IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.
Last updated

Israel-Hamas war: Blinken arrives in Saudi Arabia as U.S. vows more strikes against Iran-backed militants

The secretary of state's latest trip to the Middle East will see him push for a new hostage deal.

What we know

Houthis pose 'substantial' threat to freedom of navigation, naval commander tells NBC News

NBC News

Rear Adm. Marc Miguez said in an interview that the threat the Houthis pose to commercial ships is “substantial."

NBC News’ Courtney Kube reports from aboard the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier in the Red Sea.

For more on this story, tune in to NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt at 6:30 p.m ET / 5:30 p.m. CT.

Dearborn mayor blasts 'inflammatory' WSJ op-ed calling city 'Jihad Capital'

The mayor of Dearborn, Michigan, ramped up security measures this weekend after The Wall Street Journal published an opinion article referring to the city as “America’s Jihad Capital” — a headline that drew sharp criticism from Muslim advocacy groups and elected officials.

The op-ed, published Friday afternoon, suggested that Dearborn’s residents — including Muslim faith leaders and politicians — support Hamas and the Iran-backed group Hezbollah. Dearborn is home to about 110,000 people, with a sizable population of Muslims and Arab Americans.

The article was “extremely inflammatory and, upon it being published, we received many calls from faith leaders across the community who no longer felt safe,” Mayor Abdullah Hammoud said in an interview Sunday with MSNBC’s Ayman Mohyeldin.

Read the full story here.

White House walks back claim that it warned Iraq about airstrikes

Gabe Gutierrez

The Biden administration is walking back a controversial assertion over the weekend that it gave the Iraqi government prior warning about Friday’s airstrikes.

At today’s State Department briefing, spokesman Vedant Patel said: “There was not a pre-notification. We informed the Iraqis immediately after the strikes occurred.”

The distinction is significant as Iraq is in the unique position of being allies with both Iran and the U.S. On a Friday night call with reporters, John Kirby, the National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications, said that “we did inform the Iraqi government prior to the strikes occurring.”

Now, the White House is walking that back, arguing that he meant the U.S. didn’t provide specific details to Iraq beforehand.

“I responded with the information I had been provided at the time,” Kirby said in a written statement. “It was not as specific as it could have been, and I regret any confusion caused. That said, we had made no secret — both to Iraqi officials and in public channels — that we would respond to the attacks on our troops.”

The acknowledgement comes after Iraqi officials released scathing statements over the weekend condemning the strikes. One of the statements suggested the Iraqis weren’t told beforehand.

“The American side then deliberately deceived and falsified the facts, by announcing prior coordination to commit this aggression, which is a false claim aimed at misleading international public opinion and disavowing legal responsibility for this rejected crime in accordance with all international laws," one of the statements said.

Kirby was asked yesterday on Fox News Sunday about the claim and whether the U.S. has communicated with Iraqis since the strikes. This time, he deferred to the ambassador in Baghdad, saying there “were appropriate notifications and discussions with the Iraqi government.”

Today, another NSC spokesperson said the U.S. did not provide any kind of official pre-notification with specific details due to “operational security.”

Palestine Red Crescent Society evacuates Khan Younis hospital

An estimated 8,000 displaced civilians are evacuating the Palestine Red Crescent Society's campus in Khan Younis after days of heavy fighting in the area, the organization said in a post on X.

Al-Amal Hospital staff and administrators will stay at the location, which houses the hospital and the organization headquarters. There are 80 patients remaining, along with 40 elderly civilians.

Khan Younis in southern Gaza is where the bulk of fighting between the IDF and Hamas militants has moved following the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the northern area of the strip. Many civilians who left the north since October fled for safety in Khan Younis and are now forcibly displaced again by the violence.

The IDF said in a statement that it was allowing the evacuation of uninvolved civilians sheltering in the hospital.

Smoke rising over Khan Younis this morning

Max Butterworth

A photograph taken from Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip shows smoke rising over buildings in Khan Younis today.

Smoke rises over Gaza early on February 5
Said Khatib / AFP - Getty Images

Blinken meets with Saudi crown prince

NBC News

In his meeting today with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud in Riyadh, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken underscored the importance of addressing humanitarian needs in Gaza and preventing further spread of the conflict, Blinken spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement.

Blinken and the crown prince, who is also Saudi Arabia's prime minister, discussed regional coordination to end the war in Gaza and provide "lasting peace and security for Israelis and Palestinians alike," Miller said.

They also talked about reducing regional tensions, including ending Houthi attacks in the Red Sea and making progress on the Yemen peace process, he said.

UNRWA says Israeli naval fire hit food convoy in Gaza 

A food convoy waiting to move into northern Gaza was hit by Israeli naval gunfire, Thomas White, director of the U.N.'s Palestinian relief agency, said in a post on X today.

The U.N. agency said it is unable to deliver aid under fire, calling for urgent, safe and sustainable humanitarian access throughout the Gaza Strip.

Defunding UNRWA 'disproportionate and dangerous,' top E.U. official says

Cutting funding for the main U.N. aid agency in Gaza would be "both disproportionate and dangerous," Joseph Borrell, the European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, warned yesterday.

The U.N. Relief & Works Agency is an "irreplaceable provider" of support to Palestinians, he said in a statement, after more than a dozen donors cut its funding following Israeli accusations that its employees were involved in the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks.

If the agency were to halt its operations, "it would significantly aggravate the ongoing dramatic humanitarian crisis," he said.

Palestinians hope Blinken visit can deliver Gaza truce


Palestinians huddling under bombardment in Gaza said Monday they hoped that Secretary of State Antony Blinken's visit to the region would finally deliver a truce, in time to head off a threatened new Israeli assault on Rafah, the last refuge at the enclave’s edge.

“We want the war to end and we want to go back home. This is all that we want at this stage,” said Yamen Hamad, 35, a father of four reached by messaging app at a U.N. school in Deir al-Balah in central Gaza.

The area is one of the few where Israeli tanks have yet to advance and is now jammed with tens of thousands of displaced families.

“All we do is listen to the news through small radios and view the internet looking for hope. We hope that Blinken will tell Netanyahu enough is enough, and we hope our factions decide in the best interest of our people," Hamad said.

Israeli attacks on Gaza continue
An injured Palestinian child cries today as she is brought to the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir al-Balah, Gaza.Ashraf Amra / Anadolu via Getty Images

Clothes stretch for miles on a beach to show the scale of child deaths

Matthew Nighswander

Activists lay out a 3-mile line of second-hand children's clothes along Bournemouth beach in England to illustrate the scale of child deaths in Gaza and Israel, with each set of clothing representing a lost child, on Feb .3 5, 2024.
Led By Donkeys via Getty Images

Activists laid out a 3-mile line of second-hand children's clothes along Bournemouth beach in England to illustrate the scale of child deaths in Gaza and Israel. The organization Led by Donkeys said each set of clothing represents one of the the more than 11,500 Palestinian children and 36 Israeli children who have been killed since Oct. 7. 

Demonstration In Bournemouth Highlights Child Death Toll In Israel-Hamas War
Led By Donkeys via Getty Images

Former French minister will lead independent UNRWA review, U.N. chief says

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has appointed a former French foreign minister to lead an independent review of the organization's Palestinian refugee agency following allegations against some of its staff.

According to a statement today, the review group was formed at the request of Philippe Lazzarini, head of the refugee agency, UNRWA. The review will look at UNRWA from a large-scale operational perspective and is separate from the Office of Internal Oversight Services inquiry into Israel's accusations that some of the agency's Gaza staff members have terrorism ties.

The review group will examine the UNRWA's neutrality, its ability to respond to misconduct allegations and how it accounts for its operational limitations, and the group will recommend ways the agency can strengthen its efforts.

Former French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna will lead the inquiry with help from three research organizations: the Raoul Wallenberg Institute in Sweden, the Chr. Michelsen Institute in Norway and the Danish Institute for Human Rights.

'We were sleeping until dust dropped all over us,' young girl says amid rubble of her home

A young Palestinian girl named Lujain looks haunted as she stares at the wreckage inside her family's home in southern Gaza, which succumbed to an airstrike over the weekend.

She lists the names of her relatives who were killed as well as those still recovering in the hospital. Their home stands in the southern city of Rafah.

"We were sleeping until dust dropped all over us. They bombed a house next to us and then our house. They took me to another house," the kindergartener said, crying, to an NBC News team in Gaza.

In the video, pots and pans laid discarded on the kitchen floor, coated with debris as the kitchen wall appeared torn apart with a gaping hole.

Elsewhere grieving family members crowded around a dead young boy named Bassem, who was killed in the strike.

"I swear you are going to stay in my lap. My baby, oh God be with me, please stay in my lap," Bassem's grandmother, Fatima Hijazi, said weeping over his body wrapped in a white burial shroud.

"I swear I miss you, my grandchild," she added, kissing his cheek.

Bassem's father clung on to a piece a paper he said was filled with his son's writing.

"These are the writing on the paper. My son kept writing and learning while they banned them and stopped them from school," the grieving father said of his son's pastimes amid the war.

The Palestinian ministry of information said first responders recovered "a number of martyrs and wounded, as a result of the occupation aircraft targeting two homes belonging to the Hijazi and Al-Hams families" in a statement on Saturday posted to their telegram channel.

Tributes to hostages, calls for a cease-fire: How the Gaza war featured at the Grammys

The Israel-Hamas war was prominent in tributes and calls for action at the Grammys awards in Los Angeles last night.

Social media star Montana Tucker appeared on the red carpet in a giant yellow ribbon on her dress in a tribute to the hostages who remain in Hamas' captivity. The yellow ribbon has become a symbol of their plight. "Bring them home," Tucker said on Instagram alongside a photo of her outfit.

Montana Tucker arrives for the Grammys yesterday.Robyn Beck / AFP - Getty Images

Singer Annie Lennox called for a cease-fire in Gaza while performing a tribute to the late Sinéad O’Connor.

“Artists for cease-fire,” she said. “Peace in the world.”

Lennox is among dozens of artists who have signed an open letter to President Joe Biden calling for a cease-fire in Gaza and the safe release of hostages.

Meanwhile, Harvey Mason Jr., CEO of the Recording Academy, spoke about the unifying power of music and acknowledged deadly attacks at music events in Paris, Las Vegas and Manchester, England, as well as the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas on the Nova music festival in Israel.

Blinken arrives in Riyadh in his fifth trip to the region

Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Riyadh today, the first stop on his latest tour of the Middle East as the U.S. looks to push for a new hostage deal.

Blinken is expected to meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as well as the Saudi foreign minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud.

This is Blinken's fifth trip to the region and is expected to also advance discussions on a post-war deal for Gaza, which are thought to involve the possibility of an agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia to normalize relations.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken disembarks from the plane upon arriving at King Khalid International Airport in the Saudi capital Riyadh on Feb. 5, 2024.
Blinken arrives in Riyadh today.Mark Schiefelbein / AFP - Getty Images

OECD ups world growth forecast but warns of Middle East ‘risk’

The Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development today raised its economic outlook for global growth, forecasting a GDP growth of 2.9% for this year.

But it highlighted Middle East as challenge, outlining geopolitical tensions in the region as a "key source of uncertainty."

"Threats to shipping in the Red Sea have increased shipping costs and lengthened supplier delivery time," it said in a statement, adding that further escalation could pressure on prices of goods and pose a "risk" to economic growth.

Houthi rebels vow new attacks after latest U.S. strikes

Keir Simmons

Waves of American strikes against Iranian-backed militia were carried out all weekend in response to the killing of three U.S. service members. 

Russia to summon Israeli ambassador over ‘unacceptable’ comments, state media reports

Russia’s foreign ministry will summon Israel’s ambassador, Simona Halperin, state news agency Tass reported, over her “unacceptable comments” in a recent interview.

In the interview with Russia’s Kommersant newspaper published yesterday, Halperin criticized Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov for downplaying the significance of the Holocaust and said Israel does not understand why Russia is giving special treatment to Hamas, welcoming their members in Moscow. Russia says these talks with Hamas are important to free the hostages, she said, but it has not yielded any results yet.

“Russia’s position worries and depresses me,” Halperin added.

In response, Russia's foreign ministry told Tass that Halperin’s comments were “distorting Russian foreign policy approaches and historical realities,” and were an “extremely unsuccessful start” to her diplomatic mission.

The Kremlin has been sympathetic to the Palestinian cause and critical of Israel’s operation in Gaza, while trying to still maintain friendly diplomatic relations with Israel. Hamas members traveled to Moscow for talks in October, just weeks after the Oct. 7 attack on Israel, according to Russian state media. 

At least 30 people killed in airstrikes in Deir al-Balah, Palestinian officials say

TEL AVIV — At least 30 people were killed in the area of Deir al-Balah in central Gaza over the weekend in Israel's assault of the enclave, Palestinian officials said.

They said multiple homes and a mosque in the area were hit in air attacks within a 24-hour period.

Israeli attacks continue on Gaza Strip
A man gathers belongings from the rubble of his family home after Israeli attacks in Deir al-Balah, yesterday.Ashraf Amra / Anadolu via Getty Images

Images captured by local photographers showed injured people arriving at the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir al-Balah following reported strikes.

NBC News was not immediately able to independently verify the claims.

Asked for comment, the IDF said in a statement that it is "operating to dismantle Hamas military and administrative capabilities."

Houthi supporters gather in Yemen

Max Butterworth

Houthi tribesmen carry rocket-propelled grenades on the back of a vehicle yesterday near Sanaa, Yemen.

Houthi tribesmen gather to show defiance after U.S. and U.K air strikes on Houthi positions near Sanaa
Khaled Abdullah / Reuters

Blinken on way to Saudi Arabia as part of fifth tour to Middle East since Oct. 7 attacks

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is traveling to the Middle East again today, his fifth trip to the region since the Oct. 7 attacks, to push for a new deal that will secure the release of hostages, an extended humanitarian pause to the fighting in Gaza and increased aid to the enclave.

Negotiators are still awaiting word from Hamas on the initial framework of an agreement drafted in Paris last month.

Blinken will also be traveling to Egypt, Qatar, Israel and the occupied West Bank for talks, according to the State Department.

U.S.-backed Kurdish forces say 6 fighters killed in drone strike on U.S base 

Six fighters of a U.S.-backed Kurdish-led force were killed today in a drone strike on an American base in eastern Syria, the group said in a statement.

The strike targeted a training academy in the al-Omar field, east of Deir ez-Zor, the Syrian Democratic Forces said.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the attack was carried out by Iranian-backed militias in response to the U.S. strikes over the weekend.

The U.S. military has not commented.

U.S. carries out self-defense strikes on missiles in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen

U.S. Central Command forces launched self-defense strikes against land attack and anti-ship cruise missles in Yemen yesterday, the agency said on X.

At approximately 5:30 a.m. local time, forces launched a strike “in self-defense against a Houthi land attack cruise missile,” Central Command said.

Then, starting at 10:30 a.m., “U.S. forces struck four anti-ship cruise missiles, all of which were prepared to launch against ships in the Red Sea,” Central Command said.

U.S. forces identified the missiles in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen, and determined they were a threat to U.S. Navy ships and other merchant vessels in the area, according to Central Command.

The strikes were not a continuation of Saturday’s coalition strikes.

IDF operations in Khan Younis

Max Butterworth

An image released by the Israeli Army shows troops raiding a building in Khan Younis during ground operations in the southern Gaza Strip today.

IDF Gaza Khan Younis
Israeli Army / AFP - Getty Images

Catch up with NBC News' coverage of the conflict

NBC News