Live updates | Israel bombards Gaza with airstrikes 2 weeks into the war against Hamas

Israel was bombarding Gaza and evacuating a sizable town near the Lebanese border in the latest sign of a potential ground invasion of Gaza that could trigger regional turmoil. Palestinians in Gaza reported heavy airstrikes in Khan Younis in the south, where Palestinians had been told to seek safety, and ambulances streamed into Gaza’s second-largest hospital, already overflowing with patients and people seeking shelter.

Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has ordered ground troops to prepare to see Gaza “from the inside,” hinting at a ground offensive aimed at crushing Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers. Aid shipments badly needed in Gaza are positioned to enter through the Rafah border crossing from Egypt.

The war that was in its 14th day Friday is the deadliest of five Gaza wars for both sides. The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry said Thursday that 3,785 Palestinians have been killed and nearly 12,500 wounded.

More than 1,400 people in Israel have been killed, mostly in the initial attack Oct. 7 when Hamas militants stormed into Israel. In addition, 203 people were believed captured by Hamas during the incursion and taken into Gaza, the Israeli military has said.


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

BANGKOK – The bodies of eight Thai nationals who were killed in the Hamas attack on southern Israel arrived at a Bangkok airport Friday as repatriation efforts continued for thousands of Thai workers.

Ahead of the first repatriation of the Thai dead, Thai and Israeli officials laid wreaths at a small memorial ceremony on Thursday at Tel Aviv’s airport. Thailand’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said Thursday that 30 Thais are feared dead, while 16 are reportedly injured and 17 are believed to have been abducted.

About 30,000 Thai workers are in Israel, mostly agricultural laborers, and about 5,000 were working in the area attacked. Two evacuation flights on Friday brought more than 500 Thais back to the country, with more flights set to arrive daily. Officials say more than 8,000 of the Thais remaining in Israel have expressed their wish to return home.

President Joe Biden referenced the killing of a 6-year-old Palestinian American boy in Illinois to deliver a forceful denunciation of antisemitism and Islamophobia.

Biden brought up the case of Wadea Al-Fayoume during a televised nighttime address from the Oval Office. Authorities say the boy, who was Muslim, was stabbed 26 times Saturday by his landlord in response to escalating rhetoric about the Israel-Hamas war. Wadea’s mother was critically wounded.

Biden said it’s difficult to “stand by and stand silent when this happens,” adding that “we must without equivocation denounce” antisemitism and Islamophobia.

The White House said that after the speech, Biden and his wife, Jill, spoke with Wadea’s father and uncle to offer condolences along with prayers for his mother’s recovery.

President Joe Biden is urging support for additional U.S. aid for Ukraine and Israel, saying in a televised address from the Oval Office that “American leadership is what holds the world together.”

Biden spoke hours after returning to Washington from an urgent visit to Israel to show U.S. support in the wake of a deadly attack by Hamas on Oct. 7. Some 1,400 civilians were killed and roughly 200 others, including Americans, were taken to Gaza as hostages. Israel has responded with airstrikes, and 3,785 people have been killed in Gaza since the war began, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.

The U.S. president argued that Israel needs help to defend itself from Hamas. He also said the U.S. must help Ukraine stop the advances of Russian President Vladimir Putin to keep other “would-be aggressors” from trying to take over other countries.

Biden said he will send lawmakers an “urgent budget request” Friday to fund U.S. national security needs. He called the request, said to carry a price tag of about $100 billion, a “smart investment” that will pay dividends for decades to come.

Douglas Emhoff, the husband of U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, met in Washington with Natalie Sanandaji, a 28-year-old American survivor of Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks in Israel.

Sanandaji recounted the attack on a music festival, where some 260 people were killed, a White House official said.

Emhoff, who is Jewish and has been outspoken about and against antisemitism, spoke to Sanandaji about President Joe Biden and Harris’ support for Israel, providing humanitarian aid to civilians and the administration’s work to combat hate of all kinds, the official said.

BEIRUT – An explosion struck a Greek Orthodox church housing displaced Palestinians late Thursday, resulting in deaths and dozens of wounded.

Mohammed Abu Selmia, director general of Shifa Hospital, said dozens were hurt at the Church of Saint Porphyrios but could not give a precise death toll because bodies were still under the rubble.

Palestinian authorities blamed the blast on an Israeli airstrike, a claim that could not be independently verified.

The Greek Orthodox Patriarchy of Jerusalem issued a statement condemning the attack and said it would “not abandon its religious and humanitarian duty” to provide assistance.

A survivor told Qatar’s Al Jazeera Arabic television that there was no warning from the Israeli military beforehand.

In Athens, Greece’s Foreign Ministry expressed “deep sorrow over the loss of lives caused by a strike on a building adjacent to the monastery of Saint Porphyrios in Gaza.” The ministry’s statement said civilians must be protected and religious institutions safeguarded by all sides.

Named after the Bishop of Gaza from 395 to 420, St. Porphyrios is located in the al-Zaytun section of Gaza’s Old City. Its thick limestone walls house an elaborate interior of gilded icons and ceiling paintings.

It became a mosque in the 7th century before a new church was built in the 12th century during the Crusades.

JERUSALEM – Nearly 30 of some 200 hostages held by Hamas in Gaza are children, the Israeli military said.

More than 10 are over the age of 60, it said in a statement.

Authorities have no information about the location of more than 100 missing Israelis, it added.

WASHINGTON – An unclassified U.S. intelligence assessment delivered to Congress estimates casualties in an explosion at a Gaza City hospital on the “low end” of 100 to 300 deaths.

That death toll “still reflects a staggering loss of life,” U.S. intelligence officials said in the findings, which were seen by The Associated Press. Officials were still assessing the evidence, and the estimate may evolve.

The explosion at Gaza’s al-Ahli hospital on Tuesday left body parts strewn on the hospital grounds, where crowds of Palestinians had clustered in hopes of escaping Israeli airstrikes.

Officials in Hamas-ruled Gaza quickly said an Israeli airstrike had hit the hospital. Israel denied it was involved. The Associated Press has not independently verified any of the claims or evidence released by the parties.

President Joe Biden and other U.S. officials already have said that U.S. intelligence officials believed the explosion was not caused by an Israeli airstrike. Thursday’s findings echoed that.

The U.S. assessment noted “only light structural damage” to the hospital itself was evident, with no impact crater visible.


This version has corrected that Israel said Thursday the number of suspected captives is 203, not 206.

Copyright © 2023 The Washington Times, LLC.

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