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Peace and Conflict

February 22nd - Day 139 of the war: News in Brief

February 22nd - Day 139 of the war: News in Brief via BICom

1. An Israeli man in his 20s has been killed and at least 11 others wounded in a terror attack near Ma’ale Adumim.  A pregnant woman, 23, is in serious condition, and four others are in moderate condition – a woman in her 30s, a man aged 23, a man aged 51, and a woman aged 52. The three attackers opened fire on vehicles in traffic on Highway 1, which leads to Jerusalem. Two were shot dead by security forces at the scene, and the third during sweeps of the area. They were evidently well coordinated and well-armed, with weapons recovered including assault rifles, makeshift submachine guns, and a grenade. The Shin Bet has identified the terrorists as Muhammad Zawahra, 26, his brother Kathem Zawahra, 31, and Ahmed Al-Wahsh, 31, all from the Bethlehem area.

2. There is cautious optimism over the prospects for a new hostage negotiation. Minister Gantz said yesterday that “efforts are being made presently to advance a new arrangement, and [there are] initial signs about the possibility for progress.” Saudi reports suggest an Israeli delegation is expected to travel to Cairo to resume talks, following an apparent softening of Hamas’s position. Hamas confirmed that its Political Bureau Director Ismail Haniya and a Hamas delegation had arrived in Cairo on Tuesday. They were followed yesterday by US Middle East envoy Brett McGurk, for a summit that had not been scheduled in advance. The Qatari Emir and prime minister are also expected to travel to Paris for talks next week. Israeli media reports suggest that Hamas has been persuaded to show more flexibility by threats from Arab states that they will cease providing funding and safe refuge for Hamas officials if they failed to do so.

3. IDF troops have begun fighting at close range inside the Gaza Strip’s vast tunnel network. Soldiers from the Yahalom Unit and the 98th Division yesterday destroyed a tunnel in the Khan Yunis area, after successfully navigating blast doors and other obstacles placed by the terrorists. Terrorists were encountered and defeated in a combination of hand-to-hand combat and what Israel Hayom calls “special means”. The IDF has continued a large-scale operation in Gaza City’s Zeitoun neighbourhood in the last day, in a bid to ensure that Hamas does not return there, while last night, Israel Navy troops destroyed Hamas and Islamic Jihad naval vessels and a rocket launcher that was ready for use to fire on Israel.

4. Once Zeitoun is secured, the IDF is to launch a pilot programme there, in which local Gazan civilians take over the administration of the area from Hamas. The trial civilian authority will look to take charge of distributing humanitarian aid, much of which currently ends up in the hands of Hamas, which uses it for its own ends to the cost of the civilian population. Another focus of activity will be changing school textbooks which currently incite hatred of Israel.

5. Hezbollah launched attacks on several northern Israeli communities this morning. An anti-tank missile struck a house in Yuval, a village in the Upper Galilee. Another anti-tank missile was launched toward the city of Kiryat Shmona and landed in an open area. There have been no reports of injuries, and the IDF responded with fire to the source of the attacks. Israel also attacked a military structure in the area of the Lebanese village Yaroun, along with three other Hezbollah operation command posts in southern Lebanon.

6. Israel’s Arrow long-range defence system intercepted a Houthi missile headed for Eilat this morning. The missile did not enter Israeli airspace and was shot down over the Red Sea. This was the sixth time the Arrow system has intercepted a Houthi ballistic missile headed for Israel since October 7th, while the Israeli Air Force has also thwarted several drone and cruise missile attacks. Shortly before the launch on Eilat, US forces destroyed seven Houthi anti-ship missiles, one missile launcher and a drone which “presented an imminent threat to merchant vessels and to the US Navy ships in the region.”

7. Israel’s Association of Rape Crisis Centres yesterday provided to the UN a detailed report documenting Hamas’s extensive use of sexual violence on October 7th. Its authors note that “the report clearly demonstrates that” sexual violence was “not a ‘malfunction’ or isolated incident, but a clear operational strategy involving systematic, targeted sexual abuse.” The report also provided evidence of continued sexual violence being inflicted on hostages being held by Hamas in Gaza. The report’s content is gleaned from survivors’ testimonies, interviews with first-responders, and people who provided counselling to the victims, though due to the high number of victims of this violence who were subsequently murdered, the full extent of the massacre’s sexual and gender-based violence is difficult to quantify.

8. The UK Parliament witnessed chaotic scenes yesterday during a vote on the war in Gaza. The Scottish National Party (SNP) had introduced a motion strongly critical of Israel and calling for an immediate ceasefire. The opposition Labour Party, arguing that the motion was too broad, introduced an amendment calling for an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire”, but "noting that Israel cannot be expected to cease fighting if Hamas continues with violence and that Israelis have the right to the assurance that the horror of 7th October cannot happen again". The Conservative government also tabled its own amendment. The House of Commons Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, unexpectedly chose to allow both amendments to be put to a vote, causing the Conservatives and the SNP to leave the chamber in protest. The partially vacated chamber then voted unanimously for the Labour amendment. Hoyle said he had been minded to allow the Labour motion to allow the House a full airing of views, and in part due to personal threats received by MPs.


via BICom