Israel-Hamas – Week 18 Commencing February 4, 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…

Thursday February 10, 2024 (Day 125):

  • Situation: The Israel-Hamas war continues, so does friction with Hezbollah
  • Hamas: said the offer Netanyahu turned down flat yesterday is negotiable. Comment: Israel wants Hamas gone from Gaza so that October 7 cannot happen again, Hamas wants the war to end and Israel gone from Gaza. The question is who needs to surrender first?
  • Dani Algarat, father of one of the hostages, told army radio that talks with Hamas have failed. Dani served in Gaza for 12 years and knows it well. Next Wednesday he and others will march into Gaza to rescue his son (army radio).
  • First resignation: a mid level intelligence officer resigned over the October 7 intelligence failure. Comment: Israelis are likely to want changes at the top not only in the middle echelons.
  • Finance Minister Smotrich: said on Kan radio that talks are under way for the Haredis to combine IDF service with Torah study. This refers to active IDF service, not only national service on civilian welfare activities. But the talks must be civilized. Comment: playing for time apparently.
  • IDF reservists: are bitter that Haredis are not doing their fair share of serving in the IDF. National civilian duty is not enough (army radio).
  • Blinken: is in Israel for talks. Israeli leaders apprently told him the present situation cannot continue- around 60% of humanitarian aid being taken by Hamas to support its war effort.
  • Commentators (on Kan): Israel arranged payment of “protection money” by Qatar over the years. Hamas leader Sinwar upped his demand to $100 million – Qatar/Israel didn’t pay and assumed more work permits for Gazans in Israel would be enough (Kan Reset Bet).
  • Military leaders and the Defense minister Gallant: were filmed at a conference a month before October 7 saying the signs before the Yom Kippur war were ignored and this should never happen again. So the present top Israeli political and military leadership is afraid of what went wrong before October 7. The US replaced their top generals involved in the Pearl Harbor fiasco (Kan Reshet Bet).
  • Comments: Israelis want the hostages back, but nobody expects much now we know at least 32 of the 136 hostages are dead, perhaps another 20 according to the Wall Street Journal
  • Even if the US were to suspend arms supplies, the IDF looks like occupying parts of Gaza for the time being. Hamas can survive underground, but can they rule if the IDF is on the ground?

Tuesday/Wednesday February 8/9, 2024 (Days 123/124):

  • Situation: The Israel-Hamas war continues, so does friction with Hezbollah.
  • No Hostages Deal: Hamas called for a three-phased process in exchange for a permanent ceasefire, according to a document seen by Reuters. During the first 45-day phase, all Israeli female hostages, males under 19, and the elderly and sick would be released. In exchange, Palestinian women and minors held in Israeli jails on security-related charges would be freed, and the IDF would withdraw from populated areas in Gaza. Implementation of the second phase would not begin until the sides conclude “indirect talks over the requirements needed to end the mutual military operations and return to complete calm.” “From what I saw, even you would say no” to Hamas’s offer, Netanyahu told reporters. (Jerusalem Post).
  • Big data hits back: The IDF Lotem Technology Unit’s big data collection and analysis capabilities has saved many Israeli lives by working out where Hamas missile launchers would be located to hit specific targets, enabling the launchers to themselves become the targets. This saved hundreds of mourners at a funeral on October 17 from a likely Hamas rocket attack, and IDF soldiers entering Gaza on various occasions (Jerusalem Post).
  • Meetings: PM Netanyahu met (separately) today with Argentinian President Javier Milei, and US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken (Israeli PM Office, X/Twitter).

Monday February 5, 2024 (Day 122):

  • Situation: The Israel-Hamas war continues, so does friction with Hezbollah.
  • Hostage release deal: Still being negotiated
  • What Biden thinks about Netanyahu: He has “privately has called the Israeli prime minister a “bad f—ing guy,” according to people who’ve talked to the president.” (See Politico and others). Apparently, Biden is afraid of harming his own re-election prospects and being drawn into a wider Middle Eastern conflict which would keep US weapons flowing and reduce Netanyahu’s domestic political difficulties.

Sunday February 4, 2024 (Day 121):

  • Situation: The Israel-Hamas war continues, so does friction with Hezbollah.
  • Houthis: The US and British forces launched further retaliatory strikes.
  • Hostage release deal: Still being negotiated. PM Netanyahu said it won’t be at any price.
  • Israel’s war aims: PM Netanahu says Israel now has three war aims: Not only (1) release of hostages and (2) toppling of Hamas, but also (3) avoiding any repeat of October 7.
  • Internal Security Minster Itamar Ben-Gvir: “Instead of giving us his full backing, Biden is busy giving humanitarian aid and fuel to…Hamas. If Trump was in power, the US conduct would be completely different” (Wall Street Journal extract, Feb 4, 2024) Comment: Many Israelis are likely to disagree, Biden has done a lot to help Israel, and inappropriate remarks in public reflect more on Ben-Gvir.
  • UNWRA: Bank Leumi is applying anti money laundering (AML) rules to block UNWRA’s bank account in Israel. This follows statements by the US State Department statement and UNWRA itself that UNWRA personnel participated in October 7 atrocities and UNWRA money may be reaching HAMAS. The US government has transferred to UNWRA all but $0.3 million out of the $121 million approved by the US Congress. Further US appropriations to UNWRA are opposed by many in Congress (Calcalist). Comment: Even if UNWRA funding resumes, banks around the world may be prevented by international AML rules from transferring the money to UNWRA until they are certain no UNWRA money can reach HAMAS. That seems impossible to ascertain.
  • Bank Leumi: is blocking the account in Israel of one of the four allegedly violent West Bank settlors who were recently sanctioned by the US government.