Charity Demands Independent Investigation of Israeli Strikes

(AP) -- World Central Kitchen demanded an independent investigation into the Israeli strikes that killed seven of its staff in Gaza, as Israel faced growing isolation Wednesday over the deaths of six foreign aid workers and a Palestinian driver helping deliver desperately needed food to isolated and starving residents.

Wednesday night, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told his Israeli counterpart that the strikes, which Israel says targeted the aid workers in error, strengthened U.S. concerns about Israel's plans to expand its ground offensive and said that Israel must do more to protect the lives of civilians and aid workers in Gaza.

Israel's war in Gaza has killed nearly 33,000 Palestinians, the territory's Health Ministry says. The ministry doesn't differentiate between civilians and combatants in its tally, but says women and children make up two-thirds of the dead. The United Nations says much of the population in northern Gaza is on the brink of starvation.

The war began on Oct. 7, when Hamas-led militants stormed into southern Israel, killing some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking around 250 people hostage.

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US MILITARY SAYS IT SHOT DOWN MISSILE AND 2 DRONES LAUNCHED BY HOUTHI REBELS

CAIRO -- The United States' military says its forces shot down an anti-ship ballistic missile and two aerial drones launched by Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

U.S. Central Command said Thursday that the target of the attack was the USS Gravely destroyer, which is patrolling the Red Sea. The military said it destroyed a mobile surface-to-air missile system in Houthi-held territory in response to the attack early Wednesday.

The Houthis have repeatedly targeted international shipping and U.S. forces in the Red Sea in recent months in what they portray as a blockade of Israel in response to the war in Gaza. They have attacked several ships with no known connection to Israel.

The U.S. and its allies have responded with strikes on Houthi military targets in Yemen.

The latest confrontation came as tensions are high across the Middle East following an apparent Israeli airstrike in Syria's capital, Damascus, that destroyed the Iranian Consulate and killed two Iranian generals. Iran has vowed to respond to the attack.

POLISH LEADERS CALL FOR ISRAEL TO PAY COMPENSATION TO FAMILY OF KILLED AID WORKER

WARSAW, Poland -- Poland's leaders have called on Israel to pay compensation to the family of the Polish aid worker Damian Sobl, who was killed along with six other workers of the World Central Kitchen charity in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza on Monday.

President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Donald Tusk said it was a matter of responsibility and decency to pay compensation to the family of Sobl, 35, who was bringing aid to the needy. They also demanded from Israel a detailed explanation of what happened and why.

"I have no doubt at all that Israel should pay compensation to the family of our killed citizen. It should be an appropriate compensation," Duda said. "I hope such a compensation will be paid in a just and honest way."

Tusk said it was a "senseless and unnecessary death" and that Israel should apologize and provide detailed information about the circumstances of the deaths.

Israel has taken responsibility for the airstrike, but has argued it was a mistake. However, charity organizations in Poland insist that humanitarian convoys are clearly marked and are also given security guarantees when operating in war zones.

ISRAELI OFFICIALS SAY THEY UNCOVERED A PALESTINIAN PLOT TO ASSASSINATE AN ISRAELI GOVERNMENT MINISTER

TEL AVIV -- Israel's police and internal security agency say they have uncovered a plot by Palestinians to assassinate an Israeli government minister.

They said Thursday that 14 Palestinians were arrested in connection with the alleged plot to assassinate National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir. They said the suspects also planned to attack Israel's main airport, a sports stadium, army bases and government buildings.

The statements did not provide any evidence, and said the plot was in its early stages.

It said three of the suspects, from east Jerusalem, had started learning how to make explosives. It said the others, from southern Israel and the occupied West Bank, had been in contact with Hamas in Gaza.

Ben Gvir, a far-right government minister, is known for his extreme rhetoric and positions toward the Palestinians.

The war in Gaza has stoked tensions across Israel and the occupied West Bank. More than 450 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank since the start of the war, mostly during near-nightly Israeli military raids and violent protests.

There have also been a series of stabbing, ramming and other attacks against Israelis, especially after Hamas called on Palestinians to rise up during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which began last month and continues until mid-April.

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH SAYS ISRAELI ATTACK KILLED MORE THAN 100 PEOPLE IN GAZA APARTMENT BUILDING, INCLUDING 54 CHILDREN

JERUSALEM -- Human Rights Watch says an Israeli attack on a Gaza apartment building in October killed at least 106 civilians, including 54 children.

The New York-based rights group says its investigation into the attack, published Thursday, found no evidence of any military target, making it a war crime.

The attack was one of the deadliest since the start of the war nearly six months ago.

Human Rights Watch says four separate strikes collapsed the Engineer's Building in central Gaza, which was housing some 350 people, around a third of whom had fled their homes elsewhere in the territory.

Those killed included children playing soccer outside and residents charging phones in the first-floor grocery store.

The rights group says it interviewed 16 people, including relatives of those killed in the Oct. 31 attack, and analyzed satellite imagery, 35 photographs and 45 videos of the aftermath. It was unable to visit the site because Israel heavily restricts access to Gaza.

Witnesses told the rights group there was no warning ahead of the attack. Human Rights Watch says Israeli authorities have not published any information about the purported target and did not respond to its own requests for information.

The military did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press on Thursday.

Israel says it tries to avoid harming civilians and blames their deaths on Hamas because the militants operate in dense, residential areas. But the military rarely comments on individual strikes that kill dozens of people every day, including women and children.

Israel has faced mounting international criticism over its wartime conduct after its strikes killed seven aid workers earlier this week.