Live updates | China calls on Israel to halt military operations in Gaza as soon as possible

 China on Tuesday called on Israel to halt military operations in Gaza as soon as possible, a day after Israeli forces rescued two hostages from the Gaza Strip in a dramatic operation that also killed at least 74 Palestinians, according to Palestinian hospital officials. The raid took place in Rafah, the city on the southern [[{“value”:”

China on Tuesday called on Israel to halt military operations in Gaza as soon as possible, a day after Israeli forces rescued two hostages from the Gaza Strip in a dramatic operation that also killed at least 74 Palestinians, according to Palestinian hospital officials.

The raid took place in Rafah, the city on the southern edge of the Gaza Strip where 1.4 million Palestinians have fled to escape fighting elsewhere in the Israel-Hamas war. Women and children were among those killed in the airstrikes, Palestinian officials said.

China’s Foreign Ministry added in a brief statement on Tuesday that Israel should “do everything possible to avoid casualties among innocent civilians and prevent a more devastating humanitarian disaster in Rafah.”

The Palestinian death toll from the war has surpassed 28,000 people, according to the Health Ministry in Gaza. A quarter of Gaza’s residents are starving.

The war began with Hamas’ assault into Israel on Oct. 7, in which militants killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducted around 250. Israel says about 100 hostages remain in Hamas captivity, while Hamas is holding the remains of roughly 30 others who were either killed on Oct. 7 or died in captivity. Three hostages were mistakenly killed by the army after escaping their captors in December.

Currently:

Biden says ‘key elements’ of a Gaza deal are on the table as he meets with Jordan’s King Abdullah

— The Israeli military says it has rescued 2 hostages from captivity in the Gaza Strip.

Timeline of the Israeli raid in Gaza that rescued two hostages and killed dozens of Palestinians

Egypt is threatening to void its decades-old peace treaty with Israel. What does that mean?

UN Palestinian aid agency says it’s ‘critical’ to receive EU aid soon, but EU wants an audit first.

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

Here’s the latest:

CHINA CALLS ON ISRAEL TO STOP MILITARY OPERATIONS IN GAZA AS SOON AS POSSIBLE

BEIJING — China has called on Israel to halt military operations in Gaza as soon as possible following a raid that rescued two hostages and killed at least 74 Palestinians.

The Foreign Ministry in Beijing added in a brief statement on Tuesday that Israel should “do everything possible to avoid casualties among innocent civilians and prevent a more devastating humanitarian disaster in Rafah.”

Israel has signaled its ground offensive may soon target Rafah, the town where the hostages were freed by the raid.

China has consistently opposed the Israeli offensive, calling from the start for a cease-fire and talks to find a permanent solution to the crisis.

HEALTH MINISTRY IN GAZA SAYS 133 BODIES BROUGHT TO HOSPITALS IN PAST DAY

CAIRO — The Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza says the bodies of 133 people killed in Israeli strikes have been brought to hospitals in the war-wrecked territory over the past day.

Hospitals also received 162 wounded patients, the ministry said.

Also Tuesday, the death toll from an Israeli hostage rescue operation in the town of Rafah rose to 74, according to Dr. Marawan al-Hams, director of the local Abu Youssef al-Najjar Hospital. Israeli forces conducting the operation, which freed two hostages, were backed by heavy airstrikes on the town, to where hundreds of thousands of displaced Palestinians have fled.

The fresh fatalities brought the death toll in Gaza to 28,473 since the war began on Oct. 7, according to the ministry.

The ministry doesn’t differentiate between civilians and combatants in its count but says more than 70% of the dead are women and minors. Israel says its forces have killed 10,000 Hamas fighters without providing evidence. It blames Hamas for the death toll, saying it embeds in civilians areas, putting noncombatants at risk.

More than 68,000 people have been wounded in the war, of them 11,000 who need urgent evacuation for treatment out of Gaza, the ministry said.

The ministry said many of the dead remain under the rubble of destroyed buildings and on roadsides with first responders unable to reach many areas and collect the bodies.

ISRAELI FORCES KILL PALESTINIAN MAN IN WEST BANK, PALESTINIAN OFFICIALS SAY

CAIRO — Palestinian health officials say Israeli forces shot and killed a Palestinian man in the occupied West Bank.

The Palestinian Health Ministry identified the man as 20-year-old Mohammed Sherif Hassan Selmi and said he was shot in his chest, shoulders and head.

The Israeli military said Tuesday that forces were operating in the West Bank city of Qalqilya when the man allegedly attempted to run over soldiers, who opened fired and killed the man. The military said it was not aware of whether any soldiers were wounded.

The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, an armed offshoot of the secular Fatah party, said its fighters clashed with the Israeli forces but did not claim Selmi as a member.

The West Bank has seen a surge of violence since the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza broke out in October. The Health Ministry says more than 380 Palestinians have been killed during that time. The Israeli military says it has arrested more than 3,000 Palestinians in the West Bank since the war began.

ARAB LEAGUE SECRETARY-GENERAL WARNS ISRAEL AGAINST FORCEFULLY DISPLACING PALESTINIANS

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The secretary-general of the Arab League has warned Israel against policies he described as forcefully displacing Palestinians from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Ahmed Aboul Gheit decried what he called an “Israeli mentality” to try and seize land the Palestinians want for their future state. He warned any seizure of the Gaza Strip or the West Bank by Israel would mean “a confrontation for the next thousand years.”

“The United States must order Israel to stop these policies or otherwise the Middle East will explode in an unprecedented way,” he said.

He also called on Israel to “empty the settlements” in Palestinian land as well.

Aboul Gheit, a former ambassador to the United Nations and Egypt’s last foreign minister under ousted president Hosni Mubarak, spoke at the World Government Summit in Dubai.

COUNCIL MEETS ON GAZA TOLL AND ISRAEL’S EXPECTED MOVE INTO RAFAH

UNITED NATIONS – The U.N. Security Council held an emergency closed meeting on the escalating civilian death toll in Gaza and Israel’s plans to move its offensive to Rafah where some 1.5 million Palestinians have fled hoping to find safety.

China’s U.N. Ambassador Zhang Jun told The Associated Press after Monday’s late meeting that there was “a loud cry” among council members about the need for urgent action — to deal with the “unfolding humanitarian catastrophe,” Israel’s announced intentions in Gaza, and further spillover of the war.

Algeria, the Arab representative on the 15-member Security Council who called the meeting, has circulated a draft resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire in the war that began after Hamas invaded Israel on Oct. 7, killing about 1,200 people and taking some 250 hostage. More than 28,000 Palestinians have been killed during Israel’s offensive, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza.

Zhang said the “very strong and overwhelming position of council members” is for the Security Council to act but one member – a clear reference to Israel’s closest ally the United States – “worries about the complication of Security Council action with the bilateral efforts” it is undertaking.

The Chinese envoy said discussions on the Algerian draft resolution are still taking place, and he expressed hope “that eventually the council will be demonstrating our united position.”

U.N. SAYS IT WON’T PARTICIPATE IN FORCED DISPLACEMENT OF PALESTINIANS

UNITED NATIONS – The United Nations says it will not participate in the forced displacement of Palestinians in Gaza, stressing that there is no safe place to go in the territory where Israel is still carrying out a military offensive.

U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric was responding to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s request to the military to prepare a plan to evacuate about 1.5 million Palestinian civilians who have fled to southern Rafah to seek safety in order to continue its operation against Hamas following its Oct. 7 attack in southern Israel – and a report that the U.N. was asked to help in the evacuations.

Dujarric said the vast majority of Palestinians in the south can’t be sent back to northern and central areas littered with unexploded ordnance and destroyed housing, and where the humanitarian situation is exceedingly challenging with very few supplies of food and other necessities. He added that “the deconfliction process that we have in place with the Israeli authorities is also not working.”

Israeli government spokesperson Eylon Levy, speaking Monday, accused U.N. agencies of being more concerned about pressuring Israel to end its war with Hamas and resisting “our efforts to vacate civilians from Hamas strongholds, libelously characterizing those measures in pursuance of our obligations under international law as forced displacement” than helping protect civilians.

“We urge U.N. agencies to cooperate with Israel’s efforts to protect civilians from Hamas and evacuate them from a war zone where terrorists are trying to use them as human shields,” Levy said. “Don’t say it can’t be done. Work with us to find a way.”

Pressed later by The Associated Press on whether Israel was seeking U.N. help, he appeared to backtrack, saying Israel was not asking for help to evacuate Rafah, “We are asking the U.N. to work towards helping protect Palestinian civilians rather than helping Hamas.”

Dujarric stressed that “there is no place that is currently safe in Gaza” and the United Nations wants to ensure “that anything that happens is done in full respect of international law, in full respect of the protection of civilians.” And he said: “We will not be party to forced displacement of people,” he said.

U.N. HUMAN RIGHTS CHIEF: INCURSION INTO RAFAH WOULD HAVE ‘TERRIFYING’ EFFECTS

The U.N. human rights chief says a potential full-fledged Israeli military incursion into Gaza is “terrifying” because some 1.5 million Palestinians have nowhere else to flee and “an extremely high number” of civilians are likely to be killed and injured.

Volker Türk said in a statement Monday that “given the carnage wrought so far in Gaza it is wholly imaginable what would lie ahead in Rafah.”

“Beyond the pain and suffering of the bombs and bullets, this incursion into Rafah may also mean the end of the meager humanitarian aid that has been entering and distributed with huge implications for all of Gaza,” he said, “including the hundreds of thousands at grave risk of starvation and famine in the north.”

Türk urged the world not to allow this to happen, reiterating U.N. calls for an immediate ceasefire, the release of all hostages taken during Hamas’ attacks in southern Israel on Oct. 7, and “renewed collective resolve to reach a political solution.”

Türk said he has repeatedly warned against actions violating the laws of war, and he warned again that the prospect of an Israeli military operation in Rafah “as circumstances stand, risks further atrocity crimes.”

ERDOGAN TO MEET WITH LEADERS OF UAE AND EGYPT OVER GAZA

ISTANBUL – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday that Israel’s widening attacks on Gaza would “top our agenda” when he meets with the leaders of the UAE and Egypt over the next two days.

In a televised address following his weekly Cabinet meeting in Ankara, Erdogan chastised the “hypocritical policy” of the West as the “reason for Israel’s recklessness.”

He highlighted Israeli operations in Rafah on Monday. Referring to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a “wannabe Hitler,” he said Israel was “crossing a new red line every day in its policy of brutality and massacre.”

Western countries were “turning a blind eye to Netanyahu’s massacres,” he added.

Erdogan is due to meet UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan on Tuesday before traveling to Egypt on Wednesday to meet President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi.

“What more can we do for our Gazan brothers in the meetings we will hold in the Emirates and Egypt? God willing, we will look at it,” he said.

The Associated Press

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