- There is media speculation that the possible contours of the deal would involve the release of 50-100 children, women and elderly. Their release would be staggered, through a three to five day ceasefire which would allow increased aid to enter the Strip, possibly also fuel. In addition Israel would release women held in Israeli prisons.
- It is estimated that most of the hostages are held in the south part of the strip, at least initially, as the largest proportion were taken from Re’im and Nir Oz.
- Some analysts assess with IDF advancements, Hamas is facing more pressure to do a deal, whilst their leaders are still alive to do so. An exchange for a ceasefire will allow Hamas to venture above ground and assess the damage.
- On Saturday night thousands of people attended a rally in support of the hostages’ families outside the Tel Aviv Museum Square, which has been informally renamed “Hostages Square.”
Arab Islamic summit: The leaders of 20 states gathered for an emergency summit in Saudi Arabia, where they all condemned the Israeli aggression in Gaza. They all called accused Israel of war crimes and called for the lifting of the siege.
- Mohamad bin Salman, the Saudi Crown Prince called for an end to the fighting and for the release of the hostages.
- Abbas, the Chairman of the Palestinian Authority (PA) called for elections in Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem.
- Turkish President Erdogan, called for an investigation into Israeli nuclear bombs and for an evacuation of the wounded to Egypt.
- The Egyptian president Sisi called for the establishment of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, but rejected opening a humanitarian crossing into Egypt.
- However, on more substantive issues the countries were divided. Only 11 states agreed to:
- prevent the US using their military bases in Arab countries to supply Israel with weapons and ammunition.
- freezing Arab diplomatic, economic, security and military relations with Israel.
- threaten to use oil and an Arab boycott to pressure to stop the aggression.
- prevent Israeli civil aviation from flying in Arab airspace.
- send a joint delegation to lobby Washington, Moscow and London.
- Another nine did not support those five actions, they were: Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, Morocco, Sudan, Mauritania, Djibouti, Egypt and Jordan.
Gaza Strip: The IDF continues to expand its operation deep inside Gaza City. IDF Spokesperson Hagari said that Hamas has “lost its grip” on the heart of Gaza City.
- He added that as opposed to Hamas lies, the IDF had not attacked or laid siege to Shifa Hospital.
In televised remarks Col. Moshe Tetro, the head of the Gaza CLA (Coordination and Liaison Administration) was personally in contact with the hospital director and reaffirmed that the eastern side of the hospital was open for safe passage for those that want to leave.
- Hagari later added that the IDF would provide all necessary assistance to relocate the patients in the paediatric ward to safer hospitals.
- Israel continues to take pauses in the fighting to allow Gazan civilians to leave combat zones. On Saturday, tens of thousands left the Jabaliya area to move south. In the last few days around 150,000 – 200,000 have left.
- Over the weekend, the IDF took control of another 11 Hamas military posts.
- However, five more soldiers were killed, taking the total to 43 since the beginning of the ground operation two weeks ago.
- On Friday night the IDF estimated the elimination of about 150 terrorists in Hamas strongholds.
- In one strike, the IDF confirmed they killed the terrorist who held hostage approximately 1000 Gazan residents at the Rantisi Hospital.
- During operations in the Beit Hanoun area, the IDF revealed they “destroyed weapons, ammunition and explosive devices in a kindergarten…”, adding they “exposed and destroyed dozens of tunnel openings and secured military and civilian structures where large quantities of weapons, maps and intelligence files of the Hamas terrorist organisation were stored.”
- Despite the advances Hamas are still launching rockets into Israel.
North: Hezbollah forces continued to attack along the border.
- For the first time, the IDF struck a Hezbollah target 40km deep into Lebanon. According to Lebanese media, an Israeli drone attacked a pick-up truck in the Al Baraq area of Zahrani.
- Over the weekend, Hezbollah fired a new ‘Barkan’ rocket with a particularly heavy payload of up to 500kg.
- Three IDF soldiers were badly injured by an advanced Hezbollah UAV.
- Three more UAVs were identified crossing into Israeli territory in northern Israel and intercepted.
- Furthermore, two mortar shell launches and anti-tank missiles were identified from Lebanon toward IDF posts in northern Israel. IDF artillery struck the source of the launches alongside a Hezbollah terror infrastructure.
- On Saturday afternoon Hezbollah leader Nasrallah once again gave a televised address from his bunker.
- He encouraged more anti-Israel protests in the west as a lever to pressurise their governments.
- He praised those forces supporting Hamas, specifically in the West Bank and Yemen.
- He expressed ‘regret’ that Arab countries (Saudi Arabia) had intercepted missiles and drones fired by the Houthis in Yemen.
- Overall the IDF is satisfied with its effectiveness in spotting Hezbollah cells and successfully striking them within minutes. Nasrallah also related to this, admitting every cell that fires rockets is effectively a suicide mission. Nasrallah said this in an effort to defend his commitment to the fight.
- Hezbollah has confirmed over 70 of their fighters have been killed.
- On Saturday night the IDF struck targets in Syria in response to rockets fired at the Golan Heights earlier in the day.
Context: The IDF understands it is coming under increasing pressure to agree to a temporary cessation of fighting, but will not do so without the release of a significant chunk of the hostages.
- According to the IDF, “Since the beginning of the war, the IDF has struck over 15,000 terror targets in the Gaza Strip and located 6000 weapons, including anti-tank missile launchers, anti-aircraft missiles, rockets and mortars, explosives, ammunition, and more.”
- The IDF emphasises the impressive coordination between aerial, naval, and ground forces. Since the beginning of ground operations in Gaza, the Air Force, with the assistance and direction of the ground forces, has “struck approximately 5,000 targets in the Gaza Strip to eliminate threats in real time. Approximately 3,300 strikes were carried out by fighter jets, 860 strikes were carried out by combat helicopters and over 570 strikes were carried out by UAVs.”
- However, analysts note that bombs dropped and terrorists killed are not the measure of success, as all the while Hamas retains it chain of command and terror infrastructure.
- According to estimates, around 10 per cent of the Israeli Air Force is committed to Gaza, leaving the bulk of their capacity ready to face threats in other sectors.
- Regarding the north, there are three reasons to suggest Hezbollah are deterred from a wider confrontation:
- Hezbollah has lost the element of surprise to launch an invasion of their Radwan force. The IDF is heavily deployed in the border, and the closest civilian communities have been evacuated.
- The US military posture serves as a stark warning, that an escalation will be met by a US response.
- They see the pictures from Gaza, and hear Defence Minister Gallant’s warning to Beirut.
- On Saturday night the three leaders prosecuting the war, Netanyahu, Gallant and Gantz, held another joint press conference. Prime Minister Netanyahu said, in the future Israel would retain overriding security control over the Gaza Strip and appeared to rule out handing over control to the PA. Netanyahu said, “Overall security control, with the ability to go in whenever we want in order to kill terrorists who could reappear. There will be no Hamas. There will be no civilian authority that educates their children to hate Israel, to kill Israelis, to destroy the State of Israel. There can’t be an authority there that pays the families of murderers. There needs to be something else there.”
- Netanyahu’s position appears to be at odds with the US vision and could cause tension in the future. Some have speculated that this is part of Netanyahu’s future positioning at the next election. Though others note that due to his current unpopularity he may not be the one to decide on the day after.
Looking ahead: In the short term, the IDF will increase pressure on hospitals to evacuate the patients in order to target Hamas infrastructure underneath.
- The IDF will also be advancing to control Hamas government sites and destroy the tunnels.
- Longer term objectives could include expanding the military operation to the southern part of the Strip and kill the Hamas senior leaders.
- Israel will seek to place a new regime in Gaza that is not connected to Iran.