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The Latest | Fighting escalates in Rafah as Israel pushes ahead with its offensive

Palestinian residents of the southern Gaza city of Rafah have reported an escalation of fighting Tuesday as Israeli forces pressed their assault on the border town once seen as the territory’s last refuge.

Israel says it is carrying out limited operations in eastern Rafah along the Gaza-Egypt border, as the United States and other allies of Israel have warned against a full-fledged offensive in the city.

Israeli shelling and airstrikes west of Rafah killed at least 37 people overnight and on Tuesday, most of them sheltering in tents, according to witnesses, emergency workers and hospital officials. The strikes pummeled the same area where strikes on Sunday triggered a deadly fire that engulfed tents in a camp for displaced Palestinians, killing 45 people.

Israeli leaders say their forces must enter Rafah to dismantle Hamas and return hostages taken in the Oct. 7 attack that triggered the war.

Fighting in Rafah has caused 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 squalid tent camps and other war-ravaged areas, where they lack shelter, food, water and other essentials for survival, the U.N. says.

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.


— Spain, Norway and Ireland formally recognize a Palestinian state as EU rift with Israel widens.

— Netanyahu says deadly Israeli strike in Rafah over the weekend was the result of a “tragic mishap.”

— As Israel attacks Rafah, Palestinians are living in tents and scrounging for food.

— An Israeli strike in southern Lebanon kills two people near a hospital, officials say.

Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Gaza at

Here’s the latest:

UNITED NATIONS – The United Nations chief says the “humanitarian catastrophe” in Gaza is risking famine and is calling on Israel to enable safe and unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance through all crossing points.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres notes the International Court of Justice’s recent orders to Israel to halt its offensive in Rafah and open the border crossing from Egypt for aid deliveries “which are binding and must be respected,” spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Tuesday.

He reiterated the secretary-general’s condemnation of Israel’s air strikes Sunday night that led to the killing and wounding of many Palestinians, and “as he has said before, the horror and suffering must stop immediately.”

Guterres calls for urgent efforts to prepare the Palestinian Authority to take over responsibilities for governing Gaza, Dujarric said.

“The devastation and the misery of the past seven months have reinforced the absolute need for Israelis, for Palestinians, for states of the region and the broader international community to take urgent steps that will enable the parties to re-engage on the long-delayed political path to achieve a two-state solution,” Dujarric said.

JERUSALEM — Israel’s Labor party has chosen a new leader, picking a retired military general in hopes of boosting its fortunes.

The party announced Tuesday that Yair Golan, a former deputy military chief of staff, won its primary election with over 95% of the vote. He trounced three little-known challengers.

Labor, which led the country for the first three decades of its existence, has fallen on hard times. Opinion polls indicate the party would struggle to win the minimum number of votes to enter parliament if elections were held.

In a victory speech, Golan pledged to unite Israel’s struggling political left wing to mount a challenge to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his religious and nationalist allies.

As deputy military chief, Golan was passed over for the top job after a controversial speech in which he compared what he saw as fascistic trends in modern-day Israel to Nazi Germany. He also served briefly in parliament with the dovish Meretz party, which failed to enter parliament in the most recent election in 2022.

The retired general has gained popularity since Oct. 7, when he threw on his old uniform and rushed to southern Israel to rescue people fleeing a music festival attacked by Hamas.

UNITED NATIONS – Algeria’s U.N. ambassador says he will be sending the U.N. Security Council a proposed resolution calling for a halt to the fighting in Gaza’s southern city of Rafah.

Amar Bendjama, who is also the Arab representative on the Security Council, told reporters after emergency closed council consultations on Tuesday that he will be sending the draft to the 15-member council later in the evening.

“It is a short text, a decisive text, to stop the killing in Rafah,” he said.

Algeria called the emergency Security Council meeting as Israel pushed ahead with its military operation in Rafah and as fighting escalated in the border city where over a million Palestinians had sought refuge. It followed Sunday night’s Israeli airstrikes that triggered a fire engulfing tents in a camp for displaced Palestinians west of Rafah, killing 45 people and injured over 100 others.

Some diplomats said they hope for a quick vote, even as early as Wednesday.

China’s U.N. Ambassador Fu Cong told reporters: “It is our hope that it can be done as quickly as possible because life is in the balance.”

U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said: “We’re waiting to see it and then we’ll react to it.”

The United States has vetoed multiple resolutions demanding a cease-fire in Gaza.

WASHINGTON — A U.S. State Department spokesman expressed regret Tuesday about the fiery deaths of up to 45 displaced Palestinian civilians in an Israeli attack, but gave no indication the U.S. saw Israel as crossing any of the Biden administration’s “red lines” for the war in Gaza.

Spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters that Israel’s weeks-old offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah was still on a “far different” scale than the assaults Israeli forces waged on other cities in the seven-month war against Hamas in Gaza. The U.S. had urged Israel not to replicate those earlier attacks in Rafah, given the vulnerable civilians crowded there.

President Joe Biden had warned earlier this month that he might limit shipments of U.S. offensive weapons to Israel if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attacked the population centers of Rafah. Rafah had been a refuge for a million civilians sent fleeing by the war, although the growing offensive on that city has now sent up to a million there fleeing again.

Biden also had warned earlier that U.S. policy toward Israel would change if that country did not do more to allow humanitarian aid deliveries and otherwise ease the suffering of Gaza’s 2.3 million people.

“But is this something that we watch every day, and something that we engage with the government of Israel about every day,” Miller said. That’s “as we talk to them about what their plans are and what U.S. policy might be, and as we talk to them about the need to minimize civilian harm and conduct their strikes in a way that minimizes civilian harm.”

Miller said he had no direct knowledge of reported accounts from witnesses on the ground Tuesday that Israeli tanks had entered the center of Gaza, and noted Israel had denied responsibility for a new Israeli strike outside of Rafah Tuesday that Gaza health officials said killed more than 20.

UNITED NATIONS — More than a million people have fled Gaza’s southern city of Rafah since Israel launched a military operation on May 6 and some have been displaced several times already because of Israeli bombardments, the U.N. agency helping Palestinian refugees says.

Juliette Touma, spokesperson for the agency known as UNRWA, told a U.N. press conference Tuesday that the agency’s teams on the ground say heavy bombardments again took place overnight including in the area north of Rafah home to the U.N. main offices as well as UNRWA’s offices. Most of its staff didn’t make it to work and were “packing and moving,” she said.

“People are absolutely terrified,” Touma said in the video briefing from Jordan. “A lot of people are fleeing to al-Muwasi and they are also fleeing to the middle areas including Deir al-Balah,” which are crowded with other displaced Palestinians.

Touma said just over 200 trucks with humanitarian supplies have been picked up for delivery to those in need in the past three weeks, which she called “a drop in the ocean amid people’s humanitarian needs.”

She said this is due to several factors: “heavy movement restrictions that the Israeli authorities continue to impose on the humanitarian community, the ongoing Israeli forces’ airstrikes, and the recent expansion of the military operation in the area, and the recent launch of rockets by Hamas.”

As for fuel, Touma said every two days UNRWA picks up 100,000 liters of fuel on behalf of humanitarian organizations, which is one-third of the 300,000 liters needed every day, and that is also creating distribution problems.

MESEBERG, Germany — German Chancellor Olaf Scholz says the strike that sparked a deadly weekend fire in a tent camp in Rafah illustrates why his country and others opposed a large-scale Israeli offensive in the southern Gaza city.

Scholz said Tuesday that an investigation announced by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is “as right as it is necessary.”

At a news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron, Scholz said the conduct of the war must be in line with international law and pointed to warnings against a large-scale ground offensive in Rafah.

He said that, given the large number of refugees in Rafah, “we can’t imagine any scenario, any variation of military activity that wouldn’t come with an irresponsibly large number of civilian victims, and unfortunately we feel vindicated by the latest reports.”

Sunday’s strike caused widespread outrage, including from some of Israel’s closest allies. Netanyahu said it was the result of a “tragic mishap.”

MESEBERG, Germany — French President Emmanuel Macron said Tuesday his country is working with Algeria on “a joint resolution” on Gaza to push for a cease-fire and address the desperate need for humanitarian aid.

France is supporting the Algerian request for an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council over the situation in Rafah, he said.

The response to the Israel-Hamas war “can only be a political one,” Macron said. He was speaking in Meseberg, Germany, on the third day of a state visit in the country.

“We are ready to actively work at a peaceful solution, it’s reachable with political will,” Macron added.

He said French diplomats will work in the “coming hours and days” at convincing “all our partners” over the resolution proposal.

Macron reaffirmed that recognizing a Palestinian state is not a “taboo” for France yet the decision must be made “at a useful moment” and shouldn’t be an “emotional” reaction to what happened in Rafah.

Macron on Monday said on X he was “outraged by the Israeli strikes that have killed many displaced persons in Rafah.”

“These operations must stop. There are no safe areas in Rafah for Palestinian civilians. I call for full respect for international law and an immediate cease-fire,” he said.

UNITED NATIONS – The head of the United Nations agency promoting gender equality is demanding a halt to the war in Gaza, saying women and girls are suffering the most.

Sima Bahous, executive director of U.N. Women, said Tuesday more than 10,000 women have been killed in the seven months of fighting – including scores of women and children “horrifically killed” by an Israeli airstrike Monday while sleeping in tents in what was supposed to be a safe zone in Gaza’s southern city of Rafah.

Bahous told a U.N. Security Council meeting it is “for all women and girls caught in this conflict that we demand a permanent cease-fire, unhindered humanitarian access, the release of all hostages, the determined pursuit of peace, and a two-state solution.”

“This war must stop because women and girls are bearing the brunt of it,” Bahous told the meeting on the role of women and youth in promoting international peace and security.

JERUSALEM — The Israeli military says an initial investigation into a strike that sparked a deadly fire in a tent camp in the southern Gaza city of Rafah has found the blaze was caused by a secondary explosion.

Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the chief military spokesman, said Tuesday that the military fired two 17-kilogram (37-pound) munitions that targeted two senior Hamas militants. He said the munitions would have been too small to ignite a fire on their own and that the military is looking into the possibility that weapons were stored in the area.

The strike or subsequent fire also could have ignited fuel, cooking gas canisters or other materials in the densely populated tent camp housing displaced people.

Palestinian health officials say at least 45 people, around half of them women and children, were killed in Sunday’s strike.

The strike caused widespread outrage, including from some of Israel’s closest allies. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it was the result of a “tragic mishap.”

DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip — Israeli strikes on Rafah have killed at least 16 Palestinians overnight, first responders said Tuesday, as residents reported an escalation of fighting in the southern Gaza city.

An Israeli incursion launched earlier this month has caused nearly 1 million to flee from Rafah, most of whom have already been displaced in the war between Israel and Hamas, and who are now seeking refuge in squalid tent camps and war-ravaged areas.

The latest strikes occurred in the same area where Israel targeted what it said was a Hamas compound on Sunday night. That strike ignited a fire in a camp for displaced Palestinians and killed at least 45 people, according to local health officials, sparking worldwide outrage.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said there was a “tragic mishap” on Sunday and the military said it was investigating.

The latest strikes killed a total of 16 people in the Tel al-Sultan neighborhood in northwest Rafah, according to the Palestinian Civil Defense and the Palestinian Red Crescent.

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Norway on Tuesday formally recognized a Palestinian state with the Scandinavian foreign minister calling it “a milestone in the relationship between Norway and Palestine.”

Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide said “the recognition is a strong expression of support for moderate forces in both countries.”

However, “it is regrettable that the Israeli government shows no signs of engaging constructively,” Barth Eide said. “The international community must increase its political and economic support for Palestine and continue the work for a two-state solution.”

Last week, Norway, along with Spain and Ireland, said in a coordinated effort that they were recognizing a Palestinian state.

MADRID — Spain moved to formally recognize a Palestinian state with Ireland and Norway to follow suit on Tuesday in a coordinated effort by the three western European nations. Israel slammed the diplomatic move that will have no immediate impact on its grinding war in Gaza but adds to international pressure to soften its devastating response to October’s Hamas-led attack.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz accused Spain of “being complicit in inciting genocide against Jews and war crimes” and told the country that its consulate in Jerusalem will not be allowed to help Palestinians.

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, who announced his country’s decision before parliament last week, has spent months touring European and Middle Eastern countries to garner support for recognition and a cease-fire in Gaza.

Relations between the EU and Israel nosedived Monday, the eve of the diplomatic recognition EU members Ireland and Spain, with Madrid insisting that sanctions should be considered against Israel for its continued deadly attacks in southern Gaza’s city of Rafah.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Iran’s parliament reelected hard-liner Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf on Tuesday as its speaker, reaffirming its hard-right makeup in the wake of a helicopter crash that killed the country’s president and foreign minister.

Of 287 lawmakers voting Tuesday, 198 backed Qalibaf to retain the position he first took in 2021. He initially became speaker following a string of failed presidential bids and 12 years as the leader of Iran’s capital city. Many, however, know Qalibaf for his support as a Revolutionary Guard general for a violent crackdown on Iranian university students in 1999. He also reportedly ordered live gunfire to be used against Iranian students in 2003 while serving as the country’s police chief.

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