The Latest | Israeli strikes in Rafah kill at least 5

Palestinian hospital officials said Israeli airstrikes on the southern city of Rafah in the Gaza Strip killed at least five people.

Among those killed in the strikes overnight and into Thursday were two children, identified in hospital records as Sham Najjar, 6, and Jamal Nabahan, 8.

More than half of the territory’s population of 2.3 million have sought refuge in Rafah, where Israel has conducted near-daily raids as it prepares for an offensive in the city.

In central Gaza, four people were killed in Israeli tank shelling. Family members told The Associated Press they were killed as they tried to move to northern Gaza, where Israel’s military is preventing people from returning to their homes.

Meanwhile, a top Hamas political official told The Associated Press the Islamic militant group is willing to agree to a truce of five years or more with Israel and that it would lay down its weapons and convert into a political party if an independent Palestinian state is established along pre-1967 borders.

That appeared to be a significant concession by the militant group, which remains officially committed to Israel’s destruction, but it’s unlikely Israel would consider such a scenario. It has vowed to crush Hamas, and its current leadership is adamantly opposed to the creation of a Palestinian state on lands Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war.

U.S. President Joe Biden signed into law on Wednesday a $95 billion war aid measure that includes around $9 billion in humanitarian assistance for Gaza, which experts say is on the brink of famine, as well as billions for Israel.

The Israel-Hamas war was sparked by the unprecedented Oct. 7 raid into southern Israel in which militants killed around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducted around 250 hostages. Israel says the militants are still holding around 100 hostages and the remains of more than 30 others.

The war has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians, according to local health officials, around two-thirds of them children and women.

Currently:

— Hamas official says group would lay down its weapons if a two-state solution is implemented

— World Central Kitchen workers killed by Israeli strikes in Gaza will be honored at memorial

— Another ex-State Department official alleges Israeli military gets ‘special treatment’ on abuses

— Biden meets 4-year-old Abigail Edan, an American who was held hostage by Hamas

— A blast near a ship off Yemen marks a new attack by Houthi rebels after a recent lull

Hamas releases video showing well-known Israeli-American hostage

— Biden signs a $95 billion war aid measure with assistance for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan

— Police tangle with students in Texas and California as wave of campus protest against Gaza war grows

— Nepal asks visiting Qatari emir to help free Nepali student held hostage by Hamas

Here is the latest:

GAZA HEALTH MINISTRY REPORTS 43 DEAD IN THE LAST DAY

BEIRUT — The Gaza Health Ministry says the bodies of 43 people killed in Israeli strikes have been brought to local hospitals over the past 24 hours. Hospitals also received 64 wounded people.

The ministry’s latest report, issued Thursday, brings the overall Palestinian death toll from the Israel-Hamas war to at least 34,305. It says another 77,293 have been wounded.

The Health Ministry doesn’t distinguish between fighters and civilians in its tallies, but it has said that women and children make up around two thirds of those killed.

The Israeli military says it has killed some 13,000 militants, without providing evidence. The war began when Hamas attacked southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and dragging some 250 hostages back to Gaza.

ISRAELI STRIKES ON RAFAH KILL AT LEAST 5

RAFAH, Gaza Strip — Palestinian hospital officials say Israeli airstrikes on the southern city of Rafah in the Gaza Strip have killed at least five people.

Among those killed in the strikes overnight and into Thursday were two children, identified in hospital records as Sham Najjar, 6, and Jamal Nabahan, 8.

In central Gaza, four people were killed in Israeli tank shelling, and their bodies were brought to a local hospital. Family members told The Associated Press they were killed as they tried to move to northern Gaza, where Israel’s military is preventing people from returning to their homes.

Israel has carried out near-daily air raids on Rafah, where more than half of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million has sought refuge from fighting elsewhere. It has also vowed to expand its ground offensive against the Hamas militant group to the city on the border with Egypt despite calls for restraint, including from the United States.

The Israel-Hamas war was ignited by the Hamas-led attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7, in which some 1,200 people were killed, mostly civilians, and another 250 abducted.

The ongoing war has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry. The ministry does not distinguish between civilians and combatants in its account but has said that around two-thirds of those killed were women and children.

The war has devastated Gaza’s two largest cities and left a swath of destruction. Around 80% of the territory’s population have fled to other parts of the besieged coastal enclave.

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