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Israel-Hamas war: U.S. and U.K. launch strikes against Houthis; nearly 30,000 killed in Gaza

Experts say Netanyahu's plan is more about domestic political posturing than offering a tangible plan for the months and years ahead.

What we know

  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented a postwar plan for Gaza yesterday that Palestinian authories have denounced as an attempt to reoccupy the enclave and obstruct international efforts to establish a Palestinian state. The plan came the day after Israel announced an expansion of settlements in the occupied West Bank, which the U.S. opposes as “inconsistent with international law.”
  • U.S., Israeli, Qatari and Egyptian officials have arrived in Paris for negotiations over the release of hostages and a possible cease-fire, as talks in Cairo reached an impasse.
  • UNRWA said it was at a ''breaking point'' at a time of unprecedented need in Gaza and could be forced to cease operations by the end of the month, amid frozen funding and Israeli calls to dismantle the agency. The World Food Programme was forced to pause aid deliveries to northern Gaza this week due to violence and the collapse of civil order.
  • More than 29,600 people have been killed in Gaza since the war began, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. More than 69,400 have been injured, and thousands more are missing and presumed dead.
  • Israeli military officials said at least 238 soldiers have been killed since the ground invasion of Gaza began.

Coverage on this live blog has ended. Please click here for the latest updates.

IDF says it struck Hezbollah command center in southern Lebanon

NBC News

Israel Defense Forces fighter jets struck a Hezbollah operational command center in Baraachit, in southern Lebanon today, according to an IDF statement.

The center was used by the group's Radwan forces in the Nabatiye Governorate, according to the IDF.

"Following the strike, secondary explosions occurred, indicating that large quantities of weapons were stored there," the IDF said in the statement.

IDF artillery also "struck to remove a threat in the area of Rachaya Al Foukhar," in the Nabatiye Governorate, the military said.

NBC News has not independently verified the IDF’s claims.

USS Mason shoots down Houthi anti-ship ballistic missile launched into Gulf of Aden, no damage reported

NBC News

The USS Mason shot down a Houthi anti-ship ballistic missile today that was launched into the Gulf of Aden, according to U.S. Central Command.

"The missile was likely targeting MV Torm Thor, a U.S.-Flagged, owned, and operated chemical/oil tanker," Centcom said on X.

The USS Mason and MV Torm Thor were not damaged, and no injuries were reported, according to Centcom.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin released a statement on the strike, saying, "The United States will not hesitate to take action, as needed, to defend lives and the free flow of commerce in one of the world’s most critical waterways."

Austin added, "We will continue to make clear to the Houthis that they will bear the consequences if they do not stop their illegal attacks, which harm Middle Eastern economies, cause environmental damage, and disrupt the delivery of humanitarian aid to Yemen and other countries."

U.S. & U.K. conduct more retaliatory strikes in Yemen, officials say

Mosheh Gains

Courtney Kube and Mosheh Gains

The U.S. and U.K. military are conducting more retaliatory strikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen this afternoon, according to three U.S. officials.

Houthi military capabilities including weapons and bunkers were targeted.

Today’s strikes against more than one dozen targets are retaliation for the ongoing attacks by the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, who continue to target and threaten ships in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.

President Joe Biden ordered the strikes. He was briefed on targets Friday.

NYCLU says it will sue Columbia University if it doesn't reverse 'unlawful suspension' of two student groups

The New York Civil Liberties Union said yesterday it would sue Columbia University if it doesn't reverse the "unlawful suspension" of its chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace, according to a news release.

In a letter issued to university officials, including President Minouche Shafik, the civil rights organization demanded the reversal of the groups' suspension, saying it is "prepared to file a lawsuit to vindicate their rights."

Columbia University suspended its chapters of SJP and JVP on Nov. 10, 2023, following a student demonstration the day before. Officials alleged the groups "repeatedly violated University policies related to holding campus events, culminating in an unauthorized event Thursday afternoon [Nov. 9, 2023] that proceeded despite warnings and included threatening rhetoric and intimidation."

"The referenced 'unauthorized event' was a peaceful demonstration and temporary art installation advocating for the end of Israel’s current military campaign in the Gaza Strip, which at that point had claimed over 10,000 Palestinian lives and by today has claimed over 29,000 Palestinian lives," the organization said in the letter.

The NYCLU says university leadership's decision to suspend the groups was a departure from its "established procedures for engaging with and sanctioning student groups," which includes referring the SJP and JVP to the Student Governing Board, and would have allowed them several protections, like an opportunity to appeal the decision.

"Universities should be havens for robust debate, discussion, and learning — not sites of censorship where administrators, donors, and politicians squash political discourse they don’t approve of," said Donna Lieberman, the organization's executive director. "These student groups were peacefully speaking out on a critical global conflict, only to have Columbia University ignore their own longstanding, existing rules and abruptly suspend the organizations. That’s retaliatory, it’s targeted, and it flies in the face of the free speech principles that institutes of higher learning should be defending."

Columbia University did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Credibility of international law depends on ICJ's decision on Israel, Qatar Ministry of Foreign Affairs says

The credibility of international law depends on the International Court of Justice's decision on Israel's actions in Gaza and the West Bank, according to the Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

A representative for the country stood before the ICJ to say it is the court's duty "to adopt all opinions that consider the Israeli occupation illegal, illegitimate and based on racial segregation," the ministry said on X.

"We reaffirm Qatar's rejection of double standards and stress the need for international law to apply to everyone," the ministry said.

The ministry also alleged that the war in Gaza "was used to cover settlement activities in Jerusalem and the West Bank."

Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Israel 'has not taken any steps to protect Palestinian civilians' following ICJ ruling and international warnings

NBC News

Israel "has not taken any steps to protect Palestinian civilians" following the International Court of Justice's ruling in January and mounting international warnings "about the risks of deepening the humanitarian disaster in Gaza," the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

"Instead, Israel persists in committing further collective massacres and deepening the humanitarian catastrophe, especially in northern, central, and southern areas of the Gaza Strip," the ministry said on X. "Israel continues to transform Gaza into an uninhabitable area, paving the way for the implementation of forced displacement plans for its residents. The crimes of demolishing homes, blowing up residential buildings, and destroying all structures in Gaza are clear evidence that there is no safe place in the Strip, and civilians have no homes to return to."

The ministry says it views the international community's failure "to compel Israel to protect civilians and secure their basic humanitarian needs" as unprecedented, and an undermining of U.N. institutions, exposing the hypocrisy of nations "claiming to uphold principles of human rights and international law."

IDF continues military operation in Khan Younis

NBC News

The Israel Defense Forces are continuing their military operation in Khan Younis in southern Gaza.

The IDF said it is “eliminating many terrorists” and infrastructure “by directing aerial fire and by using precise fire.” The military also said it located a “weapons storage facility” containing ammunition, explosives and grenades.

NBC News could not independently verify the IDF's claims.

Centcom: U.S. forces destroy 7 Houthi mobile anti-ship cruise missiles prepared to launch toward Red Sea

Mosheh Gains

U.S. Central Command said it destroyed seven Houthi mobile anti-ship cruise missiles yesterday that were prepared to launch toward the Red Sea.

“CENTCOM forces identified these missiles in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen and determined that they presented an imminent threat to merchant vessels and to the U.S. Navy ships in the region,” Centcom said in a statement. “These actions will protect freedom of navigation and make international waters safer and more secure for U.S. Navy and merchant vessels.”

Dozens of Nasser Medical Complex personnel still in detention, Gaza Health Ministry says

NBC News

Dozens of medical personnel arrested from the Nasser Medical Complex are still in detention, according to the Ministry of Health in Gaza.

Three personnel, including two doctors and one pharmacist, have been released, the ministry said.

3 Palestine Red Crescent Society staff members detained by Israel, organization says

Segilola Arisekola

Mirna Alsharif and Segilola Arisekola

Three Palestine Red Crescent Society members were detained by Israel, according to the aid organization.

"The Israeli occupation continues to detain the PRCS volunteers Mu’men Othman Dahir, Tamer Mahmoud Shahin, and Hamdan Sameer Abu Khater, for the nineteenth consecutive day," the organization said on X. "They were arrested while passing through what is called 'the humanitarian corridor' set up to evacuate displaced persons from PRCS Al-Amal Hospital in #KhanYunis."

'Some progress' in Paris on potential hostage deal, Israeli official says

Raf Sanchez

There was "some progress" in Paris where officials are gathered to discuss cease-fire talks, an Israeli official told NBC News.

“There was some progress in Paris but it’s too early to tell if it will lead to a breakthrough,” the official said.

Israeli negotiators have returned from the talks with U.S., Qatari and Egyptian officials in Paris, according to the official.

Israel’s war Cabinet will meet Saturday night to discuss the negotiations and the state of the war, the official said.

A teenager was hit by a stray bullet a month ago. It is still lodged near her spine.

It only took a moment for a bullet to lodge itself into 14-year-old Salma Alyazji’s back. A month later, it is still there.

“It didn’t change part of my life, it changed my entire life,” Salma said.

It’s not clear who fired the bullet that hit Salma. There were no clashes nearby at the time, but she heard one shot ring through the building where her family and many others were sheltering in Khan Younis. She went to check no one was hurt when she heard a second shot.

Salma put her hand to her back and it came back covered in blood.

“I began to scream and I fainted,” Salma told an NBC News crew in Gaza.

Salma was on scholarship at the prestigious Horizons Academy in Gaza, where her father said she was a top student. She wrote poetry and dreamed of studying abroad.

But now, she said, her ambitions have been drowned out by the anxiety of living with a bullet in her back. She is in pain, and struggles to perform daily life tasks without help.

“I no longer have any ambitions other than to get through this situation,” Salma said tearfully.  

Read full story.

Houthi attack on cargo ship caused mileslong oil slick in Red Sea

Associated Press

A Belize-flagged bulk carrier Rubymar
The Belize-flagged bulk carrier Rubymar near the Bay el-Mandeb Strait leaking oil after an attack on Feb. 20.Planet Labs PBC via AP

An attack by Yemeni Houthi rebels on a Belize-flagged ship earlier this month caused an 18-mile oil slick, the U.S. military said Saturday. It also warned of the danger of a spill from the vessel’s cargo of fertilizer.

The Rubymar, a British-registered, Lebanese-operated cargo vessel, was attacked on Feb. 18 while sailing through the Bab el-Mandeb Strait that connects the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, U.S. Central Command said.

The missile attack forced the crew to abandon the vessel, which had been on its way to Bulgaria after leaving Khorfakkan in the United Arab Emirates. It was transporting more than 41,000 tons of fertilizer, Centcom said in a statement.

The slick was caused by significant damage to the vessel, according to Centom, which added that the ship’s cargo “could spill into the Red Sea and worsen this environmental disaster.”

Nearly 30,000 dead in Gaza

Leila Sackur

Gaza's death toll reached 29,606 today as 92 more people were killed in a single day, according to Gaza's Health Ministry.

Nearly 70,000 people have been wounded by the war on the enclave, it added, with more than 7,000 people remaining missing.

Casualty figures in Gaza are an estimate, given rapidly depleting demographic resources and the volume of people who remain unaccounted for.

Arms exports to Israel must cease, U.N. says

Leila Sackur

Arms exported to Israel that would be used in Gaza are likely being used to violate international humanitarian law, U.N. experts warned yesterday, calling on any state selling weapons or ammunition to Israel to "cease immediately."

“All States must ‘ensure respect’ for international humanitarian law by parties to an armed conflict, as required by 1949 Geneva Conventions and customary international law,” the experts said.

“Such transfers are prohibited even if the exporting State does not intend the arms to be used in violation of the law — or does not know with certainty that they would be used in such a way — as long as there is a clear risk,” they said.

Earlier in February a Dutch appeals court prevented the Netherlands from exporting parts for F-35 jets to Israel, citing a "clear risk" that the parts would be used to break international humanitarian law.

In December, the Biden administration sidestepped Congress to approve two emergency arms sales to Israel.

Netanyahu’s postwar plan for Gaza reflects difficult balancing act, experts say

TEL AVIV — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has unveiled his first official postwar plan for Gaza — but experts say the proposal has more to do with political posturing than an offer of a tangible strategy for the months and years ahead.

In a relatively scant document released overnight, Netanyahu revealed his plan for the enclave once Israel’s war with Hamas comes to an end. It was written in Hebrew and ran just over a page long.

“The good news is that there is a plan for the future,” said Gideon Rahat, senior fellow at the Tel Aviv-based Israel Democracy Institute. “The bad news is that there isn’t much in it.”

Translated by NBC News, the document calls for Israel’s ongoing military presence, as well as for the continued maintenance of a “buffer zone” in northern Gaza — the latter of which the Biden administration has opposed since its conception.

Read full story.

Netanyahu has ‘forgotten’ Hamas’ captives, former hostage says

An Israeli woman who was released by Hamas after weeks in captivity has accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of having “forgotten” the remaining hostages in Gaza, including her American husband.

In an exclusive interview with NBC News’ Molly Hunter on Thursday, former hostage Aviva Siegel said she believes Netanyahu is prioritizing his own political survival and his bid to crush Hamas over efforts to return the hostages. 

“I think that Bibi Netanyahu is thinking about himself more than thinking about us,” Siegel, 62, said.

Siegel, who was released in November after 51 days in captivity, said she wanted Netanyahu to “stop the war” and focus on bringing her husband, Keith Siegel, an American Israeli, back “home as soon as possible.”

But, she said, “I think that Netanyahu has forgotten about Keith and forgotten to be human and bring the human people back.”

Read full story.

U.N. rights chief criticizes ‘entrenched impunity’ in the war in Gaza

NBC News

Perpetrators of gross human rights violations in the conflict between Israel and Hamas must be held accountable, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said today.

Volker Turk said in a report on the situation in Gaza that the “entrenched impunity” that his office “has reported on for many years cannot persist.”

He added that this impunity had contributed to violations that could amount to international crimes.

He also urged all parties to the conflict to “put an end to impunity and conduct prompt, independent, impartial, thorough, effective and transparent investigations” into alleged crimes under international law.

Catch up on NBC News' latest coverage of the conflict

NBC News