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The Latest | US military finishes pier for delivering aid into Gaza as Israel presses in Rafah

The U.S. military finished installing a floating pier for the Gaza Strip on Thursday for delivering badly needed humanitarian aid into the enclave besieged over seven months of intense fighting in the Israel-Hamas war.

Israel has been pressing its military operations in Rafah, a city along Gaza's southern border with Egypt, and in northern Gaza, where Hamas has regrouped. Around 600,000 Palestinians have been driven out of Rafah since the beginning of last week, the U.N. said. In northern Gaza, Israeli evacuation orders have displaced at least 100,000 people so far.

Some 80% of Gaza's population of 2.3 million Palestinians have fled their homes since the start of the war, with many relocating multiple times.

No food has entered the two main border crossings in southern Gaza for more than a week. Some 1.1 million Palestinians are on the brink of starvation, according to the U.N, while a "full-blown famine" is taking place in the north of the territory.

Israel has portrayed Rafah as the last Hamas stronghold, brushing off warnings from the United States and other allies that any major operation there would be catastrophic for civilians.

Seven months of the war have killed more than 35,000 people in Gaza, most of them women and children, according to local health officials.

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

Currently:

— US military says Gaza Strip pier project is completed, aid to soon flow

— The top U.N. court is holding hearings on the Israeli military's incursion into Rafah

Interior Dept staffer becomes first Jewish Biden appointee to publicly resign over war

Follow AP's coverage of the war in Gaza at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war

Here's the latest:

HEZBOLLAH FIRES ROCKETS INTO ISRAEL AS TIT-FOR-TAT COMBAT ESCALATES

JERUSALEM — The Hezbollah militant group said it fired dozens of rockets from Lebanon into Israel on Thursday, the latest in tit-for-tat combat between the sides that has escalated over the last week.

The group said it fired 60 rockets at three military posts in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights in retaliation for earlier Israeli airstrikes.

Israel’s military said it responded to what it said were some 40 rockets by striking Hezbollah military posts.

Hezbollah has increased the amount of rockets it has been firing into Israel in recent days and on Wednesday it reportedly struck its deepest target in Israel since the start of the fighting in October. Israeli media reported that an Israeli air force target was struck by a drone, a report the military declined to comment on.

“Hezbollah has been escalating the situation in the north,” said military spokesman Lt. Col. Nadav Shoshani. “They’ve been firing more and more.”

Israel has also been striking deep inside Lebanon.

The fighting began shortly after Israel launched its war against Hamas following the militant group’s attack on southern Israel.

ISRAELI MILITARY SAYS IT KILLED 100 MILITANTS SINCE THE START OF RAFAH OFFENSIVE LAST WEEK

JERUSALEM — Israel’s military said Thursday its forces have killed 100 militants since it launched an invasion into the southernmost Gaza city of Rafah last week.

Military spokesman Lt. Col. Nadav Shoshani told reporters Thursday that Israeli forces found militant tunnel shafts underneath and in the vicinity of the Rafah crossing near the border with Egypt. Israeli forces seized the crossing at the start of the operation in Rafah.

“We are continuing to operate in the Rafah crossing,” said Shoshani.

Israel says it is operating in Rafah to destroy remaining Hamas battalions there and to rescue Israeli hostages. Israel’s plans for Rafah have raised international alarm because the city had provided shelter to more than a million Palestinians. While the current operation does not appear to be a full-scale invasion, it has sent 600,000 people fleeing the city since the offensive began last week, according to the United Nations.

An Israeli strike overnight hit a residential home in central Rafah, killing four men, including a 65-year-old man and his 22-year-old son, according to records from Kuwaiti hospital.

Shoshani said forces were also operating in the northern Gaza areas of Jabaliya and Zeitoun where fierce fighting continued with militants. The spike in fighting suggests that Hamas is regrouping in areas the Israeli military said it had asserted control over months ago. Rocket fire toward Israel has also increased in recent days.

The Health Ministry in Gaza said Thursday that the bodies of 39 Palestinians had been brought to hospitals over the past 24 hours, raising the overall death toll since the start of the war to 35,272. The ministry’s count does not distinguish between militants and noncombatants killed. Israel says it has killed roughly 12,000 militants, without providing evidence.

GERMANY BANS PRO-PALESTINIAN GROUP

BERLIN – German authorities say they have banned a group that showed solidarity with “Palestinian resistance in all forms” and raided properties linked to it.

The interior ministry in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous, said it had banned the Palestine Solidarity Duisburg group on Thursday. It accused the group of spreading antisemitic narratives.

The ministry said police searched four properties in the city of Duisburg linked to the group on Thursday.

The region’s top security official, state Interior Minister Herbert Reul, said the move “sends the right signal” and added in a statement that “in many cases nothing other than hatred for Jews is hidden behind solidarity with Palestine, as in the case of the organization banned today.”

In November, Germany’s federal government implemented a formal ban on activity by or in support of Hamas and dissolved Samidoun, a group that was behind a celebration in Berlin of Hamas’ attack on Israel.

3 PALESTINIANS KILLED BY ISRAELI FORCES IN WEST BANK

JERUSALEM — The Palestinian Health Ministry said Thursday that Israeli forces killed three Palestinians in the northern West Bank.

The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Ramallah-based ministry said that the three men, all younger than 30, were killed by Israeli fire overnight in the flashpoint city of Tulkarem, though the circumstances of the shootings were uncertain.

Since Oct. 7, violence has flared in the occupied territory, with stepped-up Israeli raids into Palestinian cities and towns often turning deadly. The shootings pushed the Palestinian death toll in the territory since the beginning of the war in Gaza to just over 500.

Also overnight, Israeli police said they shot and killed a man who attempted to stab an officer in east Jerusalem. Police said the officers opened fire as the man charged at them with a knife, killing him. The officers were not wounded and the identity of the attacker was not immediately clear.

Palestinians and rights groups say Israel uses excessive force to subdue suspected attackers. Israel says its forces face complex and often life-threatening situations that demand a response.

In other violence, the Israeli military said Thursday a noncommissioned officer was moderately wounded in a stabbing attack in the West Bank. A manhunt was on for the perpetrator, who fled the scene, the military said.

Attacks by Palestinians have also been on the rise since the war against Hamas broke out on Oct. 7.

U.S. FINISHES PIER TO FERRY HUMANITARIAN AID TO GAZA

WASHINGTON — The U.S. military finished installing a floating pier for the Gaza Strip on Thursday.

Officials said they are poised to begin ferrying badly needed humanitarian aid into the enclave besieged over seven months of intense fighting in the Israel-Hamas war.

The final, overnight construction sets up a complicated delivery process more than two months after President Joe Biden ordered it to help Palestinians facing starvation as food and other supplies fail to make it in.

Israel recently seized the key Rafah border crossing in its push on that southern city on the Egyptian border, complicating those shipments. U.S. troops anchored the pier at 7:40 a.m. local time Thursday. That’s according to the military’s Central Command, which stressed none of its forces entered the Gaza Strip.

ISRAELI FORCES KILL 3 PALESTINIANS IN WEST BANK

JERUSALEM — The Palestinian Health Ministry said Thursday that Israeli forces killed three Palestinians in the northern West Bank.

The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Ramallah-based ministry said that the three men, all younger than 30, were killed by Israeli fire overnight in the flashpoint city of Tulkarem, though the circumstances of the shootings were uncertain.

Since Oct. 7, violence has flared in the occupied territory, with stepped-up Israeli raids into Palestinian cities and towns often turning deadly. The shootings pushed the Palestinian death toll in the territory since the beginning of the war in Gaza to just over 500.

Also overnight, Israeli police said they shot and killed a man who attempted to stab an officer in east Jerusalem. Police said the officers opened fire as the man charged at them with a knife, killing him. The officers were not wounded and the identity of the attacker was immediately unclear.

Palestinians and rights groups say Israel uses excessive force in attempting to subdue suspected attackers. Israel says its forces face complex and often life-threatening situations that demand a response.

Attacks by Palestinians have been on the rise since the war against Hamas broke out on Oct. 7.

5 ISRAELI SOLDIERS KILLED IN GAZA, REPORTEDLY BY FRIENDLY FIRE

TEL AVIV, Israel — The Israeli military said Thursday that five soldiers have been killed in northern Gaza, which Israeli media said was the result of a friendly fire incident.

The military released the names of those killed, but did not immediately disclose the circumstances of their deaths.

Israeli Army Radio said a tank fired on a building housing the soldiers, killing five and wounding seven.

There have been multiple friendly-fire incidents throughout the 7-month-long war. At least 27 soldiers have been killed in mistaken fire by Israeli forces, according to military figures.

The incident comes as Israel has reinvaded parts of northern Gaza that it previously said it had asserted control over. Heavy battles have taken place with militants in recent days and rocket fire toward Israel has increased, suggesting Hamas is regrouping in those areas.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has faced criticism from Israel’s top ally, the U.S., as well as at home for not moving toward a postwar vision for Gaza that would replace Hamas with different Palestinian governance.

Along with the fighting in northern Gaza, Israeli troops have also pushed into parts of the southernmost Gaza city of Rafah.

ISRAELI AIRSTRIKES TARGET HEZBOLLAH STRONGHOLD IN LEBANON

BEIRUT -- Israel’s air force conducted airstrikes that targeted mountains in northeast Lebanon close to the border with Syria. There was no word on casualties.

Al-Manar TV of Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah group said the airstrikes that occurred around midnight Wednesday struck the hills overlooking the town of Brital. It gave no further details.

The area that was attacked is a Hezbollah stronghold and is a vital route that links the group’s positions in eastern Lebanon with Syria’s Qalamoun mountains, where Hezbollah also has military presence.

The Israeli military said there were no injuries from the strike.

The Israeli strikes came hours after Hezbollah said it attacked with explosive drones an Israeli military base near the city of Tiberias, their deepest strike in Israel since the two sides began exchanging fire a day after the Israel-Hamas broke out on Oct. 7.