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Dire Humanitarian Conditions in Gaza Grow Worse as Israel Widens Its Offensive

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An Israeli military helicopter flies next to the Israeli-Gaza border, as seen from southern Israe. (AP File Photo/Ariel Schalit)
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Israel’s widening air and ground offensive in southern Gaza has displaced tens of thousands more Palestinians and worsened the territory’s dire humanitarian conditions, with the fighting preventing distribution of food, water and medicine outside a tiny sliver of southern Gaza and new military evacuation orders squeezing people into ever-smaller areas of the south.

The United Nations said 1.87 million people — more than 80% of Gaza’s population — have been driven from their homes since the start of the Israel-Hamas war, triggered by the deadly Oct. 7 Hamas assault on southern Israel. The U.N. also says that all telecom services have been shut down due to cuts in the main fiber routes.

On Tuesday, Israel’s military entered Khan Younis, Gaza’s second-largest city, in its pursuit to wipe out the territory’s Hamas rulers. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the military must retain open-ended security control over the Gaza Strip long after the war ends. Around 1,200 people have died on the Israeli side, mainly civilians killed during Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack.

The Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza said the death toll in the territory has surpassed 16,200, with more than 42,000 wounded. The ministry does not differentiate between civilian and combatant deaths, but said 70% of the dead were women and children.

Currently:

— Widespread sexual and gender-based crimes were committed during Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack, a rights group says. Biden calls on the world to condemn Hamas for the reported brutalities.

— Generation after generation, Israeli prison marks a rite of passage for Palestinian boys.

— In a rare action against Israel, the U.S. says extremist West Bank settlers will be barred from America.

— The presidents of Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania and MIT defend actions in combatting antisemitism on campus.

— The U.N.’s food agency stops deliveries to millions in Yemen areas controlled by Houthi rebels.

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

Here’s what’s happening in the war:

UN HUMAN RIGHTS CHIEF URGES IMMEDIATE CEASE-FIRE

The U.N. human rights chief is demanding that the international community immediately push “with one voice” for a cease-fire in Gaza as the plight of civilians deepens.

“Palestinians in Gaza are living in utter, deepening horror,” U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk said at a news conference in Geneva. “As an immediate step, I call for an urgent cessation of hostilities and the release of all hostages.”

He added: “The international community needs to insist with one voice on a cease-fire, immediately, on human rights and humanitarian grounds.”

Türk said that, as more information emerges on allegations of sexual violence by members of Hamas and other Palestinian groups in their attack on Israel in October, “it is painfully clear that these attacks need to be fully investigated to ensure justice for the victims.”

While investigators are trying to determine the scope of the sexual assaults, Israel’s government is accusing the international community, particularly the U.N., of ignoring the pain of Israeli victims.

Türk said he asked Israeli authorities in October for permission to deploy a team to investigate the attacks on Israelis, and has repeated the request, but hasn’t received a response. “We need to ensure that justice is served, because that’s what we owe the victims,” he said.

Türk also expressed “grave concern regarding dehumanizing and inciteful statements made by current and former high-level Israeli officials, as well as Hamas figures,” without citing specific comments or people.

“History has shown us where this kind of language can lead,” he said. “This is not just unacceptable, but a competent court may view such statements, in the circumstances in which they were made, as incitement to atrocity crimes.”

COUNTRIES OFFER TO STORE AID IN CYPRUS FOR SHIPMENT TO GAZA

NICOSIA, Cyprus — Cyprus says a number of countries have offered to store humanitarian assistance in the east Mediterranean island nation as part of a plan to ship the aid to Gaza via a maritime corridor.

The countries include the U.K., which last week sent humanitarian aid that is being stored at Larnaca port, from where ships will depart for Gaza once conditions on the ground in the territory allow for it, government spokesperson Constantinos Letymbiotis said Wednesday.

He said the U.K. has also offered a shallow-draft ship capable of approaching Gaza’s shoreline, where it would be able to offload the aid without the need for port facilities required by large vessels.

Earlier this week, Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides said he held talks with his Egyptian counterpart, Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, and Jordan’s King Abdullah II, who reaffirmed their support for the aid corridor. Israel has also backed the plan but has given no indication yet when the aid could begin to flow.

Last month, Christodoulides told The Associated Press that the proposed maritime corridor of about 230 miles (370 kilometers) is the “only one currently being discussed on an international level” as a feasible way to significantly supplement the trickle of aid getting into the enclave through Egypt’s Rafah border checkpoint.

ERDOGAN WARNS ISRAEL NOT TO ATTACK HAMAS ON TURKISH SOIL

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Israel that there would be serious consequences if Israel pressed ahead with a threat to attack Hamas officials on Turkish soil. The Turkish leader also said his country has petitioned the International Criminal Court for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other officials to be prosecuted for alleged war crimes in Gaza.

His comments — made Tuesday and reported by Turkish media on Wednesday — echoed warnings from other Turkish officials in response to the head of Israel’s domestic security agency, Shin Bet, who said in an audio recording that his organization is prepared to destroy Hamas “in every place,” including in Lebanon, Turkey and Qatar.

Erdogan also said thousands of lawyers from various countries were employed to petition the ICC.

“We brought the war crimes committed in Gaza to the court’s agenda and we will be following up on this,” Erdogan said. “Netanyahu will not be able to evade paying the penalty for his actions. Sooner or later, he will be tried and will pay the price for the war crimes he committed.”

GAZA’S HEALTH MINISTRY SAYS THE WAR DEATH TOLL IS MORE THAN 16,200

KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza Strip — The Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza says 16,248 Palestinians have been killed and more than 42,000 wounded since the Israel-Hamas war broke out two months ago.

The ministry said Tuesday evening that the death toll included more than 6,000 children and more than 4,000 women. The ministry does not differentiate between civilians and combatants.

The figures show a sharp rise in deaths since a weeklong truce between Israel and Hamas collapsed on Dec. 1. Since the resumption of fighting Friday, more than 1,000 Palestinians were killed, according to the Health Ministry. The United States had urged Israel to do more to protect Palestinian civilians as its blistering air and ground campaign shifted to southern Gaza, particularly in and around Khan Younis, the territory’s second largest city.

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