Israel denies Palestinian claim its forces killed 20 near Gaza aid distribution center

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The Palestinian Health Ministry accused Israeli forces of launching an attack near an aid distribution point in war-wracked northern Gaza, killing 20 people and wounding 155 others. The Israeli military said those reports “are false,” adding it was assessing the event “with the thoroughness that it deserves.” The international community has been pushing for more aid to enter Gaza, frustrated with the growing humanitarian crisis and with Israel’s restrictions that have prevented more aid from getting in by land.

Australia announced early Friday it would resume funding to the United Nations relief agency for Palestinians and pledged additional money to UNICEF to provide urgent services in Gaza. An aid ship loaded with some 200 tons of food was on its way to the enclave. A quarter of Gaza’s population is starving, the United Nations has warned, and the territory’s Health Ministry says more than 31,314 Palestinians have been killed.

The ministry doesn’t differentiate between civilians and combatants in its count but says women and children make up two-thirds of the dead. Some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, were killed in southern Israel during the Hamas-led incursion on Oct. 7 that sparked the war. Around 250 people were abducted, and Hamas is believed to still be holding about 100 hostages.

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Currently:

– A proposed U.S. resolution would back global efforts for an immediate and sustained cease-fire in Gaza.

– Palestinian leader Abbas appoints his longtime adviser as prime minister in the face of calls for reform.

– A suspected attack by Yemen’s Houthi rebels strikes a ship in the Red Sea.

– Top Democrat Chuck Schumer calls for new elections in Israel, saying Netanyahu is an obstacle to peace.

Here’s the latest:

The United Nations says one-quarter of Gaza’s 2.3 million people face starvation, many of them in the isolated north, the largely devastated target of Israel’s initial offensive in Gaza. Bloodshed surrounding an aid convoy on Feb. 29 killed 118 Palestinians in northern Gaza. The Israeli military said some of its forces fired at people in the crowd who were advancing toward them. Witnesses and hospital officials said many of the casualties were from bullet wounds.

The Israeli military said many of the casualties were caused by a stampede over the food and people being run over by the aid trucks. Following the violence, the United States announced plans to build a temporary pier in Gaza to bring in food by sea and joined with other countries to airdrop food into the isolated north.

AUSTRALIA RESUMES FUNDING FOR UNRWA AND PROMISES MORE AID TO GAZA

Australia will restore funding to the United Nations relief agency for Palestinians, weeks after the agency lost hundreds of millions of dollars in support following Israeli allegations that some of its Gaza-based staff participated in the Oct. 7 attack. The Australian government also pledged Friday to increase aid for the besieged enclave, with Foreign Minister Penny Wong expressing horror at the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza.

Australia’s move follows Sweden, the European Commission and Canada in reinstating funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, which had seen its international funding frozen while the allegations were investigated. Speaking to reporters Friday in Adelaide, Wong also pledged an additional 4 million Australian dollars ($2.6 million) to UNICEF to provide urgent services in Gaza, and a C17 Globemaster plane will also deliver defense force parachutes to help with the U.S.-led airdropping of humanitarian supplies into the enclave, which the United Nations says is on the brink of famine.