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Israel’s troops advance as diplomatic efforts aim to at least pause Gaza fighting

Israel’s ground troops were advancing toward Gaza City as diplomatic efforts intensified for at least a brief pause in the fighting in Gaza’s deadliest war.

U.S. President Joe Biden suggested a humanitarian “pause” and Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected back in the region on Friday. Arab countries, including those allied with the U.S. and at peace with Israel, have expressed mounting unease with the war.

The opening of the Rafah border crossing, allowing hundreds of foreign passport holders and wounded Palestinians to leave Gaza on Wednesday, followed weeks of talks among Egypt, Israel, the U.S. and Qatar, which mediates with Hamas.

The Palestinian death toll in the Israel-Hamas war has reached 8,805, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza. In the occupied West Bank, 130 Palestinians have been killed in violence and Israeli raids.

More than 1,400 people in Israel have been killed, most of them in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack that started the fighting, and around 240 hostages were taken from Israel into Gaza by the militant group.

Here’s what is happening in the latest Israel-Hamas war:

GAZA’S LARGEST HOSPITAL STRUGGLES TO TREAT HUNDREDS OF INJURED PEOPLE

BEIRUT — The Gaza Strip’s largest hospital is on its last supply of fuel has it struggles to cope with hundreds of wounded people while hosting thousands of displaced Palestinians in the Hamas-Israel war, a senior doctor said.

“The high number of displaced people are no longer living in the courtyard of the hospital but are also living inside the hospital, including the corridors,” U.K.-based charity Medical Aid for Palestinians quoted Shifa Hospital’s chief of surgery, Dr. Marwan Abusada, as saying. Abusada warned that illnesses can spread because of the overcrowding and poor conditions.

Abusada said the overwhelmed hospital is struggling to treat more than 800 wounded people, most of whom suffer from medium or critical injuries.

“The medical team can in no way treat all these injuries, specifically with a lack of medication,” Abusada said, citing the Israeli blockade of Gaza and the small number of aid vehicles entering the territory daily.

BIDEN ADMINISTRATION ANNOUNCES PLAN TO COMBAT ISLAMOPHOBIA

WASHINGTON — U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration is developing a national strategy to combat Islamophobia as the White House faces skepticism from many Muslim Americans for its staunch support of Israel’s military assault on Hamas in Gaza.

Plans for the initiative, which the White House billed as the first of its kind, were announced Wednesday. It is meant to bring together lawmakers, advocacy groups and other community leaders with the administration in order to “counter the scourge of Islamophobia and hate in all its forms,” the White House said.

The White House originally was expected to announce its plans to develop the strategy last week when Biden met with Muslim leaders, but that was delayed, according to three people familiar with the matter. Two said the delay was due partly to concerns from Muslim Americans that the administration lacked credibility on the issue given its robust backing of Israel’s military, whose strikes against Hamas militants have killed thousands of civilians in Gaza.

GERMANY IMPOSES A BAN ON PRO-HAMAS ACTIVITY

BERLIN — Germany’s top security official says she has implemented a formal ban on activity by or in support of Hamas and is dissolving a group that was behind a celebration of Hamas’ attack on Israel.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced that the government planned to take action against the two groups on Oct. 12.

Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said she is putting the ban on activity related to Hamas, which is already listed by the European Union as a terrorist group, into effect on Thursday.

She said she also is banning and dissolving the German branch of the Samidoun network, which she said “supports and glorifies” groups including Hamas.

Samidoun was behind an Oct. 7 action in which a group of people handed out pastries in a Berlin street in celebration of Hamas’ attack on Israel.

Faeser said her ministry had worked “day and night” on implementing the measures quickly.

POWER GENERATOR OUT AT KEY HOSPITAL

RAFAH, Gaza Strip — The main power generator in the northern Gaza Strip’s key hospital went out of service early Thursday, Gaza’s Health Ministry said.

The Indonesian Hospital in Beit Lahia is near the densely populated Jabaliya refugee camp, which has been the target of heavy Israeli airstrikes this week.

Health Ministry spokesperson Ashraf Al-Qudra said in a televised statement that the hospital is running on a smaller backup generator but had to turn off lights in most rooms, shut down oxygen generators and resort to oxygen cylinders, and turn off mortuary refrigerators.

“These exceptional measures will allow the Indonesian Hospital to work for a matter of days,” Al-Qudra says. “However, if we cannot secure electricity or fuel then we will face a disaster.”

While some aid trucks have entered the blockaded Gaza Strip since the war began last month, Israel has not allowed trucks to bring fuel.

SAUDI ARABIA LAUNCHES RELIEF CAMPAIGN FOR PALESTINIANS IN GAZA

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Saudi Arabia has launched a campaign to raise relief funds for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

The state-run Saudi Press Agency reported Thursday that King Salman has donated about $8 million to the fund and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has donated over $5 million.

Funds will be raised through the online donation platform Sahem, which the kingdom has used to contribute to relief efforts in other countries.

Before the outbreak of the war in Gaza, Saudi Arabia had been in talks with the U.S. over normalizing ties with Israel. The kingdom has called for a halt to the violence and for progress toward establishing an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.

LEBANESE SHEPHERDS DIE IN CROSSFIRE AT BORDER

BEIRUT — Two Lebanese shepherds who were caught in crossfire during clashes on the Lebanon-Israel border were found dead Thursday, a spokesperson for the U.N. peacekeeping force on the border said.

The Lebanese army had called UNIFIL in to help evacuate the two men Wednesday evening after they were reported injured but had to call off the search “due to the darkness and presence of land mines in the area,” UNIFIL spokesperson Andrea Tenenti said. He said Thursday morning that the men’s bodies had been found.

A Lebanese security official said the shepherds died from gunshot wounds.

Lebanon’s state-run news agency said the shepherds were shot by Israeli troops as they passed with their herds by the Wazani river along the border.

The border has been the site of regular clashes between Israeli forces on one side and Hezbollah and Palestinian armed groups in Lebanon on the other.

The shepherds’ death raised the numbers of civilians killed on the Lebanese side of the border to six since the exchanges of fire started following the Oct. 7 attack by the Palestinian Hamas group on southern Israel.

RETIRING OFFICIAL CRITICIZES UN FOR FAILING TO STOP ‘GENOCIDE’ IN GAZA

UNITED NATIONS — A retiring United Nations human rights agency official strongly criticized the UN for failing to stop what he called “a genocide unfolding before our eyes” in Gaza.

Craig Mokhiber, a U.S. human rights lawyer who joined the UN in 1992, claimed the “slaughter of the Palestinian people” is rooted in decades of persecution and purging by Israel “based entirely upon their status as Arabs.”

Mokhiber left his job heading the New York office of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on Tuesday. His four-page letter to UN human rights chief Volker Turk makes no mention of Hamas’ surprise attack on Israel on Oct. 7. Mokhiber had informed the UN in March of his planned retirement, UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said.

In the letter, Mokhiber accused the U.S., the U.K. and much of Europe of being complicit in the assault on Gaza by Israeli forces.

Mokhiber, who said he has investigated Palestinian human rights since the 1990s and lived in Gaza, also wrote that a two-state solution is an impossibility. He called for the dismantling of Israel and establishment of “a single, democratic, secular state in all of historic Palestine, with equal rights for Christians, Muslims, and Jews.”

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