Biden speaks to regional leaders as Israel’s Gaza ground operation continues


What happened: US President Joe Biden spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu and Egyptian President el-Sissi yesterday.

  • National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan had previously said on CNN that Biden would reiterate to Netanyahu that Israel had a responsibility to protect the civilian population of Gaza and “should be taking every possible means available to them” to distinguish between Hamas and civilians.
  • Later, on ABC’s This Week programme, he said Hamas “is hiding behind the civilian population, which puts an added burden on Israel to differentiate between the terrorists and innocent civilians, but it doesn’t lessen their responsibility under international humanitarian law and the laws of war to do all in their power to protect the civilian population.”
  • The official US readout of the Biden-el-Sissi conversation says Biden “expressed his appreciation for Egypt’s leading role in efforts to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the civilian population of Gaza… The two leaders committed to the significant acceleration and increase of assistance flowing into Gaza beginning today and then continuously.”
  • “They also discussed the importance of protecting civilian lives, respect for international humanitarian law and ensuring that Palestinians in Gaza are not displaced to Egypt or any other nation.”
  • Britain Prime Minister Sunak and France President Macron spoke by telephone and “agreed to work together on efforts both to get crucial food, fuel, water and medicine to those who need it, and to get foreign nationals out,” a Downing Street spokesperson said. They also stressed “the importance of getting urgent humanitarian support.”
  • The two also “agreed that it was important not to lose sight of the long-term future of the region and, in particular, the need for a two-state solution.”
  • Britain’s Ambassador to Israel Simon Walters said that the UK needs Israel to win the war with Hamas in Gaza. In an interview with Israeli Army Radio he said “Hamas must not remain in control in the Gaza Strip,” adding that “Israel must adhere to the laws of war.” Simon also expressed extreme concern about the rise in antisemitism in the UK. “It’s worrying that during the protests we’ve seen some antisemitic slogans and some calls for jihad. The government is responding to that — it takes the safety of Jewry in the UK very seriously.”
  • The IDF says that over the last day it has conducted strikes against some 600 Hamas sites, including weapons storage sites, hideouts, and staging grounds.
  • IDF spokesperson Daniel Hagari said “dozens of terrorists” from “tactical command” were killed during bombing in Gaza. “They were those who command the people and direct them in the field,” Hagari said, accusing Hamas of “using schools, hospitals, and others. They do not want anything other than to use them as a human shield.”
  • Hagari also updated the number of hostages believed to be in Gaza. The military has notified the families of 239 hostages. “It’s an unfathomable number. There are foreign workers among the hostages, it takes us time to reach everyone’s families,” he says.
  • At the request of the US Administration, humanitarian aid is entering the Gaza Strip. The aid includes only water, food, and medical supplies. A total of 108 trucks have entered during the past eight days, including 33 yesterday and 24 today.
  • With rocket fire from Gaza continuing, homes were hit this morning when 30 rockets were fired on the southern Israeli city of Netivot.
  • In the north, the IDF carried out airstrikes against several Hezbollah positions in southern Lebanon in response to rocket and missile fire on northern Israel. The IDF said targets included “infrastructure for directing terror, and military infrastructure.” Troops also struck another anti-tank guided missile squad in southern Lebanon and carried out a drone strike on a terror operative flying a drone over the border.
  • An IDF reserve soldier was killed, and three soldiers injured in a tank accident on the northern border.
  • Elsewhere, Channel 12 reports a warning by Shin Bet head Ronen Bar to the war cabinet and the wider cabinet of “fears about an eruption” of violence in the West Bank. “The specific warning notes a rise in violence by settlers [and] incidents between settlers and Palestinians that result in the deaths of Palestinians.”
  • According to the report, Israeli sources said that “these incidents are likely to set the area alight” and harm the war effort against Hamas. Palestinians said on Saturday that a Palestinian man was shot dead as he harvested olives near the West Bank village of As-Sawiya.
  • Last night IDF troops conducted an operation in Jenin to arrest wanted men. Palestinian media reported that three Palestinians were killed and nine injured. One of the dead has been identified by Palestinian media as Wiam Hanoun, suggested to be a founder of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad offshoot Jenin Brigade.

Context: As world leaders emphasise the importance of preventing a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, COGAT (Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories) claimed yesterday that Hamas possesses fuel reserves, and is continuing to take control of private fuel reserves. Essential facilities in Gaza depend on the fuel depots of Hamas, which supplies a limited quantity every few days.

  • According to new intelligence received and exposed by the IDF, Hamas has a fuel depot of approximately one million litres, and is controlling the supply of fuel to hospitals and other essential facilities, according to its own interests. It does so to add pressure to the international discourse by creating the public perception of a fuel shortage in the Gaza Strip.
  • Gaza has local energy production based on solar farms and on generators powered by private fuel reserves, COGAT says.  All the essential facilities — hospitals, desalination plants, wells, and the like — have alternative energy sources. For example, 70 percent of the energy needs of the European Hospital are met by solar energy.
  • COGAT also says there is no shortage of food for the near term, and food reserves in the Strip are sufficient for at least a month. Medical supplies are sufficient for the near term, both by Hamas and by the international organisations.
  • According to COGAT, there is also currently no water shortage in Gaza. The Birket Sa’id water line, which was damaged by Hamas mortar fire, has been repaired and is once more supplying water to the residents of the central Gaza Strip. The reopening of the Birket Sa’id water line has improved the water accessibility and quality.
  • In the northern Gaza Strip, the municipalities distribute water from tanks. They also pump water from the ground and into the water system. In the southern Gaza Strip, and particularly in the Khan Younis area which is served by the Bani Suheila water line, there is a constant supply of water.

Looking ahead: The UN Security Council is scheduled to hold an emergency meeting this afternoon at the request of the United Arab Emirates. The council has already rejected four draft resolutions – one vetoed by the US, one vetoed by Russia and China, and two that failed to get the minimum nine “yes” votes.

  • Amid concerns of regional escalation, Jordan has asked the US to deploy its Patriot missile defence system to bolster its border defences.