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Live updates | Israeli tanks enter Gaza’s Shifa Hospital compound

Two and a half weeks after sending tanks and ground troops into northern Gaza, Israeli forces entered a hospital early Wednesday that they claim Hamas operates out of. Mohammed Zaqout, the director of hospitals in Gaza, said Israeli tanks were inside the medical compound and that soldiers had entered buildings, including the emergency and surgery departments, which house intensive care units.

Shifa Hospital has become a symbol of the widespread suffering of Palestinian civilians during the war between Israel and Hamas, which erupted after the militant group killed some 1,200 people and seized around 240 captives in a surprise Oct. 7 attack into southern Israel.

The Israeli army claims the militant group uses hospitals as cover for its fighters, and has set up its main command center in and beneath Shifa Hospital, the largest in the besieged territory. Both Hamas and Shifa Hospital staff deny the Israeli allegations.

More than 11,200 Palestinians — two-thirds of them women and minors — have been killed since the war began, according to the Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza, which does not differentiate between civilian and militant deaths. About 2,700 people have been reported missing.

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Currently:

— The U.N. Security Council is trying for a fifth time to adopt a resolution on the Israel-Hamas war.

— ASEAN defense chiefs call for the fighting in Gaza to cease, but they struggle to address Myanmar.

— Thousands flee Gaza’s main hospital but hundreds, including babies, are still trapped by fighting.

— Israel supporters rally in Washington, crying ‘never again.’

— Find more of AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war

Here’s what’s happening in the latest Israel-Hamas war:

IRAN’S FOREIGN MINISTER MEETS WITH PEACEMAKING GROUP

GENEVA — Iran’s foreign minister has traveled to Geneva for a previously undisclosed meeting hosted by a leading humanitarian group that works to strike peace agreements.

Hossein Amirabdollahian spoke with the U.N.’s top humanitarian aid official, Martin Griffiths, in a meeting at the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, which made headlines five years ago for its role in an accord in which the Basque separatist group ETA agreed to dissolve after a decades-long campaign in Spain, officials said.

The center said in a message sent to The Associated Press on Wednesday that it “routinely convenes closed-door consultations to support conflict mediation and resolution in various parts of the world.

“In the latest of these consultations, HD hosted a senior Iranian delegation and other invited guests for a discussion about Gaza focused on ways to alleviate human suffering, increase humanitarian assistance and reduce risks of escalation in the region,” the statement said.

The center’s website says it has been working on conflicts around the world and “brings all parties together to find the path to peace.”

The Israeli ambassador in Geneva, Meirav Eilon Shahar, posted on X, formerly called Twitter, that: “Israel expresses its indignation that the foreign minister of Iran is in Geneva and meeting with U.N. officials and NGOs to talk about the ‘humanitarian situation in Gaza.’”

“Iran has no place in the future of Gaza. It is part of the problem, not the solution,” she added.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement on X that “As part of his consultations in Geneva, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian has met with a number of officials of the U.N., humanitarian organizations and religious institutions as well as university professors and some ambassadors there regarding the ongoing developments in Palestine and the Zionist regime’s aggression against #Gaza.”

— By Jamey Keaten in Geneva

UN REFUGEE AGENCY CONFIRMS FIRST RECEIPT OF FUEL, SAYS IT NEEDS MUCH MORE

CAIRO — The head of UNRWA, the U.N. relief agency for Palestinian refugees, confirmed Wednesday that it has received 23,000 liters (6,000 gallons) of fuel that crossed into Gaza via the Rafah crossing, but called for more to be allowed to enter the besieged territory.

The aid group says Israeli authorities allowed the fuel to enter under the restriction that it can only be used to transport aid into besieged Gaza.

“This fuel cannot be used for the overall humanitarian response, including for medical and water facilities or the work of UNRWA,” Philippe Lazzarini said in an online statement.

UNRWA needs 160,000 liters (42,200 gallons) of fuel each day to complete “basic humanitarian operations,” he added.

Israel declared war on Hamas and barred fuel shipments after its attack on Israel on Oct. 7, saying the group would divert the supplies for military use.

Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories, the Israeli defense body responsible for Palestinian affairs, announced early Wednesday that it would allow United Nations trucks to refill at the Rafah crossing on Wednesday. It said the decision was in response to a request from the United States,

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ISRAELI FORCES ARE STILL OPERATING IN GAZA’S LARGEST HOSPITAL, HEALTH MINISTRY OFFICIAL SAYS

CAIRO — A senior official with Gaza’s Hamas-controlled Health Ministry says Israeli forces are still operating inside Shifa Hospital, the territory’s largest, hours after launching a raid early Wednesday.

Speaking by phone from the hospital, Munir al-Boursh said Israeli soldiers ransacked the basement and other buildings, including those housing the emergency and surgery departments.

“They are still here … patients, women and children are terrified,” he said. He said doctors vowed to stay with their patients “till the end.”

Israel says Hamas has a secret command center in and under the hospital but has provided no visual evidence. Hamas and the hospital staff deny the allegations.

The military said it was carrying out a “precise and targeted operation against Hamas” in a specific part of the hospital away from patients and medical staff. It said it also delivered medical supplies.

Al-Boursh called for the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross to secure a safe corridor for patients, medical staff and displaced families trapped in the facility to leave.

Al-Boursh said an Israeli official spoke with him by phone early Wednesday and asked him to join the forces searching the facility, but he refused.

COMMUNICATIONS COMPANY WARNS OF BLACKOUT BECAUSE OF FUEL SHORTAGE

JERUSALEM — The main Palestinian communications company warned Wednesday that Gaza will plunge into a communications blackout in a matter of hours following several short-term outages in recent weeks.

In a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, Paltel said dwindling fuel supplies have forced all of its generators in Gaza to shut down and that communications in the territory are now dependent on batteries.

The company warned of a “cessation of all communications services during the next few hours.”

Israel allowed the first shipment of fuel to enter the besieged territory on Wednesday, but the U.N. says the amount allowed in is not enough to aid the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation.

UN OFFICIAL CONDEMNS ISRAELI RAIDS ON HOSPITAL, SAYS HAMAS MUST NOT USE IT AS A ‘SHIELD’

GENEVA — The U.N.’s top emergency relief official on Wednesday condemned reported Israeli military raids on Gaza’s embattled Shifa Hospital and insisted Hamas militants must not use it as a “shield” for their activities.

Martin Griffiths underscored growing international concern for the plight of patients in the Gaza City hospital who are too sick or frail to be moved.

“Look, Hamas must not, should not, use a place like a hospital as a shield for their presence,” he said in a video statement. He added, “hospitals should not become a place of — a war zone — of danger.”

Griffiths said earlier on X, previously called Twitter, that he was “appalled” by overnight reports of Israeli raids on Shifa.

The U.N. World Health Organization says Shifa patients have needs that are “well beyond basic care.” Images reportedly from the facility showed medics trying to keep newborns warm in blankets because power for incubators had failed.

“The babies have no incubators,” Griffiths said. “Some are dead already. We can’t move them out. It’s too dangerous.”

“I understand the Israelis’ concern for trying to find the leadership of Hamas, that’s not our problem,” he added. “Our problem is protecting the people of Gaza from what’s being visited upon them.”

FIRST NORWEGIAN CITIZENS ARE ALLOWED TO LEAVE GAZA

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said Wednesday he was very happy that the first Norwegian citizens have arrived on the Egyptian side of the border with Gaza.

Norway had been informed that 51 Norwegians could leave Gaza via the border crossing at Rafah.

Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide said, “there are no safe places in Gaza, and everyone who is there is exposed to traumatic experiences.”

Barth Eide said the situation in Gaza was “a humanitarian disaster, which also affects Norwegian citizens. The acts of war must stop and humanitarian aid must be allowed in.”

According to Norwegian news agency NTB, there are about 270 people with ties to Norway in Gaza with approximately half of them children.

TURKEY’S PRESIDENT INCREASES CRITICISM OF ISRAEL

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan increased his criticism of Israel on Wednesday, calling it a “terrorist state” intent on destroying Gaza along with all of its residents.

In a fiery speech to members of his party, Erdogan also said his country would take steps to ensure that Israel’s political and military leaders are brought to trial in international courts.

“Israel is implementing a strategy of total destruction of a city and its people,” Erdogan said. “I say openly that Israel is a terrorist state.”

The Turkish leader described Hamas militants as “resistance fighters” trying to protect their lands and people.

Turkey recently normalized relations with Israel but its war with Hamas in Gaza has again strained their ties. Israel recalled its diplomats from Turkey last month after Erdogan accused Israel of committing war crimes. Turkey later also recalled its ambassador from Israel.

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ISRAELI MILITARY STRESSES IT’S TARGETING HAMAS, NOT CIVILIANS

TEL AVIV, Israel — Israel’s military insisted Wednesday its forces in and around the largest hospital in Gaza are specifically targeting Hamas, which it claims set up a command center there. Both Hamas and Shifa Hospital staff deny the Israeli allegations.

“Israel is at war with Hamas, not with the civilians in Gaza,” said Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, a spokesperson for the Israeli Defense Forces. “The IDF has publicly warned time and again that Hamas’s continued military use of Shifa Hospital jeopardizes its protected status under international law.”

Hagari said Israeli forces in Gaza included medics and Arabic speakers to try and provide assistance in the “complex and sensitive environment.”

REFUGEES IN SOUTHERN GAZA FACE CONTINUAL AIRSTRIKES

KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza Strip — A rainbow appeared in the sky over southern Gaza on Wednesday as residents, many of them refugees from the northern part of the strip, struggled for survival amid round-the-clock airstrikes. Residents in cars and on bicycles and makeshift carts pulled by donkeys weaved their way through the city’s roads, littered with rubble from the bombardment.

Egyptian Mohammad al-Abdallah has been trying to leave Gaza since the bombing started. “They asked us to come from the north. And when we arrived, we stayed in an apartment here, and we were bombed. Do they want us to die? This is enough,” he said.

GUN PERMIT REQUESTS SKYROCKET AFTER HAMAS INCURSION, ISRAELI MINISTRY SAYS

JERUSALEM — Requests for gun permits in Israel have skyrocketed since Hamas’ bloody Oct. 7 incursion, according to a press release from the Ministry of National Security.

More than 236,000 new requests for permits have been filed since the attack — a figure equal to the number filed over 20 years, the statement said.

A sense of insecurity gripped Israel following the attack and the army’s hourslong delay in responding, leading to a rush to buy guns. At least 1,200 people were killed and more than 240 taken hostage after Hamas militants breached Israel’s border fence and fanned out across the country’s south.

Armed civilian security squads entered the breach in the army’s absence to fight off some of the attackers. Shortly after, Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir said he would expand and arm such squads with 10,000 assault rifles that would be distributed particularly in border towns, mixed Jewish-Arab cities and West Bank settlements. Ben-Gvir has a long record of anti-Arab rhetoric, and Palestinians feared these guns would be used against them.

Some 1,700 permits are being issued daily after the Ministry of National Security eased restrictions, the report said. By comparison, an average of 94 were issued daily in November 2022, and an average of 42 a year earlier.

UNICEF DIRECTOR SAYS HER VISIT TO THE GAZA STRIP WAS DEVASTATING AND CALLS FOR UNRESTRICTED AID

JERUSALEM — The United Nations children’s agency says its top official visited the Gaza Strip early Wednesday and met with children and their families in the Nasser hospital in Khan Younis, in the south of the territory.

“What I saw and heard was devastating. They have endured repeated bombardment, loss and displacement,” UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell said in a statement sent to The Associated Press. “Inside the Strip, there is nowhere safe for Gaza’s one million children to turn.”

Russell is among the few international officials to have visited the Gaza Strip since the war began following a surprise attack by Hamas on Oct. 7.

In the statement she called for an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire” and for aid to be allowed unrestricted, saying that “in the hospital’s neonatal ward, tiny babies were clinging to life in incubators, as doctors worried how they could keep the machines running without fuel,” Russell said in the statement.

She also met UNICEF staff and their families. Over 100 U.N. staff have been killed in the Gaza Strip since Israel launched a war aimed at destroying Hamas.

ISRAEL SAYS IT’S CARRYING OUT A ‘PRECISE AND TARGETED OPERATION’ INSIDE GAZA’S SHIFA HOSPITAL

JERUSALEM — The Israeli military says its forces have entered Gaza’s Shifa hospital, the site of a lengthy standoff.

The army had surrounded the facility as part of its ground offensive against Hamas, claiming the militant group conceals military operations in the hospital complex. But with hundreds of patients and medical personnel inside, it had refrained from entering.

Early Wednesday, the army said its forces were carrying out “a precise and targeted operation against Hamas in a specified area” in the hospital. It gave no further details but said it was taking steps to avoid harm to civilians.

In a statement, the Israeli military said it had warned “the relevant authorities in Gaza once again that all military activities within the hospital must cease within 12 hours. Unfortunately, it did not.”

Hamas has denied the Israeli accusations that it uses the hospital for cover.