Day Sixty-Two Of Iron Swords

Israeli forces are engaging in house-to-house combat with Hamas terrorists.

Israeli troops march in single file in fog in Gaza IDF photo

8:19 pm

Shots were fired at Temple Israel synagogue in Albany, New York, tonight, the first night of Hanukkah, as Jews grapple with a surge in antisemitism following Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel. There were no injuries in the shooting on the premises of the Conservative synagogue in the state. Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a statement that she had spoken with the congregation’s rabbi. She said, however, that the synagogue has an on-site early learning center, “with at least two dozen children, preschoolers, who were on the premises.”

7:59 pm

Billionaire Asset manager Ross Stevens is withdrawing a donation to the University of Pennsylvania worth roughly $100 million. Stevens' decision comes after the presidents of Harvard, Penn, and MIT appeared before Congress this week to testify about antisemitism on campus. They came under fire after they evaded questions on whether calling for the genocide of Jews would violate their institutions' codes of conduct.

If the Iran-backed Hezbollah terrorist group chooses to launch an all-out war against the Jewish state, it will be responsible for “turning Beirut and Southern Lebanon into Gaza and Khan Yunis,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said today. “We are determined to bring victory, and we will do it with your help,” Netanyahu told troops following a situational assessment at the Israel Defense Forces’ Northern Command headquarters in Safed.

4:38 pm

The IDF released footage showing a drone strike on Hamas terrorists in the Khan Younis area on Dec. 6. According to the IDF, the operatives came out of a tunnel under a collapsed building, including one carrying an RPG.

The IDF released footage showing the Border Defense Corps' 636th Combat Intelligence Collection unit identifying a group of Hamas operatives, armed with RPGs, approaching troops of the Golani Infantry Brigade in the northern Gaza Strip. The unit called in an airstrike, killing all members of the cell, according to the IDF.

The United States has asked Israel not to respond to attacks by Houthi rebels in Yemen lest it spark a wider regional conflict, The Wall Street Journal reported on Dec. 7.  The United States told Israel to let the American military deal with the Houthis, the paper reported, citing U.S. and other government officials.

New documentation, including the laptop of a key Hamas commander, offers additional proof of the terrorist group’s meticulous planning of the Oct. 7 massacre. The field intelligence unit of the Israel Defense Forces’ Military Intelligence Directorate, known by the Hebrew acronym AMSHAT, released the documents on Dec. 4.

The son of a former Israeli military chief and member of Israel’s war cabinet has been killed while fighting in Gaza. The Israeli military said today that Master Sgt. Gal Meir Eizenkot, 25, died in a battle in northern Gaza. His father, Gadi Eizenkot, served as military chief of staff from 2015 to 2019.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz today expressed his unwavering support for the Jewish people as he lit the first candle of Hanukkah on a huge menorah in front of Berlin's iconic Brandenburg Gate. “I wish that the candle of Hanukkah will shine far beyond this square and much longer than just for the eight days of Hanukkah,” Scholz, wearing a black velvet skullcap, said in the center of the German capital.

9:55 am

After refusing to explicitly say that calls for genocide of Jewish people violate campus rules on harassment, the presidents of Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania appeared to walk back some of their comments in an apparent attempt at damage control on Dec. 6. "There are some who have confused a right to free expression with the idea that Harvard will condone calls for violence against Jewish students,” Harvard President Claudine Gay stated. “Let me be clear: Calls for violence or genocide against the Jewish community, or any religious or ethnic group are vile. They have no place at Harvard, and those who threaten our Jewish students will be held to account.”

9:49 am

On the evening of Dec. 5,  the presidents of three of the top universities in the US: Harvard, MIT, and University of Pennsylvania, refused to explicitly say that calls for genocide of Jewish people violate campus rules on harassment. New York Republican Representative Elise Stefanik asked directly if “calling for the genocide of Jews” is against the codes of conduct of Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Pennsylvania, all three presidents said the answer depended on the context. UPenn president Liz Magill responded saying: “It is a context-dependent decision,” which led Rep. Stefanik to reply, “Calling for the genocide of Jews is dependent on the context? That is not bullying or harassment? This is the easiest question to answer ‘yes,’ Ms. Magill.”

For his part, Republican Rep. John James of Michigan asked the trio what they are doing to combat antisemitism, silence on their part ensued.

9:45 am

“It is not the Israeli Defense Forces' strategy to kill innocent people," said White House spokesman John Kirby. "It's not like the Israelis are sitting around every morning and saying, 'Hey, how many more civilians can we kill today?' ... They are not doing that. They are trying to go after Hamas.”

The IDF said Hamas leader Yehya Sinwar is hiding underground and it is the mission of the Israeli military to “find Sinwar and kill him." Israeli forces have pushed deeper into Sinwar’s hometown of Khan Younis in southern Gaza over the past two days, heightening the focus on the Hamas leader seen as the mastermind of the deadly Oct. 7 Hamas attack on southern Israel.

9:31 am

Iranian crown prince Reza Pahlavi told British television that the Islamic Republic of Iran and its terrorist proxies are not only a danger to the Middle East, but also for Europe. He says they want to become a majority in Europe and take over the continent

9:25 am

Photos appeared on social media purportedly showing Hamas prisoners in the custody of the IDF in Gaza. One social media post claimed the terrorists had been hiding in Gaza's labyrinth of tunnels.

IDF and Hamas prisoners in Gaza

Hamas prisoners in IDF truck

IDF and Hamas prisoners


9:15 am

According to sources in Gaza sources the Egyptian government is constructing a third fence on the border with the Gaza Strip to prevent Gazans from breaking through the fences and entering Sinai territory.

8:19 am

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres said Gaza is facing a “severe risk of collapse of the humanitarian system”, invoking a rarely used UN article to push for a ceasefire. His letter to the Security Council said Gaza’s humanitarian system was at risk of collapse after two months of war that has created “appalling human suffering.” The US may have to use its veto power to stop the initiative in order to protect Israel. Guterres infuriated Israel today by taking the rare step of invoking article 99 of the UN Charter to notify the security council that the crisis in Gaza represented a threat to world peace. It was the first time he had invoked the article since he became secretary general in 2017.

In a rare display of public criticism, a Gaza resident told Al-Jazeera TV channel that the lack of aid to residents of the Strip is due to Hamas stealing it. An elderly woman, when asked about the supposed trickle of aid coming into Gaza, the woman affirmed there is plenty of aid, but “all aid goes down (into Hamas tunnels).” “The aid does not reach the nation, all the people,” she said. When the Al-Jazeera reporter asserts that only small amounts of aid are entering Gaza, she wagged her fingers at him and said: “All of it goes into their houses. They take it and will even shoot me or do whatever they want, Hamas.” Al-Jazeera is pro-Palestine and based in Qatar.

Israeli Muslim and father of 13 Mohammad  Alatrash has been missing since the October 7, Hamas assault on southern Israel. He has been confirmed to be among the hostages being held captive by Hamas, the IDF said. IDF spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari indicated Alatrash is in Gaza, bringing the number of confirmed hostages currently held to 138. The 40-year-old is from the Bedouin village of Sawa in the Negev. His father told Israeli media: "Only about two days ago we started receiving details that he might be among the hostages. We are waiting to know about his condition and to hopefully hear his voice, and to bring him back to the family.”

Activists are blockading and protesting in front of weapons manufacturers and suppliers to Israel across Europe. These include Exxelia (Paris, France), TERMA Group (Aarhus and Copenhagen, Denmark; Leiden, The Netherlands), and UAV Engines (Shenstone, UK). Exxelia produces components that allow precise missile strikes. Anti-Israel activists claim that gun pods manufactured by TERMA Group enable Israel to mount explosives on F-35 fighter jets. Four arms factories in the UK producing Israeli fighter jets have been shut down by 1,000 trade unionists operating under the banner Workers for a Free Palestine. The four factories are Eaton Mission Systems in Bournemouth, BAE Systems at Samlesbury Aerodrome in Lancashire, L3Harris factory in Brighton and Hove, and BAE Govan in Glasgow. All produce parts for F-35 stealth combat aircraft currently being used by Israel to bombard Gaza. The trade unionists, who include health workers, teachers, hospitality workers, academics, artists, are calling for an end to arms sales to Israel and for the UK government to support a permanent ceasefire. The tradeworkers have coordinated with others in Europe, who are also blockading arms factories on Dec. 7. 

Trade unions represented including Unite, Unison, GMB, the NEU, the BMA, UCU, Bectu and BFAWU. Workers for Free Palestine said: "We salute all those in the trade union movement taking a stand to disrupt the flow of arms to Israel. Shutting down four factories across the UK today, along with several simultaneous blockades in Europe, are critical acts of solidarity - refusing to conduct business as usual in the face of Israel’s relentless bombardment of Gaza and ongoing genocide. As the British government refuses to call for a ceasefire and directly supports Israel’s military attack, a rapidly growing movement of workers are clearly saying 'not in our name'”.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will become the first German leader to preside over the lighting of the giant Hanukkah menorah in front of Berlin’s landmark Brandenburg Gate today in solidarity with the Jewish people. Berlin rabbi Yehuda Teichtal said after blessing the 10-metre high, nine-branched candelabra traditionally lit during the eight-day Jewish festival of lights: "It truly is a historic moment. The message is loud and clear that we will all stand up together for more love and more light."

This comes are Germany's renascent Jewish community has been rocked by an uptick in antisemitic attacks since the start of the war in Gaza. According to The Guardian, there were 994 antisemitic incidents across Germany from the start of the war on Oct 7 to November 9 (29 a day): a 320% rise on last year’s daily average, according to the Federal Association of Departments for Research and Information on Antisemitism. Statistics show antisemitism had already been on the rise before Oct 7 and driven by far-right nationalists. The Alternative for Germany party, currently second in polls, have argued the country should move on from atoning for its past crimes.

Aiman Mazyek, head of Germany’s Central Council of Muslims, said: "Germany has always had a problem with antisemitism, and especially with right extremism. And now people see a chance to shift that burden, saying: Look! It’s not us, it’s the Muslims, the Arabs bringing antisemitism to Germany."

100+ German Jewish intellectuals signed an open letter in October expressing their “full solidarity with our Arab, Muslim and especially Palestinian neighbours” who they said were facing racism. It said: "What frightens us is the prevailing atmosphere of racism and xenophobia in Germany, hand in hand with a constraining and paternalistic philo-Semitism."

Austria  is ending a suspension of aid to Palestinians, claiming there was no indication funds were being used to fund or promote terrorism. Austria suspended aid on Oct. 9, and was followed by Germany in a review of aid to Palestinians. The European Union ordered its own review, and claimed in November there was no evidence of funds going to Hamas and assistance would continue. Austria’s foreign ministry stated: "There is no indication that Austrian development projects funded by the ADA (Austrian Development Agency) were misused to fund or promote terrorism or to spread anti-semitic content." Nine projects funded by Austria had been reviewed with a total value of €17.5m ($18.85m) it said.

Meta, the parent company of Facebook, is reviewing how it handled violent content on its social media platforms in two cases involving hostage-taking and bombing in the Israel-Hamas conflict, according to its independent oversight board. The new review mechanism announced earlier this year requires the board to make decisions within 30 days. According to Reuters, social media platforms have been flooded with violent, hateful and misleading content in the two-month-old war between Israel and Hamas. 

After that attack, Meta temporarily lowered its threshold for removing potentially harmful content, including posts that clearly identified hostages taken by Hamas. The company has also faced accusations that it was suppressing expressions of support for Palestinians living under Israel’s military response in Gaza. In one case to be reviewed by the board, Meta took down a video on Instagram showing the aftermath of an explosion at the al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, including injured and dead children, the board said.

A caption on the video claimed the hospital had been targeted by the “usurping occupation,” an apparent reference to the Israeli army, it said. The hospital, the biggest medical facility in Gaza, has been at the centre of accusations of war crimes on both sides of the conflict. Human Rights Watch last month said its investigation found the explosion at the hospital was probably caused by a rocket commonly used by Palestinian armed groups. Meta restored the content with a warning screen.

The other case involves a video on Facebook showing a young woman begging her kidnappers not to kill her as she is driven away on a motorbike. A caption urges people to raise awareness of what happened on Oct. 7.  Initially, Meta took down the video, but reversed its decision weeks later in response to trends around how hostage kidnapping videos were being shared. As with the video in the first case, it was restored with a warning screen.

Egypt is pushing to accelerate the delivery of aid to Gaza, claiming the amounts of relief getting through to the enclave dipped with the end of a truce on  December 1. Egypt has reiterated that it will never allow the emptying of the Gaza Strip of its residents as they are pushed southwards towards the border with Egypt.  Egypt believes Israel’s operations in the Israeli-occupied West Bank aim at forcing Gazans towards Jordan. Since the war began, the Israeli-controled Rafah crossing on its border with Egypt has been the only entry point for aid trucks carrying supplies of food, medicines, water and fuel. The number of trucks crossing daily has dropped in recent days to fewer than 100, from nearly 200 when the week-long truce was in place. On Dec. 6, 80 trucks carrying humanitarian supplies and 69,000 litres of fuel entered Gaza from Egypt, according to the United Nations. Egypt and the UN have pressured Israel to speed up an inspection process for aid trucks that requires the vehicles to drive to Egypt’s border with Israel before looping back to Rafah.

Israel has accused Palestinian militants of having launched rockets from within a humanitarian zone in southern Gaza where it has said civilians can find safety. Twelve rockets were launched from the al-Mawasi zone on Dec. 6 and at least one more from close to a humanitarian area in Rafah, the Israeli military said, accusing Hamas of “using the civilians as a human shield”.

Oxfam accused the IDF of causing destruction, danger, and civilian terror and suffering at such a scale that makes any humanitarian response impossible. Marta Valdes Garcia, Oxfam humanitarian director said: "Our political leaders are failing – in abject weakness – to forge a ceasefire, which is the only possible humanitarian action that now really matters. The systemic, militarised chaos has overwhelmed the international humanitarian system. Our governments don’t even have the smokescreen of humanitarianism to hide behind now as Israel carries out its campaign of collective punishment. Israel’s so-called safe zones within Gaza are a mirage: unprotected, not agreed or trusted, not provisioned, and not accessible. We fear that masses of terrified people will be forced beyond Gaza itself under the guise of ‘safety’. This would force the humanitarian system into an impossible choice between helping civilians and being complicit in their forced deportation. The terrible irony is that this militarised destruction of Gaza is literally blowing away any chance of real security for both Palestinians and Israelis alike. Gaza needs a ceasefire now and humanitarian agencies need the guarantee of safe access in order to help its people and save lives. Oxfam staff in Gaza have seen young children asking their parents to pack their clothes into separate bags for when they are next forced to flee under fire, in case their parents are killed. People are reduced to fighting over basic necessities like food, water and fuel."

Israel’s leader of the opposition, Yair Lapid, has criticised the Israeli government’s response to a planned march in Israel in a post on X. He wrote: [translated by Google Translate]: "The march in Jerusalem tonight is a blatant Kahanist attempt to set fire to more arenas and cause more destruction and death. As prime minister I approved marches in Jerusalem, but not violent provocations. If there really was a cabinet in Israel, he would not allow it. The march is organised by two alleged ultranationalist groups and scheduled to take place this evening in the so-called Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem.

Amnesty International has said Israeli strikes that killed the Reuters journalist Issam Abdallah and injured six others in south Lebanon on Oct. 13 that must be investigated as a war crime. Human Rights Watch, in a separate statement, said the two Israeli strikes were “an apparently deliberate attack on civilians and thus a war crime”. Reuters claimed today that an Israeli tank crew killed Abdallah and wounded six others by firing two shells in quick succession from Israel while the journalists were filming cross-border shelling from a distance.

A former Hamas hostage, Thai farm worker Anucha Angkaew told Reuters he was abducted by 10 Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7. He said: "We shouted ‘Thailand, Thailand’, but they didn’t care. I thought I would die." Two of the six Thai companions were murdered soon after, including one Angkaew said was shot in front of him in a random act of violence. The rest were forced on to a truck for a roughly 30 minute ride into Gaza. Angkaew said he slept on a sandy floor and being beaten by Hamas captors, who he said singled out Israelis for especially brutal treatment. Almost all his time was spent inside two small underground rooms, secured by armed guards and accessed by dark narrow tunnels. He spent 50 days in captivity. About 130 people, including eight Thais, remain captive. Before the war, around 30,000 Thai labourers worked in the agriculture sector, making them one of Israel’s largest migrant worker groups. Workers from Malawi and Kenya have come to replace some of the workers who left Israel.

Care International claimed that displacement, hunger, lack of medical care and clean water, and winter temperatures are devastating for women and children in Gaza. It said the war was disproportionately affecting women and children, who make up almost 70% of those killed in Gaza since Oct. 7. 

Australian foreign affairs minister Penny Wong said “there are increasingly few safe places” for civilians in Gaza and has joined the US in warning that Israel risks “strategic defeat”, according to the Guardian. She said on Dec. 7 that her words about the war did not go “as far as some might want” but said this “does not diminish our concern for the numbers of civilian casualties that we are seeing”. Wong said that the end of the weeklong “pause” in hostilities was a “grave setback”. Australian assistant minister for foreign affairs Tim Watts will visit Qatar, Egypt, Israel and the "occupied Palestinian Territories” in an effort for “a just and enduring peace”.

8:15 am

IDF is pushing further into Khan Younis, the second-largest city in Gaza. The IDF said that Hamas is firing rockets from Gaza humanitarian zones into Israel. The number of IDF soldiers killed in the conflict so far reached 87.

IDF shows receipts it says show Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh’s son bought thousands of dollars of jewelry while many Gazans go hungry. The IDF published receipts found during raids on Hamas sites in Gaza showing that a son of Haniyeh bought jewelry in recent years worth thousands of dollars. A post from IDF Arabic language spokesman Avichayn Adraee purports to show receipts from both Gaza and Qatar for purchases made by Moaz Haniyeh. The five receipts total some $25,000. He said that the the “amount of just one receipt is equivalent to approximately two years’ wages for a Gaza resident.”

An anti-tank missile was fired from Lebanon at an Israeli civilian vehicle near the Lebanese border in Upper Galilee. There is no immediate comment from the IDF and no word on possible casualties.

7:39 am

Libyan TV host praised Palestinians for having so many children that they are happy to sacrifice a few in the eternal battle against Israel. “They have nuclear bombs, we have offspring bombs,” he said.

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

The EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, has backed the UN secretary general in his decision to invoke article 99 of the UN charter. Borrell says: “The #UNSC [UN security council] must act immediately to prevent a full collapse of the humanitarian situation in Gaza.”

The UN secretary general, António Guterres, has invoked a rarely used clause in the UN charter to warn that the conflict “may aggravate existing threats to international peace and security”. Guterres, in a letter to the security council, said he expects “public order to completely break down soon due to the desperate conditions” in Gaza as the territory comes under constant bombardment by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). In response, Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, said Guterres “reached a new moral low” and once again called for the UN chief to resign.

Associated Press has published a poll which shows Democratic views on how President Joe Biden is handling the conflict have rebounded slightly. The poll from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows 59% of Democrats approve of Biden’s approach to the conflict, a rise from 50% in November.

Israeli forces have surrounded the Gaza house of top Hamas leader, Yahya Sinwar, Benjamin Netanyahu has said. “It’s only a matter of time before we get him,” the Israeli prime minister said on Wednesday. The IDF said Sinwar, who Israeli officials have described as the architect of the 7 October attacks, is hiding underground. A senior Netanyahu adviser described the operation as a “symbolic victory”.

Israeli forces and Hamas are fighting house-to-house battles along the length of the Gaza Strip. As the IDF have been fighting their way through badly bomb-damaged urban areas in northern and southern Gaza, Hamas has increasingly relied on improvised bombs to inflict casualties and slow down the assault. The focal points of the fighting over the past two days have been the Jabalia refugee camp and the Shuja’iyya district in northern Gaza, and Khan Younis and Bani Suheila in the south.

Israeli forces have surrounded Khan Younis are now operating “in the heart” of the southern Gaza city, the IDF said on Wednesday. The IDF called on residents of Khan Younis to flee for safer areas on Wednesday morning, noting that there would be a pause until 2pm in the bombardment of Rafah, immediately to the south on the Egyptian border. Residents reported that the IDF dropped leaflets quoting a verse in the Qur’an on the area. The UN and aid agencies say nowhere in Gaza is safe any more.

The United States has discussed with Israel its timeline for military operations in Gaza and “how this falls into a longer-term strategy for addressing this issue that goes beyond just military means”, the White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan has told Reuters in a telephone interview. “We have talked to them about timetables. I don’t want to share that because Israel has already kind of telegraphed precisely the location of its ground operation and I don’t want to be the one telegraphing timetables.”

December 7, 2023

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Swords of Iron