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Gaza’s health system is ‘collapsing’ as battles intensify in the south

Hundreds of Harvard faculty members urge university not to oust embattled president

More than 650 members of Harvard University’s faculty have signed a letter urging administrators to resist calls to remove the school’s president amid an outcry over testimony she gave last week at a congressional hearing on campus antisemitism.

“We, the undersigned faculty, urge you in the strong possible terms to defend the independence of the university and to resist political pressures that are at odds with Harvard’s commitment to academic freedom, including calls for the removal of President Claudine Gay,” the letter says.

Claudine Gay, president of Harvard University, at a House hearing on campus antisemitism on Dec. 5, 2023.
Claudine Gay, president of Harvard University, at a House hearing on campus antisemitism on Dec. 5. Michael Brochstein / Sipa USA via AP

“The critical work of defending a culture of free inquiry in our diverse community cannot proceed if we let its shape be dictated by outside forces,” the letter goes on to say. NBC News obtained the text of the letter from history professor Alison Frank Johnson, one of the faculty members spearheading the effort.

Read the full story here.

White House ‘certainly concerned’ about reports of Israel using U.S.-supplied white phosphorus in Lebanon

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby was asked today about a Washington Post report that munitions used by Israel in an October attack in southern Lebanon included U.S.-supplied white phosphorus.

Amnesty International reported on the use of the substance in October, accusing Israel of violating international law. Kirby told reporters that the administration was “certainly concerned” about reports that white phosphorus was being used by Israel in southern Lebanon.

But he also noted that white phosphorus has a “legitimate military use” for illumination and concealment purposes.

“And, obviously, anytime that we provide items like white phosphorus to another military it is with the full expectation that it’ll be used in keeping with those legitimate purposes and, and in keeping with the law of armed conflict,” Kirby said. “But we’ve seen these reports are they’re fresh, just don’t have any more on it.”

Capitol Police arrest protesters calling for Israel-Hamas cease-fire

Capitol Police arrested protesters calling for a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war after responding to a protest at the Hart Senate Office building on Capitol Hill.

Israeli shelling kills mayor of Lebanese village

DUBAI — An Israeli shell killed the mayor of a Lebanese village today, a relative and Lebanon’s National News Agency said, as Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah kept up hostilities ignited by the war in Gaza.

Hussein Mansour was killed in his home in the village of Taybeh a few miles from the border with Israel, the relative, Mohamed Mansour, told Reuters. The shell which struck him did not explode, the National News Agency said. The Israeli army did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Violence escalated at Lebanon’s border with Israel yesterday, with the Iran-backed Hezbollah launching explosive drones and powerful missiles at Israeli positions, and Israeli airstrikes rocking several towns and villages in south Lebanon.

Smoke from an Israeli bombardment billows across the horizon along the hills in southern Lebanon on Dec. 10, 2023.
Smoke from an Israeli bombardment yesterday along the hills in southern Lebanon.Jalaa Marey / AFP via Getty Images

ADL reports unprecedented rise in antisemitic incidents since Oct. 7

The Anti-Defamation League said today it recorded more than 2,000 antisemitic incidents since Oct. 7, the highest number recorded in a two-month period since it began tracking incidents in 1979.

“This includes 40 incidents of physical assault, 337 incidents of vandalism, 749 incidents of verbal or written harassment and 905 rallies including antisemitic rhetoric,” it said in a statement.

“The lid to the sewers is off, and Jewish communities all across the country are being inundated with hate,” CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said.

Anti-Muslim incidents have similarly spiked during the same period, the Council on American–Islamic Relations reported last week. In the eight weeks since Oct. 7, CAIR received 2,171 requests for help and reports of bias, which is a 172 percent increase over a similar period last year.

Palestine Red Crescent is preparing a Qatari field hospital in Rafah

The Palestine Red Crescent Society today said its volunteers have begun the initial preparations for a Qatari field hospital in Rafah in southern Gaza.

“The hospital’s capacity is 50 beds, including an operating room, intensive care unit, reception, and radiology,” it said in a post on X.

The hospital will be managed by PRCS staff it said, aiming to support the medical personnel in southern Gaza.

Injured children treated at central Gaza hospital

Injured Palestinian children receive care at Al-Aqsa Hospital in Deir Balah in the central Gaza Strip after strikes hit the al-Maghazi refugee camp today.

Injured Palestinians injured following strikes on al-Maghazi refugee camp receive care at Al-Aqsa hospital in Deir Balah in the central Gaza Strip on Dec. 11, 2023.
AFP via Getty Images

Israel says it sees the ‘beginning of the end of Hamas’

As Israeli forces advance in the Gaza Strip, Israeli government spokesperson Ofir Gendelman said today, “We see the beginning of the end of Hamas.”

“Hamas infrastructure is destroyed,” he said, calling for their surrender in a briefing in Arabic.

The statement was echoed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said Hamas is “at the beginning of the end.”

A military analyst told the BBC, however, that it is “wildly optimistic” to suggest that Hamas is nearing surrender.

Gendelman added, “Today every person from Gaza thinks how beautiful life was before [Oct. 7] and how great the suffering was as a result of Hamas’ decision to wage war on Israel.”

Prior to Hamas’ attacks Oct. 7, Gaza had the among the highest unemployment rates in the world and most of the water was unfit for consumption. Most of its population was not allowed to leave the enclave without explicit approval.

European Union diplomats push for new sanctions against Hamas

ROME — The French, German and Italian foreign ministers are pushing for speedy adoption of new E.U. sanctions against Hamas for its “atrocious and indiscriminate terror attacks” against Israel on Oct. 7.

“The swift adoption of this sanctions regime will allow us to send a strong political message about the European Union’s commitment against Hamas and our solidarity with Israel,” the three ministers wrote in a letter today to Josep Borrell, the bloc’s high representative for foreign affairs.

The letter does not detail possible sanctions, but said it should enable the targeting of Hamas members, affiliated groups and supporters. The ministers said they broadly support a framework that Borrell outlined last week.

Foreign ministers of the 27-member bloc are meeting in Brussels today. The E.U. on Friday froze the funds and other assets in Europe of the commander general of Hamas’ military wing, Mohammed Deif, and deputy commander Marwan Issa.

Hostages in Gaza will not be released except through an exchange, Qassam Brigades says

The military-wing of Hamas, the Qassam Brigades, said yesterday that no hostages will be released without an exchange agreement.

“The enemy’s prisoners have not and will not be released except through an exchange,” spokesperson Abu Udaid said, adding said Israel cannot take the hostages alive “without exchanging or abiding by the conditions of resistance.”

Israel releases names of Hamas’ hostages believed to be dead

Israel released the names of 20 hostages that it believes to be dead under Hamas’ captivity.

The names include Shani Louk, a 23-year-old who attended the Supernova music festival. Her family had earlier announced her death.

The families of those still held hostage by Hamas, and those who have been released, continue to press for the freeing of 137 people who remain in captivity. Israel reiterated today that one of its primary goals continues to be the rescue of remaining hostages.

Rockets fired from Gaza strike Israeli city of Holon

Israeli security forces and residents gather at the scene of a rocket attack from Gaza that hit a residential area in Israel’s central coastal city of Holon today.

Gaza Israel Rocket
Ahmad Gharabli / AFP via Getty Images

Israeli military says it is focusing on three Hamas strongholds

The Israeli military is fighting in three areas it says are Hamas’ strongholds: Sajaiya, Jabalia and the Khan Younis area, Israeli military spokesperson Daniel Hagari said yesterday.

“There are fierce and difficult battles, when terrorists emerge from the tunnels, planting explosives, and coming with RPG squads, a battle ensues,” he said in a news conference.

Hagari added that the IDF has secured the heart of Gaza City, which houses properties and offices of senior Hamas officials.

Smoke billows over Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip after an Israeli strike on Dec. 11, 2023.
Smoke billows over Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip after an Israeli strike today.Mahmud Hams / AFP via Getty Images

More than 50 Palestinians transferred to Egyptian hospital

A total of 27 injured Palestinians along with 27 of their relatives entered Egypt yesterday and were transferred to the Al-Arish General Hospital, the head of the Egyptian Red Crescent in North Sinai, Dr. Khaled Zayed, told NBC News.

He added that dozens of trucks were also lined up in front of the Rafah crossing waiting to cross in to Gaza, including seven fuel and gas trucks.

IDF airdrops 7 tons of water to its troops in Gaza

The IDF today conducted its first aerial supply drop in Gaza, it said, parachuting 7 tons of water to hundreds of its soldiers in Khan Younis in southern Gaza.

Meanwhile, a dire food and water shortage is putting many at risk of infection and death in Gaza, with 1.9 million Palestinians displaced across the Gaza Strip.

Since Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks, Israel blocked any supply of food or water to the enclave for weeks, only to later allow a few dozen trucks with supplies a day, which aid agencies say is nowhere near enough.

Netanyahu says Hamas is at ‘beginning of the end’

Israel says Hamas’ grip on power in Gaza is being broken and released footage of fighters allegedly turning in their weapons and surrendering. This comes as the fighting intensifies and families of the remaining 137 hostages worry about their conditions. NBC’s Richard Engel reports for “TODAY.”


U.N. Security Council envoys travel to Gaza-Egypt border

A dozen U.N. Security Council envoys flew to Egypt to visit the border with the Gaza Strip today just days after Secretary-General António Guterres warned that thousands of people in the besieged Palestinian enclave were “simply starving.”

The envoys landed in the town of Arish to be briefed by the U.N. Palestinian refugee agency, UNRWA, on the situation inside Gaza before setting off toward the Rafah crossing 30 miles away. On their journey they passed dozens of trucks backed up waiting to deliver aid to desperate Gaza residents.

UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini described an “implosion of civil order” in which Gazans who have not eaten for days were looting aid distribution centers and stopping trucks on roads as they tried to secure supplies for their families.

The United Arab Emirates’ U.N. ambassador, Lana Nusseibeh, said the aim of the visit was “to learn first-hand what is needed in terms of a humanitarian operations scale-up that meet the needs of the Palestinian people in Gaza.” She noted it was not an official Security Council visit.

The U.S. is not sending a representative on the trip.

At least 40 U.N. facilities directly hit since war began, UNRWA says

As many as 40 different United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) installations have been directly hit since the war began, according to a report released today.

At least 284 people staying in the agency’s shelters have been killed, and another 976 have been injured since Oct. 7, the report added.

A UNRWA staff member was killed Dec. 9, bringing the total to 134 people associated with the agency who have been killed.

IDF says it found weaponry in a civilian residence in northern Gaza

Israeli troops found explosive devices, guns and rocket launchers in a civilian residence in the Jabalia camp, the IDF said in a statement, adding it also found a truck loaded with rockets near a school.

“IDF ground troops also directed aerial strikes on dozens of terrorists in the Gaza Strip,” it said this morning.

The IDF said it also found “a Hamas launch site containing approximately 50 projectiles, some of which were loaded and ready to fire.”

NBC News could not independently verify the report.

Palestinian activists call for a global strike

Palestinian activists have called for a global strike today, with the Palestinian Information Ministry saying that life in the Palestinian territories “came to a standstill.”

“The local strike, called for by the national and Islamic forces in the West Bank, paralyzed all aspects of life, including public transportation, education, the financial sector, shops, and all sorts of businesses,” it said in a statement.

It said the strike was held in light of the U.S. veto of the United Nations Security Council resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire.

Activists across social media are using hashtags like “#StrikeForGaza,” which has garnered thousands of posts as of this morning.

Israel has detained 142 women and girls in Gaza, Palestinian prisoners’ group says

and

Israeli forces have detained 142 women and girls from Gaza in Israeli occupation prisons, “including infant girls and elderly women” arrested during its campaign in Gaza, The Commission for Ex-Prisoners’ Affairs and the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club said in a statement yesterday.

“The Israeli occupation was carrying out horrific crimes against Gaza detainees,” the statement said, adding that the IDF refused to reveal the numbers of prisoners and their circumstances. 

Until last month, a total of 260 people from Gaza have been detained and are classified as illegal combatants, it added.

IDF resumes military activities in Rafah

A four-hour humanitarian pause has come to an end in Rafah. The IDF said the standstill in military activity, from 10 a.m. (3 a.m. ET) to 2 p.m., was to allow supplies to be moved around southern Gaza.

Rafah Gaza Destruction
Palestinians walk past a shattered building in Rafah, southern Gaza, this morning.Fatima Shbair / AP

IDF spokesperson Avichay Adraee added in a post on X that the military would allow movement of civilians through a coastal road until 4 p.m. local time.

The IDF also called for residents in northern Gaza to evacuate south and said the southern part of the Salah al-Din road, the main artery of Gaza and earlier used to move south, was now a battlefield.

WHO adopts resolution on access for lifesaving aid into Gaza

The World Health Organization adopted a resolution yesterday aimed at addressing the current humanitarian situation in Gaza.

The resolution calls for the “immediate, sustained and unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief, including the access of medical personnel,” while also urging for all parties to fulfill their duties, in accordance with international law.

The resolution is the first time that the United Nations has reached a consensus on the conflict since Oct. 7.

“It does not resolve the crisis. But it is a platform on which to build,” WHO chief Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

Mourners wait to collect lost relatives in Rafah

Relatives mourn next to the shrouded body of a loved one at Al-Najjar Hospital in Rafah today.

Rafah Gaza Mourners
Mahmud Hams / AFP – Getty Images

One shower for every 700, one toilet for every 150 people in Gaza, WHO chief says

In a meeting yesterday, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said those in Gaza “are looking for shelter anywhere they can find it. But nowhere and no one is safe in Gaza,” he added.

Ghebreyesus warned that increasing overcrowding in the southern part of Gaza is making the lack of food, water, shelter and sanitation worse and leading to the spread of disease.

“On average, there is one shower unit for every 700 people, and one toilet for every 150 people,” he said.

Israel says it has ‘eliminated’ a Hamas leader

and

The IDF said today it killed Emad Krikae, a commander of Hamas’ Shejaiya Battalion Krikae.

It did not specify the circumstances surrounding his death.

The army is battling Palestinian militants across Gaza in the war ignited by Hamas' Oct. 7 attack into Israel.
Israeli soldiers during ground operations in Gaza City’s Shijaiya neighborhood Friday.Moti Milrod / AP

It said in a post on X that he was “responsible for anti-tank missile training in the Gaza City Brigade,” before assuming his current role after the death of the previous leader.

NBC News has not verified the claims.

IDF: Six launches intercepted from Lebanon

Sirens sounded in northern Israel after missile launches were fired from Lebanon, according to the IDF, which said it had intercepted the attacks.

“IDF artillery is striking the sources of the fire,” it said.

The IDF and the Lebanese militia-group Hezbollah have been exchanging fire for weeks now, which Hezbollah says is in support of those in Gaza.

NBC News could not independently verify the attacks.


Rep. Elise Stefanik on University of Pennsylvania president’s resignation: ‘One down, two to go’

House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y. — who recently went viral for engaging in a contentious exchange with university presidents at a congressional hearing on antisemitism — on Saturday praised the resignation of University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill.

“One down. Two to go,” Stefanik wrote on X. “This is only the very beginning of addressing the pervasive rot of antisemitism that has destroyed the most ‘prestigious’ higher education institutions in America.”

“This forced resignation of the president of @Penn is the bare minimum of what is required,” she added. “These universities can anticipate a robust and comprehensive Congressional investigation of all facets of their institutions negligent perpetration of antisemitism including administrative, faculty, funding, and overall leadership and governance.”

Magill stepped down Saturday after she faced widespread backlash for some of her remarks at the five-hour House hearing Tuesday — during which she and her counterparts at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology were grilled over how their institutions responded to the rise in anti-Jewish hate since Hamas launched its attack in Israel on Oct. 7.

Read the full story here.

U.N. General Assembly set to hold emergency meeting

The United Nations General Assembly will meet tomorrow to discuss the situation in Gaza in an emergency meeting, its president said.

Northern Gaza Israeli Shelling
Smoke billows from destroyed buildings in northern Gaza this morning.Menahem Kahana / AFP – Getty Images

This comes after the U.S. on Friday vetoed a Security Council resolution for a cease-fire — one that was backed by almost all other members. The United Kingdom abstained.

The U.S. has come under increasing criticism from humanitarian aid agencies, U.N. officials and many countries for voting against a cease-fire.

‘The clock is really ticking’: Desperation mounts for starving Palestinians

As goods become increasingly scarce and expensive, World Food Programme Deputy Executive Director Carl Skau reiterated calls for a cease-fire and the opening of the Kerem Shalom border crossing to help scale up aid deliveries in Gaza.

“There’s a lot of tension around food. People are so desperate,” Skau told NBC News. “I went to distribution points where there are hundreds, if not thousands, of people waiting in queues, and there’s anger and frustration.”

It’s unclear how long order can be sustained when so much of Gaza’s population is starving. Aid trucks that do manage to get through the Rafah crossing aren’t able to meet the need, Skau said. The food crisis comes on top of the operational challenges that are waiting other on the side.

Skau said that during his recent visit to the Palestinian enclave, he spoke to people who hadn’t eaten in days.

“If this further deteriorates, you know, people will have nothing, and you can just imagine the desperation that we will have in our hands then if we’re not even able to deliver what we are delivering at the moment,” he said. “And I think, you know, the clock is really ticking.”

Detained Palestinians are bound and blindfolded in Gaza

This image taken Friday and released by The Associated Press today after being reviewed by the Israeli military censor, shows a truck carrying detained Palestinian men, bound and blindfolded, to an undisclosed location in northern Gaza.

Israeli forces have been rounding up Palestinians in northern Gaza for interrogation as they search for Hamas fighters.
Moti Milrod / AP

IDF claims Hamas ‘preventing Gazans from accessing humanitarian aid’ by ‘forcefully diverting supplies’

and

The Israel Defense Forces said Hamas is preventing residents of Gaza from accessing humanitarian aid by forcefully diverting supplies for its own use.

The IDF Border Defense Corps released video footage that it says shows members of Hamas forcefully taking humanitarian aid from civilians, loading it it onto a vehicle and then driving to a Hamas-run site. NBC News was not able to independently verify the contents of the video.

The IDF said that it has continued efforts to enable humanitarian aid to reach civilians in the Gaza Strip, further adding that tens of thousands of tons of aid designated for international humanitarian organizations have entered Gaza.

The United Nations and the World Health Organization maintain that a major humanitarian crisis is unfolding and that the amount of aid entering Gaza is nowhere near sufficient.



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