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Israel-Gaza live updates: UN food agency pauses deliveries to northern Gaza

Luis Diaz Devesa/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- More than four months since Hamas terrorists invaded Israel on Oct. 7, the Israeli military continues its bombardment of the neighboring Gaza Strip.

The conflict, now the deadliest between the warring sides since Israel's founding in 1948, shows no signs of letting up soon and the brief cease-fire that allowed for over 100 hostages to be freed from Gaza remains a distant memory.

Here's how the news is developing:

Feb 21, 2:59 PM
Israeli Minister Gantz expresses cautious optimism about new hostage deal

Israeli Minister Benny Gantz on Wednesday expressed cautious optimism that a new outline for a possible hostage deal could move forward.

Gantz, a member of the Israeli war cabinet, said at Israel's Defense Headquarters Wednesday that there are "attempts" to "promote a new outline" for a hostage deal, and there are "initial signs that indicate the possibility of moving forward."

"We will not stop looking for the way, and we will not miss any opportunity to bring the girls and boys home," Gantz said.

-ABC News’ Ellie Kaufman and Dana Savir

Feb 21, 1:02 PM
8 bodies remain in Nasser Medical Complex among living patients, Gaza Ministry of Health says

Eight patients who died because of a lack of electricity at Nasser Medical Complex in Gaza are still in their beds inside of the hospital among living patients, the Hamas-run Gaza Ministry of Health said Wednesday.

The Ministry of Health said the bodies are still in the hospital because Israeli forces refuse to remove them.

The bodies "have begun to swell and show signs of decomposition, posing a danger to other patients," the Ministry of Health said in a statement.

Israeli authorities denied these claims and said no bodies are still inside Nasser Hospital.

The Israel Defense Forces has been operating inside of Nasser Hospital for the last week. On Monday, the IDF announced its soldiers had arrested 200 suspected Hamas members at Nasser Hospital.

ABC News’ Ellie Kaufman and Camilla Alcini

Feb 21, 8:28 AM
Israel considering sending delegation to Egypt for new round of talks, source says

Israel is weighing the possibility of sending a delegation back to Egypt for continued negotiations over a potential cease-fire or hostage deal with Hamas, an Israeli political source told ABC News on Wednesday.

There is some cautious optimism over the latest round of talks in Cairo, the source said.

Egypt, along with Qatar and the United States, has been mediating talks between the warring sides.

Feb 21, 8:14 AM
Israel preparing to reopen Karni border crossing to facilitate aid to northern Gaza, source says

Israel is preparing to reopen the Karni border crossing to facilitate the entry of humanitarian aid into the northern Gaza Strip, an Israeli political source told ABC News on Wednesday.

Israel shuttered the Karni crossing, located on the border between southwestern Israel and northeastern Gaza, when Palestinian militant group Hamas came to power in the enclave in 2007 before permanently closing the crossing in 2011.

Northern Gaza has been isolated by the Israeli military and almost completely cut off from aid for weeks, according to the United Nations.

Feb 21, 7:56 AM
UN food agency pauses deliveries to northern Gaza

The World Food Program, the food assistance arm of the United Nations, announced Tuesday that it is pausing deliveries of food aid to the northern Gaza Strip “until conditions are in place that allow for safe distribution.”

The decision came after a WFP convoy heading north from Gaza City was “surrounded by crowds of hungry people close to the Wadi Gaza checkpoint” on Sunday, the agency said. The same convoy faced “complete chaos and violence due to the collapse of civil order” when it tried to resume its journey north on Monday, according to the WFP.

“Several trucks were looted between Khan Yunis and Deir al-Balah and a truck driver was beaten. The remaining flour was spontaneously distributed off the trucks in Gaza City, amidst high tension and explosive anger,” the WFP said in a statement Tuesday. “The decision to pause deliveries to the north of the Gaza Strip has not been taken lightly, as we know it means the situation there will deteriorate further and more people risk dying of hunger.”

An analysis released Monday by the Global Nutrition Cluster, a humanitarian aid partnership led by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), found that 15.6% of children under the age of 2 are acutely malnourished in northern Gaza, which has been isolated by the Israeli military and almost completely cut off from aid for weeks, compared to 5% in southern Gaza, where most aid enters the war-torn enclave. The acute malnutrition rate across Gaza was less than 1% before the war began last October, according to the report.

Feb 20, 2:21 PM
Hostages held in Gaza have received medicine, Qatar says

Qatari officials said hostages held by Hamas in Gaza have received the medication that was part of a deal brokered last month.

The Israeli Prime Minister's Office said it has asked Qatar for evidence that the medicine was delivered.

"Israel will examine the credibility of the report and will continue to work for the peace of our abductees," the office said in a statement.

Feb 20, 12:21 PM
US draft resolution calls for temporary cease-fire

The U.S. voted against a resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire at Wednesday’s United Nations Security Council meeting, The Associated Press reported.

The U.S. was the only nation of the 15 permanent Security Council members to vote against the measure, according to the AP.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield said "an unconditional cease-fire without any obligation for Hamas to release hostages" was irresponsible.

"While we cannot support a resolution that would put sensitive negotiations in jeopardy, we look forward to engaging on a text that we believe will address so many of the concerns we all share -- a text that can and should be adopted by the council, so that we can have a temporary cease-fire as soon as practicable, based on the formula of all hostages being released," she said.

The U.S. has been circulating its own draft resolution on Gaza that calls for a temporary cease-fire conditioned on the release of all hostages, while also condemning Hamas for the Oct. 7 attack that sparked the war, according to senior administration officials familiar with the matter.

If the proposal were to be adopted by the U.N. Security Council, it would mark the first time the body has formally condemned Hamas’ actions.

The officials say the draft also makes clear "that under current circumstances a major ground offensive into Rafah should not proceed" and that there can be no reduction in territory in the Gaza Strip or any forced displacement of Palestinians, while also calling on Israel "to lift all barriers to the provision of humanitarian assistance, open additional humanitarian routes, and to keep current crossings open."

The senior officials signaled that American diplomats wouldn’t rush the text to a vote and that they intended on "allowing time for negotiations."

While hostage talks have sputtered over the past couple of weeks, senior administration officials said they were making some progress.

"The differences between the parties, they have been narrowed. They haven’t been sufficiently narrowed to get us to a deal, but we are still hopeful and we are confident that there is the basis for an agreement between the parties," one official said.

ABC News' Shannon Crawford

Feb 20, 11:34 AM
US votes against immediate cease-fire

The U.S. voted against a resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire at Wednesday’s United Nations Security Council meeting, The Associated Press reported.

The U.S. was the only nation of the 15 permanent Security Council members to vote against the measure, according to the AP.

The U.S. has said an immediate cease-fire could impede the negotiations looking to free hostages and agree to a pause in fighting, the AP said.

Feb 20, 11:07 AM
IDF operating inside Al-Amal Hospital

Israeli forces, which already entered Gaza’s Nasser Hospital, are also now operating inside the nearby Al-Amal Hospital, the Israel Defense Forces confirmed to ABC News.

"Al-Amal Hospital is currently under multiple attacks, as Israeli forces have directly targeted the third floor of the hospital, resulting in the burning of two rooms," and "the hospital’s water lines were targeted," the Palestine Red Crescent Society said.

Over 8,000 patients were evacuated from the hospital earlier this month, but almost 100 patients still remain inside, the Palestine Red Crescent Society said.

Feb 20, 7:13 AM
WHO helps transfer 32 critical patients out of Gaza's besieged Nasser Hospital

The World Health Organization said Tuesday that it has helped to successfully transfer 32 critically ill patients, including two children, from besieged Nasser Hospital in the southern Gaza Strip.

The WHO said its staff led two "life-saving," "high-risk" missions at the medical complex in Khan Younis on Sunday and Monday, in close partnership with the Palestine Red Crescent Society and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, "amid ongoing hostilities and access restrictions." Staff at Nasser Hospital had requested the transfer of patients after the facility became "non-functional" following an Israeli military raid on Feb. 14 after a weeklong siege, according to the WHO.

"Weak and frail patients were transferred amidst active conflict near the aid convoy," the WHO said in a statement. "Road conditions hindered the swift movement of ambulances, placing the health of patients at further risk."

"Nasser Hospital has no electricity or running water, and medical waste and garbage are creating a breeding ground for disease," the organization added. "WHO staff said the destruction around the hospital was 'indescribable.' The area was surrounded by burnt and destroyed buildings, heavy layers of debris, with no stretch of intact road."

The WHO estimates that 130 sick and injured patients and at least 15 doctors and nurses remain inside Nasser Hospital. As the facility's intensive care unit was no longer functioning, the only remaining ICU patient was transferred to a different part of the complex where other patients are receiving basic care, according to the WHO.

"WHO fears for the safety and well-being of the patients and health workers remaining in the hospital and warns that further disruption to lifesaving care for the sick and injured would lead to more deaths," the organization said. "Efforts to facilitate further patient referrals amidst the ongoing hostilities are in process."

Prior to the missions on Sunday and Monday, the WHO said it "received two consecutive denials to access the hospital for medical assessment, causing delays in urgently needed patient referral." At least five patients reportedly died in Nasser Hospital's ICU before any missions or transfers were possible, according to the WHO.

Nasser Hospital is the main medical center serving southern Gaza. Ground troops from the Israel Defense Forces stormed the facility last week, looking for members of Hamas who the IDF alleges have been conducting military operations out of the hospital. Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that governs Gaza and is at war with neighboring Israel, denies the claims.

"The dismantling and degradation of the Nasser Medical Complex is a massive blow to Gaza's health system," the WHO said. "Facilities in the south are already operating well beyond maximum capacity and are barely able to receive more patients."

Feb 20, 5:26 AM
Aid groups warn of potential 'explosion in preventable child deaths' in Gaza

A new analysis by the Global Nutrition Cluster, a humanitarian aid partnership led by the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund, found that 90% of children under the age of 2 in the war-torn Gaza Strip face severe food poverty, meaning they eat two or fewer food groups a day.

The same was true for 95% of pregnant and breastfeeding women in Gaza, according to the report released Monday. And at least 90% of children under 5 are affected by one or more infectious disease, with 70% experiencing diarrhea in the past two weeks, the report said.

In Gaza's southernmost city of Rafah, where most humanitarian aid enters, 5% of children under 2 are acutely malnourished, compared to more than 15% in northern Gaza, which has been isolated by the Israeli military and almost completely cut off from aid for weeks, the report said. Before war broke out last October between Israel and Gaza's militant rulers, Hamas, the acute malnutrition rate across the coastal enclave was less than 1%, according to the report.

The report also found that more than 80% of homes in Gaza lack clean and safe water, with the average household having one liter per person per day.

"The Gaza Strip is poised to witness an explosion in preventable child deaths which would compound the already unbearable level of child deaths in Gaza," Ted Chaiban, deputy executive director for humanitarian action and supply operations at UNICEF, said in a statement. "We've been warning for weeks that the Gaza Strip is on the brink of a nutrition crisis. If the conflict doesn't end now, children’s nutrition will continue to plummet, leading to preventable deaths or health issues which will affect the children of Gaza for the rest of their lives and have potential intergenerational consequences."

Feb 19, 12:31 PM
Gaza's health ministry accuses IDF of turning Nasser Hospital into 'military barracks'

Israeli troops have turned Nasser Hospital, the main medical center serving the southern Gaza Strip, into a "military barracks" and are "endangering the lives of patients and medical staff," according to Gaza's Hamas-run Ministry of Health.

The health ministry said Monday that patients and medical staff inside Nasser Hospital are now without electricity, water, food, oxygen and treatment capabilities for difficult cases since Israeli ground troops raided the facility in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis last week.

The World Health Organization, which warned on Sunday that Nasser Hospital "is not functional anymore," said more than 180 patients and 15 doctors and nurses remain inside the hospital.

The WHO said it has evacuated 14 critical patients from the hospital to receive treatment elsewhere.

The Israel Defense Forces alleges that Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that governs Gaza, has been conducting military operations out of Nasser Hospital and other medical centers in the war-torn enclave -- claims which Hamas denies.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Scientists discover how whales can sing under water and how shipping noise can disrupt communication

George Karbus Photography/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- A discovery on how baleen whales are able to sing under water is giving scientists a better understanding on how noise pollution from shipping activity can alter marine mammal's ability to communicate -- and therefore thrive as a species.

When the ancient ancestors of whales returned to the ocean from land, they developed major adaptations to make vocal communication feasible under water, according to a study published in Nature on Wednesday.

A study into how whales produce their vocals beneath the ocean's surface found that baleen whales -- including the sei, common minke and humpback species -- use specialized larynxes to communicate with each other under water.

The larynxes of three baleen whales that were examined were found to have adaptations that allow the animals to create massive air flows back and forth when they breathe in, Coen Elemans, a professor of sound communication and barrier at the University of Southern Denmark and author of the paper, told ABC News. While toothed whales evolved a nasal vocal organ, baleen whales were found to have a specialized structures to allow the production of sound and recycling of air while preventing inhalation of water, the paper found.

Because the frequency in which the whales sing would likely be low -- with a maximum frequency of 300 hertz -- the communication between baleen whales are likely severely impacted by human activity, as shipping vessels typically create noise between 30 hertz and 300 hertz, according to the paper.

When the noise from the shipping activity is present, it reduces the range in which the whales can communicate, which could then produce stress on the animals, Joy Reidenberg, a professor of anatomy at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, told ABC News.

"We think that this mechanism is an ancestral mechanism that these animals have used to make very low frequency sounds in an environment where sound is the only way of communication and the only way...to find animals that are very far apart," Elemans said.

Unlike humans, who mainly rely on sight, whales live in a "completely acoustic world," Sharon Livermore, director of marine conservation at the International Fund for Animal Welfare, told ABC News.

Vessel noise pollution and shipping intensity poses a real threat to large whales, Bekah Lane, a cetacean field research specialist at The Marine Mammal Center, a California-based nonprofit marine animal rescue center, told ABC News.

Research has shown that constant shipping noise can dominate the ocean soundscape and cause stress levels to rise in some species -- especially the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale, Livermore said.

"under water noise is a pollutant, and it's an invisible pollutant to the human eye," she said.

Singing is only one of the sounds that whales make, said Reidenberg, who peer-reviewed the study. It is typically the males that sing, and the performances take place in tropical waters, where they look for mates.

Other forms of communications that whales made are calls -- which are different from "singing" -- and are especially used by mothers and other whales attempting to communicate with other individual whales, Reidenberg said.

"Their ability to hear and be heard is key to their survival," Livermore said.

The deaths of five North Atlantic right whales since December has renewed calls for federal shipping regulations. Last week, a coalition of environmental groups filed a federal lawsuit to finalize shipping speed rules proposed in 2022 that would require mariners off the East Coast to slow down in order to reduce the risk of injury or death to the endangered whales.

However, consumer demand to have goods flow across oceans via large ships as quickly as possible adds another layer of complexity to the issue, Lane said.

"We need to think critically about how our consumer choices and purchasing power can have real consequences for marine wildlife," Lane said.

The day after the lawsuit was filed, another North Atlantic right whale -- a juvenile female -- was found dead off the coast of Georgia, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Ongoing research efforts coupled with working directly with local harbor safety committees, the maritime industry and government agencies are necessary to find solutions to better protect whales, Lane said.

The researchers hope that technology in the future will allow them to study live whales -- a feat nearly impossible at the moment considering how large the animals are. Technology such as a remote operated vehicle that could get close to a whale while it is singing and get ultrasounds would be ideal, Reidenberg said.

"I mean, we can't put a whale in a CAT scan or an MRI," she said.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


'My son is not a doll': The story of Gaza's baby Muhammad as his family grieves amid misinformation

ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- An image of a mother holding her dead infant in her arms outside a hospital in Gaza went viral last year but it was denied in online posts viewed millions of times online.

The baby's name was Muhammad Hani Al-Zahar. He was just shy of 5 months old when a bomb hit a neighboring home, killing him on Dec. 1, 2023, in Al-Mughraqa. Muhammad was just three months old when Hamas militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7, and the Israeli military declared war on the neighboring Gaza Strip.

ABC News' Samy Zyara found the baby's family sheltering in a tent in southern Gaza, and they shared part of his story that hasn't yet been told.

"When the bombing happened, my son screamed loudly," his mother Asmahan Attia Al-Zahar said in an interview with ABC News. "After the sound, I don't know what happened. I got up and took my son, my mother, and my sister. She said 'Let's run away.'"

Al-Zahar, 29, told ABC News they had lost everything when their own home was bombarded in November 2023, and had been displaced multiple times since then.

Al-Zahar said that she had woken up hopeful last December that a week-long humanitarian pause between Israel and Hamas would be extended by a few days.

The truce was not prolonged and instead, a bombardment hit a neighboring home while Al-Zahar was visiting her family and collecting clothes for her six children.

"I got up and took my son in my arms, and we were running from under the dust and the bombing, and I didn't know that my son was dead," Al-Zahar said.

She told ABC News that they tried to revive him, but said he was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital. He was then brought to Al-Alqsa Martyrs Hospital in Dei al-Balah for burial.

Images of baby Muhammad, wrapped in a white shroud with mouth and eyes open and being held by his mother and his grandfather outside the hospital, went viral.

Those photographs were taken by local photojournalist Ali Jadallah who published them on his Instagram account. He wasn't alone in documenting the scene. Several other local photojournalists documented the scene and published videos of the final goodbye. The images were also published by Getty.

Yet, several users online denied the existence of baby Muhammad in claims and posts that were viewed millions of times.

"I was breastfeeding him. How is he a doll? How do they say he's a doll? He is not a doll. He is my son," said Al-Zahar about her infant son.

Misinformation, disinformation and propaganda have been widespread throughout this conflict with both sides using social media to drum up support, according to experts.

"I think the intensity of online discourse around Israel and Palestine is really kind of much worse than I've seen in any of the conflicts," said Elliot Higgins, founder of an independent investigative group called Bellingcat.

"People are not looking to establish the truth in many cases, but basically just look for things to bash each other over the head online. It's really just about people arguing their positions, their opinions, and not really establishing the exact truth around what's happening," Higgins added.

Meanwhile, baby Muhammad is one of the more than 12,300 Palestinian children killed in Gaza in just over four months, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry.

In the Gaza Strip, at least 29,195 people have been killed and 69,170 others have been wounded by Israeli forces since Oct. 7, according to Gaza's Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health.

In Israel, at least 1,200 people have been killed and 6,900 others have been injured by Hamas and other Palestinian militants since Oct. 7, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

As for Al-Zahar and her remaining children, most of them are now displaced and living in tents.

"Our homes are gone. Our children are gone. Enough. Have mercy on us. I swear, we are tired. Our psychology has been destroyed. Our children's psychology has been destroyed. We can no longer provide anything for them," Al-Zahar said.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Eleven lions rescued from conflict-hit Sudan arrive in South Africa

Hristo Vladev/Four Paws

(LONDON) -- Eleven lions rescued from conflict-hit Sudan have found a new home in South Africa, animal welfare organization Four Paws has announced.

The lions -- rescued among a total of 48 animals from Sudan's capital, Khartoum, the heart of the conflict -- have been transferred to the LionsRock Big Cat Sanctuary in Bethlehem, South Africa.

"The lions spent nine months surrounded by the tragedies of war. They are traumatised, weak, emaciated, and prone to injury," said Four Paws in a statement sent to ABC News. "Getting them out of the conflict zone in Sudan was an emotional rollercoaster and a challenge beyond anything we have done before."

The lions were initially rescued from Sudan's capital Khartoum in November 2023 and evacuated to a designated safe area in Wad Madani, capital of Sudan's Al Jazirah state.

However, as fighting reached Wad Madani following the advance of the Rapid Support Forces paramilitary group amid intense clashes with the Sudanese Armed Forces, the lions were evacuated in an "emergency rescue" in January.

Once out of Sudan, the lions were taken to the Al Ma'wa for Nature and Wildlife reserve in Souf, Jordan where they received initial treatment. Four Paws told ABC a total of 15 lions, four hyenas and one serval cat were transported to Jordan. One of the lions died there, the group said.

"Due to their critical health condition and urgent need for treatment and monitoring, the other rescued animals -- three lions, four hyenas and a serval -- found a long-term home there," said Four Paws.

Other animals, including deer and birds, that were evacuated alongside the lions in November 2023 could be released back into the wild, Four Paws says.

Four Paws says it is glad "tireless efforts" in conjunction with the Sudanese authorities and a global network of organizations paid off.

"These eleven lions are ambassadors for hope," the group said.

It added, "Sadly, more and more conflicts arise all around the world, causing humanitarian crises but also posing a threat to captive animals dependent on human care."

Decades of conflict in Sudan have severely impacted the Northeast African nation's wildlife, and wildlife habitats. Researchers have found that "armed conflict has a largely detrimental effect on wildlife habitat populations through tactical military strategies and effects on institutions, movement of people and economies."

Dr. Amir Khalil, a Four Paws veterinarian, said the lions can finally get some "rest, peace and proper care."

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Kremlin rejects call for independent postmortem on opposition leader Alexei Navalny

Flowers are seen placed around portraits of late Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who died in a Russian Arctic prison, at a makeshift memorial in front of the former Russian consulate in Frankfurt am Main, western Germany, on Feb. 20, 2024. (AFP via Getty Images)

(LONDON) -- Kremlin officials rejected on Tuesday a call for an independent postmortem examination on the remains of opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

The Council of the European Union had on Monday called for the independent review, saying Russia "must allow an independent and transparent international investigation into circumstances of his sudden death."

"Mr Navalny's unexpected and shocking death is yet another sign of the accelerating and systematic repression in Russia," the council said in a statement.

A spokesperson for Russian President Vladimir Putin rejected the body's request on Tuesday, saying, "Moscow does not accept such demands" from the European Union.

Navalny, a long-time Russian opposition politician and critic of the Kremlin under Putin, died in prison at age 47 on Friday, the state prison service said.

Members of Navalny's inner circle said they were continuing on Tuesday to seek access to the opposition leader's remains.

Yulia Navalnaya, Navalny's widow, on Tuesday called for the remains to be returned so they could be "buried with dignity."

Navalnaya had vowed on Monday to continue his opposition against Putin. She released a video in which she alleged that Navalny's body was being kept from the family because he had been murdered, perhaps by poison.

Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesperson, on Tuesday said those allegations were "unfounded, unsupported and borish."

"I don't care how the killer's press secretary comments on my word," Navalnaya said in a response posted on X, after which her account was briefly inaccessible.

Navalny's mother, Lyudmila, addressed Putin directly in a separate video. She's been in the Arctic for five days trying to access her son's body.

"Let me finally see my son," she said while standing in front of the Arctic prison camp where Russian officials said Navalny died. "I demand the immediate handing over of Alexey's body, so that I can give him a humane burial."

Meanwhile, the White House is set to announce a new "major sanctions" package on Friday "to hold Russia accountable" in response to Alexei Navalny's death.

"Whatever story the Russian government decides to tell the world, it's clear that President Putin and his government are responsible for Mr. Navalny's death," National Security Council Coordinator John Kirby said Tuesday morning.

ABC News' Joe Simonetti and Patrick Reevell contributed to this story.

 

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Unmanned Houthi submarines pose new threat to US warships in Red Sea

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(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. conducted what it called self-defense strikes on five targets in the Houthi-controlled area of Yemen after the Houthis employed an unmanned submarine for the first time since attacks in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden began, the Pentagon said.

The submarine, an unmanned underwater vessel, or UUV, shows advancing Houthi capability and a shifting strategy, ABC News national security and defense analyst Mick Mulroy, a former Pentagon official and CIA agent, said.

"Unmanned surface and subsurface vessels are likely more difficult to detect and destroy than aerial drones and anti-ship missiles. The Houthis are not likely capable of manufacturing these weapons on their own, so they are probably coming from Iran," Mulroy said.

In addition to the unmanned submarine hit Sunday, the U.S.military said it struck an unmanned vessel that moves on the surface, as well as anti-ship cruise missiles which have made up the bulk of U.S. targets in the Houthi arsenal.

The Houthis, which the U.S. designates a global terrorist group with Iran's backing, operate out of parts of Yemen they control after a cease-fire in the Yemeni civil war. The International Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force, an arm of the Iranian regime's military forces that coordinates operations outside Iran's borders, supports the Houthis and other armed groups with weapons and financing, the U.S. says.

"The Houthis and the IRGC are adjusting their strategy, apparently because they haven't been successful in striking a U.S. naval vessel," Mulroy said. 

The Houthis have targeted American ships to no avail, while the U.S. has been increasing defensive strikes since a separate militia group, also backed by Iran, struck the U.S. base in Jordan and killed three servicemembers.

"If one or more of these weapons get through and kill U.S. sailors, Iran should expect to be held directly responsible," said Mulroy.

The unmanned weapons systems are an acute threat, Mulroy said, since they could "overwhelm the ship's defenses" by attacking from multiple dimensions, a so-called "swarm attack."

The U.S. Coast Guard said it intercepted a cache of weapons aboard a ship heading from Iran to Houthi-controlled Yemen on Jan. 15. Among military equipment intercepted were components for the unmanned vessels, the U.S. said -- the sort of vessels hit in two of Sunday's U.S. strikes.

As a part of U.S. preemptive offensives to Houthi aggression, a U.S. official told ABC News the U.S. conducted a cyberattack against an Iranian spy vessel, the MV Behshad, which has cruised the Red Sea and passed targeting information to the Houthis. The cyberattack was a part of the U.S. promised multi-tiered response in the days after the Jan. 28 militia attack in Jordan.

The Houthis on Monday said they conducted five strikes in the past 24 hours. Two targeted American ships in the Gulf of Aden and another targeted and sunk a British ship, the Houthis said in a statement.

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Strike shuts down the Eiffel Tower as workers protest monument's management

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(PARIS) -- Tourists looking to explore Paris' most famous landmark were turned away from the Eiffel Tower on Monday as workers went on strike over what they contend is mismanagement that could jeopardize the 135-year-old monument as the city prepares to host the summer Olympic Games.

Visitors to the wrought-iron lattice tower on the Champ de Mars were greeted Monday morning with "closed signs" at the base of the structure and tower's website.

“Some already knew [about] it and came just to confirm,” said Marthe, a temp worker posted at one of the tower’s entrances to greet the visitors. "They were disappointed but I didn’t have any particularly bad interactions."

The strike could go on for several days, according to union officials.

Brianna, an American tourist, who was visiting Paris and the landmark for the first time, told ABC News she didn’t know anything about the strike, but was happy to still be able to take pictures at the tower with her friends.
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While some tourists said they enjoyed finding the Eiffel Tower area basically empty, others were not pleased.

“That’s not OK,” the father of a visiting Dutch family told ABC News, “because you have to book upfront and if you want to go up there, it’s 30 euros and it’s quite some money if you have a family. So I think tourists shouldn’t be involved in their problem.”

A street vendor packing up his miniature towers and keychains said he is expecting to lose about 400 euros or about $431 if the tower remains closed all week.

Monday's protest marks the second time in two months that workers have shut down the landmark that draws an estimated 20,000 visitors per day.

Labor union officials claim that Paris City Hall, which owns 99% of the Eiffel Tower operator, SETE, is relying on an “unsustainable” business model that overestimates ticket sales to the monument and underestimates the cost of maintenance and repairs.

The unions said they also oppose an increase in the usage fee owed by SETE to the city of Paris, calling it "not acceptable."

“We are not asking to completely eliminate the fee. We know full well that we must give a usage fee to the city of Paris. We have always played the game," an official for one of two labor unions representing workers told ABC News.

The unions that represents 400 Eiffel Tower workers contend that the city's current maintenance plan for the tower works to the detriment of visitors, puts a heavier workload on employees and risks their safety.

The union representative who spoke to ABC News denounced what he described as a “DIY” approach the city of Paris allegedly has towards the work needed for the monument to function properly.

“Instead of completely redoing things, to refurbish an elevator or something else, we try to do small maintenance just to last over time but we see very clearly that our installations are aging and obsolete, and that we sometimes have to completely change the machine or completely review certain systems," the union representative said. "But they seek to reduce costs and invest to a minimum."

The workers also fear that job cuts are also on the horizon, according to the union representative, who said he received the news of planned layoffs during a meeting with management last week.

"We fear for our jobs, that's why we say stop,” he said. "We are not supposed to be the expendable parts, the same goes for the works and the investments."

The labor action comes as Paris prepares to host the 2024 Summer Olympics, which are scheduled to begin on July 26 and feature pieces of the Eiffel Tower in the medals that will be handed out during the games.

SETE claims the tower's maintenance budget is based on an estimate that the monument will draw 7.4 million visitors this year, a figure the union says has never been achieved. The tower, according to union leaders, usually welcomes about 6 million visitors a year.

A similar strike shut down the Eiffel Tower on Dec. 27, the day that marked the 100th anniversary of the death of Gustave Eiffel, the French engineer whose company designed and built the tower for the 1889 Universal Exposition in Paris. That strike occurred as union members were also negotiating a new labor contract with the city.

Union officials are urging the city to review the maintenance budget for the tower.

In a statement released in December, the union predicted that under the city's current budget, the tower could be closed during the Olympic Games due to a financial shortfall in maintenance costs.

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Patients evacuated from Nasser Hospital, Gaza's second-largest, as WHO says it has stopped 'functioning' amid attacks

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(NEW YORK) -- Patients are being evacuated from Gaza's second-largest hospital, which has been under attack from Israel Defense Forces (IDF) troops, amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.

At least 14 patients have been moved from Nasser Hospital -- located in the southern city of Khan Younis -- with the help of the World Health Organization (WHO), the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry said Monday.

Nine patients are currently receiving care in European Gaza, International Medical Corps, UAE and Indonesia field hospitals, and five patients are in Al-Aqsa hospital in the south, the WHO said in a Monday release.

Among the evacuated patients were two who needed continuous manual ventilation throughout their journey, according to the WHO.

Prior to the evacuation, the WHO said it and its partners had been denied entry into Nasser Hospital for two days.

"There are still more than 180 patients and 15 doctors and nurses inside Nasser," WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement. "The hospital is still experiencing an acute shortage of food, basic medical supplies, and oxygen. There is no tap water and no electricity, except a backup generator maintaining some lifesaving machines."

Additionally, the ministry claims at least five people have died since the hospital lost power and that Israeli forces have arrested medical staff, including the director of the hospital and the only doctor responsible for caring for patients in the ICU.

Ghebreyesus previously stated in a post on the social platform X, formerly known as Twitter, on Sunday that the hospital was "not functioning anymore."

Israel has disputed the hospital is no longer functional. According to a post on Monday on X by Israel's Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), which coordinates humanitarian aid for Gaza, supplies have been delivered to Nasser Hospital.

Among the aid includes a tanker carrying diesel fuel, water bottles, bread loaves, a replacement generator and medicine donated by the WHO, COGAT said.

"The Nasser hospital was operational during the entire IDF activity," COGAT posted. "We facilitated humanitarian aid and supplies to the hospital and coordinated a UN team to evacuate the patients."

In addition, the IDF claimed it found medicine meant for the Israeli hostages as well as weapons and terrorists, some of whom were allegedly posing as medical staff.

"Boxes of medicine were found with the names of Israeli hostages on them," the IDF said in a statement on Sunday. "The packages of medicine that were found were sealed and had not been transferred to the hostages."

The IDF said Monday it has arrested 200 people at the Nasser Hospital complex suspected of being terrorists.

Since Hamas' surprise terrorist attack on Israel on Oct. 7, 2023, nearly 29,000 people in Gaza have been killed and more than 68,800 have been injured, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry. About 1,200 have been killed in Israel, according to the Israeli Prime Minister's Office.

The IDF said 573 soldiers have been killed since the war began and 235 have been killed since the ground invasion began.

Additionally, there are about 134 hostages still believed to be in captivity in Gaza, 130 of them related to the current war and four related to the 2014 conflict. Of the 134, at least 32 are believed to be dead, according to the IDF and the Israeli Prime Minister's Office.

ABC News' Sami Zayara contributed to this report.

 

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Navalny's widow vows to continue husband's opposition to Putin

Yulia Navalnaya, wife of late Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, attends the Munich Security Conference, on the day Alexei Navalny's death was announced by the prison service of the Yamalo-Nenets region where he had been serving his sentence, in Munich, southern Germany on Feb. 16, 2024. -- Thomas Kienzle/AFP via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- Yulia Navalnaya, wife of late Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of being involved her husband's death and vowed on Monday to continue his work.

"We know why Putin killed Alexei three days ago, we will tell you about it soon," she said in a video message. "But the main thing we can do for Alexei and for ourselves is to continue to fight. I will continue the work of Alexei Navalny, continue to fight for our country, and I urge you to stand next to me."

Navalny, a long-time Russian opposition politician and critic of the Kremlin and Russian President Vladimir Putin died in prison at age 47 on Friday, the state prison service said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov had earlier denied any involvement in the death, saying there were "no statement from doctors, no information from forensic experts, no final information from the Federal Penitentiary Service, no information about the causes of death."

Officials at a morgue in the Arctic city where it's believed Navalny's body is likely being held refused on Monday morning to allow his elderly mother and lawyers in, according to Navalny's team.

The officials also refused to say whether Navalny's body was there, according to Navalny's team.

Russia's Investigative Committee, which often handles political cases, has also informed his relatives that the examination of his death has been "extended" -- meaning they will not hand the body over for now, according to Navalny spokeswoman Kyra Yarmysh.

Navalny's team later said his body would be held by officials for 14 days, while testing is underway.

Navalny's team have said they believe Navalny was murdered and have accused Russian authorities of now withholding his body to conceal evidence of how he died.

"They lie, buy time for themselves and do not even hide it," Yarmysh wrote on X.

Navalnaya was expected to address a meeting of the European foreign ministers' meeting in Brussels on Monday.

ABC News' Jon Haworth and Nadine El-Bawab contributed to this story.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Israel-Gaza updates: IDF arrests 200 suspects at Nasser Hospital

Luis Diaz Devesa/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- More than four months since Hamas terrorists invaded Israel on Oct. 7, the Israeli military continues its bombardment of the neighboring Gaza Strip.

The conflict, now the deadliest between the warring sides since Israel's founding in 1948, shows no signs of letting up soon and the brief cease-fire that allowed for over 100 hostages to be freed from Gaza remains a distant memory.

Here's how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

Feb 19, 12:24 PM
IDF strikes Hezbollah weapon storage facilities, terrorist infrastructure

The Israel Defense Forces said its fighter jets hit two Hezbollah weapons storage facilities in Lebanon on Monday.

The IDF said this was in response to the unmanned aerial vehicle launched toward northern Israel earlier in the day, and the Israelis believe it was most likely launched from Lebanon by Hezbollah.

The IDF also said its fighter jets have struck some Hezbollah terrorist infrastructure in Lebanon on Monday.

Feb 19, 8:25 AM
Gaza's health ministry accuses IDF of turning Nasser Hospital into 'military barracks'

Israeli troops have turned Nasser Hospital, the main medical center serving the southern Gaza Strip, into a "military barracks" and are "endangering the lives of patients and medical staff," according to Gaza's Hamas-run Ministry of Health.

The health ministry said Monday that there are 136 patients and 25 medical staff inside Nasser Hospital who are now without electricity, water, food, oxygen and treatment capabilities for difficult cases since Israeli ground troops raided the facility in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis last week. The World Health Organization, which warned on Sunday that Nasser Hospital "is not functional anymore," is helping evacuate the remaining patients to other facilities to receive treatment, according to the health ministry.

The Israel Defense Forces alleges that Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that governs Gaza, has been conducting military operations out of Nasser Hospital and other medical centers in the war-torn enclave -- claims which Hamas denies.

-ABC News' Morgan Winsor

Feb 19, 7:53 AM
IDF arrests 200 suspects at Nasser Hospital in southern Gaza

The Israel Defense Forces said Monday that it has arrested 200 suspects at Nasser Hospital in the city of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip.

Israeli ground forces stormed the hospital last week, looking for members of Hamas who the IDF alleges have been conducting military operations there. Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that governs Gaza, has denied the allegations.

Nasser Hospital is the main medical center serving southern Gaza and was -- until now -- the only fully functioning hospital in the war-torn enclave. The World Health Organization said Sunday that Nasser Hospital "is not functional anymore" after Israeli troops raided the facility.

-ABC News' Jordana Miller and Morgan Winsor

Feb 19, 4:45 AM
IDF continues ground operations in Khan Younis

The Israel Defense Forces said Monday morning that its ground troops and special forces are "continuing to operate" in the western part of Khan Younis, a city in the southern Gaza Strip.

The IDF said its ground troops conducted "targeted raids on terror targets" in western Khan Younis over the past day, "during which AK-47s, drones, an RPG, explosive devices, and additional military equipment were located." The soldiers on the ground also coordinated with the Israel Air Force's fighter jets overhead to kill "terrorists who were operating adjacent to the troops in the area," according to the IDF.

"During additional activity in western Khan Yunis, IDF ground troops used a drone to identify a terrorist cell that was approaching the troops," the IDF said in a statement. "In response, the troops directed an aircraft to eliminate them. A short while after, four additional terrorists were identified in the area, who were also eliminated by an IAF aircraft."

Meanwhile, the IDF said its special forces "encountered armed terrorists, conducted targeted raids on terror targets, seized weapons and directed a helicopter to strike and eliminate an additional terrorist."

-ABC News' Jordana Miller and Morgan Winsor

Feb 18, 4:02 PM
Medicine for hostages, weapons found at Nasser Hospital: ID

Boxes of medicine intended for Israeli hostages, a large number of weapons and a vehicle belonging to a kibbutz that was attacked by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7 were found during on raid at Nasser Hospital in Gaza, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

The IDF said its forces located "medicines specifically designated for the Israeli hostages in Gaza, large quantities of weapons and a vehicle belonging to Kibbutz Nir Oz" during its operations in the Nasser Hospital.

The IDF said it also apprehended "hundreds of terrorists and other suspects who were hiding in the Nasser Hospital, some posing as medical staff."

"Boxes of medicine were found with the names of Israeli hostages on them. The packages of medicine that were found were sealed and had not been transferred to the hostages," the IDF said.

-ABC Edward Szekeres

Feb 18, 4:01 PM
Brazilian president's comments prompt angry response from Israeli officials

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has prompted the fury of Israeli officials by comparing Israel's war against Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip to the Nazi genocide during World War II.

"What is happening in the Gaza Strip with the Palestinian people has no parallel in other historical moments. In fact, it did exist when Hitler decided to kill the Jews," Lula said at a news conference Sunday at the 37th African Union Summit in Addis Ababa.

Lula also condemned the suspension of humanitarian aid to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency in Gaza, calling for an investigation into what he described as "genocide."

"It's not a war between soldiers and soldiers. It's a war between a highly prepared army and women and children," Lula said.

The UNRWA is facing criticism and financial strain after Israel claimed 12 of the group's staff members in Gaza were implicated in Hamas' Oct. 7 attack on Israel. The allegations prompted the United States, Germany, the European Union and other countries to suspend funding for the UNRWA.

Lula's comments led to a swift and angry response from Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu, who issued a statement calling Lula's remarks "disgraceful and grave." Netanyahu condemned Lula for "this trivialization of the Holocaust."

"Drawing comparisons between Israel and the Nazis and Hitler is to cross a red line," Netanyahu said, adding in a separate statement that Lula "has disgraced the memory of the 6 million Jews murdered by the Nazis, and demonized the Jewish state like the most virulent anti-Semite."

-ABC News' Yael Benaya, Jordana Miller and Aicha El Hammar
 

Feb 18, 5:59 AM
Gaza’s Nasser Hospital no longer 'functional,' WHO chief says

Nasser Hospital "is not functional anymore" after Israeli forces raided the facility in the southern city of Khan Younis on Thursday, the head of the World Health Organization said.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of the U.N. health agency, said a WHO team was not allowed to enter the facility on Friday or Saturday "to assess the conditions of the patients and critical medical needs, despite reaching the hospital compound to deliver fuel alongside partners."

There are still about 200 patients in the hospital, including 20 who need urgent referrals to other hospitals, the WHO chief said in a statement on X.

Israel says it has apprehended about 100 suspected terrorists in the hospital, including 20 who it says participated in Hamas' Oct. 7 attack. The military says it is looking for the remains of hostages inside the facility and does not target doctors or patients.

Gaza’s Health Ministry said a large number of medical staff were arrested by the Israel Defense Forces that turned the facility into military barracks. The facility is Gaza's largest remaining operating hospital and the Strip's second-largest hospital.

-ABC News’ Edward Szekeres

Feb 16, 2:12 PM
Biden says his 'expectation' is Israel will not move forward with Rafah invasion

President Joe Biden said it is his "expectation" that Israel will not move forward with "any massive land invasion" in Rafah in southern Gaza as the Israelis work to get a temporary cease-fire in place to release the remaining hostages.

Biden was asked if Israel had presented a credible evacuation plan for the displaced Palestinians sheltering in Rafah. But the president’s response focused on continued efforts around a hostage deal, saying he's made it clear to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in their conversations in recent days that the U.S. feels strongly that a temporary cease-fire must happen.

"I'm still hopeful that that can be done,” Biden said. “And in the meantime, I don't anticipate -- I'm hoping that the Israelis will not make any massive land invasion in the meantime. So, it's my expectation that's not going to happen. There has to be a cease-fire temporarily to get those hostages.”

"This is not just Israelis -- it's American hostages, as well,” Biden said. “My hope and expectation is that we'll get this hostage deal, we’ll bring the Americans home and the deal has been negotiated now, and we're gonna see where it takes us.”

-ABC News’ Molly Nagle

Feb 16, 10:53 AM
2 killed in shooting attack in southern Israel

Two people were killed in a terror shooting attack at a bus stop near Re’em Masmiya Junction in southern Israel, according to Israel’s emergency medical services.

Four people were hurt. Two of the injured victims are in serious condition and two are in moderate condition, officials said.

Feb 15, 9:08 PM
Biden again tells Netanyahu he opposes a Rafah military operation that doesn’t consider civilians’ safety

President Joe Biden spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday -- their second call in less than one week -- and again said the U.S. believes any planned military operation in Rafah that does not credibly consider civilians’ safety "should not proceed," according to the White House.

Biden told Netanyahu the same thing during a call on Sunday.

The two leaders also spoke about ongoing negotiations to secure another hostage deal and the "urgency" of getting humanitarian aid into Gaza, the White House said.

-ABC News' Fritz Farrow

Feb 15, 5:04 PM
Hostage center confirms another death from Kibbutz Nir Oz

Yair Yaakov, a 59-year-old hostage from Kibbutz Nir Oz, has been killed, according to the Hostages and Missing Persons Families Forum headquarters.

He was kidnapped from his home in Kibbutz Nir Oz, along with his children -- Or, 17, and Yagil, 13, -- and his partner Meirav Tal. His partner and children were released in the prisoner exchange deal.

His body is still being held captive by Hamas in Gaza, according to the forum.

-ABC News' Will Gretsky

Feb 15, 4:50 PM
Egyptian authorities preparing for influx of refugees from Gaza: Source

Egyptian authorities are preparing for a large influx of refugees from Gaza in a worst-case scenario event where negotiations between Israel and Hamas break down and a large number of refugees are forced to cross from Gaza into Egypt, a source familiar with the talks told ABC News.

The preparations are a preemptive measure to prevent any potential repetition of chaos caused when Palestinians poured into Egypt in 2008.

But, there is a sense of optimism after the Hamas delegation visited Cairo this week to discuss results of the quartet Cairo meeting and there is a chance a deal can be reached but things will be clearer on Friday, according to the source.

-ABC News' Ayat Al-Tawy

Feb 15, 12:59 PM
Israel claims it killed senior Hezbollah commander

The Israel army claims it killed a senior Hezbollah commander, Ali Muhammad Aldbas; his deputy commander, Ibrahim Issa; and an operative in airstrikes on Nabatieh, Lebanon, that targeted Hezbollah military structures.

The Israel Defense Forces claimed Aldbas was among those who directed the terrorist attack at the Megiddo Junction in Israel in March 2023 and claimed he led, planned and carried out terrorist activity against Israel during this war.

Lebanese state media reported that 10 civilians died in Israeli airstrikes on Lebanon, in what was the deadliest day in over four months of border exchanges.

The Lebanese militant group Hezbollah vowed to retaliate for Wednesday's strikes, which hit in the city of Nabatiyeh and a village in southern Lebanon, just hours after projectiles from Lebanon killed an Israeli soldier. Hezbollah did not officially claim responsibility for the strike that killed the soldier.

The IDF also claimed it struck a Hezbollah military structure in the area of Blida and a Hezbollah military structure in the area of Maroun al-Ras on Thursday.

"We have no interest in war but we must prepare," Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Thursday. "The planes that are currently flying over the skies of Lebanon have targets -- and they know how to change the attack from place to place. In the event of a war, the prices for the State of Israel are heavy, but they are catastrophic for Lebanon and Hezbollah."

ABC News' Will Gretsky and Nasser Atta

Feb 15, 7:12 AM
IDF storms southern Gaza's main hospital

Israeli soldiers stormed the main hospital of the southern Gaza Strip on Thursday, hours after Israeli forces killed a patient while wounding six others inside the complex, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run Ministry of Health.

The Israel Defense Forces announced in a statement on Thursday morning that it is conducting a "precise and limited operation" inside Nasser Hospital in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis, "because Hamas terrorists are likely hiding behind injured civilians inside the hospital right now" and appear to have used the hospital to hide hostages.

Earlier Thursday, before the IDF's announcement of a full-scale raid, videos were posted to social media by doctors and journalists inside the hospital showing extensive damage to the orthopaedic department overnight.

One compilation of videos shows dust hanging in the air and parts of the ceiling hanging down as medical staff guide patients down the halls. Doctors are seen trying to maneuver hospital beds through rubble and carrying injured away.

In other videos, extremely loud sounds of fighting outside the hospital can be heard as people are seen returning to the entrance, afraid to leave.

Currently, Nasser Hospital is the only fully functioning medical center in war-torn Gaza.

Feb 14, 5:50 PM
Biden defers removal of most Palestinians in the US for 18 months

President Joe Biden issued a memo Wednesday deferring the removal of most Palestinians in the United States for an 18-month period, citing the “deteriorated” humanitarian conditions in Gaza since Hamas’ Oct. 7 terror attack, and Israel’s retaliatory military operations.

“While I remain focused on improving the humanitarian situation, many civilians remain in danger,” Biden wrote in the memo.

The president added that this move is "in the foreign policy interest of the United States."

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement this will give Palestinians in the U.S. "a temporary safe haven."

The so-called deferred enforced departure status Biden granted would not apply to convicted felons, Palestinians who are subject to extradition or those who voluntarily leave the country, according to the memo.

-ABC News' Fritz Farrow

Feb 14, 2:15 PM
US asks for 'credible plan' to protect civilians in Rafah

National security adviser Jake Sullivan said the White House wants to see a "credible plan" from the Israelis for how they would avoid civilian casualties during a potential military operation in Rafah in southern Gaza, where so many residents have fled for safety.

Sullivan said the Israelis are facing "three realities": They must evacuate more than 1 million people to a safe place; they need to avoid disrupting the flow of humanitarian aid; and they need a "clear answer" to what a potential military operation in Rafah would mean for Egypt, which borders Rafah.

Sullivan also made a point to highlight that Hamas "has to account for itself, as well."

"Hamas is hiding amongst civilians, embedding itself among civilians in ways that also put those civilians at risk. And so, some of the international community's questions and pressure, should be on Hamas," he said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday, "We will fight until complete victory, and this includes a powerful action also in Rafah -- after we allow the civilian population to leave the battle zones."

ABC News’ Justin Gomez

Feb 14, 1:48 PM
FBI director makes unannounced trip to Israel

FBI Director Christopher Wray made an unannounced trip to Israel Wednesday where he met with officials to discuss the “threat landscape" facing the U.S. and Israel, the FBI said.

"Director Wray’s key focus is the work the FBI continues to do to confront the elevated threat as foreign terrorist organizations have expressed support and praise for the attacks on Israel and threatened to attack U.S. interests both abroad and in the homeland," the FBI said in a statement. "The FBI has and will continue to be responsive to requests from the Government of Israel to provide support in their ongoing efforts to keep their citizens safe from the threats and acts of terrorism."

Feb 14, 1:25 PM
Netanyahu says negotiations can 'move forward' when Hamas drops 'delusional demands'

The delegation that Israel sent to Egypt to take part in negotiations on Tuesday over a potential cease-fire or hostage deal with Hamas will not return for more talks this week, an Israeli political source told ABC News on Wednesday.

Officials from Egypt, Qatar and the United States have been mediating talks between Israel and Hamas since war broke out on Oct. 7.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that negotiations "can move forward" when "Hamas drop[s] their delusional demands."

But Israeli labor leader Merav Michaeli is criticizing the prime minister, saying, "Netanyahu's refusal to send a delegation to the follow-up talks on the hostage deal shows, once again, that he really does not see an urgent need to bring the hostages home. We must not allow Netanyahu to abandon our hostages for the benefit of his political survival."

ABC News' Jordana Miller and Morgan Winsor

Feb 14, 9:29 AM
Israeli delegation won't return to Egypt for more talks this week, source says

The delegation that Israel sent to Egypt to take part in negotiations on Tuesday over a potential cease-fire or hostage deal with Hamas will not return for more talks this week, an Israeli political source told ABC News on Wednesday.

Officials from Egypt, Qatar and the United States have been mediating talks between Israel and Hamas since war broke out on Oct. 7.

Feb 13, 5:11 PM
US confirms death of another American in the West Bank

A U.S. citizen has died in the West Bank, the State Department confirmed on Tuesday -- marking what is potentially the second killing of an American in the occupied territory in recent weeks.

State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller said during a press briefing on Tuesday that the administration was "still in the gathering information stage." He did not provide additional details, including identifying information for the deceased or the apparent cause of death.

The death comes after a 17-year-old Palestinian-American was fatally shot in the West Bank on Jan. 19. Israeli police said at the time that its internal affairs department was investigating a firearm discharge involving an off-duty law enforcement officer, a soldier and a civilian.

-ABC News' Shannon K. Crawford

Feb 13, 4:06 PM
Israel still 'acting in good faith' on hostage talks: State Department

The U.S. believes Israel is still "acting in good faith" on hostage negotiations, State Department spokesperson Matt Miller told reporters during a press briefing on Tuesday.

Miller was mostly tight-lipped on the latest round of discussions with Egypt, the U.S. and Qatar in Cairo, though he did say that the U.S. assesses that Israel still shares the administration's interest in reaching an agreement despite its potentially looming Rafah offensive and reports of the country's limited involvement in the talks.

"We have seen public statements from the government of Israel that they want to secure the release of hostages," Miller said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also reiterated to Secretary Antony Blinken last week in Israel that it is a "top priority" for him to secure the release of the hostages, Miller continued.

"So yes, we do believe they're acting in good faith," he said.

-ABC News' Shannon K. Crawford

Feb 13, 3:42 PM
No hostage deal reached as Netanyahu rejects parameters

Top intelligence officials from Israel, the U.S., Qatar and Egypt are meeting in Cairo Tuesday for a new round of hostage deal discussions.

The Israeli delegation will not present a revised proposal to negotiators; they have come only to listen to possible options by the other partners, according to Israeli sources close to the negotiations.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected the draft proposal his own team came up with hours before they departed for Egypt.

-ABC News' Jordana Miller

Feb 13, 12:41 PM
Kirby: Renewed hostage negotiations 'moving in the right direction'

National security spokesman John Kirby told reporters that the renewed hostage negotiations have “been constructive” and are "moving in the right direction.”

Officials from Israel, the U.S. and Qatar are in Egypt Tuesday for discussions.

ABC News’ Noah Minnie

Feb 13, 8:13 AM
Israel sends delegation to Egypt for truce talks

A delegation from Israel is in Egypt on Tuesday for negotiations regarding the war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, an Israeli political source told ABC News.

Egyptian state-owned television channel Al-Qahera News reported that Israeli, Qatari and U.S. officials are meeting with their Egyptian counterparts in Cairo on Tuesday to "discuss a truce in Gaza."

Egypt, Qatar and the United States have been mediating talks between the warring sides.

Feb 12, 4:25 PM
Gaza hostage talks may be hitting new snag: US officials

CIA Director Bill Burns will head to Egypt this week to try to move Hamas and Israel closer to a deal to free all hostages in Gaza for an extended pause and humanitarian aid, but two U.S officials said Burns may face a fresh challenge: So far, Israel hasn’t committed to sending representatives to the table.

If Israeli intelligence officials don’t attend the planned talks, a U.S. official said Burns would still press on, working with Egyptian and Qatari partners, even though it would mean none of the main players are directly represented at the meeting.

The official also said that while American and Israeli officials are frequently engaged in high-level talks, the U.S. does not have a clear understanding of Israel’s red lines for a hostage deal.

After two hostages were rescued from Gaza overnight, the official said there could be more targeted rescue missions in the days to come. But, the official said the U.S. believes the vast majority of hostages can only be recovered through diplomacy.

ABC News’ Shannon Crawford

Feb 12, 3:33 PM
State Department downplays Israeli military action in Rafah

State Department spokesperson Matt Miller on Monday downplayed recent Israeli military operations in Rafah, saying the U.S. did not assess that the overnight strikes were a prelude to a full ground incursion in the southern Gaza city.

The Israelis "have conducted airstrikes against Rafah, really, since going back to the original days of the campaign," Miller said. "It is not our assessment that this airstrike is the launch of a full-scale offensive happening in Rafah."

Miller again stressed that the U.S. wanted to see "a credible plan that they can actually execute" to address humanitarian concerns before Israel undertakes any kind of military campaign in Rafah, and that the State Department was looking forward to receiving briefings on the evacuation preparations Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered last week.

The Israel Defense Forces said details of a civilian evacuation from Rafah are being planned and will take some time.

Miller also dismissed the notion that Israel’s strikes on Rafah could have a detrimental impact on hostage talks.

"I don't think it should and I think that Israelis are well within their rights to do everything in their power to try to get back the hostages that were taken from Israel and continue to be held and held for far too long now," he asserted. "It should in no way impact the negotiations."

ABC News’ Shannon Crawford

Feb 12, 1:01 PM
Hostage families commend rescue but say 'time is running out' for remaining hostages

Two hostages, Fernando Simon Marman, 60, and Louis Har, 70, who were among those kidnapped in Israel on Oct. 7, were rescued during a special operation in Rafah in southern Gaza early Monday, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

Israel Defense Forces spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said Monday, "We will continue to make every effort in every way to create the conditions for the return of the abductees, including … the possibility of a deal."

The Hostages and Missing Families Forum Headquarters said in a statement, "We commend the IDF soldiers who demonstrated strength and bravery to secure the release of the two hostages, and wish them all to return home safely and speedily. Time is running out for the remaining hostages held captive by Hamas. Their lives are at risk with each passing moment. The Israeli government must exhaust every option on the table to release them. The lives of 134 hostages still hang in the balance."

Feb 12, 11:21 AM
2 Israeli soldiers killed during hostage rescue mission

Two Israeli soldiers were killed during the mission to rescue two hostages from Gaza on Monday, Israel Defense Forces spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said.

"We are in a day of joy mixed with sadness," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. "Joy for the release of our hostages and sadness for the fall of our fighters. But I want to tell you that the release of Luis and Fernando is one of the most successful rescue operations in the history of the State of Israel."

The two hostages -- Fernando Simon Marman, 60, and Louis Har, 70, who were among those kidnapped in Israel on Oct. 7 -- were rescued during a special operation in Rafah in southern Gaza early Monday, according to the IDF.

Hagari said Monday, "We will continue to make every effort in every way to create the conditions for the return of the abductees, including … the possibility of a deal."

The Hostages and Missing Families Forum Headquarters said in a statement, “We commend the IDF soldiers who demonstrated strength and bravery to secure the release of the two hostages, and wish them all to return home safely and speedily. Time is running out for the remaining hostages held captive by Hamas. Their lives are at risk with each passing moment. The Israeli government must exhaust every option on the table to release them. The lives of 134 hostages still hang in the balance."

Feb 12, 9:09 AM
Israel knew location of 2 rescued hostages in Gaza for weeks, source says

The location of two hostages rescued early Monday from the Gaza Strip was known for weeks, but the special operation was delayed several times due to fears it would cost the hostages their lives, an Israeli source told ABC News.

It took Israeli forces about 40 minutes from the time they entered the building in Rafah in southern Gaza, where the two hostages were being held, to placing them on a helicopter that flew them out of the area, according to the Israeli source.

ABC News' Jordana Miller and Morgan Winsor

Feb 12, 9:00 AM
Netanyahu vows 'continued military pressure, until total victory'

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday hailed the military's announcement that two Israeli hostages were rescued from the war-torn Gaza Strip.

"Fernando and Louis, welcome home," Netanyahu said in a statement. "I salute our brave fighters for the daring action that led to their release. Only continued military pressure, until total victory, will bring about the release of all of our hostages."

"We will not miss any opportunity to bring them home," he added.

The two hostages -- Fernando Simon Marman, 60, and Louis Har, 70 -- were among those kidnapped in southwestern Israel and taken across the border to Gaza amid the Hamas-led Oct. 7 terror attack. They were rescued during a special operation in Rafah in southern Gaza early Monday, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

ABC News' Jordana Miller and Morgan Winsor

Feb 12, 12:41 AM
IDF spokesperson details hostage rescue

Members of the Israeli forces that saved two hostages from Rafah, shielded the hostages from gunfire with their own bodies during the rescue operation, IDF spokesperson Daniel Hagari told reporters during a briefing early Monday morning.

"Police SWAT team members protected the hostages with their own bodies" during the firefight that ensued when Israeli forces entered the room where the hostages were being held, Hagari said.

The rescue operation began at 1:49 a.m. local time on Monday, when IDF forces "breached the building," he said. Armed Hamas militants were on the second floor, Hagari told reporters.

Israeli forces had been preparing for the operation to save the two hostages "for a while," Hagari said.

ABC News' Dana Savir

Feb 11, 3:48 PM
What we know about the conflict

The latest outbreak of war between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that governs the Gaza Strip, has passed the four-month mark.

In the Gaza Strip, at least 28,176 people have been killed and 67,611 others have been wounded by Israeli forces since Oct. 7, according to Gaza's Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health.

In Israel, at least 1,200 people have been killed and 6,900 others have been injured by Hamas and other Palestinian militants since Oct. 7, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

There has also been a surge in violence in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Israeli forces have killed at least 383 people in the territory since Oct. 7, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

The ongoing war began after Hamas-led militants launched an unprecedented incursion into southern Israel from neighboring Gaza via land, sea and air. Scores of people were killed while more than 200 others were taken hostage, according to Israeli authorities. The Israeli military subsequently launched retaliatory airstrikes followed by a ground invasion of Gaza, a 140-square-mile territory where more than 2 million Palestinians have lived under a blockade imposed by Israel and supported by Egypt since Hamas came to power in 2007. Gaza, unlike Israel, has no air raid sirens or bomb shelters.

Feb 11, 3:19 PM
Biden speaks with Netanyahu about possible military operation in Rafah

President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke Sunday in their first call since Biden delivered his strongest rebuke yet of Israel's military operations in Gaza, with Biden calling the Israeli forces' actions "over the top."

In their Sunday call, Biden told Netanyahu a military operation in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where many Palestinians have fled to for safety, "should not proceed without a credible and executable plan for ensuring" civilian safety, the White House said in a statement.

More than half of Gaza's 2.3 million population has sought refuge in Rafah after being displaced from their homes since Israel's military offensive began, according to the United Nations.

When asked about Biden's remark in a Sunday interview with ABC News' "This Week" co-anchor Jonathan Karl, Netanyahu said, "I don't know exactly what he [Biden] meant by that, but put yourself in Israel's shoes. We were attacked. … I think we've responded in a way that goes after the terrorists and tries to minimize the civilian population."

A senior administration official told reporters that Biden's "over the top" comment was "not specifically addressed" during the two leaders’ call on Sunday. Biden instead reiterated that he wants to see Hamas defeated, though it "must be done while ensuring that operations are … conducted in a way that ensures innocents are protected to the extent possible," the official said.

When pressed on if Israel has indicated whether moving more than 1 million civilians in Rafah out of harm’s way is feasible, the senior official said that Israel has "made clear they would not contemplate an operation without it."

The official added that plans to get enough U.S.-procured flour to feed nearly 1.5 million Gazan residents over six months are "coming along," but that logistical issues need to be worked out.

In Biden’s nearly 45-minute phone call with Netanyahu, the two leaders spent about two-thirds of the conversation discussing the ongoing hostage deal negotiations, the senior official said.

The official said a framework for the hostage deal, which has been "a primary focus" for Biden over the last month, is now in place, though there are gaps that need to be worked through. Later, the official conceded that some of those gaps are "significant," but said progress has been made in the last three weeks.

-ABC News' Fritz Farrow

Feb 11, 11:41 AM
Biden Netanyahu to speak Sunday, US official says

President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plan to speak Sunday in their first call since Biden delivered his strongest rebuke yet of Israel's military operations in Gaza, a U.S. official confirmed to ABC News

Biden called the Israeli forces' actions "over the top." When asked about Biden's remark in a Sunday interview with ABC's "This Week" co-anchor Jonathan Karl, Netanyahu said, "I don't know exactly what he [Biden] meant by that, but put yourself in Israel's shoes. We were attacked. … I think we've responded in a way that goes after the terrorists and tries to minimize the civilian population.”

-ABC News’ Fritz Farrow

Feb 11, 11:24 AM
Netanyahu defends Gaza bombardment after Biden criticizes 'over the top' defensive

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is defending the Israeli military’s continued bombardment of Gaza, targeting Hamas fighters, after President Joe Biden criticized the campaign as "over the top" given the dire conditions and high death toll in the Palestinian territory.

When asked about Biden's remark in a Sunday interview with ABC News' "This Week" co-anchor Jonathan Karl, Netanyahu said he appreciated the president's support thus far and laid the blame for civilian casualties on the Hamas terrorist group, which launched an unprecedented surprise attack on Israel on Oct. 7.

"I don't know exactly what he [Biden] meant by that, but put yourself in Israel's shoes. We were attacked. Unprovoked attack, murderous attack on Oct. 7," Netanyahu said, adding, "I think we've responded in a way that goes after the terrorists and tries to minimize the civilian population in which the terrorists embed themselves and use them as human shields." The Israel Defense Forces has said it is only targeting Hamas and other militants in Gaza and alleges that Hamas deliberately shelters behind civilians, which the group denies.

Karl pressed Netanyahu on the number of deaths, with the Hamas-run Gaza Ministry of Health estimating more than 28,000 killed. Netanyahu acknowledged many civilians had been killed but claimed -- without presenting evidence -- that Israel's military is currently killing more Hamas fighters than civilians.

Click here to read more.

-ABC News' Tal Axelrod

Feb 10, 4:49 PM
IDF says it killed 120 Hamas terrorists, claims tunnels found in northern Gaza

The Israeli Defense Forces said it killed approximately 120 Hamas terrorists and destroyed 20 Hamas infrastructure sites in Shati and Tel al-Hawa in northern Gaza.

The IDF said it found a tunnel shaft near an UNRWA school which led to an underground tunnel which passes under the UNRWA's headquarters in the Gaza Strip. The tunnel was over 2,296 feet long, according to the IDF. The IDF alleged that Hamas militants used the space under the UNRWA's headquarters as an electrical supply room.

The UNWRA said it had no knowledge of the facility's underground, but the "recent media reports" merit an "independent inquiry," which the agency is unable to perform due to the ongoing war.

-ABC News' Edward Szekeres

Feb 10, 6:34 AM
More deaths in Rafah as 'disastrous' invasion looms

Israeli airstrikes killed at least 28 Palestinians in Rafah early Saturday, just hours after Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he asked the military to plan for the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people from the southern Gaza city ahead of a ground invasion.

Netanyahu did not provide details or a timeline but the announcement set off widespread panic as more than than half of Gaza's 2.3 million people are packed into Rafah, many after being uprooted repeatedly by Israeli evacuation orders that now cover two-thirds of Gaza's territory.

It's not clear where much of that population could turn to next as word of the potential invasion plans capped a week of increasingly public friction between Netanyahu and the Biden administration.

U.S. officials have said an invasion of Rafah without a plan for the civilian population would lead to disaster.

Feb 09, 2:58 PM
Hostage may have been killed from IDF attack in Gaza, Israeli forces say

The Israel Defense Forces presented information to the family of hostage Yossi Sharabi, who died in Gaza, telling the family that Sharabi may have been killed when a building adjacent to an IDF target in Gaza collapsed, ABC News has learned. It’s also possible Sharabi may have been killed by Hamas, the IDF said.

Sharabi was confirmed dead in mid-January, but this is the first time the IDF has presented their findings on how Sharabi may have died to his family.

The IDF has determined that the buildings its forces hit was a "legitimate target," but also found "lessons" that were "learned regarding target approval processes and the required dialogue between all relevant military authorities for the approval of a target," when reviewing how Sharabi died, ABC News has learned.

Feb 09, 10:16 AM
Israel says it will come up with plan to evacuate civilians in Rafah

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered the Israel Defense Forces to come up with a "dual plan" to evacuate the civilian population in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip before "disbanding" Hamas battalions allegedly located there, according to his office.

"It is impossible to achieve the war objective of eliminating Hamas and leaving four Hamas battalions in Rafah," Netanyahu's office said in a statement Friday. "On the other hand, it is clear that a massive operation in Rafah requires the evacuation of the civilian population from the combat zones."

"That is why the Prime Minister directed the IDF and the defense establishment to bring to the cabinet a dual plan for both the evacuation of the population and the disbanding of the battalions," the office added.

Rafah is the southernmost governorate of Gaza, where more than half of the 2.3 million population has sought refuge after being displaced from their homes amid Israel's military offensive in the Hamas-ruled enclave, according to the United Nations. The U.N. and other aid organizations have expressed concern over where civilians would go if Rafah, which the IDF previously designated a safe zone, becomes the next target in Israel's war against Hamas.

-ABC News' Jordana Miller and Morgan Winsor

Feb 09, 7:16 AM
'Thousands more could die' if fighting escalates in Rafah, UNICEF warns

The United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund on Friday urged Israel and Hamas to refrain from escalating fighting in Rafah, the southernmost governorate in the war-torn Gaza Strip, where more than a million people have sought refuge after being displaced from their homes.

"UNICEF is urgently calling on the parties to refrain from military escalation in Rafah Governorate in Gaza where over 600,000 children and their families have been displaced -- many of them more than once," UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell said in a statement. "An escalation of the fighting in Rafah, which is already straining under the extraordinary number of people who have been displaced from other parts of Gaza, will mark another devastating turn in a war that has reportedly killed over 27,000 people -- most of them women and children."

"Thousands more could die in the violence or by lack of essential services, and further disruption of humanitarian assistance," she added. "We need Gaza's last remaining hospitals, shelters, markets and water systems to stay functional. Without them, hunger and disease will skyrocket, taking more child lives."

ABC News' Nasser Atta, Edward Szekeres and Morgan Winsor

Feb 08, 4:06 PM
US wouldn’t support Israel entering Rafah if civilians aren’t considered: Kirby

The U.S. would not support Israel sending its military into the southern Gaza city of Rafah -- where many Gaza residents have fled for safety -- if Israel does not consider the impact to civilians, White House national security spokesperson John Kirby told reporters.

"More than a million Palestinians are sheltering in and around Rafah. That's where they were told to go," Kirby said. "The Israeli military has a special obligation, as they conduct operations there or anywhere else, to make sure that they're factoring in protection for civilian life -- particularly civilians that were pushed into southern Gaza by operations further north."

"Given the circumstances and the conditions there that we see right now, we think a military operation at this time would be a disaster for those people," Kirby said.

Kirby noted that the U.S. has not seen any Israeli plans "that would convince us that they are about to or imminently going to conduct any kind of major operations in Rafah."

-ABC News’ Fritz Farrow

Feb 08, 3:29 PM
State Department aware of reports of 2 US citizens detained in Gaza

State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel acknowledged Thursday that the U.S. was aware of reports that two American citizens had been detained by the Israel Defense Forces in Gaza but said he couldn’t share anything more.

"We have no higher priority than the safety and security of American citizens overseas," Patel said. "We are aware of these reports, and we are currently seeking additional information. But I don't have any additional information to share and would not be able to at this point, given the privacy considerations."

White House national security spokesperson John Kirby told reporters, "Obviously, this is the kind of thing to take very seriously. So, we'll be talking to our Israeli counterparts and trying to get information, more context here, about what happened."

-ABC News’ Shannon Crawford

Feb 08, 12:30 PM
Netanyahu will likely send negotiators to Cairo in coming days, source says

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will likely send negotiators to Cairo in the coming days, an Israeli political source told ABC News.

Egypt and Qatar are co-hosting a new round of negotiations on the proposed hostage and cease-fire deal on Thursday in Cairo, according to Egyptian state TV.

-ABC News' Jordana Miller

Feb 08, 7:33 AM
Aid groups sound alarm as Israeli troops advance toward Rafah

Aid organizations are sounding the alarm as Israeli troops advance toward Rafah, the southernmost governorate of the war-torn Gaza Strip, where more than a million people are displaced.

The Norwegian Refugee Council warned Thursday that expanded military operations on overcrowded Rafah would "lead to more civilian deaths and risk the aid system in Gaza coming to a halt."

"An expansion of hostilities could turn Rafah into a zone of bloodshed and destruction that people won't be able to escape. There is nowhere left for people to flee to," Angelita Caredda, regional director for the Middle East and North Africa at the Norwegian Refugee Council, said in a statement. "Conditions in Rafah are already dire, and a full-scale Israeli military operation will lead to even more loss of civilian life. Aid workers have been grappling with insecurity and insufficient aid for months. Attacks in areas where they provide food, water and shelter means this life-saving support will be impeded, if not entirely stopped."

"Repeated relocation orders issued by Israeli authorities over four months of hostilities have forced tens of thousands of people to flee multiple times to areas that are not safe and where shelter is not available," Caredda added. "Palestinians are being pushed into tiny corners, narrow alleys, and overcrowded shelters while residential areas continue to be pounded."

The Israel Defense Forces originally designated some of the relocation areas in Gaza as "safe zones," but they have been heavily bombarded, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council. The United Nations estimates that 67% of the coastal enclave, or 246 square kilometers, has been placed under evacuation orders amid the latest outbreak of war between Israel and Gaza's militant rulers, Hamas.

Meanwhile, the International Rescue Committee warned Wednesday that more military operations in Rafah would "significantly disrupt aid transfers from Egypt and prevent aid agencies from delivering even the most basic services to the Palestinian people who were told by Israel they would be safe there."

"More than half of Gaza's 2.2 million population are seeking refuge in Rafah, with the majority residing in temporary shelters, tents, or exposed to the elements," Bob Kitchen, vice resident of emergencies at the IRC, said in a statement. "Within the last 48 hours, airstrikes on residential zones in Rafah have killed at least 11 Palestinians, two of them children. If Israel expands its operations further south, it would mean the renewed forced displacement of more than a million people who have nowhere left to go; and it would end the humanitarian lifeline from Egypt."

"If they aren't killed in the fighting, Palestinian children, women and men will be at risk of dying by starvation or disease," Kitchen added. "There will no longer be a single 'safe' area for Palestinians to go to as their homes, markets, and health services have been annihilated."

Both the IRC and the Norwegian Refugee Council are calling for the warring sides to agree to an immediate cease-fire.

Feb 07, 5:00 PM
Blinken: Hamas counteroffer has 'clear nonstarters,' but there’s 'space for agreement'

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he believes a hostage deal is still within reach, despite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s earlier comments rejecting Hamas’ counteroffer.

"We had an opportunity to discuss with the Israeli government the response that Hamas sent last night to the proposal that the United States, Qatar and Egypt have put together to bring the remaining hostages and extend the humanitarian pause," Blinken said at a news conference in Israel Wednesday. "What I can tell you about these discussions is that while there are some clear nonstarters in Hamas' response, we do think it creates space for agreement to be reached and we will work at that relentlessly until we get there."

Blinken later added, "These things are always negotiations. It's not flipping a light switch."

Blinken said he plans to meet with the families of hostages on Thursday.

As for Israel’s growing offensive in Gaza, Blinken stressed that "any military operation that Israel undertakes needs to put civilians first and foremost in mind."

Blinken said he had outlined specific measures the U.S. expected to see during his "extensive" talks with Netanyahu and Israeli national security leaders.

He said Israel should open a border crossing between Israel and northern Gaza to help improve the flow of humanitarian aid.

-ABC News' Shannon Crawford

Feb 07, 3:23 PM
Freed hostages react to Netanyahu rejecting deal

Freed Israeli hostages and families of those still being held hostage by Hamas are speaking out, pleading for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to agree to a hostage deal, after the prime minister on Wednesday rejected the current proposed deal.

Netanyahu called the deal "delusional," and described it as a "surrender" that would lead to another massacre.

Adina Moshe, who was released after being held hostage for 49 days, said Wednesday, "We love our country. ... But I want my country back and its morality that is gone."

"I fear for the lives and fates of the hostages," Moshe said. "I'm afraid we'll have nothing to pass on to our grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Please, prime minister: If you continue on this path, there will be no more hostages to release. Restore our trust -- release them now."

Sahar Calderon, a 16-year-old who was released after being held hostage for 54 days, said, "Every hour there was hell. . … A terrorist glared at me for 24 hours with murder in his eyes, and every minute I feared being raped."

Calderon’s father is still being held hostage.

"I am grateful to the government for bringing me back, but what about my father, who is abandoned anew every day, uncertain if he will live or die?" she said. "Bring him back -- do not make me lose faith in our country a second time."

Feb 07, 1:45 PM
Israeli prime minister rejects hostage deal proposal

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday rejected the current proposed hostage and cease-fire deal, calling it "delusional," and describing it as a "surrender" that would lead to another massacre. But Netanyahu did not say negotiations were closed.

To the families of the hostages, Netanyahu said in Hebrew, "Your loved ones are always standing before my eyes. ... We do not stop working for the release of our abductees -- even now."

"The continuation of military pressure is a necessary condition for the release of the abductees," he said. "Surrendering to the delusional demands of Hamas ... not only will not lead to the release of the abductees, it will only invite another massacre."

Netanyahu also said it would be "a matter of months" to reach Israel's objectives and achieve "total victory" of completely dismantling Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Netanyahu said he told Secretary of State Antony Blinken in their meeting Wednesday, "We are within touching distance of a complete victory, which will also be the victory of the entire free world -- not only of Israel."

Netanyahu also said the Israeli military operation will expand to the city of Rafah, where thousands of Gaza residents have fled and are living in makeshift shelters.

-ABC News' Anna Burd and Jordana Miller

Feb 07, 12:20 PM
New round of hostage negotiations to take place in Cairo: Egyptian state TV

Egypt and Qatar will co-host a new round of negotiations on the proposed hostage and cease-fire deal on Thursday in Cairo, Egyptian state TV reported.

Feb 07, 10:41 AM
Blinken meets with Netanyahu on latest trip to Israel

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Wednesday.

First, Netanyahu and Blinken "held a long and in-depth meeting in private" before having "an extended meeting" with other Israeli and U.S. officials, according to a statement from the Israeli Prime Minister's Office.

During the meeting, Blinken reaffirmed Israel’s right to eliminate the threat posed by Hamas and the need to protect civilians in Gaza, according to the State Department. Blinken also stressed the importance of a two-state solution -- a prospect Netanyahu has vocally opposed.

It's Blinken's fifth trip to the Middle East since Oct. 7 when war erupted between Israel and Hamas, the militant group that rules the neighboring Gaza Strip. The United States, along with Egypt and Qatar, has been involved in negotiations between the warring sides.

ABC News' Jordana Miller, Shannon Crawford and Morgan Winsor

Feb 07, 7:22 AM
Blinken meets with Netanyahu on latest trip to Israel

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Wednesday.

First, Netanyahu and Blinken "held a long and in-depth meeting in private" before having "an extended meeting" with other Israeli and U.S. officials, according to a statement from the Israeli Prime Minister's Office.

It's Blinken's fifth trip to the Middle East since Oct. 7 when war erupted between Israel and Hamas, the militant group that rules the neighboring Gaza Strip. The United States, along with Egypt and Qatar, has been involved in negotiations between the warring sides.

Feb 06, 7:33 PM
US House fails to pass Israel aid bill

The U.S. House failed to pass a $17.6 billion standalone bill to provide aid to Israel.

The bill failed 250-180 during a vote Tuesday evening.

The GOP measure was being considered under suspension, which required a two-thirds majority to pass.

House Speaker Mike Johnson, who unveiled the standalone bill over the weekend, blamed President Joe Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer for its failure.

"The decision by President Biden and Leader Schumer to torpedo this bill to aid the Israeli people in their fight against Hamas is a disappointing rebuke to our closest ally in the Middle East at their time of great need," Johnson said in a statement following the vote.

The Biden administration had issued a veto threat to the bill on Monday, saying it "strongly opposes" the measure after a bipartisan group of senators came to an agreement on a national security supplemental that includes Israel aid.

Schumer said he was against the bill and wanted Israel aid coupled with aid for Ukraine, Taiwan and the border.

Feb 06, 4:50 PM
Qatari prime minister: Hamas has responded to hostage deal framework

Hamas has formally responded to the proposed framework for a deal exchanging hostages remaining in Gaza for an extended cease-fire, Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani said Tuesday during a press conference with Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

"The reply includes some comments, but in general it is positive," he said via a translator. "However, given the sensitivity of the circumstances we will not tackle details. We are optimistic and we have delivered the response to the Israeli party."

Hamas in a statement did not say they had agreed to the deal but said they "dealt with" the proposed hostage deal "with a positive spirit."

However, after receiving the response from Hamas, Israeli officials indicated a deal is still "far off," according to Israeli political sources.

While Blinken didn’t express the same level of optimism as the Qatari prime minister, he maintained that a hostage deal was within reach, saying now that they had a response from Hamas, negotiators would be "intensely focused on that."

"We’re reviewing that response now, and I’ll be discussing it with the government of Israel tomorrow,” Blinken said. "There is still a lot of work to be done, but we continue to believe that an agreement is possible and indeed, essential, and we will continue to work relentlessly to achieve it."

When asked about the amount of time it took for Hamas to deliver an answer, the Qatari prime minister said "communication was presenting some challenges" and that "it took some time to get them to a place where we get that response," adding, "we are hoping to see it yielding very soon."

Feb 06, 4:02 PM
31 hostages are dead and remain in captivity in Gaza, Israeli sources say

The bodies of 31 hostages remain in Gaza, according to Israeli sources. The 31 hostages either died while being held captive by Hamas or were killed on Oct. 7, the sources said.

-ABC News’ Ellie Kaufman

Feb 06, 1:31 PM
Qatari prime minister: Hamas has responded to hostage deal framework

Hamas has formally responded to the proposed framework for a deal exchanging hostages remaining in Gaza for an extended cease-fire, Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani said Tuesday during a press conference with Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

"The reply includes some comments, but in general it is positive," he said via a translator. "However, given the sensitivity of the circumstances we will not tackle details. We are optimistic and we have delivered the response to the Israeli party."

Hamas in a statement did not say they had agreed to the deal but said they "dealt with" the proposed hostage deal "with a positive spirit."

While Blinken didn’t express the same level of optimism as the Qatari prime minister, he maintained that a hostage deal was within reach, saying now that they had a response from Hamas, negotiators would be "intensely focused on that."

"We’re reviewing that response now, and I’ll be discussing it with the government of Israel tomorrow,” Blinken said. "There is still a lot of work to be done, but we continue to believe that an agreement is possible and indeed, essential, and we will continue to work relentlessly to achieve it."

When asked about the amount of time it took for Hamas to deliver an answer, the Qatari prime minister said "communication was presenting some challenges" and that "it took some time to get them to a place where we get that response," adding, "we are hoping to see it yielding very soon."

ABC News’ Shannon Crawford

Feb 06, 9:48 AM
Blinken meets with Egypt's president amid push for new truce

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi in Cairo on Tuesday to discuss Israel's ongoing war in the neighboring Gaza Strip.

Their "meeting focused on developments in unyielding efforts aimed at reaching a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, exchanging detainees and providing access of needed relief aid to end the severe humanitarian catastrophe in the sector," according to a readout from Egypt’s presidency.

It's Blinken's fifth trip to the Middle East since war erupted between Israel and Gaza’s militant rulers, Hamas. Egypt, Qatar and the United States have been involved in negotiations between the warring sides.

Feb 05, 11:54 AM
UN secretary-general opens independent review into UNRWA

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres announced Monday that he has appointed an independent review group to determine whether the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is "doing everything within its power to ensure neutrality and to respond to allegations of serious breaches when they are made."

The probe comes amid Israel's allegations that a dozen UNRWA employees were involved in the Hamas-led Oct. 7 terror attack.

"These accusations come at a time when UNRWA, the largest U.N. organization in the region, is working under extremely challenging conditions to deliver life-saving assistance to the 2 million people in the Gaza Strip who depend on it for their survival amidst one of the largest and most complex humanitarian crises in the world," Guterres said in a statement.

The independent review group will begin its work on Feb. 14 and will provide an interim report by late March. A final report is due April 2024, according to Guterres.

The probe is separate from an investigation the U.N. Office of Internal Oversight is conducting into the allegations.

UNRWA has said it is investigating the allegations and took swift action against those accused of participating in the attack. However, the United States and other top donors have suspended their funding to the agency, which is the biggest humanitarian aid provider in the war-torn Gaza Strip.

ABC News' Ellie Kaufman and Morgan Winsor

Feb 05, 8:43 AM
Food convoy hit by Israeli naval gunfire in Gaza, UNRWA says

A food aid convoy waiting to move into the north of the Gaza Strip was struck by Israeli naval gunfire on Monday morning, according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

"Thankfully no one was injured," Tom White, director of UNRWA affairs in Gaza, wrote in a post on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

There was no immediate comment from the Israel Defense Forces.

-ABC News' Morgan Winsor

Feb 03, 4:52 PM
House plans vote on standalone Israel aid bill next week

House Speaker Mike Johnson announced on Saturday the House will vote on a standalone $17.6 billion Israel aid package next week.

“Next week, we will take up and pass a clean, standalone Israel supplemental package. During debate in the House and in numerous subsequent statements, Democrats made clear that their primary objection to the original House bill was with its offsets. The Senate will no longer have excuses, however misguided, against swift passage of this critical support for our ally,” Johnson said in a letter to colleagues obtained by ABC News.

This news is a major reversal after House Republicans previously approved a $14.3 billion Israel funding package that included cuts to IRS funding. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer did not bring this legislation to the floor for vote because of Democrats’ opposition to IRS funding cuts.

Johnson again emphasized the Senate negotiated supplemental will face an uphill battle in the House and attacked Senators for excluding him and the House from the bipartisan talks.

-ABC News’ Lauren Peller

Feb 03, 3:21 PM
IDF deploys 3 divisions to northern border amid Hezbollah attacks

The Israeli military has deployed three divisions to the northern border amid Hezbollah’s attacks on northern Israel, IDF spokesman Daniel Hagari said at a press conference Saturday.

He said the IDF is working to “reshape the security reality” on the northern border, so that some 80,000 Israelis displaced by Hezbollah’s attacks can return to their homes.

“We do not choose war as our first option but are certainly ready, and preparing for it all the time, if need be,” Hagari said.

The IDF has struck more than 150 cells, killing some 200 terror operatives, mostly members of Hezbollah, and targeted more than 3,400 Hezbollah sites since the beginning of the war in Gaza, according to Hagari.

-ABC News’ Anna Burd

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Alexei Navalny's allies accuse Russian authorities of deliberately withholding his body

Alex McBride/Getty Images

(MOSCOW) -- Allies of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny are demanding that Russian authorities release his body to his mother and lawyer, claiming it is being deliberately withheld. Russian authorities announced Navalny died in an Arctic prison camp on Friday.

After expressing skepticism over whether he died, Navalny's team confirmed his death, alleging the 47-year-old was murdered and that Russian investigative authorities took away his body for further examination, according to Kira Yarmysh, Navalny's spokesperson.

Navalny was a vocal critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Navalny's team claimed that Russian authorities are deliberately withholding his body from his family and lawyer, expressing concern that authorities could be trying to cover up signs of how he died if he was murdered.

Yarmysh said local investigative police have indicated Navalny's body won't be handed over until after a new "examination" is completed next week.

Navalny's team also claimed that his body is not in the morgue in Salekhard -- the town near to the prison colony where he died -- despite officials telling them so.

Another of Navalny's associates, Ivan Zhdanov, suggested that the body has not been released as the cause of death has not been established.

"When Alexey's lawyer and mother arrived at the colony this morning, they were told that the cause of Navalny's death was sudden death syndrome," Zhdanov said in a statement.

Navalny's team said they were told that a histological examination was performed on his body.

"The results will supposedly be available next week. It's obvious that they are lying and doing everything they can to avoid handing over the body," his team said in a statement.

Navalny's death drew response from around the world, with world leaders sharing their condolences and U.S. officials blaming his death on Putin.

Biden addressed the nation on Friday, saying he was both "not surprised and outraged" while placing the blame directly on Putin and his allies. Asked whether the U.S. is considering imposing more sanctions against Russia, Biden told reporters that the U.S. is looking at a number of options.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova pushed back Friday against the reaction from NATO leaders to Navalny's death, calling the accusations against Russia "self-exposing" and saying there hasn't been a forensic examination yet, but the West's conclusions were already ready.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also denounced blame from Western countries.

"The statements of Western countries are completely obvious," Peskov said. "There is no statement from doctors, no information from forensic experts, no final information from the Federal Penitentiary Service, no information about the causes of death. And there are such statements. It is obvious that they are absolutely rabid. We consider such statements absolutely unacceptable."

401 people arrested in 32 cities in Russia, according to OVD Info.At least 401 people have been arrested in 32 Russian cities as people try to leave flowers at sites to pay their respects to Navalny on Friday and Saturday, according to OVD-Info, an independent Russian human rights media project aimed at combating political persecution. Police in riot gear were seen in video footage detaining some and threatening to disperse people.  

In Moscow, dozens of police were posted by the monument to Victims of Political Repression, which honors victims of the Soviet-era police state, according to videos circulating. The videos show dozens of police officers appearing to roughly detain people and dragging some into police vans. In St. Petersburg, photos show police in full riot gear on guard at a similar monument where people have brought flowers.

Thousands of Russians also gathered in cities elsewhere around the world, including London, to protest Navalny's death on Friday night.

ABC News' Natalia Shumskaia contributed to this report

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


1st Ukrainian city falls since the US became deadlocked in sending more military aid

Kostiantyn Liberov/Libkos/Getty Images

(AVDIIVKA, Ukraine) -- On the same day Alexey Navalny was declared dead in a Russian prison, Vladimir Putin was able to rack up another victory of sorts as Ukraine’s military announced it has retreated from the key city of Avdiivka in eastern Ukraine, ceding it to Russia after months of ferocious fighting that cost tens of thousands of Russian casualties.

Avdiivka is the first notable Ukrainian city to fall to Russia since Bakhmut nearly a year ago. It was a small city with 32,000 inhabitants that has been on the frontline since 2014. Russia has now reduced it to a few skeletal ruins.

It is also the first Ukrainian city to fall since the U.S. became deadlocked in sending more military aid.

Ukrainian forces had held off a huge Russian offensive there since October but as severe ammunition shortages have bitten amid the reduction in Western aid, Russia was able to restore a huge advantage in artillery and airstrikes, allowing it to grind through the defenses and effectively level the city.

In the past two weeks, Russia had managed to finally make significant advances in the north and south, closing in on the encirclement of Avdiivka. Ukrainian troops had no choice but to withdraw or risk being surrounded meaning the withdrawal should prevent the loss of more troops and equipment.

In many ways it was extraordinary Ukraine had held Avdiivka since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion -- partly the result of how heavily fortified it was -- but it now underlines how the initiative is now in Russia’s hands.

Most military analysts do not believe Avdiivka’s fall will have an immediate major impact on Ukraine’s overall position because it will be difficult for Russia to advance further from it, just as it has been from Bakhmut.

Ukraine is focusing on regrouping their remaining troops, replenishing supplies and arranging units in new strategic positions, according to Commander of the Tavria direction Gen. Oleksandr Tarnavskyi.

Meanwhile, a U.S. official briefed last week said that Ukraine may face “catastrophic” shortages of ammunition by March if Congress doesn’t authorize more aid to the embattled country.

Russia has suffered enormous losses to reach this point, however, with losses estimated upward of as many as 20,000 killed and injured since October and over 1,000 armored vehicles since the beginning of its offensive against Avdiivka in October 2023.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Alexei Navalny, vocal critic of Vladimir Putin, dies in prison: Russian government

MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP via Getty Images

(LONDON) -- Alexei Navalny, the longtime Russian opposition politician and critic of Vladimir Putin -- often considered to be a vocal and prominent thorn in the side of the Russian government -- has died in prison at age 47, according to the prison service.

"On 02/16/2024, in correctional colony No. 3, convicted Navalny A.A. felt ill after a walk, almost immediately losing consciousness. The medical staff of the institution immediately arrived, and an ambulance team was called. All necessary resuscitation measures were carried out, which did not give positive results. The doctors of the emergency medical service pronounced the convict dead," the release said.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke about the reported death of Navalny during a meeting with the Indian minister of external affairs in Munich.

"If these reports are accurate, our hearts go out to his wife and to his family," Blinken said. "Beyond that, his death in a Russian prison and the fixation and fear of one man only underscores the weakness and rot at the heart of the system that Putin has built."

"Russia is responsible for this," Blinken continued. "We'll be talking to many other countries concerned about Alexei Navalny, especially if these reports bear out to be true."

Navalny's wife, Yulia Navalnaya, addressed leaders at the Munich Security Conference in Germany following the reports of her husband's death, speaking just after U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris.

"We cannot believe Putin, they always lie," she said. "If this is true, then Putin and his friends should know that they will be responsible for what they have done to the country and my family. And that day will come soon."

"The international community must come together and defeat this evil, terrifying regime that is now in Russia," Navalnaya said.

"This regime and Vladimir Putin must bear personal responsibility for all the terrible things they have been doing to my family, to our country Russia, in recent years," she said.

Her speech was met with a standing ovation.

"Whatever story they tell, let us be clear, Russia is responsible," Harris said, reacting to the news of Navalny's death.

"We've all just received reports that Alexei Navalny has died in Russia. This is of course terrible news, which we are working to confirm," Harris said at the Munich Security Conference.

Not long after the Russian government said Navalny had died, Navalny's spokeswoman said that -- for now -- they have no confirmation of his death and that they will address the public as soon as they have more information.

"For now we have no confirmation of that. Alexey's lawyer is flying now. As soon as we will have any kind of information we will provide it," Kyra Yarmysh, Navalny's spokeswoman wrote on X.

Navalny was being held in an Arctic prison camp, after being transferred there in December.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been informed, according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

The White House is trying to confirm Navalny's death on their side -- but for now National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said, "If it's confirmed, it is a terrible tragedy."

"Given the Russian government's long and sordid history of doing harm to its opponents, it raises real and obvious questions about what happened here," Sullivan said on NPR this morning. "But I'll withhold further comments on it until we learn more and we are actively seeking confirmation as I know, Mr. Navalny's family is as well and we'll determine from there what - what comes next."

The news of Navalny's death is sending shockwaves around the world.

Navalny was a giant in Russian politics and has been referred to as Russia's Nelson Mandela. He made his name with his extraordinary and fearless exposes of Vladimir Putin's personal wealth and converted that into a movement for a free Russia without Putin.

He had come, for many Russians, to represent the hope of a democratic future for Russia. While he lived, despite the new depths of repression Russia has sunk to in the past two years, he represented hope, fueled by his indomitable optimism still broadcast from his prison cell.

Now, however, the anti-Kremlin opposition has just been all but extinguished.

While the cause of death is not yet known, there has been an immediate uproar of suspicions that he may have been murdered.

The suspicions are not unfounded.

In 2018, Russia's FSB attempted to murder Navalny with a nerve agent and nearly succeeded.

But ever since he returned to Russia in 2021 and was immediately jailed, there have been fears for his safety. While in prison, he has been subjected to relentless pressure, spending hundreds of days in solitary confinement and, more recently, being moved to a prison camp in the Arctic.

The timing of Navalny's death is also notable as it comes just a month before Russia's elections, when he -- again -- was telling people to mobilize and to try to expose vote rigging, all to undermine Putin's legitimacy through the vote.

Meanwhile, the pro-Kremlin propaganda channel RT is citing an anonymous source claiming Navalny died from a "blood clot."

The Kremlin has worked consistently to dismantle Navalny's peaceful movement, outlawing it as an "extremist organization" and arresting or driving into exile its leaders.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Israeli families desperate to get hostages home protest to demand action: 'We have no time'

ABC News

(TEL  AVIV, Israel) -- Some families of Israeli hostages say they have reached their breaking point and have begun to take extreme measures to express their frustration more than four months into the Israel-Hamas war.

Dozens of people have blocked traffic in recent days on Israeli highways, lit fires, thrown buckets of fake blood, and shouted chants calling on the government to work harder to bring the hostages home who were taken after Hamas terrorists invaded Israel on Oct. 7.

Many of the protesters at a highway protest that took place a few weeks ago told ABC News that they knew they risked arrest, but after months of despair, and a growing desperation too see their loved ones again, they needed to do something.

Hamas and other Palestinian militants took roughly 250 people hostage on Oct. 7, and it is estimated about 130 hostages remain in Gaza.

At least 1,200 people have been killed and 6,900 others have been injured by Hamas and other Palestinian militants since Oct. 7, according to the Israeli officials.

At least 28,576 people have been killed and 68,291 others have been wounded in Gaza by Israeli forces since Oct. 7, according to Gaza's Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health.

Shahar Mor, whose cousins were kidnapped and brought into Gaza on Oct. 7, was at the recent highway protest and told ABC News he was detained by Israeli authorities a week earlier but did not care.

"We have no time," Mor said.

The highway protest was the latest in a series of protests by families aimed at officials. Last month, protesters burst into an Israeli Parliament finance committee meeting and began berating the parliamentarians.

"What if it was your family?" the protesters shouted.

The families said their anxiety has been growing, especially after learning about some of the horrors faced by hostages who have been returned.

Chen Goldstein Almog said she was held captive for seven weeks after she and her family were taken on Oct. 7. Before she was released, she was held captive in a Gazan tunnel and says she heard and witnessed sexual assaults on other female hostages.

"I know about four stories. You need to understand the statistics, I haven’t met all the girls there," Almog said.

Yagil Yaakov was separated from his brother Or and the two were taken by different militant groups on Oct. 7. Their father was also taken.

For over 50 days, he was held by himself with no other captives and only given a transistor radio, he said.

"[I was] listening to the radio once in about an hour, hearing about people who were murdered, abducted," Yaakov told ABC News.

Although he and his brother were returned to their mother after 52 days of captivity, Yaakov had told ABC News' Matt Gutman he still has no word about his father.

"We really want a sign of life. We really want to know what's going on with him, something," he said.

On Thursday, Israel announced that Yagil’s father, Yair, is believed to have died in captivity.

In the meantime, Mor and other family members of the hostages said they would continue to raise their voices to the powers that be to get more movement.

"Does it help? We hope. We hope," Mor said of his protests.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Fears grow in Gazan city of Rafah ahead of potential Israel ground operation

Abed Zagout/Anadolu via Getty Images

(TEL AVIV and LONDON) -- Before war erupted between Israel and Hamas in October, the city of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip was home to around 250,000 people. Now, the population has swelled to an estimated 1.4 million, according to the United Nations, and residents are living in fear of a potentially major Israeli military ground operation on the horizon.

Rafah has been earmarked as the next area to be targeted by Israeli ground forces, similar to what has already been seen in Gaza City and Khan Younis further north.

“We will fight until complete victory and this includes a powerful action also in Rafah after we allow the civilian population to leave the battle zones,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

"The areas that we've cleared north of Rafah are -- plenty of areas there, but we are working out a detailed plan to do so, and that's what we've done up to now," Netanyahu told ABC's "This Week" on Sunday. "We're not, we're not cavalier about this. This is part of our war effort to get civilians out of harm's way. It's part of Hamas' effort to keep them in harm's way. But we've so far succeeded, and we're going to succeed again. Those who say that under no circumstances should we enter Rafah are basically saying, lose the war, keep Hamas there."

Last week, Netanyahu requested the Israeli military to come up with a “dual plan” to evacuate the civilian population in Rafah before “disbanding” Hamas battalions allegedly located there, according to his office.

The Israeli military has not yet issued a formal evacuation order to the residents of Rafah, which was once thought of as a safe zone amid the fighting in Gaza. Many of those currently living there have been displaced more than once since the war began, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross. Satellite imagery obtained by ABC News shows a sprawling tent city in Rafah that has expanded around the outskirts to accommodate the refugee population.

The Israeli military launched a daring raid in Rafah that freed two Israeli hostages from an apartment building where they were held captive in the city on Monday. A wave of Israeli airstrikes accompanying the raid killed dozens of people, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run Ministry of Health. Around 100 hostages are still believed to be held by Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups in Gaza, according to Israeli officials.

Abdullah Abu Adra, a resident living in Rafah, told ABC News an explosion caused part of his roof to fall in. He said his hand was injured, and, although his children were not hurt, he said they "did not stop crying." The sound of bombing was "everywhere" during the strikes, he said.

“Where shall we go? Where shall we go?” Abu Adra said. “By God, it is a terrifying thing. To be honest, by God, they say there is still safe areas. Where is it?”

In response to criticism about the impact of the war on the civilian population, Israel has said Hamas deliberately hides among civilians and bears responsibility for the casualties. Hamas has denied that its group members shelter behind civilians.

The United Nations’ top court has ordered Israel to do all it can to prevent the deaths of civilians during its military operations in Gaza. Meanwhile, the United States has publicly called on Israel to come up with a realistic plan to protect civilians if its ground forces enter Rafah, and multiple aid agencies have sounded the alarm over the potentially “catastrophic” consequences. Other countries -- including the U.K., France, Germany and Canada -- have issued warnings and urged for a cease-fire.

ABC News has verified several videos showing columns of people leaving Rafah in anticipation of the possible assault.

“Military operations in Rafah could lead to a slaughter in Gaza,” Martin Griffiths, the U.N.’s Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said in a statement Tuesday. “They could also leave an already fragile humanitarian operation at death’s door … The international community has been warning against the dangerous consequences of any ground invasion in Rafah. The Government of Israel cannot continue to ignore these calls.”

Negotiations between the warring sides on a potential cease-fire and hostage deal currently were held in Egypt this week, offering to a glimmer of hope for the people of Rafah. But many are still fearing the worst.

“I feel that it’s over,” Rama Radmi Abu Al-Ainin, a 10-year-old Palestinian girl staying in one of Rafah’s many crowded shelters, told ABC News on Wednesday. “That now any second we will become martyrs.”

ABC News' Samy Zayara contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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