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Peace and Conflict

Netanyahu announces war entering “second stage” | Update October 29th 2023

Netanyahu announces war entering “second stage” via BICom

Netanyahu announces war entering “second stage”: Israel’s ground incursions intensified as IDF troops entered Gaza from the northeastern town of Beit Hanoun and in the central area of al Bureij overnight Friday.

  • In parallel, the IDF confirmed that it has hit over 450 Hamas targets in the past day, including command centres, observation posts, and anti-tank guided missile launch positions.
  • 150 underground targets in the northern Gaza Strip were hit, including "terror tunnels, underground combat spaces and additional underground infrastructure" which resulted in the deaths of several Hamas members.
  • The IDF also confirmed that overnight Friday, Head of Hamas' Aerial Array, Asem Abu Rakaba was killed in an airstrike. IDF fighter also jets struck Ratib Abu Tzahiban, Commander of Hamas' Naval Forces of the Gaza City Brigade.
  • Netanyahu, speaking alongside Minister Benny Gantz and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, emphasised that the goals are clear: “destroying Hamas's military and governing capabilities, and bringing the captives back home.”
  • Gallant said that “the strength of the fire shook the ground in Gaza, and it’s different from anything Hamas has experienced since its creation... IDF forces are maneuvering in the relevant places, and are striking Hamas arrays right now, above ground and underground.”
  • “This will not be a short war,” Gallant said. “It is a long war that will require us to be strong, as individuals, as a society, as leaders.”
  • Yesterday, incoming rocket alerts sounded in numerous southern communities, including the coastal cities of Ashdod and Ashkelon. A rocket launched from the Gaza Strip landed on a home in Ramat Gan. Rockets also landed in the central cities of Kiryat Ono and Holon.
  • In total, some 7,800 rockets have been fired towards Israel since October 7.

The hostages: Netanyahu also met families of the hostages held in Gaza, promising to  “utilise every opportunity to return our kidnapped brothers and sisters to their families’ embrace.” 

  • The representatives of the families urged Netanyahu to agree to an “everyone for everyone” prisoner exchange with the Hamas terror group, trading Palestinians incarcerated in Israel for security offences for the hundreds who were abducted from Israel on October 7.
  • Hamas spokesman Abu Obeida demanded that Israel release all Palestinian security prisoners in return for the Israeli hostages. In a statement broadcast by the Hamas-run Al-Aqsa television channel, he said “the price to pay for the large number of enemy hostages in our hands is to empty the (Israeli) prisons of all Palestinian prisoners.”
  • Qatar's Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Majed Al-Ansari said that the parties involved in negotiations for the release of hostages are considering the possibility of a prisoner exchange deal. According to him, Hamas' handling of the hostage issue is being conducted in a chaotic manner.
  • "Talks are ongoing with all parties around the clock to make sure we reach an agreement, and we hope to succeed," Al-Ansari said, adding that the expansion of Israeli military activity in Gaza makes this difficult.

Regional: In the north, the IDF said it struck a compound belonging to the Hezbollah terror group and a number of observation posts in southern Lebanon in response to four separate rocket and missile attacks yesterday. Rockets were fired from Lebanon toward Shtula earlier in the day, setting off sirens in the northern community.

  • Hamas deputy chief Saleh al-Arouri met in Beirut with Nabih Berri, the speaker of Lebanon’s parliament and a Hezbollah ally. Berri, head of the Shiite Amal movement, congratulated Hamas for its brutal onslaught against Israel on October 7, in which 1,400 Israelis were killed, most of them civilians.
  • The US moved a 2nd strike group into the Mediterranean. The USS Eisenhower passed Gibraltar, along with USS Gravely and USS Mason. The Ford carrier strike group is operating west of Cyprus.

Diplomatic:  A Jordanian resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, which made no mention of Hamas, was overwhelmingly passed by the United Nations General Assembly on Friday.

  • It called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, the release of all civilians, the protection of civilians and international institutions, and ensuring the safe passage of humanitarian aid into the Strip.
  • 120 voted in favour of the non-binding resolution, while just 14 — United States, Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Fiji, Guatemala, Hungary, Israel, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay and Tonga — voted against it. 45 countries abstained, including the UK.
  • Canada sought to have an amendment added to the resolution to include a condemnation of Hamas and a majority of members backed the proposal, but it fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to be adopted. 88 countries voted for the amendment, 55 voted against and 33 abstained.
  • On Saturday, Foreign Minister Eli Cohen announced that Israel was recalling its diplomats from Turkey to “reassess relations”, after Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan made another speech attacking Israel for its actions in Gaza.

Context: Contrary to last week’s initial ground incursion in which troops withdrew to Israel at the conclusion of their mission, on this occasion troops remained inside Gaza.

  • While the families of the hostages fear an IDF offensive would hurt chances of reaching a deal, some Israeli professionals believe that the more Hamas is backed into a corner, the more it will try to use the cards it is holding to improve its situation, including by releasing hostages.
  • At the same time, current estimates are that there are low chances of reaching a deal are low. Qatari-led negotiations continue.
  • The IDF ground operation has been relatively slow due to:
    • The IDF’s understanding that this is going to be a long war and there is no reason to rush into an operation that could get bogged down.
    • The desire to ensure that Hezbollah does not capitalise on a full-blown ground incursion to Gaza to open a second front.
    • The understanding that a long war will require different military and civilian preparations. Reports suggest that the current plan is to get the public accustomed to functioning amid military activity in Gaza, and that if there is no escalation in the north, some reservists will be released and the Israeli economy will return to partial activity.
  • Video footage released of the interrogation of two Hamas terrorists captured following October 7th appears to confirm the long-held assessment that Hamas’s main base of operations is situated underneath Gaza City’s Shifa hospital.
  • Hezbollah’s escalation of hostilities in the north remains relatively contained. 58 Hezbollah terrorists have so far been killed in this war, and the IDF’s estimation is that it remains reluctant to pursue a large-scale escalation.
  • Having last week said that Hamas was not a terrorist organisation, Erdogan this time told a pro-Palestinian rally that “Israel, we will proclaim you as a war criminal to the world.” 
  • Turkey has only recently fully restored diplomatic relations with Israel following many years of diplomatic tension.

Looking ahead: As its ground operations intensify, IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said Israel was “increasing the urgency” of its call for northern Gazans to move south.

  • “Civilians in northern Gaza, in Gaza City should temporarily move south of Wadi Gaza to a safer area, where they can receive water, food, and medicine,” he said.
  • Hagari also said that from Monday, “humanitarian efforts to Gaza, led by Egypt and the United States, will be expanding.”

via BICom