The Latest | Israel says it opened new aid crossing into hard-hit northern Gaza

Israel said Friday it had opened a new crossing for aid trucks into hard-hit northern Gaza as it ramps up humanitarian deliveries to the besieged enclave. However, the United Nations says the surge of aid is not being felt in Gaza because of persistent distribution difficulties inside the war-torn territory.

Six months of fighting in Gaza have pushed the besieged Palestinian enclave into deepening a humanitarian crisis, with more than 1 million people on the brink of starvation.

In the occupied West Bank, an Israeli raid killed two Palestinians, including a Hamas militant. Later Friday, dozens of angry Israeli settlers rampaged through a West Bank village, shooting and setting houses and cars on fire. The rampage killed a Palestinian man and wounded 25 others, Palestinian health officials said.

Over 460 Palestinians have been killed by Israelis in the West Bank since the start of the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza.

Israeli bombardments and ground offensives in Gaza have killed more than 33,600 Palestinians and wounded over 76,200, the Health Ministry said Friday. 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. Around 250 people hostage were also taken hostage by Palestinian militants.

Currently:

— Israel promised to ramp up aid to Gaza dramatically, but days later there are few signs of any impact.

— Poland says aid worker’s killing in Gaza should be brought before Israeli court.

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

— An Israeli airstrike in Gaza kills 3 sons and 4 grandchildren of Hamas’ top leader.

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

Here's the latest:

BIDEN SAYS U.S. IS ‘DEVOTED’ TO DEFENDING ISRAEL, AND ‘IRAN WILL NOT SUCCEED’

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden says the U.S. is “devoted” to defending Israel and “Iran will not succeed.”

Israel is bracing for a possible Iranian attack after an airstrike killed two Iranian generals in Syria last week. Iran has blamed Israel for the airstrike and vowed revenge. Israel has not commented on the strike.

Biden answered a couple of shouted questions at the White House on Friday, after delivering a virtual speech to the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network Convention on racial justice in New York.

Asked what his message was for Iran, the president's only reply was: “Don’t.”

He was asked about the possibility of deploying additional U.S. troops to the Middle East and said, “We are devoted to the defense of Israel. We will support Israel.”

“We will help defend Israel, and Iran will not succeed,” Biden added. He ignored a question about what would trigger a direct U.S. military response.

Asked how imminent an Iranian attack on Israel was, Biden said he didn’t want to get into secure information, “but my expectation is sooner than later.”

The apparent Israeli airstrike and promised Iranian retaliation has raised concerns about the U.S. being pulled into deeper regional conflict.

Since the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza began six months ago, there have been near-daily exchanges of fire between Israeli forces and the Iran-backed Hezbollah militant group along the Israel-Lebanon border.

U.S. officials have recorded more than 150 attacks by Iran-backed militias in Iraq and Syria on U.S. forces at bases in those countries since war began on Oct. 7.

One attack in late January killed three U.S. service members in Jordan. In retaliation, the U.S. launched a massive air assault, hitting more than 85 targets at seven locations in Iraq and Syria. There have been no publicly reported attacks on U.S. troops in the region since that response.

ISRAELI MILITARY SAYS IT'S PREPARED FOR A POSSIBLE IRANIAN ATTACK

JERUSALEM — Israel’s military says it has prepared plans to respond to a possible Iranian attack.

The army’s spokesperson, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, said late Friday that Israel is ready for a “wide variety of scenarios” that include both defensive and offensive actions. He also said that Israel’s military chief has completed a situation assessment with the head of the U.S. Central Command, Gen. Erik Kurilla, who is visiting Israel.

“Our defenses are ready and know how to deal with every threat separately,” Hagari told reporters. “Next to defense, we are prepared to attack. We are ready to attack with a range of capabilities and we know how to act and protect the people of Israel.”

Israel has been bracing for a possible Iranian attack since an airstrike killed two Iranian generals in the Syrian capital of Damascus last week.

Iran has blamed Israel for the airstrike and vowed revenge. Israel has not commented on the strike.

Iran has a number of proxy groups in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen that are all capable of striking Israel. Iran also possesses long-range missiles that can reach Israel. Israeli leaders have threatened to strike Iran directly if it attacks, and President Joe Biden has said the U.S. commitment to Israel’s security is ironclad.

Hagari said the visit by Kurilla is meant to “guarantee that the coordination between us is tight.”

ISRAELI SETTLERS IN WEST BANK RAMPAGE THROUGH PALESTINIAN VILLAGE; 1 DEAD AND 18 WOUNDED

JERUSALEM — Dozens of Israeli settlers rampaged through a Palestinian village in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on Friday, Palestinian medics and an Israeli rights group said. Palestinian health officials said the rampage killed a Palestinian man and wounded 25 others.

Settlers stormed the village of al-Mughayyir in search of a missing 14-year-old Israeli boy, according to rights group Yesh Din. The group said that settlers were shooting and setting houses on fire in the village.

Videos posted to X, formerly Twitter, by the rights group showed dark clouds of smoke billowing from burning cars as gunshots rang out.

The Palestinian Health Ministry said that one man was brought dead to a hospital and 25 were treated for wounds. The Palestine Red Crescent Society said eight of the injured were hit by live fire.

Israel’s military said it was looking into the reports.

The episode comes as tensions flare in the West Bank, where over 460 Palestinians have been killed by Israelis since Oct. 7.

ISRAEL OPENS NEW AID TRUCK CROSSING INTO NORTH GAZA

JERUSALEM — Israel said Friday it had opened a new crossing for aid trucks into northern Gaza as its efforts to ramp up aid to the besieged enclave came under criticism from a top United Nations official.

Israel, facing mounting U.S. pressure to improve the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza, has pledged this week to dramatically increase aid to the strip.

The military said that trucks carrying food passed the newly opened northern crossing Thursday. It said the aid was inspected at its Kerem Shalom crossing near the Egyptian border before being transported inside Israel to the crossing. The new system is meant as an alternative to the challenging and dangerous process of transporting aid from northern to southern Gaza.

In the coming days, Israel says it will also open its port in the southern city of Ashdod for more aid shipments. Most aid is currently delivered by land from neighboring Egypt.

COGAT, the Israeli military body in charge of Palestinian civilian affairs, said Friday it has sent 1,903 trucks into Gaza over the last week, with 221 truckloads of aid reaching the north over that same timeframe.

However, the U.N. says the surge of aid is not being felt in Gaza because difficulties persist in distributing the aid.

“It’s very easy for Israel to say, ‘We’ve sent you 1,000 trucks so please deliver them inside Gaza,’” said Jamie McGoldrick, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories.

The U.N. says aid distribution within Gaza is dangerous and mired in long holdups at inspection checkpoints. Bringing aid to the north of the territory — where the U.N. says famine is near — is particularly difficult, McGoldrick said, with only one or two roads north open at a given time.

Several aid organizations have suspended their convoys north after an Israeli strike on a World Central Kitchen aid mission killed seven aid workers.

BRITISH-PALESTINIAN SURGEON SAYS GERMANY BLOCKED HIM FROM ENTERING COUNTRY TO JOIN PRO-PALESTINIAN CONFERENCE

BERLIN — A prominent British-Palestinian surgeon who volunteered in Gaza hospitals during the first weeks of the Israel-Hamas war said he was denied entry into Germany on Friday, where he was due to take part in a pro-Palestinian conference.

Dr. Ghassan Abu Sitta said he arrived at Berlin airport on Friday morning before being stopped at passport control where he was held for several hours and then told he had to return to the U.K.

Police at the airport said he was refused entry due to “the safety of the people at the conference and public order,” Abu Sitta told The Associated Press by phone.

The ban will last until Sunday, covering the duration of the Berlin conference he was to attend, he said. The gathering, entitled the Palestine Congress, was to discuss a range of topics including German arms shipments to Israel and solidarity with what organizers called the Palestinian struggle.

Police at Berlin airport could not immediately be reached for comment.

Germany has traditionally held a staunchly pro-Israel position, and during the Gaza war emerged as one of Israel’s fiercest supporters, even amid growing international outrage over the soaring Palestinian death toll.

German authorities have repeatedly clamped down on displays of support for Palestinians.

Abu Sitta has worked during multiple conflicts in the Palestinian territories, beginning in the late 1980s during the first Palestinian uprising. He has also worked in other conflict zones, including in Iraq, Syria and Yemen.

He spent 44 days in Gaza hospitals during the current war as a volunteer for Doctors Without Borders.

Throughout his most-recent stint in Gaza, he gave numerous interviews to international media outlets about the deteriorating humanitarian and health situation in the besieged enclave.

EUROPEAN COUNCIL SANCTIONS THREE PALESTINIAN MILITANT GROUPS OVER THEIR ROLE IN OCT. 7 ATTACKS

BRUSSELS, Belgium — The European Council has slapped sanctions on three Palestinian militant organizations, citing their role in the “brutal and indiscriminate terrorist attacks” on Oct. 7 against Israel.

The sanctions will freeze the groups' assets and prohibit anyone from giving funding or economic resources to the groups or for their benefit, either directly or indirectly, the council said in a statement Friday.

The newly sanctioned groups are Hamas' military wing, the Qassam Brigades, as well as Hamas’ elite Nukhba forces and the Al-Quds Brigades, the military arm of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad entered southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing more than 1,200 people and taking about 250 hostages.

“Hamas and other armed groups must immediately grant humanitarian access to all remaining hostages,” the European Council statement said.

The U.S. State Department, the European Union and other Western countries already consider Hamas and Islamic Jihad as terrorist groups. The European Council is the body that brings together the 28 EU countries’ leaders.

BODIES OF 89 PEOPLE KILLED IN GAZA TAKEN TO HOSPITALS, OFFICIALS SAY

RAFAH, Gaza Strip — Gaza health officials said Friday that 89 bodies were taken to hospitals over the past 24 hours, raising the Palestinian death toll in the territory to 33,634 since the Israel-Hamas war erupted more than six months ago.

The total number of wounded has reached 76,214, said the ministry, which is part of a Hamas government that continues to operate in some parts of Gaza.

The ministry does not differentiate between civilians and militants in its count, but says that two-thirds of the dead are women and children. It says many bodies across devastated Gaza remain under the rubble.

Israel’s military says it has killed thousands of Hamas militants since the start of the war. The war was triggered by Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel in which the militants killed about 1,200 people and took some 250 hostages.

2 PALESTINIANS ARE KILLED IN THE ISRAELI-OCCUPIED WEST BANK

JERUSALEM — Two Palestinians were killed early Friday in confrontations with Israeli forces in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Palestinian medics and the military said. The Islamic militant group Hamas said one of those killed was a local commander.

The raid took place in the town of Tubas and the adjacent refugee camp of al-Faraa. The Palestine Red Crescent Society confirmed the two deaths and said three people were wounded, including one who sustained serious injuries.

The military said the target of the raid was Mohammed Daraghmeh, a local Hamas commander. It said Daraghmeh was killed in a shootout with Israeli soldiers who discovered weapons in his car. The army alleged that Daraghmeh was planning attacks on Israeli targets, but provided no evidence.

In subsequent confrontations between soldiers and armed Palestinians, a second Palestinian was killed Friday. The army said assailants also hurled explosives at soldiers.

The Palestine Red Crescent Society said one of its ambulances was fired at by Israeli forces as medics were trying to treat one of the wounded.

Palestinian health officials say 460 Palestinians, including several dozen children and teens, have been killed by Israeli fire in the West Bank since the start of the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, triggered by a deadly Hamas attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7. Most were killed in confrontations with Israeli forces who have stepped up raids in the West Bank in recent months, targeting suspected militants. Several other Palestinians have been killed in attacks by militant Israeli settlers.

FRANCE WARNS CITIZENS AGAINST TRAVELING TO ISRAEL, IRAN, LEBANON, AND PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES

PARIS — France’s foreign ministry has warned citizens against traveling to Israel, Palestinian territories, Iran and Lebanon in the coming days due to a heightened risk of military escalation in the Middle East.

Iran has been threatening to avenge the deaths of two of its generals killed in an airstrike in the Syrian capital, Damascus, last week. Tehran blames Israel for the strike, although Israel has not commented. Israel has called up additional defense units in anticipation of an attack by either Iran or the many proxy groups it supports in the region.

Faced with risks of a military escalation, the French foreign ministry called on citizens in a statement Friday “to completely refrain” from traveling to the three Middle Eastern countries and the Palestinian territories. The ministry also ordered families of diplomats in Tehran to return to France and suspended all foreign ministry sanctioned missions to Israel, Lebanon, Iran and the Palestinian territories after a crisis meeting Friday, the statement said.

SPAIN AND NORWAY SUPPORT RECOGNIZING A PALESTINIAN STATE

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said that Spain has “publicly committed to recognizing Palestine as a state as soon as possible when the conditions are appropriate and in a way that can have the most positive impact to the peace process.”

Sánchez was in the Norwegian capital, Oslo, as part of a tour that also includes Ireland, to push for peace in Gaza and seek support for recognition of Palestine. His Norwegian counterpart, Jonas Gahr Støre, said that “Norway stands ready to recognize the state of Palestine and to recognize this place, appropriate place in the United Nations.”

The traditional position of the United States and European allies had been that recognition of a Palestinian state should come at the end of successful negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. However, since the start of the Israel-Hamas war, some European leaders have called for such recognition as an interim step that would create a political horizon for Palestinians, especially at a time when Israel’s right-wing government is adamantly opposed to the creation of a Palestinian state. Sanchez has been one of the most vocal advocates of early recognition.

The Associated Press