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A curated weekday guide to major news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news
The Israel-Hamas temporary pause in fighting was extended yesterday by two days, as the initial four-day pause concluded successfully following last night’s captive release. Hamas said it agreed with Egypt and Qatar to extend the pause “under the same conditions reached before,” while Mark Regev, the senior adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said “for every 10 hostages released, we’re willing to give an extension of another day, and if Hamas will release Israeli hostages as agreed, we will extend — that’s the bottom line. My understanding is that there’s still enough women and children in Gaza held by Hamas for the next 20 (releases).” Mostafa Salem and David Shortell report for CNN.
A senior Hamas source in Qatar said that not all civilian hostages are being held by Hamas, with some being held captive by smaller groups such as Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas has managed to locate 20 people held by other groups, with half of them expected to be released today and the other half tomorrow. Hamas said it needed more time to collect information and contact people. Rushdi Abu Alouf reports for BBC News.
Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said it has received the list of hostages due to be released today, and that their families are being notified. BBC News reports.
All 11 Israeli hostages released yesterday arrived at the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, Israel’s largest acute care facility, the Israeli Ministry of Health has confirmed. There are two women and nine children in the group, with the Ministry adding that “the entire health system is prepared to receive anyone who will return to Israel And is preparing for tomorrow.” Tamar Michaelis reports for CNN.
The 33 Palestinian prisoners released last night were taken to an Israeli checkpoint near Ramallah and greeted by cheering crowds. So far, 150 Palestinians – mostly women and teenage boys – have been released from Israeli jails since Friday. Those released were chosen from a list of 300 Palestinians who are accused of offenses ranging from throwing stones to attempted murder. Less than one quarter of those on the list have been convicted, with the majority being held on remand pending trial. BBC News reports.
Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Israel will fight with stronger force when the ground operation resumes after the fighting pause. “They will first meet the bombs of the Air Force, and after that the shells of the tanks and the artillery and the paws of the D9 (bulldozers), and finally the shooting of the infantry fighters, we will fight in the entire strip,” he said, prior to the the announcement of the two-day pause extension. Tamar Michaelis, Sugam Pokharel, Abeer Salman, and Eyad Kourdi report for CNN.
A British-Palestinian surgeon who treated patients at Gaza hospitals estimates that between 700 to 900 children have had limbs amputated since the war broke out. Dr Ghassan Abu-Sittah, who has worked at Al-Shifa since 2009, added that he had “never seen any indication that there was something other than your typical, barely functioning, third-world, government hospital,” referencing Israel’s claims that Hamas is housing a command center underneath Al-Shifa. The surgeon has now returned to London and spoke of carrying out surgeries without basic medical supplies or anesthetics.. Simon Cullen reports for CNN.
The humanitarian situation in Gaza remains “catastrophic and requires the urgent entry of additional aid and supplies in a smooth, predictable, and continuous manner to alleviate the unbearable suffering of Palestinians in Gaza,” the U.N. Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process said in a statement today. Calls for a “full humanitarian ceasefire” were reiterated “for the benefit of the people of Gaza, Israel, and the wider region.”
ISRAEL-HAMAS WAR – INTERNATIONAL RESPONSE
Arab states and the European Union agreed at a meeting in Spain yesterday that a two-state solution was the best answer to the ongoing conflict between Hamas and Israel. E.U. Foreign Affairs Chief Josep Borrell added that the Palestinian Authority should rule Gaza, saying “it is the only viable solution, but it will be viable if the international community backs it. Otherwise, we will see a power vacuum that will be fertile ground for all sorts of violent organizations.” Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said the Palestinian Authority, who lost control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, has “been there all the time, we have 60,000 public workers there.” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock noted Israel’s absence from the meeting, which highlighted “deep rifts” among nations. John Faus reports for Reuters.
Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister Parnpree Bahidda-Nukara is expected to land in Israel today to bring home the 17 Thai hostages freed since the hostage exchange started on Friday. Parnpree, who is also Thailand’s foreign minister, is also expected to visit three Thai nationals who were hospitalized following injuries they suffered during the Oct. 7 attacks. Fifteen Thai nationals are still being held by Hamas, according to Thai officials. BBC News reports.
ISRAEL-HAMAS WAR — US RESPONSE
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and the West Bank this week, the U.S. State Department said yesterday. “In Israel and the West Bank, Secretary Blinken will discuss Israel’s right to defend itself consistent with international humanitarian law, as well as continued efforts to secure the release of remaining hostages, protect civilian life during Israel’s operations in Gaza, and accelerate humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza,’ the department said. He is also expected to discuss the need for an independent Palestinian state in what will be Blinken’s third to the region since the Oct. 7 attacks. Humeyra Pamuk reports for Reuters.
A group of Senate Democrats met with senior IDF officials yesterday in the Capitol for “extremely frank” discussions. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) told reporters they wanted to be “assured they [the IDF] are abiding by American values as they try to dismantle Hamas, and we all conveyed that collectively and clearly…I do believe they heard us.” The meeting was not classified but details of the discussion remain private. “There were tough questions and very strong answers…our Israeli friends did some substantial good in explaining the challenges of conducting this war against Hamas…and there was no question about the solidarity and support of Israel,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn), while Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) highlighted his view that there should be conditions on aid provided to Israel. Frank Thorp V and Megan Lebowitz report for NBC News.
The Biden administration told Israel it must work to avoid “significant further displacement” of civilians in Gaza if it renews its military campaign after the fighting pause, a senior anonymous U.S. official said. The administration highlighted to Israel it must have greater precision in southern Gaza than it did in the north, as internal divisions in the White House over the civilian casualties and mass displacement continues. Aamer Madhani and Zeke Miller report for AP News.
The White House does not believe Hamas intentionally held back two American hostages who were due to be released yesterday, a senior official has said. It is hoped the two Americans will be released in the coming days, with the official adding that “we’ll see where we are two days from now,” referencing Hamas’ agreement to release additional hostages in that time. MJ Lee and Sam Fossum report for CNN.
The first U.S. humanitarian aid flight for Gaza is scheduled to arrive in Egypt today, according to the Biden administration. Once the plane has landed, the cargo will be transferred to the United Nation, which will then transport the aid to Gaza. A senior U.S. official said it is the first of three planned U.S. flights, and that “this will be to bring a series of items, medical items, food aid, winter items, given that winter is coming in Gaza.” Ghael Fobes and Megan Lebowitz report for NBC News.
Egyptian-American businessman Wael Hana, who assisted in the shipping of U.S. shipping aid for the Egyptian military in 2015, has been revealed to have more extensive ties to the Egyptian government than it first appeared, amid accusations of bribing Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ). In September, U.S. authorities charged Hana bribing Menendez and his wife in exchange for actions which assisted Egypt, including the provision of military aid. U.S. authorities are now investigating Hana as part of a counterintelligence probe, according to anonymous sources. Hana has pleaded not guilty and denied all accusations thus far. Menendez and his wife have also pleaded not guilty to bribery and foreign agent charges. Shawn Boburg, Claire Parker, Terrence McCoy, and Marina Dias report for the Washington Post.
The U.A.E is hoping to strike oil and gas deals with 15 nations in its role as host of the upcoming COP28 summit, according to leaked briefing documents. The documents include proposals for “talking points,” and one for China says the U.A.E’s oil company Adnoc is “willing to jointly evaluate international LNG [liquefied natural gas opportunities]” in Canada, Australia, and Mozambique. Another document also suggests telling a Colombian minister that Adnoc “stands ready” to support Columbia in developing its fossil fuel resources. Any attempt at securing business deals during the COP process is reported to be a significant breach of the standards of conduct expected of a COP president, with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change stating the “cardinal principle” for COP president is “the obligation of impartiality.” Justin Rowlatt reports for BBC News.
North Korea warned yesterday it would continue launching satellites and said its launch of a reconnaissance satellite last week was because of the need to monitor the US and its allies, state-run media KCNA has reported. “It is a legal and just way to exercise its right to defend itself and thoroughly respond to and precisely monitor the serious military action by the U.S. and its followers,” KCNA said. The announcement comes amid rising tensions with South Korea, as around 160 guard posts have been set up along the Demilitarized Zone border by North Korea, whose military has been observed bringing heavy weapons into the area. South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol was briefed on Pyongyang’s activities and has ordered his military to be prepared, his office said. Hyunsu Yim reports for Reuters.
North Korea is “intent on continuing to pursue its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes in violation of relevant Security Council resolutions,” a Senior U.N. official said yesterday, as Pyongang accused the US of being “belligerent” and “threatening with a nuclear weapon.” The meeting saw Western powers, Japan, and South Korea condemn North Korea’s launch of last week’s satellite, which just yesterday took “in detail” images of the White House and the Pentagon, according to KCNA news. The US ambassador rejected Pyongang’s claims that it was acting in self-defense, and said that the joint US-South Korean operations were “routine.” The Chinese envoy also accused the US of “further aggravating tension and confrontation” via its military relations with South Korea. France24 reports.
Sierra Leone’s President Julius Maada Bio said most of the leaders involved in the attack on a military barracks in the country’s capital on Sunday have been arrested, adding that an investigation is continuing and security operations are in place. The government said forces repelled “renegade soldiers,” although the incident led to a nationwide curfew and gunfire across the city, with attackers targeting a police station, detention centers, and a prison – which saw inmates released by the assailants. The country’s civil aviation authority urged airlines to reschedule flights following the curfew, while a local journalist was told by a masked man “we’ll clean this society…we are not after any ordinary civilians who should go about their normal business.” The country’s former President said that a military guard assigned to his property was shot point blank, and another was “whisked away to an unknown location.” Bio urged people to “not succumb to fear or division,” while The Economic Community of West African States condemned what it labeled an attempt to “acquire arms and disturb constitutional order” in Sierra Leone. Umaru Fofana reports for Reuters.
Russia’s Presidential hopeful Yekaterina Duntsova said Moscow should end the conflict in Ukraine, release political prisoners, and reform the division between Russia and the West. Dunstova, who denies links to “the Kremlin, oligarchs [and] big business” hopes to run in the March 2024 election, and said that, “sooner or later every armed conflict ends … the people are very tired of what’s going on. But that weariness is not voiced.” Independent polls currently show Putin as having an approval rating above 80%, with Putin supporters saying he has restored order and provided standing to Russia which was lost during the Soviet collapse. Guy Gaulconbridge reports for Reuters.
Russia has begun a criminal investigation into prominent Russian-American journalist and author Masha Gessen, accusing them of disseminating “knowingly false information” about the Russian military’s actions in the Ukrainian city of Bucha. The decree initiating the case against Gessen states “according to the information from the Russian General Staff, the information about the mass murder of civilians by the service-members, accompanied by cases of looting, kidnappings and torture in March of 2022 in the town of Bucha during the special military operation is not true.” The move comes amid Russia’s increased clampdown on journalists critical of its invasion, with Russian opposition politician Ilya Yashin having been sentenced to eight and a half years in prison for remarking about the mass killings in Bucha in an April 2022 interview. Mary Ilyushina reports for the Washington Post.
A man charged yesterday with three counts of attempted second-degree murder in the shootings of three college students of Palestinian descent in Vermont has pleaded not guilty. Fourty-eight year old Burlington resident Jason Eaton made a televised appearance at Chittenden County Superior Court entering a plea, and is being held without bail ahead of a hearing. Investigators say they are exploring the motive for the attack against the victims, two of whom are U.S. citizens, and the third of whom is a legal U.S. resident, although there is currently insufficient evidence of a hate crime, according to authorities. All are expected to make a full recovery while one victim remains in intensive care. Attorney General Merrick Garland said yesterday there has been “a sharp increase in the volume and frequency of threats against Jewish, Muslim, and Arab communities” across the country since the Oct. 7 attacks. Maham Javaid and Michelle Boorstein report for the Washington Post.
Former Vice President Mike Pence offered details to the special counsel team of how then-President Donald Trump surrounded himself with “crank” attorneys,” shared “un-American” theories, and nearly pushed the country into a “constitutional crisis,” sources familiar with Pence’s account to investigators have said. According to the sources, one of Pence’s notes obtained by Special Counsel Jack Smith’s team shows that days before Pence was set to preside over Congress certifying the election results on Jan. 6, 2021, he momentarily decided that he would skip the proceedings altogether, writing in the note that there were “too many questions” and it would otherwise be “too hurtful to my friend.” But he ultimately concluded he had a duty to show up. Pence told investigators that he “clearly and repeatedly” emphasized to Trump that rejecting electoral votes for Biden would violate the Constitution. Pence could take the stand against Trump should the interference case proceed to trial, as investigators are reportedly keen for Pence to swear under oath the post-election stories he included in his book published last year. Katherine Faulders, Mike Levine, and Alexander Mallin report for ABC News.