Pressure mounts to scale back war as Gaza death toll nears 20,000

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is today in Israel, where he said the U.S. remains steadfast in its belief that Israel has a right to defend itself against Hamas.


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What we know

  • Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is today in Tel Aviv, where he held a joint press conference with his Israeli counterpart, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.
  • Austin said the U.S. remains steadfast in its belief that Israel has a right to defend itself against Hamas, but is also looking to ensure the future stability of the region for both Palestinians and Israelis.
  • CIA Director William Burns is also meeting with Israeli and Qatari officials today in the Polish capital, Warsaw, to discuss the hostage situation and a potential humanitarian pause, a U.S. official told NBC News.
  • There is mounting outrage inside Israel after it emerged that the country's military mistakenly killed three hostages in Gaza. The shooting deaths of two women taking refuge in a Catholic church after the Israeli military stormed the compound have also been widely condemned.
  • Close to 20,000 Palestinians have been killed, with 70% of them women and children, according to the territory's health officials. The vast majority of Gaza’s 2.2 million people are displaced, and an estimated half face starvation, according to human rights advocates and aid groups.
  • Israeli military officials say 118 soldiers have been killed during the country's ground invasion in Gaza, which came after 1,200 people were killed and about 240 hostages were seized by Hamas on Oct. 7.
  • NBC News’ Richard Engel, Raf Sanchez, Hala Gorani, Hallie Jackson, Ali Arouzi and Chantal Da Silva are reporting from the region.
18w ago / 2:15 AM EST

Israel ‘murdered my son twice,’ says father of Israeli hostage mistakenly killed by IDF

Hallie Jackson

NBC News Correspondent Hallie Jackson speaks with the families of two Israeli hostages who were mistakenly killed by the Israel Defense Forces during fighting in Gaza.

Avi Shamriz, the father of hostage Alon Shamriz, says the Israeli government is “only thinking of themselves” and “not thinking about the hostages.”

18w ago / 1:07 AM EST

IDF vows to bring home hostages shown in Hamas video

Israel Defense Forces spokesperson Daniel Hagari described a new video showing three elderly Israel men in Hamas captivity as evidence of the group's cruelty in its treatment of innocent hostages.

Hamas' military wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades, released a video Monday showing the three men, one of whom identified himself as 79-year-old Chaim Peri. The other two men have been identified as Amiram Cooper, 85, and Yoram Metzger, 80.

It was not immediately clear when the video was filmed.

“Chaim, Yoram and Amiram — I hope you can hear me tonight," Hagari said in a statement. "You know, we are doing everything — everything — to get you back safely. Some of your family members are already at home, and we will not rest until you return as well.”

Kibbutz Nir Oz, the village where all three men reside, said in a statement that while any sign of life from the hostages is appreciated, "time is running out."

"The immediate release of all those abducted, through any potential negotiation avenue, is urgently required," the statement said. "Each passing day exacerbates their situation."

18w ago / 11:53 PM EST

Fears mount for Gaza’s tiny Christian community after mother and daughter shot dead

Nahida Boulos Anton and her daughter Samar Antoun were killed at the Holy Family Roman Catholic Church in Gaza on Dec. 16, 2023.Photo via X

TEL AVIV — The fatal shooting of a mother and daughter in Gaza’s only Catholic church over the weekend highlights the pressure Christians in the enclave are under, with fears mounting that their tiny population could be wiped out during the war. 

In the weeks since Israel launched its military offensive in Gaza after Hamas’ Oct. 7 terror attack, many members of the enclave’s ancient Christian community of some 1,000 sought refuge in two church complexes in the north: the St. Porphyrius Greek Orthodox Church and the nearby Catholic Holy Family Church.

On Saturday, a mother and her adult daughter were shot dead while walking inside the grounds of the Holy Family Church, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, the Catholic regional body whose territory formally includes Cyprus, Jordan, Israel and Palestinian territories, said in a statement.

“They were shot in cold blood,” the patriarchate said of Nahida Anton and her daughter, Samar Anton, blaming an Israel Defense Forces sniper. “One was killed as she tried to carry the other to safety,” while at least seven others were shot and wounded as they tried to “protect others inside the church compound,” it said. 

Read the full story here.

18w ago / 10:35 PM EST

White House continues to work on hostage negotiations, but nothing 'imminent

President Joe Biden's administration is hopeful that ongoing discussions toward another potential hostage deal will prove fruitful though matters appear to be at a standstill currently, according to White House spoksesperson John Kirby.

"We continue to work really hard to try to get another deal in place, which would of course be accompanied by another humanitarian pause, and some hopefully some additional humanitarian assistance but we are I can't say that we are at a point where another deal is imminent," Kirby told reporters today.

Kirby also spoke about the three Israeli hostages who were killed by the IDF after being mistaken for combatants, calling it a "traumatic event" that requires review. Israel's military must conduct a review to see whether this was a systemic problem with its rules of engagement, a fog of war issue, or an individual misunderstanding, he added.

The White House has also expressed concern, Kirby said, about reports that a mother and daughter were killed in Gaza while sheltering at a Catholic church that was reportedly surrounded by IDF snipers.

“As I’ve said before, every civilian death is a tragedy," Kirby said. "We’ve been very clear that we believe every effort possible must be made to prevent civilian casualties."

18w ago / 9:45 PM EST

WHO mission confirms girl killed in Nasser Hospital hit, 2 other children injured

A World Health Organization team confirmed the death of a young girl in a hit at Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis last night, according Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

"A WHO, @UNOCHA and @UNDSS team, on a mission to Nasser Hospital in south Gaza today, found deeply concerning conditions following attacks on Sunday which left a young female patient dead in the pediatric unit, and injured two more children," Tedros said in a post on X.

Gaza's Ministry of Health said that Dina Abu Mohsen, a child who was recovering from an amputation, was killed after an Israeli artillery shell hit the hospital's maternity ward. NBC News has not been able to independently verify the ministry's statement.

The IDF said that upon receiving reports about damage, an initial review was carried out. “At this stage, it is not possible to determine with certainty what was the source of the damage to the hospital,” it said in a statement.

Tedros said that the conditions at the hospital have drastically deteriorated since the organization's visit Dec. 7 with 1,000 patients and 4,000 internally displaced people sheltering there.

"Health workers told WHO colleagues they fear for their lives and are not sure how long they can remain safely at Nasser," Tedros said.

18w ago / 8:59 PM EST
Hallie Jackson

KIRYAT SHMONA, Israel — The IDF released new footage showing an Israeli airstrike in Lebanon aimed at Hezbollah.

Residents in northern Israel say they are already feeling the effects of the Israel-Hamas war and are fearful things could get worse.

One resident said he wants “peace, prosperity” and to “keep the Hezbollah away.”

18w ago / 8:01 PM EST

Family of Red Crescent paramedic dies in Jabalia bombardment, organization says

The family of a volunteer paramedic in Gaza died in an Israeli bombardment on Jabalia, the Palestine Red Crescent Society said in a post on X today.

The organization called Ahmed Abu Foul, who has been volunteering for 17 years, an "icon of humanitarian work." His parents, wife, children, siblings, and uncles were killed in their home during the bombardment, according to PRCS.

18w ago / 7:22 PM EST

Videos appear to show aftermath of hit on Khan Younis hospital that reportedly killed girl

Videos posted to social media last night appear to show the chaos following a shell hitting the Nasser Hospital's maternity ward in Khan Younis.

According to a statement from Gaza's Ministry of Health, an Israeli artillery shell hit the hospital but did not explode. Dina Abu Mohsen, a child recovering from an amputation, was killed in the strike, said Dr. Ashraf Al-Qudra, a ministry spokesperson.

NBC News is not able to verify the ministry's statement to confirm the source of the strike. The IDF said that upon receiving reports about damage, an initial review was carried out. "At this stage, it is not possible to determine with certainty what was the source of the damage to the hospital," it said in a statement.

NBC News was able to verify that two videos posted to Instagram were filmed in Nasser Hospital, though they appear to have been edited. Large groups of people can be heard screaming and crying as they run for safety in one video that was posted by Al Jazeera journalist Hamdan Dahdouh.

The video contains graphic images of bloodied Palestinians, including children and an elderly woman, a group of men kicking down a door to help injured people into another room, and a crowd gathering as medics wrap a child in a blanket before moving him out to get help.

18w ago / 6:51 PM EST

Alec Baldwin in verbal altercation with pro-Palestinian demonstrators

Actor Alec Baldwin was seen being escorted by New York City police officers after he appeared to be involved in a verbal altercation with a group of pro-Palestinian demonstrators who had initially gathered at Manhattan's Grand Central Station and were marching downtown.

Footage captured by NBC New York showed Baldwin approaching an NYPD officer and shaking his hand before someone asks, "Are you pro-Israel?" It's unclear if Baldwin said something to prompt the question, but one person states he's at a Palestinian event, to which Baldwin responds, "But I'm talking privately."

Baldwin is then asked by someone whether he condemns Israel for its assault on civilians and children.

"You've already made up your mind ... every question you've got, right?" Baldwin responds. "You ask stupid questions. Ask me a smart question."

The protester yells for Baldwin to "go f--- yourself" and someone, it's unclear who, yells "shut the f--- up" as Baldwin is escorted away by police.

A representative for Baldwin did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and the NYPD did not immediately have a statement.

18w ago / 6:09 PM EST

Father of 26-year-old hostage killed by Israeli forces rebukes Netanyahu

Hallie Jackson
Daniel Arkin and Hallie Jackson
Avi Shamriz, second right, at his son Alon's funeral near Tel Aviv on Dec. 17, 2023.Oren Ziv / AFP - Getty Images

The father of one of the three Israeli hostages mistakenly killed by Israeli forces has an unambiguous message for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.

“I’m going to say this [to] the government. You murdered my son twice,” Avi Shamriz said Monday. “You let Hamas take my son on Oct. 7, and you killed my son on Dec. 14.”

Israeli military forces accidentally shot and killed Shamriz’s 26-year-old son, Alon, during intense fighting with Hamas militants on Friday, nearly 70 days after he was kidnapped.

The troops also mistakenly killed two other hostages, identified by the military as Yotam Haim and Samer Talalka.

Read the full story here.