The Latest | Death toll climbs after airstrikes and rocket fire on Lebanon-Israel border

The death toll from Israeli airstrikes across southern Lebanon has climbed to 16, including several militants and members of paramedic groups, according to Lebanese state media and the militant organizations.

And in northern Israel, one man was killed by a barrage of at least 30 rockets fired by Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, which said it was responding to a deadly airstrike targeting a paramedic center linked to a Sunni Muslim group.

International mediators have been scrambling to prevent an all-out war between Israel and Hezbollah amid near-daily violence, mostly confined to the area along the Lebanon-Israel border.

Hezbollah has been launching rockets toward Israel since Oct. 8, the day after Hamas-led militants stormed into southern Israel, triggering the war in Gaza. Some 1,200 people were killed in Israel and another 250 people abducted.

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

Currently:

Israeli strikes in Lebanon kill 16, militant rockets kill 1 Israeli as cross-border violence soars

— Talks resume on bringing Israeli officials to the US to discuss Gaza operation, the White House says

Doctors visiting a Gaza hospital are stunned by the war’s toll on Palestinian children

US sanctions online media site Gaza Now and its founder for allegedly supporting Hamas

— As those who fled Israel’s border villages weigh whether to return, what hangs in the balance?

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

Here’s the latest:

ATTACKER WOUNDS 3 AFTER OPENING FIRE IN WEST BANK

TEL AVIV, Israel — Israeli authorities say an attacker wounded three people after opening fire at several vehicles on a main route in the occupied West Bank.

The Israeli military says the attacker fled the scene following Thursday’s shooting and that forces were conducting searches. Magen David Adom of the Israeli rescue service said the injuries were moderate or light and that a 13-year-old was among the wounded.

Tensions in the West Bank have surged since the start of the war in Gaza and Israeli forces have engaged in near-nightly raids in the territory to clamp down on militancy. There has been a spike in shooting attacks by Palestinians during that time.

Since the start of the war, Israel has arrested roughly 3,600 Palestinians in the West Bank, the military says.

The Palestinian Health Ministry says at least 454 Palestinians have been killed and about 4,700 wounded in the West Bank and east Jerusalem since Oct. 7.

U.N. SAYS A HOSPITAL IN SOUTHERN GAZA HAS CLOSED, LEAVING ONLY 12 LEFT

UNITED NATIONS — Two-thirds of Gaza’s 36 hospitals aren’t functioning after Al Amal Hospital in the south of the territory ceased operation amid intense military activity, U.N. humanitarian officials report.

According to the U.N. World Health Organization, Gaza now has just 12 operating hospitals – two that are “minimally functional” and 10 that are partially functional, four in the north and six in the south, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters Wednesday.

More than two dozen staff, six patients and a companion and the bodies of two people killed inside Al Amal were moved Monday by the U.N. humanitarian office, the Palestine Red Crescent Society and the International Committee for the Red Cross before the hospital was closed Tuesday, Dujarric said.

Andrea De Domenico, the head of U.N. humanitarian operations in the Palestinian territories, visited the partially functioning Kamal Adwan hospital in the north last week and reported that it is receiving “about 15 malnourished children a day and is struggling to maintain services,” Dujarric said.

“The hospital’s only generator has been heavily damaged, and health workers and patients desperately need food, water and sanitation assistance,” the U.N. spokesman said.

According to the U.N. World Food Program, Dujarric said, roughly 70% of northern Gaza’s population “is facing catastrophic hunger” but efforts to deliver life-saving aid have been impeded by fighting and “access constraints” in getting food to those in need.

This month, WFP was only able to send 11 convoys to the north with food for some 74,000 people, far below the colossal needs of the population, Dujarric said.

ISRAELI AIRSTRIKES IN LEBANON KILL 9 PEOPLE INCLUDING PARAMEDICS, STATE NEWS AGENCY SAYS

BEIRUT — Israeli airstrikes killed nine people in southern Lebanon late Wednesday, including paramedics who were preparing to respond to the first strike, the state-run National News Agency said.

That raises the number of people killed by Israeli strikes Wednesday to 16, after an earlier attack hit a different paramedic center linked to a Lebanese Sunni Muslim group, killing seven of the group’s members.

And earlier Wednesday, the Shiite militant group Hezbollah claimed responsibility for firing a barrage of rockets into the northern Israeli city of Kiryat Shmona and a military base, which killed one person. It said the rockets were in response to the deadly strike on the paramedics center.

The Lebanese news agency said Israel bombed the village of Teir Harfa after sunset, killing five, and a second strike killed four people as paramedics gathered near a cafe in the coastal town of Naqoura.

Hezbollah’s Islamic Health Society said two of its paramedics were killed in Teir Harfa while the Islamic Risala Scout Association, also a paramedic group, said one of its members was killed in the strike on Naqoura. Hezbollah said two of its fighters were killed, without saying where.

The Amal movement, a Shiite political and paramilitary organization, said the strike on Naquora killed one of its local commanders, identified as Ali Mahdi.

Israel’s military said it had struck a Hezbollah military compound in Teir Harfa and a “terrorist cell” in Naqoura.

Israel said the earlier strike in Hebbariye killed a member of the Sunni al-Jamaa al-Islamiya, or the Islamic Group, and several other militants. It said the man was involved in attacks against Israel.

Hezbollah has been firing rockets into northern Israel since the day after Hamas-led militants stormed into southern Israel on Oct. 7. The near-daily violence has mostly been confined to the area along the Lebanon-Israel border.

Nearly 240 Hezbollah fighters and about 40 civilians have died in Lebanon. The fighting has killed nine civilians and 11 soldiers in Israel.

IN RARE SPEECH, HEAD OF HAMAS FIGHTERS IN GAZA CALLS ON MUSLIMS TO LIBERATE JERUSALEM MOSQUE

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Hamas has released a rare recording of what it says is the shadowy head of its military wing calling on Muslims around the world to liberate Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Wednesday’s recording was a reminder of the difficulty Israel has faced in realizing its stated goal of destroying Hamas’ military capabilities.

Mohammed Deif delivered the message in a voice recording posted Wednesday on the militant group’s channel in the messaging app Telegram.

“Start marching today, now, not tomorrow, toward Palestine,” Deif says in a message aimed at Muslims globally, calling them to join “the honor of jihad and participation in the liberation of Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

Al-Aqsa is the third-holiest site in Islam, and sits on a disputed hilltop revered by Jews and Muslims in Jerusalem’s Old City.

No image of Deif appears in the recording, and it was not possible to authenticate it. It was not clear when the recording was made.

The leader of Hamas’ Qassam Brigades has not been seen in public in decades, and the last time Hamas published a voice recording of him was the day of the Oct. 7. attack that triggered the war.

Israel says Deif is one of the masterminds of the attack, and he tops Israel’s most-wanted list alongside Yehya Sinwar, the overall leader of Hamas in Gaza.

Deif is thought to be paralyzed after surviving multiple assassination attempts. Israel has released a small number of photos of what it says are Deif.

NETANYAHU SAYS CIVILIANS IN RAFAH CAN ‘JUST MOVE’ AWAY FROM AN ISRAELI GROUND INVASION

TEL AVIV, Israel — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has downplayed U.S. fears of a humanitarian catastrophe if Israel launches a planned ground invasion into Gaza’s southernmost city, saying civilians would be able to flee the fighting into other parts of the war-torn territory.

Speaking Wednesday to a bipartisan U.S. Congressional delegation visiting Israel, Netanyahu said people sheltering in Rafah – now more than half of Gaza’s 2.3 million population – will be able to move away from the fighting.

“People just move, they move with their tents,” Netanyahu said. “People moved down (to Rafah). They can move back up.”

Israel says a ground offensive is needed to destroy thousands of Hamas fighters in Rafah. The planned incursion has raised global alarm because the city on the Gaza-Egypt border is jammed with 1.4 million Palestinians in sprawling tent camps and U.N. shelters, most of whom have fled fighting elsewhere.

The United States, Israel’s top ally, has urged Israel not to carry out the operation without a “credible” plan to evacuate civilians. Rafah is also the main entry point for desperately needed aid into Gaza, where the U.N. says 100% of the population is at severe levels of food insecurity.

Netanyahu suggested that the dispute over Rafah was just another in a series of disagreements between the allies and that he “appreciates” President Joe Biden’s support, but that Israel will act alone “if we have to.”

Israel’s military has said it plans to direct the civilians to “humanitarian islands” in central Gaza ahead of the planned offensive.

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