Israel-Hamas War – Week 11 Commencing Dec 17, 2023

We present here a diary of reported news from Israel and elsewhere about the Israel-Hamas war of 2023, known in Israel as Swords of Iron. Our sources include the IDF Spokesman, Israeli Kan TV/radio service, the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office on Twitter/X (@IsraeliPM) and other sources considered reliable…

Saturday Dec 23, 2023

  • Situation: The Israel-Hamas war continues, so does friction on the Israel-Lebanon border. Daily Hamas missile attacks on Israel continue.
  • UN Security Council resolution 2720 was finally passed. It is long.
  • Among the things resolved:
    • Demands that the parties to the conflict allow and facilitate the use of all available routes for the provision of humanitarian assistance;
    • Calls for urgent steps to create the conditions for a sustainable cessation of hostilities;
    • Requests the Secretary-General, with the objective of expediting the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the civilian population in the Gaza Strip, to appoint a Senior Humanitarian and Reconstruction Coordinator with responsibility for facilitating, coordinating, monitoring, and verifying in Gaza, as appropriate, the humanitarian nature of all humanitarian relief consignments;
    • Demands the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages, as well as ensuring humanitarian access to address medical needs of all hostages;
    • deplores all attacks against civilians and civilian objects, as well as all violence and hostilities against civilians, and all acts of terrorism;
    • Reiterates its unwavering commitment to the vision of the two-State solution and  in this regard stresses the importance of unifying the Gaza Strip with the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority;
    • (
  • Reaction of Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen: Israel will continue the war in Gaza until the release of all the hostages and the elimination of Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Israel will continue to act according to international law, and will continue to screen all humanitarian aid to Gaza for security reasons. The Security Council’s decision emphasizes the need to ensure that the UN becomes more efficient in transferring the humanitarian aid and to make sure that the aid reaches its destination and does not end up in the hands of Hamas terrorists. (X/Twitter)
  • Our comment on UN Security Council resolution 2720: There are many comments. No ceasefire yet. No specific mention of the October 7 massacre. It “requests” to shift shipment inspection for weapons from the IDF to the UN Coordinator – unlikely to happen. It commends “the indispensable and ongoing efforts of the United Nations” – this overlooks the ongoing efforts at UN facilities to promote hateful education, store weapons, launch missiles and access terror tunnels.
  • Fake news? The preamble of UN Security Council resolution 2720 says: “Stressing that the Gaza Strip constitutes an integral part of the territory occupied in 1967….”. Correction: Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005, and the Oslo peace accords of the 1990s failed to stem terror incidents.
  • India: A Dutch cargo ship “Chem Pluto” carrying chemicals was attacked by a drone apparently from Iran in the Indian Ocean 200 nautical miles off India. The resulting fire was put out and there were no casualties. The ship was leased by a Dutch shipper from a partly Israeli-owned company and was sailing from Saudi Arabia to India (Ambrey marine security company and Kan).
  • Like Hollywood: An IDF unit, as part of the ground operation in southern Gaza City, fired a decoy on Friday that led to the evacuation of dozens of terrorists into a building that served as a Hamas infrastructure. After that, the forces directed an IAF fighter jet that attacked the structure and eliminated the terrorists. In another incident in the same area, the brigade’s observation unit identified armed terrorists who tried to attack the forces and were killed by sniper fire (Jerusalem Post).
  • Unlike Hollywood: Hamas uses children to take explosives from one place to another in plastic vegetable pots (Captured Hamas terrorist on film, Israeli Foreign Ministry X/Twitter).
  • Khan Younis: The IDF Chief of Staff, Herzi Halevi, visited the front line in Southern Gaza to see what’s happening. He said: Very impressive campaign, but we have much work to do.
  • Google: Defense Minister Gallant and War Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz visited the IDF in Beit Hanoun, Gaza. Gallant said: “I am sure Sinwar (Hamas leader) is sitting in his bunker and sees on TV how Beit Hanoun now looks….This reflects on the general environment because everyone has Google Maps and can do “Cut and Paste” from Gaza and see what can happen in Beirut”. Gantz added “I’m sure Nasrallah (Lebanon Hezbollah leader) sees what is happening here and doesn’t want it there”.
  • Biden: The Wall Street Journal claims Biden phoned Netanyahu on October 11 and persuaded Netanyahu to call off a pre-emptive strike on Hezbollah in Lebanon when the Israeli Air Force was already on the way. This was to avoid drawing in the US to a wider conflict. The Israeli PM’s office apparently claims the decision was already taken to deal with Gaza first (Kan and others).

Thursday Dec 21, 2023

  • Situation: The Israel-Hamas war continues, so does friction on the Israel-Lebanon border. Daily Hamas missile attacks on Israel continued
  • Hostage release talks: in Cairo appear to be deadlocked. Israel is willing to a grant 2-4 weeks’ pause for 40 hostages, including all elderly, women and children. Hamas wants an end to the war and “all for all” i.e. all 6000 terrorist prisoners including murderers held by Israel in return for all Israeli hostages. (Kan and others).
  • Gaza Church: Having completed an initial review of an incident on Saturday in which an elderly Christian woman and her daughter were killed on the grounds of a Catholic church in Gaza City, the IDF published details of an exchange of fire with Hamas gunmen in the area and again indicated that Israeli forces were not responsible for the deaths of the women. It said it had been contacted by church representatives about an incident in the Holy Family Parish, but “no reports of a hit on the church, nor civilians being injured or killed, were raised.” (Times of Israel and others)
  • UN Security Council?: “After intense negotiations all week behind closed doors at the 15-member Security Council, ambassadors are still negotiating over the latest version of a draft resolution penned by the United Arab Emirates which calls for an “urgent suspension” of the conflict to allow safe and unhindered delivery of aid to stricken civilians in the Gaza Strip. The Council is expected to meet on the crisis later on Thursday” (UN Website). Comment: great expectations, but Israel-Hamas hostage talks are deadlocked.
  • Hospitals: “Before you condemn us for operating near hospitals, condemn Hamas for operating from them.” (IDF X/Twitter)
  • Gazans are starting to blame Hamas: “The killing of Israeli civilians was a strategic mistake” (Political Scientistat Al-Azhar University). “Damn Hamas…if I see Ismail Haniyeh, I will hit him with my slippers” (highly insulting remark of Gaza hairdresser)(Wall St Journal).
  • After the war?: “We are aware of the desire of the international community and countries of the region to integrate the Palestinian Authority…the matter will require a fundamental reform of the Palestinian Authority…Israel is ready for this effort” (Israeli National Security Advisor Tzachi Hanegbi – Elaph Arabic website, Kan, Wall St Journal). Comment: Hanegbi is close to PM Netanyahu….

Wednesday Dec 20, 2023

  • Situation: The Israel-Hamas war continues, so does friction on the Israel-Lebanon border.
  • Some Comments: 16 out of 24 Hamas battalions are no longer functioning. There are 5 Hamas brigades. Northern Gaza campaign coming to an end, mopping up to follow. Khan Younis is now the main focus, Sinwar and comrades are thought to be underground there. The Philadelphia line on the Egyptian border will necessitate an understanding with Egypt as not all the tunnels there are dealt with and Egyptian officials are allegedly open to bribery there. Hamas difficulties rounding up more hostages may be because they are no longer alive. On the West Bank, most Hamas and Islamic Jihad networks, personnel and weapons have been dismantled, thereby preventing a second offensive wave. Two days ago the Jordanian army fought a whole day smugglers of drugs and weapons from Syria intended for the West Bank. The Jordanian air force even attacked an area in Syria. In Lebanon over 100,000 Lebanese villagers moved North away from a 5-6 km strip along the border. Hezbollah has begun sending half ton missiles and attack drones to civilian towns e.g. Metullah not only IDF positions. Hezbollah’s Radwan force of about 5,000 have apparently now been forced back over 10km from the border after their positions and tunnels were dealt with by the IDF. Nasrallah apparently feels less need to participate in the Hamas war as Hamas did not convey to Hezbollah details nor the zero hour timing of the operation at talks shortly before October 7. As for Syria, Putin has quietly told Iran not to cause the IAF attack to attack there in order to prop up the weak Syrian regime. A few missiles have been fired from Syria bit many fell on Syria not Israel. Around 40% of Hezbollah missiles also don’t attack. Western Iraq can be used as a launching bad for 100,000 pro Iranian militias, this hasn’t happened yet. Houthis are junior partners of Iran – Azedis. One eighth of world trade passes/passed by Yemen into the Red Sea. Egypt is very affected because of the Suez canal revenues and an oil pipeline. The US announced an international task force 153 off Yemen, 13 countries involved but other countries like Australia have refrained. Israel was not formally invited. Bahrain is the only Arab country to join, not even Egypt. The question is whether the task force will be defensive or also use tomahawks etc. How could October 7 happen? Intelligence was misread by 3 peacock swaggering generals thinking Sinwar was more concerned with improving the Gaza economic situation. Consequently they did not alert the IAF and only two helicopters were on available on standby at a distance, and stores were locked up at the time. The IDF (not Mossad) was over dependent on electronic and cyber rather than physical and open source. Also when 3000 Hamas fighters were called up to Mosques at 3am on October 7, there was no inkling due to insufficient human intelligence and eyes on the ground. The IDF was not placed on alert, only Police were on hand and a handful of IDF personnel that happen to be there. And three months before, Hamas TV carried a drama film on a similar attack which Sinwar awarded prizes to, saying it was close to what Hamas was really planning. The whole strategy of Hamas was to operate under civilian and UNWRA cover according to a captured Hamas general among others. Visiting US politicians and military were given an earful and told nothing would change before the end of January. The Israelis say they learned lessons from the US at Raccah and Mosul and asked the Americans to suggest a better way. Hamas controls UNWRA and its personnel in Gaza, as UNWRA in Geneva is not relevant. If Hamas is dealt with it may become a military underground, which may be easier to deal with like the West Bank. Qatar is like a gambler in a casino that places money on everything on the table. Qatar may have to downplay as the main player in Gaza is Egypt which doesn’t like Hamas as it is related to the Islamic Brotherhood in Egypt. Sinwar’s strategy was to send Toyota Land-cruisers from Gaza across to the West Bank – that was foiled, so were his intentions to hold Southern Israel areas for a while. Mohammed Deif is no longer in real command, Sinwar is not confident how Egypt would accept him if he fled – there is bad blood as ISIS killed hundreds of Egyptian soldiers. The Israeli judicial reform crisis had a lot to do with October 7 as Israeli intelligence issued 2 alerts the PM ignored that the Arabs sensed Israel was now weaker with IDF pilots unwilling to fly. Political twists can be expected after the war. The PM wants to survive, many may want otherwise. Revitalization of the PA apparently means asking them to choose a new leader (no democracy). (IACC presentation EY)
  • More on the disaster: last week when the IDF shot dead three hostages: it seems a dog of the IDF Oketz unit filmed the hostages 5 days previously calling for help in Hebrew (“Save us – hostages”) even after terrorists shot the dog carrying the camera. The matter is being investigated (IDF Spokesman)……
  • Hostage release talks: continue in Egypt. Israel is reportedly prepared to release “heavyweight” prisoners captured after serious crimes, Hamas wants the war to stop first (Kan and others).
  • Hezbollah: shot an antitank missile at an IDF helicopter for the first time, the missile was intercepted.
  • Where were they? On October 7 only two IDF helicopters were on low level standby in the North, and were out of favor because of their high cost. The unit was set up as a lesson learned (supposedly) in the 1973 Yom Kippur war.
  • Trial for captured terrorists: There are apparently (unspecified) legal issues with criminal action against terrorists for war crimes. A planned amendment has yet to be finalized (Kan)
  • Unilateral pauses: The IDF is enabling tactical pauses for humanitarian purposes to allow civilians to replenish stocks such as food and water. Today, (Dec. 20), the pause is taking place in the Al-Shaboura neighborhood in Rafah from 10:00 to 14:00 (IDF X/Twitter)
  • Blinken says: “What is striking to me is that even as we hear many countries urging an end to this conflict, I hear virtually no one demanding of Hamas that it stop hiding behind civilians, that it lay down its arms, that it surrender. This is over tomorrow, if Hamas does that.” UNSC member states would be well advised to heed the words of US Sec Blinken, ahead of upcoming vote on Gaza ceasefire resolution (Blinken X/Twitter)
  • Cameron says: “This morning I visited the Jordanian Hashemite Charitable Organisation with HRH Prince Rashid and Tariq Ahmadbt to hear about the ongoing challenges of getting aid into Gaza”. (Cameron X/Twitter)

Tuesday Dec 19, 2023

  • Situation: The Israel-Hamas war continues, so does friction on the Israel-Lebanon border and the West Bank. Hamas continued to fire missiles at South and Central Israel.
  • Red Sea: Due to the danger of attack by Houthis and the suspension of much cargo shipping, the US is assembling an international naval task force and inviting countries to participate (Various news agencies).
  • Economy: One in 5 of Israelis report a drop in their income due to the war (Kan). Comment: Our inquiries suggest that banks.
  • Tunnels: 1,500 tunnel shafts and underground passages have been exposed in Gaza by IDF troops since the beginning of the war. Most of these have been found beneath schools, hospitals, mosques, UN facilities and civilian institutions (IDF X/Twitter)

Monday Dec 18, 2023

  • Situation: The Israel-Hamas war continues, so does friction on the Israel-Lebanon border and the West Bank.
  • Syria? Palestinian sources told Kan that Hamas may soon start up attacks on Israel from Syria.
  • Psychological warfare: Hamas released a video on their Telegram channel on Monday night showing three of the elderly male Israeli hostages still in captivity pleading for release (Jerusalem Post and others). The IDF Spokesman said they should at least be provided with their medicines.
  • Austin: US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, visiting Israel with US Chief of Staff Charles Brown, said Israel faces “an incredibly complex battlespace….there is no clock” (Times of Israel (Jerusalem Post).
  • Iran: Hackers put around 70% of petrol/gas stations out of action across Iran (Kan)
  • Red sea: The list of shipping companies that have suspended journeys into the Red Sea now includes: Maersk of Denmark, Hapag-Lloyd of Germany, MSC Italian owner of Claram CMA CGM of France and BP of the UK. This is due to the risk of further missile attacks by the Houthis in Yemen. Some targets of recent attacks apparently had no link to Israel. The US announced it will lead an international naval task force for the Red Sea (many news agencies).
  • Comment: Iran is thought to have bought missiles from China, added its own technology and supplied them to the Houthis (The Times). Therefore, Chinese and other exports to Europe are now being impeded by Chinese-made missiles!
  • Comment: Supplies from Asia via the Panama Canal are impeded by drought there, reducing the number of ships passing there by roughly 50%. So it is clear action is needed in the Red Sea.

Sunday Dec 17, 2023

  • Situation: The Israel-Hamas war continues, so does friction on the Israel-Lebanon border and the West Bank especially Tulkarem
  • Reverberations continue after the IDF mistakenly admitted shooting dead 3 hostages last Friday Dec 15. Relatives of hostages said it shows the the strategy of IDF pressure to secure hostage recovery is flawed.
  • Tunnel highway: The IDF has exposed a major four-kilometer-long, 50-meter deep “strategic” level tunnel large enough for vehicles and masterminded by Muhammad Sinwar, brother of Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar. The IDF also found tunnels under vacation homes of Yahya Sinwar and other top Hamas officials (Kan, Jerusalem Post and others)
  • Lord Cameron, UK Foreign Minister: “The goal of our diplomacy in the Middle East must be peace for generations, not just an end to the fighting today. Leaving Hamas in power in Gaza would be a permanent roadblock on the path to a two-state solution. That’s why the UK and Germany support a sustainable ceasefire. The sooner it comes, the better. The need is urgent.” (X/Twitter). Comment: This is supposed to be a policy change on the part of the UK, but is it?
  • Fake News – Cameron: “Israel will not win this war if its operations destroy the prospect of peaceful coexistence with Palestinians. They have a right to eliminate the threat posed by Hamas. But too many civilians have been killed. The Israeli government should do more to discriminate sufficiently between terrorists and civilians, ensuring its campaign targets Hamas leaders and operatives.” (David Cameron & Annalena Baerbock, The Times, 16.12.23). Correction: Hamas uses civilians as human shields. Nearly every building and home contains weapons in combat areas, civilians hold white flags and open fire. Children open fire (Israeli journalists embedded in Gaza and IDF soldiers phoning from Gaza). N.B: Around 2 million Arabs peacefully live and work peacefully with Jews throughout Israel.
  • Fake News – UNWRA: “UNRWA’s presence has been pivotal in preventing Gaza, and the region, from descending into chaos. The high standard of UNWRA’s educational system has been widely admired globally.” (X/Twitter). Correction: This overlooks the incitement in the syllabus, the weapons stored and the UNWRA teachers who held some of the recently released hostages.