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The Latest | 3 Israeli soldiers killed in a booby trap explosion as Rafah offensive widens

Israeli soldiers work on a tank near the Israeli-Gaza border, in southern Israel, Wednesday, May 29, 2024. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

Three Israeli soldiers have been killed in Rafah when a booby trap exploded, the military and media reported, as the Israeli national security adviser said that the war against Hamas militants would likely last through the end of the year.

Three other soldiers were wounded in the explosion Tuesday, media reported. The military says at least 290 soldiers have been killed since the ground operation in Gaza began in October.

In an interview Wednesday with Israel’s Kan public broadcaster, Israeli National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi said the war would likely last through the rest of 2024. “We are expecting another seven months of fighting” to destroy the military and governing capabilities of Hamas and the smaller Islamic Jihad militant group, he said.

Israel says it is carrying out limited operations in eastern Rafah along the Gaza-Egypt border. Palestinians in Rafah reported heavy fighting Wednesday as Israeli forces pressed their assault on the border town once seen as the territory’s last refuge. The United States and other allies of Israel have warned against a full-fledged offensive in the city.

Fighting in Rafah has caused more than 1 million Palestinians to flee, most of whom had already been displaced in the war between Israel and Hamas. They now seek refuge in squalid tent camps and other war-ravaged areas, where they lack shelter, food, water and other essentials for survival, the U.N. says.

Israeli bombardments and ground offensives in Gaza have killed more than 36,000 Palestinians, according to the Health Ministry, which doesn’t distinguish between combatants and civilians.

Israel launched its war in Gaza after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack in which militants stormed into southern Israel, killed some 1,200 people — mostly civilians — and abducted about 250. Israel says around 100 hostages are still captive in Gaza, along with the bodies of around 30 more.

Currently:

Israeli strikes kill at least 37 Palestinians, most in tents, near Gaza’s Rafah.

— Missile attacks damage a ship in the Red Sea off Yemen’s coast, near previous Houthi rebel assaults.

— A U.S.-built pier will be removed from the Gaza coast and repaired after damage from rough seas.

— Algeria proposes a Security Council resolution demanding Israel halt its offensive in Rafah.

Palestinian prime minister visits Madrid after Spain, Norway and Ireland recognize Palestinian state.

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

Here's the latest:

WORLD CENTRAL KITCHEN SUSPENDS MAIN OPERATIONS IN GAZA

World Central Kitchen said Wednesday that “ongoing attacks” in the Israeli offensive on Rafah had forced it to suspend operation of its main kitchen there.

The group also is having to move many of its smaller kitchens farther north in Gaza, away from the offensive, it said in a post on X.

A growing Israeli military push this month into the Rafah area in pursuit of Hamas has uprooted a million people from the city, according to the U.N. Rafah had been crowded with families seeking refuge as Israel’s offensive in Gaza pushed south across Gaza.

One of the group’s kitchens in the city of Deir al Balah, one of the sites where displaced Palestinians are fleeing to now in their latest quest for safety, was now serving up the biggest shares of meals, World Central Kitchen said in a separate statement.

Opening Sunday of the border crossing between Gaza and Israel, which had been closed for weeks after Israeli forces took over the Palestinian side of the border, has been “critical to get much needed supplies,” World Central Kitchen said in the statement.

The group has been able to get in nearly 60 trucks in the three days since, it said.

World Central Kitchen, a global disaster relief program run by chef Jose Andres, earlier had suspended its work in Gaza after a targeted Israeli attack on April 1 killed seven of its workers. The group announced its return to operations there late last month.

SEN. GRAHAM SLAMS U.N. COURT, CALLS ITS CHIEF JUSTICE ‘ANTISEMITE’

JERUSALEM — U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham on Wednesday slammed the top United Nations court, calling it “a joke” and its chief justice “a raving antisemite.”

Graham made the comments in a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, on the senator’s fifth visit to Israel since the Israel-Hamas war began in October.

Graham’s remarks came days after the International Court of Justice in The Hague ruled that Israel must halt its offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah immediately.

Graham also promised action against the International Criminal Court, whose prosecutor has requested arrest warrants for Netanyahu, his defense minister and three Hamas leaders on war crimes charges.

“We will do all we can … to hold the ICC (to) account for this outrage against the people of Israel,” said Graham, a Republican from South Carolina.

Senate Republicans have threatened sanctions against ICC personnel over the decision. The Biden administration has also criticized the decision and said it would work with lawmakers to come up with an appropriate response, should one be needed.

ISRAELI OFFICIAL SAYS WAR LIKELY TO LAST THROUGH END OF YEAR

TEL AVIV, Israel — Israel’s national security adviser says the war with Hamas is likely to last through the end of the year.

In an interview with Israel’s Kan public broadcaster on Wednesday, Tzachi Hanegbi said “we are expecting another seven months of fighting” to destroy the military and governing capabilities of Hamas and the smaller Islamic Jihad militant group.

His remarks came as Israel finds itself increasingly isolated on the world stage nearly eight months into the war triggered by Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack, with even the United States and other close allies expressing outrage over the toll on civilians.

Hanegbi defended Israel’s ongoing operations in Rafah, on Gaza’s border with Egypt, saying the frontier had become a “smuggling kingdom” since Hamas seized power in Gaza in 2007.

“Every rocket, every explosive device, every shot fired at Israel is because that border was breached,” he said.

He said Israel now controls around 75% of the narrow buffer zone between Egypt and Gaza that was created as part of the 1979 peace treaty between Israel and Egypt.

Egypt has expressed grave concerns about Israel’s Rafah offensive, saying it threatens the peace treaty.

TURKISH PRESIDENT SLAMS ISRAEL'S NETANAHU, CALLING HIM A VAMPIRE AFTER STRIKES ON RAFAH

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday, calling him a psychopath and a “vampire that feeds on blood” following Israeli airstrikes on the southern Gaza city of Rafah that triggered a deadly fire in a camp for displaced people.

In a speech to legislators from his ruling party, Erdogan held the United States and European nations responsible for the deaths while also criticizing the Islamic Cooperation Organization for failing to take joint action against Israel.

“Oh, the American state, this blood is on your hands also. You are responsible for this genocide at least as much as Israel. Oh, the heads of state and government of Europe, you are also a party to Israel’s genocide, this barbarism, this vampire-like act of Israel, because you remained silent,” Erdogan said.

3 ISRAELI SOLDIERS KILLED IN RAFAH, MILITARY SAYS

TEL AVIV, Israel — Three soldiers have been killed in Rafah during the ongoing fighting in the southernmost city in Gaza, the Israeli military said Wednesday.

Israeli media reported that the soldiers were killed when a booby trap exploded Tuesday, adding that three other soldiers were wounded.

Palestinians on Wednesday reported heavy fighting in different parts of Rafah. Israel appears to be broadening its incursion, which has already caused over 1 million people to flee the city. Most had already been displaced earlier in the war.

Israel launched what it said was a limited incursion into Rafah on May 6, focused on the Gaza-Egypt border, which it says Hamas has long used to smuggle arms. It says Rafah is the last major stronghold for Hamas, but the militants have regrouped elsewhere in Gaza.

The military says at least 290 soldiers have been killed since the ground operation in Gaza began in October.

IFRC JOINS GROWING CALLS FOR A CEASE-FIRE AND DESPERATELY NEEDED AID IN GAZA

MANILA, Philippines — The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies joined growing calls Wednesday for a cease-fire and humanitarian aid access to the Gaza Strip, saying these were critically needed to ease the horrific suffering of civilians trapped in the seven-month conflict.

“It’s absolutely imperative,” IFRC President Kate Forbes told The Associated Press in an interview in the Philippine capital, Manila, where she was to hold a series of meetings. “First, we have to have a government solution to get a cease-fire so that we can get access and then, we will give aid to both sides.”

Some areas need “psychosocial support and in some, it’s going to be absolute aid,” said Forbes, who rose to the presidency of the world’s largest humanitarian network in December.

“I’ve said this is both a sprint and a marathon. We need to get aid in immediately in Gaza for people who have malnutrition, there’s not adequate sanitation,” she said. “But it’s going to be a marathon in that there’s going to be aid that’s going to be needed for decades to repair Gaza and the people there.”

Palestinians fleeing from the southern Gaza city of Rafah during an Israeli ground and air offensive in the city on Tuesday, May 28, 2024. (AP Photo/Jehad Alshrafi)
People stage a Pro-Palestinians protest at the Bologna Centrale train station in Bologna, Italy, Tuesday, May 28, 2024. (Michele Nucci/LaPresse via AP)
Smoke billows after an explosion in the Gaza Strip, as seen from southern Israel, Tuesday, May 28, 2024. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)
Palestinians fleeing from the southern Gaza city of Rafah during an Israeli ground and air offensive in the city on Tuesday, May 28, 2024. (AP Photo/Abdel Kareem Hana)
Israeli soldiers drive an APC near the Israeli-Gaza border, as seen from southern Israel, Wednesday, May 29, 2024. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)
An Israeli fighter jet releases flares, and a drone is seen from Rafah, Gaza Strip, on Tuesday, May 28, 2024. (AP Photo/Abdel Kareem Hana)