Monday December 4th, 2023 2:18PM

Live updates | Shell hits Gaza hospital, killing 12, as heavy fighting breaks out

By The Associated Press

A shell hit the second floor of a hospital in northern Gaza, killing at least 12 people, according to the Hamas-led Health Ministry and a medical worker, as Israeli troops focus on clearing medical facilities where they say Hamas militants take cover.

Heavy fighting broke out around the Indonesian Hospital, which has housed thousands of patients and displaced people for weeks.

The fighting came a day after the World Health Organization evacuated 31 premature babies from Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, the territory’s largest, where they were among more than 250 critically ill or wounded patients stranded there days after Israeli forces entered the compound.

Israel says Hamas uses civilians and hospitals as shields, while critics say Israel’s siege and relentless aerial bombardment amount to collective punishment of the territory’s 2.3 million Palestinians after Hamas’ Oct. 7 rampage into southern Israel.

More than 11,500 Palestinians — two-thirds of them women and minors — have been killed since the war began, according to Palestinian health authorities, who do not differentiate between civilian and militant deaths. About 2,700 people are reported missing.

Some 1,200 people have been killed in Israel, mostly during the Oct. 7 attack, and around 240 were taken captive by militants.

Currently:

— 31 premature babies are evacuated from Gaza's largest hospital

— Yemen’s Houthi rebels hijack an Israeli-linked ship in the Red Sea

— China welcomes Arab and Islamic foreign ministers for talks on ending the war in Gaza

— Attacks are on the rise in the West Bank, which faces its own war

— French performers lead a silent Paris march for peace between Israelis and Palestinians

— Tens of thousands rally in Pakistan against Israel’s bombing in Gaza

— Dissent over US policy in the Israel-Hamas war stirs unusual public protests from federal employees

— French Holocaust survivors are recoiling at new antisemitism, and activists are pleading for peace

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

Here’s what's happening in the latest Israel-Hamas war:

Israeli military says more than 300 Hamas arrestees interrogated

JERUSALEM — The Israeli military said Monday it has interrogated over 300 members of Hamas and other militant groups arrested in Gaza during its ground invasion, revealing the locations of underground tunnels, warehouses, weapons, and Hamas’ use of civilian infrastructure.

“Each and every interrogation leads to the release of new locations and the human intelligence that emerges from the Gaza Strip,” said a senior military official, speaking on condition of anonymity under army guidelines.

Israel has said Hamas has built a vast underground command complex center below Shifa Hospital, Gaza’s largest and best-equipped hospital. Gaza health officials and Hamas deny it.

The official said his intelligence unit has also received thousands of phone calls from Gaza residents. He claimed the deluge of phone calls is a sign of discontent with Hamas.

The army says its human intelligence unit, called Unit 504, also placed thousands of calls to Gaza residents and dropped millions of leaflets urging them to evacuate to the southern part of the territory, as Israeli forces continue to target buildings in northern Gaza.

Spain, Belgium leaders to visit region

MADRID — Spain Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and Belgium Prime Minister Alexander de Croo will visit Israel and Palestinian territories on Thursday, the Spanish government said.

Spain holds the rotating presidency of the EU Council and Belgium will take over in January.

The two will meet with Israeli President Isaac Herzog and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as with the president of the Palestinian National Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, to discuss the impact of the Hamas attack against Israel on Oct. 7, and the critical humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip.

The government said the talks will focus on the protection for civilians, the release of hostages, humanitarian access to Gaza and respect for international humanitarian law. It added they would also discuss the need for a lasting political solution for the region, based on the two-states solution.

Spain condemned the Hamas attacks and defended Israel’s right to protect itself while respecting international humanitarian law. It has called for a ceasefire and international peace conference.

Israel shelling hits home of Lebanese legislator from Hezbollah-allied party

BEIRUT — Israeli shelling hit the home of a Lebanese legislator from a political party allied with Hezbollah on Monday. No one was hurt.

Kabalan Kabalan, a senior official of the Shiite Muslim Amal group of Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, told The Associated Press he was not at home when the shelling hit in the border village of Mais al-Jabal.

Tension has been rising along the Lebanon-Israel border since the Oct. 7 attack by the Palestinian militant group Hamas on southern Israel that killed more than 1,200 people. More than 12,700 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza in the ensuing Israeli bombardment, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry in the West Bank, which coordinates with officials in the Health Ministry of Hamas-run Gaza.

Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah group has been attacking Israeli posts along the border since last month, and attacks have intensified in recent days.

The shelling of Mais al-Jabal came hours after Hezbollah fighters fired two heavy Burkan rockets at an Israeli post along the border, causing heavy damage. Hezbollah also said that it attacked an Israeli post with three suicide drones near the northern Israeli town of Kiryat Shmona.

Israeli airstrikes and shelling struck several areas along the Lebanese side of the border. The Israeli military said 25 shells were fired from Lebanon, with some intercepted and others falling in an open area.

SURVIVORS MOURN FOR DOZENS KILLED IN REFUGEE CAMPS

DEIR AL BALAH, Gaza Strip — In central Gaza, mourners recited funeral prayers as they stood over dozens of bodies recovered after a barrage of Israeli airstrikes that hit two refugee camps Monday.

The bodies, wrapped in white sheets and makeshift plastic body bags, were laid on the ground in the city of Deir Al Balah. Medics said dozens more remain unaccounted for and are believed to be trapped or buried under the rubble of multiple collapsed buildings.

At the scene of the bombing, residents sat in small groups in the rubble next to mangled steel reinforcement bars. The recovered bodies were placed in a truck to be buried nearby.

CYPRUS SAYS IT'S READY TO BEGIN AID SHIPMENTS BY BOAT

NICOSIA, Cyprus -- The president of Cyprus says his country is ready to begin shipping significant quantities of humanitarian aid to Gaza using shallow-draft vessels able to reach Gazan shores once conditions on the ground allow it.

President Nikos Christodoulides said Cyprus’ initiative for a maritime corridor to Gaza from the Cypriot port of Larnaca, about 230 miles (370 kilometers) away, is the “only one currently being discussed on an international level” as a feasible way to supplement the trickle of assistance reaching Gaza's Palestinian population through Egypt’s Rafa checkpoint.

He said in an interview Monday that planning for the aid link is essentially completed and assistance can begin to flow when a pause in fighting is declared.

Christodoulides, who has been in regular contact with the Israeli government about the plan, said getting a go-ahead for the start of the aid shipments is a complicated matter involving Israeli military operations in Gaza and intricate negotiations over the hostages being held by Hamas.

He said a key Israeli sensitivity about the security of the shipments has been addressed through an invitation to officials from Israel, the U.S. and European countries to join Cypriot agents in vetting all aid earmarked for Gaza so nothing reaches the territory that could be weaponized by Hamas.

NEPAL SAYS STUDENT HOSTAGE IS IN GOOD HEALTH

KATHMANDU, Nepal — Nepal’s foreign minister says a Nepali student held hostage in Gaza is still in captivity but is in good health.

Narayan Prakash Saud said according to information received by Nepal’s embassy in Israel, the student, identified as Bipin Joshi, was not injured. Saud said efforts are being made to get him freed, and Nepalese authorities are in contact with the International Committee of the Red Cross.

KIBBUTZ HELPS FAMILIES RECOVER FROM MUSIC FESTIVAL ATTACK

SDOT YAM, Israel — In the seaside kibbutz of Sdot Yam, the display tells the story of the terror: shoes, car keys, glasses, clothes. All left behind in the scramble to escape Hamas militants who came to kill people attending an outdoor music festival in southern Israel on Oct. 7.

The items have now been bundled together in Sdot Yam, a kibbutz by the Mediterranean about 180 kilometers (110 miles) north of Re'im where the shooting occurred, and family members have been called to collect them.

“We allow and invite all the families of the murdered people and all the friends and our tribe to take it, to take their clothes, to take their stuff, to search here and to see if they find their own stuff,” said Tal Shimoni, a survivor of the attack who referred to the festival goers as members of a “tribe” and is now helping others come to terms with the tragic event.

Activities being held at the kibbutz include yoga, ceramics and craft classes that bring the survivors and their families together.

“In order for this tribe to move on we need this help, we need this space so we can heal together as a community,” Shimoni said.

According to police, at least 360 people were killed by Hamas militants at the outdoor music festival out of a total of 1,200 people killed during Hamas’ bloody assault on Israel.

PAKISTAN'S LEADER SAYS ISRAEL IS MASSACRING CHILDREN IN GAZA

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-haq Kakar on Monday described the killing of children in Israeli strikes in Gaza as a massacre.

Kakar made the comment in a televised speech on World Children's Day, which he said made him think of children in Gaza.

“They are being brutalized, mutilated and massacred by the Israeli forces,” Kakar said.

He said professional armies never target civilians, innocent children or women, and only fight against other armies.

“The massacre of innocent children and women in Gaza is a clear violation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, human rights, women’s rights,” he said.

Kakar asked the United Nations and the international community to help stop Israeli strikes on children and women in Gaza.

BABIES EVACUATED FROM GAZA’S LARGEST HOSPITAL ARRIVE IN EGYPT

Egypt’s state-run media say babies evacuated from Gaza’s embattled Shifa hospital have arrived in Egypt.

The Palestinian Red Crescent rescue service said it was transporting 28 premature babies from a hospital in southern Gaza to another across the border in Egypt on Monday. Egypt’s Al-Qahera satellite channel broadcast images of the babies inside Egyptian ambulances, without specifying how many had arrived.

Doctors and medical assistants wearing white lab coats and blue protective gowns placed the tiny newborns in incubators on top of trolleys next to the Gaza-Egypt crossing point.

On Sunday, the World Health Organization said 31 premature babies in “ extremely critical condition ” had been evacuated from Gaza’s largest hospital and would be transferred to Egypt for specialized care. There was no immediate explanation of the differing numbers.

More than 250 patients with severely infected wounds or other urgent conditions remain stranded at Shifa Hospital days after Israeli forces entered the compound.

Four other babies died in the two days before the evacuation on Sunday, according to Mohamed Zaqout, the director of Gaza hospitals.

Shifa can no longer provide most treatment after it ran out of water, medical supplies and fuel for emergency generators because of a territory-wide blackout. Israeli forces battled Palestinian militants outside its gates for days before entering the facility last Wednesday.

JAPAN CONDEMNS HIJACKING OF CARGO SHIP IN RED SEA

TOKYO — Japan on Monday condemned the hijacking of a Japanese-operated cargo ship in the southern Red Sea and said it is doing its utmost to achieve the release of the vessel and its 25 crew members.

“The government of Japan absolutely condemns such an act,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters.

Yemen’s Houthi rebels seized the Israeli-linked cargo ship and took its crew hostage Sunday, raising fears that regional tensions heightened by the Israel-Hamas war were spilling into the seas. The Iran-backed rebel group said it would continue to target ships connected to Israel.

No Israelis were aboard the Bahamas-flagged ship Galaxy Leader, which was operated by Japan’s NYK Line with crew members from the Philippines, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Mexico and possibly Romania. Public shipping databases associated the ship’s owners with Ray Car Carriers, a company founded by Abraham Ungar, who is known as one of the richest people in Israel.

Ungar told The Associated Press he was aware of the incident but couldn’t comment as he awaited details. A ship linked to him experienced an explosion in 2021 in the Gulf of Oman. Israeli media blamed it on Iran at the time.

Matsuno said Japan is negotiating with Houthi rebels, while also communicating with Israel and cooperating with the governments of Saudi Arabia, Oman and Iran to achieve the release of the ship and its crew.

NYK Line said the Galaxy Leader was seized off the Yemeni coast while heading to India. NYK chartered the ship from its British owner, Galaxy Maritime Ltd.

NYK said the ship had no cargo at the time of the hijacking. It was taken to Yemen’s port city of Hodeida, according to the British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations.

FAMILIES OF HOSTAGES OPPOSE BILL THAT WOULD ALLOW DEATH PENALTY

JERUSALEM -- The families of Israeli hostages being held in Gaza have tearfully pleaded with Israeli lawmakers not to advance legislation that would permit the death penalty for convicted Palestinian militants, including those involved in Hamas’ Oct. 7 assault on Israel.

The families, who represent some of the 240 people abducted by Hamas and other militants that day, told far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir that the legislation risked angering Hamas and putting the lives of their relatives at risk.

“Not now, when the lives of our loved ones are on the line, when the sword is on their necks,” Gil Dikman, whose cousin is believed to be held hostage in Gaza, said Monday during an emotional hearing at the Knesset, Israel’s parliament.

The National Security Committee hearing devolved into a screaming match between nationalist lawmakers and hostage families. After the hearing, Ben-Gvir wrote on X, formerly called Twitter, that the legislation is an important tool for increasing pressure on Hamas. “In the Middle East, you don’t blink, you hit your enemy with every tool and bring them to their knees,” he said.

Ophir Katz, the head of the government coalition and a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, told reporters that the amendment to the penal code would not come up for a vote until it was vetted by senior Cabinet members and Netanyahu.

NETANYAHU EXTENDS CENTRAL BANK GOVERNOR’S TERM

TEL AVIV, Israel — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he has decided to grant the country’s central bank chief a second term.

The move to keep on central bank Gov. Amir Yaron was an attempt by Israel to signal stability at a turbulent time for the country’s economy, which has been rocked by the Oct. 7 Hamas attack and the war it set off.

With hundreds of thousands of reservists called up and business slowing across a broad swath of sectors because of the war, Israel’s economy has been shaken, even as Yaron has emphasized its resilience, calling it “robust and stable.”

Following the war’s outbreak, the central bank cut its 2023 economic growth forecast and earmarked billions of dollars to shore up the shekel.

Yaron’s term was set to wrap up in December. His ties with Netanyahu and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich had been icy before the war because of his criticism of a planned government overhaul to the country’s judiciary. It wasn’t clear if he would be asked to stay on.

MATERIALS FOR JORDANIAN FIELD HOSPITAL ARRIVE IN GAZA

KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza Strip — Materials to build a Jordanian field hospital have arrived in Gaza through the Rafah border crossing.

Jordan will build the hospital in southern Gaza to help with the territory’s health crisis. The arrival of the materials follows a siege of Gaza’s largest hospital, Shifa and attacks on other hospitals.

Jordan’s palace said in a statement that the equipment was carried by 40 trucks and that the hospital, to be constructed in Khan Younis, would have 145 staff and 41 beds.

170 TURKISH CITIZENS, DEPENDENTS HAVE BEEN EVACUATED FROM GAZA

ANKARA, Turkey -- At least 170 Turkish citizens and their dependents have been evacuated from Gaza, Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan said Monday.

Briefing members of the Turkish Parliament’s foreign affairs committee, Fidan said Turkish authorities are still working to ensure that 983 other Turkish citizens and family members are also brought out of the war-torn region.

Meanwhile, a plane carrying a group of cancer patients from Gaza landed at a military airbase just outside of Ankara on Monday. The 61 patients, accompanied by 49 friends or relatives, are to receive treatment at a cancer hospital in the capital.

ISRAELI CABINET MINISTER SAYS GAZA RESIDENTS SHOULD BE RESETTLED OVERSEAS

TEL AVIV, Israel — An Israeli Cabinet minister is promoting the idea of resettling Palestinians from the Gaza Strip in foreign countries as a way to ensure Israel’s security along the border once the war with Hamas is over.

Intelligence Minister Gila Gamliel said in an op-ed in the Jerusalem Post newspaper on Sunday that “voluntary resettlement” was the best way to provide Palestinians from Gaza with a better life. “It could be a win-win solution,” she wrote. Gamliel did not say what her plan would mean for those who chose to remain in Gaza, nor what countries would be open to take them. She did not specify what Israel’s role would be in a future Gaza.

Gamliel’s proposal stands in sharp contrast to the postwar vision for Gaza set forth by Israel’s top ally, the United States, which opposes the idea of displacement. The U.S. calls for a united and Palestinian-led government for Gaza and the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority after the war ends, while Gamliel, echoing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said the Western-backed Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of the West Bank, cannot have a foothold in Gaza.

Gamliel’s ministry was behind a wartime proposal last month that suggested transferring the Gaza Strip’s 2.3 million people to Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. While dubbed by Israel as a hypothetical exercise, that idea drew condemnation from the Palestinians, who have painful memories of their people’s mass displacement during the war that led to Israel’s creation. Egypt has made clear throughout this latest war that it does not want to take in a wave of Palestinian refugees.

Gamliel’s op-ed follows a similar proposal made last week by two Israeli lawmakers in the Wall Street Journal, who said countries around the world “should offer a haven for Gaza residents who seek relocation.”

FEMALE ISRAELI SOLDIERS HAVE COMBAT ROLES IN GAZA, MILITARY SAYS

JERUSALEM — The Israeli military says female soldiers are operating in Gaza alongside male troops, including in combat roles.

In a briefing with reporters Monday, brigade commander Col. Elad Aderi said women make up 40% of his Search and Rescue brigade, which has worked to facilitate the penetration of ground troops into Gaza. Aderi said men and women are “on the front lines, fighting together.” Female soldiers also served inside Gaza during Israel’s 2014 ground operation there and have been in combat roles for more than 20 years.

As of February 2022, about 18% of the Israeli army’s combat forces were women, according to the Israel Democracy Institute, a Jerusalem think tank. That’s a result of multiple legal challenges to allow women to serve in elite and regular combat units. Female soldiers serve in various combat roles including tanks, artillery, and the navy, though the mixed-gender infantry units usually serve on the Egyptian border and not in active combat.

The Israeli military declined to comment on the overall number of female soldiers currently in Gaza.

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