Israel-Hamas war: U.S. readies weeks of retaliatory strikes against Iran-linked targets – NBC News

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Victims of Hamas attack in Israel and their families blame Iran in new federal lawsuit

A group of U.S. citizens filed a federal lawsuit today charging that the Hamas-led massacre in Israel on Oct. 7, which killed 1,200 people and injured thousands more, was “masterminded and funded by the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

Among the 67 plaintiffs are people who were injured or taken hostage, as well as family members of those who were killed.

“Iran bears direct responsibility for the October 7 Attacks,” according to the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. “Indeed, that point is essentially undisputed. The Iranian regime has openly flaunted its motive for aiding the horrors.”

While it’s not clear what role Iran played in the attacks, a former U.S. intelligence and military officer said in October that the sophisticated tactics Hamas used to attack Israel indicated Iran most likely played a significant role in the multipronged assault.

The plaintiffs contend that Iran, the “sworn enemy of Israel and the United States,” used Hamas to sabotage the ongoing diplomatic attempts to normalize relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Read the full story here.

Netanyahu spokesperson calls reports on hostage deal framework ‘inaccurate’

MSNBC’s Katy Tur spoke with Tal Heinrich, spokesperson for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office, about the ongoing hostage negotiations and Israel’s military campaign against Hamas.

Heinrich described some reports on a potential framework hostage deal terms as “really inaccurate” but declined to go into detail when asked by Tur.

“We don’t really expand publicly about the nature of these talks from international mediators…or the terms that are being discussed for very good reason,” Heinrich said. “Human lives hang in the balance.”

‘Mercy’ flights provide critically wounded and sick Palestinians a chance to survive

EL-ARISH, Egypt — For 56 critically ill and wounded Gazans, the road to crucial medical care started yesterday on a military airfield in Egypt’s northern Sinai. That is where a plane was parked, awaiting patients driven in on ambulances from area hospitals or from inside Gaza. 

Such “mercy” flights are made possible by countries such as the United Arab Emirates, where commercial planes are retrofitted with stretchers and beds to ferry patients on a four-hour trip from Egypt to Abu Dhabi to receive medical care. Yesterday’s flight was the UAE’s 11th humanitarian airlift since the Israel-Hamas war began with the Oct. 7 attacks.

Al-Arish military airfield with the mercy flight plane in the background.Jonas Schoenstein

Most of the patients on yesterday’s flight were children with complex fractures and head injuries. A few have chronic illnesses that have been left untreated since the supply of medicine into Gaza slowed to a trickle after the start of the war. The patients are tended to by a team of doctors and nurses who are on the flight with them. 

“I remember the first girl that we evacuated in the first plane,” said Dr. Maha Barakat, the UAE’s assistant foreign affairs minister for health. “She had complex fractures and many broken bones. And her mother told us that for the first time in two months, she smiled when we were able to give her painkillers that relieved her of her pain.”

Read the full story here.

41 National Guard members injured in strike on Jordan base

The National Guard confirmed today that 41 of its members were injured in the drone attack on a base in Jordan that killed three U.S. soldiers Sunday.

The injured service members were from units based in Arizona, California, Kentucky and New York, according to the statement. Of those injured, 27 were able to return to duty, and 14 are being evaluated for follow-up care.

“I echo President Biden and Secretary Austin’s condemnation of this attack,” said Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson, the chief of the National Guard Bureau. Austin is Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

“It will not deter our citizen soldiers from their mission of defending America and its interests.”

South Africa says Israel is already ignoring court ruling order to prevent deaths in Gaza

PRETORIA, South Africa — Israel has ignored the ruling by the U.N.’s top court last week by killing hundreds more civilians in a matter of days in Gaza, South Africa’s foreign minister said today, adding that her country has asked why an arrest warrant for Netanyahu has not been issued in a case South Africa filed at the separate International Criminal Court.

Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor said South Africa would “look at proposing other measures to the global community” in a bid to stop Israel from killing civilians.

“I can’t be dishonest. I believe the rulings of the court have been ignored,” Pandor said. “Hundreds of people have been killed in the last three or four days. And clearly Israel believes it has license to do as it wishes.”

The preliminary ruling by the U.N.’s International Court of Justice in South Africa’s case accusing Israel of genocide in Gaza ordered Israel to do all it can to prevent death, destruction and any acts of genocide against Palestinians in the territory. It stopped short of ordering a cease-fire. It also ruled Israel must urgently get basic humanitarian aid to Gaza and submit a report on steps taken to abide by the ruling within a month.

A top official in South Africa’s foreign ministry has said the country hopes that Friday’s ruling, and whether Israel is abiding by it, will be discussed on a wider level at the U.N.

Israel says it has abided by international law and is doing its best to minimize civilian casualties in Gaza. It says it has killed more than 9,000 militants, and it accuses Hamas of embedding in civilian areas, making it difficult to avoid civilian casualties.

Aunt of former 4-year-old hostage says families asked White House about potential hostage deal

Liz Hirsh Naftali, the great-aunt of former hostage Abigail Edan, told MSNBC today that hostage families were able to ask questions about a potential hostage deal in the works at yesterday’s meeting with national security adviser Jake Sullivan.

“I think the key questions were about the news that we’ve been hearing that’s being reported — is it accurate? — and are the negotiations as intense as we’re told they are?” Naftali said.

Naftali said that Sullivan was not able to offer details but that the meeting offered hostage families some cautious optimism.

“I will just say that for our family, Abigail returning gave us the ability to move forward,” Naftali said. “The other hostage families, until their relatives are back, they cannot move forward.”

Netanyahu says hostage deal will not come ‘at any cost’

A hostage deal outline is in the works, but Netanyahu clarified his “red lines” on X today after reports said the potential framework would include the release of three detained Palestinians per released hostage.

“We are working to obtain another outline for the release of our abductees, but I emphasize not at any cost,” he said, according to an NBC News translation. “I have red lines between them: We will not end the war, we will not remove the IDF from the Gaza Strip and we will not release thousands of terrorists.”

Netanyahu added that the war will continue as Israel fights for three goals: the return of all hostages, the end of Hamas and assurance that Gaza will no longer pose a threat to Israel.

Gaza unemployment near 80%, could take 70 years to return to pre-war economy, U.N. report says

Gaza’s postwar recovery could take decades to return to its 2022 levels, which was already a shrinking economy as the majority of its population relied upon aid for essentials, according to a preliminary assessment from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

Before the Oct. 7 attacks and the resulting war, gross domestic product per capita shrank by 27% in the Palestinian enclave from 2006 to 2022. Israel withdrew its settlements from the area in 2005 and imposed a blockade two years later.

Assuming the same growth rate postwar, the report estimated it would take Gaza 70 years to restore to its 2022 economy. The unemployment rate has also grown, from 45% in 2022 to 79% in 2023.

But the report noted that Palestinians in Gaza now face “multidimensional poverty” as much of the area becomes uninhabitable, losing civilian infrastructure to provide people with education and basic services.

“If Gaza is to remerge with a viable economy, the military confrontation should end immediately, and reconstruction should begin in earnest and without delay,” the report said. “The international community needs to act now before it is too late.”

Bloody floors, no pain meds, surrounded by the IDF: Inside Gaza’s last major hospital

Dr. Muhammad Harara is one of just five physicians left in Nasser Hospital, the last major medical facility still functioning in the Gaza Strip. The rest of his colleagues have fled or been killed. 

Since the early days of the war, an NBC News crew has followed Harara and his fellow health workers on their hospital rounds, recording how they cope with the gravely injured, the bloodied, the terrified, all while surrounded by Israeli soldiers and tanks.

Harara, 27, whose sharp beard and lean features sit atop rumpled blue scrubs, checks on patients lying on filthy, blood-stained floors, who are increasingly being operated on with little or no anesthetic. Food and painkillers have run out. With the roads around them a battlefield, thousands of people are trapped inside Nasser Hospital, including 850 patients, according to the international charity Doctors Without Borders.

“We lost a lot of people today,” Harara said in the 16th week of the war, his deadpan words wrung of all emotion by weeks of violence. “I feel very, very sad for what happened today.”

Read the full story here.

Desperate, starving civilians overtook food delivery meant for Nasser Hospital, WHO says

The dire situation throughout Khan Younis was on display as the World Health Organization attempted to deliver food and essential medical supplies to Nasser Hospital.

Trucks were surrounded by starving civilians as staff members tried to explain that the food was meant for the hospital, according to Dr. Richard Peeperkorn, WHO’s representative for the Palestinian territories. He said part of the only thing left were the medical supplies as the full truck was taken by “people who were completely desperate and hunger.”

The humanitarian space in Gaza is “shrinking,” Peeperkorn said, as roughly half of the WHO missions planned for January were denied. Organizations are facing increasing delays, including the checkpoint delay that left the WHO food truck vulnerable to crowds.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the teams on the ground are reporting that staff and patients are averaging about one meal per day as the situation deteriorates.

“The hospital is operating with a single ambulance,” he said. “Donkey carts are being used for transporting patients.”

Khan Younis hospitals out of food, Health Ministry says

The two main hospitals in Khan Younis — Nasser Hospital and Al-Amal Hospital — have run out of food as fighting remains intense in the southern Gaza city, according to a statement from Gaza’s Health Ministry.

Dr. Ashraf Al-Qudra, ministry spokesperson, blamed the recent deaths of patients on targeting and the lack of medical capabilities as the situation at the hospitala becomes “catastrophic.”

“We call on the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations institutions to protect Khan Yunis hospitals, protect those in them, and provide food and emergency needs,” Al-Qudra said.

Netanyahu says UNRWA must be terminated and replaced

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East “must be terminated” as it deals with allegations that 12 of its staff were involved in Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack.

The prime minister accused UNRWA on X of being “infiltrated” with Hamas members. He went on to suggest that the body be replaced by some other agency to provide aid, which Israel has been ordered by the International Court of Justice to allow.

“I say this with great sadness, because we wished for an objective and useful body to offer aid,” Netanyahu said. “We need such a body today in Gaza. UNRWA is not this body. It must be replaced by an organization or organizations that will carry out the task.”

The United Nations terminated nine of the 12 people accused and said it is working to confirm the identities of two others and that the last remaining person has been confirmed to be deceased. It has also launched an investigation into the matter.

Philippe Lazzarini, UNRWA commissioner-general, also said that the agency submits a list of its staff to host countries every year and that Israel had not raised concerns about individuals prior to this.

“It would be immensely irresponsible to sanction an Agency and an entire community it serves because of allegations of criminal acts against some individuals, especially at a time of war, displacement and political crises in the region,” Lazzarini said in a statement.

UNRWA says it’s had to move out of western Khan Younis and is urging donor countries that paused funding to reconsider

In a video post on X, UNRWA official Thomas White said that UNRWA, along with people in Khan Younis, have had to move south out of western Khan Younis. “We’ve lost a health clinic, major shelters- facilities that were supporting the people of Khan Younis,” White said in the post.

In another statement released Wednesday, UNRWA urged countries that paused funding to the U.N. aid organization for Palestinians to reconsider.

“Decisions by various Member States to pause funds from UNRWA will have catastrophic consequences for the people of Gaza. No other entity has the capacity to deliver the scale and breadth of assistance that 2.2 million people in Gaza urgently need,” the agency said in the statement.

Blinken to return to Middle East, source says

Secretary of State Antony Blinken will return to the Middle East in the coming days, a senior U.S. official told NBC News, for his fifth trip to the region since the Oct. 7 attacks.

Blinken was in the region earlier this month as he met with officials in Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. News of his visit comes amid reports that a potential framework proposal on a new hostage deal is being shepherded through Israel’s war Cabinet.

E.U. aims to launch a Red Sea naval mission within 3 weeks to protect ships from rebel attacks

BRUSSELS — The European Union plans to launch a naval mission in the Red Sea within three weeks to help defend cargo ships against attacks by Houthi rebels in Yemen that are hampering trade and driving up prices, the bloc’s top diplomat said Wednesday.

E.U. foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said he wants the mission to be up and running by Feb. 17. Officials say that seven E.U. countries are ready to provide ships or planes. Belgium has already committed to send a frigate. Germany is expected to do the same.

Last week, U.S. and British forces bombed multiple targets in eight locations used by the Iranian-backed Houthis. It was the second time the two allies have conducted coordinated retaliatory strikes on the rebels’ missile-launching capabilities.

The Houthis have waged a persistent campaign of drone and missile attacks on commercial ships since the start of the Israel-Hamas war in October, but Borrell insisted that the E.U. mission will not take part in any military strikes.

“This is the purpose: protection of the ships. Intercepting of the attacks against the ships. Not participating in any kinds of actions against the Houthis. Only blocking the attacks of the Houthis,” Borrell told reporters before chairing a meeting of E.U. defense ministers in Brussels.

The ministers were expected to decide later Wednesday which member country should lead the naval effort — France, Greece and Italy are vying for that role — and where the mission’s headquarters should be based.

UNRWA’s role in aid delivery ‘irreplaceable,’ E.U.’s top diplomat says

As a number of donors including the U.S. suspend their funding to UNRWA, E.U.’s top diplomat Josep Borrell said today that the agency’s role in delivering humanitarian aid in Gaza is “irreplaceable.”

“It’s critical to preserve” to preserve that role, he said in a post on X.

First of up to 100 children injured in Gaza arrive in Rome for treatment

The first group of injured Palestinian children have arrived in Rome for treatment in hospitals, Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said on X yesterday.

The 11 children are part of up to 100 children who are expected to arrive in Rome to be treated in Italian hospitals.

IDF declares closed military zone at Nitzana crossing amid Israeli protests against Gaza aid

Amid Israelis protesting against aid for Gazans, the IDF today said it had declared the area around the Nitzana crossing a closed military zone.

Yaron Finkelman, the commander of the southern command, had signed an order to “implement a closed military zone in the area of Route 211 and the Nitzana Border Crossing,” the IDF said in a statement on Telegram.

Protesters, including the families of the hostages, have been trying to prevent aid from crossing into the besieged Gaza Strip.

Israeli demonstrators gather by the border fence with Egypt at the Nitzana border crossing in southern Israel on Jan. 30, 2024, as they attempt to block humanitarian aid trucks from entering into Israel on their way to the Gaza Strip.
Israeli demonstrators gather by the border fence with Egypt at the Nitzana border crossing yesterday.Menahem Kahana / AFP – Getty Images

There is ‘no substitute’ for UNRWA in Gaza, senior U.N. official says

There is no substitute for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency’s work in Gaza, the U.N.’s senior humanitarian and reconstruction coordinator for the enclave said yesterday.

“There is no way any organization can replace or substitute the tremendous capacity and the fabric of UNRWA and its ability and knowledge,” Sigrid Kaag told reporters outside the U.N. Security Council chamber in New York. 

She added that commercial goods should be let back into the enclave. “There will be no recovery, let alone reconstruction in future, without that broad bandwidth,” she said.

Separately, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres met with UNRWA donors yesterday to appeal against the funding freeze after a dozen of its employees were accused of taking part in Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks.

Displaced Palestinians receive food aid at the UNRWA center in Rafah, southern Gaza, on Jan. 28, 2024.
Displaced Palestinians receive food aid Sunday at the UNRWA center in Rafah, southern Gaza.AFP – Getty Images

U.N. calls shooting of Palestinian militants in hospital an ‘extrajudicial killing’

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has condemned the killing of three Palestinian militants by Israeli forces who disguised themselves as civilian medics.

Security camera footage from the hospital showed about a dozen undercover forces wearing Muslim headscarves, hospital scrubs or white doctor’s coats. Most of them were armed and one carried a rifle in one arm and a folded wheelchair in the other.

Without providing evidence, Israel’s military said the militants were using the hospital as a hideout and alleged that one of those targeted had transferred weapons and ammunition to others for a planned attack on Israel.

In a statement, the U.N. Human Rights Office described the incident as “a seemingly planned extrajudicial execution,” and called on the Israeli authorities “to immediately end the unlawful killing of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.”

Young and old Gazans surrounded by destruction in Rafah

Palestinians taking refuge in Rafah survive under harsh conditions
Abed Rahim Khatib / Anadolu via Getty Images
Palestinians taking refuge in Rafah survive under harsh conditions
Abed Rahim Khatib / Anadolu via Getty Images

Displaced Palestinian adults and children look at the damage amid the rubble of destroyed buildings in Rafah in southern Gaza today. Many civilians have fled their homes in the north and sought refuge from Israeli bombardments in the southern city.

Suspicious object found near Israeli Embassy in Sweden

A potentially dangerous object has been found near the Israeli Embassy in Stockholm and is being investigated, police said today.

Employees from the embassy called Stockholm police this morning about an object outside the grounds that they believed may be dangerous, a police spokesperson told Reuters. The national bomb squad is on its way to investigate the object, the spokesperson said.

Police declined to give any detail on the size or shape of the object until it had been investigated.

The embassy was not immediately available for comment.

The suspicious object was believed to be an explosive device and has been destroyed by the national bomb squad, Swedish police said.

Police, who cordoned off the the grounds, declined to give any detail on the nature of the object, or of how it had got into the embassy grounds.

The Embassy could not immediately be reached for comment.

There are strong indications that hostage deal will move ahead, senior Israeli official says

TEL AVIV — While Netanyahu’s government has not yet agreed to the terms of a hostage negotiation offer ironed out last weekend in Paris, there are strong indications that the deal will move ahead, a senior Israeli official told NBC News today.

However, the source said the terms of the deal have not been handed over from the war Cabinet — made up of Netanyahu, Yoav Gallant, his defense minister, and Benny Gantz, a former chief of the general staff — to the full Cabinet.

If approved by the full Cabinet, the Israeli public would then have 24 hours to contest it before the Supreme Court, though in the past the court has typically rejected such challenges.

Yesterday, Netanyahu seemed to pour cold water on the Paris draft, telling cadets at a pre-military academy in a West Bank settlement that Israel would not withdraw its forces from the Gaza Strip or “release thousands of terrorists.”

“None of that will happen,” he said.

Several right-wing ministers are complicating negotiations for the deal including Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir, the minister for national security. Both have rejected the idea that hundreds of Palestinians could be exchanged for a handful of Israeli hostages.

Yesterday, Ben-Gvir expressed his opposition, telling his more than 200,000 followers on X, formerly known as Twitter, that the war Cabinet is “beginning to internalize my position and is trying to lower the number of murderous terrorists who will be released.”

“We must continue to press for a deal that strives to achieve the goals of the entire war — the destruction of Hamas, the restoration of security to the residents of the south, and the return of all the abductees home,” he added. “Our soldiers did not fall in vain and it is forbidden to bring about a deal that would endanger Israel’s security.”

In the past, Hamas has insisted that any new hostage release would have to come in exchange for a full cease-fire — a provision the Israelis have completely ruled out.

Hamas is also under substantial political pressure, even as it parries the most destructive Israeli attack in its nearly 40 year existence, according to Avi Melamed, a former Israeli intelligence official who focused on Arab affairs.

The militant group now has to “try to somehow come up with something, some sort of an achievement, that will help Hamas to re-establish its reputation within the Arab world,” he said.

“The Palestinians are looking at the situation in the Gaza Strip, and they are turning to Hamas and saying, ‘What have you done? What exactly have you accomplished? What kind of an achievement can you show us?’”

Melamed said Hamas was criticized for a deal it made with Israel in November that freed 110 hostages in return for 240 Palestinians held in Israeli jails.

The proposed Paris deal would see three Palestinian prisoners returned for each hostage released from Gaza and a longer pause in hostilities of up to 60 days.

The November deal “was kind of like backfiring on Hamas,” Melamed said. “People in the Arab world, particularly the Palestinians, said to Hamas ‘you did all of this mess to get 300 Palestinian women and children who in any case would have been released sometime soon. What did you gain?’”

Fighter jets struck Syrian army positions in response to rocket attack, IDF says

The Israeli military said today that some of its fighter jets had struck targets in the Syrian city of Daraa.

The overnight attacks were in response to rocket launches from Syria, the Israel Defense Forces said in a Telegram post.

U.S. seeking ‘more information’ on allegations that UNRWA staff took part in Oct. 7 attacks

The U.S. is seeking more information from the Israeli government about the allegations that workers from the United Nations refugee agency took part in Hamas Oct. 7 attacks, according to the U.S. ambassador to the U.N.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield told reporters yesterday that the U.S. needs to “see fundamental changes” before it can resume its funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. She added that the U.S. had questions about how the agency would ensure the accountability of those accused.

“We will remain in close contact with the United Nations, as well as with the government of Israel regarding this matter,” she said.

Gazan kids wear disposable hazmat suits to protect them from harsh weather

Wearing disposable hazmat suits, a group of six young Palestinian boys was filmed by an NBC News crew digging holes in the sand yesterday.

“We all bought them to protect ourselves from the cold, rain, and sand,” Saraj Elhusaani, 14, told NBC News. “I don’t have any clothes; I only have these clothes.”

The suits, which they said cost 2 shekels, or around 50 cents, from a local market, protected them from the harsh winter weather and allowed them to play in the sand, the kids explained.

Houthis threaten more attacks on American and British warships

Yemen’s Houthi rebels said today they had fired “several appropriate missiles” at the USS Gravely in the Red Sea and threatened more attacks on American and British warships in the area.

The attacks will continue “until the aggression on Gaza is stopped and the siege is lifted,” the Iran-backed militant group said in a statement.

“One anti-ship cruise missile” was fired last night and shot down by USS Gravely, U.S. Central Command said today on X. No injuries or damage were reported, it added.

Powerful Iran-backed militia vows to stop attacking U.S. troops

An Iran-backed militia that Washington believes could be responsible for killing three U.S. troops in Jordan said yesterday that it will stop attacks against American forces in the Middle East.

“We hereby announce the suspension of military and security operations against the occupation forces,” Kataib Hezbollah said in a statement. Though backed by Iran, the group operates in Iraq. It is the most powerful among a network of Shia militias that have launched more than 150 attacks against U.S. forces since October in protest, it says, at Israel’s Gaza war and support of the Palestinian cause.

Iraq, which has close ties with Iran and hosts U.S. troops, says has lobbied all sides to stop the violence. And Kataib Hezbollah said in its statement that it was stopping attacks on Americans to “avoid embarrassment for the Iraqi government.” Amid rising regional tensions, the group also added that Iran had “often objected to pressure and escalation against the American occupation forces in Iraq and Syria.”

The Pentagon said Sunday’s deadly attack in Jordan had the “footprints” of Kataib Hezbollah but declined to blame the group directly. Asked about the group’s cease-fire announcement, Pentagon press secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder told a briefing yesterday, “Actions speak louder than words.”

U.S. retaliatory strikes against Iran will be a campaign over weeks, officials say 

While the Biden administration has not yet finalized targets for retaliatory strikes against the Iran-backed militant groups responsible for the deadly attack in Jordan last weekend, U.S. officials are describing this as a “campaign” that could last “weeks.”

The targets are expected to include Iranian targets outside Iran and the campaign will include both kinetic strikes and cyber operations. The targets are likely be in multiple places in several countries and locations. 

Biden said yesterday that he had decided how to retaliate for the attack on a base in Jordan, which killed three American service members.

Delays prevented food delivery to Nasser Hospital, WHO says

Attempts to deliver food to the “minimally functional” Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis were unsuccessful because of checkpoints which held them up and allowed crowds to take the aid, the head of the World Health Organization said on X yesterday.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the incidents underscored the “hellish’’ conditions and extreme hunger Gazans are experiencing.

The Israeli military has said that it has coordinated the supply of food and supplies to the hospital in recent days.

Civilians evacuate southern Gaza by horse and cart

Palestinians flee from the city of Khan Younis in southern Gaza after an Israeli ground and air offensive on Monday.

Image:
Fatima Shbair / AP

White House officials ‘very matter of fact’ at meeting with hostages’ families

TEL AVIV — Two senior White House officials met with the families of American hostages yesterday as talks continue on a potential deal to pause the fighting in Gaza and secure the release of some of those held captive.

National security adviser Jake Sullivan and Brett McGurk, one of Biden’s top Middle East advisers, met with the families for nearly an hour at the Einsenhower Executive Office Building on the grounds of the White House, the father of one American hostage told NBC News today.

“They didn’t want to give us false hope,” said Jonathan Dekel-Chen, whose 35-year-old son, Sagui Dekel-Chen, was kidnapped from kibbutz Nir Oz in southern Israel on Oct. 7. He is one of six American hostages still held in Gaza.

The hostage’s wife was seven months pregnant on the day of the attack and has since given birth to a daughter that he has never met. 

The officials “were very matter of fact about it,” said Dekel-Chen. They believe that there is reason for optimism. But the road is still long and it’s only done when it’s done. They were very straightforward about that.”

He declined to say what level of detail the U.S. officials shared about the state of the negotiations to free the hostages. 

No U.S. threat ‘will be left unanswered,’ commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard warns

Iran will respond to any threat from the U.S., the powerful commander of the country’s Revolutionary Guard, Hossein Salami, said today.

His comments came a day after Biden said he had decided how to respond to the drone attack that had killed three U.S. service members in Jordan.

“We hear threats coming from American officials, we tell them that they have already tested us and we now know one another, no threat will be left unanswered,” Salami was quoted as saying by Iran’s semiofficial Tasnim news agency.

Iran’s ambassador to the U.N., Saeed Iravani, also said last night Iran would respond strongly to any attacks on its country or nationals.

Iran ’emboldened by the crisis’ in the Middle East, CIA director says

Iran has been “emboldened by the crisis” in the Middle East and “seems ready to fight to its last regional proxy,” according to CIA Director William Burns.

The Islamic Republic was also “expanding its nuclear program and enabling Russian aggression,” Burns wrote in an article for Foreign Affairs magazine, published yesterday.

“I have spent much of the last four decades working in and on the Middle East, and I have rarely seen it more tangled or explosive,” he said.

“The United States is not exclusively responsible for resolving any of the Middle East’s vexing problems. But none of them can be managed, let alone solved, without active U.S. leadership,” he added.

Burns met with the Qatari prime minister in Paris this weekend for hostage negotiations, along with David Barnea, the head of Israel’s spy agency Mossad, and Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel.

Far-right Israeli minister threatens to quit government over any ‘reckless’ deal

JERUSALEM — A far-right partner in Netanyahu’s coalition threatened to quit the government over any attempt to enter a “reckless” deal with Hamas to retrieve hostages held by the Palestinian militants.

“Reckless deal = dismantling of the government,” Itamar Ben-Gvir of the Jewish Power party posted on X amid media reports that Israel was considering a long-term pause, brokered by Qatar and Egypt, in its offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Netanyahu has stressed his commitment to destroying Hamas, whose Oct. 7 cross-border killing and kidnapping spree blindsided Israel, and he argues that the military pressure improves the chances of recovering the 132 hostages.

But at least one member of Netanyahu’s decision-making war Cabinet — former military chief Gadi Eisenkot, whose son and nephew died fighting in Gaza — has cast doubt on the prospects for rescue missions and called for a hostage deal.

That has set off speculation that Netanyahu is under pressure from both his left- and right-wing flanks, spelling a potentially wider shakeup — and perhaps even a snap election.

Jewish Power accounts for six of the 64 seats Netanyahu’s religious-rightist coalition held in the 120-seat parliament before the Gaza war. He has since brought Eisenkot’s 12-seat centrist National Unity party into an emergency Cabinet.

Ben-Gvir and another ultranationalist coalition partner, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich of the Religious Zionism party, have chafed at their exclusion from the war Cabinet. They have called for no let-up in the offensive and for Israel to resettle Gaza, from which it withdrew in 2005. Netanyahu has ruled out rebuilding Jewish settlements there but says post-war Gaza will be under Israeli security control.

Israeli gunners at the Gaza border

An IDF soldier takes up position on the border with the Gaza Strip in southern Israel on Monday.

IDF gunner in Gaza
Tsafrir Abayov / AP

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