Live Updates | White House Warns Israel: Rafah Fight Would Be A Disaster

Israeli soldiers run as they carry stretchers towards a military helicopter during an exercise simulating evacuation of wounded people in northern Israel, near the border with Lebanon, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Israeli soldiers run as they carry stretchers towards a military helicopter during an exercise simulating evacuation of wounded people in northern Israel, near the border with Lebanon, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
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The White House continues to warn Israel against expanding its offensive into Rafah, the southernmost city in the Gaza Strip.

National Security spokesperson John Kirby said Tuesday that if Israel’s military doesn’t properly account for the safety of Palestinian refugees there, “an operation in Rafah would be a disaster.”

The war began when Hamas-led militants rampaged into southern Israel, killing some 1,200 people and taking around 250 hostage. About a fourth of some 130 captives still being held are believed to be dead. Israel has laid waste to much of the Palestinian territory in response. Gaza’s health ministry estimates more than 29,000 Palestinians have been killed.

More than half of the territory’s 2.3 million people have sought refuge in Rafah, many crowding into sprawling tent camps and overflowing U.N. shelters near the Egyptian border.

Top Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh was in Cairo on Tuesday as the U.S., Egypt and Qatar try to mediate another cease-fire so that aid can flow and hostages can be released, but there were no expectations of a breakthrough.


Hamas warns of ‘death sentence’ to Palestinians, delivers medications to Israeli hostages

US vetoes Arab-backed UN Security Council cease-fire resolution

Israel orders new evacuations in northern Gaza, where UN says 1 in 6 children are malnourished.

South Africa tells top UN court that it’s accusing Israel of apartheid against Palestinians.

— Israel says Brazil’s president unwelcome until he apologizes for comparing Gaza war to Holocaust.

— Find more of AP’s coverage at

Here's the latest:


The Qatari Foreign Ministry said Hamas has started delivering medication for the approximately 100 hostages held in Gaza, a month after the medications arrived in Gaza.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Dr. Majed Al-Ansari said Tuesday evening that Hamas confirmed they had begun to deliver the medications to the hostages in exchange for medicines and humanitarian aid for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

France and Qatar mediated a deal in January for the shipment of medicine for dozens of hostages held by Hamas in Gaza. The deal was the first agreement between Israel and the militant group since a weeklong cease-fire in November, but there was no evidence that the medications had arrived.

France said it took months to organize the shipment of the medicines. Qatar, which has long served as a mediator with Hamas, helped broker the deal that will provide three months’ worth of medication for chronic illnesses for 45 of the hostages, as well as other medicine and vitamins.


The United Nations’ World Food Program announced a pause in food and aid deliveries to northern Gaza on Tuesday after its drivers faced gunfire and violence from desperate residents swarming the trucks.

The convoys “faced complete chaos and violence due to the collapse of civil order,” according to a statement from the program. WFP had attempted to resume aid deliveries in northern Gaza after a three-week pause following an Israeli strike on an aid convoy.

In a rare public criticism of Israel, a top U.S. envoy, David Satterfield, said this week that its targeted killings of Gaza police commanders guarding truck convoys have made it “virtually impossible” to distribute the goods safely.

The WFP said 1 in 6 children under age 2 are acutely malnourished and people are dying of hunger-related causes.

“In these past two days our teams witnessed unprecedented levels of desperation,” the WFP said.

Hamas’ government media office described the WFP decision as a “death sentence” for hundreds of thousands of people in northern Gaza. It called on all UN agencies to return and avert “catastrophic consequences of the famine” there.


Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels are still able to launch attacks in a crucial Red Sea corridor despite a month of U.S.-led airstrikes.

The rebels claimed more attacks Tuesday night after seriously damaging a ship and apparently downing an American drone worth tens of millions of dollars in recent days. The U.S. shot down 10 bomb-carrying Houthi drones, as well as a cruise missile heading toward a U.S. destroyer over the last day, Central Command said Tuesday. The U.S. military also targeted a Houthi surface-to-air missile launcher and a drone prior to its launch.

The Houthi have said they aim to prevent Israeli ships from navigating the Red Sea until Israel ends its war in the Gaza Strip, even though few of the ships targeted have any direct links to Israel. Their guerrilla-style attacks show the difficulty of suppressing asymmetrical warfare, and the U.S.-led campaign to protect the shipping route has boosted the rebels’ standing in the Arab world.

So far, no U.S. sailor or pilot has been wounded, but the U.S. continues to lose drones worth tens of millions of dollars and fire off million-dollar cruise missiles to counter the Houthis, who are using far-cheaper weapons that experts believe largely have been supplied by Iran.

Based off U.S. military’s statements, American and allied forces have destroyed at least 73 missiles before they were launched, as well as 17 drones, 13 bomb-laden drone boats and one underwater explosive drone, according to a tally by The Associated Press. Those figures don’t include the initial Jan. 11 joint U.S.-U.K. strikes that began the monthlong campaign. The American military also has shot down dozens of missiles and drones already airborne as well since November.


LONDON — Prince William, the heir to the British throne, called Tuesday for an end to fighting in the Gaza Strip as soon as possible, lamenting the “terrible human cost” since the Hamas-led Oct. 7 attack in southern Israel and the “desperate need for increased humanitarian support for Gaza.”

William stopped short of calling for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza as the House of Commons prepares for a vote on that issue on Wednesday. The message, written in white on a black background, was placed under William’s cypher on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“Sometimes it is only when faced with the sheer scale of human suffering that the importance of permanent peace is brought home,’’ William said.

William used careful language focused on universal humanity rather than taking sides. The prince plans to meet with aid workers active in the region and, separately, join a discussion at a synagogue with young people of different faiths who are fighting antisemitism.

“Even in the darkest hour, we must not succumb to the counsel of despair,″ William said. “I continue to cling to the hope that a brighter future can be found and I refuse to give up on that.”


The U.S. vetoed an Arab-backed U.N. resolution Tuesday demanding an immediate humanitarian cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war in the embattled Gaza Strip.

The vote in the Security Council reflected wide global support for ending the more than four-month war that started with Hamas’ surprise invasion of southern Israel that killed about 1,200 people and saw 250 others taken hostage. Israel's military response has killed more than 29,000 Palestinians, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which doesn’t distinguish between civilians and combatants but says the majority are women and children.

It was the third U.S. veto of a Security Council resolution demanding a cease-fire in Gaza.

In a surprise move ahead of the vote, the U.S. circulated a rival U.N. Security Council resolution that would support a temporary cease-fire in Gaza linked to the release of all hostages, and call for the lifting of all restrictions on the delivery of humanitarian aid. Both of these actions “would help to create the conditions for a sustainable cessation of hostilities,” the draft resolution obtained by the AP says.

U.S. deputy ambassador Robert Wood told several reporters Monday that the Arab-backed resolution is not “an effective mechanism for trying to do the three things that we want to see happen — which is get hostages out, more aid in, and a lengthy pause to this conflict.”


JERUSALEM — The head of the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees says the United Nations still has not received any evidence from Israel supporting its claims that 12 of the agency’s employees participated in the Oct. 7 rampage that sparked the war.

Israel released a document last month identifying the 12 workers along with the allegations against them and accusing some of participating in kidnappings. But it has released little of the evidence collected against the workers.

The allegations prompted key donors, including the U.S., to suspend funding to the main provider of aid in Gaza.

Philippe Lazzarini, the director of UNRWA, has dismissed the 10 surviving workers; the agency says the other two were killed in fighting. The U.N. has also opened two investigations. But in a podcast Tuesday, Lazzarini said Israel still has not presented formal evidence to the U.N.

“The UN has never, never, ever received any written dossier, despite our repeated call for cooperation from the Israeli authorities,” he said, asking that anyone with evidence share it with the investigation team.

Israel has long accused UNRWA of tolerating Hamas activities in and around U.N. facilities and in some cases even cooperating with the militant group. Lazzarini has denied this and says his agency has safeguards to discipline any employee who violates the U.N. ideals of neutrality.


One in six children are acutely malnourished in the isolated and largely devastated northern Gaza, according to a UNICEF study, while Israel has vowed to expand its five-month offensive against Hamas to the enclave’s southernmost city of Rafah.

The report by the Global Nutrition Cluster says more than 90% of children under 5 in Gaza eat two or fewer food groups a day, known as severe food poverty. A similar percentage are affected by infectious diseases, with 70% experiencing diarrhea in the last two weeks. More than 80% of homes lack clean and safe water, with the average household having 1 liter (1 quart) per person per day.

The U.N. Security Council is set to vote on a U.N. resolution demanding an immediate cease-fire Tuesday, but the U.S. said it would veto it because it’s trying to arrange a deal on its own that would bring a truce and the release of hostages held by Hamas.

The number of Palestinians killed during the war in Gaza has risen to 29,195, according to the Health Ministry in Gaza, which does not distinguish between civilian and combatant casualties in its count. A quarter of Gaza’s residents are starving. About 1,200 people, mostly civilians, were killed and around 250 abducted in Hamas’ attack on Israel on Oct. 7 that sparked the war.


GENEVA — The World Health Organization says 32 patients in critical condition have been transferred from Nasser Medical Complex in southern Gaza to the European Gaza Hospital to the north and field hospitals over the last two days.

The U.N. health agency said Tuesday that four Palestinian Red Crescent Society ambulances carried out the transfers after Nasser became “non-functional” following a weeklong siege and a military raid on the complex on Wednesday.

“Nasser Hospital has no electricity or running water, and medical waste and garbage are creating a breeding ground for disease,” WHO said in a statement. Some 130 sick and injured patients and at least 15 doctors and nurses remain inside the hospital.

WHO reiterated its call that medical personnel, patients, health infrastructure and civilians should be protected and that hospitals must not be militarized or attacked.

“The dismantling and degradation of the Nasser Medical Complex is a massive blow to Gaza’s health system,” WHO said. “Facilities in the south are already operating well beyond maximum capacity and are barely able to receive more patients.


GHAZIEH, Lebanon — Firefighters in southern Lebanon were still battling a diesel fuel fire in a warehouse that was destroyed by Israeli jets.

The Israeli military’s Arabic spokesperson Avichay Adraee said the attack Monday targeted a weapons warehouse belonging to the militant group Hezbollah.

The strike that wounded 14 people was one of the largest near a major Lebanese city since clashes between the Israeli military and Hezbollah along the Lebanese-Israeli border erupted after the Israel-Hamas war on Oct. 7.

Mohamad Khalifa, the owner of the warehouse, denied that the facility belonged to Hezbollah.

“This is a company registered for 11 years that works with electricity generators, open from morning until night, receiving customers all day,” he told the AP. “There is nothing hidden here. The claim that this has weapons is a lie.”