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The United States said Thursday that Israel will implement four-hour humanitarian pauses in parts of the northern Gaza Strip, which Israel’s military said was not a cease-fire.
“The fighting continues and there will be no cease-fire without the release of our hostages,” the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement.
The Israel Defense Forces said there are “tactical, local pauses for humanitarian aid for Gazan civilians.”
Tens of thousands of people have left northern Gaza for southern Gaza since the Hamas terror attack on Oct. 7 and subsequent Israeli bombardments of the Palestinian enclave.
There have been some signs of movement with hostage negotiations, NBC News’ Keir Simmons reported. Talks were progressing well, he was told, but one official said, “I’ll believe it when I see it.”
Israeli President Isaac Herzog told NBC News in an interview Thursday that “There is no real proposal that is viable from Hamas’ side on this issue.”
In the U.S., a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research showed that nearly half of Democrats disapprove of how President Joe Biden is handling the conflict, signaling a deep divide within his party over the war.
A senior United Nations official accused both sides of war crimes as Israel’s ground assault and aerial bombardment fuel growing international outrage.
‘We don’t seek to occupy’ Gaza, Netanyahu says
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an interview Thursday, “we don’t seek to govern Gaza, we don’t seek to occupy” but that he is committed to destroying Hamas.
Netanyahu did not give an estimated expected time for the military offensive against Hamas in Gaza.
“We don’t seek to govern Gaza, we don’t seek to occupy. But we seek to give it, and us, a better future and the entire Middle East — and that requires defeating Hamas,” Netanyahu said in the Fox interview.
“I’ve set goals. I didn’t set a timetable, because you know, it can take more time. I wish it will take little time,” he said.
Netanyahu in an interview with ABC News this week had said that Israel would have “the overall security responsibility” for Gaza for an indefinite period after the war.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in Tokyo this week that it was clear that “Gaza cannot be continued to be run by Hamas,” but that “it’s also clear that Israel cannot occupy Gaza.”
Israeli soldiers sift through ashes at kibbutz attacked by Hamas
Israeli soldiers help archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority sift through ashes today from burned dwellings at the Nir Oz kibbutz in southern Israel to identify residents who disappeared after the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas militants. More than 20 people were reported killed and at least 75 were taken hostage from Nir Oz.
Nearly half of Gaza's housing is damaged, U.N. assessment says
A U.N. report paints a stark picture of the collapsing Palestinian economy after a month of war and Israel’s near total siege of Gaza.
The gross domestic product shrank 4% in the West Bank and Gaza in the war’s first month, sending over 400,000 people into poverty — an economic impact unseen in the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine or in any previous Israel-Hamas war.
At least 45% of all housing in the Gaza Strip has also been damaged or destroyed by Israeli bombardment, according to the assessment released today by the U.N. Development Program and the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for West Asia.
If the war continues for a second month, the U.N. projects, the Palestinian GDP, which was $20.4 billion before the war, will drop by 8.4%. That’s a loss of $1.7 billion. And if the conflict lasts a third month, Palestinian GDP will drop by 12%, with losses of $2.5 billion and more than 660,000 people pushed into poverty.
Al Dardari Abdallah, the assistant secretary-general of the U.N. Development Program, said a 12% GDP loss at the end of the year would be “massive and unprecedented.” By comparison, he said, the Syrian economy used to lose 1% of its GDP per month at the height of its conflict, which began in 2011, and it took Ukraine 18 months of fighting to lose 30% of its GDP.
Chris Christie to travel to Israel
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will travel to Israel tomorrow, he announced at a town hall in Merrimack, N.H. Thursday.
The trip makes Christie the first Republican candidate for president to visit the country since Hamas militants attacked Oct. 7.
"I want to see it for myself," he told attendees. "I don’t think you can try to be president of the United States and be afraid to go and see what’s happening on the ground."
While there, he plans to meet with the families of kidnapped hostages, IDF soldiers and government officials.
Pro-Palestinian protesters demonstrate at The New York Times
Pro-Palestinian demonstrators occupied the lobby of The New York Times today, accusing the media of betraying a bias toward Israel in its coverage of the war and demanding an immediate cease-fire in Gaza.
Hundreds of protesters led by a group of media workers calling themselves “Writers Bloc” gathered outside the publication’s Manhattan headquarters, with many of them entering the building’s atrium for a sit-in and vigil that lasted more than an hour.
“The New York Times has extensively covered the Israel-Hamas war with fairness, impartiality, and an abiding understanding of the complexities of the conflict," Danielle Rhoades Ha, the Times’ senior vice president for external communications, said in a statement. "We fully support this group’s right to express their point of view, even as we disagree with their characterization of our coverage.”
The New York Police Department's communications office said that it estimated that 100 protesters were outside the Times' office, that there were "reports of 'a few' people inside" the building and that "it is not determined if those people have been escorted out."
The office said it had not heard of any arrests at the protest at the Times' building or any other protest today.
The sit-in followed a series of actions at high-profile locations in New York, including the Statue of Liberty and Grand Central Terminal, intended to bring attention to the growing death toll in Gaza.
65 aid trucks enter Gaza as Red Crescent pleads for fuel
The Palestine Red Crescent Society says 65 trucks loaded with aid from the Egyptian Red Crescent and seven ambulances from Kuwait passed through the Rafah crossing today.
The PRCS received 106 trucks yesterday.
In a joint news release this week, the Palestine and Egyptian Red Crescents called for increased support and listed fuel, drinking water, medical supplies and food as their priorities. While food, medical supplies and water have been provided, fuel has so far not been permitted to enter Gaza. Israel has opposed fuel aid, arguing Hamas could use the fuel to power rockets.
The Rafah border crossing, which is controlled by Egyptian authorities and Hamas, has been the only entry point for aid into Gaza. While the need for aid has skyrocketed, the current levels of aid entering the Gaza Strip are a fraction of the aid provided before the war.
U.N. humanitarian coordinator Lynn Hastings told NBC News about 450 aid trucks entered Gaza daily before Oct. 7.
The White House announced that Israel is committing to four-hour combat pauses every day to allow humanitarian aid to enter Gaza. Earlier today, NBC News' Andrea Mitchell was joined by correspondent Raf Sanchez and Jason Straziuso, with the International Committee of the Red Cross, to discuss when the first pause will occur, how the deal came together and the significance of aid reaching Gazan citizens.
“We wish that we could force our way into where these hostages are," Straziuso said. "The fact is that we need permission from the people that hold the guns and from the people that control the territory.”
Biden announced four-hour combat pauses as a way to ‘pressure’ Netanyahu
Israel agreed to daily four-hour pauses, a move that President Biden wished Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had done sooner, reports NBC News White House correspondent Monica Alba.
Israeli military says unidentified drone hits southern city of Eilat
JERUSALEM — An unidentified drone hit a civilian building in the southern Israeli port city of Eilat, the Israeli military said on Thursday, causing only light damage and no injuries.
In recent weeks, the Iran-aligned Houthi movement in Yemen has launched repeated missile and drone attacks on Israel, but all were either shot down or fell short.
“The identity of the UAV and the details of the incident are under review,” the military said in a statement, referring to an unmanned aerial vehicle.
In a separate incident, the military said that in the area of the Red Sea, which Israel has access to via Eilat port, its “Arrow” air defense system successfully intercepted a missile launched toward its territory.
The Houthis are part of the Iran-aligned regional alliance, which also includes Lebanon’s Hezbollah, that has backed Hamas in its conflict with Israel. The Houthis govern swaths of Yemen, including the capital, Sanaa, more than a thousand miles from Israel.
Iranian hackers target Israel, but attacks aren't escalating
Hackers linked to Iran have been steadily targeting Israeli organizations since before the war, but do not appear to have significantly escalated their attacks, cybersecurity researchers say.
In a report released today, Microsoft said it had only tracked two instances recently in which Iranian hackers appear to have attempted destructive cyberattacks on Israeli infrastructure. In both cases, the hacks came more than a week after the conflict began and hackers’ online personas dramatically exaggerated their success and ability, Microsoft said.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said that, even though Iran funds Hamas, there is no direct evidence that Iran was involved in its surprise attack on Israel last month.
In a different report also published today, Cybersecurity firm Crowdstrike said it had seen Iranian hackers targeting companies in Israel's transportation and technology sectors recently — but that they had been doing that for years before the current conflict, as well.