An aircraft airdrops humanitarian aid over the northern Gaza Strip,...

An aircraft airdrops humanitarian aid over the northern Gaza Strip, as seen from central Gaza, Monday, March 25, 2024. Credit: AP/Fatima Shbair

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled a high-level delegation's planned visit to Washington after the U.S. decided not to use its veto power on Monday’s U.N. Security Council resolution for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza.

After vetoing three previous resolutions calling for a cease-fire, the U.S. decision to abstain Monday comes at a time of growing tensions between President Joe Biden’s administration and Netanyahu over Israel’s prosecution of the war, the high number of civilian casualties and the limited amount of humanitarian assistance reaching Gaza.

There are “reasonable grounds” to believe Israel is carrying out genocide in Gaza, an independent expert working with the U.N.’s top human rights body said Monday.

International aid officials say the entire population of the Gaza Strip — 2.3 million people — is suffering from food insecurity and that famine is imminent in the hard-hit north.

More than 32,000 people have been killed in the besieged territory and more than 74,000 wounded, according to Gaza's Health Ministry, which doesn’t differentiate between civilians and combatants in its tally. It says women and children make up two-thirds of the dead.

Some 1,200 people were killed on Oct. 7 when Palestinian militants launched a surprise attack out of Gaza, triggering the war, and abducted another 250 people. Hamas is still believed to be holding some 100 Israelis hostage, as well as the remains of 30 others.

Currently:

Palestinians wounded in the Israeli bombardment are brought to a...

Palestinians wounded in the Israeli bombardment are brought to a hospital in Rafah, Gaza Strip. Sunday, March 24, 2024. Credit: AP/Hatem Ali

— U.N. passes resolution demanding a cease-fire in Gaza during ongoing Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

— Palestinians describe bodies and ambulances crushed in Israel’s ongoing raid at Gaza’s main hospital.

— Jerusalem marks festive holiday of Purim.

— Thousands of Christians attend Palm Sunday celebrations in Jerusalem against a backdrop of war.

Roman Catholic clergymen carry palm fronds during the Palm Sunday...

Roman Catholic clergymen carry palm fronds during the Palm Sunday procession at Church of the Holy Sepulchre, traditionally believed by many to be the site of the crucifixion and burial of Jesus Christ, in Jerusalem's Old City, Sunday, March 24, 2024. Credit: AP/Ohad Zwigenberg

— Israeli airstrike in northeastern Lebanon wounds three people, local official says.

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

Here's the latest:

MILITANTS FIRE ROCKETS FROM CENTRAL GAZA, AND ISRAEL SAYS IT STRUCK THE LAUNCH SITE

JERUSALEM — Israel's military says militants in central Gaza fired rockets toward the southern Israel city of Ashdod on Monday.

The military said its jets bombed the site where the rockets were fired in Deir al-Balah, which the army described as a “humanitarian area,” without elaborating. The military said some of the rockets were intercepted by Israel’s missile defense systems.

The pace and intensity of Palestinian rocket barrages from Gaza has fallen but not entirely stopped throughout the war, now well into its fifth month. Israel's military has continued to battle militants in areas it earlier said it had taken control of, including central and northern Gaza.

This was the first time in two months rockets have been launched toward Ashdod, which is about 50 kilometers (30 miles) from Deir al-Balah and roughly halfway to Tel Aviv.

ISRAELI POLITICIAN RESIGNS FROM EMERGENCY GOVERNMENT, SAYING HE DIDN'T GET ENOUGH INFLUENCE

JERUSALEM -- A veteran Israeli politician has withdrawn from Israel’s emergency government, saying he was not given the influence he had expected.

Gideon Saar’s departure on Monday has no immediate effect on the government, which still holds a strong parliamentary majority.

But it reflected his unhappiness with the handling of the war by Israel’s three-man War Cabinet. Saar had been in an alliance with one of the war cabinet members, Benny Gantz, and had sought to join the small decision-making body.

“We didn’t come to the government to warm seats . We came to help Israel during a difficult time,” Saar told a news conference.

Saar is a former member of Netanyahu’s Likud party and has held a number of senior Cabinet posts. He is to remain in parliament as head of a small faction.

SAUDI ARABIA EXPRESSES SUPPORT FOR GAZA CEASE-FIRE RESOLUTION

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Saudi Arabia has expressed support for the recent U.N. Security Council resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire in the Gaza Strip during the holy month Ramadan,

In a short statement released by the Saudi Press Agency, the kingdom reiterated its call to the international community to take decisive action to address the situation and protect civilians in Gaza from all forms of violence. It emphasized the importance of alleviating Palestinian suffering and fostering hope for “a future free from conflict.”

Saudi officials have previously said the kingdom is still interested in normalizing relations with Israel in a potentially historic deal, but only if there is a credible plan to create a Palestinian state, something Israel adamantly opposes.

WHITE HOUSE SURPRISED BY ISRAEL'S RESPONSE TO U.N. VOTE

WASHINGTON — White House national security spokesman John Kirby said the response by Israel to the U.N. resolution was surprising. “We’re kind of perplexed by this,” he said.

He said the Israelis were “choosing to create a perception of daylight here when they don’t need to do that.”

According to a U.S. official with direct knowledge of the talks, American officials were in touch with Israel throughout the weekend to make the U.S. position known on the Security Council resolution, and to articulate that it was not a change in policy or in support for Israel. The official spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive discussions.

Netanyahu did not talk to Biden before he canceled the delegation’s trip, and Biden doesn’t have any immediate plans to phone Netanyahu, the official said.

Meanwhile, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant was set to meet with U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and others Monday in Washington where discussions would continue. The U.S. official said the plan by Israel to enter Rafah was not imminent and there would still be time for ongoing talks — despite the canceled trip.

Eytan Gilboa, an expert on U.S.-Israel relations at Bar Ilan University, said Netanyahu’s decision to cancel the diplomatic delegation to the United States was a mistake and demonstrates the tension between the US and Israel at this moment.

Gilboa said Biden is trying to placate voices within the Democratic party that oppose his support of Israel, while Netanyahu is trying to show his ability to stand up to American policies he considers anti-Israel.

“If domestic considerations are dominating decision making in the war, you have very harsh exchanges of rhetoric,” he said.

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