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In Washington, calls for a ceasefire are loud, but not pervasive or, to Biden, persuasive

WASHINGTON (JTA) — At about 11 a.m. Tuesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Biden administration favored “humanitarian pauses” so that assistance could reach Gaza Palestinians caught in Israel’s war with Hamas.

Left-wing social media lit up: Until Blinken’s comments, made to the United Nations Security Council, the Biden administration had rejected calls for a ceasefire. 

“The tide is turning — the Biden administration is beginning to recognize that this war will only bring more death and suffering for Palestinians and Israelis,” IfNotNow, a left-wing Jewish group that accuses Israel of “genocide” and has led protests for a ceasefire, said on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

Blinken’s comments were a reversal of sorts. Just last week the United States vetoed a Security Council resolution calling for a “humanitarian pause.” But shortly after Blinken spoke, John Kirby, the National Security Council spokesman, threw cold water on any notion of U.S. support for a ceasefire.

“We’re going to continue to make sure Israel has the tools and the capabilities that they need to defend themselves,” he said just after 1 p.m., when asked at the daily White House press briefing about the prospects of a ceasefire. “A ceasefire right now really only benefits Hamas.”

Given Kirby’s statement, it appeared Blinken’s support for “humanitarian pauses” meant just that — short breaks in the fighting so food, water and medical assistance could reach people in need, nothing more. “We want to see all measure of protection for civilians. Pauses in operation [are] a tool and a tactic that can do that for temporary periods of time,” Kirby said. “That is not the same as saying a ceasefire.”

Calls for a ceasefire from some progressives, including Jewish groups, have been loud and insistent. They are backed by nearly two dozen progressive members of Congress, including Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is Jewish. 

But Kirby’s forceful rejection shows how ineffective those demands have been in the face of a Biden administration steadfast in its support for Israel, as well as a large majority of Congress that opposes a ceasefire.

Halie Soifer, the CEO of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, said she has counted 23 Democrats in the House and Senate who have called for a ceasefire, out of 263 overall. Congressional Republicans are opposed almost wall-to-wall to a ceasefire.

“The overwhelming majority — more than 90% of all Democrats in the Senate and the House — stand with the president on the issue of a ceasefire,” Soifer said, although she noted that she has only been tracking those explicitly in favor of a ceasefire, and not those explicitly opposed.

Hamas broke a 2021 ceasefire when it launched its attack on Israel Oct. 7, killing more than 1,400 people, mostly civilians, wounding thousands and abducting more than 200. Israel’s ensuing war on Hamas has killed more than 5,000 people, Gaza’s Hamas-controlled health ministry says. It is not clear how many of those casualties are civilians, though a significant number are children.

A new ceasefire would aim to end all combat, including Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocket launches, as well as all cross-border infiltration between Gaza and Israel. It would also leave Hamas in control of Gaza. Israel rejects those terms, saying the return of the hostages and the dismantling of Hamas must come first. A ceasefire would also nix a potential ground invasion by Israel that hopes to achieve those ends.

Biden has opposed a ceasefire because he, like Israel, believes Hamas must be permanently debilitated. He has called on Congress to deliver more than $10 billion in defense assistance to Israel. He said on Monday that at a minimum, the hostages should be released before a ceasefire is countenanced. 

“We should have those hostages released and then we can talk,” he told a reporter shouting out a question about a ceasefire at a White House event.

Sanders, the de facto leader of progressives in Congress, was among the first to make the call for a ceasefire.

“The bombs and missiles from both sides must end, massive humanitarian aid must be rushed to Gaza, and the hostages must be returned to their families,” Sanders said in an Oct. 17 statement. 

Members of the Squad, the group of House progressives, joined last week’s rally at the Capitol, which was led by the anti-Zionist Jewish Voice for Peace along with IfNotNow, and culminated in arrests.

J Street, the liberal Jewish Israel lobby that is influential among Democrats, is not joining the calls. “Our position is, we have not called for a ceasefire,” said Logan Bayroff, J Street’s spokesman. “Our position is, Israel has the right to defend itself in accordance with international law.”

The group last week urged lawmakers to sign a letter spearheaded by three Jewish House Democrats wholeheartedly backing Biden’s policy on the war. The letter did not explicitly oppose a ceasefire. But by garnering a majority of the caucus — 131 signatures, including every Jewish House Democrat — it created a firewall against demands for a ceasefire when taken in combination with Republican votes. 

The ceasefire calls have at times been intensely personal. On Tuesday, nearly 300 veterans of Sanders’ 2016 and 2020 presidential campaigns signed a letter and made a video urging him to introduce legislation in the Senate matching a resolution in the House that calls for a ceasefire. The House resolution, sponsored by Reps. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Cori Bush of Missouri, has so far garnered just 18 cosponsors. “Many of us, your former staff, share your Jewish heritage,” the letter to Sanders said.

IfNotNow, which backed the letter, said Sanders needed to do more. Eva Borgwardt, the group’s spokeswoman said in an email, “We need him to stay true to his legacy of principled, antiwar leadership now.”

Also on Tuesday, the Boston Jewish Community Relations Council effectively expelled a constituent, the Boston Workers Circle, after it joined with anti-Zionist groups at a pro-ceasefire rally that also accused Israel of “genocide.”

The Intercept reported on Oct. 13 that J Street threatened to pull support from lawmakers who failed to join a separate resolution condemning Hamas — one that has so far garnered 425 cosponsors out of 434 members of Congress. (The resolution has yet to reach the floor because the Republican majority has been floundering in its attempt to elect a speaker.)

Bayroff denied that report. J Street’s political action committee is still raising money for New York Rep. Jamaal Bowman, who is a member of the Squad and one of the holdouts. Bayroff said he did not see the disagreement over the ceasefire creating long-term rifts between J Street and its progressive allies in Congress. The group does not endorse most other members of the Squad, including Tlaib, Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley and Missouri Rep. Cori Bush. 

“We appreciate that views of members of Congress and folks will continue to evolve and we’re not looking for everybody to be marching in ideological lockstep right now, or to be cracking down on folks with slightly different opinions,” Bayroff said. “We certainly believe that every single one of our endorses needs to condemn or have condemned what Hamas has done in no uncertain terms.” 

Bowman condemned the attack almost immediately but did not join a letter signed by more than half of House Democrats, including some prominent critics of Israel, praising Biden’s handling of the crisis.

Soifer, who noted that JDCA’s affiliated PAC did not endorse and has no plans to endorse any of the 23 Democrats calling for a ceasefire, agreed that no intra-party rift was in the offing, because the issue of a ceasefire was a difference of policy, not philosophy. 

Soifer nonetheless said Tlaib should be considered as having crossed a red line and as having sowed danger for the Jewish community. Tlaib has not forcefully condemned Hamas, Soifer said, and has not retracted claims that Israel bombed a hospital, even though experts have now assessed that the explosion was caused by a misfired Palestinian rocket. 

U.S. officials strengthened their assessment on Tuesday to say they believed with “high certainty” that a Palestinian rocket caused the blast.

“It was dangerous because it was a lie,” Soifer said.  “Once that was clear, as a U.S. policymaker and a member of Congress, she should clarify her remarks. And she chooses not to. So it’s dangerous to perpetuate that lie, especially at this incredibly volatile time.”


The post In Washington, calls for a ceasefire are loud, but not pervasive or, to Biden, persuasive appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Victims of Oct. 7 Massacre Sue UNRWA for Funding Hamas, Giving Terrorists a ‘Safe Haven’ in Its Gaza Facilities

The bloodied aftermath of a kindergarten in Kibbutz Be’eri attacked by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7. Photo: Reuters/Amir Cohen

More than 100 Israeli victims of the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack in southern Israel filed a lawsuit on Monday against the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) for allegedly “aiding and abetting” the Palestinian terrorist organization and helping it carry out the massacre last year that killed more than 1,200 people.

The lawsuit claims that the UN organization dedicated solely to Palestinian refugees and their descendants has spent years “sending over one billion dollars from UNRWA’s New York bank account in Manhattan that defendants then caused to be delivered to Gaza in cash US dollars to benefit Hamas.” UNRWA allegedly laundered billions in donor cash to Hamas, “greatly reducing humanitarian aid provided to Gaza residents and playing a key role in the Oct. 7 attack.” MM~LAW LLC filed the lawsuit against UNRWA in US federal court in the Southern District of New York on behalf of the plaintiffs.

Both the Israeli government and watchdog groups have unveiled evidence purportedly showing that many UNRWA employees actively participated in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack, assisted in kidnapping Israelis that day, tortured and hid Israeli hostages in their homes, aided in the transfer of Hamas weapons and trucks, and had other close ties to Hamas.

The UN has been probing the allegations in an ongoing investigation. In April, a UN spokesperson said that one case of an employee helping Hamas and its Oct. 7 onslaught had been closed and four others suspended, citing a lack of evidence.

Israel discovered that Hamas used UNRWA facilities in Gaza, including its schools, to run operations and attacks against Israel and to store weapons, both in and under UNRWA institutions. The Israeli military recently revealed that in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, Hamas terrorists were found in UNRWA’s central logistics compound alongside UN vehicles. A group of 3,000 teachers working in Gaza for UNRWA even praised the Oct. 7 Hamas attack. UNRWA operates 183 schools in Gaza that are staffed by over 9,400 employees, according to the lawsuit

UNRWA schools have previously been accused of inciting antisemitism, terrorism, and hatred of Israel in the textbooks it distributes to Palestinians students.

The Israeli victims of Oct. 7 claim in their lawsuit that UNRWA “knowingly and intentionally” employed Hamas members and “knowingly provided material support to Hamas in Gaza,” including providing them access to UNRWA facilities and offering “safe havens for terrorists and their materiel.”

They accuse UNRWA of facilitating “construction of Hamas command and control centers, attack tunnels and underground bunkers under UNRWA headquarters, UNRWA schools, medical clinics, and offices.” The UN agency is also accused of turning its facilities into “prison cells to hold hostages,” as well as “military storage and deployment bases, including the storage and guarding over weapons, ammunition, explosives, and other military supplies, to be used by terrorists.”

UNRWA “collectively spent over a decade prior to the Oct.7 attack helping Hamas build up the terror infrastructure and personnel that were necessary to carry out the Oct. 7 attack, including by knowingly providing Hamas with the US dollars in cash that it needed to pay smugglers for weapons, explosives, and other terror materiel,” the lawsuit charges.

The UN organization also allegedly “permitted installation of rocket launching platforms and terrorist firing positions within and/or adjacent to UNRWA schools, medical clinics and offices, in violation of international humanitarian law.”

The case includes accusations about UNRWA implementing a tactic to further fund Hamas by paying its Gaza staff in US dollars rather than local currency, which is the Israeli shekel. The lawsuit states that although other large, local employers in Gaza pay their employees in shekels, UNRWA instead pays its local staff in US dollars and in cash. As a result, UNRWA personnel are required “to turn to Hamas-affiliated moneychangers” to exchange their cash dollars for shekels needed to buy things like groceries and other necessities.

“Hamas runs the majority of the Gaza moneychangers, and those are that are not actually run by Hamas are required by Hamas to pay Hamas a share of the fees they earn (often ranging from 10 percent up to 25 percent) for such exchange transactions, thus ensuring that a predictable percentage of UNRWA’s payroll went to Hamas,” the lawsuit explained. “Hamas uses the moneychangers to finance its military activities, and there are multiple examples in recent years of Hamas using currency exchange facilities in Gaza to finance its military activities.”

The lawsuit continued, “Hamas desperately needed the US currency itself. US dollars in cash form are vital to Hamas for purposes such as obtaining weapons on the international black market to be smuggled into Gaza and used for terrorist purposes, including the Oct. 7 attack.”

The plaintiffs said that because UNRWA’s actions in aiding Hamas “occurred in significant part” in New York — like trips taken by UNRWA personnel to the United Nations in New York City to secure funding from donor countries — the federal court in New York in which they filed their lawsuit has jurisdiction to making a ruling in the case.

Plaintiffs include not only victims of the attack but also families and representatives of those murdered by Hamas on Oct. 7. They demand a trial by jury and are seeking damages “in an amount to be proven at trial.”

The post Victims of Oct. 7 Massacre Sue UNRWA for Funding Hamas, Giving Terrorists a ‘Safe Haven’ in Its Gaza Facilities first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Hundreds of Israelis have been moving to Canada since Oct. 7—and a Hebrew website has been here to help

When Michal Harel and her family moved to Canada from Israel in April of 2019, they had a hard time getting settled. Between learning English, finding a home, acquiring work permits, and of course navigating the more restrained social norms in Canada, Harel and her husband, Avital Epstein, struggled to get their new life in […]

The post Hundreds of Israelis have been moving to Canada since Oct. 7—and a Hebrew website has been here to help appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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Here’s What Has Happened on the Ground in Gaza Over the Past Month

Trucks stand at the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Rafah, Egypt, April 25, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

The Israeli offensive in the Rafah area gradually took all the ground adjacent to the border between Gaza and Egypt. Over the past few days, there have been reports of Israeli forces now conducting attacks from the area taken northwards, both in the relatively open area between the city of Rafah and the coast and inside Rafah itself.

Many civilians in Gaza have moved to the safe havens allotted by the IDF. The resistance by the US government to the Rafah operation was based on the premise this would not happen. Just as in the previous IDF offensives in northern Gaza and the Khan Yunis area, the rate of evacuation is one of the factors determining the rate of advance of the IDF units.

During the clearing operations in each area taken, IDF units have uncovered hundreds of tunnels, including dozens crossing the border into Egypt. These tunnels were used for smuggling weapons from Egypt into Gaza, as well as civilian traffic — both people and goods. Officially the Egyptians destroy all tunnels they discover on their side of the border, but apparently, over the past few years, they have reduced this effort considerably — these tunnels all have large openings on the Egyptian side of the border, they are not small or camouflaged, and the traffic through them was not a trickle.

Rocket launchers and stocks of rockets were also found adjacent to the Egyptian border. Additionally, more evidence has been found in Rafah of Hamas’ use of UN sites and mosques.

The IDF has also continued to conduct raids into northern Gaza and Khan Yunis whenever concentrations of returning Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists are discovered, as well as raids into the Nuseyrat area, between Gaza and Nuseyrat. The Nuseyrat area is the only one in which the IDF has not yet conducted a major offensive operation.

In a much publicized raid on June 8, which was conducted by a Police Force special unit supported by the IDF, four hostages held in two separate private homes (one belonging to a news photographer who had published in Al-Jazeera) were rescued. An Israeli officer was killed in this raid, and a few others were wounded. The Palestinians, as usual, claimed enormous casualties to civilians living in the area of the raid. Again as usual, there is no evidence that the published number was anywhere near the truth.

Given similar events in the past — when numbers claimed by the Palestinians of hundreds of civilians killed by the IDF were later found to be grossly exaggerated, to have included many terrorists, and to have included Palestinians killed or wounded by Palestinian fire — the reliability of these numbers must be regarded as suspect.

Also found over the past few weeks were the bodies of a number of hostages killed on October 7 whose bodies were taken to Gaza, as well as a few who were kidnapped alive and then killed while being held. One more body was discovered inside Israel.

After spending an estimated $320 million on building a floating pier to provide humanitarian supplies, it seems the US will permanently dismantle it. It was incapable of withstanding the buffeting of waves, and broke apart once. The pieces were then towed to an Israeli port for repair and to await a calming of the sea. Afterwards it was returned to the Gaza coast, but when the sea conditions worsened again, the Americans pulled it out again. Because the IDF captured the Gaza side of the Rafah border crossing, Egypt refused to continue sending humanitarian supplies through it. However, supplies increased through the other crossings between Israel and Gaza, thereby bypassing Hamas tax-collectors. According to posts published by Gazans on social media, this lowered the prices of commodities in Gaza.

On June 9, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNHCA) published a report stating that the claim that there is a famine in Gaza is not based on supporting evidence:

The FRC does not find the FEWS NET analysis plausible given the uncertainty and lack of convergence of the supporting evidence employed in the analysis. Therefore, the FRC is unable to make a determination as to whether or not famine thresholds have been passed during April.

They qualify that statement by claiming they are physically incapable of acquiring sufficient reliable evidence. However, photographs posted on social media by Gazans show that the real problem is less a matter of lack of foodstuffs and more an issue of inefficient distribution. The IDF spokesperson has reported that much of the supplies are simply being stored inside Gaza and awaiting distribution because the organizations in charge of distribution are incapable of meeting the rate of supplies flowing into Gaza. Furthermore, Gazans are complaining openly that Hamas is deliberately taking much of the supplies and hoarding them to sell at high prices to raise funds for its operations. They also complain of theft of supplies by criminal organizations for the same purpose.

Lebanon

In a speech given on June 19 by Hezbollah General Secretary Hassan Nasrallah, he claimed that:

Hezbollah has 100,000 troops all told and has therefore turned down requests by other organizations of the Iranian-led Shiite alliance to send contingents to Lebanon.

Hezbollah has the full panoply of weapons to conduct ground, air and sea combat, it manufactures weapons at home, and it is receiving weapons from Iran despite Israel’s attempts to prevent this.

He also claimed that Hezbollah has information that Cyprus has agreed to allow Israel to use its airports if Israeli airports are damaged by Hezbollah fire. He threatened that if Cyprus does this, it too will become a target of Hezbollah’s firepower.

This is not the first time Nasrallah has mentioned the 100,000 troops figure. This is considerably more than all previous reports, which ranged from a low of 45,000 to a high of 60,000. The previous occasion was in October 2021 when internal tensions in Lebanon threatened to boil over into a possible civil war. If he is speaking the truth, then Hezbollah has more men than the official Lebanese army (85,000). The Hezbollah forces are certainly better trained on average than the Lebanese army, and they are also better equipped in some areas.

The exchange of fire on the Israel-Lebanon border continues at a varying but fairly low intensity. Over the past few weeks Israeli attacks have escalated in the choice of targets, which are now no longer only near the border but also include Hezbollah installations in central and northern Lebanon. Hezbollah has responded by increasing the size of its rocket and exploding drone salvos into Israel. There are reports that to reduce casualties Hezbollah has withdrawn many of its personnel several kilometers north of the border and is conducting almost all its fire from a distance.

Hezbollah has admitted that so far 349 of its personnel have been killed (another 50 since my last report). This does not include non-Shiite members of Hezbollah who probably add at least a few dozen to the list.

In addition to the numerical increase in Hezbollah casualties, there has also been an increase in their ranks and importance. The commander and some senior staff members of one of Hezbollah’s three divisions in south Lebanon were killed, as were some senior staff members of another division.

Israeli casualties

The total number of Israelis confirmed killed on and since October 7, 2023, is now 1,609, with another approximately 16,500 wounded.

There are still approximately 116 kidnapped Israelis and non-Israelis in Gaza. How many are alive and how many dead is not known. In the negotiations with Hamas, Israel demanded a list of those alive and those dead, but Hamas refused. Furthermore, Hamas claims not to know the whereabouts of more than a few dozen of the hostages. Some are in the hands of other groups or even “private” clans who joined the assault on Israel in the third wave of the Hamas attack on 7 October. Thus, for example, the four Israelis rescued since my last report were all held in the private homes of “civilians.”

In addition, 19 Israeli civilians have been killed in Hamas rocket attacks and seven by Hezbollah.

As of last month, a total of 662 IDF soldiers have been killed (42 more than my previous report) on all fronts since and including October 7.

Palestinian casualties

The Gaza Health Ministry, which is controlled by Hamas in its role as the government of Gaza, claims that approximately 37,500 Gazans have been killed so far, and approximately 85,000 wounded. They do not differentiate between personnel of Hamas and other terrorist organizations and civilians, but according to the IDF, at least 15,000 Hamas and other terrorists have been killed. The IDF has also captured many terrorists, though the exact number has not been divulged. From anecdotal information it can be estimated at 3,000-3,500 (there have been no reports of major surrenders over the past month).

Given that Hamas and the other groups had 40,000-50,000 personnel between them (different sources provide different numbers, and there is a problem counting part-timers as opposed to regulars or official “reserves”), these numbers represent a sizeable chunk of their manpower. However, we have no information on the recruitment rate of new personnel, who are perhaps less trained but still add to the numbers. Hamas youth movements (equivalent to Boys Scout movements) conduct basic firearms training from an early age, so they have a recruitment pool of teenagers available to join the fighting.

Until early May, the UN claimed (quoting Hamas numbers) that of the nearly 35,000 Gazans killed in the war till then, 9,500 were women and 14,500 were children; i.e., approximately 68.5% of the killed. Suddenly, two days later, the UN approximately halved the numbers to nearly 5,000 women and 7,800 children; i.e., approximately 36.5% of the killed.

It should be noted that Israel has been consistently claiming its combatant/non-combatant ratio is one of the best and perhaps the best ever achieved by any army fighting in urban areas. These new numbers prove it. In fact, given that the term “children” includes anyone under 18 and that Hamas and the other organizations employ teenagers younger than that as combatants (15-18 year-olds), the ratio is in fact even better than these numbers show. Any civilian deaths are regrettable, but they are unfortunately inevitable whenever combat occurs where civilians are present. When one side deliberately uses them as human shields, this of course happens even more.

Dr. Eado Hecht, a senior research fellow at the BESA Center, is a military analyst focusing mainly on the relationship between military theory, military doctrine, and military practice. He teaches courses on military theory and military history at Bar-Ilan University, Haifa University, and Reichman University and in a variety of courses in the Israel Defense Forces. A version of this article was originally published by The BESA Center.

The post Here’s What Has Happened on the Ground in Gaza Over the Past Month first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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