The Latest | Nearly half a million people flee fighting in Rafah and northern Gaza, UN says

Nearly half a million Palestinians have been displaced in recent days by escalating Israeli military operations in southern and northern Gaza, the United Nations says.

Around 360,000 Palestinians were driven out of Rafah in Gaza's south over the past week, the United Nations’ agency for Palestinian refugees said. There were roughly 1.3 million people sheltering in Rafah before Israel began pushing into the city, which Israel says is the last Hamas stronghold.

Israeli forces are also battling Hamas militants in northern Gaza, where the army had launched major operations earlier in the war. The army's evacuation orders issued Saturday have displaced around 100,000 people so far, U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters Monday.

No food has entered the two main border crossings in southern Gaza for the past week. Some 1.1 million Palestinians in Gaza face catastrophic levels of hunger, on the brink of starvation, and a “full-blown famine” is taking place in the north, according to the U.N.

Seven months of Israeli bombardment and ground operations in Gaza have killed more than 35,000 people, most of them women and children, according to local health officials.

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.


Misery deepens in Gaza’s Rafah as Israeli troops press operation.

— With the shock of Oct. 7 still raw, sadness and anger grip Israel on its Memorial Day.

— Pro-Palestinian protests dwindle on U.S. campuses, as some college graduations are marked by defiant acts.

— Blinken delivers some of the U.S.'s strongest public criticism yet of Israel’s conduct of the war in Gaza.

Palestinian band escapes horrors of war, but its members’ futures remain uncertain.

Here's the latest:


WASHINGTON — White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Monday that the U.S. administration has expressed concerns to Israeli officials about becoming “mired in a counterinsurgency campaign that never ends” as Israel's War Cabinet remains focused on carrying out a major operation the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

The comments from a top adviser to President Joe Biden came a day after Secretary of State Antony Blinken cautioned that Israel could be left “holding the bag” on an enduring insurgency in post-war Gaza.

“Look, we have painful experience in counterinsurgency campaigns fighting terrorists in urban environments, in populated areas,” said Sullivan, referring to long U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “And we know that it is not as simple as executing a military operation and calling it a day.”

Sullivan added that, “One of the risks of engaging in any kind of counterinsurgency campaign is the ability of the terrorist group to attract more recruits and more followers as time goes on.”

Sullivan said he spoke to his Israeli and Egyptian counterparts on Sunday about redoubling diplomatic efforts on a hostage-for-truce negotiations, and that U.S. officials would have further conversations with the Israelis in the coming days about how Israel can refine its plan to go after Hamas militants in Rafah while lessening the risk to Palestinian civilians.

He also pushed back against growing criticism from around the globe — as well as American critics of Israel’s prosecution of the war — who say Israeli forces are committing a genocide against the Palestinians.

Egypt, a key U.S. ally, said it would join South Africa's case against Israel at the International Court of Justice, which accuses Israel of violating its obligations under the Genocide Convention.

“I can’t say that it’s helpful to the discussions between Egypt and Israel to try to sort through assistance and access issues,” Sullivan said of the move announced Sunday by Cairo, which along with Qatar is a mediator in the cease-fire talks.

The top United Nations court has concluded there is a “plausible risk of genocide” in Gaza — a charge Israel strongly denies.


UNITED NATIONS — Israeli evacuation orders issued on Saturday for northern Gaza amid its ongoing bombardment in the area “have resulted in the displacement of some 100,000 people so far,” the United Nations says.

U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters Monday those fleeing the north are in

addition to the nearly 360,000 people that have fled the southern city of Rafah since the first Israeli evacuation order there a week ago.

“We remain deeply concerned about the lack of protection for civilians – and the lack of safety for humanitarian operations,” Haq said.

Under international humanitarian, he stressed, “civilians must be protected and have their basic needs met, whether they move or stay” and “those who leave must have enough time to do so, as well as a safe route and a safe place to go.”

Haq said he believes “a small amount” of fuel got into Gaza over the weekend, and the U.N. has been rationing what it has, “so we’re not in a shutdown mode, but we’re very low on fuel.”


NICOSIA, Cyprus — Humanitarian aid could start entering Gaza in the next few days through a long-promised floating pier built by the U.S. military after delays caused by bad weather, according to officials in the U.S. and Cyprus.

Improved sea conditions will allow the U.S. Army to anchor a causeway onto the beach this week, Pentagon deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh said Monday. The work could be finished Wednesday or Thursday, according to a U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss details not yet made public.

At a news conference, Cyprus' Foreign Minister Constantinos Kombos said he hopes aid could start flowing into Gaza through the sea corridor this week. “All these issues will be basically resolved in the next few days,” he said.

The plan is for aid ships to travel from the Mediterranean island of Cyprus to the floating pier near Gaza, where the cargo will be loaded into smaller U.S. Army boats that go to the causeway onshore. Trucks driven by contractors who are not from the U.S. will drive off the Army boats onto the causeway and down to the beach.

The U.S. ship Sagamore is in waters off Gaza, where U.S. officials said it would transfer some 475 pallets of food to another ship until the causeway is in place.

The Gaza pier project is expected to cost around $320 million. No food has entered the two main land crossings into southern Gaza for the past week, as the Israeli military intensified its bombardment and other operations in Rafah.

Almost the entire population of Gaza relies on humanitarian aid to survive. Israeli restrictions and ongoing fighting have hindered humanitarian efforts, causing widespread hunger and a “full-blown famine” in the north, according to the U.N.

Jordan, the United States and other nations began airdropping aid into Gaza earlier this year, but aid agencies describe that as a costly, last-ditch effort that cannot meet mounting needs.


Associated Press writers Menelaos Hadjicostis in Nicosia and Tara Copp in Washington contributed to this report.


UNITED NATIONS – The United Nations says a clearly marked U.N. convoy has been attacked in Gaza’s southern city of Rafah, killing a U.N. international security staff member and lightly wounding another.

U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said the staff member who died in the attack Monday morning was the first U.N. international staff member killed since Israel's war in Gaza began on Oct. 7.

Around 190 U.N. staff members have been killed in the war, all Palestinian nationals working mainly for the U.N. agency helping Palestinian refugees known as UNRWA, Haq said.

Haq said the U.N. staffers, whose nationalities were not disclosed, were in a U.N.-marked vehicle in a convoy that was struck as it traveled to the European Hospital in Rafah.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “condemns all attacks on U.N. personnel and calls for a full investigation,” the spokesman said.

The U.N. chief said the seven-month war has not only taken a heavy toll on civilians but all on humanitarian workers and reiterated his urgent appeal for an immediate humanitarian cease-fire and release of all hostages taken by Hamas on Oct. 7, Haq said.


JERUSALEM — Israeli media are reporting that dozens of protesters opposed to sending humanitarian aid to Gaza have blocked trucks heading toward the territory, destroying some of the aid.

Videos online showed protesters tearing through boxes of aid and throwing them to the ground at a crossing between the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Israel. The aid trucks originated in Jordan and were making their way toward Gaza.

Israeli police said a number of people were arrested, without elaborating.

Over the past week, activists with the Tzav 9 organization have blocked trucks that arrived from Jordan bound for Gaza in a number of locations across Israel, snarling traffic in a number of protests. All of the trucks eventually reached the Gaza border.

This is one of the first documented incidents of protesters destroying aid destined for Gaza. The protesters say they are trying to prevent aid from reaching the militant group Hamas. Since Israel launched an operation in Rafah, limited aid has entered Gaza.

COGAT, the branch of the Israeli military responsible for Palestinian civil affairs, says the nearby Kerem Shalom crossing is open. But aid groups say the Gaza side of the crossing is inaccessible because of the fighting and that no aid has entered for the last week.

COGAT said a total of 64 trucks entered Gaza on Sunday, down from more than 250 per day in April.


BEIRUT — Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah vowed that the Lebanese militant group will keep fighting the Israeli military on the Lebanon-Israel border in order to support its Palestinian ally Hamas in Gaza.

In a televised speech Monday, Nasrallah said militant activity from Hamas’ allies in Iraq, Yemen, and Lebanon — all of which are backed by Iran — have pressured Israel’s military during its war in Gaza.

Hezbollah and Israel have traded fire on a near-daily basis along the border since the war in Gaza started seven months ago. Tens of thousands are displaced along the border in both countries.

“We tell the (Israeli) settlers of the north: ‘Go to your government and tell them to stop the war on Gaza,’” Nasrallah said, adding that Israel is now at a “dead end” in their operation in Rafah, as they struggle to dismantle Hamas despite months of bombarding the tiny Palestinian enclave.

He dismissed statements from Israeli officials promising all-out war on Lebanon, and maintained that Hezbollah’s goal is to “put pressure to stop the war in Gaza.”

Hezbollah and Israel have traded fire on a near-daily basis along the border since the war in Gaza started seven months ago. Tens of thousands are displaced on each side of the border.

Israeli strikes have killed more than 350 people in Lebanon, most of them fighters with Hezbollah and allied groups but also including more than 50 civilians. In Israel, strikes from Lebanon have killed at least 10 civilians and 12 soldiers.


JERUSALEM — During Israel’s Memorial Day speech by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, one spectator waved a flag with “7.10” in red, the date of Hamas’ deadly attack last October, while another heckled the Israeli leader.

The usually somber event has been compounded by the sadness and simmering public anger over the failures of Oct. 7, when Hamas fighters from Gaza broke into southern Israel and killed 1, 200 people, mostly Israelis, the act that sparked the war.

“We are constantly working to bring everyone back, the living and the fallen alike, to bring everyone back home. We have already returned about half of them, and we will return them all,” Netanyahu said.

Shortly after finishing his speech at Mount Herzl cemetery a man in the crowd was heard shouting “garbage” in Hebrew in the direction of the Israeli leader.

Thousands of Israelis have been rallying every week in the coastal city of Tel Aviv, calling for Netanyahu to step down.

Many believe he should be doing more to secure the release of dozens of hostages captured by Hamas.

Netanyahu has rejected Hamas’ demand for an end to the war, saying it would allow the group to remain in control of Gaza and eventually launch another Oct. 7-style attack.


CAIRO — U.N. officials say 360,000 Palestinians have fled Rafah in the past week amid Israel’s intensified assault on the southern Gaza city, and aid agencies are rushing to distribute dwindling food supplies to the newly displaced people.

Abeer Etefa, a spokesperson for the U.N.’s World Food Program, said Monday that 38 trucks of flour had arrived through the Western Erez Crossing, the second access point now operating to the largely devastated northern sector of the Gaza Strip. But no food has entered the two main crossings in southern Gaza for the past week.

The Rafah crossing into Egypt has been closed since Israeli troops seized it a week ago, while fighting in Rafah city has made it impossible for aid groups to access the nearby Kerem Shalom crossing with Israel.

The main U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, known as UNRWA, said Monday that so far 360,000 people have fled Rafah, where some 1.3 million Palestinians had been crowded for weeks after fleeing Israel’s onslaught elsewhere in the Gaza Strip.

Etefa said WFP is distributing food from its remaining stocks in the areas of Khan Younis and Deir Balah further north to which many of those escaping Rafah have fled but that the situation is becoming “increasingly unsustainable.”

Almost the entire population of Gaza relies on humanitarian groups’ distribution of food and other supplies to survive. Amid Israeli restrictions and obstacles to aid distribution from violence, some 1.1 million Palestinians in Gaza face catastrophic levels of hunger, on the brink of starvation, and a “full-blown famine” is taking place in the north, according to the U.N.


JERUSALEM — Israel’s military said Monday that four of its troops were injured in missile fire from southern Lebanon, as cross-border exchanges of fire with Hezbollah militants continue.

Hezbollah acknowledged the strike, saying its forces struck and destroyed an Israeli tank in the Yitfah area, northern Israel, around a kilometer from the Lebanese border.

The Israeli army said one of the soldiers was moderately injured, and all were taken to hospital. No further information was immediately available.

Hezbollah and Israel have traded fire on a near-daily basis along the border since the start of the war in Gaza seven months ago.

The Shiite force, which controls vast swathes of southern Lebanon, says it is acting in solidarity with the Palestinian militant group Hamas, whose deadly Oct. 7 attack into southern Israel triggered the war.

Israeli strikes have killed more than 350 people in Lebanon, most of them fighters with Hezbollah and allied groups but also including more than 50 civilians. In Israel, strikes from Lebanon have killed at least 10 civilians and 12 soldiers.


JERUSALEM — Israel’s leaders commemorated Memorial Day on Monday, honoring the country’s fallen soldiers and those killed in attacks on a holiday that was almost entirely absorbed by the ongoing war in Gaza.

The usually somber calendar event has been compounded by the sadness and simmering public anger over the failures of Oct. 7, when Hamas fighters from Gaza broke into southern Israel and killed 1,200 people, mostly Israelis, the act that sparked the war. The holiday began Sunday evening and lasts until nightfall on Monday.

During the day’s opening ceremony at Mount Herzl cemetery on the outskirts of Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed once again to defeat Hamas, a promise he has made repeatedly during Israel’s brutal seven month war with the militant group.

“We are determined to win this struggle, we exacted and will exact a high price from the enemy for their criminal acts, we will realize the goals of victory and at the center of them the return of all our hostages home,” Netanyahu said from the podium.

Israel responded to Hamas’ deadly October assault by bombarding and invading Gaza, killing over 35,000 Palestinians from the enclave according to the Hamas-run health Ministry. More than 600 Israeli soldiers have been killed since the war erupted.

Among the other attendees at Mount Herzl was the Israeli President, Isaac Herzog.

At 11:00 A.M. on Monday, sirens announced two minutes of silence, and a formation of four fighter planes then flew over Jerusalem and the surrounding areas.