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Israeli strikes kill 6 in Gaza, including kids and UN worker, as truce talks show signs of progress

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DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip (AP) — Separate Israeli airstrikes killed at least six people Friday in central Gaza, including two children at a home and at least one United Nations worker, Palestinian hospital officials and first responders said, even as stalled cease-fire talks between Israel and Hamas show signs of renewed momentum.

Four out of every five people in Gaza — nearly 2 million Palestinians — have been driven into the territory’s center by expanding Israeli military offensives and evacuation orders, the army estimated earlier this week. Civilians are taking shelter in makeshift tent camps and crowded urban areas, and many have been displaced multiple times.

Violence also flared Friday in the occupied West Bank, where Israeli forces killed seven people in a raid and an airstrike, according to Palestinian health officials. And on the Israel-Lebanon border, rockets fired by militant group Hezbollah lightly wounded two Israeli soldiers, the army said, as concerns grow that these low-level clashes could escalate into a wider regional war.

Deadly Gaza airstrikes

An Israeli strike near the Maghazi refugee camp killed three adults and injured several others on Salah al-Din road, a major thoroughfare in Gaza, according to witnesses and officials at Al Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in the city of Deir al-Balah. At least one of the dead was wearing a U.N. vest when brought to the hospital.

An adult and two kids were also killed by a strike in the Nuseirat refugee camp, officials at the hospital said. That strike hit a home, according to the Palestinian Civil Defense rescue service.

Ambulances blared their horns as they rolled up to the medical center’s doors Friday evening, unloading the three bodies wrapped in thick household blankets. Laid out in the morgue, an Associated Press journalist observed the man’s bloodstained blue-and-white vest of the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA.

At least one wounded man was also wearing a UNRWA vest. “Stand back a little, guys!” a man in a green medical uniform told a small crowd that gathered beside the ambulance. “Thank God you’re safe,” another man said as the wounded worker was brought inside.

The Israeli military did not immediately comment on the strikes. Israel blames civilian deaths on Hamas, saying militants operate among the population. Hamas denies the claim and accuses Israel of recklessly bombing civilians.

Around 250,000 people were affected earlier in the week by an Israeli order to evacuate half of the southern city of Khan Younis and a wide swath of the surrounding area. Most Palestinians seeking safety are either heading to an Israeli-declared “safe zone” centered on a coastal area called Muwasi, or the nearby city of Deir al-Balah, said the head of the U.N. humanitarian office for the Palestinian territories, Andrea De Domenico, on Wednesday.

New movement toward a Gaza cease-fire

A team of Israeli negotiators will resume talks next week on a cease-fire and hostage exchange deal with Hamas, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said Friday, signaling progress toward a deal to end the war in Gaza after negotiations appeared stuck for weeks.

The brief Israeli statement came hours after Hamas said its proposed amendments to a U.S. plan for a cease-fire “have been met with a positive response by the mediators.” The Palestinian militant group said Friday there was no set date for negotiations, and said Israel’s official position wasn’t yet known.

Netanyahu’s office said negotiators will emphasize to American, Qatari and Egyptian mediators that “there are still gaps between the parties” during talks in Doha, Qatar’s capital.

The main sticking point in the three-phase deal appears to be getting from the first to the second phase. Hamas is concerned that Israel will restart the war after the first phase, perhaps after making unrealistic demands in the talks. Israeli officials have expressed concern that Hamas will do the same, drawing out the talks and the initial cease-fire indefinitely without releasing the remaining hostages.

Away from the negotiating table, senior Hamas officials met with Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, as well as the leader of the Islamic Group. Hamas said officials also met Friday with senior delegations from the Houthi rebels in Yemen and the Islamic Resistance in Iraq.

And in Washington, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke by phone with his Israeli counterpart, Yoav Gallant, in which they discussed regional security challenges and Austin expressed support for ongoing diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict in Gaza.

Israeli raid in the West Bank

Palestinian authorities say seven people were killed Friday during an Israeli military operation in an area of the West Bank city of Jenin, a known militant stronghold, where the Israeli military said it carried out “counterterrorism activity” that included an airstrike.

Israeli soldiers “encircled a building where terrorists have barricaded themselves in” and the soldiers exchanged fire with those inside, while an airstrike “struck several armed terrorists” in the area.

The Palestinian Health Ministry said a total of seven people were killed, but did not specify whether they died in the exchange of fire or the airstrike. The Islamic Jihad militant group named four of the dead as its members.

Violence has spiraled in the West Bank since the start of Israel’s war in Gaza, sparked by the Oct. 7 raid into southern Israel by Hamas militants who killed around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took more than 200 others as hostages.

The Palestinian Health Ministry says over 500 Palestinians have since been killed by Israeli fire in the West Bank. Most were killed during Israeli raids and violent protests. The dead also include bystanders and Palestinians killed in attacks by Jewish settlers.

In Gaza, Israeli bombardments and ground offensives have so far killed more than 38,000 Palestinians, Gaza’s Health Ministry says. The ministry does not differentiate between combatants and civilians in its count, but it includes thousands of women and children.

Israeli restrictions, ongoing fighting and the breakdown of law and order have curtailed humanitarian aid efforts, causing widespread hunger and sparking fears of famine. The top U.N. court has concluded there is a “plausible risk of genocide” in Gaza — a charge Israel strongly denies.

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

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Associated Press writers Julia Frankel in Jerusalem and Abby Sewell in Beirut contributed to this report.

By WAFAA SHURAFA
Associated Press

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