This picture released by Hezbollah media relations office, shows a...

This picture released by Hezbollah media relations office, shows a portrait of Hezbollah commander Mohammad Naameh Nasser, who was killed by an Israeli airstrike that hit his car, in the southern costal town of Tyre, Lebanon, Wednesday, July 3, 2024. The strike took place as global diplomatic efforts have intensified in recent weeks to prevent escalating clashes between Hezbollah and the Israeli military from spiralling into an all-out war that could possibly lead to a direct confrontation between Israel and Iran. Credit: AP

Israel killed a senior commander in the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah on Wednesday, the second top field leader killed in less than a month, and the group said it retaliated by firing scores of rockets at Israeli military positions near the border.

The Israeli military estimated that around 100 rockets were fired, and said there were no reports of casualties.

International diplomats are scrambling to prevent the near-daily clashes between Israel and Hezbollah from spiraling into an all-out war that could possibly lead to a direct confrontation between Israel and Iran, which is Hezbollah's main backer. Hezbollah says it will stop its attacks once Israel agrees to a cease-fire with Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Some Israeli officials have said they are seeking a diplomatic solution to the standoff and hope to avoid war. At the same time, they have warned that the scenes of destruction seen in Gaza will be repeated in Lebanon if war breaks out. Hezbollah, meanwhile, is far more powerful than Hamas and believed to have a vast arsenal of rockets and missiles capable of striking anywhere in Israel.

The nearly nine-month war in Gaza has caused massive devastation across the besieged territory and displaced most of its 2.3 million people, often multiple times. Israel’s military estimated Tuesday that around 1.9 million people are now clustered into the territory’s central region.

Evacuees have been told by Israel to seek refuge in an overcrowded coastal area filled with sprawling tent camps where there are few basic services. Israeli restrictions, the 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.

Israel launched the war in Gaza after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack, in which militants stormed into southern Israel, killed some 1,200 people — mostly civilians — and abducted about 250.

Mourners take the last look at the bodies of four...

Mourners take the last look at the bodies of four Palestinians, wrapped with Islamic Jihad flags, who were killed by an Israeli airstrike late Tuesday, during their funeral in the West Bank refugee camp of Nur Shams, near Tulkarem, Wednesday, July 3, 2024. Palestinian health officials say four Palestinians were killed by an Israeli airstrike in a refugee camp in the northern West Bank late Tuesday. Israel's military said an aircraft struck a group of militants who were planting explosives in Nur Shams refugee camp near Tulkarem. Credit: AP/Nasser Nasser

Since then, Israeli ground offensives and bombardments have killed more than 37,900 people in Gaza, according to the territory's Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between combatants and civilians in its count.

Currently:

— Israel turbocharges West Bank settlement expansion with largest land grab in decades.

— Israeli strike kills another senior Hezbollah commander as diplomats scramble for calm in Lebanon.

Mourners take a last look at the body of Yazeed...

Mourners take a last look at the body of Yazeed Shafea, 22, wrapped with an Islamic Jihad flag, who was one of four Palestinians killed by an Israeli airstrike late Tuesday, during their funeral in the West Bank refugee camp of Nur Shams, near Tulkarem, Wednesday, July 3, 2024. Palestinian health officials say four Palestinians were killed by an Israeli airstrike in a refugee camp in the northern West Bank late Tuesday. Israel's military said an aircraft struck a group of militants who were planting explosives in Nur Shams refugee camp near Tulkarem. Credit: AP/Nasser Nasser

— A strike kills a family in Gaza as an Israeli evacuation order sparks panicked flight from Khan Younis.

— Hezbollah’s deputy leader says the group would stop fighting with Israel after a Gaza cease-fire.

— Lebanese authorities charge U.S. Embassy shooter with affiliation to militant Islamic State group.

— Iran’s presidential candidates talk economic sanctions and nuclear deal ahead of their runoff election.

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

Here’s the latest:

UN is struggling to get aid to 250,000 Palestinians that Israel ordered to evacuate this week

UNITED NATIONS – Many of the 250,000 Palestinians that Israel ordered to evacuate from the Gaza Strip’s second-largest city Khan Younis are heading toward already overcrowded areas near the sea where there is not enough water and no toilets, a senior U.N. official says.

Andrea De Domenico, head of the U.N. humanitarian office for the Palestinian territories, told reporters on Wednesday that it is “a major challenge” to even bring food to the two main places Palestinians are going: Muwasi, the coastal area designated by the Israeli army as a safe zone, and the nearby city of Deir al-Balah.

He stressed that Gaza is unique – “the only place in the world where people cannot find a safe refuge, and can’t leave the frontline.” Even in so-called safe areas there are bombings, he said in a news conference from Jerusalem.

De Domenico said Monday’s Israeli evacuation order from much of Khan Younis also included the locations the U.N. was planning for new warehouses, which are desperately needed since the main U.N. warehouses in the southern city of Rafah are off-limits because of ongoing Israeli military operations in that area and the closing of Rafah’s border crossing to Egypt.

De Domenico said the U.N. is hoping to reach an agreement with Israeli authorities that the area for the new warehouses will be protected and not hit “by the military operation that could unfold in the coming hours.”

Then, he said, the U.N. could possibly restart humanitarian operations in the area.

De Domenico said the U.N. is now able to meet basic needs in northern Gaza but getting aid into the south has been “very problematic” for the last four weeks, partially due to “the internal criminality linked to the smuggling of cigarettes.”

“That has become … the biggest challenge we have,” he said.

De Domenico explained that the U.N. has tried to find logistical solutions to deliver aid, but “there is no logistical solution to a political problem which resonates with the lack of law and order.”

Hamas has responded to the most recent cease-fire proposal, an official with the group says

Beirut — Hamas political official Bassem Naim confirmed Wednesday that the Palestinian militant group had responded to the most recent cease-fire proposal submitted to the mediators.

He said Hamas had not outrightly rejected or accepted a deal, which was recently amended by the United States, but “responded with some ideas to bridge the gap” between the two sides. He declined to say what amendments Hamas had proposed.

Israel’s Mossad intelligence service said it received Hamas’s response to the ceasefire and was examining it.

The latest proposal has new language the U.S. proposed to other intermediaries Egypt and Qatar last week, according to a senior Biden administration official who requested anonymity to discuss an effort the White House has yet to publicly unveil.

The new language addresses negotiations that are to start between Israel and Hamas during the first phase of a three-phase deal that U.S. President Joe Biden laid out nearly a month ago.

The first phase calls for a “full and complete cease-fire,” a withdrawal of Israeli forces from all densely populated areas of Gaza and the release of a number of hostages, including women, older people and the wounded. In exchange, Israel would release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners.

The proposal called for the parties to negotiate the terms of the second phase during the 42 days of phase one. Under the current proposal, Hamas could release all of the remaining men, both civilians and soldiers, during that phase. In return, Israel could free an agreed-upon number of Palestinian prisoners and detainees. The releases would not occur until “sustainable calm” takes effect and all Israeli troops withdraw from Gaza.

___

Associated Press writer Aamer Madhani in Washington contributed.

United Nations lowers its estimate of Gaza's population from 2.3 million people to about 2.1 million

UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. humanitarian community in Gaza is lowering its estimate of the population in the territory from roughly 2.3 million people to about 2.1 million.

Andrea De Domenico, who heads the U.N. humanitarian office for the Palestinian territories, said that nine months into the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, the U.N. “for the sole purpose of humanitarian planning” lowered the pre-war population estimate of a little less than 2.3 million, based on two numbers it has.

He said that 110,000 people have left Gaza and crossed into Egypt since October, according to the border authority, and more than 37,000 Palestinians have been killed in the war, according to the Gaza health authority.

This doesn’t preclude that some people who left might come back, De Domenico told a U.N. press conference from Jerusalem. “But just for our programming purposes, as the humanitarian community, we estimate that the population present in Gaza comprises about 2.1 million people.”

Israeli settlers cut water pipes to a Palestinian village in the West Bank that they've assaulted repeatedly in the past week

JERUSALEM — A group of Israeli settlers returned to the Palestinian village of Umm al-Khair in the southern West Bank on Wednesday, cutting the village’s water pipes and leaving some 200 Palestinians there without access to water.

It was the fourth settler assault on the village — some violent — in the past week and comes days after a quarter of the village was left homeless when Israeli authorities demolished their homes.

One video obtained by The Associated Press from a local resident showed a group of about five settlers tampering with the village’s water pipe, the water spilling out onto the ground. In another video, two Israeli soldiers look on as the settlers cluster around the pipe.

The Israeli military did not immediately comment.

Residents of the village see the actions of Israeli forces and settlers over the past week as an overt attempt to push them from the land they've called home since they were expelled from the Negev desert in what is now Israel during the 1948 war around the country's creation. The 3 million Palestinians in the West Bank live under seemingly open-ended Israeli military rule.

Since Wednesday, international and Israeli activists have flocked to the village in an attempt to protect the Palestinians there, but it has not stopped near-daily settler onslaughts. A confrontation Monday turned violent, with settlers wielding tear gas and sticks sent six Palestinians to the hospital, residents said.

Rights groups say settler violence has mounted in the West Bank during the Israel-Hamas war.

Israeli settlers attack military forces trying to clear an outpost in the West Bank

JERUSALEM — Israel’s military said masked Israeli settlers attacked its forces who were attempting to evacuate an illegal outpost in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday.

Settlers hurled an explosive at a vehicle belonging to the military body in charge of civilian affairs in the West Bank, leaving its dashboard cracked, the army said.

The military’s chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, said the episode was “a severe, violent incident, that must be denounced and condemned,” calling for the “rioters” to face legal repercussions.

Israeli media reported that the settlers had clashed with Israeli forces late into the night Tuesday, burning tires and hurling stones at the officers.

The military and border police were trying to evacuate the Oz Zion outpost in the northern West Bank, which was established illegally in 2021. Outposts are small structures built without authorization from the Israeli government, and rights groups say they’re some of the largest drivers of violence toward Palestinians in the occupied territory.

Israel has built well over 100 settlements across the West Bank, some of which resemble fully developed suburbs or small towns. They are home to over 500,000 Jewish settlers who have Israeli citizenship.

The settlement tracking group Peace Now said Wednesday that Israel has approved the largest seizure of land in the occupied West Bank in over three decades.

The international community largely views all settlements as illegal and an obstacle to peace. U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric, when asked for U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ reaction to the latest land seizure, said: “Frankly, it’s a step in the wrong direction – and the direction we want to be heading is to find a negotiated two-state solution.”

UN is talking with Israel about aid teams' communication needs in Gaza, but won't confirm reports about using Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite service

UNITED NATIONS – The United Nations says it’s talking to Israel about its communications needs in Gaza and is looking for a system that doesn’t rely on cellular networks.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told The Associated Press on Wednesday that communications “are vital to the safety of our operations” in Gaza, where war between Israel and Hamas has raged for nearly nine months.

Dujarric would not confirm a report in Axios that the U.N. and Israel are negotiating the deployment of Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite service in Gaza.

“We are agnostic on the platform, we are looking to have some communications system that does not rely on cell towers,” Dujarric said.

Andrea De Domenico, head of the U.N. humanitarian office in Gaza and the West Bank, also didn’t confirm the Axios report during a press conference with U.N. journalists earlier Wednesday from Jerusalem.

But he said: “Communication equipment has been a longstanding request of the humanitarian community as a whole.”

“It is very simple,” De Domenic said. “Every time there is a military operation, we lose completely communication with our teams.”

He said the internet and simple phone connections are “fundamental to the way we operaate and function in these days.”

De Domenico said the U.N. needs ways to communicate with its teams to plan and conduct humanitarian operations, as well as to communicate with U.N. partners on the ground and the Israeli military to make sure the operations can be carried out safely. He said he didn’t care about the service — as long as it works.

Hezbollah fires rocket barrages against Israeli military positions in retaliation for killing a senior commander

BEIRUT — The Lebanese militant group Hezbollah said it fired scores of rockets at Israeli military positions near the border on Wednesday in retaliation for Israel's killing a senior commander in a airstrike hours earlier.

The Israeli military estimated that around 100 rockets were fired, and said there were no reports of casualties.

Hezbollah said it launched Falaq rockets with heavy warheads targeting the headquarters of the Israeli military’s 769th Brigade in Kiryat Shmona, as well as 100 salvos of Katyusha rockets targeting the headquarters of Israel’s 210th division and the Kilaa air base in the Israeli-occupied Syrian Golan Heights.

Later, the group said it attacked the Zaarit barracks near the border with Burkan rockets, another type of rocket with heavy warheads like the Falaq.

A Hezbollah statement identified the commander killed Wednesday as Mohammad Naameh Nasser, who went by the name “Abu Naameh,” his nom de guerre. He is the most senior leader from the group killed since Taleb Sami Abdullah, who was killed in an airstrike June 11.

The Israeli military acknowledged the attack, saying that Nasser alongside Abdullah are “two of the most significant Hezbollah” militants in southern Lebanon. It said Nasser led attacks from southwestern Lebanon.

International diplomats are scrambling to prevent the near-daily clashes between Israel and Hezbollah from spiraling into an all-out war that could possibly lead to a direct confrontation between Israel and Iran, which is Hezbollah’s main backer. Hezbollah says it will stop its attacks once Israel agrees to a cease-fire with Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Some Israeli officials have said they are seeking a diplomatic solution to the standoff and hope to avoid war. At the same time, they have warned that the scenes of destruction seen in Gaza will be repeated in Lebanon if war breaks out. Hezbollah, meanwhile, is far more powerful than Hamas and believed to have a vast arsenal of rockets and missiles capable of striking anywhere in Israel.

Tens of thousands of people on both sides of the tense frontier have been displaced in the monthslong war.

Israeli airstrikes on Lebanon since October have killed over 450 people, most of them Hezbollah fighters, but the dead also include more than 80 civilians and non-combatants. On the Israeli side, 16 soldiers and 11 civilians have been killed.

Israeli strike kills another senior Hezbollah commander as diplomats scramble for calm in Lebanon

BEIRUT — An Israeli strike in southern Lebanon killed a senior Hezbollah commander on Wednesday as tensions between the two sides boil, a Hezbollah official told The Associated Press.

The strike near the southern coastal city of Tyre took place as global diplomatic efforts have intensified in recent weeks to prevent escalating clashes between Hezbollah and the Israeli military from spiraling into an all-out war that could possibly lead to a direct confrontation between Israel and Iran.

A Hezbollah statement identified the commander as Mohammad Naameh Nasser, who went by the name “Abu Naameh,” his nom de guerre. A Hezbollah official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations, said Nasser was the head of the group’s Aziz Unit, one of three regional divisions in southern Lebanon.

Nasser was the most senior official from the Iran-backed group killed since Taleb Sami Abdullah, who was killed in an airstrike June 11.

In a video circulated by local media, residents rushed toward a charred vehicle with a large plume of smoke. Civil Defense said its first responders transported an unnamed wounded person to a hospital.

The Israeli military acknowledged the attack, saying that Nasser alongside Abdullah are “two of the most significant Hezbollah” militants in southern Lebanon. It said Nasser led attacks from southwestern Lebanon.

Hezbollah has launched rockets into northern Israel since a day after the Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel by the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which sparked the war in Gaza. There have been limited clashes along the tense Israel-Lebanon border almost every day that have gradually escalated, with Hezbollah introducing new weapons in their attacks and Israel striking deeper into Lebanon.

Hezbollah maintains that it will stop its attacks once there is a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip. Until then, it says it will keep up the attacks to exert pressure on Israel and the international community. Israeli officials have threatened to launch a larger military operation if Hezbollah doesn't halt its attacks.

NewsdayTV's Elisa DiStefano and Newsday food writer Marie Elena Martinez take a look at the hottest places to dine on Long Island this summer.  Credit: Randee Daddona; Newsday / A.J. Singh

A taste of summer on Long Island NewsdayTV's Elisa DiStefano and Newsday food writer Marie Elena Martinez take a look at the hottest places to dine on Long Island this summer. 

NewsdayTV's Elisa DiStefano and Newsday food writer Marie Elena Martinez take a look at the hottest places to dine on Long Island this summer.  Credit: Randee Daddona; Newsday / A.J. Singh

A taste of summer on Long Island NewsdayTV's Elisa DiStefano and Newsday food writer Marie Elena Martinez take a look at the hottest places to dine on Long Island this summer. 

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