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Live updates: Gaza gripped by humanitarian crisis as Israel readies ground attack

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Live updates: Gaza gripped by humanitarian crisis as Israel readies ground attack

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Foreign national Palestinians can cross from Gaza to Egypt starting tomorrow, Palestinian Embassy says

Foreign national Palestinians will be able to cross the border into Egypt starting at 9 a.m. local time, at which time humanitarian aid will also begin crossing into Gaza, according to Kamel Khatib, a representative for the Embassy of Palestine.

Family member of American hostages says she ‘cannot relax’ until loved ones are home

A family member of Avava and Keith Siegel, who were kidnapped by Hamas militants, said she met with a group of U.S. senators on Sunday to discuss the situation.

“We all told them that we want our families back in Israel and now,” the family member, who asked not to be named due to fear of being targeted and harassed, told NBC News. “We really feel that we getting great support from from America. But until we don’t have them home with us, we cannot relax.”

She added that she was frustrated with with the Israeli government’s response to help families of the hostages.

“I need to support my country, I need to support my government because this is my country,” she said. “But at the moment we getting very little support.”

On Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who as among the bipartisan coalition of senators meeting with families of hostages, announced that he would direct senators to work with the White House to create an aid package for Israel.

Israel says it is reopening water supply to southern Gaza

Israel Katz, then-foreign minister of Israel, in Athens, Greece.
Israel Katz, then-foreign minister of Israel, in Greece in 2019.Petros Giannakouris / AP file

Israel said it is reopening the water supply to southern parts of Gaza after shutting it off in the wake of Hamas’ attack on Oct. 7.

Israeli Minister of Energy and Infrastructure Israel Katz said in a statement posted on X today that the decision to reopen the water supply to the south of the Gaza Strip was agreed upon between Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and U.S. President Joe Biden. He said it would help push civilians to move south and would make it possible to tighten Israel’s siege on Gaza.

The Palestinian Water Authority did not immediately respond to a request for comment and NBC News was not immediately able to confirm the water supply had been restarted.

Aid workers in Gaza told the Associated Press they had not yet seen evidence the water was back and a Gaza government spokesperson said it was not flowing, the news agency reported a few hours ago.

In south Gaza, Maha Elbanna, 48, said more than 40 people are crammed into one house teeth running water. They are unable to flush the toilets, shower or brush their teeth.

The U.S. citizen, who lived in New Jersey for 12 years, has been back living in Gaza for 15 years working at an aid organization. She said the the group has bought water and are eating pita bread and spreadable cheese as they await news about when they can cross the Rafah border.

U.N. official: Relief agency can’t handle scale of humanitarian crisis in Gaza

Internally displaced children at a United Nations-run school in Khan Yunis, Gaza, on Oct. 15, 2023.
Internally displaced children at a U.N.-run school in Khan Yunis today.Mahmud Hams / AFP – Getty Images

The U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East is no longer able to provide humanitarian assistance in Gaza as it continues to be out of water and electricity, UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini said today.

“An unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding under our eyes,” Lazzarini said during a press conference, adding that the agency receives “more and more desperate calls for help from people across” the Gaza Strip every hour.

The UNRWA has run out of capacity to receive the “absolutely overwhelming” number of people seeking shelter in its facilities.

Most of the 13,000 staff members of the relief agency in Gaza are now displaced from their homes, Lazzarini said, and 14 of its members have been killed.

Dutch military says it is sending a team to Lebanon amid tension

A Dutch defense team is being sent to Lebanon to provide support to its embassy in Beirut. The move has been made as a precaution due to the escalating conflict between southern Lebanon and northern Israel, according to the Dutch Ministry of Defense.

The team left this morning from Eindhoven aboard a C-130 Hercules transport aircraft, the ministry said in a news release.

Loud booms ring out over Ashdod after red alert

ASHDOD — Loud booms could be heard ringing out over Ashdod just now after a red-alert warning of a possible air attack was sent out.

The red alert was for a location roughly five minutes away. At least two booms were heard shortly after.

U.N. peacekeeping base in Lebanon hit by rocket

A United Nations peacekeeping base in Lebanon was hit by a rocket today, the organization said.

“Our headquarters in Naqoura was hit with a rocket and we are working to verify from where,” the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon wrote on X. “Our peacekeepers were not in shelters at the time. Fortunately, no one was hurt.”

UNIFIL said it is engaging with “authorities on both sides of the Blue Line to de-escalate the situation, but regrettably despite our efforts military escalation continues.”

They called for a cease-fire, writing, “No one wants to see more people hurt or killed.”

Netanyahu meets with families of those taken hostage

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with families of hostages held by Hamas.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with families of hostages held by Hamas today.Kobi Gideon / Government Press Office

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met today with families of those believed to have been taken hostage by Hamas, just over a week after the Oct. 7 attack, his office said, sharing video of the meeting.

Netanyahu could be seen gathered around a table with a number of families, who sat with photos of their missing loved ones in front of them. In photos and video, the Israeli prime minister could be seen hugging and speaking individually with a number of people. The audio appeared to be omitted from the video.

It was not clear exactly how many families the Israeli prime minister met with. The meeting came after some relatives of those taken hostage expressed frustration with a lack of communication from Israeli government officials.

IDF says it has been in contact with the families of 155 hostages

The IDF has been in contact with the families of 155 hostages, according to spokesperson Daniel Hagari.

More than 200 wanted members of Hamas have been arrested in the West Bank, he said.

“We are making tremendous effort regarding the abductees issue,” he said. “It is a top priority for us.”

Graham issues warning to Iran

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., at the Capitol on Sept. 27, 2023.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., at the Capitol on Sept. 27.Mariam Zuhaib / AP file

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., warned Iran against escalating the ongoing Israel-Hamas war that has killed thousands of Israelis and Palestinians.

“Here’s my message: if Hezbollah, which is a proxy of Iran, launches a massive attack on Israel, I would consider that a threat to the State of Israel, existential in nature,” Graham said in an interview on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” on Sunday.

Graham said he will introduce a resolution in the Senate to “allow military action by the United States in conjunction with Israel to knock Iran out of the oil business.”

“Iran, if you escalate this war, we’re coming for you,” he said.

The South Carolina Republican also announced a trip with a bipartisan group of senators to Saudi Arabia and Israel in the coming days.

Read the full story here.

Biden says he reiterated ‘unwavering’ support for Israel in conversation with Netanyahu

President Joe Biden reiterated the “unwavering U.S. support for Israel” and provided “an update on our military support and efforts to protect civilians” in a recent conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“It’s time all countries unequivocally condemned Hamas as a terrorist organization that does not represent the aspirations of the Palestinian people,” Biden wrote in a post on X.

Biden spoke with Palestinian Authority president

President Joe Biden said he spoke on the phone with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas today.

In a post on X, Biden said that in the call he condemned Hamas’ attack on Israel and “reiterate[d] that Hamas does not stand for the Palestinian people’s right to dignity and self-determination.”

“I assured him that we’re working with partners in the region to ensure humanitarian supplies reach civilians in Gaza and to prevent the conflict from widening,” Biden wrote.

Al-Shifa Hospital doctor mourns colleague

Dr. Medhat Saidam, a senior plastic and reconstructive surgeon at Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza, and his family were killed yesterday in an air strike, according to his colleague.

“He was with us yesterday making surgeries and saving lives,” Dr. Mohamed Ziara, Saidam’s colleague, told NBC News. “May his soul rest in peace.”

Al Shifa Hospital is facing “critical issues,” Ziara said, including a lack of water, equipment and staff.

Sullivan defends previous comments about Middle East region

Eight days before Hamas launched its deadly attack on Israel, national security adviser Jake Sullivan had described the Middle East region as “quieter” than it had been in two decades. Today he defended those remarks on “Meet the Press.”

“Jake, why was your assessment there so far off the mark?” NBC News’ Kristen Welker asked.

Sullivan said that he made those comments “in the context of developments in the wider Middle East region over the last few years.”

“After two decades that involved a civil war in Yemen and a massive humanitarian catastrophe, a civil war in Syria and a massive refugee crisis and invasion and insurgency in Iraq, a NATO military operation in Libya, Iranian backed attacks on both Saudi and the UAE, as well as many other steps including the rise of a terrorist caliphate that actually occupied a huge amount of territory,” he said.

Read the full story here.

2,670 dead and 9,600 injured in Gaza, Ministry of Health says

At least 2,670 people were killed and another 9,600 wounded in Gaza, according to latest numbers from Gaza’s Ministry of Health, which also said that more than half of those killed (52%) were women and children.

1,400 killed and 3,500 wounded in Israel, prime minister’s office says

Family members mourn during the funeral of Aviya Genut at Pardes Haim cemetery in Kfar Saba, Israel.
Family members mourn during the funeral of Aviya Genut at Pardes Haim cemetery in Kfar Saba, Israel, today.Francisco Seco / AP

More than 1,400 people have been killed in Israel and 3,500 wounded, according to the Israeli prime minister’s press office.

The office also said at least 120 people have been abducted.

Empty Ashdod beach usually filled with ‘thousands of people’

ASHDOD — Sitting under the sun by a near-empty Mei Ami Beach in Ashdod, an Israeli city frequently targeted with rockets by Hamas, Hai Deri, 37, joked that he and his cousin were out “trying to get some vitamin C.”

The pair are among just a handful of people sprinkled across the vast expanse of the beach, where Deri said they’ve been told they are not allowed due to the threat of rockets overhead.

“It’s like corona times,” Deri said, referring to the lockdowns that marked the coronavirus pandemic. “We can’t go out, but sometimes we have to.”

Beni Avramovich, 27, and cousin Hai Deri, 37, were almost completely alone at the Mei Ami Beach in Ashdod on Oct. 15, 2023.
Beni Avramovich, 27, and cousin Hai Deri, 37, were almost completely alone at the Mei Ami Beach in Ashdod today.Chantal Da Silva

Deri was on his way from Sri Lanka back home to Shokeda, a moshav in southern Israel not far from Be’eri, a kibbutz heavily hit by Hamas’ attack, on Oct. 7, when he was informed during a stopover that his flight to Israel had been canceled.

When he learned why, he said he “made a U-turn” and flew back to Sri Lanka, before finally making it home this past week.

“I haven’t visited my moshav yet because it’s a restricted area,” he said. “It’s still a super dangerous place.”

For now, he said he is staying with his younger cousin, Beni Avramovich, 27, in Ashdod.

Avramovich said that just over a week ago — on Oct. 6, the day before Hamas’ attack — he was on this very beach and “it was “full of children, full of families playing and surfing.” On the average day, he said, there are “thousands of people” there.

He said he knows it probably would be safer to stay inside near a shelter. But, he said, “It’s like therapy here.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken before boarding his plane in Cairo en route to Jordan on Oct. 15, 2023.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Cairo today.Jacquelyn Martin / Pool via AFP – Getty Images

Speaking with reporters in Egypt, Blinken said there are “two very different visions for the future and what the Middle East can and should be.”

“There’s a vision that we very strongly espouse that has countries in the region, normalizing their relations, integrating working together in common purpose and upholding and bringing forth the rights and aspirations of the Palestinian people,” Blinken said.

“There’s another vision that Hamas has demonstrated in the most horrific way,” Blinken continued. “And that’s the vision of death, of destruction, of nihilism of terrorism. That’s a vision that does nothing to advance aspirations for Palestinians.”

After meeting with leaders in leaders in Israel, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Qatar this and last week, Blinken concluded that “everyone I talked to” believed in the former path he laid out for reporters.

“We have to get through this crisis first. And we’re working to do that,” he said. “But we also have to get back in a very clear, practical way to that vision to making it real.”

“If we do that. Everyone in this region will be in a much better place and so will they the rest of the world,” Blinken added.

Blinken also reiterated that Israel has the “obligation to defend itself,” just over a week after Hamas committed a deadly assault on the country.

“As I said, and Tel Aviv as President Biden has said, the way Israel does this matters,” Blinken said. “It needs to do it in a way that affirms the shared values that we have for human life and human dignity, taking every possible precaution to avoid harming civilians.”

At least 2,450 people dead in Gaza and 9,200 injured, Palestinian Health Ministry says

Sheet-covered bodies killed during an Israeli airstrike are loaded onto a truck outside al-Aqsa hospital in Deir el-Balah, Gaza
Sheet-covered bodies killed during an Israeli airstrike are loaded onto a truck outside al-Aqsa hospital in Gaza today.Adel Hana / AP

As of Sunday evening, at least 2,450 people are dead in Gaza and 9,200 were injured, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza.

IDF medical corps commander describes ‘massacre’ after attack

ASHDOD — An IDF medical corps commander has described the disturbing scenes he witnessed, including signs that victims were “tortured” as he responded to the chaotic scene in Israel’s south on Oct. 7, the day of Hamas’ unprecedented attack.

Speaking in a Zoom news conference, IDF Medical Corps Commander of the 99th Division, Maj. Itamar, who would only provide his first name, said he was on holiday with his family when his phone started to sound with “a lot of SMS messages.” After racing to the scene, he described first seeing “a lot of smoke” in Israel’s south, before encountering his first patient: a police officer with gunshot wounds to the leg.

After that, what he saw “was a massacre” with victims of all ages from babies to the elderly. Many were dead and others had “all kinds of injuries you can imagine.” Asked by NBC News to expand on what he saw, he said some victims “were tied to the bed or to the chair and I saw that even though they shot them they, still stab them and they still burn them. It was not only to kill them. It was much more than that.”

He also said there were naked bodies. Asked if there were any indications that any of the victims had been raped, he said medics “couldn’t check something like this, but I can tell you that there were more than one naked woman over there. I can assume what happened.”

“I didn’t do a forensic science over there. There was not time for that. But I can assume that if you see naked women,” he said, “it didn’t happen by itself, so I can understand or I can assume what happened before she died or before someone killed her.”

Reuters recently reported that military forensic teams in Israel said they had examined bodies of victims in Israel’s south and found multiple signs of torture, rape and other atrocities. NBC News was not able to independently verify the IDF statements.

WHO director calls Gaza evacuations ‘a death sentence’ for the sick or injured

A wounded man is rushed into al-Aqsa hospital in Deir el-Balah, Gaza, on Oct. 15, 2023.
A wounded man is rushed into al-Aqsa hospital in Gaza today.Adel Hana / AP

The World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called Israel’s evacuation order of northern Gaza “a death sentence” for the sick or injured on Sunday.

“The health situation in north Gaza is dire: 1) attacks on health care are causing additional deaths and injuries,” Tedros wrote on X. “2) evacuation orders by Israel to hospitals are practically impossible to implement and are a death sentence for the sick and injured. Health workers are staying by their patients’ sides.”

@WHO calls on Israel to protect health facilities, health workers, patients, and civilians, and to immediately reverse evacuation orders to hospitals,” Tedros added.

Israel ordered the evacuation of the northern half of the Gaza strip — which the Israeli Defense Forces estimates is home to roughly 1.1 million people — on Friday.

Tedros’ post was coupled with an audio recording of who he identified as a doctor, Dr. Yousef Abu-Al Rish, speaking to the WHO from a hospital in northern Gaza. Abu-Al Rish said it was currently “impossible” to move patients south under the evacuation order.

“And if we want to even transfer them, even if there is extra beds in the other hospitals, which is not true, they will die because they are too unstable to be transported,” Abu-Al Rish said.

Pope Francis renews calls for release of Israeli hostages and for Gaza civilians to be spared

Pope Francis in Lisbon, Portugal, on Aug. 3, 2023.
Pope Francis in Lisbon, Portugal, on Aug. 3.Vatican Media via Getty Images file

Pope Francis renewed his calls today for Hamas to release Israeli hostages and for Israel to spare Gaza civilians amid the ongoing warfare.

“I continue to follow with great sorrow what is happening in Israel and Palestine,” he wrote on X. “I renew my appeal for the freeing of the hostages and I strongly ask that children, the sick, the elderly, women, and all civilians not be made victims of the conflict.”

“Humanitarian law is to be respected, especially in Gaza,” he added in a separate post shortly after. “Please, let no more innocent blood be shed, neither in the Holy Land nor in Ukraine, nor in any other place! Enough! Wars are always a defeat, always!”

In a later post, Francis appeared to dedicate Tuesday to a day of prayer and fasting for the Israeli-Hamas conflict.

Restaurant turns into makeshift production line

TEL AVIV — They’re not serving Sunday lunch or, indeed, any customers at the restaurant in central Tel Aviv. Instead hundreds of volunteers are packing cooked meals for Israeli soldiers and evacuees. 

A huge assembly line of volunteers has been created with chefs cooking and people packing boxes full of food.    

British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly urged Israel to avoid causing civilian casualties as it prepares for a ground invasion of Gaza today.

“Restraint, discipline — these are the hallmarks” of the IDF that he would want to see, he said on Sky News. “And indeed, those are the hallmarks of a high-functioning military” organization, which “the IDF is, in stark contrast to the terrorist atrocities perpetrated by Hamas.” 

“I have said it’s in Israel’s interest to avoid civilian casualties and Palestinian casualties because Hamas clearly wants to turn this into a wider Arab-Israeli war or indeed a war between the Muslim world and the wider world and none of us, including Israel, want that to be the case,” he added.

Cleverly said his advice came from “a place of friendship.” His remarks marked a shift in the United Kingdom’s messaging on the conflict. Yesterday, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said Israel had his “unequivocal support in the face of evil” and that the nation had “every right to defend itself.”

Schumer rushed to bomb shelter during Israel visit

Schumer said he was rushed to a bomb shelter when a rocket was fired by Hamas. He posted a photo on X, which shows him, Romney and others in what appears to be a tight bunker.

“While in Tel Aviv today, our delegation was rushed to a shelter to wait out rockets sent by Hamas,” Schumer wrote. “It shows you what Israelis have to go through.”

“We must provide Israel with the support required to defend itself,” he added.

Schumer arrived to Tel Aviv this weekend leading a bipartisan coalition of senators — including Romney, Cassidy, Kelly and Rosen — to meet with Israeli officials just more than a week after Hamas launched a deadly rampage on the country.

Netanyahu meets with emergency Cabinet, vows to ‘demolish Hamas’

JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened Israel’s expanded emergency Cabinet for the first time today, saying the national unity on display sent a message at home and abroad as the country gears up to “demolish Hamas” in Gaza.

The meeting, held in the military headquarters in Tel Aviv, began with ministers standing for a moment’s silence in memory of the 1,300 Israelis killed in Hamas’ shock Oct. 7 onslaught, a video released by Netanyahu’s office showed.

Welcoming former opposition lawmaker Benny Gantz, who joined the government along with several members of his party last week, Netanyahu said all ministers were “working around the clock, with a united front.”

“Hamas thought we would be demolished. It is we who will demolish Hamas,” he said, adding that the show of unity “sends a clear message to the nation, the enemy and the world.”

Iran ‘cannot remain a spectator’ if war continues, foreign minister says

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian in Tehran.
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian.Vahid Salemi / AP file

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian warned today that his country ” cannot remain a spectator to this situation” if the war continues.

“If stopping the aggression against Gaza does not succeed, the expansion of the war fronts is not excluded and its possibility increases every hour,” he said in an interview with Al Jazeera.

“The continued aggression and the absence of a political solution add fuel to the fire and things may get out of control,” Amirabdollahian added.

Multiple layers of security at the Jordan-Israel border

BEIT SHE’AN, Israel — A downpour started just as our shuttle bus crossed the Jordan River into Israel. Notably, the roads on this side of the border are in much better condition.

The storied waterway we crossed was small and unassuming. Once across, a white and blue sign in English and Hebrew proclaimed “Welcome to Israel!”

Israeli soldiers dressed in green appear to have hung an ad hoc Israeli flag over a section of railing — in addition to all the official ones on display.

This reporter passed through four layers of security, two passport checks and a bag scanner. One official said softly, “Be careful out there.”

Digital location-based services not working in northern Israel

NAHARIYA, Israel — Residents of parts of northern Israel woke up today to find that maps and other location-based services on their phones were no longer working.

The interruptions have been sporadic and comes amid Israel’s declaration of a 4 kilometer (2.5 mile) isolation zone along the border with Lebanon.

Israel’s military says that GPS was restricted “in accordance with various operational needs.”

“Citizens in the area should be aware that GPS restrictions can cause temporary glitches in location-based applications,” the military said.

The Israeli military also declared a zone within 2 miles of the Lebanese border closed to public access, according to Reuters.

European Commission to triple humanitarian funding to Gaza

Palestinians queue to refill on water in Rafah refugee camp, Gaza, on Oct. 14, 2023.
People queue to refill water in Rafah refugee camp, Gaza, on Saturday.Mohammed Abed / AFP – Getty Images

The European Commission will “immediately” triple humanitarian aid funding to Gaza by 50 million euros ($52.6 million), European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement yesterday.

“This will bring the total to over 75 million euros,” she said after a call with U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres. She added that although “the Commission supports Israel’s right to defend itself against the Hamas terrorists,” the body was “working hard” to support “innocent civilians” in the Gaza Strip.

Last week, the European Commission was placed at odds with international governing bodies such as the U.N., after commissioner Olivér Várhelyi unilaterally announced that the institution was cutting all humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, forcing a statement from the union that aid was not being cut, but that funds sent to the Palestinian Authority were being placed under review.

Plumes of smoke rise over Gaza from Israeli bombardment

As it massed troops and military hardware on the border, Israeli strikes hit several positions in the Gaza Strip early today.

Smoke could be seen rising as what appeared to be a built-up area was hit.

Palestinian deaths soar past 2,300

Outside al-Aqsa hospital in Deir el-Balah, Gaza, people mourn those killed during an Israeli airstrike.
Outside al-Aqsa hospital in Deir el-Balah, Gaza, people mourn those killed during an Israeli airstrike on Sunday.Adel Hana / AP

The Gaza Health Ministry says 2,329 Palestinians have been killed since the latest fighting erupted, making this the deadliest of the five Gaza wars for Palestinians.

The death toll today surpassed that of the third war between Israel and Hamas, in the summer of 2014, when 2,251 Palestinians, including 1,462 civilians, were killed, according to U.N. figures.

That war lasted six weeks, and 74 people were killed on the Israeli side, including six civilians.

The current war erupted a week ago when Hamas militants stormed into southern Israel in a shocking attack. More than 1,300 Israelis have been killed in the initial, wide-ranging assault and in rocket attacks from Gaza. The overwhelming majority were civilians.

For Israel, this is the deadliest war since the 1973 conflict with Egypt and Syria.

A week on, hope wears thin for families of those taken hostage by Hamas

Orly Chen, 56, stands in a stairwell, taking shelter as sirens warning of a possible air attack sound in Tel Aviv on Tuesday following a news conference her family gave about her nephew, Itay Chen.
Orly Chen, 56, stands in a stairwell, taking shelter as sirens warning of a possible air attack sound in Tel Aviv on Tuesday following a news conference her family gave about her nephew, Itay Chen.Chantal Da Silva

TEL AVIV — A bar mitzvah is meant to be a time of ceremony and celebration marking a child’s coming of age, but for one family yesterday, the young man at the center of the ritual may have already been forced to grow up far too fast after his older brother was one of dozens of people taken hostage by Hamas one week ago.

“Itay was very missed,” Orly Chen, 56, whose nephew Itay Chen, 19, an American Israeli dual citizen, was working for the Israeli military when Hamas is believed to have taken him hostage during its deadly ambush Oct. 7.

Itay Chen had been looking forward to his brother’s bar mitzvah and had worked to prepare for it “for so long,” his aunt said. “You know, I was looking at the door saying maybe he will be walking in every second and saying, ‘Here I am.’”

The bar mitzvah came as Israel marked one week since Hamas militants swept through the country’s south, killing hundreds of people and taking dozens more hostage in an attack that shook the country and shocked the world, with families like Orly Chen’s still desperate for answers.

“The days are going by, and you know, it’s already a week. The question is, again, where is he?” she said.

Read the full story here.

Blinken says meeting with bin Salman was ‘very productive’

Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Reuters today said he held a “very productive” meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh, a critical diplomatic engagement as Israel prepares to launch a ground assault in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

“The Secretary highlighted the United States’ unwavering focus on halting terrorist attacks by Hamas, securing the release of all hostages, and preventing the conflict from spreading,” the State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement, adding that “the two affirmed their shared commitment to protecting civilians.”

Bin Salman also called for “lifting the siege on Gaza, to bring justice, stability and peace and ensure that the Palestinian people attain their legitimate rights,” the Saudi state news agency SPA reported.

Daily life continues at the border between Jordan and Israel

JORDAN RIVER CROSSING — The Sheikh Hussein Bridge, a border crossing in the lush Jordan Valley, was quiet on the Jordanian side today, with around 50 people waiting with suitcases under cloudy skies.

Most seemed to be civilians, wearing a mixture of Arabic and Western clothes. Signs in this town, which consists of rundown, often unfinished low-lying buildings, are in Arabic and English — one reading “coffee time” alongside the Coca-Cola logo.

Signs point to Tel Aviv along a road close to Nazareth today.
Signs point to Tel Aviv along a road close to Nazareth today.Alex Smith / NBC News

Those here can’t drive their cars over to the Israeli side, so they must wait for a shuttle bus. One man used a screwdriver to replace Jordanian license plates with Israeli ones.

Four large trucks laden with crates of olives rattled over from Israel, a sign that much of daily life is continuing despite the mounting regional tensions.

Dark storm clouds were visible over Israel.

Exchange of fire on the Lebanon border

BEIRUT — Five people were wounded, one of them seriously, in the Shtola settlement in western Galilee near Lebanon’s border with Israel, the Channel 12 TV station reported today. 

In a statement to the station, Hezbollah said it targeted the Israeli army “in the Shtoula area with guided missiles, which led to a number of casualties, including one dead and one wounded.”

The IDF reportedly returned fire to the area after receiving anti-tank missile fire.

China calls on Israel to ‘stop the collective punishment of Gaza’

China’s foreign minister called on Israel to “stop the collective punishment of Gaza” and called for all parties to “return to the negotiating table as soon as possible.”  

Wang Yi said Beijing was “communicating intensively with all parties to promote a ceasefire and an end to the war,” according to a readout of a call he made to Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan, provided by the Chinese Foreign Ministry late Friday. 

“Israel’s actions have gone beyond the scope of self-defense, and it should seriously listen to the calls of the international community and the United Nations Secretary-General to stop collective punishment of the people of Gaza,” the readout said.

“The top priority is to make every effort to ensure the safety of civilians, open humanitarian relief channels as soon as possible, and safeguard the basic needs of the people of Gaza,” it added.  

Scenes from a border town near northern Gaza

SDEROT, Israel — There’s been little change in this city since yesterday: The sounds of outgoing Israeli strikes and bursts of small arms fire could be heard this morning. Drones circle overhead.

Two volleys of rockets fired from Gaza have struck inside Sderot so far today.

Israeli officials are evacuating some of the remaining residents and many families have already fled, given the expected escalation in violence.

Displaced Gazans trapped in ‘inhumane conditions’

JORDAN — Raed Alhelo, a finance manager from northern Gaza, fled to the southern part of the strip with his family, per Israeli evacuation orders, where he described conditions as “inhumane.”

The family “sleep on the sidewalks without blankets, without water, without food and even without toilets,” he said.

“All the world must know there is difference between civilian people and Hamas,” he added. “My dream is to stay safe with my family. My kids every day say, ‘Dad, we want go back home.’”

Missiles continue to fall on Gaza

Rescue workers and civilians remove the rubble of a home destroyed in an Israeli air attack on the town of Deir Al-Balah, in the central Gaza Strip today.

Thousands of Palestinians have gathered in the south of the Gaza Strip, laying out beds on the streets after UN-run schools filled up following Israel's warning to evacuate the north of the impoverished enclave.
Mohammed Faeq / AFP – Getty Images

Heavy rain could affect timing of Israeli ground offensive

ASHDOD, Israel — Heavy rain this morning not only adds to the misery of hundreds of thousands of displaced people in Gaza, but it could also impact the timing of Israel’s ground offensive.

The thick black clouds hanging over the Gaza Strip could limit the effectiveness of Israeli drones and other aircraft deployed to support ground troops.

Clear weather is always the preference of military forces trying to coordinate on the air and ground.

Ship to evacuate U.S. nationals scheduled from Haifa

U.S. nationals with valid travel documents can leave Israel from the northern port of Haifa tomorrow, according to an update from the U.S. Embassy.

A security alert published today announced that a ship from Haifa to Cyprus would be open to boarding by Americans and their immediate family members at 8 a.m. local (1 a.m. ET) tomorrow to leave the country. Boarding was on a space-limited basis, the advisory warned.

Though Israel’s main international airport, Ben Gurion, is operational, flights to and from the country have been limited since last weekend, complicating efforts by foreign nationals to leave the country.

There was no update on the situation at the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt, where U.S. citizens who want to leave were told to gather yesterday.

Israeli army reservist on getting ready for war with Hamas

Rudy Rochman, an American Israeli reservist, describes returning to active duty in the IDF ahead of the expected offensive in Gaza. 

Bipartisan group of senators led by Schumer meet Israeli president

A bipartisan delegation of senators led by Majority leader Chuck Schumer, D.-N.Y., met with Israeli President Isaac Herzog early today, a statement from Herzog’s office said. 

Republican Sens. Mitt Romney and Bill Cassidy joined Schumer, along with Democratic Sens. Mark Kelly and Jacky Rosen, the statement said. 

“In the meeting, the Senators emphasized the cross-party support for the State of Israel,” it added.

German government issues travel advisory for Israel, Lebanon, Palestinian territories

The German foreign office has issued a travel warning for Israel, Lebanon and the entire Palestinian territories, updating a previous advisory that warned against travel to the Gaza Strip and some areas of Lebanon only.

“Due to the escalation of violence in the region in connection with the massive terrorist attacks by Hamas on October 7th, we warn against traveling to the countries and areas mentioned,” it said in a statement.

For those in Israel and the Palestinian territories who want to leave, “there will be flight options with the Air Force today that will allow German citizens and their families to travel to Germany,” the statement said. “If the situation deteriorates, the Bundeswehr is also ready for a military evacuation operation,” it added, referring to the German army.

IDF says it ‘took out’ leader of Nirim attack as it prepares for next stage

ASHDOD, Israel — As much of the world waits to see if and when Israel will launch its ground invasion into Gaza, an IDF spokesman said this morning the military was still preparing for the “next stage” of operations.

Speaking in a news conference held over Zoom, Lt. Col. Richard Hecht said the media would get “no heads up” when it comes to a possible ground invasion.

He said Israel’s military “took out Billal Al Kedra,” who he said was in charge of the deadly attack on the Nirim kibbutz, near the border. Otherwise, he said there had been sporadic exchanges, but no dramatic incidents in recent hours.

He said the aims of the military’s operations were still “being designed as we go on,” but that the ultimate “goal is to eliminate the Hamas infrastructure all the way to the top.” 

Israeli communications minister seeks possible shutdown of Al Jazeera bureau

Israeli Communications Minister Shloma Karhi said yesterday that he was seeking a possible closure of Al Jazeera’s local bureau, accusing the Qatari news station of pro-Hamas incitement and of exposing Israeli soldiers to potential attacks from Gaza.

The proposal to shut down the bureau has been approved by Israeli security officials and was being vetted by legal experts, he said, adding that he would bring it to the Cabinet later in the day.

“This is a station that incites, this is a station that films troops in assembly areas (outside Gaza) … that incites against the citizens of Israel — a propaganda mouthpiece,” Karhi told Israel’s Army Radio.

Two Al Jazeera reporters were among the wounded when a group of journalists were hit by an artillery strike while reporting in southern Lebanon. One journalist, Reuters videographer Issam Abdallah, was killed in the attack.

Evacuation of Sderot to begin today, Israeli government says

ASHDOD, Israel — An evacuation of residents from the border town of Sderot in Israel is set to begin this morning ahead of the country’s possible ground invasion, Israeli officials said.

Image: Israel Declares War Following Large-Scale Hamas Attacks
An Israeli soldier gives directions to a tank unit close to Sderot, along the border with Gaza yesterday.Amir Levy / Getty Images

The Israeli government’s press office said residents would be evacuated from the town starting at 11 a.m. local time today.

Already, families have fled, with some arriving in Ashdod in recent days.

Trying to feed her baby at a breakfast table at a hotel here yesterday, one woman said she left Sderot to escape the ongoing violence at the border.

There is little safety even for those fleeing

A humanitarian crisis is gripping Gaza as hundreds of thousands of displaced Palestinians flee to the south amid the Israeli military’s aerial bombardment in retaliation for Hamas’ terrorist attack one week ago.

The IDF warned residents to evacuate from Gaza’s north — home of its largest population center, Gaza City — on Friday, and the deadline has passed.

After the brutal assault Oct. 7, Israel placed the territory under siege, cutting off basic utilities. Today, Gaza is almost out of clean water, food, fuel and medical supplies. There hasn’t been electricity in days, and its largest hospital, Al-Shifa, is now a shelter for about 35,000 people, with men sleeping in the parking lot and women inside.

Read the full story here.

What is Hezbollah? A look at the Iran-backed militant group on the sidelines of the Israel-Hamas war

TYRE, Lebanon — As Israel’s military prepares for what appears to be an imminent ground invasion of the Gaza Strip, the Hezbollah militant group looms in Lebanon just across Israel’s northern border.

Hezbollah fighters military exercise in Lebanon.
Hezbollah fighters during a military exercise in Aramta, Lebanon, on May 21. Marwan Naamani / picture alliance via Getty Images fle

Hours after Hamas’ bloody attack Oct. 7, Hezbollah fired guided rockets and artillery into Israel, which was met with an artillery barrage. Since then, the tit-for-tat combat has continued.

Early yesterday, the IDF said it had struck a Hezbollah target in southern Lebanon in response to the “infiltration of unidentified aerial objects into Israel.”

It came after Naim Qassem, Hezbollah’s deputy chief, said Friday that the group is closely following the developments between Hamas and Israel.

Read the full story here.

Pete Davidson, the son of a 9/11 victim, opens SNL with heart

“Saturday Night Live” returned for its 49th season, delayed by the summer writers strike. And its guest host, alum Pete Davidson, addressed the ongoing tragedy in the Mideast head-on.

“We saw horrible images and stories from Israel and Gaza and I know what you’re thinking: Who better to comment on it than Pete Davidson?” the usually-goofy-but-not-this-time comedian said.

“Well, in a lot of ways, I am a good person to talk about it because when I was 7 years old, my dad was killed in a terrorist attack. So I know something about what that’s like.”

“I saw so many terrible pictures this week of children suffering, there Israeli children and Palestinian children. And it took me back to a really horrible, horrible place. And, you know, no one in this world deserves to suffer like that you know, especially not kids.”

He added that his heart was “with everyone whose lives have been destroyed this week.”

Where developments stand as of this morning

Aid organizations yesterday continued to warn of a humanitarian crisis as Israel’s military appeared poised for a ground attack.

The Israel Defense Forces has massed military personnel and equipment at the border, and it said yesterday it was preparing to expand its aerial attack with “an integrated and coordinated attack from the air, sea and land.”

No large-scale ground offensive into Gaza has been announced, but Israel’s military has been telling civilians in Gaza City and other parts of northern Gaza to go south.

The United Nations says that amounts to 1 million people being told to leave in the densely populated Gaza Strip, which is 139 square miles.

The World Health Organization said yesterday that forcing patients to move “could be tantamount to a death sentence.” Israel’s military says the order is for the safety of civilians as it attacks Hamas.

Despite discussions among different officials on allowing Americans to leave Gaza through the Rafah border crossing into Egypt, the border remained closed and no one has gained passage as yet.



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