News Roundup for December 13, 2023

December 13, 2023
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Top News and Analysis

Biden Warns Netanyahu That Israel Is Losing Support Worldwide and Its Government Must ‘Change’, NBC News
President Joe Biden appeared Tuesday to offer his harshest criticism yet of the Israeli government since Hamas’ terrorist attack on Oct. 7, saying that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has a “tough decision to make.” Biden made the remarks at an off-camera campaign reception in Washington on Tuesday afternoon, suggesting that Netanyahu’s government is hindering a long-term solution. The president said that far-right members of the Israeli government, like National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, don’t want a two-state solution with the Palestinians and that changes must be made to the government.

Bloody Diarrhea, Jaundice, Hepatitis: Thousands Fall Ill in War-Ravaged Gaza Amid Spike in Infectious Diseases, CNN
The WHO chief said there were worrying signals of epidemic diseases “including bloody diarrhea and jaundice,” adding that there have also been reports of high levels of diarrheal diseases and respiratory infections. Other diseases reported in Gaza include measles, meningitis, chickenpox and acute viral hepatitis, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza. After Israel imposed a blockade on Gaza on October 9, the enclave quickly began running out of food and drinking water. Fuel supplies have dwindled, leaving the population with little to no electricity to power medical facilities, refrigerate food or even store bodies killed in the fighting.

After Releases, an Invisible Divide Separates Israel’s Hostage Families, The Washington Post
None of the families are whole. Former captives have emerged to learn of tragedies unknown — parents or children killed by Hamas, communities wiped off the map. Some have seen their health deteriorate since the helicopter ride from the Gaza border. But when the tenuous one-week pause in combat ended abruptly Dec. 1, it created an invisible divide in the coalition of hostage relatives: between the 110 reunited families, and the 136 that watched with dread as the war resumed with their loved ones still inside.

Netanyahu Vows to Block Palestinian Authority From Gaza Rule, The Hill
The Israeli prime minister has shot down ideas backed by the US to install the PA in Gaza once the war with Hamas is over, but his Tuesday comments are the most forceful to date. Netanyahu has also promised to exert security control over Gaza after the war, another point of contention with the US, which has warned against occupying the territory.

Bodies of 2 Hostages Recovered in Gaza, Israel Says, CBS News
In a statement, the Israel Defense Forces said the two have been identified as Eden Zakaria, 27, and Ziv Dado, 36. The IDF said Zakaria was at the music festival in southern Israel that came under attack on Oct. 7 when Hamas militants stormed the site. Dado, a soldier in the Israeli military, was a logistics supervisor in the Golani Brigade’s 51st Battalion and was taken hostage during the attacks, the statement said.

Under Rules of War, ‘Proportionality’ in Gaza Is Not About Evening the Score, The New York Times
Steven Erlanger writes, “It is a matter of determining whether, at the moment the decision to launch any attack is made, the expected military advantage outweighs the expected harm to civilians once feasible measures are taken to reduce it. But there is no universal consensus on how to make such a comparison. Nor are the facts always clear in the fog of war. There have been criticism and questions, for example, about Israeli attacks near or on hospitals and schools. Were the buildings really used for military purposes, and were proper warnings given before an attack? Has Israel done enough to protect civilians? A plethora of diplomats, United Nations officials and human rights groups have argued that the answer is ‘no.’”

What Is Happening in Gaza’s Khan Younis, as Israel’s Offensive Heads South, The Washington Post
The Washington Post reports, “Over the last week, Israel has called for the evacuation of parts of Khan Younis, sending displaced civilians on the move once again; but Palestinians say there is nowhere left to go. On Dec. 6, five UN schools where people were sheltering in the Khan Younis region were forced to evacuate after Israeli orders. And on Dec. 10 and 11, al-Amal Hospital in Khan Younis witnessed repeated bombardment in its vicinity. Strikes have hit areas of Khan Younis that civilians had imagined would be safe, including a strike on a school that killed and injured dozens of displaced people on Dec. 5.”


US Increasingly Alone in Israel Support as 153 Countries Vote for Ceasefire at UN, The Guardian
The United States was looking increasingly isolated on the world stage on Tuesday after a resounding vote at the UN general assembly calling for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza. Cheers and clapping echoed around the general assembly chamber in New York as the emergency vote was announced. A thumping 153 member states out of the 193 total membership backed the resolution, with only 10 including the US, Israel and Austria voting against, and 23 – including the UK and Germany – abstaining.

Amid Outcry Over Gaza Tactics, Videos of Soldiers Acting Maliciously Create New Headache for Israel, AP
Israeli soldiers rummaging through private homes in Gaza. Forces destroying plastic figurines in a toy store, or trying to burn food and water supplies in the back of an abandoned truck. Troops with their arms slung around each other, chanting racist slogans as they dance in a circle. Several viral videos and photos of Israeli soldiers behaving in a derogatory manner in Gaza have emerged in recent days.

At 1 Gaza Hospital, Doctors Are Fleeing, Supplies Are Low and There’s Not Enough Beds, NPR
At Nasser Medical Complex in central Khan Younis, what head ICU nurse Dr. Samer Mansour describes can hardly be called a functioning hospital — no syringes, no gauze, no medications. There is not enough water and electricity from generators is spotty, at best, he says. There are four patients for each of the hospital’s 300 beds, resulting in many patients being forced to lie in the corridors. Mansour estimates that 20,000 others are using the hospital grounds simply as shelter from the fighting.

Biden Points to Gaza Hostages When Asked About Israeli Tunnel Flooding Reports, Reuters
US President Joe Biden declined to directly answer a question on reports that Israel was pumping seawater into Hamas’ Gaza tunnel complex, referring only to assertions that there were no hostages in the areas targeted. Citing unnamed US officials, the Wall Street Journal reported that Israel had recently begun pumping seawater into Hamas’ vast labyrinth of tunnels underneath Gaza, in a process that would likely take weeks.

Israel “Likely” to Open Gaza-Israel Crossing to Allow More Aid Into Enclave, Axios
Under mounting US pressure, the Israeli government will “likely” soon reopen the Kerem Shalom border between Israel and southern Gaza to allow aid trucks to enter the enclave, senior Israeli officials told Axios on Tuesday. If Israel reopens the crossing, it will represent a significant shift in its policy, which has been to refuse to allow any aid to enter Gaza through its territory since the Oct. 7 attack.

Palestinians Blame US as Israel-Hamas War Takes a Soaring Toll on Civilians in the Gaza Strip, CBS News
Protesters marched Monday in the West Bank city of Ramallah carrying a 40-foot banner bearing the names of Palestinians killed in Gaza. “We are not numbers,” it read. That message, in English, was likely aimed at the only nation many people in the region deem capable of restraining Israel’s military. “We are against the position of the United States of America when they use the veto two times against Palestinian people,” one man at the rally told CBS News.

Australia, Canada, New Zealand Back ‘Sustainable Ceasefire’ in Gaza, Reuters
“We are alarmed at the diminishing safe space for civilians in Gaza. The price of defeating Hamas cannot be the continuous suffering of all Palestinian civilians,” the three prime ministers said in a joint statement. A ceasefire cannot be one-sided and Hamas must release all hostages and stop using Palestinian civilians as human shields, they added.

Biden to Meet in Person Wednesday With Families of Americans Taken Hostage by Hamas, AP
Biden on Wednesday will hold his first in-person meeting with the families of eight Americans still unaccounted for and presumed to be taken captive by Hamas. A senior administration official said family members of all eight would participate in the Biden meeting either in person or virtually. The president has previously met with some family members virtually and spoken to others on the phone. Biden was set to provide an update on American efforts to secure the release of those held by Hamas.

After Rare Critique, Biden Dispatches Top Adviser to Israel for Talks on Gaza War Timetable, Haaretz
Israeli officials are concerned that US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan will present Israel with an American deadline of just a few weeks to end the war, coming after the White House announced that one of the subjects of Sullivan’s talks would be a “timetable” for the war.

Opinion and Analysis

What Worries Me About the Gaza War After My Trip to Arab States, The New York Times
Thomas Friedman writes, “I was left with the very strong impression here that the Saudis want the Americans to shut down the Gaza war as soon as possible, because the death and destruction in Gaza is radicalizing their young population (who were by and large not focused on Israel-Palestine before), while frightening away foreign investors and generally getting in the way of what Saudi Arabia wants to focus on: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 plan for transforming the country, from education to infrastructure to women’s empowerment.”

President Biden, Jewish American Safety Is Your Responsibility, Not Israel’s, The Forward
Emily Tamkin shares, “Jewish safety in the United States is contingent on the United States remaining (some might say becoming) a pluralistic and tolerant society. No one person can guarantee that it remains that way. But I would hope Biden, as the literal president, would see this as a part of his job. As someone who was inspired to run for the nation’s highest office because of the frightening antisemitic and white supremacist riots in Charlottesville, he should know that a key part of his job is to ensure that our democratic structures are stronger when he leaves than they were when he arrived.”

Israeli Organizations to President Biden: Stop the Humanitarian Catastrophe, B’Tselem
B’Tselem and leading Israeli human rights organizations write, “You have the power to influence our government to change its policy and allow humanitarian aid into Gaza, in accordance with Israel’s legal obligations and the needs of the population. The UN agencies and humanitarian organizations on the ground in Gaza must be the ones to make decisions regarding distribution within Gaza and the necessary quantities – not Israel. There is no doubt regarding the urgency of opening Kerem Shalom Crossing for the passage of goods and ongoing, unlimited humanitarian aid. We are in the final throes of an emergency. Many deaths can still be prevented. Israel must change its policy now.”