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Israel-Hamas War: Latest Updates – The New York Times


U.S. officials fear that branding the Houthis as a foreign terrorist organization could cause aid groups and others to stop sending supplies into Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen.Credit…Associated Press

The Biden administration plans to designate Yemen’s Houthi militia as a terrorist organization, partly reimposing penalties it lifted nearly three years ago on an Iran-backed group whose attacks on Red Sea shipping traffic have drawn a U.S. military response.

Beginning in mid-February, the United States will consider the Houthis a “specially designated global terrorist” group, according to a U.S. official, blocking its access to the global financial system, among other penalties. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a policy that had not yet been officially announced.

But Biden officials stopped short of applying a second, more severe designation — that of “foreign terrorist organization” — which the Trump administration imposed on the Houthis in its final days. The State Department revoked both designations shortly after President Biden took office in early 2021.

That further step would have made it far easier to prosecute criminally anyone who knowingly provides the Houthis with money, supplies, training or other “material support.” But aid groups say it could also complicate humanitarian assistance to the country.

The move comes as a response to, and an effort to halt, weeks of Houthi missile and drone attacks on maritime traffic off Yemen’s coast. Those attacks have forced some major shipping companies to reroute their vessels, leading to delays and higher shipping costs worldwide. After issuing multiple warnings to the Houthis, Mr. Biden ordered dozens of strikes on their facilities in Yemen, although U.S. officials say the group retains most of its ability to attack Red Sea commerce.

But the designation also reflects a careful effort to strike a balance, one that protects the flow of desperately needed humanitarian aid to the people of Yemen, who have endured famine, disease and displacement through more than a decade of civil war after the Houthis seized the country’s capital in September 2014.

U.S. officials fear that branding the Houthis as a foreign terrorist organization could cause aid groups to stop sending supplies into Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen, for fear of criminal liability or other U.S. penalties.

But even the lesser label of specially designated global terrorist group could jeopardize U.S. and Saudi efforts to construct a lasting peace deal to end the conflict.

Following Israel’s military response in Gaza to the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks, the Houthis have sought to show solidarity with the Palestinians by attacking ships they believe to be bound for Israel. The Houthis, a religiously inspired Shiite group, profess hatred of Israel.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Tuesday, Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, said that it was important to signal that “the entire world rejects wholesale the idea that a group like the Houthis can basically hijack the world, as they are doing.”

U.S. officials have not accused the Houthis of plotting terrorist attacks beyond the region, and the group has battled Yemen’s local affiliate of Al Qaeda, according to an October 2023 report by the Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies.

Yemen’s civil conflict was exacerbated by the intervention of neighboring Saudi Arabia and, for a time, the United Arab Emirates, which both regard the Houthis as dangerous proxies for Iran, which lends them financial and military support.

The conflict created a humanitarian catastrophe that Mr. Biden, as a candidate in 2020, vowed to address. Led by Tim Lenderking, the U.S. special envoy for Yemen, the Biden administration helped to secure a truce in the conflict and has been trying to help clinch a lasting peace deal.

Following a debate within the Trump administration, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo designated the Houthis as a foreign terrorist organization and a specially designated global terrorist group in mid-January 2021. Iran hawks were eager to punish the Houthis for striking at Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as well as global shipping. Officials in places like the U.S. Agency for International Development and the United Nations feared the impact of the move on humanitarian aid and said it could lead to famine.

In February 2021, less than three weeks after Mr. Biden took office, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken reversed Mr. Pompeo’s designations. At the time, Mr. Blinken said that “the designations could have a devastating impact on Yemenis’ access to basic commodities like food and fuel,” and that the reversals were “intended to ensure that relevant U.S. policies do not impede assistance to those already suffering what has been called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.”

In a statement on Tuesday after The Associated Press first reported the planned action, Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, denounced Mr. Biden’s 2021 removal of the Houthis from the terrorist list as a show of “weakness.”

“Removing them from the list of terror organizations was a deadly mistake and another failed attempt to appease the ayatollah,” Mr. Cotton said, referring to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Mr. Biden has been contemplating the move for at least two years, telling reporters in January 2022 that restoring the Houthis’ terrorist designation was “under consideration” after the group conducted a lethal cross-border strike on the United Arab Emirates.

Asked by a reporter last week whether he considered the Houthis a terrorist group, Mr. Biden did not equivocate. “I think they are,” he replied.

Michael Crowley Reporting from Washington


Demonstrators calling for the release of hostages in Tel Aviv on Sunday.Credit…Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters

Israel and Hamas have reached a deal that would allow medications to be delivered to Israeli hostages in return for additional medicine and aid for Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip, officials said, marking a significant breakthrough in the indirect talks between the warring sides.

The agreement was announced on Tuesday by Qatar, which has served as a mediator. A Hamas official, Basem Naim, later confirmed the agreement, and the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said a deal had been reached to send medicine to the hostages.

More than 120 hostages have been held in Gaza since Oct. 7, and many have health conditions that require regular medical care, including cancer and diabetes. Their families have grown increasingly concerned as the war entered its fourth month and as hostages released in late November have shared harrowing accounts of their captivity.

The agreement was brokered by Qatar and France, and involves Israel allowing more medicine and humanitarian aid to reach civilians in Gaza in exchange for delivering medication to Israeli captives, the spokesman for the Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Majed bin Mohammed Al-Ansari, said in a statement.

Mr. Al-Ansari said the medications and aid will leave Doha on Wednesday and be taken to Al-Arish in Egypt, on board two Qatari military aircraft, in preparation for their transport to “the most affected and vulnerable areas” in Gaza.

Philippe Lalliot, a diplomat in charge of the French foreign ministry’s Crisis and Support Center, said in a radio interview on Tuesday that the center, acting on instructions from President Emmanuel Macron, had bought medication for the hostages in France and then shipped it via diplomatic pouch to Qatar last Saturday.

He said the push to get medication to hostages in Gaza came primarily from their relatives. The families “came to us and said ‘there are people among the hostages who need major treatments that they are deprived of, and we need to collect these treatments and send them there,’” Mr. Lalliot said.

Israeli medical authorities had initially identified 85 hostages in need of medication, but Mr. Lalliot said that number was brought down to 45 after some of the hostages were released or died. Doctors at the crisis center identified the necessary treatments those people needed, bought them in France, and packaged them — some treatments need to be kept at cold temperatures — before sending them to Qatar, Mr. Lalliot said.

Qatar bought medications for Palestinian civilians, said two officials briefed on the talks, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the sensitive arrangement.

One of the most complicated aspects of the deal was how to get the medications to the hostages, many of whom are believed to be held in underground tunnels and rooms. At a news conference on Saturday, Osama Hamdan, a spokesman for Hamas, spoke of the challenge of overcoming what he called the “security aspect” of delivering medications, without elaborating.

A Middle Eastern official, however, said the medications would be sent to the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza under Qatari supervision before being distributed to the hostages and Palestinian civilians. A Qatari official said representatives of the Health Ministry would transport the medications to the hostages.

Doctors in Gaza and the United Nations have said that hospitals are facing steep shortages of medical supplies, including anesthetics, baby formula and painkillers. Israel has been permitting trucks carrying medicine to enter Gaza.

But U.N. officials say that those amounts are far less than needed in Gaza, where tens of thousands have been wounded under Israeli bombardments, and disease is rampant among a displaced population with insufficient food, water, shelter and sanitation.

The deal was arranged separately from the broader indirect talks between Israel and Hamas aimed at securing the release of more hostage releases and agreeing to a cease-fire.


Yocheved Lifshitz, 85, a former hostage who was released by Hamas in October, holding a photo of her husband, Oded Lifshitz, who is still being held captive.Credit…Ariel Schalit/Associated Press

Advocates for hostage families said the said the agreement was welcome news, but they said the hostages were still in peril and in need of visits from the Red Cross to assess their health.

“We welcome all efforts to transfer medicine to the hostages, but their lives are at risk and they need to be released immediately,” said Hagai Levine, the chairman for the medical team of the Hostage and Missing Families Forum, an advocacy group. “We believe it’s imperative that we receive visual proof that the hostages received their correct medications.”

Daniel Lifshitz, the grandson of Oded Lifshitz, an 83-year-old journalist and peace activist who is among the hostages, said he hoped the agreement was a sign that Israel and Hamas were on the cusp of a broader deal.

“The most important thing here is that this is a confidence-building step ahead of an arrangement leading to my grandfather’s freedom,” he said.

Aaron Boxerman contributed reporting from Jerusalem.

Adam Rasgon and Aurelien Breeden reporting from Jerusalem and Paris




Palestinian Ambassador to U.K.: Gaza Is ‘Being Starved’

Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian ambassador to Britain, said in a news briefing on Tuesday that without an immediate ceasefire there is no hope to end what he described as an apocalyptic situation in Gaza.

Gaza’s entire population of 2.3 million is being starved. Infectious diseases brought about by contaminated water, a lack of hygiene and overcrowding is already becoming a pandemic. Without an immediate cease-fire, there is no hope — immediate, comprehensive, permanent. Without that immediate cease-fire, we see no hope of addressing the apocalyptic situation in Gaza. In parallel to demanding an immediate, permanent cease-fire, there has to be a massive international humanitarian efforts to address Gaza’s acute needs. Alongside the huge, huge, humongous reconstruction efforts to make the area livable again.

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Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian ambassador to Britain, said in a news briefing on Tuesday that without an immediate ceasefire there is no hope to end what he described as an apocalyptic situation in Gaza.CreditCredit…Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

A Palestinian diplomat on Tuesday accused Israel of trying to make the Gaza Strip uninhabitable and called on the international community for a major reconstruction effort.

The diplomat, Husam Zomlot, who heads the Palestinian mission to Britain, told reporters in London that “without an immediate cease-fire, there is no hope.” He added “that there has to be a massive international humanitarian effort to address Gaza’s acute needs,” as well as an enormous reconstruction effort to make the area inhabitable again.

Mr. Zomlot, a member of the Palestinian political movement, Fatah, is a senior adviser to Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the Palestinian Authority, a rival of Hamas. The United States sees the authority as the natural candidate to govern postwar Gaza, though Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has rejected the idea.

Mr. Zomlot said he saw no sustained effort from the United States and Britain to put pressure on Israel to agree to a cease-fire in Gaza. The United States, Israel’s most important ally, has urged Israel to scale back its war, but the Biden administration has continued to support military aid, and the United States vetoed a United Nations resolution calling for a cease-fire.

Mr. Zomlot described Israel’s ongoing campaign in Gaza as a genocide, echoing language used by Mr. Abbas. Israel, which defended itself against such accusations at the International Court of Justice last week, has rejected the claim and sees its campaign as a war of defense.

Israel has vehemently rejected the charge of genocide, saying it has taken steps to avoid civilian casualties, and also pointing out that Hamas has hidden its forces among the civilian population as well as in tunnels beneath civilian areas. Israeli leaders have also mentioned that Hamas openly advocates the killing of Jews.

According to Gazan health officials, more than 24,000 Palestinians have been killed and more than 60,000 injured since Oct. 7. Mr. Zomlot said the death toll was likely even higher because there were still bodies under rubble and because people with pre-existing medical conditions such as cancer have been unable to get medical treatment.


Jake Sullivan, the president’s national security adviser, in Davos, Switzerland, on Tuesday.Credit…Fabrice Coffrini/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Jake Sullivan, President Biden’s national security adviser, sought to assure top global and business leaders on Tuesday that the war in the Middle East, supported by the United States, would not escalate into a global conflict.

Speaking at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Mr. Sullivan said it is incumbent upon the United States and its allies and other regional powers to produce a “common, coherent response” to prevent war from spreading.

“We’re going to stay the course and look to our partners, including all of you, to continue with us,” he said. “To make clear that violent disruption of the international system will fail. To remain committed to diplomacy, which is even more vital as geopolitical tensions rise. And to take the steps needed to lead in the sources of technological and economic growth that will be the foundation of success and strength in free societies.”

He recalled how dozens of countries, led by the United States, have rallied in support of Ukraine against Russia, which has strengthened both Kyiv and NATO, the Western military alliance.

The United States has tried to rally another international response to attacks by Houthi militia on cargo ships in the Red Sea, which have compromised shipping lanes essential for global trade. The U.S. military and allies have carried out three rounds of strikes in Yemen against the rebels over the last week. Mr. Sullivan, though, stressed that Washington remained focused on fostering stability in the region.

How long the conflict in the Red Sea lasts — and “how bad it gets,” Mr. Sullivan said — depends on the willingness of countries with influence in Tehran, and other Middle Eastern powers, to react to and condemn the Houthi attacks. Mr. Sullivan did not elaborate how Washington might push for such a response.

Bahrain is the only Middle Eastern country so far to have joined a U.S.-led task force created to deter the Houthis, who are backed by Iran and have said that their attacks are in support of Palestinians in Gaza. Analysts have said that other countries in the region have tended to sympathize with the Palestinian people and have hesitated to associate themselves with the United States, one of Israel’s closest allies and biggest benefactors.

He also reiterated the United States’ push for normalization between Israel and Arab states, but again urged that it would require the nations involved to “pull together and make the wise and bold decisions to choose this course.”

Last week, Antony J. Blinken, the secretary of state, and a Saudi ambassador discussed the possibility of diplomatic recognition of Israel by Saudi Arabia, provided that the Israeli government would take tangible steps toward Palestinian statehood.

Mr. Blinken, however, did not expand on what might persuade Israel’s right-wing government to reverse its stance against Palestinian statehood. Under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the government has approved thousands of new housing units and has pushed to expand settlements in the occupied West Bank, undermining the Palestinian Authority.