News Roundup for December 4, 2023

December 4, 2023
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Top News and Analysis

Gaza Civilians Find No Good Options to Escape Widening Israeli Strikes, The Washington Post
Israel on Sunday launched strikes in northern and southern Gaza, hitting densely populated areas where it says Hamas militants are hiding, and squeezing civilians into smaller patches of territory as options dwindle for hundreds of thousands of Palestinians seeking refuge. Casualties appeared to be heaviest in the already hard-hit north, where fresh strikes on the Jabalya refugee camp came Sunday as residents were still reeling from a barrage the day before. Meanwhile, Israel signaled a widening of ground operations with new evacuation warnings in the southern hub of Khan Younis, where Palestinians already displaced from the north had been instructed to move.

Blinken Sees Goals Largely Unfulfilled in Mideast Trip, Even as Israel Pledges to Protect Civilians, AP
Blinken wrapped up his third Middle East tour since the Israel-Hamas war started in October with decidedly mixed results. He watched as the seven-day cease-fire agreement collapsed under new Hamas attacks and Israeli airstrikes. And, it remained uncertain if Israel would follow through on commitments to protect Palestinian civilians from military operations in the southern Gaza Strip, as he warned they should, or whether Hamas would engage in future hostage negotiations.

Israeli Medical Experts Declare Some Gaza Hostages Dead in Absentia, Reuters
Even as it tries to recover hostages through indirect talks with Hamas and army operations in the Gaza Strip, Israel has been declaring some of the missing as dead in captivity, a measure designed to grant anxious relatives some closure. A three-person medical committee has been poring over videos from the Oct. 7 rampage by Hamas-led Palestinian gunmen in southern Israel for signs of lethal injuries among those abducted, and cross-referencing with the testimony those hostages already freed.

Freed Palestinians Were Mostly Young and Not Convicted of Crimes, The New York Times
A New York Times analysis of data on the Palestinians released showed that a majority of them had not been convicted of a crime. There were 107 teenagers under 18, including three girls. Another 66 teenagers were 18 years old. The oldest person released was a 64-year-old woman. The Israeli data shows that three-quarters of the released Palestinians had not been convicted of a crime. Most had been in prison for less than a year; 37 were arrested during the Israeli military’s crackdown following the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attacks on Israel.

US Pressing Israel to Allow Same Levels of Aid Into Gaza as During Ceasefire, Axios
The Biden administration is pressing Israel to restore the amount of humanitarian aid allowed into Gaza to the levels seen before the collapse of the ceasefire. Aid groups warn the resumed fighting — especially in southern Gaza where 2 million Palestinians are concentrated — will significantly deepen the humanitarian crisis. As part of the ceasefire agreement, Israel allowed a significant increase in the number of trucks carrying humanitarian aid — about 200 per day — into Gaza. A very limited amount of aid was allowed into the enclave before the ceasefire.

Confirming Ground Push Into Southern Gaza, IDF Chief Vows ‘No Less Powerful’ Campaign, The Times of Israel
Israel’s military confirmed that it had expanded its ground offensive into southern Gaza Sunday, promising to carry out its campaign with the same intensity as it has used in northern Gaza, where fighting has continued. IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi said, “It will be no less powerful than [the operations in northern Gaza], the results will be no less [significant]. The Hamas commanders will meet the IDF everywhere.”

Who Will Run Gaza After the War? US Searches for Best of Bad Options, The Washington Post
The Washington Post reports, “The Israelis say they don’t want the job. Arab nations are resisting. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas might volunteer, but the Palestinian people probably don’t want him. As the Biden administration begins to plan for “the day after” in Gaza — confronting problematic questions such as who runs the territory once the shooting stops, how it gets rebuilt and, potentially, how it eventually becomes a part of an independent Palestinian state — the stakeholders face a host of unattractive options.”

The Next Big Mideast Showdown: Netanyahu vs. Biden, Haaretz
Alon Pinkas writes, “After 58 days of Israel’s war with Hamas, the United States is finally at the point where the contradictions of policies are surfacing and stated goals are becoming evidently incompatible. They are incompatible with the management of the war: the US’ primary objective is to prevent escalation, while Israel is flirting with escalation in the West Bank and Lebanon. They are incompatible in that destroying Hamas necessitates a major, second ground operation that will inevitably result in heavy civilian casualties. Most of all, they are incompatible in regard to the question of “what’s next” in Gaza.”


After Visiting Israel and Ramallah, the ICC Prosecutor Says He Will Intensify Investigations, AP
The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court rounded off a historic first visit to Israel and Ramallah by posting video and written messages on Sunday, saying that a probe by the court into possible crimes by Hamas militants and Israeli forces “is a priority for my office.” There have been widespread claims of breaches of international law by Hamas and Israeli forces since war erupted after the deadly Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas.

Israel’s Assault Forced a Nurse to Leave Babies Behind. They Were Found Decomposing, The Washington Post
The five premature babies were particularly vulnerable. They needed oxygen, and medication administered at regular intervals. There were no portable respirators or incubators to transport them. Without life support, the nurse feared, they wouldn’t survive an evacuation. Then the IDF delivered an ultimatum, al-Nasr director Bakr Qaoud told The Washington Post: Get out or be bombarded.

Harris Says US Strongly Opposes ‘Forced Relocation of Palestinians From Gaza’, The New York Times
Vice President Kamala Harris said on Saturday that the United States fiercely opposes forcibly relocating Gaza residents outside the enclave as Israel resumes its bombardment of Hamas terrorists, or in the days and weeks after the war eventually ends. She also rejected an idea suggested recently by some Israeli officials that the borders of Gaza could shrink after the war is over to accommodate a security “buffer zone” between the interior of Gaza and Israel. The statement said the United States would not permit “the redrawing of the borders of Gaza.”

Since Losing Their Loved Ones on Oct. 7, These Israelis Focus on Ousting Netanyahu, Haaretz
Eulogizing his son, Ya’akov Godo bitterly charged the government with propping up Hamas in Gaza. “The fingers that pulled the trigger and exterminated, the hands that held the knives that stabbed and beheaded, were the loyal and devoted emissaries of an accursed, messianic and corrupt government,” Tom’s father decried as he wore a T-shirt with the slogan “Looking the occupation in the eye,” hinting at the original sin that he may have believed led to the events of October 7.

An Israeli Raced to Confront Palestinian Attackers. He Was Then Killed by an Israeli Soldier, AP
Seconds after Palestinian gunmen began shooting up a Jerusalem bus stop last week, Yuval Castleman raced toward the scene and opened fire on the attackers — only to be shot and killed by an Israeli soldier who apparently suspected he was an assailant. The shooting of Castleman, who in security footage is seen kneeling, raising his hands and flinging open his shirt to indicate he isn’t a threat, underscores what critics say is an epidemic of excessive force by Israeli soldiers, police and armed citizens against suspected Palestinian attackers.

Freed Thai Hostage Returns to Home Village in an Emotional Reunion With His Family, NBC News
Anucha Angkaew, a 28-year-old migrant worker, was finally home. One of 17 Thai hostages who returned from Israel after being released by Hamas during the weeklong truce deal, he was greeted by dozens of relatives Thursday as he arrived back in the northeastern Udon Thani province. A total of 23 Thai hostages have been released, including six who were set to return to Thailand on Monday, while nine others remain in captivity, according to the Thai Foreign Ministry.

15 New York Synagogues Hit With False Bomb Threats on Friday, JTA
Bomb threats were made against 15 synagogues in New York State early Friday morning, according to a Jewish security agency in New York City. The threats were made as part of a campaign intended to interrupt synagogue operations by forcing law enforcement to go to a location, and there did not appear to be any actual danger to the targets, said CSI Director Mitch Silber.

Palestinian Student Shot in Vermont Is Paralyzed From Chest Down, His Family Says, NPR
Hisham Awartani, a Palestinian-Irish-American college student who was shot last month in an unprovoked attack in Burlington, Vt., is paralyzed from the chest down, his family says. Awartani, 20, was taking a walk on Nov. 25 with his childhood friends who are the same age and of Palestinian descent when a man approached them with a gun and shot all three.

Palestinian Man Killed in West Bank in Israeli Settler Raid, The Guardian
Israeli settlers attacked two Palestinian villages in the occupied West Bank late on Saturday, killing one man and torching a car, Palestinian authorities said. The Palestinian ambulance service said a 38-year-old man in the town of Qarawat Bani Hassan, in the northern West Bank, was shot in the chest and died as residents confronted settlers and Israeli soldiers.

Netanyahu Trial to Resume; Likud MK Calls It a ‘Disgrace’, Haaretz
The hearings at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trial will resume on Tuesday morning at the Jerusalem District Court, following a recess of about two and a half months due to the war. The last hearing in Case 4000, the Bezeq-Walla bribery case, was held on September 20. The court then adjourned for a holiday break, extended due the Hamas attack on October 7 and the subsequent war.

Opinion and Analysis

Over 60 Journalists Have Been Killed in the Israel-Gaza War. My Friend Was One, The New York Times
Lama Al-Arian shares, “To live through a nightmare and to witness others living through theirs are two very different things. There are limits to the human capacity to feel others’ pain. Issam was just one of over 60 journalists and media workers who have been killed, mostly from Israeli airstrikes, since the Israel-Gaza war began last month. The Committee to Protect Journalists says it has been the deadliest conflict for media workers since it started keeping records more than three decades ago.”

Grading Biden on the Israel-Hamas War, Foreign Policy
Steven Simon and Aaron David Miller write, “Still, having tethered US policy to Israel’s war aims—the eradication of Hamas—Biden now finds himself in a bind. The humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the exponential rise in the deaths and suffering of Gaza’s civilian population have undermined US credibility at home, in the Arab and Muslim world, and in the international community. Going forward, the success or failure of US policy may well rest on whether Biden can reshape Israel’s military campaign, alleviate the humanitarian situation, and engage Israel and other partners in coming up with a workable plan for post-war Gaza.”

Minimizing Deaths of Gazan Civilians Is in Israel’s Best Interest, Haaretz
The Haaretz Editorial Board notes, “The call to minimize civilian casualties and increase humanitarian aid, especially since Gazans who fled the north have nothing to return to, are especially important given that senior political and military officials are talking about a prolonged period of fighting ahead. Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Chief of Staff Herzl Halevi expect months of high-intensity conflict. Ignoring harm to civilians and the need to allow humanitarian aid will not only lose Israel international support; the US needs Israel’s cooperation so that it can continue to give its military operation full backing. Cooperation is in Israel’s interest.”