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Israel-Hamas war: Dozens killed in airstrikes on Rafah as 2 hostages are rescued

Israeli forces rescued Fernando Marman and Luis Har early this morning. Officials say the two men were taken to a hospital and are in good condition.

What we know

  • Israeli forces say they rescued two hostages, Fernando Marman and Luis Har, who were being held in the city of Rafah early today. Officials say the men were taken to a hospital and are in good condition. Airstrikes the Israel Defense Forces said were used in the operation to disengage troops and hit Hamas targets killed dozens of people in Gaza, including women and children, Palestinian health officials said.
  • President Joe Biden has been venting his frustration with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over his inability to persuade Israel to change its military tactics in Gaza, people directly familiar with his comments have said.
  • Biden is sending CIA Director William Burns to Egypt tomorrow to continue talks on a hostage release deal, which would include a humanitarian pause and a better plan for humanitarian assistance to get into Gaza.
  • More than 28,000 people have been killed in Gaza since the war began, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. More than 67,700 have been injured, and thousands more are missing and presumed dead.
  • Israeli military officials said at least 224 soldiers have been killed during the ground invasion of Gaza.
  • NBC News’ Raf Sanchez, Matt Bradley, Molly Hunter and Chantal Da Silva are reporting from the region.

ICC prosecutor ‘deeply concerned’ by situation in Gaza’s Rafah

THE HAGUE — International Criminal Court prosecutor Karim Khan said he was deeply concerned about reports of bombardment and potential ground incursion by Israeli forces in the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

Khan posted on X after airstrikes in the city that is the last refuge of about a million displaced civilians.

He said that the court was “actively investigating any crimes allegedly committed” in Gaza and that “those who are in breach of the law will be held accountable.”

He later told Reuters that half of the population of Gaza is concentrated around Rafah, “reportedly six times its normal concentration.”

“When you have a population that is 60% children and women by all accounts, the risks to civilians are profound,” he said.

“This situation is one that I give the utmost priority to. It’s an issue that we’re moving forward on.”

Israel is not a member of the Hague-based court and does not recognize its jurisdiction. But Khan said in October his court had jurisdiction over any potential war crimes carried out by Hamas Palestinian militants in Israel and by Israelis in the Gaza Strip.

Dutch order to stop exports may have political consequences for Israel

A Dutch court ruling ordering the Netherlands to stop exports on F-35 parts may not affect Israel’s military campaign in Gaza, experts said, but there could be larger political implications as Israel faces international scrutiny.

The spare parts being sent from Woensdrecht are typically in short supply, and the ruling, if upheld on appeal, could cause a short-term supply shortage for Israel, said Erwin van Veen, a senior research fellow focusing on the Middle East for the Dutch research group Clingendael.

The Dutch Appeals Court ruled there was a clear risk the parts would be used to contravene international law, a decision that comes weeks after the International Court of Justice issued provisional measures instructing Israel to do everything in its power to prevent killing Palestinian civilians after South Africa brought proceedings against Israel, accusing it of committing genocide in Gaza.

Van Veen told NBC News it was hard to imagine Israel would use the F-35s in its potential military campaign in Rafah as it deals with the ICJ’s provisional order.

Conducting “aerial attacks under such circumstances will likely amount to war crimes under international humanitarian law, as well,” he said.

Eldad Ben Aharon, an Irish Research Council postdoctoral fellow at Dublin City University, also said that the ruling is unlikely to have long-term military consequences for Israel, which may import the parts from elsewhere, but that the ruling acknowledges tensions between government state interest in “the imperative to adhere to the international norms upheld by the ICJ.”

“Germany, for instance, has consistently emphasized the importance of Israel’s self-defense and has dismissed allegations of genocide,” Ben Aharon said. “However, other E.U. and NATO members might align with the Dutch court’s ruling, potentially setting off a chain reaction that could pressure not only Germany but also the U.S.”

U.S. hasn't decided whether to withhold military aid to Israel despite humanitarian concerns, official says

During a briefing today, State Department spokesperson Matt Miller faced tough questions as reporters scrutinized U.S. support for Israel despite the government's own concerns on civilian safety.

Miller said the U.S. has already told Israel it does not support a full-scale military campaign in the southern Gaza city of Rafah without a plan to safely evacuate the more than 1 million civilians taking refuge there.

"I will say, I think that sometimes people pretend that the United States of America has a magic wand that it can wave to any situation in the world to roll out in exactly the way that we would want it to and that is never the case," Miller said. "We use the tools that are available."

A reporter noted that there are a "multitude of billions" of tools, seemingly referring to critics' calls that the U.S. condition aid to Israel or cut it off altogether out of concern for the humanitarian situation.

"It’s not a determination we have made at this point," Miller said.

Biden prepared to be 'much tougher' on Netanyahu as the two disagree on hostage negotations

After Israeli forces rescued two hostages in Gaza, they continued a relentless bombing campaign in the southern city of Rafah, killing dozens of Palestinians and leaving even more injured and without shelter.

“I do think we’re heading toward a showdown between Biden and Netanyahu over the way that this desire the U.S. has for de-escalation through hostage release negotiations," David Ignatius told MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell.

Ignatius, a journalist and novelist, went on to say that he's been told Biden is prepared to be "much tougher" on Netanyahu as a result of the disagreements over the matter.

“The U.S. really wants the deal and the pause in fighting," Ignatius said. "Netanyahu keeps saying, ‘Let me keep going, we’re so close. We’re so close.’ And I think that’s emotionally at the heart of this.”

Palestinian Foreign Ministry urges international community to prevent military campaign in Rafah

The Palestinian Foreign Affairs Ministry today called on "all responsible actors to stop Israel's genocide" and prevent a military campaign in Rafah.

In a statement, the ministry pointed to Israel's obligations as an occupying power to protect Palestinian civilians and to an order from the International Court of Justice for Israel to take all measures to prevent genocide in Gaza.

A ground assault in Rafah would have "apocalyptic consequences," the ministry said. "Gaza is a slaughterhouse and Israel's deliberate mass killing, starvation, and the forcible transfer of 1.3 million people, half of whom are children, in Rafah is the most barbaric and savage of all."

Netanyahu called for the military to prepare an evacuation plan for civilians in Rafah, causing some to raise an alarm because many have already been forcibly displaced multiple times and have nowhere else to go.

Hamas alleges that 3 hostages died after being injured in Israeli raids

Hamas' militant wing claimed that three hostages were killed following injuries caused by Israeli raids.

The group said earlier that eight hostages were injured during Israel's bombardment in Gaza. Netanyahu's office declined to comment.

NBC News is unable to independently verify the condition of the hostages or the circumstances involving their alleged deaths.

Homes destroyed in Rafah

People walk among the ruins of their homes following Israeli airstrikes today in Rafah in southern Gaza.

Strikes intensified overnight as Israel reiterated intent to press on with a ground offensive in Gaza's southern city of Rafah where some 1.4 million internally displaced Palestinians are sheltering, whilst a growing number of countries express alarm over the operation.
Ahmad Hasaballah / Getty Images

Israel wants to 'get rid of' U.N.'s Palestinian relief agency, a top E.U. official says

Josep Borrell, the European Union's high representative for foreign affairs, continued to put his support behind the United Nations' Palestinian relief agency as its funding runs dry.

Borrell told reporters he's invited Philippe Lazzarini, commissioner of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, to discuss matters as countries suspend financial backing while the U.N. investigates allegations of staff members' ties to Hamas.

He went on to say that "nobody else can do what UNRWA is doing" and that the allegations still have to be verified.

"It is not a secret that the Israeli government wants to get rid of UNRWA," Borrell said. "Not [just] now, for many years before, [they have] wanted to get rid of UNRWA because they believed that if they get rid of UNRWA, they get rid of the problem of the Palestinian refugees. No, it will make it still worse."

Israel has accused 12 UNRWA staff members of having ties to terror groups or participating in Hamas' Oct. 7 attack, a claim that is being investigated by the organization's independent office. The United Nations has terminated the staff members it could identify from the Israeli report.

Lazzarini told the Financial Times earlier this month that Israeli officials have not presented evidence of its allegations to UNRWA. Last week, Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong told the Australian Broadcasting Company that she has not seen support of Israel's allegations despite Australia cutting UNRWA support. She said Israel has not responded to its request for further evidence.

Palestinian children among the wounded in Israel’s bombardment of Rafah

Children were among the injured taken to Rafah’s Kuwait Hospital after an intense Israeli bombardment to help secure the rescue of two hostages.

Dr. Wael Shafka said some of the victims had lost their arms and legs in the bombardment.

UNRWA warns of 'alarmingly high rates' of diarrhea in Gaza

The United Nations refugee agency today warned of "alarmingly high rates" of diarrhea in the Gaza Strip, especially among children, as the enclave copes with the lack of clean drinking water and basic medical facilities.

In a post on X, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency also warned that it could be "very deadly" for children if they cannot get enough water.

The agency has also noted an outbreak of hepatitis A.

Palestinians In Deir al-Balah
Palestinian families fleeing Rafah today take the coastal road toward Deir Al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip.Majdi Fathi / NurPhoto via Getty Images

Biden set to meet Jordan's king at the White House

Biden is set to host Jordan's King Abdullah II today, the White House said in a statement, adding that the pair will discuss the war in Gaza.

They will also discuss "enhanced humanitarian assistance" for the enclave and a two-state solution for the Palestinians, the statement added.

More than 12,300 children have died since Oct. 7, Gaza's Information Ministry says

More than 12,000 children have died in Gaza since Oct. 7, the enclave's Information Ministry said today in a statement on Telegram.

It added that the complete death toll since Hamas launched multipronged attacks on Israel had risen to 28,340.

These are only confirmed fatalities and it is estimated that many more bodies lie under the rubble of buildings destroyed by Israeli bombardment across the strip.

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Mourners receive the bodies of victims of an Israeli strike today in Rafah, Gaza. Ahmad Hasaballah / Getty Images

Israel 'will not miss any opportunity' to bring hostages home, Netanyahu says

Netanyahu has welcomed the return of two hostages who were rescued from Rafah.

“Only the continuation of military pressure, until complete victory, will result in the release of all our abductees,” he said in a statement released by his office today.

“We will not miss any opportunity to bring them home,” he added.

Hugs and tears as rescued Israeli hostages reunited with loved ones

There were tears and hugs as two freed Israeli hostages were reunited with their families after they were rescued early Monday.

Israeli forces freed them after storming an apartment in the city of Rafah, in southern Gaza.

Dutch court orders halt to export of F-35 jet parts to Israel

A Dutch appeals court has ordered the Netherlands to stop the export of the F-35 jet parts to Israel after a rights group argued they aided violations of human rights.

Parts of the U.S.-made jet are distributed from the Netherlands, a NATO member, to other countries which include Israel.

The court said there was a risk of humanitarian law violations in Gaza and that Israel was causing disproportionate harm to civilians.

It added that Netherlands must stop export of military goods if there was a clear humanitarian law violations.

Israeli operation in Rafah would be 'catastrophic' for population, UNRWA chief tells NBC News

TEL AVIV — An Israeli military operation in Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah would be “catastrophic” for the population of Gaza, more than half of whom have sought shelter in the governorate, the director of the United Nations agency for refugees told NBC News today.

“There is a real sense of fear and apprehension here in Rafah. The population is already traumatized, they’re living in fear and they’re now trying to work out with the recent announcements that there is going to be a military operation in Gaza,” Thomas White said.

A man inspects the damage in a house following Israeli bombardment in Rafah, Gaza, on Feb. 12, 2024.
A man inspects the damage in a house following Israeli bombardment in Rafah today.Mohammed Abed / AFP - Getty Images

Were the Israel Defense Forces to launch a military operation on the city, “it will probably mean that over a million people will be on the move fleeing Rafah for safety,” he said.  

“As we know right now, there are about 1.4 million people living in Rafah, in fact the majority of the population of Gaza are now living in Rafah governorate and if they have to flee the fighting it is going to be catastrophic,” he added.   

An assault would also hamper operations to get aid into the enclave, he said. He added the United Nations Relief and Works Agency brought much of the aid through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt.  

“So the obvious concern is, can we maintain our humanitarian operation here if we lose our warehouses, lose our office space, lose communication, lose access to that vital crossing point?” he said.

Houthis say they hit a U.S. ship in the Red Sea

Yemen's Houthi rebels said in a statement on Telegram today that they had attacked a U.S. merchant ship in the Red Sea.

The Star Iris was struck with “accurate and direct” hits by naval missiles, the statement said.

In a separate incident report, the U.K.'s Maritime Trade Organization said the ship was attacked by two missiles. It added that the crew was reportedly safe.

The Iran-backed Houthis have vowed to continue attacking ships in the region, in strikes they say are in support of Gaza.

Photo: Hostages reunited with loved ones in Israel

Former hostages Fernando Marman, left, and Louis Har are reunited with relatives at the Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan today after their rescue from captivity in Gaza overnight.

Israel Hostages Freed Gaza
Avichay Adraee via Telegram

Biden disparages Netanyahu in private but hasn’t changed U.S. policy toward Israel

Biden has been venting his frustration in recent private conversations, some of them with campaign donors, over his inability to persuade Israel to change its military tactics in Gaza, and he has named Netanyahu as the primary obstacle, according to five people directly familiar with his comments.

Biden has said he is trying to get Israel to agree to a cease-fire, but that Netanyahu is “giving him hell” and is impossible to deal with, said the people familiar with Biden’s comments, who all asked not to be named.

Biden has in recent weeks spoken privately about Netanyahu, whom he has known for decades, with a candor that has surprised some of those on the receiving end of his comments, people familiar with them said. His descriptions of his dealings with Netanyahu are peppered with contemptuous references to him as “this guy,” these people said. And in at least three recent instances, Biden has called Netanyahu an “asshole,” according to three of the people directly familiar with his comments.

Asked about Biden’s private comments about Netanyahu, a spokesperson for the National Security Council said in a statement that the two leaders have a respectful relationship.

Read the full story here.

Israeli attack on Rafah kills 67 Palestinians, Health Ministry says

Israeli strikes killed at least 67 Palestinians in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, the enclave's Health Ministry spokesperson Ashraf Al-Qudra said today in a statement on Telegram, adding that authorities were still "retrieving the victims."

The IDF had earlier said it rescued two hostages from Rafah in an operation overnight.

Large craters left by Israeli bombardment of Rafah

People stand around large craters left in the ground after Israeli bombardments in Rafah, southern Gaza, today.

Israel announced on February 12 the rescue of two hostages in the southern Gaza city of Rafah.
Said Khatib / AFP - Getty Images

Death toll in Gaza hits 28,340, officials say

The war in Gaza has killed 28,340 people and injured 67,984, health officials in the enclave said today.

Gaza’s Health Ministry said 164 died and 200 were injured over the past 24 hours.

Fear spreads in Rafah as Israel prepares ground assault

NBC News spoke with displaced Gazans who said they fear time is running out as Israel prepares a ground incursion into areas crowded with civilians.

"We're so scared, we don't know where to go. There is a lot of people here," one young woman said. "Rafah is so small."

"We are people just like you. I am terrified of what is going to happen to me and my family," another said. "I have already lost my brother — I don't want to lose anybody else."

Israeli forces say they rescued 2 hostages

The Israel Defense Forces today said its troops rescued two hostages abducted during Hamas militants’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

In a statement, the IDF identified the two as Louis Har, 70, and Fernando Simon Marman, 60, from a community called Nir Yitzhak. It said the two were rescued overnight during a mission in Rafah.

Israeli Hostages Rescued Gaza
Louis Har, left, and Fernando Simon Marman.Hostages and Missing Families Forum via AP

“They are both in good medical condition and were transferred for further medical examination in Israel,” the IDF said, adding that the mission was conducted alongside the Israeli Security Agency and Israel Police.

Officials in Israel say roughly 136 hostages from Oct. 7 remain held by militants.

Wounded children in Rafah following strikes

Rafah Airstrike Gaza
Mohammed Abed / AFP - Getty Images

Somay al-Najar comforts her brother Yamen following Israeli airstrikes in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip today.Smoke billows from buildings in Rafah during the early morning following strikes overnight.

A series of Israeli air strikes on the southern Gaza town of Rafah on February 12, 2024 killed 52 people, according to the Hamas-ruled territory's health ministry.
Said Khatib / AFP via Getty Images

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