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The Latest | Aid ship sails for floating pier off Gaza, as more Palestinians flee Rafah

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The first ship carrying humanitarian aid for Gaza was on its way Thursday to a floating platform built by the U.S. military. The plan is for cargo to be transferred at the pier to smaller U.S. boats that will deliver it to shore.

The Rafah border crossing with Egypt, a main entry point for aid, has been shut down since Israel’s military took control of the Palestinian side early Tuesday.

Civilians in Rafah have been thrown into panic and chaos by the possibility of a full-scale Israeli invasion of the overcrowded city. Tens of thousands of displaced and exhausted Palestinians have packed up their tents and other belongings and fled Rafah for other parts of Gaza.

“Where are we supposed to go? Where is the world, that’s just watching us?” said Ahmad Abed, who has an 8-month-old daughter. “It’s like we’re sheep.”

The war in Gaza has driven around 80% of the territory’s population of 2.3 million from their homes and caused vast destruction to apartments, hospitals, mosques and schools across several cities. The death toll in Gaza has soared to more than 34,500 people, according to local health officials.

The U.N. says northern Gaza is already in a state of “full-blown famine.”

The war began Oct. 7 when Hamas attacked southern Israel, killing around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducting about 250 others. Israel says militants still hold around 100 hostages and the remains of more than 30 others.

Currently:

— What are the latest obstacles to bringing aid into Gaza, where hunger is worsening?

— Biden says U.S. won’t supply weapons for Israel to attack Rafah, in warning to ally.

Israel says it reopened a key Gaza crossing after a rocket attack. The U.N. says no aid has entered.

Has Israel followed the law in its war in Gaza? The U.S. is due to render a first-of-its-kind verdict.

Follow AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war

Here’s the latest:

ISRAELI ACTIVISTS OPPOSED TO HUMANITARIAN AID FOR GAZA BLOCK MAJOR HIGHWAY

TEL AVIV, Israel — Israeli activists opposed to sending humanitarian aid to Gaza have blocked a major highway in southern Israel, snarling traffic and leading to at least a dozen arrests, according to a protest group leading the efforts.

Over the past week, activists with the Tzav 9 organization have blocked trucks that arrived from Jordan bound for Gaza.

“These trucks are taking food to Hamas, and Hamas are murderers, rapists and terrible, terrible people,” said Ruben Frankenburg, as he placed himself in front of a truck bound for Gaza near the Kerem Shalom crossing in southern Israel. He added that Israel was being “forced by the Americans to give them this food.”

Another protester claimed the humanitarian aid was allowing Hamas to continue to fight. “There’s no other place in the world that one side gives the supplies to the other side, it’s crazy, it’s nuts,” said protester Yonatan Godalis, as he stood blocking an 18-wheeler and holding an Israeli flag.

The protests have caused traffic jams across the country, including shutting down parts of the country’s main highways. On Thursday, activists also blocked the road near the town of Mitzpe Ramon, halting traffic up Israel’s iconic desert highway and a main artery toward the south and the Gaza Strip. The protests have caused delays and headaches for drivers but no aid has been halted from reaching the crossings, according to COGAT, the Israeli military branch responsible for handling the humanitarian aid.

ISRAEL RAIDS NAZARETH OFFICES OF AL JAZEERA

TEL AVIV — Israel raided the Nazareth offices of the Qatar-based Al Jazeera satellite news network, days after the government shuttered the network’s offices in Israel.

On Thursday, the Ministry of Communications said forces confiscated equipment from the office in northern Israel that had been used to transmit live broadcasts of Al Jazeera on Wednesday.

“Israel won’t let Hamas broadcast from here,” Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi wrote on X.

Al Jazeera’s headquarters in Doha, Qatar, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Israel ordered the local offices of Al Jazeera to close Sunday, escalating a long-running feud between the broadcaster and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hard-line government as Doha-mediated cease-fire negotiations with Hamas hang in the balance.

Since the order, the broadcaster has moved many of its English-language service correspondents operating in Israel to Amman, Jordan. Others still operate from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

The extraordinary order, which includes confiscating broadcast equipment, preventing the broadcast of the channel’s reports and blocking its websites, is believed to be the first time Israel has ever shuttered a foreign news outlet operating in the country.

FIRST SHIPMENT OF AID TO THE U.S.-BUILT FLOATING PIER IN GAZA LEAVES CYPRUS

NICOSIA, Cyprus — A shipment of humanitarian aid has left a port in Cyprus and is on its way to a U.S-built pier in Gaza, the first delivery to the newly built ramp, Cyprus’ foreign minister said Thursday.

The U.S. vessel, loaded with much-needed humanitarian assistance, departed from the Larnaca port with the aim of transferring as much aid to Gaza as possible through the maritime corridor, said Foreign Minister Constantinos Kombos.

The trip comes about two months after U.S. President Joe Biden gave the order to build the large floating platform several miles (kilometers) off the Gaza coast that will be the launching pad for deliveries.

ISRAELI DRONE STRIKE ON CAR IN LEBANON KILLS 4, GROUP SAYS

BEIRUT — Lebanon’s Civil Defense paramedic group says an Israeli drone strike on a car in a Lebanese village near the border with Israel killed four people.

Hezbollah announced hours later that three of its fighters were killed Thursday adding that in retaliation for their death in the strike in the village of Bafliyeh it attacked Israeli military posts in Kfar Giladi, northern Israel, with explosive drones.

Hezbollah claimed in a statement that it struck an operations room and inflicted casualties among the troops.

Hezbollah started attacking Israeli army posts along the Lebanon-Israel border a day after the Israel-Hamas war broke out on Oct. 7.

Since then, more than 350 people have been killed in Lebanon, including 275 Hezbollah members and more than 70 civilians and non-combatants. In Israel, 15 soldiers and 10 civilians have been killed.

Foreign officials have been visiting Lebanon over the past month in attempts to bring calm to the border, but Hezbollah has repeatedly said it will not stop fighting until there is a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip.

ISRAEL’S NATIONAL SECURITY MINISTER IMPLIES THAT HAMAS LOVES BIDEN

TEL AVIV — Far-right Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir implied in a post on the social platform X that Hamas loves Biden, using a heart emoji a day after U.S. President Joe Biden said he would not supply offensive weapons that Israel could use to launch an all-out assault on Rafah.

Biden, in an interview with CNN on Wednesday, said the U.S. was still committed to Israel’s defense and would supply Iron Dome rocket interceptors and other defensive arms, but that if Israel goes into Rafah, “we’re not going to supply the weapons and artillery shells used.” There is widespread concern over the well-being of the more than 1 million civilians sheltering in Rafah.

Ben Gvir, who used a heart emoji in his tweet regarding Biden and Hamas, has pushed for a punishing military response and has threatened to leave the government if Israel does not carry out a wide-ranging military operation in Rafah. “Hamas’ exercises and games have only one answer: an immediate order to occupy Rafah!” he wrote on X on Monday.

ISRAELI AIRSTRIKE KILLS 8 PEOPLE, INCLUDING 4 CHILDREN

CAIRO — An Israeli airstrike on a residential building killed eight people including four children late Wednesday, according to hospital records. The strike hit a residential building in Tel al-Sultan in western Rafah.

Israel’s military took control of the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing early Tuesday after issuing evacuation orders for eastern parts of the city, home to some 100,000. It then sent tanks to seize the nearby Rafah crossing with Egypt, shutting it down.

Associated Press journalists heard sporadic explosions and gunfire in the area of the Rafah crossing overnight Tuesday, including two large blasts early Wednesday.

On Wednesday afternoon, hospital records showed at least 25 people were wounded when Israeli artillery fire struck part of central Rafah, an area that Israel did not tell Palestinians to evacuate ahead of its operation. The military had no immediate comment.

ISRAELI SOLDIER KILLED BY MORTAR LAUNCHED FROM LEBANON AS TENSIONS RISE

TEL AVIV — An Israeli soldier was killed by a mortar launched from Lebanon, as tensions between Israel and Lebanon continue to rise during the war in Gaza. The soldier was killed on Wednesday and the army announced the death on Thursday. It was the third fatality in a week in Israel on the northern border from launches from Lebanon.

The Israeli army said fighter jets struck Hezbollah military structures in southern Lebanon on Wednesday in response. Defense Minister Yoav Gallant also toured Israel’s northern border on Wednesday and warned that a war with Hezbollah would have “a heavy cost for Israel and a catastrophic one for Hezbollah and Lebanon.”

He added that while Israel was open to a diplomatic solution on the northern border, the army was also preparing for a possible military operation to allow citizens to return to their homes. Tens of thousands of civilians have been evacuated from Israel and southern Lebanon since the war began.

A total of 15 soldiers and 10 civilians have been killed in Israel by Lebanese launches. In Lebanon, more than 370 people have been killed by Israeli strikes, including more than 70 civilians and non-combatants.

ISRAELI STRIKE HITS BUILDING IN DAMASCUS SUBURB, SYRIAN MEDIA SAY

DAMASCUS, Syria — Syrian state media say an Israeli strike on a building in a suburb of the capital Damascus caused damage but no casualties.

Iraq’s al-Nujaba Movement, which is backed by Iran, said one of its cultural centers in the Damascus area was struck and vowed a “forceful and effective” retaliation. Al-Nujaba is one of many Iran-backed groups that sent fighters to Syria over the past years to help President Bashar Assad’s forces during the country’s 13-year conflict.

State news agency SANA cited a military official as saying that Syrian air defenses shot down some of the Israeli missiles before they reached their targets early Thursday.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, said the strike targeted Iran-backed fighters in the southern Damascus suburb of Sayida Zeinab. It did not report any casualties.

There was no comment from Israel’s military on the strike. Israel rarely acknowledges such strikes, although it has carried out hundreds over the past years, mainly targeting Iran-backed fighters such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah group.

The strike was the second on Syria since an April 1 attack blamed on Israel blew up the Iranian Consulate in Damascus, killing seven people, including two Iranian generals.

Iran responded days later by launching hundreds of missiles and drones at Israel. Most were shot down, Israel said.

YEMEN’S HOUTHI REBELS CLAIM 2 ATTACKS IN GULF OF ADEN

Yemen’s Houthi rebels on Thursday claimed two missile attacks in the Gulf of Aden on two Panama-flagged container ships that caused no damage, while also saying they targeted a ship in the Indian Ocean in a previously unreported assault.

The claims by Brig. Gen. Yahya Saree come as the tempo of the rebel attacks have waned in recent weeks as they’ve been targeted by repeated airstrikes launched by a U.S.-led coalition warship in waterways crucial to international trade. The Houthis insist their assaults will continue as long as Israel’s war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip goes on.

Saree in a prerecorded statement claimed attacks on the MSC Diego and MSC Gina. The Joint Maritime Information Center, a U.S.-led coalition of nations operating in the Mideast, said those two missile attacks happened early Tuesday.

BIDEN SAYS U.S. WON’T SUPPLY WEAPONS FOR ISRAEL TO ATTACK RAFAH

President Joe Biden said Wednesday that he would not supply offensive weapons that Israel could use to launch an all-out assault on Rafah — the last major Hamas stronghold in Gaza — over concern for the well-being of the more than 1 million civilians sheltering there.

Biden, in an interview with CNN, said the U.S. was still committed to Israel’s defense and would supply Iron Dome rocket interceptors and other defensive arms, but that if Israel goes into Rafah, “we’re not going to supply the weapons and artillery shells used, that have been used.”

The interview marked Biden’s toughest public comments yet about the potential Israeli military operation and followed his decision to pause a shipment of heavy bombs to Israel last week over concerns that the U.S. ally was moving closer to an attack on Rafah despite public and private warnings from his administration.

U.N. IS NEGOTIATING WITH ISRAEL AND EGYPT TO RESUME FUEL SHIPMENTS INTO GAZA

UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations is engaged in intensive discussions with Israeli and Egyptian authorities to restart fuel shipments to Gaza as soon as possible in order keep providing humanitarian operations.

U.N. humanitarian staff in Gaza are rationing fuel to stretch what’s available for as long as possible, “but it is clear that it is a matter of hours, if not days, where we will have no more fuel,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters Wednesday

Between May 1 and May 5, a daily average of 48 trucks carrying more than 160,000 liters of fuel entered Gaza through the now-closed Rafah crossing with Egypt, Dujarric said.

The U.N. spokesman confirmed that nothing has entered Gaza from the Kerem Shalom crossing, which Israel said it reopened Wednesday, because fighting is still ongoing. With rockets falling and other military activities, there is an issue of safety of humanitarian personnel, he said.

A THIRD MASS GRAVE IS FOUND AT SHIFA HOSPITAL, GAZA’S HEALTH MINISTRY SAYS

JERUSALEM — Dozens of bodies were buried in a mass grave on the grounds of Shifa hospital in northern Gaza, where Israeli forces staged two major operations during the war, the Health Ministry in Gaza said Wednesday.

It is unclear who was buried in the grave or how they died. The Health Ministry says it was the third mass grave found at Shifa since the war began. A two-week Israeli raid in March left Gaza’s largest medical complex in ruins.

Mass graves have also been uncovered at other hospitals Israel raided. In some cases hospital officials said they had been dug purposely to bury the dead until it was safe to move the bodies to a final resting place.

Israel says it has nothing to do with the mass graves, claiming the people buried there either died in battle or were patients who died in the hospital. The United Nations has called for “a clear, transparent and credible investigation” of the mass graves.

CIA DIRECTOR IN ISRAEL AS MEDIATORS PUSH FOR A CEASE-FIRE

WASHINGTON — A U.S. official says that CIA Director William Burns is in Israel as international mediators push for a cease-fire.

The official said Burns arrived on Wednesday and was meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss closed-door negotiations.

The official gave no details on the discussions. But Burns has been in the region meeting with Egyptian and Qatari officials in recent days. He had been scheduled to travel to Israel from Qatar earlier this week, but that meeting was postponed without explanation.

All three countries have been involved in months of talks aimed at halting the seven-month war between Israel and Hamas.

Hamas announced on Sunday that it had accepted an Egyptian-Qatari cease-fire plan. But Israel says the proposal does not meet its “core” demands.

— By ELLEN KNICKMEYER

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