MIDDLE EAST CRISIS UPDATE: 15 NOVEMBER 2023
Biden optimistic about release of remaining October 7 hostages; Gaza death toll tops 11,500 – Hamas
US President Joe Biden said he was optimistic the remaining hostages taken by Hamas during its 7 October attack on Israel would be released, telling reporters, ‘I believe it’s going to happen.’
Israel would achieve its military objective with “minimal collateral damage”, Economy and Industry Minister Nir Barkat told Bloomberg after US President Joe Biden signalled the US wanted fewer civilian casualties in Gaza.
Israel and Hamas traded accusations over medical facilities in Gaza, with Biden calling for “less intrusive action” at al-Shifa Hospital. Israel says Hamas uses hospitals as bases for its operations. The US imposed fresh sanctions on Hamas in response to its attack on Israel, targeting the group’s links with Iran.
- Israel faces mounting global pressure over Gaza hospital attacks
- US strikes Iran-linked targets in Syria, casualties likely
- War budget leaves Netanyahu caught between markets and politics
- Israel fears war on the horizon against Hezbollah in the north
Biden expresses confidence hostages will be released
The US President said he was optimistic the remaining hostages taken by Hamas during its 7 October assault on Israel would be released. “I’ve been talking with the people involved every single day,” Biden told reporters. “I believe it’s going to happen. But I don’t want to get into detail.”
The Biden administration has been in touch with the Israeli government as well as leaders in Qatar, which houses Hamas’ political office, about securing the release of the hostages.
Asked to deliver a message of hope to the hostages, Biden said, “Hang in there, we’re coming.”
War Cabinet minister says ceasefire wouldn’t end war
Benny Gantz, a member of Israel’s war Cabinet, said that “even if a ceasefire is required for the return of hostages from Gaza, there will be no stopping of the war”. He said Israel is making every “political and military effort to bring the daughters and the sons home safely”.
Gantz, a former defence minister, spoke during a visit to Israel’s northern border, where there have been escalating exchanges between Israel and Iran-backed Hezbollah, prompting the evacuation of 60,000 Israeli citizens.
“I see Nasrallah’s conduct and ask: Has he lost touch with reality? This question should now be asked by Lebanese citizens and the Lebanese government,” Gantz said, referring to Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah.
Israeli gas flows to Egypt to recover
Israel’s natural gas flows to Egypt are expected to almost double and reach pre-war levels early next week, according to a person familiar with Egyptian imports, after a major offshore field resumed output on easing safety concerns.
Imports were expected to rise to 650 million cubic feet a day on Thursday, and to the normal level of 800 million early next week, from about 250 million earlier in November, the person said, asking not to be named because the information isn’t public.
US imposes new round of Hamas sanctions
The US announced a third round of sanctions on Hamas in response to the 7 October attack on Israel, targeting the group’s connections with Iran.
The Treasury Department sanctioned Lebanon-based money exchanger Nabil Chouman & Co., which it said Hamas used to transfer money from Iran to Gaza. It also sanctioned Nasser Abu Sharif, who allegedly worked with Iran to help fund the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), and the Muhjat Al-Quds Foundation, which the department said provided the primary financial link between the country and PIJ.
Mahmoud Khaled Zahhar, a senior member and co-founder of Hamas, was also sanctioned.
Gaza deaths top 11,500, says Hamas media office
The Hamas-run media office said more than 11,500 people had been killed in Gaza since the start of the conflict. Medical workers at the al-Shifa Hospital have buried some of the dead in a mass grave on the facility’s grounds, according to health ministry spokesperson Ashraf Al-Qedra.
About 200,000 left northern Gaza since 5 November – UN agency
About 200,000 people had left northern Gaza for the south since 5 November, said a statement from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
A vast number of people who were either unwilling or unable to move remained in the north amid intensified hostilities, the agency said. The people were struggling to secure water and food for survival, OCHA said.
S&P sees Israeli economy slumping sharply this quarter
Israel’s economy is on track to shrink 5% this quarter from the previous three months, according to S&P Global Ratings, a decline equivalent to just over half the drop it saw at the start of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.
S&P predicts a “gradual” economic rebound will follow through next year to bring output to its pre-war level by end-2024 — based on the scenario that the war against Hamas remains centred on Gaza. “Nevertheless, we see a risk of the conflict widening across the region with possible knock-on effects,” S&P analysts including Maxim Rybnikov said in a report.
Six people killed in West Bank, says Palestinian ministry
Six Palestinians were killed by the Israel Defense Forces at a refugee camp in the West Bank on Tuesday, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.
Palestine Authority radio said three had been targeted in a drone attack during an Israeli military raid in the area of the Tulkarem refugee camp.
Al-Shifa Hospital ‘must be protected’, says Biden
Biden said the al-Shifa medical facility in Gaza “must be protected” as fighting around the hospital intensifies and Israel and Hamas trade barbs over the situation there.
The US president told reporters at the White House on Monday that it was his “hope and expectation that there will be less intrusive action with the military” around the hospital.
Israel says al-Shifa is a “major hub” of Hamas’s activities because the group has a command centre located in tunnels underneath it.
War’s global economic impact is limited, says Yellen
US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said there had not been “much economic impact” from the conflict so far and that officials at the Apec conference had discussed potential risks from the war continuing.
“There was a strongly shared view that it’s important for all of us to work, to do everything we can to contain the conflict between Israel and Hamas so that it doesn’t become a broader regional conflict,” Yellen said.
Israel responds to Hamas video of captured soldier
An Israeli military representative visited the family of captured soldier Noa Marciano after Hamas released a video of her in the days after she was taken. The video says Marciano (19) later died in an air strike.
“Our hearts are with the Marciano family whose daughter, Noa, was brutally kidnapped by the Hamas terrorist organisation,” Israel’s military said in a statement. “We are using all means, both intelligence and operational, to bring the hostages home.”
War comes first in Israeli budget, says minister
Israel’s 2024 budget will be structured to focus on the war, with concessions necessary to expand the country’s unity government, a senior minister said.
“One of the biggest challenges we have is expanding the unity government, throughout the war and after the war,” Nir Barkat, Israel’s economy and industry minister, said on Monday during a Bloomberg Radio interview in New York.
“In 2024, we are really structuring the budget to focus on the war and to focus on economic growth immediately after. We will make the concessions needed so that everyone is happy,” he said. DM
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