AP

Israel faces new calls for truce after killing of hostages raises alarm about its conduct in Gaza

Dec 18, 2023, 9:47 AM

Friends that attended the funeral of 26-year-old Alon Shamriz mourn over the grave of a victim of t...

Friends that attended the funeral of 26-year-old Alon Shamriz mourn over the grave of a victim of the Oct. 7th attack buried in the same cemetery in Kibbutz Shefayim, Israel, Sunday Dec. 17, 2023. Shamriz was one of three hostages mistakenly shot to death by Israeli troops Friday in a neighborhood of Gaza City.(AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)

Israel’s government faced calls for a cease-fire from some of its closest European allies on Sunday after a series of shootings, including the mistaken killing of three Israeli hostages, fueled global concerns about the conduct of the 10-week-old war in Gaza.

Israeli protesters are urging their government to renew negotiations with Gaza’s Hamas rulers, whom Israel has vowed to destroy. Israel is also expected to face pressure to scale back major combat operations when U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin visits Monday. Washington is expressing growing unease with civilian casualties even as it provides vital military and diplomatic support.

The war has flattened large parts of northern Gaza, killed thousands of civilians and driven most of the population to the southern part of the besieged territory, where many are in crowded shelters and tent camps. Some 1.9 million Palestinians — about 90% of Gaza’s population — have fled their homes.

They survive off a trickle of humanitarian aid. Dozens of desperate Palestinians surrounded aid trucks after they drove in through the Rafah crossing with Egypt, forcing some to stop before climbing aboard, pulling down boxes and carrying them off. Other trucks appeared to be guarded by masked people carrying sticks.

Israel said aid passed directly from Israel into Gaza for the first time Sunday, with 79 trucks entering from Kerem Shalom, where around 500 trucks entered daily before the war. Another 120 trucks entered via Rafah along with six trucks carrying fuel or cooking gas, said Wael Abu Omar, Palestinian Crossings Authority spokesman.

Aid workers say it’s still far from enough. “You cannot deliver aid under a sky full of airstrikes,” a spokesperson with the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, Juliette Touma, said on social media, while the agency estimated that more than 60% of Gaza’s infrastructure had been destroyed in the war.

Telecom services in Gaza gradually resumed after a four-day communications blackout, the longest of several outages during the war that groups say complicate rescue and delivery efforts.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said Israel “will continue to fight until the end,” with the goal of eliminating Hamas, which triggered the war with its Oct. 7 attack into southern Israel. Palestinian militants killed some 1,200 people that day, mostly civilians, and captured scores of hostages.

Netanyahu has vowed to bring back the estimated 129 hostages still in captivity. Anger over the mistaken killing of hostages is likely to increase pressure on him to renew Qatar-mediated negotiations with Hamas over swapping more of the remaining captives for Palestinians imprisoned in Israel.

Meanwhile, Israel has been defensively striking Hezbollah targets in Lebanon, said Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, an Israel Defense Forces spokesperson. The group has ramped up attacks against Israel, he added, killing civilians and soldiers and displacing more than 80,000 Israelis from their homes.

“Hezbollah — a proxy of Iran — is dragging Lebanon into an unnecessary war that would have devastating consequences for the people of Lebanon,” Hagari said in a statement. “This is a war that they do not deserve.”

Hagari said Israel will continue to protect its borders “until and unless a diplomatic solution is found and implemented.”

CALLS FOR A NEW CEASE-FIRE

In Israel on Sunday, French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna called for an “immediate truce” aimed at releasing more hostages, getting larger amounts of aid into Gaza and moving toward “the beginning of a political solution.”

France’s Foreign Ministry earlier said an employee was killed in an Israeli strike on a home in Rafah on Wednesday. It condemned the strike, which it said killed several civilians, and demanded clarification from Israeli authorities.

The foreign ministers of the U.K. and Germany, meanwhile, called for a “sustainable” cease-fire, saying too many civilians have been killed.

“Israel will not win this war if its operations destroy the prospect of peaceful co-existence with Palestinians,” British Foreign Secretary David Cameron and German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock wrote in the U.K.’s Sunday Times.

The U.S. defense secretary is set to travel to Israel to continue discussions on a timetable for ending the war’s most intense phase. Israeli and U.S. officials have spoken of a transition to more targeted strikes aimed at killing Hamas leaders and rescuing hostages, without saying when it would occur.

Hamas has said no more hostages will be released until the war ends, and that in exchange it will demand the release of large numbers of Palestinian prisoners, including high-profile militants.

Hamas released over 100 of more than 240 hostages captured on Oct. 7 in exchange for the release of scores of Palestinian prisoners during a brief cease-fire in November. Nearly all freed on both sides were women and minors. Israel has rescued one hostage.

The Israeli military said Sunday it had discovered a large tunnel in Gaza close to what was once a busy crossing into Israel, raising new questions about how Israeli surveillance missed such conspicuous attack preparations by Hamas.

SHOOTINGS DRAW SCRUTINY

Military officials said Saturday that the three hostages who were mistakenly shot by Israeli troops had tried to signal that they posed no harm. It was Israel’s first such acknowledgement of harming hostages in the war.

The hostages, all in their 20s, were killed Friday in the Gaza City area of Shijaiyah, where troops are engaged in fierce fighting with Hamas. An Israeli military official said the shootings were against the army’s rules of engagement and were being investigated at the highest level.

Israel says it makes every effort to avoid harming civilians and accuses Hamas of using them as human shields. But Palestinians and rights groups have repeatedly accused Israeli forces of recklessly endangering civilians and firing on those who do not threaten them, both in Gaza and the occupied West Bank, which has seen a surge of violence since the war began.

A shell struck the pediatric ward of a hospital in the city of Khan Younis in southern Gaza late Sunday, killing a girl, said Dr. Mohammed Abu Lihia, who works in the emergency department.

Footage shared by Gaza’s Health Ministry showed a burst ceiling and wall in the Mubarak Hospital for Children and Maternity in the Nasser Hospital complex with bloodstains near children’s cots and cribs on the third floor.

The doctor said he helped three others, two older adults and a child, escape the hospital. A videographer filming for The Associated Press said at least 5 people, including children, were wounded. The Israeli military didn’t immediately comment.

Israel continues to strike positions across Khan Younis. Palestinians from the north fled there in the early weeks of the conflict.

Also Sunday, five people were killed and many injured after a reported Israeli airstrike hit near a U.N.-run school in Khan Younis where displaced Palestinians were sheltering. A cameraman with AP counted five bodies delivered to a hospital.

The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem said two Christian women at a church compound in Gaza were killed by Israeli sniper fire.

Pope Francis called Sunday for peace, saying “unarmed civilians are being bombed and shot at, and this has even happened inside the Holy Family parish complex, where there are no terrorists but families, children and sick people with disabilities, nuns.”

In discussions Saturday between the Israeli military and representatives of the church community, no one reported a strike on the church or civilians being wounded or killed, the military said. It said a review of its initial investigation had supported that.

The offensive has killed more than 18,700 Palestinians, the Health Ministry in the Hamas-run territory said Thursday in its last update before the communications blackout. It has said that thousands more casualties are buried under the rubble. The ministry does not differentiate between civilian and combatant deaths, but has said that most of those killed were women and children.

The plight of Palestinian civilians has gotten little attention inside Israel, where many are still deeply traumatized by the Oct. 7 attack and where support for the war remains strong.

Israel’s military says 121 of its soldiers have been killed in the Gaza offensive. It says it has killed thousands of militants, without providing evidence.

___

Magdy reported from Cairo. Associated Press writers Tia Goldenberg in Tel Aviv, Israel, and Kareem Chehayeb in Beirut, Lebanon, contributed to this report.

AP

Photo: Shawna Williams, owner of Free Range Cycles, poses outside her shop on May 6, 2024, in Seatt...

Mae Anderson, The Associated Press

Bike shops boomed early in the pandemic. It’s been a bumpy ride for most ever since

For the nation's bicycle shops, the past few years have probably felt like the business version of the Tour de France, with numerous twists and turns testing their endurance.

3 hours ago

Image: A person wears a T-shirt with the names of Kristin Smith, Charity Lynn Perry, Joanna Speaks,...

Associated Press

Man probed in deaths of women in northwest Oregon indicted in 3 killings

A man who has been under investigation in the deaths of four women whose bodies were found across northwest Oregon has been indicted.

23 hours ago

Image: The headquarters for The Boeing Company can be seen in Arlington, Virginia, on Jan. 31, 2024...

Associated Press

Police conclude investigation into suicide of Boeing whistleblower

A former manager who raised safety questions about the aircraft maker and, later, was found dead took his own life, police said Friday.

1 day ago

Image: Scottie Scheffler celebrates after a birdie on the 10th hole during the second round of the ...

Associated Press

No. 1 golfer Scottie Scheffler: From the course to jail and back after Friday arrest

Top-ranked golfer Scottie Scheffler was arrested after police say he dragged an officer while trying to get around a fatal accident Friday.

2 days ago

Photo: Seattle Times publisher and CEO Frank Blethen announced he will step down at the end of next...

Associated Press

Seattle Times CEO to step down after 4 decades in charge of family-owned paper

Seattle Times publisher and CEO Frank Blethen announced he will step down at the end of next year after four decades of leading the paper.

3 days ago

Image: Andy Jassy, Amazon president and CEO, attends an event on Aug. 15, 2022, in Culver City, Cal...

Associated Press

Comments from Amazon CEO Andy Jassy about unions violated federal law, NLRB judge rules

A federal judge ruled Amazon CEO Andy Jassy violated labor law by making certain anti-union comments during media interviews two years ago.

16 days ago

Israel faces new calls for truce after killing of hostages raises alarm about its conduct in Gaza