The Latest | US is removing aid pier from Gaza coast again due to weather, officials say

The U.S.-built aid pier will be detached from Gaza’s coast for a second time due to rough seas, two U.S. officials said Friday, raising further questions about the viability of the sea route.

Palestinians are facing widespread hunger because the war has largely cut off the flow of food, medicine and other supplies. U.N. agencies say over 1 million in Gaza could experience the highest level of starvation by mid-July.

The military would move the pier late Friday and into Saturday to prevent it from breaking apart as it did late last month in bad weather, the two officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss military planning. The officials expect the pier will be back in place and operating again by next week.

The $230 million project has been beset by security, logistical and other problems since aid first rolled ashore May 17.

Although aid has been unloaded in a secure area onshore for several days, humanitarian agencies have stopped picking up and distributing it throughout Gaza. The U.N. is weighing whether it can safely and ethically keep delivering supplies from the pier, after Israeli forces used the area near the pier to evacuate hostages and a wounded commando, according to the U.S. and Israeli militaries, during last week's operation that killed more than 270 Palestinians.

U.S. President Joe Biden said Thursday he doesn’t expect to seal a Gaza cease-fire deal in the near future, as an American-backed proposal with global support has not been fully embraced by Israel or Hamas.

Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza has killed more than 37,100 people, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between combatants and civilians in its count.

Israel launched the war after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack, in which militants stormed into southern Israel, killed some 1,200 people — mostly civilians — and abducted about 250.


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Two-thirds of Gaza water and sanitation infrastructure is destroyed or damaged by war, UN says

UNITED NATIONS — More than two-thirds of Gaza's water and sanitation facilities and infrastructure are estimated to have been destroyed or damaged since the Israel-Hamas war began eight months ago, the United Nations says.

U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters Friday that U.N. partners working on water, sanitation and hygiene in Gaza report additional losses of key water and sanitation assets during the recent intensification of military operations.

They said five water production wells in Jabalaya in the north have been lost along with two water wells and two desalination plants in the southern city of Rafah, where Israel is conducting major military operations, he said.

Haq said U.N. humanitarian officials report that displaced Palestinian families continue to face “dire conditions and significant challenges in accessing basic services.”

The U.N. humanitarian office led two assessments last week to informal displacement sites in the central city of Deir al-Balah where thousands of Palestinians have sought shelter.

“They said the shelters are overcrowded and lack sanitation infrastructure, with distributions that are irregular, and residents reported a range of health issues such as hepatitis A, skin diseases and respiratory illnesses.” Haq said. “Access to water is also critically low.”

U.N. humanitarian officials also underscored that aid operations in Gaza are facing serious impediments which must be lifted, he said.

Palestinian Islamic Jihad is ready to send more fighters from Syria to Lebanon in case of war with Israel, official says

DAMASCUS, Syria — The Syrian branch of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group is prepared to send more forces to Lebanon in case Israel launches a full-scale war against the militant group Hezbollah, an Islamic Jihad official said Friday.

“All Palestinian youth look forward to facing the Israeli occupation and joining Hezbollah in this resistance,” said Ismail al-Sendawi, national relations officer for the Islamic Jihad in Syria. He spoke at a ceremony in Damascus commemorating members of the group from Syria who died fighting in Lebanon over the past eight months.

Sixteen Palestinian refugees from Syria, all Islamic Jihad members, have died to date fighting on the Israel-Lebanon border.

Ahmed Saleh, 62, said his 22-year-old son, Mohammed, a former factory worker, was killed in southern Lebanon in December and his older son is still fighting there.

“I am proud that I am the father of a martyr. My son is a fighter for the children of Gaza and a fighter for Palestine,” he said. “I encouraged my son to join the fight in the south.”

Like the larger and stronger Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad was formed in the 1980s as a radical Islamist movement to resist Israel’s occupation of Gaza.

Hezbollah, which is allied with Hamas and Islamic Jihad and, like them, backed by Iran, has been clashing near-daily with Israeli forces against the backdrop of Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza. The fighting has escalated in recent weeks, raising fears of a full-scale war on the Lebanon-Israel front.

G7 nations say Israel must stop actions that weaken Palestinian government in West Bank

BORGO EGNAZIA, Italy — The Group of Seven nations warned Israel to stop any “actions that weaken the Palestinian Authority,” after far-right Israeli leaders moved to withhold tax funds from the fledgling Palestinian government in the West Bank.

The statement was made Friday in the final communique from the G7 leading industrialized nations summit in Italy.

Under interim peace accords in the 1990s, Israel collects tax revenue on behalf of the Palestinians, and it has used the money as a tool to pressure the Palestinian Authority, which administers some parts of the West Bank. Hamas violently expelled the PA from Gaza in 2007.

The G7 called on Israel to release tax revenues in light of the PA’s “urgent fiscal needs.” The leaders also demanded Israel “remove or relax other measures to avoid further exacerbating the economic situation in the West Bank.”

The statement came a day after Israel’s firebrand finance minister, Bezalel Smotrich, said he would reroute some of the funds earmarked for the PA to “victims of terrorism” in Israel.

After the Oct. 7 Hamas that triggered the war in Gaza, Smotrich froze the tax revenue transfers. But Israel agreed to send the money to Norway, which transferred it to the PA.

Smotrich has said he is ending that arrangement and is pursuing other financial measures that would handicap the PA’s already-waning ability to pay salaries to thousands of employees.

US-built aid pier will be removed from Gaza coast again due to weather, officials say

WASHINGTON — The U.S.-built aid pier will be detached from Gaza’s coast for a second time due to rough seas, two U.S. officials said Friday, raising further questions about the viability of the sea route.

The military is detaching the causeway and moving it late Friday and into Saturday to prevent it from breaking apart again, as it did late last month when it was hit by bad weather, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss military planning.

The officials expect it will be back in place by next week and will be operating again.

Palestinians are facing widespread hunger because the war has largely cut off the flow of food, medicine and other supplies. U.N. agencies say over 1 million in Gaza could experience the highest level of starvation by mid-July.

Aid has been moving from Cyprus through the pier to the secure area onshore for several days. But aid agencies have currently paused their effort to pick up and distribute the aid while they conduct a security review.

The United Nations, the player with the widest reach delivering aid within Gaza, has paused its work with the pier after a June 8 operation by Israeli security forces that rescued four Israeli hostages and killed more than 270 Palestinians.

Two thirds of all roads in Gaza damaged or destroyed by war, UN says

GENEVA — Around two thirds of all roads in the Gaza Strip have been damaged or destroyed by war, the U.N. satellite center says its latest analysis.

The United Nations Satellite Center said Friday its assessment was based on high-resolution satellite imagery collected on May 29, after almost eight months of fighting between Israel and Hamas.

UNOSAT released a satellite photo of the tiny Palestinian territory overlaid with a color-coded map of the dense road network. It appears to show nearly all of the roads in Gaza City and areas north of Wadi Gaza have been affected by the fighting, as well as most of the roads in the southern city of Khan Younis

Roads were also destroyed in zones running along much of the length of Gaza's borders with Israel and Egypt.

UNOSAT identified approximately 1,100 kilometers (683.51 miles) of destroyed roads, 350 kilometers (217 miles) of severely affected roads and 1,470 kilometers (913 miles) of moderately affected roads. The center said this totals roughly 65% of the road network.

The center did not elaborate on its criteria for categorizing the damage, and noted this was a preliminary analysis that hadn’t yet been backed up by on-the-ground examinations.

Israel faces growing international criticism for its strategy of systematic destruction in Gaza, at a huge cost in civilian lives. A cease-fire proposal outlined by the U.S. calls for major reconstruction of Gaza, which faces decades of rebuilding from devastation caused by the war.

Israel won't join French-proposed effort to calm fighting with Lebanon's Hezbollah, defense minister says

JERUSALEM — Israel will not join a trilateral effort to stem fighting with Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group proposed by France's president, Israel’s defense minister said Friday.

“As we fight a just war, defending our people, France has adopted hostile policies against Israel,” Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said in a statement from his office rejecting the French proposal.

French President Emmanuel Macron mentioned the effort Thursday on the sidelines of the G7 conference in Italy. He said France, the U.S. and Israel had agreed to work jointly towards quelling tensions between Hezbollah and Israel, who have exchanged cross-border fire nearly every day since the war in Gaza began in early October.

“We have agreed on the principle of a trilateral between Israel, the United States, and France to advance the roadmap we have proposed,” said Macron.

Gallant’s rejection of the French proposal was criticized by senior officials in Israel’s Foreign Ministry in a rare public spat.

“We disapprove of Minister of Defense Gallant’s attacks on France,” the officials wrote Friday. They said France had supported Israel in many ways over the course of the war — by assisting Israeli defenses against an Iranian missile attack in April, by sanctioning Hamas and Iran, and by fighting antisemitism domestically.

Tensions are escalating dramatically on Israel’s northern border over the last few after an Israeli airstrike killed a senior Hezbollah commander. Hezbollah has fired hundreds of rockets toward Israel, igniting major fires in Israel’s north. In retaliation, Israel has continued to strike Hezbollah bases, with airstrikes in Lebanon’s south killing and wounding civilians.

US sanctions an Israeli group that blocked aid convoys for Gaza

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration has sanctioned a group of hard-line Israeli activists who have blocked humanitarian aid from reaching desperately hungry Palestinian civilians in Gaza.

The State Department sanctions were leveled Friday against Tzav 9, which has blocked a major highway in southern Israel in an effort to prevent the delivery of aid. U.S. officials say the group has also looted and set fire to trucks carrying aid through the West Bank toward Jordan.

In announcing the sanctions, the State Department said the Israeli government had a responsibility to ensure that humanitarian convoys could safely reach Gaza, and that acts of sabotage and violence would not be tolerated.

In a statement in response, Tzav 9 called the Biden administration’s decision to impose sanctions “shocking” and asserted that the aid that’s being delivered falls directly into the hands of Hamas. The group said it should not be “required to feed the enemy” and said that blocking aid was its right and duty.

International sanctions have already targeted 13 hard-line Israeli settlers — as well as two affiliated outposts and four groups — over accusations of attacks and harassment against Palestinians in the West Bank. The measures are meant as a deterrent, and they expose people to asset freezes and travel and visa bans.

Messages seeking comment on the new sanctions were not immediately returned by Israel’s Foreign Ministry as well as the offices of Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, two of the most extreme ministers in Israel’s governing coalition who have deep ties to the settler movement.

The United Nations said it hopes there are no attacks on U.N. or other humanitarian convoys for Gaza, and has been asking all parties to make sure aid is delivered "without any hindrance or obstruction," U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said.

Hezbollah says its intensified attacks show Israel that an all-out war would be costly

BEIRUT — A senior official with the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah said its intensified attacks along Israel’s northern border will make it difficult for Israel to stage an all-our war on Lebanon because it knows the conflict would be costly.

The attacks are also pressuring Israel to end the war in the Gaza Strip, said Sheikh Ali Daamoush in a sermon during Friday prayers. His comments came as Iran-backed Hezbollah claimed it fired rockets into northern Israel in a third day of barrages, saying it struck several military posts including two in the towns of Metula and Misgav Am.

The Israeli military said approximately 35 projectiles were identified crossing from Lebanon into the areas of Kiryat Shmona and Kfar Szold in northern Israel earlier Friday. The army said that as a result of the launches, a fire broke out in the area of Kfar Szold. Israeli army artillery fired toward the sources of the launches, it said.

Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency reported an Israeli airstrike Friday on the border village of Kfar Kila. Late Thursday, an Israeli strike on the south Lebanon village of Janata killed two women and wounded 19, according to Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV.

Hezbollah's intensified attacks come after an Israeli strike late Tuesday killed the most senior military commander with the group since fighting began along the Lebanon-Israel border in early October.

These cross-border attacks have been taking place almost daily. This week's escalation comes as some Israeli leaders have threatened all-out war to silence Hezbollah’s rocket fire, which has displaced tens of thousands of Israelis, and Hezbollah seeks to exert pressure in support of its Palestinian ally Hamas during back-and-forth negotiations over a cease-fire in Gaza.

More than 400 people have been killed in Lebanon, mostly fighters, but they include over 70 civilians and non-combatants. Tens of thousands have also been displaced. On the Israeli side, at least 15 soldiers and 10 civilians have been killed.

The United Nations is “encouraging all parties to exercise maximum restraint and refrain from any action or statement that could further fuel tensions,” U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said Friday.

Two high-ranking Israeli will visit Washington next week

JERUSALEM — Two high-ranking Israeli officials will visit the U.S. next week, said an Israeli official Friday, as a U.S.-backed ceasefire proposal to end the grinding Israel-Hamas war hangs in the balance.

Israel’s strategic affairs minister Ron Dermer and national security adviser Tzachi Hanegbi will fly to Washington next week, the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject matter.

The meetings come as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visits the Middle East to try to bridge gaps between Israel and Hamas over the proposal, which U.S. President Joe Biden announced earlier this month. It’s the latest serious attempt to wind down the war in Gaza.

Biden said Thursday he doesn’t expect to cement the deal in the near future, as it has not been fully embraced by Israel or Hamas.

Israeli strike in central Gaza kills 2 and wounds several others including kids, hospital officials say

DEIR Al-BALAH — An Israeli airstrike on a home in the central Gaza city of Deir al-Balah killed two people and wounded several others including children, hospital officials said.

The bodies of the two men were brought to the Al Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir al-Balah.

The seven wounded, including three children and one woman, were also brought for treatment at the hospital.

Earlier in the day, the bodies of two fishermen were brought to the hospital after they were shot by Israel’s navy, the officials said.

Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza has killed more than 37,100 people, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between combatants and civilians in its count.

The Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel killed that sparked the war killed some 1,200 people — mostly civilians — and militants abducted about 250.

Biden says no Gaza cease-fire deal soon, as mediators work to bridge gaps between Israel and Hamas

BORGO EGNAZIA, Italy — U.S. President Joe Biden said Thursday he doesn’t expect to reach a cease-fire deal for Gaza in the near future, as Israel and Hamas have not fully embraced an American-backed proposal with global support.

Biden said international leaders at the Group of Seven summit in Italy had discussed the cease-fire, but when asked by reporters if a truce deal wound be reached soon, Biden replied simply, “No,” adding, “I haven’t lost hope.”

Earlier Thursday, U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan pushed back against assertions that Israel isn’t fully committed to the cease-fire proposal with Hamas.

“Israel has supplied this proposal. It has been sitting on the table for some time. Israel has not contradicted or walked that back,” Sullivan said. Hamas responded to the plan by offering amendments, and Sullivan said the goal is “to figure out how we work to bridge the remaining gaps and get to a deal.”

Hamas says the requested changes aim to guarantee a permanent cease-fire and complete Israeli troop withdrawal from Gaza. The cease-fire proposal announced by Biden includes those provisions, but Hamas has expressed wariness whether Israel will implement the terms.

At a news conference later Thursday, Biden said, “The biggest hang-up so far is Hamas refusing to sign on, even though they have submitted something similar.”

He said it remains to be seen whether a deal comes “to fruition.” But he said he remains committed to pushing for the two sides to come together on the three-phase deal he publicly outlined late last month.