Medicine for hostages to be delivered in Gaza aid deal
Category: News & PoliticsVia: perrie-halpern • one month ago • 4 comments
By: Navanethem Pillay
What we know
- The U.S. has designated the Houthi rebels as "specially designated global terrorists," its latest step against the militants carrying out attacks in the Red Sea. Growing fears of escalation by Iran-backed groups across the region have been fueled by a wave of strikes by Tehran against three countries in the region, the latest of which hit Pakistan. Pakistan retaliated with its own strike against what it called terrorists in Iran.
- Much-needed medicine will be delivered to Gaza today for Israeli hostages in exchange for more humanitarian aid for Palestinian civilians. The agreement brokered by Qatar and France is the first diplomatic breakthrough since the collapse of a truce, but the White House says "serious and intensive discussions" for a new hostage deal continue.
- Civilians displaced by the war in Gaza have been rushing to flee as Israeli forces attacked the area around al-Nasser, the main hospital in the southern city of Khan Younis, according to NBC News' team in Gaza and videos posted on social media by local reporters.
- More than 24,000 people have been killed in Gaza since the war began, including more than 10,000 children, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. More than 60,000 have been injured, and thousands more are missing and presumed dead.
- Israeli military officials said at least 188 soldiers have been killed during the ground invasion of Gaza. About 1,200 people were killed and about 240 hostages were taken after Hamas launched multipronged attacks on Israel on Oct. 7.
- NBC News' Richard Engel, Raf Sanchez, Chantal Da Silva, Anna Schecter and Ali Arouzi are reporting from the region.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken was asked during the World Economic Forum whether Jewish lives matter more than Palestinian or Muslim lives.
"No, period," Blinken said. "What we're seeing every single day in Gaza is gut-wrenching. And suffering we're seeing among innocent men, women and children breaks my heart. The question is, what is to be done?"
The death toll in Gaza has exceeded 24,000, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.
Pakistan says it carried out strikes against terrorists inside Iran
Pakistan carried out strikes inside Iran that targeted terrorists Thursday morning local time, Pakistan's Foreign Affairs Ministry said.
The strikes in the Sistan and Baluchistan province of Iran were "highly coordinated and specifically targeted precision military strikes against terrorist hideouts," the ministry said.
They came after Iran launched missiles that struck Pakistan.
"Pakistan fully respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Islamic Republic of Iran," the Foreign Affairs Ministry said. "The sole objective of today's act was in pursuit of Pakistan's own security and national interest which is paramount and cannot be compromised."
The ministry said that its country's strikes targeted terrorists called Sarmachars, who were hiding in Iran. It said the Sarmachars are from Pakistan.
"This morning's action was taken in light of credible intelligence of impending large scale terrorist activities by these so called Sarmachars," the foreign ministry said in a statement.
The ministry recalled its ambassador to Iran after Iran's strikes in Pakistan.
Iranian state media said missiles and drones had targeted two bases in Pakistan's southwestern province of Baluchistan belonging to the militant group Jaish al-Adl, which has carried out past attacks against Iranian security forces in the border area between the two countries.
Pakistan said that two children were killed and that the attack was unprovoked.
U.S. struck 14 Houthi missiles that presented 'imminent threat'
The U.S. attacked 14 Houthi missiles in its latest strikes against the rebels in Yemen, U.S. Central Command said in a statement.
The missiles "were loaded to be fired in Houthi controlled areas in Yemen," Central Command said.
"These missiles on launch rails presented an imminent threat to merchant vessels and U.S. Navy ships in the region and could have been fired at any time, prompting U.S. forces to exercise their inherent right and obligation to defend themselves," it said.
Houthi rebels are Iranian-backed militants who have seized control of parts of Yemen, according to U.S. officials.
The U.S. has conducted strikes on Houthi positions in rebel-held areas of Yemen in response to missile and drone attacks launched by the Houthis against commercial ships in the Red Sea. The Houthis declared support for Hamas against Israel.
The U.S. strikes were carried out at 11:59 p.m. Wednesday Sanaa time, Central Command said.
Palestinian official says at least $15 billion needed for Gaza housing
DAVOS, Switzerland — At least $15 billion will be needed to rebuild houses in Gaza, the head of the Palestine Investment Fund said today, underlining the scale of devastation caused by Israel's offensive.
Chairman Mohammed Mustafa said international reports indicated 350,000 housing units had been partly or completely damaged in Gaza. Assuming 150,000 of these would need to be rebuilt at an average cost of $100,000 per unit, "that's $15 billion for housing units," he said.
"We still didn't talk about infrastructure, we didn't talk about the hospitals that were damaged, the grids," he said at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
The figure points to reconstruction costs that will dwarf previous bills for rebuilding Gaza after earlier conflicts, with the war not yet over more than three months after it began.
After a war between Hamas and Israel in 2014, which lasted seven weeks and killed 2,100 Palestinians, Qatar spent over $1 billion on housing and relief projects in Gaza. Israel has laid waste to much of the territory in a campaign that health authorities in Hamas-run Gaza say has killed 24,448 people since Oct. 7, when the Palestinian group ignited the war by storming Israel, killing 1,200 people and abducting 240 more, according to Israeli tallies.
Figures released by the Hamas-run media office in Gaza say that more than 360,000 housing units have sustained severe or partial damage and that more than 70,000 have been completely destroyed.
Leon Panetta describes Houthis as a 'very resilient guerrilla force'
The U.S. has labeled the Houthi rebels a "specially designated global terrorist group."
The new designation is said to put a stranglehold on the money the Houthis use to support terrorist acts. During the last several weeks, the Iran-backed rebels have fired dozens of missiles at ships in the Red Sea — upending global shipping routes and supply chains.
Leon Panetta — former defense secretary, former CIA director and former White House chief of staff — tells NBC News the U.S. needs stronger intelligence on targets as the risk of escalation increases.
Israel allowed to compete in international hockey tournament following security concerns
The International Ice Hockey Federation says Israel will be allowed to compete in a coming tournament in Bulgaria next week following confirmation of safety and security measures it says it needed for the team to compete.
The federation's statement today said Bulgarian authorities and other stakeholders are implementing steps to handle "the identified risks." It added that future decisions will be made case by case.
"A one-week tournament with the participation of the Israeli National Team without any guarantee about safety and security of all people involved is irresponsible," the statement said.
Last week, the federation said it was restricting the Israeli national team from participating in its under-20 Division III tournament over security concerns but did not mention the ongoing war or escalated tensions since it began.
Gazans sink further into despair amid all-consuming struggle to survive, UNRWA chief says
Recounting his most recent trip to Gaza, United Nations Relief and Works Agency Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini said every time he visits the enclave, he watches civilians sink further into despair as survival consumes their every hour.
Civilians in Rafah are so overcrowded in makeshift shelters, some of which house 20 people under plastic, that one could "barely drive a car amid the sea of people," he said. There is little to no information about conditions in north Gaza, where Lazzarini was not permitted to enter.
"In Deir al-Balah, in the middle areas, I visited one of our schools-turned-shelter," he said. "The overcrowding was claustrophobic, and the filthiness was striking. I heard stories of women forgoing food and water to avoid having to use the unsanitary toilets."
Lazzarini again called for parties to implement an immediate humanitarian cease-fire to increase the flow of aid.
"This has gone on for far too long," he said. "There are no winners in these wars. There is endless chaos and growing despair."
U.S. military strikes more sites in Yemen
The U.S. military struck multiple missile sites in Yemen tonight, according to two U.S. defense officials.
U.S. Navy ships launched Tomahawk missiles to take out multiple Houthi missiles and launchers, the officials said. Defense officials are calling the strikes pre-emptive or defensive because they took out missiles and launchers that posed an imminent threat to ships in the Red Sea.
The strikes come after a U.S.-owned ship was hit by a Houthi attack drone earlier today. While the ship was damaged, no injuries were reported.
White House welcomes Qatar deal for 'badly-needed medicine' to hostages in Gaza
The White House welcomed Qatar's announcement that a deal was reached for "badly-needed medicine" to reach the hostages who remain captive in Gaza, National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a statement earlier today.
"We will continue to pursue every effort to secure the release of the hostages and reunite them with their families," Watson said. "The United States remains the leading provider of humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza and we are working to sustain and further expand those efforts over the coming weeks."
A spokesperson for Qatar's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a post on X that medicine and aid entered into Gaza today for the benefit of all civilians in the Palestinian enclave, including the hostages.
Houthis say they attacked an American ship in Gulf of Aden
Ammar Cheikh Omar
Yemen's Houthi rebels, designated a terrorist group by the U.S. today, said it made a direct hit on an American vessel in the Gulf of Aden as it "will not stop" targeting ships supporting Israel.
The group added that "a response to the American and British attacks is inevitably coming, and that any new attack will not remain without response and punishment."
Houthi rebels have launched repeated attacks on vessels in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden that it believes support Israel and have refused to stop until the siege on Gaza is over.
The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations issued an alert today after a ship reported being hit by a drone, causing a fire onboard that was extinguished.
Genco Shipping confirmed in a statement to NBC News that its crews were safe after it was hit by an "unidentified projectile."
"An initial inspection by the crew indicates that damage to the vessel's gangway is limited, and the vessel has remained stable and underway on a course out of the area," the company said.
Aid for Gazans and medicine for hostages reaches enclave
Chantal Da Silva
TEL AVIV — Crucial aid for Palestinians in Gaza and medications for hostages held by Hamas have made their way into the enclave after Israel and Hamas reached a deal, the Qatar government said.
The deal to see medicine and humanitarian aid delivered to civilians in Gaza in exchange for medicine for hostages held by Hamas was struck after mediation efforts by Qatari and French officials.
Majed bin Mohammed Al-Ansari, spokesperson for Qatar's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said yesterday that medications were expected to be dispatched from Doha to Egypt today before being transported across the border into Gaza.
It comes after United Nations agencies warned that Gaza was in urgent need of more aid or its population would soon face famine and disease amid the spiraling humanitarian crisis in the enclave.
Meanwhile, there have been growing calls from the families of those held hostage in Gaza for medications to be urgently delivered to their loved ones, with some also demanding to see proof of delivery once medication has reached them.
Ella Ben Ami, whose father remains in Hamas captivity after her mother was released in November, said she is desperate for medication to reach her father, who she said was shot during Hamas' Oct. 7 attack.
But, she told NBC News on Saturday, "I can't believe that medication will come over there until we have proof in our hands."
Sen. Warner: 'We support Israel' but not 'every Israeli politician' is focused on ending violence
President Biden has redesignated the Houthis in Yemen as a terrorist organization in an effort to curb support for the group and cut off their funding.
"We support Israel," said Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. "But that doesn't mean we support every Israeli politician that, candidly, may or may not have the interest of peace, the interest of ending the violence at top of mind."
Israeli government instructs doctors not to speak with U.N. investigators about Oct. 7 attack
TEL AVIV — Doctors have been told not to cooperate with United Nations representatives who are investigating Hamas' Oct. 7 attack, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lior Haiat confirmed to NBC News.
The Times of Israel first reported that doctors and health care workers were forbidden from speaking with members of the The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and Israel, accusing the body of having an anti-Israel stance.
"The commission of inquiry is there to investigate Israel without any time limits, unlike any other commission of inquiry from the U.N. system," Haiat said. "Furthermore, the three people chosen to head it are famous antisemitic and anti-Israel people."
The comisssion is chaired by Navanethem Pillay of South Africa, who served as U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights from 2008 to 2014, and includes Miloon Kothari of India and Chris Sidoti of Australia. All three have previously made comments about Israel that the Israeli government has taken issue with, according to the Times of Israel.
Number of safe spaces for health care workers is' dwindling,' aid group says after Nasser Hospital attack
A surgeon working with Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) said that patients and displaced civilians had to flee in panic after the hospital was bombed without a prior evacuation order.
NBC News' team on the ground had reported intense bombardment inside the city of Khan Younis but was not immediately able to independently confirm the situation at the hospital. The Israel Defense Forces declined to comment.
Medecins Sans Frontieres blamed Israel for the attack.
"The number of safe spaces for organizations like MSF to provide health care is dwindling as constant evacuation orders and attacks on health facilities have repeatedly forced medical staff to evacuate hospitals and leave patients behind," the organization said.
Pope Francis condemns Iranian strike on Iraq, calls for peace
In his weekly audience at the Vatican, Pope Francis condemned Tuesday's strikes on Iraq by Iran and expressed concerns it would provoke regional conflict.
He urged peace and reconciliation, asking all parties to "avoid any step that fuels tension in the Middle East and other war scenarios," according to Reuters.
Rutgers reinstates Students for Justice in Palestine; group demands school divest from Israel
Rutgers University has reinstated its chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine with a yearlong probation after the group was suspended for multiple conduct complaints, the school said in a statement.
The student group livestreamed a news conference on YouTube, in which three unidentified members with kuffiyehs covering their faces addressed the conduct case. The students accused Rutgers administration of "treating their Palestinian students with malice and disregard."
Rutgers said that the group had been suspended for "protesting in nonpublic forums, causing disruption to classes and university functioning, which are violations of university policy."
It added that interim suspensions are typical after an organization is subject to multiple complaints: "None of the actions taken were based on speech."
The group today demanded the university divest its endowment fund of Israeli bonds and corporations connected to Israel, including Lockheed Martin and Boeing. The demand is part of a larger Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, a nonviolent protest aimed at placing economic pressure on Israel's government.
"How can Palestinian students and the Rutgers community as a whole be expected to feel safe while their university willingly funds the arming of Israel's genocide on Palestine?" one of the students remarked. "The obvious answer is they simply cannot."
Family hopes hostage father will hold his newborn daughter one day
TEL AVIV — Shachar was born five weeks ago with curious eyes and two older sisters who adore her. But she's missing one thing: Her father, Sagui Dekel-Chen, is one of the six American hostages still being held in Gaza.
He's never held his daughter. He doesn't know her name, which means "Dawn" in Hebrew. He may not even know that his family survived the Oct. 7 attack.
Dekel-Chen's father, Jonathan, told NBC News that Sagui secured his wife, Avital, who was seven months pregnant, and their two daughters in a safe room before going out to confront the Hamas terrorists who had overrun their home in kibbutz Nir Oz.
When his family emerged from the safe room 10 hours later, Sagui was gone — kidnapped and taken into Gaza.
"He actually does not know whether his wife and his daughter survived the attack. And so, the birth of Shachar is an enormous blessing for all of us but also a cause of even greater heartache because he simply cannot know in captivity," Jonathan said.
The family said some of the hostages freed in an exchange in late November had seen Sagui briefly in Hamas tunnels, giving them comfort that he was alive as recently as Thanksgiving.
Jonathan said he imagined seeing his son meet Shachar for the first time and reuniting with his family: "His two little girls are going to leap into his arms, and his wife and his new baby are going to hug him and never let him go."