The Latest | UN says over half a million people flee fighting in Gaza; Israel marks Independence Day

The United Nations says more than half a million Palestinians have been displaced in recent days by escalating Israeli military operations in both southern and northern Gaza

More than half a million Palestinians have been displaced in recent days by escalating Israeli military operations in Rafah and northern Gaza, the United Nations says.

Israelis celebrated their Independence Day on Tuesday with barbecues in parks across the country, although the normally raucous parties were smaller and quieter this year because of the war in Gaza.

No food has entered the two main border crossings in southern Gaza for the past week. Some 1.1 million Palestinians face catastrophic levels of hunger — on the brink of starvation — according to the United Nations. A "full-blown famine" is taking place in the north.

Around 450,000 Palestinians have been driven out of Rafah in Gaza's south over the past week, the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees said Tuesday. Israeli forces are pushing into the city, which they portray as the last Hamas stronghold.

In northern Gaza, Israeli evacuation orders have displaced at least 100,000 people so far, U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters Monday. Israeli forces are battling Palestinian militants in areas the military said it had cleared months ago.

Seven months of Israeli bombardment and ground offensives in Gaza have killed more than 35,000 people, most of them women and children, according to local health officials.

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

Currently:

Palestinians mark 76 years of dispossession as a potentially even larger catastrophe unfolds in Gaza.

Misery deepens in Gaza's Rafah as Israeli troops press operation.

— Israelis mark a subdued Independence Day under the shadow of war in Gaza.

— Amsterdam university cancels classes after violence erupted at a pro-Palestinian rally.

Harvard students end protest as university agrees to discuss Middle East conflict.

Follow AP's coverage of the war in Gaza at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war

Here's the latest:

WHITE HOUSE ADVISER JAKE SULLIVAN WILL TRAVEL TO ISRAEL AND SAUDI ARABIA, U.S. OFFICIAL SAYS

WASHINGTON — White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan is expected to travel to Israel and Saudi Arabia this weekend, according to a U.S. official, amid growing American unease as Israeli forces push deeper into the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

The official, who requested anonymity to discuss the pending travel, did not disclose further details about who Sullivan would meet with during the trip.

Sullivan told reporters on Monday that he expected to meet with his Israeli counterpart in a “matter of days” to talk further “about the best way to ensure Hamas’ defeat everywhere in Gaza, including in Rafah.”

The Biden administration has been pressing Israel to forgo a large-scale operation in Rafah, and administration officials last week confirmed that the U.S. withheld a shipment of about 3,500 bombs for Israel out of concern they would be used in the densely crowded city.

Sullivan had planned a visit to Saudi Arabia last month but postponed that trip because he was recuperating from cracked ribs.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre declined to comment on Sullivan’s travel.

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Associated Press writer Aamer Madhani contributed to this report.

ISRAELI STRIKE IN SOUTHERN LEBANON CITY KILLS 1 PERSON AND WOUNDS 2 OTHERS

BEIRUT — One person was killed and two wounded in an apparent Israeli drone strike on a car on a busy thoroughfare near the coastal city of Tyre in south Lebanon on Tuesday evening, emergency responders said.

There was no statement from the Israeli military on the strike, and it was not immediately clear who had been killed.

Lebanon’s civil defense said in a statement that its responders had extinguished a fire that broke out as a result of the strike and had recovered the body of one person and transported two others to a nearby hospital.

Israel has frequently carried out targeted strikes in Lebanon in recent months, against the backdrop of daily clashes between Israeli forces and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and allied groups. The fighting has taken place in the border region between the two countries, and sometimes beyond.

More than 370 people have been killed by Israeli strikes in Lebanon, most of them militants but also including more than 70 civilians and noncombatants, while strikes from Lebanon have killed at least 15 soldiers and 10 civilians in Israel.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah in a speech Monday reiterated his group’s stance that it would keep up its strikes until Israel ends the war in Gaza.

UNITED NATIONS BLAMES ISRAELI TANK FOR DEADLY ATTACK ON U.N. VEHICLE, AND GIVES DETAILS ON CASUALTIES

UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations is giving more details about Monday's deadly attack on a U.N. convoy in Gaza, saying an Israeli tank attacked a clearly marked U.N. vehicle. A U.N. security officer from India was killed and another security officer from Jordan was wounded.

The United Nations has no doubt that shots from an Israeli tank hit the back of a white U.N. vehicle en route to the European hospital in Gaza’s southern city of Rafah, but wants to know the circumstances, said U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq on Tuesday.

He told reporters that the U.N. Department of Safety and Security, which employed the two staffers, has set up a fact-finding panel and the United Nations is in discussion with Israeli authorities.

Israel drew international outrage last month for killing seven charity aid workers in Gaza with a series of drone strikes targeting their vehicles, which were also clearly marked. Israel dismissed two officers over the killings, saying they violated the army’s rules of engagement.

Haq identified the U.N. staff member killed as Waibhav Anil Kale. He is the first international employee of the United Nations to be killed in the current war in Gaza.

On his LinkedIn page, Kale said he left the Indian army as a deputy sector commander in July 2022 and then worked for Amazon as a program manager until June 2023. He joined the U.N. in April as a security coordination officer. Indian media said he was 46 and a retired army colonel.

Jordan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs identified the injured U.N. staffer as Yara Dababneh and said a Jordanian military aircraft would fly her from Jerusalem -- where she was being transferred -- to Amman for treatment at Al-Hussein Medical City, a military medical complex.

“She’s receiving medical attention,” Haq said. “We believe that she will make it through.”

A HOSPITAL IN RAFAH IS FORCED TO SHUT DOWN DUE TO ISRAELI INCURSION, SAYS MEDICAL AID GROUP

CAIRO — The international medical aid group Doctors Without Borders says a field hospital it was supplying in Rafah has been forced to shut down because of Israel’s incursion into the southern Gaza city.

The group said Tuesday that the 22 patients at the Rafah Indonesian Field Hospital were transferred to other facilities or sent home, and 180 staff were pulled out.

The 60-bed hospital had been treating war wounded since December, according to the group, which goes by the French acronym MSF.

The latest evacuation orders from the Israeli military covered an area that comes to within a block of the hospital, MSF said. Although the hospital was not in the zone, they decided to leave for the protection of staff and patients, it said, citing Israel’s deadly and destructive raids on hospitals across the Gaza Strip during its 7-month-old campaign in the territory.

According to the U.N., 24 of Gaza’s 36 hospitals have shut down, with the rest only partially operating. Nine field hospitals are also set up in the territory, including six in Rafah, according to the U.N. MSF warned that the field hospitals cannot “cope with a massive influx of wounded civilians, on top of overwhelming medical needs. They can in no way replace a functional health system.”

Israel’s escalating incursion into Rafah the past week has driven some 450,000 Palestinians to flee the city, many of them setting up new sprawling tent camps further north. Israel has seized the Rafah crossing into neighboring Egypt and has stepped up bombardment and ground incursions into parts of the city, saying it aims to root out Hamas fighters who remain there.

UNITED NATIONS CHIEF IS ‘APPALLED’ BY ISRAEL'S ESCALATING MILITARY ACTIVITY IN RAFAH

UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations chief “is appalled by the escalation of military activity in and around Rafah by the Israeli Defense Forces,” which is further impeding desperately needed aid deliveries and worsening “an already dire situation,” the U.N. says.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also criticized the indiscriminate firing of rockets by Hamas militants, U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters Tuesday.

“For people in Gaza, nowhere is safe now,” Haq quoted Guterres, who is in Oman, as saying.

“The families being displaced from Rafah are arriving at sites that lack shelter, latrines, and water points,” Haq said. “However, it is impossible to improve the situation at displacement sites if supplies can’t enter Gaza – and if we lack the fuel to transport them inside Gaza to the families who need them.”

The U.N. agency helping Palestinian refugees, known as UNRWA, estimated that as of Monday nearly 450,000 people had fled Rafah within the previous week, Haq said. Before the incursion began last week, Rafah was housing some 1.3 million Palestinians, most of whom had fled fighting elsewhere.

Guterres called for the immediate reopening of the Rafah crossing from Egypt, a key delivery route for humanitarian supplies and fuel, which the Israeli military took control of last week.

The secretary-general also reiterated his urgent appeal for an immediate humanitarian cease-fire, the release of all hostages taken during Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack in Israel, protection for civilians and unimpeded access for aid workers throughout Gaza.

In another setback to the delivery of aid, the U.N. humanitarian office reported that Israeli settlers in the West Bank attacked aid trucks bound for Gaza on Monday.

“The settlers offloaded and vandalized the vehicles at the Tarqumiya checkpoint and near the barrier by Beit ’Awwa” and several trucks were damaged, he said.

Haq said: “Israel must protect against violence by Israeli settlers and ensure that all allegations of settler violence are investigated, and the perpetrators are prosecuted.”

ISRAEL FIRES DEADLY STRIKE INTO U.N. SCHOOL IN GAZA, SAYING IT WAS A HAMAS COMMAND POST

JERUSALEM — Israel said it struck a school run by the United Nations in central Gaza on Tuesday, allegedly killing 15 militants who were using part of the school as a “war room” for Hamas commanders.

A Palestinian doctor at the hospital where casualties were taken, Omar Deirawy, said the strike hit a shipping container used as a post by the Hamas-run police in a school-turned-shelter in the Nuseirat refugee camp, killing four policemen. The police are a civilian force distinct from Hamas’ military wing.

Video from the scene showed twisted sheets of metal from the strike in what appeared to be a yard of the school. The Palestinian Civil Defense, an emergency service operating in Gaza, identified the school as one run by the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, known as UNRWA.

The Israeli military said 10 of those killed were member of Hamas and did not specify the identity of the other five. It said Hamas was using the school as a command center but provided no evidence.

The differing accounts and tolls could not be independently confirmed. UNRWA told The Associated Press they were not able to comment on Tuesday’s report but said “any report of a violation of a U.N. premises must be investigated.”

Throughout the war, Israeli forces have struck hospitals, schools and other U.N.-run facilities sheltering Palestinian families fleeing their bombed-out homes. Israel blames civilian deaths on Hamas, saying militants operate among the population.

Israel accuses UNRWA, the largest aid group operating in the war-stricken enclave, of collaborating with Hamas and turning a blind eye to the militant group’s activities in Gaza. It has repeatedly accused militants of operating out of UNRWA schools. The agency denies the claims.

More than 160 UNRWA facilities have been damaged and 191 U.N. staffers have been killed in the war, according to the U.N.

ISRAEL'S FAR RIGHT SEEKS REOCCUPATION OF GAZA

SDEROT, Israel — Thousands of people marched in the southern Israeli city of Sderot on Tuesday calling for the a return to military occupation for Gaza once the war is over.

Far-right Israelis are calling for the reestablishment of settlements in Gaza, saying they're needed to protect the country. Israeli troops withdrew from Gaza in 2005, uprooting some 9,000 settlers in a move that bitterly divided Israel.

“We want to tell everybody in Israel and everybody in the world that Gaza is very very important to us and it has to be again in Israeli hands. Because if it won’t be in Israeli hands we won’t finish the things that we started doing in this war,” said Smadar Dei, one of the marchers.

The Biden administration says it won’t accept a return of Israeli military occupation of the Gaza Strip.

Sderot, which is a few kilometers from Gaza, was one of the first towns impacted when Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, and the war is still very much felt in the area.

On Tuesday, which is Israel's independence day, supporters snaked through the city, waving Israeli flags, dancing and singing Hebrew songs against the backdrop of outgoing Israeli shelling into Gaza followed by plumes of smoke.

Rockets were also fired into Sderot from Gaza on Tuesday as people ducked for cover. Associated Press reporters saw what appeared to be the interception of rockets in the sky.

Supporters of reoccupying Gaza said the only way to secure Israel is by expanding Jewish settlements across the territory.

“Instead of this smoke we want to see Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip,” said Daniella Weiss, one of the organizers who's known as the godmother of the settler movement.

“No more smoke or bombs, no more shelling on Sderot,” she said.

U.N. SAYS ITS CONVOY WAS ATTACKED DESPITE BEING CLEARLY MARKED AND ANNOUNCED IN ADVANCE

GENEVA — The United Nations said Tuesday that a U.N. convoy that was attacked in Gaza a day earlier, killing an Indian staff member and injuring another staffer, was clearly marked and its planned movements had been announced in advance to Israeli authorities.

The Israeli military said previously that it was investigating the incident, which occurred near Rafah in southern Gaza, and that an initial inquiry showed the vehicle was struck in an “active combat zone” and that Israeli Defense Forces “had not been made aware of the route of the vehicle.”

Rolando Gomez, a U.N. spokesman in Geneva, told a regular briefing that the U.N. informs Israeli authorities of the movement of all its convoys in Gaza.

“This is a standard operating procedure. That was the case yesterday morning," Gomez said.

The U.N. says the incident marked the first time that a U.N. international staff member has been killed since Israel launched a military offensive in Gaza after the deadly Oct. 7 attacks in Israel led by the militant Palestinian group Hamas.

The U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, the main provider of aid in Gaza, says at least 188 of its employees have been killed since the start of the war.

Gomez said the death of the security staffer — whom he identified as an Indian national — was “a sheer illustration that there is really nowhere safe in Gaza at the moment,” and that the convoy was on its way to the European Hospital in Rafah.

NEARLY 450,000 PEOPLE HAVE FLED FROM RAFAH, U.N. SAYS

JERUSALEM — The United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees says nearly 450,000 people have fled from Gaza's southern city of Rafah since Israel launched an incursion there last week.

In a post on the social platform X on Tuesday, UNRWA said “people face constant exhaustion, hunger and fear. Nowhere is safe. An immediate #ceasefire is the only hope.”

The U.N. said Monday that another 100,000 people have been displaced in northern Gaza. Israel has ordered new evacuations in the north as it battles a resurgent Hamas in areas that were heavily bombed and cleared by ground troops earlier in the war.

That would mean nearly a quarter of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million people have been displaced in just the last week, more than seven months into the Israel-Hamas war.

The fighting in Rafah has made the two main border crossings into southern Gaza largely inaccessible, while newly opened crossings in the north only allow in a trickle of aid.

Humanitarian organizations say they are struggling to provide dwindling supplies of food, tents and blankets to the large numbers of newly displaced.

Israel has portrayed Rafah as Hamas’ last stronghold in Gaza and has said it must operate there in order to defeat the group and return scores of hostages captured in the Oct. 7 attack that triggered the war.

Before the incursion began last week, Rafah was housing some 1.3 million Palestinians, most of whom had fled fighting elsewhere.

QATAR PRIME MINISTER PLEDGES TO KEEP MEDIATING BETWEEN ISRAEL AND HAMAS AND SAYS ‘A CEASE-FIRE IS REQUIRED NOW’

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Qatar’s prime minister said Tuesday that Doha would continue in its work as a mediator between Israel and Hamas amid the ongoing war in the Gaza Strip and that “a cease-fire is required now.”

Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, who also serves as Qatar’s foreign minister, acknowledged that there had been a “reassessment” over its role as a mediator in recent weeks after facing widespread criticism by Israeli media outlets and politicians there. However, he said Qatar would continue in its work, though he noted that the country “didn’t want to be used or abused as a mediator.”

“We need to stop the killing,” Sheikh Mohammed said. “We need to stop (the) atrocities that’s happening and, of course, negotiate a deal for the hostages.”

However, he added: “It’s at the hands of the parties at the end of the day.” He described the Israeli side as having “no clarity” over how to stop the war as it continued to squeeze in around Rafah, the city in the southern part of the Gaza Strip where many have fled amid the 7-month war there.

Sheikh Mohammed’s remarks also suggested Hamas would continue to be based out of Doha. The militant group has had a political office there since 2012. Both Qatar and Egypt have served as mediators in negotiations over the war, which saw one cease-fire in November that saw Israeli hostages released in exchange for Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.

Sheikh Mohammed spoke at the Qatar Economic Forum, put on by the Bloomberg news agency.

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Associated Press writer Jon Gambrell contributed.

RIGHTS GROUP SAYS ISRAELI MILITARY HAS CARRIED OUT AT LEAST 8 STRIKES ON AID WORKERS AND THEIR CONVOYS

JERUSALEM — Human Rights Watch says Israeli forces have carried out at least eight strikes on aid workers and their convoys, killing at least 15 people, including two children, since the start of the war in Gaza.

The New York-based rights group said in a report Tuesday that in each case the aid groups had provided their coordinates to Israeli authorities to ensure their safety. It says no advance warning was given before the strikes, which also wounded at least 16 people.

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says over 250 aid workers have been killed since the start of the war, mostly Palestinian employees of the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, the main provider in the territory.

The Israeli military says it is investigating after a member of a U.N. security team was killed while driving in the southern city of Rafah on Monday. The military said the shooting occurred in an “active combat zone” and that it had not been informed of the vehicle’s route.

The U.N. said one of its international staff was killed and another wounded on Monday when their clearly-marked U.N. vehicle was fired upon. It did not say who was responsible or provide the nationalities of the staffers.

Human Rights Watch says the eight incidents it documented “reveal fundamental flaws with the so-called deconfliction system, meant to protect aid workers and allow them to safely deliver life-saving humanitarian assistance in Gaza.”

Belkis Wille, associate crisis, conflict, and arms director at Human Rights Watch, said “Israel’s allies need to recognize that these attacks that have killed aid workers have happened over and over again, and they need to stop.”

Israel came under heavy criticism last month after launching a series of strikes that killed seven aid workers with World Central Kitchen, the charity founded by celebrity chef José Andrés.

Israel acknowledged its forces had made a mistake in that case. It later said it had dismissed two officers and reprimanded three more for mishandling critical information and violating the army’s rules of engagement.

Aid organizations say their ability to deliver life-saving assistance to Gaza's 2.3 million people has been hampered by Israeli restrictions, ongoing fighting and the difficulty of coordinating movements with the Israeli military. The U.N. says severe hunger is widespread in Gaza and that the northern part of the territory is experiencing "full-blown famine."

Human Rights Watch says Israel did not respond to a request for information on the strikes sent on May 1. The military did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press.

ISRAELI STRIKES IN CENTRAL GAZA KILL AT LEAST 12 OVERNIGHT, PALESTINIAN OFFICIALS SAY

JERUSALEM — Palestinian officials say Israeli strikes in central Gaza killed at least 12 people overnight and into Tuesday.

The Civil Defense says its first responders recovered eight bodies from a three-story house that was flattened in the built-up Nuseirat refugee camp. Four of the dead, including two men in their 60s and two women, were brought to a nearby hospital.

Another strike hit a caravan used by the Hamas-run police in a school-turned shelter in Nuseirat, killing at least four police officers.

The nearby Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital recorded the deaths.

Israel has repeatedly targeted Gaza’s police force as part of its campaign to dismantle the group’s military and governing abilities. The police in turn have largely vanished from the streets, contributing to a breakdown in law and order that has hindered humanitarian aid operations.

Gaza’s Health Ministry says a total of 82 people killed in Israeli strikes have been brought to hospitals in Gaza in the last 24 hours, as well as 234 wounded people.

It says a total of 35,173 Palestinians have been killed since the start of the war, which was triggered by Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack into southern Israel. The ministry does not differentiate between fighters and civilians in its tallies.

The Israeli military says it has killed over 13,000 militants, without providing evidence.

WHITE HOUSE ADVISER SAYS ISRAEL RISKS AN ENDLESS COUNTERINSURGENCY IN GAZA

WASHINGTON — White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Monday that the U.S. administration has expressed concerns to Israeli officials about becoming “mired in a counterinsurgency campaign that never ends” as Israel's War Cabinet remains focused on carrying out a major operation the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

The comments from a top adviser to President Joe Biden came a day after Secretary of State Antony Blinken cautioned that Israel could be left “holding the bag” on an enduring insurgency in post-war Gaza.

“Look, we have painful experience in counterinsurgency campaigns fighting terrorists in urban environments, in populated areas,” said Sullivan, referring to long U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “And we know that it is not as simple as executing a military operation and calling it a day.”

Sullivan added that, “One of the risks of engaging in any kind of counterinsurgency campaign is the ability of the terrorist group to attract more recruits and more followers as time goes on.”

Sullivan said he spoke to his Israeli and Egyptian counterparts on Sunday about redoubling diplomatic efforts on a hostage-for-truce negotiations, and that U.S. officials would have further conversations with the Israelis in the coming days about how Israel can refine its plan to go after Hamas militants in Rafah while lessening the risk to Palestinian civilians.

He also pushed back against growing criticism from around the globe — as well as American critics of Israel’s prosecution of the war — who say Israeli forces are committing a genocide against the Palestinians.

Egypt, a key U.S. ally, said it would join South Africa's case against Israel at the International Court of Justice, which accuses Israel of violating its obligations under the Genocide Convention.

“I can’t say that it’s helpful to the discussions between Egypt and Israel to try to sort through assistance and access issues,” Sullivan said of the move announced Sunday by Cairo, which along with Qatar is a mediator in the cease-fire talks.

The top United Nations court has concluded there is a "plausible risk of genocide" in Gaza — a charge Israel strongly denies.

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