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Cease-fire and hostage talks appear stalled as U.N. warns of starving population in Gaza

A United Nations Security Council vote on a resolution about a suspension of fighting and humanitarian assistance to Gaza was postponed until Friday.

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What we know

  • The United Nations Security Council has reached a deal on a resolution for desperately needed aid to Gaza that the U.S. can support, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. said today.
  • The vote has been postponed until tomorrow. The development, announced by U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, comes after high-level diplomacy aimed at avoiding another American veto, as well as several delays. "It will be a resolution — if the resolution is put forward as is — that we can support," she said.
  • Hamas said today that the Palestinian leadership had agreed there would be no more negotiations over prisoner exchange deals unless Israel halts the fighting.
  • An estimated 20,000 people have been killed in Gaza, according to the Hamas media office in the enclave. The vast majority of the enclave's 2.2 million people are displaced, and the U.N. said today that more than half a million face starvation.
  • There are no fully functional hospitals in all of Gaza, and only nine are partly in use, the World Health Organization said today.
  • Israeli military officials say 137 soldiers have been killed during the country's ground invasion in Gaza, which came after Hamas killed 1,200 people and seized about 240 hostages on Oct. 7.
  • NBC News’ Ali Arouzi is reporting from the region.

Hamas hostage families plead with diplomats to help secure their freedom

Amid scenes of deep emotion, family members of several of the hostages held by Hamas addressed diplomats in Tel Aviv to ask for international assistance in securing their release.

Palestinian support for ‘armed struggle’ is rising as Gaza death estimate tops 20,000

As the death toll in Gaza reached an estimated 20,000 on Thursday, the majority of them women and children, a poll released last week by a leading Palestinian research firm offered a window into how Palestinians in Gaza and the occupied West Bank view the war. 

The survey, which was conducted in late November, found that 63% of Palestinians polled favored “armed struggle” as the best strategy to secure an independent state and end Israel’s occupation. That represents a 10% rise in support since a survey conducted by the same center three months ago. 

Only 20% of those polled supported negotiations and 13% backed non-violent protest. The results reflect the belief among many Palestinians that decades of appealing to the international community, conducting boycotts, and waiting for a two-state diplomatic solution have proved fruitless.

“It is important to understand that the majority of Palestinians do not see the attacks on Israel as terrorism,” said Khalil Sayegh, who was born and raised in Gaza, received a Master’s Degree from American University and is now a political analyst based in Washington, D.C. 

“They see ‘armed struggle’ as a normal reaction for the Palestinians to gain their freedom out of the occupation,” he added. 

Read the full story here.

Canada loosens permit rules for people from Gaza, Israel

Canada today announced new study and work permits designed to help Palestinians or Israelis already in Canada or relatives of citizens and residents who have left Gaza or Israel.

Relatives of Canadian citizens or permanent residents who have left Israel, Gaza or the West Bank since the conflict started on Oct. 7 can apply for fee-exempt study or work permits, the government said.

Israelis and Palestinians who are already in Canada and who don’t want to return for safety reasons can do the same, said Canada’s minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship, Marc Miller.

Miller called the situation in Gaza a humanitarian crisis. “Israelis and Palestinians in Canada will continue to find safety here, and we will do what we can to help loved ones who have fled the region, as well as eligible family members who remain in Gaza,” he said.

13-year-old Palestinian American was shot by Israeli soldiers and detained, his family says

Malik Jaffal.
Malik Jaffal.NBC News

ABU DIS, occupied West Bank — A 13-year-old American Palestinian boy was released from an Israeli prison last night after he was strip-searched, interrogated and falsely arrested without access to his family or a lawyer, his family said.

Malik Jaffal says he spent a week in Ofer military prison stuck in a small room with 12 other boys with no soap and no showers after he refused to falsely confess to throwing rocks at soldiers.

Israeli soldiers shot him in the arm on Nov. 1 as he was on his way home from playing soccer with friends, he said in an interview translated by his U.S.-born mother, Dunia Mustafa.

He said that he is accustomed to shootings in his neighborhood but that he never imagined he would end up a victim.

Read the full story here.

Kirby: Israel transitioning to lower-intensity operation soon would be ‘best possible outcome’

U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said today that Israel will have to transition to “lower-intensity operations” as its military campaign continues, and the sooner, the better.

“We are not dictating terms and timelines to the Israelis,” Kirby said.

“We have certainly talked about the importance of moving to lower-intensity operations. And obviously, we don’t want them to do it sooner than they think they can do it safely and effectively,” he said. “But we do believe — we believe that a transition in the near future is the best possible outcome.”

Kirby said that in a military campaign, tactics evolve as objectives are reached, and that Israel has said it will move to a lower intensity of operations. The U.S. has offered assistance in sharing its own lessons in past military actions, he said.

Second gentleman Emhoff offers 'solidarity' to Kesher Israel Congregation after threats

On a call with Rabbi Hyim Shafner of Kesher Israel Congregation in Washington, D.C., second gentleman Doug Emhoff "expressed solidarity with the congregation, offered messages of hope and resilience, and stressed the importance of combating antisemitism and all other forms of hate," a White House official said.

On Sunday, Kesher Israel faced threats from an assailant "yelling antisemitic language" outside the synagogue.

Today, Emhoff and Shafner spoke about the event, with Emhoff saying the Biden administration is committed to improving safety and security for Jewish communities and places of worship.

U.N. Security Council resolution is something U.S. can support, ambassador says

The U.N. Security Council has reached a resolution on the situation in Gaza that the U.S. can support, U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said.

The vote has been delayed until Friday, a U.N. spokesperson said.

The resolution was put forward by the United Arab Emirates, and the U.S. vetoed it on Dec. 8. The language changed from a “cessation of hostilities” to a “suspension,” the U.N. said in its online updates about the issue today.

“It will support the priority that Egypt has in ensuring that we put a mechanism on the ground that will support humanitarian assistance, and we’re ready to move forward,” Thomas-Greenfield said.

A vote has not taken place. Thomas-Greenfield would not say how the U.S. would vote, but she said that if the resolution is put forward as is, it is something the U.S. can support.

“The draft resolution is not watered down,” she said in response to a question. “The draft resolution is a very strong resolution that is fully supported by the Arab group that provides them what they feel is needed to get humanitarian assistance on the ground.”

On Dec. 8, when the U.S. vetoed the resolution, Robert Wood, the deputy U.S. ambassador to the U.N., said the measure called for an “unsustainable cease-fire that will only plant the seeds for the next war.”

After that vote, the U.N. General Assembly passed a similar resolution. But an assembly resolution is not legally binding, whereas all member states agree to abide by Security Council resolutions.

Israeli adviser: We are 'in communications' to free hostages

A top adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said they will not "waste any real opportunity" to free the remaining Hamas hostages.

Mark Regev, in an interview with NBC News' Andrea Mitchell, said the Israelis are "in communications with the Americans, with the Qataris, with the Egyptians" about the 100 or so people who have been held captive since Oct. 7, when Hamas launched a deadly surprise attack on Israel.

Regev, however, did not say whether Israeli negotiators have been talking to Hamas and insisted there would be no let-up in the fierce Israeli counter-attack that has killed an estimated 20,000 people in Gaza and drawn international condemnation.

“We believe increasing the pressure, the military pressure, the IDF’s pressure on the Hamas military machine, that can expedite the release of hostages because Hamas understands that we will only agree to a pause in the fighting for the release of hostages," said Regev, the former Israeli ambassador to the United Kingdom.

Presented with footage of an Israeli airstrike on the Gazan city of Rafah and asked about the mounting civilian death toll, Regev doubled down on his defense of the Israeli tactics.

"There was a target of opportunity in Rafah, a senior Hamas commander," Regev said. "We surgically strike the building where he was. And he, of course, was next to a hospital because that’s how Hamas work. They always try to embed themselves using the civilians and humanitarian sites like hospitals, schools, mosques and so forth as a shield for the military machine.” 

"This is not some sort of indiscriminate targeting of civilians, far from it," Regev said.

Mitchell also questioned Regev about the three Israeli hostages who were mistakenly killed by the Israelis five days after they escaped from Hamas.

"It's clear that they were very brave young men, very capable of dealing with adversity," Regev said. "The mere fact that they escaped their captors I think means they all deserve a medal, but it ended in such a tragic way we can only feel for their families.”

Gaza phone and internet are coming back online after 2-day blackout

RAMALLAH, West Bank — The Palestinian telecoms provider Paltel said Thursday evening that communications were gradually returning to the central and southern areas of Gaza, after a two-day blackout.

Landline connections, mobile networks and internet connections were all disrupted during the day Wednesday.

Paltel blamed the outage on the current conflict, without providing details.

There have been at least four communication blackouts in besieged Gaza since the war began on Oct. 7.

UN says more than 1 in 4 people in Gaza are ‘starving’ because of war

RAFAH, Gaza Strip — More than half a million people in Gaza — a quarter of the population — are starving, according to a report Thursday by the U.N. and other agencies that highlights the humanitarian crisis caused by Israel’s bombardment and siege on the territory in response to Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack.

The extent of the population’s hunger eclipsed even the near-famines in Afghanistan and Yemen of recent years, according to figures in the report. The report warned that the risk of famine is “increasing each day,” blaming the hunger on insufficient aid entering Gaza.

“It doesn’t get any worse,’’ said Arif Husain, chief economist for the U.N.’s World Food Program. “I have never seen something at the scale that is happening in Gaza. And at this speed.”

Is Israel’s offensive succeeding or failing?

Israel’s military offensive in Gaza has inflicted significant damage on Hamas but it appears a long way from delivering the death blow to the Palestinian militants that Israeli leaders vowed when the assault began 11 weeks ago.

In slow-moving, street-to-street fighting backed up by relentless bombing raids, Israel says it has scored battlefield gains against Hamas and begun to dismantle its military infrastructure. But experts and former U.S. military officers say that the progress is temporary and that there is no sign the militants are on the verge of a strategic defeat.

“I wouldn’t call it impossible, but I think the likelihood is becoming increasingly small that they will achieve the strategic goal of eliminating Hamas as a threat,” said retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Michael Nagata, who oversaw special operations forces in the Middle East.

The limited success against Hamas has come at a high price, in civilian lives and international political outrage directed at Israel’s government. On Wednesday, the rising death toll for Palestinian civilians reached a grim milestone of 20,000, according to Gaza health authorities.

For the full story click here

Red Cross says ambulance center in Gaza is under Israeli attack

The Palestinian Red Cross said Israeli forces have been laying siege to their ambulance depot near the wrecked Gaza city of Jabalia.

"Intense artillery shelling persists in the vicinity of the center, accompanied by gunfire from Israeli snipers," the PRCS said in a statement translated by NBC News. "This poses a threat to the safety of 127 individuals, including paramedics, volunteers, and their families, among whom are 22 wounded individuals receiving treatment inside the center."

There was no immediate response from the Israeli side, but Jabalia is home to one of the biggest and most densely populated refugee camps in Gaza. In October, an Israeli airstrike on the camp killed dozens of Palestinian civilians and wounded scores more.

The Israelis said they killed senior Hamas commander Ibrahim Biari, who they said was an architect of the Oct. 7 terrorist attack. 

North Gaza hospitals are 'more like hospices' say WHO workers

Only 9 out of 36 medical facilities in Gaza are still partly functional in the whole of the Gaza strip, Richard Peeperkorn, head of the Gaza and West Bank branch of the WHO said today, adding that all of these hospitals were in the south, and not a single one remained functioning in the north of the strip.

“It’s a place that [...] looks more like a hospice now than a hospital, but a hospice implies a level of care that doctors and nurses are simply to unable to provide given the circumstances," said Sean Casey, a WHO Health Emergency Preparedness & Response worker, describing Al-Ahli hospital to NBC News.

“At the moment, it’s a place where people are waiting to die unless we are able to move them to a safer location,” he added, saying that workers had heard gunfire as they approached the hospital and reiterating calls for a humanitarian cease-fire.

“I’ve never seen suffering like this,” he said.

Israelis target Hezbollah positions in Lebanon

Once again the war in Gaza threatened to broaden into a regional conflict with the Israelis announcing their forces had struck Hezbollah "military targets" in southern Lebanon.

Israeli fighter planes attacked rocket launchers, military buildings, and military infrastructure belonging to the militant group that is supporting Hamas, IDF spokesperson Avichay Adreea said.

Also, Israeli artillery shelled other Hezbollah positions in Lebanon in retaliation for the militant group's aerial assaults on the northern Israeli settlements of Doviv and Avivim, Adreea said.

"As a result of the shooting towards the Doviv area, two citizens were slightly injured," Adreea said.

Hezbollah, a Lebanese Shia group backed by Iran, released a statement claiming to have attacked Israeli military barracks in Hunin, a formerly Palestinian village on the Lebanon border, "in support of our steadfast Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip."

“Permission [to fight] has been granted to those who are being fought, because they were wronged," the militant group said in its statement. "And indeed, Allah is competent to give them victory.”

The border area between Israel and Lebanon has been a tinderbox ever since Hamas detonated the latest war with a deadly Oct. 7 surprise attack on Israel.

Smoke billows after Israeli bombardment Kfar Kila, Lebanon, near the border with Israel on Dec. 21, 2023.
Smoke rises from an Israeli bombardment Thursday in Kfar Kila, Lebanon, near the border with Israel.AFP - Getty Images

Human Rights Watch report says Faceboook, Instagram suppressing voices supporting Palestinians

Meta has been systemically and globally suppressing voices in support of Palestinians on Instagram and Facebook, Human Rights Watch said in a report today. 

Over 1,050 takedowns and other suppressions of content posted by Palestinians and their supporters were recorded between October and November this year, said the report, Meta’s Broken Promises: Systemic Censorship of Palestine Content on Instagram and Facebook.  

The report said that 1,049 included peaceful expressions of support for Palestinians and some highlighted rights abuses. All of them were “censored or otherwise unduly suppressed,” it added. Only one case involved removal of content in support of Israel, it said. 

The report said content from over 60 countries had been reviewed and described the censorship as “the biggest wave of suppression of content about Palestine” so far.

Dozens killed in raids on homes in Khan Younis, Gaza's information ministry says

Fifty-five people have been killed in raids on homes in Khan Younis over the past 24 hours, the Hamas-run Gaza information ministry said today.

Bombs fired from boats also caused dozens of deaths and injuries in Rafah, the update from the ministry said.

Earlier, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society reported shelling near Al-Amal hospital in the southern city Khan Younis, as well as injuries and casualties near the Rafah border crossing with Egypt.

NBC News has been unable to independently verify these reports. But the Israeli military has previously acknowledged an intensification of its military activity in the south of the Gaza strip.

Mourners collect the bodies of loved ones on Dec. 20, 2023 in Khan Younis, Gaza.
Mourners collect the bodies of loved ones Wednesday in Khan Younis, Gaza.Ahmad Hasaballah / Getty Images

Freed hostage visits kibbutz from where Hamas kidnapped him

On his return to kibbutz Be’eri, Ofir Engel, 18, who was kidnapped by Hamas on Oct. 7, and later freed as part of a prisoner exchange with the militant group, called for the release of the hostages still captive in Gaza.

“They all have to come home now,” Engel told the crowd.

93% of displaced in southern Gaza have “inadequate food comsumption,” UNRWA says

UNRWA, the U.N.'s Palestinian refugee agency, said that around 93% of the displaced people in southern Gaza have “inadequate food consumption.”

Food Aid Southern Gaza Hunger
Civilians in southern Gaza cook food directly from the container over an open fire on the street.@UNRWA via X

“People — & this is also something completely new — people are stopping aid trucks, taking the food & eating it right away,” the relief agency said on X today.

“People are desperate, hunger stalks everyone,” it said.

Hospitals in the north are out of service, Gaza health official says

Hundreds of wounded are dying at hospitals in northern Gaza because of a lack of services, Palestinian Health Ministry spokesperson Dr. Ashraf Al-Qudra said. 

In a statement on Telegram, Al-Qudra cited Al-Shifa specifically, saying that the absence of services at the complex was resulting in the death of the wounded. The World Health Organization described Al-Shifa as a 'bloodbath' last week, with hundreds of new patients arriving continually and only a handful of doctors, nurses and volunteers to treat them.

Video footage posted on social media of Al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza City by WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus showed a similar situation.

A WHO worker speaking from a church on the grounds of Al-Ahli said many patients had been waiting for operations for more than a month and that those who had been operated on were contracting post-operative infections because of a lack of antibiotics. Only five doctors and five nurses were available for care, he said. In the background of the video, the wounded lay on pews and on the church floor for lack of space in the hospital.

Medics care for an injured youth at Gaza's Al-Shifa hospital on Dec. 10, 2023.
Medics care for an injured youth at Gaza's Al-Shifa hospital on Dec. 10.AFP - Getty Images

Gaza death toll reaches 'about 20,000,' Health Ministry says

The death toll in Gaza has reached "about 20,000" people, the Palestinian Health Ministry has said in a statement, 70% of them women and children.

It's a grim milestone, but the figure itself is an estimate that is limited to those confirmed dead. The exact number remains unknown because of the volume of people missing under the rubble, and the lack of resources to comb through destroyed buildings. More than 55,000 people have been reported injured, the ministry said.

Mourners transport a body from the EU hospital in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on Dec. 21, 2023.
Mourners transport a body today from a hospital in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip.Said Khatib / AFP - Getty Images

Jordanian foreign minister accuses Israel of preventing delivery of lifesaving aid

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi accused Israel of obstructing lifesaving assistance from entering the Gaza Strip, ahead of a vote today focused on speeding up aid shipments.

Safadi said the failure of the U.N. Security Council to pass the resolution today, after three delays earlier this week, would amount to a “dangerous double standard.”

He has frequently expressed the view that Israel is behaving as if it is “above international law” in its conflict with Hamas, and has accused the country of war crimes.

Jordan brokered peace with Israel in 1994, but has become increasingly critical of the country’s actions in Gaza, saying in November that it would put their 1994 agreement, and a 2016 gas deal, under review as a result of the war.

Iraq sends 2.6 million gallons of fuel to Gaza, Red Crescent Society says

A ship with a cargo of 2.6 million gallons of fuel bound for Gaza set off from Iraq's Al-Faw port, Ghassan Thuwini, director of the media office in the Iraqi Red Crescent Society, told NBC News today.

Thuwini added that the ship would travel through the Suez Canal in Egypt for 10 or 11 days before it enters the strip via the Rafah border with Egypt.

A blood soaked gurney reveals the intensity of Gaza deaths

Two men hurriedly wheel a metal gurney, covered in the blood of a victim of a recent Israeli bombardment, past a crowd of onlookers at the E.U. hospital in Khan Younis today.

Blood soaked gurney outside hospital in Rafah, southern Gaza
Said Khatib / AFP - Getty Images

Sirens sound in Tel Aviv as Hamas fires rockets toward the capital

TEL AVIV- Sirens sounded in Tel Aviv today as Hamas militants launched what they called "a missile barrage" toward the city from Gaza.

There were no casualties or damage following the rocket strikes, Israeli police said on X, minutes after the IDF announced sirens went off in central Israel.

Israeli prison guards questioned about 'violent incident,' police say

As many as 19 prison guards have been questioned about a "violent incident" at a "prison in the south of the country," a spokesperson for the Israel Police said yesterday.

At the end of their interrogation, they "were released under restrictive conditions," the spokesperson said.

In a separate post on X, the force said that a "group of female and male prison guards" were suspected of abusing a "terrorist" to death in the Ketziot prison. It added that the 38-year-old "was tried and imprisoned for attempted murder of Jews."

In a joint statement last month, advocacy groups, the Prisoners and Ex-Prisoners Commission and the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club accused Israel of a “new assassination crime.”

Delayed U.N. aid, cease-fire vote scheduled for today

A new vote on a U.N. resolution calling for enhanced humanitarian aid into Gaza and a cessation of hostilities is set to take place today, after being pushed back from Monday to Tuesday to yesterday amid diplomatic wrangling over the text.

The U.S. has been struggling to change the language calling for a cessation of hostilities and has also balked at a call for the establishment of United Nations mechanisms in Gaza to inspect aid trucks instead of Israel.

Humanitarian organizations have said Israeli checks have slowed down deliveries of aid in the strip amid rapidly rising levels of hunger and the collapse of medical facilities.

The U.S. has become increasingly isolated on the world stage in its rejection of a cease-fire in Gaza. The use of its veto power on a Security Council resolution calling for an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire” was met with widespread criticism.

Israeli forces operate inside Gaza

Israeli Army Soldiers in Gaza
Israeli Army / AFP - Getty Images
IDF Gaza Strip
Israeli Army / AFP - Getty Images

Images released by the Israeli army today show soldiers during ground operations at an undisclosed location in the Gaza Strip.

No talks about hostages until Israel's 'aggression' stops, Hamas says

There will be no more negotiations over prisoner exchange deals unless Israel halts the fighting, Hamas said today, adding that this had been agreed to by the Palestinian leadership.

“There is a Palestinian national decision that there should be no talk about prisoners or exchange deals except after a comprehensive cessation of aggression,” the group said in a statement on its Telegram channel.

While Hamas has been the de facto governing body in the Gaza Strip since 2007, when it ousted the Palestinian Authority from power, other smaller groups also operate there.

Bodies pulled from rubble in Rafah after Israeli airstrikes

A series of Israeli airstrikes hit near a hospital in Rafah near Gaza's southern border with Egypt and smoke started to rise from the building, as British broadcaster Sky News filmed nearby.

First people huddled for cover, a father putting his arms around his crying children behind a car. Screams of desperation pierce the air amid the sound of sirens in the distance. As the injured are carried away, a mother searches for her son.

Then the scale of the devastation becomes clear. From under the mountains of rubble, the body of a dead child is found. Another body lies nearby, his face covered.

His legs trapped, a wounded man is told to stay calm as he uses a rock for a pillow. Eventually he is freed and carried away as the crowds keep digging.

Sky News is owned by Comcast, the parent company of NBC News.

An estimated 20,000 people have been killed in Gaza, Hamas media office says

An estimated 20,000 people have been killed in Gaza since the start of the war Oct. 7, the Hamas media office said in a statement yesterday.

The toll includes 8,000 children and more than 6,000 women, the statement said, adding that an estimated 6,700 people were missing.

Aid worker says he saw ‘injured kids sleeping on the hospital floor’

An aid worker told NBC News yesterday that he saw “injured kids sleeping on the hospital floor” at a medical facility in Deir al-Balah in central Gaza.

Fares Abu Fares, 53, a volunteer with the Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund, said in a telephone interview that there were “injured people everywhere” at Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital.

He said there is no food in the facility. “Even if you have money, it doesn’t matter,” he said.

Even if flour was available in some markets, it could be 100 times more expensive than usual.

“We are not on the verge of a humanitarian crisis. We are in a crisis,” he said.

A family mourns in Rafah

Relatives of Jehad Arafat, a Palestinian man who was killed in an Israeli strike, mourn over his body at Najar Hospital in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip today.

Gaza Mourners Outside Hospital Morgue
Mahmud Hams / AFP - Getty Images

Northern Gaza 'without functional hospital,' WHO says

The World Health Organization said today that northern Gaza has been left without a functional hospital because of a lack of fuel, staff and supplies.

“There are actually no functional hospitals left in the north,” Richard Peeperkorn, WHO representative in Gaza, told reporters via video link from Jerusalem.

He added that Al-Ahli Hospital “was the last one but it is now minimally functional.”

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