The Latest | Israel marks memorial day, as hundreds of thousands flee Rafah assault

Israel’s leaders commemorated Memorial Day on Monday, a usually somber holiday that this year was almost entirely absorbed by the ongoing war in Gaza

The Associated Press
Monday 13 May 2024 11:04 BST

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

Editor

Israel’s leaders commemorated Memorial Day on Monday, a usually somber holiday that this year was almost entirely absorbed by the ongoing war in Gaza.

At 11:00 A.M., sirens announced two minutes of silence, and a formation of four fighter planes then flew over Jerusalem and the surrounding areas. At a ceremony, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed once again to defeat Hamas, a promise he has made repeatedly during Israel’s brutal seven month war with the militant group.

Some 300,000 Palestinians fled Rafah over the weekend as Israeli forces pushed deeper into the southern city, according to U.N. estimates.

Israel says Rafah is the last stronghold of the Hamas militant group and vowed to launch a full-scale invasion of the city, but the U.S. says a Rafah offensive would jeopardize cease-fire talks and threatened to halt more military aid to Israel. Some 1.4 million Palestinians — over half Gaza’s population — had sought refuge in the city.

Israel also pounded Gaza's devastated north, where some Hamas militants have regrouped in areas the military said it had cleared months ago.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated U.S. opposition to a major military assault on Rafah on Sunday, telling CBS that Israel would “be left holding the bag on an enduring insurgency” without an exit from Gaza and postwar governance plan.

The death toll from the war in Gaza has soared to more than 35,000 people, most of them women and children, according to local health officials. Israeli bombardments and ground assaults have caused vast destruction to apartments, hospitals, schools and refugee centers across several cities.

The war began Oct. 7 when Hamas attacked southern Israel, killing around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducting about 250 others. Israel says militants still hold around 100 hostages and the remains of more than 30 others.

Currently:

— Israel moves deeper into Rafah and fights Hamas militants regrouping in northern Gaza.

— Blinken delivers some of the U.S.'s strongest public criticism yet of Israel’s conduct of the war in Gaza.

— U.K. foreign secretary David Cameron says halting arms sales to Israel would only strengthen Hamas.

— With the shock of Oct. 7 still raw, sadness and anger grip Israel on its Memorial Day.

— Pro-Palestinian protests dwindle on U.S. campuses, as some college graduations are marked by defiant acts.

Here's the latest:

Israel’s leaders commemorated Memorial Day on Monday, honoring the country’s fallen soldiers and those killed in attacks on a holiday that was almost entirely absorbed by the ongoing war in Gaza.

The usually somber calendar event has been compounded by the sadness and simmering public anger over the failures of Oct. 7, when Hamas fighters from Gaza broke into southern Israel and killed 1,200 people, mostly Israelis, the act that sparked the war. The holiday began Sunday evening and continues until nightfall on Monday.

During the day’s opening ceremony at Mount Herzl cemetery on the outskirts of Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed once again to defeat Hamas, a promise he has made repeatedly during Israel’s brutal seven month war with the militant group.

“We are determined to win this struggle, we exacted and will exact a high price from the enemy for their criminal acts, we will realize the goals of victory and at the center of them the return of all our hostages home,” Netanyahu said from the podium.

Israel responded to Hamas’ deadly October assault by bombarding and invading Gaza, killing over 35,000 Palestinians from the enclave according to the Hamas-run health Ministry. More than 600 Israeli soldiers have been killed since the war erupted.

Among the other attendees at Mount Herzl was the Israeli President, Isaac Herzog.

At 11:00 A.M. on Monday, sirens announced two minutes of silence, and a formation of four fighter planes then flew over Jerusalem and the surrounding areas.

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