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Live updates | Gaza loses phone and internet, and Israeli families push for hostage release deal

Relatives of more than 100 Israeli hostages still held in Gaza stepped up their protests by disrupting a parliament committee meeting, yelling “You won’t sit here while they are dying there!”

The Associated Press
Monday 22 January 2024 16:42 GMT

Relatives of more than 100 Israeli hostages still held in Gaza have stepped up their protests, disrupting a parliament committee meeting on Monday yelling, “You won’t sit here while they are dying there!”

And outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's home in Jerusalem, hostages' family members have set up tents and are vowing to stay until the Israeli government reaches a deal to free at least some of the hostages.

The mounting pressure on Netanyahu comes as heavy fighting is scouring Gaza's southern city of Khan Younis. Palestinian medics say dozens of dead and wounded people were brought to the city’s already overwhelmed Nasser Hospital.

Communication services across Gaza dropped late Monday due to the ongoing fighting — the 10th telecoms blackout during the war — cutting the besieged territory off from the outside world.

Gaza’s Health Ministry says more than 25,000 Palestinians have been killed in the conflict, which started when militants from Gaza attacked southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and taking about 250 hostages.

U.N. officials say one in four people in Gaza are starving as the fighting and Israeli restrictions hinder the delivery of humanitarian aid to the impoverished coastal enclave, home to 2.3 million Palestinians.

Currently:

— Iran is ‘ directly involved ’ in ship attacks by Yemen's Houthi rebels, US Navy commander tells AP.

— US military ends rescue search for Navy SEALs lost in raid on ship with Iranian weapons.

— US sanctions Iraqi airline, its CEO and Hamas cryptocurrency financiers.

— Strike kills Hezbollah fighter, civilian in Lebanon, amid seeming Israeli shift to targeted killings.

— Palestinian death toll in Gaza surpasses 25,000 while Israel announces the death of another hostage.

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

Here's the latest:

GAZA LOSES PHONE AND INTERNET SERVICE IN TENTH BLACKOUT OF WAR

RAMALLAH, West Bank — Communication services across the Gaza Strip have dropped due to ongoing fighting, cutting the besieged territory off from the outside world, the Palestinian telecoms provider Paltel said Monday.

“We regret to announce that telecom services in Gaza Strip have been lost,” Paltel said in a post on X. “Gaza is blacked out again for the 10th time since October 7th due to the ongoing and escalating aggression.”

Communication services in Gaza partially returned on Friday following a weeklong blackout. During that time, Palestinians from the enclave often walked miles from their homes or places of shelter hunting for a signal to send message friends and loved ones.

The telecommunications company is used by people in both the Israeli-occupied West Bank and The Gaza Strip.

US NAVY SAYS IRAN IS ‘DIRECTLY INVOLVED’ IN YEMEN'S HOUTHI REBEL ATTACKS ON SHIPS

JERUSALEM — The U.S. Navy’s top Mideast commander says Iran is “very directly involved” in ship attacks by Yemen’s Houthi rebels during Israel’s war against Hamas.

Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, the head of the Navy’s 5th Fleet, stopped short of saying Tehran directed individual attacks by the Houthis in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. The Houthis link their attacks to the Israel-Hamas war.

However, Cooper acknowledged in an interview with The Associated Press on Monday that attacks associated with Iran have expanded from previously threatening just the Persian Gulf and its Strait of Hormuz into waters across the wider Middle East. He described the Houthi attacks as the most significant hostile actions against merchant shipping in two generations.

In recent days, the U.S. has launched seven rounds of airstrikes on Houthi military sites, targeting air bases under the rebels’ control and suspected missile launch sites.

So far, Iran has not directly gotten involved in fighting either Israel or the U.S. since the war in Gaza began on Oct. 7. However, Cooper maintained Iran had been directly fueling the Houthi attacks on shipping.

“What I’ll say is Iran is clearly funding, they’re resourcing, they are supplying and they’re providing training,” Cooper said. “They’re obviously very directly involved. There’s no secret there.”

EU PUSHES FOR PALESTINIAN STATEHOOD, REJECTING ISRAELI LEADER'S INSISTENCE IT'S OFF THE TABLE

BRUSSELS — European Union foreign ministers are saying they think the creation of a Palestinian state is the only credible way to achieve peace in the Middle East.

As they met in Brussels on Monday, the ministers expressed concern that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has rejected Palestinian statehood. He has also described plans for open-ended military control over Gaza.

The EU invited the foreign ministers of Israel, the Palestinians, Egypt, Jordan and a representative of the Arab League to take part in the talks.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz refused to respond when asked about the possibility of Palestinian statehood. Holding up pictures of Israeli hostages, Katz said he had come to seek support for Israel’s campaign to dismantle Hamas.

US SANCTIONS IRAQI AIRLINE, ITS CEO AND HAMAS CRYPTOCURRENCY FINANCIERS

WASHINGTON — The U.S. has hit Iraqi airline Fly Baghdad and its CEO with sanctions for allegedly providing assistance to Iran’s military wing.

Additionally, the U.S. has imposed a fifth round of sanctions on the militant group Hamas for its abuse of cryptocurrency since the Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

In the new sanctions announced Monday, Treasury said Fly Baghdad and its CEO Basheer Abdulkadhim Alwan al-Shabbani have provided assistance to Iran’s military wing and its proxy groups in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. A representative from the firm was not immediately available.

The sanctions block access to U.S. property and bank accounts and prevent the targeted people and companies from doing business with Americans.

Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control also designated three leaders and supporters of an Iran-aligned militia in Iraq, Kataib Hezbollah, as well as a business that it says moves and launders funds for the organization.

SAUDI ARABIA SAYS IT WON’T RECOGNIZE ISRAEL WITHOUT A PATH TO A PALESTINIAN STATE

JERUSALEM — Saudi Arabia’s top diplomat says the kingdom will not normalize relations with Israel or contribute to Gaza’s reconstruction without a credible path to a Palestinian state. That’s a nonstarter for Israel’s government.

Prince Faisal bin Farhan’s remarks in an interview with CNN broadcast late Sunday were some of the most direct yet from Saudi officials.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces mounting domestic pressure over the plight of Israeli hostages, including an angry protest inside a parliamentary committee meeting on Monday.

He has rejected Palestinian statehood and described plans for open-ended military control over Gaza. The dispute over Gaza’s future pits Israel against its top ally, the United States, as well as much of the international community.

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