would not end the war

Palestinians gather to fill water jugs near one of the strip's few functioning desalination plants in Deir al-Balah, Gaza Strip, Thursday, June 20, 2024. Israel's war in Gaza has decimated the strip's sanitation system while simultaneously displacing the vast majority of the population, leaving many Palestinians living in tent camps nearby streams of sewage and growing piles of garbage. (AP Photo/Abdel Kareem Hana)
Original Publication Date June 24, 2024 - 1:46 AM

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he will only accept a partial cease-fire deal that would not end the 8-month-long war in Gaza, casting doubt on the viability of a U.S.-backed truce proposal.

Netanyahu said he was ready to make a partial deal to bring back some of the 120 hostages still held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, but “we are committed to continuing the war after a pause, in order to complete the goal of eliminating Hamas.”

His comments late Sunday come at a sensitive time as Israel and Hamas appear to be moving further apart over how the cease-fire deal plays out, and as Israeli leaders are increasingly signaling that a war with the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah could be next.

The three-phased plan for a truce in Gaza would bring about the release of the remaining hostages in exchange for hundreds of Palestinians imprisoned by Israel. Hamas insists it will not release the remaining hostages unless there’s a permanent cease-fire and a full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza.

Israel launched the war after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack, in which militants stormed into southern Israel, killed some 1,200 people — mostly civilians — and abducted about 250.

Since then, Israeli ground offensives and bombardments have killed more than 37,600 people in Gaza, according to the territory's Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between combatants and civilians in its count.

International criticism is growing over Israel’s campaign as Palestinians face widespread hunger. The war has largely cut off the flow of food, medicine and basic goods to Gaza, which is now totally dependent on aid. The top United Nations court has concluded there is a “plausible risk of genocide ” in Gaza — a charge Israel strongly denies.

Currently:

— Netanyahu says he won’t agree to a deal that ends the war in Gaza, testing the latest truce proposal

— Experts say Gaza is at ‘high risk’ of famine despite increased aid to the north

An Israel offensive into Lebanon risks an Iranian military response, top US military leader says

— WHO official says the US-built pier in Gaza is not sufficient in delivering aid to Palestinians

— Suspected Yemen Houthi attack targets vessel in waters further away than many previous assaults

— Some visitors to Israel have a new stop on their tours: Hamas’ destruction in the south

Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Gaza at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war

Here's the latest:

Blinken tells Israeli defense minister it is critical to avoid escalating regional conflict

WASHINGTON — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant that it was critical to avoid escalating the conflict in the Middle East and find a resolution that “allows both Israeli and Lebanese families to return to their homes.”

Blinken and Gallant met Monday in Washington as the Israeli defense minister visits Washington this week to speak with U.S. officials, including Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Amos Hochstein, a senior adviser to President Joe Biden.

Hochstein met with officials in Israel and Lebanon last week to try to lower tensions between Israel and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

Iranian-backed Hezbollah began striking Israel almost immediately after Hamas’ Oct. 7 cross-border attack that triggered the war in Gaza. Israel and Hezbollah have been exchanging fire nearly every day since then, displacing tens of thousands of people on both sides of the border. The fighting has escalated in recent weeks, raising fears of a full-blown war.

In the meeting Monday with Hochstein, Gallant’s office said the Israeli official echoed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s comments that the war in Gaza is transitioning to a new phase, which could affect other conflicts, including with Hezbollah.

The State Department said Blinken and Gallant discussed efforts to push through an Israel-Hamas cease-fire proposal outlined by Biden. Netanyahu said Sunday that he would only be willing to agree to a “partial” cease-fire deal that would not end the war, throwing the U.S.-backed proposal into doubt.

Blinken also reiterated the need for more work to be done to protect humanitarian workers in Gaza and deliver aid in coordination with the U.N., the statement said.

Israeli airstrike kills 5 people in central Gaza, 4 of them children

DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip — An Israeli airstrike killed five people, including four children, and wounded at least 10 others who were in a house in central Gaza late Monday, hospital officials said.

The dead and injured were taken from Maghazi refugee camp to Al Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in nearby Deir al-Balah, where they were viewed by an Associated Press journalist.

A young girl, her face covered in blood and grey dust, shrieked as she was rushed out of an ambulance on a stretcher under in a foil blanket. Other wounded patients lay or sat on the hospital's tile floor while people held their IV bags aloft.

Somberly, the dead were brought into the hospital and laid out in the morgue. Officials said the children were ages 4, 9, 13 and 16.

Hamas official says Netanyahu comments on ‘partial’ cease-fire show he does not want a deal

BEIRUT — A senior Hamas official says recent comments by Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu about only accepting a “partial” cease-fire deal have confirmed the Palestinian militant group's concerns that the Israeli leader does not want a cease-fire or the release of hostages.

Khalil al-Hayya said Netanyahu wants to free the hostages then resume Israel's campaign in the Gaza Strip, but Hamas “is ready and serious” for real negotiations if Netanyahu abides by the truce outlines put forward late last month by U.S. President Joe Biden.

Speaking to Qatar’s Al-Jazeera TV on Monday, the Hamas official said his group wants a deal that would stop the war in the Gaza and lead to the release of Palestinians held in Israeli jails.

He said that Hamas’s stance “to end the aggression” by Israel has not changed.

Netanyahu told Israel’s Channel 14 late Sunday that he was prepared to make a partial deal that will return some of the hostages. He was referring to the roughly 120 hostages still held in the Gaza Strip.

Al-Hayya reiterated Hamas’s conditions for any deal that would include a permanent cease-fire, full Israeli withdrawal and return of displaced people to their homes.

Hamas appears concerned that Israel will resume the war once its most vulnerable hostages are returned. And even if it doesn’t, Israel could make demands in that stage of negotiations that were not part of the initial deal and are unacceptable to Hamas — and then resume the war when Hamas refuses them.

Biden administration is unsure why Israel's Netanyahu is repeating claims that US weapons deliveries have dropped

WASHINGTON — U.S. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller says he doesn’t understand repeated claims from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that weapons deliveries from the U.S. to Israel have dropped.

Miller told reporters Monday in Washington that President Joe Biden has delayed only one shipment of heavy bombs over concerns of heavy civilian casualties.

“There are other weapons that we continue to provide Israel,” he said, “as we have done going back years and years, because we are committed to Israel’s security. There has been no change in that.”

He noted that Israel was making “intense requests” at the beginning of the conflict and “they continue to make requests and we continue to fulfill those requests.”

Netanyahu on Sunday again repeated his claim that a “dramatic drop” in arms shipments from the U.S. has hindered the war effort.

When he first made the accusation last week, White House national security spokesman John Kirby said the U.S. is “perplexed” by the claims and called them incorrect.

Netanyahu has been facing growing domestic political problems, and analysts have said his comments on weapons delays were likely aimed to shore up support among his right-wing base in Israel and the country’s supporters in the U.S., and didn’t appear to indicate actual shortages of weapons.

Israel must give info about prison conditions for Gaza detainees, court says, as whistleblowers allege harsh treatment

JERUSALEM — Israel’s top court has ordered the government to provide information about the conditions inside a shadowy military facility where Palestinians from Gaza are detained.

Whistleblowers who worked at the facility and Palestinians who believe they were held there have reported that detainees are handcuffed and blindfolded at all times, fed only meager snacks as meals, held inside pens under harsh floodlights, and not allowed outdoors.

The desert facility, called Sde Teiman, is the major detention center where Israel has held thousands of Palestinians pulled in from Gaza during large-scale raids. A coalition of rights groups is petitioning the high court to shut the facility down, alleging that it does not meet Israel’s own standards for how detention facilities should operate during wartime.

In response, the state has said it is transferring the bulk of Palestinian detainees out of Sde Teiman and upgrading it. But it has not yet submitted information about the conditions at the facility. The court on Sunday gave the state a week to do so. The order directed the state to include information about the food and medical treatment detainees are receiving, the sanitary conditions in the facility, and whether they have access to outdoor space, external observers and lawyers.

Israel has barred the International Committee of the Red Cross from accessing all military detention facilities since the start of the war. Detainees can be held there pre-trial and without access to an attorney for over a month, under a wartime revision to Israeli law.

Israel says it has detained about 4,000 Palestinians during its Gaza offensive, saying the detentions are necessary to gather intelligence. It has released 1,500 after deeming them unaffiliated with Palestinian militant groups.

UN chief calls for immediate cease-fire in response to Netanyahu’s comments about a partial truce

UNITED NATIONS – The United Nations chief has responded to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s statement that he will only accept a partial cease-fire deal by reiterating his call for an immediate humanitarian cease-fire in the eight-month-long war in Gaza and release of all hostages taken in Israel on Oct. 7.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stressed Monday that the U.N.’s position has not changed since the beginning of the war, and that a cease-fire and hostage release are “the bases to create the conditions for one day the two-state solution to be possible.”

Without mentioning Netanyahu by name, Guterres said this is “a different position” from what the Israeli leader laid out in an interview Sunday night with Israeli Channel 14.

Netanyahu’s position also cast doubt on the viability of a U.S.-backed truce, which has three phases and includes a permanent cease-fire if the parties agree.

Guterres also reiterated to reporters Monday that the more than 37,000 Palestinians killed in Gaza is “unprecedented” in any conflict since he took the reins of the United Nations in 2017.

He said this shows that the protection of civilians – a major principle of international humanitarian law — has not been “a key instrument” in the conduct of the war in Gaza.

“The international community must put all pressure for international law to be respected,” Guterres said.

Without referring directly to any court, he said, the decisions of courts that deal with international law “must be respected in all circumstances.”

In late May, the International Court of Justice, the U.N.’s highest tribunal, sent a three-pronged message to Israel. It ordered Israel to halt its offensive in the southern city of Rafah, which is ongoing. It also ordered Israel to provide access to Gaza for war crimes investigators, and to enable a large and immediate increase of humanitarian aid to Gaza, parts of which are enduring famine.

Israelis lay cornerstone for a new neighborhood in kibbutz that was badly damaged on Oct. 7

JERUSALEM — Residents from one of the Israeli towns that was hit hardest by the Oct. 7 Hamas attack in held a ceremony on Monday dedicating the cornerstone of a new neighborhood.

The new neighborhood of Kibbutz Be’eri will include 52 new homes and will take around two years to complete.

About 150 buildings and homes at the kibbutz were destroyed on Oct. 7, town officials said; 101 people were killed and more than 30 taken hostage. Some have been released, but 11 members of the kibbutz are still being held in Gaza, according to the kibbutz spokesperson.

Ruti Elgarnati, whose father was killed on Oct. 7 and will live in the new neighborhood, said the rebuilding represented “a brave decision” to return to Kibbutz Be’eri in the future.

“The beginning of the construction of this neighborhood fills us with optimism, and restores our belief that, in the foreseeable future, we will return with our children and it will still be a good place,” she said. Many kibbutz members are currently living in temporary housing at another kibbutz about 30 kilometers east of Be’eri.

Thousands of Hamas and other militants attacked small farming towns and cooperatives of southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing some 1,200 people and kidnapping around 250.

Israel says a soldier believed taken hostage on Oct. 7 is actually dead and his body is still in Gaza

JERUSALEM — The Israeli military said Monday that one of its soldiers believed to be held hostage in Gaza was likely killed on Oct. 7, and his body is still being held.

The military identified him as Sgt. Maj. Mhamad El Atrash, 39, of the Bedouin Trackers Unit, without providing details on the circumstances of his death or how it determined he died in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack.

Around 80 hostages are believed to still be alive in Gaza, alongside the remains of 44 others.

Hamas kidnapped a total of around 250 people during the attack. Around 100 were released during a weeklong truce in November. Tens of thousands of protesters gather weekly in Tel Aviv to demand an immediate return of the hostages and condemn Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s lack of action on a cease-fire deal.

On Monday, Netanyahu told Israel’s parliament: “We will not end the war until we return all of our hostages – 120 hostages, the living and the deceased.”

A video of Israelis being taken captive on Oct. 7 is released by hostages' families

JERUSALEM — A new video has been released showing Hamas taking three men hostage, including a well-known Israeli-American, near the Gaza border on Oct. 7.

A group that represents the hostages’ families released the video Monday after the Israeli army declassified it. The group says it hopes the footage will help pressure the government into reaching a cease-fire deal to free the hostages.

In the video, Palestinian militants are seen carting the hostages including Hersh Goldberg-Polin, 23, in the back of a white pickup truck that speeds through southern Israel back toward Gaza. Goldberg-Polin sits bloodied, his forearm a mangled stump. Hamas has since released a video of him in captivity with part of his left arm amputated.

Goldberg-Polin and the two other hostages in the video — Eliya Cohen, 26, and Or Levy, 33 — were at the Tribe of Nova music festival when Hamas launched its attack. All three men are still believed to be held by Hamas.

Most of the footage was taken by militants who stormed out of Gaza in an attack that killed roughly 1,200 people and took about 250 others hostage.

The video begins with apparent security camera footage showing Palestinian militants, some in green army fatigues, approaching a shelter.

One militant shoots four times into the shelter’s door as smoke wafts out. The video cuts to a clip filmed by a militant of Goldberg-Polin and another hostage being pushed into the bed of a truck. Some images are blurred to censor what the hostage families group said is especially sensitive material.

In the video, the militant holding the camera celebrates the capture and thanks and praises God. “Here are the dogs,” he says, scanning to show the hostages.

Another militant pulls Goldberg-Polin’s hair and the cameraman says, “I want to take a selfie with you.”

Goldberg-Polin is seen with a tourniquet tied around his arm. Witnesses have said he was wounded when attackers tossed grenades into the shelter where people had taken refuge.

His mother, Rachel Goldberg-Polin, told The Associated Press on Monday that, “262 days in, a lot of people are thinking about these hostages as just this clump of people, not individuals. And we personally feel this is our son.”

Levy, who is seen laying in the truck, attended the Nova festival with his wife Einav, who was killed by militants, according to the hostage families group.

Levy’s older brother, Michael Levy, said watching the video was “horrific.”

“On the most horrific day of his life, I wasn’t able to do anything,” Levy said. “I’ve never seen him so terrified in my life.”

Cohen went to the festival with his girlfriend, who survived the attack under bodies in the shelter. In the video, a militant kneels on Cohen’s bloody face, pressing it into the truck bed.

Israeli shelling in southern Gaza kills 7 and wounds 22, health officials say

DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip — The Health Ministry in the Gaza Strip says Israeli shelling killed seven people and wounded 22 on Monday afternoon in the southern part of the Palestinian territory.

The ministry said the shelling hit a group of people in Bani Suheila, an area east of the city of Khan Younis. It added that the dead and wounded were taken to the European Hospital in Khan Younis without giving further details.

The Health Ministry reported earlier Monday that 28 bodies were brought to hospitals in the Gaza Strip over the past 24 hours, raising the war's total death toll 37,626. It added that 66 wounded people were brought to hospitals over the past 24 hours, raising the total number since the start of the war to 86,098.

Six Palestinian kids with chronic illness will leave Gaza in an apparent first since Israel captured Rafah crossing

DEIR Al-BALAH, Gaza Strip — Six Palestinian children who have chronic illnesses including cancer were transferred Monday from a hospital in northern Gaza to another in the south on their way to receive medical treatment outside the besieged territory, family members and medical officials said.

The transfer was being organized by the World Health Organization and appeared to be the first such trip abroad by Gaza residents since Israel captured the Rafah border crossing with Egypt in early May. The crossing remains closed.

Israeli authorities did not have any immediate comment on the transfer.

Five of the children have malignant cases of cancer and one suffers from metabolic syndrome, said Dr. Ahmad al-Faraa, head of the pediatric department at Nasser Hospital in the southern city of Khan Younis. They were brought from Al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza City.

He said the six kids will cross into Israel through the Kerem Shalom border crossing, without saying when or where they will be taken for treatment abroad.

The health sector in Gaza has suffered major losses since the Israel-Hamas war began on Oct. 7. The WHO estimates that 2,150 critical patients are unable to leave the Gaza Strip, as of June 20. Al-Faraa said there are 50,000 adults and children with cancer, chronic diseases and kidney problems who are waiting for treatment abroad.

Parents of some of the children told The Associated Press that their kids' conditions deteriorated because of a lack of treatment and also a lack of food in Gaza, where people are facing widespread malnutrition due to the war and border closures.

Israeli bombardments and ground offensives in Gaza have killed more than 37,000 Palestinians, according to the Health Ministry in the Hamas-ruled territory. The war has sparked a humanitarian crisis and displaced most of the territory’s 2.3 million population.

Graft inquiry warns Netanyahu of possible harm from its conclusions

TEL AVIV, Israel — An Israeli state investigation into an alleged graft scandal involving the purchase of submarines and other warships from Germany said Monday it has sent a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warning him that he could be harmed by its conclusions.

The inquiry, launched in 2022, is looking into an affair involving a $2 billion purchase of naval vessels from Germany’s Thyssenkrupp. A separate court proceeding into the case took testimony from the prime minister but he was not a suspect in the case.

The warning letter could lead to Netanyahu being seen as more deeply implicated in the affair. Netanyahu is on trial for corruption in three other separate cases and he denies all charges.

In a statement, Netanyahu said the submarine purchase was essential for Israel’s security needs.

In announcing the warning letter, the committee said its work so far had indicated there had been “deep disruption” in decision-making in a number of sensitive areas surrounding the submarine purchase that threatened the country’s security and harmed the country’s international ties and economic interests.

The committee did not detail the precise accusations against Netanyahu, but painted a picture of improper decision-making at multiple levels of government, the defense establishment and the military.

The state commission of inquiry has sweeping authority to investigate and summon witnesses, and its recommendations typically guide government policy.

The committee also sent warning letters to former Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, who has emerged as an outspoken critic of Netanyahu, and Yossi Cohen, Netanyahu’s former national security adviser.

Lebanon gives journalists and diplomats a tour of Beirut airport to dispel reports of Hezbollah weapons caches

BEIRUT — Lebanese ministers on Monday gave journalists and diplomats a tour of the country’s only international airport in Beirut in an attempt to prove that the militant Hezbollah group does not store weapons there.

The tour came a day after the British Telegraph newspaper published a story, citing anonymous airport workers, claiming that Hezbollah has shipped an increased number of packages containing missiles through the airport, as months of clashes with the Israeli military on the Lebanon-Israel border have significantly escalated in recent weeks.

Caretaker Transportation Minister Ali Hamieh said the Lebanese government will take legal action against the British newspaper, accusing it of slander and fabricating information. The story was published without a byline.

“Of course we have confidence in the security agencies and are satisfied with their work,” Hamieh said, dismissing claims in the story that Hezbollah’s weapons shipments bypass security services at the busy airport.

Hezbollah and Israeli officials have upped threats against one another, saying that they will target critical military and civilian infrastructure if the conflict spirals into an all-out war.

Israeli airstrikes kill 9 people including 2 health workers in Gaza City, Palestinian officials say

CAIRO — Palestinian officials say Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City have killed at least nine people, including two health workers.

The strikes late Sunday came months after Israel declared that it had mostly dismantled Hamas in Gaza City and the rest of northern Gaza, which Israeli forces have surrounded and largely isolated since the earliest days of the ground invasion.

The Gaza Health Ministry said the strike on the Daraj clinic in Gaza City killed Hani al-Jaafrawi, director of the ministry’s ambulance and emergency department. First responders with the Civil Defense said another health worker, Mohammed Salah, was also killed.

The ministry said Israeli bombardments of Gaza have killed over 500 healthcare workers since the start of the war, and that more than 300 others have been detained.

The Civil Defense said seven other people were killed in a separate strike on Sunday that flattened a home in the Sabra neighborhood in Gaza City. It said rescuers are searching for another missing person.

The Civil Defense, which like the Health Ministry is part of the Hamas-run government, is often the first to respond to airstrikes and frequently releases videos of its rescue efforts.

Israel launched its massive air, land and sea offensive in response to Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack in southern Israel which killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducted around 250 hostages. The Israeli offensive has killed over 37,000 Palestinians, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which does not specify whether those killed are civilians or combatants.

Suspected Yemen Houthi attack targets vessel in waters further away than many previous assaults

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — A possible attack by Yemen’s Houthi rebels on Monday targeted a ship further away from nearly all of the previous assaults they’ve launched in the Gulf of Aden, officials said, potentially part of a widening escalation by the group.

The attack comes as the U.S. has sent the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower back home after an eight-month deployment in which it led the American response to the Houthi assaults. Those attacks have reduced shipping drastically through the route crucial to Asian, Middle East and European markets in a campaign the Houthis say will continue as long as the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip rages on.

The attack happened Monday morning in the Gulf of Aden some 450 kilometers (280 miles) southeast of Nishtun, a town in the far reaches of Yemen that’s close to the border with Oman, according to the British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations center. That region for long has been held by forces allied to Yemen’s exiled government, which has battled the Houthis since the rebels took the capital, Sanaa, back in 2014.

The attack was just off to the northeast of Yemen’s Socotra Island, also held by allies of the exiled government.

German foreign minister pushes for cease-fire in Gaza

BERLIN — Germany’s foreign minister is pushing again for a cease-fire in Gaza ahead of her visit to the Middle East, arguing that it’s also important in view of mounting tensions on the Israeli-Lebanese border.

Annalena Baerbock said as she arrived at a meeting with European Union counterparts in Luxembourg on Monday that Hamas must finally agree to the cease-fire plan backed by U.S. President Joe Biden plan, saying "this cease-fire is needed more urgently than ever.”

Baerbock plans to visit Israel, the West Bank and Lebanon on Monday and Tuesday.

She said that the situation on the border between Israel and Lebanon “is more than worrying.”

Baerbock added that “a further escalation would be a catastrophe for all the people in the region, and so that is another reason why it’s so absolutely important that we at last achieve the cease-fire in Gaza.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that the current phase of fighting against Hamas in Gaza is winding down, setting the stage for Israel to send more troops to its northern border to confront the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

News from © The Associated Press, 2024
The Associated Press

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