Israel-Hamas war live updates: Blinken travels to Jordan for talks; U.N. condemns ambulance strikes
ASHDOD, Israel — Israel’s military said it carried out a deadly strike in Gaza City on Friday on an ambulance that was being “used by a Hamas terrorist cell.” Palestinian health authorities say the vehicle was part of a convoy carrying wounded people from Gaza’s besieged north to the south.
At least 15 people were killed and dozens injured in the strike, which unfolded outside Gaza City’s Al Shifa hospital, Palestinian health ministry spokesperson Ashraf Al-Qudra said in a televised interview aired by Al Jazeera. The Palestine Red Crescent Society, a humanitarian organization, corroborated the information in a statement.
NBC News was not able to independently verify the death toll or the circumstances surrounding the strike.
Video posted to social media and verified by NBC News showed chaotic scenes: people lying bloodied and motionless on the ground, a man wailing as he carried a boy whose face was covered in blood, blood trailing behind the wounded as they were pulled from the frenzy. A horse also appeared to lie dead on the ground, while several vehicles were damaged and spattered in blood, including at least one ambulance.
Five days after Hamas’ terrorist attack on Oct. 7, Mohamad Mattar says, he and two other Palestinians in the occupied West Bank were detained by a group of Israeli troops and settlers wearing military uniforms.
Mattar, 46, a social and humanitarian worker for the Palestinian Authority, which governs parts of the West Bank, told NBC News that he and his companions were taken to a sheep barn. There, they were stripped to their underwear, bound, beaten, photographed and urinated on, he said.
“He was telling me that he is going to kill me, he is going to make my kids hungry,” Mattar said of one of his assailants. “He poured cold water on my body and made me roll over all the manure. Then he kept beating me up.”
This account is part of a growing crisis in the West Bank, according to the United Nations, human rights groups and locals, who say that Israeli security forces and extremist settlers have been intimidating, abusing and killing Palestinians there.
When asked about the incident, the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement that “the manner in which the arrest was carried out, and the conduct of the force in the field, was contrary to the standards expected of soldiers and commanders in the IDF.”
The IDF added that it had opened an investigation and dismissed the commander of the unit that led the arrest.
World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a post on X that he was “utterly shocked by reports of attacks on ambulances evacuating patients” in Gaza.
Patients, health workers and medical facilities “must be protected,” he said.
The Gaza health ministry said 15 people were killed and 60 injured in the airstrike on an ambulance convoy near Al Shifa hospital in Gaza City on Friday.
The WHO has repeatedly warned against the targeting of health care workers, facilities, patients and civilians, and has called for a humanitarian truce.
Turkey has recalled its ambassador in Tel Aviv following “Israel’s rejection of calls for cease-fire, continued attacks against civilians” in Gaza, according to the state-run Turkish news service Anadolu Agency.
The announcement follows mounting criticism of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel’s bombardment of Gaza from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who earlier told the press that he had “severed ties” with Netanyahu.
Israel recalled its own diplomats in Ankara following “increasingly harsh statements” from the Turkish government last week, according to a post from Foreign Minister Eli Cohen on X, formerly Twitter, last Saturday.
AMMAN, Jordan — Secretary of State Antony Blinken shared his “condolences to those who lost their lives trying to help others” and commended the “extraordinary work” of U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) workers.
Speaking to reporters alongside UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini outside the organization’s headquarters in the Jordanian capital Amman, the secretary of state said “every single day” that UNRWA workers continued to show up in Gaza was “a lifeline for Palestinians.”
“Our condolences to those who lost their lives in trying to help others and admiration for those who continue this line of work,” Blinken added.
Seventy UNRWA workers have died so far as a result of Israeli bombardment of Gaza since Oct. 7, according to the agency.
In the city of Khan Younis in southern Gaza, rescuers work in the rubble of buildings hit by Israeli strikes today.
At least 41 children have been killed by violence in the West Bank since the Hamas attacks on Israel, Save the Children said in a statement today.
Settler-related violence has also forced the displacement of at least 111 families, including 356 children since the beginning of the ongoing escalation, with displacement as a result of settler violence up by 43%, it said.
“Children across the occupied Palestinian territory are increasingly caught up in a horrifying spiral of violence, while the world is watching,” Jason Lee, country director for the occupied Palestinian territories, said in the statement.
He added that even before Oct. 7, this year was the deadliest year on record for Palestinian children.
A deadly attack on the Al Fakhoura School, in Gaza City’s Jabalia refugee camp, has killed 15 people and wounded 70, a spokesperson from Gaza’s ministry of health said Saturday.
Displaced civilians were using the school as shelter, the spokesperson added.
The U.N. refugee agency in Gaza confirmed the school strike to Reuters today, adding that children were among those killed. “At least one strike hit the schoolyard where there were tents for displaced families. Another strike hit inside the school where women were baking bread,” the agency told Reuters.
The attack followed an earlier strike on Osama bin Zaid school in northern Gaza, which killed 20 people on Friday, according to the health ministry. In a statement, a Hamas official said that the group held “the U.S. administration and President Biden himself fully responsible” for the attacks, accusing the president of giving Israel a “green light” for a “genocidal war” on Gaza’s population.
The death toll in Gaza has climbed to 9,488, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Health in Gaza said today.
The figure included 3,900 children and 2,509 women, the spokesperson said.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken is navigating a Middle East where diplomacy has taken a back seat to military and political calculations. Amid all the anger and division, many will view his mission with skepticism.
After he met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday and called for a pause in the conflict, he was met with a defiant response on television. No, Netanyahu said, to even a temporary cease-fire that does not include the release of hostages.
Today in Jordan, the secretary of state will be told by Arab states that there needs to be a cease-fire now to end the bloodshed. The view from some Middle Eastern states is that the successful negotiation to open the Rafah border crossing with Egypt might lead to a little more trust and ultimately a diplomatic solution to end the conflict.
NATO member Turkey proposed a peace conference this week, and a diplomatic source in Ankara told NBC News that the country was working on a proposal to have third parties provide security for Israel and Gaza in an effort to “restart discussions for a diplomatic solution.” But Turkey’s relations with Israel are in crisis. In recent weeks President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has described Israel as “out of its mind.”
The Israeli military has announced that it will allow passage along the Salah al-Din Road, Gaza’s main highway spanning north to south, between 1 p.m. (7 a.m. ET) and 4 p.m. (11 a.m. ET) today for civilians to move to the south of the strip.
“For your safety, make use of the upcoming time to move to the south beyond Wadi Gaza,” said Avichay Adraee, the Israel Defense Forces spokesperson for the Arab media, referring to the river that cuts across the strip, dividing north from south.
The IDF has repeatedly told Gaza residents to move to the southern parts of the strip, claiming to focus efforts to combat Hamas in the northern part of the coastal enclave. Both the north and south of Gaza have faced heavy shelling by the Israeli military since Hamas’ attacks on Israel on Oct. 7.
Several members of the same family were among 55 people arrested by Israeli forces in the West Bank overnight, the Palestinian Commission for the Affairs of Prisoners and ex-Prisoners said in a statement today.
The largest portion of the arrests were in the Al Fawwar refugee camp in Hebron, where 25 people were arrested, although some people were later released, the statement said. Others were detained in Ramallah, Nablus, Jenin, Tulkarm, Bethlehem and Jerusalem.
The statement came after Liz Throssell, a spokesperson for the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said Friday that Israeli forces are using military-like tactics to arrest Palestinians.
Jewish settlers were attacking Palestinians and telling them to either leave their homes or be killed, she added.
Former President Barack Obama said in a speech last night that the world feels “more unstable and more dangerous” than it has in a long time, referencing the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas.
He added that it was hard to be hopeful and that the images of families mourning and bodies pulled from rubble “force a moral reckoning on all of us.”
An Israeli airstrike on a convoy of ambulances near Al Shifa hospital in Gaza City — which killed and wounded dozens — prompted U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to renew calls for a humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza.
“I am horrified by the reported attack in Gaza on an ambulance convoy outside Al Shifa hospital,” Guterres said in a statement issued late Friday. “The images of bodies strewn on the street outside the hospital are harrowing.”
Humanitarian access must be safely allowed into Gaza “at a scale commensurate with this dramatic situation,” Guterres added, describing the humanitarian situation across the strip as “horrific.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister, Najib Mikati, whose economically and politically ravaged country is home to Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed force hostile to Israel.
Neither Blinken nor Mikati spoke to reporters at the top of their meeting at a hotel in Amman, Jordan. Blinken also met with Qatar’s foreign minister, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, whose country has emerged as the most influential interlocutor with Hamas and has been key to negotiating the limited release of hostages held by the group.
The U.S. has grave concerns that Hezbollah, which has already stepped up rocket and cross-border attacks on northern Israel, will take a more active role in the war as the nation’s assault on Gaza continues.
In a recorded address yesterday, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah did not forecast the group’s greater involvement, but said a wider conflict could not be ruled out.
Before early October, Motaz Azaiza’s Instagram account documented life in Gaza to about 25,000 followers with a mix of daily life and the ongoing hostilities between Israel and Hamas.
That began to change in the days after Hamas’ terrorist attack on Israel and the retaliation on Gaza. Since then, more than 12.4 million people have begun following Azaiza’s feed, which has become a daily chronicle of Israeli strikes.
Many other journalists, digital creators and people active on social media based in the region have seen a similar uptick in followers. Plestia Alaqad, a journalist whose work has been featured by NBC News, has gained more than 2.1 million, according to the social media analytics company Social Blade. Mohammed Aborjela, a digital creator, gained 230,000.
The unfiltered coverage, as seen in the Instagram post below, adds a unique element to the broader journalistic efforts to capture what’s happening in Gaza.
NBC News’ Jay Gray got a rare look at the “Oasis of Peace,” a small village in central Israel — about 30 miles from Gaza — where Israelis and Palestinians have lived side by side for decades.
One woman who lives in the community said there have been open discussions about the Israel-Hamas conflict among Jews and Arabs alike.
Honduras recalled its ambassador to Israel for consultations today as it condemned what it called “genocide and other serious violations of international law” in the Israel-Hamas war.
The Central American country’s Foreign Affairs Minister Eduardo Enrique Reina wrote on the social media platform X that President Xiomara Castro had decided to immediately recall the ambassador in light of “the serious humanitarian situation the civilian Palestinian population is suffering in the Gaza Strip.”
The Foreign Affairs Ministry added in a statement that “Honduras energetically condemns the genocide and serious violations of international humanitarian law that the civilian Palestinian population is suffering in the Gaza Strip.”
U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken touched down in Amman, Jordan, today following a trip to Israel.
He will meet with Jordan’s King Abdullah II, the prime minister of Qatar, and Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister, Najib Mikati, as well as foreign ministers from Jordan, Lebanon, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE.
Blinken will also meet with officials from the United Nations’ Palestine aid agency, including by video with their staff in Gaza. The secretary of state had called for a “humanitarian pause” to allow for badly needed aid to enter the Gaza Strip, which has so far gone unheeded by Israel.