Israel-Hamas War – Week 16 commencing January 21, 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 27, 2024 (Day 113):

  • Situation: The Israel-Hamas war continues. Hamas continues to fire missiles at Israel from time to time. Friction continues with Hezbollah.
  • UNWRA: “The Israeli Authorities have provided UNRWA with information about the alleged involvement of several UNRWA employees in the horrific attacks on Israel on 7 October. To protect the Agency’s ability to deliver humanitarian assistance, I have taken the decision to immediately terminate the contracts of these staff members and launch an investigation in order to establish the truth without delay (UNWRA website). UNRWA funding has been halted by US, UK, Finland, Germany, Australia, Canada, and Italy (Times of Israel). Israel will seek to stop UNWRA from operating in Gaza after the war, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said. Comment: 12 UNWRA personal took part in the October 7 atrocities. Some couldn’t be dismissed as they were killed in Israel on October 7 (Kan).
  • Worldwide Verdict: In yesterday’s (Jan 26) provisional judgment of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), there was nothing about ending the war. HOWEVER there was apparently a binding obligation on all countries signed up to the Genocide Convention to secure the release of the Israeli hostages (Articles 85 & 33). See below.
  • Articles 75-86 of the ICJ judgment are headed: “CONCLUSION AND MEASURES TO BE ADOPTED”. Article 85 provides: “The Court deems it necessary to emphasize that all parties to the conflict in the Gaza Strip are bound by international humanitarian law. It is gravely concerned about the fate of the hostages abducted during the attack in Israel on 7 October 2023 and held since then by Hamas and other armed groups, and calls for their immediate and unconditional release.”
  • Article 33 of the ICJ judgment names the Parties as all countries signed up to the Genocide Convention as follows: “the Court found that any State party to the Genocide Convention may invoke the responsibility of another State party, including through the institution of proceedings before the Court.” That is why South Africa was allowed to initiate the case. In fact, 154 countries have signed and ratified the Genocide Convention including China, Egypt, Israel, Palestine, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, UAE, UK, US and Yemen – but not Qatar.
  • Therefore: South Africa and 153 other countries are “bound” to secure the “immediate and unconditional release” of the hostages.
  • Dissenting ICJ Opinion of Judge Julia Sebutinde of Uganda: “In my respectful dissenting opinion the dispute between the State of Israel and the people of Palestine is essentially and historically a political one….. It is not a legal dispute susceptible of judicial settlement by the Court….South Africa has not demonstrated, even on a prima facie basis, that the acts allegedly committed by Israel and of which the Applicant complains, were committed with the necessary genocidal intent, and that as a result, they are capable of falling within the scope of the Genocide Convention. Similarly, since the acts allegedly committed by Israel were not accompanied by a genocidal intent, the Applicant has not demonstrated that the rights it asserts and for which it seeks protection through the indication of provisional measures are plausible under the Genocide Convention. The provisional measures indicated by the Court in this Order are not warranted.”
  • Gaza: demonstrators were heard chanting: “The people want to topple Hamas,” (Kan and others). They chanted “Down with Hamas” (Film on IDF X/Twitter)
  • Egypt: Israel informed Egypt on Saturday evening of its intention to send troops into Rafah and the Philadelphi Corridor on the Gaza-Egypt border. Egypt reportedly rejected the request. (Maariv, Sky News Arabia and others).

Friday January 26, 2024 (Day 112):

  • Situation: The Israel-Hamas war continues. Hamas continues to fire missiles at Israel from time to time. Friction continues with Hezbollah. Most significant today was the court case in the Hague – see blow.
  • The Hague: The International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued its judgment for provisional measures in the genocide case bright by South Africa (SA) against Israel. The Court did NOT call for the war to stop or pause. The Court recalled the October 7 atrocities and called for the immediate unconditional release of the hostages. But Hamas is not a party to the ICJ proceedings. The Court said a dispute does exist between SA and Israel (which Israel had doubted) and that South Africa has a right to invoke these proceedings.
  • Judgment: Briefly, the ICJ provisionally ruled that Israel is required to: (1) take all measures to prevent genocide; (2) Ensure the IDF does not commit genocide; (3) take all humanitarian measures, (4) preserve evidence for later stages in the genocide case, (5) report within 1 month on the afore-mentioned. SA then has a right to review the report.
  • Meaning: The ICJ turned down the SA call to end hostilities and did not rule whether genocide occurred, but said it is plausible, hence the provisional judgment. Israel says it is already doing everything now required. Israel said so its presentation to the Court and will presumably repeat it in its report in the next month. The judgment said several time that successful pregnancies matter to help prevent genocide.
  • Intent?: The ICJ judgment apparently did not refer to genocidal intent. The Genocide Convention requires genocidal intent to be proved. The Israeli case was/in that no such intent exists.
  • Balanced? Israelis might regard the provisional ICJ judgment as tolerable. The Palestinians can probably find enough to vindicate their views too albeit diluted.
  • Timing: The IDF can continue the military pressure on Hamas for another 1-2 months – or perhaps even forever if the IDF concentrates on the tunnels and the ground floors of buildings, where tunnel entrances are usually found. Gaza civilians are generally not in the tunnels, only terrorists and hostages.
  • SA reaction: Justice Minister Pandor said in the Hague after the judgement: Humanitarian aid enough even though no ceasefire was granted. She agreed the hostages should be freed.
  • Israel reaction: Danny Danon, ex-Israeli Ambassador to the UN told Sky after the judgment: Israel will wants to see Hamas dead or surrender.
  • Hamas: reportedly said before the judgment it will comply with the ICJ ruling – will it release all the hostages immediately??

Thursday January 25, 2024 (Day 111)

  • Situation: The Israel-Hamas war continues. Hamas continues to fire missiles at Israel from time to time. Friction continues with Hezbollah.
  • Intelligence chiefs: of the CIA, Mossad, Egypt and Qatar are due to meet next week to talk about how to revive hostage talks now that Hasa has turned down Israel’s offer. Hamas leadership want an end to the war that leaves them in power in (or under) Gaza.
  • Order Number 9: Israeli demonstrators have issued themselves an Order Number 9 which is a copycat of Order Number 8 used by the Prime Minister to call up reservists in an emergency, such as the present war. Consequently, many demonstrators are bodily blocking most humanitarian supplies at the Kerem Shalom passage into Gaza in an attempt to encourage Hamas to release hostages. The US government has reportedly admonished Israeli government for not clearing out the demonstrators. (Kan and others). Comment: Many Israelis and the Israeli press are critical of the US government for conditioning its support for Israel on letting into Gaza humanitarian aid, much of which is consumed by Hamas. This includes fuel for their tunnel systems. Israeli commentators say there is no food shortage in Gaza or its markets, except what Hamas take by force when aid trucks enter Gaza.
  • Jordan: A new fancy restaurant on the Jordanian side of the Dead Sea is called October 7 (in English). (Seen on i24 TV).
  • Highway 6: is a toll road that has imposed fines running to hundreds of Shekels on IDF reservists who used the highway to reach their units shortly after October 7 and haven’t yet been able to pay the toll charge. The management won’t budge until the Israeli government undertakes to pay the toll charges. (Calcalist). Comment: This driver is voting with his wheels on highways 2 and 4 which are free of charge, not 6.

Wednesday January 24, 2024 (Day 110)

  • Situation: The Israel-Hamas war continues. Hamas continues to fire missiles at Israel from time to time. Friction continues with Hezbollah.
  • ICJ: The International Court of Justice in the Hague is to publish an interim genocide verdict this Friday afternoon, January 26 (Kan and others).
  • Hamas: suspended hostage release negotiations saying Israel must first withdraw from Gaza. Hamas leadership doesn’t want to leave Gaza in any pause (Kan and others).
  • Qatar: and PM Netanyahu held a public spat after Netanyahu a tape was leaked in which Netanyahu apparently said he was not thanking Qatar, it is no better than the UN or Red Cross. Qatar replied that Netanyahu would do better to concentrate on the hostage negotiations, implying he is to blame for their lack of progress. Israeli Finance Minister Smotrich supported Netanyahu saying Qatar supports terror and finances terror, and the West could do more to force a release of the hostages. (Channel 12, Kan and others).
  • Gaza: Nine Gazans apparently died in a shelter in Khan Younis Southern Gaza. The IDF said it is not responsible and is checking whether Palestinian explosives were the cause (Various media).
  • To the Houthis and Iran apparently, January 23, 2024: Joint Statement from the Governments of Albania, Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Guinea-Bissau, Hungary, Italy, Kenya, Latvia, Lithuania, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Poland, Republic of Korea, Romania, United Kingdom, and the United States: In response to continued illegal and reckless Houthi attacks against vessels transiting the Red Sea and surrounding waterways, the armed forces of the United States and United Kingdom, with support from Australia, Bahrain, Canada, and the Netherlands, conducted additional strikes against eight targets in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen in accordance with the inherent right of individual and collective self-defense, consistent with the UN Charter.  These strikes were designed to disrupt and degrade the capability of the Houthis to continue their attacks on global trade and innocent mariners from around the world, while avoiding escalation….those who supply the Houthis with the weapons to conduct these attacks are violating UN Security Council Resolution 2216 and international law (White House website).
  • Lord Cameron: I’m in Israel to discuss three key goals. Securing the immediate release of hostages. Increasing aid into Gaza through more crossing points. An immediate humanitarian pause then progress towards a sustainable ceasefire (X/Twitter).

Tuesday January 23, 2024 (Day 109)

  • Situation: The Israel-Hamas war continues. Hamas continues to fire missiles at Israel from time to time. Friction continues with Hezbollah.
  • Gaza disaster: 21 IDF soldiers were killed by an anti-tank missile fired by Hamas. They were apparently trying to demolish booby trapped buildings in Central Gaza without calling in the air force. Specialized civilian fire fighters had to be called up to the IDF. One lesson learned is to have more protectice security rings (Kan and army radio). Comment: Better late than never. Protective security rings were lacking on October 7. N.B. This also raises questions about not using the air force due to International pressure – on the same day the US and RAF attacked the Houthis (see below).
  • Gaza: The IDF has now surrounded the area in Khan Younis used by Sinwar and Deif (Hamas leadership). The Israeli air force was used. A Hamas missile attack was foiled.
  • Houthis: the US and British RAF launched another wave of air strikes in retaliation for further attacks by the Houthis on Red Sea shipping. The Houthis say the strikes will not go unanswered but claim open areas and vacated military camps were hit. Other reports say there were explosions in the capital Sanaa. The RAF apparently flew out of Cyprus and were refuelled mid-air. The operation is well practiced and “runs on rails” according to one ex-RAF commander (BBC, Sky TV, LBC and others).
  • Hostages: female hostage clothing was apparently used on Gaza childrens’ dolls and puppets according to a family of a hostage.
  • Two States: If Israel wants to maintain security not civilian control, possibilities to consider include: 1. NATO style arrangement; 2. US-Canada style joint security arrangement for North America. But not an ineffective UN peace-keeping force.

Monday January 22, 2024 (Day 108)

  • Situation: the Israel-Hamas war continues in Gaza, Hamas continues to fire missiles into Israel. Friction continues with Hezbollah on the Israel-Lebanon border.
  • Gaza: The IDF announced it is expanding operations in Khan Younis (Kan). Khan Younis and Rafah in Southern Gaza are the remaining focal points of the IDF
  • Confidence: The Knesset voted against a motion of no confidence in the government for not returning 136 hostages still held by Hamas. Many Knesset members stayed away as they saw the vote as too political for wartime (Kan).
  • Hostage negotiations: now under way, proposals call for multi-stage deal as Hamas has apparently softened its position (but don’t bet on it). May necessitate replacement of Netanyahu or softening of his position (Kan). Comment: early days yet.
  • Hostages – more: Netanyahu met today with representatives of the hostages’ families: Contrary to what is said – there is no genuine proposal by Hamas, this is not true…. On the other hand, there is our initiative, which I will not detail (Israeli PM Office, X/Twitter).
  • Munitions: The IDF is looking to top up abroad (Kan). Comment: The IDF can only continue as long as it has sufficient munitions stockpiled – and so long as the US presidential election is not too near. Watch those spaces.
  • Terrorists left: The IDF estimates it has killed 9,000 Hamas terrorists, wounded around 8,000 to a degree that they cannot easily return to battle (a much larger number have been wounded at lower levels), and has “arrested” 2,300. This means 19,300 can no longer fight. When The Wall Street Journal published a report citing US officials estimates that the IDF had only killed around 20-30% of Hamas’s forces, the report mentioned, but did not add together all of the elements of removing Hamas forces from the battlefield. So up to 60% of terror forces may be out of action (Jerusalem Post). Comment: We suspect the IDF might have captured more Hamas terrorists on and after October 7, in Israel and in Gaza.
  • Poll: 51.3% of Israelis would back US plan tying Saudi-Israel normalization to Palestinian state. Five hundred Israelis participated in the survey by Midgam; it apparently has a 4.4% margin of error (Times of Israel).
  • Aid: Today (Jan. 22), the 10,000th truck carrying humanitarian aid was transferred to Gaza. Since the start of the war, close to 99% of coordinated trucks were approved for entry. Our war is with Hamas, not the people of Gaza (IDF/COGAT on X/Twitter).
  • Lord Cameron, UK Foreign Secretary: “There can be no sustainable ceasefire in Gaza with Hamas in power” (X/Twitter).
  • Where are the medicines? PM Netanyahu met with French Armed Forces Minister Sébastien Lecornu. The PM asked the French Armed Forces Minister to convey to French President Emmanuel Macron his deep gratitude for the latter’s role in delivering the medicines to the hostages in Gaza….but noted that Israel is still waiting for proof that the medicines have reached their destination. (Israeli PM Office, X/Twitter).
  • What Netanyahu meant: PM Netanyahu’s position is that Israel must retain full security control west of the Jordan River, so Palestinian terrorists can’t pull off another October 7. They should have all the powers to govern themselves, and none of the powers to massacre us. (Eylon Levy, PM spokesman, Israeli Foreign Office on X/Twitter)

Sunday January 21, 2024 (Day 107)

  • Situation: the Israel-Hamas war continues in Gaza, Hamas continues to fire missiles into Israel. Friction continues with Hezbollah on the Israel-Lebanon border.
  • Iraq: ballistic missiles were fired at a US military base by an Iranian backed militia.
  • Gaza: the Hamas Health Ministry claims over 25,000 Gazans have now died since October 7. The split between terrorists and civilians is unclear (Army radio and others).
  • Two state solution comment: if PM Netanyahu wants Israel to maintain security not civilian control, ideas to consider include: 1. NATO+IDF arrangement, 2. US-Canada joint North American security arrangement. Memo:Israel pulled out of Gaza unilaterally in 2005, it clearly didn’t work.
  • UN: General Secretary said what Israel is doing is completely unacceptable (Sound clip of his). Comment: Israelis think he owes an apology for terror and incitement at UNWRA schools.
  • Belgium: is sending a warship to join the international task force against the Houthis in the Red Sea.