8w ago / 4:14 PM EDT

State Department defends weapons transfer to Israel as part of long-standing deal

State Department spokesperson Matt Miller defended a recent U.S. transfer of weapons to Israel as part of a larger military assistance deal with the country that predates the Israel-Hamas war.

NBC News reported on the transfer yesterday, which included Mark 84 and Mark 82 bombs. They are "dumb bombs" that could level entire blocks but can be converted into precision-guided ones with the help of a guidance kit.

Critics say the timing of the transfer undermines recent comments from Biden, who has taken a more critical stance on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in recent weeks.

Miller said the U.S. has made it clear to Israel that "we expect them to use those weapons in full compliance with international humanitarian law."

"We have had very frank conversations with them about the fact that they’re far too many civilians have died through their operations," Miller said. "And that they need to do better and taking into account the need to minimize civilian harm."

8w ago / 3:49 PM EDT

Hundreds from Israel's Orthodox community block highway in protest against forced conscription

Members of the Haredi community, known as Israel's ultra-Orthodox community, blocked the Route 4 highway in protest of forced military conscription, according to The Times of Israel.

The country's Supreme Court ruled last week that the government must end subsidies for yeshiva students who fail to serve in Israel's armed forces. Today was the first day the ruling was in effect, freezing funds for students of conscription age who have not been given military service deferrals.

Within the Haredi community, men devote their lives to studying Judaism in religious seminaries and do not usually work. Women tend to be the sole income earners in Haredi households, but girls often get only a basic education, which limits their job opportunities.

That means the Israel government subsidizes much of the community, whose support has been key for Netanyahu.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews block a highway in Bnei Brak as they protest their conscription into the Israeli armed forces today.Oren Ziv / AFP - Getty Images
8w ago / 3:15 PM EDT

White House is 'looking into' reports airstrike killed Iranian commander in Syria

The Biden administration is aware of reports that Israeli airstrikes targeted an Iranian consulate and killed an Iranian commander, White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said at her briefing today.

"Our team is looking into it so, I’m not going to get ahead of anything just yet," she said. "But obviously, we’re aware of the reports and our team is looking into [them]. I’m just not going to go beyond that."

Iranian officials and the Syrian Defense Ministry both blame Israel for the strike, which hit the Iranian ambassador's residence and the consulate area of the embassy in Damascus. The IDF said it did not comment on foreign reports in response to a request for comment.

8w ago / 2:56 PM EDT

Gazans navigate a war-torn landscape around Al-Shifa

Max Butterworth
AFP - Getty Images

A woman is comforted as she cries on the street today in the area around Al-Shifa hospital after the Israeli military withdrew its ground forces from the vicinity. Images transmitted from the area surrounding Gaza’s besieged hospital today reveal devastating damage from continuous Israeli bombardments during fierce clashes with Hamas militants believed to have been using the hospital as a base.

AFP - Getty Images
8w ago / 2:27 PM EDT

Netanyahu says Al Jazeera will no longer be allowed to broadcast from Israel after new law passes

Israel's Knesset passed a law today that would allow senior officials to shut down broadcasts that threaten the country's security, which Netanyahu said he would use against the Qatari news outlet Al Jazeera.

The law passed 71 -10 after a second and third reading at the Knesset, the body said. Netanyahu posted a statement on X accusing Al Jazeera of harming Israel's security and called it the "voice of Hamas."

"I intend to act immediately in accordance with the new law to stop the channel’s activity," Netanyahu wrote.

Al Jazeera reported on the law's passage and the prime minister's statement but has not yet released a statement of its own on the matter.

White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said she was aware of reports on the ban and said that, if it was true, "it is concerning to us."

"A move like this is concerning," she said. "We believe in the freedom of the press, it is critical ... and the United States supports the critically important work journalists around the world do. And so, and that includes those who are reporting in, in the conflict in Gaza."

8w ago / 2:01 PM EDT

Iranian ambassador in Syria confirms his residence hit, state TV says at least 1 military commander killed

Hussein Akbari, the Iranian ambassador to Syria, confirmed in a post on X that his residence and the consulate area of the Iranian Embassy were struck in Damascus.

Earlier today, the Syrian Defense Ministry reported that Israeli airstrikes targeted the Iranian Consulate, but the IDF declined to comment to NBC News on the matter. Akbari said his living quarters were hit, along with the official military dependents of Iran.

"We will reciprocate when we want," Akbari wrote on X.

Iranian state TV reported that Gen. Mohammad Reza Zahedi, a senior commander in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, was killed in the strike. State media also reported that Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian described the attack as a crime in "violation of all international obligations and conventions" in a call with Syrian officials.

8w ago / 12:55 PM EDT

Al Jazeera's operations in Israel threatened as Netanyahu pushes Knesset on broadcast ban

Al Jazeera is once again facing a broadcast ban in Israel as the prime minister reportedly pushes to have the country's legislature pass a law to close down broadcasts from the news group.

The bill facing the Knesset would allow Israel's senior officials to shut down broadcasts which are deemed a security threat, according to Al Jazeera's own report on the subject.

Israeli spokesperson Avi Hyman accused Al Jazeera of "spouting propaganda" when asked by reporters whether with the new legislation, Netanyahu was targeting the Qatari news outlet. Hyman noted that the bill has only gone through a first hearing.

"There’s due process so we’re not quite there yet, but what it does say is that many people in Israel are unhappy with the way in which Al Jazeera dances between the truth and propaganda, and we’ll see what happens with that it’s an unfolding story," Hyman said.

8w ago / 12:23 PM EDT

Syrian Defense Ministry: Israel launched airstrike on Iranian Consulate in Damascus

Ammar Cheikh Omar
Yarden Segev
Ammar Cheikh Omar and Yarden Segev

The Syrian Defense Ministry said that Israel launched airstrikes on the Iranian Consulate in Damascus today. It said its air defenses stopped some of the missiles but that the consulate was destroyed and people were killed.

When asked for confirmation of its involvement, the IDF told NBC News that it doesn't comment on foreign media reports.

8w ago / 11:46 AM EDT

Israel's military says 600 soldiers have been killed since Oct. 7

The Israeli military said that 600 soldiers have been killed during the fighting in the Gaza Strip since Oct. 7. A total of 256 were killed since it launched its military campaign in the the enclave Oct. 27.

The IDF also said on its website that 3,181 service members have been injured since Oct. 7, when Hamas launched multipronged attacks on Israel.

8w ago / 11:12 AM EDT

Blinken to attend virtual meeting with Israel on Rafah

Raf Sanchez
Allie Raffa
Raf Sanchez and Allie Raffa

Secretary of State Antony Blinken will attend a virtual meeting today to discuss alternatives to a large-scale Israeli ground assault on Rafah.

The meeting was scheduled to happen in person at the White House but was canceled by Netanyahu after the U.S. declined to use its veto to stop a UN Security Council resolution demanding an immediate cease-fire in Gaza. 

After days of public tension with the White House over the cancellation, Israel quietly asked for the meetings to be rescheduled, a U.S. official said. 

The Israeli side of the meeting will include Ron Dermer, a minister in the war Cabinet, and Tzachi Hanegbi, Israel’s national security adviser, the official said. A U.S. official tells NBC News President Biden is not participating in the virtual meeting.

Israeli officials may still travel to the White House in coming days to continue the meetings in person, the official said.