Maersk reports massive drop in net profits, warns of uncertainty due to Houthi attacks in Red Sea

Shipping giant Maersk today reported a massive drop in profitability as it warned that tensions in the Red Sea had impacted its operations.

Maersk reported an overall loss of more than $400 million in the fourth quarter of last year, compared to an almost $5 billion profit the same period in 2022, according to its earnings reports released today.

“The Red Sea crisis has caused immediate capacity constraints and a temporary increase in rates,” it said, as it warned of the “high uncertainty” of the disruption through the critical shipping route.

Maersk is among the critical sea carriers that have suspended shipping through the Red Sea in light of the Houthi attacks, forcing its ships to take much longer routes.

Displaced Gazan children sleep on shelves in chicken cages

Several young children are sleeping in chicken cages on a poultry farm where they are sheltering with their family in southern Gaza.

On a visit to the farm yesterday, an NBC News team filmed the flimsy mattresses and blankets on shelves inside the large cages where they now rest at night. Toothpaste and a few toys were seen nearby.

Fadil Hanoun, 13, said the mattresses were shared among several family members.

“I sleep here with my sister and a little girl, my niece,” he said. “Here is the place for my cousin and his brother. Here is the place of my cousin and her father,” he added.

Fadil and several other children said the foul odor from the chickens and sewage kept them up at night, along with the cold temperatures.

“We now live like chickens; here we became like chickens,” Fadil said as he pointed at a chicken in a closed cage near his own makeshift bed. “I would stay awake all night to avoid hitting the iron,” he added referring to the metal cage shelves.

Fadil’s father, Ibrahim, said it took several days to convince the children that the cages were safer than the previous places they had stayed despite “the terrible conditions.”

After fleeing their home in Gaza City, in the north of the enclave, he said the family had lived in a school facility and other parts of the enclave where they had been bombarded.

“We did not expect to live like that,” he said, adding that he spent days trying to convince them it was better to live there because it was “protected from shelling.”

U.S. carried out more self-defense strikes against Houthi targets

U..S. forces in the Red Sea carried out two “self-defense” strikes last night against Houthi militants in Yemen, with one against anti-ship missiles about to be launched and a second against a land attack cruise missile, according to U.S. Central Command.

“CENTCOM identified these missiles in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen and determined they presented an imminent threat to U.S. Navy ships and merchant vessels in the region,” it said in a statement this morning.

“These actions will protect freedom of navigation and make international waters safer and more secure for U.S. Navy and merchant vessels.”

Hamas sends delegation to Cairo for cease-fire talks

Hamas has sent a delegation to Egypt to follow up on its counterproposal that was rejected by Netanyahu and termed an “absolute nonstarter” by Blinken.

The delegation was sent to Cairo “in the framework of following up on the ideas we presented and to achieve the best results that serve the interests of our people,” Hamas official Osama Hamdan said in a statement yesterday. He added the delegation would be led by Khalil Al-Hayya, a senior official with the militant group.

It came as Blinken met with Israeli lawmakers in the hope of advancing a deal that could see the release of some hostages in exchange for a pause in fighting.

Iraq blasts U.S. after drone strike

Iraq today condemned the U.S. over the drone strike that killed a top Kata’ib Hezbollah commander, who the U.S. says had participated in the attack that killed three U.S. soldiers on a base in Jordan.

Calling it a “blatant assassination,” Yehia Rasool, spokesperson for the Iraqi prime minister, said the U.S. strike was conducted in the heart of a residential neighborhood in the capital.

“By this act, the American forces jeopardize civil peace, violate Iraqi sovereignty,” he said in a post on X.

White House officials to visit Michigan to meet with Muslim and Arab American community leaders

Senior Biden administration aides will travel to Michigan today to hear directly from Muslim and Arab American community leaders on their top issues and concerns including, most notably, the Israel-Hamas war and civilian casualties in Gaza.

The White House teased the upcoming visit to Michigan when President Joe Biden traveled to Detroit last week for a labor-focused event with the United Auto Workers union.

The meeting with Muslim and Arab American community leaders in Detroit is a White House-driven event. Biden campaign officials are not planning to participate at this time.

Read the full story here.

IDF exercises near the Lebanon border

An Israeli helicopter takes off during a military exercise in Upper Galilee near the Lebanon border yesterday.

Israel Lebanon Border
Jalaa Marey / AFP – Getty Images

Blinken meets with Lapid, war Cabinet members in Israel

Blinken kicked off his second day of talks in Israel at a meeting with the Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid, along with war Cabinet ministers Gadi Eisenkot and Benny Gantz.

Blinken reviewed the latest efforts to facilitate the return of the hostages, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement.

“We are, of course, focused on the hostages,” Blinken told reporters.

U.S. presence is still required in northern Iraq, Kurdish PM tells NBC News

ERBIL, Iraq — An American military presence is still required in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq despite growing calls from some politicians in Baghdad for it to end, the prime minister of the semi-autonomous region told NBC News in an exclusive interview today. 

“Americans have been very supportive in supporting Iraq and fighting terrorism,” Masrour Barzani said in an interview at his office. “I wouldn’t call for the withdrawal of the U.S. troops.”

His comments came after the Iraqi government condemned last night’s U.S drone attack in Baghdad which killed Abo Baqir Al-Saadi, a commander of the Iran-backed Kata’ib Hezbollah militia, calling it “a clear-cut assassination operation.”    

Masrour Barzani Iraq
Masrour Barzani in Erbil today.Mo Abbas / NBC News

Several lawmakers also called for the full withdrawal of U.S. forces after the wave of retaliatory strikes on Iraq and Syria over the weekend, following the attack on the American base in Jordan which killed three service members.    

But Barzani said there were still “many challenges” and “many threats” still out there including ISIS, which he said was not completely defeated. “The presence of Americans of some sort, and the U.S. would also agree, is necessary,” he added.  

Although he praised U.S. support for Kurdistan, he called for “urgent” aid for the region, particularly air defense systems to counter the barrage of missiles fired by Iran-backed militias on U.S. bases in Iraq and Syria and on Kurdish territory, an onslaught that has increased in intensity since the war in Gaza.

Sweden has thwarted Iranian attack plots, counterintelligence police say

A senior member of the Swedish security police said today that Iran had planned attacks on the country, days after local media reported that two Iranians were deported for a plot to kill three Swedish Jews several years ago.

Earlier this week, Swedish broadcaster SR reported that two Iranians had been suspected of planning to kill members of the Swedish Jewish community. They were arrested in 2021 and were expelled from Sweden in 2022 without charges, according to Swedish radio.

Daniel Stenling, counterespionage head at Sweden’s domestic security agency, told SR on Thursday that Iran “has been preparing and conducted activities aimed at carrying out a so-called physical attack against someone or something in Sweden.”

He added, “We have worked on a number of such cases where we have, as we gauge it, thwarted such preparations.” He declined to give specifics.

Fears grow in Rafah as Netanyahu orders troops to prepare for push into the city

Fear is growing in Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah where tens of thousands of displaced people have been seeking shelter after Netanyahu ordered his troops to prepare a push into the city.

After rejecting cease-fire proposals from Hamas, Netanyahu said Rafah was the “last bastion” for the militant group.

Rafah Israeli Strikes
Palestinian women react after their home was hit by an Israeli strike in Rafah today.Fatima Shbair / AP

In a Telegram post today, Gaza’s Information Ministry reported dozens of injuries from bombardment in the city, where tens of thousands of people fled after the Israeli military ordered them to evacuate the north of the enclave.

Blinken, who will hold a second day of talks with Israeli leaders today, has said that Israel has a “obligation” and “responsibility” to prioritize safety of civilians.

Militant commander blamed for participating in killings of three U.S. soldiers killed in Baghdad drone strike

A Kata’ib Hezbollah commander was killed in a U.S. drone strike last night in Baghdad as part of the response to an attack on American forces in the region two weeks ago, a U.S. official confirmed to NBC News. 

The U.S. first launched retaliatory strikes in both Iraq and Syria last week following an attack on a base in Jordan that killed three U.S. soldiers.  

Kata’ib Hezbollah announced the death of Abo Baqir Al-Saadi on its Telegram channel yesterday following Iraqi news report that a drone strike had hit a car in eastern Baghdad. 

U.S. Central Command posted a statement on X announcing the strike, describing the man killed as someone directly responsible in planning and participating in attacks on American forces in the region. 

“There are no indications of collateral damage or civilian casualties at this time,” the post said.

Precision strike kills militant commander in Baghdad

Iraqis gather around a burned vehicle targeted by a U.S. drone strike in Baghdad last night.

Iraq drone strike
Hadi Mizban / AP

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