Day Eighteen Of Swords Of Iron

Hamas terrorists held by Israel admit they were ordered to kill Israeli civilians.

Israeli troops on manoeuvres IDF photo

7:45 pm

Israeli ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan called on UN secretary-general António Guterres to resign after his remarks today saying the “appalling attacks” by Hamas inside Israel on Oct. 7 cannot justify the “collective punishment of the Palestinian people”. Guterres had called for a ceasefire and said Hamas's attack on Israel did not happen “in a vacuum” and followed “56 years of suffocating occupation” by Israel. Erdan then demanded Guterres's immediate resignation. Erdan said on social media that Guterres is “completely disconnected from the reality in our region" and that he views the massacre committed by Nazi Hamas terrorists in a "distorted and immoral manner”.

The US and Russia have advanced distinct plans at the UN to help Palestinian civilians caught in the Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza, after previous draft resolutions failed. Both want to see deliveries of food, water, and medicines  delivered to Gaza, while Russia is calling for a ceasefire. The US opposes a ceasefire and is only calling for pauses in fighting to allow the aid in. According to Reuters, "A pause is generally considered less formal and shorter than a ceasefire. While the differences may seem semantic, the US proposal for pauses has grown out of an initial draft given to the 15-member council on Saturday that was staunchly pro-Israel, Washington’s longtime ally."

Russia announced today that it will not support the US plan but suggested a text calling for a ceasefire, an idea backed by Arab states. A council resolution needs at least nine votes and no vetoes by the United States, France, Britain, Russia or China to be adopted. It was not immediately clear if or when the US and Russian draft resolutions could be put to a vote, according to The Guardian.

Child casualties in Gaza are a “growing stain on our collective conscience”, the UN’s children’s organization has said, calling for an immediate ceasefire and for all crossings into Gaza to be opened to allow aid in. In a statement, UNICEF claimed 2,360 children have been killed in Gaza and a reported 5,364 injured due to “unrelenting attacks” since the conflict started on Oct. 7. However, according to The Guardian, it is difficult to verify death tolls from Gaza. UNICEF noted that 30+ Israeli children have died, while dozens remain hostages in Gaza. 

Adele Khodr, UNICEF’s regional director for the Middle East and North Africa said: "The killing and maiming of children, abduction of children, attacks on hospitals and schools, and the denial of humanitarian access constitute grave violations of children’s rights. UNICEF urgently appeals on all parties to agree to a ceasefire, allow humanitarian access and release all hostages. Even wars have rules. Civilians must be protected – children particularly – and all efforts must be made to spare them in all circumstances." She continued: “The situation in the Gaza Strip is a growing stain on our collective conscience. The rate of death and injuries of children simply staggering.”

Secretary of State Blinken said today that international humanitarian aid should continue to flow to Gaza, saying civilians "must be protected." Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said he believes a double-standard is being applied to Israel during Israel's war "against Palestinians."

2:00 pm

The Biden administration is preparing for the possibility that hundreds of thousands of American citizens will require evacuation from the Middle East if the bloodshed in Gaza cannot be contained, according to four officials familiar with the U.S. government’s contingency planning.

1:05 pm

The Israeli Air Force focused its strikes on Hamas targets in the heart of Gaza City and northern Gaza areas such as Zaytun, Shati, Israeli military said. “That’s where Hamas is preparing and strengthening its forces. We are continuing to strike there intensively,” said IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari. He repeated the IAF’s call for Gazans to head south.

1:00 pm
According to a Harvard/Harris survey of American opinion:

32% believe the atrocities Israeli victims suffered on Oct 7th are false. 
51% believe Hamas’s murders, rapes, tortures and kidnappings are justified by the grievances of Palestinians.
53% believe Israel rules Gaza
39% do not believe Israel has the responsibility to bring back its abducted citizens
48% side with Hamas
29% believe America should back Hamas
52% do not believe Israel is justified in eliminating the Hamas ‘government’
45% still believe an Israeli airstrike, not an errant terrorist rocket, was behind the explosion at the Gaza Hospital
42% believe Hamas is trying to make peace with Israel
26% believe that the long term solution to the Israeli Palestinian conflict is that Israel needs to be ended, given to Hamas and Palestinians 
52% do not think antisemitism is growing in the United States

12:29 pm
Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen denounced UN chief Antonio Guterres over the latter's criticism of Israel’s Gaza campaign. Cohen remined the UN chief of Hamas crimes, recounting graphic details of the terrorists' rapes, murders, beheadings, and abductions. “Mr. Secretary General, in what world do you live?” Cohen said at a special Security Council session on the war. “Definitely this is not our world.” He spoke after Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki, who had deplored a lack of action by the UN Security Council to stop “massacres” in Gaza by Israel. “The ongoing massacres being deliberately and systematically and savagely perpetrated by Israel — the occupying power against the Palestinian civilian population under illegal occupation — must be stopped,” Maliki said.

UN Chief says Gaza is 'occupied'

Israel protested statements made by Guterres, who suggested Israel was somehow responsible for the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas. "It is important to also recognize the attacks by Hamas did not happen in a vacuum,” Guterres said. “The Palestinian people have been subjected to 56 years of suffocating occupation. They have seen their land steadily devoured by settlements and plagued by violence; their economy stifled; their people displaced and their homes demolished. Their hopes for a political solution to their plight have been vanishing.” Guterres added that “the grievances of the Palestinian people cannot justify the appalling attacks by Hamas. And those appalling attacks cannot justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people.”

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan said Guterres’s remarks were “shocking,” “horrible,” and “totally detached from the reality of our region.” He added, “His comments… constitute a justification for terrorism and murder,” Erdan says. “It’s sad that a person with such views is the head of an organization that arose after the Holocaust.”

After French President Macron introduced the idea of expanding the international anti-Islamic State coalition to include the fight against Hamas, the Elysee Palace appeared to walk it back. “The aim is to get inspiration from the international coalition’s experience against ISIS and to check which aspects can be implemented against Hamas as well,” says the president’s office in a statement. “We are ready to think, along with our partners and with Israel, about relevant courses of action against Hamas.” Stressing non-combat roles, the statement continued: “The international coalition against ISIS is not limited to actions on the ground, but also includes training of Iraqi forces, information sharing between partners, and fighting terrorism funding.”

Two people have been lightly injured by rocket shrapnel following a barrage targeting the Tel Aviv area, according to the Magen David Adom ambulance service says, Three people were hurt while seeking shelter. The two shrapnel victims, men in their 40s, are in Be’er Yaakov and Holon. A 77-y.o. man was lightly hurt running to a shelter near Kfar Saba, as was a woman, 80, in Yavne and a woman, 35, in Tel Aviv.

Israeli airstrikes in the Gaza Strip have killed at least 704 people in the past day, according to Hamas. This is an increase that follows IAF bombing runs on Gaza. Deaths in Gaza stand at 5,791, including 2,360 children, according to Hamas spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra. At least 16,297 others were wounded, he says. The figures cannot be verified independently.

Sirens wailed in the northern Israeli towns of Elkosh and Netua, close to the Lebanon border. Repeated rocket attacks by Hezbollah and other terrorist groups fired from Lebanon have been reported. 

A message sent to Israeli journalists in the name of a “diplomatic source” accuses Hamas of imitating the Nazis by releasing two elderly Israeli hostages. “Just like the Nazis gave engineered and staged tours to the Red Cross of a ‘clean’ concentration camp, to fool the world and present itself as humane, so too does Hamas, while butchering babies, raping women and shooting kids, try to present itself as humane by releasing some hostages it seemingly treated,” the government statement reads, referring to the Theresienstadt concentration camp. 

“The world cannot buy Hamas’s propaganda. Hamas is worse than Islamic State. Hamas is the new Nazis,” the statement reads.

Sirens sounded throughout the Tel Aviv region, including the city, areas to the east near Ben-Gurion airport, and towns to the north and south. The rockets were part of a massive barrage from Gaza aimed at Israel’s most populated areas, the third such volley in under two hours, and it appeared to be the largest. The earlier launches were claimed by Hamas.

The IDF says there are no injuries in an anti-tank missile strike from Lebanon at an area near the border kibbutz of Manara. In addition, IAF aircraft attacked a “terror cell” in Lebanon near Har Dov on the Israeli side of the border, and “destroyed weapons used by the cell.” The IDF also shelled the place where the rocket originated. 

No atoning for Hamas terrorism

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi said Hamas now “regrets” its war against Israel, while saying that ground operations are being delayed by “strategic considerations.” “Israel is in the midst of a war that was launched by the Hamas terror group. It already regrets it,” he said. “We’ve prepared for this. The IDF and the Southern Command have prepared quality offensive plans to achieve the goals of the war,” he says. “The IDF is ready for the [ground] maneuver, and we will make a decision with the political echelon regarding the shape and timing of the next stage,” Halevi says. He says that there are “tactical and even strategic considerations” delaying the ground offensive, but they enable the IDF to better prepare. “We are making use of every minute to be even more prepared,” he says. “And every minute that passes on the other side, we strike the enemy even more. Killing terrorists, destroying infrastructure, collecting more intelligence for the next stage,” he added. Halevi: “This is our state, our house, and we will defend it by every means. What happened [on October 7, with Hamas’s slaughter of 1,400 people in Israel] is unprecedented since the founding of the state. It will require a fundamental change in our security reality. There will be a cost to that, including as regards the length of the war. This war has one address: The Hamas leadership and all those who acted under its command. They will pay the price for what they did,” he says.

None should doubt Hamas's barbarism: “We recommend that Hamas treat the Israeli citizens it holds hostage with respect.” This is “essential,” he says, and bears a relationship to the “gravity of the treatment” the IDF will mete out to Hamas. No atonement for the Oct. 7 atrocities commited by Hamas is feasible, he said, adding nor for what they do to "every one of the hostages, the killed, and their families.”

“The IDF is fighting Hamas, it is not fighting Gaza’s populace. The IDF wants the residents of Gaza to come through this war as unharmed as possible,” he says, hence Israel’s urging of residents to evacuate to safe areas, where they will find food, water and medicine. “Every resident of Gaza should take the responsible decision [to evacuate] for the sake of their lives.”

Where fuel is needed by civilians, Israel will ensure it is available. “We will not allow fuel for Hamas, with which it can continue to fight Israel.”

A Hamas missile struck the West Bank

There are reports that a missile fired in Gaza may have struck the West Bank settlement of Alfei Menashe, northeast of Tel Aviv. Mage David Adom emergency services reported there were no injuries. 

Rocket sirens sounded this afternoon in Tel Aviv, Beersheba, Lod, Rehovot, Nes Ziona and surrounding towns in central Israel. There were warnings also in the northern West Bank, including Elkana. There are no immediate reports of direct hits or injuries, according to The Guardian.

10:11 am

Hamas claimed that 5,791+ Palestinians have been killed in Israeli strikes on Gaza since Oct. 7. It added that these include 2,360 children, and 704 Palestinians had been killed in the previous 24 hours alone. These figures have not been independently verified.

Secretary of State Blinken posted on social media that he is in New York for a UN security council meeting. He said he would “reaffirm Israel’s right to defend itself and discuss work to secure the release of hostages, prevent the conflict from spreading, and enhance humanitarian support for Gaza.”

The Czech Republic PM Petr Fiala and the Austrian chancellor, Karl Nehammer will visit Israel on Oct. 25. The Czech government said its PM will discuss support for Israel and coordinate ahead of the next EU summit. There are suggestions being made that the diplomatic visits are among the factors delaying Israel's expected ground operaitons in Gaza.

IDF spokesman Daniel Hagari said the military was “ready and determined” for the next stage in the war and was awaiting political instruction. In a social media post, the Israel Defence Forces claimed to have struck more than 400 targets in the past 24 hours in what was described as “a wide-scale operation to dismantle Hamas’ terrorist capabilities”.

Hamas released two more hostages from Gaza on Oct. 23. Nurit Cooper, also known as Nurit Yitzhak, 79, and Yocheved Lifshitz, 85, were kidnapped along with their husbands from the Nir Oz kibbutz near the Gaza border on Oct. 7. Lifshitz told the media she had “been through hell” after being captured by Hamas fighters on motorbikes and beaten with sticks and forced to walk. She went on to describe conditions in the tunnels where she had been held, where she said she said people treated her “gently” and “looked after our needs”. The captives were fed and they slept on mattresses. She said there were doctors and paramedics there to tend to wounds. She was critical of Israel’s military for not taking the threat of Hamas seriously enough before the attack.

In a bilateral press conference attended by French President Macron, PM Netanyahu threatened "horrible consequences" for Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon should they decide to enter the conflict. Macron called on Hamas to release its hostages, saying terrorism is the common enemy of both countries. While he said terrorism must be fought without mercy, rules should apply. Netanyahu said Hamas must be destroyed and warned that the war may linger. Once it is finished, he said, nobody will live "under Hamas tyrrany."

The IDF said today that it is contacting Gazans to offer them “a better future for you and your child” if they provide information “regarding the abductees in your area”.

10:00 am

The Daily Mail reported the dismay among some Israelis that Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu's son, Yair, is currently in Miami and has yet to report for duty as 300,000 reservists have been called up. The 32-y.o. junior Netanyahu has been in the US since April following accusations of defamation in social media posts, according to the outlet. The Daily Mail included photos of Yair Netanyahu loading supplies in Florida that are destined for Israeli troops.

4:51 am

The Times of Israel reports that US officials are concerned that Israel doesn't have achievable military goals for its operations in Gaza, and thus not ready for ground invasion. Earlier, Secretary of Defense Austin warned that urban warfare in Gaza will be costly because of Hamas network of tunnels and hideouts. 

4:20 am

The Israeli army is 'ready and determined' but awaiting political instructions for next stage of war, Israeli spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari. Reuters reports that Israel was learning from 
from US experience in the Middle East but “our war is on our borders, not thousands of miles from Israel.” Saying that he expects weeks of fighting in Gaza, Hagari said Egypt was playing a key role in negotiations for the release of hostages from Gaza, a top priority for Israel.

French President Macron said Hamas's attack on October 7 was an “immense shock” for the whole planet, “especially in France”. “I do share your view that the first objective we should have today is the release of all hostages without any hesitation,” he told Israeli President Herzog. He accused Hamas of playing with lives. Macron gave reassurances that Israel is not alone in the fight against terrorism. He described it as a “duty” to fight against terrorist groups. He said “targeted operations” were a necessity. “We will do whatever we can to restore peace, security and stability for your country and the whole region. What happened will never be forgotten, for sure. And we will be here today, tomorrow and the day after for peace and stability. Because these people were killed just because they were Jewish, and they wanted to live in peace,” Macron said.

Israeli President Herzog said the Hamas attack was “one of the worst atrocities of modern times”, and accused Hezbollah in Lebanon of “playing with fire” in Israel’s north. He added that he is concerned about reports of antisemitism in France and elsewhere, saying nations must take firm action. He said the war with Hamas is “extremely complicated and fragile” and reiterated demands for the “immediate release of all of our citizens abducted and hijacked”. Israel doesn't distinguish between Israelis and “anyone who holds another citizenship” among the hostages held by Hamas. “They are all one,” he said, “and for us we want them back immediately.”

Herzog accused Iran of the increased tension between Hezbollah and Israel, and said: "I want to make clear we are not looking for a confrontation in our northern border or with anyone else. We are focused on destroying Hamas infrastructure, and bringing our citizens back home. But if Hezbollah will drag us into war, it should be clear that Lebanon will pay the price."

Six British nationals suspected to be among hostages, according to UK junior financial minister Victoria Atkins. She told SkyNews, "It’s a very, very fast-moving situation but the latest figure I’ve been given is that there are suspected to be six British nationals. They are our absolute priority. We understand … that they are hostages. I do acknowledge that it’s a very fast-moving situation and that figure may or may not change, and I know how difficult that must be for the families and the friends at home here in the UK who are grappling with incredible worry and concern about their loved ones." 

Ten Britons killed by Hamas

At least 10 Britons have been killed in the conflict, while six are missing, Atkins said. The UK Foreign Office said it would “continue to work tirelessly” on securing the release of more hostages after a British citizen confirmed that her mother, Yocheved Lifshitz, was one of the hostages returned by Hamas.

Overnight the UN agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA) said that another six of its staff had been killed in Gaza, bringing the total killed since Oct. 7 to 35. It said 40 UNRWA installations had been damaged so far by Israeli airstrikes.

According to Israel's health ministry, in a report by Haaretz, 278 people are being treated for injuries caused by the Hamas attack, of whom 40 are in serious condition, 164 are in moderate condition, and 74 are in mild condition.

Qatar’s ruling emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamas Al-Thani said Israel should not be allowed to kill unconditionally. Giving his opening speech to his country's Shura Council, he said  the fighting between Israel and Hamas was a dangerous escalation that threatened the region and the world.

On social media, the IDF claim to have struck “over 400 terrorist targets in the past 24 hours” in what is described as “a wide-scale operation to dismantle Hamas’ terrorist capabilities” in Gaza.

$10,000 bounty paid for hostages

In video released by Israel’s Shin Bet security service and the police force, six Hamas terrorists captured by Israeli forces related that they were instructed to kill any Israeli men they found after entering Israel on Oct. 7. They were given explicit instructions to kill civilians, including the elderly, women, and children. One of them said “whoever brings a hostage back [to Gaza] gets $10,000 and an apartment.”

According to the UN, about 1.4 million of Gaza’s 2.3 million people are now displaced, while citing "major concern" about over-crowding and shortage of potable water. Many shelters designed to accommodate 1,500-2,000 people there are now 4,400 and that overcrowding and shortages had triggered tensions, as well as gender-based violence. It said: "To ensure a safer environment, at night, women and children remain in the classrooms, while men and adolescent boys stay outdoors in the schoolyard." Despite Israeli demands for Gazans to move south, the UN said, there is anecdotal evidence that hundreds or thousands of people were returning north “due to continuous bombardments in the south, and the inability to find adequate shelter”.

Biden urges more aid to Gaza

President Biden telephoned Israeli PM Netanyahu and “underscored the need to sustain a continuous flow of urgently needed humanitarian assistance into Gaza”, according to the White House. This came after 20 trucks, the third such aid convoy, entered Gaza via the Rafah border crossing with Egypt. The UN pointed out that fuel was not included and that local reserves will be exhausted within the next two days. According to The Guardian, Gazans are running out of clean drinking water and the lack of fuel means Gaza’s water desalination plants, bakeries, and hospitals will cease to function.

UN officials say about 100 aid trucks are needed daily to meet essential needs in Gaza, which is home to 2.3 million people. Some 1.4 million of those are now internally displaced. 

Biden told Netanyahu on US support for Israel and “ongoing efforts at regional deterrence, to include new US military deployments”, the White House statement said. Biden was pleased about the release of two hostages from Gaza and reaffirmed his commitment to securing the release of the remaining hostages as well as safe passage for US citizens and other civilians in Gaza. Defense Secretary Austin was reported on Oct. 17 to have extended the deployment of the USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier group, and moved US Marines closer to Israel. However, as of Oct. 24, shows the carrier to be in the Adriatic Sea between Italy and Croatia.

October 24, 2023

Topic tags:
Israel Iran United States United Nations Swords of Iron Hamas terrorism Antisemitism