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NATO leader criticizes Trump's comments. Israel frees two hostages in Rafah operation

Palestinians look at their neighbor's damaged house following an Israeli strike in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024.
Fatima Shbair
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AP
Palestinians look at their neighbor's damaged house following an Israeli strike in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024.

Good morning. You're reading the Up First newsletter. Subscribe here to get it delivered to your inbox, and listen to the Up First podcast for all the news you need to start your day.

Today's top stories

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered the Israeli military to prepare to evacuate the southern Gazan city of Rafah, despite global alarm. The city, packed with more than one million refugees from elsewhere in Gaza, is their last refuge of relative safety.

  • NPR's Eyder Peralta reports from Tel Aviv on the Up First podcast thatthe Israeli military says heavier airstrikes in Rafah overnight were part of diversionary tactics to free the hostages. The Israeli military, in an announcement early today local time, said Israel rescued two of the 136 hostages which Israel believes are still in Gaza. According to a hospital official in Gaza, at least 55 Palestinians were killed by the airstrikes.
  •  Before Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, Kerem Shalom was the main commercial crossing between Israel and Gaza, with limited supplies reaching Gaza. Today, some Israelis are attempting to block aid trucks from reaching Gaza, despite warnings of famine from aid groups.
  •  NPR's Daniel Estrin, Greg Myre, Eyder Peralta, and Hadeel Al-Shalchi are reporting from the region.


Former President Trump has reignited questions and international reactions about what he would do to U.S alliances as president. At a political rally in South Carolina, Trump said he would encourage Russia to "do whatever the hell they want" to "delinquent" countries in Europe that he believes aren't spending enough on defense.

  • NPR's Stephen Fowler tells Up First that the White House issued a statement calling Trump's words "unhinged." NATO's secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg, said Trump's suggestion could undermine security and put American and European forces at risk. Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress largely shrugged it off as "Trump being Trump." Fowler adds that Trump falsely implies there are countries that haven't paid their bills or owe the U.S. or NATO directly. He says NATO isn't like a country club; it's a group of countries committed to defending each other.  


A bill to slow down migration across the U.S.-Mexico border failed to get off the ground. But some Republicans say the White House doesn't really need it. Congressional Republicans argue that the President has the power to halt the flow of migrants through the U.S.-Mexico border.

  • NPR's Asma Khalid, speaking to several immigration experts, says the answer is that it's way too simple to think that any president can wave a magic wand and suddenly seal off the country's borders. Khalid mentions that some Republicans are comparing a proposed asylum ban at the southern border to Trump's Muslim travel ban. But the situation at the border revolves around asylum, not travel restrictions.


Yesterday at the Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, the Kansas City Chiefs pulled off a second-half comeback to beat the San Francisco 49ers, 25-22 in overtime. The Chiefs are the first team to win back-to-back Super Bowl championships since the New England Patriots did it almost two decades ago. Here's some highlights:

  • Beyoncé used her appearance in a commercial to announce the release of new music. Her latest album, which is part two of her "Renaissance" project, is set to be released on March 29. High school football players who survived the Maui wildfireswere honored at the big game. NPR's TV critic Eric Deggans ranks the best (and worst) Super Bowl 2024 commercials. Jesus made a return this year in the 'He Gets Us' ads. Here's an NPR explaineron what they mean, and who funds them

Picture show

A 16-year-old boy who was captured and beaten by members of the El Salvador naval force.
Carlos Barrera / NPR
/
NPR
A 16-year-old boy who was captured and beaten by members of the El Salvador naval force.

Since March 2022, El Salvador's state of emergency—triggered by a surge in gang violence—has boosted the president's popularity and lowered the murder rate. But it has also come with a heavy human cost. Salvadoran photographer Carlos Barrera visually documents how El Salvador's nearly two-year crackdown on gang suspects has affected local communities.

I'm really into

/ Gracia Lam for NPR's Life Kit
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Gracia Lam for NPR

Valentine's Day is on Wednesday, and NPR's Fiona Geira's timeless advice reminds us that grocery stores are ideal for dates. Recalling a cherished trip to Costco with their grandparents, they highlight the beauty of simple moments. Observing what your date selects in the aisles reveals their personality and energy for the ordinary. Geiran suggests amidst a sea of dating apps and restaurants: "Do romantic things in regular places. Because what could be more wonderful than regular love?"

What are you really into? Fill out this form or leave us a voice note at 800-329-4273, and part of your submission may be featured online or on the radio.

3 things to know before you go

This 1970 photograph, Untitled (Model Who Embraced Natural Hairstyles at AJASS Photoshoot) is just one of the works in the Dean Collection on display at the Brooklyn Museum.
/ Joshua White / JWPictures.com/ The Dean Collection, courtesy of Swizz Beatz and Alicia Keys. © Kwame Brathwaite.
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Joshua White / JWPictures.com/ The Dean Collection, courtesy of Swizz Beatz and Alicia Keys. © Kwame Brathwaite.
This 1970 photograph, Untitled (Model Who Embraced Natural Hairstyles at AJASS Photoshoot) is just one of the works in the Dean Collection on display at the Brooklyn Museum.

1. Music power couple Alicia Keys and Swizz Beatz (a.k.a. Kasseem Dean) opened their extensive art collection "Giants" at the Brooklyn Museum in New York, spotlighting Black diaspora artists. The exhibit will be openuntil July 7, 2024.

2. A miniature surgical robot, named MIRA, has recently arrived at the International Space Station. A surgeon is directing its movements 250 miles away from Nebraska, and it will conduct simulated surgical procedures in microgravity — potentially impacting health care back on Earth.

3. Jamaican and Bahamian officials are pushing back against the U.S. State Department travel advisories, dismissing claims of tourist safety risks due to crime and limited medical services.

Treye Greene edited this newsletter. contributed to this story

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Majd Al-Waheidi
Majd Al-Waheidi is the digital editor on Morning Edition, where she brings the show's journalism to online audiences. Previously, Al-Waheidi was a reporter for the New York Times in the Gaza Strip, where she reported about a first-of-its-kind Islamic dating site, and documented the human impact of the 2014 Israel-Gaza war in a collaborative visual project nominated for an Emmy Award. She also reported about Wikipedia censorship in Arabic for Rest of World magazine, and investigated the abusive working conditions of TikTok content moderators for Business Insider. Al-Waheidi has worked at the International Center for Religion & Diplomacy, and holds a master's degree in Arab Studies from the Georgetown School of Foreign Service. A native of Gaza, she speaks Arabic and some French, and is studying Farsi.