February 21, 2024

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More hostages to be released as Gaza truce is extended

More hostages to be released as Gaza truce is extended

G7 urges release of all hostages and facilitated departure of foreign nationals

WASHINGTON — The G7 foreign ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Britain and the U.S., as well as the High Representative of the European Union, are calling for the unconditional release of all hostages held by Hamas and the facilitated departure of foreign nationals from Gaza, according to a statement released by the U.S. Department of State.

The G7 also said it supports the further extension of the current pause in fighting.

“We remain steadfast in our commitment to work with all partners in the region to prevent the conflict from escalating further,” the statement said.

30 U.N. installations have been ‘directly hit’ in Gaza, report says

The United Nations said in a report yesterday that it has confirmed that at least 30 of its installations throughout Gaza have been “directly hit” and more than 50 have sustained collateral damage.

In its situational report, the international entity also noted that it has received reports that locations have been subjected to military use at least five times, though it did not specify who used the facilities or why.

The U.N. has used the pause in hostilities to distribute essential aid, offer medical care and obtain information about its facilities on the ground in Gaza.

It says it has seen more than 600,000 patients, including hundreds of pregnant Palestinians and children.

Sharone Lifschitz’s mother was released by Hamas last month, but her father is still being held hostage inside Gaza.

Humanitarian needs still going unmet during cease-fire, Save the Children says

Even with a temporary pause in active hostilities, the flow of humanitarian aid in Gaza has been restricted, Save the Children said in a statement yesterday.

Two additional days of the pause are still not enough to meet the needs of civilians living in dire conditions, according to the charity organization.

Jason Lee, Save the Children’s director in the occupied Palestinian territory, said Palestinians waited in long lines for essentials such as cooking gas and water only to need to return in a few days when hostilities resume.

“People who have survived 50 days of relentless bombardment in Gaza are surrounded by destruction and left with nothing,” Lee said. “Children are hungry, thirsty and at risk of disease.”

Thailand welcomes release of 2 more hostages

The Thai foreign minister welcomed the release today of two more Thai hostages held by Hamas.

“Happy to personally welcome 2 additional Thai hostages just released and arrived at the hospital in Tel Aviv,” Foreign Minister Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara, who is in Israel, said in a post on X.

Migrant workers from Thailand, one of Israel’s biggest sources of foreign labor, were the single largest group of foreigners among the estimated 240 hostages seized by Hamas. The two hostages today bring the total number of Thai nationals released to 19, with 13 others still being held.

“A totally warm feeling to see how the former 17 were lining up to welcome and give moral support to the two newcomers,” Parnpree added.

Hundreds gather to support family still in captivity, including 2 young boys

TEL AVIV — At what is now known as Hostage Square, just outside the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, a few hundred people gathered tonight to support the Bibas family. Yarden and his wife, Shiri, were kidnapped by Hamas from the Nir Oz kibbutz on Oct. 7, along with their two boys — 4-year-old Ariel and Kfir, now 10 months old.

“These two young little redheads really got in the hearts of everybody in Israel and also in the entire world,” said Yarden’s sister, Ofri. She called the last seven weeks a “nightmare.”

More hostages to be released as Gaza truce is extended
Yarden, Ariel, Shiri and Kfir Bibas.Bibas family

The crowd released orange balloons to evoke the boys’ red hair and as a symbol of the liberation the family of four has been denied for the past 53 days.

Some of the attendees, including people from the Bibases’ kibbutz, wore T-shirts with a picture of the family. The word “kidnapped” was stamped in bold letters above the photo.

Ofri hoped the gathering would help push for an extension to the cease-fire, which is due to expire tomorrow, so her family can come home. “It’s like a shot in the chest every time that their names are not in the [hostage release] list,” she said.

Inside Gaza during the cease-fire

TEL AVIV — The cease-fire in Gaza, which is set to end tomorrow, is offering a brief respite from seven weeks of Israeli bombing in response to Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack.

Inside Gaza, residents are taking stock of the devastation — and bracing for the return of fighting.

Turkey plans field hospitals in Gaza

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s health minister said today that his country hopes to soon set up field hospitals and start providing health services in Gaza.

Fahrettin Koca made the announcement on X hours after a Turkish delegation crossed into Gaza from Egypt to inspect possible sites for field hospitals. He did not provide additional information.

Turkey dispatched a ship carrying medical equipment and supplies, including ambulances and eight field hospitals, to Egypt this month.

Hamas senior official invites Elon Musk to visit Gaza

A Hamas senior official invited U.S. billionaire Elon Musk today to visit the Palestinian Gaza Strip to see the extent of destruction caused by the Israeli bombardment.

“We invite him to visit Gaza to see the extent of the massacres and destruction committed against the people of Gaza, in compliance with the standards of objectivity and credibility,” Hamas senior official Osama Hamdan said at a news conference in Beirut.

Musk, the social media mogul assailed for his endorsement of an anti-Jewish post, toured the site of the Hamas assault on Israel yesterday and declared his commitment to do whatever was necessary to stop the spread of hatred.

Hamdan spoke one day after a temporary truce between Israel and Hamas was extended for an additional 48 hours.

Islamic Jihad says it handed over hostages in exchange deal

In a statement on Telegram, Palestinian Islamic Jihad said that as part of the hostage deal it has handed over “a number” of people it was holding.

The group did not specify how many civilians it had released or how many hostages remained in its custody. Hamas said in a Telegram post today that Palestinian Islamic Jihad was part of the release of hostages.

NBC News was not able to independently verify the claims.

Hamas has said it does not have custody of all the hostages, claiming that the whereabouts of roughly 100 are unknown. A diplomat with knowledge of the hostage talks previously said Hamas had alleged that “some Israelis were kidnapped by individual Palestinian gangs or smugglers.”

Whole blocks in north Gaza ‘just a pancake’ of collapsed buildings

The cease-fire has allowed residents who remained in Gaza City and other parts of the north to venture out to survey the destruction and try to locate and bury relatives.

In northern Gaza’s Jabalia refugee camp, which Israel bombarded heavily for weeks and which troops surrounded in heavy fighting with militants, “you come across whole city blocks that have been demolished, just a pancake of concrete layered as buildings have collapsed,” said Thomas White, the Gaza director for the U.N. agency caring for Palestinian refugees.

The agency delivered six trucks of aid to the camp, including supplies for a medical center.

A U.N.-led aid consortium estimates that, across Gaza, over 234,000 homes have been damaged and 46,000 have been destroyed, amounting to around 60% of the territory’s housing stock. In the north, the destruction “severely compromises the ability to meet basic requirements to sustain life,” it said.

Twelve hostages were handed over to the International Committee of the Red Cross by Hamas militants in Gaza and were driven to the Rafah border crossing with Egypt on their way back to Israel.

Soldiers could be among future hostages released, diplomat says

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Negotiations over the release of hostages now include groups other than women and children, according to a diplomat with knowledge of the talks, who says the current proposal calls for a pause longer than four days.

“Ideally, we would not keep coming back to the table but instead agree to a longer pause to get all the remaining hostages released,” the diplomat said.

A report by Axios, not confirmed by NBC News, says Israel is considering extending the pause in fighting by up to nine days if Hamas commits to release 10 additional hostages each day.

The hostages fall into a number of categories, the diplomat said, including, “the elderly, women and men, IDF reservists, women soldiers, men soldiers and sadly, the bodies of those hostages who have died.”

The uncle of Palestinian student Hisham Awartani, who holds dual citizenship and attends Brown University, said he feels a “sense of shame” that he believed the U.S. “would be safer for him.”

“As an uncle, I feel a sense of shame, Andrea, along with other members of my family, really encouraging him to pursue his studies here in the United States, believing in part that it would be safer for him,” Price told NBC’s Andrea Mitchell.

He said about the media coverage of his nephew and the other two Palestinian students who were shot that “we’re excited to have positive representation of Palestinian young men. A representation that is not often shown in this country and these three young men are incredible.”

Several aid trucks with medical supplies, food and fuel enter Gaza

Several aid trucks carrying medical supplies, food and “small amounts of fuel” have entered north Gaza, according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.

The UNRWA and Palestine Red Crescent Society aid trucks were taken to “areas north of Wadi Gaza” and included “medical supplies, ready-to-eat food, wheat flour, bottled water, tents and blankets, which were delivered to four UNRWA warehouses for subsequent distribution,” the agency said.

It wasn’t clear how many trucks made it to north Gaza.

“The aid also included small amounts of fuel delivered to water production facilities, to support their reactivation following the completion of repairs,” UNRWA said in an update today. “Over the past three days, small amounts of cooking gas have entered Gaza for the first time since the start of the conflict. The amounts fall well short of the needs.”

109 U.N. aid workers killed in Gaza, agency says

A total of 109 staff members working with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East have been killed in Gaza, according to the agency.

“One UNRWA colleague who had been seriously injured due to strikes in Bureij refugee camp, in the Middle Area, has succumbed to his wounds,” it said in an update today.

This brought the total to 109 UNRWA workers killed since Oct. 7.

Americans not expected to be among hostages released today, U.S. official says

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Americans are not expected to be among the hostages released from Gaza today, according to a U.S. official and a diplomat in the region with knowledge of the talks.

The official cautioned the situation remains fluid and nothing is set in stone.

The Biden administration remains hopeful the two American women who fit the criteria to be released in the current deal will indeed be freed. but the agreement is set to expire tomorrow, unless another extension is granted, the sources said.

Senior administration officials have maintained they do not know where the two American women are being held exactly or by whom, and there is no guarantee of their condition at this time.

10 Israeli hostages handed over to the International Committee of the Red Cross, Qatari official says

A total of 10 Israeli hostages have been handed over to the International Committee of the Red Cross, according to Qatari Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson Majed Al Ansari.

In implementation of the commitment to the 5th day of the humanitarian pause, 30 Palestinian civilians will be released today in exchange for the release of 10 Israeli hostages from Gaza,” Al Ansari wrote on his X account. “Those released from Gaza include a minor, & 9 women, an Austrian citizen, 2 Argentinians, & a Filipina citizen, were handed over to the ICRC.”

Mother of two boys released by Hamas says their father is still a hostage

In a short statement today, Renana Gomeh thanked the state of Israel and everyone involved in assisting in the release of her two sons.

Hamas released 16-year-old Or and 12-year old Yagil yesterday as part of its limited truce pact with Israel, in which it agreed to release 50 Israeli women and children from captivity. The boys were taken from kibbutz Nir Oz and were held in Gaza for more than 50 days.

“I can’t even start to explain how it feels to have them back here,” Gomeh said. “It feels like the end of a bad dream and we can finally start our lives together.”

“But it’s not over until it’s over, there are still so many hostages including their father, Yair, who is still held hostage in Gaza,” she added. “And we want everyone back home.”

DJs spin music at site of festival attack

DJs spin music to commemorate the victims of the attack on the Nova music festival on the site, near Kibbutz Re'im, Israel, on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023.
Ohad Zwigenberg / AP
Israelis embrace next to photos of victims of the attack on the Nova music festival displayed at the site, near kibbutz Re'im, on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023.
Ohad Zwigenberg / AP

Photos of victims of the Oct. 7 attack on the Nova music festival are displayed at the site, near kibbutz Re’im, Israel.

IDF says 3 soldiers taken hostage in Gaza are dead

The IDF announced today that three soldiers who were taken hostage by Hamas are dead. It did not say when the soldiers had died.

It listed their deaths in a statement as “dead in captivity of terror organisation.”

Almost 70 hostages and 150 Palestinian detainees released in 4 days

Hamas has released a total of 69 hostages over four days in exchange for 150 Palestinian prisoners, who are women and children, released from Israeli detention.

Israel negotiated for 50 of its citizens to be released in that time frame, many of whom were dual nationals. One Israeli Russian man was also freed in an agreement made directly between Russian diplomats and Hamas.

Hamas also released 18 other hostages, 17 Thai citizens and one Filipino, under a separate agreement.

There are more than 170 people still presumed to be held hostage in Gaza, six of whom are children under the age of 18.

Released hostages and prisoners reunited with their families

Released Israeli hostage Sahar Kalderon, 16, is embraced by a relative upon her arrival at Sourasky Medical Center in Tel Aviv on Nov. 27, 2023.
IDF via AFP – Getty Images

Released Israeli hostage Sahar Kalderon, 16, is embraced by a relative upon her arrival yesterday at Sourasky Medical Center in Tel Aviv in a photo released by the Israeli army.

Palestinian Muhammad Abu Al-Humus hugs his mother upon returning to his home in east Jerusalem on Nov. 28, 2023, after his reIease from an Israeli prison.
Ahmad Gharabli / AFP – Getty Images

Palestinian Muhammad Abu Al-Humus hugs his mother upon returning to his home today in east Jerusalem after his release from an Israeli prison. Authorities said 33 Palestinian prisoners had been released “during the night” under the terms of a truce deal that returned hostages from the Gaza Strip.

U.N. chief calls for long-term truce in Gaza

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres is reiterating his call for a long-term truce in Gaza and the release of all hostages.

“The dialogue that led to the agreement must continue, resulting in a full humanitarian cease-fire, for the benefit of the people of Gaza, Israel and the wider region,” he said yesterday.

He also called for a “two-state solution, with Israel and Palestine living side by side, in peace and security.”

Palestinians flee Gaza City on Nov. 28, 2023.
Palestinian children and adults trek out of Gaza City today as they try to flee the devastation. Mahmud Hams / AFP – Getty Images

Kidney unit at Al-Shifa Hospital operational today, Gaza Health Ministry says

The kidney unit at Al-Shifa Hospital was operational today with “local capabilities,” Gaza Health Ministry spokesperson Dr. Ashraf Al-Quora told Al Jazeera Arabic.

He added that there are only three functional hospitals in the northern Gaza Strip.

“We are operating with very limited capabilities and need large field hospitals,” Al-Quora said.

Cease-fire agreement could extend for 50 more prisoners, Netanyahu’s office says

With 173 people still being held hostage by Hamas, the Israeli prime minister’s office said the government has sent a list of 50 additional prisoners who could be released if the truce agreement continues.

It added Israel will continue fighting after the cease-fire ends.

20 hostages ready to be released in 48 hours, Qatar says

An extra 20 hostages are ready to be released by Hamas in the next 48 hours, Qatari Foreign Ministry spokesperson Majed Al Ansari said in a statement on X.

The initial four days of the agreement were “used to increase the number of hostages that are identified by Hamas,” he said.

Israeli military ready to continue fighting, chief of staff says

Israel’s military is “prepared to continue fighting,” and has been using the temporary truce to “learn, strengthen our readiness and approve future operational plans,” the IDF’s chief of staff, Herzi Halevi, has said.

“We are preparing for the continuation of the operation to dismantle Hamas. It will take time, these are complex goals, but they are justified beyond measure,” he said in a statement this morning.

Halevi added: “The IDF and within it the Intelligence Directorate, failed in the events of Oct. 7th. There will be fundamental and deep investigations, but for now, we must focus on the fighting.”

Israeli troops patrol on the southern border with the Gaza Strip on Nov. 28, 2023.
Israeli troops patrol on the southern border with the Gaza Strip today.Gil Cohen-Magen / AFP – Getty Images

Scenes of life in southern Gaza amid the cease-fire

A crowd of local and displaced Palestinians walk past destroyed buildings in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis today.

In Khan Yunis, where the population nearly doubled following the arrival of the displaced from the northern Gaza Strip, war-weary Palestinians remain sceptical about the Israel-Hamas deal to exchange hostages for prisoners.
Mohammed Abed / AFP – Getty Images
Gaza Khan Younis Market
Mohammed Abed / AFP – Getty Images
 In Khan Yunis, where the population nearly doubled following the arrival of the displaced from the northern Gaza Strip, war-weary Palestinians remain sceptical about the Israel-Hamas deal to exchange hostages for prisoners.
Mohammed Abed / AFP – Getty Images

Women browse items for sale in an open-air market, while young boys make cigarettes for sale at the main square in the southern city.

Family of American 4-year-old released by Hamas hopes she can still live a good life

Family members of a 4-year-old Israeli American girl who was released after seven weeks in Hamas’ captivity have described her as a “miracle” and said they hope she can return to normality.

Abigail Mor Edan was freed from Gaza along with 16 other hostages on the third day of a tentative truce between Hamas and Israel. Abigail’s parents were killed at the Kfar Aza kibbutz during the Oct. 7 attack, while her older brother and sister survived by hiding in a closet.

“We can only pray and hope that as the days go on she will be able to live a good life,” Liz Hirsh Naftali, Abigail’s great-aunt, told the “TODAY” show Tuesday morning from Washington, D.C.

She said Abigail was “elated” to be reunited with her siblings and cousins but acknowledged the tragedy she had endured at such a young age.

Read the full story.

More people at risk of death from disease than bombings in Gaza, World Health Organization says

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The World Health Organization today warned that more people are at risk of dying from disease than bombardment if the health system is not restored in the Gaza Strip.

“Eventually we will see more people dying from disease than we are even seeing from the bombardment if we are not able to put back this health system,” spokesperson Margaret Harris said at a U.N. briefing in Geneva.

She expressed concerns about the rise in infectious disease, saying the WHO saw a “very high number of cases of diarrhea among infants.”

Palestinian Yassin Ahmed Al-Qara, 47, sits with his family under the rubble of his destroyed house on Nov. 28, 2023 in Khan Younis, southern Gaza.
Yassin Ahmed Al-Qara, 47, sits with his family under the rubble of his destroyed house today in Khan Younis, southern Gaza.Ahmad Hasaballah / Getty Images

Both sides claim cease-fire violations

Both Hamas and Israel blamed each other for cease-fire violations today, with the IDF saying that soldiers were injured after Hamas fighters opened fired at them in northern Gaza.

“Three explosive devices were detonated adjacent to IDF troops in two different locations in the northern Gaza Strip,” it said in a statement.

Hamas said Israel clearly violated the truce agreement and that there was “field friction,” calling for mediators to press Israel to adhere to the terms of the truce.

Austin tells his Israeli counterpart that aid to Gaza ‘must increase’

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with his Israeli counterpart, Yoav Gallant, the Pentagon said early today.

Austin “reiterated that humanitarian aid into Gaza must increase,” the Pentagon said, calling for various “state and non-state actors” to not expand the conflict.

CIA director in Doha for talks on more hostage releases and further truce extension, official says

CIA Director William Burns is in Doha, Qatar, for talks on further hostage releases and the conflict in Gaza, a senior administration official told NBC News.

Burns is focusing on ways to extend the temporary pause further and bring all of the hostages home, the official said, as well as possible long-term solutions to the war and what happens next.

Burns’ trip was first reported by The New York Times.

West Bank protests ahead of prisoner release

A protester walks near burning tires in the occupied West Bank yesterday, ahead of an expected release of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Israeli hostages held by Hamas.

Israel's prison authority said that 33 Palestinian prisoners had been released "during the night" under the terms of a truce deal that returned hostages from the Gaza Strip.
Fadel Senna / AFP – Getty Images

Cynthia Nixon launches hunger strike calling for a cease-fire

Cynthia Nixon, the “Sex And The City” star who formerly ran for New York City mayor, has launched a hunger strike with a group of U.S. state legislators and activists outside the White House, calling for a permanent cease-fire.

“As the mother of Jewish children whose grandparents are Holocaust survivors, I have been asked by my son to use my platform to project as loudly as possible that “never again” means never again for everyone,” Nixon said, in a statement shared by the Institute for Middle East Understanding. 

Cynthia Nixon, center, attends a protest calling for a ceasefire in Gaza outside the White House on Nov. 27, 2023.
Cynthia Nixon, center, attends a protest yesterday calling for a cease-fire in Gaza outside the White House.Kevin Dietsch / Getty Images

“As an American, I am here to demand that our President stop funding the mass killing and starvation of thousands of innocent Palestinians, the majority of whom are children and women. President Biden must use this moment to negotiate a permanent ceasefire that will bring all the hostages and political prisoners home and start to lay the foundation for a lasting peace,” she said.

Other participants of the hunger strike include the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights, Jewish Voice for Peace and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, according to the institute.

Aid flows into Gaza as truce is extended and more hostages are freed

TEL AVIV — All of the hostages freed yesterday were taken by Hamas on Oct. 7 from a single kibbutz, Nir Oz, near the Gaza border, including 12-year-old Erez and 16-year-old Sahar Kalderon. Their father, Ofer Kalderon — like all the kidnapped men — remains a hostage. And the Israeli military now says around 40 are being held by other groups inside Gaza.

Critically, the deal is allowing more aid into Gaza, which has been devastated by Israeli airstrikes and tank fire. The United States sent the first of three humanitarian aid flights to Egypt overnight for transport into Gaza, including food, medical supplies and winter clothing.

Yet inside Gaza, the situation remains dire. “Truce or not, we still have no electricity, no water and none of life’s basic necessities,” one resident told NBC News.

U.S. tells Israel to avoid ‘further displacement’ when renewing ground campaign in Gaza

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The United States has told Israel that it must avoid “significant further displacement” when its forces move south in the Gaza Strip, senior Biden administration officials said.

“You cannot have the sort of scale of displacement that took place in the north, replicated in the south,” the official said, adding that the campaign must be carefully planned.

“We don’t support them moving in the south unless or until they can demonstrate a plan that accounts for the additional civilian life that is now in south Gaza, and how they’re going to try to protect that,” the official said.

Officials also said the aid getting into Gaza was “nowhere enough for normal life” and that the administration is pushing for additional steps to restore the normal flow of commercial goods.

A family gathers around a fire in front of the rubble of their destroyed home in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, on Nov. 28, 2023.
Ahmad Hasaballah / Getty Images

Rare survey details how people in Gaza were wary of Hamas before Israel attack

A rare survey conducted before Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack has found that a vast majority of people in Gaza were frustrated with the militant group’s governance of the Palestinian enclave prior to the war with Israel.

The survey was held between Sept. 28 and Oct. 8 with 790 respondents in the West Bank and 399 in Gaza. The Gaza interviews were completed by Oct. 6. It was conducted by Arab Barometer, a research group with its principal researchers hailing from Princeton University. Its results were first published in Foreign Affairs.

Only a quarter of respondents said the government was responsive to the needs of the people, with most Gazans saying there was no way to express their disappointment.

Most Gazans (54%) also rejected Hamas’ ideology of eliminating the Israeli state, with a majority supporting a two-state solution as outlined in the 1993 Oslo Accords.

Comparative images reveal scale of destruction in Gaza City

Eid al-Adha in Gaza
Ali Jadallah / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images file

Children play on swings during Eid al-Adha at Unknown Soldier’s Square in Gaza City on July 12, 2022.An image released by the municipality of Gaza yesterday reveals the scale of destruction at the square in Gaza City.

Gaza Unknown Soldier Square
Municipality of Gaza

First U.S. humanitarian aid flight for Gaza set to land in Egypt

The first U.S. government flight with humanitarian aid for Gaza is scheduled to arrive in Egypt’s northern Sinai today, according to senior Biden administration officials.

Once the military-facilitated flight lands, the plane’s cargo will be transferred to the United Nations, which will deliver the materials to Gaza. It’s the first of three planned U.S. flights, the officials said.

“This will be to bring a series of items, medical items, food aid, winter items, given that winter is coming in Gaza,” a senior administration official said on a call with reporters.

Asked how the delivery will differ from the truckloads of aid that have already entered Gaza, an official said that “some of these things have already gone in, but there’ll be additional items.”

Read the full story.

Israel adds 50 female Palestinian prisoners, including Ahed Tamimi, to list for possible release

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Israel has added 50 more female Palestinian prisoners to the list for a possible release, including activist Ahed Tamimi who was arrested earlier this month.

The 22-year-old was arrested for “inciting terrorism” on her Instagram account, but her mother says the account was hacked, prompting criticisms of Israeli crackdown on speech online.

Tamimi gained global fame when a video of her slapping an Israeli soldier went viral in 2017. She later said the soldiers had shot her cousin in the head just before the video was taken, and she went on to write a book after her release from prison.

Civilians walk down the ruined streets of Gaza City

Palestinians walk through the debris of buildings hit in Israeli strikes, near Al-Zawiya market in Gaza City yesterday, on the fourth day of a truce in fighting between Israel and Hamas.

 The Israeli government said on November 27, it had put Hamas "on notice" that an "option for an extension" of the truce in the Gaza Strip was open.
Omar El-Qattaa / AFP – Getty Images

War has cost Israel $53 billion, central bank says

The war has cost Israel $53 billion, its central bank said in its latest forecast.

The conflict has had a “gross effect” on Israel of 198 billion shekels ($53 billion), the Bank of Israel said yesterday, more than half of it attributable to defense spending.

The bank also revised downward its economic forecast, saying Israel’s gross domestic product would grow 2% in 2023 and 2024, compared with estimates in October of 2.3% in 2023 and 2.8% in 2024.

Members of the Israeli Defense Forces work at a staging area near the border of Gaza on Nov. 27, 2023.
Members of the Israel Defense Forces work at a staging area yesterday near the border of Gaza.Spencer Platt / Getty Images

Newly released hostage speaks out about Hamas captivity

We have heard for the first time directly from one of the hostages released as part of the truce deal, speaking out about the ordeal as details of their life while being held in Gaza start to trickle in.

Ruthy Munder, 78, told Israel’s Channel 13 television that she spent the entirety of her time with her daughter, Keren, and grandson, Ohad Munder-Zichri, who celebrated his ninth birthday in captivity. The trio were kidnapped from kibbutz Nir Oz near Gaza during the Hamas attack on Oct. 7.

Munder said she was initially fed well in captivity until conditions worsened and people became hungry. She was kept in a “suffocating” room and slept on plastic chairs, covering herself with a sheet, for almost 50 days, she said.

Her account adds to details that have started to emerge from family members of the released hostages. Some have spoken about food and water shortages in Hamas captivity, others about trauma and dissociation experienced by younger hostages.

Read the full story.

Hostages transported by helicopter in Tel Aviv

One of several helicopters with Israeli hostages released earlier by Hamas lands at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv last night, on the fourth day of the temporary truce.

Fragile Truce Offers Israelis Hope For Return Of More Hostages
Alexi J. Rosenfeld / Getty Images

Humanitarian situation in Gaza ‘remains catastrophic’: U.N. official

Gaza’s humanitarian situation “remains catastrophic,” said Tor Wennesland, the United Nations special coordinator for the Middle East peace process.

“The humanitarian situation in Gaza remains catastrophic and requires the urgent entry of additional aid and supplies in a smooth, predictable, and continuous manner to alleviate the unbearable suffering of Palestinians in Gaza,” he said in a statement.

“I reiterate the Secretary-General’s call for a full humanitarian ceasefire, for the benefit of the people of Gaza, Israel, and the wider region,” Wennesland added.

Blinken to travel to Israel, Dubai and West Bank

After he travels to Brussels for the meeting of NATO foreign ministers, Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to visit Israel, the occupied West Bank and Dubai this week, a senior administration official said.

In his meetings in the Middle East, he is expected to stress the need to sustain the increased flow of humanitarian assistance to Gaza, secure the release of all hostages and improve protections for civilians in Gaza, the official said.

He will also discuss the principles he laid out in Tokyo for the future of Gaza and the need to establish an independent Palestinian state, according to the official.

At a news conference in Tokyo earlier this month, Blinken said a future Gaza “must include Palestinian-led governance.” He also said there must be “a pathway to Israelis and Palestinians living side by side and states of their own, with equal measures of security, freedom, opportunity and dignity.”

Catch up with NBC News’ latest coverage of the war