Combat operations resume in Gaza

This morning's top world news, in a nutshell - Friday, 1st December 2023

The Israeli military says it has resumed combat operations against Hamas, accusing the militant group of violating the truce agreement by firing toward Israel. The military’s announcement came moments after a seven-day truce between Israel and Hamas for the release of civilian hostages expired with no indications the sides had agreed to extend the deal. Reuters reports heavy shelling and smoke rising in eastern Khan Younis.

There was no immediate comment from Hamas or claim of responsibility for the launches. Palestinian media reported Israeli air and artillery strikes across the enclave after the truce expired, including in Rafah, near the border with Egypt. The Israeli army had announced on its Telegram channel the resumption of fighting, saying “Hamas violated the operational pause and, furthermore, fired towards Israeli territory”. The Wall Street Journal had earlier reported that the two sides had agreed to a further day of the ceasefire.

Egyptian and Qatari negotiators were working to extend the temporary and uneasy truce for an additional two days, Egypt said. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged Israel to make further efforts to protect civilians in Gaza when Israel resumes its military campaign. The London Times reports Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has brushed off US calls for military restraint in Gaza, saying that he intended to fight on until Hamas was “eliminated” as he was committed to achieving war objectives.

‘Tense’ phone call between Pope and President Herzog

Pope Francis had a ‘tense’ phone call with the President Isaac Herzog of Israel at the end of October, in the days of the carpet bombings and in-depth operations of the IDF in the Gaza Strip. The contents of the phone call were revealed by The Washington Post, citing a senior Israeli official. According to the American newspaper, Herzog was describing the horror of the Hamas attack on 7th October when, according to the Israeli source familiar with the facts, the Pope responded with a sharp rejoinder: that it is “forbidden to respond to terror with terror”. Herzog protested, reiterating that the Israeli government was doing what was necessary in Gaza to defend its citizens. The Pope went on to indicate that only those responsible should be held accountable, not civilians. According to the Post, that private phone call would be the basis of the Pope’s statement during the general audience on 22nd November in St Peter’s Square when, referring to the events in Gaza, he warned that, “this is not war. This is terrorism”. The post says the Israeli deduction was that the Pope had defined their military campaign in Gaza as an act of terrorism.

More Israeli hostages, Palestinian prisoners freed

Israel released another group of Palestinian prisoners Friday, hours after Hamas freed additional Israeli hostages under a last-minute agreement to extend their ceasefire by another day in Gaza. Any further extension renewal, now in its eighth day, could now prove more challenging as Hamas were expected to set a higher price for many of the remaining hostages. During the truce, at least 10 Israelis a day, along with other nationals, have been freed by Hamas in return for Israel’s release of at least 30 Palestinian prisoners. International pressure has mounted for the truce to continue as long as possible after weeks of Israeli bombardment and a ground campaign following Hamas’ deadly 7th October attack on Israel that triggered the war.

Hamas claims responsibility for deadly Jerusalem shooting

Hamas has claimed responsibility for a gun attack in Jerusalem that killed three people and left eight others wounded. The Palestinian militant group called for an “escalation of resistance against Israel”. Israeli police confirmed the two gunmen – two brothers aged 30 and 38 previously jailed in Israel – had been shot and killed.  Israel’s Prime Minister said his government would distribute more guns to Israeli citizens, following the attack by Palestinian militants.

Photo: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters

Israel knew about Hamas’s plan a year before the attack – NYT

Israeli officials obtained a document describing Hamas’ battle plan for its 7th October attack more than a year before the militant group carried out the assault, The New York Times reported, quoting documents, emails, and interviews. The roughly 40-page document did not give a date for the attack, but outlined “point by point” the kind of deadly incursion that Hamas carried out in Israeli territory in October, according to The Times, that reviewed the translated document. Israeli military and intelligence officials dismissed the plan, assessing that it would be too difficult for Hamas to carry out, according to The Times. The document, which the Israeli authorities code-named ‘Jericho Wall’, detailed an assault that would overwhelm fortifications around the Gaza Strip, take over Israeli cities and target key military bases. It was followed with precision by Hamas on 7th October, The Times said. On that day, Hamas militants struck across the border from Gaza in a coordinated assault taking more than 200 hostages and killing around 1,200 people – the largest such attack on Israel since the country’s founding in 1948. The attack was widely seen a major Israeli intelligence failure, with a number of top defence and security officials coming forward in October to take responsibility to some extent for missteps that led to the attacks. Later that month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received sharp public criticism after he accused security chiefs in a later-deleted social media post of failing to warn him about the impending attack. According to The Times, the ‘Jericho Wall’ document was circulated widely among Israeli military and intelligence lead.

Eye-catching climate donations at COP climate talks

The UN climate summit kicked off Thursday with a parade of wealthy nations offering big-money pledges to help poorer countries cope with the ravages of a warming world – a surprise that turns up the pressure on countries like China to open their checkbooks. Politico reports that leading the charge was the summit’s oil-rich host, the United Arab Emirates, whose $100 million (€92 million) vow seemed designed to defuse months of criticism about whether it can serve as an honest broker in talks about ending the world’s fossil fuel dependence. Its offer matched one from Germany. The manoeuver certainly turned heads – and kicked off a cascade of contributions, making for a remarkable opening day at the 28th annual COP conference. The European Union said it would give at least €225 million for the fund (including Germany’s pledge). The United Kingdom tossed in £40 million (approximately €46 million). Trailing far behind was the United States, at $17.5 million (roughly €16 million). Delegates from nearly 200 countries signed off on the initiative only hours into the summit.

Photo: COP28 / Christopher Pike

Deal reached on EU anti-SLAPP law

The European Parliament and EU Member States reached an agreement on an anti-SLAPP law designed to increase protection for people and organisations targeted by “strategic lawsuits against public participation”. The victims of these are usually journalists, employees of civil organisations, and activists, with the lawsuits typically initiated by large companies and politicians. A final position on the regulation proposed by the European Commission has now been agreed upon by the EU institutions.

Eurozone inflation falls to more than two-year low

The annual rate of inflation in the Eurozone fell to a more than two-year low in November, the EU’s official statistics agency said Thursday. Consumer price increases in the 20-nation single currency bloc reached 2.4%, Eurostat data showed, the lowest since July 2021. Inflation has steadily dropped since it reached a peak of 10.6% in October 2022 following the upheaval in markets wrought by Russia’s war on Ukraine. However, inflation is still above the European Central Bank (ECB)’s 2% target. Core inflation, which strips out volatile energy, food, alcohol, and tobacco prices, also slowed to 3.6% in November from 4.2% in October. ECB chief Christine Lagarde warned that another energy shock could prompt inflation to jump again. Energy prices in the eurozone, however, dipped further in November, falling by 11.5% on the back of a drop of 11.2% the previous month. The rise in food and drink prices also slowed down, reaching 6.9% in November compared with 7.4% in October, according to the EU’s statistical office, Eurostat.

Photo: Eduardo Briones/EUROPA PRESS/dpa

Germany unveils law for faster migrant returns

German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser on Thursday outlined her deportation legislation for failed asylum seekers, saying it was a necessary part of addressing concerns about immigration. She told parliament the draft law contains more than 40 individual measures that will make the execution of deportations easier and simpler. The law has been agreed by the three-way coalition of centre-left SPD, of which Faeser and Scholz are members, the Green Party, and the neoliberal Free Democrats (FDP). However, some members of the Green Party have called the proposal “a massive encroachment on fundamental rights”, labelling it “disproportionate” and “too severe”.

Photo: Michael Kappeler/dpa/picture alliance

Russia’s top court bans LGBTQ activism as ‘extremist’

Russia’s Supreme Court on Thursday ruled to designate LGBTQ activists as “extremists” and ban their activities, in the latest move against expressions of sexual orientation and gender in Russia. The Justice Ministry had requested the recognition of the “the international LGBT social movement” as extremist and to ban its activities. Both the court and the Justice Ministry have referred to a “movement” in their statements. The ministry filed the lawsuit earlier this month, saying that authorities had identified “signs and manifestations of an extremist nature” by an LGBTQ “movement” operating in Russia. In its statement announcing the lawsuit, the ministry claimed that such activism included “incitement of social and religious discord.”

Photo: Reuters

Main photo: AP

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