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Live updates | Biden warns Israel not to attack Rafah without plan to protect civilians

  • February 16, 2024

President Joe Biden has again cautioned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu against moving forward with a military operation in the southern Gaza city of Rafah without a “credible and executable plan” to protect civilians.

However, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed early on Friday to reject “international dictates” on a long-term resolution of Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians.

Israeli troops entered the main hospital in southern Gaza on Thursday in what the army said was a limited operation seeking the remains of hostages taken by Hamas in the militants’ attack on Oct. 7 that started the war.

Israeli troops, tanks and snipers had surrounded the hospital compound in the town of Khan Younis for at least a week, with heavy fire all around it, killing several people inside the compound in recent days, according to health officials. Israel accuses Hamas of using hospitals and other civilian structures to shield its fighters.

Also Thursday, Israel launched airstrikes in southern Lebanon for a second day after killing 10 civilians and three Hezbollah fighters the day before in response to a rocket attack that killed an Israeli soldier and wounded several others in northern Israel. Wednesday was the deadliest of daily exchanges of fire along the border since the Oct. 7 start of the war in Gaza.

The number of Palestinians killed during the war in Gaza has surpassed 28,000 people, according to the Health Ministry in Gaza. A quarter of Gaza’s residents are starving. About 1,200 people, mostly civilians, were killed and around 250 abducted in Hamas’ attack on Israel on Oct. 7.

Currently:

— Israeli forces storm the main hospital in southern Gaza, saying hostages were likely held there.

— Israeli airstrikes killed 10 Lebanese civilians in a single day. Hezbollah has vowed to retaliate.

— A look at the arsenals of Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia as cross-border strikes escalate.

— On the USS Eisenhower, four months of combat at sea facing Houthi missiles.

— Families of Israeli hostages visit international court to urge the arrest of Hamas leaders

— Find more of AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war.

Here’s the latest:

JERUSALEM — A Palestinian attacker opened fire at Israeli civilians in the country’s south on Friday, killing two men and wounding four people, police said.

The shooting took place at a central Re’em junction in the city of Ashdod. Police said that the attacker had driven to the junction and started firing toward a group of civilians, before he was shot by a civilian at the scene.

Kaplan Hospital in the nearby city of Rehovot said two men who were shot died at the scene while two others were being treated there. One of them was in critical condition, on a ventilator, while the other was reported to be seriously wounded.

Images circulated online of the assailant lying bloodied. His identity, condition and motivation for the attack were not immediately known.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent his condolences to the families of those killed and said the “attack reminds us that the whole country” is a front line and that attackers do not come from just Gaza.

Egypt is building a wall and is leveling land near its border with the Gaza Strip ahead of a planned Israeli offensive targeting Rafah, satellite images analyzed Friday by The Associated Press show. Egypt hasn’t publicly acknowledged the construction but has warned Israel not to forcibly expel the Palestinians now displaced in Rafah into Egypt.

But the images from the Egyptian side of the border in the Sinai Peninsula suggest Cairo is preparing for just that scenario, something that could threatened its 1979 peace deal with Israel.

Cairo officials did not respond to requests for comment Friday from the AP. The satellite images, taken Thursday by Maxar Technologies, show construction ongoing on the wall, which sits along the Sheikh Zuweid-Rafah Road some 3.5 kilometers (2 miles) west of the border with Gaza.

The images show cranes, trucks and what appear to be precast concrete barriers being set up along the road.

JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel will not accept what he portrayed as “international dictates” regarding a resolution of the conflict with the Palestinians.

Writing early Friday on X, Netanyahu said such a resolution can only be the result of negotiations. He also said Israel opposes a unilateral recognition of statehood, claiming it would amount to a “huge reward” for the militant group Hamas following its deadly Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

Netanyahu leads a right-wing coalition that is fiercely opposed to a Palestinian state arising alongside Israel. During his years as prime minister, there were no significant high-level negotiations with the Palestinians. He has boasted that he has been instrumental over the years in preventing Palestinian statehood.

The two-state solution has broad international support, but international diplomatic efforts were long dormant, with successive U.S. presidents reluctant to spend political capital on a seemingly intractable conflict.

This changed after the Oct. 7 attack that triggered Israel’s destructive war on Hamas in Gaza. Western diplomats have renewed a push for Palestinian statehood as part of a post-war scenario. Recognition of a provisional Palestinian state as an interim step has been floated, including by Britain’s foreign secretary.

Netanyahu wrote Friday that “Israel rejects outright international dictates regarding a permanent settlement with the Palestinians.”

JERUSALEM — An Israeli kibbutz says one of its residents who was kidnapped by Hamas has been pronounced dead.

Yair Yaakov, 59, was captured from his home in Kibbutz Nir Oz on Oct. 7 when Hamas militants staged a attack on southern Israel that killed roughly 1,200 people and took 250 others hostage.

His partner, Meirav Tal, and two of his children, Yagil and Or, were also taken captive but released during a brief cease-fire in November.

Nir Oz was hit hard on Oct. 7, with dozens of residents taken hostage.

The kibbutz said Thursday that Yaakov had been killed on Oct. 7 and his body was being held in Gaza.

“He was energetic, loved life, and often enjoyed music with a cold beer. He was a loving father to his children,” the kibbutz said.

It did not say how it had determined the death, but families are typically notified of intelligence assessments by the Israeli military.

Over 100 hostages are still held captive in the Gaza Strip after 121 were released during the cease-fire. The remains of roughly 30 others either killed on Oct. 7 or who died in Hamas captivity are believed to be in Gaza.

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