As of the 69th day of war in Israel, 116 Israeli soldiers have given their lives in the service of the country. 10 were killed on Wednesday in an ambush in Gaza including some high-ranking officers. Intense urban warfare continues both in north and south Gaza with the IDF clearly making significant inroads.
US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan discussed “efforts to create new conditions for an enduring and sustainable peace between Israelis and Palestinians” with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh on Wednesday, the White House said. Sullivan quietly flew to Saudi Arabia before his trip to Israel, as the Biden administration works to engage Arab allies regarding its postwar plans for Gaza. The US has said it is still trying to broker a normalization agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia after the war, but US and Arab officials have reportedly told The Times of Israel that the Palestinian component of such a deal will now likely be much more significant.
The IDF has detailed the operations of the Nahal Brigade’s reconnaissance unit in northern Gaza’s Jabaliya camp over the past week, during which the troops encountered and killed dozens of Hamas operatives. The IDF says in one of the encounters, explosives were detonated and Hamas gunmen opened fire with machine guns and launched anti-tank missiles from two directions at the troops. “The terrorists were eliminated by gunfire carried out by the troops, and accurate shelling by tanks from the armored forces under the command of the reconnaissance unit,” the IDF said. In another incident, the IDF said an anti-tank missile was fired at the soldiers, with the troops returning fire and killing three operatives. A fourth gunman, part of the cell, was killed in a drone strike directed by the Nahal troops.
The Biden administration is blocking a shipment of more than 27,000 US-made rifles for the Israel Police out of fear they could make their way into the hands of “extremist Israeli settlers,” US officials said. Three cases of firearms, including M-16 and M-4 rifles, have been waiting for the State Department’s required approval and notification to Congress for more than a month, according to The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday. The Biden administration told the Israeli government this month that it won’t transfer the rifles until they’ve received sufficient assurances from Israel that the guns will only be used by police, the officials said.
More Israelis, 43%, have panned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s treatment of US President Biden than the 36% who support it, according to a Maariv/Jerusalem Post poll conducted this week. The poll was conducted by Panel4All.co.il among 510 Israelis on December 13-14 and was published on the same day that US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan arrived in Israel to discuss the continued timeline for the Gaza war.
Late this afternoon it was reported that the US wants Israel to end its large-scale ground and air campaign in the Gaza Strip within weeks and to transition to a more targeted phase in its war against Hamas, according to American officials. Jake Sullivan, President Biden’s national security adviser, met with Israeli leaders on Thursday about the direction of the war. Mr. Sullivan did not specify a timetable, but four unnamed US officials said Mr. Biden wants Israel to switch to more precise tactics in about three weeks. American officials have made that timeline clear to their Israeli counterparts in recent days, the latest step in a gradual move by the administration to communicate that American patience with widespread civilian deaths is running out. The moment appeared to be the most definitive effort yet by the United States to restrain Israel in its campaign against Hamas for the attacks it led on Oct. 7.
Tonight is the last night of the Festival of Chanukah. Let us hope that the celebration in the midst of war, while muted, nevertheless has brought some light to these past 69 dark days and that an end to this war will occur sooner rather than later.