Updates on the Israel-Hamas War

Foreign Policy Brief #111 | By: Ibrahim Castro | January 4, 2024
Photo taken from: www.ndtv.com

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Situation in Gaza:

Nearly three months have passed since the October 7, 2023 attacks by Hamas militants that killed 1,200 people with over 200 more taken hostage and led to an Israeli bombing campaign in the Gaza strip that has killed 22,000 people and further divided the world. Among Gaza’s population of 2.2 million people, more than 1.7 million have been displaced by the conflict. The aid that has entered Gaza so far has not been adequate for the amount of food, water, fuel, life-saving medicines and supplies, sanitation and shelter needed by the besieged population. About 70% of homes in Gaza have been destroyed leaving almost the entire strip’s population without shelter to return to.

Many fear a push of Palestinians out of Gaza as the death toll continues to rise and top Israeli officials make claims for the removal of civilians. Israel’s Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, a far-right ultranationalist, said in recent days that Israel “should take steps to encourage immigration of the majority of Palestinians in Gaza to Europe”. National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gavir commented that Israel “could not withdraw from any territory we are in in the Gaza Strip. Not only do I not rule out Jewish settlement there, I believe it is also an important thing”. The US State Department has called the comments made by the Israeli officials “ inflammatory and irresponsible”.

Earlier this week, Israel said it was withdrawing two brigades from Gaza, with three more brigades to be pulled out at a future date. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has rejected suggestions that the pullout of some troops is part of a wider plan to end the military campaign in the strip.

South Africa files a genocide case against Israel:

South Africa has launched a case at the United Nations’ top court alleging that Israel’s military campaign in Gaza amounts to genocide. South Africa’s claim is that the magnitude of death and the extent of the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip meets the threshold of the 1948 Genocide Convention. Israel will now appear before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to contest South Africa’s accusation that it is committing genocide against Palestinians in its war with Hamas. For decades, South Africa has backed the Palestinian cause for recognition and statehood. The country has often likened the treatment of Palestinians to that of the Black population in South Africa during the apartheid era.

South Africa argues that the court has jurisdiction in both countries because both are signatories of the genocide convention and the convention’s ninth article states that disputes between nations over the convention can be submitted to the International Court of Justice. There are currently two other genocide cases are on the court’s docket. The first is a case filed by Ukraine shortly after Russia’s invasion which accuses Russia of planning acts of genocide in Ukraine. The other ongoing case involves Gambia accusing Myanmar of genocide against the Rohingya minority.

Hamas leader killed in Beirut:

Deputy Hamas chief Saleh al-Arouri was killed on Tuesday night in what is believed to be an Israeli drone strike, but not claimed, on Beirut’s southern area of Dahiyeh. The strike marks the first targeted attack inside Lebanon since 2006. This would not be the first Israeli strikes to have hit Lebanon in recent months. Arouri was a key figure in the Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s armed wing, and a close ally of Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas leader. He was positioned in Lebanon acting as an intermediary for Hamas and Hezbollah.

Israel and Hezbollah have been exchanging near-daily fire since the Oct. 7 attack, but the violence has mostly been limited to the border region between Lebanon and Israel. Israeli air strikes and shelling is reported to have killed more than 100 Hezbollah fighters and dozens of Lebanese civilians since then, including children, the elderly and several journalists. Human rights groups and local officials have also accused Israel of hitting Lebanese border areas with shells containing white phosphorus. Israel has insisted the assassination of the Hamas leader in Beirut was not an attack on Lebanon, however international law dictates that such incursions without consent into a sovereign state’s territories to be illegal. Hasan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, has made first public statements since the airstrike and said that the killing Arouri would “not go unpunished”.

Houthi’s attacks on ships in the Red Sea and US forms coalition:

The attacks on ships in the Red Sea by Yemen’s Houthi rebels have rerouted a majority of global trade away from the waterway . Oil, natural gas, grain and everything from toys to electronics typically travel through the waterway separating Africa and the Arabian Peninsula en route to the Suez Canal, where 15% of the world’s trade and 40% of Europe-Asia trade passes. It is the shortest shipping route between Europe and Asia. Companies have had to divert ships to sail around Africa, adding billions of dollars in cost because of the extended journey. The Houthis say the seizing of ships headed for Israel is a response to Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip and will only end once a permanent ceasefire is put into place.

The US in turn announced a plan to assemble a multinational naval coalition to safeguard Red Sea shipping called Operation Prosperity Guardian. US Secretary of Defense Loyd Austin said on Tuesday that Greece and Australia had also joined the coalition, taking it to a total of 20, but at least eight countries taking part have declined to be publicly named. On December 31, 2023, US attack helicopters repelled an attack by the Houthis on a Maersk (MAERSKb.CO) container vessel sinking three of their ships and killing 10 fighters. In response to the sinking of the Houthi ships Iran has dispatched a naval frigate to the Red Sea. The US-led coalition against the Houthis, Iran dispatching its warships, and Israeli airstrikes in Lebanon and Syria present to us a very clear indication that the conflict is spreading rapidly and multiple states are getting involved in one manner or another.

Pushback to Netanyahu’s rule

Israel’s Supreme Court on Monday struck down a government plan to limit the powers of the judiciary, a move that is likely to revive tensions and division in the country as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wages war in Gaza. In Israel, a majority of the population believes Netanyahu’s government is at least partially to blame for the events of October 7. A poll conducted by researchers at Bar Ilan University asked Israelis about trust in information and decision making regarding the war in Gaza. Results show that under 4% of Israelis support Netanyahu.

Check out usrenewnews.org/israel-hamas for more coverage, differing views and analysis of this conflict. Get the latest updates from our reporters by subscribing to the US Renew Democracy Weekly Newsletter, and please consider contributing to Keeping Democracy Alive by donating today! We depend on support from readers like you.

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