Today – 11.28.23
Latest Israel Updates
Cease-Fire Continues to Hold
With the ending of the official Israel-Hamas four-day cease-fire, early signs suggest that a break in hostilities will continue as long as hostage releases are forthcoming. “We hope the Occupation (Israel) abides (by the agreement) in the next two days because we are seeking a new agreement, besides women and children, whereby other categories that we have that we can swap,” Reuters reports Hamas official Khalil Al-Hayya saying.
No End to War: Israeli security cabinet minister Gideon Saar told Army Radio that “Immediately upon the completion of the hostage-recovery framework, the warfighting will be renewed … We have every intention of implementing the goals of the war as it applies to toppling Hamas in Gaza.”
Leading Up To Today
Cease-Fire in Gaza as Hamas Prepares to Release Hostages
Israel and Hamas began a four-day cease-fire at 7 a.m. local time (12 a.m. EST) Friday, November 24. Over the next 96 hours, Hamas is supposed to release up to 50 Israeli hostages, including several Americans. The IDF will also release 150 Palestinian prisoners.
An Uncertain Future: As of yet, neither side has breached the agreed-upon peace. It is unclear whether the cease-fire will hold, but both sides have publicly expressed optimism. Israel offered Hamas an extra day of peace for every additional ten hostages released, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also made it clear that the destruction of Hamas would resume eventually. Read More: The ceasefire begins – but how long will it last?
Israel and Hamas Reach Temporary Cease-Fire Deal for Hostages
Both Israel and Hamas have apparently agreed to a four-day cease-fire during which up to 50 hostages will be released. Hamas says it will release a dozen or so hostages per day of the halt in hostilities. According to the terms of the deal, a number of Palestinian prisoners will also be released – but none who have been accused of murder.
There will still be around 200 hostages held by Hamas even after this exchange, so why is Hamas interested in the four-day deal? Strategists suggest that Hamas wants to strengthen its position within Gaza, which it is unable to do while IDF troops are running a swift ground war. This could mean that Israel has a more challenging time rooting out the terrorists after the cease-fire.
US Intel Supports Israel’s Al-Shifa Hospital Claim
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby on November 14 revealed that intelligence gathered by the US supports Israel’s claim that Hamas has been using Gaza City’s Al-Shifa hospital and other Palestinian hospitals as command centers and ammunition depots. Kirby added that the intelligence had been gathered independently from Israeli sources.
“I can confirm for you that we have information that Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad use some hospitals in the Gaza Strip, including Al-Shifa, and tunnels underneath them, to conceal and to support their military operations and to hold hostages,” Kirby told reporters. “Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad — J.I.D. — members operate a command and control node from Al-Shifa in Gaza City,” he added. “They have stored weapons there, and they’re prepared to respond to an Israeli military operation against that facility.”
Fighting Continues at the Lebanese Border
As Israel continues its ground operation against Hamas in Gaza, there has been a marked escalation in hostile activity at the Lebanese-Israeli border. Iran-backed terror group Hezbollah has been trading fire with the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) since the war began, but operations appear to have intensified, fueling concerns of creating a wider regional conflict. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had a harsh warning for Hezbollah on Monday, November 13:
“This is playing with fire. Fire will be answered with much stronger fire. They should not try us because we have only shown a little of our strength.”
Responding to a question this weekend about Israel’s red lines, Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said: “If you hear that we have attacked Beirut, you will understand that [Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan] Nasrallah has crossed that line.”
Israel Falling into Debt as War Continues
Israel has raised $7.8 billion in debt since the start of the Hamas attack, the country’s Finance Ministry said on Monday. “The financing capabilities of the State of Israel allow the government to fully and optimally finance all its needs,” the ministry’s accountant-general division said. It added that it would attempt to keep open “all channels in order to finance the government’s activities, including all the needs arising from the … war and the economic and civil aid to the home front.”
Gaza’s Main Hospital Facing ‘Desperate Situation’ Without Power
The Israel Defense Force (IDF) has surrounded three hospitals in Gaza, including the largest in the area, Al-Shifa. Israel ordered the Al-Shifa director to evacuate all patients, as the IDF believes Hamas may be holding hostages below the hospital.
Palestinian Heath Minister Mai al-Kaila said Saturday that 20 of the 30 hospitals in the Gaza Strip are shutdown, and that medical staff are attending to patients who lie on the floor and undergo treatment without anesthesia. The health minister also said that 38 premature babies are now at risk due to lack of oxygen at Al-Shifa, and that one of them died this morning. Al-Kaila estimates the remaining fuel will only be enough to keep the children’s intensive care unit running until Saturday evening.
IDF Arrests 19 Wanted Palestinians in West Bank
In a joint statement Saturday, the IDF, Israel’s border police, and the Shin Bet security service said that Israeli forces have arrested 19 wanted Palestinians in the West Bank, of which nine were identified as Hamas operatives.
Israel Open to Tactical Pauses
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would consider “tactical little pauses” to allow hostages to be released or for aid to come into Gaza, adding that such a move would likely hamper IDF efforts.
“As far as tactical little pauses – an hour here, an hour there – we’ve had them before. I suppose we’ll check the circumstances in order to enable goods, humanitarian goods to come in, or our hostages, individual hostages, to leave,” Netanyahu said Monday.
“But I don’t think there’s going to be a general ceasefire.”
Blinken Fails to Placate an Angry Turkey
During a visit to Turkey, Secretary of State Antony Blinken was apparently snubbed by the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who chose to visit a remote part of the country rather than speak with the US top diplomat. On Sunday, November 5, protesters were dispersed with water cannons by Turkish police after a mob surrounded an air base hosting US troops in the country.
Wagner Group Backs Hezbollah
The infamous Wagner Group, a private military company from Russia, has become Vladimir Putin’s proxy in Lebanon and an open threat to Israel. The mercenary force, which has been ubiquitous in failed and conflict-ridden nations, has now directly inserted itself in what was originally a war between Israel and Hamas. Reports are that the Wagner Group is providing enhanced air defense to Hezbollah fighters as they attack Israel from the north, protecting the Iran-backed terrorist group’s assaults on Israeli towns and villages. A recent article in The Wall Street Journal reported a clear link between Russia, its Wagner proxy, and a direct intervention in assisting Hezbollah. Michael R. Gordon and Vivian Salama explained:
“Wagner Group, the Russian paramilitary organization, plans to provide an air-defense system to Hezbollah, the Lebanese militia, US officials say, citing intelligence…The Russian SA-22 system they plan to send uses antiaircraft missiles and air-defense guns to intercept aircraft…
Blinken Meets with Jordan Officials to Prevent War From Spreading
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was in Jordan on Saturday, working to contain the war in the Gaza Strip. Mr. Blinken also visited Israel on Friday, where he appealed for a “humanitarian pause,” which is, essentially, a temporary ceasefire.
Most Americans Fear US Could be Pulled into Israel-Hamas War
A new poll reveals that most US voters fear America could be pulled into the military conflict between Israel and Hamas. According to the Quinnipiac University survey, 84% of respondents were “very” or “somewhat” concerned that the US might be drawn into the war. There was a divergence between political affiliations, as Republican voters (52%) were more worried about this possibility than Democrats (30%). “American voters watching the cauldron of the Middle East reaching a furious boiling point are fearful the war, so far confined to Israel and Gaza, will metastasize to include U.S. troops,” said Tim Malloy, a Quinnipiac polling analyst, in a statement.
Anti-Semitism: The same poll found that anti-Semitism is a growing concern among US voters. Roughly 75% of survey participants stated that anti-Jewish discrimination is a “very” or “somewhat” serious problem in American society. This figure is at an all-time high, according to pollsters. Related: Who’s behind the pro-Palestinian protests?
Tlaib to Biden: You Support Genocide of the Palestinian People
Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) accused President Joe Biden of endorsing genocide against the Palestinian people. Posting to X (previously Twitter) on Nov. 3, Rep. Tlaib claimed the current administration “supported the genocide of the Palestinian people” because of its support for Israel in its war against Hamas. Accompanying a video highlighting pro-Palestinian marches across the US was a message for Biden: “Mr. President, the American people are not with you on this one. We will remember in 2024.”
Tlaib Beats Censure: House lawmakers voted against a resolution censuring Rep. Tlaib for her past comments about Israel following Hamas’ terrorist attacks on Oct. 7, including “dismantling the apartheid system that creates the suffocating, dehumanizing conditions that can lead to resistance.” Twenty-three Republican officials joined all Democrats in blocking the disciplinary resolution. Related: Biden at a loss as Israel war explodes Democratic unity …
Secretary of State Antony Blinken Heads to Israel and Jordan for an Update – And to Request a “Humanitarian Pause”?
Secretary of State Antony Blinken travels to Israel and Jordan on Friday, November 3, to get an update on Israel’s campaign against Hamas and perhaps even ask for the “humanitarian pause” President Biden mentioned during a speech in Minnesota. He certainly has his work cut out for him. As the ground war in Gaza unfolds, the conflict grows with attacks against Israel Defense Force (IDF) and civilians by Hezbollah in the north as well as attacks on civilians and police in the West Bank by Palestinian militants. President Biden’s ad-lib, shoot-from-the-hip foreign policy turnabout from the previous stance – now suggesting a humanitarian pause, which is just another way of saying ceasefire, rather than leaving Israel to conduct its war as it sees fit – probably won’t help the conversations with Israeli officials, either.
Hundreds of Americans Set to Leave Gaza Through Rafah Border Crossing Into Egypt
Hundreds of Americans trapped in Gaza now seem ready to leave the territory on Thursday. Foreign nationals are already crossing over the Rafah border crossing into Egypt after it opened for the first time since the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel. Gaza’s Hamas-controlled Interior Ministry released a list of 400 American nationals who are approved to cross on Thursday.
Hamas Lines in Northern Gaza Collapsing, IDF Says
The Israel Defense Force (IDF) reports that Hamas defensive lines in northern Gaza continue to collapse as they retreat southwards to the center of the enclave. “The IDF continues to advance in the Gaza City area, conducting face-to-face battles with Hamas terrorists and deepening the fighting,” Daniel Hagari said in a press statement Thursday. “Our fighters continue to collapse the defensive lines of Hamas in the north of the Gaza Strip and take control of central areas.”
UAE Plans to Treat 1,000 Gaza Children
The United Arab Emirates said Thursday it plans to treat 1,000 Palestinian children from Gaza, without saying how they would leave the Israeli-besieged enclave for the Gulf state. UAE state news agency WAM reported that President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan had directed hospitals to treat 1,000 children “accompanied by their families” from Gaza, though it was not immediately clear whether said children would be allowed to leave Gaza through the Rafah border crossing per the deal brokered by Qatar. In any case, WAM reports that the Palestinian children would then return home after they had received medical care.
Yemen Enters the War
If things weren’t complicated enough in the Middle East, the Iran-backed Houthi terrorist rebels in Yemen have effectively declared war on Israel. On Oct. 19, the USS Carney shot down 15 drones launched from Yemen while on station in the Red Sea. On Oct. 31, the Houthis, which the Biden administration took off the US State Department list of terrorist organizations, claimed responsibility for the attack of drones and other missiles aimed at Israel.
Reuters reports, “The Houthi movement said on Tuesday they had launched three drone and missile attacks towards Israel since the start of the Hamas-Israel war on Oct. 7. It vowed there would be more such attacks to come ‘to help the Palestinians to victory.'” Israeli National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi said that the attacks from Yemen were “intolerable” but did not say how Israel intends to deal with this new third front in the ongoing war.
Egypt Opens Rafah Border
Foreign passport holders are heading to the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt as there is reportedly now a limited evacuation possibility. However, reports on the ground suggest that some foreign nationals are being refused exit.
FBI Director Wray Warns of US Attacks
Speaking at a congressional hearing on Tuesday, Oct. 31, FBI Director Christopher Wray delivered a blunt and worrying assessment that attacks on US soil were made far more likely by the Hamas-Israel war. He said that a number of international terrorist organizations have called for direct attacks on America, which he notes would encourage the threat of homegrown US violent extremists. “The actions of Hamas and its allies will serve as an inspiration the likes of which we haven’t seen since ISIS launched its so-called caliphate several years ago,” Wray said.
What he did not mention is that with hundreds of thousands of unvetted people crossing the largely open US southern border, foreign terrorist groups may already be making their way into the country. Nor did he point out that a number of Iranians and Syrians are reported to have crossed the border in recent days.
Israeli Army Advances in Gaza
As the ground assault in Gaza continues, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the troop advance may compel Hamas to release hostages: “This creates pressure. We’re committed to getting all the hostages back home. We think that this method stands a chance.”
He also pooh-poohed calls for a ceasefire, explaining that it would mean Israel is giving in to terrorists and “monsters.” He said, “That will not happen. The Bible says that there is a time for peace and a time for war. This is a time for war.”
Hezbollah Continues to Take Hits
After joining in the assault against Israel shortly after the October 7 Hamas attack, Hezbollah – the Iranian-backed terror group – has taken heavy losses. According to Reuters, “With dozens of Hezbollah fighters killed in three weeks of border clashes with Israel, the Lebanese group is working to stem its losses as it prepares for the possibility of a drawn-out conflict, three sources familiar with its thinking said.”
The outlet explains that at least 45 Hezbollah soldiers have been killed in clashes at the Lebanon-Israel border. Sources told Reuters that the organization had made “arrangements to reduce the number of martyrs” – political speak for “we need to stop getting our people killed in drone strikes.”
Jake Sullivan Puts the Responsibility on Israel
National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan on Sunday warned Israel that it has a responsibility to protect Gazans. He said:
“Hamas is making life extremely difficult for Israel by taking civilians as human shields and putting their rocket infrastructure and terrorist infrastructure among civilians… That creates an added burden for Israel, but it does not lessen Israel’s responsibility under international humanitarian law to distinguish between terrorist and civilians and protect lives of innocent people.”
The Israeli Defense Force posted on social media that its forces “eliminated multiple terrorists barricaded within civilian buildings and terrorist tunnels who attempted to attack the forces.”
Pro-Palestine Riots and Attacks on Jews Increase
A number of pro-Hamas and pro-Palestinian protests and rallies are taking place all over the nation. At university campuses, Jewish students are being forced to find shelter. In Russia, flights trying to land from Israel were diverted as anti-Israel, pro-Palestine protesters attacked the planes. “A group of Pro-Palestinian rioters stormed an airport in southwestern Russia Sunday night while chanting anti-Israel comments, searching for passengers on a flight from Tel Aviv, according to Russian aviation authority Rosaviatsia,” Fox News reports.
Israel Continues to Expand Operations in Gaza
The Israeli military on Sunday signaled a heavier assault on the Gaza Strip, saying it was “expanding operations.” Two days after sending soldiers into Gaza, Israel’s military warns residents to move south with increasing urgency. The precise numbers are not being revealed, but the IDF did say that it had hit 450 Hamas military targets over the past day.
Moving Through the Stages: “We are progressing through the stages of the war according to plan,” Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the military’s chief spokesman, said Sunday morning. “We are gradually expanding the ground activity and the scope of our forces in the Gaza Strip.” Related: It was always a matter of when, not if …
Thousands in Gaza Break Into Aid Centers and Take Supplies
Thousands of Palestinians were breaking into UNRWA aid centers Saturday, according to an agency spokesperson. Items stolen included wheat flour and hygiene products, though the agency was keen to reiterate that no fuel was taken.
US Military Hits Iran-Backed Groups in Syria
The Middle East is getting hotter. “US military aircraft have carried out strikes in eastern Syria against facilities associated with Iranian-backed militant groups believed to be responsible for more than a dozen rocket and drone attacks on American troops in Iraq and Syria that injured 21 service members, the military said Thursday night,” ABC News reports. “Today, at President Biden’s direction, US military forces conducted self-defense strikes on two facilities in eastern Syria used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and affiliated groups,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement.
Expanding Conflict? “The retaliatory operations were carried out at a time of heightened tensions in the Middle East amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, in the wake of Hamas’ terror attack on Israel on Oct. 7, and US concerns about preventing that conflict from enveloping the rest of the region. Senior US officials have publicly blamed Iran for the more than 16 drone and rocket attacks on military bases in Iraq and Syria over the past week, which the US believes have been carried out by Iranian-backed militant groups.” Related: Avoiding a potential Israel escalation…
A Prelude to Ground Invasion
Israel announced that it briefly sent tanks over the Gaza Strip border in a short skirmish yesterday evening, October 25. The Israeli military then announced that the incursion was part of preparations for the next stage of the war – presumably referencing the ground invasion promised by PM Benjamin Netanyahu. The IDF said in a Telegram post:
Overnight, the IDF conducted a targeted raid using tanks in the northern Gaza Strip, as part of preparations for the next stages of combat. The activity was commanded by the Givati Brigade. During the activity, soldiers located and struck numerous terrorists, terror infrastructure and anti-tank missile launch posts, and operated to prepare the battlefield. The soldiers exited the area at the end of the activity.
Putin Warns of Gaza ‘Spill Over’
An increase to the threat of a dangerous escalation in the Middle East appears imminent. “Israel bombarded the Gaza Strip on Thursday as it prepared for a ground invasion it says is aimed at annihilating the Palestinian militant group Hamas as Russia warned the conflict could spread beyond the Middle East,” Reuters reports. “In an indication Israel was widening assaults into Gaza that began at the weekend, the military said ground forces attacked multiple targets in the Hamas-ruled enclave before withdrawing, in what Army Radio described as the biggest incursion of the current war,” the wire service relates.
Ominous Words: “Russian President Vladimir Putin warned the conflict could spread beyond the Middle East and said it was wrong that innocent women, children and old people in Gaza were being punished for other people’s crimes. ‘Our task today, our main task, is to stop the bloodshed and violence,’ said Putin in a meeting with Russian religious leaders of different faiths, according to a Kremlin transcript. ‘Otherwise, further escalation of the crisis is fraught with grave and extremely dangerous and destructive consequences. And not only for the Middle East region. It could spill over far beyond the borders of the Middle East.’” Related: Political battle lines in the Israel conflict…
Biden Ready to Take Questions
President Biden is expected to take questions at the White House today, October 25; this will be the first occasion that he has done so since the outbreak of hostilities on October 7. The impromptu Q and A comes hot on the heels of Secretary of State Antony Blinken telling the United Nations that at least 33 American citizens have been killed in the ongoing Israel-Hamas war so far.
America and Russia to Trade Blows at UN
Both the US and Russia are set to propose entirely different plans to the United Nations for how to deal with the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas. The United States’ proposal initially highlighted that Israel had a right to defend itself and that Iran must stop exporting arms to militant groups in the region. Under pressure from the UN, the US plan was then scaled back to remove references to Israel’s right to self-defense and Iran.
Not So Fast: Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia made his country’s position clear, telling the Security Council, “The whole world is expecting from the Security Council a call for a swift and unconditional ceasefire… This is precisely what is not in the American draft. Therefore, we don’t see any point in it, and we cannot support it.”