Israel, Palestine/Gaza/Hamas February – 10 April 2024

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7 February
Israel’s Self-Destruction – Netanyahu, the Palestinians, and the Price of Neglect
By Aluf Benn, Editor in Chief of Haaretz
(Foreign Affairs) October 7 was the worst calamity in Israel’s history. It is a national and personal turning point for anyone living in the country or associated with it. Having failed to stop the Hamas attack, the IDF has responded with overwhelming force, killing thousands of Palestinians and razing entire Gazan neighborhoods. But even as pilots drop bombs and commandos flush out Hamas’s tunnels, the Israeli government has not reckoned with the enmity that produced the attack—or what policies might prevent another. Its silence comes at the behest of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has refused to lay out a postwar vision or order. Netanyahu has promised to “destroy Hamas,” but beyond military force, he has no strategy for eliminating the group and no clear plan for what would replace it as the de facto government of postwar Gaza.
His failure to strategize is no accident. Nor is it an act of political expediency designed to keep his right-wing coalition together. To live in peace, Israel will have to finally come to terms with the Palestinians, and that is something Netanyahu has opposed throughout his career.
He has devoted his tenure as prime minister, the longest in Israeli history, to undermining and sidelining the Palestinian national movement. He has promised his people that they can prosper without peace. He has sold the country on the idea that it can continue to occupy Palestinian lands forever at little domestic or international cost. And even now, in the wake of October 7, he has not changed this message. The only thing Netanyahu has said Israel will do after the war is maintain a “security perimeter” around Gaza—a thinly veiled euphemism for long-term occupation, including a cordon along the border that will eat up a big chunk of scarce Palestinian land.
… Ultimately, Israel’s future may look very much like its recent history. With or without Netanyahu, “conflict management” and “mowing the grass” will remain state policy—which means more occupation, settlements, and displacement. This strategy might appear to be the least risky option, at least for an Israeli public scarred by the horrors of October 7 and deaf to new suggestions of peace. But it will only lead to more catastrophe. Israelis cannot expect stability if they continue to ignore the Palestinians and reject their aspirations, their story, and even their presence.

10 April
Israel: Cease-Fire, Get Hostages, Leave Gaza, Rethink Everything
Thomas L. Friedman
Israel today is at a strategic point in its war in Gaza, and there is every indication that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is going to choose the wrong path — and take the Biden administration along for a very dangerous and troubling ride. It is so dangerous and troubling that Israel’s best option, when all is said and done, might be to leave a rump Hamas leadership in power in Gaza. Yes, you read that right.
To understand why, let’s look back a bit. I argued in October that Israel was making a terrible mistake by rushing headlong into invading Gaza, the way America did in Afghanistan after 9/11. I thought Israel should have focused first on getting back its hostages, delegitimizing Hamas for its murderous and rapacious Oct. 7 rampage, and going after Hamas’s leadership in a targeted way — more Munich, less Dresden. That is, a military response akin to how Israel tracked down the killers of its athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics, and not how the U.S. turned Dresden into a pile of rubble in World War II.

What would an Israel-Palestine solution look like?
Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist Thomas L Friedman games that out for Ian Bremmer on GZERO World.
Friedman breaks it down. “Two stages. First stage is the UAE, Egypt and Jordan agree to send troops to Gaza to provide security in a transition after Israel would pull back with American logistical help.” Friedman also lays out what the Palestinians themselves would have to do to ensure an enduring peace. “And the thing that the Palestinians would do is I believe reconvene the PLO, the umbrella, the sole legitimate organization, which means the umbrella organization to legitimate to nominate a Palestinian government of technocrats.” Friedman is realistic about the difficulty of such an approach but insists that only this combination of outside support and internal agency could work.
Three sons of Hamas leader Haniyeh killed in Israeli airstrike
(Reuters) – Three sons of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh were killed in an Israeli airstrike in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, the Palestinian Islamist group and Haniyeh’s family said.
The Israeli military confirmed carrying out the attack, describing the three sons as operatives in the Hamas armed wing.
Haniyeh, based abroad in Qatar, has been the tough-talking face of Hamas’ international diplomacy as war with Israel has raged on in Gaza, where his family home was destroyed in an Israeli airstrike back in November.

9 April
The Guardian view on Gaza peace talks: a deal is needed to stop a slide into chaos
(Editorial) The seeds of a forever war are being planted in the coastal strip. They must not be allowed to take root
… It might be some relief that Israeli forces have withdrawn from much of Gaza. But one is reminded of what Tacitus said of the Roman legions: “They make a desert and call it peace.”
The ending of a four-month long assault on Khan Yunis and the allowing of more aid into Gaza have been positive steps. These should help talks in Cairo to end the fighting permanently. The Biden White House is also increasing pressure on Israel to negotiate a deal for a ceasefire and the release of hostages held by Hamas. The drop in violence may not last long. Neither side, at present, seem willing to make the concessions needed for a durable peace.

8 April
Active Fighting Subsides in Gaza, but the War Is Not Over, Officials Say
Israeli troops have left southern Gaza, and some Palestinians returned to the area, where there was a sense of horror at the scope of destruction.
…even as some observers hoped Israel’s withdrawal from the area might portend a new cease-fire, both Hamas and Israeli officials suggested the war was not yet over.
Analysts said the withdrawal of Israeli troops suggested only that the war had entered a new phase, one in which Israel would continue to mount small-scale operations across Gaza to prevent Hamas’s resurgence. That strategy, they said, could occupy a middle ground between reaching a lasting truce with Hamas and ordering a major ground assault into Rafah, Hamas’s last stronghold in southern Gaza where more than one million of Palestinians have taken refuge.

7 April
Israel may have started a forever war in Gaza
As Israel continues the war in Gaza, with no indication of a victory, it risks fomenting endless conflict.
(Al Jazeera) After six months of relentless attacks on Gaza, Israel remains no closer to a victory than it has been at any point since October of last year.
Whether it has plans for the enclave beyond the fighting remains unknown, while more than 33,000 people, the majority women and children lie dead.
Israel is pulling some troops from southern Gaza. Now the plan is to clear Hamas from Rafah
(AP) — Israel’s military announced Sunday it had withdrawn its forces from the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis, wrapping up a key phase in its ground offensive against the Hamas militant group and bringing its troop presence in the territory to one of the lowest levels since the six-month war began.
But defense officials said troops were merely regrouping as the army prepares to move into Hamas’ last stronghold, Rafah. “The war in Gaza continues, and we are far from stopping,” said the military chief, Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi.
Local broadcaster Channel 13 TV reported that Israel was preparing to begin evacuating Rafah within one week and the process could take several months.
Still, the withdrawal was a milestone as Israel and Hamas marked six months of fighting. Military officials, speaking on condition of anonymity under army policy, said a “significant force” remained in Gaza to continue targeted operations including in Khan Younis, hometown of the Hamas leader, Yehya Sinwar.

5 April
After six months of war, Israel’s isolation grows with no end in sight
(AP) — When Israel declared war against Hamas last October, it stood unified at home and enjoyed broad backing from around the world following an unprecedented attack by the Islamic militant group.
Six months later, Israel finds itself in a far different place: bogged down in Gaza, divided domestically, isolated internationally and increasingly at odds with its closest ally. The risk of a broader regional war remains real.
Despite Israel’s fierce military onslaught, Hamas is still standing, if significantly weakened. The offensive has pushed Gaza into a humanitarian crisis, displacing more than 80% of the population and leaving over 1 million people on the brink of starvation. Yet Israel hasn’t presented a postwar vision acceptable to its partners, and cease-fire talks remain at a standstill.
Here are six takeaways from the first six months of war. …

Israeli inquiry findings on aid worker killings lack credibility, charity says
WCK renews call for independent investigation as former general blames incident on ‘grave errors’
(The Guardian) World Central Kitchen has rejected as lacking credibility the findings of an Israeli investigation led by a former general into a coordinated series of Israeli drone strikes on the charity’s vehicles in Gaza this week that killed seven aid workers. …WCK renewed its calls for a full and independent investigation.
… The hurriedly completed inquiry, which led to two middle-ranking officers being dismissed and a general reprimanded, outlined a catalogue of failings by Israeli forces in an incident that has reinforced global criticism of Israel’s conduct of a war….
While welcoming the report as a first step, WCK’s founder, the celebrity chef José Andrés, said: “The IDF cannot credibly investigate its own failure in Gaza. It’s not enough to simply try to avoid further humanitarian deaths, which have now approached close to 200.”
Israel dismisses 2 officers over deadly drone strikes on aid workers in Gaza
Military spokespeople said that under the Israeli army’s rules of engagement, officers must have more than one reason for identifying someone as a target before they can be hit. But the investigation determined that a colonel had authorized the series of deadly drone strikes on the convoy based on one major’s observation — from grainy drone-camera footage — that someone in the convoy was armed.
(AP) — The Israeli military said Friday that it dismissed two officers and reprimanded three others for their roles in drone strikes in Gaza that killed seven aid workers on a food-delivery mission, saying the officers had mishandled critical information and violated the army’s rules of engagement.
The speed of the probe and the swift punishment of five senior officers were unusual. Such investigations are often slow and in most cases end without charges being filed. Human rights activists have long complained that Israeli forces operate in a climate of impunity, an allegation the military rejects.
…the punishments and the apology seemed unlikely to calm the rising international outcry over the deaths of the World Central Kitchen workers, or to reassure international aid groups that it is safe to resume operations in Gaza, where nearly a third of the population is on the brink of starvation.
String of Israeli Errors Led to Fatal Attack on Aid Convoy, Military Says
“It’s a serious event that we’re responsible for, and it shouldn’t have happened,” Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said of the strike that killed seven World Central Kitchen workers.
(NYT) A series of Israeli failures, including a breakdown in communication and violations of the military’s own rules of engagement, led to the deadly airstrikes that killed seven humanitarian aid workers in Gaza this week, senior Israeli military officials said on Friday.
The military officials said that the officers who ordered the strikes on the aid convoy had violated the army’s protocols, in part by opening fire on the basis of insufficient and erroneous evidence that a passenger in one of the cars was armed.
The army said its findings on Monday’s strikes would be sent to military prosecutors to assess whether anyone should face criminal charges. The army is also assessing whether the two officers stripped of their posts should be moved to other roles or be fired entirely.
… a series of critical errors led the troops to open fire on the convoy, according to the results of the military’s preliminary inquiry. Drone footage, the inquiry found, had not captured the organization’s logo in the dark; some officers did not review documentation showing that the convoy included civilian cars; and a drone operator had identified incorrectly an aid worker, who was most likely carrying a bag, as a member of an armed Palestinian group with a gun.

UN human rights body calls for halt to weapons shipments to Israel as concerns about Gaza war mount
(AP) — The U.N.’s top human rights body called on countries to stop selling or shipping weapons to Israel in a resolution passed Friday that aims to help prevent rights violations against Palestinians amid Israel’s blistering military campaign in Gaza.
The 47-member-country Human Rights Council voted 28-6 in favor of the resolution, with 13 abstentions.
The sweeping measure takes aim at an array of Israeli actions such as impeding access to water and limiting shipments of humanitarian aid into Palestinian areas. It also calls on U.N.-backed independent investigators to report on shipments of weapons, munitions and “dual use” items — that have both civilian and military applications — that could be used by Israel against Palestinians.
While non-binding, the resolution is bound to raise international pressure on Israel as a sign of widespread concern about its military campaign in Gaza

4 April
Netanyahu Faces Pressure at Home and Abroad, From Foes and Friends
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has the challenge of trying to defeat Hamas while preserving both his government and Israel’s international alliances.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel is facing challenges on multiple fronts, with his domestic support appearing to erode at a time when international fury and frustration over the war in Gaza have reached new heights.
The Israeli leader has come under sharper criticism from allies like the United States as the civilian death toll climbs in Gaza, and the Israeli military’s killing there this week of seven aid workers has heightened global anger.
At home, Mr. Netanyahu, who has outlasted many predictions of his political demise, has been confronted with protests, divisions within his government and falling approval ratings in opinion polls.
On Wednesday night, Benny Gantz, a former general who is a key member of Mr. Netanyahu’s war cabinet, heaped more pressure on the prime minister by calling for early elections. A popular political rival to Mr. Netanyahu, Mr. Gantz said that elections should be held in September — just before the one-year mark of the war. (New elections in Israel are not legally required until late October 2026.)
… Mr. Gantz’s words echoed the calls of thousands of anti-government protesters who filled the streets outside the Israeli Parliament in Jerusalem this week in a four-day demonstration to demand early elections and Mr. Netanyahu’s ouster. Outside Israel’s Parliament, Protesters Explain Why They Think Netanyahu Must Go

3 April
Thomas Friedman: Thomas Friedman: Netanyahu is no longer at the wheel (video)
(GZERO media) Pulitzer prize-winning author and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman argues that much of the horror that’s played out in Gaza over the past six months goes back to a devil’s bargain that Bibi has maintained with Hamas over the past fifteen years. “Netanyahu always understood that … having a strong Hamas in Gaza is the best way to ensure a weak Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.” In a wide-ranging interview for this week’s episode of GZERO World, Ian Bremmer sits down with Friedman to try to chart out an imaginable (and palatable) ending to the Middle East’s bloodiest war in years. “[Netanyahu] is now hostage to a far-right in his coalition that has told him that anything that smacks of a Palestinian state or even progress toward a Palestinian state…is a no-go. We’ll throw you out of power.'”
What the World Central Kitchen Killings Tell Us About the Israel-Hamas War
(Slate) Two Israeli air strikes on Tuesday—one killing seven food-aid workers on a convoy in Gaza, another killing seven officers of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard at their country’s embassy in Syria—could spark a new stage of this six-month-old war, possibly worsening its misery and widening its scope.
The incidents highlight with new urgency the need to bring this war to a rapid end—especially for outside powers, Arab and Western, to make it so—before things spin out of control any further.
Israel’s attack on three vehicles of the World Central Kitchen—which has fed thousands of war victims and refugees in Gaza, Israel, Ukraine, and other areas in crisis—was unpardonable, whatever the findings of an official investigation into how it took place. In any case, it has prompted WCK and other aid groups to suspend operations in Gaza—where, even with the relief efforts, hunger and sanitary conditions are nearing catastrophic levels. …
We still don’t know how an Israeli fighter jet came to fire precision-guided munitions on the three separate vehicles of the WCK convoy. The organization’s CEO, Erin Gore, called it a “targeted attack by the IDF.” The term suggests the Israel Defense Forces knowingly and deliberately killed the aid workers. This is unlikely; the IDF has no interest in killing members of an international aid group—one of them an American citizen—that is much beloved across the political spectrum. It is significant that the IDF chief and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu quickly acknowledged the IDF’s blame and apologized for the mistake, something they have rarely done after any of the other attacks that have killed civilians. (A headline in the left-leaning Israeli newspaper Haaretz read: “If only Israel thought of all its Gaza victims as a PR disaster.”)
However, it would be too lenient to sigh and shrug it off, as some have done, as the sort of instance of “friendly fire” that “happens” on a tangled battlefield at night. As José Andrés, WCK’s founder, wrote in a New York Times op-ed, the three vehicles were “clearly marked” and traveling on a route and a schedule known to the IDF.
This sort of coordination—which the WCK has handled with great care and frequency—is known as “deconfliction.” The term usually applies to communications between rival nations’ militaries to let each other know when and where they’re conducting flights, maneuvers, and missile tests in order to avoid misinterpretations and thus reduce the risk of accidental conflict. U.S. and Russia regularly sent deconfliction notices to each other when their jets were scheduled to fly over or near Syria. The WCK and other aid groups have gone through this same process in timing and mapping out their convoy routes.

1-2 April
Worldwide fallout after the World Central Kitchen strike
(Politico) The Israeli airstrike that killed several World Central Kitchen aid workers last night imposed new strain today on the U.S.-Israel alliance, as condemnations poured in from around the world.
The governments of Australia, Poland and the U.K. — all of which lost citizens in the attack — called on Israel to investigate and be held accountable as well. It remains to be seen whether the incident will change the geopolitical calculus around the war for Israel’s allies in any significant way, but few organizations enjoy as broad support and admiration as José Andrés’ WCK.
‘Very best of humanity’: the seven aid workers killed in Israeli airstrike
(The Guardian) The World Central Kitchen has described the seven aid workers who were killed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza as the “very best of humanity”. Three British nationals, an Australian, a Polish national, an American-Canadian dual citizen and a Palestinian were killed when their convoy was hit as it was leaving the Deir al-Balah warehouse on Monday.
World Central Kitchen halts operations in Gaza after strike kills staff
WCK is one of the main suppliers of desperately needed aid to Gaza.
It said that it would “be making decisions about the future of [its] work soon”.
According to the charity, the aid convoy was hit while leaving the Deir al-Balah warehouse, “where the team had unloaded more than 100 tons of humanitarian food aid brought to Gaza on the maritime route.”
The convoy was made up of three vehicles, including two that were armoured. The BBC understands that all three were hit in the strike.
Israel airstrike on Gaza kills foreigners working for food aid NGO
(Reuters) – Citizens from Australia, Britain and Poland were among seven people working for celebrity chef Jose Andres’ World Central Kitchen who were killed in an Israeli airstrike in central Gaza on Monday, the NGO said.
The workers, who also included Palestinians and a dual citizen of the United States and Canada, were travelling in two armoured cars emblazoned with the WCK logo and another vehicle, WCK said in a statement.
Founder of World Central Kitchen Says Several Workers Killed in Gaza Airstrike
(NYT) The nonprofit has become a crucial source of food for desperate Gazans. The Israeli military said it was investigating.

Rising tension and polarization in Israel amid Gaza war, Jerusalem priest says
The author, Fr. David Neuhaus, is a Jesuit priest who has lived among both Palestinians and Israelis.
You’ve lived most of your life in Israel. Have you noticed any significant change in attitude among ordinary people you encounter in your life and work since Oct. 7?
On the Jewish Israeli side, there has been a deepening of a sense of profound unease. Most Israelis have little knowledge of Palestinian life in Israel and under Israeli occupation in Palestine. The intense explosion of violence on Oct. 7, 2023, when about 3,000 militants from the Gaza Strip swarmed into Israel, leading to the murder of about 1,200, destruction and the kidnapping of over 240 people, has left many Israelis shocked, grief-stricken, fearful and angry. This is one of the most emotionally charged times I have known.
It coincides with the most right-wing government that Israel has ever known, a government that seeks to push Palestinians even further into the margins of history. This government contains extremists who already sought before Oct. 7 to completely dominate the Palestinians by processes of violent repression, racist incitement and discrimination. Since Oct. 7, they have tried to control public opinion, pushing the Israeli government to commit to further polarization and refusal of any negotiated settlement to a conflict that has been ongoing since 1948, when Israel was established, and even before then.
What are views about the war like among those you encounter? How would you characterize the respective feelings of Jewish Israelis and Palestinian Arabs—whether Arabs in the occupied territories or those who are citizens of Israel?
Most Jewish Israelis support the war. They see it as a war of self-defense against aggression from the Palestinians. Many seem to believe that the problem began on Oct. 7 with the invasion of the militants, choosing to ignore the long decades of brutal Israeli occupation and far-reaching discrimination inside a state that has become more and more ethnocentric. Many Israelis feel attacked on all sides, from Gaza but also from south Lebanon with the military actions of Hezbollah and those of the Houthis in Yemen.

Gaza’s al-Shifa hospital in ruins after two-week Israeli raid
(BBC) Israel’s military has pulled out of al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City after a two-week raid that has left most of the major medical complex in ruins.
Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry said dozens of bodies had been found and locals said nearby areas were razed.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said it had killed 200 “terrorists”, detained over 500 more and found weapons and intelligence “throughout the hospital”.
The IDF said it raided al-Shifa because Hamas had regrouped there.

Netanyahu pushes to shut Israeli office of Qatar’s Al Jazeera TV
(Reuters) – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged on Monday to shutter the local office of Qatari satellite television network Al Jazeera while the war in Gaza continues.
Hours after his party spokesperson said parliament would be convened to ratify the necessary law, the Knesset approved the bill allowing the temporary closure in Israel of foreign broadcasters considered to be a threat to national security.
The law approved on Monday would allow Netanyahu and the security cabinet to shut the network’s offices in Israel for 45 days, which could be renewed, and would stay in force until the end of July or until the end of major military operations in Gaza.

31 March-1 April
(The World) Tens of thousands of Israelis thronged central Jerusalem on Sunday in the largest anti-government protest since Oct. 7. Protesters urged the government to reach a ceasefire deal to free dozens of hostages held in Gaza by Hamas militants and to hold early elections. They blame Netanyahu for the failures of Oct. 7 and say the deep political divisions over his attempted judicial overhaul last year weakened Israel ahead of the attack. Some accuse him of damaging relations with the United States, Israel’s most important ally. Netanyahu is also facing a litany of corruption charges which are slowly making their way through the courts, and critics say his decisions appear to be focused on political survival over the national interest. Opinion polls show Netanyahu and his coalition trailing far behind their rivals if elections were held today.
Benjamin Netanyahu protests put political divides back on show
Israel’s deep political divisions are back on public display.
They were put to one side for a while, as shock and national unity followed the 7 October attacks by Hamas – but six months later, thousands of protesters are once again on Israel’s streets.
The war has turbocharged their determination to unseat Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

30 March
Gaza truce talks set to resume, as thousands protest Netanyahu in Israel
Negotiations in Cairo on Sunday come after UN Security Council demanded a ceasefire this week, nearly six months into the war.
Truce talks between Israel and Hamas are expected to resume in Cairo on Sunday, Egyptian media reported, days after the United Nations Security Council issued its first demand for a ceasefire in the war on Gaza.
The resumption of indirect negotiations, reported by Egypt’s Al Qahera News TV on Saturday, comes as more protests against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu erupted in Israel’s capit

25 March
Israel isolated as UN security council demands immediate ceasefire in Gaza
Palestinian ambassador hails ‘vote for humanity to prevail’ after US abstains, raising hopes for breakthrough in hostage talks
UN Security Council demands immediate Gaza ceasefire after US abstains
“This resolution must be implemented. Failure would be unforgivable,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres posted on social media.
(Reuters) – The United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution on Monday demanding an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militants Hamas after the United States abstained from the vote, sparking a spat with its ally Israel.
The remaining 14 council members voted for the resolution … There was a round of applause in the council chamber after the vote.

The resolution was crafted by the so-called “E-10.” These are the ten non-veto-wielding elected members of the Security Council who can sometimes band together and shame the P-5 into taking action they might otherwise veto. Now the question is
Will the Gaza Ceasefire Resolution Make a Difference?
Resolutions don’t implement themselves

24 March
David Brooks: What Would You Have Israel Do to Defend Itself?
If the current Israeli military approach is inhumane, what’s the alternative? Is there a better military strategy Israel can use to defeat Hamas without a civilian blood bath? In recent weeks, I’ve been talking with security and urban warfare experts and others studying Israel’s approach to the conflict and scouring foreign policy and security journals in search of such ideas.
The thorniest reality that comes up is that this war is like few others because the crucial theater is underground.

21 March
Blinken meets with Arab officials, calls for ‘enduring end’ to Gaza crisis
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has met Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and reiterated the call for a truce in the war on Gaza and support for the two-state solution, the US Department of State has said.
The meetings over the past two days are part of Blinken’s sixth trip to the Middle East since the war broke out.

20 March
EU official accuses Israel of weaponizing hunger as report warns Gaza famine imminent
1.1 million people now suffering ‘catastrophic hunger’ in Gaza, IPC report says
(CBC) Philippe Lazzarini, the commissioner general for UNRWA, the main relief agency for Palestinians, describes the race to get aid into Gaza as it faces an ‘unprecedented looming famine.’

15 March
The Earthquake That Could Shatter Netanyahu’s Coalition
Israel’s ultra-Orthodox don’t serve in its armed forces. That’s getting harder than ever to justify.
By Yair Rosenberg
(The Atlantic) … A secular Jewish socialist, he saw Israel’s ultra-Orthodox as the dying remnant of an old world, and when the community’s leadership requested an exemption from the draft, Ben-Gurion calculated that it was a small price to pay for their support. At the time, the ultra-Orthodox constituted about 1 percent of Israel’s population, and the exemption applied to just 400 young men in religious seminaries.
Today the Haredi community numbers some 1.2 million, more than 13 percent of Israel’s total population. And because this community has the highest birth rate in the country, its ranks will only swell. In other words, the fastest-growing group in Israeli society does not serve in its armed forces. …
Much has been written about Netanyahu’s dependence on the Israeli far right to remain in power. But the backbone of his coalition for many years has actually been the ultra-Orthodox political parties. They stuck with the premier after he was indicted on corruption charges, and they refused to defect to the opposition even after Netanyahu failed to form a government following successive stalemate elections. Today, the far right provides 14 of Netanyahu’s 64 coalition seats; the Haredi parties provide 18. The Israeli leader has richly rewarded this loyalty by ensuring an ever-growing flow of public subsidies to ultra-Orthodox voters and their religious institutions. Because Haredi men can maintain their military exemption only by remaining in seminaries until age 26, they rarely enter the workforce until late in life and lack the secular education to succeed in it. As a result, nearly half of the ultra-Orthodox community lives in poverty and relies on government welfare—an unsustainable economic course that is another perennial source of Israeli angst.
… With the public incensed at what many see as Haredi privilege, Netanyahu is facing revolt within his ranks. .. But any Haredi-draft bill that satisfies Gantz and Gallant is unlikely to satisfy the Haredi parties, who perceive enlistment as a threat to their cloistered way of life. And if no new legislation is passed, the IDF will be required to begin drafting the ultra-Orthodox on April 1.
Netanyahu approves Rafah attack plans as aid ship reaches Gaza
Israeli PM’s decision may be intended to put negotiating pressure on Hamas, observers say, after his cabinet discussed truce proposal

10 March
Hopes for a cease-fire before the Muslim holy month were dashed.
International hopes of reaching a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan were dashed on Sunday, hours before Palestinians and other Muslims were to begin the month of daytime fasting, as Hamas repeated demands for a comprehensive cease-fire, which Israel has rejected.
(NYT) Egypt, Qatar and the United States had sought to broker a truce between Israel and Hamas before the start of Ramadan on Monday, and there had been optimism for a last-minute deal that would allow for the release of some Israeli hostages held in Gaza and Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.
But weeks of indirect negotiations have stalled, and a top Hamas political leader, Ismail Haniyeh, said in a televised speech on Sunday that Hamas wanted an agreement that would end the war, guarantee the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza, return displaced Palestinians to their homes and provide for the humanitarian needs of Gazans.
Israel “wants to get its prisoners back and then resume the war on our people,” he said.
Mr. Haniyeh said if the mediators were to inform Hamas that Israel was committed to ending the war, withdrawing from Gaza and permitting the return of displaced people to the north, then the Islamist group would be ready to show flexibility on the issue of exchanging Palestinian prisoners for hostages.

6 March
Yuval Noah Harari: Netanyahu’s ‘Deep State’ fears enabled Oct 7 attack
Author and historian Yuval Noah Harari believes that the Israeli government’s policies under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu allowed for Hamas’ Oct 7 attack to be as deadly as it was. He points specifically to Netanyahu’s efforts to undermine the judiciary and other democratic institutions.
“He was trying to systematically destroy the institutions of Israeli democracy,” Harari tells Ian Bremmer in a live interview at the 92nd Street Y in New York City. He links these domestic political maneuvers to the failure to heed warnings from military and intelligence services about external threats leading up to October 7, arguing that this negligence was influenced by conspiracy theories about a so-called “deep state.”
The problem, Harari says, goes deeper than Netanyahu. He talks about the ideological infighting within the Israeli government as a battle for the country’s soul and for Judaism itself. He contrasts the principles of Zionism with those of a rising messianic movement that espouses Jewish supremacy, warning of the dire implications should this faction’s vision of a deeply stratified society. “This will change the very meaning of Judaism all over the world.”
Israel blocks convoy with food to northern Gaza
(Prensa Latina) The Israeli army prevented the entry of a 14-truck caravan with food to the north of the Gaza Strip, the World Food Program (WFP) denounced in a statement released here on Wednesday.

5 March
Biden says Gaza ceasefire deal is in Hamas’ hands as Ramadan nears
Release of sick, wounded, elderly, women hostages would result in immediate ceasefire of at least six weeks, White House says
U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani met on Tuesday to discuss potential ceasefire
(Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden said on Tuesday that it was in the hands of Hamas whether to accept a deal for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip in exchange for the release of Israeli hostages, as delegations held a third day of talks with no sign of a breakthrough.
Negotiators from the Palestinian militant group, Qatar and Egypt – but not Israel – are in Cairo trying to secure a 40-day ceasefire in Hamas’ war with Israel in time for the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which begins early next week.

1-2 March
As Gaza crisis intensifies, U.S. conducts first airdrop of aid
The United States dropped pallets of food aid into the Gaza Strip on Saturday, expanding America’s direct role in addressing a growing humanitarian crisis and underscoring a widening gap between Washington and Israel over its handling of its war against Hamas.
The operation, while welcomed by Gazans, took place amid mounting friction between the Biden administration and its closest Middle Eastern ally, as U.S. officials press Israel to help alleviate dire conditions by permitting the entry of additional aid convoys and caution Israel’s military against moving ahead with an offensive into the southern city of Rafah, where more than a million people are now trapped.
Aid groups have warned of a lethal surge in malnutrition, especially among children, across the Strip, where people have been forced to eat weeds and animal feed in the absence of accessible food supplies.
David Ignatius: Food convoy carnage distills what’s gone terribly wrong in Gaza
The drone videos taken early Thursday over Gaza City brought a new level of horror to this conflict: They showed hundreds of people, so tiny in the images that their human forms had almost vanished, desperately swarming a convoy of food trucks to grab what they could.
And then, off camera, the worst happened: The crowd stampeded, trucks crushed people under their wheels and a few Israeli troops opened fire, according to U.S. officials. The pre-dawn mayhem had an appalling toll. Gaza health officials said more than 100 Palestinians died and 700 were wounded as the aid convoy moved toward Gaza City.

29 February
Rival Palestinian factions try to make nice in Moscow
Hamas and Fatah, rival Palestinian factions with a bloody history, were in Moscow on Thursday for reconciliation talks.
(GZERO media) Why is this significant? The jihadists of Hamas and the secular nationalists of Fatah are Palestine’s most powerful factions. They fought a war in 2007 that left Hamas in control of Gaza and Fatah running the occupied West Bank. Reconciliation would be crucial for establishing any stable Palestinian state in the future.
Not everyone is a fan. Even if Hamas and Fatah can make doves cry, it’s difficult to see Israel or the US singing along. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is dead-set on destroying Hamas which, unlike Fatah, refuses to recognize Israel’s existence.
But polls show Hamas is popular among Palestinians, partly because Fatah’s accommodationist stance is seen as a failure. Unless Netanyahu can destroy the group entirely, a tall order, any plans for post-war governance in Gaza – to say nothing of a Palestinian state some day – will require some blessing or buy-in from Hamas.
Palestinian unity on agenda as Hamas, Fatah leaders meet in Moscow
Representatives from Palestinian political factions, including Hamas and Fatah, are meeting in the Russian capital, Moscow, to discuss the formation of a unified Palestinian government amid Israel’s war on Gaza, which has killed more than 30,000 people.
Al Jazeera’s Yulia Shapovalova, reporting from Moscow, said on Thursday that while there was a lot of “uncertainty” about the meeting, it is expected to last three days for the factions to develop a “unified strategy”.
“Russia has previously held similar meetings, so we know that this time around, this is the fourth meeting of its kind, and obviously they [will] try to help to achieve reconciliation between all these Palestinian factions,” Shapovalova said.
Speaking from Moscow, Mustafa Barghouti, the secretary general of the Palestinian National Initiative, said that he had “never seen the atmosphere so close to unity as it is today… because people feel the responsibility after all these massacres that our people have been subjected to”.
Barghouti told Al Jazeera that the talks would focus on future national consensus government, which would “[devote] its attention and its work mainly to alleviate this terrible suffering in Gaza” and prevent “Israeli eff[o]rts to enforce ethnic cleansing on the people of Gaza”.
Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov told the delegations that Moscow wants the Palestinians to unite so they are able to negotiate with Israel.

It just gets worse and worse!
112 dead in chaotic scenes as Israeli troops open fire near aid trucks, say Gaza officials
Israeli military denies shooting into large crowds of hungry people and says most were killed in crush or run over trying to escape
112 dead in chaotic scenes as Israeli troops open fire near aid trucks, say Gaza officials
Israeli military denies shooting into large crowds of hungry people and says most were killed in crush or run over trying to escape

27 February
Exclusive: Hamas studies Paris truce proposal involving 40-day pause and hostage exchange, source says
(Reuters) – Palestinian Islamist group Hamas has received a draft proposal from Gaza truce talks in Paris which includes a 40-day pause in all military operations and the exchange of Palestinian prisoners for Israeli hostages at a ratio of 10 to one, a senior source close to the talks told Reuters on Tuesday.
Under the proposed ceasefire, hospitals and bakeries in Gaza would be repaired, 500 aid trucks would enter into the strip each day and thousands of tents and caravans would be delivered to house the displaced, the source said.
The draft also states Hamas would free 40 Israeli hostages including women, children under 19, elderly over 50 and the sick, while Israeli would release around 400 Palestinian prisoners and will not re-arrest them, the source told Reuters.
The Gaza truce talks appear to be the most serious push in weeks to halt the fighting in the battered Palestinian enclave and secure the release of Israeli and foreign hostages.
Details of 40-day Gaza truce draft proposal being studied by Hamas
U.S. President Joe Biden said Israel has agreed to halt military activities in Gaza for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan as the Islamist group studied the draft proposal.
Qatar and Egypt ‘will help form new Palestinian technocratic government’
Palestinian ambassador to UK says Hamas will be consulted but would have no members in government

26-27 February
UN agency warns of ‘looming famine’ in Gaza amid Israel war
Half a million people in Gaza face starvation and all 2.3 million experience acute food shortage, aid agencies report.
Israel is deliberately starving Palestinians, UN rights expert says
Exclusive: UN special rapporteur on the right to food Michael Fakhri says denial of food is war crime and constitutes ‘a situation of genocide’
(The Guardian) Hunger and severe malnutrition are widespread in the Gaza Strip, where about 2.2 million Palestinians are facing severe shortages resulting from Israel destroying food supplies and severely restricting the flow of food, medicines and other humanitarian supplies. Aid trucks and Palestinians waiting for humanitarian relief have come under Israeli fire.
“There is no reason to intentionally block the passage of humanitarian aid or intentionally obliterate small-scale fishing vessels, greenhouses and orchards in Gaza – other than to deny people access to food,” Michael Fakhri, the UN special rapporteur on the right to food, told the Guardian.
“Intentionally depriving people of food is clearly a war crime. Israel has announced its intention to destroy the Palestinian people, in whole or in part, simply for being Palestinian. In my view as a UN human rights expert, this is now a situation of genocide. This means the state of Israel in its entirety is culpable and should be held accountable – not just individuals or this government or that person.”

26 February
Palestinian PM Shtayyeh Resigns Amid Calls for Reform
President Abbas asks government to stay on as caretaker
Move marks likely shift within Palestinian Authority
Palestinian PM Shtayyeh hands resignation to Abbas over Gaza ‘genocide’
Shtayyeh’s move comes amid US pressure on Palestinian Authority to work on a political structure that can govern a Palestinian state after Gaza war.
(Al Jazeera) Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh has announced the resignation of his government, which rules parts of the occupied West Bank, due to the escalating violence in the occupied territory and the war on Gaza.
“The decision to resign came in light of the unprecedented escalation in the West Bank and Jerusalem and the war, genocide and starvation in the Gaza Strip,” said Shtayyeh, who submitted his resignation to Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday.
Abbas accepted Shtayyeh’s resignation and asked him to stay on as caretaker until a permanent replacement is appointed.
Shtayyeh’s comments come as US pressure grows on Abbas to shake up the PA and begin work on a political structure that can govern a Palestinian state following the war.
However, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has on numerous occasions rejected calls for the PA under Abbas to take control of a Palestinian state and govern Gaza.

24 February
Ceasefire talks raise Gaza hopes but 1.5m trapped in fear the worst
Closed-door negotiations in Paris and UN efforts in New York yield conflicting reports of progress, but city of Rafah remains in Israel’s firing line
A closed-door meeting of spy chiefs, military officials and diplomats has briefly renewed hopes of a potential ceasefire deal amid fierce debates at the United Nations, but observers have warned that time is running out to make progress and prevent a looming Israeli offensive on Gaza’s southernmost city.
The secretive talks at an unknown location in Paris involved David Barnea, the head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence service, conducting separate meetings with Egyptian spy chief Abbas Kamel, head of the CIA William Burns and Qatari prime minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani.
Israeli officials said they had dispatched negotiators to Paris with an expanded mandate. “We will expand the authority given to our hostage negotiators,” Israeli defence minister Yoav Gallant told US envoy to the Middle East Brett McGurk last week. “At the same time, the IDF is preparing the continuation of intense ground operations.”

21-22 February
Israeli Delegation to Leave for Paris on Friday for New Round of Hostage, Cease-fire Talks
The Fate of the Israeli Hostages Depends on Palestinians Running Gaza – and Hamas’ Future
The postwar rehabilitation of the Gaza Strip, aided by Egypt and Qatar, depends of the establishment of a Palestinian regime which, for now at least, also depends of Yahya Sinwar agreeing – and there’s no one in Hamas strong enough to tell him what to do
Haaretz: Negotiators Close In on Hostage Deal That Would Halt Fighting in Gaza for Weeks
A written draft agreement calls for the phased release of captives held by Hamas in exchange for a cessation in Israel’s military offensive for about two months.
CIA chief expected in Paris for Gaza hostage talks as U.S. pushes for deal before Ramadan
(Axios) CIA director Bill Burns is expected to travel to Paris on Friday to hold talks with Qatari, Egyptian and Israeli officials about the efforts to reach a deal to secure the release of hostages held by Hamas in Gaza, a source familiar with the issue and an Israeli official said.
Why it matters: Biden administration officials say they want to try and get a deal before the start of Ramadan in less than three weeks in order to ensure there is a temporary ceasefire in place during the Muslim holy month. But major gaps between Israel and Hamas remain.
27 January
Negotiators Close In on Hostage Deal That Would Halt Fighting in Gaza for Weeks
A written draft agreement calls for the phased release of captives held by Hamas in exchange for a cessation in Israel’s military offensive for about two months.

Biden can end the bombing of Gaza right now. Here’s how
Mr President, make the call. End this genocide
… The truth is that the commander-in-chief of the richest country in the history of the world is far from powerless and, like every commander-in-chief before him, possesses plenty of leverage.
… How do we know? First, because members of the US defense establishment say so. … How do we know? First, because members of the US defense establishment say so….The Israelis cannot “refuse” the Americans. In fact, the president of the US could “turn off the tap” – ammunition, bombs, intel – and thereby end what the ICJ has deemed to be a plausible genocide in Gaza. … Third, we know Biden has the power to stop Netanyahu from killing Palestinians en masse in Gaza because … he has done it before. In May 2021….

20 February
How Israel’s war went wrong
The conflict in Gaza has become “an era-defining catastrophe.” It’s increasingly clear what — and who — is to blame.
Zack Beauchamp, Senior Correspondent at Vox, covers challenges to democracy in the United States and abroad, right-wing populism, and the world of ideas.
At the end of November, Israeli reporter Yuval Abraham broke one of the most important stories of the war in Gaza to date — an inside look at the disturbing reasoning that has led the Israeli military to kill so many civilians.*
… There’s no doubt that the IDF has done significant damage to Hamas’s infrastructure. Israel has killed or captured somewhere around one-third of Hamas’s fighting force, destroyed at least half of its rocket stockpile, and demolished somewhere between 20 and 40 percent of its tunnel network under Gaza. The more the war goes on, the higher those numbers will become.
But as significant as these achievements are, “none of them come close to eliminating Hamas,” says Dan Byman, a professor at Georgetown who studies Israeli counterterrorism policy.
The group, he explains, has “very deep roots in Gaza” — ones that could only be permanently removed if Israel had a good plan for a postwar political arrangement in Gaza. Yet at present, Israel still has no plan at all. With support for Hamas rising in reaction to Israeli brutality, Israel runs a real risk of actually strengthening the terrorist group’s political position in the long run.
… A world where hundreds of thousands of Gazans suffer and only Hamas benefits is the worst of all possible worlds. Yet it is increasingly looking like a likely one.
The truth is that this nightmare was depressingly predictable. When I surveyed over a dozen experts about the war back in October, they warned that Israel had a dangerously loose understanding of what the war was about. The stated aim of “destroying Hamas” was at once maximalist and open-ended: It wasn’t clear how it could be accomplished or what limit there might be on the means used in its pursuit.
Israel’s conduct in the war so far has vindicated these fears. The embrace of an objective at once so massive and vague has dragged Israel down the moral nadir documented in Abraham’s reporting, with unclear and perhaps even self-defeating ends. It is a situation that Matt Duss, the executive vice president at the Center for International Policy, terms “an era-defining catastrophe.”
* 30 November
‘A mass assassination factory’: Inside Israel’s calculated bombing of Gaza
Permissive airstrikes on non-military targets and the use of an artificial intelligence system have enabled the Israeli army to carry out its deadliest war on Gaza, a +972 and Local Call investigation reveals.

18 February
Israel vows to ‘finish the job’ in Gaza as War Cabinet member threatens a Ramadan deadline for Rafah
(AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday brushed off growing calls to halt the military offensive in Gaza, vowing to “finish the job” as a member of his War Cabinet threatened to invade the southern city of Rafah if remaining Israeli hostages are not freed by the upcoming Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Israel’s government formally rejects the unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state.
(NYT) The Israeli government on Sunday approved a resolution rejecting any international attempts to impose a Palestinian state on Israel, saying that Israel would have to directly negotiate any “permanent” arrangement with the Palestinians.
The largely symbolic move followed recent comments from some of Israel’s allies suggesting that they might consider simply recognizing a Palestinian state ahead of any agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.
Palestinian factions to meet in Moscow as west rejects Hamas role in ruling Gaza after war
Palestinian Authority ‘ready to engage’, says prime minister ahead of talks on formation of new Gaza government
(The Guardian) Western powers have rejected suggestions that Hamas as an entity can be allowed a role in governing Gaza at the end of the war, saying only that they recognise that Palestinian militancy will still exist.
Speculation that a weakened Hamas might be willing to form a partnership with the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority, and govern Gaza and the West Bank jointly, have been revived by a Russian invitation for Palestinian factions to meet in Moscow on 26 February.
The news of the meeting was confirmed by the Palestinian Authority prime minister, Mohammad Shtayyeh, at the Munich security conference.

17 February
West Bank Palestinians paying the price for Gaza war
(BBC) Palestinians working in Israel – and those working in Israeli settlements in the West Bank – accounted for nearly one in five of all Palestinian workers before 7 October, according to official Palestinian figures.
Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.
The workers contributed $3.2bn annually to the Palestinian economy, with most employed in construction.
While some Israeli business groups lobbied for Palestinian workers to be allowed back, the government has come up with a different plan.
It wants to replace Palestinian workers and plans to admit more than 60,000 workers from India, China, Moldova, Sri Lanka and Thailand this year.

Netanyahu dismisses election calls as thousands protest in Tel Aviv
(Reuters) – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday dismissed the idea of holding early elections, while thousands of Israelis gathered in Tel Aviv for an anti-government protest.
Netanyahu has seen his popularity plummet in opinion polls since Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack that sparked the devastating war in Gaza.
Anti-government protests that shook the country for much of 2023 have largely subsided during the war. Still, demonstrators again took to the streets of Tel Aviv Saturday night calling for new elections, which are not scheduled until 2026.

14-15 February
Palestinians Flee as Israeli Forces Raid a Major Hospital in Gaza
Israel says Hamas routinely operates within — and beneath — places like Nasser hospital in Khan Younis, using them as shields, and has held Israeli hostages there. The group denies the charges.
Warnings Over Israel’s Plans for Rafah Come From All Corners
Allies and others say the safety of the Palestinian civilians who have sought shelter in the far south of Gaza is paramount.
Netanyahu vows to press ahead with Rafah offensive as ceasefire talks continue
Israeli prime minister says civilians will be allowed to leave ‘battle zones’ but does not specify where they could go

12 February
UK places sanctions on Israeli settlers for ‘forcing’ Palestinians from their land
David Cameron says ‘extremist’ settlers responsible for human rights abuses against West Bank residents

10 February
Dozens killed in Rafah airstrikes as full-scale Israeli ground offensive looms
More than a million civilians sheltering in Gaza’s last place of relative safety brace for all-out assault
Airstrikes on the Gaza Strip’s southernmost town of Rafah have killed at least 44 people as more than a million civilians sheltering in the area brace for the possibility of a full-scale Israeli ground offensive on the territory’s last place of relative safety.
As Israeli forces have expanded ground operations steadily southwards in their war against Hamas over the past four months, Rafah – situated on the border with Egypt, and home before the war to about 280,000 people – has become the last refuge for more than half of the strip’s population of 2.3 million.
Israel appears to be in breach of ICJ orders on Gaza, senior UN official says
Special rapporteur cites lack of medical supplies, food and clean water, and continued demolition of infrastructure
The Israeli government was given until 23 February to report to the ICJ on what it has done to comply with six orders the court issued, including one relating to ending incitement to genocide and another requiring immediate steps to improve the supply of humanitarian aid.
Senior western officials say that despite hours of negotiations with Israeli officials there is at best a marginal and incremental improvement since the 26 January ruling. “Safe to say, it’s dire and getting worse,” one said.

7-8 February
3 men are holding the Levant hostage
If the guns of war are to be silenced, it will mean the exit of Benjamin Netanyahu, Mahmoud Abbas and Yahya Sinwar
(Politico Eu) As it stands, the future course of events in the Middle East is largely dependent on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas’ leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar. But for peace to have a chance, all three will have to recognize they can’t be part of this future — if the guns are to fall silent, their time is up.
Nearly a dozen countries are now caught up in the fighting sparked by Hamas’ grievous attacks on southern Israel on Oct. 7, and conflict is spreading across the region. But while the U.S. and Saudi Arabia have been leading intense diplomatic efforts to find a way out of the crisis, much to their evident frustration — as well as fear from the White House that the Gaza War could cost President Joe Biden the next election — their efforts continue to be stymied. Deeply suspicious of Netanyahu, Biden has reportedly dubbed the Israeli prime minister a “bad fucking guy” in private conversations.
But the joint U.S.-Saudi peace plan is a progressive one with discrete yet overlapping stages, requiring the buy-in of all the three leaders.
Netanyahu rejects Gaza ceasefire deal and says victory is ‘within reach’
Israeli PM rebuffs US-led mediation efforts as order is given to commence ground assault in southern city of Rafah
(The Guardian) Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected the terms of a ceasefire in Gaza proposed by Hamas and rebuffed US pressure to move more quickly towards a mediated settlement to the war, saying there could be no solution to Israel’s security issues except “absolute victory” over the militant group.
The Israeli prime minister also confirmed that the Israel Defense Forces had been instructed to commence operations in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where the population has been swelled by hundreds of thousands of displaced people.
In a sharp rebuff to the Biden administration and the visiting US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, Netanyahu said it would require months more fighting before Hamas was defeated.
… There had been mounting international concern that Israel was preparing a ground offensive in Rafah. UN officials have said an assault there would lead to a “large-scale loss of life” and the risk of war crimes.
Saying that no part of the Gaza Strip would be “immune” from Israel’s offensive, Netanyahu, whose poll ratings have collapsed, also ruled out any arrangement that would leave Hamas in full or partial control of Gaza.

5-6 February
With grains of salt:
Lt. Col. Conricus to TML: In Gaza, ‘Hardly a House That Doesn’t Have an Entrance to a Tunnel, Shaft, or Weapons’
In an in-depth interview, the ex-IDF spokesman reveals the challenges Israel faces in Gaza, including the search for bodies of hostages killed in captivity, emphasizing the entanglement of civilian infrastructure with Hamas’ operations
Just back from reserve duty, Lt. Col. (res.) Jonathan Conricus, the international spokesperson for the Israel Defense and Security Forum and former international spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), gave a candid interview to The Media Line on the sidelines of the Israel Defense Conference 2024.
Conricus outlined the challenges faced by Israel. Despite substantial casualties, he affirmed the IDF’s on-the-ground efficiency and its progress in countering threats. He underscored the difficulties posed by Hamas’ use of civilian structures in Gaza for military purposes, complicating Israeli military efforts.
Inside the IDF: Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus on Navigating Operational and Ethical Challenges

2 February
Israeli war cabinet meeting ends with seemingly little consensus on next steps (YouTube)
(Al Jazeera) In tonight’s meeting, there didn’t seem to be any sort of consensus about what the next steps are when it comes to any framework or deal regarding the release of Israeli captives from Gaza. … Tonight’s war cabinet meeting followed a broader Israeli cabinet gathering where coalition members, including those from Netanyahu’s Likud party, expressed frustrations. There’s mounting pressure from the right-wing faction of the government, threatening to withdraw support if Netanyahu agrees to a deal they deem unfavorable to Israel. Such a move would jeopardize the stability of Israel’s coalition, a warning they’ve reiterated for over a week now.
On the other hand, members of the opposition, like Benny Gantz, have been vocal in their opposition to Netanyahu potentially yielding to the demands of the right-wing faction. Gantz has stated that if Netanyahu acquiesces, he will withdraw from the emergency government and the war cabinet. These conflicting positions underscore the complexities and challenges facing Israeli leadership in navigating the delicate negotiations and maintaining political stability amidst differing priorities and pressures.

2 February
Hamas expected to respond soon to proposal ceasefire including hostage releases
(Euro News via The World) Hamas officials said Friday that the group is studying a proposed ceasefire deal that would include prolonged pauses in fighting in Gaza and swaps of Israeli hostages for Palestinian prisoners, but at the same time appeared to rule out some of its key components. Osama Hamdan, a senior Hamas official in Beirut, said the group remains committed to its initial demands for a permanent ceasefire. Hamdan also said the group seeks the release of thousands of Palestinian prisoners being held for acts related to the conflict with Israel, including those serving life sentences. He mentioned two by name, including Marwan Barghouti, a popular Palestinian uprising leader seen as a unifying figure. Hamdan’s comments on the prisoners were the most detailed demands yet to be raised by the group in public.

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