Day Ten Of Swords Of Iron

Reports of a ceasefire and an opening at Rafah crossing are false.

IDF Nahal Brigade soldier Flickr IDF photo

8:31 pm
Reportedly, President Biden will arrive in Israel on Oct. 18 to visit PM Netanyahu.

7:35 pm
 In an interview with his friend and veteran journalist Henrique Cymerman, Pope Francis expressed his fears that "a companion of mine" may be among the Argentine victims of Hamas's vicious assault on Israel. In a telephone conversation with Cymerman, who suggested that there were Argentines either killed or taken hostage, the Pope said, "I know, I know... that there may surely be a companion of mine among them." Cymerman told La Nacion newspaper that the pontiff may have merely suspected that a friend was among the victims. However, Cymerman said that the pope once told him of a friend living on a kibbutz in southern Israel.

6:02 pm
According to Palestinian media, Osama al-Mazini -- a member of the Hamas politburo -- was killed in the Gaza Strip. In the past, al-Mazini was the Minister of Education in the Hamas government and handled the Gilad Shalit case. According to the reports, he was killed in his home in Gaza.

A Hamas spokesman claimed that the terrorist group now has between 200 and 250 Hostages in the Gaza Strip and that at least 22 of them are claimed to have died as a result of Israeli airstrikes.

Belgian authorities raise terror alert to highest level in Brussels, and to the second-highest level across rest of nation. It followed an attack by a Muslim who shot two Swedes to death while crying 'Allah akbar.'

Abdesalem al Guilani terrorist

The man depicted above, Abdesalem Al Guilani, is a suspect in the murder of at least two people in Brussels on Oct. 16. In a video statement, he said that he belongs to ISIS and is a soldier of Islam. In his video, he stated: "Islamic salute to Allah Akbar. I appeal to Abdesalem Al Guilani and I am a fighter for Allah. I'm from the Islamic State. We love those who love us and we hate those who hate us. We live by our religion and die by our religion. Al Hamdulah. Your brother was born in the name of Muslims. So far I have killed 3 Swedes Al Hamdoulelah. Those to whom I have written a check choose to forgive me. And I will forgive myself to the whole world. Salam Alaykoum.” In amateur videos, he is seen wielding a long gun. Some reports suggest it is an AK-47. A manhunt is underway in Belgium following the night-time attack. Last week, Hamas called on Muslims to attack Israel and Western countries.

4:13  pm
Hamas demanded the release of “6,000 male and female prisoners in Israeli prisons” in exchange for hostages it took during its incursions. Reuters quoted Hamas head for the diaspora Khaled Meshaal,  who claimed that the captives include “high-ranking officers” of the IDF. Meshaal also expressed “gratitude” to Hezbollah for “taking steps”, presumably Hezbollah’s firing on Israel’s north, but it “needs to do more.”

The foreign minister of Turkey, Hakan Fidan, said that his country is discussing with Hamas the release of civilian hostages held by Hamas. Fidan spoke with Hamas leader  Ismail Haniyeh today. And he also warned displacement of Palestinians in Gaza “will harm Egypt, Jordan and Arab national security interests”. Fidan discussed “the latest developments in Palestine and the possibility of release of civilians” with the exiled Haniyeh, Reuters reported.

Thousands of protesters turned out in Washignton DC to “shut down the White House,” said organizers. A group called If Not Now tweeted images and video from the protest, which it claims “blocked 4+ doors to the White House.” Police are arresting some of the protesters.

House Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) tweeted his support for the protesters, praising “hundreds of young Jews calling for the end of violence on innocent lives in Gaza”.

The EU will launch a “humanitarian air bridge” consisting of “several flights” to Egypt with supplies for humanitarian aid groups in Gaza. Two flights go out this week with cargo from UNICEF, including medicine and hygiene kits. European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, during a press conference in Albania said today, “Palestinians in Gaza are in need of humanitarian help and aid, they cannot pay the prize of Hamas’ barbarism.”

Secretary of State Blinken arrived in Israel after a tour of five Gulf Arab states and Egypt in an effort to stem the escalation of the war and provide relief to Palestinian civilians. Trucks bearing supplies are waiting at Egypt’s border crossing with Gaza at Rafah. According to the BBC, there was an Israeli airstrike on the crossing this evening. However, UN trucks carrying fuel were admitted to Gaza from Egypt, even though most other supplies were barred. 

Blinken and Netanyahu both took shelter in a bomb-proof for five minutes when air raid sirens sounded in Tel Aviv. They are continuing to talk.

The World Health Organization (WHO) warned Gaza faces an imminent public health crisis as the Palestinian enclave is “running out of water”. WHO claims 3,500 patients in 35 Gazan hospitals are at risk, and called for the unobstructed access for humanitarian aid into Gaza.

US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Israeli officials had told him on Oct 15 that they had turned the water back on in southern Gaza. A Hamas spokesperson denied Israel’s claims, saying that the people in Gaza “drink unhealthy water, posing a serious health crisis threatens the lives of the citizens”.

Jason Lee, the director of Save the Children in Palestine, told the BBC earlier today that he had reports that water was flowing in parts of southern Gaza again, but that without fuel or electricity to pump it, it would not be available to the general population.

Rishi Sunak spoke via telephone with PA leader Mahmoud Abbas to express his condolences for the deaths of Palestinian civilians, Downing Street said. Sunak “reiterated the UK’s position that Hamas does not speak for ordinary Palestinians,” a No 10 spokesperson said. The pair “agreed that the international community must intensify efforts to break the cycle of violence in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories,” the statement continued. Sunak affirmed that the UK continues to support a two-state solution, with a Palestinian state existing alongside a safe and secure Israel.

3:17 pm
Israeli PM Netanyahu warned Iran and Hezbollah that the IDF is prepared to fight on two fronts: on the southern border with Gaza and in the north bordering Lebanon. “Don't test us in the North because the price you will pay will be heavy.”

3:14 pm
Israeli Knesset member  and Likud partisan Amit Halevi submitted a bill that would allow courts to impose the death penalty on Palestinian terrorists who participated in Hamas’s Oct. 7 terror assault. The bill was supported by 39 Knesset members, including four from the opposition Yesh Atid Party.

Harvard University Overseers received a letter today that the Wexner Foundation was "stunned and sickened at the dismal failure of Harvard's leadership to take a clear and unequivocal stand against the barbaric murders of innocent Israeli civilians by terrorists last Saturday." Wexner Foundation has long funded Israeli scholars studying at the Kennedy School, who the letter said now feel "abandoned", after the university failed to disassociate itself and condemn a statement by 34 student groups that held Israel solely responsible for the carnage on Oct. 7. Wexner will no longer fund Harvard and the Kennedy School. 

Wexner letter to Harvard

3:00 pm
The Iranian foreign ministry claimed today that Hamas is prepared to release hostages if Israels agrees to stop its bombing raids in Gaza. The number of abductees is reportedly 199. Iran's foreign minister Nasser Kanaani said at a media conference tht Hamas is “ready” to release, but this is "impossible” while the IAF continues to strike.

The Israeli shekel weakened in value today, dropping to four per U.S. dollar for the first time since 2015, an apparente response to the war in Gaza. Since Oct.7, the shekel has weakened roughly 4% against the dollar. It was last down 0.7% at 3.9981 per dollar.

Shin Bet security chief Ronen Bar took personal responsibility for missing any cues in advance of Hamas unprecedented and violent attack on Israel on Oct. 7. In a message to staff, he wrote: “Despite a series of actions we carried out, unfortunately on Saturday we were unable to generate a sufficient warning that would allow the attack to be thwarted.”

“As the one who heads the organization, the responsibility for this is mine,” Bar wrote.

The US has put 2000 U.S. troops on prepare-to-deploy status for possible non-combat operations in Israel. This would include medical staff and military advisors for the expected ground operations in Gaza.

The IDF gave the names of another eight soldiers killed during the war, mostly on the border with the Gaza Strip. The number of slain troops rose to 299.

Hamas's representative in Lebanon, Ahmed Abdul-Hadi, declared today that the group decided alone on mounting the attack on Israel and was not prompted by Iran or other outside parties. However, he said allied groups will assist Hamas should Israel invade Gaza. 

9:53 am
Israel announced that it is "halting security exports" to Colombia, following remarks by Colombian President Gustavo Petro who likened Israelis to "nazis" following Hamas's vicious terrorist attack on Oct. 7. The Israeli government also summoned the South American country's ambassador in Tel Aviv to communicate its dismay over Petro's statement. On Twitter, Petro commented on Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant's "complete siege" of Gaza and his comment of Israel's fight against "human animals." Petro wrote: “This is what the Nazis said of the Jews,” adding that “democratic peoples cannot allow Nazism to reestablish itself in international politics.”

9:35 am
The IDF displayed arms and war materiel captured overnight from Hamas operatives in the West Bank. Twenty operatives were arrested last night, while 360 suspects overall have been arrested since Oct 7.

Hamas weapons captured in West Bank 10 2023

9:30 am
President Biden is expected to arrive in Israel on Oct. 18 to show solidarity and support, having accepted an invitation from Israeli PM Netanyahu.

8:00 am
Israel is evacuating residents within a 2 kilometer (1.2 miles) zone next to the country's border with Lebanon. This followed volleys of fire between the IDF and Hezbollah terrorists. Defense Minister Yoav Gallant approved the plan, which includes evacuating 28 Israeli towns. 

Denmark will send a frigate to join fellow NATO forces in the eastern Mediterranean to prepare for possible evacuations in case of an escalation of the conflict.

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Iranian leader Ebrahim Raisi held discussions over ending the the conflict. Erdoğan’s office said he told Raisi that Turkey was working to get humanitarian aid to Gaza, while calling for parties to refrain from escalation.

President Biden has reportedly canceled a planned trip to Colorado. According to Reuters, he will remain in Washington and meet with national security officials.

Putin and Assad call for end to forced displacement of Gaza residents

The Tass news agency reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin and Syrian president Bashar al-Assad have spoken about the war. Tass wrote: "Assad and Putin, in a telephone conversation, spoke in favour of the immediate delivery of aid to Gaza, the office of the Syrian leader reports. Assad and Putin also called for an end to the shelling of Gaza and the forced displacement of its residents."

Reuters says the Israeli government disputes claims by Hamas that water has not been resupplied to Gaza.  According to Israel, water is being supplied near Khan Yunis in southern Gaza.

Hamas spokesman Eyad al-Bozom claimed that Israel had not permitted water supplies to be turned back on in Gaza. “The residents drink unhealthy water, posing a serious health crisis threatens the lives of the citizens,” he said, according to Reuters. On Oct. 15, US national security adviser Jake Sullivan told CNN: “I can tell you this morning that I have been in touch with my Israeli counterparts just within the last hour, who report to me that they have in fact turned the water pipe back on in southern Gaza.”

6:41 am
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said he spoke by phone to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Oct. 15 about Gaza, and called for the establishment of a humanitarian aid corridor to help the local population. On social media, Maduro condemned what he termed “indiscriminate attacks on the civilian population by Israel, causing thousands of deaths and injuries,” which he said crossed “the line of respect for international humanitarian law.”

US Army Gen. David Petraeus (ret.) said Hamas' attack on Israel was “far worse than 9/11.” Petraeus, who oversaw wars in Iraq and Afghanistan also once served as director of the CIA, said on Oct 15 that the terror strike that killed more than 1,300 Israelis was proportionally greater than the terrorist attacks in the US that claimed thousands of lives Sept. 11, 2001.

6:00 am
Secretary of State Antony Blinken returned to Israel for more talks, landing at Tel Aviv in his second visit since Hamas launched its terrorist attack on Oct. 7. Hamas killed 1,300 Israelis and is hold 199 hostages in Gaza. Blinken has been touring other countries, having concluded meetings in Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia.

Egypt blamed Israel for a failure to keep open the Rafah crossing from Gaza to Egypt. On Oct 16, Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Shoukry said the Israeli government had yet to take a position to allow the opeing, claiming Egypt had aimed to keep the crossing open.

However, UN-flagged fuel trucks were seen near the border today, even while the crossing between Egypt and Gaza has remained closed.

UK armed forces minister James Heappey told the GB News channel that Israel is a “responsible actor” for warning Gazans to evacuate the north of the Gaza Strip, and described the south of Gaza as a “safe haven”. “There is safe haven. Israel has been clear that people should move south, below the wadi, and that will put them out of reach of their planned operations. But let’s be crystal clear, Israel is the democracy that is giving notice to civilians and asking them to move south. It is Hamas who uses civilians as human shields and that is the key distinction here.”

The UN relief and works agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA) today pointed out that Gaza has had no electricity for five days, limited access to clean drinking water, and over one million people have been displaced. Israeli turned on the water to the southern part of Gaza on Oct. 15. Gaza’s health ministry calculates 2,750+ Palestinians have been killed and 9,700+ wounded in Israeli airstrikes October 7.

A hostage for hostages

Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Latin Catholic Patriarch of Jerusalem offered himself in exchange for child hostages held by Hamas in Gaza. He said, “I am ready for an exchange, anything, if this can lead to freedom, to bring the children home. No problem. There is total willingness on my part. The first thing to do is to try to win the release of the hostages, otherwise there will be no way of stopping. We are willing to help, even me personally.”

China’s foreign minister Wang Yi called for a ceasefire. In a bilateral appearance with Russian FM Sergei Lavrov, Yi said: "The UN security council must take action, and the major powers should play an active role. It is imperative that a ceasefire be put in place, that the two sides be brought back to the negotiating table, and that an emergency humanitarian channel be established to prevent a further humanitarian disaster."

American citizens evacuated

The United States has provided a ship at the Israeli port of Haifa to evacuated American citizens to Cyprus. Boarding has commenced. 

Regarding hostages held by Hamas, IDF spokesman Daniel Hagari said: "There is a top national priority effort for the issue of the abductees and we are focused on this effort as a national top priority. The IDF is working around the clock to return the abductees." The hostages' families have been notified by the Israeli government. The Israeli government confirmed that there are 199 hostages.

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani said today “Iran considers that the US is already militarily involved in the conflict between Israel and Palestinians.”

The Israeli army stated that 291+ Israeli soldiers have been killed so far, while reiterating that there is no temporary ceasefire in southern Gaza.

Leaders of all 27 EU countries have called for the “immediate and unconditional” release of all the hostages being held by Hamas in Gaza. They will meet on Oct. 17 via video link over fears the the contagion of war will spread in the Middle East. European Council president Charles Michel averred Israel’s right to defend itself but said it must be “in full compliance with international law and international humanitarian law”.  Michel said the summit will deal with providing basic needs for the most vulnerable people, de-escalation of the conflict, and work towards a two-state solution. The EU is concerned about potentially huge numbers of migrants leaving Gaza, and the humanitarian need that will create in neighbouring countries.

UNRWA claims Israel targeted refugees

Martin Griffiths, the chief of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said in a BBC interview: "Movement of civilians should be voluntary, to places they choose and to places of safety and should be accompanied by humanitarian assistance to make that movement safe.” 

“We need aid in, and we need clarity about places of safety that will not be attacked and not be part of the war between the two sides. And we need a corridor on which we can rely on.”

He added: “There is enough evidence, tragically, that some of those who have been moved in the last day or two have been attacked on their way south. This is against the rules of war.”

He demanded the release of hostages, saying their capture was illegal, egregious and immoral, adding it was “not a contradiction to hold two thoughts at once”.

Hamas official Izzat El Reshiq told Reuters that reports about an opening of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt or a temporary ceasefire are false.

Egyptian security sources had told Reuters earlier that an agreement had been reached to open the border crossing to allow aid into Gaza from 0600 GMT. As of 0740 GMT the crossing remained closed. Israeli PM Netanayahu's office issued an announcement saying, “there is no ceasefire”.

German media reports that Chancellor Olaf Scholz will travel to Israel on Oct. 17. German foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, was in Israel last week.

October 16, 2023

Topic tags:
Israel Egypt Gaza Palestine United States diplomacy Iron Swords Iran