VP Harris urges cease-fire, laments Gaza's misery in talk with Netanyahu rival

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Editor's Note: This page is a summary of news on the Israel-Hamas war for Monday, March 3. For the latest news on the conflict in the Middle East, view our live updates file on the war for Tuesday, March 5.

Vice President Kamala Harris reiterated Monday her call for a cease-fire in Gaza − putting the onus on Hamas to agree to a deal − during her controversial meeting with Israeli War Cabinet member Benny Gantz in Washington, according to a White House readout.

Harris voiced continued support for Israel's security but also "expressed her deep concern about the humanitarian conditions in Gaza and the recent horrific tragedy around an aid convoy in northern Gaza,'' the readout said, adding that she and Gantz also discussed the urgency of freeing the hostages.

To that effect, Harris exhorted Hamas "to accept the terms on the table whereby the release of hostages would result in an immediate six-week ceasefire and enable a surge of humanitarian assistance throughout Gaza,'' according to the readout.

On Sunday, Harris made news by becoming the highest-ranking administration official to call for an immediate cease-fire. "People in Gaza are starving,'' she said, urging Israel to allow more aid into the territory. "The conditions are inhumane, and our common humanity compels us to act."

The visit by Gantz, an increasingly popular figure in Israeli politics and a longtime rival of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was not authorized by Israel's government. Gantz's meetings with top U.S. officials are viewed in Israel as a warning from the Biden administration to Netanyahu, who has refused global demands for a two-state solution to the Middle East crisis and has pledged to continue the war in Gaza until Hamas is crushed.

Gantz, a centrist who joined Netanyahu's government in a show of solidarity after the Hamas-led attacks of Oct. 7, is scheduled to meet Tuesday with Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The Associated Press reported Netanyahu admonished Gantz for the trip, telling him the country has “just one prime minister.”

Kamala Harris urges Gaza cease-fire: Cites 'immense scale of suffering'

Palestinian children attend an English class in a school housing displaced Gazans in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on March 4, 2024.
Palestinian children attend an English class in a school housing displaced Gazans in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on March 4, 2024.


∎ Lt. Col. "G" was appointed commander of Israel's "Ovda" military base, becoming the first woman to command an Israeli air force base, the Israeli military announced. Her full name was withheld for security reasons.

∎ Israel, which has accused at least a dozen members of the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees of participating in the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks, said Monday that 450 UNRWA employees belong to militant groups in Gaza, though it offered no evidence. UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini said he has not been told or presented evidence of Israel's claims.

∎ More than 10 relatives of American hostages held in Gaza will attend Thursday's State of the Union address as guests of members of Congress, according to a group pushing for the captives' release.

∎ Hamas' leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, hasn’t been in contact with his own negotiating team for at least a week, raising concerns that a cease-fire deal could be held up awaiting Sinwar's approval, Egyptian and Qatari officials told the Wall Street Journal.

∎ Israeli forces killed two Palestinian boys − one age 16, the other 10 − in separate West Bank raids, Reuters reported. More than 400 Palestinians, including 106 children, have died in the West Bank in clashes with Israeli forces or settlers since the war started.

Oct. 7 victims and hostages subjected to sexual violence, UN report says

A United Nations envoy said her team found evidence that not only did Hamas militants commit rape and "sexualized torture'' of women during the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel, but that such acts of sexual violence have been perpetrated on some of the hostages as well.

Pramila Patten and her nine-member team, who visited Israel and the West Bank from Jan. 29 to Feb. 14, said in a report released Monday that there are "reasonable grounds'' to reach both conclusions.

Patten said her team couldn't persuade any of the victims to share their stories, but interviews with witnesses and other accounts revealed multiple incidents of "victims being subjected to rape and/or gang rape and then killed or killed while being raped.”

Across various locations, she said, the team found “that several fully naked or partially naked bodies from the waist down were recovered – mostly women – with hands tied and shot multiple times, often in the head.”

Hamas has denied its members engaged in sexual violence.

US envoy seeks peace in simmering Israel-Hezbollah conflict

U.S. envoy Amos Hochstein arrived in Beirut on Monday for meetings with Lebanese leaders aimed at avoiding escalation of the clashes between Israel and Iranian-backed Hezbollah militants, which keep veering into troubling territory.

On Monday, Israel responded to a Hezbollah missile attack that killed at least one foreign worker in northern Israel with an airstrike that killed three Hezbollah paramedics in southern Lebanon, according to state media.

Hezbollah has said it will stop its near-daily cross-border assaults, which have forced the displacement of about 60,000 northern Israel residents, when Israel ends its war in Gaza. Thousands of people in southern Lebanon have also evacuated because of the conflict.

Hochstein urged the sides to reach their own agreement independent of what happens in Gaza. “The United States remains committed to advancing lasting security solutions achieved through diplomatic process,” Hochstein said after meeting with Lebanon Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, a Hezbollah ally.

Israeli official calls for less talk, more military muscle

National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir accused Hamas of stalling in negotiations for a cease-fire and hostage release and reaffirmed Netanyahu's position that military might is needed to win their freedom. Ben-Gvir said Hamas believes international pressure will be turned up on Israel during Ramadan, a Muslim holy month that starts next week. Hamas also hopes that Arabs living in Israel will rise up against the Israeli government, he said.

"We think that the negotiation talks should be stopped and we must immediately move to a more powerful phase in the fighting," Ben-Gvir said in a speech translated by TV7 Israel News.

Americans' view of Israel, Palestinian Authority slides

Americans' opinion of Israel and of the Palestinian Authority worsened in the past year amid the escalating crisis, a new survey suggests. The Gallup poll shows 58% of Americans have a “very” or “mostly" favorable view of Israel, down from 68% last year and the lowest favorable rating for Israel in over 20 years. Young adults show the biggest decline, dropping from 64% favorable among 18- to 34-year-olds in 2023 to 38%.

Positive opinion of the Palestinian Authority has also fallen, to 18% from 26% a year ago. Republicans overwhelmingly sympathize with Israel, independents tend to favor Israel, and more Democrats side with the Palestinians than Israelis.

The telephone interviews of 1,016 adults were conducted Feb. 1-20, 2024 with a margin of sampling error at ±4 percentage points.

Hamas won't provide information on hostages 'for free'

A senior Hamas official told the BBC it is impossible to know which hostages are still alive because of continuing Israeli bombing. Basem Naim said the hostages are in different areas held by different groups and that a cease-fire is needed to track them all down. Naim also said valuable information about the hostages could not be given "for free."

Israel has refused to send a delegation to cease-fire talks in Cairo, demanding that Hamas first provide an accounting of which hostages are still alive. Israel took the stance one day after the Biden administration said Saturday that Israel had essentially agreed to a six-week cease-fire that would include the release of some hostages, but that Hamas has yet to sign off on the deal.

UN agency investigating claims of abuse of Palestinian prisoners

An unpublished investigation by the United Nations agency for Palestinian affairs accuses Israel of abusing hundreds of Palestinians detained in Gaza during the war, the New York Times reported, saying it had reviewed the report. Its authors allege the detainees, including at least 1,000 civilians later released without charge, were held at three military sites inside Israel.

The report said the detainees included males and females whose ages ranged from 6 to 82, some of whom said they were beaten, stripped, robbed, blindfolded, sexually abused and denied access to lawyers and doctors. Some died in detention, said the report compiled by UNRWA, which is under investigation after at least 12 of its 13,000 employees were determined to have participated in the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel.

Patten, the U.N. envoy gathering information on sexual violence in conflict, said her team received reports “about some forms of sexual violence against Palestinian men and women in detention settings, during house raids and at checkpoints.”

Contributing: David Jackson, USA TODAY; The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Israel Hamas war live updates: Netanyahu rival, Kamala Harris meet