The Latest: Pentagon speeds up exit of personnel from Israel

JERUSALEM (AP) — The Latest on the harrowing fighting between Israel and Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers (all times local):

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Defense Department has flown about 120 personnel out of Israel as a precaution in light of the ongoing violence there.

That’s according to Pentagon press secretary John Kirby, who said the American personnel departed on Thursday on a U.S. Air Force C-17 transport plane.

They had been in Israel to plan for a future bilateral exercise. Kirby said the conference was scheduled to end this week but the exit was accelerated by a few days.

There has been a dangerous escalation this week between Israel and Gaza's Hamas militant rulers. Hamas sent a heavy barrage of rockets deep into Israel on Thursday as Israel pounded Gaza with more airstrikes and shells and called up 9,000 more reservists who could be used to stage a ground invasion.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken says the United States is deeply concerned about violence in the streets of Israel as the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians intensifies.

He says Israelis and Palestinians both have the right to freedom, dignity, security and prosperity. Both sides, Blinken said on Thursday, should be able to live in peace.

He added, however, that Israel has a basic right to protect itself. Blinken described a fundamental difference between Hamas militants who are firing rockets into Israeli territory from Gaza and Israel’s government, which is “going after those who are attacking it.”

Blinken’s comments at a news conference with Australia’s visiting foreign minister came after President Joe Biden said that he had not seen “a significant overreaction” from Israel to the rocket fire.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken says the United States is deeply concerned about violence in the streets of Israel as the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians intensifies. He says Israelis and Palestinians both have the right to freedom, dignity, security and prosperity and that both should be able to live in peace.

But, he also stressed that Israel has a basic right to protect itself and that there is fundamental difference between Hamas militants who are firing rockets into Israeli territory from Gaza and Israel’s government which is “going after those who are attacking it.”

Blinken’s comments at a news conference with Australia’s visiting foreign minister came after President Joe Biden said he had not seen “a significant overreaction” from Israel to the rocket fire.

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PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron has spoken Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas about the latest Mideast clashes and says he will speak soon with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well as other regional leaders.

A statement from Macron's office on Thursday said the French president expressed condolences for Palestinians killed in the conflict with Israel. But he also condemned attacks by Hamas and urged Abbas to “use all means of his influence to restore calm as quickly as possible.”

Macron urged “a return to peace” and “a decisive relaunch” of peace negotiations.

Also on Thursday, a few dozen people protested in eastern Paris to show support for the Palestinians.

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JERUSALEM — Israel’s military confirms that three rockets have been fired from southern Lebanon toward northern Israel.

The reports said the rockets fell in the Mediterranean Sea on Thursday evening. No injuries were reported.

Israeli media reported that the rockets were apparently fired by one of the Palestinian factions in Lebanon and that it’s not the start of Hezbollah getting involved in the conflict.

No air raid sirens were activated in northern Israel, which the military said was in accordance with “protocol.”

The development came as Hamas sent a heavy barrage of rockets deep into Israel on Thursday as Israel pounded Gaza with more airstrikes and called up 9,000 more reservists.

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JERUSALEM — Israel’s opposition leader says the country faces an “existential threat” from ongoing violent unrest between Jewish and Arab mobs.

Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid on Thursday said that if the ethnic fighting doesn’t stop, “the state is in danger.”

He vowed to build an alternative governing coalition and end Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12-year rule. Netanyahu also has condemned the communal violence.

Lapid spoke amid ongoing airstrikes and rocket attacks from Gaza.

Earlier Thursday, an Arab man allegedly shot and seriously wounded a Jewish man in the latest incident of ethnic fighting inside Israel.

In Jaffa, an Israeli soldier was attacked by a group of Arabs and was hospitalized in serious condition. In south Tel Aviv, two Jewish men attacked a journalist covering a gathering of ultranationalists.

Police said officers had arrested at least eight suspects in the northern city of Haifa who were involved in stone-throwing and other violent unrest.

Lapid said in his televised address, “We are on the brink of the abyss.”

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ISLAMABAD — Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has spoken by telephone with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas about the deteriorating situation between Israel and Gaza's militant Hamas rulers.

The Pakistani Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that Khan reaffirmed Pakistan’s support for the rights of Palestinian people. The ministry said Khan strongly condemned the attacks on worshippers in the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, as well as deadly airstrikes by Israel in Gaza.

The development came as Hamas sent a heavy barrage of rockets deep into Israel on Thursday as Israel pounded Gaza with more airstrikes and called up 9,000 more reservists.

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UNITED NATIONS — China, Norway and Tunisia say the U.N. Security Council should swiftly hold an open meeting on the escalating violence between Israel and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip.

The three nations sought a council meeting on Friday.

The Security Council has has been silent on the issue, and China said there would be no open meeting. Council diplomats said the United States informed members it couldn’t support the request amid ongoing diplomatic efforts. The U.S. said it would support an open meeting on Tuesday.

Norway’s U.N. Mission tweeted that it is working to reach consensus for a Security Council meeting as soon as possible. It urged a halt to the rocket fire, adding, "Please don’t let innocent civilians suffer.”

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters on Thursday that Washington is “supportive of an open discussion at the United Nations. I think we’re looking at early next week.

Blinken said he hopes this “will give some time for the diplomacy to have some effect and see if we get a real de-escalation."

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