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Israel-Hamas war: US completes Gaza floating aid pier

Published May 16, 2024last updated May 17, 2024

The US military said a floating pier has been placed off the coast of Gaza to allow more humanitarian aid into the enclave. Meanwhile, Israel has said five IDF soldiers were killed by friendly fire.

The floating dock, seen here under construction in April, in an image distributed by the US Army
The Pentagon has said no US soldiers stepped on land in Gaza during the anchoring of the pierImage: U.S. Army/AP Photo/picture alliance
Skip next section What you need to know

What you need to know

  • US completes its floating aid pier off the Gaza coast
  • Five Israeli soldiers have been killed by friendly fire in northern Gaza
  • ICJ hears South African request to order halt to Israel's operations in Rafah

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Here are the developments from the Israel-Hamas warand the wider Middle East region on Thursday, May 16:  

Skip next section Palestinian President Abbas says Hamas provided 'pretext' for Israel
May 17, 2024

Palestinian President Abbas says Hamas provided 'pretext' for Israel

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, speaking at the 22-member Arab League summit in Bahrain on Thursday, said Hamas' "unilateral" decision to attack Israel on October 7 had "provided Israel with more pretexts and justifications to attack the Gaza Strip."

Abbas, who leads the Palestinian Authority that administers part of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, is a political rival to Hamas, the radical Islamist group that drove Abbas' Fatah movement out of Gaza in 2007. 

Abbas reiterated his condemnation of the targeting of civilians but stopped short of condemning Hamas' October 7 attacks on Israel outright, saying, "The military operation carried out by Hamas on that day provided Israel with more pretexts to attack Gaza, resulting in further killing, destruction, and displacement." 

Hamas killed some 1,200 people in the October 7 attack and kidnapped around 250 more. Israel has estimated about 100 hostages are still in Hamas' hands while 30 have died.

According to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Authority, Israeli troops have killed more than 35,000 Palestinians in the retaliatory military operations that aim to destroy Hamas.

In response to Abbas' criticism, Hamas said, "We express our regret regarding the remarks made by the president of the Palestinian Authority at the Arab summit held in Manama."

Skip next section US pans Arab League idea of UN peacekeeping force in Gaza
May 16, 2024

US pans Arab League idea of UN peacekeeping force in Gaza

Without rejecting the idea outright, the United States on Thursday said a UN peacekeeping force in Gaza could compromise Israel's ongoing effort to defeat the militant Islamist group Hamas

The idea of deploying "international protection and peacekeeping forces of the United Nations in the occupied Palestinian territories" until a two-state solution could be implemented was put forth Thursday during a meeting of the 22-member Arab League in Bahrain. 

A US State Department spokesman, speaking of Israel's ongoing military operation in Gaza, said, "Additional security forces could potentially put that mission into compromise."

The spokesman added, "We have, first and foremost, been focused on bringing a conclusion to this conflict."

The United States, a key Israeli ally, has grown critical of Israel's ongoing military operation in Gaza largely due to the heavy toll it is taking on the civilian population in the enclave. 

The UN and Israel have repeatedly locked horns since the conflict began with Hamas terror attacks on Israel on October 7, with the UN arguing Israel is acting indiscriminately and Israel accusing the UN of rejecting its right to defend itself. 

Skip next section Netanyahu: Rafah ground assault 'crucial' in fight against Palestinian militants
May 16, 2024

Netanyahu: Rafah ground assault 'crucial' in fight against Palestinian militants

Netanyahu: Rafah ground assault 'crucial' in fight against Palestinian militants

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday said: "The battle in Rafah is critical. It's not just the rest of their battalions [Hamas and allied Palestinian militant groups], it's also like an oxygen line for them for escape and resupply." 

Israel insists Rafah is Hamas' last stronghold in the enclave, despite the resumption of intense fighting in pockets of northern Gaza that it previously said had been cleared of militants.

Speaking of the Rafah assault, Netanyahu said: "Its completion advances us a huge distance to defeating the enemy. It is a fight that decides many things in this campaign."

On May 7, Israeli troops entered the eastern parts of Rafah after ordering the evacuation of the roughly 1.4 million Palestinian civilians in the city. Around 600,000 Palestinians have been driven out of Rafah since the beginning of last week, the UN said. 

Israel has come under criticism from foes and allies alike for its intention to launch a full-scale assault on the southern Gaza city in its effort to eradicate Islamist Hamas militants. Hamas is classified as a terrorist organization by Israel, Germany, the United States and other nations. 

Skip next section Arab League calls for 'immediate' Gaza cease-fire
May 16, 2024

Arab League calls for 'immediate' Gaza cease-fire

A 22-member meeting of the Arab League in Bahrain resulted in a statement in which participants called for an "immediate" cease-fire and an end to the forced displacement of Palestinians in Gaza as fighting continues to rage between Israel and Hamas militants in the enclave.

"We demand an immediate and permanent cease-fire in Gaza, a halt to all attempts at forced displacement, an end to all forms of siege and allowing full and sustainable access to aid," the statement said.

Moreover, Arab leaders blamed what they claimed was Israeli "obstruction" for failed cease-fire negotiations. 

The bloc characterized the conflict — which began with Hamas Islamists attacking Israel on October 7, killing some 1,200 people and taking more than 240 hostage —  as one of "Israeli aggression," condemning its "continued military escalation."

The Arab League also called for Palestinian factions in Gaza and the West Bank to unite under the leadership of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), which it said was "the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people."    

Members repeated calls for the implementation of the so-called two-state solution in which a Palestinian state would be created alongside Israel along the Jewish state's 1967 borders.

Skip next section ICJ hears South Africa arguments on Rafah
May 16, 2024

ICJ hears South Africa arguments on Rafah

South Africa has urged the International Court of Justice to order Israel to halt its Rafah offensive and protect Palestinians in the enclave.

"South Africa had hoped, when we last appeared before this court, to halt this genocidal process to preserve Palestine and its people," Vusimuzi Madonsela, South Africa's ambassador to the Netherlands, told the court.

"Instead, Israel's genocide has continued apace and has just reached a new and horrific stage," he added.

Israel will respond on Friday. Read the full story on the proceedings here

Skip next section Lebanon state news media says 2 killed in strike
May 16, 2024

Lebanon state news media says 2 killed in strike

Lebanese state news media has said a strike on a car in the country's south on Thursday killed two people. Israel has not commented on the strike.

Hezbollah, the Iran-backed militant group based in Lebanon, has also confirmed the attack. But it was not clear whether the strike killed Hezbollah militants.

"Two people were [killed] in the raid that targeted a car on the Ramadiya-Qana road," said the state-run National News Agency.

Hezbollah said earlier in the day it had launched rockets at Israeli military positions in the Golan Heights in retaliation for Israeli overnight strikes in eastern Lebanon

The Golan Heights, officially belonging to Syria, have been under Israeli occupation since the 1967 Six-Day War. Most countries, and the UN, do not recognize Israel's declared annexation of the territory.

Hezbollah is considered a terrorist organization by the US, Germany and several Sunni Arab countries, while the EU lists its armed wing as a terrorist group. 

Skip next section Israeli defense minister says more troops to enter Rafah
May 16, 2024

Israeli defense minister says more troops to enter Rafah

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has said more troops would "enter Rafah" as attacks continue on the city.

The southern city has housed Gaza's refugee population displaced by fighting elsewhere in the enclave.

Some 600,000 people are estimated to have relocated since Israel began limited military operations in the city at the beginning of last week.

Gallant said the operation in Gaza "will continue as additional forces will enter" the area, adding that "several tunnels in the area have been destroyed by our troops."

Israeli forces push into Rafah as attacks intensify

"Hundreds of [terror] targets have already been struck, and our forces are maneuvering in the area," he said in a ministry statement.

The Israeli military said last week it had taken operational control of the Palestinian side of Gaza's southern Rafah crossing, which borders Egypt and has been pivotal for the delivery of aid into the enclave.

Israel has said Hamas militants are holed up in the city, and a ground operation is important to clear their positions. 

Israel's Rafah offensive threatens relations with Egypt

Skip next section Hezbollah fires rockets at Israel after overnight air strikes
May 16, 2024

Hezbollah fires rockets at Israel after overnight air strikes

Hezbollah said Thursday it had launched "more than 60" rockets at Israeli military positions in retaliation for overnight airstrikes on the country's east.

The strikes were "in response to the Israeli enemy's attacks last night on the Bekaa region" in eastern Lebanon's Baalbek area, the Iran-backed Lebanese Shia militant group said.

Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV said the airstrikes that occurred around midnight Wednesday struck the hills overlooking the town of Brital.

The Israeli strikes "slightly injured a citizen" and caused fires, Lebanon's official National News Agency said.

Israel and Hamas ally Hezbollah have exchanged near-daily fire following the Palestinian militant group's October 7 attacks on southern Israel that sparked the war in Gaza, now in its eighth month. 

Hezbollah is classified as a terror organization by Germany, the US, Israel and several Sunni Arab states, among other governments.

Tensions rise on Israel's northern border with Lebanon

Skip next section ICJ to hold hearings into South Africa case against Israeli offensive in Rafah
May 16, 2024

ICJ to hold hearings into South Africa case against Israeli offensive in Rafah

The United Nations' top court opened two days of hearings on Thursday into a request from South Africa to order Israel to withdraw from Rafah.

South Africa has asked for three emergency orders from the court, while the body also hears arguments into South Africa's broader case that accuses Israel of committing "acts of genocide" against Palestinians in Gaza.

In January, judges ordered Israel to do all it can to prevent death, destruction and any acts of genocide in Gaza, but the panel stopped short of ordering an end to the military offensive in Gaza as South Africa had asked. 

Skip next section Israel says five soldiers killed by friendly fire in Gaza
May 16, 2024

Israel says five soldiers killed by friendly fire in Gaza

The Israeli military said on Thursday five soldiers were killed in the northern Gaza Strip when they were struck by Israeli tank fire.

"Five soldiers of the 202nd Paratrooper Battalion were killed last night in a mass casualty incident as a result of fire by our forces," the military said in a statement.

"From the initial investigation ... it appears that the tank fighters, from the ultra-Orthodox paratrooper company Hetz, identified a gun barrel coming out of one of the windows in the building, and directed each other to shoot at the building," the statement added.

Two tanks shells were fired into the house being used by the battalion's deputy commander, according to the military.

There have been regular instances of Israeli soldiers being killed by friendly fire. On December 12, the military said friendly fire accounted for more than a 10th of its casualties.

Israeli tanks have re-entered northern Gaza after having declared victory there in the early months of the Israel-Hamas war. Israel has said renewed combat operations are meant to prevent Hamas militants from reestablishing control. 

Israeli army restarts fighting in northern Gaza

Skip next section Floating aid pier completed off Gaza coast
May 16, 2024

Floating aid pier completed off Gaza coast

The US military has finished installing a floating pier off the coast of Gaza that will allow additional humanitarian aid to enter the enclave.

US President Joe Biden announced construction of the temporary pier in March.

The facility has two parts — a pier where shipments will be offloaded and a causeway to transfer aid for onward distribution inside Gaza.

"Trucks carrying humanitarian assistance are expected to begin moving ashore in the coming days," US Central Command (CENTCOM) said on X, formerly Twitter.

"The United Nations will receive the aid and coordinate its distribution into Gaza."

Security challenges and difficult weather hampered the completion of the pier, according to CENTCOM. 

Aid agencies have criticized Israel over the closing of border crossings which has slowed down the entry of essential aid into Gaza.

Israel's recent incursion into Rafah on the Egyptian border, a key entry point into the enclave where over a million Palestinians were seeking refuge, has further complicated the situation, according to the UN's World Food Program.

Over 35,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry, since Israel began its military operations following the Hamas attacks on southern Israel on October 7 that left around 1,200 people dead.

Hamas, classified as a terrorist organization by the US, Germany and others, also took some 250 people hostage.

rm/ab (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)