Bring Them Home: The Struggle to Protect & Free Hostages in Gaza [Video], J Street
The families and loved ones of the Israelis and foreign nationals taken hostage by Hamas terrorists have endured unrelenting fear and pain in the weeks since October 7. The anguish brought on by this horrific mass kidnapping is shared across Israel, across the J Street community and throughout the diaspora community around the world. Yesterday, we were grateful to be joined by Rachel Goldberg, the mother of 23-year-old hostage Hersh Goldberg-Polin, and Dr. Gershon Baskin, a former Israeli hostage negotiator and Israeli-Palestinian peace activist.
Israel Agrees to 4-Hour Daily Pauses in Gaza Fighting to Allow Civilians to Flee, White House Says, AP
Israel has agreed to put in place four-hour daily humanitarian pauses in its assault on Hamas in northern Gaza, the White House said Thursday, as President Joe Biden pressed Israelis for a multi-day stoppage in the fighting in a bid to release hostages held by the militant group. Biden had asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to institute the daily pauses during a Monday call and said he had also asked the Israelis for a pause of at least three days to allow for negotiations over the release of some hostages held by Hamas.
Palestinian Authority Open to Gaza Role if US Backs 2-State Solution, The New York Times
The Palestinian Authority has told the Biden administration that it is open to a governance role in post-Hamas Gaza if the United States commits to a full-fledged two-state solution to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to a top official of its parent, the Palestine Liberation Organization. The official, Hussein al-Sheikh, the PLO’s secretary general, said he had told Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken last week that the Palestinian Authority sought “a commitment from the US administration, with a comprehensive political decision that would include the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and East Jerusalem.”
Blinken Denounces Civilian Toll in Gaza, Says ‘Far Too Many Palestinians Have Been Killed’, CNN
Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday gave one of his most direct condemnations of the civilian death toll in Gaza and said more needs to be done to “minimize harm to Palestinian civilians.” Although Blinken commended Israel for its announcement of daily military pauses in areas of Northern Gaza and two evacuation corridors, he said that “there is more that can and should be done to minimize harm to Palestinian civilians.” The top US diplomat has subtly shifted his messaging in the days since he departed the Middle East earlier this week to more directly voice condemnation of the civilian toll in Gaza and the US’ expectations for the Israeli government.
Growing Numbers of Israeli Soldiers Are Documenting and Publishing Their Own Abuse of Palestinians, Haaretz
Since the outbreak of the Gaza war, more and more soldiers have filmed themselves beating and humiliating Palestinian detainees and then posted the videos on their social media accounts. The phenomenon existed before the war but has grown since the Hamas massacre of Israelis on October 7. Haaretz has collected 15 such videos uploaded over the past month. The IDF confirmed that at least five of them were filmed since the start of the current conflict. The others, a spokesman said, were still being investigated. The Palestinians appearing in the videos are typically handcuffed and blindfolded; in some cases, they appear undressed or partially dressed. In some of the videos, soldiers are seen beating and cursing the detainees; in others, they force them to say things or act in a humiliating fashion.
Biden’s Secrecy on Arms Transfers to Israel Unnerves Some Democrats, The Washington Post
President Biden faces growing pressure from allies in Congress to publicly disclose the scope of US arms being funneled to Israel, as the enormous civilian death toll in Gaza draws international condemnation and increasingly unsettles Democrats. Contrary to its military aid program for Ukraine, which saw the Pentagon release recurring fact sheets about the volume of US arms transfers, the administration has not made public the quantities of weapons it is sending to Israel. The administration is also pushing for the authority to bypass notification requirements to Congress that apply to every other country receiving military financing.
In the West Bank, Israeli Settlers Are on an Anti-Palestinian Rampage, Vox
Zack Beauchamp writes, “Radical Israeli settlers, who intentionally build communities in the West Bank, routinely harass and assault their Palestinian neighbors. The settlers attack their herds, burn their property, beat them, and even kill them. This violence, paired with many more subtle techniques to pressure Palestinians to give up their land, has reached unprecedented levels in the month since the terrorist group Hamas’s massacre in southern Israel on October 7. At least 15 Palestinian communities have been fully displaced. Many of these forcible transfers have happened to Palestinian communities in the South Hebron Hills area of the West Bank.”
There’s Only One Viable Postwar Strategy for Gaza, but Netanyahu Has Other Plans, Haaretz
Eival Gilady writes, “Against this backdrop, the United States is making it clear that Israel will not be able to continue to conduct the war as it has unless Israel permits humanitarian pauses to allow food and medicines into Gaza, reduces the harm to civilians and draws up an acceptable plan for the moment when the cannons will cease to roar. The steadfast position taken by the United States on the side of Israel, from sending troops to giving billions in aid, is not guaranteed for all time. Netanyahu would do well to lead his government quickly to an agreement about the morning after.”
How US Pressure Led Israel to Set Pauses in Gaza Fighting, Axios
Barak Ravid writes, “The decision is a shift in policy for Israel, which for weeks had largely resisted the Biden administration’s push for pauses in Israeli forces’ assault on Gaza for humanitarian reasons. Israeli officials initially saw the pauses as a pathway to a ceasefire that the Israeli public doesn’t want. When US National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby announced the Israeli decision earlier Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office issued a statement playing down the move, portraying it as something that wasn’t new. That seems to have been spin — a reflection of the political sensitivities Netanyahu is facing within his coalition and the Israeli public’s strong opposition to stop the fighting as long as Hamas and its allies are holding Israeli hostages.”
Israeli Forces Have Limited Time in Gaza, US Officials Say, The New York Times
The Israeli military has limited time to carry out its operations in Gaza before anger among Arabs in the region and frustration in the United States and other countries over the spiraling civilian death toll constrain Israel’s goal of eradicating Hamas, US officials said this week. As senior Biden administration officials push Israel to do more to minimize civilian casualties, Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Wednesday that he was worried each civilian killed in Gaza could generate future members of Hamas.
News Outlets Deny Advance Knowledge of Hamas Attack on Israel, The Hill
Several of the world’s leading news organizations are denying having prior knowledge of the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel, following explosive allegations from a pro-Israel media watchdog this week. The HonestReporting group published an article Wednesday suggesting several freelance journalists working for The New York Times, The Associated Press, CNN and Reuters either had advanced knowledge of the planned Hamas attack or did not do enough to warn their media companies or government officials about an imminent threat to Israel.
Islamic Jihad Group in Gaza Shows New Hostage Video, Reuters
The armed wing of the Palestinian group Islamic Jihad in Gaza released a video on Thursday showing an elderly woman and a young boy who were among around 240 hostages seized by militant gunmen who attacked Israel on Oct. 7. It said it was prepared to release the two for humanitarian and medical reasons once appropriate conditions were met. It did not give further details. Israel made no immediate comment.
‘We Can’t Even Cross’: The West Bank Town Split in Two by Israel, The Guardian
The denial of Road 60 to Huwara’s Palestinian residents is being enforced despite the fact that a new bypass for the use of the settlers is now passable by car: but many choose to drive through the centre of Huwara, to emphasise their hold on the land. In Huwara, home to about 7,000 people, residents can cross Road 60 only with negotiated permission, if at all. Side roads are blocked. What was once a walk of a few minutes now requires hours of travelling.
State Department Rushes to Respond to Internal Outcry Over Israel-Hamas War, CBS News
Senior State Department officials have held listening sessions for diplomats serving in six US embassies in the Middle East and North Africa amid a persistent internal outcry over the Biden administration’s approach to the war in Gaza, officials told CBS News, as the department rushes to address criticism from its workforce in both Washington and abroad. The sessions come amid a swell of protest from diplomats, civil servants and other department employees as the conflict enters its second month and civilian casualties in Gaza resulting from Israel’s retaliatory military operations mount.
Palestinian Authority Says 14 Killed in Jenin Clashes With IDF, The Times of Israel
Fourteen Palestinians were killed and more than 20 were wounded during renewed clashes with Israel Defense Forces troops inside the West Bank’s Jenin refugee camp, the Palestinian Authority health ministry reported on Thursday. The IDF said it carried out a drone strike against a group of armed Palestinians in the area who were shooting at Israeli forces during the clashes in the late morning.
After a Month of Bombardments, as Much as a Third of Gaza City Is Damaged, NPR
A month into the war between Israel and Hamas, images of widespread destruction, craters and collapsed buildings have become commonplace. Despite the photos and footage, a comprehensive survey of damaged properties on the ground is impossible at the moment, due to the ongoing conflict. But new analysis of imagery from the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-1 satellite allows for what researchers say is likely to be the most comprehensive look yet at the scale of damage in the Gaza Strip.
30 Years After Illegal Takeover, High Court Orders Settlers Out of Palestinian Land, Haaretz
Israel’s High Court ordered settlers on Wednesday to clear out of about 1,000 dunams (1 square kilometer) of private Palestinian land in the Jordan Valley, decades after it was illegally handed over to Israeli settlers. The court accepted the petition filed five years ago by 20 Palestinian landowners but gave the settlers seven years to complete the evacuation. The settlers have been growing dates on the land for the past 30 years, having received them from the state illegally. As things stand, the army forbids the Palestinian landowners from entering the plot, but allows the settlers to enter and work the plantation.
Inside the Israeli Crackdown on Speech, The New Yorker
Masha Gessen shares, “Frey is one of at least three prominent left-wing Israelis who have been doxed in the past few weeks. Yuli Novak, the executive director of B’Tselem, a leading human-rights organization, felt she had to temporarily leave Israel with her wife and newborn baby after her phone number was published on social media. Another target of doxing was Gur Litman (not his real name), a filmmaker and activist, who, over the years, wrote many Facebook posts critical of Israel’s armed forces, which he believes are guilty of war crimes. He has also stated that, contrary to the oft-repeated claim that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, the country was never a democracy, largely because its national project has always excluded nearly half of the people on the land it controls.”
Here’s the Horror Hamas Left in Its Wake at One Kibbutz, The New Republic
Gershom Gorenberg writes, “Outside the door, on the wooden deck, lie two knives, a cleaver, and a hammer, in another long splotch of blood that sprayed outward as it fell. The murderers used household utensils of the people who lived here or perhaps taken from an earlier house on their rampage. I step back inside and turn to the reinforced room, built for shelter from the frequent rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip three miles to the west. The lock of the heavy metal door shows bullet marks. The attackers shot their way in. Inside is a narrow child’s mattress, soaked through with blood. I will need to make sense of this. Not now—later, when horror begins to leave room for thought and memory and understanding.”
Do Palestinian Lives Matter to the World?, CNN
Hani Almadhoun, director of Philanthropy at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, shares, “The crippling 16-year blockade imposed by Israel already meant an unbelievable 75% of Gaza’s population needed UNRWA food assistance to eat before the latest hostilities. Our year-end plans at UNRWA USA to secure sponsors for university scholarships for academically gifted refugee students in Gaza have been upended because of recent events. Institutions of higher learning, including Al-Azhar University, where I spent a semester, now lie in ruins. Gaza’s academics and students have dramatically shifted their focus from contemplating their future careers to basic survival.”
Tearing Down Posters of Israeli Hostages Isn’t Resistance — It Just Shows You Can’t Handle Complex Grief, The Forward
Nora Berman notes, “Both the Talmud and the Quran teach that anyone who destroys one soul carries the blame for having destroyed an entire world. The many thousands of worlds, Palestinian and Israeli, that have been lost in this interminable month break my heart constantly. This shared teaching does not end with worlds destroyed, however, but continues with its inverse: Those who save one soul are saving an entire world. Our suffering and our joy are inextricably intertwined. Only when we begin to understand this will there be any hope for the future of the Holy Land.”