News Roundup for January 17, 2024

January 17, 2024
Receive the roundup in your inbox every morning!

J Street In the News

J Street Supports Accountability for Israeli Government Actions in International Forums and in the US Congress, Rejects “Genocide” Charge, J Street
“Oversight and accountability regarding US foreign assistance are critical Congressional tools, and J Street strongly supports other measures being proposed as part of a possible supplemental national security appropriation that would provide additional military assistance for Israel. […] We also clearly reject the claim that the Israeli government is intentionally seeking the destruction of another people. While a deliberately high bar was rightly set by the international community in defining genocide, there are obligations of combatants under international law that the Court has jurisdiction to review, and which the US, our partners and multilateral institutions must take concrete action to uphold.”

The Risk of Regional Escalation [Video], J Street
For months, J Street has warned that the Biden Administration must place significant focus on preventing the Israel-Hamas war from spiraling into a catastrophic regional war. Concerningly, the risk of escalation continues to rise. We were joined by Dr. Gil Murciano of Mitvim and Mona Yacoubian of the United States Institute of Peace for a conversation on relevant actors and their motivations with our own expert on the region, J Street Director of Policy Dr. Debra Shushan.

Top News and Analysis

Qatar Formally Announces Successful Mediation of Deal to Provide Medicine to Hostages, The Times of Israel
The medications will leave Doha Wednesday aboard two Qatari military aircrafts en route to the coastal city of el-Arish in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. It will then be transferred into the Gaza Strip, Qatar’s Foreign Ministry says in a statement, adding that France played in a role in the mediation of the deal. The Qatari statement adds that Doha’s mediation efforts between Israel and Hamas will continue “within the framework of Qatari efforts to bring about an end to the war in Gaza.”

Despair in Gaza as Fighting Intensifies Despite Israel Promise to Scale Back War, Reuters
Israel had said this week it was planning to begin drawing down troops, at least from the northern part of Gaza, after weeks of US pressure to scale down its operations and shift to what Washington says should be a more targeted campaign. But the fighting appears to be as intense as ever, especially in the southern and central areas where Israeli forces launched ground advances last month. The World Health Organization canceled a planned medical aid mission to Gaza due to security concerns, the sixth such cancellation in two weeks.

Kibbutz Be’eri Announces the Deaths of Israeli Hostages Itay Svirsky and Yossi Sharabi, Haaretz
Kibbutz Be’eri announced on Tuesday evening that Itay Svirsky and Yossi Sharabi, two Israelis who were kidnapped on October 7 and held by Hamas, were murdered in Gaza. The Kibbutz’s announcement follows a video that was published by Hamas on Sunday, showing both Svirsky and Sharabi, alongside another Israeli hostage, Noa Argamani. “We are investigating the incident and its circumstances and examining the photos that Hamas released along with additional information,” Hagari added.

Sullivan: US Post-war Strategy Links Saudi-Israel Peace Deal With Two-State Solution, Axios
The Biden administration is hoping to use a potential historic peace deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia as leverage for getting Israel on board with its plan for what happens in Gaza after the war. Under the US strategy, Netanyahu would ultimately have to decide what kind of political hit to take domestically in order to get a historic normalization deal. “The strategy post-October 7 is that we want to see normalization [between Israel and Saudi Arabia] tied to a political horizon for the Palestinians,” Sullivan said.

Aid Officials Believe There Are ‘Pockets of Famine’ in Gaza, The Guardian
The World Food Programme, UNICEF and the World Health Organization said in a joint statement that new entry routes must be opened to Gaza, more trucks must be allowed in each day, and aid workers and those seeking aid must be allowed to move around safely. The UN agencies did not directly blame Israel but said aid delivery was hindered by the opening of too few border crossings from Israel, a slow vetting process for trucks and goods going into Gaza, and continuing fighting.

Israel-Hamas Hostage Deal Takes Back Seat Due to Netanyahu’s Political Calculations, Haaretz
Amos Harel writes, “Netanyahu adamantly refuses to say the three words the US administration wants to hear: a “revitalized Palestinian Authority.” […] Naturally, Netanyahu refuses. He’s under pressure from his coalition members Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich and wants to unite his rightist base behind his claim that only he can prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state. He also apparently wants ongoing friction with the Biden administration, on the assumption that he will thereby be able to blame the Americans for the failure to achieve the war’s goals while waiting for Donald Trump to win November’s presidential election.”

White House Says ‘It’s the Right Time’ for Israel to Scale Back Gaza War as Fighting Hits 100 Days, AP
Speaking on CBS, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the US has been speaking to Israel “about a transition to low-intensity operations” in Gaza. “We believe it’s the right time for that transition. And we’re talking to them about doing that,” he said. The comments exposed the growing differences between the close allies on the 100th day of the war.


Israel’s Army Drafted and Armed Thousands of Settlers. Accounts of Their Violence Are Piling Up, Haaretz
About 7,000 people are serving in the battalions, according to a military source. They include members of the settlements’ local security squads drafted in an emergency call-up. Alongside this large-scale mobilization, the IDF has distributed some 7,000 weapons to the battalions as well as to settlers who were not recruited into the army but received them as civilians whom the army considers eligible to carry military arms. The military doesn’t deny that the settlers were mobilized in a sped-up process.

Israel Unearths More of a Subterranean Fortress Under Gaza, The New York Times
Israeli officials and soldiers who have since been in the tunnels – as well as current and former American officials with experience in the region – say the scope, depth and quality of the tunnels built by Hamas have astonished them. Even some of the machinery that Hamas used to build the tunnels, observed in captured videos, has surprised the Israeli military. The Israeli military now believes there are far more tunnels under Gaza.

Senate Votes Against Sanders Resolution to Force Human Rights Scrutiny Over Israel Aid, The Guardian
Although Sanders’ effort was easily defeated, it was a notable test that reflected growing unease among Democrats over US support for Israel. The measure would have required the US State Department to, within 30 days, produce a report on whether the Israeli war effort in Gaza is violating human rights and international accords. If the administration failed to do so, US military aid to Israel, long assured without question, could be quickly halted.

Israel Carries Out Intense Strikes on Hezbollah in South Lebanon, Reuters
Lebanese security sources told Reuters there were at least 16 airstrikes in quick succession on the Suluki Valley, describing them as the “densest bombardment of a single location” since border-area hostilities began three months ago. The Israeli military said it had carried out “aerial and artillery strikes” against Hezbollah emplacements and weapons infrastructure “within a short amount of time.”

50 Rockets Fired at South Israel, Largest Barrage in Weeks, The Times of Israel
In Netivot, a rocket caused damage to a storefront, while another rocket hit a warehouse in the adjacent community of Givolim. Emergency services said there were no reports of injuries, though video from the Netivot area showed a rocket narrowly missing a group of people working in an open area near the southern city. The barrage, which Hamas later claimed responsibility for, was launched from a location in central Gaza where IDF troops had withdrawn recently.

Israeli Teenager Recounts Her Time as a Hostage in Gaza, The New York Times
Hila was one of more than 30 children kidnapped by Hamas on Oct. 7, and held until late November, when they, along with dozens of adults, were released during a brief truce. Hila, now 13, is the youngest of the returned hostages to speak out about the harsh conditions in which they were held, seeking to highlight the plight of more than 100 hostages who remain in Gaza.

Palestinian Says Israeli Soldiers Used Him as Human Shield in West Bank, Reuters
Mobile phone footage showed Baha Abu Ras being marched up a street by a soldier who guided him from behind with one hand and kept a rifle resting on his shoulder with the other. Two Israeli soldiers advanced carefully behind them, their rifles raised. “He (the first soldier) told me that he will use me as a human shield, that young people shouldn’t hurl stones,” Abu Ras told Reuters. “‘You will walk in front of me.’ That’s what happened and he took me toward the centre of the town.”

Opinion and Analysis

The Greater Goal in Gaza, Foreign Affairs
Marwan Muasher argues, “To be truly durable, a solution for the future of Gaza must be framed within a larger endgame for all Palestinians under Israeli control. It must finally address the root cause of unending violence: the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem, Gaza, and the West Bank. Years of failed negotiations have also made clear what such a plan will require in order to succeed: unlike so many of its predecessors, it must be credible and time-bound, and the endgame itself must be well defined at the outset.”

Team Biden Needs a Reset on Israel, The New York Times
Daniel Levy shares, “The world, after all, is watching, and Washington should not underestimate the extent to which the extremely unpopular assault on Gaza is seen globally as not only Israel’s war, but America’s as well. The US government’s transfer of arms to Israel and the political-diplomatic cover it provides, including by deploying or threatening its veto at the United Nations Security Council, makes its ownership of this war highly conspicuous — and damaging.”

Attacks, Arrests, Threats, Censorship: The High Risks of Reporting the Israel-Gaza War, Committee to Protect Journalists
Mohamed Mandour writes, “Since the Israel-Gaza war began on October 7, journalists and media across the region have faced a hostile environment that has made reporting on the war exceptionally challenging. In addition to documenting the growing tally of journalists killed and injured, CPJ’s research has found multiple kinds of incidents of journalists being targeted while carrying out their work in Israel and the two Palestinian territories, Gaza and the West Bank. These include 25 arrests, as well as numerous assaults, threats, cyberattacks, and censorship. As of January 16, CPJ’s records showed that 19 of these journalists were still behind bars.”