Day Sixty-Four Of Swords Of Iron

UN chief Guterres sees 'breaking point' and 'total collapse of the humanitarian system' in Gaza.

IDF troops and jeep in Gaza IDF photo

3:27 pm

Freed hostage Ofelia Roitman, 77, appeared in a video screened in Tel Aviv and said that her time in captivity reminded her of stories about Nazi concentration camps during the Holocaust.  “In the first few weeks I thought I had gone crazy, because I was alone, I was almost without light, I was almost without food. It reminded me of the subject of the Holocaust — I was [collecting] pieces of pita bread so that tomorrow I would have food,” she says, calling on the government to take action to free the rest of the hostages."

At a rally in Tel Aviv’s “Hostages Square,” videos of released hostages revealed harrowing details of their captivity in Gaza. Former hostage Adina Moshe, 72, said in a video that she left behind in Gaza her friends from Kibbutz Nir Oz in Gaza, all elderly and sick and without adequate medications. “When I was there, the food situation there deteriorated. We eventually reached the point of only eating rice,” she says, pleading for Israel to do everything to secure the remaining hostages’ release. Until that happens, she says, “I won’t be able to recover.”

Another video showed siblings Maya (21) and Itay (18) Regev saying that ever day as hostages “is like hell — intense fear, zero sleep, the lack of knowledge is simply scary.” Each day, they said, is “like eternity” and that they missed their family, were hungry, and suffered. 

Margalit Mozes, 77, said terrorists took her oxygen concentrator machine, which she needs to be able to sleep normally, despite her explaining in Arabic that “this is my oxygen.” “He understood the meaning of this, but he didn’t care,” she said in a video. “I didn’t sleep for 49 days. It was very tough,” she says.

Israeli air force jets struck a number of sites of Hezbollah terrorists in southern Lebanon, in response to attacks on the border today. Targets included rocket launch sites used to fire projectiles at northern Israel, manned military compounds, and other terrorist infrastructure. 

Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar fled northern Gaza at the beginning of the fighting by hiding in a humanitarian convoy heading to south Gaza, claimed Kan public broadcaster citing an Israeli official. It claimed that terrorist mastermind Sinwar escaped Gaza City and headed toward south to Khan Younis in a vehicle that provided “humanitarian cover,” adding that more precise details of the vehicle are barred from publication. However, the IDF assessment is that Sinwar is still in Khan Younis or in a tunnel beneath it.

IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari confirmed many Hamas members have surrendered to the IDF in Gaza today and have provided intelligence on the terrorist organization's operations during Israel's ground offensive. “In Shejaiya and Jabaliya, terrorists who surrendered handed over weapons and equipment,” he says, confirming footage that leaked today. A video circulating on X showed a terrorist dressed only in undershorts throwing his rifle onto a pile of similar weapons. “From the interrogations of the terrorists who surrendered, the following intelligence has emerged: The situation of the operatives on the ground is difficult, and the Hamas leadership, led by [Yahya] Sinwar, denies the reality even though it is updated on the details,” Hagari said. “The operatives complain that the Hamas leadership is out of touch with the tough situation they are in on the ground,” he said. He added there is a “widespread feeling that the Hamas leadership underground does not care about the public in Gaza who are above ground,” and added this worries the Hamas terrorists. "The intelligence that emerges from the interrogations creates more targets and aids us in the operational activity,” Hagari added.

National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi indicates that more IDF action on the northern border with Lebanon is likely, though preferably not in parallel with the fighting in Gaza. “Residents will not return [to the north] if we don’t do the same thing” in the north against Hezbollah, as we are doing in the south against Hamas, he told Israeli TV. “We can no longer accept [Hezbollah’s elite] Radwan force sitting on the border. We can no longer accept Resolution 1701 not being implemented,” he adds, referring to a UN Security Council resolution from 2006 that barred any Hezbollah presence within almost 30 kilometers of the border with Israel.

When asked whether war in Lebanon is likely, he said: “The situation in the north must be changed. And it will change. If Hezbollah agrees to change things via diplomacy, very good. But I don’t believe it will.” Therefore, "when the day comes,” Israel will have to act to ensure that residents of the north are no longer “displaced in their land, and to guarantee for them that the situation in the north has changed.”

Hanegbi said that Iran, Iraq, Syria, and other countries have missiles pointed at Israel,  “and Israel doesn’t invade them.” However, there is concern that Hezbollah’s Radwan force can “within minutes” could cross the border and begin a murderous attack like the one that unfolded on the border with Gaza on Oct. 7. Israel cannot tolerate this threat any longer, he said. Affirming that Israel does not want to fight simultaneously on two fronts, he said: “We are making clear to the Americans that we are not interested in war [in the north], but that we will have no alternative but to impose a new reality in the north” if Hezbollah remains a dangerous threat on the other side of the border. If the international community does not deal with the threat posed by the Houthis in Yemen, he also says, without elaboration, “Israel will act.”

Hanegbi said in a TV interview that he does not know how much longer the war against the Hamas terror group will last, and that it may not even be possible to measure it “in months.” “The Americans have not set any deadline” for the end of the operation in Gaza, Hanegbi told local TV. “Yesterday they denied setting a deadline. They understand that they can’t tell the IDF how long it needs to achieve the goals… They share the goals of returning the hostages, which is a campaign that a date cannot be set for, and of destroying Hamas. Therefore, the assessment [that achieving the goals of the war in Gaza] cannot be measured in weeks is correct, and I’m not sure it can be measured in months.”

Hanegbi said he believes Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar will want Hamas to fight to the end, “but if we kill him, and that’s the plan, it is possible that the leadership that succeeds him may understand that to avoid his fate, it will need to leave Gaza, defeated.” He indicates that killing Sinwar, therefore, may be a key step toward both war aims — destroying Hamas in Gaza and returning the hostages. “I don’t think [Sinwar] has internalized that the IDF will get to everywhere it wants in Gaza,” he said. He added that at least 7,000 terrorists have been killed during the war so far. He did not clarify whether this includes the 1,000+ killed inside Israel in the immediate aftermath of the mass invasion of October 7.

Hanegbi said the IDF is now very near to the Hamas centers of command in Jabaliya and Shejaiya, two key Hamas centers in northern Gaza. He said IDF rescue efforts are incredibly high risk “because their captors are waiting with their fingers on the trigger” for fear of such rescue efforts.  Two IDF commandos were injured on Dec. 8 in an operation, he sid, while two terrorists were killed, but there were no hostages there. “Military pressure could produce another halt in the fighting” and the release of further hostages, he said.

“We came to this operation [to eliminate Hamas] 17 years too late,” he says. Today, Israel realizes that it has to be done, even at a heavy price, because the alternative will be far more costly," Hanegbi said.

Footage released by the IDF shows troops of the Combat Engineering Corps’ elite Yahalom unit battling Hamas operatives at a home in northern Gaza’s Jabaliya. The Yahalom forces received intelligence of Hamas operatives in the area who were planning to attack. It saids the forces set out to attack the Hamas sites, and identified suspicious movement in one of the buildings. The video shows the troops opening fire and hurling grenades into the building. The forces then entered the home and killed two Hamas gunmen.


3:12 pm

Billionaire philanthropist George Soros has funneled more than $50 million to a network of groups sympathizing with Iran, many of whom have sway with the Biden administration, and seek to limit sanctions on the Islamic Republic, reported The New York Post. Soros’ Open Society Foundations records show how Soros has given $46.7 million since 2016 to the International Crisis Group,which has been linked to an alleged Iranian plot to manipulate US policy. Former Special Envoy to Iran  Robert Malley was president of ICG until he joined the Biden administration. He is now being investigated by the FBI investigation for his alleged mishandling of classified material. “Soros has continually funded organizations that act as apologists for the Iranian regime – downplaying their severe human rights abuses while working to advance Iranian propaganda,” Gabriel Noronha of the Polaris National Security told The Post.

In a column titled 'The Ivy League Presidents and the Collapse of Moral Reasoning,' Catholic Bishop Robert Barron criticized statements made by the presidents of Harvard, UPenn, and MIT for their responses to a Congressional committee about rising campus antisemitism. He wrote: "...Rep. Elise Stefanik, a republican from New York, became increasingly impatient with what she took to be the presidents’ diffidence regarding extreme forms of antisemitic speech at their universities. She finally pressed each one of them: “would calling for the genocide of Jews constitute a violation of the code of conduct at your school, yes or no?”  Astonishingly, each of them balked, insisting that it depended upon the context. All three women have justifiably faced massive blowback and calls for their resignations, due to the baffling lack of moral clarity in their statements." He commented: "When we lose a sensitivity to the intrinsically evil, we fall, automatically, into a moral relativism, whereby even the most egregiously wicked act can be justified or explained away."

11:24 am

The Israeli air force bombed the operational headquarters of Hezbollah in Lebanon, responding to rocket launches into northern Israel today.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in a speech on human rights today, said that a fairer world is possible “but not with America because the USA stands with Israel." He accused the West of “barbarism” for its support for Israel, and alleged Islamophobia. “Israel has carried out atrocities and massacres that will shame the whole of humanity,” Erdogan told listeners in Istanbul. Tomorrow, Dec. 10, is the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. “All the values relating to humanity are being murdered in Gaza. In the face of such brutality, international institutions and human rights organizations are not taking any concrete steps to prevent such violations,” he said. “From now on, humanity won’t think the USA supports the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” Erdoğan said. According to the Turk, Islamophobia and xenophobia “engulf Western societies like poison ivy” and are currently the greatest threats to human rights. He told the cheering audience that the only value “the West holds on to is its barbarism. We have seen this example of the West’s barbarism in all those unfortunate events that they either supported or perpetrated.”

“The United Nations Security Council demand for ceasefire is rejected only by U.S. veto. Is this justice?,” Erdoğan said. “The UN security council needs to be reformed,” he added. Turkey withdrew from the Istanbul Convention on preventing and violence against women and has failed to implement European Court of Human Rights judgments, prompting questions about its devotion to human rights.

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres claimed that more than 60% of Gaza’s housing has reportedly been destroyed or damaged, and 85% of the population has been forced from their homes. 

According to AP wire services, Israeli forces shot and killed a Palestinian man in the West Bank today near Hebron and another succumbed to his wounds from an Israeli raid the day before. The Palestinian Health Ministry said the 25-year-old man who succumbed to his wounds today had been shot during an arrest raid in the Faraa refugee camp on Dec. 8. Seven were killed in the raid, including a local commander of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. A total of 274 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank area of Judea and Samaria since Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7. According to the IDF, most were killed during shootouts during operations to arrest suspected militants.

9:00 am

Sahar Baruch, 25, one of the estimated 240 hostages taken during the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel, was killed in Hamas captivity, according to a joint statement from his community, Kibbutz Be’eri, and the Hostages and Missing Families Forum. “It is with great sadness and a broken heart that we announce the murder of Sahar Baruch who was kidnapped from his home by Hamas terrorists to Gaza on Black Saturday and murdered there. His brother Idan was murdered by Hamas on October 7. We share in the unbearable grief of his parents, Tami and Roni, his brother, Guy and Niv, his family and all his loved ones. We will demand the return of his body as part of any hostage return deal. We will not stop until everyone is at home.”

Hamas released a video earlier today depicting Baruch with his hair shaven, saying he had been held hostage for 40 days (today is day 63 of the conflict). The video then showed his battered body covered in blood. Hamas has claimed Baruch’s death was caused by the IDF. According to the IDF, two Israeli soldiers had been seriously wounded in a failed hostage rescue mission on Dec. 8, but later put the blame solely on Baruch's death. “Our hearts go out to the family of Sahar Baruch, who was brutally kidnapped by the terrorist organization Hamas, which continues to use psychological terror and behave inhumanely,” the IDF statement said. “We consider the terrorist organization Hamas responsible for the safety of the abductees and anticipate that it will continue to try to use psychological terror against the citizens of Israel and the world through the distribution of such documents, for its murderous purposes.”

Baruch was at his mother’s home with his brother Idan when the attack took place and terrorists threw grenades into their safe room. Idan was wounded, and Baruch stayed to treat him for hours until the house began to burn and they had to escape, an aunt said. Baruch survived the initial assault because he briefly stayed behind to find an inhaler for asthmatic Idan, who was immediately shot and killed. Baruch was taken hostage. 

.A UN official said that a inspection process for aid crossing into Gaza the Kerem Shalom crossing is being tested, which would see trucks arrive at the Kerem Shalom crossing on the border between Israel, Gaza and Egypt for the first time from Jordan, before entering Gaza from Rafah, about 3 kilometres away. A UN World Food Programme official said that trucks must be allowed direct entry to Gaza from Kerem Shalom. Israel has rejected the UN's demands to Kerem Shalom, but the UN hopes that it will soon facilitate delivery of humanitarian supplies into Gaza.

Russian President Vladimir Putin thanked Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in evacuating Russian citizens from Gaza in a call where he wished him well on the eve of the Egyptian election, according to the Kremlin. Putin updated Sisi on his talks with leaders from Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. On Dec. 8, Putin announced he will seek office again in March. Putin has repeatedly blamed the war on the failure of years of US diplomacy.

Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas said the US vetoing a UN security council resolution for a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza makes it complicit in Israel’s “genocide, ethnic cleansing and war crimes” against Palestinians. He holds the US responsible for the bloodshed of Palestinian children, women and the elderly in Gaza.

8:12 am

Israeli Defense Forces detected a number of launches coming from Lebanon near the northern community of Misgav Am. No casualties were reported, and the IDF said their troops responded by attacking the sources of the shooting.

Today, in southern Gaza city of Khan Younis, Gazans claim that the IDF is was ordering people out of another district west of positions the Israelis stormed earlier this week. Reuters claimed that this suggests that another attack on the area by the IDF may be coming. 

The Arab-Islamic Summit ministerial committee met Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington DC, where they called on the Biden administration to pressurize Israel into a ceasefire. “Members of the ministerial committee stressed their call for the United States to play a broader role in pressuring the Israeli occupation for an immediate ceasefire, expressing their disappointment at the failure of the UN security council, for the second time, to vote on a resolution for an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip for humanitarian reasons, after the United States used its veto power,” Qatar’s ministry of foreign affairs said. The committee continues to reject Israel's military operations in Gaza, and reiterated a call for an immediate and complete ceasefire. They also rejected all forced displacement of Gazans, stressing the importance of adhering to international law and international humanitarian law.

They emphasized a two-state solution and the establishment of a Palestinian state along the lines of June 4, 1967, in accordance with the relevant international resolutions, expressing their rejection of dividing the Palestinian issue and discussing the future of the Gaza Strip separately from the overall Palestinian issue.

Heavy fighting continued overnight in northern Gaza, both from the air and on the ground, according to the IDF. Israel troops of Kafir brigade fought and killed a group in the area of ​​a school in the Shejaiya neighbourhood. IDF forces later found a number of Kalashnikov weapons, grenades and ammunition inside the classrooms. Paratroopers and armored forces destroyed a shaft leading to tunnels in the Shejaiya neighbourhood that was part of an extensive underground route, the IDF said, with forces locating another shaft containing weapons and an elevator.

In the Beit Hanoun area, fighters of the 5th brigade’s combat team attacked a group that allegedly fired at them from a UNRWA mosque and school.

7:00 am

Iran has warned of the threat of an “uncontrollable explosion” of the situation in the Middle East, after the US vetoed on Dec. 8 a UN security council resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian called for the immediate opening of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt to enable humanitarian aid to be sent into the Gaza Strip. “As long as America supports the crimes of the Zionist regime [Israel] and the continuation of the war … there is a possibility of an uncontrollable explosion in the situation of the region,” Amir-Abdollahian told the UN secretary general António Guterres in a phone call.

Amir-Abdollahian praised Guterres for invoking article 99 of the UN charter as “brave action to maintain international peace and security”. “The Israeli regime’s claim that Hamas has violated the ceasefire is completely false,” Amir-Abdollahian told Guterres, adding that US support for Israel “has made it difficult to achieve a lasting ceasefire”.

Avril Benoît, the executive director of Médecins Sans Frontières US, said the US veto of UN resolution calling for a ceasefire “makes it complicit in the carnage in Gaza”. In a statement, she said: "Israel has continued to indiscriminately attack civilians and civilian structures, impose a siege that amounts to collective punishment for the entire population of Gaza, force mass displacement, and deny access to vital medical care and humanitarian assistance. The US continues to provide political and financial support to Israel as it prosecutes its military operations regardless of the terrible toll on civilians. For humanitarians to be able to respond to the overwhelming needs, we need a ceasefire now. The US veto makes it complicit in the carnage in Gaza."

Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, said the US veto was “morally indefensible”. Callamard said: "By vetoing this resolution, the US has displayed a callous disregard for civilian suffering in the face of a staggering death toll, extensive destruction and an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe happening in the occupied Gaza Strip. The US has brazenly wielded and weaponized its veto to strongarm the UN Security Council, further undermining its credibility and ability to live up to its mandate to maintain international peace and security. There can be no justification for continuing to block meaningful action by the UN Security Council to stop massive civilian bloodshed. The use of the veto is morally indefensible and a dereliction of the US duty to prevent atrocity crimes and uphold international law. On top of blocking the adoption of a ceasefire that would end mass humanitarian suffering in Gaza, aid the return of hostages, and calm tension multiplying in the region, the US continues to transfer US-made munitions to the government of Israel that contribute to the decimation of entire families. As the only state to veto, it’s clear the US stands isolated from much of world, and a large portion of its own population. It is displaying a complete absence of global leadership and failing to understand the historical significance of the moment.”

The US was the only member of the Security Council to vote against the draft resolution, while the UK abstained.

6:14 am

The US issued its strongest criticism yet concerning the toll of civilians in the war in Gaza. Secretary of State Antony Blinken stressed the U.S. concern for the protection of civilians in Gaza, where Hamas claims 16,000+ people have been killed in Israeli attacks. “We are focused ... on the imperative of maximizing efforts to protect civilians, and get not only assistance in but to sustain the higher level of assistance that was reached during the humanitarian pause and actually build on it. And what we’ve seen over the initial days is some important additional steps in the direction of doing just that,” Blinken said on the evening of December 7. “Having said that,” he added, “as we stand here almost a week into this campaign in the south after the end of the humanitarian pause ... it remains imperative that Israel put a premium on civilian protection. And there does remain a gap between exactly what I said when I was there, the intent to protect civilians, and the actual results that we’re seeing on the ground.”

5:59 am

UN Secretary-General António Guterres told the security council on Dec. 8 in New York: “We are at a breaking point. There is a high risk of a total collapse of the humanitarian system,” as he referred to current circumstances in Gaza. Other UN officials described an “untenable” humanitarian catastrophe in the enclave, claiming that 700 people share a single toilet and people burning plastic to keep warm. One official said UN agencies were “barely operational” and staff were bringing their children to work “so they know they are safe or can die together”. Another said Gaza society was “on the brink of full-blown collapse”, with civil order breaking down.

The Guardian newspaper provided a summary of the day's events:

US risks complicity in war crimes, says Human Rights Watch.

Rights groups have condemned the US for blocking a UN security council resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, with Human Rights Watch saying the US risked “complicity in war crimes” by continuing to provide Israel with weapons and diplomatic cover.

The US on Friday defied appeals from its Arab allies and the UN secretary general to back an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza, instead vetoing the resolution. The vote in the 15-member council was 13-1 with the UK abstaining. Meanwhile, the Biden administration has reportedly asked Congress to approve the sale of 45,000 shells for Israel’s Merkava tanks to be used in its offensive in Gaza.

The Palestinian ambassador to the UN, Riyad Mansour, said the US decision to block the resolution was “a turning point in history”. In a strongly worded address to the security council after the vote, Mansour said the results of the vote were “regrettable” and “disastrous”, warning that prolonging the war in Gaza “implies the continued commission of atrocities, the loss of more innocent lives, more destruction”.

Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, thanked the US and Joe Biden for vetoing a draft security council resolution. Posting to social media, Erdan praised the US president for “standing firmly by our side” and for showing “leadership and values”.

Hamas condemned the US veto at the UN security council, describing it as “unethical and inhumane”. “The US obstruction of the ceasefire resolution is a direct participation with the occupation in killing our people and committing more massacres and ethnic cleansing,” said Ezzat El-Reshiq, a member of the group’s political bureau.

The UN security vote came after a dramatic warning from UN chief António Guterres that civil order in Gaza was breaking down. With the UN claiming its relief operation was grinding to a halt and its staff being killed, Guterres chose earlier this week to take the extremely rare step of invoking article 99 of the UN charter, which permits him to bring a threat to world security to the attention of the security council.

The head of the main UN agency in Gaza (UNRWA) has said it was “the darkest hour” in the organisation’s history. Philippe Lazzarini said the agency is “barely” operational in Gaza, and that its staff – at least 130 of whom have been killed – “take their children to work, so they know they are safe or can die together.” “We are hanging on by our fingertips,” he said.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has said it is concerned by images of semi-naked Palestinian men being paraded by the Israeli military in Gaza. While Israeli media initially suggested that the images, apparently filmed by at least one Israeli soldier, showed the surrender of Hamas fighters, several of the men pictured were identified as civilians, including a journalist.

The European Commission has announced it will provide €125m (£107.2m, $134m) in humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people in 2024. The funds will go toward supporting humanitarian organisations working in both Gaza and the occupied West Bank, the commission said in a statement on Friday.

Tributes poured in for the Palestinian poet Refaat Alareer on Friday after friends said he was killed in a strike on Gaza. Alareer, who fiercely denounced Israel and its policies towards the Palestinians, was one of the leaders of a young generation of writers in Gaza who chose to write in English to tell their stories, with friends describing his defiance in the face of the Israeli army’s assault on the Gaza Strip.

More journalists have been killed during Israel’s war with Hamas than in any other conflict in more than 30 years, a leading organisation representing journalists worldwide said. In its annual count of media worker deaths, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) said 94 journalists had been killed so far this year and almost 400 others had been imprisoned.

Benjamin Netanyahu has dismissed remarks by the Palestinian Authority (PA) prime minister that Hamas could serve as a junior partner in governing Gaza after the war. The authority’s prime minister, Mohammad Shtayyeh, said in an interview that the PA is working with US officials on a plan to run Gaza after the current conflict ends. “The Palestinian Authority is not the solution,” the Israeli prime minister responded.

More than a dozen member states of the World Health Organization submitted a draft resolution on Friday that urged Israel to respect its obligations under international law to protect humanitarian workers in Gaza. Separately, the UN said late on Thursday that only 14 of the 36 hospitals in the Gaza Strip were functioning in any capacity.


December 9, 2023

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