At least 70 dead after strike at al-Maghazi refugee camp in Gaza, Health Ministry says

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Mother of Vermont shooting victim says leaders contributing to hate Elizabeth Price, a former U.N. consultant who contributed to the 2014 post-reconstruction plans in the Gaza Strip, is intimately familiar with the region’s cycle of violence. However, that cycle hit even closer to home when her 20-year-old son, Hisham Awartani, […]

Mother of Vermont shooting victim says leaders contributing to hate

Elizabeth Price, a former U.N. consultant who contributed to the 2014 post-reconstruction plans in the Gaza Strip, is intimately familiar with the region’s cycle of violence.

However, that cycle hit even closer to home when her 20-year-old son, Hisham Awartani, and his two friends were shot in Vermont in a possible hate crime. The incident left her son partially paralyzed, but Price and her family remain hopeful.

“He draws great strength from his experience of being Palestinian. Even though he has had this terrible thing happen to him, he’s luckier than many Palestinians right now,” Price said.

Maersk prepares to resume shipping operations in Red Sea

WASHINGTON — Denmark’s Maersk is preparing to resume shipping operations in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, the company said today, citing the deployment of a U.S.-led military operation designed to ensure the safety of commerce in the area.

The shipping giant paused sending vessels through the Bab el-Mandeb strait earlier this month because of attacks against its ships. That rendered the Suez Canal, which is key to global commerce, unusable for most routes.

The U.S. said Tuesday it was launching a multinational operation to protect commerce in the Red Sea from Iran-backed Yemeni militants, who have been firing drones and missiles at international vessels since last month in what they say is a response to Israel’s war in Gaza.

“As of Sunday 24 December 2023, we have received confirmation that the previously announced multi-national security initiative Operation Prosperity Guardian (OPG) has now been set up and deployed to allow maritime commerce to pass through the Red Sea / Gulf of Aden and once again return to using the Suez Canal as a gateway between Asia and Europe,” Maersk said in a statement today.

“With the OPG initiative in operation, we are preparing to allow for vessels to resume transit through the Red Sea both eastbound and westbound.”

Maersk said it would release more details in the coming days. But it said it could again resort to diverting ship traffic depending on how safety conditions evolved.

On Tuesday, Maersk said it was rerouting ships around Africa via the Cape of Good Hope. It said it would impose container surcharges for shipments from Asia to cover the extra costs associated with the longer journey.

Several other firms have stopped transiting the Red Sea over safety concerns in recent weeks, as has the oil company BP.

142 UNRWA staff members killed in Gaza

The U.N. Palestinian refugee agency has confirmed six more deaths of staff members, meaning 142 members of its U.N. team have been killed in Gaza since the war began.

According to today’s situation report, at least two UNRWA staff members were killed in airstrikes near a school in Rafah last week. Information about the four other deaths was not provided.

The agency said 301 internally displaced people have been killed sheltering in UNRWA facilities since Oct. 7, with more than 1,000 others injured in its installations.

It cited the current death toll provided by Ministry of Health in Gaza in its report, adding that 53,320 Palestinians have been injured.

On Christmas Eve, Pope Francis laments ‘futile’ war in Holy Land

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis lamented today that Jesus’ message of peace was being drowned out by the “futile logic of war” in the very land where he was born, as the pontiff led the world’s Roman Catholics into Christmas.

Francis, celebrating the 11th Christmas of his pontificate, presided at a solemn Christmas Eve Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica and spoke of the conflict in the Holy Land in his homily.

“Tonight, our hearts are in Bethlehem, where the Prince of Peace is once more rejected by the futile logic of war, by the clash of arms that even today prevents him from finding room in the world,” Francis said.

At the papal Mass for 6,500 people in St. Peter’s Basilica and more watching on screens in the square outside, Francis said the real message of Christmas is peace and love, urging people not to be obsessed with worldly success and the “idolatry of consumerism.”

Francis said that while many might find it hard to celebrate Christmas in “this world that is so judgmental and unforgiving,” they should try to remember what happened on the first Christmas.

“Tonight, love changes history,” he said.

Police investigating bomb threat emails sent to New York City synagogues

The New York Police Department said it is aware of and actively investigating emails sent to synagogues around the city with potential bomb threats.

The agency said it has determined the emails to be a part of “another series of ‘swatting,’ or hoax threats, similar to campaigns that we have seen nationwide and in our city over the last few months.”

The threats are “not considered credible,” the NYPD said, but it added it will continue to provide resources to places of worship in the city.

IDF says it’s reviewing reports of Maghazi refugee camp incident

The IDF said it is reviewing reports of “an incident” in the al-Maghazi refugee camp.

“Despite the challenges posed by Hamas terrorists operating within civilian areas in Gaza, the IDF is committed to international law including taking feasible steps to minimize harm to civilians,” the IDF said.

70 killed in al-Maghazi refugee camp bombings, Health Ministry says

At least 70 people have been killed in what have been described as attacks on the al-Maghazi refugee camp in Gaza, the Health Ministry said in a statement today.

Earlier in the day, the Hamas government media office accused Israel of bombing four homes inhabited by and belonging to Palestinian families. NBC News has not been able to independently verify the statement. The IDF did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In videos recorded by volunteers and posted on X, the Palestine Red Crescent Society also said its teams responded to bombings at homes in al-Maghazi.

The Associated Press reported that its journalists were at a nearby hospital and watched frantic Palestinians carry the dead and wounded, including children.

On Christmas Eve, Bethlehem resembles a ghost town

BETHLEHEM, West Bank — The typically bustling biblical birthplace of Jesus resembled a ghost town today after Christmas Eve celebrations in Bethlehem were called off because of the Israel-Hamas war.

The festive lights and Christmas tree that normally decorate Manger Square were missing, as were the throngs of foreign tourists and jubilant youth marching bands that gather in the West Bank town every year to mark the holiday. Dozens of Palestinian security forces patrolled the empty square.

A priest walks in the empty square in front of the Church of the Nativity in the city of Bethlehem
A priest walks in the empty square in front of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem on Saturday. Hazem Bader / AFP – Getty Images

“This year, without the Christmas tree and without lights, there’s just darkness,” said Brother John Vinh, a Franciscan monk from Vietnam who has lived in Jerusalem for six years.

Vinh said that he always comes to Bethlehem to mark Christmas but that this year was especially sobering. He gazed at a Nativity scene in Manger Square with a baby Jesus wrapped in a white shroud, reminiscent of the thousands of children killed in the fighting in Gaza.

People walk by shops near the Church of the Nativity, in Bethlehem
People walk by shops near the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem on Saturday. Leo Correa / AP

Barbed wire surrounded the scene, the gray rubble reflecting none of the joyous lights and bursts of color that normally fill the square during the Christmas season. Cold, rainy weather added to the grim mood.

The cancellation of Christmas festivities was a severe blow to the town’s economy. Tourism accounts for an estimated 70% of Bethlehem’s income — almost all of it during the Christmas season.

Souvenirs are displayed for sale near the Church of the Nativity, in Bethlehem,
Souvenirs for sale near the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem on Saturday.Leo Correa / AP

With many major airlines canceling flights to Israel, few foreigners are visiting. Local officials say over 70 hotels in Bethlehem were forced to close, leaving thousands of people unemployed.

Gift shops were slow to open on Christmas Eve, although a few did once the rain had stopped pouring down. There were few visitors, however.

“We can’t justify putting out a tree and celebrating as normal when some people [in Gaza] don’t even have houses to go to,” said Ala’a Salameh, one of the owners of Afteem Restaurant, a family-owned falafel restaurant just steps from the square.

Clergymen wait ahead of Christmas service in the Manger Square outside the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem
Clergymen wait ahead of Christmas service in Manger Square outside the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem on Christmas Eve 2022.Hazem Bader / AFP via Getty Images file

Netanyahu says eliminating Hamas is the ‘only way’ to return hostages

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Israelis that the only way to return that nation’s hostages is to have complete victory over Hamas, according to an NBC News translation of a video statement on his X account.

“Citizens of Israel, we are deepening the fighting in the Gaza Strip. We will continue to fight until a complete victory over Hamas,” Netanyahu said. “This is the only way to return our abductees, eliminate Hamas and ensure that Gaza will no longer be a threat to Israel.”

He said the government, its soldiers and its people are “united” in the cause. He also appeared to refer to the deaths of 14 soldiers over the weekend, saying the war comes with a ” very heavy price” — the lives of Israeli troops.

“And we do everything to preserve the lives of our warriors, but one thing will not be done — we will not stop until we achieve victory,” he said.

Bethlehem pastor calls Gaza the ‘world’s moral compass’ as Palestinians face ‘genocide’

The Rev. Munther Isaac described the situation in Gaza as a “genocide” in his “Christ in the Rubble” service yesterday at Bethlehem’s Christmas Lutheran Church and said those in the occupied West Bank watch in worry that they are next.

“So here’s my message: Gaza today has become the moral compass of the world. Gaza was hell before Oct. 7, and the world was silent,” Isaac said. “Should we be surprised at that silence now? If you are not appalled by what is happening in Gaza, if you are not shaken to your core, there is something wrong with your humanity.”

Isaac said those who “fail to call this genocide” willingly embrace darkness and sin. He added that he felt bad for those people, because while Palestinians will stand up again, he questioned whether those who are “complicit” in Gaza will ever recover.

“When we justify, rationalize and theologize the bombing of children, Jesus is under the rubble,” Isaac told the congregation. “Jesus is under the rubble; this is his manger. He is at home with the marginalized, the suffering, the oppressed and the displaced.”

At the end of his sermon, Isaac led the congregation in chanting the words “stop this genocide now.”

The siege in Gaza has not been declared a genocide by the United Nations or the U.S., though the U.N.’s independent experts warned last month that failing to implement a cease-fire “risks this situation spiralling towards a genocide.”

Christmas spirit crushed by Israeli aggression, Jordanian foreign minister says

Ayman Safadi, Jordan’s foreign affairs minister, criticized Israel’s actions in Gaza, the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem ahead of the Christmas holiday on his X account.

“Christmas spirit of hope, joy is suffocated by Israel’s blockades of Bethlehem & Jerusalem & its aggression on Gaza which expose the inhumane nature of an occupation that denies people of the Holy Land their right to peace, destroys their lives, steals their hope & kills their joy,” he wrote.

Christmas celebrations in Bethlehem, the site of Jesus’ birth, according to the biblical story, have been canceled because of the war, The Associated Press reported today. Normally bustling and festive at this time of the year, Bethlehem was described as a ghost town devoid of any holiday joy.

Former Israeli sniper says war on Gaza is strengthening Hamas

The recent killing of three Israeli hostages by the Israeli military has sparked a wider discussion of Israel’s conduct in the Gaza Strip, where over 20,400 Palestinians have died.

Breaking the Silence is an Israeli whistleblower group that gathers testimonies from former soldiers, shedding light on how the military occupation plays out on the ground.

“Indiscriminate bombing is not a way forward, definitely not a way to shift public opinion within the strip. But also not a way to move forward to a day after, where we don’t conduct our relationship with Palestinians in the West Bank or Gaza through the scope of our gun,” said Avner Gvaryahu, the executive director of Breaking the Silence and a former Israeli sniper.

IDF says bodies of 5 hostages were found in Hamas tunnel system

Five hostages were found dead after Israel’s military entered part of Hamas’ underground tunnel system, which has now been dismantled, according to the IDF.

The hostages found in the tunnel were identified as Warrant Officer Ziv Dado, Sgt. Ron Sherman, Cpl. Nik Beizer, Eden Zacharia and Elia Toledano. All five of the hostages’ deaths were announced this month, and their bodies have been returned to Israel.

According to the IDF, the tunnel was uncovered after the military’s operations at Jabalia in Gaza, and it contained a now-demolished Hamas headquarters.

“At the depth of the military headquarters, weapons, infrastructure for manufacturing weapons, and emergency hideouts were found,” the military’s statement said. “The network was connected to a shaft leading to the residence of the Commander of Hamas’ Northern Brigade, Ahmad Andur.”

NBC News has not independently verified the IDF’s statement.

Israeli military says it struck Hezbollah military infrastructure in Lebanon

Israel’s military, responding to rocket launches from Hezbollah militants in Lebanon, struck a number of Hezbollah military targets today, the Israel Defense Forces said in a message on Telegram.

Israeli forces also “fired in order to thwart threats in several areas” in Lebanon, according to the IDF.

Israel said Hezbollah fighters had launched rockets toward the areas of Avivim, Margaliot and the Bedouin village of Arab al-Aramshe in northern Israel.

Israeli troops and Iran-backed Hezbollah militants in Lebanon’s south have clashed repeatedly since Oct. 7, stoking fears of a wider regional conflagration.

NYPD says it hasn’t found weapons after bomb threats at synagogues

New York City police has responded to multiple bomb threats to synagogues around the city, saying they have failed to find any confirmed issues.

A spokesperson told NBC News today that police are aware of threats and that there have been “negative results” during their response. The police department did not specify locations but said the threats were occurring all over.

A weekend of combat in Gaza kills 15 Israeli soldiers as public support for the war is tested

TEL AVIV — Fifteen Israeli soldiers have been killed in combat in Gaza over the weekend, the Israeli military said today, while tentative efforts continued on a deal for another exchange of hostages for Palestinians held by Israel.

As Christmas Eve fell, smoke still rose over Gaza from the fighting, while Bethlehem, in the West Bank, was hushed, its holiday celebrations called off.

The mounting death toll among Israeli troops — 154 since the ground offensive began — could erode public support for the war, which was sparked when Hamas-led militants stormed communities in southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and taking 240 hostage.

The war has devastated parts of Gaza, killed roughly 20,400 Palestinians and displaced almost all of the besieged territory’s 2.3 million people. The Health Ministry in Gaza said 166 people were killed in the coastal enclave over the past day.

Israelis still largely stand behind the country’s stated goals of crushing Hamas’ governing and military capabilities and releasing the remaining 129 captives. That’s despite rising international pressure against Israel’s offensive, the soaring death toll and unprecedented suffering among Palestinians.

Northern Gaza has no medical services, health ministry says

Health care in Gaza is continuing to deteriorate as the northern part of the Palestinian enclave is without services, according to Dr. Ashraf Al-Qudra, spokesperson for the Ministry of Health.

“The health system in southern Gaza is in continuous collapse and northern Gaza has no health services at all,” Al-Qudra said.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, praised physicians and medical staff for their work to help people despite the obstacles presented during the war.

“The decimation of the #Gaza health system is a tragedy,” Tedros said in a post on X. “But in the face of constant insecurity and inflows of wounded patients, we see doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers and more continue striving to save lives.”

Hezbollah says it targeted 2 sites in Israel

Hezbollah said today that it attacked two different sites in Israel. The attacks came amid remarks from Israeli leadership that the military is ready to mobilize for escalations at the Lebanese border.

One of today’s attack was on the village of Avivim, according to the group’s statement. Hezbollah described the village as occupied Salha, which was an Arab village lost to Israelis in the 1948 war.

Israeli military officials have said they are prepared for an escalation at the Lebanese border as the IDF and Hezbollah continue to exchange fire. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, speaking to troops today, reiterated previous threats to expand the war to Lebanon’s capital if attacks continue.

“Everyone can use ‘Google Maps’ and imagine what may happen in Beirut,” he said.

Palestinian Islamic Jihad delegation arrives for talks in Cairo

A delegation from the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement, a militant group allied with Hamas, has arrived in Cairo for talks with Egyptian security officials, a member of the group with knowledge of the talks told Reuters on Sunday.

PIJ is known to be holding some of the Israeli captives in Gaza.

The talks will center on “ways to end the Israeli aggression on our people,” said the official from the Iran-backed group, which has so far rejected any new prisoner-swap deals with Israel before the latter ends its military offensive in the Gaza Strip.

Pentagon says Iranian drone ‘attack’ hit chemical tanker near India

The Iranian navy has taken delivery of cruise missiles with a range of 1,000 km (621 miles) as well as reconnaissance helicopters, state media reported today, as the U.S. accused Iran of a drone attack on a chemical tanker in the Indian Ocean.

A drone launched from Iran struck a chemical tanker in the Indian Ocean early yesterday, the U.S. Department of Defense said.

“The motor vessel CHEM PLUTO, a Liberia-flagged, Japanese-owned, and Netherlands-operated chemical tanker was struck at approximately 10 a.m. local time (6 a.m. GMT) today in the Indian Ocean, 200 nautical miles from the coast of India, by a one-way attack drone fired from Iran,” a Pentagon spokesperson told Reuters.

Although Western military analysts say Iran sometimes exaggerates its capabilities, Iranian-made missiles and drones are a key element in Tehran’s military hardware.

Palestinian government media office says 28 killed in central city IDF told civilians they could use for evacuation

Twenty-eight people died and 88 more were wounded in Deir al-Balah, a city in central Gaza, 48 hours after the IDF asked civilians from nearby towns to evacuate there, the Palestinian government media office said.

NBC News is unable to independently verify this report. In a post on X, the Palestine Red Crescent Society, an emergency medical care NGO, also said it had evacuated a “large number” of the dead and wounded following a strike on a house in the city.

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

Deputy AG: ‘Significant uptick’ in threats against Jews, Muslims and Arab Americans

The Justice Department has seen a “significant uptick” in violence and threats against Jewish, Muslim and Arab Americans since Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said during an interview with ABC’s “This Week.”

“We have seen a significant uptick in threats of violence and violence, particularly directed at the Jewish community and also at the Muslim and Arab American communities here in the United States,” she said

The department has opened more than 100 investigations into the threats, but many others have also been resolved without incident.

IDF chief of staff says Khan Younis action is ‘an impressive attack’

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi described Israeli military action in Khan Younis as “an impressive attack” during a situation assessment with forces from the 98th Division of the army, according to the IDF.

Halevi warned that “we still have a lot of work to do,” the IDF said in a post on X.

Khan Younis is Gaza’s second largest city and the largest in the south. The IDF had originally ordered Palestinians to evacuate to Khan Younis, but as it expanded its offensive beyond northern Gaza in recent weeks, Khan Younis has faced significant bombing and ground attacks.

Image: Israel Resists Growing Calls For Ceasefire In Gaza
A woman mourns the death of a loved one killed in a strike in Khan Younis today.Ahmad Hasaballah / Getty Images

Aerial and tank attacks on Jabaliya refugee camp

Israel bombed areas of Jabaliya in northern Gaza overnight, with fighting into this morning, residents and Palestinian media said.

The IDF said it had “eliminated seven terrorists and destroyed four Hamas survey methods that were deployed in the area” using air force and artillery fire. NBC News is unable to independently verify these claims.

Residents told Reuters that there had been persistent aerial bombardment and shelling from Israeli tanks in the area, which they said had moved further into the town today.

Jabaliya is a permanent refugee camp in northern Gaza. It has faced persistent bombardment in recent weeks, with strikes hitting UNRWA schools and residential blocks.

Scenes of a somber Christmas Eve in Bethlehem

Chirstmas Eve is usually the busiest day at the Church of the Nativity — on the site where Jesus is said to have been born — in Bethlehem, in the occupied West Bank. This year is far more somber, with festive celebrations forgone out of respect for the war in Gaza.

Instead of the usual Christmas tree and lights in Manger Square outside the church, there’s a Nativity scene set in rubble and surrounded by barbed wire. The baby Jesus is wrapped in a white shroud, reminiscent of the thousands of children killed in fighting in Gaza. Worshippers unfurled a giant Palestinian flag in the mostly empty square today.

Image: PALESTINIAN-ISRAEL-RELIGION-CHRISTIANITY-CHRISTMAS
HAZEM BADER / AFP – Getty Images
Image: PALESTINIAN-ISRAEL-RELIGION-CHRISTIANITY-CHRISTMAS
HAZEM BADER / AFP – Getty Images
Image: PALESTINIAN-ISRAEL-RELIGION-CHRISTIANITY-CHRISTMAS
HAZEM BADER / AFP – Getty Images

Israeli ministers address troops in leveled Beit Hanoun

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and war Cabinet minister Benny Gantz toured northern Gaza yesterday and held a situation assessment with army generals in the leveled city of Beit Hanoun, near Gaza’s northeastern border with Israel.

In comments to soldiers, Gallant said, “Every building from where shootings or launches are conducted, and every source of terrorism, must be taken down so that the residents of Sderot [in Israel’s south], may return home in peace.”

He also threatened that the Israeli army would bring the same destruction on Gaza’s southern city of Khan Younis, saying Hamas soldiers fighting in that area would “see how the story of Beit Hanoun ends.”

“Everyone can use ‘Google Maps’ and imagine what may happen in Beirut,” he added, reiterating previous threats to expand the war to Lebanon’s capital if attacks from Hezbollah, an Iran-backed militant group in the country’s south, did not stop.

Image:
IDF soldiers on Israel’s southern border overlooking Gaza today.Ariel Schalit / AP

Palestinian media office publishes the names and photos of 101 journalists killed in Gaza

The Palestinian government’s media office has published the names and photographs of the 101 journalists who have died in the Gaza Strip since the beginning of the war.

Names of dead journalists include Samer Abudaqa, an Al Jazeera cameraman who was killed in an Israeli drone strike in Khan Younis earlier this month. His colleague, Wael Dahdouh, a famous face in Gaza and throughout the Arab world, was also injured in the strike. Dahdouh later reported on Abudaqa’s funeral.

The Committee to Protect Journalists, a nonprofit organization based in New York, has said that the current war in Gaza is the deadliest period for journalists since CPJ began gathering data in 1992.

A view of destruction in Rafah

A child stands by rubble in a room overlooking a building destroyed by a strike today in the southern city of Rafah.

Image: TOPSHOT-PALESTINIAN-ISRAEL-CONFLICT
SAID KHATIB / AFP – Getty Images
Image: PALESTINIAN-ISRAEL-CONFLICT
SAID KHATIB / AFP – Getty Images

Netanyahu resists reports that U.S. convinced Israel not to expand military activity

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a Cabinet meeting today that he told U.S. President Joe Biden that Israel would “fight until the absolute victory — however long it takes.”

Responding to reports that the U.S. had convinced Israel not to expand its military activity, Netanyahu said that he had “seen false publications claiming that the U.S. prevented and is preventing us from operational operations in the region — this is not true. Israel is a sovereign state.”

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that Netanyahu was persuaded by Biden not to attack Hezbollah in Lebanon out of concerns it would launch an attack on Israel similar to that of Oct. 7 by Hamas.

“The decision on how to use our forces is an independent decision of the IDF and no one else,” Netanyahu said, reiterating his commitment to a “long war” with the goal of totally eliminating Hamas.

Child shot by drone while inside hospital, Red Crescent says

A 13-year-old child was killed by a drone while inside Al-Amal Hospital in Khan Younis, the Palestine Red Crescent Society said on X today.

The child had been internally displaced and was living inside the hospital, PRCS said.

NBC News was unable to independently verify this report. The targeting of children in any situation of armed conflict is considered a war crime under international humanitarian law. The IDF did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Nine more Israeli soldiers killed in Gaza, in one of the deadliest weekends for the IDF

The IDF confirmed the deaths of nine of its soldiers in central and southern Gaza on Sunday, bringing the total of those killed in combat in the enclave up to 14 this weekend alone.

It has been one of the deadliest weekends in the strip for the IDF, challenging narratives within Israel that Hamas has been significantly weakened by more than two months of fighting in the strip.

153 Israeli soldiers have been killed since the beginning of the ground invasion, according to the IDF.

Death toll in Gaza reaches over 20,400

20,424 people have been killed in Gaza since Oct. 7, the Palestinian Ministry of Health said yesterday, with more than 53,600 wounded.

Dr. Ashraf Al-Qudra, a spokesperson for the ministry, estimated earlier in December that 70% of those killed were women and children.

The total death toll in the besieged coastal enclave is an estimate due to ongoing war, and the number of people still stuck under rubble, with the absence of sufficient fuel or resources to assist in retrieving them. Earlier in December, the Ministry estimated that 7,780 people were missing and presumed dead beneath rubble.

Image:
Palestinians mourn relatives killed in a strike in Khan Younis today.Mohammed Dahman / AP

Drone attack on Israeli-affiliated merchant vessel off India’s west coast

NEW DELHI — A drone hit an Israeli-affiliated merchant vessel off the coast of India in the Arabian Sea on Saturday, the British maritime security firm Ambrey said, damaging the vessel but causing no casualties.

The incident on the Liberian-flagged chemical product tanker occurred 120 miles (200-kilometers) southwest of the Indian port of Veraval, said Ambrey. It gave no further details about the vessel’s Israeli links.

Ambrey said the drone attack struck the stern and caused a fire onboard that was later extinguished without any casualties among the crew. The firm said the vessel suffered some structural damage and some water was taken onboard.

“The vessel was Israel-affiliated. She had last called in Saudi Arabia and was destined for India at the time,” Ambrey said.

The Indian Navy responded after the shipping company requested assistance, a naval official said.

“Indian Navy had dispatched an aircraft, which arrived overhead the MV (merchant vessel),” a statement said. “Safety of the crew and ship was ascertained. A warship has also been dispatched to provide any assistance as required.”

Major global shipping firms have rerouted their vessels after attacks in the Red Sea since the Israel-Hamas war began on Oct. 7. Many vessels take a longer and costlier route around the southern tip of Africa.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for Saturday’s attack.

U.S. Navy ship shoots down Houthi drones, responds to attacks on other vessels in Red Sea

Houthi rebels in Yemen fired missiles into international shipping lanes in the Southern Red Sea on Saturday, but no ships reported being impacted by the two anti-ship ballistic missiles, according to U.S. Naval Forces Central Command.

Between 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. local time, four unmanned aerial drones fired from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen were shot down by the USS Laboon — the ship the drones were heading toward — U.S. Central Command said, adding there were no injuries or damage from the incident.

The USS Laboon then turned its attention to reports from two ships also in the southern Red Sea that were under attack at approximately 8 p.m. local time, CENTCOM said.

A Houthi one-way attack drone nearly missed the M/V Blaamanen, a Norwegian-flagged, -owned and -operated chemical/oil tanker, CENTCOM said. The M/V Saibaba, a Gabon-owned, Indian-flagged crude oil tanker, reported it was hit by a one-way attack drone, according to CENTCOM.

Neither ship reported any injuries from the attacks, which mark the 14th and 15th on commercial shipping vessels by the Houthis since Oct. 17.

As the Houthi rebels continue to fire missiles at ships in the southern Red Sea, a number of major companies are pausing shipments that pass through region.

Biden, Netanyahu discuss concerns over civilian deaths in Gaza, hostage releases

President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on the phone today and discussed Israel’s military campaign in Gaza.

Biden reiterated the importance of protecting civilians in Gaza, including those who are supporting the humanitarian aid efforts, according to a White House readout of the call. Biden said it is also crucial to allow those civilians to move safely away from areas of ongoing fighting, the White House said.

The leaders also discussed the importance of the release of all remaining hostages being held by Hamas.

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