Days Fifty And Fifty-One Of Swords of Iron

Israel summoned Ireland's ambassador to explain Irish PM Varadkar's comments that an Irish child was "lost" in the custody of Hamas, which had abducted her on Oct. 7.

Troops at Jabiliya IDF photo

3:25 pm

Three young men who were in Vermont on Nov. 25 were allegedly shot and injured — one seriously — near the University of Vermont in Burlington. The alleged perpetrator has been tentatively identified as a white man with a handgun who “without speaking… discharged at least four rounds” at the victims' torsos and lower limbs before fleeing the scene, Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad stated. Murad says all three victims are of Palestinian descent. Two are US citizens and one is a legal resident. Two of them were wearing black-and-white Palestinian keffiyeh scarves. “The fact is that we don’t yet know as much as we want to right now. But I urge the public to avoid making conclusions based on statements from uninvolved parties who know even less,” Murad said.

President Biden has been briefed on the incident and socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders condemned the “shocking and deeply upsetting” attack, saying he looks “looks forward to a full investigation.”

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the Biden administration wants Israel to “learn the lessons” of its ground incursion in northern Gaza and not begin operating in southern Gaza until it can ensure that Palestinian civilians can avoid the bombing. On CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Sullivan said the US still supports Israel’s plans to continue the war once the temporary pause in fighting concludes. "Ultimately, Israel is going to want to continue to conduct military operations against Hamas, particularly [against] the leadership of Hamas [who] were the architects of this brutal, bloody massacre — the worst massacre of the Jewish people since the Holocaust.” He reiterated that the US can approve of the IDF expansion of operations in Gaza's south only “after civilians have been accounted for, have the opportunity to be in safety, have access to humanitarian assistance and to be out of the way of any military operation that is conducted.”

Earlier in November, Biden defended the IDF operations at Gaza City's Al Shifa hospital, where underground bunkers and Hamas operations center was found, but said: “This is a different story than I believe was occurring before, an indiscriminate bombing,” Biden said then.

The parents of four-year-old Avigail Idan, who was released by Hamas, were among those murdered on Oct. 7. Her grandfather, Carmel Idan, was quoted following her release saying, “It was just wow. I didn’t believe it until I saw it,” adding, "Now I’m calm, but not completely calm because there is happiness, but there is also the absence of Roee and Smadar,” Avigail’s parents.

Hamas stated that it wants to extend the current truce beyond the initial four-day period in exchange for the release of more hostages. 117 Palestinian prisoners have been released, and some 40 are expected to be released on Nov. 27, while Israel has a list of 150 more that it could release. This appears to be the first time that Hamas has formally expressed its desire to extend the truce past Nov. 27. With every additional day of pause in fighting, Hamas will have to release a further 10 hostages. The deal approved by the Israeli cabinet says it can be capped at a maximum of 10 days and 300 prisoners released before it will require a new vote by government ministers.

France says it also hopes Israel-Hamas truce lasts until all hostages freed, said Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna: “We demand the release of our hostages and all the hostages. It would be good, helpful, and necessary for the truce to be extended to this end.” A number of French-Israeli citizens are being held. Israel agreed to a deal that is capped at 10 days, which would see only around half of the hostages freed, before the cabinet would have to vote again

2:58 pm

Israeli forces killed 15-year-old Ammar Abu Al-Wafa (below) in the West Bank community of Jenin on the evening of Nov. 25.

15-year-old Ammar Abu Al-Wafa

2:27 pm

President Biden reiterated his calls for a two-state solution, saying: “A two state solution is the only way to guarantee a long term security of both Israelis and Palestinian people, to make sure Israelis and Palestinians alike live in equal measure of freedom and dignity. We will not give up on working toward that goal.” Regarding hostages held by the terrorists, he said, “This is a day by day approach,” and “Nothing is guaranteed and nothing is being taken for granted but the proof that this is working…is in every smile, and every great tear we see on the faces of those families who are finally getting back together again. The proof is little Abigail. More than 20 other children, 18 years and younger, have been released…They’ve endured a terrible ordeal. They can now begin a long journey.”

He said that his administration will work with regional partners to “expand the delivery of critical humanitarian assistance to help innocent Palestinians in need who are not part of Hamas.” He added: “We worked urgently to take advantage of the pause to surge aid into Gaza…We’re doing approximately 200 aid trucks in the Gaza each day, loaded with food, water, medicine, fuel, and cooking gas. More is needed, but this deal is delivering life-saving results. Critically needed aid is going in and hostages are coming out. This deal is structured so that it can be extended to keep building on these results. That’s my goal, that’s our goal, to keep this pause going beyond tomorrow so that we can continue to see more hostages come out and surge more humanitarian relief into those in need in Gaza.”

Biden thanked Qatari emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, saying: “I owe a special thanks to him in order to keep the hostage release on track and push for Abigail to be part of this release.” He said that his administration will “continue to remain personally engaged to see that this deal is fully implemented and work to extend the deal as well.” Regarding 4-year old dual US-Israeli citizen Abigail Edan, Biden said she has been through a “terrible trauma.” Her parents were murdered on Oct. 7 by the terrorists. “Today she’s free, and Jilly and I, together with so many Americans, are praying for the fact that she is going to be alright.” Biden said, “We are hopeful” that other Americans may be freed, adding, “There’s a lot more work to be done.” Regarding the temporary humanitarian pause in the war, he said he would like to “see the pause go on as long as prisoners are getting released.” He said that he expects other Americans to be released by Hamas. 

11:19 am

The Guardian newspaper issued the following summary:

The 17 hostages freed by Hamas late on Saturday [Nov. 25] included Maya Regev, the first of the hostages taken from the Supernova music festival to be released since Hamas fighters swooped on the event during their attack on southern Israel on 7 October, Agence France-Presse reports. Regev, 21, and her 18-year-old brother Itay, who was also abducted from the festival, were shown tied up in the back of a pick-up truck in a video posted on social media after the attack. “I am so excited and happy that Maya is on her way to us now,” her mother, Mirit, said in a statement released by the hostage families’ forum. Nonetheless, my heart is split because my son Itay is still in Hamas captivity in Gaza."

An Israeli police investigation into the Hamas attack on the music festival updated the death toll earlier this month to 364, according to Israeli media reports. That figure would make up nearly one-third of all of those killed during the 7 October onslaught, the Times of Israel reported, citing Channel 12. Earlier counts had placed the death count from the Supernova attack in Kibbutz Re’im at 270. Israeli police reportedly believe that Hamas did not know about the festival before carrying out the attack.

The women of the Munder family, Ruti and Keren, knew that after everything that had already been taken from them, they could not afford to lose track of time. So while they were held captive in Gaza with Keren’s nine-year-old son, Ohad, they counted the days as they dragged slowly into weeks and then a second month. “They said that they tried to memorise the days,” said Rony Raviv, niece of Ruti, 78, and cousin to Keren. They always knew what day it was, and what the date was. They knew that they were there for 49 days. They were together the whole time.

Raviv spoke to her relatives on the phone on Friday, hours after they were released as part of a temporary ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas. Ohad’s emotional reunion with his father east of Tel Aviv on Friday has been posted online. Ohad, who turned nine in captivity, also spoke to a friend on Friday evening, and other friends planned to visit him on Saturday, Raviv said. But all the newly released hostages were at the start of a difficult recovery. “They’re still in shock, all of them,” Raviv said. 

Prison authorities in Israel announced early on Sunday [Nov. 26] that they had released 39 Palestinian prisoners after Hamas freed 13 Israelis and four Thai nationals in the latest stage of a four-day ceasefire. Television footage showed hostages on the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing after leaving Gaza, as Hamas handed over the captives to the International Committee of the Red Cross late on Saturday. Of the 13 Israelis released, six were women and seven were children and teenagers.

Egypt has received lists of a further 13 Israelis and 39 Palestinians scheduled for release on Sunday, the third batch in the four-day truce deal brokered by Egypt and Qatar. Diaa Rashwan, the head of Egypt’s State Information Service (SIS), said in a statement that “The truce is proceeding without roadblocks,” adding that 120 aid trucks crossed from Egypt to Gaza on Sunday including two fuel trucks and two with gas for cooking.

The US national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, has confirmed that the administration expects an American hostage to be freed today, but did not confirm who it would be.
Hamas has announced that four senior commanders have been killed, including Ahmed al-Ghandour, a commander in the north of Gaza. Ghandour – whose nom de guerre was Abu Anas – was listed by the US in 2017 as a “specially designated global terrorist”.

A Palestinian farmer was killed and another injured on Sunday after they were targeted by Israeli forces in the Maghazi refugee camp in the centre of Gaza, the Palestine Red Crescent Society reported.

Israel’s military claimed to have killed five Palestinians overnight as well as arresting 21 in Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank. Funerals were held for those killed on Sunday. The Palestinian health ministry said that three others were killed in separate areas of the West Bank since Saturday morning. One of those killed, in al-Bireh in the central West Bank, was a teenager, the ministry said.

Gen Herzi Halevy, the chief of general staff of the IDF, has said its forces will “return to fighting with full determination” after the humanitarian pause ends.

Unidentified armed individuals are believed to have seized the oil cargo vessel Central Park in the Gulf of Aden on Sunday, a US defence official has said. The small oil tanker is managed by the Israeli-owned Zodiac Maritime Ltd, a London-headquartered international ship management company, LSEG data shows.

Israel’s foreign minister, Eli Cohen, has posted to social media to say that he has summoned the Irish ambassador to Israel for a reprimand, after what he said were “the outrageous words of the prime minister of Ireland”. In a tweet, taoiseach Leo Varadkar had said: “This is a day of enormous joy and relief for Emily Hand and her family. An innocent child who was lost has now been found and returned, and we breathe a massive sigh of relief.” The nine-year-old Dublin-born hostage was released from Gaza yesterday, after being abducted by Hamas on 7 October.

In London, a large group has gathered outside the Royal Courts of Justice for a rally organised by the charity Campaign Against Antisemitism. The group of a few thousand waved Israeli and British flags and held placards reading “Never Again Is Now” and “Zero Tolerance for Antisemites”. The far-right former leader of the English Defence League, Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, was among those present. Yaxley-Lennon, who uses the name Tommy Robinson, had been asked to stay away by organisers.

London’s Metropolitan police has said it has launched an investigation after a journalist alleged she was verbally abused in an “intimidating” encounter while reporting at the pro-Palestinian march in the UK’s capital on Saturday.

It is understood that Ireland’s ambassador to Israel, Sonya McGuinness, will be asked to a meeting in Tel Aviv in the coming days to be told that Israel’s foreign minister, Eli Cohen, expects the taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, to clarify or apologise for saying nine-year-old Emily Hand was “lost” instead of kidnapped. The Israeli ambassador to Ireland, Dana Erlich, issued a statement saying that “words matter, especially in war when lives are at stake, and when there is an increase of extreme discourse”.

Unidentified armed individuals are believed to have seized the oil cargo vessel Central Park in the Gulf of Aden on Sunday, a US defence official has said, Reuters reports. The small oil tanker is managed by the Israeli-owned Zodiac Maritime Ltd, a London-headquartered international ship management company, LSEG data shows.

Egypt received lists of 13 Israelis and 39 Palestinians scheduled for release on Sunday, the third batch in the four-day truce deal brokered by Egypt and Qatar, Diaa Rashwan, the head of Egypt’s State Information Service (SIS), said in a statement. “The truce is proceeding without roadblocks,” Reuters reports the statement said, adding that 120 aid tucks crossed from Egypt to Gaza on Sunday including two fuel trucks and two with gas for cooking.

Jake Sullivan, the US national security adviser, has been restating the Biden administration line on the extension of the Israel ground offensive to southern Gaza, as it is widely expected to do after the hostage ceasefire. The US is insisting that the campaign in the south, where Gaza residents were told by the Israeli government to take shelter, should look very different from in the north, where there were mass civilian casualties. At the time the administration did not directly criticise the Israeli forces for their conduct in the north, but in his CBS News Face the Nation interview, Sullivan said there were lessons to be learned.

“The United States is hoping to see – and frankly what I believe Israel is hoping to see – is the conditions being set whereby any military action only takes place after civilians have been accounted for and have the opportunity to be in safety, to have access to humanitarian assistance, and to be out of the way of any military operation that is conducted.

“That’s the conversation we’re having with the Israelis right now. It’s a constructive conversation and the details of it will remain behind closed doors but the basic notion is that continuing military operations should learn lessons from the north, to be applied in any further undertakings.”

The Guardian newspaper summarized

The UN said 61 trucks carrying medical supplies, food and water had delivered their payloads in the northern Gaza Strip as the pause in fighting allows aid to enter the territory. Another 200 trucks had been dispatched to Gaza from Nitzana in Israel, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said on Saturday, with 187 of them having made it past the border by the early evening local time.

Israeli troops killed six Palestinians in the occupied West Bank on Saturday, the Palestinian ministry of health said. A 25-year-old doctor was killed early in the morning outside his home in Qabatiya, near Jenin, it said. Another Palestinian was killed in el-Bireh, near Ramallah. Four people were also killed by Israeli army fire in Jenin, during an incursion by a large number of armoured vehicles into the town. Witnesses told Agence France-Presse on Saturday that the Israeli army was surrounding Jenin’s public hospital and the Ibn Sina clinic, and that soldiers were searching ambulances. They also reported heavy fighting with automatic weapons.

The UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon said Israeli fire hit one of its patrols in the country’s south on Saturday, despite the Hamas-Israel truce largely quietening the Lebanon-Israel frontier. Around noon, a Unifil patrol was hit by Israeli military gunfire in the vicinity of Aitarun, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon said. “No peacekeepers were injured, but the vehicle was damaged.”

Egypt said on Saturday [Nov. 25]  it had received positive signals from all parties over a possible extension of the Gaza truce for one or two days, Reuters reported. Diaa Rashwan, the head of Egypt’s State Information Service, said the country was holding extensive talks with all parties to reach an agreement over extending the four-day ceasefire, which “means the release of more detainees in Gaza and Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails”.

The number of Thai nationals believed to be held hostage by Hamas has increased by two, Thailand’s ministry of foreign affairs has said. This means that, after Saturday’s release of four more Thai hostages, a further 18 Thai nationals are still being held by Hamas.

The body of a Tanzanian student who went missing in Israel after the bloody Hamas attack last month was due to be returned home on Sunday, his family said. Clemence Felix Mtenga, 22, was one of two Tanzanians reported missing after the 7 October attack.

In the UK, tens of thousands of people took to the streets of London on Saturday to call for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza in the latest major demonstration in the capital. Police were handing out leaflets to provide “absolute clarity” on what would be deemed an offence. It came after weeks of pressure on the force over the handling of the now-regular demonstrations.

November 25-26, 2023

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Swords of Iron