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Smoke rises following an Israeli airstrike in the Gaza Strip. Image Credit: AP

Israel is escalating its bombardment of targets in the Gaza Strip ahead of an expected ground invasion against Hamas militants. The war is rapidly raising the death toll in Gaza, and the U.S. fears the fighting could spark a wider conflict in the region.

Gaza’s 2.3 million people have been running out of food, water and medicine since Israel sealed off the territory following the Hamas attack on Israeli towns on Oct. 7. The aid convoys allowed into Gaza so far have carried a fraction of what's needed, and the U.N. said distribution will have to stop if there's no fuel for the trucks.

Follow the latest updates on Israel-Hamas war:

'Fight must be without mercy, but not without rules'

French President Emmanuel Macron, speaking after meeting Israel's prime minister on Tuesday, proposed a coalition to fight terror groups in the region “that threaten all of us.”

He compared the proposal to the international coalition fighting the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. He was referring to the Iranian-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon, Iran itself and the Houtis in Yemen, among others, saying they must not take the risk of opening a new front.

Standing at the side of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Macron stressed Israel’s right to defend itself in its war with Hamas.

“The fight must be without mercy, but not without rules” because democracies “respect the rules of war,” Macron said, adding that for example democracies don’t target civilians. His statement appeared to be a message to Israel, which has been criticized by some for attacks that have killed Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip. He called for access to aid for Gaza and for electricity to be supplied to Gaza hospitals — not for making war.

5,791 Palestinians killed in Gaza in Israeli strikes

 At least 5,791 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli strikes on Gaza since Oct. 7, including 2,360 children, Gaza's health ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

It said 704 Palestinians had been killed in the previous 24 hours alone.

35 workers at UN agency for Palestinian refugess have died

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees said six of its workers have been killed in the Israel-Hamas war, bringing the total to 35 dead since Oct. 7.

In a statement late Monday, the agency, known as UNRWA, said 18 other workers were wounded.

UNRWA said it found shrapnel in its facilities in the Bureij camp and in Nuseirat in central Gaza from Israel’s bombardment of nearby areas Sunday.

Israel extends start of academic year

The start of the academic year at Israel’s universities and colleges has been delayed again, this time by nearly a month, suggesting the country is expecting extended fighting in the Gaza Strip.

The academic year initially had been scheduled to begin Oct. 19. After two previous delays, the Association of University Heads decided that studies won’t begin until Dec. 3, Israel Army Radio reported.

Israel-Hamas war risks 'serious' economic damage

The war between Israel and Hamas could deal a "serious" blow to global economic development, the president of the World Bank told an investor conference in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday.

"What just happened recently in Israel and Gaza - at the end of the day you put all this together, I think the impact on economic development is even more serious," Ajay Banga said, adding: "I think we're at a very dangerous juncture."

Macron arrives in Israel on solidarity visit

French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in Tel Aviv on Tuesday to express his country's "full solidarity" with Israel after the deadly October 7 attacks by Palestinian militant group Hamas, according to an AFP journalist.

The French head of state was also expected to call for the "preservation of the civilian population" in Gaza, as Israel carries out a relentless bombardment of the Palestinian enclave and prepares for a ground offensive, the presidency said.

At least 140 killed in Israel night strikes on Gaza

Gaza's Hamas government said Tuesday that Israeli air strikes on the besieged territory during the night killed at least 140 people.

A statement from the government's media office said "more than 140 people were martyred and hundreds wounded in massacres committed by the occupation (Israel) raids".

'All countries' have right to self-defence

China's foreign minister has told his Israeli counterpart that "all countries" have a right to self-defence, Beijing said Tuesday, in the first call between top diplomats from the two countries since the Israel-Hamas conflict flared this month.

"All countries have the right to self-defence," Wang Yi told Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, according to a foreign ministry readout, while stressing that "they should abide by international humanitarian law and protect the safety of civilians".

UN rights chief calls for 'immediate humanitarian ceasefire' in Gaza

The United Nations' rights chief called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza as its residents face Israeli bombardments in response to the lightning Hamas attack on Israel on October 7.

"The first step must be an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, saving the lives of civilians through the delivery of prompt and effective humanitarian aid," rights chief Volker Turk said in a statement.

15 Palestinians from the same family buried in mass grave after killed by Israeli airstrikes

Fifteen members of the same family were among at least 33 Palestinians buried in a mass grave at a Gaza hospital on Monday after they were killed by Israeli airstrikes.

A harried-looking doctor in green scrubs walked past as bodies in white sheets were loaded into the back of a pickup truck. Men discussed where to fit the shrouded corpse of a small child between two adults.

Side-by-side, the bodies were laid to rest in a shallow, sandy grave in the courtyard of al-Aqsa Hospital in Deir al-Balah, an ambulance parked nearby. “Bring them all,” a gravedigger called out.

Israel must protect civilians in its war on Hamas

A United Nations special investigator said while Hamas’ attacks on Israel at a minimum constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity, Israel in its response is required under international law to protect civilians and is banned from targeting schools, hospitals and people fleeing harm.

Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, the special rapporteur on protecting human rights while countering terrorism, told a U.N. news conference Monday that when these rules of international humanitarian law are breached, “we are also in the territory of war crimes.”

She stressed that under the Geneva Conventions governing the conduct of war, it isn’t only Israel and Hamas that must respect international humanitarian law. Those “with influence” over the parties also have an obligation to ensure the rules of war are respected — and to remind the parties to comply.

Ní Aoláin, a law professor at the University of Minnesota, said Israel should avoid making the same “mistake” the United States did following 9/11, when “egregious and systematic violations of human rights" were committed.

She also echoed U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s view that Israel’s order for 1.1 million people in northern Gaza to move to the south “will have devastating consequences.”

Ní Aoláin, said she and many others in the U.N. system joined the secretary-general in condemning this, “as well as being clear that the cutting off of water and electricity, which indiscriminately and excessively harm civilians, may constitute a war crime.”

US pushing of UN resolution condemning attacks in Israel

The U.N. Security Council’s monthly meeting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on Tuesday is turning into a high-level event, with ministers flying to New York and the U.S. pushing for adoption of a resolution that would condemn the Hamas attacks in Israel and violence against civilians, and reaffirm Israel’s right to self-defense.

The new U.S.-drafted resolution was still being negotiated late Monday afternoon, but a recent draft obtained by The Associated Press also demands the immediate release of all hostages, urges respect for international laws on conducting war and protecting civilians, urges all countries to intensify efforts to prevent a spillover, and demands immediate humanitarian access to Gaza.

Among those expected at Tuesday’s meeting are the foreign minister of Israel, the Palestinians, Iran, Jordan, France and Brazil, council diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity ahead of any announcement.

A resolution proposed by Russia, which called for a “humanitarian ceasefire” and would strongly condemn all violence and acts of terrorism didn’t mention the Hamas attacks. It failed to get the minimum nine “yes” votes needed for approval by the 15-member council.

Diplomats said one issue in the U.S. draft resolution is Russia’s demand for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza.

International Red Cross confirms release of 2 more hostages

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Israeli hostages Nurit Yitzhak and Yocheved Lifshitz arrive to Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center - Ichilov hospital in Tel Aviv, Israel on October 24, 2023, after being held captive by Hamas since October 7, 2023. Image Credit: AFP

The International Committee of the Red Cross says Hamas militants have released two hostages who had been held captive in the Gaza Strip.

It was the second time the group has freed hostages seized in its bloody Oct. 7 cross-border incursion into Israel.

The hostages were identified by Israeli media as Yocheved Lifshitz and Nurit Cooper of the Israeli kibbutz of Nir Oz.

In a statement, Hamas said it had released them for humanitarian reasons.

Israel has demanded the unconditional release of all hostages held by Hamas.

The Islamic militant group is believed to be holding over 200 people, including an unconfirmed number of foreigners and dual nationals.

Hamas released two other hostages — an American mother and daughter — on Friday.

Hamas says it has freed 2 more hostages

Late Monday, Hamas announced that it had freed an additional two hostages on humanitarian grounds. Israeli media, citing an anonymous official, confirmed the release, but there was no formal announcement from the Israeli side.

The Associated Press could not independently confirm the release.

Delay in ground offensive could allow release of more hostages

The U.S. has advised Israel that a delay in its possible ground offensive in Gaza would allow more time for the U.S. to work with its regional partners to release more hostages seized by Hamas, according to a U.S. official familiar with the Biden administration's thinking on the matter.

The official, who requested anonymity to discuss the private discussions, said it was unclear how much the argument will “move the needle” on Israeli thinking.

The official noted that Qatar's help in mediating with Hamas was able to win the release of two captives, Judith and Natalie Raanan. The process that led to their release — just two of the more than the 222 people believed taken hostage in Israel in the Oct. 7 attacks — started soon after the Hamas operation. The official said arranging for the release of the Raanans “took longer to come together than folks really realize.”