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Peace and Conflict

March 7th - Day 153 of the war: News in Brief

March 7th - Day 153 of the war: News in Brief via BICom

1. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak joined a London meeting yesterday between Israeli war cabinet Minister Gantz and UK National Security Adviser Sir Tim Barrow. Gantz’s office said he thanked the UK "for its efforts on behalf of Israel’s security and stressed the importance of continued international pressure on Hamas to secure the release of the hostages." Gantz also thanked the UK "for its efforts to curb the threat posed by the Iranian axis of terror in the Red Sea and in the region more broadly." Earlier in the day, Gantz met with UK Foreign Secretary Cameron. "We discussed efforts to secure a humanitarian pause to get the hostages safely home and lifesaving supplies into Gaza," Cameron said. "I once again pressed Israel to increase the flow of aid. We are still not seeing improvements on the ground. This must change." Like his visit to Washington this week, Gantz’s London trip was not sanctioned by Prime Minister Netanyahu.

2. The New York Times reports increasing pessimism regarding the prospects for securing a hostage release/ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas before Ramadan. Discussions look to have stalled over Hamas insistence on a permanent ceasefire, a full Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, and the return to northern Gaza of residents displaced by fighting. Israel has already agreed to a “redeployment” of forces within Gaza, and the return of women and children to the north. According to US reports, Washington is considering pressing Qatar to threaten to expel Hamas officials from Doha if they fail to agree to a hostage release. President Biden said this week that a deal was in Hamas’s hands, while at the UN, the US revised language in a draft Security Council resolution to back “an immediate ceasefire of roughly six-weeks in Gaza together with the release of all hostages.”

3. In coordination with Israel, the UN will today assess using an Israeli military road bordering the Gaza Strip to deliver aid into the territory. The US also made its second airdrop of aid into Gaza yesterday in a joint operation with Jordan, Egypt, and France. Also yesterday, Israel’s Channel 13 reported that Israel will the for the first time allow humanitarian aid to enter Gaza via sea. The UAE will finance the aid shipments, which will be sent from there to Cyprus, for inspection by Israeli officials. Sources suggest the first aid ship will sail from Cyprus in the coming days.

4. The IDF has named a soldier killed in fighting in Gaza yesterday as Staff Sgt. David Sasson, 21. 12 other soldiers were wounded, five seriously, when Hamas gunmen in the Hamad neighbourhood of Khan Yunis opened fire. Another soldier was critically wounded yesterday in a battle in another part of the Strip. Elsewhere in Gaza, IDF operations continue in the Hamad Town neighbourhood of Khan Yunis. Soldiers raided several sites in the neighbourhood, locating a weapons manufacturing plant, explosive devices and military equipment, the IDF says. Troops also located several tunnel shafts, and destroyed a number of Hamas offices in the area.

5. The state commission of inquiry tasked with investigating the circumstances that led to the death of 45 men and boys attending the 2021 Lag B’Omer festival on Mt. Meron published its report yesterday. It found that Prime Minister Netanyahu, former Public Security Minister Ohana, Police Commissioner Shabtai and former Religious Services Minister Avitan all bore personal responsibility for the disaster. In response, the Likud accused the inquiry of being a politically motivated attack by the previous Bennett-Lapid government. As well as being criticised by Lapid, who called for Netanyahu to resign, this response was attacked from within the Likud itself. Economy Minister Barkat said: “It is a grave mistake to turn the commission of inquiry into the Mt. Meron disaster into a political event.” Likud MK Eli Dellal wrote on X: “If you have nothing smart/good/leader-like to say, it’s best not to say anything.” Likud MK Tally Gotliv said: “I am a Likud member and I do not agree with the Likud’s infuriating response to the Meron commission’s conclusions.” Ohana, also from the Likud and now the Speaker of the Knesset, accepted the findings of the report and said the catastrophe resulted from "a long-standing failure in organising the event and the infrastructure of the place."

6. The Shin Bet intelligence service has followed the IDF in beginning its own operational review into the October 7th massacres and the events leading up to them. The review will take several weeks – a possibly months – and will consider the handling of intelligence received on the evening of October 6th indicating a possible attack. Shin Bet head Ronen Bar took responsibility for intelligence failures shortly after the event, saying “the responsibility resides with me for our failure to produce a satisfactory warning.”

7. For the first time, Houthi attacks on Red Sea vessels have resulted in fatalities to crew. Three crew members of the Barbados-flagged True Confidence died after a Houthi missile strike hit the vessel yesterday. The government of the Philippines has confirmed that two of its citizens were among those killed. The news comes days after the Belize-flagged cargo ship, Rubymar, became the first vessel to sink after being hit by Houthi missiles. Also yesterday, according to US CENTCOM, the US conducted “self-defence strikes against two unmanned aerial vehicles in a Houthi controlled area of Yemen that presented an imminent threat to merchant vessels and US Navy ships in the region." On Tuesday, the US shot down a ballistic missile and three drones launched from Yemen at the destroyer USS Carney. Three anti-ship missiles and three sea drones were also fired at the ship. Communications cables under the Red Sea were also cut this week, affecting 25 percent of data traffic flowing between Asia and Europe. The cause of the damage is as yet unknown. The Houthis have carried out more than 60 Red Sea attacks in recent months, with analysts assessing that the US coalition’s strikes at missile-launching sites are not having a deterrent effect.

via BICom