Israel – Hamas war – Week 13 commencing December 31, 2023

We present here a diary of reported news from Israel and elsewhere about the Israel-Hamas war of 2023/2024, 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…

Friday Jan 5, 2023

Situation: The ground campaign against Hamas continues in Gaza, growing clashes with Hezbollah on the Israel-Lebanon border. Hamas is still firing missiles into Israel from time to time.

Disarray: An Israeli cabinet meeting called to discuss the day after the war broke up in disarray after certain right wong ministers criticized heavily the Army Chief of Staff Herzo Halevy for saying the IDF has a committee investigating what went wrong. Halevy said the Cabinet might not be the right forum to take strategic decisions. The meeting was necessary ahead of another visit of US Secretary of State Blinken (Kan)

Day after: defense minister Yoav Gallant presented his ” Four Corner Plan” for Gaza. It calls for local Palestinian control aided by an international coalition but without Hamas and without Israeli settlement in Gaza (Various media).

Hezbollah: has withdrawn its forces to 2-3 km from the Lebanon border with Israel (Jerusalem Post/Economist)

Hostages: the IDF raised the number of hostages held in Gaza by 3 to 136 (Kan and others).

Iran: ISIS admitted it carried out Thursday’s twin bombings (Various reports)

Gazans: Several thousand people briefly took to the streets across the Gaza Strip on Sunday to protest chronic power outages and difficult living conditions.(AP).

Maersk: has suspended trips through the Red Sea for the forseeable future, and will re-route its shipping round Southern Africa (LBC and others). Comment: not only product prices rise, so will marine insurance for others, presumably.

Lebanon & Israel? PM Netanyahu met with US Special Presidential Envoy Amos Hochstein and discussed “a fundamental change on its border with Lebanon, so residents of the north will return to their homes and live in safety and security.” (Israeli PM Office). Hochstein also travelled to Lebanon. Other reports suggest Hezbollah told Hochstein they can’t talk while fighting continues in Gaza.

Cold war secrets: Israel somehow commandeered a shipload of Yugoslav warm underwear intended for the Egyptian military. They are so good that Israeli soldiers exiting Gaza refuse to hand back to the IDF their dirty underwear (Army radio).

Wednesday Jan 3, 2024

  • Situation: The ground campaign against Hamas continues in Gaza, growing clashes with Hezbollah on the Israel-Lebanon border. Hamas is still firing missiles into Israel from time to time.
  • Saleh al-Arouri: Hamas number 2 who died yesterday after a drone attack in Beirut, issued ultimatums in the recent hostage negotiations that Israel could not accept. Commentators think Hamas may now make less extreme demands (Kan) There are reports Hamas has broken off the negotiations, but PM Netanyahu denies this on X/Twitter. Comment: al-Harouri apparently initiated most of the West Bank terror incidents in recent years, not the settlors as the US claims. Could his death send a message to the US?
  • Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich: discussed the possibility of Gazans moving to other countries. This is not Israeli policy but is causing upset in the US and France (Kan and others).
  • Iran: Two mysterious explosions killed 73 and injured 171 (perhaps more) at a memorial ceremony at the grave of Qasem Soleimani 4 years after his death. (BBC and others)
  • Houthis: A Joint Statement from the Governments of the USA, Australia, Bahrain, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, and the UK: Ongoing Houthi attacks in the Red Sea are illegal, unacceptable, and profoundly destabilizing….We call for the immediate end of these illegal attacks and release of unlawfully detained vessels and crews.  The Houthis will bear the responsibility of the consequences should they continue to threaten lives, the global economy, and free flow of commerce (White House website).
  • Gazan kids: Hamas and Islamic Jihad use young children to: transfer explosives in vegetable bags; enter combat zones to assess damage and report back to terrorists in shelters; train alongside members of the terrorist organizations (IDF & Israeli Foreign Office on X/Twitter).
  • Haredis: 450 ultra orthodox Haredis have so far been called up to the IDF. This week 188 Haredis showed up for full military service although 226 were expected. Comment: in addition the Zaka rescue and recovery civilian unit does valiant work with the IDF, including identification of bodies after October 7.
  • Bedouins: are 2200 times more likely to be struck by Hamas missiles than other Israelis. This is because many still live nomadically in tents and and don’t have cell phones – so they lack air raid shelters and missile alert apps (Kan). Comment: Bedouin Arabs are generally loyal to Israel and serve in the IDF. Some were even taken hostage by Hamas.

Tuesday Jan 2, 2024

  • Situation: The ground campaign against Hamas continues in Gaza, growing clashes with Hezbollah on the Israel-Lebanon border. Hamas is still firing missiles into Israel from time to time.
  • Reasonableness Test Reinstated: Hamas attacked on October 7, because it thought Israelis are split over judicial reform. The Israeli High Court has just published a judgement re-instating the root cause of it all – the reasonableness test. This is not mere legal gobbledygook. For a write-up of what it means for the war and for Israeli justice, visit:
  • Genocide convention: Israel will defend itself in a case initiated by South Africa alleging genocide before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague, to be scheduled next week. Comment: The case is likely to hinge on the intent of Israel and Hamas respectively
  • Hamas Number 2: Hamas deputy head Saleh al-Arouri was killed in alleged Israeli drone strike in Beirut (Kan, Jerusalem Post and others).
  • Not the day after: A leader of the Gaza association of local clans dented Israeli hopes they might take over administration of Gaza. He gave allegiance to Hamas (Kan).
  • Knesset member Zvika Fogel: “First we’ll finish Hamas, then we’ll deal with Hamas, for desert we’ll have the High Court.” (Kan)

Monday Jan 1, 2024

  • Situation: The ground campaign against Hamas continues in Gaza, growing clashes with Hezbollah on the Israel-Lebanon border. Drones from Syria were intercepted in the Golan Heights and “from the East” in the Jordan Valley (Kan, IDF)
  • Unhappy New Year: Hamas saw in the 2024 new year at midnight with a barrage of missiles at Central Israel. No casualties were reported.
  • Data: On day 87 of the war, 129 hostages remain in Gaza (IDF)
  • No air support? National Missions Minister Orit Struck was criticized in a cabinet meeting after suggesting that some Israeli air force pilots refuse to aid IDF troops on the ground due to “conscientious concerns.”The IDF Spokesman said firmly at a televised press conference that “there has been no incident in which a ground force was not backed up from the air.” (Jerusalem Post, IDF)
  • The day after? Issam Rimawi, ex-PM of the Palestinian Authority in 2007-2013, is being mentioned by Western diplomats as a candidate to manage Gaza after the war. He set up PA institutions, and as advisor to the IMF (Kan).
  • Houthis: More has emerged about yesterday’s incident. Ten Houthi fighters in three boats were killed after they not only attacked the Maersk ship Hangzhou, they also attacked US helicopters that came to the rescue, leaving them no choice but to return fire. Senior US officials apparently said they must decide whether to strike Houthi missile and drone sites in Yemen, or wait to see whether the Houthis back off….(New York Times) Comment: Why would the Houthis need missile and drone sites?
  • Is it worth it? Here’s some wartime estimates for the period October 7-December 31, 2023:
    • NIS 198bn / $54.5bn cost of the Israel-Hamas war so far per Bank of Israel, breakdown as follows:
    • NIS 108bn/ $$30bn military expenditure;
    • NIS 35bn/ $10bn loss of income in the country;
    • NIS 22bn/ $6bn government compensation for property damage and business losses;
    • NIS 25bn / $7bn other civilian expenditure;
    • NIS 8bn / $8bn government bond interest.
    • Partially financed by $ 22 billion extra US military support and US$3.8m normal annual support. Also $14 bn sale of Arrow 3 ballistic missile interceptor system to Germany.
    • 10,500 missile attacks at Israel
    • 280,000 evacuees from the South and the North: 120,000 to hotels, 87,000 to Kibbutzim and moshavim, 73,000 to family, friends or self-funded accommodation
    • “Tekuma” restoration project budgeted to cost NIS 18.5bn / $5bn over 5 years in 45 towns and settlements
    • 12,126 hospitalized since October 7, of which 7,263 treated in October and 266 in hospital Dec 28, 2023.
    • Unemployed due to the war: around 33,000 in week 5, down to 10,000 in week 10.
    • Vacancies following foreign labor exodus: construction 92,000/79%, agriculture 15,000 / 44%, care industry – minimal.
    • Reduction in spending by Israelis in week 11 compared with 2023 average: hotels and tourism 68%, entertainment 34%, fuel 6%, restaurants 4%, clothing and shoes 1%.
    • $100 million – cost of each Iron Dome battery.
    • $ 50,000 – cost of each Iron Dome interception.
    • $2 million – cost of each Arrow 3 interception (e.g. Houthi ballistic missile).
    • (Source: Calcalist financial newspaper, citing Bank of Israel and others)
  • Comment: That’s just the estimated Israeli economic cost to the end of 2023. The human cost to Israelis and Gazans is almost infinite. As for the future cost in 2024, who knows.
  • The day after? The IDF is to present a plan to the Israeli Cabinet for the day after the war in which local clans within Gaza would administer Egyptian and Israeli aid distribution and other matters within their area (Kan). Comment: This assumes Hamas will no longer be big enough to prevail over the local clans, nor undermine them from their tunnels. How would essential services like Police, electricity, water, sewage and communications be provided? Who will run the education system and set the school syllabus?

Sunday Dec 31, 2023:

  • Situation: The ground campaign against Hamas continues in Gaza, growing clashes with Hezbollah on the Israel-Lebanon border. Hamas is still firing missiles into Israel from time to time.
  • Back to uni: The Israeli university year opened today (Dec 31) after a delay due to the war. Around 300,000 students started studying, but another 50,000 students couldn’t make it as they are called up to the IDF. Comment: who else starts a year on December 31?
  • Houthis: The Danish shipper Maersk reported one of its ships was attacked by a Houthi missile just after resuming sailing in the Red Sea. The US Navy came to its aid. No casualties were reported (Kan). Other reports suggest the US Navy dealt with two ballistic missiles and three boats carrying Houthi rebels, the fourth fled. At least 10 terrorists were killed (evolving story) (US Centcom, Jerusalem Post and others).
  • Careless: 80% of the launches fired by Hezbollah at Israel yesterday fell inside Lebanon. Not only does Hezbollah continue to violate UN Security Council Resolution 1701, Hezbollah also puts Lebanese lives at risk (IDF X/Twitter).
  • Reshuffle: The Government has approved the appointment of Eli Cohen as Minister of Energy and Infrastructure instead of Minister Yisrael Katz, and the appointment of Minister Yisrael Katz as Minister of Foreign Affairs instead of Eli Cohen. Eli Cohen will continue to serve as a member of the Security Cabinet; this is subject to Knesset approval of the allocation of positions between the ministers. (Israel Pm Office on X/Twitter). Comment: Israel Katz is a name to watch if the PM position ever becomes vacant….