The Latest | Ship with food aid leaves for war-torn Gaza; Israel says 100 rockets fired from Lebanon

A Palestinian boy plays with fireworks as he celebrates the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan next to a destroyed residential building by the Israeli airstrikes in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Sunday, March 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Fatima Shbair)

A Palestinian boy plays with fireworks as he celebrates the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan next to a destroyed residential building by the Israeli airstrikes in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Sunday, March 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Fatima Shbair)

A ship carrying 200 tons of food was on its way Tuesday to the war-devastated Gaza Strip from the island of Cyprus to test-run opening a sea corridor to the besieged Palestinian territory, where hundreds of thousands of people are on the brink of starvation.

The Israeli military said six aid trucks entered Gaza through the north late Tuesday as the international push for more humanitarian aid to Gaza grew.

Israel’s war in Gaza threatens to spill across the Middle East as militant groups allied with Hamas and backed by Iran trade fire with U.S. and Israeli forces. The Israeli military struck two targets in Syria it said were used by Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, after around 100 projectiles were launched into Israel from Lebanon on Tuesday morning in one of the biggest barrages since the war began.

Efforts by the United States, Egypt and Qatar to broker a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas stalled last week.

The war began when Hamas-led militants stormed into southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducting around 250 people. Hamas is still believed to still be holding around 100 hostages and the remains of others.

Gaza’s Health Ministry said that over 31,000 Palestinians have been killed and most of Gaza’s 2.3 million people forced from their homes. The ministry doesn’t differentiate between civilians and combatants in its count, but says that women and children make up two-thirds of the dead. A quarter of Gaza’s population is starving, according to the United Nations.

Currently:

— An aid ship is sailing to Gaza, where hundreds of thousands face starvation 5 months into war.

— A United Nations envoy says the finding that some hostages were victims of sexual violence doesn’t justify Israeli attacks.

— Officials say a pair of Israeli airstrikes deep into northeastern Lebanon kills at least two people.

— A Gaza family uprooted by war and grieving their losses shares a somber Ramadan meal in a tent.

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

Here’s the latest:

6 TRUCKS CARRY AID INTO GAZA FROM THE NORTH FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE WAR ERUPTED, ISRAELI MILITARY SAYS

JERUSALEM — The Israeli military said an aid convoy has for the first time entered the Gaza Strip through a crossing in the war-ravaged northern half of the territory.

Six trucks entered Gaza late Tuesday through a gate in the border fence, carrying goods from the World Food Program, the military said. It described the delivery as a test run and said the Israeli government would review the results.

Israel alleges that Hamas is commandeering aid. At the same time, Israel is under growing international pressure to ease restrictions on aid entering Gaza, particularly the northern half of the territory. Up to now, aid convoys entered Gaza from its southern end and had to make their way through areas of fighting and large, desperate crowds of Palestinians.

On Tuesday, the European Union’s foreign policy chief said Israel is using starvation as a weapon of war and accused it of blocking overland routes that are the best way to get food to hundreds of thousands of Palestinians facing famine.

The United States and other countries have resorted to workarounds, such as air drops and setting up a sea route, but aid officials say land deliveries remain the most efficient.

ISRAEL IS USING STARVATION AS A WEAPON OF WAR IN GAZA, EU OFFICIAL TELLS U.N. SECURITY COUNCIL

UNITED NATIONS – The European Union’s foreign policy chief says Israel is using starvation as a weapon of war and accused it of blocking overland routes that are the best way to get food to hundreds of thousands of Palestinians facing famine in the Gaza Strip.

Josep Borrell told the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday that humanitarian assistance must get into Gaza where there is no natural disaster, flood or earthquake.

“This is a man-made crisis,” Borrell said. “And when we look for alternative ways of providing support by sea or by air, we have to remind that we have to do it because the natural way of providing support to roads is being closed — artificially closed — and starvation is being used as a war arm.”

He said that this practice is being condemned in Ukraine, and the same words have to be used in Gaza.

The World Food Program delivered food into northern Gaza on Tuesday for the first time since Feb. 20, according to the United Nations. After being checked at Israel’s Kerem Shalom crossing, the military said six humanitarian aid trucks brought WFP aid into Gaza at the 96th gate crossing, close to Kibbutz Be’eri.

Aid groups have been struggling to get aid to the isolated area for months, although some private convoys have managed to deliver food.

Borrell said the EU is waiting for the results of three investigations into Israeli allegations that 12 staff members from the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, participated in Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks in southern Israel. But he stressed that UNRWA only exists because there are Palestinian refugees.

And if UNRWA disappears, the refugees will still be there, he said. “In fact, there is only one way to make UNRWA disappear – making those refugees citizens of a Palestinian state that co-exists with an Israeli state.”

To make this a reality, Borrell said the first step should be for the U.N. Security Council to unanimously adopt a resolution endorsing a two-state solution and “defining the general principles which might lead to this result.”

Stressing the very wide support for a two-state solution, he said that would be “a wonderful opportunity to show that our principles are not empty words.”

ISRAEL SAYS IT STRUCK SITES IN SYRIA USED BY HEZBOLLAH

JERUSALEM — The Israeli military bombed two sites in Syria that it said were used by Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group.

Tuesday’s strikes came amid intensified fighting along the nearby Israel-Lebanon border, where Israel and militant groups have exchanged fire almost daily since the war in Gaza erupted five months ago. The Syrian government did not immediately issue any public comment.

Hezbollah had launched more than 100 rockets towards Israel earlier Tuesday — one of the heaviest barrages of the current conflict — hours after two Israeli airstrikes in northeastern Lebanon destroyed a warehouse and killed at least one person and wounded eight.

Israel’s military says it has carried out 4,500 strikes against Hezbollah targets over the past five months. The vast majority of the strikes were in Lebanon, while a few were in Syria.

The Israeli military statement said it holds the Syrian government “accountable for all activities which take place within its territory and will not allow for any attempted actions which could lead to the entrenchment of Hezbollah on the Syrian front.”

In February, two people were killed in a strike in the Syrian capital of Damascus, although Israel did not confirm the attack.

In recent years, Israel has carried out hundreds of strikes on targets inside government-controlled parts of war-torn Syria. It doesn’t usually acknowledge its airstrikes on Syria. But when it does, Israel says it’s targeting Iran-backed groups there.

DUTCH LEADER TO VISIT ISRAEL AND EGYPT

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Dutch caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte is visiting Israel and Egypt on Wednesday to discuss the crisis in the Middle East.

Rutte will meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem before traveling to Cairo for talks with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi.

The Dutch government information service says that the “humanitarian situation in Gaza and the importance of an immediate pause in fighting and the release of all hostages will be discussed.”

Rutte also will discuss the “need to prevent regional escalation and find a lasting solution to the conflict.”

68 PALESTINIAN ORPHANS ARE EVACUATED FROM GAZA TO THE WEST BANK, GERMANY SAYS

JERUSALEM — Dozens of Palestinian orphans have been evacuated from Gaza to the occupied West Bank, said the German Foreign Ministry, which had pressed for the transfer.

The evacuation Monday from the orphanage run by SOS Children’s Village, an Austrian-based non-governmental organization, appeared to be one of the largest evacuations from Gaza since the war broke out on Oct. 7.

In a statement Tuesday, the ministry said 68 orphans and 11 staff members were transferred from the southern Gaza city of Rafah to the West Bank city of Bethlehem.

“We are relieved that our intensive efforts finally led to success yesterday and thank all involved,” the ministry said in an email, without elaborating Germany’s role in the operation.

SOS Children’s Village confirmed to The Associated Press that the orphans were currently in Bethlehem, but did not provide any further details. The group has facilities in both Gaza and the West Bank.

In December, 28 premature babies were evacuated from Gaza to Egypt.

News of the evacuated orphans sparked backlash from far-right ministers in Israel’s government.

Bezalel Smotrich, the ultranationalist finance minister, demanded Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu provide “clarifications about who gave the immoral order” to transfer children from Gaza while Israelis are still held in Hamas captivity.

The Israeli military did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

AMERICAN-ISRAELI SOLDIER BELIEVED TAKEN HOSTAGE HAD DIED ON OCT. 7, ISRAEL’S MILITARY SAYS

JERUSALEM — The Israeli military says it has determined that an American-Israeli soldier who was believed taken into Gaza as a hostage was actually killed during the Hamas-led attack on Oct. 7.

It was not clear how the military determined Itay Chen, 19, had been killed. Chen on active duty on the day of the attack.

Chen’s family has been prominent in the struggle by relatives of hostages to have their loved ones released. Chen’s father, Ruby, is American and had made repeated appearances in the media and met top U.S. officials.

U.S. President Joe Biden said Tuesday he was “devastated” to learn of Chen’s death, after meeting Chen’s father and brother at the White House in December.

“No one should have to endure even one day of what they have gone through,” said Biden, adding that the U.S. would keep working to secure the remaining hostages’ release.

In a statement, Chen’s parents thanked the Biden administration and the American people for their support. They said they expect Israel and America’s leadership to do everything to bring back all the hostages still in Gaza, including their son’s remains.

Chen is the latest hostage to be declared dead by Israeli authorities. Israel says 34 of the hostages remaining in the Gaza Strip are dead, either killed during Hamas’ attack or while in captivity.

Hamas-led militants took roughly 250 people captive into Gaza, among them men, women, children and older adults. Dozens were released during a temporary cease-fire in late November and about 100 people remain in captivity who are believed to be alive.

11 KILLED IN AN ISRAELI STRIKE ON A HOME IN CENTRAL GAZA

RAFAH, Gaza Strip — Palestinian officials say an Israeli strike on a home in central Gaza has killed 11 people, mainly women and children.

The strike occurred early Tuesday in the central city of Deir al-Balah. An Associated Press reporter saw the bodies arrive at a hospital.

Hospital records show that of the 11 killed, four were women and five were children. All were from the same family.

Israel says it tries to avoid harming civilians and accuses Hamas of using them as human shields because the militants fight in dense, residential neighborhoods. The military rarely comments on individual strikes, which often kill women and children.

Gaza’s Health Ministry says at least 31,112 Palestinians have been killed in the war. The ministry doesn’t differentiate between civilians and combatants in its count, but it has said women and children make up around two-thirds of the dead.

The war began when Hamas launched a surprise attack into Israel on Oct. 7, killing some 1,200 people, mainly civilians, and taking around 250 hostage.

AID SHIP SETS SAIL FROM CYPRUS TO GAZA

An aid ship loaded with some 200 tons of food set sail Tuesday from Cyprus to Gaza, the international charity behind the effort said.

The shipment is a test for the opening of a sea corridor to supply aid to the territory, where starvation is spreading five months into the Israel-Hamas war.

World Food Kitchen, the charity founded by celebrity chef José Andrés, posted on the X social media platform that a ship set sail on Tuesday. Associated Press live footage showed it being towed out of a harbor in the port city of Larnaca.

The United States has separately announced plans to construct a sea bridge near Gaza in order to deliver aid, but it will likely be several weeks before it is operational.

HEZBOLLAH LEADER MEETS WITH TOP HAMAS OFFICIAL

BEIRUT — The leader of Hezbollah met with a top Hamas official involved in negotiations for a cease-fire in Gaza, the Lebanese group said in a statement Tuesday.

Hassan Nasrallah’s meeting with Khalil Hayeh in Beirut came at the start Ramadan after Qatar- and Egyptian-mediated negotiations for a truce before the holy month broke down.

Israel’s military and Hezbollah militants continue to clash along the Lebanon-Israel border, while other governments scramble to prevent all-out war in the tiny Mediterranean country.

Amos Hochstein, a senior advisor to U.S. President Joe Biden, has urged both parties to seek a lasting cease-fire in the tense border area. Hezbollah’s leadership has said that a cease-fire in Gaza would be the only way to restore calm along the Lebanon-Israel border, but Israeli officials say that wouldn’t be the case.

Israeli strikes late Monday deep into Lebanon killed one person and wounded six others near the country’s northeastern city of Baalbek.

The Israeli military’s Arabic spokesperson Avichay Adraee said Israeli jets bombed two Hezbollah compounds in northeastern Lebanon in retaliation for Hezbollah launching attacks on the Israeli-occupied Syrian Golan Heights.

Since the Israel-Hamas war began, more than 220 Hezbollah fighters and nearly 40 civilians were killed on the Lebanese side while in Israel, nine soldiers and 10 civilians were left dead in the attacks.

ISRAELI MILITARY SAYS ABOUT 100 PROJECTILES FIRED FROM LEBANON INTO ISRAEL

TEL AVIV, Israel — The Israeli military says about 100 projectiles have been launched from Lebanon into Israel, in some of the heaviest fire emanating from Israel’s northern neighbor since the start of the war in Gaza.

There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage following Tuesday’s strikes, which appeared to be in response to Israeli airstrikes deep inside Lebanon a day before. The military said early Tuesday it struck sites belonging to the Lebanese Hezbollah’s aerial forces in retaliation for previous Hezbollah attacks.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the launches from Lebanon.

Israel’s military and fighters from the Lebanese Hezbollah have been trading fire since the Israel-Hamas was began on Oct. 7. More than 220 Hezbollah fighters and nearly 40 civilians have been killed on the Lebanese side, while in Israel, nine soldiers and 10 civilians have been killed in the attacks.

Tens of thousands of people have been displaced on both sides of the border because of the fighting.

U.N. ENVOY SAYS ABUSE OF HOSTAGES DOESN’T LEGITIMIZE FURTHER HOSTILITIES

UNITED NATIONS — A U.N. envoy warned Israel that her finding of “clear and convincing information” that some hostages taken by Hamas during its Oct. 7 attack were subjected to sexual violence “does not in any way legitimize further hostilities.”

“In fact, it creates a moral imperative for a humanitarian cease-fire to end the unspeakable suffering imposed on Palestinian civilians in Gaza and bring about the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages,” Pramila Patten told the U.N. Security Council on Monday where Israel’s foreign minister sat listening.

“Continuation of hostilities can, in no way, protect them,” she said of the hostages. “It can only expose them to further risk of violence, including sexual violence.”

Patten, the U.N. envoy focusing on sexual violence in conflict, spoke at a council meeting sought by Israel and called by the United States, United Kingdom and France to focus on her recent report.

Israel’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz said he came to the council “to protest as loud as I can against the crimes against humanity” committed by Hamas in order to deter and scare Israeli society.

He strongly criticized the Security Council’s failure in over 40 meetings since Oct. 7 to condemn Hamas’ actions, saying the U.N.’s most powerful body should declare the extremist group a terrorist organization and pressure it to immediately release the hostages.

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