Fierce battles in southern Gaza

    ‘We want to see the civilian death toll lower,’ State Department spokesman says

    The U.S. State Departments wants to see the number of civilians killed in Israel’s military campaign against Hamas in Gaza reduced, and is having “frank discussions” with Israel about the issue, a spokesperson said.

    “Too many Palestinian civilians have been killed” and continue to be, State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said at a briefing today.

    “A good component of this is the problem presented by Hamas embedding in civilian sites,” he said, but added, “That doesn’t lessen the burden on Israel to do everything it can to reduce civilian harm.”

    “We had some very frank conversations with the government of Israel about that,” Miller said, noting that the U.S. continues to have those discussions.

    ‘Everyone in Gaza is hungry’: World Food Programme, WHO heads again call for cease-fire

    Voicing support for the U.N. secretary-general’s calls for a humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza, the heads of the World Food Programme and the World Health Organization said there are dire conditions in the territory.

    “The humanitarian system is collapsing. Everyone in Gaza is hungry,” Cindy McCain, the WFP’s executive director, said on social media.

    Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the WHO, used similarly stark terms.

    “Gaza’s health system is on its knees and near total collapse. We need peace for health,” he wrote.

    He said he supported U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres’ move to invoke Article 99 to urge the Security Council to declare a cease-fire.

    Palestinian student paralyzed in Vermont shooting is released from hospital to applause

    Hisham Awartani, who was paralyzed from the chest down after he and two other Palestinian college students were shot over Thanksgiving weekend in Vermont, was released from a hospital today to rousing applause.

    In a video shared by his family, Awartani, 20, was strapped to a medical stretcher and covered by a red blanket as he waved waving to onlookers standing in a hallway at the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington.

    Read the full story here.

    Israel’s ambassador to U.N. calls Article 99 threat ‘a new moral low’

    Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, criticized U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres’ decision to invoke Article 99 as reaching “a new moral low.”

    Erdan said invocation of the article, which gives the secretary-general the power to refer matters to the Security Council, is designed to pressure Israel and “is more proof of the Secretary-General’s moral distortion and his bias against Israel.”

    “The Secretary-General’s call for a ceasefire is actually a call to keep Hamas’ reign of terror in Gaza,” Erdan wrote on X.

    Guterres wrote earlier today on X that he was invoking Article 99 and urging the Security Council “to help avert a humanitarian catastrophe [and] appeal for a humanitarian ceasefire to be declared.”

    Senate fails to advance Israel aid over GOP border demand

    The Senate today failed to begin debate on Biden’s national security package, which includes aid to Israel and Ukraine.

    Republicans unified to filibuster it because of a lack of immigration limits that they have demanded as a condition to win their support.

    The failed vote leaves U.S. aid to Ukraine and Israel on life support on Capitol Hill, even as Biden makes a dire plea to approve it to stop Russia from conquering Ukraine.

    Even if the Senate reaches a deal and passes it, there’s no guarantee it would pass in the House, where Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., is under pressure from conservative hard-liners to insist on a far-reaching border and immigration package, known as H.R. 2, that Democrats say is a nonstarter.

    Read the full story here.

    Freed hostages rage at Israeli government, demand more action on rescues

    Audio recordings of an Israeli war Cabinet meeting reveal hostages recently freed from Hamas demanding the government take more action to rescue the remaining hostages. A participant of the meeting has confirmed the recording are authentic.

    Newborn triplets were ready to go home to Gaza, but war trapped them in Israel without their parents

    Her triplets were ready to go home, but war has trapped this young mother in Gaza
    Triplets born prematurely to Palestinian mother Hanan Beyouq are monitored at Makassed Hospital in East Jerusalem on Sunday.NBC News

    JERUSALEM — As with most parents of newborns, Hanan and Fathi Beyouq’s faces light up when they see their triplets’ faces.

    As the small face of their daughter Najwa emerges from under a pink blanket, their voices rise with excitement as they blow kisses and coo her name.

    But unlike other parents, Hanan and Fathi can see their babies only through a cellphone screen. 

    Hanan’s pregnancy was considered high-risk, so Israel allowed her to leave Gaza briefly in August to give birth at Makassed Hospital in East Jerusalem. The three girls were born premature, at 31 weeks, on Aug. 24 and put on respirators. But Hanan, 23, had to return to Gaza when her travel permit expired three days after she delivered and leave the newborns behind. 

    Read the full story here.

    See how a rabbi and an imam work together amid war

    “It was important for us to be proactive and make a point in our community that we are not at war with each other.” Longtime friends Rabbi David Fine and Imam Mahmoud Hamza explain to José Díaz-Balart how they have joined forces.

    Israel drops leaflets in Khan Younis quoting Quran, residents say

    KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza Strip — Residents of Khan Younis, the largest city in southern Gaza and the latest focus of the Israeli military’s ground offensive, say the army has showered the area with leaflets quoting a verse in the Quran.

    Palestinians deciding whether to flee Khan Younis as Israeli tanks draw closer viewed the quoted verse, “The flood overtook them as they were wrongdoers,” as an ominous portent.

    The Israeli military had no immediate comment when asked about the leaflet drop. Journalist Aamer Tabsh in Khan Younis said he saw Israeli planes drop thousands of the fliers. Tabsh said residents are convinced the reference to the epic flood of Noah in the Quran and the Bible “means that something much worse is coming.”

    Some link it to Hamas’ name for its Oct. 7 attack against Israel, Al Aqsa Flood Battle. Others pointed to recent reports that the Israeli military was considering flooding Hamas’ subterranean tunnel network with seawater to force out the militants.

    Israeli military says Hamas leader is hiding underground

    JERUSALEM — An Israeli army spokesman says Hamas leader Yehya Sinwar is hiding underground and it is the mission of the Israeli military to “find Sinwar and kill him.”

    Israeli forces have pushed deeper into his hometown, Khan Younis, over the past two days, heightening the focus on Sinwar, the Hamas leader seen as the mastermind of the deadly Oct. 7 Hamas attack on southern Israel.

    Sinwar grew up in the refugee camp of Khan Younis, which over the decades evolved into a crowded neighborhood of the city. Mohammed Deif, the shadowy military leader of Hamas, is from the camp, as well.

    Earlier today, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that troops “are encircling Sinwar’s house,” adding that “he can escape, but it’s only a matter of time before we get him.”

    Asked later whether that meant troops were closing in on the Sinwar home, as some media had reported, an Israeli army spokesman, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, said: “The house of Sinwar is the area of Khan Younis.”

    “Sinwar is not above ground; he is underground,” Hagari said. “I don’t want to elaborate where and how and what we know in terms of intelligence. This is not the place to talk about such things in the media. Our job is to find Sinwar and kill him.”

    White House aims to sustain level of aid entering Gaza and to supply IDF

    A U.S. military airlift of 36,000 pounds of relief supplies for Gaza arrived in Egypt yesterday, and another is expected to arrive “in the coming days,” National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said at a press briefing today.

    Kirby said the White House aims to help continue to supply Gaza with around 100 trucks of food, water, medicine and fuel per day, even without a humanitarian pause.

    Kirby added that the U.S. continues to provide military assistance to the Israel Defense Forces as it moves into operations in southern Gaza.

    U.N. secretary-general pleads with Security Council for cease-fire, warns of humanitarian catastrophe

    United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres invoked a rarely used article of the U.N. charter to urge the Security Council to declare cease-fire in Gaza.

    Guterres sent a letter to Security Council President José Javier de la Gasca Lopez Domínguez urging him to help avert a “humanitarian catastrophe” in Gaza. Article 99 of the U.N. Charter gives Guterres the authority to call for a Security Council meeting on topics deemed a threat to the maintenance of international peace and security.

    “The situation is fast deteriorating into a catastrophe with potentially irreversible implications for Palestinians as a whole and for peace and security in the region,” Guterres wrote.

    Wounded Palestinians arrive at a hospital in Rafah on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023.
    Wounded Palestinians arrive at a hospital in Rafah today.Fatima Shbair / AP

    Immersive memorial to Nova festival opens to the news media

    Security guards and a member of the Israeli security forces pass a display of toppled toilets during a press tour of the 06:29 memorial recreating the site of the Nova music festival where Hamas killed and kidnapped hundreds of revelers in an Oct. 7 cross-border attack, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023.
    Maya Alleruzzo / AP

    Security guards and a member of the Israeli security forces pass a display of toppled toilets during a press tour today in Tel Aviv of the 06:29 memorial, an immersive recreation of the site of the Nova music festival where Hamas killed and kidnapped hundreds of revelers on Oct. 7.

    Festivalgoers tents are displayed at the 06:29 memorial, an immersive look at the Nova music festival that was the site of a massacre by Hamas near the Gaza border in southern Israel, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023.
    Maya Alleruzzo / AP

    A display of festivalgoers’ tents at the memorial.

    Harvard president clarifies that free expression does not equate to condoning violence against Jewish students

    Harvard President Claudine Gay issued a statement on X clarifying that those who threaten Jewish students at the university will be held to account.

    “There are some who have confused a right to free expression with the idea that Harvard will condone calls for violence against Jewish students. Let me be clear: Calls for violence or genocide against the Jewish community, or any religious or ethnic group are vile, they have no place at Harvard,” Gay wrote in the statement.

    The clarification comes after a social media uproar in response to Gay’s oral testimony before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on Tuesday.

    During the hearing, Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., asked Gay whether a student calling for genocide of Jewish people violates the school’s code of conduct.

    In response, Gay maintained that action would be taken when speech violates the university’s policies against bullying, harassment or intimidation. She declined to specify which actions have been taken due to students’ rights to privacy.

    Stefanik called for Gay’s resignation as Harvard’s president. In a post on X, 2024 presidential candidate Nikki Haley threatened to pull Harvard’s tax exempt status if elected.

    Spokesman Andrew Bates responded to the House Committee hearing on behalf of the White House, stating that President Biden has demonstrated “moral clarity” during a time of rising Antisemitism.

    “It’s unbelievable that this needs to be said: calls for genocide are monstrous and antithetical to everything we represent as a country. Any statements that advocate for the systematic murder of Jews are dangerous and revolting — and we should all stand firmly against them, on the side of human dignity and the most basic values that unite us as Americans,” Bates wrote in the statement.

    Freed hostages accuse Israeli government of inaction over remaining captives

    Audio recordings of an Israeli war Cabinet meeting reveal recently freed hostages demanding that the government take more action to rescue the captives still being held by Hamas in Gaza. A participant of the meeting has confirmed to NBC News the recording is authentic. 

    Inside this week’s ‘chaotic’ meeting between hostage families and Israeli war Cabinet

    TEL AVIV — A meeting between the families of those still being held by Hamas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s war Cabinet became “chaotic” as arguments erupted over the best way to free the remaining hostages, one participant told NBC News. 

    As Israel expands its assault on southern Gaza, tensions soared as attendees, which included some who were recently freed by the militant group, disagreed with both the government and one another over the negotiations to free more of their loved ones, said the participant, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the meeting on Tuesday. 

    There were also heated debates over which hostages should be given priority for release — young women, the elderly or military aged men — the participant said, adding that, at one point, one family member held up an hourglass to emphasize that “time is running out.”

    Read more here.

    Ultranationalist Jews plan march in Jerusalem tomorrow

    JERUSALEM — Ultranationalist Jews plan to march through the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City on Thursday in a demonstration that risks igniting new violence in the holy city.

    Israeli police on Wednesday confirmed that they gave permission for a march of 200 people to pass through the Muslim Quarter and through the Old City to the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray. The march coincides with the start of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah.

    Ultranationalist activists have called on supporters to honor the memory of fallen soldiers who died in the latest Gaza war and to push for expanded Jewish access to Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy site.

    Jews call the site the Temple Mount, the spot where the biblical Temples once stood. Muslims call it the Noble Sanctuary, home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the golden Dome of the Rock.

    Police said Thursday’s march not enter the compound.

    Former Jerusalem police Chief Yair Yitzhaki told Army Radio he couldn’t understand why police approved the march. He added that the route through the Muslim Quarter was “an attempt to anger and inflame the area.”

    Jerusalem has been the site of multiple Palestinian stabbing and shooting attacks since Israel’s war with Hamas began on Oct. 7.

    A similar march in 2021 boiled over into an 11-day Gaza war.

    U.S. Navy ship shoots down unmanned drone fired toward Israel

    The USS Mason, a guided-missile destroyer ship, shot down a drone in the Red Sea this morning, a U.S. military official said. There was no damage to U.S. equipment or personnel.

    The drone originated from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen, the official said. The Houthis are a Shia Islamist military group that is part of the “Axis of Resistance,” which includes groups armed and funded by Iran to oppose the West.

    The news comes days after two ballistic missiles were fired from Houthi-controlled Yemen toward the USS Mason and a commercial oil tanker in the Red Sea. A spokesperson for the Pentagon said the tanker and the USS Mason were not the intended target of the attack.

    During the war, the Houthis have released videos they say show missile attacks toward Israel. U.S. officials said ballistic missiles were fired from Yemen toward Israel, but could not specify who they belonged to.

    Heavily armed Houthi rebels also released a video of them hijacking a Japanese cargo ship in the Red Sea two weeks ago.

    Israeli forces have surrounded Hamas leader’s house, Netanyahu says

    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said today that Israeli forces have surrounded the home of Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar.

    “So his house is not his fortress, and he can escape, but it’s only a matter of time before we get him,” Netanyahu said.

    Sinwar, who was in charge of the day-to-day governance in Gaza, was believed by Israeli officials to have been hiding in Hamas’ labyrinth of tunnels under Gaza.

    “He chose to send the butchers into our bedrooms to kill our babies,” Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a spokesman for the Israeli military, previously said of Sinwar. “And when they chose to go full front against Israel, they signed their own death warrant. A dead man walking. We will get to that man.”

    Netanyahu added during his address that Israel would continue to push the Red Cross for access to the hostages who remain in Gaza.

    U.N. rights chief warns of increased risk of ‘atrocity crimes’ in Gaza

    United Nations human rights chief Volker Turk warned today there was a heightened risk of “atrocity crimes” in Gaza.

    “The catastrophic situation we see unfolding in the Gaza Strip was entirely foreseeable and preventable. My humanitarian colleagues have described the situation as apocalyptic,” Turk told reporters in Geneva.

    “In these circumstances, there is a heightened risk of atrocity crimes. Measures need to be taken urgently, both by the parties concerned and by all States, particularly those with influence, to prevent any such crimes,” Turk said.

    According to the United Nations, the term “atrocity crimes” refers to the crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.  

    Turk also called on the international community to insist on an immediate ceasefire on human rights and humanitarian grounds and reiterated his belief that the only way to end the conflict was to end the occupation and adopt a two state solution.

    People use the lights on their telephones to search for victims amid the rubble of a smoldering building in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Dec. 6, 2023.
    People use the lights on their telephones to search for victims today amid the rubble of a smoldering building in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.Mahmud Hams / AFP – Getty Images

    Human Rights Watch calls out Israel’s ’empty’ evacuation orders in Gaza

    Human Rights Watch today denounced the Israeli evacuation orders in southern Gaza asking people to flee.

    “No military force in any conflict can just make an announcement and then bomb an area with no regard for civilians there — no matter how many warnings it gives and no matter in what form,” said Human Rights Watch’s European media and editorial director, Andrew Stroehlein.

    Israeli forces say they are dropping leaflets from the sky, making phone calls and giving warnings via social media for people in south Gaza to evacuate.

    “They’ve also been cutting communications, so even if you find a charge, you may not get a signal,” he said, adding the maps Israeli forces distribute are often full of errors and “most critically, there is no safe place to flee to.”

    Palestinians flee the Israeli ground offensive in Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, on Dec. 6, 2023.
    Palestinians flee the Israeli ground offensive today in Khan Younis, Gaza.Mohammed Dahman / AP

    Entirety of northern Gaza is ‘without health services,’ health official says

    More than 100 bodies are awaiting burial inside the Kamal Adwan Hospital, the Gaza Health Ministry’s director general told NBC News today, but the Israeli forces “does not allow us to bury them.”

    “Entire northern Gaza without health services,” Munir al-Bursh said.

    He added the the entire hospital is without fuel and the Israeli troops were firing on people.

    NBC News has not independently verified the claims.

    The destroyed infant intensive care unit of Kamal Adwan Hospital after targeting by Israeli army in Beit Lahia, Gaza on Nov. 19, 2023.
    The destroyed infant intensive care unit of Kamal Adwan Hospital in Beit Lahia, Gaza, on Nov. 19.Abdulqader Sabbah / Anadolu via Reuters

    He was hoping to reconnect with his homeland. Now he’s trapped by war

    TEL AVIV — Mohammed Ghalayini came to Gaza hoping to reconnect with his homeland. Instead, he found himself trapped by war. 

    Ghalayini on the beach in Khan Younis during last week's cease-fire.
    Ghalayini on the beach in Khan Younis during last week’s cease-fire.Courtesy of Mohammed Ghalayini

    The Palestinian British scientist arrived in Gaza on Sept. 18 to visit family. Today, he is one of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in the southern city of Khan Younis as Israeli forces close in. “We’re hearing the familiar sound of artillery,” Ghalayini, 44, told NBC News by phone. 

    The United Nations estimates 1.8 million Gazans — around 80% of the population — have been displaced by the fighting so far.

    Ghalayini and his family are now facing the painful decision of whether to join that number and try to get further south for safety, or stay in their family home and risk being encircled by Israeli troops. 

    “Going south would be a huge leap into the unknown,” he said. “We don’t have enough cars to move everyone, we would have no shelter, we’re not sure if we would have access to water.”

    As a British citizen, Ghalayini faces another choice beyond whether to flee Khan Younis. Should he leave Gaza altogether and head for the safety of Egypt?

    “I have the facility to leave if I want to and it’s something I consider day by day. It’s a really hard choice to make because it would be leaving my homeland under the most brutal form of duress. Even if I emerge unharmed physically, it’s a horrible feeling. I came here to reconnect the land, I’m not leaving because of Israel and its war,” he said.  

    Ghalayini said 30 members of his extended family were sheltering in a single three-bedroom apartment and they were dependent on tanks in the street for water. Flour for baking bread is in short supply, he said, and no one had been able to buy eggs for a month.

    He added it was disheartening to watch the U.S. refuse to call for an immediate cease-fire despite the humanitarian disaster unfolding in Gaza. “The U.S. is backing Israel despite them breaking so many humanitarian laws,” he said.

    Generation after generation, Israeli prison marks a rite of passage for Palestinian boys

    NABI SALEH, West Bank — For all Palestinian parents, Marwan Tamimi said, there comes a moment they realize they’re powerless to protect their children.

    For the 48-year-old father of three, it came in June, when Israeli forces fired a large rubber bullet that struck the head of his eldest son, Wisam, as he watched a raid unfold from his grandmother’s rooftop with his family. A week later, Marwan said, soldiers came for the 17-year-old, dragging him out of bed with a fractured skull as his mother cried.

    Wisam was later charged with a range of offenses he denied — throwing stones, possessing weapons, placing an explosive device and causing bodily harm. He was sent to Israel’s Ofer Prison. Last Saturday, after six months behind bars, he returned home with 38 other Palestinians in exchange for Israeli hostages released from Hamas captivity in Gaza — part of a temporary cease-fire in the war that started after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel.

    His parents said they hadn’t seen or heard from him in two months, since the war started. Wisam said he spent that time in an overcrowded cell and was denied adequate food and medication, was interrogated about his friends, and was beaten repeatedly.

    “I yelled, ‘No, he’s my boy, you can’t take him, he’s injured,’” Marwan Tamimi said. “That’s when I realized they will take him. And if I stop them, they will put his life in danger.”

    Wisam’s homecoming last week, along with the release of his well-known activist cousin, Ahed Tamimi, touched every home in the village of Nabi Saleh, where prison is a grim rite of passage for Palestinian boys.

    People clapped. Tears fell. Wisam hugged friends and family, one by one. But the euphoria spoke to pain as much as to joy in the occupied West Bank, where the United Nations estimates 750,000 Palestinians have been arrested since Israel captured the territory in the 1967 Mideast war.

    The competing claims of Palestinians and Israelis have left their scars on Nabi Saleh, home to charismatic activists, journalists and lawyers known for their refusal to submit to occupation. Once an idyllic village on a hilly stretch of farmland growing grapes and green olives, it serves today as a powerful example of how Israeli prison over decades of war has crushed families, constrained lives and stamped out popular resistance.

    Israel’s security service didn’t respond to questions about Wisam’s case. But the military defended large-scale arrests of Palestinians, including minors, as necessary to prevent militant attacks. In a statement to The Associated Press, the army said it aims to “preserve the rights and dignity” of Palestinian suspects during court proceedings and detention and that convicting a minor “requires a burden of proof of guilt beyond reasonable doubt.”

    Palestinian activists and human rights watchdogs say Israel’s mass detentions seek to sow fear among the youngest, breaking communities that continue to defy Israeli military rule, now in its 57th year.

    Read the full story here.

    IDF says it raided a Hezbollah HQ in Lebanon

    An IDF aircraft raided the “headquarters of a Hezbollah terrorist operational command,” Israel Defense Forces spokesperson Avichay Adraee said today in a statement.

    IDF tanks and artillery have also been shelling targets inside Lebanon, he said, adding several shells were monitored from Lebanon toward a military site near Arab Al-Aramsha and Jabal Al-Sheikh area.

    Destroyed buildings after Israeli attacks in Deir Al Balah

    Civilians pass the remnants of a building, destroyed by Israeli strikes, in the central Gaza city of Deir Al Balah today, as search and rescue efforts for survivors are conducted.

    Israeli attacks on Gaza continue
    Ashraf Amra / Anadolu via Getty Images

    Global trade has fallen since war began in the Middle East, institute says

    The Kiel Institute for the World Economy, a research group in Germany, said that global trade has been affected by events in the Middle East.

    “According to the data, global trade fell by 0.9 percent compared to the previous month of October (price and seasonally adjusted),” a report from the institute said.

    The number of containers shipped through the Red Sea has fallen from an expected 600,000 units in November to a recorded 500,000, it added today.

    “Terrorist attacks on merchant ships in the Red Sea could, however, become a new burden on world trade in the future, especially if freight rates rise due to hazard surcharges,” it said, adding a tenth of global trade passes through the Red Sea and the Suez Canal.

    Egyptian Red Crescent: 100 aid trucks prepared to enter Gaza

    A total of 100 aid trucks are being prepared to enter the Gaza Strip, the head of the Egyptian Red Crescent in North Sinai told NBC News today.

    Dr. Khaled Zayed said two fuel trucks carrying about 65,000 liters of fuel had already entered Gaza today and had been handed over to the UNRWA.

    Zayed also said that 19 wounded Palestinians and 19 of their companions had arrived in Egypt and were being sent to hospitals in North Sinai. A number of patients were also transferred to the Italian and French hospital ships in Al-Arish seaport, he said.

    Palestinian fighters use ‘sophisticated tactics’ in battling Israeli forces in Gaza, institute says

    The Institute for the Study of War said yesterday that Palestinian military forces continued to use “sophisticated tactics” when fighting with the Israeli army.

    The report shared on X also said Israeli forces moved eastward and secured parts of the main road of Salah al-Din near southern Gaza.

    The army also entered Khan Younis and Bani Suheila in the south, it added.

    IDF says missile successfully intercepted over Red Sea

    The IDF said today that its “Arrow” aerial defense system identified and successfully intercepted a surface-to-surface missile over the Red Sea. The interception followed the sounding of sirens in the city of Eilat. The IDF said the missile did not cross into Israeli territory and did not pose a threat to civilians.

    Earlier, it said sirens had also sounded in communities near the Gaza Strip and the city of Ashkelon.

    Palestinian women’s groups criticize U.N. Women statement about Oct. 7

    A collection of 39 representatives of Palestinian women and civil society organizations has written an open letter expressing “profound concern” at a recent statement issued by U.N. Women on the situation in Israel and Gaza.

    The open letter notes that although U.N. Women called for an independent investigation into gender-based violence and sexual abuse on Oct. 7, it did not address “the ongoing refusal of the Israeli occupation to cooperate with various international investigation commissions appointed by the United Nations to probe into the crimes committed against Palestinian women in the past.”

    The letter suggests that a U.N. Women statement released Dec. 1 that expressed alarm at numerous accounts of gender-based atrocities and sexual violence committed during the attacks “relies on uncertainties and unproven evidence” and suggests it had been influenced by “political motives.”

    The letter urges U.N. Women to endorse international initiatives to establish investigation committees “concerning sexual crimes and acts of genocide perpetrated by the Israeli occupation in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.”

    UNICEF chief condemns sexual violence against women and children during Hamas Oct. 7 attacks

    UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell called allegations of sexual violence perpetrated by Hamas “horrific” in a post on X yesterday.

    “Survivors must be heard, supported, and provided with care. Allegations must be fully investigated,” she said.

    “We condemn gender-based violence and all forms of violence against women and girls,” Russell added.

    Putin travels to Abu Dhabi

    Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, today, the state news agency RIA Novosti said.

    Putin lands in Abu Dhabi
    Putin is greeted by UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan in Abu Dhabi today.Andrei Gordeyev / AFP – Getty Images

    He will also meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia today to discuss oil production and the wars in Gaza Strip and Ukraine.

    IDF targets Hezbollah and expressed regret over strike that hit Lebanese forces

    Israel Defense Forces said today that it has been targeting Hezbollah forces in Lebanon.

    “IDF tanks and artillery have been shelling some areas inside Lebanon. Our aircraft also raided the headquarters of a Hezbollah terrorist operational command,” the military said in a post on X.

    Yesterday, the IDF said it struck Lebanese troops, expressing regret, adding that the “Lebanese Armed Forces were not the target of the strike.”

    “The IDF was notified that soldiers from the Lebanese Armed Forces were harmed during the strike,” it said, adding the “incident is under review.”

    Hostage families demand urgent action over deteriorating health

    Hostage families worried about the worsening health of those who remain in captivity today urged the Israeli security Cabinet to take immediate action and reach a deal for their release.

    “Among the hostages, at least a third suffer from underlying medical conditions that require regular medical care,” the families said in a letter to the Cabinet.

    The lack of any treatment was posing “immediate mortal danger,” the letter stated, adding many hostages had been injured during or after abduction, including loss of limbs and wounds from shrapnel.

    “For them, every additional day in captivity is a real danger to their lives. It is your responsibility to bring everyone home safe and sound!” the letter said.

    UNRWA says its operations are being pushed ‘to the brink’

    The United Nations Relief and Works Agency said today that it faces several challenges that are pushing its operations in Gaza “to the brink.”

    In a post on X today, UNRWA listed these challenges as heavy bombardment and the resumption of military operation, the lack of regular deliveries of humanitarian aid and fuel, its dependency on one crossing point and the overwhelming needs in Gaza — including in overflowing UNRWA shelters.

    In an earlier X post, the agency said that almost 1.2 million displaced people in Gaza Strip are now sheltering in 156 UNRWA installations, which amounts to 10,000 people on average per shelter.

    Inside a refugee camp in Gaza’s southern city of Rafah

    A temporary camp is set up for Palestinians, displaced by war in the Gaza Strip, in the southern city of Rafah today.

    Rafah Gaza Refugee Camp
    Hatem Ali / AP
    Rafah Palestinian Refugee Camp
    Hatem Ali / AP

    Israel says it revoked visa of top U.N. official

    Israel revoked the visa of United Nations humanitarian coordinator Lynn Hastings over her position on the Hamas attack on Oct. 7, Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said.

    “Someone who did not condemn Hamas for the brutal massacre of 1,200 Israelis, for the kidnapping of babies and the elderly and for the horrific acts of abuse and rape, and for using the residents of Gaza as human shields,” Cohen said in a statement yesterday, “but instead condemns Israel, a democratic country that protects its citizens, cannot serve in the UN and cannot enter Israel!”

    The decision came after Hastings issued a statement about the situation in the Gaza Strip, saying that “nowhere is safe in Gaza and there is nowhere left to go.”

    “If possible, an even more hellish scenario is about to unfold, one in which humanitarian operations may not be able to respond,” she added.

    “We will no longer be silent in the face of the bias of the UN,” Cohen said in a post on X.

    Netanyahu berates activist groups for silence on reports of sexual violence against Israeli women

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on the global community to speak up against the alleged sexual violence by Hamas militants against Israeli women.

    “I say to the women’s rights organizations, to the human rights organizations, you’ve heard of the rape of Israeli women, horrible atrocities, sexual mutilation? Where the hell are you?” he said at a press conference in Tel Aviv yesterday.

    Over the past few weeks, NBC News has reviewed evidence, primarily provided by the Israel Defense Forces and Israeli officials, suggesting that dozens of Israeli women were raped or sexually abused or mutilated during the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks.

    More than 1,200 people were killed on Oct. 7 in Israel, the deadliest terrorist attack in the nation’s history.

    ‘Incident’ involving a drone reported near Yemen, U.K. Maritime Trade Operations says

    The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations said today it received a report of an “incident involved a Unscrewed Aerial System,” also known as a drone, off the coast of Hodeidah Yemen.

    “Vessels in the vicinity are advised to exercise caution,” it said in an advisory.

    Last month, militants believed to be Houthi rebels used a helicopter raid to seize a Japanese cargo ship in southern Red Sea off the coast of Yemen.

    California’s holiday tree lighting ceremony goes virtual due to possible protests

    This year’s holiday tree lighting ceremony at the California Capitol will not be held in person because of the possibility of protests, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office said yesterday.

    Today’s event in Sacramento will instead be virtual and recorded, Newsom’s office said.

    “As we continue to see protests across the country impacting the safety of events of all scales — and for the safety and security of all participating members and guests including children and families — the ceremony this year will be virtual,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

    Gavin Newsom
    California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks in San FranciscoJeff Chiu / AP file

    The type of protest was not specified. There have been demonstrations across the U.S. surrounding Israel’s conflict with Hamas in Gaza since the surprise Oct. 7 attack on Israel and the subsequent war.

    Read the full story here.

    Israel military chief emphasizes captives are ‘top priority’ amid criticism from hostage families

    Amid mounting criticism from hostage families on Israeli military’s operation in Gaza, Chief of General Staff Herzi Halevi said this morning the return of the hostages remains the “top priority.”

    He also said the operation in Gaza has now moved into its third phase, after securing many Hamas strongholds across the strip.

    “The military pressure we are applying and have applied in recent weeks is severely damaging Hamas,” he said.

    Outside a morgue in Khan Younis, Gazans claim lost relatives

    Image: Displaced Palestinians Forced Further South On Gaza Strip As Israel Intensifies Military Offensive
    Ahmad Hasaballah / Getty Images
    Image: Displaced Palestinians Forced Further South On Gaza Strip As Israel Intensifies Military Offensive
    Ahmad Hasaballah / Getty Images

    Palestinians mourn as they collect the bodies of loved ones, killed by Israeli strikes, from a hospital morgue in Khan Younis, in southern Gaza this morning.

    U.N. rejects ‘tasteless’ idea of acceptable ratios in civilian deaths after IDF comment

    Stéphane Dujarric, a United Nations spokesperson, yesterday rejected a IDF comment comparing Gaza’s civilian deaths with Hamas militants.

    “We’re not in the business of establishing those kinds of ratios, which I think are tasteless,” he said in a news conference.

    Earlier this week, the Israel Defense Forces spokesperson Jonathan Conricus told CNN that two Palestinian civilians killed in Gaza for every Hamas militant is a “tremendously positive ratio.”

    The U.N.’s focus is on avoiding any civilian deaths, Dujarric said at his daily press briefing yesterday, while acknowledging that has been far from the case in Gaza.

    State Department thinks Israel isn’t doing enough on allowing aid into Gaza

    The 100 trucks of aid and 70,000 liters of fuel going into Gaza each day for humanitarian purposes is not enough, a spokesman for the State Department said today.

    “They need more humanitarian assistance. They need more food and water,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said at a briefing. “And in that respect, we don’t think Israel is doing enough. We think they need to do more to allow humanitarian assistance in.”

    Israel’s military has said it would expand its campaign against Hamas to all of Gaza.

    Secretary of State Antony Blinken said this week that the U.S. does not want to see a return to the large-scale displacement and civilian deaths that occurred in Gaza when Israel attacked the north of the territory.

    “We have seen them conducting the campaign in some ways in the south in a different fashion than they did in the north,” Miller said. He said that included Israel’s publishing “more limited evacuation zones.”

    Israeli troops inside Gaza this morning

    An image released by the Israeli army today shows troops on the ground in the Gaza Strip amid continuing battles between Israel and Hamas.

    Israeli forces battled Hamas militants in Gaza's main southern city on December 6, 2023 in some of the most intense combat of the two-month-old war sparked by the October 7 attacks.
    Israeli Army / AFP – Getty Images

    British foreign secretary to visit Washington, with Israel-Hamas war in focus

    David Cameron, the newly appointed foreign secretary and former British prime minister, is traveling to Washington today to discuss the war in Gaza and “how the UK and US can work towards enabling a long-term two-state solution,” the British foreign office said in a statement.

    “We also stand united in the Middle East, working together to ensure long-term security and stability in the region,” Cameron said, according to the office.

    Cameron will also discuss Ukraine in his meet with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and will meet with other congressional figures.

    Death toll in Gaza from the war is now more than 16,000, Health Ministry says

    KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza Strip — The Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza says 16,248 Palestinians have been killed and more than 42,000 wounded since the Israel-Hamas war broke out two months ago.

    The ministry said last evening that the death toll included more than 6,000 children and more than 4,000 women. The ministry does not differentiate between civilians and combatants.

    Supplies are ‘critically low’ at central Gaza hospital, Doctors Without Borders says

    Road closure in central Gaza has led to fuel and medical supplies shortages at Al-Aqsa Hospital, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) wrote on X.

    Since Dec. 1, MSF’s Palestinian and international staff have been tending to an average of 150-200 patients who have been injured in the ongoing conflict, it said.

    “There are 700 patients admitted in the hospital now, with new patients arriving all the time. We are running out of essential supplies to treat them,” said Marie-Aure Perreaut Revial, MSF’s emergency coordinator in Gaza.

    Israeli military says new video shows its forces in combat in Gaza

    Israel’s military published video early tosday that it said showed its troops in combat with Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip. NBC News could not independently verify the video’s content.

    China’s foreign minister says the top priority is a cease-fire

    China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi said today in a call with Secretary of State Antony Blinken that the top priority is to achieve a cease-fire and end the war as soon as possible, according to a statement on the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s website.

    The statement added that both sides agreed to maintain communications on the situation in the Middle East and a possible “two-state solution” for Israelis and Palestinians.

    Blinken also “reiterated the imperative of all parties working to prevent the war from spreading,” State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement.

    Released hostage Hannah Katzir health in serious condition

    The health of Hannah Katzir, the 77-year-old hostage who was released last month from Gaza, has deteriorated, and she is in serious condition, her daughter Carmit Palty Katzir told Army Radio.

    “My mother’s condition is serious, her condition has deteriorated following the captivity. She had no heart problems when she was kidnapped, but now she has severe heart problems due to harsh conditions and starvation,” her daughter said.

    Katzir was abducted from her home in the Kibbutz Nir Oz on Oct. 7, when her husband, Rami, was killed.

    IDF says ‘intensive battles’ continue in Gaza, struck ‘approximately 250 terror targets’

    Israeli aerial forces struck almost 250 targets in the Gaza Strip in the past day, the Israel Defense Forces said, describing “intensive battles with aerial support.”

    The IDF said its troops have also located weapons, tunnels and explosives, with its ground forces directing aircrafts to strike rocket launchers on the ground.

    Ruins of northern Gaza seen from Israel

    Israel Hamas War Gaza
    Jack Guez / AFP – Getty Images

    An image taken from southern Israel near the border with the Gaza Strip shows destroyed buildings in Gaza this morning.

    Catch up with NBC News’ latest coverage of the war