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The Latest | Hamas responds to Gaza cease-fire plan with 'amendments,' and US is evaluating

Hamas responded Tuesday to the U.S.-backed proposal for a cease-fire in Gaza, saying it wants some "amendments" on the deal. The militant group's reply apparently fell short of an outright acceptance that the United States has been pushing for but kept negotiations alive over an elusive halt to the eight-month war.

Hamas spokesman Jihad Taha said the response included “amendments that confirm the cease-fire, withdrawal, reconstruction and (prisoner) exchange.” He did not elaborate.

While supporting the broad outlines of the deal, Hamas officials have expressed wariness over whether Israel would implement its terms, particularly provisions for an eventual permanent end to fighting and full Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in return for the release of all hostages held by the militants.

Also Tuesday, the U.N. human rights office said both Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups may have committed war crimes in connection with a deadly raid by Israeli forces that freed four hostages and killed at least 274 Palestinians over the weekend.

Israel's war against Hamas in Gaza has killed more than 37,100 people, according to Gaza's Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between combatants and civilians in its count. Palestinians are facing widespread hunger because the war has largely cut off the flow of food, medicine and other supplies. U.N. agencies say over 1 million in Gaza could experience the highest level of starvation by mid-July.

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.

Currently:

Hamas responds to Gaza cease-fire plan seeking some changes. US says it's 'evaluating' the reply

— Netanyahu's top rival left Israel's war Cabinet. How does that affect the prime minister and Gaza?

— UN says violence against children in conflict reached extreme levels in 2023, including in Gaza

— Dozens arrested in new pro-Palestinian protests at University of California, Los Angeles.

UN says Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups may have committed war crimes in a deadly raid

— What does Israel's rescue of 4 captives, and the killing of 274 Palestinians, mean for truce talks?

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

Here's the latest:

Lebanese militant group Hezbollah says a senior commander has been killed

BEIRUT — Lebanese militant group Hezbollah announced early Wednesday the death of one of its commanders, identified as Taleb Sami Abdullah or “Hajj Abu Taleb.”

The group did not give details on the location and circumstances of his death, but identified him as a “martyr on the road to Jerusalem,” the term it uses for those killed in the current conflict with Israel. Hezbollah published a photo of Abdullah alongside Wissam al-Tawil, another senior commander killed in an Israeli strike in January.

The Israeli military did not immediately comment on Abdullah’s death.

Cross-border fighting between Israel and Hezbollah has intensified in the past month, as Israel launched its offensive into the key southern Gaza city of Rafah. Hezbollah has also stepped up its attacks, striking deeper inside Israel and introduced new and more advanced weaponry.

Israeli drone strikes have killed hundreds of Hezbollah members since exchanges of fire began on Oct. 8, a day after the Israel-Hamas war began in Gaza.

Since then, more than 400 people have been killed in Lebanon, most of them Hezbollah members. The dead also include more than 70 civilians and non-combatants. On the Israeli side, at least 15 soldiers and 10 civilians have been killed.

U.N. humanitarian official in central Gaza decries death toll in recent days

NUSEIRAT REFUGEE CAMP, Gaza Strip — A U.N. humanitarian official on the ground in Gaza has decried the massive number of people killed and wounded by Israeli forces over the past week in central Gaza's Nuseirat refugee camp.

Gaza's Health Ministry says nearly 300 Palestinians were killed and around 700 wounded in an operation to free four Israeli hostages held in Nuseirat, just days after an Israeli strike in the camp killed at least 33 people at a United Nations-run school sheltering displaced Palestinian families.

“I wish I could tell you this was a special week in Gaza, but this is the ninth month that weeks like this, nightmares like this take place frequently,” said Yasmina Guerda, a U.N. OCHA Humanitarian Affairs Officer in Gaza. “Indiscriminate attacks that kill women, children, mothers, babies, fathers, brothers and sisters.”

“This violence has to end. This war has to end,” she said in an interview Tuesday.

The Israeli military says its forces came under heavy fire and responded during the complex hostage rescue operation. Israel says it follows international law and blames civilian deaths on Hamas, saying militants operate among the population.

Residents of the built-up refugee camp recounted the events with horror.

“Gunshots and explosions everywhere. We are- It’s like a doomsday,” said one resident, Ahmed, who gave only his first name. His family sheltered at home, unable to leave the area because of the explosions and the sound of a drone overhead.

He's worried Israeli forces could launch another raid like the one Saturday. “If this attack happened and I’m not home, what can happen to my daughter? To my wife?”

Hamas says it gave mediators its response to Gaza cease-fire plan with some ‘remarks’

BEIRUT — Hamas says it has given Qatari and Egyptian mediators its reply to the U.S.-backed proposal for a cease-fire in Gaza, with some “remarks” on the deal.

Hamas and the smaller Islamic Jihad militant group said they were ready to “deal positively to arrive at an agreement” and that their priority is to bring a “complete stop” to the war.

A senior Hamas official, Osama Hamdan, told Lebanon’s Al-Mayadeen television that the group had “submitted some remarks on the proposal to the mediators.” He did not give any details.

The foreign ministries of Qatar and Egypt said in joint statement that they were examining the response and that they would continue their mediation efforts along with the United States “until an agreement is reached.”

White House national security spokesman John Kirby told reporters, “We’re in receipt of this reply that Hamas delivered to Qatar and to Egypt, and we are evaluating it right now.”

Earlier Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called on Hamas to accept the proposal, saying that the U.N. Security Council's vote in favor of the proposal made it "as clear as it possibly could be" that the world supports the plan.

UN could reconsider role in US-built aid pier if Israel used it for deadly raid, humanitarian chief says

DEAD SEA, Jordan — Allegations on social media that the Israeli military may have used the U.S.-built pier for aid shipments in Gaza in a weekend raid that killed nearly 300 Palestinians would jeopardize future humanitarian engagement in the U.S. aid project if they turn out to be true, U.N. humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said Tuesday. The U.S. and Israel have repeatedly denied those allegations.

Griffiths, speaking at a conference on Gaza at the Dead Sea in Jordan, said an ongoing U.N. security review was examining whether any aspect of the month-old U.S. pier project in Gaza was used in Saturday's Israeli military operation.

The air and ground assault by the Israeli military killed 274 Palestinians, according to local health officials. It freed four Israeli hostages who had been held by Hamas since the group’s Oct. 7 attack in Israel.

The U.N. World Food Program, which oversees distribution of aid brought in via the pier, announced after the raid it was suspending aid work at the pier while it reassesses the safety of aid workers.

If the allegations are “true they are very concerning, because they would put at risk any future humanitarian engagement in that operation,” Griffiths said, referring to the U.S. pier project.

Pentagon spokesman Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder says an area south of the pier was used in returning the rescued hostages to Israel. Ryder has repeatedly denied the pier, its equipment or any of its other assets were used in the deadly raid.

Griffiths was responding to a question Tuesday about whether the Israeli military operation Saturday, and the perception among Palestinians that the aid was aligned with the military, would affect the U.N.’s willingness to keep working with the U.S. sea route for aid.

While he had no proof either way, Griffiths said, the U.N. would be concerned if it found either the beach or the roads leading from the pier were used in staging Saturday’s military operation.

U.N. leadership was conducting the security assessment and would “see if it is becoming, to see if it is safe and proper and right and principled, for us to re-engage in that maritime operation.”

“You can be damn sure we are going to be very careful about what we assess and what we conclude,” he said.

Israeli forces kill 6 Palestinians in northern West Bank near Jenin

JERUSALEM — Israeli forces killed six Palestinians on Tuesday in the northern West Bank village of Kafr Dan, near the city of Jenin, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry, as violence flares across the occupied territory.

The Israeli army said it killed four militants in a gunbattle and wounded other fighters in the village, and a helicopter struck the area near a structure the militants were using. The army statement said four guns were also found during the raid.

Over the past few years, Jenin and the surrounding areas have become a major flash point in the decadeslong conflict.

Since the war in Gaza began, Israeli fire has killed more than 530 Palestinians in the West Bank, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry — some in gunbattles with Israeli forces, and others shot dead for posing no apparent threat. Palestinian attacks against Israelis have also been on the rise.

The Palestinian Authority, which administers semi-autonomous parts of the West Bank, has limited influence in the northern areas, where other armed factions have grown in power.

The 3 million Palestinians in the West Bank live under seemingly open-ended Israeli military rule. The more than 500,000 Jewish settlers in the territory have Israeli citizenship.

UN chief calls for more aid to Gaza at conference co-hosted by Jordan and Egypt

DEAD SEA, Jordan — The United Nations chief says the flow of critical humanitarian aid to Palestinians throughout Gaza, “which was already woefully inadequate,” has plummeted by two-thirds since Israel's operation at the border crossing in southern Rafah a month ago.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told an international “Call for Action” conference on Gaza’s desperate humanitarian crisis that “the speed and scale of the carnage and killing in Gaza” is beyond anything he has since he took the helm of the United Nations in 2017.

“At least 1.7 million people — 75% of Gaza’s population — have been displaced, many times over by Israel military attacks,” Guterres said. Over one million people face desperate hunger and don’t have enough clean drinking water, he said, and more than 50,000 children require treatment for acute malnutrition.

Guterres also said around 60% of all residential buildings in Gaza and at least 80% of commercial facilities have been damaged by Israeli bombardments, with health and educational facilities “in rubble.”

“And despite the ocean of needs, at least half of all humanitarian aid missions are denied access, impeded, or cancelled due to operational or security reasons,” Guterres said, without naming Israel as responsible for these obstacles.

Guterres co-hosted the meeting in Jordan’s Dead Sea with the country’s monarch, King Abdullah II, and Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, and urged support for their humanitarian efforts.

U.N. humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths called what the world has witnessed in Gaza since Hamas’ Oct. 7 surprise attack in southern Israel that killed about 1,200 people and saw about 250 taken hostage “a stain on our humanity.”

According to the U.N. and its humanitarian partners, he said, $2.5 billion are estimated to be needed for aid to Palestinians in Gaza from the past April until December. “This roughly provides for $930 million for food and nutrition, $400 million for health and medicine, $700 million for shelter and sanitation,” he said.

Griffiths noted that both Jordan and Egypt called for $300 million per month for commodities for Gaza, and an additional $500 million “for an optimal capacity for the flow of aid” for the people of Gaza.

The secretary-general and the humanitarian chief called for all Gaza's border crossings to be opened, security for aid convoys and workers, and the free flow of assistance into Gaza. The U.N. chief welcomed U.S. President Joe Biden’s cease-fire initiative and urged Israel and Hamas to agree to implement it, but he stressed the only path to peace must be political and lead to a two-state solution.

Israel says it will improve facilities at a prison where thousands of Palestinians have been detained during Gaza war

JERUSALEM — Israel says it will improve facilities at the Sde Teiman military prison for Palestinians taken from Gaza and will transfer the bulk of the detainees to other lockups, state attorneys said in a court filing Tuesday, as rights groups petition to close the prison entirely after whistleblowers described serious human rights violations there.

The desert military prison is the main place where Israel has held thousands of Palestinians pre-trial and incommunicado for weeks at a time since the start of the Israel-Hamas war, after they were captured during large-scale raids in the Gaza Strip.

In Tuesday’s court filing, state attorneys admitted that the military had been holding detainees at Sde Teiman for longer than was originally intended. They said Israel will begin using the prison as a short-term holding facility for Palestinians, a place to screen them for potential militant affiliations before either releasing them back to Gaza or transferring them to the prison system.

In response, the lead rights group challenging the facility told The Associated Press that the conditions at Sde Teiman were “inhumane” and detention there “even if for short periods, for screening purposes” could be considered a war crime. The group, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, again called for the facility to be closed.

Photos that have emerged of the facility have shown detainees kept blindfolded and handcuffed in large warehouse-like spaces under harsh floodlights. Whistleblowers who spoke to the AP said that detainees are made to sit for most of the day and only wounded people have beds — thin mattresses — to sleep on.

Doctors working in the medical facility said that the facility raises serious ethical concerns by keeping detainees, many of whom are elderly, shackled and blindfolded while they receive treatment and using inadequate anesthesia while performing surgeries.

The state said Tuesday that about 250 of the 700 Palestinians at Sde Teiman have already been transferred to a new military facility at Ofer Prison in the West Bank, and 250 more will be transferred by June 19. It said that the military was working on building showers and bathrooms at Sde Teiman, adding yards for detainees to go outdoors and constructing spaces with beds and tables affixed to the ground. It will also upgrade an existing military hospital at the facility with a more spacious operating room, a recovery area, and air conditioning.

US and Israeli officials will meet to discuss threat from Iran, White House official says

WASHINGTON — White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Tuesday that senior U.S. and Israeli defense and intelligence officials will hold talks next week to discuss what he described as the ongoing destabilizing threat of Iran to the Middle East amid growing worries about tensions on the Israel-Lebanon border.

Sullivan said the U.S. and Israeli teams known as the Strategic Consultative Group in the talks would discuss the “common picture of the threat posed by Iran and how we respond to it in a joint way.” Iran backs both Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah militants in Lebanon.

“We recognize at the end of the day that groups like Hamas and Hezbollah are direct, present threats to Israel,” Sullivan said at event Washington hosted by the American Jewish Committee. “But standing behind them is an even larger strategic threat. And we need to be working closely with Israel to contend with that.”

The Biden administration throughout the eight-month Israel-Hamas war has sought to prevent the conflict from spiraling into a wider regional war that either opens up new fronts of Israeli fighting or draws the U.S. in directly.

But tensions between Israel and Hezbollah have been escalating, with two sides exchanging fire daily since a day after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack, which set off the war in Gaza

The Lebanese militant group has stepped up its attacks on Israel in recent weeks, particularly since the Israel last month began its incursion into the southern Gaza city of Rafah. It has struck deeper inside Israel and introduced new and more advanced weaponry.

The deadly fighting has displaced tens of thousands of people on both sides of the Israel-Lebanon border.

Blinken announces more than $400 million in assistance for Palestinians

DEAD SEA, Jordan — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday announced more than $400 million in new American humanitarian assistance to Palestinian civilians in Gaza, the Israeli-occupied West Bank and neighboring countries.

Blinken spoke at an emergency international conference on boosting aid to Gaza as the Israel-Hamas war rages into its ninth month.

Blinken says the Biden administration will contribute an additional $404 million to support vulnerable and displaced Palestinians with food, drinking water, health care, education, shelter, and psychosocial support. The aid brings the total amount of U.S. assistance to the Palestinians since the war erupted in October to more than $674 million.

“As the largest single country humanitarian donor to the Palestinian people, we recognize the urgent need for more assistance to reach civilians given the dire humanitarian conditions and call on all donors to support life-saving operations for Palestinians in Gaza and the region,” Blinken said.

Blinken was in Jordan for the aid conference after visiting Israel and Egypt where he held talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi on pushing a proposed Gaze cease-fire deal.

The aid conference was hosted by Jordan’s King Abdullah II and attended by el-Sissi and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, among others. The three Arab leaders have repeatedly called for a cease-fire in Gaza.

An Israeli drone strike killed a public utility worker in southern Lebanon, state news agency says

BEIRUT — An Israeli drone strike on Tuesday killed a public utility worker in southern Lebanon.

The state-run National News Agency said the drone strike hit a worker for the South Lebanon Water Establishment while he was driving his motorcycle in the coastal border town of Naqoura.

The utility identified him as Saleh Ahmad Mehdi and said he was helping to supply water to Naqoura when he was killed. There was no immediate comment from the Israeli military.

More than 400 people have been killed in Lebanon in clashes between the Israeli military and Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza on Oct. 7.

Hezbollah is a close ally of the Palestinian militant group Hamas, whose attack ignited the war, and says it will continue striking Israel until the fighting in Gaza stops. Most of the casualties were combatants but they also included more than 70 Lebanese civilians. In Israel, 15 soldiers and 10 civilians have been killed.

Former hostage Noa Argamani released from hospital

TEL AVIV, Israel — A well-known Israeli hostage who was rescued in a deadly raid into Gaza over the weekend has been discharged from a Tel Aviv hospital.

The Ichilov Hospital said Noa Argamani, 26, was released on Tuesday after undergoing physical and psychological exams.

Argamani will be staying close to the hospital, where her mother, Liora, is receiving treatment for terminal brain cancer.

Argamani emerged as an icon of the hostage crisis after her capture during Hamas' Oct. 7 attack was caught on video. She screamed "Don't kill me!" as she was forced onto a motorbike.

Her mother had pleased for her release, saying she wanted to see her only child again before she died. Yaakov Argamani, Noa’s father, told Israeli media that Liora is in a “very difficult situation” and barely registered seeing Noa for the first time.

Argamani was rescued Saturday along with three other hostages. None had serious physical injuries, and the other three were discharged on Monday.

The Gaza Health Ministry said 274 Palestinians were killed and around 700 were wounded during the raid. The Israeli military said it carried out intensive strikes when a firefight erupted as the rescuers withdrew.

Hamas and other militants are still holding some 120 hostages, around a third of whom are believed to have died.

U.N. cites possible war crimes by Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups

The U.N. human rights office is citing possible war crimes by Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups in connection with a deadly raid by Israeli forces that freed four hostages over the weekend and killed hundreds of Palestinians.

Office spokesman Jeremy Laurence expressed concerns about possible violations of rules of proportionality, distinction and precaution by the Israeli forces in Saturday’s raid at the urban Nuseirat refugee camp.

Palestinian health officials say at least 274 Palestinians, including dozens of women and children, were killed in the operation.

Laurence said Palestinian armed groups who are holding hostages in densely populated areas are putting the lives of nearby civilians and the hostages at “added risks” from the hostilities.

“All these actions by both parties may amount to war crimes,” he told a regular U.N. briefing in Geneva.

Blinken says world supports U.S. ceasefire plan

TEL AVIV, Israel — Secretary of State Antony Blinken says the U.N. Security Council's vote in favor of a Gaza cease-fire plan made it "as clear as it possibly could be" that the world supports the U.S.-backed proposal to end the fighting.

He spoke to reporters in Tel Aviv on Tuesday after meeting with Israeli officials. Blinken said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had “reaffirmed his commitment to the proposal” when they met late Monday.

“Everyone’s vote is in, except for one vote, and that’s Hamas,” Blinken said.

The proposal, announced by President Joe Biden last month, calls for a three-phase plan in which Hamas would release the rest of the hostages in exchange for a lasting cease-fire and the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza.

The group is still holding around 120 hostages, a third of whom are believed to be dead.

Biden presented it as an Israeli proposal and urged Hamas to accept it. But Netanyahu has publicly disputed key aspects of it, saying Israel won’t end the war without destroying Hamas and returning all the hostages.

Hamas has not yet formally responded to the proposal. The militant group welcomed the U.N. resolution and supports the broad outline of the agreement but has demanded assurances it will be implemented.

Hamas spokesman Jihad Taha said Tuesday that “efforts are continuing to study and clarify some matters to ensure implementation by the Israeli side.” He says Israel is “stalling and procrastinating and creating obstacles in order to continue the aggression.”

On Monday, the U.N. Security Council voted overwhelmingly to approve the proposal, with 14 of the 15 members voting in favor and Russia abstaining. The resolution calls on Israel and Hamas “to fully implement its terms without delay and without condition.”

4 Israeli soldiers killed in explosion in Rafah

TEL AVIV, Israel — The Israeli military says four soldiers died in an explosion in the city of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.

Israeli media, citing unnamed security officials, reported that the soldiers were killed Monday when explosives they were using to clear the building were triggered prematurely, causing it to collapse, killing four soldiers and wounding 11.

The Hamas militant group said it had booby-trapped the building and attacked the soldiers with mortar rounds after the explosion.

The military targeted the building because they believed there was a Hamas operative inside who was involved in the 2006 kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was held in Gaza for five years, according to Israeli media.

Israel launched what it says is a limited ground operation in parts of Rafah in early May. Some 1 million Palestinians, most of them already displaced from other parts of Gaza, have fled the offensive in Rafah. The United Nations estimates as few as 200,000 to 300,000 people still remain in the city.

The military says at least 298 soldiers have been killed since the start of the Gaza ground operation following Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack into southern Israel that triggered the war.

Hamas commander killed in West Bank clash

RAMALLAH, West Bank — Hamas says one of its commanders in the occupied West Bank was killed in a clash with Israeli forces.

In a statement released late Monday, Hamas said Mohammed Jaber Abdo was killed along with three other fighters in a village near Ramallah, where the Western-backed Palestinian Authority is headquartered. It said Abdo had spent 20 years in Israeli prisons.

A joint statement by the Israeli army and police earlier on Monday said undercover forces had tracked down a suspect wanted in an attack on a nearby Jewish settlement.

It said that the man was hiding in a compound with three other suspects and that forces opened fire when they tried to run them over with a car and flee. It said weapons were found in the car.

Violence has surged in the West Bank since the start of the war in Gaza, which was ignited by Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack into southern Israel.

Over 530 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since then, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. Most were killed during violent protests or Israeli arrest raids, which often trigger gunbattles.

Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war. The Palestinians want all three territories for their future state.

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