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If the Israel-Hamas war stopped today, it would still take until 2040 to rebuild all the homes that have been destroyed in nearly seven months of Israel’s bombardment and ground offensives in the territory, according to United Nations estimates released Thursday.

The United States has pressured Israel to increase aid deliveries during the war, and on Wednesday, Israel reopened a border crossing with hard-hit northern Gaza Strip for the first time since it was damaged at the start of the war.

Meanwhile, on his seventh visit since the latest war between Israel and Hamas broke out in October, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken pressed for a cease-fire deal. The proposed truce would free hostages held by Hamas in exchange for a halt to the fighting and the delivery of much needed food, medicine and water into Gaza. Palestinian prisoners are also expected to be released as part of the deal.

On Oct. 7, Palestinian militants launched an unprecedented attack into southern Israel, killing around 1,200 people — mostly civilians — and abducting around 250 hostages. Israel says militants still hold around 100 hostages and the remains of more than 30 others.

The death toll in Gaza is more than 34,500 Palestinians, according to local health officials, as the territory faces a humanitarian catastrophe. The war has driven around 80% of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million from their homes, caused vast destruction in several towns and cities and pushed northern Gaza to the brink of famine.

— Nonstop Mideast coverage of the Israel-Hamas war pauses for protests and police action at U.S. schools.

— Colombia’s president says the country will break diplomatic relations with Israel over the war in Gaza.

— The Biden administration is weighing measures to help Palestinians bring family from the region.

— Blinken presses Hamas to seal cease-fire with Israel, saying “the time is now” for a deal.

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

HEALTH MINISTRY ADDS 28 PEOPLE TO THE ISRAEL-HAMAS WAR DEATH TOLL IN GAZA

BEIRUT — The Gaza Health Ministry said Thursday the bodies of 28 people killed by Israeli strikes were brought to local hospitals over the past 24 hours. Hospitals also received 51 wounded, it said in its daily report.

That brings the overall Palestinian death toll from the Israel-Hamas war to at least 34,596, the ministry said, and 77,816 wounded. The Health Ministry does not distinguish between fighters and civilians in its tallies, but says 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 to back up the claim.

FIGHTING IN GAZA HAS DESTROYED OVER 370,000 HOMES AND WILL TAKE UNTIL AT LEAST 2040 TO REPAIR, UN REPORT SAYS

AMMAN, Jordan — If the war in Gaza stopped today, it would still take until 2040 to rebuild all the homes that have been destroyed in nearly seven months of Israel’s bombardment and ground offensives in the territory, according to United Nations estimates released Thursday.

“Every additional day that this war continues is exacting huge and compounding costs to Gazans and all Palestinians” said United Nations Development Programme Administrator Achim Steiner.

At least 370,000 housing units in Gaza have been damaged, including 79,000 destroyed completely, according to the new report by the UNDP and the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, which details how Israel’s assault, launched after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack, has devastated the economy of the Palestinian territories, and how the impact will increase the longer the conflict goes on.

After previous Israel-Hamas conflicts, housing was rebuilt at a rate of 992 units year. Even if Israel allows a five-fold increase of construction material to enter Gaza, it would take until 2040 to rebuild the destroyed houses, without repairing the damaged ones, the report said.

In Gaza, the Israeli offensive has virtually shut down the economy, which contracted 81% in the last quarter of 2023. The report said the “productive basis of the economy has been destroyed,” with sectors experienced losses of more than 90%.

Gaza, home to some 2.3 million Palestinians, has been under blockade by Israel and Egypt since Hamas’ 2007 takeover, putting tight controls on what enters and exits the territory. Even before the war, it faced “hyper-unemployment” of 45%, reaching nearly 63% among younger workers. Since the war began, it lost some 201,000 jobs.

The war has also impacted the West Bank, where for months Israel has imposed restrictions on movement. In 2024, the entire Palestinian economy — including both Gaza and the West Bank — has so far contracted 25.8%, and if the war continues the loss will reach 29% by July, equivalent to $7.6 billion, the report said.

BEIRUT — The militant Palestinian group Hamas has praised the announcement of Colombia’s president Gustavo that his government will break relations with Israel, saying such a move is a recognition of the suffering of Palestinian people.

In its statement Thursday, Hamas called on leaders of Latin America to cut their countries’ diplomatic relations with Israel, which it described as “a rogue and Fascist entity that is continuing its crimes against our people.”

Historically, Colombia was one of Israel’s closest partners in Latin America. But relations between the two nations cooled since Gustavo Petro was elected as Colombia’s first leftist president in 2022.

Petro announced his government will break diplomatic relations with Israel effective Thursday, describing Israel’s siege of Gaza as “genocide.” He previously suspended purchases of weapons from Israel and compared that country’s actions in Gaza to those of Nazi Germany. Hamas said it valued Petro’s stance highly.

Weeks after the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on southern Israel that sparked the current war in Gaza and killed some 1,200 people, Petro recalled Colombia’s ambassador to Israel as he criticized the country’s military offensive.…Read more by By The Associated Press

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