Israel bombards southern Gaza

Biden’s allies in the Senate demand that Israel limit civilian deaths in Gaza as Congress debates U.S. aid

WASHINGTON — As a cease-fire ticked down last week and Israel prepared to resume its round-the-clock airstrikes, Sen. Bernie Sanders and a robust group of Democratic senators had a message for their president: They were done “asking nicely” for Israel to do more to reduce civilian casualties in Gaza.

Lawmakers warned President Joe Biden’s national security team that planned U.S. aid to Israel must be met with assurances of concrete steps from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hard-right government.

“The truth is that if asking nicely worked, we wouldn’t be in the position we are today,” Sanders of Vermont said in a floor speech. It was time for the United States to use its “substantial leverage” with its ally, Sanders said.

“And we all know what that leverage is,” he said, adding, “the blank-check approach must end.”

With Biden’s request for a nearly $106 billion aid package for Ukraine, Israel and other national security needs hanging in the balance, the senators’ tougher line on Israel has gotten the White House’s attention, and that of Israel.

Lawmakers of both parties for decades have embraced the U.S. role as Israel’s top protector, and it’s all but inconceivable that they would vote down the wartime aid. The Democratic lawmakers are adamant that’s not their intent, as strong supporters of Israel’s right of self-defense against Hamas. But just the fact that pressure is building — including from mainstream lawmakers, supporters of the Democratic president — shows the fractures in Congress as the aid debate drags on.

Sanders and the Democratic senators involved say they are firm in their stand that Israel’s military must adopt substantive measures to lessen civilian deaths in Gaza as part of receiving the supplemental’s $14.3 billion in U.S. aid for Israel’s war.

The warning from friendly Democrats is a complication for the White House as it faces what had already been a challenging task of getting the supplemental aid bill through Congress. Some Republicans are balking at the part of the bill that provides funding for Ukraine’s war against Russia, and the funding for Israel was supposed to be the easy part.

The demand is a warning of more trouble ahead for an Israeli government that’s often at odds with the U.S. in its treatment of Palestinians.

“There’s a big difference between asking and getting a commitment” from Netanyahu’s government on a plan to reduce civilian casualties and improve living conditions in Gaza, Maryland Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen told The Associated Press. Van Hollen has been one of the key senators huddling with administration officials on the demands.

“So our goal is to achieve results,” Van Hollen said. “And not just set expectations.”

Following the senators’ warning, the Biden administration has upped its own demands to Israel since late last week, insisting publicly for the first time that Israeli leaders not just hear out U.S. demands to ease civilian suffering in Gaza, but agree to them.

Over the weekend, as an end to the cease-fire brought the return of Israeli bombardment and Hamas rocket strikes, the Israeli military said it had begun using one measure directed by the Biden administration: an online map of Gaza neighborhoods to tell civilians which crowded streets, neighborhoods and communities to evacuate before an Israeli attack.

Heavy bombardment followed the evacuation orders, and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip said they were running out of places to go in the sealed-off territory. Many of its 2.3 million people are crammed into the south after Israel ordered civilians to leave the north in the early days of the war, which was sparked by the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack in Israel that killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians.

The health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza says more than 15,500 Palestinians have been killed, with 70% of them women and children.

On social media, Sanders repeated his call for an end to blank checks for Israel as Israeli forces returned to heavy bombing after the cease-fire.

While Secretary of State Antony Blinken said more measures were coming besides the online map, it wasn’t clear if any would lessen civilian deaths or satisfy administration and lawmaker demands.

Israel is the top recipient of U.S. military aid over time.

Trying to attach strings to U.S. aid to Israel isn’t unheard of, for Congress or for U.S. presidents. Ronald Reagan, for instance, repeatedly suspended or threatened suspensions of fighter jet deliveries to Israel over its military incursions in the region in the 1980s. This time, though, is notable since it is being discussed in a Democratic-controlled Senate.

National security adviser Jake Sullivan and other White House officials huddled with the Senate Democrats over the warning. Israeli diplomats and military officials also rushed to stem such a move, hosting lawmakers for repeated viewings of video of Hamas atrocities on Oct. 7 to make the case for the U.S. military aid.

Netanyahu’s coalition has weathered calls in the past from advocacy groups and individual lawmakers. Objections concerned Palestinian civilian deaths in past Israeli wars against Hamas.

Biden from the start adopted what came to be called his “bear-hug” approach to the Israeli leader — embracing him publicly, and saving any U.S. appeals for changed behavior for private discussions. But when Biden told reporters on Nov. 24 he thought conditioning military aid to Israel was a “worthwhile thought,” it helped the proposal gain traction among administration-friendly Democratic senators.

Sanders and the Democrats haven’t specified what form the conditions could take, as talks continue. Several Democratic senators contend no additional law is necessary. They say existing U.S. law already mandates that countries receiving U.S. military aid heed human rights concerns.

Some Senate Democrats express dislike of the use of the term conditions and depict their action as more of a determination to influence an outcome.

No matter what, “we’re going to do a robust aid package for Israel,” said Sen. Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat. “But it’s got to be consistent with humanitarian aid, and also efforts to reduce the suffering of Gazans who aren’t part of Hamas.”

U.S. conducts strike on drone staging site in Iraq, officials say

The U.S. military carried out a self-defense strike on a drone staging site in Iraq today, according to three defense officials. 

The strike, which took place in the vicinity of Kirkuk this afternoon local time, was a self-defense measure on an imminent threat authorized by a commander in the area of operation, the officials said.

U.S. forces observed five people preparing a one-way attack drone and used self-defense authorities to strike it before it launched. The defense officials believe some militants were killed but are still verifying the battle damage assessment for specifics.

Additional details about the strike and the circumstances around it were not immediately available.

United States targets in Iraq and Syria have been attacked more than 60 times, primarily by drones and rockets, since Oct. 17. The U.S. has launched some strikes in response.

U.S. warship downs 3 Houthi drones as 3 commercial vessels attacked

U.S. officials are providing more information about four attacks on commercial vessels in the Red Sea today that they believe were launched by Houthis in Yemen, as well as three drones shot down by an American warship.

The USS Carney detected an anti-ship ballistic missile striking the Unity Explorer — a Bahamas-flagged and U.K.-owned and operated bulk cargo ship — this morning local time, according to a statement from U.S. Central Command, or CENTCOM.

Later today, the USS Carney shot down a drone that had been launched from Houthi-controlled areas and was moving toward the warship, though its target was unclear, officials said.

Shortly after, the Unity Explorer reported it had been struck by a missile, causing some damage. The USS Carney responded to help and detected and destroyed another drone, CENTCOM said. 

Two additional carriers, the Number 9 and Sophie II, both reported being struck by a missile. The USS Carney responded to the Sophie’s distress signal and shot down another drone headed in its direction, according to CENTCOM.

It described the missiles in each of the incidents involving the Unity Explorer and Number 9, as well as one of the drone attacks, as being fired from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen.

No casualties were reported in any of the incidents.

Both the Number 9 and Sophie II are Panamanian-flagged bulk carriers. The Sophie is crewed by sailors from eight countries and the Number 9 is Bermuda and U.K.-owned and operated, CENTCOM said.

“These attacks represent a direct threat to international commerce and maritime security,” it said in the statement. “They have jeopardized the lives of international crews representing multiple countries around the world.”

CENTCOM said while it believes the attacks were launched by Houthis in Yemen, it also believes they were enabled by Iran.

“The United States will consider all appropriate responses in full coordination with its international allies and partners,” it said.

TEL AVIV — At least 700 people have been killed in Gaza since Israeli bombardment resumed Friday after the end of the weeklong truce, according to Gaza officials.

The Israel Defense Forces and other Israeli authorities say they’re taking precautions to avoid civilian casualties — a message the U.S. has reinforced — including by telling people to leave areas they intend to target and sharing maps of evacuation zones.

Some people in Gaza say the information about evacuation routes is confusing, and feel there is nowhere safe for them to go. There are also fears among Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank that the military campaign may mean the forced displacement out of the Gaza Strip.

Father of slain Palestinian American boy files wrongful death lawsuit against landlord charged in attack

6-year-old Wadea Al-Fayoume.
Wadea Al-Fayoume.Courtesy of Hela Yousef

CHICAGO — The father of a 6-year-old Palestinian American boy fatally stabbed in what authorities allege was a hate crime has filed a wrongful death lawsuit.

Oday Al-Fayoume filed the lawsuit last month against the suburban Chicago landlord charged in the attack that left his child dead and the boy’s mother seriously wounded. The attack — which has renewed fears of anti-Islamic discrimination in the Chicago area’s large Palestinian community — has drawn condemnation from the White House.

Authorities allege Joseph Czuba, 71, targeted Wadea Al-Fayoume and his mother, Hanaan Shahin, on Oct. 14 because of their Muslim faith and as a response to the war between Israel and Hamas. Czuba pleaded not guilty in October to hate crime and murder charges.

Read the full story here.

Qatar’s Al Thani and Blinken talk on the phone

Qatar Prime Minister Mohammed Bin Jassim Al Thani and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke on the phone today, according to the Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The current situation in Gaza was discussed, as well as “ways to reduce the escalation and ceasefire,” the ministry said.

Al Thani stressed that Qatar is committed to mediation efforts to bring about peace, but the return to bombing of Gaza Strip after the cease-fire “complicates mediation efforts and exacerbates the humanitarian catastrophe” there, according to the ministry’s statement.

Al Thani also condemned the targeting of civilians, especially women and children, and “the practice of a policy of collective punishment.”

Al Thani and Blinken also spoke about opening humanitarian corridors to allow aid to reach people in Gaza.

IDF eliminated Hamas commander of ‘the Shati battalion,’ spokesperson says

The Israel Defense Forces have eliminated the Hamas commander of “the Shati Battalion,” according to spokesperson Daniel Hagari.

“Continuing the elimination of the commanders, today the IDF, under the intelligence guidance of the Shin Bet and Aman, eliminated the commander of the Shati battalion using a fighter plane. Under his command, raiders went out into Israeli territory in the brutal massacre on the seventh of October,” Hagari said.

NBC News has not independently verified the IDF’s claims.

Hagari said the IDF is continuing to expand its “ground operation against Hamas’ centers of gravity throughout the Gaza strip.”

“Our policy is clear — we will vigorously attack any threat. IDF forces are alert and prepared in all sectors,” Hagari said.

IDF now operating in the southern Gaza strip, chief of general staff says

TEL AVIV — The Israel Defense Forces are now operating in the southern Gaza strip, according to the Chief of General Staff Herzi Halevi.

“Yesterday, and today, we eliminated brigade commanders, company commanders, many operatives, and yesterday morning we started the same process in the southern Gaza Strip, it will be with no less strength than that, it will be with no less results than that, and Hamas commanders will meet the IDF everywhere in a very, very strong way,” Halevi said.

House Intel Committee chair says there was ‘a complete breakdown’ in Israeli intel before Oct. 7

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Turner, R-Ohio, said Sunday that there was a “complete breakdown” in Israeli intelligence before Hamas launched its Oct. 7 attack.

The New York Times recently reported that Israeli officials obtained Hamas’ plans for its Oct. 7 attack more than a year before it happened, citing documents, emails and interviews. The outlet reported that the document was circulated among Israeli military and intelligence officials, but experts had dismissed the plan as too aspirational for Hamas to carry out. The White House has indicated that these plans were not shared with U.S. intelligence before the attack.

“Well, I think what you saw was just a general dismissal by Israel and Israel’s intelligence community of the possibility of this level of a threat, which really goes to show, you know, the complete breakdown that occurred here,” Turner said in an interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “It’s been amazing to have our intelligence community now working closely with the Israeli intelligence community and see the gaps that they have.”

“And this obviously could have been an institutional bias … but the other aspect that made this so dangerous, is that even when the Oct. 7 began to unfold, their forces didn’t react, they didn’t have the deployment ability to respond,” he said.

Sen. Graham says he ‘lost all confidence’ in Defense Sec. Austin

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Sunday that he has “lost all confidence” in Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin after his recent remarks saying Israel risks a “strategic defeat” if it doesn’t take actions to protect civilians.

In a speech at the Reagan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, California, yesterday, Austin discussed his efforts to urge Israeli leaders to reduce civilian casualties. “The center of gravity is the civilian population, and if you drive them into the arms of the enemy, you replace a tactical victory with a strategic defeat,” he said.

Graham rebuked Austin’s comments in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “He’s so naïve. I mean, I’ve just lost all confidence in this guy,” he said. “Strategic defeat would be inflaming the Palestinians? They’re already inflamed.”

The South Carolina Republican also argued that Israel is fighting a “radical population” that is “not just Hamas, but the infrastructure around Hamas.”

Palestine Red Crescent Society says it received 100 aid trucks through the Rafah crossing

The Palestine Red Crescent Society said it received 100 aid trucks through the Rafah crossing today.

The trucks contains food, water, relief assistance, medical supplies and medicine, according to the humanitarian organization.

Rep. Jayapal reitierates call for cease-fire as Israel intensifies bombardment of Gaza

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., on Sunday reiterated her support for an indefinite cease-fire as Israel ramped up its military efforts in Gaza.

In an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union,” host Dana Bash asked Jayapal whether her repeated calls for an indefinite cease-fire are realistic after talks to renew the recent truce between Israel and Hamas fell apart.

“Well, it’s what has to happen,” she said. “And I do think it’s realistic. I think what we saw is, after many weeks of saying we couldn’t get to a cease-fire, that was not going to happen, we did have a temporary cease-fire, and what happened? We were able to see a significant number of hostages released. We were able to get humanitarian aid into Gaza.”

Jayapal, who chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, went on to say that Democrats must not capitulate as Republicans seek to condition foreign aid on changes to policy surrounding immigrants arriving at the southern U.S. border.

“They are holding aid for Israel and Ukraine hostage to changes to the asylum system that would destroy the asylum system,” she said. “Things that they could not get done through regular order. And I think we need to put our foot down and say no.”

U.S. warship shot down two Houthi drones as commercial vessel was attacked in the Red Sea

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — An American warship shot down at least two Houthi drones when a commercial ship came under attack Sunday in the Red Sea, the Pentagon said. It does not appear that the warship was the target of the attack.

The Pentagon said the USS Carney destroyed a Houthi drone that was headed in its direction in the southern Red Sea. The ship observed at least one ballistic missile fire and land in the vicinity of a civilian commercial vessel, the Unity Explorer. While the USS Carney was assisting the Unity Explorer, it shot down another Houthi drone that was headed in both ships’ direction.

In a statement released today, Yemen’s Houthi rebels said it “carried out a targeting operation against two Israeli ships in Bab al-Mandab, namely the ‘Unity Explorer’ ship and the ‘Number Nine’ ship. The first ship was targeted with a naval missile and the second ship with a naval drone.”

“The targeting operation came after the two ships rejected warning messages,” the statement said, adding that the actions were in support of Palestinians under Israeli attack in Gaza.

The British military earlier said there had been a suspected drone attack and explosions in the Red Sea, without elaborating.

Yemen’s Houthi rebels have been launching a series of attacks on vessels in the Red Sea, as well as launching drones and missiles targeting Israel as it wages war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Daughter of hostages says unknown future of her parents is ‘torture’

TEL AVIV — Iris Weinstein-Haggai, the daughter of two American hostages, Judi Weinstein, 70, and Gad Haggai, 70, told NBC’s “TODAY” that although she now believes her father to be dead, not knowing what has happened to her parents is “torture.”

“It’s torture because my mind fills the gap. And it fills the gap every second, so every second I have a different thought in my mind: She’s alive, she’s wounded, she’s tortured,” Weinstein-Haggai said. She added that her mother was the last elderly woman left as a hostage in Gaza.

The fate of the remaining hostages held in Gaza is increasingly uncertain after Israel resumed its bombardment. A senior Hamas official said there would be no further negotiations until the end of the war, and Israel on Saturday pulled senior Mossad negotiators out of Qatar where negotiations were taking place.

ICC prosecutor calls on both Israel and Hamas to adhere to international law

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Sunday called on both Israel and Hamas to adhere to international law and to allow humanitarian aid to be delivered to the besieged Gaza Strip.

“On humanitarian access, the law does not allow for doubt,” ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan said after a four-day visit to the sites of the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks in Israel and to the Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank. “Civilians must have access to basic food, water and desperately needed medical supplies, without further delay, and at pace and at scale,” he said, adding that Hamas must not misuse such aid.

“All actors must comply with international humanitarian law. If you do not do so, do not complain when my office is required to act.”

Khan also offered Israel the court’s assistance in investigating crimes committed by Hamas during its’ Oct. 7 attacks, which he described as “some of the most serious international crimes that shock the conscience of humanity, crimes which the ICC was established to address.”

Israel is not a member of the Hague-based court and does not recognize its jurisdiction.

Israeli airstrike kills prominent scientist Sufyan Tayeh

An Israeli airstrike targeting the Jabalia refugee camp in the northern part of the Gaza Strip has killed prominent Palestinian scientist Sufyan Tayeh and his family, the Palestinian Higher Education Ministry announced Saturday.

Tayeh, who was president of the Islamic University of Gaza, was a leading researcher in physics and applied mathematics. He was the holder of the UNESCO chair for physical, astrophysical and space sciences in Palestine and has been ranked as among the top 2% of researchers in the world, according to the ministry.

It did not specify how many of his family members were also killed in the attack.

Setting up shelters in southern Gaza

Displaced Palestinians set up shelters in the courtyard of a government-run school in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. Israel has been urging civilians to flee to Rafah, on the border with Egypt, as it intensifies its assault on the south of the enclave.

MOHAMMED ABED / AFP – Getty Images
MOHAMMED ABED / AFP – Getty Images

Netanyahu faces backlash over reaction to fatal shooting of Israeli citizen

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has sparked controversy in Israel after reacting to the shooting of Israeli civilian Yuval Castleman by IDF soldiers by saying “such is life.”

Castleman, 37, was shot dead by IDF soldiers as he confronted two attackers at a Jerusalem bus stop on Thursday.

Netanyahu’s response came in a press conference today while being questioned about the safety of the government’s policy of distributing weapons to Jerusalem residents and West Bank settlers for the purposes of vigilante community “defense.”

Clarifying his comments on social media, Netanyahu described Castleman as a “hero of Israel” and his death as a “terrible tragedy,” calling for an investigation. He visited Castleman’s family today, according to reporting in the Times of Israel.

Benny Gantz, a minister in Netanyahu’s coalition government, posted on X, calling for a “comprehensive investigation” of the circumstances that led to Castleman’s death. “The case of Yuval the hero, is not ‘this is life’, but a warning sign that requires learning lessons that will save lives in the future,” Gantz wrote.

First to NBC News: Kirby says the U.S. intel community has indicated it wasn’t aware of Hamas’ attack plan

The National Security Council’s coordinator for strategic communications John Kirby said Sunday that the U.S. intelligence community has indicated that it was not aware of Hamas’ plan to attack Israel.

The New York Times recently reported that Israeli officials obtained Hamas’ plans for its Oct. 7 attack more than a year before it happened, citing documents, emails and interviews. The Times reported that the document was circulated among Israeli military and intelligence officials, but experts dismissed the plan as one that would be too difficult for Hamas to execute.

In an interview on “Meet the Press,” host Kristen Welker pressed Kirby about the report, asking: “Was the United States aware of this intelligence, and if not, why not?”

“The intelligence community has indicated that that they did not have access to this document, that there’s no indications at this time that they had any access to this document beforehand,” Kirby said.

“Should they have? Given how closely U.S. and Israeli intelligence officials coordinate and are supposed to coordinate intelligence?” Welker asked.

“Intelligence is a mosaic and sometimes you know you can fashion things together and get a pretty good picture,” Kirby said. “Other times, you know that there’s pieces of the puzzle that are missing.”

“As I said, our own intelligence community said that they’ve looked at this,” he added. “They have no indications at this time that they had any advance warning of this document or any knowledge of it.”

Read the full story here.

25% of Gaza land area is designated for evacuation, U.N. says

A map published by the Israeli military online dividing Gaza into hundreds of small zones shows that 25% of Gaza’s land area has been designated for evacuation, according to an analysis by the United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

One of the areas designated for evacuation includes southern zones east of Khan Younis and comprises 19% of the Gaza Strip’s land area. Residents were told to move further south to Rafah, the U.N. said, increasing the strain of already overcrowded shelters in that area.

Areas of Gaza City and Jabalia designated for evacuation comprised 6% of Gaza’s land area, it added. Residents living there were told to move to the western areas of Gaza City, toward the coastline.

Nearly 80% of Gaza’s population, 1.8 million people, have been internally displaced by Israel’s war on the strip, according to the United Nations. Gaza’s civilians have repeatedly said they have nowhere to go, with refugee camps, hospitals, schools and religious buildings being used for shelter far beyond capacity and not guaranteed safe from fire.

Israel shifts offensive to southern Gaza, leaving civilians to flee again

TEL AVIV — Palestinian civilians are telling us they feel they have nowhere left to run.

Just weeks ago, Israel was telling them if they fled to southern cities like Khan Younis they would be safe. Now it’s telling them to get out of Khan Younis because it is targeting there.

Our team met a mother named Fatima, who said she brought her children from a refugee camp in northern Gaza hoping they would be protected, only for her son Mohamed to be killed in an airstrike in the south. The health ministry in Gaza says around 700 people have been killed since that cease-fire collapsed.

Macron: ‘total destruction of Hamas’ would take Israel 10 years of war

France’s President Emmanuel Macron said Saturday that Israel’s objective of eliminating Hamas “must be clarified.”

Speaking to reporters during a press conference at the COP28 climate summit in Dubai, Macron said that the “total destruction of Hamas” would entail a war that would “last 10 years.”

Despite early support for Israel’s war in Gaza, Macron has more recently changed his position, saying in November that there was “no justification” for the scale of its bombing campaign.

Hostages who are now free recount ‘complete horror movie’ of time in captivity

TEL AVIV — Hostages released during a temporary truce with Hamas spoke publicly for the first time at a rally in Tel Aviv last night, calling for the release of all further hostages held in the besieged Gaza Strip.

At a gathering in the Tel Aviv Museum of Arts Plaza, now renamed Hostages Square, prerecorded video testimonies sent by released hostages played to an assembled crowd of thousands.

“There is no schedule, nothing. Sleeping, crying, every additional day that passes is an eternity that never ends,” said Daniel Aloni, 44, who was kidnapped alongside her daughter Amelia. “Our daughters saw things that no children of this age or any age should have to see. A complete horror movie,” she said.

Image: Rally In Tel Aviv To Call For Return Of All Hostages
Alexi J. Rosenfeld / Getty Images

“Every day is critical because of the conditions,” added Yoheved Lifshitz, 85, in a separate video message. She was a hostage released before the cease-fire and said that “the oxygen in the canals is running out.” All the hostages called on the government to work toward the release of those remaining in Gaza.

Chants of “bring them home now!” echoed across the plaza. With the resumption of fighting after the breakdown of a seven-day truce, hope for an imminent release of hostages remaining in Gaza is dwindling fast. Meanwhile, those now free are warning of rapidly deteriorating conditions and diminishing food supplies for those who are still being held.

Hadas Kalderon, an Israeli actress whose children, Erez, 12 and Sahar, 16, were taken by Hamas, spoke live to the crowd, telling them to keep the plight of the hostage families “in the headlines until all hearts are connected again.”

“The first sentence they said to me when they came back: ‘Mom, you’re alive. Mother, we didn’t know you were alive!’” she said, calling the return of her children “a miracle.” Their father, Ofer Calderon, remains captive in Gaza.

Former Russian Israeli hostage Irena Tati and her daughter Yelena Tropanov hold a picture of the Tropanov’s son Alexander Tropanov, 27, at the demonstration.AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP – Getty Images

Fleeing Khan Younis

MAHMUD HAMS / AFP – Getty Images

Palestinian civilians flee the city of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip after the Israeli army called on people to leave an increased number of areas in its expanded campaign against Hamas.

MAHMUD HAMS / AFP – Getty Images

U.K. to conduct ‘surveillance flights’ over Gaza

The U.K. will conduct “surveillance flights” over Israel and Gaza to help locate hostages, according to the Ministry of Defense.

Surveillance aircraft will be unarmed and do not have a combat role, a statement from the ministry said, adding that “only information relating to hostage rescue will be passed on to the relevant authorities responsible.”

In a post on X, the U.K.’s Defense Secretary Grant Shapps said that the freedom of British hostages held by Hamas “is our utmost priority.”

U.K. military assets such as RAF aircraft and Royal Navy ships have also been deployed to the region after Oct. 7. Last week, the U.K. government sent a Type 45 destroyer warship to the Gulf to deter attacks against Israel by Yemen’s Houthi movement.

Pope deplores end of truce, calls for new cease-fire

Pope Francis on Sunday said it was “painful” to see that the truce between Israel and Hamas had been broken and called on all parties involved to reach a new cease-fire agreement as soon as possible.

He also said he was thinking about the people still held hostage in Gaza and the lack of basic necessities in the Palestinian territory.

Francis, who is suffering from a lung inflammation, had his words read by an aide during his Sunday Angelus message, which he delivered indoors from his Vatican residence rather than by a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square.

As its counteroffensive fizzles, Ukraine battles a shift in the world’s attention

Ukraine is battling more than the Russian army.

After more than 21 months of grueling war, it’s now grasping for the world’s attention in the shadows of the conflict in the Middle East. And with its much-vaunted counteroffensive fizzling into the snow, Kyiv is also beset by growing internal wrangling ahead of a long and difficult winter.

Zelenskyy says the war with Russia is in a new stage, with winter expected to complicate fighting after a summer counteroffensive that failed to produce desired results due to enduring shortages of weapons and ground forces.
Efrem Lukatsky / AP

“Tactically, the shift in attention from Ukraine to Israel made our situation somewhat more difficult, since our war ceased to be the single hottest point on the planet,” Yehor Chernev, a member of Ukraine’s Parliament and deputy chairman of its national security, defense and intelligence committee, told NBC News.

“Everyone talks more about Israel, and that is where the priority aid from the U.S. goes,” he said.

Read the full story here.

Fire exchanged between Israel, Syria and Lebanon

Israel detected a launch from Syria earlier today that was “not intercepted according to protocol,” according to an IDF statement. The Israeli military struck the source of the launch using artillery, it added, and also struck a number of locations in Lebanon.

It did not specify what the “launch” consisted of.

In addition, anti-tank missiles fell in an open area of Yiftah, a kibbutz in northern Israel, it said. No injuries were reported.

Lebanon’s national news agency, NNA, said that Israeli warplanes were detected over Baalbek, near Lebanon’s eastern border with Syria earlier today, as well as over areas in Lebanon’s south near its border with Israel.

NBC News could not independently verify the reports.

Israel says it has destroyed 500 tunnel shafts since beginning of ground war

The IDF says it has located 800 tunnel shafts in Gaza and destroyed 500 of them since the beginning of its ground invasion into the Gaza Strip at the end of October.

The IDF said in a statement that it destroyed the tunnel shafts using explosives and blocks, and that it had destroyed “many miles” of tunnel routes. Large numbers of weapons were discovered in the shafts, the statement added.

The statement reiterated claims that the shafts were located near civilian structures such as “schools, kindergartens, mosques and playgrounds.” NBC News could not independently verify these claims. Hamas has consistently denied using civilian infrastructure in this way.

Israeli tanks on the Gaza border

This picture taken this morning from southern Israel near the border with the Gaza Strip shows Israeli tanks maneuvering just outside the Palestinian enclave as the Israeli military battles Hamas after the collapse of the truce.

JACK GUEZ / AFP – Getty Images

1,500 people rally for Palestinians in New York City

At least 500 people gathered outside the American Museum of Natural History yesterday to begin a protest march in solidarity with Palestinians.

Protesters carried signs and banners that read “stop the violence” and “from the U.S. to Palestine, abolish the settler state,” according to footage and images shared on social media. The group marched a 2-mile route toward Times Square.

The demonstration concluded with 1,500 people present, according to the NYPD’s deputy commissioner for public information. No arrests were made.

WHO chief: Hospital conditions are ‘unimaginable,’ with patients ‘screaming in pain’

A World Health Organization team visiting Nassar Medical Hospital in southern Gaza found it three times over capacity, with 1,000 patients and “countless” people seeking shelter “filling every corner of the facility,” according to Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a post on X.

Reiterating calls for a permanent cease-fire, Ghebreyesus said that the heavy bombardment of Gaza was “petrifying” and that he could not “find words strong enough to express our concern over what we’re witnessing.”

“These conditions are beyond inadequate — unimaginable for the provision of health care,” he said.

“Patients were receiving care on the floor, screaming in pain.”

Extensive airstrikes destroy Khan Younis residential complex

A woman standing outside a partially collapsed residential housing development in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis described being told to leave amid the destruction.

“Who is going to rebuild? The destruction takes a minute, but rebuilding takes years,” she said. “We are all homeless in the streets.”

Possible explosion in the Red Sea, warns U.K. Maritime Trade Operations

The U.K. Maritime Trade Operations, part of the country’s Royal Navy, has received a report of a potential explosion in the Bab al-Mandab Strait, the area that separates the Arabian Peninsula from the Horn of Africa.

Uncrewed aerial systems (drone) activity was detected in the area originating from the direction of Yemen, the alert said.

No group or state has yet claimed responsibility for the explosion. NBC News could not independently verify the report.

Palestinian student shot in Burlington is paralyzed

Hisham Awartani, a junior at Brown University who was shot in a gun attack in Burlington, Vermont, alongside friends Tahseen Ali Ahmad and Kinnan Abdalhamid, has been paralyzed from the chest down, according to his cousin.

Writing on X, Basil Awartani said: “Hisham’s injury turned out to be life-altering. The bullet lodged in his spine has caused paralysis from the chest down. Hisham has a long journey ahead.”

Awartani said he had started a GoFundMe page to “help Hisham prepare for this next phase of his life.”

The shooting, which targeted the three Palestinian students as they were walking together in Burlington speaking Arabic and wearing keffiyehs — embroidered scarves symbolizing Palestinian resistance — is not currently being investigated as a hate crime.

muslim college students shot
From left, Tahseen Ali Ahmad, Kinnan Abdalhamid and Hisham Awartani.Rich Price / AP

Aid trucks carrying 30,000 gallons of fuel enter Gaza

Humanitarian aid trucks carrying food, medicine and water, and others containing fuel, passed from Egypt to Gaza yesterday following a halt of movement of goods and people across the border on Friday.

Trucks carried 138,000 liters (30,355 gallons) of fuel as well as tents, hygiene products and blankets, according to an update from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Israel banned the entry of fuel into Gaza for a several-week period in October and November, leading hospitals to go out of service, and impeding travel and the provision of humanitarian services. Just two trucks of fuel were allowed in per day from Nov. 18, one week before Israel’s temporary truce with Hamas.

Humanitarian operations have been limited since the resumption of war in Gaza, primarily consisting of the provision of services in shelters and the distribution of flour in southern areas, the OCHA update said.

Khan Younis residents warned to leave neighborhoods

Residents of a number of Khan Younis neighborhoods were instructed to evacuate to IDF-designated safe areas today, as the Israeli military continued its “robust action” in the southern Gaza Strip.

Using a map that divides Gaza into hundreds of tiny zones, IDF Arabic spokesperson Avichay Adraee told civilians living in “Al-Mahatta, Al-Katiba, Hamad, Al-Satar, Bani Suhaila and Ma’an in Blocks 36, 54-38, 221-219” to evacuate to “well-known IDP [Internally Displaced Persons] shelters in the neighborhoods of Al-Fukhari, Al-Shaboura, Al-Zuhur, and Tal Al-Sultan.”

It was not clear how much time civilians would be allowed for evacuation prior to bombardment, or which routes would be safe for travel. Civilians in Gaza have consistently said that there is nowhere safe in the strip, where over 1.7 million people are believed to have been internally displaced. The IDF is also attempting to deliver evacuation messages to a population that does not have reliable electricity or internet connectivity.

Israel says it hit Hamas infrastructure overnight

The Israeli army said its overnight strikes targeted infrastructure belonging to Hamas in Gaza, including munitions warehouses and tunnel shafts.

Using Israeli Air Force fighter jets and helicopters, they struck “tunnel shafts, command centers and weapons storage facilities” while ground troops and drones “eliminated Hamas terrorists,” the army said in a statement. Israel’s naval troops also struck against “vessels belonging to Hamas’ naval forces” and weapons, it said.

NBC News was not able to independently verify these claims. More than 180 people have been killed in Gaza since the end of the truce between Israel and Hamas on Friday, according to Palestinian health officials.

Group of swing-state Muslims vows to ditch Biden in 2024 over his war stance

CHICAGO — Muslim community leaders from several swing states pledged to withdraw support for President Joe Biden on Saturday at a conference in suburban Detroit, citing his refusal to call for a cease-fire in Gaza.

Democrats in Michigan have warned the White House that Biden’s handling of the Israel-Hamas war could cost him enough support within the Arab American community to sway the outcome of the 2024 presidential election.

Leaders from Michigan, Minnesota, Arizona, Wisconsin, Florida, Georgia, Nevada and Pennsylvania gathered behind a lectern that read “Abandon Biden, ceasefire now” in Dearborn, Michigan, the city with the largest concentration of Arab Americans in the United States.

Biden’s unwillingness to call for a cease-fire has damaged his relationship with the American Muslim community beyond repair, according to Minneapolis-based Jaylani Hussein, who helped organize the conference.

“Families and children are being wiped out with our tax dollars,” Hussein said. “What we are witnessing today is the tragedy upon tragedy.”

Israel resumes bombardment of Gaza after collapse of fragile truce

TEL AVIV — Israel’s Gaza offensive is back in full force, with Palestinians under renewed bombardment after a fragile truce with Hamas collapsed. Israel’s strikes are focusing on the south of Gaza, the same area it had told civilians to evacuate to.

After a strike in southern Gaza

Women and children react after a house was hit by bombing in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip this morning.

MAHMUD HAMS / AFP – Getty Images

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