The Latest | Slovenia moves to recognize a Palestinian state as Israel fights in Rafah

Palestinian families who were forced to flee from Rafah to Khan Younis are struggling to find basic necessities, from a suitable place to live to clean drinking water.

Slovenia’s government endorsed a motion Thursday to recognize a Palestinian state and asked the parliament to do the same. It comes just two days after Spain, Norway and Ireland recognized a Palestinian state, a move that was condemned by Israel.

In the Gaza Strip, Palestinians in the border city of Rafah have reported heavy fighting in recent days as Israel’s military widens its offensive in the south, seizing control of the entire length of Gaza’s border with Egypt.

Beyond Rafah, Israeli forces were still battling militants in parts of Gaza that the military said it wrested control of months ago — potential signs of a low-level insurgency that could keep Israeli troops engaged in the territory.

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

Gaza’s Health Ministry said Thursday that 53 people killed by Israeli strikes had been brought to hospitals in the last 24 hours, as well as 357 wounded people.

Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza has 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:

— Slovenia’s government endorses recognition of a Palestinian state.

— The U.S.-built pier in Gaza broke apart. Here’s how we got here and what might be next.

— China leader Xi Jinping pledges more Gaza aid at a summit with Arab leaders.

— A ship attacked by Yemen’s Houthi rebels was full of grain bound for Iran, the group’s main benefactor.

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

Here’s the latest:

U.S. MILITARY SAYS FIGHTING AND WEATHER HAVE HALTED AIRDROPS

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Central Command says the military has not airdropped humanitarian aid into Gaza since May 9, with a Pentagon spokesperson blaming weather and Israel’s offensive in the southern city of Rafah.

The lack of U.S. airdrops comes as a U.S.-built pier to deliver aid by sea broke apart in strong winds and heavy seas just over a week after it became operational.

“The solution is to open the land routes,” Pentagon deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh said Thursday. “We need to see those land routes open. We need to see more trucks getting in.”

Gaza’s land crossings are now entirely controlled by Israel. Fighting in Rafah has made it nearly impossible for humanitarian groups to import and distribute aid to southern Gaza, and the Rafah crossing with Egypt has been closed since it was seized by Israeli forces on May 6.

The Israeli military says it has allowed hundreds of trucks to enter through its nearby Kerem Shalom crossing during the Rafah operation, but aid groups say it’s extremely difficult to access that aid on the Gaza side because of the fighting.

Although strong winds and weather have been an issue for the airdrops, the ongoing challenge is the Rafah operation in Gaza’s south, Singh said.

“We cannot do some airdrops when the IDF is conducting operations,” she said, using an acronym for the Israeli military. “We don’t want civilians running into an active battlespace. So there hasn’t been airdrops recently.”

Amid clear skies Thursday, a Jordanian-flagged military cargo plane could be seen airdropping aid to the city of Khan Younis in central Gaza.

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are dependent on the aid to survive, and U.N. officials say parts of the territory are experiencing famine. The chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court is seeking arrest warrants for two of Israel’s top leaders for allegedly using starvation as a weapon of war and other crimes related to the fight against Hamas in Gaza.

U.N. WARNS ISRAEL’S RAFAH OPERATION IS SEVERELY RESTRICTING AID

UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. food agency is warning that Israel’s military operation in Gaza’s southern Rafah area has severely restricted aid deliveries and risks causing the same “catastrophic levels of hunger” seen in northern Gaza.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters Thursday that the World Food Program is also reporting that hunger levels in central and southern Gaza “are deteriorating fast.”

WFP is calling for all crossing points to be opened to get desperately needed food and other humanitarian aid into Gaza “as the Israeli incursion in Rafah continues to have a devastating impact on civilians and on humanitarian operations,” the spokesman said.

WFP also reports there is little the Rome-based agency can do in Rafah, “with stocks very low and mobility severely restricted,” Dujarric said.

The U.N. spokesman said humanitarian officials report that aid workers are facing movement restrictions, including to border areas, and repeated denials of access and delays including to collect supplies from the Kerem Shalom crossing on the Gaza side “which is in an area where fighting continues to escalate.”

“We need Israeli authorities to swiftly facilitate access to the crossing so that aid workers can safely reach the crossing to pick up supplies,” Dujarric said. “We also need safe and unimpeded passage to distribute that assistance to scale to people in need, wherever they may need it in Gaza.”

He stressed that providing humanitarian assistance in a war zone requires security for aid workers and also requires “passable roads, adequate fuel, reliable communications, and sustained access.”

JERUSALEM HOLDS LGBTQ+ PRIDE PARADE AS OTHER CITIES SCALE BACK FESTIVITIES

JERUSALEM — Tens of thousands of people marched in Jerusalem’s annual Pride Parade carrying rainbow flags through the streets of the city. Thursday’s parade kicked off a month of events for the LGBTQ+ communities across Israel.

Many other cities and towns, including Tel Aviv, which usually throws a raucous weeklong party, opted to scale down their events due to the war in Gaza. Organizers in Jerusalem said that it was especially important to hold the parade this year because minorities are often inordinately impacted by emergencies.

“This is a way for the queer community to acknowledge we are here for anyone,” said Eldad, a participant in the Jerusalem parade who declined to share their last name.

At the front of the parade was a rainbow banner reading “Born to be free” carried by members of the Hostages and Missing Families Forum, a grassroots group that advocates for returning the hostages in Gaza. Other marchers held signs with anti-war messages in English and Hebrew with slogans such as “No Pride in War & Occupation.”

The march in the conservative city is always tense and tightly secured by police, and has been wracked by violence in the past. Police said around 2,000 officers were deployed along the route.

About a dozen people protested against the parade, including Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Aryeh King, who denounced the parade as being part of an “anti-God” agenda.

BIDEN ADMINISTRATION SAYS ISRAEL’S RAFAH OFFENSIVE STILL ISN’T A ‘MAJOR OPERATION’

WASHINGTON — Israel’s widening offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah has yet to amount to a “major operation” in the eyes of the Biden administration, a U.S. State Department spokesman said Thursday.

Deputy spokesman Vedant Patel was responding to questions about what actions in Israel’s 3-week-old Rafah offensive would cross the “red lines” that the Biden administration had earlier warned Israel about regarding a full-fledged invasion of the city.

“The truth of the facts on the ground is that we have yet to see a major operation into Rafah,” Patel told reporters Thursday. “We have been clear about what this isn’t, which is a major military operation.”

Israel has deepened its incursion into Rafah, and intensifying violence in recent days has killed scores of Palestinians. The military said a fifth brigade — up to several thousand soldiers — joined troops operating in the city on Tuesday.

The U.S. continued to urge Israel to allow humanitarian access and spare civilians, Patel said.

Biden administration officials had issued repeated warnings before the Rafah operation expanded that the U.S. could cut the supply of some offensive weapons to Israel if Israeli forces struck population centers in Rafah.

It’s unclear how many civilians are still in Rafah. At least 1 million people have fled since Israel launched its offensive into the city, which was crowded with roughly 1.3 million Palestinians, most of whom were already displaced from other parts of Gaza.

The top U.N. court ordered Israel to halt its military offensive in Rafah last week as part of South Africa’s case accusing Israel of committing a genocide against the Palestinians. Israel strongly denies the charges.

Administration officials have largely declined comment on reports of Israeli tanks moving into the center of Rafah and the Philadelphi corridor along the border with Egypt, saying they have no on-the-ground knowledge of the circumstances.

Officials have expressed sorrow at recent days’ deadly strikes on tent camps housing displaced Palestinians, but said they await the full results of Israeli investigations.

SWEDEN ACCUSES IRAN OF USING GANGS TO TARGET ISRAELI OR JEWISH INTERESTS

STOCKHOLM, Sweden — The Swedish domestic security agency has accused Iran of using established criminal networks in Sweden as a proxy to target Israeli or Jewish interests in the Scandinavian country.

The accusations were raised at a news conference Thursday by Daniel Stenling, the head of the SAPO agency’s counterespionage unit. Stenling, without offering specifics or evidence to back up his assertion, said the agency “can establish that criminal networks in Sweden are used as a proxy by Iran.”

“It is very much about planning and attempts to carry out attacks against Israeli and Jewish interests, goals and activities in Sweden,” he said, adding that the agency sees “connections between criminal individuals in the criminal networks and individuals who are connected to the Iranian security services.”

Justice Minister Gunnar Strömmer and Hampus Nygårds, deputy head of the Swedish police’s National Operations Department, were also at the online news conference.

Stenling and the others made no mention of the recent episodes connected to the Israel Embassy in Stockholm and stopped short of naming any criminal groups or suspects.

In late January, the Israeli Embassy was sealed off after what was then described as “a dangerous object” was found on the grounds of the diplomatic mission. Swedish media said the object was a hand grenade.

The embassy was not evacuated and the object was eventually destroyed. No arrests were made and authorities did not say what was found. On May 17, gunshots were heard near the Israeli Embassy in Stockholm and the area was cordoned off. No one was arrested.

Sweden has grappled with gang violence for years and criminal gangs often recruit teenagers in socially disadvantaged immigrant neighborhoods.

WAR CABINET MEMBER GANTZ’S PARTY MOVES TO FORCE EARLY ELECTIONS

TEL AVIV — Israeli War Cabinet member Benny Gantz’s centrist party has called for a vote to dissolve the parliament in an attempt to force early elections.

Thursday’s announcement deepens a divide in Israel’s leadership more than seven months into a war. But it appears unlikely to threaten the current parliament. Even to put the request on the agenda requires majority consent from parliament, which would need at least five members of the governing coalition to defect and vote in favor.

Parliament member Pnina Tamano-Shata, the head of the National Unity party, submitted a bill on Thursday to dissolve the Knesset.

“Oct. 7 was a tragedy the requires us to come back and receive the trust of the people, and to create a wider, stable unity government that can lead us safely against the immense challenges in security, economy, and especially – Israeli society,” Tamano-Shata said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party denounced the bill, saying it was a “prize for (Hamas leader Yahya) Sinwar, a surrender to international pressure, and a fatal blow to efforts to release the hostages.”

Last week, Gantz threatened to resign from the government if Netanyahu does not put forth a new plan for the war in Gaza by June 8. His departure would leave Netanyahu more beholden to far-right allies who believe Israel should occupy Gaza and rebuild Jewish settlements there.

SLOVENIA’S GOVERNMENT ENDORSES RECOGNITION OF PALESTINIAN STATE

LJUBLJANA, Slovenia — Slovenia’s government on Thursday endorsed a motion to recognize a Palestinian state and asked the parliament to do the same.

The decision by Slovenia’s government comes just two days after Spain, Norway and Ireland recognized a Palestinian state, a move that was condemned by Israel.

Prime Minister Robert Golob said that his government sent the recognition proposal to parliament, which could convene as early as next week.

“All the world should act in the direction of peace,” Golob said after the government session. “The way to achieve peace is a two-state solution.”

“The decision is not directed against anyone, not even Israel, but that it is a message of peace,” he added as the Palestinian flag was displayed on the government headquarters in Ljubljana, the Slovenian capital.

Parliamentary approval is necessary for the move to take effect. Golob’s ruling liberal coalition has a comfortable majority in the 90-member assembly and the vote should be a formality.

With its move, Slovenia is set to become the 10th member of the 27-nation European Union to officially recognize a Palestinian state. Norway isn’t an EU member, but its foreign policy is usually aligned with the bloc.

Slovenia first began the recognition process in early May, but said it would wait until the situation in the ongoing Israeli-Hamas war in Gaza improved.

Golob said this week that he was expediting the process in reaction to Israel’s latest attacks on Rafah, which have caused more than 1 million Palestinians to flee.

More than 140 countries recognize a Palestinian state — more than two-thirds of the United Nations.

SURVEY FOUND MOST ISRAELIS BELIEVED CAMPAIGN AGAINST HAMAS WAS RIGHT OR NOT FAR ENOUGH

WASHINGTON — A Pew Research Center survey conducted in late winter and early spring shows a majority of Israelis believed at the time that the Israeli military campaign against Hamas in Gaza was either about right or hadn’t gone far enough.

The poll, released Thursday, was conducted in March and early April. That was before the Israeli military offensive in the southern city of Rafah and renewed operations in parts of Gaza’s north after Hamas militants resurfaced there.

The survey shows that roughly two-thirds of Israelis expressed confidence at the time that Israel will either probably (27%) or definitely (40%) achieve its goals against Hamas.

However, majorities of Israeli adults were worried about some aspects of the conflict: 61% said they were extremely or very concerned about fighting spreading in the region, and 68% said they were extremely or very concerned about the war going on for a long time.

Forty percent of Israelis then thought that Israel should govern the Gaza Strip, while 12% thought the Palestinian Authority should. Fourteen percent thought the people of Gaza should decide that.

At the time, only 26% of Israelis said that Israel and an independent Palestinian state could coexist peacefully. That’s down from 35% last year before the war, and about half as many who thought so when the question was asked in 2013.

The survey questioned 1,001 adults between March 3 and April 4. It has a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

ISRAELI MILITARY REVIEWING EVENTS THAT KILLED RED CRESCENT WORKERS

TEL AVIV, Israel — The Israeli military said Thursday that it was reviewing events that killed two workers with the Palestinian Red Crescent in the Gaza city of Rafah.

The Gaza Health Ministry said the two medics were killed Wednesday when the ambulance they were traveling in to evacuate casualties came under Israeli fire.

The Israeli military said a “suspicious vehicle” approached soldiers, posing “a threat” to the forces. A tank then fired at the vehicle, the military said in a statement. The statement did not specify whether the vehicle was an ambulance.

The area of Rafah, where Israel is deepening its offensive, has seen intensifying fighting in recent days that has killed dozens of Palestinians.

Israel has come under fierce international criticism for the high civilian death toll during the war. Scores of aid and medical workers have also been killed. The Palestinian Red Crescent said 19 workers have been killed in Gaza since the war began.

Israel accuses Hamas of embedding itself in civilian areas and using ambulances to transport its members.

MORE THAN 4,000 PALLETS OF AID REACH GAZA FROM CYPRUS

NICOSIA, Cyprus — Over 4,000 pallets of humanitarian aid have been shipped from Cyprus to Gaza via the U.S-built pier and causeway offshore the Palestinian territory, a Cypriot official said Thursday.

Spokesperson Konstantinos Letymbiotis said Thursday some 14,000 pallets of aid have been collected in the east Mediterranean island nation for eventual shipment to Gaza as part of the maritime aid corridor initiative. Of the 4,134 pallets that have already reached Gaza, approximately half have been picked up by humanitarian aid groups for distribution to civilians in need. The other half has been offloaded and stored.

The aid includes food, hygiene items, shelters and pharmaceuticals. Donor countries include the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, the United States, Italy and Romania. Other donors include the European Union’s Civil Protection Mechanism and the U.N.’s World Food Program and the International Organization for Migration.

The Cypriot official said the initiative that started May 9 is ongoing, with ships still departing with loads of aid, despite the recent damage to part of the U.S.-built pier that suspended operations. The pier is expected to come back on line by the middle of next week.

POLICE CLEAR OUT A PRO-PALESTINIAN PROTESTER TENT CAMP AT A UNIVERSITY IN SWEDEN

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Swedish police cleared out a tent camp Thursday outside a southern Sweden university where pro-Palestinian students have been camping since May 16.

Police say that some 40 people are suspected of disobeying law enforcement during the early morning action and video shows police carrying away people who refused to leave the area outside Lund University.

Swedish broadcaster SVT said that there were about 100 people in the camp.

In a statement, police said everything has gone smoothly.

In recent weeks, there have been campus protests by pro-Palestinian activists across Europe and in the United States as some called for a break in academic ties with Israel over the war in Gaza.

2 SOLDIERS KILLED IN CAR-RAMMING ATTACK IN THE WEST BANK, ISRAELI MILITARY SAYS

TEL AVIV, Israel — The Israeli military said Thursday that two soldiers were killed in a car-ramming attack in the occupied West Bank.

The military said it received a report late Wednesday about the ramming near the Palestinian city of Nablus. The military said the attacker fled the scene and that soldiers had launched a search for him.

On Thursday, the military said the soldiers who were struck had died and that top military officials conducted an initial inquiry into the attack.

Israeli Army Radio reported that the attacker had turned himself in to Palestinian security forces, which could not immediately be confirmed.

Violence in the West Bank has surged throughout the war in Gaza. Israel has been conducting raids into Palestinian cities and towns in the territory to crack down on militancy and the incursions have led to the deaths of more than 500 Palestinians. Most of those killed have been in clashes with the military. But people throwing stones as well as others not involved in the confrontations have also been killed.

Palestinian attacks against Israelis have also been on the rise in the territory.

CHINA PLEDGES MORE AID FOR GAZA DURING THE OPENING OF ITS SUMMIT WITH ARAB STATES

BEIJING — Chinese President Xi Jinping reiterated calls for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state and promised more humanitarian aid for people in Gaza as he opened a summit with leaders of Arab states Thursday in Beijing.

“Since last October, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has escalated drastically, throwing people into tremendous suffering,” Xi said in a speech opening the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum. “War should not continue indefinitely.”

He restated China’s backing of a two-state solution and pledged 500 million yuan ($69 million) in humanitarian aid for Gaza. He also promised to donate $3 million to a United Nations agency that provides assistance and relief to refugees of the Israel-Hamas war.

Beijing and the Arab states back Palestinians in the conflict, where Israel is facing growing international condemnation after its strike in the southern Gaza city of Rafah in which at least 45 people were killed over the weekend. The overall Palestinian death toll in the war exceeds 36,000, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.

Beijing has long backed Palestinians and denounced Israel over its settlements in the occupied territories. It has not criticized the initial Hamas attack on Oct. 7 — which killed about 1,200 people — while the United States and others have called it an act of terrorism. However, China has growing economic ties with Israel.

IRAN OPENS REGISTRATION AHEAD OF JUNE 28 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Iran opened a five-day registration period Thursday for hopefuls wanting to run in the June 28 presidential election to replace the late Ebrahim Raisi, who was killed in a helicopter crash earlier this month with seven others.

The five-day period will see those between the ages of 40 to 75 with at least a master’s degree register as potential candidates. All candidates ultimately must be approved by Iran’s 12-member Guardian Council, a panel of clerics and jurists ultimately overseen by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, 85, who maintains final say over all matters of state.

The panel has never accepted a woman, nor anyone calling for radical change within the country’s governance.

Who will run — and potentially be accepted — remains in question. The country’s acting president, Mohammad Mokhber, a previously behind-the-scenes bureaucrat, could be a front-runner, because he’s already been seen meeting with Khamenei. Also discussed as possible aspirants are former hard-line President Mohammad Ahmadinejad and former reformist President Mohammad Khatami — but whether they’d be allowed to run is another question.

The five-day registration period will close on Tuesday. The Guardian Council is expected to issue its final list of candidates within 10 days afterwards. That will allow for a shortened two-week campaign before the vote in late June.