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UN Security Council endorses hostage deal

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Hostage deal: The UN Security Council last night passed a US-sponsored resolution calling on Hamas to accept the deal. 14 states on the 15-member council voted in favour, with only Russia abstaining.

  • US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield  said the council had “united behind a deal that will save lives and help Palestinian civilians in Gaza start to rebuild and heal. United behind a deal that will reunite hostages with their families after eight months in captivity. United behind a deal that will lead to a more secure Israel and unlock the possibility of more progress, including calm along Israel’s northern border with Lebanon.”
  • In supporting the resolution, British Ambassador to the UN Barbara Woodward expressed the UK’s “steadfast support of a credible and irreversible pathway towards a two-state solution”, adding that “a sustainable peace must also include Hamas no longer being in control of Gaza and international support for the Palestinian Authority so that it can resume governance and security responsibilities across the West Bank and Gaza. The UK stands ready to support this.”
  • The final draft of the resolution removed a demand Israel not institute a security buffer zone on the Gazan side of the Israel-Gaza border.
  • Despite not having accepted the latest proposal, Hamas yesterday responded to the UN vote, declaring its “readiness to cooperate with the mediators to enter into indirect negotiations on the implementation of these principles that are in line with the demands of our people and our resistance.”
  • Israeli diplomat Reut Shafir Ben Naftali said that “from the very first days following Hamas’s invasion and brutal massacre on October 7th, Israel’s goals have been very clear: To bring all our hostages home and to dismantle Hamas’s capabilities. Israel is committed to these goals – to free all the hostages, destroy Hamas’ military and governing capabilities, and ensure that Gaza does not pose a threat to Israel in the future.”
  • In parallel to the UN, the US is continuing its regional shuttle diplomacy. Secretary of State Blinken, on his eighth visit to the region since October 7th, met with Netanyahu on Monday night. He reinforced the US’s ironclad commitment to Israel’s security, whilst expressing cautious optimism over a hostage deal.
  • According to Reuters, Netanyahu reaffirmed his commitment to the current proposal.

Gaza Strip: The IDF continues to operate against Hamas targets in the south and centre of the Strip.

  • The military announced that four IDF soldiers were killed and another six injured, five of them seriously in a booby trapped explosion that caused a three-story building in Rafah to collapse. Afterwards troops found a tunnel shaft underneath the building.
  • The fallen soldiers were named as Maj. Tal Pshebilski Shaulov, 24, from Gedera. Staff Sgt. Eitan Karlsbrun, 20, from Modiin, Sgt. Almog Shalom, 19, from Hamadia, Sgt. Yair Levin, 19, from Givat Harel. They all served in the Givati Brigade’s reconnaissance unit. Shalom and Levin had not yet completed their training.
  • Their deaths bring the total of fallen soldiers since the ground operation began to 299, and 650 since October 7th.
  • On Monday, the IDF said the Air Force (IAF), “struck and eliminated Hamas terrorists, including Nukhba Forces operatives, in the central Gaza Strip. Simultaneously, the IAF struck underground terrorist infrastructure in the Deir al-Balah area.”
  • In addition, “aircraft struck and dismantled approximately 35 terror targets throughout the Gaza Strip, including military structures, weapons storage facilities, launch sites, observation posts, terrorist cells, and additional military infrastructure.”
  • In the Rafah area, according to the IDF, “troops eliminated armed terrorist cells in close-quarters encounters and located intelligence materials in several targeted raids in the area. An IAF aircraft eliminated a Hamas sniper who posed a threat to the troops in the area.”

Northern front: Air raid sirens continue to be heard across northern Israel. There have been numerous account of hostile aircraft infiltrations mostly emanating from Lebanon but also further east.

  • This morning there was an interception off the coastal area of Haifa, the first time the city has been targeted since January.
  • Further up the coast on Monday, an IDF aerial defence system successfully intercepted two aerial targets over Nahariya. According to the IDF, “two additional targets that crossed from Lebanon fell in the area of Kabri. As a result, a fire broke out and damage was caused in the area.”
  • In addition, 50 projectiles were also fired at the central Golan from Lebanon. Several were successfully intercepted, while others landed in open areas. No injuries were reported.
  • Hezbollah also continues to launch anti-tank missile, on Monday several launches were identified toward the areas of Manara, Yir’on, Avivim, Margaliot, and Yiftach. According to the IDF, “several hits were identified on structures in the areas of Manara and Yir’on. Additionally, fires broke out in the areas of Yir’on, Yiftach and Manara.
  • In response, the IDF fired artillery towards to source of the fire in the areas of Salhani, Ayta ash Shab, and Hanine in southern Lebanon.
  • In addition, a surface-to-air missile was launched toward an IAF UAV that was operating in Lebanese airspace. As a result, the UAV was damaged and fell in Lebanese territory.
  • In response IAF fighter jets struck a Hezbollah military complex used to smuggle weapons from Syria into Lebanon in the Baalbek area.
  • The IDF also revealed that since the beginning of the war they have successfully intercepted over 150 aerial threats fired towards Israel from multiple fronts. This includes, “rockets, surface-to-surface missiles, and cruise missiles.”

Context: Israelis are still celebrating the heroic rescue of four hostages over the weekend, as further details emerged of the operation and the hostages’ conditions whilst in captivity.

  • However, 120 hostages remain captive in Gaza, now held for 248 days. Despite continued IDF progress in gaining operational control over much of the Gaza Strip, they have only successfully freed seven hostages, in three rescue missions over the last eight months.
  • The likeliest method for freeing large numbers of remaining hostages seems to be via a negotiated deal.
  • Israel’s Channel 12 yesterday gave full purported details on the current Israeli proposal for a ceasefire/hostage release deal.
  • The proposal, which formed the basis of President Biden’s public announcement of the latest terms in late May, offers a commitment to end the war in Gaza even before all hostages have been released by Hamas.
  • Across 18 clauses, the plan calls for a three-phase process, with Clause 15 providing for “restoration of a sustainable calm (cessation of military hostilities permanently) and its commencement prior to the exchange of hostages and prisoners…” in the second phase.
  • If accurate, this clause is hugely significant, given that the apparently unbridgeable difference between the two parties has previously been on whether or not a deal would provide explicitly for a permanent ceasefire.
  • As has been previously reported, the first phase would see the release of 33 hostages: all woman hostages, including soldiers, as well as men over 50 and all civilians with injuries or heath issues.
  • Israel, in turn, would release 30 Palestinian security prisoners per hostage (50 per hostage in the case of female soldiers). In a notable concession to Hamas demands, the names of the security prisoners released would be “subject to lists to be provided by Hamas based on precedence of their imprisonment.”
  • The released prisoners would include multiple inmates serving life sentences, who would be prevented from going to the West Bank but allowed to return to Gaza or move abroad.
  • The prime minister’s office immediately refuted the released text, insisting that its proposal did not allow for the ending of the war before the achievement of Israel’s war aim of the full defeat of Hamas. The “document that was presented is incomplete and misleads the public,” it said.
  • Now weeks after Biden first publicly presented the proposal, an official answer from Hamas remains outstanding. Secretary of State Blinken, currently on his eighth regional visit since October 7th, told reporters in Cairo yesterday that “my message to governments throughout the region… if you want a ceasefire, press Hamas to say ‘yes’.”

Looking ahead: Blinken is expected to continue his regional visit with a trip to Qatar, where efforts will be made to put additional pressure on Hamas to accept the terms of a deal