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The Latest | UN General Assembly votes to give Palestine more rights by a wide margin

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The U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly passed a resolution Friday to give Palestine more “rights and privileges” and called on the Security Council to favorably reconsider Palestine’s request to become the 194th U.N. member.

In Gaza, heavy fighting between Israeli troops and Palestinian militants on the outskirts of the southern city of Rafah has left aid crossings inaccessible, a U.N. humanitarian official said Friday. The World Food Program will run out of food for distribution in southern Gaza by Saturday unless more aid arrives.

About 110,000 people have fled Rafah for other parts of the besieged territory, the U.N. estimates. Some 1.4 million Palestinians — over half Gaza’s population — had sought refuge in the city.

Israel says Rafah is the last stronghold of the Hamas militant group and vowed to launch a full-scale invasion of the city. The U.S. says a Rafah offensive would jeopardize cease-fire talks and threatened to halt more military aid to Israel.

The death toll from the war in Gaza has soared to more than 34,500 people, most of them women and children, according to local health officials. Israeli bombardments and ground assaults have caused vast destruction to apartments, hospitals, schools and refugee centers across several cities.

The war began Oct. 7 when Hamas attacked southern Israel, killing around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducting about 250 others. Israel says militants still hold around 100 hostages and the remains of more than 30 others.

Currently:

— A West Bank village feels helpless after Israeli settlers attack with fire and bullets.

— U.N. General Assembly grants Palestine new rights and revives its U.N. membership bid.

— Biden administration won’t conclude Israel violated terms of U.S. weapons agreements, AP sources say

— The Biden-Netanyahu relationship is strained like never before. Can the two leaders move forward?

— What are the latest obstacles to bringing aid into Gaza, where hunger is worsening?

— Pro-Palestinian protesters demand endowment transparency. But it’s proving not to be simple.

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

Here’s the latest:

U.N. SECURITY COUNCIL CALLS FOR INVESTIGATION OF GAZA MASS GRAVES

UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. Security Council wants investigators to have unimpeded access to mass graves in Gaza and accountability for any violations of international law.

An Algerian-drafted press statement was approved by all 15 council members on Friday. It expressed “deep concern” at reports of the discovery of mass graves in and around two Gaza hospitals that were raided by Israel — the Shifa medical complex in Gaza City and Nasser hospital in the southern city of Khan Younis. Reports said the graves contained several hundred bodies.

The Israeli military said its forces exhumed bodies Palestinians had buried earlier as part of its search for the remains of hostages captured by Hamas. The military said bodies were examined in a respectful manner and those not belonging to Israeli hostages were returned to their place.

The Israeli military has said it killed or detained hundreds of militants who had taken shelter inside the two hospital complexes. Those claims could not be independently verified.

The Security Council press statement said investigators must be allowed “to conduct immediate, independent, thorough, comprehensive, transparent and impartial investigations to establish the circumstances behind the graves.” The council reiterated demands that “all parties” comply with international humanitarian and human rights law, especially the requirement to protect civilians “and civilian objects” including hospitals and schools.

Council members stressed the importance “of allowing families to know the fate and whereabouts of their missing relatives.”

They again demanded that Israel and Hamas immediately and fully implement council resolutions for an end to hostilities leading to a lasting cease-fire and unhindered humanitarian access to Gaza.

Security Council statements must be approved by all 15 council members and reflect the views of the U.N.’s most powerful body, especially its five permanent veto-wielding members — the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France.

WHITE HOUSE SAYS ISRAELI ASSAULT ON RAFAH DOESN’T CROSS BIDEN’S RED LINE OF A ‘MAJOR GROUND OPERATION’

WASHINGTON — White House national security spokesman John Kirby said Friday that Israel’s intensified operations near Rafah was not “a broad, large scale invasion” or “major ground operation” that President Joe Biden has warned the Israeli government against carrying out.

Kirby said the most recent operations were focused near the Gaza-Egypt border crossing in Rafah, which was captured by Israeli forces earlier this week and involved those same troops.

“That said, we’re watching it with concern,” Kirby said. ”Every day that that crossing is not available and usable for humanitarian assistance, there’s going to be more suffering. And that’s of deep concern to us. And so, once again, we urge the Israelis to open up that crossing to humanitarian assistance immediately. That aid is desperately needed.”

The United Nations and other agencies have warned for weeks that an Israel assault on Rafah, on the border with Egypt near the main aid entry points, would cripple humanitarian operations and cause a disastrous surge in civilian casualties.

Kirby also told reporters the White House was disappointed that hostage-for-truce talks in Cairo have ended without Israel and Hamas coming to an agreement.

He added that the Biden administration remains “all in” at working to complete a deal.

“We are certainly not going to sit back and abide by an end to an effort to keep the dialogue going and to try to rectify and resolve these differences so that we can get a deal,” Kirby said.

Hamas this week said it had accepted an Egyptian-Qatari cease-fire proposal, but Israel said the plan does not meet its “core” demands and launched the assault on the Rafah crossing hours later.

HAMAS ACCUSES ISRAEL USING CEASE-FIRE TALKS AS COVER FOR RAFAH OFFENSIVE

JERUSALEM — Hamas on Friday charged Israel with using cease-fire talks as cover to push ahead with a military offensive in southern Gaza and the Rafah border crossing.

The Palestinian militant group said it had shown “necessary flexibility” in the most recent round of negotiations, which ended inconclusively this week as Israel launched a ground operation in Rafah. The fighting has raising global alarm about the lives of 1.3 million Palestinians sheltering in the city.

“Hamas’s leadership will consult with the leaders of Palestinian resistance factions to reconsider our negotiation strategy,” the group’s statement said, because Israel was not negotiating in good faith by continuing its offensive in Rafah.

Earlier this week, Hamas said it had accepted a Qatari-Egyptian cease-fire deal that would end the war and bring about the phased release of some of the Israeli hostages held in Gaza.

Israel swiftly rejected the deal, saying it did not meet “core demands,” and hours later sent tanks to capture the Rafah crossing. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called Hamas’ demands for a complete Israeli troop withdrawal from Gaza “extreme.”

BIDEN ADMINISTRATION WON’T CONCLUDE ISRAEL VIOLATED TERMS OF U.S. WEAPONS AGREEMENT, AP SOURCES SAY

WASHINGTON — A soon-to-be released Biden administration report to Congress does not conclude that Israel has violated the terms for its use of U.S. weapons.

That’s according to three people who have been briefed on the national security memorandum to be submitted by Secretary of State Antony Blinken to lawmakers. All three requested anonymity to discuss the matter before the report’s release.

The report is expected to be sharply critical of Israel, even though it didn’t conclude that Israel violated terms of U.S.-Israel weapons agreements, according to one U.S. official.

A presidential directive mandated the review of whether Israel had complied with international law in its use of U.S.-provided weapons and other security support during the course of the war.

The Biden administration’s first-of-its-kind assessment of its close ally’s conduct of the war comes after seven months of airstrikes, ground fighting and aid restrictions that have claimed the lives of nearly 35,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children. Any finding against Israel could endanger Biden’s support in this year’s presidential elections from some voters who keenly support Israel.

A senior Biden administration official said the memorandum is expected to be released later Friday, but declined to comment on the findings.

Human rights groups long have accused Israeli security forces of committing abuses against Palestinians and have accused Israeli leaders of failing to hold those responsible to account.

Israel says that it is following all U.S. and international law, that it investigates allegations of abuse by its security forces and that its campaign in Gaza is proportional to the existential threat it says is posed by Hamas.

As the suffering of Palestinian civilians grew, Biden and his administration edged away from their initial unwavering public support of Israel and began to criticize its conduct of the war.

___

Associated Press writes Aamer Madhani, Ellen Knickmeyer, Mike Balsamo and Zeke Miller contributed to this report.

U.N. GENERAL ASSEMBLY GRANTS PALESTINE NEW RIGHTS AND REVIVES ITS U.N. MEMBERSHIP BID

UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. General Assembly voted by a wide margin on Friday to grant new “rights and privileges” to Palestine and called on the Security Council to favorably reconsider its request to become the 194th member of the United Nations.

The 193-member world body approved the Arab and Palestinian-sponsored resolution by a vote of 143-9 with 25 abstentions.

The United States vetoed a widely backed council resolution on April 18 that would have paved the way for full United Nations membership for Palestine, a goal the Palestinians have long sought and Israel has worked to prevent.

Under the U.N. Charter, prospective members of the United Nations must be “peace-loving,” and the Security Council must recommend their admission to the General Assembly for final approval. Palestine became a U.N. non-member observer state in 2012.

The resolution “determines” that a state of Palestine is qualified for membership — dropping the original language that in the General Assembly’s judgment it is “a peace-loving state.” It therefore recommends that the Security Council reconsider its request “favorably.”

The renewed push for full Palestinian membership in the U.N. comes as the war in Gaza has put the more than 75-year-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict at center stage.

HAMAS ROCKET ATTACK FROM GAZA INJURES A WOMAN IN SOUTHERN ISRAEL

JERUSALEM — A Hamas rocket attack from Gaza lightly injured a woman in the southern city of Beersheba, Israel’s military and rescue services said Friday.

The 37-year-old woman was hit by shrapnel in a city playground, according to Israel’s Magen David Adom emergency service.

Hamas’s armed wing claimed the attack, saying it targeted the city with a “missile barrage” in response to “massacres against civilians” in Gaza. Israel’s military said five rockets were launched toward the city; one was intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system and most fell in open areas.

Rocket attacks from Gaza against Israeli cities and towns have grown far less frequent since the start of the Israel-Hamas war Oct. 7. Most are intercepted by Israel’s missile defenses. However, Hamas has recently demonstrated its ongoing capabilities with high-profile rocket attacks on major border crossings into Gaza.

ISRAELI TROOPS BATTLE PALESTINIAN MILITANTS IN RAFAH AND GAZA CITY

JERUSALEM — Israeli troops are battling Palestinian militants in the southern city of Rafah, where a rocket attack and an Israeli incursion earlier this week closed crucial crossings needed for humanitarian aid.

There are also battles underway in the Zeitoun area on the outskirts of Gaza City in the northern part of the territory. Northern Gaza was the first target of the ground offensive and Israel said late last year that it had mostly dismantled Hamas there.

In a statement released Friday, the military said it had located several tunnels in eastern Rafah, near the border with Egypt, and had eliminated militants “during close-quarters combat and with an aerial strike.”

Hamas’ military wing said it carried out a complex attack in which it struck a house where Israeli troops had taken up a position, an armored personnel carrier and soldiers operating on foot.

There was no immediate comment from the Israeli military. It was not possible to independently confirm the battlefield accounts from either side.

Hamas also said it launched a number of mortar rounds at the nearby Kerem Shalom crossing, close to where Israeli troops are operating. The military said it intercepted two launches.

The crossing was closed after a rocket attack last weekend that killed four Israeli soldiers. Israel says it has re-opened its side of the crossing, but the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees says the Gaza side is inaccessible because of the ongoing fighting.

Israeli forces captured the Gaza side of the nearby Rafah crossing with Egypt on Tuesday, forcing it to shut down. It’s unclear when it will reopen.

Aid groups say a prolonged closure of the crossings will severely hinder humanitarian operations in the territory, where hunger is already rampant.

BRITAIN COMPLETES 11th AID AIRDROP OVER GAZA

NICOSIA, Cyprus — Britain’s Ministry of Defense says the Royal Air Force has completed its 11th airdrop over Gaza, delivering in total 120 tons of aid including ready-to-eat meals, water, rice, flour and canned goods.

The ministry said the airdrop Friday delivered 13 tons of aid to northern Gaza. The airdrops began in late March as part of a Jordanian initiative. The Royal Air Force used A400M transport aircraft flying from Amman, Jordan, where aid pallets attached to parachutes are collected and loaded.

The aid is dropped along the northern coastline of Gaza, with drop zones regularly surveyed to ensure civilians are not harmed. Each flight takes around one hour and British personnel work closely with the Royal Jordanian Air Force to plan and conduct each mission.

U.K. Foreign Secretary David Cameron said land routes into Gaza remain the best way to transport needed humanitarian assistance.

The Royal Navy ship RFA Cardigan Bay recently set sail from Cyprus to support a maritime aid corridor to Gaza. The ship provides accommodation for hundreds of U.S. sailors and soldiers building a temporary pier off the Gaza coast.

DRONE STRIKE IN LEBANON KILLS PARAMEDIC AND TECHNICIAN

BEIRUT — An Israeli drone strike on a southern Lebanese village killed a paramedic and an employee of a telecommunications company Friday as military activities have increased along the frontier in recent days.

State-run National News said the paramedic and the technician died in the drone strike on Teir Harafa, about 3 kilometers (2 miles) from the border with Israel.

The Islamic Risala Scout Association paramedic group said one of its members, Ghaleb Hussein al-Haj, was killed while performing his duties in south Lebanon. The group is the paramedic arm of the Amal group of Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri.

The strike came a day after a similar attack on a car in a southern Lebanese village killed four members of the militant Hezbollah group.

Hezbollah started attacking Israeli army posts along the Lebanon-Israel border a day after the Israel-Hamas war broke out on Oct. 7.

Since then, more than 350 people have been killed in Lebanon, including 275 Hezbollah members and more than 70 civilians and non-combatants. In Israel, 15 soldiers and 10 civilians have died.

Foreign officials have been visiting Lebanon over the past month in attempts to bring calm to the border, but Hezbollah has repeatedly said it will not stop fighting until there is a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip.

U.N. TO VOTE ON RESOLUTION GIVING PALESTINE NEW RIGHTS AND REVIVE ITS MEMBERSHIP BID

UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. General Assembly is expected to vote Friday on a resolution that would grant new “rights and privileges” to Palestine and call on the Security Council to favorably reconsider its request to become the 194th member of the United Nations.

The United States vetoed a widely backed council resolution on April 18 that would have paved the way for full United Nations membership for Palestine, a goal the Palestinians have long sought and Israel has worked to prevent. U.S. deputy ambassador Robert Wood made clear Thursday the Biden administration is opposed to the assembly resolution.

Under the U.N. Charter, prospective members of the United Nations must be “peace-loving,” and the Security Council must recommend their admission to the General Assembly for final approval. Palestine became a U.N. non-member observer state in 2012.

Unlike the Security Council, there are no vetoes in the 193-member General Assembly and the resolution is expected to be approved by a large majority.

The draft resolution “determines” that a state of Palestine is qualified for membership, dropping the original language that in the General Assembly’s judgment it is “a peace-loving state.” It therefore recommends that the Security Council reconsider its request “favorably.”

At numerous council and assembly meetings, the humanitarian crisis facing the Palestinians in Gaza and the killing of more than 34,000 people in the territory, according to Gaza health officials, have generated outrage from many countries.

AL JAZEERA SAYS ALL STAFF HAVE LEFT ISRAEL AFTER GOVERNMENT ORDERED ITS OFFICES CLOSED

JERUSALEM — The pan-Arab satellite channel Al Jazeera said Friday it no longer has any staff operating inside of Israel after an order closing the broadcaster’s offices and halting its on-the-ground reporting there.

The comment by Al Jazeera to The Associated Press comes after Israel’s Communication Ministry said police raided an office of the broadcaster in Nazareth on Thursday after alleging it had been transmitting live video from there.

“Al Jazeera has no staff operating inside Israel. All of our staff have moved to Ramallah to continue the coverage from there, abiding by the law,” the channel said. “However, whoever makes such comments does not understand modern day technologies which allow users to utilize a simple mobile phone to post or share a video online.”

Al Jazeera’s headquarters are in Doha, Qatar.

Israel ordered the local offices of Al Jazeera to close Sunday, escalating a long-running feud between the broadcaster and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hard-line government as Doha-mediated cease-fire negotiations with Hamas hang in the balance.

The extraordinary order, which includes confiscating broadcast equipment, preventing the broadcast of the channel’s reports and blocking its websites, is believed to be the first time Israel has ever shuttered a foreign news outlet operating in the country.

Since the order, the broadcaster has moved many of its English-language service correspondents from Israel to Amman, Jordan. Others still operate from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

MUSEUM DEFENDS USE OF ‘FROM THE RIVER TO THE SEA’ TITLE FOR CULTURAL PROGRAM

MADRID — Spain’s Reina Sofía Museum has defended the title of a cultural program called “From the River to the Sea” that denounces the war in Gaza, despite criticism from the World Jewish Congress that the slogan is used by Hamas and “represents a call for the annihilation of the Jewish state.”

The modern art museum in Madrid, best known for its anti-war Picasso masterpiece “Guernica,” on Friday referred to a note on its website that says “From the River to the Sea” refers to the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea and is a motto used to demand rights for Palestinians.

“It is from that call to respect life — and in no case from the promotion of war or violence, nor referring in any way to the disappearance of the State of Israel,” the museum says.

The World Jewish Congress on Thursday issued a statement saying it is “reprehensible” that an institution such as the Reina Sofía would stage such an initiative when Hamas still holds hostages from Israel and the people of Gaza face a humanitarian crisis.

‘WHERE ARE WE SUPPOSED TO GO?’ PALESTINIANS FLEE RAFAH FOR OTHER PARTS OF GAZA AHEAD OF PROMISED ISRAELI OFFENSIVE

DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip — On foot, in vehicles or riding donkey carts loaded with belongings, a stream of displaced Palestinians fled Rafah in southern Gaza on Thursday for the relative safety of the territory’s center, as Israel threatens to expand its ground offensive in the south.

It’s an all-too-familiar scene for Palestinians who had sought safter in Rafah after escaping fighting elsewhere in Gaza. Families set up tent camps on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea near the central city of Deir al-Balah. Upon arrival, dozens rushed to collect water near a building for UNRWA, the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees. More wait in the heat.

“The situation is difficult and continues to worsen,” Wafaa Masarei said as she rested beside her children and their few belongings: boxes, bags of clothes, pots, mattresses, a plastic jug. Her two kids sought protection from the sun under a table and blankets.

Ahmad Abed, who has an 8-month-old daughter, says he’s fed up from constantly moving drags on. He feels there’s no safe place for his family, even in the schools being used as makeshift shelters.

“Where are we supposed to go? Where is the world, that is just watching us?” he said. “It’s like we’re sheep.”

By The Associated Press

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