Israel kills less than third of Hamas fighters in Gaza

An Israeli soldier secures a tunnel underneath Al Shifa Hospital, in the northern Gaza Strip
An Israeli soldier secures a tunnel underneath Al Shifa Hospital, in the northern Gaza Strip - Ronen Zvulun/REUTERS
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Israel has only eliminated 30 to 35 per cent of the Hamas terrorists who were part of the group prior to the October 7 attack, US intelligence believes.

In addition, 65 per cent of Hamas’ vast network of underground tunnels, which Hamas has used to carry out attacks, remain intact, Politico reported.

The outlet also said that US officials believe that Hamas has recruited thousands of new members in recent months.

Top officials from the Biden administration have expressed fears that Israel is scuppering its chance to defeat Hamas, publicly lambasting Israeli’s strategy in the Gaza Strip as “self-defeating” and “likely to open the door to Hamas’ return.”

Israel vowed to “crush and destroy Hamas” in response to the October 7 attacks, when about 1,200 people were killed and more than 250 were taken hostage.

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03:32 PM BST

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Thank you for following today’s live coverage of the Israel-Hamas war.

We’ll be back soon with more updates and analysis from the conflict.

03:12 PM BST

Attacks on health workers in conflict zones highest level ever, new report finds

Attacks on health workers, hospitals and clinics in conflict zones surge by 25 per cent last year to their highest level on record, a new report has found.

The Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition, composed of 40 groups including medical charities, reported 2,562 incidents of violence or obstructions including arrests, killings and kidnappings of doctors and strikes across hospitals in 30 conflicts.

Where the rise was largely driven by fresh wars in Gaza and Sudan, ongoing conflicts such as Ukraine and South Sudan also fuelled attacks “at a relentless pace”, said the Safeguarding Health in Conflict coalition.

Palestinians inspect damages at Al Shifa Hospital after Israeli forces withdrew from the hospital
Palestinians inspect damages at Al Shifa Hospital after Israeli forces withdrew from the hospital - Dawoud Abu Alkas/REUTERS

02:52 PM BST

Pro-Palestine protesters repeatedly interrupt Blinken in Senate

Furious protesters interrupted Antony Blinken in Congress on Tuesday as he faced criticism from the Right and Left over the United States’ Israel policy.

As Mr Blinken began his testimony before two committees in the Democrat-controlled Senate, protesters called him a war criminal and accused him of involvement in genocide.

Mr Blinken reiterated the support of Joe Biden’s administration for Israel, but insisted it was focused on easing the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and opposed an Israeli assault on Rafah, the southernmost city in Gaza where over one million displaced people had taken shelter.

Read the full story here

02:43 PM BST

Palestinian state should be reached through negotiations, White House says

US President Joe Biden believes a Palestinian state should be achieved through “direct negotiations between parties, not unilateral recognition”, the White House said on Wednesday.

“The president is a strong supporter of a two-state solution and has been throughout his career,” a spokesperson for the White House National Security Council said.

“He believes a Palestinian state should be realised through direct negotiations between the parties, not through unilateral recognition.”

US President Joe Biden
US President Joe Biden - MANDEL NGAN/AFP

02:34 PM BST

No two-state solution without dialogue, Berlin says on Palestine

A German foreign ministry spokesperson stressed Berlin’s support for a “two-state solution” on Wednesday.

“An independent Palestinian state remains a firm goal of German foreign policy,” the spokesperson told a regular news conference in Berlin.

It comes as Spain, Hungary and Ireland announced that they would recognise the State of Palestine from 28 May.

They added that a “dialogue process” was needed for that goal.

02:20 PM BST

Labour says ‘preferable’ to recognise Palestine as a state

Labour said it would work towards recognising Palestine as a state if it won power, after Spain, Ireland and Norway announced a landmark decision to change its diplomatic status.

David Lammy, the shadow foreign secretary, said it would be “preferable” if British recognition was part of a two-state solution bringing peace to the Middle East.

He accused some Israeli  politicians in Israel of wanting a “no-state solution” to the conflict.

The shadow Foreign Secretary was speaking after Israel recalled its ambassadors to the three European countries, saying they had rewarded Hamas for “the largest massacre of Jews since the Holocaust.”

Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron faced a backlash from some Tory MPs after he suggested the UK could fast-track recognition of Palestine during negotiations for a final peace deal rather than at the end of it.

The Government has been asked for comment.

02:08 PM BST

Israel abandons full-on Rafah invasion after US talks

Israel appears to have abandoned its plans for a major invasion of Rafah in favour of targeted incursions to eradicate Hamas from the area, US officials have said.

The United States had for weeks warned Israel against going into Rafah, the last city in Gaza untouched by heavy fighting, and Israel has taken the US concerns into account, a senior US official said late on Tuesday.

“It’s fair to say, I think, the Israelis have updated their plans. They’ve incorporated many of the concerns that we have expressed,” the US official, who asked to remain anonymous, told reporters.

Read the full story here.

01:55 PM BST

More than 35,000 Palestinians killed since beginning of war

The Hamas-run health ministry says at least 35,709 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s military offensive on Gaza Gaza since 7 October.

A further 79,990 have been injured, it added.

The figures reported by the ministry do not differentiate between fighters and civilians.

01:42 PM BST

Ireland says recognition of Palestinian state based on 1967 borders

Ireland plans to recognise the Palestinian state based on its 1967 borders, said its Foreign Minister Michael Martin on Wednesday.

“When we recognise a state, we don’t recognise the government of the day, we recognise the state in terms of a permanent population of people in terms of defined borders, and in this case it’s the 1967 borders,” Mr Martin told local RTE radio station.

Mr Martin said that defined a territory involving Gaza, the West Bank and “a capital of both an Israeli state and a Palestinian state in Jerusalem.”

Ireland will recognize a Palestinian state as of May 28.

01:08 PM BST

‘Historic’ day as Ireland becomes one of first to recognise Palestinian State

First Minister of Northern Ireland Michelle O’Neill has hailed Ireland’s move to recognise the state of Palestine as “historic.”

“The people of Ireland will continue to stand up for the rights and freedom of the Palestinian people,” Ms O’Neill wrote on X.

12:53 PM BST

Egypt changed terms of Gaza ceasefire deal presented to Hamas

Egyptian intelligence discreetly changed the terms of a ceasefire proposal that Israel had already signed off on earlier this month, according to three sources familiar with the discussions.

The ceasefire agreement announced by Hamas on 6 May was not what the Qataris or the Americans believed had been submitted to Hamas for a potential final review. “We were all duped,” said one of those sources.

The move ultimately sabotaged a deal that could have released Israeli hostages and Palestinian prisoners and paved the way to temporarily end the fighting in Gaza.

A senior Egyptian intelligence official, Ahmed Abdel Khalek, was responsible for proposing “several alternatives and scenarios”, said one of the sources.

Mr Abdel Khalek is a senior deputy to the Egyptian intelligence head Abbas Kamel, who has been CIA Director Bill Burns’ equal in conducting Egypt’s mediation in the sabotage talks.

The edits came more than a week after a group of Egyptian negotiators flew to Israel in late April to iron out the final details of the ceasefire agreement.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called the framework “extraordinarily generous on the part of Israel.”

When the Egyptians returned from Israel to negotiate with Hamas, it became clear that the group did not agree with the Israeli’s propositions, said one of the sources. So the Egyptian official made significant changes to ensure that Hamas would also sign the agreement.

The Qataris are expected to play a bigger role in the next round of negotiations, if talks resume. Although Egypt would still hold the central position given their essential proximity to Hamas.

12:25 PM BST

Two key border crossings now open, says Cogat

The Kerem Shalom and Erez crossing are now “Operating as usual,” says Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (Cogat), the body responsible for clearing the movements of aid convoys in Gaza.

“We welcome aid coordinations from all actors and encourage the UN organizations to coordinate as well - we are here to facilitate,” they wrote on X.

The United Nations and Israeli military clashed over similar claims two weeks ago. The Israeli military said lorries had reached Kerem Shalom, which was closed after a Hamas rocket attack.

The UN refuted the claim and said no supplies had yet passed through the crossing.

11:56 AM BST

Ireland will ‘hold the Israeli regime accountable for its war crimes’

Sinn Fein’s president Mary Lou McDonald said, “Ireland is a small nation but we punch above our weight when it comes to influence at both European level and with the United States.

“We have a role to play in acting decisively and using every avenue available to bring about a ceasefire, and to hold the Israeli regime accountable for its war crimes,” the Irish opposition leader said.

11:46 AM BST

Hamas hails ‘turning point’ after European countries recognise Palestinian statehood

Hamas has thanked Ireland, Norway and Spain for recognising Palestinian statehood.

Bassem Naim, a senior figure in the Gaza-based terror group, described the moves, announced on Wednesday morning, as a “turning point”.

“These successive recognitions are the direct result of this brave resistance and the legendary steadfastness of the Palestinian people,” he said. “We believe this will be a turning point in the international position on the Palestinian issue.”

Israel’s foreign ministry, which withdrew its envoys from Ireland and Norway immediately after the announcement, warned that the recognition of a Palestinian state “will lead to more terrorism, instability in the region and jeopardise any prospects for peace”.

“Don’t be a pawn in the hands of Hamas,” it said.

11:37 AM BST

Herzi Halevi: ‘we want to bring our hostages home alive’

IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi met with commanders in Jabaliya who participated in the operation to rescue the bodies of the four hostages and return them for burial in Israel today.

“We want to bring our hostages home alive, and we want to bring those who, unfortunately, are no longer alive back for burial in Israel,” he said.

11:13 AM BST

‘Not right moment for France to recognise Palestinian state’

France’s foreign minister, Stephane Sejourne, said that it was not a “taboo” to recognise a Palestinian state, but Paris considers that now is not the right moment to do so.

“Our position is clear: the recognition of a Palestinian state is not a taboo for France,” Ms Sejourne wrote in a statement.

“France does not consider that the conditions have been present to date for this decision to have a real impact in this process.”

10:58 AM BST

Israel will make Irish, Spanish, Norwegian envoys watch October 7 video

Israel has recalled its ambassadors to Spain, Ireland and Norway and said that they will be summoned for “reprimand talks” - during which they will be made to watch the video of the kidnapping of female Israeli soldiers on October 7.

Israeli foreign minister Israel Katz said: “History will remember that Spain, Norway and Ireland decided to award a gold medal to the Hamas murderers and rapists, who raped teenage girls and burned babies.”

“I ordered the ambassadors to be immediately summoned for reprimand talks - during which they will watch the horrifying kidnapping video of the abduction of the female observers to illustrate to them what a twisted decision their governments made,” said Katz.

He added: “Israel will not go over this in silence - their step will have serious consequences.”

Israel's acting foreign minister Israel Katz, who also serves as intelligence and transport minister
Israel's acting foreign minister Israel Katz, who also serves as intelligence and transport minister - REUTERS

10:42 AM BST

Ireland, Norway and Spain recognise Palestinian state

Norway, Ireland and Spain have announced they will recognise a Palestinian state.

Norwegian prime minister Jonas Gahr Store said: “There cannot be peace in the Middle East if there is no recognition.”

The moves prompted an immediate backlash from Israel, with Foreign Minister Israel Katz ordering the country’s envoys to return from Ireland and Norway.

At least 143 members of the United Nations already recognise Palestinian statehood, but others - including the United Kingdom and the United States - do not formally recognise a Palestinian state.

10:23 AM BST

Netanyahu expected to reject US-Saudi lifeline

Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to reject the historic deal with Saudi Arabia that was to establish ties between the two major regional players in the Middle East, an Israeli newspaper has reported

The Israeli prime minister received the outline of the normalisation agreement last week from visiting White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.

The Yedioth Ahronoth on Wednesday cited several Israeli officials present at the meetings with Mr Sullivan, saying that he was deeply disappointed by Prime Minister Netanyahu’s stance and reportedly said “With Bibi, there isn’t going to be normalisation with Saudi Arabia”.

The Israeli leader reportedly refuses to compromise on two key prerequisites for the deal: recognition of a Palestinian state and ending the war in Gaza.

The White House has not commented on the reports but Antony Blinken, the US Secretary of State, late on Tuesday admitted “it may very well be that at this moment Israel is not able or willing” to agree to those conditions, thus blocking the deal.

The agreement establishing diplomatic ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia, both key military allies of the US in the region, has been in the works for years and was supposed to be a cornerstone for regional security. Both Israeli and Saudi political leaders recently confirmed their commitment to the deal.

10:20 AM BST

Iranians gather to mourn former President Ebrahim Raisi

Thousands of Iranians have gathered in the capital, Tehran to mourn the death of Ebrahim Raisi and seven other officials who died in a helicopter crash on Sunday.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Khamenei led prayers at Tehran University, with high-level foreign dignitaries, including Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, in attendance.

Huge banners among the crowds can be seen hailing Raisi as “the martyr of service”.

10:08 AM BST

Analysis: the deeply political issue of Palestinian statehood

Recognising Palestine is a richly symbolic move, as Ireland’s leader Simon Harris said this morning, but it is also deeply political.

Spain and Ireland are the two EU member states that have been most critical of Israel and its war on Hamas.

Recognition is a vote winner in both countries ahead of European elections in June.

But geopolitical as well as domestic concerns drive this coordinated announcement, which is the fruit of months of intense international diplomacy, which could result in more countries following suit.

Dublin, Madrid and Oslo insist recognition will be valuable backing for an eventual two state solution to bring peace to the Middle East.

Arab states have made clear that European recognition for Palestine is a condition for their vital support for the two state solution.

Recognition can be a building block for peace in the long term, which is a view shared by David Cameron in Britain, if not the whole Tory party.

But in the short term it undoubtedly heaps more pressure on Israel to curb its war on Gaza.

Israel’s furious reaction is not surprising given the timing of the announcement, so soon after an International Criminal Court arrest warrant was issued for Benjamin Netanyahu.

09:56 AM BST

Hamas calls today’s move a ‘turning point’

Senior Hamas figure Bassem Naim has said the “brave resistance” of the Palestinian people is behind the move.

“These successive recognitions are the direct result of this brave resistance and the legendary steadfastness of the Palestinian people,” he said.

“We believe this will be a turning point in the international position on the Palestinian issue.”

Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007.

09:53 AM BST

Palestinian foreign ministry ‘welcomes’ three countries’ decision

The Palestinian foreign ministry welcomes the decisions taken by Spain, Norway and Ireland to recognise the State of Palestine, it said in a statement.

The ministry, based in the West Bank, said the recognition was in line with international law and all United Nations relevant resolutions, “which will in turn contribute positively to all international efforts towards ending the Israeli Illegal occupation and achieving peace and stability in the region.”

They added: “with this significant step, Spain, Norway and Ireland have once again demonstrated their unwavering commitment to the two-state solution and to delivering the long overdue justice to the Palestinian people.”

The statement also calls for other states to “take this principled decision as soon as possible.”

09:37 AM BST

Some in Gaza survive on just 3 per cent of water needs

Some Palestinians are surviving on as little as 3 per cent of minimum daily water needs, warn British charities.

Essential hygiene supplies for the 1.7 million displaced Palestinians in the enclave could take an average of 3 months to arrive in the besieged enclave, said the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP).

Families across the strip have resorted to building their own toilets, with up to 600 people sharing a single latrine, said the charities.

A severe lack of clean water and sanitation facilities have caused water-borne and communicable diseases, such as Hepatitis, to become rife across the besieged enclave.

Displaced Palestinians queue for water at a camp west of Deir al-Balah in the Gaza Strip
Displaced Palestinians queue for water at a camp west of Deir al-Balah in the Gaza Strip - AFP

09:28 AM BST

Analysis: Israel is increasingly isolating itself

Israel is so alarmed by this morning’s statements from leaders of Norway and Spain that it is recalling its ambassadors from the two countries for “urgent consultations”.

Norway’s prime minister’s announcement that his country will recognise a Palestinian state next week and the upcoming statement by the leader of Spain have touched a nerve with the Israeli government, which has been hemorrhaging international support as the war in Gaza is about to enter its eight month.

Israel, mired in a war that shows no image of a “total victory” as one promised by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is increasingly sensitive to any moves on the international arena that can be interpreted as helping the other side.

Israeli officials repeatedly said they view the recognition of a Palestinian state - something that has been on the cards since the Oslo Accords in the early 1990s - as a “reward” for Hamas for brutally attacking Israel on October 7.

The Israeli leadership has brushed off arguments that supporting a Palestinian sovereignty amid deaths and devastation in Gaza should serve as a counter-weight to radical movements such as Hamas.

Unlike the United States or Britain, neither Norway or Spain are crucial military allies or trade partners for Israel, so should the ties with them be cut off, the impact on the Israeli economy would be minimal.

But Israel is increasingly driving itself into a corner of isolation as its top speakers, like Foreign Minister Israel Katz this morning, suggest that recognising a Palestinian state within the borders under post-1967 Israeli occupation, as recognised by the UN, represents a threat to its sovereignty.

09:10 AM BST

None of the 569 tons of aid has been distributed from US pier, says Pentagon

A US Defense Department spokesman has said that none of the 569 tons of humanitarian assistance that has arrived at a US-built floating pier in the Gaza Strip has been formally distributed.

While some of the aid coming off the pier has made it to warehouses, trucks have been intercepted by hoards of desperate Palestinians after the aid left the loading area.

“I don’t believe so,” Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said in response to a question about whether any of the aid had been delivered yet.

“We fully appreciate and recognize that land routes are the optimal way to get aid,” said Ryder. “It’s also important to remember that this is a combat zone and that it is a complex operation.”

It comes as the UN World Food Programme warned that the $320m (£250m) project may fail unless Israel starts providing the conditions humanitarian groups need to operate safely.

Palestinians rush a truck as it transports international humanitarian aid from the US-built pier
Palestinians rush a truck as it transports international humanitarian aid from the US-built pier - AFP

08:56 AM BST

Spanish PM: ‘this is not in favour of Hamas’

Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez said that they have an “obligation to obligation to act. In Palestine like in Ukraine without double standards.”

Mr Sanchez warned that Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu is “still playing deaf ears... he is still bombing hospitals and schools and punishing women and children with hunger and cold”.

“We need to send humanitarian aid, and help the refugees we are already doing this. But more needs to be done.”

He adds: “This recognition is not against Israel, is not against the Jews.

“It is not in favour of Hamas which is something that has been said. This recognition is not against anyone, it is in favour or peace and coexistence.”

08:50 AM BST

Israel war cabinet: ‘never has been’ famine in Gaza

A member of Israel’s war cabinet has said there is no famine in Gaza and there “never has been”.

Minister of strategic affairs Ron Dermer described the claim as “nonsense” and insisted there were “bustling markets” selling fruits and vegetables in the Gaza Strip.

It comes after the World Food Programme warned there was a “full-blown famine” in pockets of Gaza due to the besieged enclave suffering a severe lack of food after eight months of war.

08:37 AM BST

Spain recognises Palestine for ‘peace, justice and consistency’

Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez’s speech receives applause from his parliament in Madrid

“We are going to recognise Palestine for many reasons and we can sum that up in three words – peace, justice and consistency,” he said.

“We have to make sure that the two-state solution is respected and there must be mutual guarantees of security.”

He adds: “It is essential that the two sides negotiate for peace and it is for this reason that we recognise Palestine.”

Spain will recognise the state of Palestine on 28 May.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announces that the country's council of ministers would recognise an independent Palestinian state
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announces that the country's council of ministers would recognise an independent Palestinian state - Violeta Santos Moura/REUTERS

08:33 AM BST

Irish PM: Gaza enduring ‘suffering, hardship and starvation’

Irish prime minister Simon Harris said the country believes that “permanent peace can only be secured upon the basis of the free will of a free people”.

Mr Harris pointed to a vote earlier this month at the United Nations General Assembly, where 143 nations overwhelmingly backed a resolution granting Palestine enhanced status within the organisation.

He adds: “Palestinians in Gaza are enduring the most appalling, suffering, hardship and starvation.

The Irish government argues that recognition supports a two-state solution, which it said is essential for lasting peace in the region.

08:22 AM BST

Israel drops plans for full-scale rafah invasion

Israel has decided to scale back its plans for a major offensive in the Gaza Strip’s southernmost city of Rafah.

A previous plan to send two military divisions into the city will no longer go ahead, and operations will instead be more restrained, according to reports.

The US has indicated that it is initially satisfied with the changes, as they believe the new military plans will result in fewer civilian casualties, said a senior Biden administration official on Tuesday.

It comes after months of the US vehemently opposing a Rafah assault, warning that there was no way to complete the mission while also protecting the 1.3 million Palestinians trapped in the city.

08:03 AM BST

Israel recalls envoys to Ireland and Norway

Israel’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz has ordered Israel’s ambassadors from Ireland and Norway to immediately return to Israel, as Norway said it would recognise a Palestinian state and Ireland was expected to follow suit.

“Ireland and Norway intend to send a message today to the Palestinians and the whole world: terrorism pays,” Katz said.

“I am sending Ireland and Norway a clear message: Israel will not back down against those who undermine its sovereignty and endanger its security.”

He also threatened to recall Israel’s ambassador to Spain if the country takes a similar position.

07:59 AM BST

Norway foreign office: ‘Norway recognises Palestine as a state’

07:57 AM BST

Norway: ‘There cannot be peace in the Middle East if there is no recognition’

Norway’s prime minister confirms that Norway is formally recognising Palestine as a state.

Norwegian prime minister Jonas Gahr Store said Wednesday, “There cannot be peace in the Middle East if there is no recognition.”

Store said the ongoing war in Gaza has made it “abundantly clear” that achieving peace and stability must be predicated on resolving the Palestinian question.

He added that the move sends a “strong” message to other countries to “follow” in the footsteps of Norway.

“The terror has been committed by Hamas and militant groups who are not supporters of a two-state solution and the state of Israel,” said Store.

The Scandinavian country will recognize a Palestinian state as of May 28.

07:49 AM BST

Israel: ‘don’t be a pawn in the hands of Hamas’

Israel’s foreign ministry said recognising a Palestinian state “will lead to more terrorism, instability in the region and jeopardize any prospects for peace.”

“Don’t be a pawn in the hands of Hamas,” it said in a post on X.

“Progress can only be achieved through direct negotiations within a wider regional context.”

07:42 AM BST

Norway moves to recognise Palestinian state

Norweigan prime minister Jonas Gahr Store said the country will recognise a Palestinian state, with Spain and Ireland expected to make similar announcements this morning.

At least 140 members of the United Nations already recognise Palestinian statehood, but others - including the United Kingdom and the United States - do not formally recognise a Palestinian state.

The current Israeli government has opposed the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. It argues such a state would be a threat to Israel’s very existence.

07:36 AM BST

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