The Latest | Israeli Airstrikes On Rafah Kill At Least 22 People

Mourners pray over the bodies of members of the Abu Taha family who were killed in an Israeli airstrike, during their funeral at Al-Salam cemetery, east of Rafah, Gaza Strip. Monday, April 29, 2024. (AP Photo/Mohammad Jahjouh)
Mourners pray over the bodies of members of the Abu Taha family who were killed in an Israeli airstrike, during their funeral at Al-Salam cemetery, east of Rafah, Gaza Strip. Monday, April 29, 2024. (AP Photo/Mohammad Jahjouh)
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Israeli airstrikes on the southern Gaza city of Rafah have killed at least 22 people, including six women and five children, Palestinian health officials said. One of the children killed in the strikes overnight into Monday was just 5 days old.

Israel has regularly carried out airstrikes on Rafah since the start of the war and has threatened to send in ground troops, saying Rafah is the last major Hamas stronghold in the coastal enclave. Over a 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.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to visit Israel on his latest trip to the region, which began in Saudi Arabia on Monday. He said Israel needs to do more to allow aid to enter Gaza, but that the best way to alleviate the humanitarian crisis is for the two sides to agree to a cease-fire.

The Israel-Hamas war was sparked by the unprecedented Oct. 7 raid into southern Israel in which militants killed around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducted around 250 hostages. Israel says the militants are still holding around 100 hostages and the remains of more than 30 others.

Israel's war in Gaza has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians, according to local health officials, around two-thirds of them children and women. The war has driven around 80% of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million from their homes, caused vast destruction in several towns and cities, and pushed northern Gaza to the brink of famine.


— Israeli officials are concerned the International Criminal Court may issue arrest warrants.

Blinken is back in the Middle East this week. He has his work cut out for him.

Student protests over the war in Gaza roil U.S. campuses ahead of graduations.

— Likely missile attack by Yemen’s Houthi rebels targets a ship in the Red Sea.

— Hamas is reviewing an Israeli proposal for a cease-fire in Gaza as Rafah offensive looms.

— AP's full coverage of Israel-Hamas war.

Here's the latest:


President Joe Biden spoke on Monday separately with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi and Qatari emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani as the White House is stepping up pressure on Hamas to come to terms with Israel on a hostage for cease-fire deal in Gaza. The White House said that in the calls Biden urged both leaders to “exert all efforts to secure the release of hostages held by Hamas as this is now the only obstacle to an immediate ceasefire and relief for the people of Gaza.” The call came as Secretary of State Antony Blinken was in Saudi Arabia on Monday and is set to visit Israel this week. Blinken earlier on Monday called the latest offer to Hamas “extraordinarily generous” on the part of Israel. Hamas has demanded that the release of all hostages bring a complete end to Israel’s nearly seven-month assault in Gaza and a withdrawal of its troops from the devastated territory. Israel has offered only an extended pause, vowing to resume its offensive to destroy Hamas once the pause is over. Ahead of the leaders’ call, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that “there has been new progress in talks,” without offering further detail.


UNITED NATIONS – The U.N. says there’s been an increase in the number of trucks entering Gaza, but all the stumbling blocks in getting aid to the hundreds of thousands in need remain — first and foremost the ongoing fighting but also checkpoints.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters Monday that 206 trucks entered Gaza on Friday and 262 on Saturday, but he reiterated last week’s statement from the head of the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, Philippe Lazzarini, that counting trucks “is not the best measure” to assess whether those in need are getting help.

That’s because “once trucks cross into Gaza the challenges that we face remain,” Dujarric said. “The issue for us is that the fighting is ongoing.”

He said the U.N. humanitarian office reports that the situation in the southern city of Rafah, where about half of Gaza’s more than two million people have sought shelter, “remains dire” following intensive airstrikes with dozens of casualties.

Dujarric said Palestinians in Rafah are facing challenges getting access to clean water, health care and sanitation amid the surge in killings and heightened anxiety about a large-scale Israeli ground offensive.

He said the Coastal Municipal Water Utility warned Sunday that “the entire water and sanitation system is nearing collapse.”

The U.N. children’s agency UNICEF and a dozen humanitarian partners have expanded outpatient treatment for severely malnourished children to more than 100 sites across Gaza, Dujarric said, including more than 50 in Rafah and three dozen in the north, which is facing the worst hunger crisis.

Meanwhile, he said, the U.N. Mine Action Service “is warning that making Gaza safe from unexploded ordnance could take 14 years.”


TEL AVIV — The families of two Israeli hostages held captive by Hamas appealed Monday to both the militant group’s leader in Gaza and Israel’s government to agree to a truce that would see the captives released.

The public plea from the families of Keith Siegel and Omri Miran comes as international pressure mounts on Israel and Hamas to accept a drafted cease-fire agreement after months of failed negotiations. Israel has also vowed to launch a ground offensive into Gaza’s densely packed southern city of Rafah, where Israel says leading Hamas militants are holed up along with the remaining hostages.

“I appeal to Sinwar, please approve this deal. And to the members of the (Israeli) Cabinet, please approve any deal,” said Dany Miran, father of Omri Miran, in central Tel Aviv.

Both men were captured by Hamas, along with some 250 others, during the militant group’s assault on southern Israel on Oct. 7.

In recent days, Israeli politicians have indicated they would be open to a hostage deal in exchange for suspending a planned ground invasion of Rafah, where more than a million displaced Palestinians are sheltering. Washington, Israel’s chief ally, has accused Israel of lacking a plan that will keep displaced Palestinians safe in the event of a ground invasion.

Hamas has continually said it will not release the remaining hostages without an agreement to end the war. Netanyahu has rejected that demand, saying Israel will continue its offensive until Hamas is destroyed and all the hostages are returned.

Hamas is still believed to be holding around 100 hostages and the remains of some 30 others. Most of the rest were freed in November in exchange for the release of 240 Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.


NEW YORK — Columbia University delivered an ultimatum for pro-Palestinian student protesters to sign a form and leave their ten encampment by Monday afternoon or face suspension.

Colleges around the country are imploring protesters to clear out encampments with rising levels of urgency as classes are wrapping up for the semester and campuses are preparing for graduation ceremonies.

The notice sent by Columbia to protesters in the encampment Monday said that if they leave by the designated time and sign a form committing to abide by university policies through June 2025 or an earlier graduation, they can finish the semester in good standing. If not, the letter said, they will be suspended, pending further investigation.

A spokesperson for the Ivy League university in New York City confirmed the letter had gone out to students but declined to comment further.

Mahmoud Khalil, the lead negotiator on behalf of protesters, said university representatives began passing out the notices at the encampment shortly after 10 a.m. Monday. He said discussions were ongoing about how to proceed.

Early protests at Columbia, where demonstrators set up tents in the center of the campus, sparked pro-Palestinian demonstrations across the country. Students and others have been sparring over the Israel-Hamas war and its mounting death toll. Many students are demanding their universities cut financial ties with Israel.


PARIS — Dozens of students gathered near the Sorbonne university in Paris on Monday to protest in support of the Palestinians, echoing similar demonstrations on campuses in the United States.

About 100 demonstrators took part in the protest near the prestigious university, waving a giant Palestinian flag and chanting slogans in support of Palestinians in Gaza amid Israel’s ongoing war.

The Sorbonne occupies a unique place at the heart of French public and intellectual life. Last week, President Emmanuel Macron chose it as the venue to deliver a speech on his vison of Europe ahead of elections for the European Parliament in June.

Last week protests broke out at another elite university in the French capital region, the Paris Institute of Political Studies, known as Sciences Po. Tensions had broken out on campus as pro-Palestinian students sought to occupy an amphitheater.

On Friday, pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli demonstrators faced each other in a tense standoff in the street outside the school. Riot police stepped in to separate the opposing groups.

The protest ended peacefully, when students agreed to evacuate the building late Friday. The head of Sciences Po said an agreement with students had been reached.


JERUSALEM — A U.S. Navy ship involved in an American-led effort to bring more aid into the besieged Gaza Strip is offshore from the enclave and building out a floating platform for the operation, according to satellite photos analyzed by The Associated Press.

The U.S. military and Israeli authorities did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the position of the USNS Roy P. Benavidez. Both Israel and the U.S. have said they hope to have the mobile pier in place and operations underway by early May.

Israeli inspections have caused long backups of aid trucks entering Gaza by land.

Under the plan by the U.S. military, aid will be loaded onto commercial ships in Cyprus to sail to the floating platform now under construction off Gaza. The pallets will be loaded onto trucks, which will be loaded onto smaller ships that travel to a metal, floating two-lane causeway. The 550-meter (1,800-foot) causeway will lead to shore.


JERUSALEM — A suspected missile attack by Yemen’s Houthi rebels targeted a ship in the Red Sea, the latest assault in their campaign against international shipping in the crucial maritime route.

The attack Monday happened off the coast of Mokha, Yemen, according to the British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations center. The private security firm Ambrey said a salvo of three missiles targeted a Malta-flagged container ship traveling from Djibouti onward to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

The Houthis did not immediately acknowledge any attack there, though it typically takes the rebels several hours before claiming their assaults.

The Houthis say their attacks on shipping in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden are aimed at pressuring Israel to end its war against Hamas in Gaza. The Houthis have launched more than 50 attacks on shipping, seized one vessel and sunk another since November, according to the U.S. Maritime Administration.


JERUSALEM — Israeli officials appear to be increasingly concerned that the International Criminal Court may issue arrest warrants against the country’s leaders.

The ICC launched a probe three years ago into possible war crimes committed by Israel and Palestinian militants going back to the 2014 Israel-Hamas war, but it has given no indication such warrants are imminent. There was no comment from the court on Monday.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry said late Sunday that it had informed Israeli missions of “rumors” that warrants might be issued against senior political and military officials.

Foreign Minister Israel Katz said “we expect the court to prevent the issuance of arrest warrants against senior Israeli officials,” saying such warrants would “provide a morale boost” to Hamas and other groups that Israel is fighting.

A series of Israeli announcements in recent days about allowing more humanitarian aid into Gaza appears to be aimed in part at heading off possible ICC action.

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

“The threat to seize the soldiers and officials of the Middle East’s only democracy and the world’s only Jewish state is outrageous. We will not bow to it,” he posted on the social platform X. It was not clear what prompted the post.

The ICC investigation covers allegations going back to the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas, as well as Israel’s construction of Jewish settlements in occupied territory that the Palestinians want for a future state.

ICC prosecutor Karim Khan said during a visit to the region in December that the investigation is “moving forward at pace, with rigor, with determination and with an insistence that we act not on emotion but on solid evidence.”

Neither Israel nor its close ally the United States accept the ICC’s jurisdiction, but any warrants could put Israeli officials at risk of arrest in other countries. They would also serve as a major rebuke of Israel’s actions toward the Palestinians.

The International Court of Justice, a separate body, is investigating whether Israel has committed acts of genocide in the ongoing war in Gaza, with any ruling expected to take years. Israel has rejected allegations of wrongdoing and accused both international courts of bias.


BEIRUT — Hamas' military wing says it hit an Israeli army post from southern Lebanon.

The Qassam Brigades said in a statement that the Monday morning shelling of the army command in northern Israel was in retaliation for “the massacres committed by the Zionist enemy in Gaza.”

Hamas has fired rockets from Lebanon on several occasions since the Israel-Hamas war started in October.

The militant Hezbollah group, an ally of Hamas, has also attacked Israeli army posts from Lebanon. Hezbollah has exchanged near-daily strikes with Israeli forces in the border region — and sometimes beyond — for almost seven months.

More than 350 people have been killed in Lebanon, including 273 Hezbollah fighters and more than 50 civilians. On the Israeli side, 12 soldiers and 10 civilians have been killed.


RAFAH, Gaza Strip — Israeli airstrikes on the southern Gaza city of Rafah have killed at least 22 people, including six women and five children, Palestinian health officials say. One of the children killed in the strikes overnight into Monday was just 5 days old.

Israel has regularly carried out airstrikes on Rafah since the start of the war and has threatened to send in ground troops, saying Rafah is the last major Hamas stronghold in the coastal enclave. Over a 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.

The overnight strikes hit three family homes. The first killed 11 people, including four siblings aged 9 to 27, according to records at the Abu Yousef al-Najjar Hospital, where the bodies were taken. The second strike killed eight people, including a 33-year-old father and his 5-day-old boy, according to hospital records. The third strike killed three siblings, aged 23, 19 and 12. An Associated Press reporter saw the bodies at the hospital.

Israel blames the high civilian death toll on Hamas because the militants fight in densely populated areas. But the military rarely accounts for individual strikes, which often kill women and children.


RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday begins his seventh diplomatic mission to the Middle East since the Israel-Hamas war began more than six months ago.

Just ahead of Blinken’s visit — which includes a little more than a day in Saudi Arabia before stops in Jordan and Israel on Tuesday and Wednesday — President Joe Biden spoke by phone Sunday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Blinken’s trip comes amid renewed concerns about the conflict spreading in the Middle East and with once-promising prospects for Israeli-Saudi rapprochement effectively on hold as Israel refuses to consider one of the Saudis’ main conditions for normalized relations: the creation of a Palestinian state.

The conflict has fueled mass protests around the world that have spread to American college campuses. U.S. support for Israel, particularly arms transfers, has come under particular criticism, something the administration is keenly aware poses potential problems for Biden in an election year.


TEL AVIV, Israel — U.S. President Joe Biden has again spoken with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the White House said Sunday, as pressure builds on Israel and Hamas to reach a deal that would free some Israeli hostages and bring a cease-fire in the nearly seven-month-long war in Gaza.

The White House said that Biden reiterated his “clear position” as Israel plans to invade Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah despite global concern for more than 1 million Palestinians sheltering there. The U.S. opposes the invasion on humanitarian grounds, straining relations between the allies. Israel is among the countries U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit as he returns to the Middle East on Monday.

Biden also stressed that progress in delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza be “sustained and enhanced,” according to the statement. The call lasted just under an hour, and they agreed the onus remains on Hamas to accept the latest offer in negotiations, according to a U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the official wasn’t authorized to comment publicly.

There was no comment from Netanyahu’s office.