Israeli airstrikes pounded locations across the Gaza Strip on Thursday, including parts of the south that Israel had declared as safe zones, heightening fears among more than 2 million Palestinians trapped in the territory that nowhere was safe. Even after Israel told Palestinians to evacuate the north and head to what it called “safe zones” in the south, strikes continued across the territory and Palestinian militants continued firing rockets into Israel.
Follow the latest developments from the war front:
Israel tells troops to ‘be ready’ for ground invasion
Israel pounded the Gaza Strip with airstrikes on Thursday, including in the south where Palestinians were told to take refuge, and the country's defense minister told ground troops to “be ready” to invade, though he didn’t say when.
Gaza's overwhelmed hospitals tried to stretch out ebbing medical supplies and fuel for generators, as authorities worked out logistics for a delivery of aid from Egypt. Doctors in darkened wards across Gaza stitched wounds by the light of mobile phones, and others used vinegar to treat infected wounds.
In a fiery speech to Israeli infantry soldiers on the Gaza border, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant urged the forces to “get organised, be ready” for an order to move in. Israel has massed tens of thousands of troops along the border.
“Whoever sees Gaza from afar now, will see it from the inside ... I promise you," he said. “It might take a week, a month, two months until we destroy them,” he added, referring to Hamas.
US envoy met with Israelis, Egyptians to develop mechanism for aid to Gaza
US Special Envoy David Satterfield met with Israeli and Egyptian officials to develop the exact mechanism to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza, US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said.
Israeli government is worried about the possible diversion of aid to benefit Hamas, Miller said, a concern Washington shares. But he added that the United States expects assistance to be able to get into Gaza and that it wants to see "sustained" aid move into the enclave.
WHO urges Israel to allow fuel into Gaza Strip
World Health Organisation chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged Israel to allow fuel to be taken into the Gaza Strip, alongside the first deliveries of water, food and medicine.
"We welcome Israel's announcement that it will not block the entry of water, food and medicines into Gaza from Egypt. Fuel is also needed for hospital generators, ambulances and desalination plants - and we urge Israel to add fuel to the life-saving supplies allowed to enter Gaza," Tedros told a press conference.
US, UK urge citizens to leave Lebanon
The US and British embassies in Beirut advised citizens to leave Lebanon while flights "remain available" as border tensions between Israel and Hezbollah intensify over Israel's war with Hamas.
Both countries had already warned citizens against travel to Lebanon.
"We recommend that US citizens in Lebanon make appropriate arrangements to leave the country; commercial options currently remain available," a US embassy statement said.
A similar warning was issued by the British embassy which said: "If you are currently in Lebanon, we encourage you to leave now while commercial options remain available."
"British nationals should exercise caution and avoid areas where demonstrations may be held," it added.
Sunak tells Netanyahu 'we want you to win'
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak embarked on a round of high-stakes Middle East diplomacy with an echo of Britain's wartime leader Winston Churchill, saying that Israel is facing "its darkest hour" and telling Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu: "We want you to win."
Sunak was speaking alongside his counterpart ahead of their closed-door meeting on Thursday, as the UK prime minister joined a procession of foreign leaders visiting Israel in a bid to prevent the conflict from widening. Sunak said he welcomes Israel "taking every precaution" to avoid harming civilians in Gaza and that the UK is boosting aid.
"We absolutely support Israel's right to defend itself in line with international law, to go after Hamas, to take back hostages," Sunak said.
Hamas attack aimed at derailing peace: Netanyahu
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday the Hamas attack on Israel was aimed at preventing the expansion of peace in the Middle East, and called on British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to keep supporting Israel's Gaza counteroffensive.
Netanyahu said the attack from Gaza by militant group Hamas, which killed 1,400 people in Israel, was aimed at derailing attempts to establish a wider peace in the region.
"We were on the cusp of expanding that peace, and destroying that move was one of the reasons why this action was taken," Netanyahu told Sunak at their meeting in Jerusalem.
"This is our darkest hour," he added. "That means this is a long war, and we'll need your continuous support." Sunak met Netanyahu after holding talks with Israeli President Isaac Herzog. He welcomed the decision to allow aid into Gaza, saying he knew Israel was "taking every precaution to avoid harming civilians in direct contrast to the terrorists of Hamas".
Palestinians say Israel is targeting bakeries
Israel has bombed and targeted areas with bakeries in Gaza over the course of the war while dozens of Palestinians were lining up to buy bread, causing high numbers of dead and wounded, Salam Marouf, the head of the government media office, said in a statement.
By repeatedly targeting bakeries, he said that Israel sought to worsen the humanitarian situation, inflict a greater number of casualties and “make it more difficult for citizens, to the point that obtaining some loaves of bread has become a dangerous journey.” More than five bakeries were targeted in different areas to the north and south of Gaza, either directly or in the area where they are located, Maarouf said.
Aid groups, including the World Food Program, have warned Gaza is running low on food supplies with shops only having a few days worth of supplies left. More are available in warehouses run by humanitarian organizations, but these are hard to reach because of constant bombardment.
Egypt's president meets US general
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sissi met with Gen. Michael Kurilla, head of the U.S. Central Command, in Cairo to discuss efforts to “intensify cooperation” between the two countries and to “restore stability” in the region, the president’s office said.
Within hours of the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas, the US began moving warships and aircraft to the eastern Mediterranean to provide Israel with support. Israel has conducted unrelenting airstrikes on Gaza.
Egypt has long acted as a key broker between Israel and Hamas. On Wednesday, Egypt and Israel reached a deal that would allow aid to enter the Palestinian territory.
Also Thursday, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry met with U.K. counterpart James Cleverly in Cairo, where they talked about ways to de-escalate the conflict and address the dire humanitarian conditions in Gaza.
Xi urges Egyptian Premier to open a humanitarian corridor
At a meeting in China’s capital Beijing on Thursday, President Xi Jinping urged visiting Egyptian Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly to open a humanitarian corridor for civilians fleeing the fighting in Gaza.
Xi also reiterated China’s backing of the formation of a Palestinian state as solution to the ongoing violence.
Egypt's Al Sissi to host Jordan king for a summit in Cairo
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sissi will host Jordan's King Abdullah II for a summit in Cairo on Thursday, the presidency said, as violence in the neighbouring Gaza Strip spirals.
The Jordanian royal court said in a statement that the two leaders would "discuss means to stop the Israeli aggression on Gaza".
Egypt and Jordan were the first Arab states to normalise relations with Israel, in 1979 and 1994 respectively, and have since been key mediators between Israeli and Palestinian officials.
Israeli strike hit residential building
A doctor at a hospital in the southern Gaza Strip says at least 12 people were killed and 40 others wounded in an Israeli strike that hit a residential building in a densely populated neighborhood in the city of Khan Younis.
Dr. Mohammed Qandeel said the Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis received the patients on Thursday morning. The city is located within what Israel called a safe zone when it encouraged Gaza residents to evacuate the territory's north.
Emergency crews rushed to rescue survivors around a crater at least one floor deep where people were believed to be trapped. One rescued woman staggered unsteadily from the scene, screaming that God would take revenge against Israel.
A rescue worker rushed a small, ash-covered child toward an ambulance, according to an Associated Press journalist at the scene.
Germany's leader demands release of hostages
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has demanded in a speech watched by relatives of some of the hostages held by Hamas for the militant group to free the captives.
In a speech to the German parliament, Scholz underlined Germany’s staunch support for Israel and renewed a warning that it “would be a serious mistake” for Hezbollah, Iran or their proxies to enter the war.
Scholz traveled to Israel and Egypt this week. He said Thursday: “One important task we all have is to free the hostages, the kidnapped. They most be released without preconditions.”
German officials say a “low two-digit number” of German-Israeli dual citizens are believed to be held in Gaza.
'Deeply disappointed' by US decision
China said Thursday it was "deeply disappointed" by the United States' decision to veto a UN Security Council resolution calling for a "humanitarian pause" in the Israel-Hamas conflict.
"China is deeply disappointed in the United States' obstruction of the Security Council's adoption of a draft resolution on the Palestinian issue," foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said, calling on the Security Council to "play its role in reaching a ceasefire and stopping the war".
UK PM Sunak lands in Tel Aviv
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak landed in Tel Aviv on Thursday, a Reuters witness said, beginning a visit in which he plans to offer condolences to Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu over the Oct 7 Hamas attack and discuss the Gaza war.
Sweden raises travel advisory for Lebanon
Sweden has raised its travel advisory for Lebanon and now advises against all travel there, citing “the deteriorating security situation.”
In neighboring Norway, the Foreign Ministry warned Norwegians earlier this week about the security situation in Lebanon, saying it was “very uncertain” and that “the conflict between Israel and Hamas has a negative impact on the situation in Lebanon.”
Xi says will work with Egypt to help stabilise Middle East
Chinese President Xi Jinping told Egypt's prime minister on Thursday that Beijing hoped to work with his country to bring "more stability" to the Middle East, state media reported, as the deadly Israel-Hamas conflict cast a shadow over the region.
"China is willing to enhance cooperation with Egypt... and inject more certainty and stability into the region and the world," Xi told Mostafa Madbouli at a meeting in Beijing, according to state broadcaster CCTV.
Airstrike kills 7 small children in Gaza home
Residents and doctors in this southern Gaza town said an airstrike slammed into a home, killing seven small children.
The news spread quickly on social media, as grisly images of dead and bloodied toddlers lined up side by side on a hospital stretcher stirred outrage in Gaza and the West Bank.
Bandaged and caked in dust, the bodies were brought to the Gaza European Hospital in Khan Younis along with three other dead members of the Bakri family. Photographers swarmed the operation room as women covered their eyes and doctors wept.
“This is a massacre,” hospital director Dr. Yousef Al-Akkad said, his voice choking with emotion. “Let the world see, these are just children.”
Local medics also confirmed that the children were killed in a strike and said the Bakri family was just one of many such cases Wednesday.
There was no immediate comment from the Israeli military.
Egyptian soccer star Mohamed Salah, arguably the most celebrated Arab footballer, called on world leaders to “come together to prevent further slaughter of all innocent souls” and for the urgent delivery of humanitarian aid to the people in Gaza.
Aid to Gaza “must be allowed immediately,” he added. “The people there are in terrible conditions.”
US senators say Israel not behind hospital blast
Senators who attended a classified briefing with top defense, intelligence and other administration officials said they were briefed that Israel was not responsible for the hospital blast.
“The intelligence community assesses that Israel is not to blame for the explosion of the hospital in Gaza,” Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said as he left. “They believe it was an errant rocket from terrorists in Gaza.”
In a joint statement earlier, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va., and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, the top Republican on the panel, said they reviewed intelligence and “feel confident that the explosion was the result of a failed rocket launch by militant terrorists and not the result of an Israeli airstrike.”
UN officials warn over Gaza health system
U.N. humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths told an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council that the deadly destruction of a hospital has heaped further pressure on Gaza’s crumbling health system, depriving the territory of a facility that cared for 45,000 patients every year.
British PM Rishi Sunak heads to Middle East
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is flying to Israel and nearby countries as part of diplomatic efforts to stop the crisis triggered by Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack from worsening.
Sunak’s office says he will meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Isaac Herzog on Thursday. He will condemn Hamas’ “horrific act of terror” and express condolences for the “terrible loss of life” in both Israel and Gaza.
He’ll also visit “a number of other regional capitals,” Downing Street said, without providing details.
Biden says Egypt agrees to opn Rafah crossing
President Joe Biden on Wednesday said Egypt’s president has agreed to open a border crossing into Gaza to allow in 20 trucks with humanitarian aid.
Biden said he spoke with Egypt President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi after his visit to Israel, where leaders there agreed to allow the aid in. Biden was speaking to reporters on Air Force One during a refueling stop in Germany on his way back to the U.S. from Tel Aviv.
White House officials said the aid would flow in the coming days. Biden said if Hamas confiscates the aid, “it will end.”
Protests around the world
Thousands demonstrated outside the consulates of Israel and the United States in Istanbul late Wednesday. Many waved Palestinian flags, shouted anti-Israeli slogans and called for revenge against Israel a day after the deadly explosion at a hospital in Gaza.
Betul Balcik, a 22-year-old student, told The Associated Press that “humanity is dying” in Gaza and she and friends were there to denounce “war crimes commited by Israel”.
Large protests also erupted in Tunisia and Morocco, with demonstrators outraged by the blast at the hospital in Gaza.
Protesters gathered outside the Parliament in Rabat chanting “Down with America” and demanding that Morocco reverse its 2020 decision to normalize relations and deepen security ties with Israel.
In Tunis, protesters gathered outside the U.S. and French Embassies to condemn those nations’ support of Israel and demand that their ambassadors be removed from Tunisia.
The demonstrations were among the largest since the Arab Spring more than a decade ago, observers said.
There was also a march by an estimated 10,000 pro-Palestinian demonstrators in Athens, Greece, that was quelled by riot police who fired tear gas. Earlier in the day about 100 people took part in a pro-Israeli gathering.
Demonstrators in Amman, Jordan; the Palestinian refugee camp of Ein el-Hilweh in south Lebanon; and Tokyo directed some of their criticism at the U.S. and Biden for their support of Israel.
Hamas rejects claims that Israel isn't behind hospital blast
Hamas is denying Israel's claims that another militant group was responsible for the massive explosion at a Gaza City hospital that killed hundreds of people.
In a statement Wednesday, Hamas said that in the days before Tuesday's blast at al-Ahli Hospital, Israeli authorities sent threats to several Gaza Strip hospitals and told each to evacuate or they would “be responsible for what happens.”
Hamas said Israeli forces have targeted several emergency departments and ambulances since the violence began, adding that Israeli military officials contacted 21 hospitals including Al-Ahli, demanding that they evacuate “immediately because they are located in area of operations for the Israeli” army.
US says intelligence assessment shows Israel not behind blast
An intelligence assessment shows Israel was “not responsible” for the explosion at a Gaza hospital, but information is still being collected, the White House said Wednesday.
The assessment is “based on analysis of overhead imagery, intercepts and open source information,” National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a social media post.
The announcement followed President Joe Biden’s comment to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that “based on what I’ve seen, it appears as though it was done by the other team, not you.”
Biden said there were “a lot of people out there” who weren’t sure what caused the blast, which sparked protests throughout the Middle East. He later said he made the assertion based off “data from my Defense Department.”