The Latest | Israel finds bodies of 3 hostages in Gaza, as first aid unloaded by sea

Israeli troops have recovered the bodies of three hostages in the Gaza Strip, with the military saying Friday they were killed in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack and their bodies taken into Gaza.

The military did not say where the bodies were found in Gaza. Israeli forces are currently invading the southern Gaza city of Rafah, saying it's the last stronghold of Hamas and hostages are being held there.

Around 1,200 people died in the Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel, mostly civilians, and about 250 were taken hostage by Hamas. Around half of those hostages were freed during a cease-fire in November. Israel says militants still hold around 100 hostages and the remains of more than 30 others.

For the 2.3 million Palestinians trapped in Gaza, heavy fighting and Israeli restrictions on land border crossings have hindered the entry food and other crucial supplies.

The first aid delivered via a newly built U.S. floating pier on Gaza's coast was unloaded Friday. However, the U.S. and aid groups warn that the sea corridor is not a substitute for land deliveries that could bring in all the food, water and fuel needed in Gaza. The U.N. says some 1.1 million Palestinians are on the brink of starvation.

At the U.N.'s top court, Israel strongly denied charges it's committing genocide against the Palestinians, arguing Friday that it's doing everything it can to protect the civilian population during its military operation in Gaza. South Africa has asked the International Court of Justice to order a cease-fire.

Seven months of Israel's war in Gaza have killed more than 35,000 people, most of them women and children, according to local health officials. Battles are intensifying in northern Gaza, where Hamas has regrouped in areas Israel captured earlier in the conflict.

Currently:

— U.S. and international volunteer doctors trapped in Gaza hospital by Israeli assault.

— Israel insists it is doing all it can to protect civilians in Gaza and denies genocide charges.

— For the children of Gaza, war means no school — and no indication when formal learning might return.

— Hezbollah introduces new weapons and tactics against Israel, as the war in Gaza drags on.

— A Palestinian converted to Judaism. An Israeli soldier saw him as a threat and opened fire.

— FIFA to seek legal advice on a Palestinian proposal to suspend Israel from international soccer.

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

Here's the latest:

ISRAELI AIRSTRIKE IN WEST BANK KILLS PALESTINIAN MILITANT

JERUSALEM — An Israeli fighter jet and helicopter carried out airstrikes in the West Bank city of Jenin late Friday that killed at least one Palestinian militant, the army said.

Israel targeted what it called an operations center with several militants inside, and said the strikes killed one, Islam Khamaiseh.

The militant group Islamic Jihad said Khamaiseh was a leader of the Jenin Brigade, a loosely organized armed group based in the Jenin refugee camp. Palestinian health officials reported eight people were wounded in the strike and taken to nearby hospitals.

The military said Khamaiseh was responsible for two shooting attacks on civilians, including one in 2023 that killed an Israeli man near a West Bank settlement.

Jenin is a flashpoint city in the northern the West Bank and is frequently raided by Israeli troops.

Airstrikes in the West Bank were rare before the war broke out in Gaza, but since Oct. 7 Israel has stepped up raids and strikes on the territory’s cities and towns, killing more than 500 people. The past seven months have been one of the deadliest periods for Palestinians in the West Bank since the U.N. began recording data

WHITE HOUSE CALLS DISCOVERY OF 3 SLAIN HOSTAGES IN GAZA ‘HORRIBLE NEWS’

WASHINGTON — The White House on Friday called the discovery of the bodies of three hostages in Gaza “horrible news.”

Israeli officials earlier Friday announced they recovered the bodies of Shani Louk, 22; Amit Buskila, 28, and Itzhak Gelerenter, 56. All three were attending a music festival near the Gaza border when Hamas militants carried out the brazen attack on Israeli soil.

“Our hearts go out to the families who were having to deal with this terrible news,” White House national security spokesman John Kirby told reporters.

Kirby said the U.S. has no further information about five American hostages who they believe are still being held in Gaza, among more than 100 people captured in Southern Israel by Hamas militants that remain missing.

The Biden administration sought to downplay the impact that the recovery of the hostages will have on their ongoing efforts, with Egypt and Qatar, to forge a hostage for cease-fire deal.

Biden is dispatching his national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, to Saudi Arabia and Israel this weekend to discuss the 7-month war, including the hostage situation and U.S. concerns about Israel’s plans to carry out a widescale operation in Gaza. Sullivan is scheduled to meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel, Kirby said.

U.N. SAYS 640,000 PALESTINIANS HAVE NOW FLED RAFAH

UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations says 640,000 Palestinians have now fled the Israeli offensive in Gaza’s southern city of Rafah, and nearly a dozen bakeries in the territory have halted operations because of hostilities and shortages of fuel, flour and other supplies.

U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters Friday that only five bakeries that have been providing critically needed bread remain open in Gaza — four in Gaza City and one in Deir al Balah.

He said humanitarian workers report that there are no remaining stocks of shelter materials in Gaza, and colleagues working in the health field say the movement of emergency medical teams in the territory “is highly constrained due to growing insecurity and access challenges.”

Haq stressed that the very limited amount of supplies entering Gaza since Israel began the Rafah offensive on May 6 is insufficient to address the immense needs of its 2.3 million people.

During the nine-day period between May 6 and May 15, he said, a total of 33 trucks carrying food entered Gaza via the Kerem Shalom crossing, 121 trucks carrying food entered through the Eretz crossing, and 156 trucks carrying flour through the Zikim crossing in the north.

Haq said the Rafah crossing remains closed and U.N. humanitarian staff report that many of the 640,000 Palestinians who have fled the city have sought safety farther north in Deir al Balah, which is extremely overcrowded and where conditions are “dire,” as well as in Khan Younis.

UK SAYS IT'S SENDING PLASTIC SHELTERS TO GAZA IN FIRST AID SHIPMENT BY SEA

NICOSIA, Cyprus — The U.K. says its first batch of aid to Gaza via a new U.S.-built pier was offloaded on Friday, consisting of temporary shelters made of plastic sheeting.

The U.K. government said in a statement the first of a planned 8,400 temporary shelters arrived in Gaza alongside aid from the U.S. and the United Arab Emirates.

More aid, including 2,000 additional temporary shelters, 900 tents, five forklift trucks and 9,200 hygiene kits will be dispatched in the coming weeks. Before being shipped to Gaza, the aid undergoes security screening at the port of Larnaca on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak repeated that although more aid will reach Gaza through the maritime corridor, more land routes need to be opened —including the crucial Rafah crossing — to help civilians in desperate need of help.

Heavy fighting and Israeli restrictions on land border crossings have hindered the entry food and other crucial supplies to Gaza.

HAMAS OFFICIAL KILLED IN LEBANON BY ISRAELI STRIKE

BEIRUT — An apparent Israeli drone strike on a car in eastern Lebanon killed an official with the militant Palestinian group Hamas.

Friday’s strike on the town of Majdal Anjar near the Syrian border killed Sharhabeel Ali al-Sayyed, Hamas said in a statement.

Since the Israel-Hamas war began on Oct. 7, Israeli airstrikes have killed several Hamas members in different parts of Lebanon. The most serious attack came on Jan. 2, when an airstrike believed to have been carried out by Israel struck an apartment building in Beirut killing top Hamas official Saleh Arouri.

The Lebanese militant group Hezbollah has regularly attacked Israel across the border over the past seven months.

The group has stepped up its attacks on Israel in recent weeks, particularly since the Israeli incursion into the southern city of Rafah in the Gaza Strip. Hezbollah has struck deeper inside Israel and introduced new and more advanced weaponry.

ISRAEL SAYS IT FOUND THE BODIES OF 3 HOSTAGES KILLED AT OCT. 7 MUSIC FESTIVAL, INCLUDING SHANI LOUK

JERUSALEM — The Israeli military says it found the bodies of three Israeli hostages in Gaza, including German-Israeli Shani Louk, who were killed by Hamas on Oct. 7 at an outdoor music festival near the border.

A photo of Shani’s twisted body in the back of a pickup truck ricocheted around the world, bringing to light the scale of the Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel.

The other two bodies were identified as a 28-year-old woman, Amit Buskila, and a 56-year-old man, Itzhak Gelerenter, according to military spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari. He did not give immediate details on where their bodies were found.

Israel has been operating in the Gaza Strip’s southern city of Rafah, where it says it has intelligence that hostages are being held.

Hamas-led militants killed around 1,200 people, mainly civilians, and abducted around 250 others in the Oct. 7 attack. Around half of those hostages have since been freed, most in swaps for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel during a weeklong cease-fire in November.

Israel says around 100 hostages are still captive in Gaza, along with the bodies of around 30 more. Israel’s war in Gaza since the attack has killed more than 35,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza health officials.

Netanyahu has vowed to both eliminate Hamas and bring all the hostages back, but he’s made little progress. He faces pressure to resign, and the U.S. has threatened to scale back its support over the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

Israelis are divided into two main camps: those who want the government to put the war on hold and free the hostages, and others who think the hostages are an unfortunate price to pay for eradicating Hamas. On-and-off negotiations mediated by Qatar, the United States and Egypt have yielded little.

U.N. FOOD AGENCY SAYS IT DOUBLED AID INTO FAMINE-STRICKEN NORTHERN GAZA THANKS TO NEW LAND ROUTES

CAIRO — The World Food Program says the opening of new land routes allowed it to double its aid operations in northern Gaza, where it says a famine is underway.

But Abeer Etefa, a spokesperson for the U.N. agency, said on Friday that Israel’s incursion into the southern city of Rafah was a “significant setback” that raises fears of a humanitarian catastrophe.

Israel opened a second crossing into the north and took other steps to facilitate aid under heavy pressure from the United States after an Israeli strike killed seven workers with the World Central Kitchen charity last month.

Etefa said the situation in the north has improved, with four bakeries now operating to provide essential bread, but that prices remain high in local markets.

“To roll back six months of near starvation conditions and avert a famine requires steady flows of food supplies, every day, every week, through multiple entry points,” she said.

Meanwhile, in the south, Israel’s seizure of the Gaza side of the Rafah crossing with Egypt last month forced its closure. Fighting near the Kerem Shalom crossing — Gaza’s main cargo terminal – has made it mostly inaccessible.

Aid delivery began on Friday through an expensive U.S.-built floating pier, but humanitarian groups say it’s no substitute for land routes.

“We have seen the impact of prolonged closures in northern Gaza,” Etefa said. “Despite recent improvements in access to help mitigate a famine there, we are now also deeply concerned about the fate of hundreds of thousands in the south, if a full-scale operation and closures continue.”

GERMANY'S TOP DIPLOMAT AND WESTERN COLLEAGUES WARN ISRAEL TO PROTECT GAZA CIVILIANS

BERLIN – Germany’s foreign minister says that she and several Western colleagues have made clear in a letter to Israel that “the protection of civilians is essential” in Gaza.

The letter was signed by the foreign ministers of Australia, Denmark, Germany, Finland, France, Britain, Italy, Japan, Canada, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Korea and Sweden. The group includes all the Group of Seven countries except the United States.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said in Strasbourg, France, on Friday that the signatories are united in “incredibly great concern about the fate of around 2 million people in Gaza.” She said the U.S. already made the point bilaterally to Israel “in the same tone and above all with the same substance.”

Germany, one of Israel’s staunchest allies, and others have opposed a large-scale Israeli offensive in Rafah, where much of Gaza’s population has been concentrated following fighting elsewhere.

The German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported that the letter was dated Wednesday and addressed to Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz.

DRONE STRIKES KILL 3 IN SOUTHERN LEBANON, INCLUDING A HEZBOLLAH FIGHTER

BEIRUT — Three separate drone strikes on a coastal village in southern Lebanon on Friday killed three people, including two Syrian citizens, security officials said. The Lebanese militant Hezbollah group later said one of its members was killed in the attack.

The strikes on the village of Najariyeh, about 40 kilometers (28 miles) north of the Israeli border, came a day after an especially intense exchange of cross-border strikes between Hezbollah militants and Israeli forces.

The strikes hit a vehicle, a field and a small brick factory where two Syrian workers were killed, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

Hezbollah said its member Hussein Mahdi was killed. The Lebanese security officials said Mahdi was the owner of the brick factory.

Later Friday, the Israeli military said its air force struck infrastructure where Hezbollah fighters operated in Najariyeh. It added that the target included several compounds used by the group that "posed a threat to Israeli aircraft.”

The Lebanon-Israel border has been witnessing almost daily exchanges of fire between Israel troops and Hezbollah fighters since a day after the Israel-Hamas war began on Oct. 7.

More than 350 people have been killed in Lebanon, most of them fighters but also including more than 70 civilians and non-combatants. In Israel, 15 soldiers and 10 civilians have been killed since Oct. 7.

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Associated Press writer Bassem Mroue in Beirut contributed to this report.

ISRAELI PROTESTERS ATTACK TRUCK IN WEST BANK IN APPARENT ATTEMPT TO STOP AID TO GAZA

Dozens of Israeli protesters attacked a truck in the occupied West Bank, beating its driver and setting it on fire in an apparent attempt to prevent aid from reaching Gaza.

The Israeli military says soldiers arrived at the scene late Thursday and tried to separate the attackers from the driver and provide medical treatment. It says the protesters then attacked the soldiers, lightly wounding two officers and a soldier.

It did not say whether there were any arrests.

Israeli media reported a similar event on Wednesday, saying protesters had halted a truck, emptied its contents into the road and beaten the Palestinian driver.

In both cases, the vehicles targeted were ordinary commercial trucks, not aid trucks bound for Gaza, according to the media reports.

Israeli police, who are primarily responsible for law and order in Israel’s West Bank settlements, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Earlier this week, dozens of protesters halted an aid convoy bound for Gaza. They pulled crates of food and other aid off the trucks and destroyed them.

The protesters are opposed to sending aid into Gaza, saying it strengthens Hamas and reduces the pressure on the militants to release scores of hostages abducted in the Oct. 7 attack that ignited the war.

U.N. officials say severe hunger is widespread in Gaza and that northern Gaza is experiencing famine.

05/17/2024 22:25 -0400

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