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Israel-Hamas war: Netanyahu vows 'no force in the world' can stop Rafah operation; Palestinian return to northern Gaza is a sticking point in cease-fire talks

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signaled that a date had been set for an offensive in Rafah, a plan that has raised global alarm.

What we know

  • Palestinians returning to the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis after Israeli forces withdrew have found it devastated by months of intense fighting. An NBC News crew spoke to stunned residents who found everything — their homes, mosques and shops — destroyed.
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signaled that despite the troop pullout, a date had been set for an offensive against Rafah, a plan that has raised global alarm. He said today that "no force in the world" could stop an Israeli operation on the city.
  • Hamas said that it was studying a new proposal for a cease-fire deal after talks in Cairo but that the plan did not meet any of its demands for a truce that would secure the release of more hostages being held in Gaza. A source in Netanyahu's office told NBC News that one of the sticking points for Israeli negotiators is Hamas' request that Palestinians be allowed to return unfettered to the northern Gaza Strip.
  • The death toll in Gaza has surpassed 33,000, according to the enclave's Health Ministry. Another 75,900 people have been reported injured. The Israeli military said at least 256 soldiers have been killed since the ground invasion of Gaza began.

Hamas says Israeli proposal fails to meet demands but is under review


CAIRO — Hamas said today that an Israeli cease-fire proposal did not meet the demands of Palestinian militant factions but that it would study the offer further and deliver its response to mediators.

Egyptian and Qatari mediators handed the proposal to the Palestinian Islamist movement at talks in Cairo to find a way out of the devastating war in the Gaza Strip, now in its seventh month.

Netanyahu has repeatedly flagged plans for a ground assault on Rafah, where more than 1 million displaced civilians are holed up, despite international pleas for restraint.

The talks in Cairo, also attended by CIA Director William Burns, have so far failed to reach a breakthrough.

Hamas is “interested in reaching an agreement that puts an end to the aggression on our people. Despite that, the Israeli position remains intransigent, and it didn’t meet any of the demands of our people and our resistance,” Hamas said in a statement after it received the latest proposal.

Hamas wants any agreement to secure an end to the Israeli military offensive and a withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza, as well as for displaced people to be allowed to return to their homes across the small, densely populated enclave.

Israel’s immediate aim is to secure the release of hostages Hamas seized in the Oct. 7 cross-border rampage that triggered the conflict. It says it will not end the war until it annihilates Hamas, which has run Gaza since 2007.

American hostage families meet with Vice President Harris

Tara Prindiville

Megan Lebowitz and Tara Prindiville

The families of American hostages met today with Vice President Kamala Harris, who gave them an update on U.S. efforts to secure the release of their loved ones, according to the White House.

After the meeting, the families told the media that a "legitimate" hostage deal was under consideration.

"There's a legitimate hostage deal on the table right now. It is completely in Hamas' court," said Jonathan Dekel-Chen, the father of hostage Sagui Dekel-Chen.

"There is no reason not to move forward on this deal," he said. "All of the intermediaries are in favor."

Rachel Goldberg-Polin, the mother of hostage Hersh Goldberg-Polin, called the meeting with Harris "very productive," adding that one of the topics they discussed was the "possibility of holding two truths."

"You can believe, as we do, that, that it is horrible that innocent civilians in Gaza are suffering," she said. "And at the same time, you can also know that it is horrible and against international law for hostages to be held against their will."

Aid truck deliveries to Gaza reached a record high today since the war began, Israel says

Israel's department in charge of humanitarian aid said 468 trucks have entered Gaza today, a record for daily deliveries since Oct. 7 when the war began.

Another 303 packages of prepared meals were airdropped into the strip, and 47 trucks delivered aid into northern Gaza, according to the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories.

The boost is part of a renewed effort to increase aid into Gaza following an Israeli airstrike that killed seven aid workers and drew global condemnation. Before the strike, an average of 140 food trucks entered Gaza each day in March, the department said.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said today the aid deliveries need to be "sustained as long as necessary" for the people of Gaza. The U.S. has pushed for substantial changes on the humanitarian front since the war began, he said, but it has not been enough.

"It’s the results that count and it was clear from everything that we continue to see that we have to ... have change that results in people getting the assistance they need throughout Gaza," Blinken said.

'Recognition of a Palestinian state will happen,' says Irish foreign minister

Micheál Martin, Ireland's foreign minister, told the country's parliament today that he plans to bring a formal proposal for the recognition of a Palestinian state.

Martin said he has been in discussions with colleagues and other officials on how a recognition of statehood "could be a catalyst to help the people of Gaza and the West Bank, and in furthering an Arab-led peace initiative." He noted that he plans to bring a proposal to government once "wider international discussions are complete."

He did not offer a concrete timeline of when that might happen.

"But be in no doubt, recognition of a Palestinian state will happen," Martin said.

Former hostage to meet with vice president as husband remains captive in Gaza

Aviva Seigel, a hostage who was captured from a kibbutz on Oct. 7 and was released after 51 days, is among family members of hostages who will meet with Vice President Kamala Harris today.

Seigel, whose husband, Keith, is still being held, told NBC News that she is grateful to President Joe Biden for her own life, but is pleading for her husband's return.

She described the awful conditions she was held under, including a lack of oxygen in the tunnels, saying she was treated like she was "nothing."

"Keith looked at me and I could see that he could hardly breathe," Seigel said. "I don't know if any can imagine what it is like, feeling you're going to die in a second and trying just to figure out how you are going to breathe."

Journalists are needed in Gaza to fight an 'information war,' U.N. chief says

António Guterres, secretary-general of the United Nations, called for foreign journalists to be allowed into Gaza as an "information war" has obscured facts and added to the conflict's trauma.

"Denying international journalists entry into Gaza is allowing disinformation and false narratives to flourish," he wrote in a post on X.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 90 Palestinian journalists and media workers have been killed in Gaza since the start of the war. Others who had the means to leave have departed Gaza altogether.

Diaa Al-Kahlout, Gaza bureau chief for the newspaper Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, told CPJ that he spent 33 days in Israeli detainment and said mentally he has not been able to resume his work. He described undergoing psychological torture, which CPJ was not able to independently verify and the Israel Defense Forces denied.

"Journalists in Gaza have found no respect," Al-Kahlout told the organization. "Amid all these difficulties in covering and reporting events, there was another challenge: trying to survive, securing food and drink, and protecting the family. Moving even an inch in Gaza now is madness."

The U.S. has not seen any evidence of Israel committing genocide in Gaza, Austin says

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said today that the U.S. has not seen evidence of Israel committing genocide during its military operations against Hamas in Gaza.

“We don’t have any evidence of genocide being created,” Austin said during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing focused on President Joe Biden’s latest budget request.

Asked by Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., whether that means Israel is not committing genocide in Gaza, Austin said again, “We don’t have evidence of that.” 

Read the full story here.

French foreign minister suggests sanctions on Israel over Gaza aid

French Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné suggested in an interview that sanctions be imposed on Israel to ensure access to aid.

The suggestion made during an interview with France 24 and RFI radio comes as Israel has promised to open more crossings after seven aid workers were killed in an Israeli strike last week.

Israel's department in charge of humanitarian aid says the number of trucks into Gaza has increased significantly since then, but the United Nations has disputed those figures and says distribution remains an issue.

“France was one of the first countries to propose European Union sanctions on Israeli settlers who are committing acts of violence in the West Bank," Séjourné said. "We will continue if needed to obtain the opening of humanitarian aid."

The U.N. holds dignified burials for unidentified bodies at Al-Shifa Hospital

Dignified burials for the unidentified bodies at Al-Shifa Hospital were organized today with the help of U.N. agencies, including the World Health Organization, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

“The bodies were previously lying under dirt or plastic sheeting, and were given fuller burials on site or at a nearby area,” he said on X. “When the dead are buried properly, they can be identified later with forensic examinations, giving loved ones some consolation.”

Palestinians recover human remains at the grounds of Al-Shifa hospital, Gaza's largest hospital, on April 8, 2024.
Palestinians recover human remains at the grounds of Al-Shifa hospital yesterday.AFP - Getty Images

Israel says more aid is entering Gaza, but the U.N. disputes it


Israel says aid is moving into Gaza more quickly after international pressure to increase access, but the amount is disputed and the United Nations says it is still much less than the bare minimum to meet humanitarian needs.

Israel said 419 trucks — the highest since the conflict began — entered on Monday, though the Red Crescent and United Nations gave much lower figures, with the U.N. saying many were only half full because of Israeli inspection rules.

U.N. humanitarian agency spokesperson Jens Laerke said Israel denied permission last month to half the convoys it tried to send north, with U.N. aid convoys three times more likely to be refused than any other.

The Israeli military department responsible for aid transfers, COGAT, denies it is hindering relief into Gaza and says there is no limit on supplies for civilians. It blamed delays on the United Nations, which it says is inefficient.

Laerke said Israel typically counted the half-filled trucks going through an initial screening process, rather than repacked, full trucks for delivery inside Gaza. He said a bigger problem remained distribution inside Gaza.

“Food convoys that should be going particularly to the north, where 70% of people face famine conditions, are more likely, actually three times more likely, to be denied than any other humanitarian convoy with other kinds of material,” he said.

Eid al-Fitr in Gaza
Food aid is distributed yesterday in Deir Al-Balah, central Gaza.Majdi Fathi / NurPhoto via AP

Protesters interrupt Sec. Austin's remarks at Senate committee

Mosheh Gains

Mosheh Gains and Doha Madani

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was interrupted twice today while speaking to the Senate Armed Services Committee by people protesting Israel's military operations in Gaza.

Austin was giving his opening remarks when a man in a black t-shirt that included the word "genocide" began talking. He stood up holding a Palestinian flag while others remained seated and holding hands splattered with what appeared to be red paint.

"Enough is enough, how many children have to die?" the protester said as he began walking out of the room, with an officer following behind. "How many people have to die for you to be satisfied? Enough killing my people."

Committee chairman Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., called a brief recess and told the room it was inappropriate for spectators to interrupt with comments or demonstrations.

Other protesters interrupted with calls of "stop the genocide" and walked out.

Protesters interrupt Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin as he testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee on April 9, 2024.
Protesters interrupt Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin as he testifies today before the Senate Armed Services Committee.Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Israel deploys 'C-Dome' defense system to shoot down 'suspicious aerial target'

A “suspicious aerial target” was shot down after it crossed into southern Israel territory near the city of Eilat, the country's military said in a statement.

The Israel Defense Forces said it was “successfully intercepted by the ‘C-Dome’ naval defense system.” Israeli media reported that it was the first time the system has been used. It is similar to the country's Iron Dome missile defense system, which uses radar to detect enemy rockets and intercept them.

"The target was tracked by the IDF, no injuries were reported and no damage was caused," the statement said.

U.S. gives Iranian weapons meant for Houthis to Ukraine

Ukraine is receiving a load of new weapons from the U.S. courtesy of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, according to a statement from U.S. Central Command.

According to U.S. Central Command, the weapons were originally being transferred to the Yemen Houthi rebels between 2021 and 2023 in violation of a United Nations Security Council resolution and were seized by the military along with partner naval forces. Ownership was officially given to the U.S. in December through the Department of Justice’s civil forfeiture claims.

The load includes 5,000 AK-47s, machine guns, sniper rifles, RPG-7s and over 500,000 rounds of 7.62mm ammunition.

"This constitutes enough materiel to equip one UKR BDE with small arms rifles," the post said, referring to a Ukrainian brigade. "These weapons will help Ukraine defend against Russia’s invasion."

Netanyahu: 'No force in the world will stop' Israeli operation in Rafah

Yael Factor

TEL AVIV — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed that "no force in the world" will stop Israel from an operation in the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

“We will complete the elimination of Hamas’s battalions, including in Rafah. No force in the world will stop us. There are many forces trying to do this but it will not help because this enemy, after what it has done, will not do this again," said Netanyahu, speaking to new IDF recruits at a military base in central Israel.

The Israeli leader said yesterday that he had decided on an unspecified date for the offensive, defying mounting global pressure not to assault a city where more than 1 million Palestinians are sheltering.

Palestinians shop for Eid al-Fitr, the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, in Rafah, Gaza on April 9, 2024.
Palestinians shop for Eid al-Fitr, the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, in Rafah today.Abed Rahim Khatib / Anadolu via Getty Images

Video shows moments aid workers killed in Gaza are identified

The moment that a World Central Kitchen aid worker identified his colleagues that were killed by Israeli airstrikes was captured by an NBC News crew in Gaza.

Tearfully he walked around Shuhada al-Aqsa Hospital in the city of Deir al-Balah, going from body to body, crying out in anguish as he recognized them.

Rubble and wrecked buildings filmed by NBC News crew in Khan Younis

After Israeli troops withdrew, Palestinians returning to Gaza’s southern city of Khan Younis were met with a scene of devastation. 

An NBC News crew filmed roads strewn with mounds of destroyed concrete, steel and upturned vehicles, buildings with their floors and windows blown out, their outer wall pockmarked with holes. Others are falling down and will likely have to be destroyed. Few appear untouched by the bombardment.

Amid the dust and the dirt, people are returning in packed cars, motorized tricycles and on carts pulled by donkeys. 

What awaits them remains unclear, but given the scale of the destruction it is unlikely they will find things as they left them.

Israeli offensive damaged more than half of Khan Younis buildings, map experts say

The Associated Press

A pair of mapping experts say Israel’s offensive in the southern Gaza City of Khan Younis appears to have left over half of the city’s buildings with damage or destruction visible from space.

As of last week, over 55% of the city’s buildings were likely damaged or destroyed, according to an analysis of Copernicus Sentinel-1 satellite data by Corey Scher of the CUNY Graduate Center and Jamon Van Den Hoek of Oregon State University. They say that accounts for 45,000 buildings.

Still, the damage in Khan Younis and other parts of the Strip’s south is considerably less than in the north of Gaza, where the researchers estimate 70% of buildings were likely damaged or destroyed.

Israel’s ground and aerial bombardment campaign, begun after the Hamas attack Oct. 7, has wreaked unprecedented damage on the strip, leveling entire apartment buildings and leaving much of the territory in ruins, a moonscape from war.

Israel withdrew its last ground troops from Khan Younis on Sunday, marking the end of a key phase in its war against Hamas.

Palestinians walk through the destruction in the wake of an Israeli air and ground offensive in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, on Monday, April 8, 2024.Image:
Palestinians walk through the destruction in Khan Younis yesterday.Fatima Shbair / AP

Turkey imposes export restrictions on Israel until Gaza cease-fire


Turkey restricted exports of a wide range of products to Israel on Tuesday until a ceasefire is declared in Gaza, in Ankara’s first significant measure against Israel after six months of war.

The trade restrictions, which come into force today, follow Israel’s rejection of a Turkish request to take part in an aid air-drop operation into Gaza. The Trade Ministry said the measures would apply to the export of products from 54 different categories, including iron, marble, steel, cement, aluminium, brick, fertilizer, construction equipment and products, aviation fuel, and more.

“This decision will remain in place until Israel, under its obligations emanating from international law, urgently declares a ceasefire in Gaza and allows the unhindered flow of sufficient humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip,” the ministry said.

Israel said it would respond to the measures, which include curbs on exports of steel, fertilizer and jet fuel, with its own restrictions on products from Turkey. Foreign Minister Israel Katz said Turkey had “unilaterally violated” trade agreements with Israel. He added that Turkish President Reccep Tayyip Erdogan “is again sacrificing the economic interests of the people of Turkey in order to support Hamas, and we will respond in kind.”

Israeli soldiers operating in the Gaza Strip in a photo released April 9, 2024.
Israeli soldiers operating in the Gaza Strip in a photo released today.Israeli army via AFP - Getty Images

Civilians' return to Northern Gaza a sticking point for Israel, source says

Hala Gorani

TEL AVIV — A major sticking point for the Israeli negotiating team in Cairo is the return of Palestinians to northern Gaza, a source in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office tells NBC News.

Other issues on the table in the talks in the Egyptian capital include how many and which hostages are returned and the length of a cease-fire, they added.

Hamas representatives are asking for the unfettered return of all Palestinians to the northern half of the besieged enclave, the source said.

Israeli negotiators are instead demanding “airport style” security checks on anyone traveling back north and have so far agreed only to a significantly reduced number of authorized returnees, said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Vice President Kamala Harris to meet with hostages' families today

WASHINGTON – Vice President Kamala Harris plans to meet today with families of Americans taken hostage by Hamas on Oct. 7. 

Harris will express her continued support for these families and the hostages and will provide an update on U.S. efforts to broker a deal to secure the release of all hostages and an immediate cease-fire, a White House official told NBC News.

Harris previously met with families of Americans taken hostage at the State Department in October. She has subsequently spoken to families of American hostages who were released last year, and the family of Itay Chen, following the announcement that he was believed to have been killed on Oct. 7.


Video on social media shows ambulances destroyed after Israel’s operations in Khan Younis

Aishwarya Thapa Chhetri

Larissa Gao and Aishwarya Thapa Chhetri

A video posted on Instagram and geolocated by NBC News appeared to show a large crater in front of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society’s Al Amal Hospital in Khan Younis, with several ambulances buried in sand and partially destroyed.

PRCS criticized the Israeli army for destroying its hospital, one of many sites that appeared devastated across the city after Israeli forces withdrew.

“The occupation forces raided the hospital, resulting in the destruction of medical equipment, nursing rooms, intensive care units, the ophthalmology department, the emergency operations room, and ambulances,” it said in a statement on X.

The Israel Defense Forces said yesterday that it destroyed Hamas’ launch sites from a humanitarian area in western Khan Younis, an area that includes the hospital, without saying the exact location. 

NBC News has not independently verified the statements.

Pope marks 6-month anniversary of Hamas attacks by meeting with relatives of hostages

The Associated Press

Pope Francis met yesterday with relatives of hostages taken by Hamas on Oct. 7, marking the six-month anniversary of the attack in southern Israel with an hourlong audience.

The Vatican released photos of the encounter, showing relatives of several of the hostages sitting in a semicircle in front of Francis in his private library in the Apostolic Palace. Each one held a poster with a photo and the name of a loved one.

HANDOUT / AFP - Getty Images

It was the second time Francis has met with relatives of the hostages. On Nov. 22, he met with a delegation of Israelis, and then separately a delegation of Palestinians whose relatives had been harmed during the long Mideast conflict.

Francis has called for the immediate release of the hostages and a cease-fire in Gaza, and for humanitarian aid to urgently reach desperate Palestinians.

Ashley Waxman Bakshi, relative of hostages Agah and Li-Yah Berger, said the audience was “very powerful” for the families. “He was very clear about his solidarity for the release of the hostages,” Waxman Bakshi told reporters afterward.

Returning to the rubble of Khan Younis

Max Burman

Palestinians with donkey-drawn carriages travel through the rubble of the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis yesterday after Israeli forces withdrew.

AFP Contributor#AFP / AFP - Getty Images

Netanyahu announces date has been set for Rafah ground offensive

Hala Gorani

TEL AVIV, Israel — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said a date has been set for Israeli forces to carry out an offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

Such an offensive is opposed by the Biden Administration, which is increasing pressure on Israel to negotiate a deal for a cease-fire and the release of hostages held by Hamas for six months.

Catch up with our latest coverage of the war

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