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A curated weekday guide to major news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news
Israel will gradually move to the next phase in the war, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said yesterday, following talks with U.S. officials on moving to lower intensity combat. Gallant said the local population will be able to return to the north of Gaza, although no timeline was provided. Gallant added, “Soon we will be able to distinguish between different areas of Gaza.” Phil Stewart reports for Reuters.
The U.N. Security Council is due to hold a second ceasefire vote today, following yesterday’s delay to allow redrafting the resolution’s language from calling for an “urgent and sustainable cessation of hostilities” to a “suspension of hostilities, in hopes of avoiding another veto by the US. Yolande Knell reports for BBC News.
Three Israeli hostages who were mistakenly killed by Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers on Friday used leftover food to write signs saying “SOS” and “Help, 3 hostages” on white cloth, Israel said. The head of the IDF told troops they are “absolutely not” permitted to shoot those surrendering as “The IDF doesn’t shoot a person who raises their hands.” Herzi Halevi added that Gazans with a white flag must be arrested, and not shot, “if they lay down their arms and raise their hands.” One of the IDF soldiers felt threatened by the men before declaring them “terrorists” and opening fire, as a nearby battalion commander heard a cry for help in Hebrew. BBC News reports.
Kamal Adwan hospital in northern Gaza is no longer functioning and patients including babies have been evacuated, a W.H.O. representative said yesterday. Israel claims the hospital is used by Hamas, and Gazan authorities reported last week that Israeli forces used a bulldozer to smash through the outside of the hospital. Reuters reports.
At least 13 Palestinians have been killed and 75 wounded in an Israeli strike on Jabalia refugee camp, the Hamas-run health ministry said. Jabalia refugee camp is the largest of eight camps in Gaza and houses approximately 116,000 registered refugees. BBC News reports.
ISRAEL-HAMAS WAR — REGIONAL RESPONSE
Gas stations in Iran have been targeted in a cyberattack causing nationwide disruption to fuel stations, Iran’s Oil Minister Javad Owji said yesterday. Iran alleges the hacking group — identified by Iranian State television as Gonjeshke Darande or “predatory sparrow” — has links to Israel. The cyberattack was “in response to the aggression of the Islamic Republic and its proxies in the region,” the group said in a statement on Telegram. Israeli government spokesperson Tal Heinrich said in response, “We have nothing to say about Iran’s claims.” Reuters reports.
Turkey has “carefully reviewed the financial activities and status of all relevant real and legal persons” of a U.S.-sanctioned company who is alleged to have provided aid to Hamas, and said there is no evidence of “abuse of our nation’s financial system.” Turkey shared their assessment with the US, including Treasury Undersecretary Brian Nelson, during his most recent visit to Turkey. Reuters reports.
ISRAEL-HAMAS WAR — INTERNATIONAL RESPONSE
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told reporters yesterday that Israel has the right to defend itself “but it must do that in accordance with humanitarian law.” “It’s clear that too many civilian lives have been lost. And that’s why we’ve been consistent…in calling for a sustainable ceasefire, whereby hostages are released, rockets stop being fired into Israel by Hamas and we continue to get more aid in.”
ISRAEL-HAMAS WAR — U.S. RESPONSE
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin visited Israel yesterday where he offered “thoughts about how to transition from high intensity operations to a lower intensity and more surgical operations.” Austin said the campaign shift “requires detailed planning” and told reporters that protecting civilians was a “moral duty and a strategic imperative.” “I’m not here to dictate timelines or terms,” Austin said. “Our support to Israel’s right to defend itself is ironclad.” The visit was Austin’s second to Tel Aviv since the war broke out. Miriam Berger and Louisa Loveluck report for the Washington Post.
National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby described the mistaken IDF killing of three Israeli hostages as “tragic” and said there is “no doubt” Israel “will do the forensics on this to learn what happened and how to avoid it happening again.” Kirby added that the rules of engagement are less important than “the way they’re enforced.” “That’s why doing the forensics on this is going to be so important for them to kind of figure out, is there a systemic issue … or was this an individual issue? Misunderstanding, miscalculation, fog of war? … I think we should be careful at this early stage, and certainly here from Washington, to point the fingers at the exact rules of engagement.” Justin Ryan Gomez reports for ABC News.
CIA Director Bill Burns met yesterday with the head of Mossad and the Qatari Prime Minister in Warsaw to discuss a potential new hostage release deal, according to two U.S. and Israeli officials. The meeting took place three days after Qatar and Mossad initially held bilateral talks to try to relaunch another deal. Barak Ravid reports for Axios.
Israel is closer today to war with Iran-backed Lebanese Hezbollah than yesterday, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesperson Jonathan Conricus said yesterday. “If we look at the amount of attacks and aggression that Hezbollah has mounted against Israel, more than a thousand different pieces of [ammunition] that have been fired at Israel, specifically by Hezbollah, then by any means, we could have been at war with Hezbollah long, long ago. And based solely on their actions, their violation of Israeli sovereignty and the casualties that they have caused … I think that we are — and without being cheeky — we are closer today to war than we were yesterday.” ABC News reports.
Israel told the Biden administration it wants Hezbollah to move approximately six miles from the border — far enough away that they will not be able to fire at Israeli towns along the border — in a diplomatic deal to end the rising tensions with Lebanon, according to Israeli and U.S. officials. President Biden’s senior adviser, Amos Hochstein, has been working on a diplomatic solution which would allow evacuated Israeli citizens who moved from the border in response to the rising tensions to return to their hometowns. U.S. officials have asked Israel to not exacerbate the situation while diplomacy talks are continuing. Barak Ravid reports for Axios.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced yesterday a new multinational maritime security initiative named Operation Prosperity Guardian, aimed at protecting ships in the Red Sea from Houthi attacks. “The recent escalation in reckless Houthi attacks originating from Yemen threatens the free flow of commerce, endangers innocent mariners, and violates international law,” Austin said in a statement. Austin is due to attend a press conference in Tel Aviv today where he will meet with his regional counterparts to discuss the Houthi threat. Barak Ravid reports for Axios.
Two commercial ships in the Red Sea were attacked with naval drones by the Houthis, with Houthi spokesperson Yahya Sarea identifying the vessels and saying the attacks were carried out after the naval crews failed to respond to his group’s warnings. A small fire was caused, according to the vessel’s operator, which denies ties to Israel, while both British and U.S. maritime officials verified the attacks. The rising attacks in the Red Sea have resulted in oil giant BP pausing all shipments of oil through the region due to the “deteriorating security situation” amid the rising escalation of tensions. Lora Jones reports for BBC News.
Jordan launched several aerial raids into Syria yesterday targeting Iranian-backed drug smugglers in reprisal against a drug smuggling operation, according to intelligence sources. It follows Jordan’s army saying yesterday that it foiled a plot created by pro-Iranian militias in Syria who crossed the Jordan-Syrian border with weaponry including explosives, anti-personnel mines, and rocket launchers. Iran said the allegations of perpetrating drug trade operations is a Western plot, while Syrian President Bashar al-Assad denied any involvement in drug-smuggling. Reuters reports.
Foreign governments including China, Russia, Iran, and Cuba, all tried to influence U.S. politics in the 2022 election, according to a new report released yesterday by the National Intelligence Council, as a “diverse and growing group of foreign actors” participated in the efforts. The report stated there was no known order to “undertake a comprehensive whole-of-government influence campaign,” like the one Russia executed in 2016. The report accuses Russia of seeking to “denigrate the Democratic Party before the midterm elections,” while China “frequently targeted messaging to highlight US divisions on social issues, such as abortion and gun control.” Katie Bo Lillis reports for CNN. Meanwhile intelligence officials are working on investigating whether Beijing is preparing similar plans to intensify activities in the run up to next year’s presidential election.
Serbian President Aleksandr Vucic claimed victory with a 47% vote share in a snap parliamentary election. Opposition parties called for a protest yesterday, claiming electrical fraud favoring the government. If the results are confirmed, it will mean Vucic’s Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) has won more than half of the 250 seats in the National Assembly. Paul Kirby and Guy Delauney report for BBC News.
The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) won its first mayoral election in Saxony, just days after the party was officially labeled “extremist” by the country’s intelligence services for anti-migrant rhetoric and attempts to undermine democracy. All other parties have said they refuse to form coalitions with the AfD. Germany holds regional elections in three eastern states, including Saxony, next September. Damien McGuiness reports for BBC News.
Ukrainian top general Oleksandr Tarnavaskyi said Ukraine is downsizing some military operations due to ammunition shortages along the “entire front line” and a lack of foreign aid. He said that his troops are having to change tactics in the way they continue offensive actions due to a lack of resources. Abdujalil Abdurasulov and Daniel Thomas report for BBC News.
The White House is planning one more package of military aid for Ukraine before the end of the year. Kirby told reporters there will be an announcement of further aid before the end of December, although details of the aid sum or equipment has not been provided yet. Brett Samuels reports for The Hill.
President Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, will be arraigned on nine federal tax charges on January 11, 2024, the Central District of California court website states. Lucien Bruggerman reports for ABC News.
The pro-Trump group, Women for America First, that organized the “Save America” rally on the Ellipse, lied to federal officials about former President Trump’s plans to have his supporters march on the Capitol on Jan. 6, according to a report by the Interior Department’s inspector general. The report alleges the group told officials there were no plans for a Capitol march, while secretly planning for one, as they “intentionally failed to disclose information.” A representative of Women for America First has not responded to comment at the time of writing. Luke Broadwater reports for the New York Times.
A new law was passed yesterday by Republican Governor Greg Abbott which makes entering Texas illegally a state crime. The measure, SB 4, grants local law enforcement arrest powers for migrants, as well as providing judicial powers to issue deportation orders to Mexico. The law is expected to take effect from March and comes amid ongoing tensions in the House of border policy and foreign aid funding. Rosa Flores and Sara Wesifeldt report for CNN.
Two former Georgia election workers filed a new defamation lawsuit against former Trump lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, over comments he made about them alleging that the workers committed election fraud. Giuliani made the comments after Friday’s verdict and said, “he was in possession of video evidence demonstrating the truth of his allegations.” The lawsuit accuses Giuliani of intentional infliction of emotional distress and defamation, two of the same claims he was successfully sued for by the plaintiffs previously. Ryan J. Reilly and Dareh Gregorian report for NBC News.
A forty-three-year old Florida man has pleaded guilty in connection with threatening to kill an unnamed Supreme Court justice via telephone, the Justice Department said in a news release yesterday. Neal Brij Sidhwaney faces up to five years in federal prison on one count of transmitting an interstate threat. Zoë Richards reports for NBC News.
New York Judge Engoron — who is presiding over former President Trump’s civil fraud trial — questioned yesterday the credibility of NYU Accounting Professor Eli Bartov, Trump’s defense witness, and suggested his testimony was influenced by his almost $900,000 fee. “Bartov is a tenured professor, but all that his testimony proves is that for a million or so dollars, some experts will say whatever you want them to say,” Engoron wrote in the three-page ruling. Kevin Breugninger reports for CNBC.
Trump’s attorneys asked yesterday for the Georgia 2020 election criminal racketeering case to be dismissed ahead of trial on First Amendment grounds, arguing the allegations involved “core political speech.” The First Amendment argument is one of many expected pretrial defenses Trump will seek to rely on. Zach Schonfeld reports for The Hill.