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Israel and Palestinian Territories in April 2024

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2024-4-1

  1. Decisive Israeli Airstrikes in Syria Target Iranian Commanders Israel conducted its most significant operation against Iranian forces in Syria since the October 7 Hamas attacks. Utilizing F-35s, the Israeli air forces struck a facility associated with the Iranian embassy in Damascus with six precise missiles.
    The updated death toll stands at 11, including 8 Iranians, among them 7 leaders and a Revolutionary Guard member, a Lebanese Hezbollah member, and 2 Syrians. Notably killed were Mohammad Reza Zahedi, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s commander for Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine, his deputy, his office director, and several advisors, as well as Brigadier General Hussein Amir Allah, Chief of the General Staff for these regions.

Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Zahedi played a central role in the activities of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), especially in its external operations through the Quds Force, known for its military assistance to Hezbollah in Lebanon and fostering close ties between Iran and the group. Zahedi’s involvement extended over three decades, marking him as a key figure in the proliferation of arms and military strategy within the region.

Zahedi assumed command positions within the Quds Force in Lebanon, where he facilitated the shipment of arms and supported military operations, contributing to the sustained conflict in the area. His strategic actions included establishing connections between Hezbollah and Syrian intelligence services, further complicating the already tense situation in the Middle East.

Throughout his career, Zahedi occupied various commanding roles within the IRGC, including the Air Forces, Ground Forces, and the Thar Allah forces responsible for security operations in Tehran. His leadership positions allowed him to influence and direct operations that have been widely criticized for their impact on regional stability and human rights.

The United States sanctioned Zahedi in August 2010, recognizing his direct involvement in sponsoring terrorism and financing activities detrimental to peace and stability in the region. His actions and decisions have had far-reaching consequences, contributing to the suffering of countless civilians and exacerbating conflicts across the Middle East.

Zahedi’s career, characterized by deep involvement in military and strategic operations that have threatened regional and international peace, underscores the significant role played by IRGC officials in supporting actions considered by many as criminal and in violation of international norms. His participation in Hezbollah’s Shura Council meetings and visits to military units near the Syrian border further demonstrate his active engagement in operations deemed hostile by various governments and international bodies.

Iran’s Foreign Minister, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, denounced the attack as a deranged act by Netanyahu, indicative of his lost sanity in the face of failures. Iran described the strikes as “barbaric and brazen,” flagrantly violating international laws, including the 1961 Vienna Convention. The assault not only contravenes international law but also represents a desperate Israeli effort to destabilize the region, threatening severe repercussions while jeopardizing global peace, stated Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani.

Later in the day, Syrian media sources reported that American forces at the Al-Tanf base in Syria neutralized a suicide drone close to their location, while the Israeli military intercepted a cruise missile within Syrian territory, preventing it from reaching the Golan Heights. Israel immediately responded by striking the area where the missile was fired from in the suburbs of Daraa.

On Thursday March 28, 2024, Israeli strikes targeted a secret meeting place for the IRGC in Sayyidah Zaynab, approximately six miles south of Damascus.

After midnight, on Friday March 29, Israel launched precise air strikes on Aleppo targeting a Hezbollah arms depot near Aleppo International Airport and defense factories in Safira. The total death toll reported is 53 fighters 38 of which are Syrian regime forces, seven Hezbollah members and eight pro-Iran Syrian militants. Contrary to regime claims, no civilian casualties were documented. This operation was the first of Israel’s operations and marks the highest number of death tolls amongst Iranian fighters since 2020.

Local media sources reported that Iranian militias immediately began to change a number of their missile strike bases closer to the American base in the Conico oil field. It was also reported that the Iranian militias in Deir Ezzor where the Israelis continue to strike went ahead and launched a special special training course for 30 members of Iraqi and Lebanese nationalities to train on hacking communications devices and mobile phones, hacking websites, in addition to hacking accounts through various applications on social media sites.

On Sunday, March 31, Israeli forces launched at least four missiles at the Scientific Research Institute in Jamraya, Damascus. This site, once linked to chemical warfare, is now reportedly a hub for developing Iranian weapons, including long-range missiles and drones. The Intel Times Center highlights that Aleppo serves as a key conduit for weapon transfers to Hezbollah, managed by the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, leveraging Syrian Army infrastructure.

In the aftermath of the assassinations, reactions on social media varied widely, with notable celebrations among both Iranian and Arab users. This celebration was evident through creative and symbolic postings, including images and messages that used metaphors like skewers and patties to express joy over Zahedi’s death. Iranian activists and journalists, both within Iran and in exile, marked the event with posts that mingled the themes of the Sizdah Bedar holiday with the news of the assassination, highlighting a sense of relief and hope for change. These reactions underscored deep-seated grievances against the IRGC’s actions and Zahedi’s role in particular. Meanwhile, Arab social media users also shared in the celebrations, albeit with less direct attribution to Israel’s role in the assassination, indicating a complex mix of regional sentiments towards Iran’s influence. The varied online reactions reflected broader tensions in the Middle East, illustrating the divisive figure Zahedi was, celebrated by some as a martyr and by others as a symbol of oppression.

  1. IDF Ends Shifa Hospital Operations, Over 200 Militants Down The IDF has officially concluded its intensive two-week operation at Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital, marking a significant phase in the ongoing conflict that began with Hamas’s assault on October 7. This pivotal raid resulted in the neutralization of over 200 terror operatives and the detention of 500 more, amid notable destruction. As the operation wraps up, the military’s focus on dismantling key figures from Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad has notably intensified the war’s dynamics, bringing the IDF’s casualties to a total of 600 since the conflict’s start. Despite Hamas’s assertions to the contrary, the IDF’s findings revealed substantial evidence of the hospital’s use for military purposes. The completion of the operation unveils the extensive damage to Shifa Hospital and its surrounding areas, shedding light on the profound consequences and the escalated nature of the Israel-Hamas conflict, underscored by a significant toll on human life and infrastructure.
  2. Israel Targets Al Jazeera with New Security Law The Knesset has enacted a groundbreaking law, putting Al Jazeera in the spotlight by granting the Israeli government the authority to temporarily halt operations of foreign news organizations deemed a threat to national security. This measure, specifically aimed at Al Jazeera, passed convincingly with a 71 to 10 vote, allows for a 45-day suspension of such networks’ operations, subject to renewal by the prime minister and communications minister. The law’s introduction, led by Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi, is a direct response to longstanding accusations against Al Jazeera for its reportage, which, according to Israeli officials, jeopardizes the country’s security by purportedly siding with Hamas and compromising IDF troop safety. Despite the law’s intended security benefits, it has triggered significant backlash, including criticism from international bodies like the White House, for potentially stifling press freedom.

2024-4-2

  1. White House Says Israel Agreed to Address US Concerns Over Rafah The White House, after discussions with Israeli counterparts about Israel’s planned operation in Rafah, said Israel agreed to consider US concerns regarding potential humanitarian consequences of such an operation. The Biden administration has signaled it would not support an Israeli operation in Rafah without significant steps by the IDF to minimize civilian casualties and to increase the flow of humanitarian aid.
  2. IDF on High Alert After Zahedi’s Assassination In the wake of the strike near Damascus that killed Quds Force commander Mohamad Reza Zahedi, the Israeli Army increased its readiness for potential Iranian retaliation, especially potential threats to Israeli diplomatic missions globally. Iran claimed that three missiles from an Israeli F-35 targeted the location where prominent Iranian commanders were present.
  3. US Nears Approval for Largest Arms Sale to Israel Since October 7th The US is on the verge of approving its most significant arms sale to Israel since the Gaza conflict began on October 7th. The proposed deal encompasses a range of weaponry, from fighter jets to air-to-air missiles. The Biden administration is considering the sale of up to 50 new F-15 fighter jets, 30 AIM-120 medium-range air-to-air missiles, and precision-guided munition kits, with a potential value exceeding $18 billion. 
  4. Israeli Airstrike in Gaza Reportedly Kills International Aid Workers An Israeli airstrike in Gaza reportedly resulted in the deaths of seven World Central Kitchen staff, including nationals from Australia, Britain, and Poland. The incident occurred despite coordination with the IDF, in a zone supposedly safe from conflict. Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese called for accountability for the death of an Australian citizen involved, emphasizing the need for the protection of civilians and humanitarian workers. The IDF is conducting a high-level investigation into the event, which has drawn international condemnation and led to the temporary suspension of WCK’s operations in Gaza.

2024-4-3

  1. Israel Says Target in Syria Was Military, Not Diplomatic The Israeli military spokesperson, Daniel Hagari, stated that Israel’s recent strike in Damascus targeted a military facility of the Quds Force, part of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and not a diplomatic site. Contrary to claims by Syrian and Iranian officials of an attack on the Iranian embassy, Hagari said the target was a Quds Force military building disguised as a civilian facility. This clarification comes as Tehran has tried to stoke international condemnation and Israel is on high alert for potential retaliatory attacks. The strike resulted in the death of key personnel, including Iranian and Syrian military figures, with the death toll rising to 13 as of Wednesday.
  2. Renewed Israel-Hamas Talks Pave Way for Safe Passages in Gaza Following the resumption of prisoner exchange negotiations in Cairo, Israel and Hamas are reportedly making headway, with Israel showing flexibility on several issues. A proposal for three safe corridors for displaced persons to return to Northern Gaza is under consideration. Israeli negotiators, comprised of intelligence and military officials, have proposed mechanisms to monitor the status  of Israeli hostages held by Hamas in Gaza. These understandings could open the way for north Gaza residents to begin to return home.
  3. Fitch Maintains Israel’s A+ Rating, Ends Negative Watch Despite Ongoing Conflict The Fitch rating agency has reaffirmed Israel’s A+ credit rating, removing the negative watch initiated in October due to the conflict with Hamas in Gaza. Despite acknowledging the high risks of escalation and ongoing geopolitical tensions, Fitch believes the impact assessment on Israel’s credit profile may take longer, warranting the stable outlook. However, the agency’s longer term outlook remains negative, reflecting uncertainties about fiscal paths and the conflict’s duration and intensity. Fitch warns of potential military spending increases and economic uncertainties, which could constrain Israel’s ability to reduce debt in the future.
  4. Biden Criticizes Israel for Insufficient Protection of Relief Workers in Gaza, as IDF Chief Apologizes for “Accidental Killing” President Joe Biden criticized Israel for a recent airstrike in Gaza that killed 7 relief workers, stating Israel had not done enough to protect those aiding Palestinians in need. Biden emphasized the need for a swift, transparent investigation ensuring accountability. He pledged continued pressure on Israel for more aid access to Gaza and an immediate ceasefire as part of a hostage deal. Israel admitted to a “serious mistake” in the airstrike, promising a thorough independent inquiry.  Meanwhile, IDF Chief General Herzi Halevi apologized for the accidental killing of the aid workers and said that “Immediate actions will be taken to better protect humanitarian aid workers.” The IDF said the incident occurred due to a misidentification leading to the strike.
  5. Fatah Rejects Iranian Interference in Palestinian Affairs, After Clashes Between Hamas and PA Forces On Tuesday, the Fatah movement issued a statement rejecting external interference in Palestinian affairs, especially by Iran. The Fatah statement said Iranian meddling serves Israeli interests by fostering chaos among Palestinians. Fatah pledged to defend Palestinian national interests, security apparatus, and institutions from disruptive forces and expressed confidence in Palestinian security forces to counteract destabilizing interventions. The Fatah statement came after violent clashes between Hamas members and Palestinian security forces in the West Bank.

2024-4-16

  1. Israel Vows Response to Iranian Offensive, Global Leaders Call for Calm Following Iran’s unprecedented military strike on Israel with hundreds of drones and missiles, Israel’s military chief said Israel plans to respond. The attack, the first direct Iranian assault on Israel, came after an Israeli air strike in Damascus that killed senior Iranian military officers. Global figures such as British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and French President Emmanuel Macron have appealed for Israeli to restrict itself to non-escalatory actions to prevent further violence.
  2. Biden Will Not Hinder Netanyahu’s Decision to Strike Iran, Says US Official Senior US officials indicate that President Biden will not prevent Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu from responding to Iran’s recent attack. European nations have concurrently summoned Iranian ambassadors, condemning the attack but cautioning Israel against escalating tensions. Reports from Israeli sources suggest that a retaliatory strike by Israel could be imminent. 
  3. Netanyahu Directs IDF to Identify Potential Targets in Iran Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has instructed the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) to pinpoint potential Iranian targets for possible retaliation, including nuclear facilities and cyber attacks. This directive follows Iran’s recent drone and missile attack on Israel. Israeli officials are debating the timing and nature of their response, aiming for decisive action that avoids regional escalation. Netanyahu has called for international unity against Iranian aggression and emphasized the necessity of a coordinated response with the United States, while the Iranian regime has warned of immediate and severe retaliation if provoked further.
  4. Report:  Jordan and Saudi Arabia Assisted Israel Against Iranian Attack Jordan allowed Israeli forces to use its airspace to intercept Iranian missiles and drones targeting Israel, according to an Israeli military official. Saudi Arabia also played a key role in a joint military operation with Israel, the US, Jordan, the UK, and France that successfully intercepted 99 percent of Iranian drones and missiles targeting Israel. The operation involved automatic systems to counter suspicious entries into Saudi airspace, emphasizing Saudi’s strategic defense capabilities. Despite conflicting reports from Al Arabiya denying Saudi’s direct interception involvement, the collaboration marks a significant step towards a regional military alliance, initially spurred by U.S.-led efforts to normalize Saudi-Israel relations and counter Iranian influence in the region.
  5. Gaza Negotiations:  Hamas Reduces Number of Hostages Offered for Release While Raising Demands Hamas has reduced the number of hostages it is willing to release from 40 to 20 in the initial phase of any potential exchange deal with Israel, as reported by Israel’s Channel 12. The group is also demanding the release of a greater number of high-risk Palestinian prisoners in return for each Israeli hostage. Additionally, Hamas has reiterated its conditions for a permanent ceasefire, including the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza and the initiation of reconstruction efforts. These demands have complicated negotiations, despite Israel’s willingness to be flexible to secure a deal, according to the U.S. State Department.
  6. Gaza War Doubled Israel’s Debt to $43 Billion in 2023 The Israeli Ministry of Finance reported that the ongoing conflict in Gaza with Hamas doubled Israel’s national debt to approximately $43 billion in 2023, with $22 billion accrued since the conflict escalated in October. In comparison, Israel borrowed around $17 billion throughout 2022. Despite the significant increase in borrowing needs, Chief Accountant Yehali Rotenberg highlighted Israel’s strong economic resilience, noting its capability to secure substantial loans with high coverage rates from both domestic and international markets, even during wartime.

2024-4-17

  1. Blinken to Gantz:  Don’t Escalate Conflict with Iran US Secretary of State Antony Blinken emphasized to Israeli war cabinet member Benny Gantz that the US prioritizes Israel’s defense but aims to prevent conflict escalation. Blinken also stressed to American Jewish leaders that a major Israel-Iran conflict isn’t in US interests. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin took a similar stance in talks with Israeli counterpart Yoav Gallant.
  2. UN Security Council Deadlocks on Palestinian Authority’s Full UN Membership Bid The UN Security Council committee failed to reach consensus on the Palestinian Authority’s bid for full UN membership. Despite the deadlock, the Palestinian Authority is expected to press for a vote soon. Full membership would acknowledge Palestinian statehood, an upgrade from their current status as a non-member observer state, a position held since 2012. Approval requires a Security Council endorsement followed by a General Assembly vote, where the U.S. holds potential veto power. The U.S. maintains that Palestinian statehood should result from direct negotiations, not UN interventions.
  3. UN Launches $2.8 Billion Aid Appeal for Gaza and West Bank The United Nations has announced a $2.8 billion funding appeal to assist three million Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank through 2024. This “flash appeal” aims primarily to support Gaza, which will receive 90% of the funds. The initial request was reduced from $4 billion due to challenges in delivering aid effectively. This humanitarian effort follows the substantial needs arising from the ongoing conflict in Gaza.
  4. S&P Maintains Israel’s Credit Rating Despite Wartime Conditions Despite looming economic risks and regional tensions, S&P is unlikely to downgrade Israel’s credit rating. Recent discussions between Israeli economic leaders and S&P representatives fostered optimism, in contrast with Moody’s recent downgrade and Fitch’s negative outlook. While Israel’s current budget deficit raises concerns, S&P remains watchful and will issue its next report on May 10. Any escalation of conflict with Iran could prompt a downgrade, while de-escalation might yield a positive review.

2024-4-18

  1. On Biden’s Advice, Israel Will Delay Retaliation Until After Passover Israeli officials confirmed to Axios that despite considering a retaliatory strike against Iran for recent attacks, they have decided to postpone action until after the Passover holiday, following advice from the Biden administration to exercise caution. The exact scale and timing of the potential Israeli strike remain uncertain. American officials expect Israel to keep them informed about any further decisions. This development coincides with U.S. warnings against escalating tensions in the Middle East.
  2. EU Leaders Support New Sanctions on Iran Following Attacks In response to Iran’s recent missile and drone attack on Israel, EU leaders have agreed to impose enhanced sanctions targeting Iranian companies involved in the manufacture of drones and missiles. The decision was made during a summit in Brussels, marking the first gathering of EU’s 27 national leaders since the attack. The EU will consider additional sanctions against suppliers of arms linked to attacks on Israel and maritime assaults in the Red Sea. The EU aims to prevent further escalation while maintaining pressure on Iran for various infringements, including human rights abuses and proliferation activities.
  3. Report:  U.S. May Support Israel’s Rafah Operation in Exchange for No Major Iran Strike The United States has reportedly agreed to support Israel’s military operation in Rafah, Gaza, provided Israel refrains from launching a major strike on Iran. This agreement follows U.S. President Joe Biden’s insistence that Israel limit its military actions, encouraging focus on high-value targets and border security instead. Reports from unnamed Egyptian officials and Israeli broadcaster Kan indicate that Biden’s influence led Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to retract a planned response to Iran’s recent drone and missile attack. This development comes as Israel prepares for a targeted operation in Rafah after reducing its troop presence in Gaza.

2024-4-22

  1. Israel’s Military Intelligence Chief Resigns Over October 7 Intelligence Failures Major General Aharon Haliva, head of IDF Military Intelligence, has resigned due to intelligence oversights related to the Hamas attack on October 7. In his resignation, Haliva called for a state inquiry to thoroughly investigate the failures that led to the attack. Haliva will remain in his role until a successor is appointed, concluding his 38 years of service in the IDF.
  2. US Considers Sanctioning More Israeli Units Over Human Rights Concerns The US is contemplating sanctions against additional Israeli military units beyond the Netzah Yehuda Battalion for alleged human rights violations against Palestinians, according to The Times of Israel. These deliberations are part of a broader US policy that criticizes Israeli actions in the West Bank while supporting Israel’s right to self-defense. The Netzah Yehuda Battalion, known for misconduct in the West Bank, is set to be the first sanctioned, limiting their access to US military aid.
  3. Israel Asks U.S. to Reconsider Sanctions on Military Unit Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz has requested U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to reconsider sanctions imposed on the “Netzah Yehuda” battalion of the Israeli military. Gantz argued that such sanctions could undermine Israel’s international legitimacy during its operations against Hamas in Gaza, claiming there was no justification for the U.S. action. He emphasized the strength and independence of the Israeli judicial system and the adherence of all military units to international law. The potential U.S. sanctions have raised concerns in Israel, with Prime Minister Netanyahu vocally opposing them, citing the timing relative to past events in the West Bank.
  4. Israel Sought to Demonstrate it Can Strike Iran Without Entering Iranian Airspace Israeli officials disclosed to The New York Times that Israel has opted not to expand its attacks on Iran following diplomatic pressures from the U.S. and allies. Instead, Israeli forces conducted limited missile launches from hundreds of kilometers away and deployed small drones to disrupt Iranian air defenses. This strategy was meant to demonstrate Israel’s ability to target Iran effectively without entering its airspace or triggering its air defense systems. 
  5. Fatah Accuses Hamas of Manufacturing Gaza Food Crisis Fatah officials have accused Hamas of exacerbating the humanitarian crisis in Gaza by attacking aid workers, stealing vital supplies, and controlling food distribution, which has led to inflated prices. According to reports on Fatah TV and Palestinian Media Watch, Hamas’s actions have prevented other organizations from providing relief and monopolized aid resources, contributing to severe shortages and suffering among the civilian population. 
  6. Israeli Defense Minister Visits Syrian Border, Warns Israel Will Counter Iranian Presence On a visit to the Golan Heights, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant emphasized the military’s preparedness for offensive operations to prevent Iranian entrenchment near the Syrian border. Gallant emphasized the strategic patrols with division commanders and the high readiness of Israeli forces to thwart any threats from Hezbollah and Iranian forces attempting to establish positions near the Golan Heights. Gallant detailed significant preparatory efforts to ensure the safety and return of residents to northern Israel.

2024-4-23

  1. Israel Prepares to Evacuate Palestinians from Rafah Ahead of Planned Offensive Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) are gearing up to evacuate civilians from Gaza’s Rafah before launching an offensive against Hamas, per The Wall Street Journal. Coordination with the US and Egypt will facilitate evacuations to Khan Younis, providing shelters and aid. The operation aims to target Hamas operatives in a campaign Israel expects to last six weeks. Satellite images reveal a new camp being built by Israel near Khan Yunis to house Palestinian evacuees from Rafah. Reports suggest Israel aims to establish food distribution centers and field medical facilities in the area as part of its planned operation.
  2. US Accuses Israel of Human Rights Violations in Gaza  A recent US State Department report accused Israel of severe human rights violations in Gaza, citing arbitrary killings, torture, and threats against journalists. The report also criticized Israel’s restrictions on freedom of expression and media, citing sources such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. The report also highlighted escalating violence in the West Bank and Gaza by Israeli settlers and Palestinian militants and said that the Palestinian Authority’s inadequate response and Hamas’s impunity further compound the situation.
  3. Hamas Opens Offices in Turkey, Signalling Possible Relocation of Exiled Leaders from Doha Following a closed-door meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh in Istanbul, expectations are high that Hamas will relocate its headquarters from Doha, Qatar, to Turkey. Hamas leaders would likely find Turkey a more secure location than Qatar, but Hamas denies it has plans to fully relocate from Doha.

2024-4-24

  1. Israel to Launch Rafah Incursion with US Coordination The Israeli Broadcasting Authority reported that Israel’s army is set to invade Rafah in Gaza in coordination with the United States. The operation reportedly will involve evacuating over a million Palestinians to designated areas in southern and central Gaza, with international relief agencies preparing thousands of tents for the displaced. The staged invasion will divide Rafah into specific zones, informing residents in advance for phased evacuations, estimated to take 4 to 5 weeks. Despite initial American opposition due to concerns about civilian harm, a US-Israeli coordination center help will manage the operation, with the change in Washington’s attitude prompted by failed prisoner exchange negotiations with Hamas. 
  2. Largest Israeli Strikes on Hezbollah Positions Since October 7 The conflict between Israel and Hezbollah in southern Lebanon has escalated significantly, marking the most intense clashes since the October 7 attack on Israel. In the last few hours, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) conducted over 14 airstrikes in the towns of Ayta Ash Shab and Ramiyeh. These strikes targeted approximately 40 Hezbollah positions, including weapon storage facilities, terror infrastructure, and other operational sites. Prior to these strikes, Hezbollah had claimed responsibility for an attack on a building in Avivim, located on Israel’s northern border, housing Israeli soldiers. The area of Ayta ash Shab, a known Hezbollah stronghold, has been repeatedly used for launching attacks against Israeli civilians and military personnel. Syrian media associated with the Iran-backed Axis of Resistance have described the IDF’s tactics in Ayta Ash Shab as a belt of fire,a term previously used only in the context of Gaza. As of now, there has been no response from the Lebanese side about the impact of these strikes, which are typically reported promptly. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Galant of Northern Command announced that half of Hezbollah’s leaders in southern Lebanon had been eliminated and the other half were in hiding.
  3. Protesters Decry U.S. Military Aid to Israel The U.S. Senate recently approved a substantial $95 billion foreign aid package, a portion of which includes significant funding for Israel and humanitarian efforts. President Joe Biden praised the bipartisan nature of the support, highlighting the commitment to assisting allies and counteracting global threats. Among the allocations, $10.6 billion is earmarked specifically for bolstering Israel’s defense systems, an action that has been positively received by Israeli authorities, reinforcing the strong alliance between the two nations. In response to the Senate’s decision, a group of protestors staged an “Emergency Order Night” outside the residence of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer in New York. Demonstrators expressing their opposition to the military aid for Israel blocked the street leading to Schumer’s home and displayed a large “seder plate” at the protest with a message urging against arming Israel. 
  4. UN Probes Alleged Mass Graves in Gaza; Israel Denies The UN is investigating the alleged discovery by Palestinian Civil Defense of over 300 bodies in mass graves at Khan Yunis’ Nasser Medical Complex, purportedly buried by Israeli forces. Israel has denied the allegation, labeling it “baseless.” US officials expressed shock at the images of the grave but cannot confirm their authenticity. Operations in the area were part of Israel’s efforts to locate hostages and counter Hamas, which Israel accused of using medical sites for military ends. UN officials claimed some bodies were handcuffed, prompting further investigations and escalating humanitarian concerns.
  5. Germany to Resume Cooperation with UN Relief Agency for Palestinians Germany announced plans to resume cooperation with the U.N. relief agency for Palestinians, UNRWA, following a neutral review that rebutted Israel’s claims of agency staff affiliations with Palestinian militant groups. These allegations had previously led to funding suspensions by the U.S. and other countries.

2024-4-25

  1. Senior Hamas Official Says Group is Open to Disarming for a Two-State Solution Khalil al-Hayya, a senior Hamas official, stated that Hamas is ready to lay down its arms and transform into a political party if a fully sovereign Palestinian state is established along the pre-1967 borders. In an interview, Al-Hayya expressed that the militant group, which still officially aims to eliminate Israel, would agree to a five-year truce and dissolve its military wing under these conditions. He emphasized the group’s desire to join the Palestine Liberation Organization to form a unified Palestinian government, advocating for the rights and statehood of the Palestinian people.
  2. Israel to Proceed with Rafah Operation to Pressure Hamas According to Israel’s “Yedioth Ahronoth” newspaper, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is advancing a ground operation in Rafah, the southernmost part of the Gaza Strip, to coerce Hamas into resuming prisoner exchange negotiations. The Israeli security cabinet is convening today to discuss this and other matters, with the military pushing for the green light to proceed with the operation aimed at dismantling Hamas’s capabilities in the area.
  3. Hamas Commander Sinwar Emerges from Tunnels to Make Public Appearance in Gaza Yahya Sinwar, leader of Hamas in Gaza, was seen publicly in Gaza, contradicting Israeli claims of his isolation. According to a Hamas official, Sinwar inspected conflict sites and met with fighters, actively leading from the ground rather than from tunnels. Hamas said this appearance challenges Israel’s narrative of Sinwar’s disconnection from his forces and highlights ongoing operational command within Hamas. 
  4. U.S. Wants Answers from Israel on Reported Mass Graves in Gaza The United States has called for Israel to provide “answers” regarding reports of mass graves found at two major hospitals in Gaza. According to Gaza’s Civil Defense, approximately 340 bodies were uncovered at Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, with Hamas alleging they were killed by Israeli forces. Additionally, about 30 bodies were reported in mass graves at Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan emphasized the need for a thorough and transparent investigation into these reports, a sentiment echoed by the United Nations and the European Union.
  5. ICC Considers Arrest Warrants for Senior Israeli Officials–with Apparent U.S. Concurrence Reports indicate the International Criminal Court (ICC), with apparent U.S. approval, is contemplating arrest warrants against senior Israeli officials. The consideration follows the Palestinian Authority’s acceptance of ICC jurisdiction over alleged crimes by Israel. This development, highlighted by Israeli media, marks a significant tension point in U.S.-Israel relations. ICC Chief Prosecutor Karim Ahmad Khan, supported by the U.S. since 2021, is also recognized for closing other sensitive cases involving the U.S. This action could potentially affect high-ranking Israelis including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
  6. Hamas and Fatah Plan Unity Talks in Beijing In a significant development aimed at Palestinian reconciliation, representatives from Hamas and Fatah are scheduled to meet in Beijing to discuss ending internal divisions. Key figures such as Hamas’s Moussa Abu Marzouk and Fatah’s Azzam al-Ahmad will attend. This meeting follows Hamas leader Khalil al-Hayya’s announcement of the group’s readiness to transform into a political party and accept a five-year truce with Israel, provided a sovereign Palestinian state is established based on 1967 borders.

2024-4-26

  1. US Delays Sanctions on Israeli Military Units Accused of Rights Violations The Biden administration will withhold sanctions, for now, on Israeli military units accused of human rights abuses in Gaza. The Biden administration has identified that three Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) battalions committed significant human rights violations against Palestinians in the West Bank, according to an undisclosed letter from Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Speaker of the House of Representatives Mike Johnson. Despite these findings, Blinken said these units will continue to receive U.S. military aid as Israel claims to be taking corrective measures, which the U.S. will monitor for effectiveness. 
  2. US Military Begins Construction of Pier Off Gaza Coast The US military has initiated the construction of a maritime pier off Gaza, expected to be completed within days to facilitate the influx of humanitarian aid. Announced by President Biden in March, this project aims to alleviate access constraints via land routes into Gaza. While no US troops will be stationed on the ground, their operational activities at the pier will be secured by the Israeli military. The pier has come under mortar attack by Hamas-linked militants in recent days.
  3. Biden and 17 Global Leaders Demand Immediate Hostage Release by Hamas President Joe Biden, along with leaders from 17 other nations, issued a collective demand for Hamas to release all hostages in Gaza and agree to a ceasefire. Despite past differences, these leaders, including from France, Germany, the UK, Thailand, and Colombia, have now aligned due to the dire hostage situation, highlighting a prepared deal that promises an immediate ceasefire contingent on the release of the most vulnerable hostages.
  4. Israeli Cabinet Approves Foreign Observers’ Visits to Hamas Prisoners Israel’s extended cabinet authorized visits by an Israeli judge and two foreign observers to Palestinian detainees linked to Hamas’s Nukhba forces. While Security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir opposed the visits, citing concerns over deterrence and sovereignty, the decision marks a trial period with Israel vetting observers.

2024-4-29

  1. EU’s Borell Says Some EU Countries Could Recognize Palestinian Statehood by End of May Speaking at a Saudi-hosted ministerial conference on Gaza in Riyadh, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borell announced that several European countries plan to recognize the Palestinian state by the end of May. Concurrently, Saudi Arabia is facilitating discussions involving Arab, EU, and U.S. diplomats to address the Gaza war, with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressing optimism for a ceasefire agreement involving the release of Israeli hostages.
  2. Hamas Signals it May Accept Israel’s Latest Proposal for Hostage/Ceasefire Deal A Hamas official informed AFP of no significant disagreements with Israel’s proposed hostage release and ceasefire. Negotiators are set to convene in Cairo Monday. Israeli Foreign Minister Katz suggested halting an invasion if Hamas agrees to the deal. Protests surged after videos of hostages pleading for release emerged. The proposed deal involves releasing hostages over three weeks in exchange for Palestinian prisoners and returnees. A temporary ceasefire would precede long-term negotiations, with IDF monitoring border crossings.
  3. Smotrich Threatens Government Collapse Over Gaza Deal, Lapid Vows Opposition Support for Deal Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich sternly warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu against halting the Rafah operation, equating it with conceding victory and compromising Israel’s security. Smotrich characterized stopping the mission as detrimental not only to Israel’s position, but also to the safety and future of hostages left out of the Hamas negotiation deal. Meanwhile, opposition Leader Yair Lapid has pledged to back the government in approving a hostage agreement, despite threats from far-right ministers Itamar Ben Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich to exit Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition over a proposed ceasefire with Hamas. Lapid affirmed on social media that his party, Yesh Atid, would contribute 24 votes needed for the government’s majority, emphasizing the urgency to “bring [the hostages] home.”
  4. Diplomat Says Israel threatened to topple Assad regime if Syria gets involved in Gaza war A western diplomat said Israel has issued a stern warning to the Assad regime in Syria, threatening to topple Assad’s government if it becomes involved in the ongoing Gaza war. This warning comes amid a recent escalation following an Israeli airstrike in Damascus, which targeted a building next to Iran’s consulate, killing several commanders of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. In response, Iran launched a significant missile and drone attack against Israel, heightening regional tensions. Assad has avoided direct involvement in the Gaza conflict, focusing instead on maintaining a delicate balance between its major allies, Russia and Iran.
  5. Hamas Says its Leaders Will Relocate to Jordan if They Leave Qatar Hamas leaders may relocate to Jordan if departing Qatar, says senior member Musa Abu Marzouk. Speculation has circulated about Hamas’s relocation to Iraq, Syria, or Turkey, but Abu Marzouk labeled these reports merely media pressure on Qatar. He highlighted Jordan’s support for Palestinian resistance and good relations with Hamas. Abu Marzouk urged Jordan and Egypt to sever ties with Israel in order to halt conflict in Rafah.
  6. US Officials Believe Israel May Have Violated International Humanitarian Law Senior officials in the U.S. State Department have raised concerns that Israel may have violated international humanitarian law during its ongoing military operations in Gaza. Internal memos to Secretary of State Antony Blinken from four department offices highlighted issues such as Israel’s handling of humanitarian aid and potential misuse of American support. The memos cited several instances where Israeli actions, including raids on civilian facilities and the obstruction of humanitarian aid, raised questions about compliance with international law. This has prompted discussions about possibly restricting U.S. military aid to Israel, reflecting a complex internal debate within the State Department on the matter.

2024-4-30

  1. Netanyahu Says Israel Will Enter Rafah with or without Ceasefire Agreement Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday that Israeli forces will act against Hamas in Rafah, regardless of whether the two sides reach a hostage agreement or ceasefire. Netanyahu said there has been no change in Israel’s war objectives and that ending the war before achieving Israeli objectives is not an option. He stated that Palestinians are being evacuated from the city in preparation for imminent operations. Following Israel’s 2023 offensive on Gaza, Rafah has become a forced home for displaced Palestinians, enduring harsh humanitarian conditions.
  2. Report:  Israel Assassinated Revolutionary Guard Officer on Iranian Soil Iranian media revealed that Israel carried out an assassination inside Iran of a Revolutionary Guard officer allegedly involved in attacks on Jewish targets in Germany. Details are scarce about the assassination or its orchestrators. The Germany attack reportedly took place in December and was thwarted by a joint operation involving Mossad, Shin Bet, and local authorities, resulting in arrests. German reports implicated Lebanese and Egyptian suspects in weapons possession for planned attacks on Jewish facilities.
  3. Congress Warns ICC Against Issuing Arrest Warrants for Israeli Officials A bipartisan group of US Congress members warned the International Criminal Court against issuing arrest warrants for Israeli officials, Axios reports. If ICC warrants emerge, Congress plans legislation against the ICC. House Speaker Mike Johnson condemned the rumored warrants as “disgraceful” and “lawless,” and urged ICC restraint. Israeli PM Netanyahu, meanwhile, has appealed to President Biden to intervene to stop the ICC from acting, and Biden administration officials have voiced support for Israel’s stance against ICC actions.
  4. US Military’s Gaza Aid Pier Will Cost $320 Million A US-led initiative in which Navy and Army vessels will construct a floating pier off of Gaza’s coast will cost $320 million, according to Pentagon estimates of the cost of equipment transportation, pier construction, and aid delivery. The pier is scheduled to be operational by early May, after which aid loaded onto ships in Cyprus will be transferred to Gaza via the floating causeway.
  5. Hamas Considers Egyptian Cease-Fire Proposal Favorable A Hamas official praised an Egyptian cease-fire proposal and called it the most promising potential deal in recent times. Key elements of the Egyptian proposal would include IDF withdrawal from Gaza and the identity of Palestinian prisoners to be released. Hamas remains in discussions, with sources indicating the group’s willingness to adjust the cease-fire duration based on hostage releases. Despite skepticism from Jerusalem, Hamas is set to respond to the proposal by Wednesday. 
  6. Fatah, Hamas Pursue Unity Talks in China Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas continue discussions for reconciliation, now in Beijing, following similar efforts in Moscow. Fatah, led by Mahmoud Abbas, seeks to form a unified Palestinian government with Hamas, aiming to overcome longstanding divisions. Delegations from both sides, including senior officials, are engaged in talks facilitated by China’s Foreign Ministry. The push for unity follows previous dialogues in Moscow and Doha.

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