MIDDLE EAST CRISIS UPDATE: 24 OCTOBER 2023
Hamas agrees to release two more hostages after mediation; Gaza death toll rises above 5,000
Hamas said it had released two more hostages, both women, who were captured during its 7 October attack on Israel. The hostages reached the Rafah border crossing after being released following Egypt’s efforts, according to Extra News, an Egyptian outlet. An Israeli source confirmed the release of the two hostages, according to Kan TV.
The US said it would deploy more military forces to the Middle East in an effort to deter groups such as Hezbollah from trying to expand the war. Meanwhile, aid trickled into Gaza through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, but the convoys are insufficient, according to the United Nations. Israel’s currency and bonds extended losses after the country’s central bank left interest rates at their highest since 2006 and lowered growth forecasts for this year and next on the fallout from the conflict with Hamas.
- Israel’s support for hostage talks may delay invasion of Gaza
- War’s economic toll steals spotlight from Israel rate: Day Guide
- Understanding the roots of the Israel-Hamas war: QuickTake
Hamas credits Qatar and Egypt in release of two more hostages
Hamas said it agreed to the release of two more hostages after mediation with Qatar and Egypt.
The release came days after two other hostages from Illinois, mother and daughter Judith and Natalie Raanan, were freed.
US sending more forces to the Middle East
John Kirby, spokesperson for the National Security Council, said the US would be deploying more military forces to the Middle East.
“The president has added additional military forces to the region and more forces will be coming in days and weeks ahead, to try to deter any actor from widening or deepening this conflict,” Kirby told reporters
The US has already deployed two aircraft carrier strike groups to the region, and over the weekend shot down missiles and drones from Yemen suspected to be headed toward Israel.
Israelis confident about defeating Hamas, poll finds
Israel’s public is confident that the country will win the war with Hamas and has a high level of trust in the military, a survey by the Jewish People Policy Institute in Jerusalem found.
At the same time, Israelis are losing confidence in the government, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu specifically, according to the poll of 800 people, including 600 in the Jewish community and 200 in the Arab sector.
UK says Israel wasn’t behind Gaza hospital blast
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said British intelligence and weapons experts concluded Israel wasn’t behind the deadly blast at a hospital in Gaza that the Gaza Health Ministry said killed hundreds of Palestinians last week.
“The British government judges that the explosion was likely caused by a missile or part of one that was launched from within Gaza towards Israel,” Sunak told parliament in London on Monday — a finding that echoes those of the US and Israel. Sunak also announced an additional £20-million in aid for civilians in Gaza.
Google suspends live traffic conditions in Israel
Google’s Maps and Waze navigation applications are temporarily blocking access to live traffic conditions in Israel at the request of the Israeli military.
“As we have done previously in conflict situations and in response to the evolving situation in the region, we have temporarily disabled the ability to see live traffic conditions and busyness information out of consideration for the safety of local communities,” a Google spokesperson said.
Google previously took similar action in Ukraine during its war with Russia, according to a spokesperson.
Egyptian Red Crescent says more aid has crossed to Gaza
Egypt’s Red Crescent said that 35 trucks carrying 600 tonnes of aid had crossed over to Gaza, the state-run Middle East News Agency reported. The organisation’s executive director said the priority for the kind of aid being sent over was determined in coordination with the Palestinian Red Crescent.
Israel fails to stop shekel’s rout
Israel’s currency and bonds extended their declines even after the Bank of Israel kept its policy interest rate unchanged as investors worried about the war’s hit on the economy. The Bank of Israel’s new forecasts assume the conflict is contained to the country’s south.
The shekel declined by as much as 0.15% to 4.0635 per dollar, extending its run of losses to an 11th day, the longest since 1984. Ten-year dollar bonds tumbled for an eighth successive day, while credit default swaps surged to the highest level in 11 years. The benchmark TA-35 Index of stocks was poised for the lowest since April 2021.
Gaza death toll rises above 5,000
Authorities in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip on Monday said Israeli airstrikes had killed 436 Palestinians in the previous 24 hours, increasing the death toll to 5,087 and the number of injured to 15,000 since 7 October.
Gaza’s Health Ministry said thousands of people have been killed in strikes on Gaza since 7 October, many of them children.
“Hospitals have lost their treatment capacity, and medical teams are treating the wounded with very limited capabilities,” spokesperson Ashraf Al-Qidra said.
Egypt, Iran stress need for Gaza aid
Egypt and Iran’s foreign ministers stressed the need for regional and international coordination to allow aid into Gaza, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said in a statement, in another sign of efforts to improve ties between the two countries.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry warned of the danger that the Israel-Hamas war could widen into a broader conflict with unpredictable consequences.
US bolsters military presence
The US said it will further bulk up its military presence in the Middle East in response to “recent escalations” by Iran and its allied groups.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered the military to send more air defence equipment to the region. The Pentagon had already deployed two aircraft carriers — the USS Gerald R Ford and the USS Dwight D Eisenhower.
EU leaders plan to endorse humanitarian pause during conflict
European Union leaders are aiming to endorse a United Nations call for a “humanitarian pause” in the Israel-Hamas war to allow for the distribution of Gaza aid.
The 27 EU leaders are also set to pledge to work closely with regional partners to bolster humanitarian relief efforts, according to draft conclusions for a leaders’ summit in Brussels later this week. The document, which also calls for the immediate unconditional release of hostages and stresses the need to avoid regional escalation, could still change before governments sign off on it.
Hamas, Islamic Jihad tell Iran they’ll continue fight
“The position of the resistance in the field and in spirit is extremely good and we’ll continue to strongly oppose” Israel, Ziad Al-Nakhala, secretary-general of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group, told Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in a call, according to a ministry statement.
Amir-Abdollahian also spoke separately by phone with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, who thanked Iran for its “support of the Palestinian people.”
Israel makes targeted raids into Gaza
Israeli ground troops were carrying out short, pinpoint incursions into Gaza to attack “terrorist groups, their anti-missile units and other targets”, military spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari told journalists.
The limited raids were also used to gather information on the more than 220 hostages Hamas is holding, Hagari said.
Hostages are a priority, says Israeli military
There are roughly 220 people thought to be held in Gaza, and “they’re at the top of our priorities”, Peter Lerner, a spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces, told Bloomberg Radio. “There’s a huge effort in order to try and bring them home as quickly as possible. The diplomatic efforts are ongoing.”
He reiterated that Israeli forces were preparing a ground offensive on Gaza and could move in whenever the government ordered them to. Tensions with Lebanon-based Hezbollah on Israel’s northern border remained very high, he said
“Hezbollah is trying to constantly divert our attention from the south to the north,” Lerner said. “We need to be prepared for a broadening of the conflict.”
Israel says 222 hostages held in Gaza
Israel’s army said it had notified the families of 222 people being held hostage in Gaza. It also said the bodies of 1,000 Palestinians who carried out the 7 October attacks had been located in southern Israel.
Israel had approved the transfer of 14 trucks of humanitarian aid to southern Gaza after inspections to ensure they didn’t carry materials or weapons that could be used by Hamas, military spokesperson Daniel Hagar said at a briefing. Israel would intervene if it saw any attempts by militants to commandeer the aid, he added. DM
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