The Latest | Israel Expands Rafah Offensive, Saying It Now Controls Gaza's Entire Border With Egypt

An Israeli fighter jet releases flares, and a drone is seen from Rafah, Gaza Strip, on Tuesday, May 28, 2024. (AP Photo/Abdel Kareem Hana)
An Israeli fighter jet releases flares, and a drone is seen from Rafah, Gaza Strip, on Tuesday, May 28, 2024. (AP Photo/Abdel Kareem Hana)
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Israel’s military said Wednesday it has seized control of the entire length of Gaza’s border with Egypt, without elaborating. Capturing the strategic Philadelphi corridor signals that Israel has deepened its offensive in southern Gaza.

Palestinians in the border city of Rafah reported heavy fighting Wednesday. Israel previously said it was carrying out limited operations in eastern Rafah along the Gaza-Egypt border. The United States and other allies of Israel have warned against a full-fledged offensive in the city, saying it would cause a humanitarian catastrophe.

Fighting in Rafah has already spurred more than 1 million Palestinians to flee, most of whom had already been displaced in the war between Israel and Hamas. They now seek refuge in makeshift tent camps and other war-ravaged areas, where they lack shelter, food, water and other essentials for survival, the U.N. says.

Earlier Wednesday, a top Israeli official said the war with Hamas is likely to last through the end of the year. Israel has vowed to expunge the militants from the entire Gaza Strip and has done so by a strategy of systematic destruction, at a huge cost in civilian lives.

Israeli bombardments and ground offensives in Gaza have killed more than 36,000 Palestinians, according to the Health Ministry, which doesn’t distinguish between combatants and civilians.

Israel launched its war in Gaza after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack in which militants stormed into southern Israel, killed some 1,200 people — mostly civilians — and abducted about 250. Israel says around 100 hostages are still captive in Gaza, along with the bodies of around 30 more.


Israeli strikes kill at least 37 Palestinians, most in tents, near Gaza’s Rafah.

— Missile attacks damage a ship in the Red Sea off Yemen’s coast, near previous Houthi rebel assaults.

— A U.S.-built pier will be removed from the Gaza coast and repaired after damage from rough seas.

— Algeria proposes a Security Council resolution demanding Israel halt its offensive in Rafah.

Palestinian prime minister visits Madrid after Spain, Norway and Ireland recognize Palestinian state.

Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Gaza at

Here's the latest:


UNITED NATIONS — The amount of humanitarian aid flowing into Gaza has dropped by two thirds since Israel launched its ground offensive into the southern city of Rafah three weeks ago, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported Wednesday.

The sharp decline in food, fuel, medicine and other aid comes while widespread Israeli bombardments as well as ground incursions and heavy fighting are affecting Gaza’s north, center and south, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said, citing the humanitarian office.

The office, known as OCHA, reports the 67% drop in aid since May 7 is due to the closure of the border crossing from Egypt to Rafah, a key transit point, as well as the inability to safely pick up food and other items dropped off on the Palestinian side of Israel’s Kerem Shalom crossing, plus limited deliveries through other points, Dujarric said.

As for Rafah, he said, OCHA reports that health, humanitarian relief, and social services are being forced to close due to expanded fighting, insecurity, Israeli evacuation orders and the need to transfer resources to other areas after more than a million Palestinians fled Rafah.

Dujarric said the U.N. World Health Organization reports that just one hospital in Rafah remains partially functional – the Al Emirati Maternity Hospital.


WASHINGTON — White House national security spokesman John Kirby said Wednesday he would not confirm that Israel had seized all of the Philadelphi Corridor along Gaza's border with Egypt, saying, “It’s not our op.”

However, he said the move would be consistent with the “limited” ground operation that Israeli officials briefed President Joe Biden’s team on for the city of Rafah.

“When they briefed us on their plans for Rafah it did include moving along that corridor and out of the city proper to put pressure on Hamas in the city,” Kirby told reporters Wednesday.

The U.S. and other allies of Israel have warned against a full-fledged offensive in Rafah, with the Biden administration saying this would cross a “red line” and refusing to provide offensive arms for such an undertaking. But so far, it hasn’t tried to stop Israel’s advances through the city.

Israel said Wednesday it seized the Philadelphi Corridor to cut off smuggling tunnels. Israeli leaders have vowed to defeat Hamas’ remaining fighters in Rafah.

The military said that a fifth brigade — up to several thousand soldiers — joined troops operating in the city on Tuesday.

Last week, the International Court of Justice ordered Israel to halt its Rafah offensive as part of South Africa’s case accusing Israel of committing genocide against the Palestinians in Gaza, a charge Israel vehemently denies.


UNITED NATIONS — The United States says a proposed U.N. Security Council resolution demanding an immediate cease-fire in Gaza and a halt to Israel’s military operations in the southern city of Rafah “is not going to be helpful.”

Algeria, the Arab representative on the Security Council, circulated the draft resolution Tuesday evening to all 15 members after emergency council consultations about Rafah.

U.S. deputy ambassador Robert Wood told reporters ahead of Wednesday’s Security Council monthly meeting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that “another resolution is not necessarily going to change anything on the ground.”

The U.S. has vetoed multiple previous Security Council resolutions demanding a cease-fire in Gaza.

Wood said the U.S. is focused on getting agreement on a temporary pause in the fighting and the release of all hostages taken during Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel, and then working on a long-term end to the war.

U.N. Mideast envoy Tor Wennesland told the council that “agreement on a deal to achieve a cease-fire and secure the release of hostages is blocked — and as Israel rolls out a significant ground operation in and around Rafah, the devastation is only intensifying.”

Majed Bamya, the Palestinian deputy ambassador, told the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday that adopting the resolution would be an important step “to force Israel to halt its military offensive and to withdraw its occupation forces, and to ensure an immediate cease-fire.”

The draft resolution, circulated by Algeria’s U.N. Ambassador Amar Bendjama, demands compliance with previous council resolutions calling for opening all border crossings and securing humanitarian access to Gaza’s 2.3 million people who need food and other aid. Over a million people have fled Rafah in recent weeks to other parts of Gaza, but the U.N. stresses that no place is safe.


BEIRUT — Israeli airstrikes inside Syria killed a child and wounded at least 10 civilians late Wednesday, state media and a war monitor said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, said the casualties were caused by an Israeli missile and a Syrian air defense missile falling on a house in the coastal city of Baniyas, and put the number of wounded civilians at 20.

Syrian news agency SANA said its air defenses confronted the incoming strikes, but did not mention falling munitions.

Strikes also targeted the area around the city of Homs, which is roughly 85 kilometers (50 miles) inland from Baniyas, the two sources said.

The war monitor said the strikes near Homs targeted the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, which is allied with the Syrian government, and aimed at “military site within Hezbollah’s areas of influence in the Homs countryside.” The monitor said this was the 42nd apparent Israeli attack on Syria since the beginning of 2024.

Hezbollah, Iran’s most militarily advanced proxy, has waged a low-intensity conflict with Israel since the start of the war in Gaza.

There was no immediate comment from Israel on the strikes. Israeli rarely acknowledges its strikes in Syria, but when it does it says it aims to counter Iranian influence in the country, which is a key conduit for weapons shipments from Iran to the Hezbollah. The city of Homs is roughly 25 kilometers (15 miles) from the border with Lebanon.

An apparent Israeli airstrike on an Iranian Consulate in Syria last month triggered a series of escalatory attacks between Iran and Israel that threatened to set off a wider war, although the two regional archrivals have recently seemed to dial back tensions.


JERUSALEM — Nikki Haley has signed an Israeli artillery shell with the words “finish them” while touring the country’s northern border with Lebanon.

Haley, a former contender for the Republican presidential nomination, is visiting the Mideast this week and met Wednesday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and families of Israelis taken hostage into Gaza. Haley also toured areas struck by Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack.

Haley, who served as U.N. ambassador during the Trump administration, visited an Israeli military post Tuesday with Israel’s former ambassador to the U.N., Danny Danon. His office shared the photos of the signed artillery shell.

“Finish them! America (heart) Israel. Always Nikki Haley,” read the message she left on the munition.

Haley's visit comes as Israel faces heightened criticism for not doing enough to protect civilians in Gaza amid its war against Hamas, and days after Israeli airstrikes triggered a fire in a camp for displaced Palestinians that appeared to be one of the war’s deadliest attacks.

Israel has been battling Hezbollah militants in Lebanon along its northern border throughout he war in Gaza.


UNITED NATIONS – The United Nations’ Mideast envoy is warning that the risk of “a regional conflagration” is mounting every day that the seven-month Israel-Hamas war in Gaza continues.

Tor Wennesland told the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday that the West Bank “remains a pressure-cooker of negative trends,” and there are ongoing exchanges of fire between Israel and Hezbollah militants across the Israel-Lebanon border, as well as between Syria and Israel on the Golan Heights.

“In addition to the deeply concerning escalation between Israel and Iran witnessed last month, aerial attacks toward Israel from militants in the region and Houthi attacks against international shipping in the Red Sea persisted,” he said. “This is a combustible mix.”

Wennesland, the U.N. special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, said nearly two million Palestinians in Gaza have been displaced, many of them multiple times, and some 100,000 Israelis have been displaced in the country’s north and south.

“Agreement on a deal to achieve a cease-fire and secure the release of hostages is blocked and as Israel rolls out a significant ground operation in and around Rafah, the devastation is only intensifying,” Wennesland said.

He stressed that “this trajectory must change if we are to avoid further catastrophe.”

Wennesland urged Israel and the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table immediately “in good faith” and reiterated U.N. calls for the immediate release of the Israeli hostages in Gaza and a humanitarian cease-fire.

The U.N. envoy also issued an urgent call to strengthen the institutions of the Palestinian Authority “before it is too late.” He said he warned over a year ago that 30 years of state-building for the Palestinians was “at grave risk.” He said this risk is even more acute today, “and the consequences are even more serious.”

“Affirming a path to the two-state solution means preserving and safeguarding the very institutions that are meant to govern such a state,” Wennesland said. “Moreover, these institutions will be vital to the essential objective of ensuring Palestinian-led governance in Gaza.”


PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron expressed his “sincere condolences” to the Palestinian people for the “intolerable human toll” of Israel’s military offensive in Gaza, in a phone call Wednesday with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The talks followed Israel's deadly bombing of a tent camp for displaced people in Rafah on Sunday, the statement said.

Macron and Abbas called for an “immediate end” to Israel’s military intervention in Gaza in line with the International Court of Justice’s order, according to the statement.

Macron told “France’s determination to work with Algeria and its partners” at the U.N. to ensure that the Security Council expresses a “strong position” on Rafah, and to pursue efforts in support of the French draft resolution.

Abbas leads the Western-backed Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, cooperates with Israel on security matters and favors a negotiated two-state solution. Its forces were driven out of Gaza by Hamas when the militants seized power there in 2007.


JERUSALEM — Israel’s military said Wednesday it has seized control of a strategic corridor that runs along the length of Gaza’s border with Egypt. The military had no further immediate details.

Known as the Philadelphi Corridor, the narrow strip is about 100 meters (yards) wide in parts and runs the 14-kilometer (8.6-mile) length of the Gaza side of the border with Egypt. It includes the Rafah crossing into Egypt.

Smuggling tunnels between Egypt and the Gaza Strip have been dug under the area.

The corridor is part of a larger demilitarized zone along both sides of the entire Israel-Egypt border.

Under the Egyptian-Israeli peace accord, each side is allowed to deploy only a tiny number of troops or border guards in the zone. At the time of the accord, Israeli troops controlled Gaza, until Israel withdrew its forces and settlers in 2005. Hamas has had free rein of the border since its 2007 takeover.


RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazil’s President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has withdrawn his ambassador to Israel after months of tensions between the two countries over the war in Gaza.

Wednesday’s move was announced in Brazil’s official gazette. Lula has been a frequent critic of Israel’s offensive in Gaza, which he compared to the Holocaust earlier this year. That led Israel’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz to summon the Brazilian ambassador to the national Holocaust museum in Jerusalem for a public reprimand.

Israel says its war in Gaza is a defensive action triggered by Hamas’ unprecedented assault and rejects any comparisons of its offensive to the Holocaust.

Earlier this month, Colombia broke diplomatic relations with Israel. Colombia’s President Gustavo Petro had previously suspended purchases of weapons from Israel and had also compared that country’s actions in Gaza to those of Nazi Germany.


JERUSALEM — A key governing partner of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized on Wednesday the Israeli leader’s handling of the war with Hamas.

Gadi Eisenkot, a former military chief, accused Netanyahu of deluding the Israeli public with a “catchy slogan” — the goal of “total victory” over Hamas — when reality was more complex. He suggested a quick victory wasn’t possible, and that it would take three to five years to “stabilize” Gaza and “many more” to create an alternative to Hamas.

He said he doubted that destroying Hamas’ battalions in the southern Gaza city of Rafah would lead to hostages being freed, again accusing Netanyahu of “spreading a false illusion” to the Israeli public. He spoke at a security conference in central Israel.

Eisenkot, whose party joined Netanyahu’s government in the first days after the war was sparked with Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack, has previously criticized the government’s approach to freeing the hostages, saying only a cease-fire could secure their release.

Eisenkot called for early elections, saying they were needed to restore the public’s trust in its leadership.

Eisenkot’s National Unity party has set a June 8 ultimatum, threatening to quit the government if Netanyahu does not change tack in the war. The party is led by Benny Gantz, a popular centrist on Israel’s three-member War Cabinet.


UNITED NATIONS – The United States is criticizing Israel for failing to do enough to protect Palestinian civilians, for its barriers preventing aid to flow into Gaza, and for attacks by settlers on humanitarian convoys heading to the territory.

Speaking on behalf of the Biden administration, U.S. deputy ambassador Robert Wood reiterated the United States’ position “that Israel must avoid a major military operation in the heart of Rafah that would put a huge number of civilians at risk.”

“We continue to believe there are alternatives to a major operation that would better advance Israel’s goal of the enduring defeat of Hamas, and also protect innocent Palestinians,” he told the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday.

Israel says it is carrying out limited operations in eastern Rafah along the Gaza-Egypt border but Palestinians in Rafah reported heavy fighting Wednesday as Israeli forces pressed their assault.

Wood said the United States is “heartbroken and horrified” by the death of dozens of Palestinians and serious injury to over 200 others in a tent camp for the displaced in Rafah as the result of an Israeli airstrike on May 26. The United States calls for “a swift, transparent and comprehensive investigation,” he said.

Israel has said the airstrike was aimed at two senior Hamas members who were killed, however, Wood stressed that while Israel has the right to defend itself it also has obligations to protect civilians.

“The fact that Hamas leaders and fighters hide among civilians does not lessen the requirement for Israel to conduct its operations in accordance with international humanitarian law,” he said. Those laws require combatants to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure.

The United States also calls on Israel “to remove all barriers to the flow of aid at scale through all crossings and routes,” Wood said, stressing that “as Gaza faces famine, it is essential we increase food, fuel and supplies reaching those in need.”

And the U.S. says Israel “must connect its military operations to a political strategy that can ensure the lasting defeat of Hamas, the release of all the hostages and a better future for the Palestinian people,” Wood told the council.

“The continued pattern of significant civilian harm resulting from incidents like Sunday’s airstrikes undermines Israel’s strategic goals in Gaza,” the U,S, envoy said.


GENEVA — The Palestinian health minister said Wednesday that Israeli forces should not have launched airstrikes that set fire to a tent camp housing displaced Palestinians and insisted that no matter the exact cause of dozens of deaths there, “they pulled the trigger” in a military operation.

Israel’s military has suggested the airstrikes sparked a secondary explosion, possibly from Palestinian militants’ weapons, and caused the huge fire that swept through the tents. Gaza health officials say 45 people were killed. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the fire resulted from a “tragic mishap.”

Dr. Maged Abu Ramadan said Israeli forces never should never have attacked the zone around the tent camp.

“They know that this is an area for civilians. It was designated by the IDF itself,” he said, using an acronym for the Israeli military. “It is simple. Whatever the cause, whether it was their bomb or it was something else. It is therefore they triggered -- they pulled the trigger.”

Abu Ramadan also cited press reports about the types of weapons used by Israeli forces, insisting that no matter the size of the bombs, “killing is killing.”

He said Israel has not offered Palestinian authorities any indication about when a critical border crossing at Rafah could be reopened to allow badly needed humanitarian aid into Gaza and the evacuation of wounded and ill patients.

He called on the United States to “press hard” to get Israel to reopen the crossing. Israeli troops seized the Rafah border crossing three weeks ago, and all land crossings are now entirely controlled by Israel.

Abu Ramadan is the minister of health for the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority, based in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. He spoke to reporters on the sidelines of the World Health Organization’s annual assembly in Geneva.


World Central Kitchen said Wednesday that “ongoing attacks” in the Israeli offensive on Rafah had forced it to suspend operation of its main kitchen there.

The group also is having to move many of its smaller kitchens farther north in Gaza, away from the offensive, it said in a post on X.

A growing Israeli military push this month into the Rafah area in pursuit of Hamas has uprooted a million people from the city, according to the U.N. Rafah had been crowded with families seeking refuge as Israel’s offensive in Gaza pushed south across Gaza.

One of the group’s kitchens in the city of Deir al-Balah, one of the sites where displaced Palestinians are fleeing to now in their latest quest for safety, was now serving up the biggest shares of meals, World Central Kitchen said in a separate statement.

Opening Sunday of the border crossing between Gaza and Israel, which had been closed for weeks after Israeli forces took over the Palestinian side of the border, has been “critical to get much needed supplies,” World Central Kitchen said in the statement.

The group has been able to get in nearly 60 trucks in the three days since, it said.

World Central Kitchen, a global disaster relief program run by chef Jose Andres, earlier had suspended its work in Gaza after a targeted Israeli attack on April 1 killed seven of its workers. The group announced its return to operations there late last month.


JERUSALEM — U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham on Wednesday slammed the top United Nations court, calling it “a joke” and its chief justice “a raving antisemite.”

Graham made the comments in a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, on the senator’s fifth visit to Israel since the Israel-Hamas war began in October.

Graham’s remarks came days after the International Court of Justice in The Hague ruled that Israel must halt its offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah immediately.

Graham also promised action against the International Criminal Court, whose prosecutor has requested arrest warrants for Netanyahu, his defense minister and three Hamas leaders on war crimes charges.

“We will do all we can … to hold the ICC (to) account for this outrage against the people of Israel,” said Graham, a Republican from South Carolina.

Senate Republicans have threatened sanctions against ICC personnel over the decision. The Biden administration has also criticized the decision and said it would work with lawmakers to come up with an appropriate response, should one be needed.


TEL AVIV, Israel — Israel’s national security adviser says the war with Hamas is likely to last through the end of the year.

In an interview with Israel’s Kan public broadcaster on Wednesday, Tzachi Hanegbi said “we are expecting another seven months of fighting” to destroy the military and governing capabilities of Hamas and the smaller Islamic Jihad militant group.

His remarks came as Israel finds itself increasingly isolated on the world stage nearly eight months into the war triggered by Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack, with even the United States and other close allies expressing outrage over the toll on civilians.

Hanegbi defended Israel’s ongoing operations in Rafah, on Gaza’s border with Egypt, saying the frontier had become a “smuggling kingdom” since Hamas seized power in Gaza in 2007.

“Every rocket, every explosive device, every shot fired at Israel is because that border was breached,” he said.

He said Israel now controls around 75% of the narrow buffer zone between Egypt and Gaza that was created as part of the 1979 peace treaty between Israel and Egypt.

Egypt has expressed grave concerns about Israel’s Rafah offensive, saying it threatens the peace treaty.


ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday, calling him a psychopath and a “vampire that feeds on blood” following Israeli airstrikes on the southern Gaza city of Rafah that triggered a deadly fire in a camp for displaced people.

In a speech to legislators from his ruling party, Erdogan held the United States and European nations responsible for the deaths while also criticizing the Islamic Cooperation Organization for failing to take joint action against Israel.

“Oh, the American state, this blood is on your hands also. You are responsible for this genocide at least as much as Israel. Oh, the heads of state and government of Europe, you are also a party to Israel’s genocide, this barbarism, this vampire-like act of Israel, because you remained silent,” Erdogan said.


TEL AVIV, Israel — Three soldiers have been killed in Rafah during the ongoing fighting in the southernmost city in Gaza, the Israeli military said Wednesday.

Israeli media reported that the soldiers were killed in an ambush by an explosive device Tuesday, adding that three other soldiers were wounded.

Palestinians on Wednesday reported heavy fighting in different parts of Rafah. Israel appears to be broadening its incursion, which has already caused over 1 million people to flee the city. Most had already been displaced earlier in the war.

Israel launched what it said was a limited incursion into Rafah on May 6, focused on the Gaza-Egypt border, which it says Hamas has long used to smuggle arms. It says Rafah is the last major stronghold for Hamas, but the militants have regrouped elsewhere in Gaza.

The military says at least 290 soldiers have been killed since the ground operation in Gaza began in October.


MANILA, Philippines — The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies joined growing calls Wednesday for a cease-fire and humanitarian aid access to the Gaza Strip, saying these were critically needed to ease the horrific suffering of civilians trapped in the seven-month conflict.

“It’s absolutely imperative,” IFRC President Kate Forbes told The Associated Press in an interview in the Philippine capital, Manila, where she was to hold a series of meetings. “First, we have to have a government solution to get a cease-fire so that we can get access and then, we will give aid to both sides.”

Some areas need “psychosocial support and in some, it’s going to be absolute aid,” said Forbes, who rose to the presidency of the world’s largest humanitarian network in December.

“I’ve said this is both a sprint and a marathon. We need to get aid in immediately in Gaza for people who have malnutrition, there’s not adequate sanitation,” she said. “But it’s going to be a marathon in that there’s going to be aid that’s going to be needed for decades to repair Gaza and the people there.”