IDF surrounds home of top Hamas leader as Palestinians flee Khan Younis

Freed Hamas hostages come home to find kibbutz destroyed

NIR OZ, ISRAEL — Irena Tati and her daughter Yelena Trupanov spent more than seven weeks in Hamas captivity in Gaza, and just over a week after being freed they returned to survey the wreckage of the burnt-out kibbutz that had been their home.

Ordinarily, the residents of Kibbutz Nir Oz would be lighting candles Thursday for the first night of Hanukkah.

But there are few residents around, the communal dining hall is riddled with bullet holes and the kitchen is burned out.

For Tati, 73, the only thing that she’s thinking about is the return of her grandson Sasha, still held by Hamas in Gaza. While she is holding out hope, there are no immediate signs that the hostage negotiations that cleared the way for her release will resume.

“Now Hanukkah is a holiday of light and joy and I am waiting for war to end on such a holiday,” Tati told NBC News. “And people close to us in Gaza must return home.”

Read the full story here.

Girl collecting firewood barefoot describes hardships in Rafah

Do’a Atef, 12, and her younger brother were barefoot as they collected firewood at the Rafah refugee camp. Rafah, on the border with Egypt, has seen waves of those fleeing the war and Israel’s warnings of continued attacks.

Without shoes, Do’a and her siblings are plagued with thorns as they search for wood in order to cook. She said she had knocked on doors in the area asking for food for her siblings and was given some tomatoes and peppers. They drink dirty water from a well, Do’a added. “At night, we sleep in fear. It’s dark, like a grave,” she said. “We die from the cold.”

Man federally charged after firing shots outside New York synagogue, officials say

A man arrested in connection with shots that were outside an Albany, New York, synagogue today has been federally charged, officials said.

Mufid Fawaz Alkhader was arrested and charged with possession of a firearm by a prohibited person, FBI spokesperson Sarah Ruane told NBC News.

Alkhader is 28, according to two senior law enforcement officials briefed on the matter.

No one was injured in the incident, in which two shots were fired from a shotgun outside Temple Israel around 2 p.m., Albany Police Chief Eric Hawkins said. Police don’t know in what direction the shots were fired, he said. 

Read the full story here.

Israel agrees to open Kerem Shalom border crossing for aid to Gaza, official says

Israel has agreed to open the Kerem Shalom border crossing into Gaza for screening and inspections of humanitarian aid, a senior U.S. official said.

The opening was agreed to on the request of the U.S., the official said.

The Rafah border crossing into Gaza from Egypt has been allowing aid to enter Gaza, and Kerem Shalom crosses into Gaza from Israel near the Egyptian border.

“This is an important step, and we will continue to be in touch with our Israeli counterparts to ensure it happens,” the U.S. official said.

Biden speaks with Netanyahu, says ‘much more assistance’ is required in Gaza

President Joe Biden spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today and “underscored the importance of the continuous and sustained flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza,” the White House said.

Biden “welcomed the recent Israeli decision to ensure that fuel levels will meet requisite needs, but stressed that much more assistance was urgently required across the board,” the White House said in a statement about the call.

“The President emphasized the critical need to protect civilians and to separate the civilian population from Hamas including through corridors that allow people to move safely from defined areas of hostilities,” the statement said.

UNICEF spokesperson: Safe zones risk being ‘zones of disease’

A spokesperson for the aid organization UNICEF in Gaza warned today that “safe zones” from the war carry the risk of spreading disease through poor sanitation.

“They risk being zones of disease and human suffering,” spokesperson James Elder said in a voice message the agency posted online.

“These zones are tiny patches of barren land with no, no facilities, no shelter from the cold and the rain, no sanitation,” Elder said.

Israel has said it has established and will establish safe zones as it pushes its military campaign in Gaza into the south of the territory. Elder said conditions at shelters right now are already dire, with one toilet for 400 children and families.

Elder said that “expecting hundreds of thousands of people to relocate again and again, in the middle of a war with no pause in fighting, is simply unworkable.”

UNICEF today again called for a humanitarian cease-fire.

Over 600 leave Gaza through Rafah crossing

On Thursday, 580 foreigners and 18 wounded people left Gaza through the Rafah crossing into Egypt, the Rafah Crossing Authority said.

An additional 18 people were escorts, it said, bringing the total to 616. Ten people from the United Nations were allowed into Gaza.

The authority reported that 70,000 liters of diesel fuel and 80 aid trucks entered Gaza, which officials say is suffering a humanitarian crisis, today.

A U.S. State Department spokesman said this week that 70,000 liters of fuel a day is not enough and urged that more aid to be allowed.

Israeli soldiers celebrate first night of Hanukkah on Gaza border

Israeli soldiers light candles on the first night of Hanukkah near the Gaza border on Dec. 7, 2023 in southern Israel.
Alexi J. Rosenfeld / Getty Images

Israeli soldiers lit candles and ate sufganiyot, a jelly-filled pastry, to mark the first night of Hanukkah near the Gaza border today in southern Israel.

Image: Jews Mark Start Of Hanukkah As War With Hamas Surpasses Two-Month Mark
Alexi J. Rosenfeld / Getty Images

Threats of violence surrounding Jewish, Muslim communities skyrocket in N.Y.

There has been a dramatic increase in the number of violent language and non-specific threats surrounding Jewish and Muslim communities since the Oct. 7 terror attacks against Israel and the subsequent war in Gaza, according to numbers from the governor’s office.

Threats of violence against Jewish communities numbered 24,615 since Oct. 7, compared to a baseline six-month average of 4,691, the governor’s office said.

Threats of violence against Muslim communities since Oct. 7 totaled 3,490, compared to a six-month average of 675, it said.

The threats were tracked on a variety of social media and other platforms, including X, Telegram, Reddit, Gab and 4chan.

Gov. Kathy Hochul today announced $3 million to go toward the threat assessment and management training to all college campuses, along with other actions.

“The rising tide of hate is putting all New Yorkers at risk,” Hochul said.

Person who fired shots outside N.Y. synagogue said ‘Free Palestine,’ police say

A man arrested in connection with shots fired outside an Albany, New York, synagogue said “Free Palestine,” and the incident is being investigated as a hate crime, Albany’s police chief said.

No one was injured in the incident, in which a man with a shotgun fired two shots outside Temple Israel in Albany at around 2 p.m., Police Chief Eric Hawkins said. Police don’t know in what direction the shots were fired, he said.

The 28-year-old suspect fled after the shots were fired but was confronted by another person in a vehicle in a lot, Hawkins said.

“The suspect at that point made some statement to this person who was in the vehicle to the effect of he feels that he’s being victimized,” Hawkins said.

The suspect then dropped the shotgun, and officers arrived and arrested him, Hawkins said. The suspect’s name was not released. He was being interviewed by police detectives and the FBI this evening.

Hawkins stressed that the suspect acted alone and that there is no further threat to the community. There was no damage to the building.

“We were told by responding officers that he made a comment, ‘Free Palestine,’” Hawkins said.

The incident is being investigated as a hate crime, Hawkins said, but what charges could be filed were not clear. They could include federal charges, he said.

Blinken: There is a ‘gap’ between intent to protect civilians and ‘actual results’

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said today that Israel must prioritize the protection of civilians in Gaza as it attacks Hamas, saying there is “a gap” between the intent to protect civilians and the “actual results.”

Israel has expanded its military campaign in Gaza to include the south of the territory, and Blinken said the U.S. has seen “some important additional steps” by Israel toward the protection of civilians.

“The Israelis have been evacuating neighborhoods, instead of entire cities, so focusing in on a much more deliberative way on those who may be in harm’s way,” he said.

But, Blinken said, “it is imperative, it remains imperative, that Israel put a premium on civilian protection.”

“And there does remain a gap between exactly what I said when I was there — the intent to protect civilians, and the actual results,” he said.

Health officials in Gaza — the territory has been controlled by Hamas — have said that the death toll has now surpassed 17,000 after weeks of Israeli attacks.

Heightened security for Hanukkah across Europe as E.U. warns of ‘huge’ terror risk

LONDON — Cities across Europe are stepping up security and protections for Jewish communities as the Hanukkah holiday gets under way, as the European Union warns of a “huge risk of terrorist attacks” amid the Israel-Hamas war.

In London, the Metropolitan Police tells NBC News they’ve made 75 arrests linked to sentiments around the war, stemming from threats to both Jews and Muslims. One London-area municipality even canceled its Hanukkah celebration, before reversing course under public pressure. And in France, the government is urging extreme vigilance after a fatal terrorist attack over the weekend by a man who told police he was angry about the war and the treatment of Muslims.

This week, the E.U. announced it will devote more than $32 million (€30 million) to protecting places of worship. In the U.K., Claudia Mendoza, head of the Jewish Leadership Council, says many synagogues and Jewish schools across Europe now have guards and police protecting their facilities.

“It’s an indictment on society, to be honest, that people can’t go to their place of worship and feel free to worship without having to have security,” Mendoza said in an interview. “I think the level of concern is probably higher than it’s ever been, Hanukkah or not.”

Video shows Gaza detainees stripped to underwear

Video from Gaza appears to shows dozens of Palestinian men stripped to their underwear while being held by the Israeli military. NBC News has not independently verified the date or details of the events shown.

Shots fired outside of New York synagogue, suspect in custody

Shots were fired outside of Temple Israel in Albany today, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said.

No one was injured or killed and a 28-year-old male suspect is now in custody, according to Hochul. The FBI is assisting law enforcement in New York with the ongoing investigation.

Hochul said she directed the New York State Police and the New York National Guard to be on “high alert” at at-risk locations like synagogues, yeshivas and community centers as the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah begins tonight.

“Any act of antisemitism is unacceptable, and undermining public safety at a synagogue on the first night of Hanukkah is even more deplorable,” Hochul said. “We reject hate, antisemitism and violence in all forms. And we have no tolerance for the forces of evil who are trying to tear our communities apart.”

Iranian president condemns Gaza ‘genocide’ in meeting with Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in Moscow, and the two leaders discussed the ongoing war in Gaza. “What is happening in Palestine and Gaza is of course genocide and a crime against humanity,” said Raisi.

Israel considers flooding Hamas tunnels as it pursues top leader thought to be hiding underground

Israeli soldiers show the media a tunnel found underneath Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on Nov. 22, 2023. Israel says that Hamas militants sought cover on the grounds of the hospital and used the tunnel for military purposes.
Israeli soldiers show the media a tunnel found underneath Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City on Nov. 22. Victor R. Caivano / AP

As Israel’s military assaults southern Gaza above ground in pursuit of Hamas leaders, it is also considering a plan to disable the militant group’s vast labyrinth of underground tunnels by flooding them with seawater, two U.S. officials told NBC News.

The plan to pump water into the tunnels, the officials said, is among the options being explored by Israel to destroy the system, which has emerged as a central goal of the Gaza campaign. Israel’s military declined to comment on the flooding tactic, which was first reported by The Wall Street Journal. 

But in the past, it has said the tunnels have been used to conceal hostages, weapons and fighters who can travel across the Gaza Strip without exposing themselves to airstrikes and ambush invading ground forces. Hamas leaders have boasted the tunnels are hundreds of miles long and full of traps.

Read the full story here.

U.S. ambassador to Israel helps lead Hanukkah ceremony honoring hostages

U.S. Ambassador to Israel Jack Lew lights the first candle of a menorah in honor of those still held hostage by Hamas on the first night of Hanukkah in Tel Aviv.
U.S. Ambassador to Israel Jack Lew lights the first candle of a menorah in honor of those still held hostage by Hamas on the first night of Hanukkah in Tel Aviv.Chantal Da Silva

TEL AVIV — The first night of Hanukkah is usually a time of celebration, but for families with relatives still held hostage by Hamas, today marks a painful milestone: Exactly two months since their loved ones were taken.

U.S. Ambassador to Israel Jack Lew helped lead a ceremony in Tel Aviv this evening honoring those still held hostage on the first night of the Jewish festival.

Lew lit the first candle of a menorah installed in what has come to be known as “Hostage Square,” while 138 other candles were also lit for each person still believed to be held captive, with the loved ones of hostages participating in the ceremony.

It took Lew several attempts to light the menorah, bringing a brief moment of levity to a somber occasion after the U.S. ambassador had to switch from using the shamash, or the helper candle, to a hand-held lighter.

“The United States stands with Israel now and always, and we’re committed to pursuing lasting peace and security,” Lew told a crowd of dozens of people.

“Let the miracle of light once again overcome the darkness of despair,” he said.

Chantal Da Silva
Dozens of people, including the relatives of those taken hostage by Hamas, gathered tonight in Tel Aviv to light candles in honor of those still held captive as they marked the first night of Hanukkah.

Amnesty International: Israeli attack on Lebanese journalists ‘must be investigated as war crime’

Amnesty International said Israeli strikes on a group of seven journalists in south Lebanon on Oct. 13 “must be investigated as a war crime.”

The strike by an Israeli Apache helicopter killed Reuters journalist Issam Abdallah and injured six others, the human rights organization said in a press release on its website. The journalists were on a reporting trip to south Lebanon.

Amnesty said it analyzed videos and photographs, weapons fragments from the site, and interviews with nine witnesses to determine that the group was visibly identifiable as a party of journalists. “The Israeli military knew or should have known that they were civilians yet attacked them anyway in two separate strikes 37 seconds apart,” the press release said.

In its own investigation of the incident, Reuters stopped short of saying the journalists were intentionally targeted. “We don’t target journalists,” IDF international spokesman Lt. Col. Richard Hecht said in response to Reuters’ investigation.

Baby Jesus placed in rubble for Nativity scene at Bethlehem church

A woman arranges a nativity scene with baby Jesus surrounded by rubble at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank on Dec. 6, 2023.
Hazem Bader / AFP – Getty Images

The pastor at a church in Bethlehem assembled a Christmas Nativity scene that reflects the destruction in Gaza, with a baby Jesus figure placed on top of piles of rubble.

“This is what Christmas now means to us that we see Jesus being born among those who have lost everything, who are under the rubble,” Munther Isaac, pastor of Bethlehem’s Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church, told The Washington Post.

Blinken told Netanyahu adviser Israel must do more to protect Gaza civilians

In a call this morning to Ron Dermer, a senior adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Israel must do more to address the humanitarian situation in Gaza, a senior State Department official said.

The U.S. has been pushing Israel to increase the flow of assistance into Gaza since the end of the seven-day pause in the Israel-Hamas war, when Israel prevented fuel from entering Gaza.

Blinken told Dermer that the decision by the Israeli war Cabinet on Wednesday night to let more fuel into Gaza was good, but said the country needs do more to protect civilians.

On Tuesday, 70,000 liters of fuel entered Gaza — far below the 110,000 liters that entered during the humanitarian pause.

According to Juliette Touma, director of communications for the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, humanitarian operations in Gaza need at least 120,000 liters of fuel each day.

Senior Netanyahu adviser says Gazans are heeding Israel’s warnings to move

Mark Regev, a senior adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said that those in Gaza who have been warned of Israeli military operations are relocating based on instructions.

Many in increasingly crowded southern Gaza have said they feel there is no safe place to go, despite the warning.

“We’re fighting against an enemy who has been in power there for 16 years,” said Regev, referring to Hamas, in comments to “Morning Joe” on MSNBC. “This is serious fighting, often in close quarters.”

State in Germany will require applicants for citizenship to declare support for Israel

MUNICH — Applicants for German citizenship in the state of Saxony-Anhalt will need to declare in writing their support for Israel’s right to exist, a press release from the state’s Ministry for Interior and Sport said.

Saxony-Anhalt is one of 16 constituent states of Germany and has a population of 2.17 million. The state’s minister for the interior and sport said the new requirement is intended to prevent foreigners with antisemitic attitudes from obtaining German citizenship.

The decree recommended the following wording for applicants:

“I expressly recognize the special German responsibility for the State of Israel and the right to exist of Israel and condemn any anti-Semitic tendencies. I neither pursue efforts that are against the right to exist of the state of Israel, nor have I pursued such efforts.”

Maggots in wounds, kids getting amputations without anesthetic — Gaza is ‘not survivable,’ aid groups warn

Representatives for several international humanitarian groups rang alarm bells about conditions on the ground in Gaza, which they described as “not survivable” in a press call with international journalists on Thursday.

Groups including Oxfam, Action Against Hunger and Save the Children participated in the call. Bushra Khalidi, Oxfam policy lead, echoed U.N. comments that “the situation in Gaza is not just a catastrophe, it’s apocalyptic.”

Khalidi shared her sister-in-law’s messages from Gaza on the Zoom call.

“She said since the bombings resumed, every thought is on our next forced displacement. Our previous evacuation was marked by panic, terrifying the children. My son, only 7, asked for a separate emergency bag, knowing that I might not make it with him,” Khalidi said of the messages she received from her sister-in-law.

“The scarcity of aid has led to desperate struggles over water tearing at our social fabric,” she added.

Displaced Palestinians who fled Khan Younis set up camp in Rafah near the Gaza Strip's border with Egypt on Dec. 7, 2023.
Displaced Palestinians who fled Khan Younis set up camp today in Rafah near the Gaza Strip’s border with Egypt. Mahmud Hams / AFP – Getty Images

“Those who survived the bombardment and now face imminent risk of dying of starvation and disease,” said Alexandra Saieh of Save the Children, a group whose country director is on the ground in Gaza. “Our teams are telling us of maggots being picked from wounds and children undergoing amputations without anesthetic.”

In response to questions on how much aid is entering Gaza, Chiara Saccardi, head of Action Against Hunger in the Middle East, said that before the current hostilities, 80% of the population was already “highly dependent on aid.”

“So what was already highly dependent of aid, now it’s completely dependent on aid. It is a matter of life and death. It is simple as that. If aid does not enter Gaza, it is a matter of death,” Saccardi said.

She, along with others on the call, called for a cease-fire.

“We do need unimpeded access for humanitarian aid workers to reach the population in need of aid, to come in with a sustained flow that can actually have an impact,” she added.

Palestinian with disabilities shot in the leg, his brother says

A Palestinian man who is known to have mental disabilities was shot in the leg by Israeli soldiers in Hebron in the West Bank, his brother told NBC News.

‏”My brother wanted to pass the checkpoint. The army stopped him and asked him where is your ID? His ID was at home,” Amer Abu Aber, 30, said. “He wanted to continue on his way, and the soldiers shot him at the checkpoint. My brother is known to everyone as having special needs.”

Aber said that his brother, Tariq Ghazawi, was taken to the hospital and has a bone fracture from the shooting. He added that his brother’s wife gave birth yesterday to a baby girl.

NBC News has reached out to Israel Defense Forces for comment.

Scenes of grief outside Khan Younis hospital morgue

A Palestinian man grieves while carrying the body of a child outside the Nasser Hospital morgue, ahead of the funeral prayer in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, today.

Israeli attacks on Gaza continue
Belal Khaled / Anadolu via Getty Images

State Department says it will take action in response to Houthi attacks on Israel and in Red Sea

The State Department said it is holding 13 individuals and entities responsible for funding the Houthis in Yemen through a network of exchange houses and companies. Spokesperson Matthew Miller said the funds were generated through the sale and shipment of Iranian commodities.

“The Iranian regime’s support to the Houthis has enabled unprovoked attacks on civilian infrastructure in Israel and on commercial shipping in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden,” said Miller. “Attacks launched from Houthi-controlled areas have also threatened U.S. warships operating in international waters.”

The Houthis are a rebel militant group with a history of funding from Iran. Over the past couple weeks, they have launched multiple ballistic missiles and drones toward Israel. Yesterday, a U.S. warship shot down an unmanned drone from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen.

Miller warned that Houthi attacks risk broadening the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

Muslim advocacy group reports ‘staggering’ increase in bias complaints since Oct. 7

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, the leading Muslim advocacy group in the U.S., received more than 2,000 requests for help and reports of bias over the last 57 days, according to new data released today.

In the eight weeks between Oct. 7 and Dec. 2, the organization’s national headquarters and chapters logged a total of 2,171 complaints — a 172% increase over a similar two-month period last year, according to the organization.

“It’s staggering to see this kind of spike in anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian hate in less than two months,” said Corey Saylor, the organization’s research and advocacy director.

The organization said that First Amendment violations were the most-reported issue during the eight-week period, representing 33.94% of all complaints. The other top issues included employment problems (22.38%), and hate crimes and hate speech (16.7%).

Jewish advocacy groups such as the Anti-Defamation League have tracked a concurrent rise in antisemitism since the Hamas terror attack in Israel on Oct. 7, including an uptick in violent threats and hate speech.

Death toll in Gaza surpasses 17,000, Health Ministry says

The death toll in Gaza has now reached 17,177, with more than 46,000 people injured, said Dr. Ashraf Al-Qudra, a spokesman for Gaza’s Health Ministry.

“We are facing difficulties in counting the martyrs and wounded due to the continuous bombing and the cutting of communications,” he said on Al Jazeera.

Al-Qudra added that 350 dead bodies and 900 injured people arrived in the region’s hospitals within the past 24 hours, contributing to the already overwhelmed health care system in the Palestinian enclave.

Gaza’s largest hospital, Al-Shifa, has been struggling to operate over the past month because of scarce power, fuel and supplies. “The liquidation of health services in northern Gaza will have serious and disastrous repercussions for the wounded,” Al-Qudra said. “We face great difficulties in operating the Shifa complex and need the support of international institutions.”

Israeli forces have been allowing some wounded civilians to leave Gaza through the Rafah crossing with Egypt to get treatment, but Al-Qudra said that those who left make up less than 1% of those injured.

Palestinians carry a dead girl found under the rubble of a destroyed building in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023.
Palestinians carry a dead girl found under the rubble today of a destroyed building in Khan Younis, southern Gaza.Mohammed Dahman / AP

IDF gunners prepare naval vessel before Gaza operation

Israeli Navy Gaza
Gil Cohen-Magen / AFP – Getty Images
Israeli Navy Gaza
Gil Cohen-Magen / AFP – Getty Images

Israeli soldiers prepare ammunition onboard a gunship at the Israeli naval base in Ashdod, before setting out to the waters around Gaza in the Mediterranean Sea today.

Israeli shell killed journalist in Lebanon, rights groups and news agencies conclude

Israeli strikes killed Reuters journalist Issam Abdallah and injured six others in south Lebanon on Oct. 13, in what was likely a direct attack on civilians and should be investigated as a war crime, two rights groups said today.

Amnesty International said in a statement that it had come to that conclusion after verifying more than 100 videos and photographs, analyzing weapons fragments from the site, and interviewing nine witnesses.

“The findings indicate that the group was visibly identifiable as journalists and that the Israeli military knew or should have known that they were civilians yet attacked them anyway in two separate strikes 37 seconds apart,” it said. The strikes “were likely a direct attack on civilians that must be investigated as a war crime,” it added.

Human Rights Watch also released similar findings, as did news agencies Reuters and AFP.

An Israeli government spokesperson said he was not aware of the findings. “We do not target civilians,” spokesperson Eylon Levy said in a televised briefing.

Civil Defense workers remove the body of Reuters videographer Issam Abdallah who was killed by Israeli shelling in south Lebanon  on the border with Israel on Oct. 13, 2023. .
Hassan Ammar / AP file

In a separate statement, Human Rights Watch said the strikes were “an apparently deliberate attack on civilians and thus a war crime.”

“Witness accounts and video and photo evidence that Human Rights Watch verified indicate that the journalists were well removed from ongoing hostilities, clearly identifiable as members of the media, and had been stationary for at least 75 minutes before they were hit by two consecutive strikes,” the statement said.

“Human Rights Watch found no evidence of a military target near the journalists’ location,” it added.

Poll finds Democratic support rebounds for Biden’s handling of Israel-Hamas war

Democratic support for President Joe Biden’s handling of the Israel-Hamas war has rebounded, according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center Public Affairs Research.

Around 59% of Democrats approve of Biden’s approach to handling the war, rising slightly from 50% in November, the poll found. Meanwhile, only 18% of the Republicans supported Biden on this issue, it added.

About half of the public said the top priority is to negotiate a permanent cease-fire and offer humanitarian relief to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, while around 34% said it is “extremely or very important” to provide military aid to Israel, the report read.

Criticism and concern over today’s far-right march in Jerusalem

A march organized by far-right Jewish activists in Jerusalem set to take place today, the first day of Hanukkah, has drawn concern and criticism.

Dubbed “The Maccabi March,” a flyer for the event says its purpose is to “renew full Jewish control in Jerusalem and Temple Mount,” a site that is sacred in both Judaism and Islam.

It is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. local time (12:30 p.m. ET) from Tzahal Square and continue through the Damascus Gate toward a site Jews call 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.

The event has been approved by Israeli police but some have expressed concern that it could inflame tensions in the holy city. Opposition leader Yair Lapid said it was an “attempt to set fire to more arenas and cause more destruction and death.”

Israel blows up Hamas tunnels and considers flooding them

NIR OZ, Israel — Israeli troops say they’re making advances against Hamas in Gaza, killing its field commands.

Israel is also blowing up the entrances to tunnels and is reportedly considering flooding them with seawater, though some hostages might be inside.

Relatives grieve after strike in Rafah

A Palestinian woman embraces the body of a loved one killed in an Israeli strike outside a hospital morgue in Rafah, southern Gaza, today.

Gaza Strip Rafah Morgue
Hatem Ali / AP

University leaders clarify positions on genocide after White House criticism

Two elite university leaders have attempted to clarify their positions after they appeared to sidestep the question of whether calling for the killing of Jews was against their students’ codes of conduct at a congressional hearing earlier this week.

Referring to the hearing yesterday, White House spokesperson Andrew Bates said in a statement that it was “unbelievable that this needs to be said: calls for genocide are monstrous and antithetical to everything we represent as a country.”

In a video posted to Facebook yesterday, Elizabeth Magill, president of the University of Pennsylvania, said she should have been focused on “the irrefutable fact that a call for genocide of Jewish people is a call for some of the most terrible violence human beings can perpetrate.”

“It’s evil, plain and simple,” she added.

In a separate statement posted to X, Claudine Gay, president of Harvard University, said: “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, and those who threaten our Jewish students will be held to account.”

Israel approves ‘minimal’ increase of fuel to Gaza

The Israeli security Cabinet approved a “minimal” increase in supplies of much-needed fuel to southern Gaza. The move was taken to “prevent a humanitarian collapse and the outbreak of epidemics,” the Israeli prime minister’s office said in a post on X.

UNRWA says required conditions to deliver aid ‘do not exist’

The main U.N. agency for Palestinians said today that the conditions required to provide aid to the Gaza Strip “do not exist.”

Heavy bombardment and the resumption of military operations have made the situation “desperate,” the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East said, citing a lack of aid and overcrowding in shelters.

“UNRWA operations are being strangled,” it added in a statement on X.

Exclusive: Jewish organization staffers call for White House to back Gaza cease-fire

Biden In Israel
Miriam Alster / Pool / AFP via Getty Images file

While most major American Jewish organizations staunchly support Israel in its war against Hamas, dissent has quietly been growing among their often younger employees, some of whom are now speaking out to “demonstrate broad support within the Jewish community for a ceasefire.”

More than 500 staffers at over 140 Jewish organizations across the country signed on to an open letter to President Joe Biden, shared first with NBC News, calling for a cease-fire, the return of all hostages and a lasting peace for both Israelis and Palestinians.

Read the full story here.

Saudi Arabia urges U.S. restraint as Houthis attack ships in Red Sea

Saudi Arabia has asked the United States to show restraint in responding to attacks by Yemen’s Houthis against ships in the Red Sea, two sources familiar with Saudi thinking said, as Riyadh seeks to contain spillover from the Hamas-Israel war.

The Iran-aligned Houthis have waded into the conflict that has spread around the Middle East since war erupted Oct. 7, attacking vessels in vital shipping lanes and firing drones and missiles at Israel itself. The Houthis are one of several groups in the Iran-aligned “Axis of Resistance” which have been attacking Israeli and U.S. targets since the start of the conflict.

With the Houthis stepping up attacks on shipping over the past weeks, two sources familiar with Saudi thinking said Riyadh’s message of restraint to Washington aimed to avoid further escalation. Riyadh was so far pleased with the way the United States was handling the situation, the sources added.

Overnight strike in Rafah displaces Palestinians

Palestinians gather near a building destroyed by an Israeli bombardment overnight in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip this morning.

Displaced Palestinians in Rafah, Southern Gaza.
Mahmud Hams / AFP – Getty Images

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 yesterday 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 to onlookers standing in a hallway at the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington.

Read the full story here.

IDF troops on the ground in Khan Younis

This picture released by the Israeli army shows troops on the ground in the heart of southern Gaza’s main city of Khan Younis this morning, where the suspected mastermind of the Hamas attacks is believed to be hiding.

IDF inside Khan Younis
AFP – Getty Images

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