During a Wednesday press briefing Secretary Blinken said:
“And what is striking to me is that even as, again, we hear many countries urging the end to this conflict, which we would all like to see, I hear virtually no one saying – demanding of Hamas that it stop hiding behind civilians, that it lay down its arms, that it surrender. This is over tomorrow if Hamas does that. This would have been over a month ago, six weeks ago, if Hamas had done that. And how could it – how can it be that there are no demands made of the aggressor and only demands made of the victim.
So it would be good if there was a strong international voice pressing Hamas to do what’s necessary to end this.” Briefing here
The IDF announced the deaths of three more soldiers bringing the ground operation toll to 137. Report here
The director of Gaza’s Kamal Adwan hospital revealed that he has been a lieutenant colonel in Hamas since 2010 and that 16 members of the hospital’s staff, including doctors, nurses and paramedics, were Hamas operatives serving in the al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the terror organization. He also said that Hamas had offices inside the hospital, used it as a base for operational activity and that at one point, it had housed a kidnapped soldier there. Report here
Israeli air force officers on Monday defended their actions in war against Hamas stating “All the bombs we use are high-precision bombs…We don’t need the Americans to understand we want to limit casualties. We did not need to change our principles,” saying Israeli forces had aimed at limiting civilian casualties “from the beginning.”… Israel insists Hamas is to blame for mass civilian casualties, accusing the group of using innocent Palestinians as “human shields” and operating out of hospitals, schools and UN facilities. “For Hamas, the deaths of civilians is a strategy,” IDF spokesman Daniel Hagari said. “For us, it’s a tragedy.” Report here
While dismantling Hamas’ three battalions in the Jabalya area of northern Gaza, the IDF arrested 500 terrorists, over 70 of whom directly participated in the Oct. 7 massacre…The IDF will now focus on the areas of Daraj and Tuffah, the only areas in northern Gaza that are still able to consistently fire rockets, with most rockets fired at Israel now coming from Rafah in southern Gaza. Report here
Hamas rockets continue to target Israeli communities close to Gaza and on Tuesday, 5 long range missiles were fired at central Israel, including Tel Aviv.
Dozens of rockets were fired from Gaza toward southern and central Israel (today) on Thursday afternoon, sending millions of Israelis running for safe areas. The rockets were fired at major population centres in Israel including Ashkelon and Ashdod in the south, and Tel Aviv, Bnei Brak, Ramat Gan, Petah Tikva, Rishon Lezion, Herzliya, Hod Hasharon, Ramat Hasharon, Ra’anana and Kfar Saba in the centre. A school in Tel Aviv was struck by shrapnel. Reports hereherehereand here
Hamas rejected an Israeli offer to stop fighting for one week in exchange for 40 hostages, including all the remaining women and children and elderly male hostages. Hamas said Israel must implement a ceasefire before negotiations could start, Egyptian officials said. According to Israel, there are 108 hostages still alive in Gaza, including 19 women and two children. (paywall) Report here
Scene from the Nutzirat market, central Gaza Dec. 18.View here
Hezbollah attacks continue daily including:
Two Israeli civilians were wounded Thursday in an anti-tank missile attack from Lebanon on the northern town of Dovev, which occurred at the same time as another missile hit cars in nearby Avivim. Report here
Last night, a barrage of eight rockets was fired from Lebanon at Kiryat Shmona and the adjacent area causing some damage. Four rocket launches at Israel from Syria were detected with Hezbollah taking responsibility for the launch.Report here
Some 150 clergymen including Muslims, Christians, Druze and Jews, attended a screening of the video footage from Hamas’ Oct 7 attacks…. Some of the religious leaders left the hall a few minutes after the screening began with tearfilled eyes, unable to continue watching the horrors. Leaving the screening in tears, one imam said “I have no words to describe it. These aren’t my people, this is not the Islam I know…” Report here
On Kibbutz Be’eri, 100 homes were so burnt and ravaged that they’ll be razed and cleared. But Be’eri is also showing signs of life and a future, thanks to its young-adult cohort who have returned to rebuild it.Report here
Footnote: Comedian Jerry Seinfeld with his wife visited Kibbutz Be’eri and met survivors of the Oct 7 massacre on Tuesday during a wartime solidarity trip to Israel. Report here
Over 12,000 new and veteran foreign workers have arrived or returned to Israel since Oct. 7, including 2,218 in agriculture, half of them from Thailand. The first group of 100 workers from Sri Lanka out of an eventual total of 10,000 has arrived. More than 400 Malawians flew to Israel last month and the total could reach 5,000. An additional 1,500 are expected from Kenya. Report here
South Africa’s Chief Rabbi Goldstein reprimanded Pope Francis for his statements on the Gaza conflict. “By denying Israel the moral right to fight this war, by comparing its just war of self-defence to the barbarism of Hamas, you repeat the sins of Pius XII – surreptitiously colluding with the forces of evil who seek to annihilate the Jewish people.” 8 mins 55 secs View here
Repurposed and mislabelled images from Syria have become a mainstay of Israel-Gaza misinformation and disinformation.
Since Monday, 44,000 people have watched a grisly video on X that shows men in uniform repeatedly stabbing unarmed detainees, labeling the attackers as Israelis.
BBC journalist Shayan Sardarizadeh clarified on Tuesday that the video is from 2013 and the stabbers were militia forces loyal to the Syrian regime.
An image, viewed over a million times, claims to show Israel dropping white phosphorus bombs near Gaza’s Al-Shifa hospital.
The image is from 2017 and shows air strikes by the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State in Raqqa, Syria.
A video of a crying child saying “my sisters have died” due to Israeli bombing had a million views, 12,000 retweets, and 21,000 likes.
The video was filmed in 2014 in Aleppo, Syria, and shows the aftermath of bombing by Syrian government forces. (Paywall) Article here
Ola Baker is CEO of ScienTech, an accelerator for early-stage Arab startups in healthcare, biotech and environmental science, the first project in Arab society that focuses on science innovation. Ola had been a C-level manager at pharma companies for six years and then opened GrowOn, a boutique consultancy to help early-stage Arab healthcare startups overcome investment and business networking challenges. She also lectures on entrepreneurship at the Technion and Tel Aviv University. Article here
During Chanukah, the European Union Delegation to the State of Israel hosted displaced Israeli families from the North and South for an evening of music, presents and sufganiyot (doughnuts). The EU’s ambassador to Israel, Dimiter Tzantchev said in fluent Hebrew “For us at the European Union, it was clear that we wanted to celebrate Hannuka together with you, the families affected by the terrible jihadist pogrom, which we have condemned in the strongest possible terms,” going on to express the EU’s full solidarity with and support for the people of Israel, and reiterated his call for the immediate and unconditional release for all Israeli hostages that are still kept in Gaza. Report & photos here
Each year, for the past 25 years, the Jerusalem Municipality has been giving out 350 free trees to Christian residents. Getting trees this year was more difficult than in the past, because they come from southern Israel. Many of the farms where the trees are harvested were destroyed or burnt. Report here
Issa Anis Kassissieh, a Christian Arab is the only certified Santa in Israel. On December 1 he opened his Santa House in the Christian Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City. Report& photos here
Last week Maccabi Tel Aviv beat Gent 3-1 to clinch first place in its Europa Conference League group and advance to the round of 16. Maccabi Haifa with a 2-1 win over Panathinaikos advanced to the Europa Conference League Playoffs where they are drawn to play Gent in Feb 2024. Report hereand here
Timna Nelson Levy won a silver medal at the European judo championships. Info here
Israel’s women’s goalball team have qualified for the 2024 Paralympics in Paris.Info here
At the World Junior Sailing Championships in Brazil, Maayan Shemesh and Emilie Louviot won silver in the 420 while Mika Kafri won bronze in the Kite Foil. Info here
Col Richard Kemp: Hamas plans all of its operations with one overriding aim: to force Israel to kill civilians in Gaza. That is an even higher priority for them than actually killing IDF soldiers and civilians.
In the civilian-to-combatant casualty ratio, Israel has a better track record than most other armies in the world. If military operations that bring death, suffering and destruction on civilians is collective punishment, then that applies to virtually every war that has ever been fought. Israel must be allowed to defend itself with whatever military force is necessary. It simply has no other choice. Article here (paywall)
Ahmed Fouad Alkhatib (who grew up in Gaza): Even as a child I saw through its (Hamas)cheap propaganda. Through its indoctrination and Islamization of Gaza’s youth, Hamas was breeding future generations of radicalized Palestinians.
Hamas has been a disaster to Palestinian aspirations for freedom and self-determination. It must be ruthlessly criticized and rejected. Weakening Hamas begins with normalizing criticisms of its ideology, its violent agenda and its subjugation of the Palestinian people.(paywall) Article here
Dr Michael Milshtein: As IDF ops in Gaza intensify, the vast terror network primarily used for anti-Israel activities raises questions about the awareness of local civilians and their attitude towards Hamas’ control and activities in their living spaces… The financial value of these so-called “Tunnel Cities,” and the inconceivable scopes of weapons captured, are estimated to be worth billions of U.S. dollars, the kind of money that could have dramatically improved the lives of Gazans over the last few decades. In Hamas’ view, the ideological objective clearly outweighed any improvement in quality of life, and the Gazans themselves did little to object. Article here
Nadav Shragai: Only two weeks ago, Tawfik Tirawi, the former head of the PA General Intelligence Service, told the Palestinian channel Al-Sharq that Fatah is involved in the fighting alongside Gaza, and that it has adopted terrorist groups in Nablus and Jenin, in which joint battalions of all the factions are operating together.
Maj.-Gen. (res.) Uzi Dayan, a former Deputy Chief of Staff and head of Israel’s National Security Council, recommends preparing for a scenario of the PA turning its guns against us. He says, “There are tens of thousands of Palestinians who carry arms, and the potential of them carrying out a raid on some Jewish community exists at any given moment.”
In recent weeks, clips have been posted on social media showing exercises conducted by the 45,000-strong PASF (Palestinian Authority Security Forces), which appear to be training for an armed conflict or war. On occasion, they resemble training carried out by the IDF’s crack units. Other recent clips on social media have simulated raids on Israeli communities. Article here
JPost Editorial: There is no comparison between the level of Palestinian-perpetrated violence in Judea and Samaria and that carried out by Jews there…By no means should Jewish extremist violence be whitewashed. Nor should it be implied that it does not exist; it does and it needs to be condemned and stopped.
But it is also by far not the main source of violence in the West Bank. If you are a Palestinian driving in Judea and Samaria, you are concerned about being stopped at an IDF checkpoint. You are not, however, worried about being gunned down randomly in a drive-by shooting. That is the unique preserve of Jews…
While the terrorists occupy an honoured place in Palestinian society, and their heinous deeds are applauded – note the recent poll showing that 82% of West Bank Palestinians support Hamas’s Oct 7 – violent Jewish extremists are roundly condemned and marginalized in Israel. Editorial here