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MIDDLE EAST CRISIS UPDATE: 30 NOVEMBER 2023

Israel-Hamas truce due to end, extension talks under way; more humanitarian aid enters Gaza

Israel-Hamas truce due to end, extension talks under way; more humanitarian aid enters Gaza
Israeli hostage Ada Sagi in an ambulance after disembarking from an Israeli army helicopter at Sheba Medical Centre in the Tel HaShomer neighbourhood in Ramat Gan, Israel, on 28 November 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Abir Sultan)

Negotiators, including from Qatar and the US, pressed forward to maintain the truce agreement for Gaza that was due to end early on Thursday, with the prospect of an extension for at least two more days increasingly likely, according to a person familiar with the discussions.

Saudi Arabia has approached Tehran, which in addition to Hamas backs Hezbollah in Lebanon and Houthi in Yemen, with an offer to boost investment in Iran’s sanctions-stricken economy if it stops its proxies from widening the Israel-Hamas conflict, Arab and Western officials familiar with the matter said.

Israel’s President Isaac Herzog was planning a visit to Dubai later this week to attend the COP28 climate summit and was seeking a series of diplomatic meetings to discuss the war, including a possible engagement with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, people familiar with the situation said.

The pause in fighting in Gaza has allowed the entry of more humanitarian aid into the stricken Mediterranean strip, where conditions are “catastrophic,” according to the United Nations. Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, said the US had airlifted more than 25,000kg of medical supplies and food to Egypt that would be delivered to Gaza in the first of three planned shipments.

Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, and Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Roger Carstens were due to arrive in Israel on Thursday.

Latest developments

Talks under way to extend truce agreement

Negotiations were on Wednesday under way via Qatar for a two-day extension of the truce agreement and perhaps to extend it beyond that as well, with the prospect of an extension for at least two more days increasingly likely, according to a person familiar with the discussions.

But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emphasised that his country ultimately intended to resume warfare to eliminate Hamas and the threat it posed.

“There is no situation in which we do not go back to fighting until the end. This is my policy,” Netanyahu said on Wednesday. “The entire Security Cabinet is behind it. The entire government is behind it. The soldiers are behind it. The people are behind it — this is exactly what we will do.”

Israel was pressing for the release of more hostages and would accept an extension of the current truce, a senior Israeli official said, but the country would not discuss a new ceasefire deal involving the return of more hostages, including men and soldiers, until all civilian women and children were freed.

After a release of hostages on Wednesday, more than two dozen women and children would still be held, the official said. If those hostages were released, Israel was keen to discuss another deal, the official said.

The Israeli prime minister’s office confirmed the release Wednesday of two female hostages with dual Russian-Israeli citizenship, and Channel 12 in Israel aired video footage it said showed the mother and daughter inside Red Cross vehicles. Also, the IDF said it was evaluating a claim from Hamas that three hostages — a mother and two young children — were killed by Israeli strikes on Gaza.

Before the six-day ceasefire, Israel had mounted an intense bombing and ground invasion campaign of Gaza that reduced much of the territory’s biggest city to rubble and, according to local authorities in the Hamas-run enclave, caused the death of more than 15,000 Palestinians. The onslaught came after Hamas fighters swarmed into southern Israel from Gaza on 7 October, killing about 1,200 people and taking 240 hostages.

So far, as part of the original agreement and a two-day extension, Hamas has released more than 60 Israeli hostages, all of them civilian women or children, and has separately freed about 20 citizens of Thailand, the Philippines and Russia. The group and other armed factions in Gaza are still holding soldiers and a number of civilian men, women and children, including a 10-month-old infant.

Switzerland joins US-led group seeking to stop Hamas funding

Switzerland is taking part in a multicountry group that includes the US and Germany that aims to disrupt funding for Hamas.

The country is already distributing material to banks on and its top prosecutor has started an investigation into alleged payments made to Hamas a few weeks before the 7 October attacks on Israel.

The moves come amid ongoing criticism of neutral Switzerland that it hasn’t been tough enough in areas such as money laundering or enforcing Russian sanctions. It’s also come under pressure to join the international task force Repo — “Russian elites, proxies and oligarchs” — to track down Russian oligarch money.

The government said on Wednesday that it was already participating in a separate network targeting Russian finances.

“We have decided in both cases that we can take part in the task force put together by the Americans regarding financing,” Justice Minister Elisabeth Baume-Schneider said on Wednesday, referring to Russia and the Middle East.

Israeli president due in UAE in first foreign trip since war

Israel’s President Isaac Herzog was planning a quick visit to Dubai later this week to take part in COP28, the United Nations climate talks, several people familiar with the situation said.

It will be his first trip abroad since the war with Hamas erupted last month. The plans are subject to last-minute changes if there are significant developments in the conflict.

While in the United Arab Emirates, he may meet Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, according to Japanese news agency Kyodo. Others expected to attend COP28 include US Vice-President Kamala Harris and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

Hamas releases 12 hostages despite claims of truce violations

Hamas turned over 12 more hostages — 10 Israelis and two Thai citizens — to the Red Cross, according to the Israeli prime minister’s office, despite earlier competing claims of violations of the deal that brought their war to a temporary pause.

Red Cross representatives transferred the 12 freed hostages to Egypt, and they were later flown by helicopter to Israeli hospitals, where their families awaited, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

Earlier, the IDF said some of its soldiers were lightly wounded in three separate explosions and an ensuing shooting in the northern part of the besieged Gaza Strip. A Hamas official who is a spokesperson for its military wing said without elaborating that “a field clash” took place after Israeli troops violated the terms of the ceasefire arrangement.

Israel to keep funding right-wing causes even as war costs mount

Israel’s government passed a revised 2023 budget that retains discretionary spending for religious schools and other priorities sought by coalition partners, despite warnings that doing so would burden the economy as the nation presses on with its war against Hamas.

All the members of Benny Gantz’s opposition party, which joined the government to run the war, voted against the revised budget. So did Economy Minister Nir Barkat, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud, who said the government was conveying a message of “anti-economic growth”.

Read more: War budget leaves Netanyahu caught between markets and politics

Netanyahu rejected such complaints. “We have challenges ahead but because we have built a strong economy here, we are able to pass a budget to accommodate all needs of war,” he said.

Although the special allotments are a fraction of the total budget, they’ve become a marker of competing priorities as Israel fights its worst armed conflict in half a century. For Netanyahu and his allies, the funding may be key to political survival. In May, some of the religious and right-wing parties threatened to bring down the coalition unless the spending was agreed to.

The discretionary money, some 14 billion shekels ($3.6-billion), will largely go toward religious schools — some exempt from teaching subjects like English and maths — and projects including the development of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and other causes championed by right-wing members of the ruling coalition.

The government’s stance has drawn the ire of investors and many top economists. In a letter sent several weeks ago, 300 prominent economists from Israel and abroad urged Netanyahu and allies to “immediately come to your senses.

“A basic and necessary step would be to halt financing of anything unessential to war, first and foremost the coalition funds,” the group said in the letter signed by the likes of Nobel economics laureate Josh Angrist. DM

Read more in Daily Maverick: Israel-Palestine War

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  • Kenneth FAKUDE says:

    Can someone explain this with reasoning from Israel pesperctive, they declared war to rescue the captives, they bomb and kill 15000 innocent people and possibly some of the captives, they block medicine for all the people they bombed, they block food for all including the captives, they sign a temporal truce and allow all aid in so the people can eat then at the end of the truce they will bomb them healthier and fatter, then in the process eradicate Hamas then when all the cleansing is done they will have a perfect occupation, where they can oppress the remaining Palestinians without opposition or retaliation, i guess we have seen the selective horrible act of Hamas without Israel releasing its holy acts towards the Palestinians which they expect appreciation for, i know the response here will be yes but, DO WE ALLOW ISRAEL TO CARRY ON WITH THE OCCUPATION? do we open the embassy?do we carry on with America and Britain as normal? if yes then we might as well tell the Palestinians that their Black or near black lives dont really matter

    • Mordechai Yitzchak says:

      Happy to respond to this reasonably, point by point, if you really are looking for this. If you follow these comments pages you will be well-aware of my perspective, and that I do my best to avoid hyperbole.

      That being said, to try fit this into a box as per your final sentence “we might as well tell the Palestinians that their Black or near black lives don’t really matter”, is akin to saying that Israeli’s / Jews are white. I’m afraid Hitler tried that one already (I don’t think you want to keep that company). Jews are not a race – there are white, black and brown Jews. Just FYI there are more than 2 500 000 Mizrahi / Sephardic Jews (of middle-eastern, not European descent), and upwards of 200 000 Ethiopian Jews living in Israel. In the USA alone, of their 7.2 million Jews, at least 12-15% (just over 1 000 000, or one in seven) are Jews of Colour.

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