The Latest | Germany will resume working with UN relief agency for Palestinians after a review

Germany said Wednesday that it plans to follow several other countries in resuming cooperation with the U.N. relief agency for Palestinians in Gaza after the publication of an independent review of its neutrality.

The head of the Arab League hailed the report, saying it showed that Israel’s allegations were baseless and part of a “systematic campaign” meant to end the mandate of the agency.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry called Germany’s decision “regrettable and disappointing.” Israel says that hundreds of UNRWA workers are members of Palestinian militant groups, and claims the report understated the problem. Its allegations led to the suspension of contributions to UNRWA by the United States and more than a dozen other countries.

Also Wednesday, the Israeli military said it is redeploying two reserve brigades from its northern border to Gaza for “defensive and tactical missions," as it prepares for an offensive in Rafah, which Israel describes as Hamas' last stronghold in the territory.

More than half of the territory’s population of 2.3 million have sought refuge in Rafah.

U.S. President Joe Biden signed into law on Wednesday a $95 billion war aid measure that includes around $9 billion in humanitarian assistance for Gaza, which experts say is on the brink of famine, as well as billions for Israel.

The Israel-Hamas war was sparked by the unprecedented Oct. 7 raid into southern Israel in which militants killed around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducted around 250 hostages. Israel says the militants are still holding around 100 hostages and the remains of more than 30 others.

The war has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians, according to local health officials, around two-thirds of them children and women.


— A blast near a ship off Yemen may mark a new attack by Houthi rebels after a recent lull

Hamas releases video showing well-known Israeli-American hostage

— Biden signs a $95 billion war aid measure with assistance for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan

— Police tangle with students in Texas and California as wave of campus protest against Gaza war grows

— Nepal asks visiting Qatari emir to help free Nepali student held hostage by Hamas

Here is the latest:


UNITED NATIONS — The U.N.’s top humanitarian official for Gaza says Israel has taken steps to improve the delivery of aid to Gaza but further urgent measures are needed to increase the volume of food and other critical items needed in the territory that faces looming famine.

Sigrid Kaag, the U.N. senior humanitarian and reconstruction coordinator for Gaza, told the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday that “a paradigm shift is needed to continue to meet the immense needs of the civilian population in a safe and secure manner.”

She said this requires further scaling up “in the quality and quantity of assistance,” irreversible steps to enable the safe and unhindered delivery of aid in Gaza, and “timely preparations” for projects to start early recovery of Gaza.

Kaag said she and her team have worked to launch a new streamlined land corridor from Jordan and to maximize access for humanitarian cargo from Egypt through the Rafah and Kerem Shalom crossings.

She said a “U.N. mechanism” to accelerate the provision of aid to Gaza that the Security Council called for in a December resolution will start operating “in the coming days,” initially by land from Jordan and by sea from Cyprus.

She added that “a database and notification system will go online for all cargo destined for Gaza along supply routes.”

Kaag said her team has “very constructive cooperation” with Israel, which she said has taken a number of steps since April 5.

She said that includes increasing the volume of aid crossing into Gaza, temporarily opening the Erez crossing and opening the port of Ashdod for humanitarian goods, increasing the number of trucks entering from Jordan and preparing other crossings to northern Gaza where acute hunger and looming famine are worst. She also cited the resumption of some bakery operations in central and northern Gaza and the repair of the water pipeline to northern Gaza.

But Kaag said other measures need urgent implementation, including improvement in checkpoint procedures and clearing humanitarian convoys as well as repairing roads and approving additional communication equipment, armored vehicles and spare parts for critical equipment.

“Agreement on medical and casualty evacuation is equally urgent,” she said, and improved communications between aid workers and Israeli military decisionmakers and “effective and credible deconfliction “is vital for all humanitarian actors on the ground.”


JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has lashed out at pro-Palestinian demonstrations on American college campuses, calling them antisemitic and comparing them to the lead-up to the Holocaust.

In a video statement released Wednesday, Netanyahu said that “antisemitic mobs have taken over leading universities” where “they call for the annihilation of Israel.”

“This is reminiscent of what happened in German universities in the 1930s,” he said. “It’s unconscionable.”

He called on state, local and federal officials to intervene.

Groups organizing the protests deny allegations of antisemitism, saying the demonstrations are directed at Israel and its actions in Gaza.

Students demanding schools cut financial ties to Israel and divest from companies enabling its monthslong conflict, which was sparked by Hamas' Oct. 7 attack in southern Israel. Dozens have been arrested on charges of trespassing or disorderly conduct.

Some Jewish students are taking part in the protests, while others say the demonstrations have veered into antisemitism and made them afraid to set foot on campus.


WASHINGTON — U.S. President Joe Biden on Wednesday called on Israel to ensure that just-approved humanitarian assistance reaches Gaza “without delay.”

Biden had just signed a sweeping war aid package that includes $26 billion in assistance to Israel and humanitarian relief for the Gaza Strip. In remarks from the White House, Biden said the bill “significantly, significantly” increases humanitarian aid to the territory and that he’s been working “intently for months” to make that possible.

“Israel must make sure all this aid reaches the Palestinians in Gaza, without delay,” Biden said.


JERUSALEM — Hamas has released a recorded video of a renowned Israeli American hostage.

The video was the first sign of life of Hersh Goldberg-Polin since Hamas' Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel. It's not clear when the video was taken.

In it, Goldberg-Polin accused Israel’s government of abandoning the people who are being held hostage by Hamas. He also claimed that some 70 captives have been killed in Israel’s bombing campaign. Goldberg-Polin was clearly speaking under duress, and the claim could not be independently verified.

Goldberg-Polin, 23, was at the Tribe of Nova music festival when Hamas launched its attack from nearby Gaza. In the video, Goldberg-Polin is missing part of his left arm.

Witnesses said he lost it when attackers tossed grenades into a shelter where people had taken refuge. He tied a tourniquet around it before being bundled into the truck.

Though there was no date on the video, Goldberg-Polin appeared to reference the weeklong Jewish holiday of Passover. Passover began Monday.

His family said it gave permission for the video to be published after Hamas released it.

“This distressing video serves as an urgent call to take swift and decisive action to resolve this horrific humanitarian crisis and ensure the safe return of our loved ones,” the family said in a statement released by a forum for hostages' relatives.

Hostages’ families have accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government of not doing enough to secure the release of their relatives.

Goldberg-Polin is one of the most recognized captives. Posters with his image are pinned up across Israel. His mother, Rachel Goldberg, has met with world leaders and addressed the United Nations.


JERUSALEM — Israel’s defense minister said Wednesday that half of Hezbollah’s commanders in southern Lebanon “have been eliminated” and the others are in hiding.

Yoav Gallant spoke during a visit to the Israeli military’s Northern Command, which has been spearheading the low-intensity conflict with the Lebanese militant group that erupted after the start of the Gaza war.

“The operational results are very impressive,” he said. “We caused half of them to die, and half of them to hide and abandon southern Lebanon.”

He did not provide any evidence, and there was no way to independently verify those claims. A Hezbollah spokesperson declined to comment.

Hezbollah began launching attacks along the border shortly after Hamas’ Oct. 7 assault triggered the Gaza war. The two militant groups are close allies backed by Iran.

The fighting has grown in intensity in recent months, with Israel carrying out a number of strikes that have killed senior Hezbollah operatives as the militants launch barrages of rockets and drones into northern Israel. Tens of thousands of people have been displaced from communities on both sides of the border. Israel has insisted they must return, and neither side has ruled out a wider war.


CAIRO — The Gaza Health Ministry said Wednesday the bodies of 79 people killed in Israeli strikes have been brought to local hospitals over the past 24 hours. Hospitals also received 86 wounded people, it said in its daily report.

That brings the overall Palestinian death toll from the Israel-Hamas war to at least 34,262, the ministry said. Another 77,229 have been injured, it said.

The Health Ministry doesn't distinguish between fighters and civilians in its tallies, but has said that women and children make up around two thirds of those killed.

The Israeli military says it has killed some 12,000 militants, without providing evidence to back up the claim.


JERUSALEM — A suspected attack targeted a ship off Djibouti near the crucial Bab el-Mandeb Strait, authorities said Wednesday.

It wasn’t immediately clear who carried out the attack, though Yemen’s Houthi rebels have launched dozens of assaults on shipping since November over Israel’s war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations center reported the attack. The private security firm Ambrey did as well.

The attack happened near the Bab el-Mandeb, which separates the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, as well as East Africa from the Arabian Peninsula.


BEIRUT — Israel’s air force carried out a series of airstrikes on border areas in southern Lebanon Wednesday hours after Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah said it fired dozens of rockets in retaliation for strikes a day earlier that killed two civilians.

Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV reported as many as 14 airstrikes Wednesday on the outskirts of the border villages of Aita al-Shaab and Ramia.

Israel’s military spokesman said they are striking at Hezbollah targets in south Lebanon, adding that details will follow later.

Hezbollah earlier said that it fired dozens of rockets at the northern Israeli village of Shomera in retaliation for an airstrike the day before that killed a woman and a 10-year-old girl and also wounded six people.

Hezbollah also said that it fired two missiles at a building in the northern Israeli village of Avivim saying Israeli troops were taking positions inside it.

Hezbollah started attacking Israeli military posts along the border on Oct. 8, a day after the militant Palestinian group Hamas carried out its attack on southern Israel killing 1,200 people and taking 250 hostages triggering the ongoing war.

Since then more than 350 people have been killed in Lebanon including over 260 Hezbollah members and about 50 civilians. The exchange has killed at least 12 soldiers and nine civilians in Israel.


CAIRO — Egyptian authorities have arrested around two dozen activists who held a protest outside a U.N. facility in Cairo in solidarity with Palestinians in war-torn Gaza, a rights lawyer said Wednesday.

Lawyer Khaled Ali said at least 18 activists, mostly women, were arrested Tuesday when police forces broke up the protest outside the regional office of the U.N. women’s agency in Cairo’s district of Maadi.

Later Wednesday, prosecutors ordered the release of everyone who was detained, said Khaled el-Balshy, head of the Journalists’ Union.

There was no comment from the government.

The protesters called for the protection of women in Gaza amid Israel’s monthslong war on Hamas. They were also voicing solidarity for civilians in Sudan, which has been plunged into a destructive war between rival generals since April last year.

Among those detained were prominent rights lawyers Mahinour el-Masry and Ragia Omran, and activists Rasha Azab and Iman Ouf, Ali said. A couple of bystanders were also detained when police forces dispersed the protest, he added.

Though Egypt’s government has condemned Israel’s campaign in Gaza, it has largely banned public protests against the war. Criticism of the country’s ties with Israel, with which it signed a peace accord in 1979, is highly sensitive.

Earlier this month, security forces arrested 10 activists who participated in a pro-Palestinian protest. They were later released.


JERUSALEM — The Israeli military says its forces shot dead a Palestinian woman after she allegedly ran toward Israeli soldiers with a knife in the southern West Bank on Wednesday.

The military said it took place at Okfim junction near the Palestinian city of Hebron. No soldiers were injured.

Palestinian authorities identified the slain woman as 20-year-old Maimuna Harahsheh.

Violence has surged in the West Bank since the Israel-Hamas war broke out on Oct. 7., when Hamas militants from Gaza broke into southern Israel, killing 1,200 people.

Rights groups and Palestinians say Israeli forces use excessive force against Palestinian suspects, a problem they say has worsened since the Israel-Hamas conflict erupted.

Since October, at least 487 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in the West Bank, the Ramallah-based Health Ministry says.

Many Palestinians have been shot dead in armed clashes, some in attempted stabbing attacks, and others for throwing stones at troops. Several appear to have been shot dead while posing no apparent threat.


CAIRO — The head of the Arab League on Wednesday hailed the conclusion of an independent review of the neutrality of the U.N. relief agency for Palestinians.

Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said the wide-ranging 48-page report by the independent panel showed that Israel’s allegations were baseless and part of a "systematic campaign” meant to end the mandate of the agency, known as UNRWA.

The report, which was released earlier this week, found that Israel had never expressed concern about anyone on the staff lists it has received annually since 2011.

It said UNRWA has “robust” procedures to uphold the U.N. principle of neutrality, but it cited serious gaps in implementation.

Israel says that hundreds of UNRWA workers are members of Palestinian militant groups. Its allegations led to the suspension of contributions to UNRWA by the United States and more than a dozen other countries, but some have resumed contributions. Israel says the report ignored the severity of the problem.

In a statement, Aboul Gheit urged all countries that suspended funding to resume financial assistance for UNRWA, which helps 6 million Palestinians. He said a review of these countries’ position is a “humanitarian necessity and a moral duty," specifically urged UNRWA’s largest donor, the U.S., to reconsider.


TEL AVIV, Israel — The Israeli military said it is deploying two reserve brigades for missions in the Gaza Strip.

Wednesday’s announcement came as Israel prepared for a ground invasion of Rafah, the southern Gaza city that Israel says is Hamas’ last major stronghold.

More than half of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million is sheltering in the city, and an offensive there has raised international concern over the potential harm to civilians. Israel has been gradually reducing the number of troops it has in the territory, but officials have said that was with the aim of regrouping as the army prepares to move into Rafah.

Israel considers an invasion there necessary to meet its war aim of destroying Hamas’ military and governing capabilities.

In a statement Wednesday, the Israeli military said the brigades would be involved in “defensive and tactical missions” in Gaza, without elaborating. It said the soldiers have been studying the main lessons from the fighting in Gaza ahead of their deployment.

The military said the brigades had previously been operating along Israel’s northern border, where the militant group Hezbollah and Israeli forces have been exchanging fire throughout the war in Gaza.

04/24/2024 23:01 -0400

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