Top News & Analysis on Israel/Palestine: January 12-19, 2024


1. Gaza
2. West Bank & East Jerusalem
3. Region/Global
4. US Scene
5. Israeli Scene

1. Gaza

‘Tents everywhere’ as Rafah struggles to hold a million Palestinians (Mohammad Zaanoun//+972) — “Around half of the Gaza Strip’s population — an estimated 1 million people — is now crammed into the small southern city of Rafah, near the border with Egypt. Before the war, the city and its surroundings housed less than 300,000 people, but hundreds of thousands more have arrived over the past three months from all over Gaza as a result of Israel’s expulsion orders and unceasing bombardment by ground and air.  Like the rest of Gaza, Rafah does not have enough food, water, medicine, or shelter to accommodate its permanent residents, let alone the vast number of people now seeking refuge in the city. Many families are sleeping in tents, if they can find one; if they can’t, they sleep on the streets. Very few are permitted to cross the border into Egypt. Nearly everyone is extremely hungry and cold. I am currently staying in Rafah with my wife and four children for the second time since the war began. We left our home in the northwest of Gaza City on October 7; since then, we have repeatedly been forced to relocate as a result of Israeli airstrikes and expulsion orders, and I have twice pulled my children out from under the rubble.” See also See the Rapid Expansion of Tent Camps in Southern Gaza (NYT)

Fears grow for largest remaining hospital in Gaza as Israeli forces bombard Khan Younis (The Guardian) — “Israeli forces have advanced further into southern Gaza, with airstrikes and close-combat fighting nearing areas crowded with more than a million people who have sought refuge from fighting and destruction across the rest of the territory. The prospect of major operations taking place in terrain with such a dense and vulnerable population is “deeply concerning”, say aid officials, who fear Gaza’s largest remaining hospital may have to be closed or evacuated.” See also War on Gaza: Palestinians seeking refuge at Khan Younis hospital say there’s nowhere to go (Middle East Eye); 

Netanyahu tells US he opposes creation of Palestinian state after Gaza war (Peter Beaumont//The Guardian) — “Israel’s prime minister has told the Biden White House that he rejects any moves to establish a Palestinian state when Israel ends its offensive against Gaza, and that all territory west of the Jordan River would be under Israeli security control. Benjamin Netanyahu has sought to obstruct the establishment of a Palestinian state throughout his political career, despite occasional lukewarm endorsements of the idea. His public statement on Thursday, however, represented his sharpest rebuttal of US foreign policy at a time when the Biden administration has expended huge domestic political capital to support Israel militarily and in international forums. The White House responded by saying the US would continue working towards a two-state solution and that there could be no Israeli reoccupation of Gaza when the war concluded.” See also: Sullivan: U.S. post-war strategy links Saudi-Israel peace deal with two-state solution (Axios); Netanyahu says Israel will be from the river to the sea, publicly rejects US push for two-state solution (New Arab) 

Israel’s right to tyranny (Amjad Iraqi//+972) — “Indeed, from its oral arguments in The Hague to its actions on the ground, Israel has made it abundantly clear that it is not asking the court to respect its right to self-defense. What it really wants is for the world to indulge Israel’s right to tyranny: to violently redesign its geopolitical environment, to secure its military and demographic dominance, and to do whatever it wishes to the Palestinians without criticism or consequence.” See also: Palestinian Women and Children Don’t Deserve to Die in Gaza. Neither Do Men. (Sa’ed Atshan/TruthOut); Israeli soldiers are filming themselves mocking Palestinians (Al Jazeera)

In Gaza, Israel has turned water into a weapon of mass destruction (Nancy Murray & Amahl Bishara//+972) — “By denying Palestinians safe water since the war began, Israel has created an unparalleled health crisis and risks causing irreversible ecological damage.”

Medicine for hostages, aid for civilians enter Gaza in Qatar-France deal (WaPo) — “Qatar’s air force on Wednesday began moving lifesaving medicine toward Israeli hostages in Gaza, a mission made possible by a rare diplomatic breakthrough, mediated by Qatar and France, in Israel’s war on Hamas.” See also Medicine for hostages, Gazans enters Strip after inspection in Israel (Times of Israel)

As famine looms in Gaza, aid delivery remains difficult and dangerous (Washington Post) — “Famine is looming in Gaza, the United Nations warns. The World Food Program estimates that 93 percent of the population faces crisis levels of hunger. Disease is spreading rapidly. The World Health Organization predicts that the death toll from sickness and starvation in coming months could eclipse the number of people killed in the war so far — more than 24,000, according to the latest count from the Gaza Health Ministry, with the majority women and children. Aid agencies say the chief factors hampering the delivery of lifesaving assistance to Gazans fall almost entirely under Israel’s control — the Israeli inspection process for aid remains lengthy and inefficient; there aren’t enough trucks or fuel inside Gaza to distribute the aid; mechanisms to protect humanitarian workers are unreliable; and commercial goods have only just begun to trickle in. Large swaths of Gaza remain off-limits to aid workers. Frequent telecommunications blackouts complicate their work. And the war still rages.” See also How Israel’s Inspection Process Is Obstructing Aid Delivery (New Yorker interview with Senator Chris Van Hollen); Why Gaza keeps losing communications (WaPo); Palestinian Ambassador to U.K.: Gaza Is ‘Being Starved’ (NYT)

Video shows aftermath of a summary execution of 15 men in a Gaza apartment (Al Jazeera) — “A Palestinian family in Gaza says they witnessed the summary execution of 15 men when Israeli soldiers raided their apartment last month.” See also: The impossible choice for my family in Gaza: stay and be killed together, or move and risk dying apart (Ghada Ageel//The Guardian); 

Think of It as a Genocide of Journalists” (Lylla Younes//The Nation) — “Since the Israeli military began its assault on Gaza last October, at least 75 Palestinian journalists have been killed, according to the CPJ. But that figure is likely an undercount; other organizations closer to the ground with less lag time between data updates put the number at over 100…CPJ has called Israel’s war the deadliest in modern history for reporters.” See also Israel added to list of ‘worst jailers of journalists’ for first time (The Guardian)

Israel obliterates Gaza’s last university amid calls for an academic boycott (New Arab) — “The Gaza Strip’s last standing university was obliterated by the Israeli army on Wednesday as soldiers detonated hundreds of landmines strapped to the building…Gaza was home to seven universities, all of which have either been destroyed or severely damaged.” See also Destruction of the Palestinian cultural heritage of Gaza – in pictures (The Guardian)

50 rockets fired at south Israel, largest barrage in weeks; 2 more soldiers killed (Times of Israel) — “The barrage, which Hamas later claimed responsibility for, was launched from a location in central Gaza where IDF troops had withdrawn recently.” See also Hamas Begins Rehabilitating Militant Units in Northern Gaza the Israeli Army Declared Dismantled (Haaretz); Israel Unearths More of a Subterranean Fortress Under Gaza (NYT)

Gaza war offers the ultimate marketing tool for Israeli arms companies (Sophia Goodfriend//+972) — “As investors worldwide drop cash on Israeli start-ups for ‘battle-tested’ weapons, defense tech CEOs are poised to be the war’s only victors.”

A former Israeli hostage fears for the women she left behind in Gaza (WaPo) — “In her first interview with international media, Agam described the terror and confusion she endured over nearly two months as a hostage inside Gaza, held with her mother, Chen, and two brothers, Tal and Gal. Speaking from Shfayim, a kibbutz in central Israel that has transformed into a way station for hundreds of her displaced neighbors, she recounted the extreme exhaustion, the oppressive stench of the tunnels, the relentless psychological torture.”

2. West Bank & East Jerusalem

Palestinians struggle to rebuild their lives after West Bank settler pogroms (Yuval Abraham//+972) — “Under the cover of war, a total of 16 Palestinian villages in the West Bank — collectively home to over 1,000 people — have been entirely depopulated as a result of a surge in settler violence and pogroms against Palestinian herding communities. Separated from their communities and forced to live in tents on land belonging to other Palestinians, the displaced families are all demanding the same thing: to be able to return home.”

Israel’s Army Drafted and Armed Thousands of Settlers. Accounts of Their Violence Are Piling Up (Hagar Shezaf//Haaretz) — “About 5,500 residents of the settlements have been drafted into the ranks of “regional defense” battalions [“Hagmar” battalions in Hebrew] to serve in their settlements and near neighboring Palestinian villages. They are now serving as part of the IDF in the West Bank…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...Since these settlers started doing reserve duty in the West Bank, video and firsthand accounts have accumulated of their active involvement in violence, threats, and destruction of Palestinian property.”

New wave of violence sweeps West Bank as Israel launches series of raids (The Guardian) — “Israeli forces remained in Tulkarem, in the north of the West Bank, on Thursday afternoon, more than 36 hours after launching a raid on a refugee camp there. There is a very strong siege on Tulkarem. It is a very terrible situation. We have never seen anything like this,” said Dr Radwan Bleible, at the al-Zakat hospital in the town. Bleible said at least seven people had been killed by Israeli forces, and a dozen injured, raising the overall death toll in the West Bank since Wednesday to at least 12. Wednesday was of the highest single daily total for many months.” See alsoIsrael kills 9 Palestinians in West Bank air strikes -medics (Reuters); Palestinian says Israeli soldiers used him as human shield in West Bank (Reuters)

3. Region/Global

Regional War: An Explainer (Alex Kane & Jonathan Shamir//Jewish Currents) — “In the weeks since October 7th, Israel’s war has quickly spread to additional fronts. The Lebanese group Hezbollah and Israel have been attacking each other along the Israel–Lebanon border (also called the “blue line”), and the smaller strikes have now escalated to include high-profile Israeli assassinations of Hamas and Hezbollah military leaders. Today, Israel’s military chief Herzi Halevi said that the Israeli army is ramping up its preparations for an increasingly likely full-scale war with Hezbollah. At the same time, the US has exchanged strikes with Iraqi and Syrian forces, and now the US has bombed Yemen…Jewish Currents put together this explainer to break down why Israel’s war on Gaza sparked fighting in the Middle East, including details about Hezbollah, Israel’s escalations in Lebanon, the Houthi movement, Iran’s strategy, and more.” See alsoUS designates Yemen’s Houthis as ‘global terrorists’ (Al Jazeera); Mexico, Chile refer Israel and Hamas to ICC over possible war crimes (Times of Israel); US carries out fifth strike against Houthis as Biden admits bombing isn’t stopping attacks (The Guardian)

Saudi Arabia: Peace with Israel conditioned on Gaza ceasefire, path to Palestinian state (Axios) — “The Saudi ambassador to the U.S. said at the World Economic Forum on Thursday that any potential normalization agreement with Israel would be conditioned on a ceasefire in Gaza and the creation of an “irrevocable” pathway towards a Palestinian state…Princess Reema bint Bandar Al Saud echoed what the Biden administration has recently said publicly and privately to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.”

Israel carries out intense strikes on Hezbollah in south Lebanon (Reuters) — “Israel unleashed an intense barrage of air strikes on a valley in south Lebanon, Lebanese security sources and the Israeli military said, after a rare Israeli acknowledgment of a special forces operation on the border. 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.”

4. US Scene

‘Different rules’: special policies keep US supplying weapons to Israel despite alleged abuses (The Guardian) — “Top US officials quietly reviewed more than a dozen incidents of alleged gross violations of human rights by Israeli security forces since 2020, but have gone to great lengths to preserve continued access to US weapons for the units responsible for the alleged violations, contributing – former US officials say – to the sense of impunity with which Israel has approached its war in Gaza…An investigation by the Guardian, which was based on a review of internal state department documents and interviews with people familiar with sensitive internal deliberations, reveals how special mechanisms have been used over the last few years to shield Israel from US human rights laws, even as other allies’ military units who receive US support – including, sources say, Ukraine – have privately been sanctioned and faced consequences for committing human rights violations.” See alsoSenate votes against Sanders resolution to condition Israel aid on human rights (The Guardian); Van Hollen emerging as leader of progressive Senate bloc critical of Israeli policy (Jewish Insider) 

Why the United States Can’t Ignore the ICJ Case Against Israel (Zaha Hassan//Carnegie) — “Of course, the Biden administration knows what is taking place inside Gaza…But knowing the facts on the ground is not the same as assessing them. And an assessment is needed in order to get to a legal conclusion that would require the United States to act to put in place a ceasefire…The United States may want to maintain its certainty that Israel is not committing any grave human rights violations in Gaza by avoiding an assessment, but the ICJ case—which is supported by at least fifty countries, the Arab League, and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation—may force its hand, even if a decision on the case’s merits takes years. South Africa’s request for provisional relief, which includes a call for an immediate ceasefire and entry of humanitarian aid, may be only days away. The burden of proof required for provisional relief —“plausibility” that a violation of the Genocide Convention has occurred—is less than what is required for a final ruling…Time is running out for Palestinians in Gaza. But it is also running out for the Biden administration. South Africa is reportedly preparing to file a complaint against the United States for complicity in the commission of genocide. Attempts to quietly coax and cajole Israel into opening up one more crossing for humanitarian aid or to allow one more truckload of supplies in from Egypt will not make for a convincing argument at the ICJ. The United States must make an assessment about Israel’s actions in Gaza and act accordingly.”

Palestinian American college student paralyzed in Vermont shooting speaks out for the first time (NBC) — “College students Hisham Awartani, Kinnan Abdalhamid and Tahseen Ahmed were shot in Burlington, Vermont, in November. Sharing his story for the first time, Awartani told NBC News’ Tom Llamas he remembers walking down the street when a man came down from his porch and pulled out a pistol. Awartani is now paralyzed. He says he’s grateful for the medical care he’s received in the U.S. but worries about people in Gaza unable to get the same care.”

Team Biden Needs a Reset on Israel (Daniel Levy//NYT) — “Team Biden should make a course correction — starting with exercising the very real diplomatic and military leverage at its disposal to move Israel in the direction of U.S. interests, rather than vice versa. The first and most critical shift required is for the administration to embrace the need for a full cease-fire now. That demand cannot be one of rhetoric alone. The administration should condition the transfer of further military supplies on Israel ending the war and stopping the collective punishment of the Palestinian civilian population, and should create oversight mechanisms for the use of American weaponry that is already at Israel’s disposal. Ending Israel’s Gaza operation is also the surest way to avoid a regional war and the key to concluding negotiations for the release of hostages…Finally, the United States should desist from making endless ritual incantations about a future two-state outcome, which are all too easily brushed off by Mr. Netanyahu. It should take at face value his government’s categorical rejection of Palestinian statehood…Washington should instead challenge Israel to set out a proposal for how all those living under its control will be guaranteed equality, enfranchisement and other civil rights.”

March for Gaza rally draws thousands to D.C. on Saturday (WaPo) – “The rally was part of a global day of protests that saw similar pro-Palestinian marches in cities including London, Rome, Paris, Dublin, Johannesburg and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia…The rally, organized by the American Muslim Task Force for Palestine and other groups, is the second large protest in support of Gaza in Washington since the Israel-Gaza war began on Oct. 7…” See also US federal workers risk livelihoods in push for course change on Gaza war (Al Jazeera)

5. Israeli Scene

The Price of Netanyahu’s Ambition (David Remnick//New Yorker) — “Amid war with Hamas, a hostage crisis, the devastation of Gaza, and Israel’s splintering identity, the Prime Minister seems unable to distinguish between his own interests and his country’s.” See alsoNew Polling Shows How Much Global Support Israel Has Lost (Time); Netanyahu said ‘frittering away’ hostage deal by unilaterally toughening demands (Times of Israel); 

In challenge to PM, Eisenkot says talk of ‘absolute defeat’ of Hamas is a tall tale (Times of Israel) — “War cabinet minister says new elections needed to restore public trust; warns Entebbe-like op to save hostages in Gaza ‘will not happen,’ only way in near term is through deal.”

Yad Vashem Chairman Responds to Letter by 50 Holocaust Researchers: Most Israelis Oppose Calls for Genocide (Haaretz) — “In their letter, the academics asked Dayan ‘to make an unequivocal moral statement as soon as possible,’ condemning “the public discourse that calls for the destruction and the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Gaza.” The letter was signed by researchers from Israel and abroad – most of them Israeli – who research the Holocaust and genocide…’We know from Jewish and human history, and especially the study of the Holocaust and its remembrance, that incitement to extermination and the commission of serious crimes, and the use of language that dehumanizes and incriminates all those belonging to one’s opponents in the conflict, are in many cases the first step in the commission of crimes that may even amount to genocide,’ the academics wrote.”

Every Jew a .22 and MZ-4: The Path from Kahane to Ben-Gvir (Natasha Roth-Rowland//In These Times) — “So a critical question in understanding current Israeli politics is this: How did a political party directly linked to that terrorist movement end up with an unprecedented level of power and influence in the Israeli government? And how did Ben-Gvir end up playing kingmaker in the wake of Israel’s most recent national elections and subsequently get appointed to oversee the country’s police?”