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Some besieged Gazans say they face 'no future' there, want to leave for good

ABC News

For the people of Gaza, there's a common exhaustion that many express -- exhausted by the war, of living in such dire conditions, by the death that surrounds them.

"We are tired of this living," Muhammad Jawad Ibrahim Al-Barbari, a 46-year-old employee at Gaza International Airport, told ABC News in an interview last Friday, the day the week-long temporary cease-fire ended between Israel and Hamas.

Al-Barbari and his family had to leave their home in Al-Zahraa city in northern Gaza after it was bombed by the Israeli military. They moved south to Khan Yunis, and for the last six weeks have been living in a tent in a United Nations-run shelter.

He shares the tent with his other relatives, three families crammed in together. The conditions are bleak, he said. Al-Barbari said food and water are scarce, and his tent was even flooded with sewage.

To be honest, I am having a crisis," he said.

He is not alone. The UN estimates there are now 1.9 million people displaced across Gaza, the equivalent to 86% of its population. Pictures on social media Thursday morning show crowds in the thousands gathered outside UN facilities, people queuing for hours to try and get some food.

Almost two months in, the Israel-Hamas war has left much of Gaza destroyed. At least 17,177 people have been killed and 46,000 wounded in the Gaza Strip, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run Ministry of Health. In Israel, at least 1,200 have been killed and 6,900 injured, with 138 Israeli hostages still in Gaza, according to Israeli officials. The Israeli military is continuing its operations into Gaza, in retaliation for the Oct. 7 surprise terror attacks by Hamas, and is now focusing on its second largest city, Khan Yunis.

He is not alone. The UN estimates there are now 1.9 million people displaced across Gaza, the equivalent to 86% of its population. Pictures on social media Thursday morning show crowds in the thousands gathered outside UN facilities, people queuing for hours to try and get some food.

Almost two months in, the Israel-Hamas war has left much of Gaza destroyed. At least 17,177 people have been killed and 46,000 wounded in the Gaza Strip, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run Ministry of Health. In Israel, at least 1,200 have been killed and 6,900 injured, with 138 Israeli hostages still in Gaza, according to Israeli officials. The Israeli military is continuing its operations into Gaza, in retaliation for the Oct. 7 surprise terror attacks by Hamas, and is now focusing on its second largest city, Khan Yunis.

Younes, like many Gazans, has moved several times since Israel retaliated against Hamas. He was distressed by the news that the Israeli military have now designated the city of Khan Yunis as a "dangerous combat zone," dropping leaflets last Friday urging people to "evacuate immediately and go to the shelters in the Rafah area," on the border with Egypt.

"Where will we go? We were in Gaza and were displaced to Al-Zahra city, and now we are here, more than this, where will we go?" Younes asked.

"People have nowhere to go," Juliette Touma, director of communications at UNRWA, told ABC News Thursday. She said the Israelis have twice told the people of Gaza to move.

On Oct. 12, it announced evacuation orders from the north of Gaza to the south. Then on Friday, Dec. 1, after the temporary cease-fire ended, they warned people to move toward safe zones in Rafah and a small sandy area on the outskirts of the town of Al Mawasi.

"It's less than a quarter of the whole of the Gaza strip," Touma said.

The IDF leaflets dropped in the Khan Younis during the weekend that warned people to leave the area and a QR code map showed the zones designated as safe by the IDF.

“We want civilians not to be in the area where we are fighting,” Israeli Lt. Col Jonathan Conricus told ABC News Monday. “We want to focus our firepower on Hamas and Hamas only.”

The conditions at Al Mawasi are desperate, Nour Al-Swirki, 35, told ABC News Tuesday.

"I was displaced for the second time, and I did not cry this time, but rather I was silent in the face of the horror of war, its madness, its oppression, and the frightening scenes of displacement," she said. "People walk unconsciously, no one knows their way, these streets are strange to us, empty streets."

Al-Swirki, a mother of two from Khan Yunis, said daily life is a struggle.

"In order to survive, everyone is searching for water. They stand in lines carrying yellow [water containers] that can be identified in the hands of every displaced person," Al-Swirki said. "They search for firewood but cannot find it. They are forced to uproot old trees, palm fronds, and lighting poles that are no longer needed due to the power outage."

In and around Rafah, people are camping wherever they can, setting up shacks in parks, fields on the streets, Touma said.

"They have just pushed them towards Rafah. Our shelters there were already overcrowded. We just cannot take more. People were queuing for two to three hours to go to the toilet, sleeping on concrete floors without mattresses," Touma said. "It's an appalling situation. It has gone from a crisis to a catastrophe."

And for some, the situation is so dire they have now decided to leave Gaza for good.

"When the war started, I thought it would last for several days and would stop, but it continued for several weeks in a row," Fatima Suleiman, a 59-year-old from Gaza City, told ABC News. She has been staying for the last month and a half at her cousin's house, along with fifty other relatives, hoping to return home.

"But rather, last week, when the war returned violently after a week-long cease-fire, we received leaflets from the Israeli army to evacuate our homes and search for a safe place. There is no safe place. It is difficult to move from one place to another. I wished to die at this moment," she said, adding, "The Nakba was repeated for the second time in 2023."

The Nakba, or catastrophe, is how Palestinians describe the forced displacement that came as the result of the 1948 war with Israel. As many as 750,000 Palestinians were forced from their homes as Israel laid claim to their land.

For many Gazans their displacement is a painful reminder of the past, with some refusing to leave their homes for fear they may never come back.

Suleiman said she has family in Germany who are trying to help her leave Gaza.

"They repeatedly asked me to agree to leave Gaza, even for a temporary period until the end of the war, but this is a difficult decision. I have to leave the rest of my brothers and their children here in Gaza. Either we leave or we all die together here."

The decision is not so hard for Awad Abu Akar. This 32-year-old from Khan Yunis lost his wife and child after their home was bombed by the Israelis. He said he cannot wait to leave Gaza, forever.

"I am waiting for the war to end so I can travel outside Gaza, perhaps Egypt or Turkey, but I will never stay in Gaza," he told ABC News.

"This difficult war made me lose my family … and we had dreams, and we were trying to build the future of our first child, but with a missile from the Israeli plane this dream ended," he said.

He, too, compares what is happening in Gaza today to what happened in 1948.

"This is the migration and the catastrophe that our ancestors lived through and told us about. We will not blame our ancestors for immigrating and leaving the country," Abu Akar said. "The fear they suffered from the Israeli army is what we are experiencing in this war, a suffering that will not stop and has not stopped."

Alam Farhat, 37, who owned a café in Khan Yunis, has also decided to leave.

"There is no future for our children in a region full of conflict. This is why I decided to sell my house and the cafeteria and travel to Egypt to start a new life there. I love Gaza very much and my heart cries for what we are leaving there," he told ABC News."I cannot accept the idea of living here with my children. There is no safety and no life here."

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Israel-Gaza live updates: Society in Gaza on 'brink of full-blown collapse,' UNRWA warns

pawel.gaul/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- The temporary cease-fire between Hamas and Israel ended early Friday, and Israel has resumed its bombardment of Gaza.

The end of the cease-fire came after Hamas freed over 100 of the more than 200 people its militants took hostage during the Oct. 7 surprise attack on Israel. In exchange, Israel released more than 200 Palestinians from Israeli prisons.

Here's how the news is developing:

Dec 09, 3:14 PM EST
Biden administration approves emergency tank ammunition sale to Israel

The Biden administration approved the possible sale of tank ammunition to Israel through an emergency order, circumventing Congress.

In a release, the State Department notified Congress about the emergency sale on Friday.

"The Secretary of State determined and provided detailed justification to Congress that an emergency exists that requires the immediate sale to the Government of Israel of the above defense articles and services in the national security interests of the United States, thereby waiving the Congressional review requirements under Section 36(b) of the Arms Export Control Act, as amended," the release states.

The sale -- of 120mm tank cartridges and related equipment -- is estimated to cost $106.5 million.

-ABC News' Davone Morales and Shannon Crawford

Dec 09, 12:12 PM EST
Yemen says no ships bound for Israel will pass Red Sea

All ships bound for Israel, notwithstanding their nationality, will be stopped from passing through the Red Sea and become "a legitimate target" until more aid is delivered to Gaza on these ships, a Yemeni Armed Forces spokesperson said.

"The Yemeni armed forces announce the prohibition of the passage of ships bound for the Zionist entity of any nationality, if they do not enter the Gaza Strip with the food and medicine they need and it will become a legitimate target for our armed forces," according to a statement.

Dec 09, 11:55 AM EST
Turkish president denounces UN Security Council after US vetoes ceasefire resolution

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan denounced the United Nations Security Council after the U.S. vetoed a ceasefire resolution for Gaza. He called the international body the "Israel protection council," according to the Times of Israel.

"Since October 7, the Security Council has become an Israel protection and defense council," Erdogan said, according to the Times.

"Is this justice?" Erdogan asked, adding that “the world is bigger than five,” a reference to the five veto-wielding nations in the U.N. Security Council, according to the Times.

U.S. deputy ambassador Robert Wood told the council on Friday that the resolution "was divorced from reality" and "would not move the needle forward on the ground in any concrete way" in explaining why the U.S. could not support it.

Dec 09, 12:35 PM EST
Blinken speaks with International Committee of the Red Cross president

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with International Committee of the Red Cross President Mirjana Spoljaric Egger on Friday to "emphasize the importance of the ICRC's humanitarian response to the conflict in Gaza," a statement from the agency said.

Blinken thanked the ICRC for delivering "life-saving assistance and protection of civilians," according to the statement.

"The Secretary and ICRC President also discussed efforts to strengthen civilian protections and expand the flow of humanitarian assistance throughout Gaza. The Secretary reiterated the call for the immediate release of all hostages and highlighted the need for the ICRC to be granted access to the remaining hostages," Blinken said.

Dec 09, 12:38 PM EST
Gaza Strip is the most dangerous place to be a child: UNICEF

As the death toll continues to climb, UNICEF called the Gaza Strip the most dangerous place in the world for children.

"The Gaza Strip is the most dangerous place in the world to be a child. Scores of children are reportedly being killed and injured on a daily basis. Entire neighborhoods, where children used to play and go to school have been turned into stacks of rubble, with no life in them," UNICEF said in a statement.

Close to 1 million children in Gaza have been "forcibly displaced from their homes," according to UNICEF.

"They are now being pushed further and further south into tiny, overcrowded areas without water, food, or protection, putting them at increased risk of respiratory infections and waterborne disease. Their lives are further threatened by dehydration, malnutrition and disease," UNICEF said.

"UNICEF and other humanitarian actors have been ringing the alarm for weeks. Our team on the ground describe meeting children with missing limbs and third-degree burns, and children left shell-shocked by the continuing violence that surrounds them," UNICEF said.

UNICEF called for an immediate ceasefire.

"An immediate, long-lasting humanitarian ceasefire is the only way to end the killing and injuring of children, the only way that civilians can be protected, and the only way to enable the urgent delivery of desperately needed lifesaving aid," UNICEF said.

Dec 09, 7:25 AM EST
Families confirm death of hostage

The death of Sahar Baruch was confirmed in a statement by Kibbutz Be'eri and the families of the hostages. Baruch, 25, was from kibbutz Be'eri and abducted by Hamas from his home on Oct 7.

The statement does not mention the circumstances of Baruch's death, but his name and images were mentioned in the Hamas statement and video announcing his death following the failed special ops raid.

Dec 08, 6:15 PM EST
US vetoes UN Security Council resolution calling for cease-fire in Gaza

The United States vetoed Friday a United Nations Security Council draft resolution that would have demanded an immediate humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza and the immediate and unconditional release of hostages.

Thirteen other members voted in favor of the resolution, while the United Kingdom abstained.

U.S. deputy ambassador Robert Wood told the council the resolution "was divorced from reality" and "would not move the needle forward on the ground in any concrete way" in explaining why the U.S. could not support it.

He also said the U.S. could not understand why the resolution's authors did not include language condemning "Hamas' horrific terrorist attack" against Israel on Oct. 7 and had argued an unconditional cease-fire would leave Hamas able to attack again.

The resolution, which was put forward by the United Arab Emirates, was not adopted due to the U.S. veto.

Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian U.N. ambassador, called the outcome "disastrous."

"Millions of Palestinian lives hang in the balance, every single one of them is sacred and worth saving," he said.

Israeli U.N. ambassador Gilad Erdan thanked the U.S. "for standing firmly by our side and said it was a "distorted resolution that will enable Hamas' terrorists to stay in power in Gaza."

"A ceasefire will be possible only with the return of all the hostages and the destruction of Hamas," Erdan said in a statement following the vote.

Dec 08, 2:56 PM EST
Another US military aircraft lands in Egypt with 57,000 pounds of food, water, medicine

Another U.S. military aircraft landed in Egypt on Friday with 57,000 pounds of food, water and medicine to aid people in Gaza, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said.

"We're mindful of the extreme humanitarian suffering inside Gaza and we're doing everything we can to help alleviate that," he said.

Kirby also said the administration is "very grateful" that the Israelis agreed to open the Kerem Shalom crossing at the Israel-Gaza-Egypt border, saying it was "very much at our request" that they did so. He said it had been a point of discussion between President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“It's good news, but we're just at the beginning of this process," he said of the Kerem Shalom crossing opening. "The first step is to set up an inspection regime, sort of akin to what's going on down in Rafah [at the Gaza-Egypt border crossing], so that the Israelis can have a measure of satisfaction that what's getting in [to -ABC News' Justin Ryan Gomez

Dec 08, 1:47 PM EST
IDF confirms it failed to rescue hostages in special operation

The Israel Defense Forces said it conducted a hostage rescue operation overnight in the Gaza Strip that failed to rescue any hostages.

Two IDF soldiers were severely injured in the operation while "numerous" Hamas terrorists who "took part in the abducting and holding of hostages were killed," the IDF said.

"The IDF continues to operate in a variety of operational and intelligence methods, together with security organizations, in order to release the hostages, and to collect relevant information," the IDF said.

Dec 08, 12:16 PM EST
Society in Gaza on 'brink of full-blown collapse,' UNRWA warns

"Civil order is breaking down in Gaza" and "society is on the brink of full-blown collapse," warned Thomas White, director of UNRWA affairs in Gaza.

"The streets feel wild, particularly after dark," White wrote Friday on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

He said some aid convoys have been looted and some U.N. vehicles were stoned.

With Gaza under "constant bombardment" and food and supplies limited, the "UNRWA’s ability to assist and protect people is reducing fast," Philippe Lazzarini, commissioner-general of the UNRWA, said in a letter to the president of the U.N. General Assembly.

“In my 35 years of work in complex emergencies, I would never have expected to write such a letter, predicting the killing of my staff and the collapse of the mandate I am expected to fulfill," Lazzarini said. "I urge all member states to take immediate actions to implement an immediate humanitarian cease-fire, enforce international law including the protection of civilians, U.N. staff, U.N. premises including shelters, medical facilities and all civilian infrastructure and protect the prospects for a political solution vital to peace and stability and the rights for Palestinians, Israelis, the region and beyond."

Dec 08, 8:26 AM EST
What we know about the conflict

The Israel-Hamas war has now passed the two-month mark.

In the Gaza Strip, at least 17,177 people have been killed and more than 46,000 others have been wounded by Israeli forces since Oct. 7, according to figures released by Gaza's Hamas-run Ministry of Health and the Hamas government media office.

In Israel, at least 1,200 people have been killed and 6,900 others have been injured by Hamas and other Palestinian militants since Oct. 7, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

There has also been a surge in violence in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Israeli forces have killed at least 257 Palestinians in the territory since Oct. 7, according to Palestinian health authorities.

Dec 08, 5:46 AM EST
IDF says 450 targets struck in Gaza over past day amid 'extensive battles with terrorists'

The Israel Defense Forces said Friday morning that it has struck approximately 450 targets in the Gaza Strip over the past day from the air, sea and ground amid "extensive battles with terrorists."

"The troops continue to operate to locate and destroy underground tunnel shafts, weapons, and additional terror infrastructure," the IDF said in a statement.

During operations in Gaza’s southern city of Khan Yunis, Israeli ground troops directed fighter jets "to kill numerous terrorists in a two-hour series of precise strikes," according to the IDF.

Overnight, Israeli warships "used precise ammunition to strike dozens of terror infrastructure sites used by the Hamas naval forces in the central and southern Gaza Strip," the IDF said.

-ABC News' Dana Savir and Morgan Winsor

Dec 08, 4:47 AM EST
Israeli kibbutz confirms death of resident initially thought to be hostage

The remains of an Israeli citizen thought to be kidnapped by the militant group Hamas were identified overnight, ABC News has learned.

The Israeli Prime Minister's Office announced Friday morning that the the number of hostages currently held captive by Hamas in the Gaza Strip is 137, down from 138.

Be'eri, a kibbutz in southern Israel near the border with Gaza, confirmed Friday morning the death of one of its residents, Dror Kaplun, who was initially believed to be a hostage but was actually killed in the Oct. 7 terror attack. His wife, Dr. Marcel Freilich Kaplun, was also killed in the attack, according to the kibbutz.

-ABC News' Anna Brund, Jordana Miller and Morgan Winsor

Dec 07, 8:19 PM EST
Video, images show detained Palestinian men stripped down to their underwear

Photos and video circulating online Thursday show dozens of Palestinian men being detained by the Israeli military, many stripped down to their underwear, in the streets of a city in northern Gaza.

In one of the images, dozens of men are lined up against a wall while kneeling with their hands behind their backs and stripped down to their underwear. The same image shows dozens of other men in an Israel Defense Forces truck. ABC News geolocated a sign for a pharmacy captured in the image to the city of Beit Lahia in northern Gaza.

A video of the same scene shows a long line of men in their underwear sitting and standing in a line, surrounded by IDF personnel.

When asked about the images and video, the IDF told ABC News that its troops "apprehended hundreds of terror suspects" in Shejaiya, Jabalya and Khan Yunis.

Hamas said in a statement in response to the images that the men were unarmed civilians.

Hani Almadhoun, director of philanthropy for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, told ABC News that several of his family members were detained by the IDF, including his 72-year-old father, brother and 13-year-old nephew.

"They just want the job to feed to provide for their families to make a buck here and there live in a nicer home. That's all not happening now for them," he said. "Now they've been dubbed as operatives and combatants when they were napping in their homes in the safety of their homes with their kids."

Almadhoun, who is based in D.C., said he hasn’t heard from them since and doesn't know how to go about finding information on their whereabouts.

-ABC News' Emmanuelle Saliba, Kerem Inal, Layla Ferris, Helena Skinner and Victoria Beaule

Dec 07, 6:30 PM EST
Hamas official in Lebanon warns chances of hostage release 'dwindling'

A senior Hamas official in Lebanon warned Thursday that the chances of another hostage release are "dwindling" and that the detainees will not be returned until "the aggression stops."

"The chances of their return diminish with the length of the aggression, and their impact may be lost forever," the official, Osama Hamdan, said in a statement. "The possibilities of their return are dwindling as the aggression goes on and maybe there will be no trace of them forever."

Nearly 140 hostages are believed to still be held by Hamas, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

Dec 07, 4:51 PM EST
White House: Hamas' refusal to release young women ended cease-fire

During President Joe Biden's call Thursday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the president noted that "it was Hamas’s refusal to release young women civilian hostages that led to" the end of the multiday cease-fire, according to a White House readout of the leaders' call.

Biden "reiterated that the [International Committee of the Red Cross] must be permitted to access remaining hostages held by Hamas terrorists," the White House said, and Biden and Netanyahu "agreed to remain deeply engaged to pursue every possible opportunity to free the remaining hostages."

Biden also stressed the importance of humanitarian aid into Gaza. Biden "welcomed the recent Israeli decision to ensure that fuel levels will meet requisite needs, but stressed that much more assistance was urgently required across the board," the White House said.

Biden again noted the need to separate civilians in Gaza from Hamas, the White House said, and the president reiterated his concern about the "extremist violence committed against Palestinians and the need to increase stability in the West Bank."

-ABC News' Fritz Farrow

Dec 07, 2:40 PM EST
White House: Reports Hamas sexually assaulted hostages are 'believable'

National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said he could not confirm reports that Hamas has sexually assaulted hostages, but he said the reports are "believable."

"I can't confirm these individual reports and stories," Kirby said, calling them "horrific."

"Sadly, because of who we're dealing with, we certainly aren't in a position to disabuse these reports," Kirby continued. "And the truth is, they're believable, just on the face of it, because of who these guys are, and what they believe. And because we have heard other accounts from other survivors that have come back and other hostages."

According to Israeli officials, 138 people are still being held hostage by Hamas. Over 100 women and children have been released.

"We know that Hamas is holding some additional women and children," Kirby said. "Let's get the remaining women and children out and get them out from under the jackboot of Hamas and potential sexual violence."

-ABC News' Fritz Farrow

Dec 07, 2:27 PM EST
Parties 'not close' to deal for additional pauses, Kirby says

National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told ABC News on Thursday that involved parties are "not close" to a deal for additional pauses to secure the release of hostages.

"Talks are still ongoing, discussions are happening. … I wish I had specific progress to speak to -- I don't," Kirby said.

"We're not close to inking another deal on a humanitarian pause," he said, "nor do I have any news to break here today about the return of hostages."

"We’re still trying to get as much information as we can about the hostages being held," Kirby said. "We have some information, as I said before on some of the hostages, because their families are talking to us, and that's been a terrific source of information and context."

"We have less information on others," Kirby added. "But not for lack of trying."

-ABC News' Fritz Farrow

Dec 07, 1:59 PM EST
'Promising signs' in talks to open new Gaza crossing: UN

There are "some promising signs" in the negotiations to open the Kerem Shalom crossing from Israel into Gaza for humanitarian access, according to Martin Griffiths, the United Nation's under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator.

"There are promising signs now that that may be able to open soon," Griffiths said. "If we get that, well, it would be the first miracle we've seen for some weeks, but it would be a huge boost to the logistical process and logistical base of a humanitarian operation. It doesn’t mean to say that it will solve the security problems … but it will change the nature of humanitarian access."

Aid trucks are still crossing daily through the Rafah border crossing from Egypt into Gaza as Gaza's humanitarian crises worsens, Griffiths said, but many roads along that route have been destroyed, making access difficult.

Dec 07, 11:00 AM EST
More dead than injured arriving at Gaza hospital

For the first time, more dead than injured arrived at Gaza's Al-Aqsa Hospital on Wednesday, according to Doctors Without Borders.

The hospital has been receiving approximately 150 to 200 injured people per day over the last week. Now, 115 arrived dead at the hospital in 24 hours, Doctors Without Borders said.

"The hospital is full, the morgue is full," Doctors Without Borders said. "We call on Israeli Forces to stop the indiscriminate bombing of the Gaza Strip and protect civilians and civilian infrastructure. We need a cease-fire now."

Dec 07, 10:43 AM EST
Egypt intensifies efforts to reinstate truce

Egypt is intensifying efforts with all parties to reinstate the truce between Hamas and Israel as soon as possible, Diaa Rashwan, the head of Egypt's State Information Service, said Thursday.

Dec 07, 9:00 AM EST
350 killed in Gaza in past day, health ministry says

Gaza's Hamas-run Ministry of Health said Thursday that 350 people have been killed there in the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll since Oct. 7 to over 17,000.

Dec 07, 6:28 AM EST
IDF says it's fighting Hamas throughout Gaza, from Khan Yunis to Jabalya

The Israel Defense Forces said Thursday morning that its "troops killed Hamas terrorists and struck dozens of terror targets" during operations in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip over the past day.

"IDF troops engaged with a terrorist cell that exited from a tunnel shaft, killed two terrorists in combat and struck the shaft," the IDF said in a statement.

Israeli troops also "conducted a targeted raid on a military compound belonging to Hamas' Central Jabalya Battalion" during operations in Jabalya in northern Gaza, according to the IDF.

"A number of terrorists were killed as part of the activity," the IDF added. "Furthermore, the forces located a network of underground tunnels that lead out of the compound, as well as a training area and weapons storage facility in the area of the compound."

In addition to the ground operations in Gaza, Israeli warships over the past day "struck Hamas military compounds and infrastructure using precise ammunition and firing shells," according to the IDF.

Dec 06, 9:44 PM EST
Over 80% of people in Gaza have inadequate food consumption, WFP report says

Around 83% of households in southern Gaza suffering from inadequate food consumption, according to a new report from the World Food Programme.

The organization also reported Wednesday that 97% of households in northern Gaza have inadequate food consumption.

As a result, 95% of households are adopting extreme food consumption strategies to cope with food shortages in northern Gaza, the report said, with 82% of households doing the same in southern Gaza.

Dec 06, 5:25 PM EST
US, G7 partners call for opening of Gaza crossings into Israel

The United States and its Group of Seven allies called for crossings from Gaza into Israel to be opened for the transfer of humanitarian aid in a statement released Wednesday evening following a virtual meeting.

“The population is increasingly vulnerable, and with winter approaching, we must continue to increase the flow of humanitarian aid to Gaza to meet fully the needs on the ground, including by opening additional crossings,” the G7 leaders said in the statement.

Only the Rafah crossing into Egypt is open, while all of the other crossings into Gaza border Israel and have been closed. The White House provided its readout of the meeting but did not mention this joint call for the opening of additional crossings.

The White House said the leaders "expressed deep regret that Hamas refused to release all of its women hostages and military operations resume."

"Hamas offers nothing but suffering to the Palestinian people, and it is an obstacle to a better future for them and for the region. We will continue to coordinate our efforts to isolate Hamas and ensure it cannot threaten Israel," the G7 leaders said in its statement.

Dec 06, 2:26 PM EST
Kids in Gaza share their experiences through art

Children in Gaza are sharing their traumatic experiences from the war through drawings.

The Palestine Red Crescent Society said it organized the event to help children process their complicated feelings.

The art was displayed in the rubble of a bombed house.

The children's art included portraits of families and drawings of homes. One showed an injured person in a hospital bed, and another depicted a journalist's camera and bulletproof vest.

Dec 06, 2:15 PM EST
Israeli soldiers fighting in southern Gaza city of Khan Yunis

Israeli soldiers are fighting for the first time in the heart of Khan Yunis, a city in southern Gaza, the Israel Defense Forces said.

"The city of Khan Yunis is a terrorist stronghold," the IDF said. "The entire leadership of the Hamas terrorist organization -- both military and political -- proliferated in the area of Khan Yunis."

Israeli troops have eliminated terrorists and their infrastructure in the area, the IDF said. One strike was on a mosque that the IDF said was being used to store weapons.

Dec 06, 1:22 PM EST
UN secretary-general invokes Article 99, calls for humanitarian cease-fire

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said Wednesday that he's invoked Article 99 of the U.N. Charter for the first time in his six years as leader.

Article 99 says that the secretary-general "may bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security."

"Facing a severe risk of collapse of the humanitarian system in Gaza, I urge the Council to help avert a humanitarian catastrophe & appeal for a humanitarian cease-fire to be declared," Guterres said in a post on X.

In a letter to the U.N. Security Council president, Guterres said, "The situation is fast deteriorating into a catastrophe with potentially irreversible implications for Palestinians as a whole and for peace and security in the region. … The international community has a responsibility to use all its influence to prevent further escalation and end this crisis."

Dec 06, 12:41 PM EST
IDF encircling Hamas leader's house: Netanyahu

Israeli forces are now "encircling" the house belonging to Yahya Sinwar, the leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

"It's only a matter of time until we catch him," Netanyahu said.

The prime minister also said Israel is exerting pressure to allow Red Cross workers to visit the more than 100 hostages still being held by Hamas.

Dec 06, 11:24 AM EST
Biden calls reports of Hamas' sexual violence against Israeli women 'appalling'

Editor's note: This report contains graphic descriptions of sexual violence.

President Joe Biden has blamed Hamas' refusal to release civilian female hostages for the end of a temporary cease-fire and called reports of women allegedly sexually assaulted by Hamas "appalling."

"We had a report in the earliest days that Hamas used rape to terrorize women and girls during the attack on October the 7th in Israel," Biden said, according to pool reports of his remarks Tuesday at a closed-door fundraiser.

"Over the past few weeks, survivors and witnesses of the attacks have shared the horrific accounts of unimaginable cruelty," he said. "Reports of women raped -- repeatedly raped -- and their bodies being mutilated while still alive -- of women corpses being desecrated, Hamas terrorists inflicting as much pain and suffering on women and girls as possible and then murdering them. It is appalling."

It's on all of us -- government, international organizations, civil society and businesses -- to forcefully condemn the sexual violence of Hamas terrorists without equivocation -- without equivocation, without exception," Biden said.

ABC News' Libby Cathey

Dec 06, 9:02 AM EST
IDF says it struck 250 targets in Gaza over last day amid 'intensive battles'

The Israel Defense Forces said Wednesday morning that its aircraft had bombed "approximately 250 terror targets in the Gaza Strip" over the last day amid what it described as "intensive battles."

"During these strikes, terrorists from the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist organizations were eliminated, and a number of terrorist infrastructure were destroyed," the IDF said in a statement.

Israeli soldiers also located "one of the largest weapons depots" in Gaza "near a clinic and a school" in the northern part of the Hamas-controlled territory, according to the IDF.

"The depot contained hundreds of RPG missiles and launchers of various types, dozens of anti-tank missiles, dozens of explosive devices, long-range missiles aimed at central Israel, dozens of grenades and UAVs," the IDF added. "All of the terrorist infrastructure was found close to civilian buildings in the heart of a civilian population. This is additional proof of Hamas' cynical use of the residents of the Gaza Strip as human shields."

Hamas has denied Israel's claims that it deliberately shelters behind civilians in Gaza.

Dec 06, 7:37 AM EST
US believes eight American hostages remain in Gaza, Kirby says

The United States believes eight Americans are still being held hostage by militants in the war-torn Gaza Strip, according to White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby.

"We think there's about eight hostages that are Americans. We know of at least one woman in that group," Kirby told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos in an interview Wednesday on Good Morning America.

"We're doing everything we can to try to get them released," he continued. "We're constantly engaged with our partners in the region to try to get this humanitarian pause back in place, so that the flow of hostages can renew."

Although a temporary cease-fire between Israel and Gaza's militant rulers, Hamas, ended last week, the U.S. is "still flowing in humanitarian assistance" to civilians in Gaza, according to Kirby.

"And we're trying to get it up to the level that it was during the pause," he noted.

When asked about what Israel's "endgame" might be in its war against Hamas as Israeli troops expand their offensive across all of Gaza, Kirby said: "That's really something for the Israeli's to speak to."

"We obviously want to see Hamas eliminated as a threat to the Israeli people," he added. "That hasn't been achieved yet. They're going after the leadership as best they can. They believe they need to operate in the south. We've told them you know we’ll continue to support their military operations but we want to make sure that as they do that they're factoring in those innocent civilian lives as much as possible."

Dec 06, 7:16 AM EST
Gaza hospital says it's 'besieged' by Israeli forces

Al-Awda Hospital in the northern Gaza Strip is "besieged" by Israeli forces, a spokesperson said Wednesday.

There are currently 95 employees and 38 patients inside the hospital in the city of Jabalia, north of Gaza City, according to the spokesperson.

Just four hospitals remain operational in the north, according to the Gaza's Hamas-run Ministry of Health.

Dec 06, 5:32 AM EST
Gaza hospital receives scores of dead, wounded in past 24 hours

A hospital in the Middle Area of the Gaza Strip has seen an influx of dead and wounded arrive at its doors over the last day, according to Palestinian health officials.

Gaza's Hamas-run Ministry of Health said Wednesday morning that the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital has received 73 dead and 123 injured patients in the past 24 hours amid intense bombardment by the Israeli military.

Dec 05, 6:12 PM EST
Over 1,000 Americans and family members seeking to depart Gaza: State Department

More than 1,000 Americans and their family members are still stranded in Gaza, more than a month after the Rafah border crossing first opened to outbound traffic, according to the State Department.

"We know of approximately 1,050 individuals (about 350 U.S. citizens, plus lawful permanent residents and family members of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents) who we are in touch with and who are seeking to depart Gaza," a State Department spokesperson said in a statement to ABC News, adding it "remains a fluid and quickly evolving situation."

These figures come a day after State Department spokesperson Matt Miller told reporters that the number of American citizens trying to exit the area stood at 220, and that there were 750 individuals eligible to leave Gaza who had not yet been able to depart.

Dec 05, 3:48 PM EST
State Dept. imposes visa restrictions on individuals 'undermining peace' in West Bank

Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced a new visa restriction policy on Tuesday "targeting individuals believed to have been involved in undermining peace, security or stability in the West Bank."

The policy includes those "committing acts of violence or taking other actions that unduly restrict civilians' access to essential services and basic necessities," Blinken said in a statement.

The State Department has already started pursuing initial action against individuals and will designate others "in the coming days," spokesperson Matt Miller told reporters Tuesday.

The department expects the policy will impact "dozens of individuals and potential their family members," he said.

During a visit to Israel last week, Blinken said he "made clear that the United States is ready to take action using our own authorities" and that Israel must "take additional measures to protect Palestinian civilians from extremist attacks."

He added that the U.S. would also continue to engage with the Palestinian Authority to stress that it needed "to do more to curb Palestinian attacks against Israelis."

ABC News' Shannon K. Crawford

Dec 05, 3:26 PM EST
Netanyahu says Gaza must be demilitarized through 'sheer force'

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an address Tuesday that Gaza must be demilitarized and that he is not ready to accept an international force being responsible for Gaza post-war.

"Gaza must be demilitarized and the only country that can do this and ensure it lasts is Israel," Netanyahu said. "I’m not ready to close my eyes and accept any other arrangement."

The prime minister said half of Hamas' battalions have already been "destroyed."

Netanyahu also said a tactic of sheer force made sense for bringing home the remaining hostages.

"The only way to bring home the rest of the hostages is through massive military force in Gaza and that’s what we are doing," he said.

He also criticized those calling for a short war, saying, "I say to our friends who call for a short war, the only way for the war to end quickly is by applying sheer force. So I say stand with us. Stand with Israel. Stand with civilization."

Dec 05, 1:14 PM EST
State Dept. imposes visa restrictions on individuals 'undermining peace' in West Bank

Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced a new visa restriction policy on Tuesday "targeting individuals believed to have been involved in undermining peace, security or stability in the West Bank."

The policy includes those "committing acts of violence or taking other actions that unduly restrict civilians' access to essential services and basic necessities," Blinken said in a statement.

During a visit to Israel last week, Blinken said he "made clear that the United States is ready to take action using our own authorities" and that Israel must "take additional measures to protect Palestinian civilians from extremist attacks."

He added that the U.S. would also continue to engage with the Palestinian Authority to stress that it needed "to do more to curb Palestinian attacks against Israelis."

ABC News' Shannon K. Crawford

Dec 05, 10:43 AM EST
IDF says it has 'hundreds of testimonies of rape and sex crimes' from Oct. 7

Israeli authorities say they have collated "hundreds of testimonies of rape and sex crimes" they claim was committed by Hamas militants during the Oct. 7 terror attack.

A document from the Israel Defense Forces details allegations of sexual violence, with "almost all of the testimonies" coming from eyewitnesses and first responders who were present at the scene during or after atrocities, the document states. This is because "virtually all" of the victims of sexual violence were also murdered on Oct. 7, according to the document.

The IDF said the document offers "only a small part of an immense body of information of evidence of Hamas' sex crimes" and said the evidence "proves beyond all doubt that Hamas and other … terrorists used rape and sexual violence systemically against Israeli women and children," according to the IDF.

One IDF volunteer quoted in the document described seeing many young women "in bloody, shredded rags, or just in underwear."

"Our team commander saw several (female) soldiers who were shot in the crotch and intimate areas," the IDF volunteer said, according to the document.

The IDF alleges that some members of Hamas who were captured and then interrogated also gave testimony that women were sexually abused on Oct. 7.

An Israeli paramedic quoted in the document said they inspected the bodies of two teenage girls who had been murdered. One of the girls "had her pants pulled down towards her knees ... and there's the remains of semen on the lower part of her back," the document states.

A survivor of the Oct. 7 attack, Gad Liebersohn, quoted in the document said that "for two hours I'm hiding and hearing people getting kidnapped and women getting raped ... begging for their lives."

Hamas, the militant group that governs the Gaza Strip, has denied the allegations that its fighters committed sexual violence during the Oct. 7 attack on neighboring southern Israel.

Cochav Elkayam-Levy, the head of Israel's Civil Commission on Oct. 7 Crimes by Hamas Against Women and Children, has described what she called "widespread rape evidence."

ABC News' Tom Soufi Burridge

Dec 05, 8:57 AM EST
At least two injured after rocket hits Israeli residential building, authorities say

Rocket fire struck a residential building in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon on Tuesday afternoon, according to Israel's emergency medical service MDA.

At least two people -- a 67-year-old and a 60-year-old -- were wounded by shrapnel while standing in the parking lot next to the building's entrance, according to MDA, which said its staff provided treatment on site and transported the two victims to a nearby hospital.

Dec 05, 6:55 AM EST
Hospital in northern Gaza under siege, health ministry says

Another hospital in the northern Gaza Strip is under siege by Israeli troops, Gaza's Hamas-run Ministry of Health said Tuesday.

Israeli tanks and snipers have surrounded Kamal Adwan Hospital, where more than 7,000 displaced people are sheltering, according to the health ministry. Israeli troops are allegedly firing at "anyone who moves," the health ministry said.

The power was also cut from the hospital, according to the health ministry.

Dozens of wounded people as well as the bodies of at least 108 who have died are currently inside Kamal Adwan Hospital, according to the health ministry.

There was no immediate comment from the Israel Defense Forces.

Just four hospitals remain operational in northern Gaza, according to the health ministry, as medical services in the besieged enclave struggle to deal with the mounting casualty toll.

Dec 05, 6:28 AM EST
At least 30 killed in airstrike on school in southern Gaza, hospital says

Dozens of people were killed or wounded in an Israeli airstrike that allegedly targeted a school housing displaced families in the city of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on Tuesday morning, according to local medical staff.

A spokesperson for Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis told ABC News that it had received scores of patients from the scene, including 30 who had died and dozens who were injured.

There was no immediate comment from the Israel Defense Forces.

The strike came on the heels of the IDF's announcement that it would be expanding its offensive on Gaza's militant rulers, Hamas, across the entire strip.

Dec 05, 1:38 AM EST
'Nowhere is safe in Gaza': WHO

The World Health Organization painted a bleak picture of the situation in Gaza on Monday night and called for Israel "to take every possible measure to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure, including hospitals, as per the laws of war."

According to the latest information from the WHO, there are only 18 functioning hospitals in Gaza, with three only providing first aid and the remainder just partial services.

With an increasing number of Palestinians displaced as the war continues, the WHO says, "syndromic surveillance has noted increases in infectious diseases, including acute respiratory infections, scabies, jaundice, diarrhoea, and bloody diarrhoea. Shelters in the south are also reporting cases of acute jaundice syndrome, a worrisome signal of hepatitis."

The WHO previously said, "syndromic surveillance systems seek to use existing health data in real-time to provide immediate analysis and feedback to those charged with investigation and follow-up of potential outbreaks."

The WHO warned thousands are likely to be cut off from health care services due to increased ground operations by Israel in southern Gaza. The open hospitals are operating beyond capacity, with the bed occupancy rate at 171% and intensive care units at 221%, the WHO said, based on data from the Hamas-run Ministry of Health.

WHO workers called the situation at the Nasser Medical Complex in Khan Younis "catastrophic, with the building and hospital grounds grossly overcrowded with patients and displaced people seeking shelter."

The WHO said in a statement Monday night it has recorded 203 "attacks on hospitals, ambulances, medical supplies, and the detention of health-care workers attacks on hospitals, ambulances medical supplies" between Oct. 7 and Nov. 28.

"This is unacceptable," the WHO's statement read. "There are means to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure, and they should be instituted."

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Gaza residents say 'there's nowhere left to go' amid Israel's relentless bombing

Geraint Rowland Photography/Getty Images

(GAZA) -- Muhammad Alyan said he and his family were forced to flee the northern Gaza Strip last month, heeding evacuation orders by the Israeli military. He said they left their home in Gaza City and traveled south on foot to Khan Yunis, some 15 miles away, where they sheltered in a school with scores of other displaced families.

But Khan Yunis, like other areas in southern Gaza where civilians were told to go, is no longer safe as the Israeli military expands its offensive across the entire 140-square-mile enclave.

"There's nowhere left to go," Alyan told ABC News on Dec. 5 as he and his family left Khan Yunis. "Two days ago, they dropped papers from the sky on Khan Yunis saying that we must evacuate and head to the south, meaning where should we go?"

Alyan and his family are among the more than 1.8 million people who are internally displaced in Gaza -- about 80% of the population -- amid Israel's ongoing war against the territory's militant rulers, Hamas, according to data from the United Nations. More than 17,000 people have been killed by Israeli forces there since the war began two months ago, according to figures released by Gaza's Hamas-run Ministry of Health and the Hamas government media office.

"They want people to die," Alyan said of the Israeli military's additional evacuation orders. "What is happening to us is not war on the resistance, but a war on people, a war on citizens."

It's the latest outbreak of war between Israel and Hamas, sparked by an unprecedented incursion of Hamas militants and other Palestinian militant groups from Gaza into neighboring southern Israel on Oct. 7. More than 1,200 people were killed in the terror attack and over 200 others were taken hostage back to Gaza, according to numbers released by the Israel Defense Forces and the Israeli Prime Minister's Office.

A seven-day truce at the end of last month saw a hostage-prisoner exchange between the sparring sides as well as the delivery of some humanitarian aid into war-torn Gaza. But since fighting resumed on Dec. 1, Israel has vowed to pursue Hamas wherever the militants are, bombing hundreds of targets each day in both the north and south of Gaza, with a particular focus on Khan Younis, according to the IDF. There are no air raid sirens or bomb shelters in the besieged territory.

Many of Gaza's residents who had sought safety in Khan Younis have now moved to Rafah, about 6 miles away, which is as far south as they can go. But even areas there have been bombed by the IDF in recent days, officials said.

"Israeli forces' bombardment is ongoing following another evacuation order to move people from Khan Younis into Rafah. The order created panic, fear and anxiety," Philippe Lazzarini, commissioner-general of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), said in a statement on Dec. 4. "We have said it repeatedly. We are saying it again. No place is safe in Gaza, whether in the south, or the southwest, whether in Rafah or in any unilaterally so-called 'safe zone.'"

The IDF maintains it is only targeting Hamas and other militants in Gaza and alleges that Hamas deliberately shelters behind civilians, which the group denies.

Earlier this week, scores of people were seen traveling from Khan Younis to Rafah in cars, on horse-drawn carts and by foot, carrying as many belongings as they could from bags of clothes to mattresses.

"There is no safe area," one man, who did not give his name, told ABC News on Dec. 5. "Wherever you go, there is bombing."

Another fleeing resident, who also did not give his name, told ABC News: "I moved from Karama to Deir al-Balah to Khan Yunis and now, I’m going to Rafah and got nowhere after that."

Some have chosen to stay behind in Khan Younis, knowing that they face the same risks wherever they go.

"I went to the market today to buy a bag of tomatoes and some vegetables for my family, but I did not find anything," Hamza Ibrahim told ABC News on Dec. 5. "We die every day because there is no food. And if there is food, it will be many times more expensive than the previous price."

"There is no safe place here, even in Rafah and Khan Younis, in the middle and from north to south," he added. "We either stay in our house and die hungry, or go out and die by indiscriminate bombing."

The city of Rafah is nestled along Gaza's southern frontier with Egypt, which so far has not fully opened its border to fleeing Palestinians. Gaza is home to some 2.3 million Palestinians who have lived under a blockade imposed by Israel and supported by Egypt since Hamas, which the United States has designated a terrorist organization, came to power in 2007. Human rights organizations have long described the densely populated strip as the world's largest open-air prison, due to Israel's generalized ban on travel for Gaza residents as well as Egypt's restrictive policies at its shared border.

Now, as Israel's war rages on and Gaza's already fragile health care system grapples with the mounting casualties, organizations are urging the international community to act. In a Dec. 6 letter to the 15-member U.N. Security Council, which has yet to adopt a resolution calling for a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned the "situation is fast deteriorating into a catastrophe with potentially irreversible implications for Palestinians as a whole and for peace and security in the region."

"Nowhere is safe in Gaza," Guterres wrote.

Earlier in the war, Israeli aircraft dropped leaflets over northern Gaza urging civilians to evacuate and head south to safety. More leaflets have fallen over southern Gaza this week, but with some delivering a different message.

The leaflets, which the IDF confirmed it had distributed, were all written in Arabic and included the emblem of the IDF as well as a Star of David. Some that arrived in Khan Younis on Dec. 8 quoted a verse from the Quran: "Soul for a soul, eye for an eye."

On Dec. 5, leaflets landed along the outskirts of Khan Younis in a graveyard where those killed in the war continue to be buried. Those leaflets cited another Quranic verse: "The flood took them as they were cruel."

The gravedigger there, Yousef Tafash Abu Hatab, said he has never had to bury so many families at a time and people of all ages, from infants to the elderly. But even laying the dead to rest is considered a luxury when bombs are raining down from the sky.

"We do not want to build buildings -- all buildings have been destroyed," Hatab told ABC News. "We want to bury our dead."

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Woman arrested after police say 4-year-old child who 'drowned' in pool actually died before

Sheila Paras/Getty Images

(LONDON) -- A 46-year-old woman has been arrested and charged with murder after a 4-year-old child reportedly drowned in a backyard pool following a two-year investigation into his suspicious death, police say.

The investigation began when police in Mackay, Australia -- located in the territory of Queensland approximately 600 miles north of Brisbane -- were called to a home on Munbura Road on Aug. 29, 2021, to reports that a 4-year-old had drowned in a backyard pool, according to a statement from the Queensland Police Service.

However, now more than two years after the child’s death, the unnamed 46-year-old woman has been charged with murder after “extensive investigations.”

“After extensive investigations through Operation Tango Anise, detectives will now allege the 4-year-old child died before entering the pool,” said the Queensland Police Service. “Today, December 8, detectives from the Mackay Child Protection and Investigation Unit (CPIU) arrested the woman at a South Mackay address.”

Authorities did not disclose the child’s cause of death but alleged that the pool had nothing to do with how the child died.

The 46-year-old woman was arrested on Friday and has now been charged with one count of murder (domestic violence offence) and one count of misconduct with corpse by interference, according to the Queensland Police Service.

She is expected to appear before the Mackay Magistrates Court later Friday, police said.

The investigation into the child’s death is currently ongoing.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Justice Department announces war crimes charges against four Russian-affiliated soldiers for torturing American citizen

Thinkstock/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- In an historic move, the Justice Department on Wednesday announced it is unsealing war crimes charges against four Russia-affiliated military personnel with disturbing details of their alleged torture and inhumane treatment of a U.S. national in Ukraine following Russia's invasion of the country last year.

This is the first time ever that the department has filed charges under the U.S. war crimes statute.

The charges allege that Suren Seiranovich Mkrtchyan, Dmitry Budnik, Valerii (last name unknown) and Nazar (last name unknown) detained, severely beat and tortured an American citizen they had allegedly abducted from his home in the village of Mylove after Russia's invasion of Ukraine in early 2022.

"As the world has witnessed the horrors of Russia's brutal invasion of Ukraine, so has the United States Department of Justice," Attorney General Merrick Garland said during a news conference announcing the charges Wednesday. "That is why the Justice Department has filed the first ever charges under the U.S. war crimes statute against four Russia-affiliated military personnel for heinous crimes against an American citizen."

In an interview with U.S. officials last year, the U.S. national detailed how the Russian soldiers stripped him naked, threw him on the ground and tied his hands behind his back before they severely beat him -- including with the stocks of their guns. The soldiers then allegedly took the man to a Russian military compound and held him for 10 days.

While in captivity, the U.S. national said he was subjected to two brutal interrogation sessions in which he was tortured by the four defendants named in the charges. He said he was stripped naked, photographed and one of the defendants even staged a mock execution. One of the soldiers reportedly asked the U.S. national for his last words, after which he put a gun near the back of his head before pulling the trigger and shooting a bullet that missed him by inches.

"Again and again, he believed he was about to die," Garland said.

The defendants are charged with three war crimes including unlawful confinement, torture and inhumane treatment, as well as one count of conspiracy to commit war crimes. The charges have a max sentence of life in prison, but it's unclear whether any of the defendants will ultimately see the inside of a U.S. courtroom.

"The Justice Department will work for as long as it takes to pursue accountability and justice for Russia's war of aggression," Garland said.

"Our work is far from done," Garland added.

While Garland said this is the first time charges have been brought under the war crimes statute, he said he expects more to come.

FBI Director Christopher Wray said the FBI will continue to work with international law enforcement to hold criminals accountable for their actions.

"We will work relentlessly to bring criminals to justice," Wray said.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Biden calls reports of Hamas' sexual violence against Israeli women 'appalling'

Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Editor's note: This report contains graphic descriptions of sexual violence.

(WASHINGTON) -- President Joe Biden has blamed Hamas' refusal to release civilian female hostages for the end of a temporary cease-fire, and he called reports of women allegedly sexually assaulted by Hamas "appalling."

"We had a report in the earliest days that Hamas used rape to terrorize women and girls during the attack on October the 7th in Israel," Biden said, according to pool reports of his remarks Tuesday at a closed-door fundraiser in the Boston area.

"Over the past few weeks, survivors and witnesses of the attacks have shared the horrific accounts of unimaginable cruelty," he said. "Reports of women raped -- repeatedly raped -- and their bodies being mutilated while still alive -- of women corpses being desecrated, Hamas terrorists inflicting as much pain and suffering on women and girls as possible and then murdering them. It is appalling."

Biden spoke about the reported assaults amid controversy over what critics said was a failure by the United Nations, women's rights organizations and a Democratic lawmaker who has criticized Israel to quickly and flatly condemn the alleged attacks.

"Ending violence against women and sexual assault has been one of the causes of my life. … But the world can't just look away at what's going on. It's on all of us -- government, international organizations, civil society and businesses -- to forcefully condemn the sexual violence of Hamas terrorists without equivocation. Without equivocation, without exception," Biden said.

On CNN's State of the Union Sunday, anchor Dana Bash challenged Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal, who strongly supports Palestinian rights, on why progressive leaders, Bash said, had been silent about what she called Hamas using rape as a weapon of war.

"I said it's horrific," Jayapal said. "And I think that rape is horrific. Sexual assault is horrific." I think that it happens in war situations. Terrorist organizations like Hamas obviously are using these as tools."

"However, I think we have to be balanced about bringing in the outrages against Palestinians," she continued, adding, "Fifteen-thousand Palestinians have been killed in Israeli airstrikes, three-quarters of whom are women and children."

More than 16,000 people have been killed in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry, while 1,200 have been killed in Israel, according to the Israeli prime minister's office.

Shortly after Biden spoke Tuesday, Jayapal issued a statement on X attempting to clarify her remarks.

"Let me be completely clear that I unequivocally condemn Hamas' use of rape and sexual violence as an act of war," she said, in part.

"My comment abut balance was not about rape, and not intended to minimize rape and sexual assault in any way, she added.

Biden spoke about the same time Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a news conference and the Israel Defense Forces released a document detailing what it said was evidence and eyewitness testimony of sexual violence and other atrocities committed by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7.

"I have heard, and you have also heard, about sexual abuse and cases of rape that are brutal like none other," Netanyahu said.

"But I must say that until a few days ago, I did not hear the human rights organizations, I did not hear the women's organizations, I did not hear the United Nations. I did not hear their cry. And I say to them: 'Where are you? Are you silent because these are Jewish women?" he asked.

"I say to the women's rights organizations, to the human rights organizations, you've heard of the rape of Israeli women, horrible atrocities, sexual mutilation," he continued. "OK -- where the hell are you? I expect all civilized leaders, governments, nations, to speak up against this atrocity."

Hamas put out a statement rejecting Israel's claims.

"We categorically reject the false allegations of rape propagated by the occupation, aimed at distorting the resistance and deflecting attention from the humane and ethical treatment accorded to released detainees," the statement said.

In recent days, the United Nations Secretary-General and U.N. Women -- the arm of the organization responsible for promoting gender equality -- have issued calls for all acts of gender-based violence committed on or after Oct. 7 to be investigated and prosecuted.

An ongoing U.N. commission of inquiry probing alleged war crimes on both sides of the conflict is also set to include a focus on Hamas’ alleged use of sexual violence. But so far, Israel has not cooperated with the investigation, claiming the council leading it harbors an anti-Israeli bias.

When speaking about the remaining female hostages Biden did not address suggestions made by State Department spokesman Matt Miller on Monday that Hamas was holding them to keep them from talking about sexual violence.

"It seems that one of the reasons they don't want to turn women over that they've been holding hostage -- and the reason this pause fell apart -- is that they don't want these women to be able to talk about what happened to them during their time in custody," Miller said, later adding it was not a "definitive assessment."

"These are civilian women, mostly between the ages of 20 and 39, whom Hamas has refused to let go under the deal that paused the fighting, which I helped negotiate with the Qataris," Biden said. "I spent hours with the Qataris and others to broker, sustain and extend that deal. I got more than 100 hostages out."

"Let me be crystal clear: Hamas' refusal to release the remaining young women is what broke this deal and ended the pause in the fighting," he said.

"These women and everyone still being held hostage by Hamas need to be returned to their families immediately," he said. "We're not going to stop -- we're not going to stop until we bring every one of them home and it's going to be a long process."

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Israeli defense minister predicts 2 more months of war, then 'mop up'

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(NEW YORK) -- Irael's war with Hamas in the neighboring Gaza Strip is expected to continue at its current intensity for two more months, followed by what Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant called multiple months of "mop up" operations that would see the country's military "taking out pockets of terrorist resistance."

Gallant made the comments during a briefing with ABC News over the weekend, where, in light of multiple warnings by top U.S. officials about soaring civilian casualties in Gaza, he insisted: "Israel is not fighting the Palestinian people."

"We are fighting the Hamas terrorist organization," he added, echoing a message the Israel Defense Forces have delivered since the current conflict began with the Oct. 7 attack on Israel that left 1,200 dead, most of the civilians.

According to Gaza's Hamas-run Ministry of Health, nearly 16,000 people have been killed there since the IDF launched a counteroffensive on the heels of the terrorist rampage, with the death toll rising daily. Gaza, a 140-square-mile territory, is home to some 2.3 million Palestinians who have lived under a blockade imposed by Israel and supported by Egypt since Hamas, a Palestinian militant group that the United States has designated a terrorist organization, came to power in 2007.

Last week, a seven-day truce between Israel and Hamas -- mediated by Egypt, Qatar and the U.S. -- ended with both sides accusing each other of violating the terms of the deal that had called for a temporary cease-fire.

Nevertheless, the truce saw the release of more than 100 Hamas-held hostages -- mostly women and children, and a handful of male foreign nationals -- in exchange for over 200 Palestinian prisoners and detainees who were being held in Israel, all women and teens: some of whom Israeli courts had convicted of violent crimes, and others who had been charged with more minor offenses, and some held without any charges.

During the briefing, Gallant said Israel will not return to negotiations unless Hamas fulfills the original terms of the agreement. That would mean the release of 15 more women and two children.

The hostages need to be released "with no preconditions and nothing in return," he told ABC News.

The two Israeli children are 11-month-old Kfir Bibas and his 4-year-old brother, Ariel Bibas, whose kidnap by gunmen was one of the first videos to go viral on Oct. 7. Just a few days into the hostage-release deal, and after renewed media focus on the Bibas family, in particular Kfir, Hamas said the boys and their mother, Shiri Bibas, were killed in an Israeli airstrike that also killed their captors. The Israel Defense Forces, however, said it continues to investigate the claim.

Gallant and other Israeli military and political leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, heralded last week's return of 110 hostages as a significant and surprising success during a press conference over the weekend.

Speaking to ABC News over the weekend from his office overlooking the Israeli military headquarters in Tel Aviv, Gallant said he is committed to bringing all the hostages home. But, he said, "the only way with Hamas is to use force," and then, "eventually, they will give you something."

He also said Hamas, which Israel has vowed to eliminate, "has two options" in the war -- "to die in the tunnels or on the surface or surrender with no conditions."

This stance means it's extremely unlikely talks will resume in the foreseeable future. Salah Al-Arouri, deputy head of Hamas' political bureau in Doha, recently told Al Jazeera that Hamas would not negotiate for the release of hostages until the end of the war.

Multiple Israeli security sources told ABC News they estimated Hamas' pre-Oct. 7 strength at 30,000 fighters. The sources said they believe that 6,000 of them have since been killed, including over 1,000 on Oct. 7.

Gallant claimed Israeli forces had killed roughly 40% of Hamas' brigade and battalion-level commanders in Gaza, captured hundreds of fighters and seized hundreds of terabytes of data from laptops. While he acknowledged that Israel cannot kill all Hamas fighters, he said his country's objective is to incapacitate the organization to the extent that it will "no longer function as a military organization that can launch organized attacks against Israel."

"We need to break the chain of command," Gallant told ABC News, adding that a goal of the Israeli military operation is to kill Hamas' Gaza leader, Yahya Sinwar, the former prisoner who Israel claims is the architect of the Oct. 7 attack.

Already looking to the future, Gallant said there are multiple groups in Israel's security establishment working on "the day after," which includes planning how to rehabilitate Gaza and which authority might control it.

Gallant said the only candidates that will not run Gaza in the future are Hamas and Israel. He and his government have insisted on severing all the infrastructural connections, including water and electricity, that until the Oct. 7 attacks, bound Israel with Gaza. This included allowing Palestinian workers into Israel. Israel had occupied the Gaza Strip from 1967 until August 2005, when it evacuated its settlements and military posts inside the strip.

While Israel's ground forces are heavily committed in Gaza, moving more operations into the southern part of the enclave in recent days, most of the country's air force is focused on the Hezbollah militant group in neighboring Lebanon, which has voiced support for Palestinians in besieged Gaza and has been clashing with Israeli troops along the Israel-Lebanon border in recent weeks.

The majority of the Israeli Air Force, Gallant said, is on constant standby for a Hezbollah attack, with only a small portion focused on Gaza. Israel's military jets bomb unopposed over Gaza, but the Iran-armed Hezbollah in Lebanon is known to have sophisticated surface to air missiles that would pose a significant threat to Israel's air force, according to multiple Israeli security sources. The Israeli military has increasingly come to see the cataclysmic destruction in northern Gaza as a deterrent to the rest of the Arab world.

Gallant, who on Oct. 11, according to a report by Israeli newspaper Haaretz, called for Israel to launch a preemptive attack against Hezbollah, told ABC News over the weekend, "We do not want a war with Hezbollah," which is a far more formidable foe than Hamas.


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Eighty-eight dead after military drone mistakenly strikes festival in Nigeria's Kaduna state, local officials say

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(LONDON) -- The Nigerian Army mistakenly killed at least 88 people in a military drone strike on a religious festival in the country's Kaduna State, local officials said.

Officials announced that what they described as an accidental strike had occurred on Sunday night in the village of Tudun Biri, Kaduna State, where civilians had gathered to observe a Muslim holiday celebrating the birthday of Prophet Muhammad, Mawlid al-Nabi.

"Following the two airstrikes, about 88 people died while no fewer than 68 people sustaining various degrees of injuries," Nigeria's National Emergency Management Agency announced in a statement. They called it a "tragic accident".

"It is worthy of note that the casualties ranged from children, women and the elderly," the agency said.

The victims were from four different communities, who had gathered in the village for the religious celebration.

An eyewitness to the incident described events to BBC Hausa, saying: "The aircraft dropped a bomb at the venue, it destroyed and killed our people including women and children."

"The second bomb was dropped on some of us who went to bring dead bodies of the victims of the first blast. We lost about 34 people in my family, and we have 66 injured people in the hospital," the eyewitness said.

The Nigerian Army "expressed regret" for the mistaken bombing, saying in a statement that troops "wrongly analysed and misinterpreted" activities.

"Troops were carrying out aerial patrols when they observed a group of people and wrongly analysed and misinterpreted their pattern of activities to be similar to that of the bandits, before the drone strike," the army said.

Nigeria's army said that in the recent past areas of Tudun Biri and villages nearby had been "infested with armed bandits who terrorised communities."

On Tuesday, Nigeria's chief of army staff paid a condolence visit to the affected Tudun Biri, to convey the army's "sincere regrets and unreserved apologies" to the community.

Injured civilians have been evacuated to Barau Dikko Teaching Hospital, where they are receiving necessary medical attention, Kaduna State's Governor Dr. Jadiza Balarabe announced.

Anger has mounted in Nigeria, with some Nigerians taking to social media questioning how the error could have occurred.

"How does the Nigerian Army keep murdering civilians with air strikes and later claiming it to be an error?" asked one user.

"This is hard to understand" wrote another.

In a statement issued by the Nigerian State House, President Bola Tinubu sent his condolences to the families of victims of the "bombing mishap," describing the incident as "very unfortunate, disturbing and painful."

"The president directs a thorough and full-fledged investigation into the incident and calls for calm while the authorities look diligently into the mishap," the statement said.

According to research firm SB Morgen, Nigerian geopolitical intelligence platform, at least 300 people have been killed in accidental military strikes since 2017.

Kaduna State government has announced it has established a commission of enquiry to investigate the incident.

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Former US ambassador Manuel Rocha indicted on charges he allegedly spied for Cuba for 40 years

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(WASHINGTON) -- A federal grand jury returned a 15-count indictment against former U.S. ambassador and accused Cuban spy Manuel Rocha on Tuesday, charging him with a range of crimes varying from conspiracy, acting as illegal foreign agent, wire fraud and false statements.

The 32-page indictment offers further details into how Rocha -- over more than four decades -- rose through the ranks of the State Department and U.S. foreign policy establishment all while allegedly concealing his status as an agent for Cuba's intelligence services.

The indictment also details how Rocha allegedly spoke about another unnamed Cuban agent who he said was also a U.S. government employee -- though he said that agent was "betrayed."

"A huge betrayal," Rocha said in a Feb. 17, 2023 conversation with an undercover FBI agent. "Sadly she would have done much more had she not been betrayed."

Prosecutors allege it was in Chile "in or around 1973" -- the year of the military overthrow of the socialist government led by Salvador Allende -- when Rocha became a "great friend" of Cuba's intelligence services.

Eight years later, he applied for an appointment with the U.S. State Department, affirming that he was not acting as an agent of a foreign government -- his first of many lies that would continue for decades, prosecutors say.

Rocha, who was born in Colombia and was raised in New York, started in 1981 in lower-level postings in U.S. embassies in the Dominican Republic, Honduras and Mexico before being elevated to serve in the National Security Council. That later led to assignments in Havana, Cuba, followed by serving as deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Argentina and later his appointment as U.S. ambassador to Bolivia between 1999 and 2002.

The indictment unsealed Tuesday adds several charges of wire fraud against Rocha -- noting how he sought to "unlawfully enrich himself while furthering the intelligence interests" of Cuba by repeatedly lying to attain and maintain his employment at the State Department -- including annual annuity retirement payments after leaving office.

An attorney for Rocha did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment on the indictment.

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Invasive flower threatens livelihoods of farmers, fishermen in war-torn Syria

Abdul Razzaq Al-Shami/ABC News

(IDLIB, Syria) -- The Orontes River in northwestern Syria has long been a lifeline for farmers, including 50-year-old Bahjat al-Bakru, who have used it to irrigate their nearby crops.

But since the start of the year, al-Bakru said, about 70% of his fruit trees have died because an invasive flower now covers the entire surface of the river in front of his land, choking off the only natural water source in Idlib province.

"Agriculture is my only source of livelihood and I lost most of my trees," al-Bakru told ABC News. "The spread of the Nile flower in the river reduced the water level and blocked it completely. It became difficult to water my trees."

The water hyacinth, nicknamed the Nile flower, is a free-floating perennial aquatic plant native to parts of South America that has emerged as a major weed in dozens of countries in the tropical and subtropical regions of the world. Although its large purple blooms and thick green leaves may be appealing to the eye, the Nile flower has been identified as one of the most aggressive invasive species and one of the worst weeds in the world due to its ability to grow and spread rapidly, according to the United Nations Environmental Programme and the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The plant has already ravaged river ecosystems and local economies, and experts warned that without intervention it could completely consume waterways like the Orontes River in northwestern Syria.

It's unclear exactly when or how the Nile flower was introduced to the Orontes River, which flows through Lebanon, Syria and Turkey before draining into the Mediterranean Sea. Currently, the invasive plant extends for 34 miles across the surface of the river in Syria's Idlib province, covering a vast majority of the water, according to a survey conducted by Idlib-based agricultural engineer Musa al-Bakr. The dense vegetation blocks the flow of the water by spreading in the river basin, lowers river levels by absorbing large amounts of water and suffocates the aquatic ecosystem by blocking out light and oxygen. As a result, the livelihoods of local communities are at risk.

"The drying up of water resources, the death of fisheries and the decline of cultivated areas as a result of drought will push the region toward further desertification," al-Bakr told ABC News. "We have lost control of this plant to the point that we no longer see bodies of water, but rather we see green bodies of the Nile flower."

Moreover, research suggests that global warming will be favorable to the survivability and growth of the Nile flower. In a 2013 report, the U.N. Environmental Programme expressed concern that "climate change may allow the spread of water hyacinth to higher latitudes."

"According to recent climate change models, its distribution may expand into higher latitudes as temperatures rise, posing problems to formerly hyacinth free areas," the organization wrote. "Given the complexity of control options and the potential for climate change to assist the spread of water hyacinth, it is critical to develop comprehensive management strategies and action plans."

The spread of the Nile flower has been managed in neighboring countries like Egypt using various techniques, such as spraying a certain type of pesticide that eliminates the plant and mechanically removing the vegetation from the water with special boats. However, neither of those methods are available in Syria's Idlib province.

For years, Idlib and other opposition-held areas of northwestern Syria have been under heavy bombardment by the Syrian military and allied Russian forces. The conditions have made it difficult for local authorities to address the issue of the Nile flower.

"We are in an area witnessing bombing, our capabilities are limited and we have hundreds of thousands of displaced people in the camps," Mohammed Amhan, deputy director of water resources in Idlib province, told ABC News. "The spread of the plant is very large and needs a large financial cost that exceeds our ability. We ask the relevant international organizations to provide assistance to us so that we can combat this plant before it is too late."

Local farmers, like al-Bakru, try on their own to protect their land and stop the Nile flower from spreading, but their efforts are ultimately in vain.

"Every day, I have to go down to the water to remove and remove this plant that now surrounds my trees," al-Bakru said. "The control efforts are individual and this plant cannot be controlled. It is growing very fast and is creeping into agricultural land and destroying it."

Another farmer in Idlib province, 60-year-old Hassan Skaif, said he has lost more than a dozen dunums of his trees on the banks of the Orontes River due to the spread of the Nile flower.

"This pest is spreading massively and if support is not provided in combating it, we will lose all our trees within several years," Skaif told ABC News.

Just as farmers are suffering, so too are fishermen like 55-year-old Nafia Sattouf, who has been fishing in the Orontes River in Idlib province for 30 years but is now unemployed.

"I used to catch more than 30 kilos of fish of different sizes and weights per day, but now I barely get one or two fish and its size does not exceed the size of my palms," Sattouf told ABC News. "This plant is a wonder like I have never seen in my life. It started with small seedlings on the sides of the river and within a few months, it covered the entire surface of the river."

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Hospitals in southern Gaza are at 'breaking point,' international organizations say

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(NEW YORK) -- Hospitals in central and southern Gaza are at a "breaking point" and struggling to care for the influx of patients amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, Doctors Without Borders and the World Health Organization say.

Two hospitals -- Al-Aqsa Hospital in central Gaza and Nasser Hospital in southern Gaza -- are overwhelmed and are being forced to prioritize those with life-threatening conditions, according to Doctors Without Borders, or Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), which has staff working at both medical centers.

"We hear bombing around us, day and night," Katrien Claeys, an MSF team leader in Gaza, said in a press release Monday. "In the last 48 hours, over 100 dead and over 400 injured people arrived at the emergency room of Al-Aqsa Hospital. Some patients were taken for surgery right away."

"We see patients with signs of infection and necrotic tissue, as they have not received a change of wound dressing in days and sometimes weeks," she said.

MSF said Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, where many patients with trauma and burn injuries go, is facing a never-ending flow of patients and is "now at breaking point."

"The hospital has been receiving multiple severely injured patients nearly every hour," Chris Hook, MSF medical coordinator in Khan Younis, said in the press release. "There is no available space anymore -- it really is a terrible situation. Everyone is genuinely worried about what will come next."

The WHO said medical staff are caring for two to three times as many patients as the hospitals are designed to hold. The agency described a "catastrophic situation" at the Nasser Hospital with an overflowing emergency department, patients being treated on the floor and a shortage of health workers.

A temporary cease-fire between the Hamas terrorist organization and Israel ended early Friday, and Israel resumed its bombardment of Gaza. The end of the cease-fire came after Hamas freed over 100 of the more than 200 people its militants took hostage during the Oct. 7 surprise attack on Israel. In exchange, Israel released more than 200 Palestinians from Israeli prisons.

Since Friday, Israeli forces have closed in around Khan Younis, and ground forces are now operating "in and around" the key southern Gaza city, an Israeli military official confirmed to ABC News.

Meanwhile, at least 16,248 people have been killed -- including 1,240 since the temporary cease-fire ended Friday -- and 42,000 have been injured since Oct. 7, according to Gaza's Hamas-run Ministry of Health and the Hamas government media office. In Israel, at least 1,200 people have been killed and 6,900 others have been injured, according to the Israeli prime minister's office.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, wrote Tuesday on X, formerly known as Twitter, that the agency moved medical supplies to a warehouse in Rafah, which is located at the Egypt border crossing.

Tedros said this delayed the delivery of medication and other supplies to MSF and United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) facilities, where they are caring for patients.

"The movement has already been delayed and will continue to challenge our deliveries to hospitals in Gaza, amid widespread armed conflict and limited staff on the ground," he wrote. "We need a sustained and safe flow of medical aid to provide care to people in Gaza."

This comes just one day after the WHO released a statement calling for the protection of health systems in Gaza, recalling what the WHO called a "dire and perilous" situation when the Al-Shifa and Al-Quds hospitals in the north were both forced to stop operations last month amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.

"We have seen what happened in northern Gaza. This cannot be the blueprint for the south. Gaza cannot afford to lose another hospital as health needs continue to soar," the WHO statement from Monday read. "Intensifying military ground operations in southern Gaza, particularly in Khan Younis, are likely to cut thousands off from health care -- especially from accessing Nasser Medical Complex and European Gaza Hospital, the two main hospitals in southern Gaza -- as the number of wounded and sick increases."

The number of functioning hospitals in Gaza has fallen from 36 to 18, according to the WHO. Of those hospitals, the WHO said three are only providing basic first aid and the remaining 15 are providing partial services.


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American woman killed in shark attack in the Bahamas

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(NEW YORK) -- An American woman has been killed by a shark while paddleboarding in the Bahamas, according to the Royal Bahamas Police Force.

The woman was paddleboarding with a male relative near the back of the Sandals resort, about three-quarters of a mile out to sea, when she was attacked, police said.

A lifeguard responded on a rescue boat, police said. CPR was administered but the injuries to the right side of her body were too severe, police said.

The woman was identified Tuesday as 44-year-old Lauren Erickson Van Wart of Massachusetts, police said.

Five people were killed worldwide in unprovoked shark attacks last year: one in the U.S., two in Egypt and two in South Africa, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History’s International Shark Attack File.

Sandals said in a statement, "We are deeply saddened by the tragic passing of a guest while on a paddleboarding activity nearly a mile from the shore. We wish to express our heartfelt condolences to the guest’s family and loved ones. We remain in close contact with them and are providing all support possible during this difficult time."

ABC News' Will Gretsky contributed to this report.




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'It’s worse than before the truce': Strikes in Gaza resume at intensified pace, Palestinians say

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(NEW YORK) -- After seven days without bombardments, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip woke up to the familiar sound of airstrikes in the early morning of Dec. 1.

"The war is back," Shaimaa Ahmed, a 20-year-old engineering student, told ABC News.

"We woke up to the sound of gunfire. Ship fire. Tank fire. They're firing from everywhere. It's continuous and strong," Ahmed, who had already fled her house on Oct. 31 following the orders of Israel to evacuate northern Gaza, said. "I feel like I'm being suffocated again."

Israel resumed its retaliatory military operations in Gaza last week after the collapse of a temporary cease-fire as part of a broader hostage-prisoner exchange with Hamas. With thousands forced to flee again, some Palestinians told ABC News the war has resumed at an unprecedented pace and intensity.

New evacuation orders on Sunday left thousands to face another displacement in a desperate search for safety.

"The roads leading south towards Rafah [on the border with Egypt] are clogged with cars and donkey carts packed with people and their meager possessions," the director of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency Affairs, Thomas White, wrote on X.

Almost two months in, the Israel-Hamas war has left at least 15,899 killed and 42,000 wounded in the Gaza Strip, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run Ministry of Health. In Israel, at least 1,200 have been killed and 6,900 injured, with 136 Israeli hostages still in Gaza, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

As the IDF moves forward with a ground operation in southern Gaza in what Israeli Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari defined "a new phase in our war against Hamas," Palestinians said there is nowhere to go for safety. Some 1.9 million are currently displaced and moving across the Strip, according to UNRWA.

"What's the next step? Is it Sinai or is it heaven? I have no idea," 21-year-old Tala Herzallah told ABC News as she prepared to flee again on Saturday, after having evacuated her home in Gaza City a few weeks ago.

The IDF leaflets dropped in Khan Younis during the weekend warned people to leave the area and a QR code map showed the zones designated as safe by the IDF.

“We want civilians not to be in the area where we are fighting,” Israeli Lt. Col Jonathan Conricus told ABC News Monday. “We want to focus our firepower on Hamas and Hamas only.”

"Where to go after Khan Younis? There is only one place and it's Rafah and it cannot include 2 million people," 24-year-old Younes El-Hallaq told ABC News. "And more importantly, Rafah itself is being targeted."

In the four days following the end of the cease-fire, 746 have been killed in the strikes, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry, with victims in Rafah, too.

"Even in Rafah where people are being forced to flee the sound of airstrikes punctuate the day," White wrote on X Monday.

While many have relocated over the weekend, others have decided to stay where they are either by choice or forced to do so by illnesses, disabilities or lack of accommodation and transport options.

"Since the beginning of the war, I have been displaced three times, and now I may go to another place," Rasmiya Rabie, 51, from the town of Al-Qarara, north of Khan Yunis, told ABC News.

Rabie said her family received many calls from the Israeli army telling them to move to different areas.

"We are a large number and we cannot displace again," she said.

Then, two days ago, a night of severe bombardment changed their mind.

"It was very difficult and that's why we thought about moving for the third time. Now I am trying to find a place to go to," Rabie said.

With a 75-year-old father and a 72-year-old mother, as well as two young children to care for, Nima Ashour, 43, said she could not leave even if she wanted to. Her family is also out of fuel and money, having evacuated from Al Rantisi Pediatric hospital two weeks ago. Ashour was in the hospital caring for cancer patients from newborns to 12 years old as a pediatric coordinator.

"What will we do? We will not do anything. My family has decided to stay at our place," Ashour told ABC News.

"Even if you move, we do not believe that we are going to be safe. It's the same situation we have faced in Gaza and now in Khan Younis. And for sure if we move anywhere, we'll have the same destruction, the same bombing, the same targeting. At last, we have to face our destiny," Ashour said.

With the reprisal of the bombing, a sense of fear and defeat has spread widely across the strip, where a severe humanitarian crisis is worsening by the day, representatives of Amnesty International, Save the Children and Doctors Without Borders told ABC News.

The aftermath of the end of the cease-fire also saw the first anti-government protest held in Tel Aviv since Oct. 7, shortly after the publication of a report by The New York Times claiming Israel partially knew about the plans for Hamas' Oct. 7 assault more than a year before the terror attack but dismissed it as aspirational.

"For the last 57 days, we saw that the government has been doing exactly the opposite of what they need to do," the organizer of the protest against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Moshe Radman, told ABC News.

"We understand this will be a long war, so we have to do it now, because every week that we are not protesting, Israel is becoming less and less attractive to its citizens," he added.

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Escaped kangaroo from zoo caught by the tail after four-day search

Facebook / Durham Regional Police

(NEW YORK) -- A kangaroo that escaped from a zoo has been found and safely captured by authorities after a four-day search, police say.

Police officers for the Durham Regional Police in Ontario, Canada, were on what authorities called a “roo-tine” patrol when they received a report of a kangaroo sighting in Oshawa -- approximately 43 miles northeast of Toronto.

The kangaroo initially went missing from a nearby zoo at the end of last week and the search for the missing marsupial continued through the weekend until authorities -- ironically the same ones who initially received the missing kangaroo report -- were deployed for the rescue mission after it was spotted, police said.

“Once officers located the kangaroo, they followed her to the area of Wilson Rd N and Winchester Rd E when it appeared the kangaroo stopped to take a little break,” said the Durham Regional Police in a statement following the animal rescue. “While doing so, the officers managed to sneak up behind her and grab her tail.”

The officers were briefed prior to the rescue on “safe kangaroo capture techniques” and were informed that the safest way to catch a kangaroo is to grab the animal by the tail.

“The kangaroo gave up and surrendered peacefully to police officers,” police said. “She then received a ride in one of our K9 kennels back to the zoo where she is being examined. Her four day adventure has come to an end and she will continue on with her journey to Quebec in the near future.”

The marsupial will be safely returned to her enclosure which will, most likely, have added security to prevent her from escaping again.

Said the Durham Regional Police: “Thank you to the community and all the volunteer networks that have come together over the last few days to bring this situation to a happy conclusion.”

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Remains, wreckage found in search for crashed Osprey in Yakushima, Japan, US Air Force says

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(YAKUSHIMA, Japan) -- Wreckage and remains were discovered from the CV-22 Osprey that crashed last week off the shore of Yakushima Island, Japan, the U.S. Air Force said Monday.

The remains of five crew members were found, but have not yet been identified, in the vicinity of Yakushima, the Air Force said. U.S. and Japan are working together to recover the remains of the Nov. 29 crash.

"Currently two crew members of the five located today have been successfully recovered by the attending teams," the Air Force said Monday. "There is an ongoing combined effort to recover the remaining crew members from the wreckage."

The identities of those found on Monday "have yet to be determined and will be released at a later date," officials said.

Eight crew members were onboard when the aircraft crashed. The remains of U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jacob "Jake" M. Galliher, 24, of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, were recovered on Dec. 1.

The other seven crew members were last in DUSTWUN status, meaning "duty status-whereabouts unknown."

"The main priority is bringing the Airmen home and taking care of their family members. Support to, and the privacy of, the families and loved ones impacted by this incident remains AFSOC's top priority," Air Force officials said in a press release.

ABC News' Chad Murray and Kevin Shalvey contributed to this story.

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