Israeli soldiers drive near the border with the Gaza Strip,...

Israeli soldiers drive near the border with the Gaza Strip, as seen in southern Israel, Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2024. Credit: AP/Tsafrir Abayov

Qatar’s prime minister said Thursday that Hamas gave a “generally positive” answer to the latest plan for a cease-fire in Gaza. But the Palestinian militant group said it still seeks “a comprehensive and complete” cease-fire to end “the aggression against our people.” Israel has ruled out the kind of permanent cease-fire sought by Hamas.

The Qatari prime minister's assessment of Hamas came during a news conference with the visiting U.S. secretary of state, Antony Blinken. The top American diplomat had met earlier Tuesday with the leaders of Egypt and Qatar — key U.S. allies who often serve as mediators between Israel and Hamas.

It’s Blinken’s fifth visit to the Middle East since the war in Gaza broke out on Oct. 7. Hamas fighters stormed into southern Israel, killing about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducting around 250 others. Some 100 hostages are believed to be still held in Gaza, after many were released during a weeklong cease-fire in November.

The Palestinian death toll after nearly four months of war has reach 27,478 people, the Health Ministry in Gaza said, and rights groups have accused Israel of using disproportionate force.

More than half of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million people is now crammed into the town of Rafah on the border with Egypt and surrounding areas, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said Tuesday.

A quarter of Gaza’s residents are starving and 85% of the population has been driven from their homes, with hundreds of thousands surviving in makeshift tent camps.

Currently:

Palestinians mourn their relatives killed in the Israeli bombardment of...

Palestinians mourn their relatives killed in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip in Deir al Balah, Monday, Feb. 5, 2024. Credit: AP/Adel Hana

— Suspected drones used by Yemen’s Houthi rebels attack 2 more ships in Mideast waters.

— Blinken pushes for progress on Gaza cease-fire-for-hostages deal in meetings with Arab mediators.

— Senate Democrats push to require that Biden consult Congress on weapons sales to Israel.

— In Israel, France’s new foreign minister presses for a cease-fire to end ‘the tragedy in Gaza.’

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken disembarks from the plane...

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken disembarks from the plane upon arriving at King Khalid International Airport, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Monday, Feb. 5, 2024. Credit: AP/Mark Schiefelbein

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

Here's the latest:

U.N. ENVOY FOR IRAQ WARNS OF REGIONAL SPILLOVER FROM GAZA WAR

UNITED NATIONS – Iraq’s government is focused on avoiding a domestic or regional spillover of the Israel-Hamas war, but continuing attacks on the country can undo its hard-won stability, the U.N. envoy for Iraq is warning.

Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert told the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday that “the Middle East is at a critical juncture” and “the same is true for Iraq.”

Attacks originating from inside and outside Iraq, if they continue, will not only undo the country’s stability but “other achievements made in the past 18 months” as well, she said.

Hennis-Plasschaert stressed that “messaging by strikes only serves to recklessly heighten tensions, to kill or injure people and to destroy property.”

She pointed to the Jan. 28 drone strike on a Jordanian facility that killed three U.S. troops and injured many more. She also highlighted the 85 retaliatory U.S. airstrikes in Iraq and Syria on Feb. 2 against sites used by Iranian-backed militias and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Both Iraq and Syria claimed civilians were killed and injured, and property destroyed.

Hennis-Plasschaert said many Iraqis were also shocked at an Iranian missile attack in mid-January on the northern city of Irbil, the seat of Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region, which killed civilians and was at odds “with the great efforts made on the Iraq-Iran security agreement.”

“Rather than shows of force, all efforts should center on safeguarding Iraq from being drawn in any way into a wider conflict,” the U.N. envoy said. She urged restraint from Iraq’s armed groups, its neighbor and other countries, saying this is “crucial” for the country’s stability and progress.

“With Iraq cloaked in an already complex tapestry of challenges, it is of greatest importance that all attacks cease,” said Hennis-Plasschaert.

She also announced that, after five years in Baghdad as the U.N.’s special representative, she will be departing at the end of May.

ON TRIP TO ISRAEL, ARGENTINA'S PRESIDENT SAYS HE WILL DECLARE HAMAS A TERROR GROUP

TEL AVIV, Israel — Argentina’s president says he intends to designate Hamas a terror group. Javier Milei, who was elected in November, arrived in Israel on Tuesday on what’s been billed a solidarity visit.

In a meeting with Israel’s ceremonial president, Milei said “we have been working on a project to declare Hamas as a terrorist group.” Milei said the declaration was “one more token of the historical closeness and support and friendship between our peoples.”

Earlier Tuesday he said Argentina would move its embassy to Jerusalem, following a handful of countries including the United States. Hamas later condemned the decision, calling it “unjust and wrong.”

Most countries do not recognize Israel’s claim to east Jerusalem and have their embassies in Tel Aviv.

The right-leaning Milei portrays himself as a culture warrior shaking up the establishment and has adopted several positions shared by U.S. conservatives, drawing comparisons with former President Donald Trump, who moved the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.

WHITE HOUSE SAYS ‘NO FINALITY’ ON HAMAS POSITION ON CEASE-FIRE DEAL

WASHINGTON — The White House on Tuesday indicated there is still “no finality” on Hamas' position on a proposal to free remaining Israeli hostages for an extended pause in fighting.

“I would say that the negotiating effort is still ongoing,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said. “We aren’t at a place where we have finality on it.”

Kirby also suggested that an ongoing impasse with House Republicans over $118 billion supplemental bill that would include funding for Ukraine, Israel and border security could have an impact on Israel’s defens”

“We know that air defense capabilities are a key critical need for the Israelis as rockets continue to get launched against them and targets in Israel and they have expended quite a bit of air defense munition,” Kirby said. “We have got to do more to help replenish their stocks.”

President Joe Biden on Tuesday acknowledged that Hamas has responded to the proposal to release the remaining hostages held in Gaza in return for an extended pause in fighting.

“There’s some movement, there has been a response from … Hamas,” Biden said when asked by reporters about a potential cease-fire deal. “But it seems to be a little over the top. We’re not sure where it is. There’s continuing negotiations.”

QATARI PRIME MINISTER SAYS HAMAS GAVE ‘GENERALLY POSITIVE’ REPLY TO CEASE-FIRE PROPOSAL

DOHA, Qatar — Qatar’s prime minister says Hamas’ reaction to the latest Gaza cease-fire plan has been “generally positive.”

Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani shared his assessment Tuesday at a news conference with the visiting U.S. secretary of state, Antony Blinken.

Qatar has been working with the U.S. and Egypt to broker a cease-fire that would involve an extended halt in fighting and the release of hostages held by Hamas militants.

Sheikh Mohammed gave no further details, but expressed optimism and said information was being relayed to Israel.

Blinken said the U.S. was reviewing Hamas’ response and would discuss it with Israeli leaders on Wednesday.

ISRAEL IS INVESTGATING IF ITS TROOPS BROKE THE LAW ON OCT. 7 — THE PROBE COULD LOOK AT KILLING OF ISRAELI CIVILIANS

JERUSALEM — The Israeli military says it has opened an investigation into possible violations of Israeli or international law committed by Israeli troops on Oct. 7 – the first day of its war against Hamas.

An announcement by the army on Tuesday did not identify which incidents it is investigating. But the probe is expected to look into the deaths of Israeli residents of a kibbutz in southern Israel who may have been killed by Israeli forces during a hostage standoff with Hamas militants.

The army said the investigation was being conducted by a fact-finding mechanism that operates independently outside the army’s chain of command. It said all evidence would be turned over to military prosecutors to determine whether criminal proceedings should be opened.

Israel declared war after several thousand Hamas militants stormed into southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing some 1,200 people and taking 250 others hostage.

Relatives of 13 people killed during the hostage standoff in Kibbutz Be’eri have demanded that the army open an immediate probe.

One of the survivors of the standoff, Yasmine Porat, has said she believes a tank opened fire on the home where the hostages were being held by militants.

The investigation will not look into the actions of Israeli troops inside Gaza. A four-month-long Israeli air and ground offensive has left over 27,000 Palestinians dead, according to local health officials, and rights groups have accused Israel of using disproportionate force.

The investigation also will not look into the failures by Israeli security forces and intelligence that allowed the Oct. 7 attack to occur. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that investigation will only take place after war.

Porat, who has represented the families calling for the investigation, said they had not yet heard from the military.

ISRAELI PROTESTERS BLOCK AID INTO GAZA, SAYING IT SHOULD BE LEVERAGE IN HOSTAGE RELASE DEAL

TEL AVIV — Israeli protesters have once again blocked humanitarian aid destined for Gaza despite the military declaring a closed zone around the main crossing.

The protesters say no more aid should enter Gaza until the over 100 hostages still held by Hamas following its Oct. 7 raid are released. The protesters, including some family members of hostages, say the aid should be used as leverage.

Last week, protesters blocked the Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and Gaza for several days.

Aid groups say that even when the crossing is fully operational, the amount of aid entering is insufficient for the humanitarian catastrophe caused by nearly four months of war. U.N. officials say one in four Palestinians in Gaza are starving.

The Israeli military body responsible for civilian affairs in the Palestinian territories said over 120 trucks were able to enter before protesters blocked the crossing.

On Monday, 159 trucks passed through Kerem Shalom and another 74 entered via the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza. Before the war, an average of 500 trucks entered Gaza daily.

Israel imposed a complete siege of Gaza after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack and only later relented under U.S. pressure.

ARGENTINA'S CONSERVATIVE NEW PRESIDENT VISITS ISRAEL AFTER PLEDGING TO MOVE EMBASSY TO JERUSALEM

TEL AVIV, Israel — Israeli officials have warmly welcomed a visit by Argentina’s new president, who pledged to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Javier Milei, who was elected in November, arrived in Israel on Tuesday. Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz embraced him on the tarmac and welcomed him with a Spanish-language message posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.

The right-leaning Milei portrays himself as a culture warrior shaking up the establishment and has adopted several positions shared by U.S. conservatives, drawing comparisons with former President Donald Trump.

Trump moved the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in an act that was hailed by Israel but harshly criticized by the Palestinians. Israel captured east Jerusalem, along with the West Bank and Gaza, in the 1967 Mideast war. It annexed east Jerusalem shortly thereafter and considers the entire city its unified capital.

The Palestinians seek an independent state in all three territories and view east Jerusalem as their capital. Israel occupies the West Bank and has built scores of Jewish settlements there. It withdrew soldiers and settlers from Gaza in 2005 but along with Egypt imposed a blockade on the territory after Hamas seized power there two years later.

Most countries do not recognize Israel’s claim to east Jerusalem and have their embassies in Tel Aviv.

PALESTINIAN MAN SHOT DEAD BY ISRAELI SOLDIERS IN THE WEST BANK

TEL AVIV, Israel — The Israeli military says that soldiers shot and killed an armed Palestinian man in the West Bank after he threatened them.

Tuesday’s shooting took place at a military post near the city of Nablus. The military didn't say what the man was armed with or whether he fired any shots. No soldiers were wounded.

The Israeli-occupied West Bank, which the Palestinians want as the main part of their future state, has seen a surge in violence since the start of the war in Gaza.

Israeli forces have carried out nightly arrest raids that often ignite gunbattles with local militants, and Palestinians have carried out a number of attacks targeting Israelis.

The Palestinian Health Ministry says that more than 380 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank since Oct. 7, when Hamas launched the cross-border attack into Israel from Gaza that ignited the war.

The military says its forces try to avoid harming civilians and must make split-second decisions when operating in dangerous areas. The Palestinians and rights groups have long accused Israeli forces of using excessive force and of killing suspects that they could have safely arrested.

ISRAEL'S EVACUATION ORDERS COVER MORE THAN ⅔ OF THE GAZA STRIP

JERUSALEM — Israel’s evacuation orders in the Gaza Strip now cover two-thirds of the territory, or 246 square kilometers (95 square miles), United Nations humanitarian monitors said Tuesday.

The affected area was home to 1.78 million Palestinians, or 77% of Gaza’s population, before the Israel-Hamas war erupted on Oct. 7, triggered by a deadly Hamas attack on southern Israel.

Early on in the war, Israel’s military began ordering Palestinians in the northern half of the territory to leave their homes, ostensibly to get out of the way of eventual ground combat. At the same time, Israeli aircraft continued to attack in the southern half, where residents had been told to take refuge. Israel says it only goes after Hamas targets and argues that Hamas is responsible for harm to civilians because it operates from within civilian sites.

Gaza health officials have put the Palestinian death toll in the territory at more than 27,000. They don’t differentiate between combatants and civilians in the count, but have said two-thirds are women and children.

Over the course of the war, evacuation orders eventually expanded to parts of the south, including the city of Khan Younis and surrounding areas, the current focus of Israel’s ground offensive. Tens of thousands of people have fled and continue to flee from there, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said Tuesday in its latest daily report on the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

More than half of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million people is now crammed into the town of Rafah on the border with Egypt and surrounding areas, OCHA said.

LIRR COVID fraud suspensions … Trump trial: Day 8 … Islanders preview Credit: Newsday

Gilgo Manorville search ... Southold hotel pause ... Home sales ... What's up on Long Island

LIRR COVID fraud suspensions … Trump trial: Day 8 … Islanders preview Credit: Newsday

Gilgo Manorville search ... Southold hotel pause ... Home sales ... What's up on Long Island

Latest videos

Newsday LogoSUBSCRIBEUnlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months
ACT NOWSALE ENDS SOON | CANCEL ANYTIME