News Roundup for December 19, 2023

December 19, 2023
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Top News and Analysis

More Than 100 Members of This Gaza Clan Have Been Killed in War, The New York Times
People whispered that Nasser al-Astal had come undone, dazed by grief. Weeks after the Israeli airstrike that he said had crashed into his family’s home, his words came in loud, quivering spurts, darting frantically from memory to memory, from loss to loss — his wife, two of their sons and four of their daughters, all dead. A daughter-in-law and a son-in-law, dead. His older brother and his family, dead. His first grandchild, dead, he said, his second never born: His elder son’s wife had been pregnant. “When I look at photos of my family on my phone, I cry to myself at night.”

Father of 26-Year-Old Hostage Killed by Israeli Forces Rebukes Netanyahu, NBC News
“I’m going to say this [to] the government. You murdered my son twice,” Avi Shamriz told NBC News’ Hallie Jackson on Monday. “You let Hamas take my son on Oct. 7, and you killed my son on Dec. 14.” Israeli military forces accidentally shot and killed Shamriz’s 26-year-old son, Alon, during intense fighting with Hamas militants on Friday, nearly 70 days after he was kidnapped.

US Defense Chief Urges Israel to Do More to Protect Gaza Civilians, Reuters
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Monday Washington’s support for Israel was “unshakable” but he urged its ally to do more to protect civilians as its war against Hamas brought yet more death and destruction to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. His visit came amid growing concern from foreign governments and international organisations over the death toll among civilians in Gaza from Israeli bombardments as well as rising hunger and destitution.

In Israel’s Killing of 3 Hostages, Some See the Same Excessive Force Directed at Palestinians, AP
For some, the incident was a shocking example of the ugliness of war, where a complex and dangerous battlefield is safe for no one. But for critics, the incident underscores what they say is the excessively violent conduct of Israel’s security apparatus against Palestinians. Except in this case, it cut short the lives of three Israelis trying desperately to save themselves. “It’s heartbreaking but it’s not surprising,” said Roy Yellin, director of public outreach with Israeli human rights group B’Tselem. “We have documented over the years countless incidents of people who clearly surrendered and who were still shot.”

In Gaza War, Israel’s Radical Settlers See an Opportunity to Expand, The Washington Post
As Israel reels from the Hamas attack Oct. 7, the deadliest single day since the modern state was founded, the country’s extremist settler fringe sees new opportunities to expel Palestinians and expand the Jewish footprint in the occupied territories, further threatening the viability of a two-state solution. Yehuda Shimon, a 48-year-old lawyer, looks out from a hilltop at the surrounding Palestinian villages. The closest lies less than half a mile away. “We must make a war with the Arabs,” he said. “Here and Gaza, it’s the same Arabs. If they don’t leave, we must fight with them, and the strongest win.”

Inside US-Palestinian Talks About Post-war Gaza, Axios
The Biden administration is proposing the Palestinian Authority re-activate members of its security forces in Gaza to prepare a local security and police force for the enclave after the conflict, US officials say. The move is part of the administration’s stated goal to “revitalize” the unpopular and weak Palestinian Authority so it could once again play a role in governing the Gaza Strip in the coming months.

Israel Cornering Itself Into Postwar Gaza Military Occupation, Western Diplomats Warn, The Times of Israel
Israel is setting the conditions for the IDF to reoccupy Gaza after the war, three senior Western diplomats told The Times of Israel over the past week. The diplomats — two of whom are ambassadors — acknowledged Israel’s stated desire to avoid such a scenario. However, they explained that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rejection of the Palestinian Authority returning to govern Gaza, his failure to advance viable alternatives, and Jerusalem’s assertion that Israel will maintain overall security control of the Strip are dissuading regional and global actors from cooperating with US efforts to rehabilitate the enclave after the war.


House Democrats Send Letter to Biden Criticizing Netanyahu’s Military Strategy, CBS News
“We are deeply concerned by PM Netanyahu’s current military strategy in Gaza. The mounting civilian death toll and humanitarian crisis are unacceptable and not in line with American interests; nor do they advance the cause of security for our ally Israel,” the letter says. “We also believe it jeopardizes efforts to destroy the terrorist organization Hamas and secure the release of all hostages.” The letter is signed by six lawmakers, including Reps. Abigail Spanberger, a former CIA case officer, Jason Crow, a former Army Ranger who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Mikie Sherrill, who served as a Navy helicopter pilot.

Israeli Supreme Court Justices to Visit Prisons Following Deaths of 6 Palestinian Inmates, Haaretz
Testimonies of violence and neglect and a general worsening of Palestinian prisoners’ living conditions in Israeli jails have accumulated in recent weeks, leading to the decision to resume judicial visits. Some of the changes, however, are as result of an official policy instituted following the start of the war, which the Supreme Court signed off on.

Surgeon Describes Experience Treating Patients During Israeli Bombardment of Gaza [Video], PBS
The health system in Gaza has collapsed with 75 percent of the hospitals there not operational. Those that are open lack crucial medical supplies and are overcrowded and understaffed. Amna Nawaz spoke with Dr. Ghassan Abu-Sittah, a British Palestinian surgeon who spent a month-and-a-half in Gaza, tending to people at the peak of the Israeli bombing campaign.

As Israel Fights Hamas, Activists on the Right Are Calling to Rebuild Settlements in Gaza, JTA
Jewish resettlement inside Gaza has no international support and is understood by even some right-wing lawmakers to be inadvisable. But settler activists Yossi Dagan and Daniella Weiss are leading a coalition of right-wing groups using the current war as a springboard to intensify a push for a return to Gush Katif. Their coalition recently held a conference that drew some 200 people and at least one lawmaker. The group has already drawn up a list of families who have committed to relocating to a future resettlement project in Gaza.

US-Led Coalition of 10 Nations to Counter Houthi Attacks on Vessels in Red Sea, The Times of Israel
“Countries that seek to uphold the foundational principle of freedom of navigation must come together to tackle the challenge posed by this non-state actor,” US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement late-light Monday. Iran-backed Houthi rebels have escalated attacks on tankers, cargo ships and other vessels in the Red Sea, imperiling a transit route that carries up to 12 percent of global trade

Far-right Israeli Minister Barred From Dishing Out Expedited Gun Permits in the Knesset, Haaretz
Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana has ordered the closing of a National Security Ministry operations room in the Knesset that expedites the issuing of firearms permits, Yesh Atid’s Miki Levy, the chairman of the State Control Committee, told a hearing of the committee on Monday. A separate operations room in the office of National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir continues expediting the issuing of such permits.

Opinion and Analysis

Unprecedented Advancement of Settlements in East Jerusalem Amidst the War in Gaza, Peace Now
Peace Now reports, “The recent surge in development in East Jerusalem over the past two months is unparalleled. The government appears to be hastily working to obstruct any potential political resolution involving East Jerusalem. The construction in the Old City basin and the new settlements is aimed at complicating the prospect of a political settlement with the Palestinians. It’s noteworthy that these actions are deliberately unfolding at a time when global attention is primarily focused on the war in Gaza.”

Netanyahu Is Picking a Fight With Israel’s Best Friend: Joe Biden, The Washington Post
Max Boot writes, “Netanyahu is ignoring Biden’s wise words of counsel because his coalition allies are anxious to annex the West Bank and opposed to the creation of a Palestinian state. Bibi plainly hopes to stay in office by promising to block a two-state solution, no matter how much damage that does to Israel’s long-term security interests or its alliance with the United States. […] Netanyahu may soon learn the cost of alienating Israel’s best friend in the world. If Bibi wants time for the Israel Defense Forces to continue destroying Hamas — a process that is likely to take months — he needs to keep US support.”

Now Is the Time for Sketching Out a New Political Horizon, The Jerusalem Post
Avi Gil shares, “Israel has a huge interest in not waiting for “the day after” and should declare its commitment to a two-state solution right now. But it lacks leaders who will openly admit this truth and work tirelessly to convince the Israeli public of its necessity. Unfortunately, we have just one desperate hope left: a new government that, despite its fear of taking the initiative on its own, will be smart enough to yield to external pressures that insist on a path toward political settlement.”