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Peace and Conflict

Emergency unity government formed as UK Foreign Secretary visits

Emergency unity government formed as UK Foreign Secretary visits via BICom

Emergency unity government formed:  Prime Minister Netanyahu and National Unity Party leader Benny Gantz last night came to an agreement for Gantz and his party’s 12 MKs to join an emergency unity government.

  • Gantz will immediately join Netanyahu and Defence Minister Gallant in a special war cabinet, which will oversee Israel’s response to Hamas’s deadly surprise attack. Gantz’s party colleague and former IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot will attend the war cabinet as an observer, as will Ron Dermer of the Likud.
  • National Unity Party MKs Gideon Saar, Chili Tropper and Yifat Shasha-Biton will be appointed ministers and will join the wider security cabinet.
  • Stressing that his decision did not signal a fundamental shift in his political differences with Netanyahu, Gantz said: “this isn’t a political partnership, this is a shared fate. We are lending a shoulder and are enlisting in the war that is being prosecuted by the prime minister and the defence minister.”

Foreign Secretary Cleverly visits Israel: He became the first foreign minister to visit Israel since the country was plunged into war by Hamas.

  • Cleverly visited Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, also accompanying Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen to the southern village of Ofakim to witness the devastation of Hamas’s attack first-hand.
  • During his southern stop, Cleverly was forced to join his hosts in running for cover when an air raid siren sounded.
  • “I’m in Israel today to show the UK’s unwavering support for Israel,” Cleverly said. “The facts are clear. Hamas are terrorists. Israel has the right to defend itself. Hamas and Hamas alone are responsible and accountable for these appalling attacks. Terrorism must never be allowed to prevail.”
  • King Charles also offered his solidarity to Israel yesterday. In a lengthy phone call with Israel’s President Herzog, the king offered his condolences on the loss of the fallen Israelis.

Gaza Strip Periphery: As of yesterday, there were still pockets of Hamas terrorists inside Israel. Residents in Ashkelon, Netivot and Sderot were instructed to lock themselves inside their homes over these concerns.

  • Three terrorists were killed in exchanges of fire with IDF troops near Kibbutz Zikim yesterday. Another three terrorists were killed last night near Kibbutz Nir Am. Five more terrorists were killed in other parts of the Gaza periphery.
  • IDF Spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said yesterday, “we are continuing to purge the periphery. There are isolated engagements but the territory is under the security forces’ control.”  
  • He added, “in the past two days no terrorists have crossed the fence. They have been killed before the fence. There are hundreds of terrorists’ bodies in that area, which we will remove moving forward. We have found thus far the bodies of roughly 1,000 terrorists, and we expect to find hundreds more. That attests to the scope of the assault.”
  • Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, touring the border communities, praising soldiers and civilians for their courage, added “we are going to wipe this thing called Hamas, ISIS Gaza, from the face of the earth. It isn’t going to exist anymore. We aren’t going to have people slaughtered while we just carry on with our daily lives.”

Inside Gaza: The Israeli Air Force (IAF) continues to attack Hamas targets across the Gaza Strip.

  • The IDF has attacked around 3,000 targets. Yesterday’s targets included the Islamic University, which served as a training centre for Hamas engineers, and the home of the father of Hamas Military Wing Commander Mohammed Deif, killing Deif’s brother.
  • The IDF conducted a wave of strikes targeting Hamas’s Nukhba elite forces, striking their operational command centres used by Saturday’s infiltrators.
  • IAF aircraft struck Muhammad Abu Shamla, a senior Hamas naval operative in the Rafah Brigade. According to the IDF, his home was also used to store weapons.
  • The IDF also announced that IAF aircraft destroyed an advanced aircraft detection tool that had been developed by Hamas. Those devices were hidden in solar water heaters.
  • Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, related to the continued airstrikes saying, “every place there are Hamas leaders, the IDF is attacking precisely and powerfully.” IDF Spokesperson Hagari said, “we prioritise killing senior officials”.
  • Hamas health officials in Gaza say the death toll has risen to 1,200. The number of wounded has reached 5,600. The United Nations said 340,000 people have fled their homes.

The northern front: Panic was provoked early yesterday evening, as 2 million northern residents headed for shelters after an apparent drone incursion from Lebanon, which later proved to be a false alarm.

  • Sirens rang across the north, with reports of 15-20 drones apparently crossing into Israeli territory. Shortly after, further sirens sounded amid a suspected terrorist infiltration alert in the northern town of Ma’ayan Baruch, and later in Ma’alot Tarshiha.
  • Fearing a large-scale attack on the northern front, IDF Home Front Command warned locals to stay in their homes.
  • IDF spokesman Hagari explained that “there was an error, and we are investigating it — we will check if it was a technical fault or human error… The bottom line,” he continued, “is I want to calm the public and say that at this stage, there is no major security incident in the north.”

Context: The inclusion of Gantz and Eisenkot, both formerly IDF Chiefs of Staff, into the inner security cabinet brings vital security experience as part of the inner team to lead the country.

  • The inclusion of the more moderate National Unity Party into the collation further dilutes the influence of the more extreme members of the government. As part of the agreement, no legislation unrelated to the war will be advanced by the emergency government.
  • At this point neither Leader of the Opposition Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) nor Yisrael Beiteinu’s Avigdor Liberman will join an emergency government, after both called for Smotrich and Ben Gvir to be removed as a condition for joining the government.
  • However, Netanyahu and Gantz pledged last night to reserve Lapid a seat in the war cabinet, should he change his mind.
  • The visit of the British Foreign Secretary is further indication of strong UK-Israel ties. Underscoring bipartisan support Opposition Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer told his party's conference this week that "Israel must always have the right to defend her people."
  • Concern remains over the prospect of the substantially better armed Hezbollah answering its fellow Iranian proxy Hamas’s call to join the fighting.
  • So far, Hezbollah has only carried out limited provocations along the border. This is being interpreted as the minimum they need to do to show support.
  • Hezbollah appears deterred from substantial escalation. Contributing to this was President Biden’s stark warning to other organisations to get involved in the fighting, and the US deployment of aircraft carriers off the Israeli coast.
  • Following President Biden’s supportive speech, a first plane loaded with munitions arrived in Israel from the US.
  • The overall death toll on the Israeli side from Saturday’s attack stands at 1,200 people. In addition, 3,007 people have been admitted to hospitals, among whom 28 are in critical condition, 345 are in serious condition, 563 are in moderate condition. 

Looking ahead: Foreign Secretary Cleverly was the first senior foreign official to visit. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to arrive today.

  • A second US aircraft carrier is also expected to arrive. According to Gen. Michael Kurilla, commander of US Central Command, “the arrival of these highly capable forces to the region is a strong signal of deterrence should any actor hostile to Israel consider trying to take advantage of this situation.”

via BICom