Live updates | Death toll in Gaza passes 27,000 as South Africa says Israel is ignoring court ruling


More than 27,000 people have been killed and 66,000 wounded by Israel’s offensive in Gaza, the Hamas-controlled territory’s Health Ministry said Thursday.

South Africa’s foreign minister has accused Israel of ignoring last week’s ruling by the United Nations’ top court, which ordered Israel to do all it can to prevent deaths in Gaza.

The number of deaths has grown by more than 1,100 since the International Court of Justice in the Hague told Israel to do its best to prevent acts of genocide against Palestinians in Gaza. Israel denies the genocide accusations brought against it at the court by South Africa.

The Health Ministry said 27,019 Palestinians have been killed and 66,139 wounded since Oct. 7. It does not distinguish between civilian and combatant deaths but says most of those killed were women and children.

The violence in Gaza continues to spill over into neighboring countries. Yemen’s Houthi rebels fired two ballistic missiles on Thursday at a Liberian-flagged container ship in the Red Sea, a U.S. defense official said, the latest attack by the rebels as America launches airstrikes against them.

Israel’s offensive was prompted by Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack in southern Israel, which killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took about 250 people hostage, according to Israeli authorities.


— Explosion strikes near vessel in the Red Sea off Yemen as Houthi rebels keep attacking ships.

— Gunmen take hostages at US company’s Turkish factory in apparent protest of Gaza war.

— Biden will issue an executive order targeting Israeli settlers who attack Palestinians in the West Bank.

— Israel and Lebanon are prepping for a war neither wants, but many fear it’s becoming inevitable.

— U.N. agencies rally around the agency for Palestinian refugees in Gaza as some top donors cut funding.

— South Africa says Israel is already ignoring a U.N. court ruling ordering it to prevent deaths in Gaza.

— Chicago becomes the latest U.S. city to approve a cease-fire resolution in the Israel-Hamas war.

— Find more of AP’s coverage at

Here’s the latest:

Top UK diplomat says Britain could recognize a Palestinian state before a peace deal with Israel

RIYAK, Lebanon — British Foreign Secretary David Cameron has told The Associated Press that his country could officially recognize a Palestinian state after a cease-fire in Gaza, without waiting for the outcome of what could be years-long negotiations between Israeli and the Palestinians on a two-state solution.

Cameron said during a visit to Lebanon on Thursday that no recognition could come while Hamas remained in Gaza, but that it could take place while Israeli negotiations with Palestinian leaders were continuing.

Cameron said that U.K. recognition of an independent state of Palestine, including in the United Nations, “can’t come at the start of the process, but it doesn’t have to be the very end of the process.”

TEL AVIV, Israel — Anguished cries for a hostage release deal filled the streets of Tel Aviv as hundreds of Israelis demonstrated Thursday night and blocked traffic on a major highway for around 20 minutes.

Tears streamed down people’s faces as they repeated the refrain “deal now!” The protesters are demanding the Israeli government reach an immediate agreement with Hamas that would bring home the remaining hostages in the Gaza Strip, after nearly four months of war.

Of the 136 hostages held in the Gaza Strip, over 100 hostages are believed to be alive. Around 100 hostages were freed under a weeklong cease-fire deal in November in exchange for the release of Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.

The plight of the hostages has gripped the nation since Oct. 7, when Hamas militants dragged some 250 hostages back to Gaza.

But as Israel and Hamas struggle to reach a new cease-fire deal, desperation among the families of the abductees — and rage toward the Israeli war cabinet for failing to reach an agreement — has only grown.

Weekly protests in Tel Aviv regularly draw thousands.

JERUSALEM — Israel’s defense minister says the military has almost completed its operations in the southern city of Khan Younis after inflicting heavy losses on Hamas and is poised to move further south toward the Egyptian border.

The army has focused its offensive in recent weeks on Khan Younis, saying the city is a Hamas stronghold. It says it has killed at least 2,000 Hamas militants there and destroyed a number of important tunnels in the militant group’s underground network.

“The Khan Younis Brigade boasted that it would stand strong against the Israeli military. Today it is dismantled,” Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told troops in Khan Younis on Thursday. “We are completing the mission in Khan Younis and we will also reach Rafah and we will kill every terrorist there who tries to harm us.”

Gallant said Hamas is running out of weapons and ammunition and cannot take care of its wounded fighters.

“They have 10,000 dead, terrorists, and another 10,000 wounded who don’t function,” he said. The claims could not be independently verified.

Israel has vowed to press ahead to Rafah, located on the border with Egypt. It remains unclear how Israel will operate in the area, which is filled with hundreds of thousands of displaced people living in makeshift tent camps.

GENEVA — The head of the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees says it will “most likely” need to shut down operations in war-battered Gaza and across the Middle East by the end of the month if crucial funding from some key donors remains suspended.

The agency, known as UNRWA, says 16 donor countries have decided to stop financial support they provide to it in the wake of Israel’s claims that 12 UNRWA employees participated in Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks in Israel. The agency has since fired nine of them.

UNRWA says donor countries suspended $440 million worth of funding for it.

“If the funding remains suspended, we will most likely be forced to shut down our operations by end of February not only in Gaza but also across the region,” said UNRWA commissioner-general Philippe Lazzarini in a statement Thursday.

A U.N. investigation is under way into the Israeli claims.

In Gaza, nearly 2 million people – mostly women and children — depend on UNRWA for survival with the shelter, food assistance and primary health care that it provides, the agency said.

UNRWA is the largest humanitarian aid group in Gaza, and 3,000 of its total 13,000 employees are still working amid continued bloodshed in the Israel-Hamas war. It also provides services to Palestinian refugees in the West Bank including east Jerusalem, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

CAIRO — The toll from Israel’s nearly four-month offensive in Gaza surpassed 27,000 Palestinians killed and more than 66,000 wounded, the territory’s Health Ministry said Thursday.

The number of deaths has grown by more than 1,100 since the International Court of Justice in the Hague a week ago ordered Israel to do all it can to prevent deaths, destruction and any acts of genocide against Palestinians in Gaza.

Israel denies the genocide accusations brought against it at the court by South Africa. Israel says it is fighting to destroy Gaza’s Hamas rulers after the militants’ Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel. The case before the court is likely to take years before a final ruling.

The ministry said 27,019 Palestinians have been killed and 66,139 wounded since Oct. 7. It did not specify the number of women and children among the dead, but in previous counts they have constituted up to two-thirds of the toll. The ministry’s count does not differentiate between civilians and combatants.

Israel says it has killed thousands of Hamas militants in the war, without providing the basis for its count. The war was sparked when hundreds of Palestinian militants stormed into southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking about 250 people hostage.

JERUSALEM — Yemen’s Houthi rebels fired two ballistic missiles Thursday at a Liberian-flagged container ship in the Red Sea, a U.S. defense official said, the latest attack by the rebels as America launches airstrikes targeting them.

The attack happened west of Hodeida, a port city in Yemen long held by the rebels, said the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, a British military group overseeing Mideast waterways. It said the crew and the vessel were safe and the blast came far off the vessel’s starboard side.

The U.S. defense official identified the targeted container ship as the Koi. Its management could not be immediately reached for comment. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.

The Houthis did not immediately claim responsibility for the assault. The private security firm Ambrey reported Wednesday night that a ship was targeted with a missile southwest of Aden, Yemen, near the Bab el-Mandeb Strait between the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. The Houthis claimed that attack also targeted the Koi, though American officials had no immediate information on any attack Wednesday night.

Since November, the rebels have repeatedly targeted ships in the Red Sea over Israel’s offensive in Gaza against Hamas. But they have frequently targeted vessels with tenuous or no clear links to Israel, imperiling shipping in a key route for global trade between Asia, the Mideast and Europe.

The Houthis hit a commercial vessel with a missile on Jan. 26, sparking a fire that burned for hours.

Late Wednesday, American F/A-18 fighter jets struck and destroyed 10 Houthi drones that were prepared to launch, as well as a ground control station used by the rebels, the U.S. military said. The U.S. also intercepted a ballistic missile and other drones already in the air during the day.


Associated Press writer Tara Copp in Washington contributed.

WASHINGTON — The United States has attributed the drone attack that killed three U.S. service members in Jordan to the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, an umbrella group of Iran-backed militias that includes the militant group Kataib Hezbollah.

National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said Wednesday the U.S. believes the attack was planned, resourced and facilitated by the group.

The Sunday drone attack on a military base in Jordan killed the three troops and injured at least 40 others. Kirby says President Joe Biden will continue to weigh response options to the attack but “the first thing you see won’t be the last thing.”

JERUSALEM — Dozens of Israeli protesters have tried to block humanitarian aid from entering Gaza, despite an order barring them from approaching a border crossing the trucks are using.

According to video released by an activist group behind the demonstrations, police, including mounted officers, scuffled with the protesters Wednesday.

The protesters have been gathering near the Kerem Shalom crossing for several days, saying aid should not be allowed into Gaza while hostages are still being held there. They say the aid could act as leverage to force Hamas to release the hostages.

Activists said up to 40 people were detained, a figure that could not be independently confirmed. Police did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Israeli military this week sealed the area to prevent such protests from recurring. It was not immediately clear how close the crowd got to the crossing, and deliveries into Gaza did not appear to be disrupted.

Kerem Shalom is the main goods crossing between Israel and Gaza.

Israel imposed a siege on Gaza in the first days of the war barring the entry of aid. While it relented under U.S. pressure, the amount of aid has been a fraction of what went into the territory before the war.


This story corrects the name of the court to International Court of Justice.

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