An Israeli tank moves near the Gaza Strip border in...

An Israeli tank moves near the Gaza Strip border in southern Israel, Thursday, April 11, 2024. Credit: AP/Tsafrir Abayov

Israel’s military said Thursday it is prepared to defend the country and strike back if Iran retaliates for a deadly airstrike on the Iranian Consulate in Syria.

Tehran holds Israel responsible for the attack earlier this month, which the U.S. military believes Israel carried out. Israel has not commented on it. The increased tensions have sparked international concern that Israel's devastating war against Hamas in Gaza could spill over into the rest of the Middle East.

Six months of fighting in Gaza have pushed the tiny Palestinian territory into a humanitarian crisis, leaving more than 1 million people on the brink of starvation. The head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, Samantha Power, told lawmakers Wednesday she accepted “credible” reports that famine is now occurring in hard-hit northern Gaza. President Joe Biden said this week that Israel is not doing enough to increase the flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza.

Israeli bombardments and ground offensives have killed at least 33,360 Palestinians in Gaza and wounded 74,993, the Health Ministry says. The ministry doesn’t differentiate between civilians and combatants in its tally, but says women and children make up two-thirds of the dead.

The war started on Oct. 7 when Hamas killed 1,200 Israelis in a surprise attack, mostly civilians. Palestinian militants took around 250 people hostage.

Currently:

— More aid is supposed to be entering the Gaza Strip. Why isn’t it helping?

Palestinians mourn over the bodies of their relatives killed in...

Palestinians mourn over the bodies of their relatives killed in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip at the morgue of Al Aqsa Hospital in Deir al Balah, Gaza Strip, Wednesday, April 10, 2024. Credit: AP/Ismael Abu Dayyah

— U.S. Muslim leaders are ‘out of words’ as they tire of White House outreach on the war in Gaza

— A mission of mercy, then a fatal strike: How an aid convoy in Gaza became Israel’s target

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

Here's the latest:

Palestinians visit the graves of their relatives who were killed...

Palestinians visit the graves of their relatives who were killed in the war between Israel and the Hamas militant group on the first day of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, in Deir al-Balah, Gaza, Wednesday, April 10, 2024. Credit: AP/Abdel Kareem Hana

ISRAELI PROTESTERS DEMONSTRATE AGAINST NETANYAHU AND CALL FOR HOSTAGE RELEASE

TEL AVIV, Israel — Protesters took to streets in Tel Aviv on Thursday night to demonstrate against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government and call for the release of dozens of hostages held by Hamas in Gaza.

Demonstrators carried large photos of hostages as well as signs with slogans, some in English and some in Hebrew.

At the beginning of the month, tens of thousands of Israelis thronged central Jerusalem in the largest anti-government protest since the country went to war in October. Nearly six months of conflict have renewed divisions over Netanyahu's leadership, although the country remains largely in favor of the war.

Netanyahu says early elections would paralyze Israel for six to eight months and stall the hostage talks. He has vowed to destroy Hamas and bring all the hostages home, however those goals have been elusive.

WHITE HOUSE SAYS FAMINE IS 'IMMINENT,' APPARENTLY SOFTENING USAID CHIEF'S COMMENTS

WASHINGTON -- White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre insisted repeatedly Thursday that famine conditions in parts of Gaza were “imminent,” seemingly softening USAID Administrator Samantha Power saying that it was “credible” to assess that famine had already begun occurring there.

“That is why we’re doing everything we can to uptick, obviously, the humanitarian aid” arriving into Gaza, Jean-Pierre said, noting that the number of trucks carrying aid into Gaza has increased dramatically in recent days.

“We know how dire the situation is in Gaza, so we are certainly deeply concerned about these reports,” Jean-Pierre said. “We have been working around the clock, around the clock, to get more of that aid into Gaza.”

She added that the U.S. “will continue to push Israel to increase the flow” of aid into Gaza.

Under U.S. pressure, Israel has promised to ramp up aid to Gaza dramatically, saying last week it would open another cargo crossing and surge more trucks than ever before into the besieged Palestinian territory. But days later, there are few signs of those promises materializing and international officials say starvation is widespread in hard-hit northern Gaza.

While Israel says it has dramatically increased the number of aid trucks entering the territory, U.N. workers report only a slight uptick — possibly because they count trucks differently.

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