All the latests developments on the conflict in the Middle East.
At least 11 people were killed, including four children, when an Israeli strike hit a residential building in the central Gazan city of Deir al-Balah Tuesday, according to reporters who saw the bodies at a local hospital.
The dead and the wounded were taken to nearby al-Aqsa Martyrs hospital.
The strikes came as the Israeli army continued to expand its assault on the southern half of the war-stricken territory, with a focus on the city of Khan Younis, Gaza’s second largest.
Israel’s offensive has killed more than 26,700 people in Gaza, according to the Health Ministry in the Hamas-run territory.
The ministry count does not distinguish between fighters and civilians, but it says about two-thirds of the dead are women and minors.
Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh invited to Cairo for ceasefire talks
On Tuesday, Hamas’s top political leader, Ismail Haniyeh, said the group was studying the latest terms for an agreement, but that the priority was the ‘complete withdrawal’ of Israeli forces from Gaza and that any deal should lead to a long-term ceasefire.
He said the Hamas leadership had been invited to Cairo to continue talks. The militant group, which has struck one-sided deals with Israel in the past, is expected to demand the release of thousands of Palestinian prisoners – including senior militants – in exchange for the remaining hostages.
Qatar and Egypt, which mediate with Hamas, have held talks with Israel and the United States in recent days. US officials said negotiators had made progress towards a deal, including the gradual release of the remaining hostages over a two-month period and the entry of more humanitarian aid into Gaza.
Guterres meets with donors as UN aid agency faces funding cuts
UN Secretary-General António Guterres held a meeting with representatives of donor countries at UN headquarters in New York on Tuesday to discuss the fallout from accusations that 12 employees of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees were involved in the 7 October attack by Hamas.
An Israeli document obtained on Monday spelled out allegations against a dozen UN employees the country says took part in the assault — claiming seven stormed into Israeli territory, including one who participated in a kidnapping and another who helped to steal a soldier’s body.
The allegations against staffers with the UN agency for Palestinian refugees prompted the United States and several other countries to freeze funds vital for the body, which is a lifeline for desperate Palestinians in Gaza.
“It’s very critical that we recognise the central role that UNWRA plays in the Gaza Strip,” said Sigrid Kaag, the Senior Humanitarian and Reconstruction Coordinator for Gaza. Adding that “There’s no substitution for the humanitarian role that is played in Gaza.”
The White House indicated that funding could be restored depending on the agency’s investigation and subsequent actions.
Biden: “I don’t think we need a wider war in the Middle East.”
President Joe Biden on Tuesday indicated he had decided how to respond after the killing of three American service members Sunday in a drone attack in Jordan that his administration has pinned on Iran-backed militia groups, saying he does not want to expand the war in the Middle East but demurring on specifics.
US officials said they are still determining which of several Iran-backed groups was responsible for the first killing of American troops in a wave of attacks against US forces in the region since the 7 October Hamas assault on Israel.
“I don’t think we need a wider war in the Middle East,” Biden said at the White House before departing for a fundraising trip to Florida. “That’s not what I’m looking for.”
It was not immediately clear whether Biden meant he had decided on a specific retaliatory plan. A US official told reporters that the Pentagon is still assessing options to respond to the attack in Jordan.