Middle East crisis live: US reportedly approves new arms package to Israel | Israel

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US reportedly approves transfer to Israel of bombs and jets worth billions

The US in recent days authorized the transfer of billions of dollars worth of bombs and fighter jets to Israel, two sources familiar with the effort said on Friday, even as Washington publicly expresses concerns about an anticipated Israeli military offensive in Rafah.

The new arms packages include more than 1,800 MK-84 2,000lb bombs and 500 MK-82 500lb bombs, said the sources, who confirmed a report in the Washington Post.

Washington gives $3.8bn in annual military assistance to Israel, its longtime ally.

The package comes as Israel faces strong international criticism over its continued bombing campaign and ground offensive in Gaza and as some members of Joe Biden’s party call for him to cut US military aid.

The US has been rushing air defenses and munitions to Israel, but some Democrats and Arab American groups have criticized the Biden administration’s steadfast support of Israel, which they say provides it with a sense of impunity.

Biden on Friday acknowledged “the pain being felt” by many Arab Americans over the war in Gaza and over US support for Israel and its military offensive.

Still, he has vowed continued support for Israel despite an increasingly public rift with Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister.

The White House declined comment on the weapons transfers.

The Israeli embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Key events

Fighting rages unabated in Gaza despite UN security council demanding ‘immediate ceasefire’

Fighting raged unabated in Gaza on Friday, including around its few functioning hospitals, despite a binding UN security council resolution earlier this week demanding an “immediate ceasefire”.

The news agency, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reports that the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry said dozens of people were killed overnight.

Among them were 12 people killed in their home in the southern city of Rafah, which has been bombed repeatedly ahead of a threatened Israeli ground operation.

Men worked under the light of mobile phones to free people trapped under the debris, AFPTV images showed.

The Israeli army said on Friday it was “continuing precise operation activities in Shifa hospital”, where it began a raid early last week.

Smoke rises during an Israeli strike in the vicinity of the al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Troops first raided al-Shifa hospital in November, but the army claims Palestinian militants have since returned. About 200 militants were killed during the latest al-Shifa operation, it said.

In north Gaza’s Shati refugee camp, Amany, a 44-year-old mother of seven, described how it felt to live under relentless Israeli bombardment.

She said:

Explosions and airstrikes go on throughout the night, it’s petrifying. I feel like I’m living a continuous nightmare that doesn’t want to end.

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Opening summary

It has just gone 10.30am in Gaza and Tel Aviv. This is our latest Guardian live blog on the Israel-Gaza war and the wider Middle East crisis.

The US has authorised the transfer of billions of dollars’ worth of bombs and fighter jets to Israel, two sources said on Friday, even as Washington publicly expresses concerns about an anticipated Israeli military offensive in the southern city of Rafah.

The new arms packages include more than 1,800 MK-84 2,000lb (900kg) bombs and 500 MK-82 500lb bombs, said the sources, who confirmed a report in the Washington Post.

The White House declined to comment.

Meanwhile, fighting raged on unabated in Gaza on Friday, including around its few functioning hospitals. The Hamas-run ministry of health in Gaza said dozens of people were killed overnight, including 12 killed in their home in Rafah.

In other key developments:

  • The Palestinian death toll in Israel’s offensive on Gaza since 7 October has risen to at least 32,623, with 75,092 injured, according to the strip’s health ministry.

  • Famine is already probably present in at least some areas of northern Gaza, while other areas are in danger of falling into conditions of starvation, the US state department said on Friday, a day after the world’s top court ordered Israel to admit food aid into the territory. More trucks distributing aid were needed, a department official said.

  • Israeli strikes on the northern Syrian city of Aleppo killed dozens of people, including five members of Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, early on Friday, two security sources told Reuters. The Israeli attack targeted an area near Hezbollah rocket depots, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

  • The Israeli military said it had killed Ali Abed Akhsan Naim, deputy commander of Hezbollah’s rocket and missiles unit, in an airstrike in Lebanon’s Bazouriye area.

  • The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has agreed to send delegations to Egypt and Qatar for a new round of talks to secure the release of Israeli hostages as part of a possible Gaza ceasefire deal, his office said. Those talks appeared deadlocked in recent days despite a major push by the US and fellow mediators Egypt and Qatar to secure a truce in time for the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, now more than halfway through.

  • The US state department said it welcomed the nomination of a new Palestinian Authority cabinet. A “revitalised” Palestina Authority was essential to delivering results for Palestinians and “establishing the conditions for stability in the broader region”, it said. Separately, the US pushed back against claims it has eased sanctions against seven Israeli settlers and two farming outposts in the West Bank after pressure from Israel’s finance minister.

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