News Roundup for January 8, 2024

January 8, 2024
Receive the roundup in your inbox every morning!

Top News and Analysis

UN Humanitarian Chief Says ‘Famine Around the Corner’ in ‘Uninhabitable’ Gaza, Haaretz
Martin Griffiths said that Gaza’s 2.3 million people face “daily threats to their very existence” while the world just watches. “People are facing the highest levels of food insecurity ever recorded [and] famine is around the corner,” Griffiths said. The few partially functioning hospitals are overwhelmed and critically short of supplies, medical facilities are under relentless attack, infectious diseases are spreading, and amidst the chaos some 180 Palestinian women are giving birth every day.

White House Unaware of Timeline for Israel’s Shift to Less-Intense Gaza Operations, Politico
Brett McGurk, the National Security Council’s top Middle East official, held a Zoom briefing with a handful of experts on Thursday, during which he discussed the Biden administration’s thinking on the roiling conflict. Three people familiar with the 45-minute conversation, granted anonymity to speak freely about the private chat, said McGurk was candid about what the US knows and doesn’t. “We don’t know when the downshift is going to happen.” McGurk said.

Qatar Tells Hostages’ Families That Getting Deal Harder After Hamas Leader’s Killing, Axios
The Qatari prime minister and other officials told the family members of six US and Israeli hostages in Doha that this week’s killing of senior Hamas official Saleh al-Arouri in Beirut has made efforts to secure a new deal much more difficult, according to a Qatari official and an Israeli source.

Three Months On, Israel Is Entering a New Phase of War. Is It Still Trying to ‘Destroy’ Hamas?, CNN
Rob Picheta writes, “The destruction of Hamas – the goal that Netanyahu touted on October 7 – was lofty, elusive and, according to many analysts, impossible. Hamas’ influence extends far beyond Gaza, meaning a total defeat of the group is at least highly ambitious for Israel, if it can be achieved at all. But it remains unclear whether IDF leadership places eliminating Hamas atop its priorities. IDF intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Aharon Haliva left out the destruction of Hamas when listing military goals in a speech on Thursday, Israeli media noted.”

Israeli Strike On Lebanon Kills Senior Commander in Elite Hezbollah Unit, Reuters
An Israeli strike on south Lebanon on Monday killed a senior commander in Hezbollah’s elite Radwan force, three security sources told Reuters. The security sources identified him as Wissam al-Tawil, the deputy head of a unit within the Radwan force. They said he and another Hezbollah fighter were killed when their car was hit in a strike on the Lebanese village of Majdal Selm.

Inside Israel’s Torture Camp for Gaza Detainees, +972
Yuval Abraham reports, “+972 Magazine and Local Call spoke with four Palestinian civilians who appeared in these photos, or were arrested near the scene and taken to Israeli military detention centers, where they were held for several days or even weeks before being released back to Gaza. Their testimonies — along with 49 video testimonies published by various Arabic media outlets of Palestinians arrested in similar circumstances in recent weeks in the northern districts of Zeitoun, Jabalia, and Shuja’iya — indicate systematic abuse and torture by Israeli soldiers against all of the detainees, civilians and combatants alike.”

Israel-Hamas War ‘Could Easily Metastasize’ Beyond Gaza, Blinken Warns, ABC News
The Israel-Hamas war currently concentrated in Gaza “could easily metastasize” beyond the Palestinian territory as “profound tension” in the region raises the prospect of a wider conflict, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday during an ongoing trip to the Middle East. Such fighting would “cause even more insecurity and suffering,” Blinken told reporters in Doha, Qatar, alongside Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani.


Gallant Warns: If Hezbollah Isn’t Deterred, Israel Can ‘Copy-Paste’ Gaza War to Beirut, The Times of Israel
Israel isn’t afraid to go to war with the Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group in Lebanon if push comes to shove, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told the Wall Street Journal in an interview on Sunday. Defending the need for Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza, Gallant explained that among other purposes, it will serve to warn Iran and its proxies away from launching similar attacks in the future.

7 Palestinians, an Israeli Policewoman and a Motorist Are Killed in West Bank Violence, AP
A man driving a car with Israeli license plates was fatally shot at a busy intersection in the West Bank on Sunday, hours after a violent confrontation elsewhere in the Israeli-occupied territory left seven Palestinians and a member of Israel’s paramilitary border police dead. The victim in the drive-by shooting was later identified as a Palestinian resident of Jerusalem. The assailants presumably mistook him for an Israeli because of the license plates.

Israeli Government Divisions Burst Into Open as Ministers ‘Fight’ Over Post-war Plans, CNN
Rifts in the Israeli government emerged publicly on Friday as members of the cabinet argued over plans for the post-war future of Gaza and how to handle investigations into the security failings around Hamas’ October 7 attacks. The public sniping followed what one source described as a “fight” at a meeting of the security cabinet on Thursday. Far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said there had been a “stormy discussion,” while former Defense Minister Benny Gantz said a “politically motivated attack” had been launched.

Sen. Chris Van Hollen Says Situation at Rafah Crossing Is a “24/7 Humanitarian Crisis” [Video], CBS News
Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, who recently took an official trip to the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza, tells “Face the Nation” that there needs to be a “24/7 operation” getting aid into Gaza because it’s a “24/7 humanitarian crisis.” Sen. Van Hollen said, “There are two big things that are happening [at the Rafah crossing]. One is the unnecessarily cumbersome process, going through the Israeli screening process, which I believe is the result of political decisions by the Netanyahu coalition.”

‘Bring Them Home’: Families of American Hostages in Gaza Release TV Ad, The New York Times
The 30-second spot, which is set to air on cable networks and during Sunday network news programs in the United States for the next several weeks, shows grainy images of the hostages being seized by Hamas militants, and black-and-white images of the captive Americans.

‘Extraordinary’: Biden Administration Staffers’ Growing Dissent Against Gaza Policy, The Guardian
Dissent inside the Biden administration over the president’s Gaza policy is growing, with a public resignation this week of a Department of Education official, and a letter signed by more than a dozen Biden campaign staffers calling for a ceasefire and the conditioning of aid to Israel. “It’s pretty extraordinary levels of dissent,” said Josh Paul, a career official working on arms sales at the state department who resigned in protest in October.

The Son of Veteran Correspondent Is the Fifth Member of His Family Killed by Israeli Strikes on Gaza, AP
An apparent Israeli airstrike killed two Palestinian journalists in southern Gaza on Sunday, including the son of veteran Al Jazeera correspondent Wael Dahdouh, who lost his wife, two other children and a grandson — and was nearly killed himself — earlier in the war. Dahdouh has continued to report on the fighting between Israel and Hamas even as it has taken a devastating toll on his own family.

Israel Opens Investigation After Palestinian Toddler Is Killed During Response to Car-Ramming Attack, JTA
Israeli police are investigating after officers mistakenly killed a 3-year-old Palestinian girl while responding to a car-ramming attack at a checkpoint near the West Bank settlement of Givat Zeev. The attack outside Jerusalem on Sunday injured a soldier in Israel’s Border Police, and comes amid a spike in violence in the West Bank that has accompanied the Israel-Hamas war.

Opinion and Analysis

What Will Happen to Gaza’s People?, The New York Times
Peter Beinart writes, “Some might dismiss this talk of population transfer as wartime bluster. But on the ground, it is already well underway: Gaza is becoming uninhabitable. According to the United Nations, an estimated 85 percent of Gaza’s people are now displaced. Even if they could return to their homes, many would have little to go back to since, according to an analysis by The Wall Street Journal, nearly 70 percent of Gaza’s housing is damaged or destroyed.”

Unmatched Surge in Settlement Activity in the West Bank Since the Onset of the Gaza War, Peace Now
In its latest report, Peace Now shares, “The three months of war in Gaza are being exploited by settlers to establish facts on the ground and effectively take control of extensive areas in Area C. Settlers decide where to build roads and outposts continuously, disregarding the legal status of the land. The permissive military and political environment allow the reckless construction and land seizure almost unchecked, with minimal adherence to the law. The result is not only physical harm to Palestinians and their lands but also a significant political shift in the West Bank. The unchecked rampage of the settlers must be stopped now.”

How Experts Believe Starvation Is Being Utilized in Gaza, Time
Mallory Moench reports, “The UN has said that one in four people are starving and nine out of ten families in some areas spend a day and night without food. A December report from the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification predicted that by February, all 2 million people in Gaza would face crisis levels of acute food insecurity, with at least one in four households facing famine-like conditions. After Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Oct. 9 ordered “a complete siege on the Gaza Strip,” saying “there will be no electricity, no food, no fuel, everything is closed.” Then-Energy Minister Israel Katz said on Oct. 16 he opposed the opening of the blockade, while National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir said on Oct. 17 that no aid should enter Gaza as long as Hamas held hostages.”