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Israel-Gaza live updates: Israel expands operations into central Rafah: IDF

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(NEW YORK) — As the Israel-Hamas war crosses the seven-month mark, renewed negotiations are underway to secure the release of hostages taken by the terrorist organization, as Israeli forces continue to prepare for an apparent invasion of the southern Gazan town of Rafah.

Here’s how the news is developing:

May 23, 1:38 PM
Israel expands operations into central Rafah: IDF

Israeli Defense Forces are now fighting near central Rafah, representing an expansion of its operations, the IDF said Thursday.

Close to 1 million people have been evacuated from Rafah, according to IDF Commanding Officer Daniel Hagari.

-ABC News’ Will Gretsky

May 22, 5:59 PM
Egypt threatens to withdraw from Gaza mediation

The Egyptian government said Wednesday that attempts to undermine its efforts to broker a Gaza cease-fire deal could push it to entirely pull out of mediation in the conflict.

Diaa Rashwan, the head of Egypt’s State Information Services, said Egypt categorically rejected a report from CNN that claimed his government changed the terms of a Gaza cease-fire deal that Israel had already signed off on before submitting it to Hamas.

Rashwan called the report “false” and “devoid of any information or facts.”

“The ongoing attempts to cast doubt and insult the Egyptian mediation efforts and roles, with allegations that contradict reality, will only lead to further complicating the situation in Gaza and the entire region, and may push the Egyptian side to take a decision to withdraw completely from the mediation it is carrying out in the current conflict,” he said in a statement.

Rashwan added that Egypt would only open the Rafah border crossing if the Palestinian side is operated by Palestinians, reiterating that Cairo does not acknowledge the Israeli control of the Palestinian side of the crossing.

May 22, 5:18 PM
Video shows 5 young women being taken hostage by Hamas on Oct. 7

The Israeli Hostage Center released a video Wednesday showing five girls being taken hostage by Hamas on Oct. 7, all of whom are considered to be alive and in Hamas custody.

Liri Albag, Karina Ariev, Agam Berger, Daniela Gilboa and Naama Levy were taken hostage from the Nahal Oz Base, according to the Hostage Center. Families of hostages criticized the Israeli government’s failure to secure their release.

“A damning testament to the nation’s failure to bring home the hostages, who have been forsaken for 229 days,” the Hostage Center said in a release.

Ayelet Levy, Naama’s mother, said in a statement that her heart was with the 19-year-old “in those horrifying moments in the horrifying day of October 7th.”

“We only see in that video a fraction of the horrible things that are going on in their surrounding in the shelter. She is terrified and wounded, there is fear in her eyes, and she is saying what she can, she is begging for her life.”

Shlomi Berger, Agam’s father, told ABC News they decided to release the video to apply pressure on the Israeli government to reach a cease-fire deal that secured the release of the hostages.

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the video is evidence of why the war must continue until Hamas is “eliminated.”

“I am shocked by the video documenting the kidnapping of our precious female observers. We will continue to do everything to bring them home,” Netanyahu said in a statement.

-ABC News’ Will Gretsky and Britt Clennett

May 22, 3:03 PM
Sullivan says Israel has made ‘refinements’ to Rafah operations following US concerns

Israel has made “refinements” to its military operations in and around Rafah following U.S. concerns about harm to civilians, U.S. national security advisor Jake Sullivan said Wednesday.

“We had detailed discussions on Rafah during my visit to Israel. These have built on weeks now, as I’ve discussed with you from this podium, of discussions on a professional basis, about Rafah and about how Israel can achieve the defeat of Hamas, everywhere in Gaza, including in Rafah, while minimizing civilian harm,” Sullivan said discussing his recent trip to Israel and Saudi Arabia.

“What we have seen so far in terms of Israel’s military operations in that area has been more targeted and limited, has not involved major military operations into the heart of dense urban areas,” he said.

Sullivan said the U.S. will “now have to see what unfolds from here” and whether what Israeli officials have laid out continues to happen.

-ABC News’ Justin Ryan Gomez

May 22, 12:12 PM
Israel responds to move to recognize Palestinian state by withholding funds

Israel will not transfer funds to the Palestinian Authority after Spain, Ireland and Norway recognized Palestine as a state, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich announced in a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The decision by Israel’s far-right finance minister could push the Palestinian government into an even worse financial situation.

-ABC News’ Will Gretsky

May 22, 12:06 PM
Israel allows settlers to enter northern West Bank

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has authorized settlers to enter parts of the northern West Bank that they had previously been barred.

The Israelis previously had settlements in this area that were evacuated and then demolished in 2005. Settlements in the area will still need government approval, but this authorization will make it easier for settlers to establish outposts.

“Just as I have acted in all my positions in the governments of Israel – I will continue to develop the settlements in Judea and Samaria, to strengthen the security elements and the security of the citizens – in roads and settlements,” Gallant said in a statement.

-ABC News’ Will Gretsky

May 22, 10:08 AM
White House reacts to countries recognizing Palestinian state

The White House responded to Ireland, Norway and Spain recognizing Palestine, saying President Joe Biden supports a two-state solution, but said he thinks a Palestinian state should be realized after negotiations and “not through unilateral recognition.”

With the additions of Ireland, Norway and Spain, some 143 countries now recognize the state of Palestine, according to the U.N.

-ABC News’ Michelle Stoddart

May 22, 6:09 AM
Three European countries to recognize Palestinian state

Ireland, Norway and Spain said Wednesday they would recognize a Palestinian state.

“Ireland today recognises Palestine as a nation among nations with all the rights and responsibilities that entails,” Simon Harris, the country’s Taoiseach, or prime minister, said in a statement.

The recognition by the Norwegian Government is an effort to “keep alive” the possibility of a “political solution” that might end the war in Gaza, Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said in a statement.

“Two states, living side by side, in peace and security,” Støre said.

The announcement drew sharp criticism from Israel’s foreign minister, Israel Katz, who said he’d been instructed to immediately recall Israel’s ambassador’s to Ireland and Norway “for consultations.”

“Today’s decision sends a message to the Palestinians and the world: Terrorism pays,” Katz said. “After the Hamas terror organization carried out the largest massacre of Jews since the Holocaust, after committing heinous sexual crimes witnessed by the world, these countries chose to reward Hamas and Iran by recognizing a Palestinian state.”

Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, said his country will recognize a Palestinian state on May 28.

“Time has come to move from words into action,” he said on social media. “Peace, justice and coherence are the basis of our historic decision.”

May 21, 6:19 PM
Kamal Adwan Hospital suffers damage after hit four times: WHO

Kamal Adwan Hospital in northern Gaza was reportedly hit four times Tuesday, according to the World Health Organization.

The attacks damaged the intensive care unit, reception, administration and the roof, the organization said. Efforts are underway to evacuate 20 health staff and 13 patients who remain inside, according to WHO.

“We appeal once again for [the] protection of all patients and health workers. We urge for a ceasefire and safe, sustained humanitarian access,” WHO said in a statement.

Over the past few weeks, intense hostilities have reportedly occurred in the vicinity of the hospital and resulted in an increased influx of injured patients to the already overstretched facility.

Kamal Adwan is the largest partially functional hospital in northern Gaza, and the only one providing hemodialysis services.

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