Israel cancels high-level meeting in Washington after U.S. abstains on cease-fire resolution

Israel warns 4 European countries against Palestinian statehood recognition

JERUSALEM — Israel told four European countries on Monday that their plan to work toward recognition of a Palestinian state constituted a “prize for terrorism.”

Spain said on Friday that, in the name of Middle East peace, it had agreed with Ireland, Malta and Slovenia to take first steps toward recognizing statehood declared by the Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and in the Gaza Strip.

Gaza has long been under the rule of the Islamist group Hamas, which rejects peace with Israel and attacked it on Oct. 7, triggering a war that has stoked violence in the West Bank, where Israel has extensive Jewish settlements.

“Recognition of a Palestinian state following the October 7 massacre sends a message to Hamas and the other Palestinian terrorist organizations that murderous terror attacks on Israelis will be reciprocated with political gestures to the Palestinians,” Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said on X.

Israel bars UNRWA food convoys from northern Gaza, commissioner-general says

Israel will no longer approve food convoys to northern Gaza from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, its commissioner-general said on X.

“This is outrageous and makes it intentional to obstruct lifesaving assistance during a man made famine,” Philippe Lazzarini wrote yesterday. “These restrictions must be lifted.”

“By preventing UNRWA to fulfill its mandate in Gaza, the clock will tick faster towards famine and many more will die of hunger, dehydration and lack of shelter,” he added.

Israel has alleged that agency workers were involved in Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack.

U.S. considers cease-fire resolution nonbinding, official says

The U.S. considers the resolution passed in the United Nations Security Council nonbinding, a U.S. official said, because it does not create legal obligations for the parties involved.

Today’s resolution passed 14-0, with a U.S. abstention, demanding an immediate cease-fire for the duration of Ramadan while also calling for the release of hostages.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the American ambassador to the body, said the U.S. supports the objectives and has been actively working toward that goal by mediating hostage negotiations.

“We’re working around the clock to make them real on the ground through diplomacy, because we know that it is only through diplomacy that we can push this agenda forward,” Thomas-Greenfield said.

State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said the U.S. and Israel have been discussing the matter for days. Miller told reporters the U.S. does not believe the resolution separates calls for an immediate cease-fire from the call for the release of hostages.

“It’s not the exact language that we would put forward obviously, because the language that we put forward is the language that we did put forward last week, but it is language that is consistent with our policy to call for both a cease-fire and the release of hostages, and that’s why we did not exercise the veto today,” Miller said.

Israel Katz, Israel’s foreign minister, wrote on X that the country will not cease fire. War Cabinet minister Benny Gantz said the resolution does not have “operational significance” to Israel, but the country should listen to its friends.

Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador to the U.N., said after the vote that Israel’s actions toward Palestinians should trigger “serious international reaction.”

“There are no rules without enforcement,” Mansour told the council.

Gallant says there is ‘no moral right’ to end war before hostages are returned

Israel has “no moral right” to end its war against Hamas before all the hostages who remain captive are released, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said in Washington.

Gallant is scheduled to meet today with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Jake Sullivan, the White House national security adviser, in the U.S. capital. He said he intends to stress the importance of defeating Hamas in his meeting with Sullivan.

“We will operate against Hamas everywhere, including in places where we have not yet been,” Gallant said. “We will identify an alternative to Hamas, so that the IDF may complete its mission.”

Gantz says delegation and Netanyahu should go to Washington

The delegation that was supposed to arrive in Washington tomorrow should continue despite the U.S. abstaining from the U.N. Security Council vote, Israeli minister Benny Gantz wrote in a post on X.

“Not only is it right for the delegation to travel — the prime minister would do well if he himself traveled to the USA, and held a direct dialogue with President Biden and the senior administration officials,” Gantz wrote.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled the trip after making it clear he believed the U.S. should veto the Security Council resolution. The resolution, which demanded a cease-fire for the remainder of Ramadan, was passed by the other 14 council members.

Gantz, a political rival to Netanyahu, visited Washington earlier this month and met with senior U.S. officials. He said today the council has no “operation significance” for Israel.

“At the same time, it is important to remember — the special relationship between Israel and the United States is an anchor in Israel’s security and foreign relations, and the direct dialogue with the American administration is an essential asset that must not be given up even when there are challenges and disputes,” Gantz said.

Israel’s U.N. ambassador ‘disgusted’ by cease-fire resolution

Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations criticized the Security Council’s passage of a cease-fire resolution today, saying the body has failed to prioritize the more than 130 hostages, including 33 who officials believe are dead.

Gilad Erdan criticized the United Nations for its inaction on hostage releases during his speech following the resolution vote. He reminded the body that the abduction of innocent civilians is a war crime and described the resolution as harmful to the efforts to bring them home.

“To this council, Israeli blood is cheap,” Erdan said. “This is a travesty and I’m disgusted.”

The resolution was proposed by Mozambique’s ambassador and demanded an immediate cease-fire for the remaining duration of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month that began March 10. While the resolution also called for the unconditional release of hostages, it did not make a cease-fire contingent on the freedom of those who remain captive in Gaza.

Trump says Israel ‘made a very big mistake’ in releasing images of Gaza bombings

Former President Donald Trump said he would have responded to the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks in a similar manner to Israel, but he believes the country’s leaders “made a very big mistake” in releasing images of Gaza bombings.

During an interview with Israeli newspaper Israel Hayom, Trump said he would watch the images every night, and that Israel’s desire to look tough by releasing bombing footage drew “kickback” from the world.

“It’s a very bad picture for the world. The world is seeing this…every night, I would watch buildings pour down on people,” Trump said. “It would say it was given by the Defense Ministry, and said whoever’s providing that that’s a bad image.”

Trump also said that though he is not Jewish, “Israel for me is very important.” When asked about Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s calls for new elections in Israel, Trump said it showed “deep division” in the U.S. over Israel.

“So Israel has to get, Israel has to get better with the promotional and with the public relations, because right now they’re in ruin,” Trump said. “They’re being hurt very badly. I think in a public relations sense.”

Israel cancels delegation after U.S. fails to veto cease-fire resolution

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled a high-level delegation to the White House after the U.S. failed to veto a U.N. Security Council cease-fire resolution.

Israel had been informed that the U.S. would support two resolutions calling for a cease-fire but not linked to a hostage release, an Israeli Embassy spokesperson told NBC News.

Netanyahu’s office threatened to withhold the delegation, which was to include Israeli Minister of Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer and Israel’s national security adviser, and his office announced the cancellation after the U.S. abstained from the vote today.

“This withdrawal hurts both the war effort and the effort to release the abductees, because it gives Hamas hope that international pressure will allow them to get a ceasefire without the release of our abductees,” the prime minister’s office said.

The U.S. vetoed three prior cease-fire resolutions that did not tie a pause in hostilities with a hostage release. Last week, the U.S. resolution for a cease-fire was vetoed by Russia and China.

Israel’s delegation had been due to arrive tomorrow. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant is already in Washington for Pentagon meetings.

President Joe Biden requested the delegation to discuss alternative ideas to a ground operation in Rafah. The administration has repeatedly expressed concern that an extensive ground invasion of Rafah would result in high civilian casualties.

Security Council approves cease-fire resolution; U.S. abstains

The United Nations Security Council approved a resolution today calling for an immediate cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, while also calling for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages.

The United States abstained from voting instead of vetoing the measure. All 14 other members of the council approved the resolution. This is the fifth time the Security Council has attempted to pass a cease-fire resolution.

Today’s resolution was brought by Mozambique, calling for a cease-fire for the holy month of Ramadan, which began March 10.

Military draft bill creates rift in Israeli government

A member of Israel’s war Cabinet said yesterday he would quit the national emergency government should proposed legislation that continues to exempt ultra-Orthodox Jews from mandatory military service be passed into law.

“The nation cannot accept it,” said centrist Cabinet minister Benny Gantz, adding that the Knesset, or parliament, “must not vote for it.”

“My colleagues and I will not be members of the emergency government should such legislation pass in the Knesset,” he said. “The conscription law being drawn up by the government is a serious moral failure that will create a deep rift within us at a time when we need to fight together against our enemies,” he added.

Gantz, a former military chief who has more support than Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu according to recent opinion polls, joined the unity government to help manage the war against Hamas after its Oct. 7 attack.

Civilians wounded in Rafah bombardment

A Palestinian child, wounded during an Israeli bombardment, was brought to a hospital in Rafah yesterday.

Rafaf offensive southern Gaza
Hatem Ali / AP

U.N. Security Council set to vote on new cease-fire resolution

After Russia and China vetoed a U.S.-sponsored resolution Friday, the United Nations Security Council is set for another vote today on a resolution demanding an immediate humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which ends on April 9.

The U.S. has warned that the new resolution could hurt negotiations to halt hostilities by the U.S., Egypt and Qatar, raising the possibility of another veto, this time by the Americans.

The resolution, put forward by the 10 elected council members, is backed by Russia and China and the 22-nation Arab Group at the United Nations.

A statement issued by the Arab Group last week appealed to all 15 council members “to act with unity and urgency” and vote for the resolution “to halt the bloodshed, preserve human lives and avert further human suffering and destruction.”

Rafah invasion would be a ‘mistake,’ Kamala Harris warns

Israel would be making a “mistake” if it launches a ground assault on the city of Rafah in southern Gaza, Vice President Kamala Harris said yesterday.

“We have been clear in multiple conversations and in every way that any major military operation in Rafah would be a huge mistake,” she told ABC’s “This Week.”

“I have studied the maps — there’s nowhere for those folks to go. And we’re looking at about a million and a half people in Rafah who are there because they were told to go there,” Harris added.

Asked whether there would be consequences if Israel did launch an invasion of the city, she said, “I am ruling out nothing.”

Israel believes chances of cease-fire are 50/50, official tells NBC News

TEL AVIV — Israel believes the chances of a cease-fire deal in the near future are “50/50 right now,” an Israeli official told NBC News today.

The official, who was not authorized to speak publicly, said Israel and the U.S. were waiting on a Hamas response to a proposal hammered out in recent days in Qatar. CIA Director William Burns attended the recent meetings in the small but wealthy Gulf nation, they said.

The official would not comment on Israeli media reports that Israel had agreed to release 700 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for around 40 hostages.

If confirmed, that would represent a softening of Israel’s position, as it had previously agreed to release around 400 prisoners in exchange for 40 hostages.

There is growing international consensus to tell Israel cease-fire is needed, U.N. secretary-general says

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said during a visit to Jordan today that there is growing international consensus to tell Israel that a cease-fire is needed and that an assault on Rafah would cause a humanitarian disaster.

“We see a growing consensus emerging in the international community to tell the Israelis that the cease-fire is needed and I also see a growing consensus, I heard in the U.S., I heard from the European Union, not to mention of course the Muslim world, to tell clearly to Israelis that any ground invasion of Rafah could mean a humanitarian disaster,” he told a news conference.

Palestinians break fast in Rafah

People break their fast during a mass iftar for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah yesterday.

Muslims break Ramadan fast in Rafah
Mohammed Abed / AFP – Getty Images
Ramadan Iftar in Rafah
Mohammed Abed / AFP – Getty Images