Israel-Hamas War – Week 15 commencing January 14, 2024

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…

Saturday January 20, 2024 (Day 106)

  • Situation: the Israel-Hamas war continues in Gaza, Hamas continues to fire missiles into Israel. Friction continues with Hezbollah on the Israel-Lebanon border.
  • Data for Day 106: 1414 Israelis killed, 884 citizens, 530 IDF soldiers. 136 remaining Israeli hostages, 121 hostages released, 39 hostages killed (Kan).
  • Hostages’ families: spent Shabbat demonstrating outside PM Netanyahu’s home in Caesarea, demanding to speak with him. One is on virtual hunger strike, eating only a quarter of a pita a day in sympathy with the hostages. Netanyahu announced he would only meet those not demonstrating in Jerusalem next week (Kan and others).
  • Assassinations? Foreign press reports say that 5 senior Iranians ewere killed in Damascus and two Hezbollah functionaries were killed near Tyre in Lebanon. Iran has promised retaliation (Kan and others).
  • Conflicting goals: The IDF denied a New York Times report that Israeli generals think toppling Hamas and release of hostages are conflicting goals.
  • Biden and Netanyahu: Spoke for the first time in nearly a month. The New York Times reports Netanyahu didn’t completely rule out a two state solution. So Netanyahu issued a statement that Israel must remain security control (Kan and others). And the White House website said: “The President [Biden]…discussed his vision for a more durable peace and security for Israel fully integrated within the region and a two state-solution with Israel’s security guaranteed.”
  • What Hamas wants: Hamas leader Khaled Mashal: “We reject the two-state solution idea. Our goal is clear, a Palestinian state from the river to the sea, from north to south.” (Film clip on Israeli Foreign Ministry X/Twitter):
  • What Hamas also wants: Complete cessation of hostilities, IDF withdrawal from Gaza, guarantees of continued Hamas rule. And Hamas needs a pause in order to re-group. This is according to Israeli officials who are surprised that Palestinian prisoner release isn’t top of the list of demands of Hamas (Ynet)
  • Final word: “Any possible future political arrangement will necessitate ironclad security provisions. Israelis need to know their children will never again be the victims of another October 7 Massacre” (Mark Regev, Israeli spokesman, BBC film clip on Israeli Foreign Ministry X/Twitter).
  • Flour: President Biden welcomed the decision from the Government of Israel to permit the shipment of flour for the Palestinian people directly through Ashdod port (White House website).
  • Hamas prison cell: The IDF found an empty poorly ventilated prison cell with bars in a tunnel in Khan Younis previously used by Hamas to hold hostages. They know this because they found drawings of one of the children since released (Emilia Aloni). The IDF destroyed the tunnel (IDF Spokesman on Israeli TV).
  • No sleep: IDF soldiers have trouble sleeping at night due to cold weather. Voluntary organizations are stepping up efforts to provide more warm clothing (Ynet).

Friday January 19, 2024 (Day 105):

  • Situation: the Israel-Hamas war continues in Gaza, Hamas continues to fire missiles into Israel. Friction continues with Hezbollah on the Israel-Lebanon border. The IDF pulled out of Tulkarem on the West Bank after spending several days dealing with terrorists there.
  • The day after Netanyahu: PM Netanyahu related to this possibility saying his last day would be the first day of a country under the Palestinian Authority (Kan and others).
  • Jabalya, Northern Gaza: The market there is back to normal trading now the IDF has pulled out and people are out buying. (Kan).
  • Lebanon: A “large European country” has warned Lebanon that war is approaching there. The US and France are pressing Israel not to invade Lebanon (Kan quoting Lebanon press).
  • Khan Younis: An IDF commander interviewed on Kan, said the soldiers there feel they are on borrowed time checking quickly each house as Hamas paid the owners money to cooperate with Hamas in terror activities. The market there still operates at a reduced level.
  • What is victory? PM Netanyahu said the IDF won’t stop until victory is achieved. Israelis, politicians and the media are debating what is victory. This means toppling Hamas and returning the hostages. But what does toppling Hamas mean? They won’t surrender and there is no agreement who/what would replace them. Comment: Hamas presumably wants complete cessation of hostilities, because if more hostages are released in just another pause, the hostages may be able to describe where in the Gaza tunnels they were held as human shields by Hamas leaders. One thing is sure: the US presidential election in November 2024 is approaching.
  • Intelligence: Around half of all Israeli spies are women. Physical strength is not needed. There is less perceived risk of mistreatment if captured, but many started as spies after earlier mistreatment. Many are mothers, meaning the fathers are busier looking after the children. What’s it like? It’s a profession. What about October 7? Shameful, but we don’t yet know what went wrong (Kan).
  • China: asked “all relevant parties” to “ensure the safety of navigation in the Red Sea” as Chinese shipper Cosco, re-routed its ships and analysts predicted harm to China’s economy (Financial Times).
  • What did Netanyahu say? International press reports say Netanyahu has rejected the two state solution. What he said in Hebrew is (1) not the Palestinian Authority, (2) Israel to retain security control but not civilian control.
  • Money not for Gaza: After the Palestinian Authority refused to accept tax monies under the Oslo Accords because they were reduced by a portion destined for Gaza. Israel agreed to send that portion to a third country, apparently Norway, on condition the money not be paid on to Hamas. Should that happen, Finance Minister Smotrich may stop all funding to the Palestinian Authority destined for the West Bank and Gaza.
  • Health care: After heavy criticism the Israeli Health Ministry rescinded an instruction to Israeli hospitals to prepare for patients from Gaza and Lebanon (Kan). Comment: Previous instructions remain in effect. It is not clear what the difference is.
  • EU: The European Parliament passed an important resolution that states clearly that a ceasefire is provided upon the unconditional release of all hostages and the dismantling of the terrorist organization Hamas (Israeli Foreign Ministry on X/Twitter).

Thursday January 18, 2024 (Day 104):

  • Situation: the Israel-Hamas war continues in Gaza, Hamas continues to fire missiles into Israel. Friction continues with Hezbollah on the Israel-Lebanon border.
  • Syria: Missiles were launched from Syria at the Golan Heights. There were no casualties. The IDF retaliated with artillery (Kan).
  • Palestinian State? The US is reportedly pressing Israel for a two-state solution. Netanyahu replied that “this conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is not about the absence of a Palestinian state, but about the existence of the Jewish state…In every territory that we withdraw from – terror is leveled against us,” Netanyahu said, explaining that this included southern Lebanon, Gaza, and the West Bank (Kan, Jerusalem Post, X/Twitter).
  • Will Hamas go? “Whoever speaks of absolute defeat is not speaking the truth,” said War Cabinet Minister Gadi Eisenkot on Israeli Channel 12 TV after PM Netanyahu promised to continue the war until “complete victory” over Hamas (Channel 12, Times of Israel).
  • Gaza: The IDF denied claims by Jordan that Jordan’s field hospital in Khan Younis was damaged today by Israeli shelling, attaching aerial imagery showing all the tents are intact (Times of Israel and others).
  • Happy first birthday? Baby Kfir Bibas marked his first birthday as a captive in Gaza. (Israel PM Office on X/Twitter).

Wednesday January 17, 2024 (Day 103):

  • Situation: the Israel-Hamas war continues in Gaza, Hamas continues to fire missiles into Israel. Friction continues with Hezbollah on the Israel-Lebanon border.
  • Negotiations: US administration officials say intensive hostage release negotiations are progressing. Israeli government officials are saying nothing, and hostage families are complaining about that. Why the discrepancy? Because there are 6 US citizens among the 136 hostages, according to commentators (Army radio and others).
  • Hamas missiles: fell on Netivot, Southern Israel. They were fired from areas in Central Gaza after the IDF withdrew troops there. The IDF went after and found the launch site, confiscated another 30 missiles on 3 launchers primed to fire, and destroyed the installations. (Kan and others).
  • Hamas fake news: Shortly after Hamas released a film showing 3 hostages alive, they released another film showing two were now dead. (IDF/ Kan).
  • Golani brigade: a commander said all the terrorists they encountered wore civilian clothes, some even in flip flop sandals (Army radio).
  • Dilution: IDF troops withdrawn (“diluted”) get rest before being shipped elsewhere e.g. the North.
  • The North? Evacuated Northerners complained on Army Radio that they feel like they are sailing on a ship but don’t know where they are going.
  • Reducing casualties: An IDF paramedic said IDF injured receive initial aid on the battlefield and are then flown to hospital, all within 40 minutes (Army radio)
  • Need a break? IDF Soldiers suffering post traumatic distress can spend 2 days-4 weeks in recovery units near the combat units and receive all possible treatment (Army radio)
  • Medicines: Israel agreed a reciprocal “drugs for drug” deal with Qatar whereby Israeli hostages are today scheduled to receive particular life saving drugs if Gazans do. Some drugs are already allowed in to Gaza, but these will be specialist drugs e.g. for heart, cancer and asthmatic conditions. The shipments were not inspected for weapons by Israel – PM Netanyahu agreed to this saying the IDF approved it. (Kan and others).
  • Jenin, West Bank: an IDF drone intercepted 5 terrorists on their way to commit a major terror operation (Kan and others).
  • UNWRA: is to be shut out of any arrangements after the war according to leaks from a Knesset Committee.
  • Pakistan: Iranians filed missiles at a location in anti-Iranian militants in Balochistan, Pakistan in retaliation apparently for earlier attacks by them inside Iran . Two children were killed. Pakistan is a Moslem nuclear country and poor relations with Iran apparently (UK Daily Telegraph, Kan).
  • Bernie Sanders, US Senator proposed the US State Department must report within 30 days whether Israel’s actions meet human rights accords as a condition for continuing aid. The Senate rejected the proposal 72-11.

Tuesday January 16, 2024 (Day 102)

  • Situation: the Israel-Hamas war continues in Gaza, Hamas continues to fire missiles into Israel. Friction continues with Hezbollah on the Israel-Lebanon border.
  • Iran: fired missiles at Syria and Iraq and claimed it hit a Mossad station in Iraq ((Kan and others)
  • Houthis: the US claims it used commandos to intercept a missile shipment on its way to the Houthis off Somalia (Kan and others). The Houthis continued to fire missiles at shipping in the Red Sea and the US Navy continued to intercept and retaliate. The US said two Navy Seal commandos remain missing in action during an operation last week.
  • Germany: is reportedly going to supply Israel 10,000 tank shells, in addition to supporting Israel at the International Court of Justice case at The Hague. The US is reportedly supplying Israel an extra 14,000 tank shells (Kan).
  • Qatar: is to fly medical supplies to Gaza tomorrow (Jan 17) for Gazans and Israeli hostages.
  • Tunnels: The IDF revealed to the New York Times and others that the Hamas tunnel system is even better and longer than first thought – perhaps 350-450 miles rather than 250 miles, and around 5700 shafts leading to them. Gaza is only around 25 miles long.
  • Biden: is said to remain disappointed at the quantity of humanitarian supplies entering Gaza. Israel says enough does enter, only to be taken by Hamas (Kan). Comment: Gazans appear to be surviving despite predictions to the contrary 3 months ago. The International Court of Justice heard last week that Gazan bakeries have re-opened and supply around 2,000 loaves a day.

Monday January 15, 2024 (Day 101)

  • Situation: the war continues. In Gaza the combat is focused in the South, including Khan Younis and partly in Rafah
  • Gaza-Egypt border: Israel has told Egypt it wants to take over the Gaza side of the Philadelphi Corridor which Hamas has used and may still use to import military supplies This apparently requires consent as the Israrl-Egypt peace agreement limits troops of either side close to their border. (Kan and others).
  • Northern fatalities: Two Israeli civilians were killed a Hezbollah anti-tank missile in an area supposed to be evacuated (Kan and others). Comment: We don’t know why they weren’t evacuated. Typically civilians with farms there visit them to collect eggs or attend to livestock and crops.
  • Raanana: In a car ramming and stabbing incident a 70 year woman died and 19 were injured in Raanana, Central Israel. Two terrorists were detained (Kan news)
  • Hamas: circulated an undated film of three Israeli hostages (Kan, BBC and others).
  • Hamas commanders in Lebanon: have reportedly moved to Turkey or Syria in an effort to avoid assassination (Kan)
  • Biden and Blinken: Are reportedly not satisfied with lack of Israeli government response to their questions and the Pentagon is starting to doubt whether the IDF can wipe out Hamas. The stock Israeli response that it will take time is apparently not an answer.(Kan). Comment: The US administration may be impatient because of US elections this year.
  • Biden on Day 100 since October 7 (Jan 14, 2024): “No one should have to endure even one day of what they have gone through, much less 100” (White House website).
  • Blinken on Day 100: “100 days of captivity in Gaza is far too long. The United States will not rest until all remaining hostages, including six Americans, are reunited with their loved ones” (X/Twitter).
  • London on Day 100: Over 25,000 Jews and others demonstrated in Trafalgar Square, London, to commemorate 100 days after October 7. This was after larger pro-Palestinian demonstrations in Britain the day before.
  • Humanitarian aid: 237 aid trucks were inspected and transferred to the Gaza Strip today (Jan. 14). This is the highest number of aid trucks being transferred to Gaza in one day since the start of the war. (IDF, X/Twitter)
  • UK: The Home Secretary, James Cleverly, laid a draft order before Parliament to proscribe the international Sunni Islamist political organization Hizb ut-Tahrir under the UK’s Terrorism Act 2000.  Hizb ut-Tahrir is an international political group with a long-term goal of establishing a Caliphate ruled under Islamic law. While their headquarters are in Lebanon, the group operates in at least 32 countries including the UK, USA, Canada and Australia. Cleverly said Hizb ut-Tahrir encourages terrorism, including praising and celebrating the appalling 7 October attacks.  (UK Govt)