fighting rages in southern gaza and fears grow the war may spread in the region

FILE – Smoke rises following an Israeli bombardment in the Gaza Strip, as seen from southern Israel, Saturday, Dec. 16, 2023. South Africa has launched a case at the United Nations’ top court alleging that Israel’s military campaign in Gaza amounts to genocide. The filing and Israel’s decision to defend itself at the International Court of Justice sets up a high-stakes showdown in the before a bench of the court’s black-robed judges in the wood-panelled Great Hall of Justice. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit, File)
via Associated Press

Heavy fighting raged in central and southern Gaza on Wednesday as fears mounted of a regional escalation following a strike in Beirut that killed one of the top Hamas leaders.

The strike was widely blamed on Israel but it’s implications for the war remain unclear. Israeli officials have not commented on the strike Tuesday that killed Saleh Arouri, the most senior Hamas member slain since the war in Gaza erupted nearly three months ago. Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, an Israeli military spokesman, said “we are on high readiness for any scenario.”

Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack from Gaza into southern Israel killed around 1,200 people, and some 240 others were taken hostage. Israel’s air, ground and sea assault in Gaza has killed more than 22,100 people, two-thirds of them women and children, according to the Health Ministry in the Hamas-ruled territory. The count does not differentiate between civilians and combatants.

Israel’s campaign has driven some 85% of Gaza’s population from their homes, forcing hundreds of thousands of people into overcrowded shelters or teeming tent camps in Israeli-designated safe areas that the military has nevertheless bombed. A quarter of Gaza’s population face starvation, according to the United Nations, as Israeli restrictions and heavy fighting hinder aid delivery.

Currently:

A Hamas official killed in a Beirut strike had been on Israel’s hit list for years.

— US intel confident militant groups used largest Gaza hospital in campaign against Israel: AP source.

South Africa’s genocide case against Israel sets up a high-stakes legal battle at the UN’s top court.

— Zvi Zamir, ex-Mossad chief who warned of impending 1973 Mideast war, dies at 98.

— Find more of AP’s coverage at: https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war.

Here’s what’s happening in the war:

BERLIN – Germany has joined in strong criticism of two Israeli ministers’ calls for Palestinians to be resettled outside Gaza.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Sebastian Fischer said Wednesday that Berlin, a close ally of Israel, rejects the comments by Ministers Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir “in the strongest terms” and that “they are neither useful nor helpful.”

He underlined the position of Germany and its Group of Seven allies that “there must be no expulsion of Palestinians from Gaza, there must be no territorial reduction of the Gaza Strip.”

He added that “from our point of view, a two-state solution remains the only sustainable model for Israelis and Palestinians to live together peacefully.”

PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron has warned Israel against contemplating a forced displacement of Gaza residents.

In a phone call on Tuesday with Benny Gantz, a member of Israel’s War Cabinet, Macron “argued that statements relating to the forced displacement of Gazans were unacceptable and contradicted the two-state solution which constitutes the only viable solution for a return to peace and security for all,” the president’s office said in an overnight readout of the phone call.

Macron also warned against the risk of spreading conflict, saying it is “essential to avoid any escalatory attitude, particularly in Lebanon,” the statement said. “France will continue to pass these messages to all actors involved directly or indirectly in the area,” it added.

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration has spoken out against the comments of two far-right Israeli ministers who recently called for Palestinians to be resettled outside of Gaza.

In a statement Tuesday, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller called Israeli Ministers Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir’s comments “inflammatory and irresponsible.”

On Sunday, Smotrich, Israel’s far-right finance minister, said Israel should “encourage migration” from Gaza and re-establish Jewish settlements in the territory, where it withdrew settlers and soldiers in 2005. Ben Gvir has made similar comments about resettling Palestinians.

Miller said Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have “repeatedly” told the U.S. leaders that “such statements do not reflect the policy of the Israeli government.”

“Gaza is Palestinian land and will remain Palestinian land, with Hamas no longer in control of its future and with no terror groups able to threaten Israel,” Miller said.

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