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Israel-Hamas war: Biden is hopeful a cease-fire is coming

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh submitted the resignation of his entire government because of “aggression against our people in Gaza.”

What we know

  • President Joe Biden is hopeful a cease-fire will be reached by next week. "My hope is by next Monday we will have a cease-fire," he said today.
  • Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh submitted the resignation of his entire government today. Shtayyeh said his government was resigning because of “aggression against our people in Gaza” and “the unprecedented escalation in the West Bank.” President Mahmoud Abbas must still decide whether he accepts the resignation, which could open the door to U.S.-backed reforms in the Palestinian Authority.
  • Israel's military has presented the war Cabinet with an evacuation and operational plan for areas of fighting in the Gaza Strip, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said today. Netanyahu had asked for a plan for the civilian evacuation of Gaza's southernmost city, Rafah, ahead of a planned assault on the area where more than 1 million people are seeking shelter.
  • The active-duty airman who set himself on fire in front of the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C., has died, according to a U.S. official. The service member was hospitalized yesterday after recording the protest, yelling "Free Palestine" and collapsing to the ground.
  • Israel has failed to comply with an order by the United Nations' top court to provide urgently needed aid to the people in the Gaza Strip, Human Rights Watch said today, a month after a landmark ruling by the International Court of Justice in The Hague ordered the country to moderate its war. The plan submitted to Israel's war Cabinet included proposals to get aid into the enclave.
  • More than 29,700 people have been killed in Gaza since the war began, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. More than 69,800 have been injured, and thousands more are missing and presumed dead.
  • Israeli military officials said at least 237 soldiers have been killed since the ground invasion of Gaza began.

U.S. State Dept. in touch with 3 Americans detained by Israel

Abigail Williams

Abigail Williams and Mirna Alsharif

The U.S. State Department is in touch with three Americans who were detained by Israel last month, agency spokesman Matthew Miller said.

Last week, embassy officials met with Samaher Esmail, a U.S. citizen being held in the occupied West Bank, over allegations of “incitement on social media.”

Officials also met today with Borak Alagha, 18, and Hashem Alagha, 20, two brothers born in the Chicago area, who were detained by Israeli forces.

Miller couldn't provide any details about the individual cases, adding that the State Department is only in the beginning stages of gathering information to determine whether they were wrongfully detained.

"I don’t have any assessment to offer about their case other than that is true for all Americans in Israel or anywhere around the world: Their safety and security is our first priority," Miller said.

Biden ‘hopeful’ for cease-fire by Monday

NBC News

President Joe Biden said today that he is hopeful that a cease-fire will be announced in the coming days. “We’re close," he said.

“My national security adviser tells me we’re close. We’re close. It’s not done yet,” Biden said during a stop in New York City to get ice cream. “And my hope is by next Monday we’ll have a cease-fire.”

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said earlier today that even if there were a temporary cease-fire, "we will then continue fighting until the very last hostages return.”

Read the full story here.

The U.S. has not seen Israel's plan for Rafah, State Dept. says

Abigail Williams

Abigail Williams and Mirna Alsharif

The U.S. has not seen Israel's plan for a military offensive in Rafah, Gaza's southernmost city, according to U.S. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller.

"We have not engaged with the government of Israel. We have seen press reporting, but we haven’t sat down to have a detailed … had a detailed conversation with the government of Israel about this plan yet," Miller told reporters.

Miller also said the U.S. believes a hostage deal is possible, but when asked if it could come ahead of Ramadan, he said he couldn't provide a timeline. The Islamic holiday begins March 11.

"I can’t make that assessment because it depends on Hamas. We believe a deal is possible, and we hope Hamas will agree," Miller said, adding that the U.S. has been in conversation with Israel, Egypt and Qatar. "I don’t want to offer any comment other than what I said a moment ago, which is we did make progress in these conversations over the weekend and the last few days."

On the U.S. potentially influencing Israel in this war, Miller said all the U.S. can do "is present our vision for peace and security in the Middle East."

"And make clear to the government of Israel, and make clear to the people of Israel that there is a path forward for lasting security, for better relations with Israel’s neighbors," Miller said. "And they have to take it, and if they’re ready to do it, we are ready to work with them on how to achieve that vision."

Terrorist group expresses solidarity with U.S. airman who set himself on fire

NBC News

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department, expressed solidarity with the airman who set himself on fire yesterday in front of the Israeli Embassy in Washington.

"The act of an American soldier sacrificing himself for Palestine is the highest sacrifice and a medal, and a poignant message to the American administration to stop its involvement in the aggression," the group said in a statement.

Aaron Bushnell, 25, of San Antonio, Texas, set himself on fire in apparent protest of the Israel-Hamas war. In a recording of the protest, he yelled “Free Palestine” and collapsed to the ground. He later died.

IDF says it killed Hezbollah commander in southern Lebanon

NBC News

The Israel Defense Forces said it had killed Hezbollah Commander Hassan Hossein Salami in a strike on Lebanon's Hujair region, in the south.

"Salami was part of Hezbollah’s Nasser Unit and commanded recent terrorist activities by Hezbollah against Israeli civilians and soldiers, including anti-tank missile launches toward Kiryat Shmona and the headquarters of the 769th Brigade," the IDF said in a statement.

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

Gallant: ‘Even if we cease fire temporarily, we will continue fighting until last hostages returns’

Yael Factor

Israeli Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant says the country will continue fighting in Gaza until all the hostages are returned, even if there's a temporary cease-fire.

"The defense establishment’s position will be clear — the full return of civilians to the northern area of the Gaza Strip will only take place following the return of all the hostages," Gallant said during a meeting with families of soldiers taken hostage. "Even if we will have to cease-fire temporarily, we will then continue fighting until the very last hostages return."

Gallant said Israel has "no moral right to stop the fighting" as long as there's a single hostage in Gaza.

Palestinians displaced to Rafah struggle to feed and shelter their families

Camille Behnke

Mirna Alsharif and Camille Behnke

Scores of Palestinians displaced to Rafah described living in a dire situation with their families as they struggle to find shelter and food.

Muhammed Subhi, who was displaced from northern Gaza to the Nuseirat refugee camp before ending up in Rafah, was setting up a tent for his family, a process he said is costly.

"Here I am, setting up a tent," Subhi told an NBC News crew. "And every time I move, I need new things that help me to set up the tent, because the wood breaks when we move from one place to another. This tent cost me around 500 to 600 shekel." (One shekel is about 27 cents in U.S. currency.)

Subhi was displaced with eight members of his family, including his father, who is blind, and another person who has cancer.

"Someone with me has cancer, he always says that he is in pain," Subhi said. "My father also cannot hear well, and it's troubling me that he can't hear. He hears loud sounds and thinks they're near him. He always tells me that we must leave places and complains about what’s going on."

"I'm just looking for a safe place, but there is no safe place in Gaza," he said.

Children could be seen walking around barefoot, trying to help adults as they attempt to build tents with tarps and wooden slabs.

Ka'inat Abed said she is staying in a single tent with 22 family members. She described her family's situation in Rafah where food is scarce and the air is polluted as "a tragedy."

"It's a tragedy, really it's a tragedy," Abed said. "We used to live in our house, we had water to shower with, we had food and drink. Now you feel as if you're living in empty land, it was just an empty land. We do not have bathrooms like other people, no water, no food, there is only sickness. We started scratching our bodies and got lice, the kids scratch their bodies all day because of the lice because there is no water."

Abed said her children urinate themselves from fear.

"We have nothing to do with what’s going on, we didn't do anything," Abed said. "We are poor people, what have we done? What is our crime?"

Amid the hardship, Abed does her best to cook nutritious meals for her family.

"We cook lentils and add potatoes for iron and carbs," Abed said as she stir fried potatoes in a pot on a makeshift burner. "Lentils have carbs in them but for the children, I cook them together, because the lentils alone aren't enough."

85% of Gaza population displaced since war began, UNRWA says

Liam Woods

Liam Woods and Mirna Alsharif

Around 85% of Gaza's population has been displaced in the nearly five months of war, according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.

"Aid struggles to enter #GazaStrip due to security constraints & temporary closures at both crossings. The crisis is a man-made disaster," the organization said on X.

Humanitarian aid entering Gaza fell by 50% from January to February, according to Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini.

"Aid was supposed to increase not decrease to address the huge needs of 2 million Palestinians in desperate living conditions," Lazzarini wrote on X.

He reiterated calls for a cease-fire and to lift the siege to allow aid and supplies into Gaza.

Aid entering Gaza fell by 50% in February, UNRWA says

Segilola Arisekola

Segilola Arisekola and Mirna Alsharif

The amount of aid entering Gaza fell by 50% from January to February, according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.

"Aid was supposed to increase not decrease to address the huge needs of 2 million Palestinians in desperate living conditions," Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini said on X. "Among the obstacles: lack of political will, regular closing of the crossing points & lack of security due to military operations + collapse of civil order."

Lazzarini said a cease-fire and lifting the siege to allow aid and other supplies into Gaza "are long overdue."

IDF says it struck Hezbollah air defenses in Lebanon

Yarden Segev

The Israel Defense Forces said it struck Hezbollah air defenses in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, in the eastern part of the country.

"This is in response to the launch of surface-to-air missiles at a remotely manned aircraft of the ‘Zik’ type, which fell earlier today," IDF said in a statement.

The IDF said it will continue to defend Israel and conduct airstrikes against Hezbollah.

U.S. airman who set himself on fire identified

The active-duty U.S. airman who died after setting himself on fire in front of the Israeli Embassy in Washington was identified today by the Metropolitan Police Department as Aaron Bushnell, 25, of San Antonio, Texas.

Bushnell set himself on fire yesterday in apparent protest of the Israel-Hamas war. In a recording of the protest, he yelled “Free Palestine” and collapsed to the ground.

The police department, the U.S. Secret Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms are investigating.

Read the full story.

Jordanian military airdrops aid into Gaza

Reuters and Mirna Alsharif

The Jordanian military dropped food and medical supplies into Gaza today in the largest such operation so far to millions of Gazans mostly living in camps.

Thousands of Palestinians waited by the sea as aid was parachuted into the enclave.

The operation deployed four C-130 planes, including one belonging to the French air force, army spokesperson Mustafa Hiyari said.

The aid was dropped to 11 sites along the Gaza coast for civilians to collect, he said. Previous airdrops that parachuted medicines and humanitarian provisions were sent to hospitals that the Jordanian army runs in Gaza.

Jordan’s armed forces have conducted 11 airdrop operations in the Gaza Strip in partnership with other nations and humanitarian organizations since the beginning of the war.

Gaza's 2.3 million civilians, most of whom are displaced because of the Israeli bombardment, are facing food shortages. The lack of food and looming famine in the enclave are "a manmade disaster," said Philippe Lazzarini, who heads the United Nations' Palestine refugee relief agency.

"The world committed to never let famine happen again. Famine can still be avoided, through genuine political will to grant access & protection to meaningful assistance," Lazzarini said on X.

Palestine Red Crescent Society suspends humanitarian coordination in Gaza for 48 hours

The Palestine Red Crescent Society has suspended humanitarian coordination in Gaza for the next 48 hours because Israeli forces have failed to ensure the safety of emergency medical teams, patients and ambulances, it said on X.

"PRCS will assess this situation during the next two days to reach a conclusive result that enables it to protect its crews and their vehicles and to ensure that it will not be placed at risk of death or injury, through the intervention of active states in the international community to ensure this protection," the organization said.

The PRCS says it evacuated more than a dozen patients from Al-Amal Hospital in Khan Younis to Rafah yesterday with the help of the United Nations Office for Humanitarian Affairs, and the approval of Israel. Despite notifying the Israelis of the evacuation, the convoy was intercepted by Israeli forces, who mistreated PRCS members and detained three medics, it said.

During the seven-hour interception, medics were forced out of their vehicles and made to sit on the ground. The three who were detained were stripped and taken to an unknown location. One of them was released after midnight, the PRCS said.

Medics Jihad Aslim and Ramadan Ashour have been in detention since yesterday evening.

"This incident is not the first incident during which the Israeli occupation forces failed to respect the coordination conducted by the United Nations organizations with them, as they previously targeted PRCS ambulances on their way to evacuate injured people from various areas in the Gaza Strip, prevented and obstructed relief aid convoys from reaching specific areas in the Gaza Strip, especially in Gaza and its north, and it continues to detain a number of PRCS staff," the organization said.

The PRCS said it is demanding that Israel release all its medical staff and respect the Red Crescent emblem and the provisions of international law.

"The PRCS renews its calls to the international community to compel the Israeli occupation forces to respect and protect medical personnel and facilities and to provide a safe humanitarian space that is essential for the survival of Palestinians in Gaza," the organization said.

Palestinians will not be allowed home to northern Gaza, Israeli officials tell NBC News

Raf Sanchez

TEL AVIV — Palestinian civilians sheltering in the city of Rafah will be allowed to flee to Khan Younis and other areas of southern Gaza ahead of an Israeli attack on the city — but will not be allowed to return to their homes in Gaza City or the north of the strip, two Israeli officials told NBC News today. 

The details of the Israeli plan for an attack on Rafah, which have not been previously reported, offer a first glimpse into how Israel proposes to deal with the roughly 1.4 million Palestinian civilians who have sought refuge in Gaza’s southernmost city after being displaced by the fighting.

Under the plan, civilians would be allowed out of Rafah into areas south of Wadi Gaza, a river valley that is considered an informal divider between the northern and southern halves of the strip, the officials said. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss military planning. 

The exact areas where Palestinian civilians would be told to head to — and the routes they would be told to take — have not yet been decided and will depend on the conditions on the ground, the officials said.

At least 30 arrested in West Bank overnight, prisoner rights groups say

Peter Guo

At least 30 people in the West Bank, including women and children, were arrested overnight by Israel, prisoner rights groups said today.

The arrests were mostly concentrated in Hebron and Ramallah, with the total number of arrests after Oct. 7 rising to more than 7,255, the groups said in a statement.

They accused Israeli occupation forces of severely beating detainees, threatening their families, destroying people's homes and confiscating money and vehicles.

Qatari emir meets Hamas leader to discuss cease-fire

Charlene Gubash

Charlene Gubash and Larissa Gao

Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani met with Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh today to discuss discuss efforts to reach an “immediate and permanent cease-fire” in Gaza, state media in the small but wealthy Gulf nation reported today.

Al Thani said that Qatar would support the Palestinian people permanently and that the foremost right of Palestinians is to establish their independent state with east Jerusalem as its capital, the Qatar News Agency reported.

Qatar is a major ally of the Palestinian militant group and has been playing a key mediation role during the Israel-Hamas war

Israeli tanks fire toward Gaza

Video from southern Israel shows Israeli military tanks firing shells toward Gaza as the military continues its offensive against Hamas.

Smoke and dust rise around the vehicle as it fires several rounds.

IDF airstrikes Hezbollah targets 'deep inside Lebanon'

Peter Guo

The Israeli military said today that its air force struck targets "deep inside Lebanon" belonging to the Hezbollah militant group.

The strikes are among the deepest into Lebanon since Israel began its war with Hamas in Gaza and they come a day after Yoav Gallant, the country's defense minister, vowed to step up attacks on the Iran-backed militant group.

The strikes same shortly after Hezbollah said in a statement that it shot down an Israeli drone.

Lebanese security officials said Israel’s air force carried out three airstrikes on the outskirts of the village of Buday, near Baalbek, targeting a convoy of trucks. Buday is a Hezbollah stronghold.

Rafah assault would 'put the final nail in the coffin of our aid programs,' U.N. chief warns

United Nations chief António Guterres warned today that a full-scale Israeli assault on Gaza's southernmost city of Rafah would have devastating consequences.

Describing the city as the core of the humanitarian aid operation in the Palestinian enclave, he said: “An all-out Israeli offensive on the city would not only be terrifying for more than a million Palestinian civilians sheltering there; it would put the final nail in the coffin of our aid programs.”

The flow of aid entering Gaza from Egypt has dwindled, and a collapse in security has made it increasingly difficult to distribute the food that does get through, according to U.N. data and officials

Airman who set himself on fire in front of Israeli Embassy has died

The active-duty airman who set himself on fire in front of the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C., has died, according to a U.S. official.

Next of kin notification continues, so the Air Force won’t release his name until 24 hours after the final notification is complete. 

The service member was hospitalized yesterday after filming the protest, yelling "Free Palestine" and collapsing to the ground. The embassy said no other workers were hurt.

IDF presents a plan for a Rafah offensive to war Cabinet

The Israeli military has proposed a plan for the evacuation of civilians from “fighting areas” in Gaza to the country's war Cabinet, Netanyahu’s office said in a statement today.

The statement said the Israel Defense Forces had presented its operational plan for a ground offensive into Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost city along the border with Egypt, where 1 million Palestinians have sought safety.

“In addition, the plan for providing humanitarian assistance to the Gaza Strip in a manner that will prevent the looting that has occurred in the northern Strip and other areas was approved,” the statement said.

The statement did not mention the specific areas the military was going to evacuate.

Palestinian government announces resignation

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh submitted the resignation of his entire government today, a long anticipated move that comes amid calls from the United States and others to reform Palestinian politics to prepare for Gaza’s postwar reconstruction.

Shtayyeh said in a statement that his government was resigning because of “aggression against our people in Gaza” and “the unprecedented escalation in the West Bank.” But he also said that the “next stage” for the Palestinian territories needed “an inter-Palestinian consensus” and the extension of his government’s “authority over the entire land of Palestine.”

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh announces his resignation in Ramallah on Feb. 26, 2024
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh in Ramallah today.Zain Jaafar / AFP via Getty Images

The Palestinian Authority, or PA, has loose governance over parts of the occupied West Bank but lost control of Gaza following a power struggle with Hamas in 2007. Fatah, the party that dominates the PA, has been in talks with Hamas over forming a unity government and are due to meet in Moscow on Wednesday.

The U.S. and others have said that a reformed PA should be responsible for governing Gaza after the war. But Netanyahu has not only rejected the path, but also the idea of a postwar Palestinian state in general. The Palestinian government’s resignation will have to be approved by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Gaza death toll since Oct. 7 reaches 29,782, health officials say

At least 29,782 people have been killed in the enclave since Oct. 7, the Gaza Health Ministry said in a statement on Telegram today.

More than 70,000 people have been wounded in the city, and thousands of people are still missing under the rubble, the statement added.

A boy looks out over a ruined Rafah mosque

Max Butterworth

A Palestinian boy looks out over the ruins of the Al-Faruq mosque, leveled by Israeli bombardment in Rafah, southern Gaza, yesterday.

Al Faruq Mosque Rafah Gaza
Mohammed Abed / AFP - Getty Images

Israel is blocking aid to Gazans in violation of ICJ order, Human Rights Watch says

Associated Press

Israel has failed to comply with an order by the United Nations’ top court to provide urgently needed aid to desperate people in the Gaza Strip, Human Rights Watch said Monday, a month after a landmark ruling in The Hague ordered Israel to moderate its war.

In a preliminary response to a South African petition accusing Israel of genocide, the U.N.’s top court ordered Israel to do all it can to prevent death, destruction and any acts of genocide in Gaza. It stopped short of ordering an end to its military offensive that has triggered a humanitarian catastrophe in the tiny Palestinian enclave. Israel vehemently denies the charges against it, saying it is fighting a war in self-defense.

Under the orders, Israel must submit a report on what it is doing to adhere to the measures within a month. While Monday marked a month since the court’s orders were issued, it was not immediately clear whether Israel had handed in such a report. The Israeli Foreign Ministry had no immediate comment.

Human Rights Watch said Israel was not adhering to the court’s order on aid provision, citing a 30% drop in the daily average number of aid trucks entering Gaza in the weeks following the court’s ruling.

It said Israel was not adequately facilitating fuel deliveries to hard-hit northern Gaza and blamed Israel for blocking aid from reaching the north, where the World Food Program said last week it was forced to suspend aid deliveries because of increasing chaos in the isolated part of the territory.

Catch up on NBC News’ latest coverage of the conflict

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