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U.S. pushes for temporary Gaza cease-fire at U.N. vote

U.S. pushes for temporary Gaza cease-fire at U.N. vote

Médecins Sans Frontières say Israeli forces shelled Khan Younis shelter, 2 staff family members killed

A building in the Al-Mawasi area of Khan Younis where members of the Médecins Sans Frontières staff were sheltering has been shelled by Israeli forces, the organization said in a statement this evening.

“While details are still emerging, ambulance crews have now reached the site, where at least two family members of our colleagues have been killed and six people wounded,” MSF said. “We are horrified by what has taken place.”

The aid organization, also known as Doctors Without Borders, said Israeli forces were conducting a raid on the facility which also hosted the staff members’ families. The IDF did not immediately respond to a request for comment from NBC News.

U.S. would like cease-fire by Ramadan; Israel has not provided plan for Rafah

Abigail Williams

Israel has not presented a plan to protect more than a million civilians in Rafah ahead of its threatened assault on the border city, according to State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller.

Miller said in a briefing today that while he’s seen reports that a plan is being drafted, he could not speak to what that might include. Officials are also hoping a temporary cease-fire can be implemented in Gaza before the start of Ramadan, which is expected to begin on March 10 after sunset.

“As I said we’d like to get it as soon as possible, so that’s what we’re going to continue to try to do,” Miller said. “At the same time, we have made clear that Israel should not launch a full military campaign in Rafah unless it has a humanitarian plan that is both credible and realistic and one that they can execute.”

Israeli Minister Benny Gantz, a member of the government’s war Cabinet, said yesterday that Israel’s military campaign will continue into the holy Islamic month if hostages are still in Gaza at the time.

International aid group says two staff members working at Nasser Hospital are missing

Two aid workers who were based in Nasser Hospital are unaccounted for, according to a statement from Médecins Sans Frontières, also known as Doctors Without Borders.

The international aid organization said that one staff member has not been heard from since the Feb. 15 raid on Nasser Hospital while the other has not been heard from since being detained at a checkpoint while leaving the hospital. The organization is asking Israeli officials to provide information about the staff members’ whereabouts.

Guillemette Thomas, MSF medical coordinator for Palestine, described the situation at Nasser Hospital as one example of the way Gaza’s medical infrastructure is being dismantled.

“Even though they were initially told they could stay inside the facility, medical staff and patients were put in danger in a place where they should have been protected,” Thomas said. “We are outraged that, once again, they have had to pay a heavy price.”

The IDF did not immediately respond to a request for comment from NBC News.

Netanyahu says Israel won’t ‘pay any price’ for release of Gaza hostages

Reuters

JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said today that Israel would not pay any price for the return of hostages held in Gaza amid ongoing negotiations.

Asked about the 134 hostages who remain in Gaza, Smotrich told Kan Radio that their return was “very important” but that they could not be released “at any cost.”

He said the way to free them was by ramping up the military pressure on Gaza and defeating Hamas. His remarks drew rebukes from opposition leader Yair Lapid and minister Benny Gantz and angered some families of hostages.

But shortly after the radio interview, Netanyahu’s office published a statement echoing Smotrich’s position.

“There is a lot of pressure on Israel from home and abroad to stop the war before we achieve all of our goals, including a deal to release the hostages at any cost,” Netanyahu said. “We are not willing to pay any price, certainly not the delusional cost that Hamas demands of us, which would mean defeat for the state of Israel.”

The remarks came as the United States plans to send its Middle East envoy to the region for continued talks between the U.S., Egypt, Israel and Qatar that seek to broker a ceasefire and the release of hostages. The most significant release of hostages has so far happened during the only, week-long negotiated pause in the war in November, when Hamas freed 110 Israelis and foreigners it had captured.

18 more patients evacuated from Nasser Hospital, WHO says

The World Health Organization has completed a second mission to evacuate patients from Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, bringing the total number to 32 as roughly 130 patients remain in the defunct medical complex.

There were 18 patients safely transported out of the facility, including eight in critical condition and two children. Once one of the most important hospitals in south Gaza, WHO Communications Director Chris Black described Nasser Hospital as being “on its knees.”

According to Black, the organization is working with staff at Nasser Hospital to identify the most critical patients and utilizing ambulances from the Palestine Red Crescent Society to transport them.

“It’s a slow process,” Black said in a video posted today. “We have four ambulances…we can put two, maybe three, patients at most in these ambulances. The road coming in there is very, very hard to manipulate.”

‘We need flour’: Northern Gaza residents lament trickle of aid deliveries

Amid wrecked buildings and mangled cars that line the streets in Gaza City, Palestinian residents are searching for food and expressing frustration about the area’s limited aid deliveries, which they say do not include flour.

NBC News’ crew in Gaza recorded video and conducted several interviews in Gaza City yesterday, and witnessed crowds flocking to aid trucks in search for food.

Mohammed Al-Gassass, who hails from the Al-Shaaf neighborhood, said he travels long distances in search of basic food items to sustain his family of 10, including his children, but that his attempts are usually fruitless.

“We need flour,” he said, while holding a child’s backpack. “I come here trying to find flour, I bring hibiscus, but even if we eat this, we need bread. How long will this situation remain? There is no flour,” he said.

Al-Gassass implored international institutions to include flour in batches of aid.

“We came here today to get flour for our children,” said Mohammed Abu Arab, wearing a black leather jacket in front of shuttered stores, adding that he couldn’t find any and that wartime prices for a bag of flour in northern Gaza were triple those in southern areas.

Their comments came amid warnings from U.N. aid agencies about looming famine and malnutrition, especially for people in northern Gaza, which is especially difficult for aid convoys to reach. Today, the World Food Program announced that it would pause “lifesaving food aid” deliveries in the north until conditions would allow for humanitarian operations.

International pressure will not stop Israel’s offensive, Netanyahu tells soldiers

As Israel faces scrutiny at the International Court of Justice and the U.N. Security Council, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Israeli forces at the country’s Zikim base today: “No pressure will stop us.”

Netanyahu acknowledged that “there is a lot of pressure on Israel,” including domestic pressure, to end the offensive. His government has faced calls from various countries to implement a cease-fire and Israelis have protested to call for new elections.

But the prime minister reiterated that the war will continue.

“We really want to achieve more releases and we are also willing to go a long way, but we are not ready to pay any price, certainly not to pay the prices, the illusions that Hamas demands from us, which mean defeat for the state of Israel,” Netanyahu said.

He added that Israel’s three war objectives are eliminating Hamas, the return of the hostages and an assurance that Gaza will “no longer pose a threat” to Israel’s security.

Israeli officials have said that hostage negotiations require military pressure, but Hamas has refused to consider any deals that don’t include a permanent cease-fire and the release of a large number of Palestinian detainees from Israeli prisons.

South Africa asks international court to find Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories illegal

Reuters

South Africa urged the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague today to issue a nonbinding legal opinion that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories is illegal, arguing it would help efforts to reach a settlement.

Representatives of South Africa opened the second day of hearings at the World Court, with more than 50 states presenting arguments until Monday. The hearing follows a 2022 request by the U.N. General Assembly for an advisory, or nonbinding, opinion on the occupation.

“A clear legal characterization of the nature of Israel’s regime over the Palestinian people can only assist in remedying the ongoing delay and achieving a just settlement,” Vusimuzi Madonsela, South Africa’s ambassador to the Netherlands, told the judges.

Yesterday, Palestinian representatives asked the U.N.’s highest court to declare Israel’s occupation of their territory illegal, also saying the court’s advisory opinion could contribute to a two-state solution and a lasting peace.

Israel is not attending the hearings but sent a written statement saying an advisory opinion would be harmful to achieving a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians.

U.N. experts call for probe into alleged violations against Palestinian women and girls

TEL AVIV — United Nations experts have called for an investigation into alleged violations against Palestinian women and girls in Gaza and the occupied West Bank since the start of the war.

“We are shocked by reports of the deliberate targeting and extrajudicial killing of Palestinian women and children in places where they sought refuge, or while fleeing,” a group of experts appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council said in a statement Monday. “Some of them were reportedly holding white pieces of cloth when they were killed by the Israeli army or affiliated forces.”

They also expressed concern over the alleged arbitrary detention of hundreds of Palestinian women and girls in Gaza and the occupied West Bank since the start of the war. They said many detainees were reportedly subjected to “inhuman and degrading treatment,” including being held under difficult conditions, severely beaten and denied menstruation pads, food and medicine.

They said multiple cases of rape and sexual abuse have also been reported. NBC News was not able to independently verify the allegations.

Israel’s U.N. office called the allegations “despicable and unfounded” in a statement posted on X. The statement also accused U.N. experts of a delay in acknowledging allegations of sexual assault levied against Hamas following its Oct. 7 attack, and it accused the group of being motivated by “hatred” against Israel.

Prince William concerned about scale of suffering in Gaza

Mithil Aggarwal

Britain’s Prince William today called for an “end to the fighting” in Gaza, saying in a statement that there is a “desperate need” for increased aid to the enclave.

“Sometimes it is only when faced with the sheer scale of human suffering that the importance of permanent peace is brought home,” the Prince of Wales said in a statement.

“Too many have been killed,” he said, while also calling for the return of all hostages held by Hamas.

In response, Eylon Levy, a spokesperson for the Israeli prime minister’s office, thanked the prince for his prior support and for his calls to free the hostages.

“Israelis of course want to see an end to the fighting as soon as possible, and that will be possible once the 134 hostages are released, and once the Hamas terror army threatening to repeat the October 7 atrocities is dismantled,” Levy said in a statement.

Hamas says medicine is being delivered to Israeli hostages

Hamas has told Qatari officials that medicine meant for Israeli hostages has been received and is being delivered to them, Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

The ministry’s spokesperson said the medicine was part of a deal between Israel and Hamas mediated by Qatar last month, and that the agreement “includes the entry of medicines and a shipment of humanitarian aid … in exchange for delivering the medicines needed by hostages.”

Foreign officials criticize U.S. veto of cease-fire resolution

The third U.S. veto of a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for a cease-fire in Gaza has drawn criticism and condemnation from officials across a swath of countries and member states, chief among them the Palestinian ambassador to the U.N.

“The veto of this draft resolution is not only regrettable … but also absolutely reckless and dangerous, again shielding Israel even after it commits the most shocking crimes, while exposing millions of innocent Palestinian people to more untold horrors,” Riyad Mansour said during the Security Council meeting today.

U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas Greenfield defended the veto by saying the resolution would have put hostage negotiations at risk. An alternative U.S. proposal is circulating that ties a temporary pause in fighting to hostage releases.

Israel’s ambassador to the U.N. called the failed resolution “absurd” and equated it to kicking a can down the road.

Representatives from other countries, however, focused on the immediate need for aid to Gazans, the majority of whom have been displaced from their homes and face starvation in addition to persistent violence.

In a statement, Egypt’s Foreign Ministry called the U.S. veto a “shameful precedent” and said “Egypt strongly denounces the international position of selectivity and double standards in dealing with wars and armed conflicts in different regions of the world, which has come to question the credibility of the rules and mechanisms of action.”

France’s ambassador to the U.N., Nicholas de Rivière, called the death toll in Gaza “intolerable” and called for an end Israel’s military operations.

“There is an extreme urgency to conclude, without further delay, an agreement on a ceasefire which finally guarantees the protection of all civilians and the massive entry of emergency aid,” Rivière said after the vote.

Representatives from China, Russia, Japan and Qatar all emphasized the need for action as the disastrous humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate. U.K Ambassador Barbara Woodward, who abstained from the vote, said an “immediate suspension in fighting” is necessary, but also told fellow member states that simply calling for one “will not make it happen.”

WHO accuses Israel of hindering medical rescue missions to Nasser Hospital

Mithil Aggarwal

The World Health Organization accused Israel today of impeding rescue missions around the Nasser Hospital complex in southern Gaza.

“Weak and frail patients were transferred amidst active conflict near the aid convoy,” the WHO said in a statement. The hospital has no electricity or water, it added, and medical waste and garbage there are “creating a breeding ground for disease.”

The WHO said the hospital area is surrounded by destroyed buildings, and the lack of any intact roads forces medical teams to reach the facility by foot. Hospital staff said the destruction was “indescribable.”

The IDF said on Sunday that it had found weapons in the medical complex and arrested suspected terrorists there.

U.S. draft resolution ties temporary cease-fire to hostage release

Abigail Williams

NBC News has obtained the draft U.N. Security Council resolution that the U.S. is circulating as an alternative to the resolution it vetoed today.

The draft resolution does not call for an immediate cease-fire; instead, it calls for a temporary cease-fire as part of the ongoing hostage negotiations.

In addition, the draft says, a major ground offensive into Rafah “should not proceed under current circumstances,” because it “would result in further harm to civilians and their further displacement including potentially into neighboring countries, which would have serious implications for regional peace and security.”

This draft is being offered as an alternative to the Algerian resolution that failed today, after a U.S. veto. That resolution called for an immediate humanitarian cease-fire, but Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., called the vote on the Algerian proposal “wishful and irresponsible.”

She told members of the Security Council that the rejected proposal would have put “sensitive negotiations” in jeopardy without forging a path for durable peace or ensuring the release of hostages.

Food deliveries into northern Gaza paused until conditions improve, World Food Programme says

Annie Hill

Deliveries of lifesaving food aid to northern Gaza will be paused until conditions in the enclave allow for safe distribution, the U.N. World Food Programme said in a statement today.

“The decision to pause deliveries to the north of the Gaza Strip has not been taken lightly, as we know it means the situation there will deteriorate further and more people risk dying of hunger,” the statement said.

In a statement, Gaza’s government urged the WFP to reverse its decision, calling it “a death sentence for three quarters of a million people.”

The statement also called on all United Nations institutions to resume work in Gaza “instead of disavowing and escaping their international responsibilities and mandates that must be implemented.”

A report form the Global Nutrition Cluster found that more than 15% of children under 2 are malnourished in northern Gaza, and 3% are suffering from “severe wasting,” based on data collected last month. The World Health Organization said the situation is “likely to be even graver today.”

U.N. agencies warn of ‘explosion’ in Gaza child deaths

Mithil Aggarwal

As Gaza faces increasingly dire food and water shortages, U.N. agencies warned in a joint assessment that preventable child deaths could explode in the enclave, which is “on the brink of a nutrition crisis.”

“Children’s nutrition will continue to plummet, leading to preventable deaths or health issues which will affect the children of Gaza for the rest of their lives,” said Ted Chaiban, UNICEF’s deputy executive director for humanitarian action and supply operations.

At least 90% of children under age 5 are suffering from one or more infectious diseases, and the limited food they can access is of “the lowest nutritional value,” according to the U.N. agencies.

“Hunger and disease are a deadly combination,” said Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Program.

575 Israeli soldiers have been killed since the war started

At least 575 Israel Defense Forces soldiers have been killed since Oct. 7, according to Elyon Levy, the prime minister’s spokesperson.

“That’s up by one since our last update,” he said during his briefing today.

Staff Sgt. Maoz Morel died yesterday after being injured in battle last week in southern Gaza.

Since Israel’s ground invasion of Gaza began, at least 237 IDF soldiers have died.

Cease-fire resolution fails at Security Council after another U.S. veto

A cease-fire resolution proposed by Algeria was blocked at the Security Council meeting after the U.S. used its veto.

It was the third time the U.S. has blocked a cease-fire resolution since the start of the war. But this time, the U.S. said it would offer a different proposal for a vote. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield defended the decision to the rest of the council members, saying the Algerian resolution would not bring about durable peace or secure the release of hostages.

“Sometimes hard diplomacy takes more time than any of us might like,” she said. “Any action this Council takes should help and not hinder these sensitive ongoing negotiations.”

Biden’s Middle East adviser plans to visit Egypt and Israel

Brett McGurk, President Joe Biden’s top Middle East adviser, is slated to visit Israel and Egypt this week. A U.S. official confirmed that his visit will include talks on Israel’s possible military operation in Rafah and the efforts to secure the release of the hostages still held by Hamas. 

Troops entering Rafah would endanger hostages, Israel’s culture minister says

Annemarie Bonner

Miki Zohar, Israel’s culture minister, warned today that if Israel sends troops into Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost city, that would endanger the hostages held there by Hamas.

“It’s clear that we don’t want to put anyone in danger, not a single hostage,” Zohar said in a committee meeting at the Knesset, Israel’s parliament. “But the answer is yes, going into Gaza will endanger the hostages.”

Following the comment, he wrote on X that the only way to reach a deal was “massive military pressure on Hamas.”

IDF orders evacuation of two Gaza neighborhoods

Mithil Aggarwal

Israel’s military warned residents to evacuate two neighborhoods in central Gaza today, ahead of a new offensive.

People living in the Alzayton and Turkmen neighborhoods have been asked to “move immediately,” IDF spokesperson Avichay Adraee said today in a post on X in Arabic.

He added that they should go to a “humanitarian area” in Al-Mawasi on the coast in southern Gaza.

New video of hostage family ‘tore our hearts out,’ relative says

TEL AVIV — Relatives of a family held hostage by Hamas have described their heartbreak after watching footage shared by the Israel Defense Forces yesterday appearing to show their loved ones.

“It really tore our hearts out,” ⁠Ofri Bibas-Levy, the sister of Yarden Bibas, said in a video news conference today. “Everything still feels unbearable.”

IDF spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said yesterday that the footage showed Shiri Bibas and her sons Kfir and Ariel being kidnapped and transferred into a car in the city of Khan Younis in southern Gaza.

Shiri’s husband, Yarden, was also kidnapped but was separated from the family, he said. 

NBC News could not independently geolocate the footage or confirm the date or identities of those seen in it. The IDF said it was taken from security cameras.

Kfir was 10 months old when he was kidnapped and is believed to be the youngest person taken during Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks on Israel. Ariel was 4 years old.

Hamas’ military wing, the Qassam Brigades, had previously said Shiri Bibas and her sons were killed by Israeli bombing in November. NBC News has not been able to independently verify that claim.

Hagari said the IDF was “very concerned” for their condition and safety. 

Ofri Bibas-Levy also called on “decision makers in Israel and worldwide to be involved in negotiations” to secure a deal to see hostages released, as well as to “prioritize the return of these children.”

U.S. congressional delegation visits Rafah

Charlene Gubash

CAIRO — A House of Representatives delegation led by Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., is today visiting the Rafah border crossing into Gaza to inspect the delivery of humanitarian aid to the enclave, according to the regional Egyptian governor’s office.

Smith, the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, arrived at Al-Arish Airport, where he was greeted by North Sinai’s governor, Maj. Gen. Muhammad Abdel Fadil Shusha, according to a statement.

Food crisis in Gaza has worsened significantly, U.N. report warns

TEL AVIV — The mounting food crisis in Gaza has “worsened significantly,” with almost all the babies and pregnant women in the enclave grappling with “severe food poverty,” a new report warned today.

Over 90% of babies ages 6 to 23 months and pregnant and breastfeeding women are eating two or fewer food groups a day, according to the report from the Global Nutrition Cluster, a coalition of humanitarian groups.

Displaced Palestinian children gather to receive food in Rafah, southern Gaza today.Mohammed Abed / AFP – Getty Images

“The food they have access to is of the lowest nutritional value,” the report says, adding that that 81% of households lack safe and clean water, with average household access at less than 1 liter per person per day — far from the minimum standard of at least 15 liters per person per day.

The report emphasized that this was particularly concerning for babies relying on infant formula, of which there has been a rise in the midst of the war.

Hamas leader arrives in Egypt for new talks

Max Burman

Hamas’ political leader Ismail Haniyeh has arrived in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, for new talks about the war in Gaza.

Haniyeh arrived this morning at the head of a delegation “to hold discussions with Egyptian officials” about the war, Hamas said in a statement.

Israeli forces search buildings in Gaza

Max Butterworth

An image released by the Israeli army today shows soldiers searching a building at an undisclosed location in the Gaza Strip.

Israeli Army / AFP – Getty Images

26 E.U. countries warn Israel against ‘catastrophic’ Rafah offensive

Reuters

BRUSSELS — All European Union countries except Hungary warned Israel yesterday against launching an offensive in Rafah that they said would deepen the catastrophe of some 1.5 million refugees crammed into the city on the southern edge of Gaza.

“An attack on Rafah would be absolutely catastrophic … it would be unconscionable,” Ireland’s Foreign Minister Micheal Martin said before a meeting of foreign ministers from the 27 E.U. member states in Brussels.

After the talks ended, all but one of them called in a joint statement for “an immediate humanitarian pause that would lead to a lasting ceasefire, the unconditional release of all hostages and the provision of humanitarian assistance.”

The statement was issued in the name of “Foreign Ministers of 26 Member-States of the European Union” and diplomats said Hungary — a close ally of the Israeli government — was the sole country that did not sign up.

“We ask the Israeli Government not to take military action in Rafah that would worsen an already catastrophic humanitarian situation and prevent the urgently needed provision of basic services and humanitarian assistance,” the ministers said.

Israel is preparing to mount a ground invasion of Gaza’s southernmost city, which it has called a last bastion of Hamas control after almost five months of fighting. Israel accuses Hamas fighters of hiding among civilians, something the militant group denies, and says “extraordinary measures” were being taken to avoid civilian casualties.

But E.U. foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said it would be impossible to prevent civilian deaths.

“We have to continue putting pressure on Israel to make them understand that there are so many people in the streets of Rafah, it will be impossible to avoid civilian casualties,” he said.

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