The Latest | Israel's planned invasion of Rafah risks killing hundreds of thousands, UN says

The United Nations humanitarian aid agency says hundreds of thousands of people would be “at imminent risk of death” if Israel carries out a military assault in the southern Gaza city of Rafah

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The United Nations humanitarian aid agency says hundreds of thousands of people would be "at imminent risk of death" if Israel carries out a military assault in the southern Gaza city of Rafah. The border city is a critical entry point for humanitarian aid and is filled with displaced Palestinians, many in densely packed tent camps.

An Israeli airstrike in Rafah overnight Friday killed seven people — mostly children. The Biden administration, which provides Israel crucial military and diplomatic support, says it opposes a Rafah invasion unless Israel provides a “credible” plan for protecting civilians there.

Northern Gaza is experiencing “full-blown famine,” according to the head of the U.N. World Food Program, Cindy McCain. The comments from the head of the agency that distributes food assistance go farther than others, as the U.N. and others have said the Palestinian territory is on the brink of famine.

The Israel-Hamas war has driven around 80% of Gaza's population of 2.3 million from their homes and caused vast destruction in several towns and cities. The death toll in Gaza has soared to more than 34,500 people, according to local health officials.

The war began Oct. 7 when Hamas attacked southern Israel, abducting about 250 people and killing around 1,200, mostly civilians. Israel says militants still hold around 100 hostages and the remains of more than 30 others.


— Hamas is sending a delegation to Egypt for further cease-fire talks in the latest sign of progress.

What's on the table for Israel and Hamas in the latest cease-fire talks?

— Striking deals to end campus protests, some colleges invite discussion of their investments.

— Jewish students grapple with how to respond to pro-Palestinian campus protests.

— The unprecedented destruction of housing in Gaza hasn't been seen since World War II, the U.N. says.

Follow AP's coverage of the war at

Here's the latest:


SEDONA, Ariz. — The head of the U.N. World Food Program, Cindy McCain, says northern Gaza is experiencing “full-blown famine.”

Speaking to NBC News on Friday at the McCain Institute’s Sedona Forum in Arizona, McCain pressed for a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas and access for humanitarian aid because “there is famine — full-blown famine — in the north, and it’s moving its way south.”

There hasn’t yet been an official declaration of famine. The U.N. and others have said the Palestinian territory is on the brink of famine, and the comments from the head of the agency that distributes food assistance go farther than others.

The nearly seven-month-old Israel-Hamas war has thrown Gaza into humanitarian crisis, and relief workers struggle to bring in desperately needed aid because of the fighting and Israeli restrictions on land crossings.

Facing pressure to ease the catastrophe, the U.S. has pressed its ally Israel to open more land routes. One reopened this week for the first time since the start of the war. The U.S. is also building a pier system off Gaza to bring in aid by sea.

McCain’s comments come as U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power pointed Friday to the food crises in Gaza and other parts of the world in announcing a $200 million investment aimed at increasing production of emergency nutritional paste for starving children under 5.


UNITED NATIONS – U.N. humanitarian officials report “incremental progress” in restoring water to Gaza, with the territory producing just 20% of the water supply it did before the Israel-Hamas war began on Oct. 7.

The Palestinian Water Authority announced earlier this week that the Al Muntar water line from Israel has resumed pumping, and U.N. humanitarian officials reported this would benefit four neighborhoods in Gaza City, U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said Friday. The water line, which had been shut down for 200 days, was the third Israeli water line to restart operations and can potentially serve some 300,000 people in Gaza City, he said.

With much of northern Gaza's population displaced, it's not clear how many people are still living in those neighborhoods, or how badly the water infrastructure has been damaged.

Before Oct. 7, Gaza normally got its water supplies from a combination of sources, including pipelines from Israel, desalination plants on the Mediterranean Sea, and wells.

Those supplies were slashed when Israel cut off water, along with the fuel and electricity that power water and sewage plants, in the wake of the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas.

OCHA reports that 83% of groundwater wells are not operating, two out of three main water desalination plants are partially functioning, and 57% of water, sanitation and health facilities in Gaza are damaged or destroyed, Haq said. As of April 30, just 20% of Gaza’s pre-Oct. 7 water production is being produced, he said.

The U.N. earlier reported a breakdown in sanitation services in Gaza and the U.N. humanitarian office estimates there are now 270,000 tons of accumulated solid waste in the territory.


UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations reports that a U.N. convoy carrying humanitarian aid from Jordan to Gaza had “a limited amount of goods” vandalized by Israeli civilians when it went through the West Bank. It was also rerouted by armed men when it entered Gaza to the wrong U.N. facility.

U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters Friday “there was a miscommunication” with the convoy Wednesday and the trucks were ultimately directed to the U.N. World Food Program warehouse in Beit Hanoun.

Referring to Hamas, he said the U.N. has clarified the misunderstanding with “the de facto authorities in Gaza to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.” They reiterated their commitment to respect the delivery of humanitarian aid, he said.

“All of the goods have been subsequently accounted for and are being distributed by the U.N.,” Haq said.

The U.N. humanitarian office reported that the convoy started in Jordan and entered Gaza “via back-to-back transfer at Erez crossing, following inspection by Israeli authorities only at Allenby Bridge,” he said.

The bridge links Jordan to the West Bank, and Haq said “Going through the West Bank, Israeli civilians offloaded and vandalized a limited amount of goods from the convoy,” which included food parcels, sugar, rice, supplementary food for those malnourished and milk powder.

The U.N. doesn’t think the incident should impact further aid deliveries from Jordan, Haq said.


WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden will host Jordan’s King Abdullah II for talks at the White House next week in the midst of the latest push for a cease-fire deal to end the Israel-Hamas war can soon be reached, according to the White House.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre confirmed that the private talks would happen at some point next week but did provide further details.

The meeting comes as Israel and Hamas were negotiating a potential cease-fire in Gaza and the return of Israeli hostages. A leaked truce proposal hints at compromises by both sides after months of stalemated talks.

Biden last hosted Abdullah, a close ally, for White House talks in February.


JERUSALEM — Israel said Friday it will seek to reduce economic ties between Turkey and the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza in retaliation for Turkey’s trade ban with Israel over its military actions in Gaza.

Foreign Minister Israel Katz said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan “wants to harm Israel” with the ban “but will primarily harm the Palestinian economy.”

The Foreign Ministry said it would take “action to minimize all economic ties between Turkey and the Palestinian Authority and Gaza.”

It did not elaborate on how it would do so. Israel controls all entry points into the occupied West Bank, both through its own territory and from neighboring Jordan. It imposes inspections on good entering the West Bank but has imposed a wholesale block on imports, though it did stop all Palestinian exports to Israel for weeks in 2020 during a trade dispute with the Palestinian Authority.

Multiple times in the past, it has withheld customs duties on imports that it collects on behalf of the authority, which controls enclaves around the West Bank. Since the war with Hamas began in October, it has blocked entry to almost all commercial goods to Gaza, except for a trickle of supplies along with international aid entering the territory.

After Israel, Turkey is the largest importer to the Palestinian Authority, accounting for about 18% of its imports.

The ministry said it would also seek sanctions against Turkey at international economic forums for violating trade agreements.

“The Israeli economy is strong, and the Turkish economy will be much more affected than the Israeli economy due to the trade balance between the countries. It’s a mistake Erdogan will regret,” Katz said.

Turkey imposed the ban on Thursday, suspending all imports and exports to Israel. Erdogan said his country could no longer “stand by and watch” the violence in Gaza.


JERUSALEM — The Israeli military and a support group for the families of Israeli hostages confirmed Friday that Elyakim Libman, a 23-year-old Israeli who had been believed abducted by Hamas, was killed during the militants’ Oct. 7 attack. His body was found in Israel.

The Hostages Families Forum Headquarters said Libman was working as a security guard at a music festival that was attacked by the militants after they stormed out of Gaza. It said he helped evacuate the wounded during the mayhem before being killed.

The military said it, the police and forensic officials had identified the body after it was found in Israeli territory.

At least 260 people were killed at the Nova music festival, taking place in an open space near Gaza when Hamas militants rampaged through communities in southern Israel. Some 1,200 people were killed in the attack, and militants took around 250 hostage. Because of the chaos of the day, a few believed taken captive were later determined to be among the dead.

Israel says Hamas is holding about 100 hostages and the remains of more than 30 others in Gaza, after many were released during a weeklong cease-fire in November. Since the Oct. 7 attack, Israel’s bombardment and offensive in Gaza has killed more than 34,500 Palestinians.


CAIRO — Two Egyptian security officials say CIA director William Burns has arrived in Egypt amid a push to seal a cease-fire accord between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza war.

Burns’ visit comes as Hamas is considering the latest proposal for a cease-fire and hostage release put forward by U.S., Egyptian and Qatari mediators, who hope to avert an Israeli offensive against Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost town.

Hamas said it will send a delegation to Cairo on Saturday for further discussions on the offer, though it has not specified when.

The two Egyptian officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the press, did not give details on Burns’ visit. U.S. officials would not comment on the report.

The latest proposal reportedly calls for a three-stage cease-fire, starting with a six-week halt in fighting during which Hamas would release a number of hostages it holds, including women and elderly, in exchange for the release of hundreds of Palestinians held in Israeli prisons. Talks would then take place on a permanent calm, during which Israel would withdraw troops from Gaza and Hamas would release all the remaining hostages.

An Egyptian official has said Hamas is seeking firmer language in the text to ensure a complete Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and an end to its offensive and bombardment – as well as the return of Palestinians displaced from the north of the territory.

Hamas said in its statement that it has responded in a “positive spirit” to the proposal and “we are going to Cairo in the same spirit to reach an agreement.”

It said the group is demanding a “complete cessation of aggression” and withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza, “the return of the displaced, relief for our people, the start of reconstruction, and the completion of a serious (hostage for prisoner) exchange deal.”

Hamas is believed to still hold around 100 Israelis in Gaza, as well as the bodies of around 30 others who died in captivity. Israel launched its campaign in Gaza vowing to destroy Hamas after the group’s Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel.


BEIRUT — The Palestinian Prisoner’s Club said two Palestinian detainees from Gaza have died in Israeli custody, including a prominent surgeon seized by troops during a raid on a hospital.

The cause of their deaths was not immediately known. Israeli and Palestinian rights groups have reported harsh conditions in Israeli prisons for the hundreds of Palestinians detained from Gaza, including beatings and medical neglect.

The Israeli prison authority and army officials had no comment.

The surgeon, Dr. Adnan al-Borsh, 50, was head of the orthopedic department in Gaza City’s Shifa hospital. After an Israeli siege in November crippled Shifa, he worked in nearby al-Awda Hospital, which Israeli troops later stormed, detaining him and others inside in December.

Abdullah al-Zaghari, head of the Palestinian Prisoner’s Club, said they were informed by the Palestinian Administrative Affairs office, which coordinates with the Israeli military, that al-Borsh died in Ofer Prison in the West Bank on April 19. He said the body was still being held by Israeli authorities.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean Pierre said she could not speak specifically about the case but that it was “devastating to hear” that a doctor was killed.

“We know humanitarian aid is dire and the innocent people of Gaza, the Palestinian citizens obviously need that care. They need that assistance," she said. President Biden “has said very clearly that when it comes to people — who are citizens in Gaza providing that all important care, humanitarian aid, they need to be protected.”

The body of the second prisoner, 33-year-old Ismail Abdul-Bari Rajab Khodr, was handed over with dozens of released prisoners who were returned to Gaza this week, the Club said. The circumstances of his detention were not immediately known.

Three Palestinian human rights groups — Addameer, Al Mezan, Al-Haq, and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights — said in a joint statement that Khodr’s body was examined at Rafah’s Abu Youssef al-Najjar Hospital. They quoted the hospital’s director, Dr. Marwan Al-Hems, saying he died of torture and that marks of torture were found on his wrists as well as swelling in his shoulders, knees and chest. The three groups said others among the prisoners released this week showed signs of abuse.

The Club said both Khodr and al-Borsh had been tortured, without providing evidence. It said their deaths brought to 18 the number of Palestinians who have died in Israeli prisons since the launch of Israel’s offensive in Gaza following Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack.

More than 490 medical workers have been killed in Gaza since the war began, the Palestinian Health Ministry said. Israel has raided multiple hospitals during its campaign in Gaza, claiming Hamas activity inside, often arresting large numbers of staff and displaced people sheltering in the facilities.


ISTANBUL — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says his country imposed a trade ban on Israel because it could no longer “stand by and watch” the violence in Gaza.

Turkey on Thursday announced that it had suspended all imports and exports to Israel over its military actions in Gaza. It said Friday that the ban would stay in place until a permanent cease-fire is achieved and the Israeli government allows all humanitarian aid to reach Gaza without hindrance.

“Up to now, Israel has killed 40,000 to 45,000 Palestinians without mercy. As Muslims, we could not stand by and watch,” Erdogan told reporters following traditional Friday prayers in Istanbul.

Erdogan said: “We had a trade volume that had reached 9.5 billion dollars between us. But we closed the door (to trade) as though this trade volume did not exist.”

The Turkish leader had faced intense pressure to stop trade ties with Israel and lost some votes in local elections in March to a small Islamist party that had been critical of Turkey’s continued commercial relations with Israel.

Erdogan again held the United States and other Western nations responsible for deaths in the Israel-Hamas war.

“The whole West and especially America, are working for Israel by mobilizing all resources and unfortunately the poor people of Palestine were sentenced to death through Israel’s bombings,” he said.


BEIRUT — The Gaza Health Ministry said Friday the bodies of 26 people killed by Israeli strikes have been brought to local hospitals over the past 24 hours. Hospitals also received 51 wounded, it said in its daily report.

That brings the overall Palestinian death toll from the Israel-Hamas war to at least 34,622 the ministry said, and 77,867 wounded.

The Health Ministry does not distinguish between fighters and civilians in its tallies, but says that women and children make up around two-thirds of those killed.

The Israeli military says it has killed 13,000 militants, without providing evidence to back up the claim.


GENEVA — The United Nations humanitarian aid agency says hundreds of thousands of people would be “at imminent risk of death” if Israel carries out a military assault in the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

Jens Laerke, spokesperson for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said Rafah has become a crucial humanitarian hub for distribution of aid into Gaza.

Rafah is pivotal for food, water, health, sanitation, hygiene and other critical support to the people there, including hundreds of thousands of Gazans who fled fighting elsewhere. But most importantly, Laerke told reporters at a regular U.N. briefing in Geneva, the hundreds of thousands of people there “would be at imminent risk of death if there is an assault.”

World Health Organization officials said they have been preparing contingency plans for a possible assault in Rafah. They noted, meanwhile, that more food has been reaching beleaguered Palestinians in recent weeks, but the threat of famine remains.

Dr. Rik Peeperkorn, the WHO representative for occupied Palestinian areas, said by videoconference that the threat of famine had “absolutely not” declined. Dr. Ahmed Dahir, the head of WHO’s office in Gaza, said the food situation was fragile, and “the risk of famine has not passed.”


THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The International Criminal Court’s prosecution office issued a statement Friday insisting that “all attempts to impede, intimidate or improperly influence its officials cease immediately.”

The statement did not mention any of its active investigations or elaborate on the nature of attempts to influence its work. The office declined to elaborate further on the statement.

However, it came amid speculation that the court could soon issue arrest warrants against Israeli officials. There has been fierce pushback against the global court, including by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said Tuesday that it would be "an outrage of historic proportions" if the court issues arrest warrants against Israeli officials.

The ICC is investigating alleged crimes in the Palestinian territories dating back to the previous war in Gaza in 2014. It has not commented on the status of the probe or whether warrants for any suspects are imminent.

In the statement posted Friday on the social media platform X, the office of the prosecutor said its independence and impartiality are undermined “when individuals threaten to retaliate against the Court or against Court personnel should the Office, in fulfilment of its mandate, make decisions about investigations or cases falling within its jurisdiction.”

Netanyahu has said that Israel “will never accept any attempt by the ICC to undermine its inherent right of self-defense.”


ISTANBUL — Turkey’s trade minister says a trade ban imposed on Israel will remain in place until a permanent cease-fire is achieved and the Israeli government allows all humanitarian aid to enter Gaza without hindrance.

Turkey, a vocal critic of Israel's military actions in Gaza, announced Thursday that it had suspended all imports and exports to Israel over its ongoing offensive. The move came weeks after the country had announced trade restrictions on a number of items, including aluminum, steel, construction products and chemical fertilizers.

Trade Minister Omer Bolat said Friday that the new measure was in response to “the deterioration and aggravation of the situation in Rafah” — a reference to Gaza’s southernmost town.

“The trade (block) related to Israel will be implemented until a permanent cease-fire is achieved and aid to Gaza is freed in an uninterrupted manner,” he said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose ruling party suffered a major setback in local elections in March, was under intense pressure to stop halt trade relations with Israel.


DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip — An Israeli strike on the city of Rafah on the southern edge of the Gaza Strip killed seven people, including children, hospital officials said Friday.

The overnight strike on the Chahine family home killed two adults and five kids whose ages ranged between 7 and 16, according to a list of the names released by Abu Youssef al-Najjar Hospital.

The strike came a day after the militant Palestinian group Hamas said it was sending a delegation to Egypt for further cease-fire talks — a new sign of progress in attempts by international mediators to hammer out an agreement between Israel and the militant group to end the war in Gaza.

Israel has regularly carried out airstrikes on Rafah since the start of the war seven months ago and has threatened to send in ground troops, saying Rafah is the last major Hamas stronghold in the coastal enclave. Over 1 million Palestinians have sought refuge in the city on the Egyptian border. The United States and others have urged Israel not to invade, fearing a humanitarian catastrophe.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged Tuesday to launch an incursion into Rafah.


TEL AVIV — A support group for the families of Israeli hostages taken into Gaza confirmed Friday the death of Dror Or, 49, the 38th hostage known to have died. Or was killed in the Oct. 7 attack and his body taken into Gaza, the Hostages Families Forum said.

Or and two of his children were abducted from Kibbutz Be'eri when Hamas attacked on Oct. 7 and his wife, Yonat, was killed. His children, 17-year-old Noam and 13-year-old Alma, were released during a weeklong cease-fire in November.

Israel says Hamas is holding about 100 hostages and the remains of more than 30 others. Or's body has not been returned, the Forum said, demanding that the Israeli government “exhaust every effort” to bring back his remains as well as all the hostages still in Gaza.

Israel and Hamas appear to be seriously negotiating an end to the war in Gaza and the return of Israeli hostages. A leaked truce proposal hints at compromises by both sides after months of talks languishing in a stalemate. Hamas said Thursday that it was sending a delegation to Egypt for further cease-fire talks, in a new sign of progress.

Some families worry that Israel’s war aims of eliminating Hamas and launching an incursion into Gaza’s southern city of Rafah will derail negotiations. Dozens of people demonstrated Thursday night outside Israel’s military headquarters in Tel Aviv, demanding a deal to release the hostages.

During a meeting with Holocaust survivors in Jerusalem Friday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said “We are making great efforts. We have already brought back half (the hostages), when people did not believe that we would get anyone back."

He made no specific reference to Or, but said, "I can tell you that we are determined to return everyone — the ones who are alive as well as the ones who are dead. We brought back 124 (people) as of today, but there are more. We do not forget anyone.”


HONOLULU — United States Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, while at a news conference Thursday in Hawaii, was asked by a reporter what consequences Israel would face from the U.S. if Israel conducted an offensive operation in Rafah without “appropriately taking into account” civilians in the area.

Austin said it would be up to President Joe Biden and he wouldn’t speculate on that, but that currently, "conditions are not favorable to any kind of operation."

“What we’ve highlighted for the Israelis is that it’s really important to make sure that the civilians that are in that battle space move out of that battle space before any activity is conducted. And that if and when they return to any kind of operation that it be conducted in a more much more precise fashion,” Austin said.

He noted there were about 275,000 people living in and around Rafah before the conflict started but there are now about 1.4 million.

“That’s a lot of people in a very small space. There’s a good chance that without taking the right measures that we’ll see a lot more civilian casualties going forward. So before anything happens, we certainly want to see them address that threat to the civilians,” Austin said.

“Right now, the conditions are not favorable to any kind of operation. And we’ve been clear about that. It is necessary to take care of the civilian population that’s in that area before anything else happens,” he said.

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