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Britain could recognize a Palestinian state before a peace deal with Israel

RIYAK, Lebanon — Britain’s top diplomat said Thursday that his country could officially recognize a Palestinian state after a cease-fire in Gaza without waiting for the outcome of what could be yearslong talks between Israel and the Palestinians on a two-state solution.

Foreign Secretary David Cameron, speaking to The Associated Press during a visit Thursday to Lebanon intended to tamp down regional tensions, said no recognition could come while Hamas terrorists remained in Gaza, but that it could take place while Israeli negotiations with Palestinian leaders were continuing.

U.K. recognition of an independent state of Palestine, including in the United Nations, “can’t come at the start of the process, but it doesn’t have to be the very end of the process,” said Cameron, a former British prime minister.

“It could be something that we consider as this process, as this advance to a solution, becomes more real,” Cameron said. “What we need to do is give the Palestinian people a horizon towards a better future, the future of having a state of their own.”

That prospect is “absolutely vital for the long-term peace and security of the region,” he said.

In other developments:

— Israel’s defense minister says the military has almost completed its operations in the southern city of Khan Younis after inflicting heavy losses on Hamas terrorists and is poised to move further south toward the Egyptian border.

“The Khan Younis Brigade boasted that it would stand strong against the Israeli military. Today it is dismantled,” Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told troops in Khan Younis on Thursday. “We are completing the mission in Khan Younis and we will also reach Rafah and we will kill every terrorist there who tries to harm us.”

Gallant said Hamas is running out of weapons and ammunition and cannot take care of its wounded fighters.

“They have 10,000 dead terrorists, and another 10,000 wounded who don’t function,” he said.

— Anguished cries for a hostage release deal filled the streets of Tel Aviv as hundreds of Israelis demonstrated Thursday night and blocked traffic on a major highway for around 20 minutes.

— The head of the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees says it will “most likely” need to shut down operations in Gaza and across the Middle East by the end of the month if funding from some key donors remains suspended.

The agency, known as UNRWA, says 16 donor countries, including the United States, have decided to stop financial support they provide to it in the wake of Israel’s claims that 12 UNRWA employees participated in Hamas’ Oct. 7 terrorist attacks in Israel, in which 1,200 people were killed and around 250 other people were taken hostage. The agency has since fired nine of them.

UNRWA says donor countries suspended $440 million worth of funding for it.

— The toll from Israel’s offensive in Gaza surpassed 27,000 Palestinians killed, the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza said Thursday.

The ministry’s count does not differentiate between civilians and combatants.

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