The Israeli military says its forces encircled the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis, the Palestinian territory’s second-largest city. The news came hours after Israel’s army announced Tuesday that 21 of its soldiers were killed while fighting in the war against Hamas.
The combat casualties represented the deadliest attack on Israeli troops since the country’s ground offensive in Gaza started in late October. The military said a rocket-propelled grenade fired at a tank set off a secondary explosion that brought two buildings down on the soldiers.
Khan Younis has seen heavy fighting in recent days, with dozens of Palestinians killed and wounded. Israeli officials said top Hamas leaders may be hiding in tunnels below the city. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to press ahead with trying to crush the militant group as criticism grows over his government’s handling of the war.
The Health Ministry in Gaza says more than 25,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since the Oct. 7 attack in southern Israel in which militants from the enclave killed around 1,200 people and took about 250 hostages.
— Twenty-one Israeli soldiers are killed in the deadliest single attack on the army since the war began.
— Families of Israeli hostages storm Knesset, demanding a deal for their release.
— The European Union pushes for Palestinian statehood, rejecting Israeli leader’s insistence that it’s off the table.
— U.S. and British militaries launch a new round of joint strikes against multiple Houthi sites in Yemen.
— Find more of AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war.
Here’s the latest:
HEZBOLLAH LAUNCHES MISSILES AT ISRAELI AIR BASE
BEIRUT — The Lebanese militant group Hezbollah launched missiles at a significant Israeli air base on Mount Meron for the second time in a month.
The group said in a statement that Tuesday’s barrage was in response to “recent assassinations in Lebanon and Syria, and the repeated attacks on civilians and homes” in southern Lebanon.
The Israeli military said some of the launches were intercepted by air defenses and others landed, causing “minor damage” to infrastructure at the base but no injuries.
Hezbollah previously struck the air base in retaliation for a presumed Israeli airstrike in Beirut’s southern suburbs on Jan. 2 that killed senior Hamas official Saleh Arouri.
After more than three months of near-daily clashes between Hezbollah militants and Israeli forces on the Lebanon-Israel border, Israel in recent weeks appears to have moved to a strategy of targeted killings of figures from Hezbollah and allied groups in Lebanon and Syria.
In some cases, civilians have been killed along with the apparent intended targets. An Israeli airstrike hit two vehicles near a Lebanese army checkpoint in south Lebanon on Sunday, killing a Hezbollah member in one car and a civilian woman in the other.
ISRAEL SAYS IT HAS ENCIRCLED KHAN YOUNIS CITY
JERUSALEM — The Israeli military says its forces have encircled the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis.
The territory’s second-largest city has seen heavy fighting in recent days, with dozens of Palestinians killed and wounded.
Israeli officials have said top Hamas leaders may be hiding in tunnels in the city.
The military said its forces have killed dozens of militants in Khan Younis in recent days and has encircled the city. It did not provide evidence, and it was not possible to independently confirm details about the fighting there.
Khan Younis is the hometown of Yehya Sinwar, Hamas’ top leader in Gaza, whose whereabouts are unknown. The military announced the encirclement in a statement on Tuesday.
NETANYAHU MOURNS LOSS OF 21 SOLDIERS
JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has mourned the loss of 21 soldiers in the deadliest single attack in Gaza and says the army will fight on until “absolute victory.”
In a posting on X, formerly known as Twitter, Netanyahu said Monday was “one of the hardest days since the outbreak of the war.”
He said the army will launch an investigation into the attack, in which a militant fired a rocket-propelled grenade at a tank, setting off a secondary explosion that brought two buildings down on the soldiers.
It was the deadliest single attack on Israeli forces in Gaza since the ground operation began.
In the posting on Tuesday, Netanyahu wrote: “In the name of our heroes, and for our own lives, we will not stop fighting until absolute victory.”
OFFICIAL SAYS ISRAEL HAS PROPOSED A 2-MONTH CEASE-FIRE
CAIRO — A senior Egyptian official says Israel has proposed a two-month cease-fire in which Hamas would release Israeli hostages in exchange for the release of Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.
Under the proposal, Yehya Sinwar and other top Hamas leaders in Gaza would be allowed to relocate to other countries.
The official, who was not authorized to brief media and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, said Hamas has rejected the proposal. The militant group is insisting on a permanent cease-fire before any further release of hostages. Israel’s leaders have thus far ruled that out.
The official said Hamas leaders have also refused to leave Gaza and are demanding that Israel fully withdraw from the territory and allow Palestinians to return to their homes.
The official said Egypt and Qatar, which have brokered past agreements between Israel and Hamas, are developing a multi-stage proposal to try to bridge the gaps. The proposal would include ending the war, releasing the hostages and putting forth a vision for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Israeli media have also reported on the diplomatic efforts, describing the same general outline of a potential agreement.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office declined to comment on any possible talks, citing potential risks to the hostages. Qatari officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the proposal.
White House senior adviser Brett McGurk is in the region this week to meet with Egyptian and Qatari officials to discuss hostage negotiations. The White House has also declined comment.
In Washington, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said Monday that a temporary pause in fighting was critical to winning the release of more hostages.
“You can’t enact safe passage for hostages out of a danger zone if people are shooting at each other,” Kirby said. “We don’t support a general cease-fire, which is usually put in place in the expectation that you’re going to end a conflict.”
21 ISRAELI SOLDIERS KILLED IN GAZA
JERUSALEM — Israel’s army says a total of 21 soldiers were killed in an attack in central Gaza, making it the largest single loss of life for the military since the war began.
Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the chief military spokesperson, made the announcement Tuesday, updating an earlier toll. He said the soldiers were preparing explosives to demolish two buildings on Monday when a militant fired a rocket-propelled grenade at a tank nearby, setting off the explosion prematurely. The buildings collapsed on the soldiers.
The heavy death toll could add new momentum to calls for Israel to pause the offensive or even halt it altogether. Large numbers of Israeli casualties have put pressure on Israel’s government to halt past military operations.
EGYPT WARNS ISRAEL NOT TO SEIZE CONTROL OF LAND THAT SEPARATES THEM
CAIRO — Egypt has warned Israel that any attempt to seize security control of the strip of land that separates Gaza and Egypt will result in a “serious threat” to relations between the neighboring countries.
The Philadelphi corridor is a 14-kilometer (nine-mile) -long slither of land that separates Egypt from Gaza.
“It must be strictly emphasized that any Israeli move in this direction will lead to a serious threat to Egyptian-Israeli relations,” Diaa Rashwan, head of Egypt’s State Information Service, said in an online statement Monday.
Israeli leaders have talked about taking control of the corridor to prevent possible weapons smuggling into Gaza.
Egypt fears that a military operation on the border could push large numbers of Palestinians into its territory.
Rashwan said Gaza’s western border was secure and that Israeli claims that weapons were being smuggled from Egypt into Gaza were false. The war has greatly tested relations between Israel and Egypt.
Troop deployments on either side of the Egypt-Gaza border are regulated in bilateral agreements between Israel and Egypt.
The two countries have maintained diplomatic ties since 1980, with Egypt having brokered a number of cease-fire deals during recent conflicts in Gaza.
Throughout the current war, Egypt has accused Israel of plotting to nullify Palestinian demands for statehood by driving Palestinians from Gaza into Egypt. Israel denies this is part of its plan.
NEW ZEALAND WILL SEND A TEAM TO ASSIST IN THE RED SEA
WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand announced Tuesday it was sending a six-member team to join an international maritime security coalition in the Red Sea.
Prime Minister Christopher Luxon said the country’s defense personnel will contribute to protecting ships in the Middle East from operational headquarters in the region and elsewhere.
“Houthi attacks against commercial and naval shipping are illegal, unacceptable and profoundly destabilizing,” Luxon said in a written statement Tuesday.
The deployment is mandated to conclude no later than July 31.