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Iran attack: Tehran warns of 'severe' retaliation to any new Israeli attack

The U.K.’s top diplomat met with Israel’s president this morning and said it was “clear the Israelis are making a decision to act.”

What we know

  • The U.S. and its partners will impose new sanctions on Iran, including its missile and drone program, in the "coming days," national security adviser Jake Sullivan said last night as the Biden administration works with allies to contain the fallout from Tehran's retaliatory attack.
  • The U.K.'s top diplomat met with Israeli leaders today and said it was "clear the Israelis are making a decision to act." At a military parade in Tehran, Iran's president vowed a "severe and harsh" response to even the "tiniest" new Israeli attack.
  • The United Nations appealed for $2.8 billion to provide desperately needed aid to Gaza, where Palestinians face a possible looming famine while the Israeli military continues to carry out deadly strikes.

Qatar undertakes 'comprehensive evaluation' of its role as mediator

Recent criticisms of Qatar's work as mediator in hostage negotiations has prompted it to conduct a "comprehensive evaluation" of its role, Qatar's prime minister and foreign affairs minister said today.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman bin Jassim Al Thani told reporters today that the "misuse" of Qatar's mediation for "narrow political interests" forced it to re-evaluate its position.

"There is exploitation and abuse of the Qatari role, and this abuse is unacceptable," Al Thani said. "We started this process from a humanitarian standpoint."

Qatar's embassy yesterday released a statement responding to criticism from Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., who said the U.S. should re-evaluate its relationship to Qatar if it fails to apply pressure on Hamas to agree to a hostage release deal.

The embassy said that it shared Hoyer's frustration but that Qatar began its role as mediator at the request of the U.S. in 2012 and does not control Hamas or Israel. It went on to say that "blaming and threatening is not constructive."

Qatar's prime minister condemns 'policy of collective punishment against the Palestinian people'

It's time for the international community to act, said Qatar's prime minister and head of foreign affairs.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman bin Jassim Al Thani reiterated his condemnation today of "the policy of collective punishment against the Palestinian people." During a news conference, Al Thani said the current circle of conflicts in the region has a "direct relationship of this to escalation and war on the Gaza Strip."

He urged the international community to work to stop the war in Gaza and "the continuous targeting of the Palestinian people and their killing in this way, as well as the policy of siege and starvation against them and the use of humanitarian aid as a tool for political exploitation."

14 Israeli soldiers wounded in strikes by Hezbollah after IDF killed two commanders

Raf Sanchez

Hezbollah, an Iran-backed group based in Lebanon, injured at least 14 IDF soldiers in strikes on Israel today, a day after two of the group's militia commanders were killed.

The news comes as world leaders urge restraint and express concern that the Israel-Hamas war will spill into a wider regional conflict.

Columbia University president grilled about campus antisemitism at congressional hearing

Columbia University’s president strongly denounced antisemitism during a congressional hearing today, saying that after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack, “the world changed, and so did my focus.”

“Antisemitism has no place on our campus, and I am personally committed to doing everything I can to confront it directly,” President Nemat “Minouche” Shafik told the Republican-led House Committee on Education and the Workforce. “Israel was brutally attacked by Hamas terrorists, and very soon it became clear that these horrific events would ignite fear and anguish across our campus.”

Shafik faced questions about her handling of antisemitism on campus after the attack alongside two members of Columbia’s board of trustees and the head of its antisemitism task force. She faced particular scrutiny over how the university handled faculty members who made comments about Hamas that were perceived as antisemitic.

Read the full story here.

Netanyahu 'should not be allowed' to drag states into war with Iran, Jordanian minister says

Netanyahu said Israel will respond to Iran’s retaliatory strikes last weekend as President Joe Biden calls for restraint.

Jordanian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi was critical of Netanyahu, saying he "should not be allowed to drag the U.S. and other Western powers into a war with Iran."

"Jordan will not be a battleground," Safadi said. "We are in the middle of the fire."

Italy would contribute to any U.N. peacekeeping in Gaza

The Associated Press

Italy’s foreign minister says Rome would be willing to contribute troops to any possible U.N. peacekeeping force in Gaza, even though no such proposal is on the table and Israel has rejected the idea.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani suggested that a U.N. force under Arab command could help provide security if Israel and Palestinians make headway on an eventual two-state solution. He said the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Lebanon could be the model.

“If there is the solution and for a short time we need the presence of the United Nations under Arab control, we are ready for sending Italian soldiers,” Tajani said ahead of a Group of Seven foreign ministers meeting in Capri.

Netanyahu has ruled out a foreign peacekeeping force in Gaza after the war, saying only Israel is capable of keeping the territory demilitarized.

Gallant vows justice for 14-year-old Israeli boy whose death sparked wave of violence in West Bank

Doha Madani and Reuters

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant visited the rural area today where 14-year-old Binyamin Ahimeir was found dead, a slaying that ignited a new wave of violence between Palestinians and Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank.

"We will apprehend the murderers and bring them to justice," Gallant said.

Binyamin was found Saturday, a day after he was reported missing, and the circumstances of his death are under investigation. The Israeli authorities said he was killed in a "terrorist attack" but have not provided additional details.

His death incensed Israeli settlers, sparking violence that resulted in at least two Palestinians' being fatally shot by settlers, as well as numerous injuries. The U.S. State Department condemned the killing of Binyamin and expressed concern about the "violence against Palestinian civilians and their property that ensued."

Netanyahu rejects famine warnings in Gaza

Netanyahu rejected warnings of famine in Gaza today, even as the enclave faces a humanitarian crisis with an acute shortage of food and basic supplies.

“Israel goes above and beyond on the humanitarian issue,” Netanyahu’s office quoted him in a statement as saying after he met with British Foreign Secretary David Cameron.

Israel has faced mounting pressure from its allies and aid organizations to increase the flow of supplies to the besieged strip.

More than 4,000 embryos destroyed in strike on Gaza fertility clinic

Reuters

When an Israeli shell struck Gaza’s largest fertility clinic in December, the explosion blasted the lids off five liquid nitrogen tanks stored in a corner of the embryology unit.

As the ultra-cold liquid evaporated, the temperature inside the tanks rose, destroying more than 4,000 embryos, as well as 1,000 more specimens of sperm and unfertilized eggs, stored at Gaza City’s Al Basma IVF centre.

The embryos were the last hope for hundreds of Palestinian couples facing infertility. At least half of the couples — those who can no longer produce sperm or eggs to make viable embryos — will not have another chance to get pregnant, said Dr. Bahaeldeen Ghalayini, a Cambridge-trained obstetrician and gynecologist who established the clinic in 1997.

“We know deeply what these 5,000 lives, or potential lives, meant for the parents, either for the future or for the past,” Ghalayini said.Asked by Reuters today about the incident, the Israeli military’s media desk said it was looking into the reports. Israel denies intentionally targeting civilian infrastructure, and it has accused Hamas fighters of operating from medical facilities, which Hamas denies.

Three years of fertility treatment were a psychological roller coaster for Seba Jaafarawi. Retrieving eggs from her ovaries was painful, the hormone injections had strong side-effects, and the sadness when two attempted pregnancies failed seemed unbearable.

In September, Jaafarawi became pregnant, her first successful IVF attempt.

“I did not even have time to celebrate the news,” she said.

She had a miscarriage in November, just days after she and her husband were able to leave Gaza for Egypt. Jaafarawi wanted to return to the war zone, retrieve her frozen embryos and attempt IVF again.

But it was soon too late.


10,000 women have been killed in Gaza, U.N. says

Around 10,000 Palestinian women have been killed in Gaza since the war began six months ago, U.N. Women said yesterday in a statement.

Of those, 6,000 were mothers, whose deaths left 19,000 children orphaned, it said, adding the women who have survived "have been displaced, widowed, and facing starvation."

"This devastating differentiated impact continues to make the war on Gaza also a war on women," it said.

Targeting nuclear facilities an option for Israel, former spy chief says

Targeting nuclear facilities is an option for Israel as it decides how to respond to Iran’s drone and missile attack over the weekend, the former head of the country’s spy agency said today.

“Everything is on the table right now,” Zohar Palti told the British broadcaster Sky News. (Sky News is owned by Comcast, the parent company of NBC News.)

“When and where, we will choose the place,” he added. Asked whether that included targeting nuclear facilities, he said, “including everything.”

Navy ship headed to Gaza had to turn back after engine room fire

A U.S. Navy ship on its way to Gaza had to turn back last week after a fire broke out in the engine room, a Navy spokesperson confirmed in a statement to NBC News.

Crew members on the USNS 2nd Lt. John P. Bobo reported the fire Thursday, saying they evacuated the area and used a portable fire extinguisher to smother the flames. No injuries were reported.

The vessel was traveling to the Mediterranean Sea to "deliver equipment and personnel in support of humanitarian aid operations off the Gaza Strip." But it returned to Florida yesterday with just one engine.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Israeli military complicit in West Bank settler violence, Human Rights Watch says

The Israeli military either “took part in or did not protect” Palestinians from settler violence in the occupied West Bank, a report by the nongovernmental organization Human Rights Watch published today has found.

HRW said “armed settlers, with the active participation of army units, repeatedly cut off road access and raided Palestinian communities.”

Settlers also “detained, assaulted, and tortured” residents, chasing them out of their homes at gunpoint, it said, based on video analysis and interviews with more than two dozen witnesses.

Gaza death toll nears 34,000, Health Ministry says

At least 33,899 people have been killed in the Gaza Strip since war began, the enclave’s Health Ministry said today in a statement on Telegram.

The ministry said at least 56 people were killed and another 89 people were injured in the last 24 hours during Israeli attacks.

Some of those injured were still trapped under rubble with Israeli forces preventing access for emergency services, it added.

Grief and despair as people seeking refuge in southern Gaza are killed

Peter Jeary

Two separate strikes in the Gaza Strip killed more than a dozen people and left grieving relatives weeping over the dead and injured.

A market crowded with women and children in central Gaza and an apartment in Rafah were struck without warning, eyewitnesses told NBC News' crew in the besieged enclave yesterday.

Gaza cease-fire talks at ‘delicate phase,’ mediator Qatar says

Talks for a new cease-fire and hostage release in Gaza are at a “delicate phase,” Qatar said today, after a senior Arab diplomat with direct knowledge of the negotiations told NBC News that the talks are “almost frozen.”

“We are trying as much as possible to address this stumbling block,” the Gulf state’s Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani told reporters in Doha.

“We are trying as much as possible to address this stumbling block and to move forward to put an end to this suffering,” he said.

Qatar has acted as a mediator between Israel and Hamas, brokering talks alongside the U.S. and Egypt.

'We will make our own decisions,' Netanyahu tells allies

Yarden Segev

TEL AVIV — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has thanked Israel's allies for support in the wake of Iran's retaliatory attack but made it clear that the country will do what it deems necessary to defend itself.

Speaking after meetings with the foreign ministers of Britain and France, Netanyahu said he wanted to "thank our friends for their support for the defense of Israel."

He added that "they also have all kinds of suggestions and advice, I appreciate it, but I want to make it clear - we will make our own decisions, and the state of Israel will do everything necessary to defend itself."

Netanyahu was speaking before a government meeting. In a readout of his discussions with the European diplomats, his office said he also "insisted that Israel preserve the right to self-defense."

Columbia University president to testify in Congress on campus antisemitism, conflicts over Gaza war

The Associated Press

Mithil Aggarwal and The Associated Press

It's Columbia University's turn to be grilled before Congress after previous hearings led to the resignations of two Ivy League presidents over questions of antisemitism and the school’s response to conflicts on campus.

Nemat Shafik was originally scheduled to testify in December before the House Education and Workforce Committee, but cited scheduling conflicts at the time.

Tensions and accusations of hate and bias have roiled Columbia, too. In an op-ed published in The Wall Street Journal Tuesday, Shafik emphasized the delicate balance between protecting free speech and fostering a safe environment for students on campus.

“Calling for the genocide of a people — whether they are Israelis or Palestinians, Jews, Muslims or anyone else — has no place in a university community,” Shafik wrote. “Such words are outside the bounds of legitimate debate and unimaginably harmful.”

Iran warns any Israeli attack would bring 'severe and harsh response'

TEL AVIV — As Israel weighs its response to the barrage of missiles and drones fired at the country over the weekend, Iran’s president could not have been more clear with his messaging: Don’t attack.    

Speaking at an army parade this morning in Tehran, Ebrahim Raisi said that even the “tiniest” attack by Israel would bring a “severe and harsh response.”  

It comes as the Israeli military is promising to respond to Iran’s weekend barrage of missiles and drones.

“Firing 110 ballistic missiles directly to Israel will not get scot-free. We will respond in our time, in our place, in the way that we will choose,” IDF spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said.

Direct hit on building in northern Israel injures 13

At least 13 people were injured after rockets struck western Galilee in northern Israel today, the country's emergency services said in a statement.

The Magen David Adom emergency responders, along with the IDF, are providing medical treatment to the injured and evacuating them to the medical center in Nahariya, it said.

Four of the injured are in serious condition, it added.

In recent days, there have been frequent exchanges across the border with Lebanon between the Israeli military and the Iran-backed Hezbollah militant group.

Hezbollah said in a statement that it had struck a building in the village of Arab Al-Aramshe, in the western Galilee, this morning. It claimed to have killed and wounded Israeli soldiers in the attack, which it said was a response to the Israeli killing of its members and commanders in Lebanon.

NBC News has not independently verified the claims.

Israel analyzes debris from Iranian missiles that were shot down

Raf Sanchez

CENTRAL ISRAEL — While the vast majority of Iran’s ballistic missiles were intercepted outside Israeli airspace, the country's military now faces the task of collecting and analyzing those that did get through. 

NBC News was given access to a military base in central Israel yesterday, where we saw what the Israel Defense Forces said was the remains of a fuel tank from one of those ballistic missiles. 

A hulking tube 36 feet long, it would have carried a warhead that weighs around a thousand pounds, said Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the IDF's chief spokesperson. “If those ballistic missiles would have hit Israel, it would have caused dangerous consequences to the region,” he told reporters.

NBC News was given access to a military base in central Israel yesterday, where we saw what the Israel Defense Forces said was the remains of a fuel tank from one of those ballistic missiles.
Raf Sanchez / NBC News
NBC News was given access to a military base in central Israel yesterday, where we saw what the Israel Defense Forces said was the remains of a fuel tank from one of those ballistic missiles.
Raf Sanchez / NBC News

The IDF said the fuel tank may have been from an Emad missile but that it continued to study the weapon. The fuel tank was found in the Dead Sea and the IDF believes it fell there after being intercepted. A rip in its metal side pointed to possible shrapnel from an interception. 

Four ballistic missiles did make it through Israeli air defenses and slammed into Nevatim air base in the south of the country. The IDF said they caused minimal damage and the base remained operational at all times. 

Pressed by NBC News, Hagari would not say whether Israel was committed to launching airstrikes or whether it would consider cyberattacks or other covert means to respond to Iran. “We will respond at our time at our way the way we choose to do,” he said. 

Ukraine sees allies help protect Israel from Iran attack and asks: What about us?

Daryna Mayer

Daryna Mayer and Mithil Aggarwal

KYIV, Ukraine — In the wave of Iranian drones and missiles that were shot down before reaching their targets over the weekend, another ally sees the possibilities, and limits, of Western support.

The United States and its partners helped Israel, so why — Ukraine is asking — won’t they help protect us from Russian attacks?

Aftermath of a Russian missile strike in Chernihiv
Russian strikes killed at least 11 in the northern city of Chernihiv today.Valentyn Ogirenko / Reuters

It “looks extremely strange,” Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak told NBC News in an interview yesterday.

“How does the civilian population of Ukraine or the civilian infrastructure of Ukraine differ from the civilian population of Israel from a humanistic point of view?” he asked bluntly.

Read the full story here.

'The Israelis are making a decision to act'

Israel has made a decision to respond to Iran's retaliatory strikes, British Foreign Secretary David Cameron said after meeting the Israeli President Isaac Herzog this morning.

"It’s clear the Israelis are making a decision to act," he told reporters. "We hope they do so in a way that does as little to escalate this as possible."

Cameron said Israel should refocus on its war against Hamas and on the release of the hostages. Tehran has said that any retaliation by Israel will not go unpunished.

Herzog also met with German Foreign Minister in Jerusalem Annalena Baerbock and thanked the two for the "warm discussion."

Iran hails success of retaliatory attack during military parade

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has hailed what he framed as the success of the country's retaliatory strikes on Israel, speaking at an annual military parade in Tehran today.

Iranian Military Parade in Tehran
Atta Kenare / AFP - Getty Images
Iran Military Parade Tehran
Atta Kenare / AFP - Getty Images

Raisi said that the operation was "limited" and "punitive" but that any Israeli response would be met with a retaliation that would not be limited.

“The army stands by the nation and acts to defend the homeland, territorial integrity, and the values of the Islamic Revolution,” he said, according to the state news agency IRNA.

Iran Military Parade in Tehran
Atta Kenare / AFP - Getty Images
Iran Military Parade in Tehran
Atta Kenare / AFP - Getty Images

U.N. appeals for $2.8 billion to provide aid to Palestinians

The Associated Press

The United Nations appealed for $2.8 billion yesterday to provide desperately needed aid to 3 million Palestinians. It stressed that tackling a looming famine in Gaza requires not only food, but also sanitation, water and health facilities.

Andrea De Domenico, head of the U.N. humanitarian office for Gaza and the West Bank, told reporters that “massive operations” are required to restore those services and meet minimum standards — and this cannot be done during military operations.

He pointed to the destruction of hospitals, water and sanitation facilities, homes, roads and schools, adding that “there is not a single university that is standing in Gaza”.

De Domenico said Israel’s recently-ended second major military operation at Al-Shifa Hospital, Gaza’s largest medical facility, was so destructive that it has been forced to shut down.

Iranian propaganda aims missiles at Israel

Max Butterworth

A huge banner displayed across the facade of a building in the Iranian capital, Tehran, yesterday depicts missiles aimed at Israel.

Missiles on a large banner in Tehran
Kaveh Kazemi / Getty Images

U.S. will impose new sanctions on Iran, strengthen missile defense in Middle East

The United States will put in place new sanctions targeting Iran and entities that support its Islamic Revolutionary Guard “in the coming days,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan said last night.

Sullivan said that the U.S. military will also work to strengthen missile defense and early warning systems across the Middle East “to further erode the effectiveness of Iran’s missile and UAV capabilities.”

“These new sanctions and other measures will continue a steady drumbeat of pressure to contain and degrade Iran’s military capacity and effectiveness and confront the full range of its problematic behaviors,” Sullivan said in a statement.

The European Union’s top diplomat Josep Borrell said its foreign affairs council met and was also united in increasing its sanctions against Iran.

Gaza cease-fire talks ‘almost frozen,’ Arab diplomat says

JERUSALEM — At the moment, talks for a cease-fire and the release of Israeli hostages by Hamas are “almost frozen,” a senior Arab diplomat with direct knowledge of the negotiations told NBC News.

The official did not attribute blame and said discussions stalled as tensions with Iran took center stage following Israel’s April 1 attack on the Iranian embassy compound in Damascus.  

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said on Sunday that Hamas had rejected Israel’s most recent offer for a deal.

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