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Peace and Conflict

March 12th - Day 158 of the war: News in Brief

March 12th - Day 158 of the war: News in Brief via BICom 

1. There are unconfirmed reports that the third most senior Hamas leader, Marwan Issa, was killed in an Israeli air strike, early Sunday morning. Speaking on Sunday night, IDF Spokesperson Rear Admiral Hagari said that Issa was part of the terrorist triumvirate leadership, along with Deif and Sinwar. Hagari said: “On Saturday night, in a joint IDF-GSS operation, combat planes attacked an underground compound of the Hamas leadership in the central Gaza Strip in the Nuseirat area. The compound was used by two of the leaders. We are still studying the results of the attack and there is still no final confirmation.” In his statement, Hagari identified a second senior figure in the tunnel as Razi Abu Tama'a, Hamas’s arms chief and a former commander of its armed forces in central Gaza.

Marwan Issa served as Mohammad Dief’s deputy, second in command of the Hamas military wing. Israeli analysts described him as a “brilliant strategic mind” and considered central to the planning of October 7th alongside Deif and Sinwar.  Hamas has yet to issue an official statement announcing his death. This could be due to the general destruction in the Strip and the difficulty in locating his body, or a deliberate Hamas ploy to not announce his loss. If his death is confirmed, it would make him the highest ranking target in the war so far, even more senior than Arouri, who was killed in Lebanon. It also sends a signal to Sinwar and Deif that Israeli intelligence is looking for them too.

2. This morning, sirens have been heard in the north, both in the Golan and the Galilee near the Lebanon border. Israel is reporting that Hezbollah has launched over 100 rockets so far. Some of the rockets have been intercepted, whilst most fell in open areas. No injuries have been reported so far. In response, the IDF confirms that three rocket launchers that fired dozens of rockets towards northern Israel this morning were targeted with air strikes and destroyed. Overall, Hezbollah has fired over 2,500 rockets into Israel since October 7th, resulting in 17 Israelis killed. In response 239 Hezbollah fighters have been killed so far.

3. On Sunday night the Israeli Air Force attacked Hezbollah targets in the Baalbek region, around 100 km north of the border. This is the second time the Israeli Air Force has targeted the area since the war begun. The first time was two weeks ago after an Israeli UAV was shot down over Lebanon. Lebanese sources reported strikes on two compounds belonging Hezbollah’s aerial force, which had planned and executed attacks against Israel.  The IDF spokesperson said that the strike was in retaliation for the UAVs that were launched onto the Golan Heights in the last few days.

4. The first ship in a pilot programme carrying humanitarian aid by sea has today set sail from the port of Larnaca in Cyprus. The Open Arms is carrying almost 200 tonnes of food, supplied by Cyprus, the UAE, and the NGO World Central Kitchen (WCK) and will dock on a WCK-built pier on the Gaza coast, south of Gaza City. Israeli officials say that WCK will then be responsible for distributing the food to Gazan civilians. WCK says it has another 500 tonnes of food ready in Cyprus for future deliveries. In announcing the maiden voyage, it said that deliveries by sea would enable aid to reach many more Gazans, but pushed for further land crossings to be opened, too. Elsewhere, US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said yesterday that the process of the US delivering a huge shipment of flour to Gaza has started. The shipment, enough to feed 1.5 million Gazans for five months, was first mooted nearly two months ago, before being blocked by Israeli Finance Minister Smotrich, who cited UNRWA’s unsuitability to distribute it. The shipment is now set to be distributed in Gaza by the World Food Programme instead.

5. A senior Israeli official said yesterday that a hostage deal "might be possible... under certain conditions". Speaking to Ynet, the same official said that despite US warnings that it would constitute a “red line”, an Israeli operation in Rafah was likely. “An operation in Rafah will happen... the question is when - because there are many complexities here,” they said. With Hamas opting to stall and increase its demands for a deal, the Israeli Security Cabinet discussed empowering its negotiators with broader terms – an idea unanimously rejected by all cabinet members. Qatari media is reporting that CIA Director Burns, who met with Mossad head Barnea over the weekend, has explored the possibility of a brief cease-fire to facilitate further negotiations. Meanwhile, Israel is said to be weighing the idea of securing the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) assistance in administering Gaza if Hamas is removed from power. Israel media reports that Defence Minister Gallant has mentioned Commander of the General Intelligence Service Maj. Gen. Majed Faraj, a close associate of PA President Abbas as someone who might be heavily involved.

6. Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Katz addressed the UN Security Council’s emergency session to discuss the report on Hamas’ sexual crimes during the October 7th massacre yesterday. “I am here on behalf of the women and girls who were raped, murdered and mutilated by Hamas murderers,” said Katz. Katz also demanded that the UN recognise Hamas as a terrorist organisation and exert all possible pressure to return the remaining hostages. "The United Nations has been silent regarding on the actions of Hamas for too long," Katz said. "Over the past five months, since October 7, the United Nations has convened 41 times and has neither condemned nor denounced the brutal crimes of Hamas." The UN report, authored by Pramila Patten, found “reasonable grounds” to conclude that Hamas committed rape and gang rape at multiple sites during the massacre, as well as “clear and convincing information” that hostages in Gaza were subject to “sexual violence including rape, sexualised torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.”

7. Former French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna, head of the UN’s independent Review Group examining the actions UNRWA on October 7th, began her visit to Israel yesterday. Visiting Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, before proceeding to Ramallah and Amman, Colonna will be shown evidence of illustrating the extent of Hamas penetration of the aid agency, Hamas’s use of UNRWA facilities, including schools and clinics, to store weapons and launch attacks, and its locating of terror tunnels in or near UNRWA facilities. Katz welcomed Colonna’s arrival and stressed that Israel is cooperating fully with the committee, established by UN Secretary General Guterres in the wake of Israeli revelations of UNRWA staff’s complicity in the Hamas massacre.

via BICom