Turkish police rescue hostages held at gunpoint for hours in Gaza protest

Police have rescued seven hostages held at gunpoint for hours at a factory owned by U.S. company Procter & Gamble in northwest Turkey, local officials said early Friday.

A gunman had sparked the standoff at the P&> facility in Gebze, Kocaeli province, in protest of the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, Governor Seddar Yavuz was quoted as saying by state-run Anadolu news agency.

Police initiated the rescue after 10 hours of negotiation failed. “Our esteemed police members and our heroic security forces made the necessary intervention as soon as we were sure that no harm would come to the hostages,” Yavuz said.

Previous reports said two suspects had taken P&> staff prisoner, but Yavuz said it was a former employee acting alone.

Biden weighs how the response to Iran could affect Israel-Hamas negotiations — and his own political fate

President Joe Biden speaks during the National Prayer Breakfast at the Capitol on Feb. 1, 2024.
Shawn Thew / EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Meeting privately with national security aides this week, President Joe Biden raised a question, two people briefed on the discussion said: If he ordered military action to avenge the deaths of three U.S. soldiers in Jordan, would that jeopardize the delicate talks over the release of American hostages in Gaza?

When aides eased such concerns, he decided that he would proceed with retaliatory measures, the people said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the president’s calculus.

Biden settled on a counterattack plan that is expected to unfold over multiple days, possibly weeks, U.S. officials told NBC News.

The operation, which officials say hasn’t begun, figures to be Biden’s most forceful response yet to militia groups that have launched more than 150 attacks against U.S. forces since the war between Israel and Hamas started.

Read the full story here.

U.N. agency renews funding plea for Palestinians’ ‘sheer survival’

The main U.N. aid agency for Gaza has appealed to donors to restore funding, warning of the “colossal” humanitarian needs in the Palestinian enclave as the southern region of Rafah is forced to shelter the majority of the population.

“Rafah has become a sea of people fleeing bombardments,” Thomas White, Director of UNRWA Affairs in Gaza and UN Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory, said in a statement.

Gaza’s population depends on the agency for its “sheer survival” it said, adding the agency is managing overcrowded shelters, food assistance and primary health care, the conditions of which are only getting worse.

“It’s difficult to imagine that Gazans will survive this crisis without UNRWA,” White said.  

A number of countries suspended their funding of the agency amid an investigation into Israeli accusations that some workers participated in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack.

Iran not looking for war but will take ‘strong response’ if bullied, president says

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said today that his country will not start a war but would retaliate against bullies with a “strong response.”

“In the past whenever they (the West) wanted to talk with Iran they mentioned the military option being on the table, but now they say they don’t seek any conflict with Iran,” Raisi said in a televised speech.

“We will not start any war, but if anyone wants to bully us they will receive a strong response,” he added.

The statement came as Biden readies retaliation for the drone strike by an Iran-backed group that killed three U.S. soldiers in Jordan. Iran denied involvement in the incident.

Biden to attend dignified transfer for U.S. service members killed in Jordan

DOVER, Del. — President Joe Biden will perform one of the most solemn duties of his office Friday when he attends the dignified transfer of the three American soldiers killed in Jordan this week in a drone strike that the U.S. has attributed to Iranian-backed militant groups.

Sgt. William Jerome Rivers, Sgt. Breonna Alexsondria Moffett, Sgt. Kennedy Ladon Sanders.
Sgt. William Jerome Rivers, Sgt. Breonna Alexsondria Moffett, Sgt. Kennedy Ladon Sanders.U.S. Army Reserve Command

“They risked it all, and we’ll never forget the sacrifice and service to our country that the dozens of service members who were wounded in recovery now,” Biden said yesterday at the National Prayer Breakfast on Capitol Hill.

It will be the second dignified transfer Biden has attended since he took office.

Read the full story here.

Turkey arrests 7 on suspicion of selling information to Israeli spy agency

Turkish police arrested seven people on Friday on suspicion of selling information to the Israeli intelligence service Mossad, the state-run Anadolu news agency said.

The suspects, who allegedly passed details to Mossad via private detectives, were detained in a joint operation with Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization, or MIT.

Acting on warrants issued by the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, police anti-terror and intelligence branch officers carried out raids in Istanbul and the west coast city of Izmir, Anadolu reported. Two other suspects in the investigation are thought to have been detained earlier.

Last month, 34 people were detained by Turkish police on suspicion of spying for Israel. They were accused of planning to carry out activities that included reconnaissance and “pursuing, assaulting and kidnapping” foreign nationals living in Turkey.

Some Palestinian Americans reject Blinken meeting on Gaza as protests continue outside his Virginia home

Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Palestinian Americans yesterday, the State Department said, but declined to say how many from the diaspora actually attended the meeting.  The meeting took place on the sixth day of protestors camping outside of his suburban Virginia home in opposition to the Biden Administration’s policies in the Israel-Hamas war.

A spokesperson for Palestinian-American community leaders in a press release said the majority of those invited were not attending, calling a meeting at this time “insulting and performative,” and the discussion “a box-ticking exercise.”

“After nearly four unbearable months of constant US enabled Israeli violence against our families, friends and other innocent civilians in Gaza, and throughout Palestine, we cannot imagine what Secretary Blinken could have to say or discuss with us,” the group said in a press release.

“There is one thing that we, our community and countless others around the US and the world, including American unions representing nearly 8 million workers and at least 47 US cities, have been asking of this administration: to demand a permanent ceasefire to save Palestinians lives and stop the destruction of Gaza.”

protest israeli hamas conflict usa
Julia Jester / NBC News

State Department Spokesperson Matt Miller told reporters yesterday this meeting was the latest in a series of meetings the Secretary has had and “he finds that process to be constructive.”

“It informs his thinking it helps him he believes shape policy in the best way possible, and he’ll continue to hold such meetings,” Miller said although he declined to point to any specific examples. “That doesn’t mean that obviously that we agree with every person that we meet with it doesn’t mean that we expect them to agree with everything that we say of course that’s not true. But we find that give and take valuable and yes, it very much does inform his thinking and informs the decisions that he makes.”

Standing outside Blinken’s home, activist Hazami Barmada told NBC News she rejected the offer. “Very often these meetings turn into a white-washed way of saying we care about your concerns, but there’s no political weight behind it.”

Israeli troops press on with ground operation in Gaza

An image released by the Israeli Army today shows troops during ground operations at an undisclosed location in the Gaza Strip.

IDF troops in Gaza
Israeli Army / AFP – Getty Images

Israel to move operations focus to Rafah from Khan Younis, defense minister says

Israel will move its military operations farther south to Rafah, close to Gaza’s border with Egypt, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said in a statement on X yesterday.

The announcement came after Gallant claimed in a separate statement that Israel has “dismantled” Hamas in the main southern city of Khan Younis following a situation assessment held in the area, saying that the Israeli army has “eliminated” 10,000 Hamas soldiers so far.

“The operation in the Khan Yunis area is progressing and yielding impressive results,” he added. “We are achieving our missions in Khan Yunis, and we will also reach Rafah and eliminate terror elements that threaten us.”

More than half of Gaza’s 2.3 million population is thought to be sheltering in the Rafah area after fleeing Israeli assaults further north in the strip.

Austin and Gallant discuss a less intense Israeli operation in Gaza 

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin discussed Israel’s “shift to low-intensity operations” in Gaza in a call with his Israeli counterpart Yoav Gallant yesterday, the Pentagon said in a statement.

The Pentagon also said they discussed a “diplomatic solution” along Israel’s border with Lebanon and stability in the occupied West Bank.

They also discussed aid delivery to Gaza and the “regional threats” to U.S. forces after three U.S. soldiers were killed in Jordan, it added.

Israel’s war Cabinet waiting for Hamas’ response to principles of hostage deal

Israel’s war Cabinet is on standby for Hamas’ reaction to the principles ironed out in Paris on Sunday by CIA director William Burns, head of the Mossad David Barnea, Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani and an Egyptian senior intelligence official, according to a senior adviser to the war Cabinet.

“Everyone is waiting to see Hamas’ reaction,” the adviser said, who asked not to be named given the sensitivity of the talks, adding that it could take several days.

The war Cabinet is expecting to start negotiations according to the principles sent to Hamas once Hamas replies, the adviser said.

Israel has floated a two-month pause in fighting in order to get the hostages back, NBC News has previously reported, but current and former Israeli officials say no terms have been set in stone.

There are still “wide gaps” between Israel and Hamas on the outline of a potential deal, according to professor Jacob Nagel, former national security adviser to Israel who is also in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s orbit.

Hamas has previously demanded that Israel end the war and withdraw all troops from Gaza, that Hamas stay in power in the enclave, and that Israel not make any changes along the border of Israel and Gaza.

“There might be a deal if Sinwar will give up his three basic demands, meaning going back to Oct. 6th,” said Nagel, who is a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

Netanyahu posted a video Tuesday responding to “rumors” about the deal.

“We are committed to getting a hostage deal, but not at any price. I have red lines,” he said. “Among them are: we won’t end the war, we won’t remove the IDF from the Gaza Strip, and we won’t release thousands of prisoners.”

Hamas is currently fragmented, with leadership split geographically between Doha, Qatar, and inside the Gaza Strip. There are both physical and ideological divides between the political and military wings, making consensus-building a challenge.

Adding to the logistical hurdles, Hamas’ leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar is in hiding in Gaza, working to mask his communications so Israel’s military doesn’t find him.

Nagel said he believes Sinwar will likely keep some hostages forever as “his insurance policy.”

“We also want that the deal to be for all the hostages, not only the 35 humanitarian prisoners,” Nagel said.

Another senior Israeli official said that, given all the challenges, it’s unclear if the deal will come together. “I don’t think it’s more than 50/50 it will materialize,” the senior official said.

Palestinians walk the shattered streets of central Gaza

People walk past destroyed buildings in the Maghazi camp in the central Gaza Strip yesterday.

Gaza Refugee Camp
Anas Baba / AFP via Getty Images

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