More than a million people have fled their homes in the Gaza Strip ahead of an expected Israeli invasion that seeks to eliminate Hamas’ leadership after its deadly incursion. Aid groups warn an Israeli ground offensive could hasten a humanitarian crisis.
Israeli forces, supported by U.S. warships, positioned themselves along Gaza’s border and drilled for what Israel said would be a broad campaign to dismantle the militant group. A week of blistering airstrikes have demolished neighborhoods but failed to stop militant rocket fire into Israel.
The war that began Oct. 7 has become the deadliest of five Gaza wars for both sides, with more than 4,000 dead. The Gaza Health Ministry said 2,750 Palestinians have been killed and 9,700 wounded. More than 1,400 Israelis have been killed, and at least 199 others, including children, were captured by Hamas and taken into Gaza, according to Israel.
1. Water has run out at U.N. shelters across Gaza and overwhelmed doctors at the territory’s largest hospital struggled to care for patients they fear will die once generators run out of fuel.
2. U.S. President Joe Biden is considering a trip to Israel in the coming days, though no travel has yet been confirmed.
3. An urban battle during Israel’s 2014 war against Hamas offers a glimpse of the type of fighting that could lie ahead.
Here’s what’s happening in the latest Israel-Hamas war:
BEIRUT — Ahmed Abdul-Hadi, the representative of Hamas in Lebanon, insisted Monday that the decision to launch the surprise Oct. 7 attack in southern Israel was made by Hamas leadership and not directed by Iran or any other outside party, but he said that in event of a ground invasion of Gaza, allied groups will intervene.
The war in Gaza is “a Palestinian battle and the decision to enter it was a Palestinian decision” made by Hamas and its military wing, the Izz ad-Din al Qassam Brigades, “together with the Palestinian resistance factions,” he said in an interview with The Associated Press ahead of a conference convened by the group in Beirut.
Hamas officials have denied that Iran was directly involved in planning the deadly attack or gave it the green light, and to date no government worldwide has offered direct evidence that Iran orchestrated the attack. However, many have pointed to Iran’s long sponsorship of Hamas that has included training, funding and providing it with weapons.
Abdul-Hadi said that Hamas allies Iran and Hezbollah will not allow Israel “to crush Gaza” or to launch a “comprehensive ground attack,” but that the groups have deliberately left ambiguity about when and how they would respond. “This is up to the developments in the situation at the time.”
In case of a “ground attack, regardless of its level,” or if “more and more massacres continue to be committed” in Gaza and Hamas is using up its resources, he said, there will be “surprises announced.”
DAMASCUS, Syria — Syrian President Bashar Assad discussed the volatile situation in Gaza and ways of ending Israel’s attacks with his Russian counterpart.
Assad’s office said in a statement released Monday that Assad and Vladimir Putin called for aid to be allowed to enter Gaza and for an end to the Israeli bombardment and displacement of Palestinians.
Russia has been a main backer of Assad since Syria’s conflict began more than 12 years ago, and joined the war in 2015.
Israel’s military has carried out several attacks in Syria over the past week targeting the airports of Damascus and the northern city of Aleppo, putting them out of service.
BEIRUT — The Lebanese army says search operations have led to the discovery of 20 rockets launchers near the Lebanon-Israel border.
The army said in a statement that four of the launchers discovered had rockets inside them and were ready to be fired.
The army said military experts are working on dismantling the launchers that were discovered near the village of Qlaileh, south of the port city of Tyre.
Over the past days dozens of rockets have been fired from Lebanon into northern Israel as tension rises in the region over the war in Gaza.
BEIRUT — Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister says the country’s politically paralyzed government has been scrambling to ease tensions along its southern border with Israel and avoid dragging the tiny country into a new war.
Najib Mikati has spoken by phone with top U.S. officials and heads of state and top diplomats from the United Kingdom, France, Turkey, Qatar, Jordan, and Italy.
“Lebanon is in the eye of the storm, and the region as a whole is in a difficult situation,” Mikati was quoted as saying in a statement from his office. The Lebanese government remains critical of Israel, but fears a new war could further devastate its battered economy and put the lives of its approximately 6.5 million people at risk.
There are concerns that the Iran-backed Hezbollah group and its powerful armed forces will ignore concerns from the Lebanese government and escalate once Israel launches a ground invasion.
Hezbollah and Israel have clashed along the border across several towns, but Hezbollah has not yet announced that it is joining the war.
RAFAH, Gaza Strip — Crowds of Palestinian dual nationals waited anxiously at the still-closed Rafah crossing on Monday, sitting on their suitcases or crouching on the floor, comforting crying infants and trying to entertain bored children.
For many, the despair over the impasse was turning to outrage.
“They are supposed to be a developed country, talking about human rights all the time,” Shurouq Alkhazendar, a 34-year-old whose two children are American citizens, said of the United States.
“If you want to do one of the basic things that you are talking about you should protect your citizens first, not leave them all alone suffering and being humiliated in front of the crossing.”
Rafah, Gaza’s only connection to Egypt, was shut down nearly a week ago because of Israeli airstrikes. While people wait to leave on the Gaza side, aid supplies are stalled inside Egypt. Mediators are pressing for a cease-fire.
JERUSALEM — Iran’s Foreign Ministry said Monday that Hamas potentially was ready to release the nearly 200 hostages it is holding if Israel stops its campaign of airstrikes on the Gaza Strip. The militant group hasn’t acknowledged making such an offer.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani spoke at a news conference in Tehran. Iran’s theocracy is a main sponsor of Hamas in its fight against Israel, Tehran’s regional archenemy.
Hamas officials “stated that they are ready to take necessary measures to release the citizens and civilians held by resistant groups, but their point was that such measures require preparations that are impossible under daily bombardment by the Zionists against various parts of Gaza,” Kanaani said.
Hamas has said it will trade the captives for thousands of Palestinians held by Israel in the kind of lopsided exchange deals that have been reached in the past.
Iran has warned it could enter the war as well if Israel launches a widely anticipated ground offensive in the Gaza Strip in the coming days. Already, the Lebanese Shiite militia group Hezbollah, which is also sponsored by Iran, has launched missiles into Israel, though it insists that represents a “warning” for Israel rather than its full entry into the war.
“We heard from the resistance that they have no problem to continue resisting,” Kanaani said, referring to Hamas. “They said the resistance holds military capability to continue resisting in the field for a long time.”
TEL AVIV, Israel — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has returned to Israel for the second time in less than a week to consult with senior Israeli officials about discussions he had with Arab leaders over Israel’s war with Hamas.
Blinken arrived in Tel Aviv on Monday after a six-nation tour of Arab states during which he heard the concerns of Arab leaders about an impending Israeli ground invasion of Gaza causing a humanitarian catastrophe for Palestinians and possibly igniting a broader regional conflict.
His talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and members of his national security team come as the White House is weighing a potential trip to Israel by President Joe Biden as early as this week. Blinken will also meet separately with Israeli President Isaac Herzog, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and opposition leader Yair Lapid.
Biden, Blinken and other senior U.S. officials have pledged unwavering support for Israel as it responds to deadly Hamas attacks that have killed more than 1,400 Israelis since last week.
But as Israel’s plans for a massive military response to eradicate Hamas have gelled, Arab states and others have become increasingly alarmed at the prospect of mass civilian casualties and a major humanitarian crisis.
After visiting Israel last Thursday to express U.S. solidarity, Blinken toured the region, meeting with the leaders of Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, Qatar, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, all of whom have said civilians must be protected and given assistance to survive the Israeli operation.
As those concerns have grown, the U.S. has also stepped up its emphasis on the importance of Israel respecting the laws of war regarding the treatment of civilians as it pursues Hamas. Blinken and other U.S. officials have been exploring ideas on setting up safe zones in the Gaza Strip and ensuring that badly needed humanitarian supplies reach civilians there.
Blinken has twice extended his diplomatic mission and plans to return to Jordan after his stop in Israel.
LONDON — British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak says he is working with other leaders from around the world to ensure the Israel-Hamas conflict does not spread.
Sunak, who has spoken by phone to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and met King Abdullah of Jordan in London on Sunday, said “nobody wants to see regional escalation. And certainly the Israeli prime minister does not, when I’ve spoken to him.”
Sunak said Britain has sent Royal Air Force surveillance aircraft to the eastern Mediterranean to “make sure that no arm shipments, for example, have been sent to other terrorist organizations in the region.”
Sunak also said he had raised with Netanyahu “the need to minimize the impact on civilians” of Israel’s offensive against Hamas.
“And the humanitarian situation is one which of course we’re concerned about, and that I’ve raised in all the calls and interactions I’ve had with other leaders from across the region,” Sunak said.
BEIRUT — Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah group has started destroying surveillance cameras on several Israeli army posts along the border with Lebanon.
Hezbollah’s military media arm released a video Monday showing snipers destroying surveillance cameras placed on five points along the Lebanon-Israel border, including one outside the Israeli town of Metula.
Hezbollah’s aim appears to be to prevent the Israeli army from monitoring movements on the Lebanese side of the border.
BEIRUT — The World Health Organization says it has sent two shipments of medical supplies to Beirut in preparation for a potential escalation of the so-far sporadic clashes on the border between armed groups in Lebanon and Israeli forces.
The U.N. agency said in a statement Monday that it “has expedited the delivery of critical medical supplies to Lebanon in order to be ready to respond to any potential health crisis.”
Two shipments containing “enough surgical and trauma medicines and supplies to meet the needs of 800 to 1,000 injured patients” arrived in Beirut from Dubai Monday the statement said.
Lebanon’s health system has been overstretched since the country fell into a severe economic crisis four years ago. Many medical professionals have left the country and hospitals have faced supply and equipment shortages.
The WHO noted that clashes on the border have already resulted in civilian casualties.
“If these clashes escalate, more civilians will be at risk, and they will need immediate access to lifesaving medical care,” the statement said.
Since the outbreak of the latest Hamas-Israel war on Oct. 7, armed groups in Lebanon, including Hezbollah, Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, have launched missiles at sites in northern Israel, while Israel has hit sites in southern Lebanon with airstrikes and shelling.
Strikes from the Lebanese side have killed one Israeli soldier and one civilian, while Israeli strikes have killed three civilians on the Lebanese side — including Reuters journalist Issam Abdallah — as well as four Hezbollah fighters. Two members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad were killed Monday in clashes with Israeli forces after crossing the border between the two countries.
JERUSALEM — The Israeli military says Hamas and other Palestinian militants are holding 199 hostages in Gaza — higher than previous estimates.
Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, a military spokesman, said Monday that the families have been notified. He did not specify whether that number includes foreigners, or say who is holding them.
Most are believed to be held by the Hamas militant group, which rules Gaza.