What we know
- Secretary of State Antony Blinken said early Saturday that he discussed efforts to “meet Gaza’s humanitarian needs” with Arab leaders hours after the U.S. vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire in the besieged enclave.
- His comments came as Israel pushes forward with its deadly assault on the southern Gaza Strip. The country’s military said warplanes had struck targets in the strip overnight and its forces had engaged in battles in the Shuja'iyya neighborhood east of Gaza City.
- After visiting Gaza yesterday, World Food Programme Director Carl Skau said nothing prepared him for the “fear, the chaos, and the despair” he saw there. Desperate, hungry people were crowding into warehouses and distribution centers, he said, adding, “Gazans are simply not eating.”
- However, the Kerem Shalom crossing from Israel into Gaza is set to be reopened in the coming days for inspections of aid trucks to boost humanitarian operations in the Palestinian enclave.
- About 1.9 million people have been displaced in Gaza, where health officials say the death toll has now surpassed 17,400 after weeks of Israeli attacks. The Israel Defense Forces estimates 1,200 people were killed in the Hamas attack, with around 140 people still held captive in Gaza.
- NBC News’ Richard Engel, Raf Sanchez, Hala Gorani, Hallie Jackson and Chantal Da Silva are reporting from the region.
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Solutions discussed for Gaza’s future range from workarounds to the catastrophic
Gaza is in ruins, with Israeli forces laying siege to the entire strip and leveling swaths of the enclave. An estimated 80% of its population of 2.2 million has been displaced — the majority now trapped in the south, increasingly pressed toward the Rafah border with Egypt.
Palestinians in Gaza say life has become a cruel choice between death and displacement. Yet an urgent question persists: What will Gaza’s future be after this war ends?
Several experts told NBC News that options being discussed by diplomats and officials range from workaround solutions, which ignore long-standing failures, to the catastrophic.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked the U.S. in a video statement for blocking a cease-fire resolution at the U.N. Security Council yesterday, and said Israel's war against Hamas would continue.
The U.S. vetoed the resolution by the United Arab Emirates, which would have urged for an immediate cease-fire.
Robert Wood, U.S. Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations, said after the vote that the resolution called for a "unsustainable ceasefire that will only plant the seeds for the next war."
The United Kingdom abstained from the vote, saying it could not vote for a resolution that doesn't condemn Hamas' actions on Oct. 7.
Freed hostages at Tel Aviv rally recount captivity
TEL AVIV — Thousands of Israelis gathered in Tel Aviv today demanding the release of all hostages being held by Hamas in Gaza, while some of those freed during a recent cease-fire spoke in videos about the rough conditions of their captivity.
The protesters waved flags and carried pictures of Israelis still in Gaza. One sign held up read: “They trust us to get them out of hell.”
Margalit Moses, 77, in a video testimony told how she tried to take with her a machine that helps her breathe at night, but her captors took it away. Instead she was told to sit and lean her head back against the wall.
“I could breathe that way, but I couldn’t fall asleep,” she said.
Adina Moshe, 72, said close friends were left behind while she was released during the truce after 49 days in Gaza. Her friends are old, she said, with health problems and no access to medicines.
“The food situation there deteriorated; in the end we were eating just rice,” she said.
More than 100 hostages were freed in the week-long truce that ended on Dec. 1. Since then fighting has resumed with Israel pursuing its military offensive against Hamas in Gaza.
Siblings Maya and Itay Regev, ages 21 and 18, were also among those released.
“Every day there was like hell,” Maya Regev said. “Unreal fear. No sleep at night. The yearnings are crazy and the lack of knowing (what’s happening) is just scary.”
Video shows devastation in Gaza, damage as people carry belongings through debris
A video released by UNICEF shows the devastation and damage in Gaza as a result of heavy Israeli bombardment.
Buildings in Khan Younis, Gaza’s main southern city, can be seen reduced to rubble in the background as people carry belongings through the debris.
In another part of the video, people are seen living in tent camps, where laundry is hung on clotheslines, and crowded streets are packed with cars loaded with belongings. At a hospital a 3-year-old boy who lost his leg sits on a bed.
In a video posted to his Instagram, UNICEF spokesperson James Elder walks down a street as a group of people rides in a cart alongside him.
“I was in Ukraine when families just like these were forced to flee, and the world opened its heart to them," Elder said in the video. "I do not understand now why the world has closed its eyes."
Israel has ordered residents out of the center of Khan Younis, and pounded the length of the enclave.
Israel’s Arabic-language spokesperson posted a map on X highlighting six numbered blocks of Khan Younis that residents were told to evacuate “urgently." They included parts of the city centre that had not been subject to such orders before.
Since a truce collapsed last week, Israel has expanded its ground assault into the southern half of the Gaza Strip by pushing into Khan Younis. Simultaneously, both sides have reported a surge in fighting in the north.
An official toll of all deaths in Gaza compiled by the Palestinian health ministry in the Hamas-run enclave exceeded 17,700 on Saturday, with many thousands more missing and presumed dead under the rubble. The ministry has previously said about 40% of deaths were of children under 18.
ADL CEO hopes Penn president’s resignation will be ‘wake-up call’
The CEO of the Anti-Defamation League said today that he hopes the resignation of the University of Pennsylvania’s president will serve as a “wake-up call” for other college presidents to protect Jewish students.
Jonathan Greenblatt was responding to news that Penn President Liz Magill stepped down from her post following her testimony during a contentious congressional hearing in which she and other university presidents were grilled over incidents of campus antisemitism.
“Campus administrators must protect their Jewish students with the same passion they bring to protecting all students. They can’t hide behind language coached by their attorneys & look the other way when it comes to antisemitism,” Greenblatt wrote on X.
When asked during the hearing whether “calling for the genocide of Jews” violated each school’s code of conduct, Magill said it would be “context-dependent.”
IDF says Israeli hostage Sahar Baruch was killed by Hamas
Sahar Baruch, an Israeli man taken hostage Oct. 7 by Hamas, was killed by the terrorist organization, the Israel Defense Forces said today.
His death had been confirmed earlier in a joint statement from his community, Kibbutz Be’eri, and the Hostages and Missing Families Forum Headquarters.
Hamas said Friday that he was killed during a failed rescue mission by Israeli forces. The IDF said today it is “still verifying and investigating the details regarding the place of his murder,” according to a transcript of a briefing by spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari.
University of Pennsylvania president steps down amid criticism of antisemitism testimony
University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill resigned from her post Saturday after facing intense criticism from the White House, lawmakers and alumni for appearing to dodge a question at a congressional hearing on campus antisemitism.
“I write to share that President Liz Magill has voluntarily tendered her resignation as President of the University of Pennsylvania,” Scott L. Bok, the chair of the Penn Board of Trustees, wrote in a message to the Penn community Saturday. “She will remain a tenured faculty member at Penn Carey Law.”
Shortly after Bok announced Magill’s resignation, he announced he would also step down from his position, according to a statement from Bok published by the Daily Pennsylvanian student newspaper. “I concluded that, for me, now was the right time to depart,” Bok said in the statement.
A university spokesman confirmed Bok’s resignation.
Gaza aid checks at Kerem Shalom being tested, crossing not open, U.N. official says
A new process for inspecting aid for Gaza at the Kerem Shalom crossing is being tested, but efforts to get permission for trucks to enter through the crossing and ramp up relief are still ongoing, a senior U.N. official told Reuters on Saturday.
Under the new system, trucks would come to the Kerem Shalom crossing on the border between Israel, Gaza and Egypt for the first time from Jordan, before entering Gaza from Rafah, about 1.86 miles away.
But the trucks would need to be allowed to enter Gaza directly through Kerem Shalom to alleviate an increasingly desperate situation in the coastal enclave, said Carl Skau, deputy executive director of the U.N. World Food Programme.
Israel has so far rebuffed pleas from the United Nations and others to open Kerem Shalom, but they both signaled on Thursday that Kerem Shalom could soon help process delivery of humanitarian supplies into Gaza.
IDF says five soldiers have died
The Israel Defense Forces announced the death of five soldiers today.
The IDF identified four of the soldiers as Liav Atiya, 25, Omri Ben Shachar, 25, Maor Cohen Eisenkot, 19, and Jonathan Dean Jr. Haim, 25. All four died while fighting in southern Gaza.
Haim Meir Eden, 20, died of his wounds today after sustaining injuries on Oct. 7, the IDF said.
Pro-Palestinian supporters take to the streets for the 'National March for Palestine' in London
Marc J. Franklin
Pro-Palestinian activists and supporters participated in the "National March for Palestine" in London on Saturday. The event calls for a full cease-fire and an end to the war in Gaza.
U.S. approves emergency $106 million arms sale to Israel
The Biden administration is pushing through an emergency arms sale of about 14,000 tanks shells to Israel, the State Department announced Saturday, in a move that bypasses the standard congressional approval process.
“The Secretary of State determined and provided detailed justification to Congress that an emergency exists that requires the immediate sale to the Government of Israel of the above defense articles and services in the national security interests of the United States, thereby waiving the Congressional review requirements,” the State Department said in a statement. Congress was notified of the sale late Friday.
The Trump administration exercised the same emergency authority in 2019 to provide arms to the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen over congressional objections.
Former State Department official Josh Paul, who oversaw U.S. arms sales for decades, said the decision — which comes after the U.S. veto of a U.N. resolution demanding a cease-fire — makes it increasingly difficult to believe that the U.S. is urging Israel to minimize civilian casualties.
“The ongoing expedited provision of lethal military assistance to Israel continues our complicity in what I believe to be war crimes,” said Paul, who resigned from his position in late October citing the United States’ “blind support” for Israel. “I urge my former colleagues to examine their consciences — and their culpability.”
IDF spokesperson: Israel continuing operation in Jabalia that killed Hamas members
The Israel Defense Forces is continuing its operation in Jabalia in northern Gaza, where troops came in contact with Hamas members, spokesperson Daniel Hagari said in a post on his X account.
Hagari said IDF troops launched targeted attacks on buildings where they believe Hamas members and weapons were housed. A fight ensued that ended in the elimination of said Hamas members, according to Hagari.
Additional Hamas members were killed in the same area over the past few days, said Hagari, including some who were killed by tank fire and unmanned aerial vehicles belonging the the air force.
NBC News did not immediately verify these claims.
IDF issues 'urgent appeal' for citizens to leave center of Khan Younis
The Israel Defense Forces has issued what it calls “an urgent appeal” for civilians to leave the center and other neighborhoods in the southern city of Khan Younis.
"We call on you to urgently evacuate your locations towards the known shelters west of Khan Younis," IDF spokesman for Arab media Avichay Adraee said on X.
Many of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents are sheltering in the south after being previously ordered to leave the north.
U.K.’s abstention from cease-fire vote 'incomprehensible,' Scotland's first minister says
The U.K.’s decision to abstain from a United Nations resolution demanding an immediate humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza is “incomprehensible,” Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf said on X today.
“How can you choose to be complicit in the killing of thousands of children?” he wrote. “Shame on the U.K. Government.”
Yousaf's in-laws Elizabeth El-Nakla and her husband, Maged — the parents of his wife, Nadia — were trapped for four weeks in Gaza after Hamas launched its deadly attack on Israel on Oct. 7.
They eventually managed to cross into Egypt via the Rafah border crossing in southern Gaza.
Security Council needs to be reformed, Turkey's Erdogan says
Ammar Cheikh Omar
MERSIN, Turkey — Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called today for the United Nations Security Council to be reformed as he criticized the U.S. for vetoing a cease-fire proposal for Gaza at the Security Council, state media reported.
"We have lost our hope and expectation from U.N. Security Council," Erdogan said at a human rights conference in Istanbul, the Anadolu news agency reported. "It is essential for U.N. Security Council to be reformed," he added.
Erdogan added that a just world was possible, "but not with the United States," according to Anadolu. "How will the U.S. be held accountable?" he said.
The Security Council’s mandate is to maintain international peace and security.
Rights groups condemn U.S. cease-fire veto
Rights groups have criticized the United States' decision to veto a United Nations resolution demanding an immediate humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza.
Paul O'Brien, the executive director of Amnesty International USA, wrote on X that the government was "shamefully turning its back on immense civilian suffering, staggering death toll, and unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza. And civilians are paying the price with their lives."
Louis Charbonneau, the United Nations director at Human Rights Watch, also condemned the veto on X.
"By continuing to provide Israel with weapons and diplomatic cover as it commits atrocities, including collectively punishing the Palestinian civilian population in Gaza, the U.S. risks complicity in war crimes," he wrote.
Palestine Red Crescent Society reports 'continuous shelling' near hospital HQ
There has been “continuous shelling” near the Al-Amal Hospital in the southern Gazan city of Khan Younis today, the Palestine Red Crescent Society said on X today.
The Red Crescent's headquarters is at the hospital.
NBC News could not independently verify the report.
Hezbollah claims 'direct hit' on Israeli soldiers
Lebanese militant group Hezbollah said in a statement today that it “achieved a direct hit,” on a group of Israeli soldiers.
The Iran-backed Shia resistance movement said it used “appropriate weapons” to conduct the strike on Metula in northern Israel. It did not elaborate on what type of weapons it used.
NBC News could not independently verify the claim.
In a statement posted to its Telegram channel, the Israel Defense Forces said a number of launches were identified from Lebanon toward several areas of northern Israel. “No injuries were reported,” it added.
“IDF tanks also fired in the area of Metula in order to remove a threat.”
Warplanes strike Gaza as ground operations go on, IDF says
Warplanes struck parts of the Gaza Strip overnight as Israeli troops continued operations on the ground, the Israel Defense Forces said in an update today.
At a school in the Shuja’iyya neighborhood in northern Gaza, "exchanges of fire took place," and several people were killed, the update said.
“The troops continued to conduct searches in the area of the school and located a number of AK-47 rifles, grenades, and ammunition inside the classrooms,” it said.
“Furthermore, IDF ground troops located and struck a tunnel shaft that was part of an extensive underground route in Shuja’iyya. The troops located an additional tunnel shaft, in which numerous weapons and an elevator were found,” it added.
An Israeli hostage has died in captivity, his community says
TEL AVIV — An Israeli man who was taken hostage by Hamas militants has died in captivity, his community said Saturday.
Sahar Baruch, 25, was among more than 240 people taken hostage during Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel, according to a joint statement from Kibbutz Be’eri, his home, and the Hostages and Missing Families Forum Headquarters, a group that represents the families of those taken captive.
Baruch’s brother was killed in the attack on the kibbutz, the statement said. “We share in the inconsolable grief of his parents, Tami and Roni, his brothers Guy and Niv, his family, and all who loved him,” it added.
Hamas said Friday that Baruch was killed during a failed rescue mission by Israeli forces early Friday. The Israeli military has only confirmed that two soldiers were seriously wounded in an attempted hostage rescue and that no hostages were freed.
Palestinian president condemns U.S. cease-fire veto as 'immoral'
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has condemned the U.S. veto of a United Nations resolution demanding an immediate humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza.
Abbas "described the American position as aggressive and immoral, and as a flagrant violation of all human values and principles," according to WAFA, the Palestinian news agency.
Human rights groups likewise delivered swift condemnation of the U.S. veto. In a statement on X, Human Rights Watch said the U.S. "risks complicity in war crimes," while Amnesty International accused the U.S. of "turning its back on immense civilian suffering."
Photo: Israel continues its assault in southern Gaza
A ball of fire rises above a building in the southern city of Rafah, as the safe zones in the Gaza Strip shrink and Israel pushes forward with its deadly assault in the south.
Spokesperson for Netanyahu's office appears to defend images of stripped and blindfolded Palestinian men
A spokesperson for the Israeli prime minister's office appeared to defend images that emerged on social media of dozens of Palestinian men stripped to their underwear, blindfolded and made to kneel while detained by his country's soldiers yesterday.
The photos and videos were circulated widely, with NBC News able to geolocate some of the footage to the city of Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip.
Eylon Levy, a spokesperson for the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told a news conference yesterday that the "individuals will be questioned and we will work out who indeed was a terrorist.”
“We’re talking about military-aged men who were discovered in areas that civilians were supposed to have evacuated,” he said, adding that it was “important to remember” that the IDF has been engaging in close-quarter combat in the area with Hamas fighters, who he said “have been deliberately disguising themselves as civilians and operating from within not just civilian areas, but civilian buildings.”
Nearly 57,000 pounds worth of U.S. aid sent for humanitarian assistance in Gaza
Almost 57,000 pounds worth of American aid was being delivered from Jordan to Egypt yesterday via a third flight for humanitarian assistance to Gaza, a spokesperson for USAID said.
"In addition, the United States has organized five non-military flights over the past two weeks that have brought in more than 500,000 pounds of U.S.-purchased emergency food assistance to help the civilians in Gaza. Much more support from the American people is on the way," the spokesperson said.
Blinken meets with Arab leaders after U.S. vetoes cease-fire resolution
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said today he met with a delegation from Arab nations to "discuss efforts to meet Gaza’s humanitarian needs."
The meeting came shortly after the U.S. vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza.
The vote was spurred by dire warnings from U.N. leaders that Gaza was facing a humanitarian catastrophe as relief deliveries broke down due to ongoing fighting.
Kirby: U.S. working to alleviate human suffering in Gaza
The National Security Council’s spokesperson today stopped short of agreeing that Gaza is on the brink of collapse.
Asked if he agreed with the assessment of a United Nations official who said Gaza is “on the brink of full-blown collapse,” John Kirby said, “I would just say we’re mindful of the extreme humanitarian suffering inside Gaza, and we’re doing everything we can to help alleviate that.”
Thomas White, the head of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, said today that civil order in Gaza was breaking down and much-needed shipments of aid were being looted if they make it through at all.
The Palestine Red Crescent Society said today that aid was being choked off, with only 69 trucks with vital supplies making it into the enclave yesterday.
Kirby, speaking aboard Air Force One en route to Las Vegas, said “dozens” of trucks carrying aid were being held up by Israeli inspections, and the United States would like to see about 200 such trucks reach Gaza each day.
U.S. official says Israel scaled back northern Gaza incursion over civilian casualty concerns
National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby today said Israel scaled back its military operations in northern Gaza over concerns about potential civilian casualties raised by the United States.
“They have, in fact, taken some steps to try to be more careful,” he said during a news conference aboard Air Force One. “For instance their movement into Gaza, north Gaza, was smaller than originally planned. And some of that is based on some council and perspective that we shared.”
U.S. military advisers with experience in Iraq, described as urban warfare experts, helped advise Israel on “deliberate and precise targeting,” Kirby said en route to Las Vegas.
The time frame for the scaled-back operation Kirby described wasn’t completely clear.
Gaza health officials say at least 17,000 people, including children and civilians, have died in the war between Israel and Hamas following the latter’s Oct. 7 attack. Israel, which said it has all but dismantled Hamas in the north, is now focused on southern Gaza.
It was Israel’s targeting of caravans and hospitals in northern Gaza — military officials said they were used to shroud enemy operations — that prompted calls for a war crime investigation, which is underway.
World Food Programme director describes chaotic scene in Gaza
The World Food Programme’s deputy executive director, Carl Skau, visited Gaza yesterday and he said nothing prepared him for the “fear, the chaos, and the despair” he saw.
“Confusion at warehouses, distribution points with thousands of desperate hungry people, supermarkets with bare shelves, and overcrowded shelters with bursting bathrooms,” Skau said in a statement. “The dull thud of bombs was the soundtrack for our day.”
Skau said one woman told him she lived with nine other families in an apartment where they all took turns sleeping at night because they can’t all lie down at the same time.
Skau said his team got stuck at the Rafah crossing at the start of their mission, which he said is “a reminder of how cumbersome it is to get critical aid and staff into Gaza and the critical need for more border crossings.”
The deputy director said he visited WFP staff in Gaza, where the breakdown of law and order prevented any meaningful humanitarian work from taking place. Gazans are desperate and living in packed, unhealthy shelters or on the streets in the cold, and have little food, Skau said.
“A WFP survey taken during the pause in hostilities showed that Gazans are simply not eating. Nine out of 10 families in some areas spent a full day and night without any food at all. When asked how often this happened, they told us that for up to 10 days in the past month, they had not eaten food,” Skau said.
Skau called for more than one crossing and safe passage for Palestinians in order to continue humanitarian operations, Skau said.
“This will only be possible with a humanitarian ceasefire and ultimately, we need this conflict to end,” he said.
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