Today's D Brief: Hundreds die in Israeli strikes; Space Force CO fired; USAF’s AI-powered drone; US military vs. segregation; And a bit more.

After eight days of rocket attacks and retaliatory airstrikes, Israel’s military is in the middle of a concerted effort to blow up more than nine miles of alleged tunnels belonging to Hamas fighters around Gaza City. That operation follows a series of Israeli airstrikes over the weekend that are believed to have killed a commander for the Hamas-linked group Islamic Jihad whose name is Hussam Abu Harbeed. 

So far, Hamas-linked fighters have launched more than 3,150 rockets into Israel, and Israeli Defense Forces’ Iron Dome interceptors have destroyed 90% of those before they hit their target, the IDF said on Twitter Monday. A “Hamas submergible naval weapon” was also allegedly intercepted at sea over the weekend, the Washington Post reports.

  • More than 200 Palestinians are believed to have died from IDF airstrikes, “including 59 children and 35 women, with 1,300 people wounded,” the Associated Press reports from Gaza City. (Reuters’ numbers are very similar.)
  • By contrast, at least “Eight people in Israel have been killed in rocket attacks launched from Gaza, including a 5-year-old boy and a soldier,” according to AP. (Israel’s military says the Israeli death toll is actually 10; the New York Times puts it at 11.)

Meantime, the U.S. wants Hamas to “immediately stop” firing rockets into Israel as officials are “working tirelessly through diplomatic channels” to end the fighting, America’s Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Sunday before the United Nations Security Council. But by Monday, diplomatic efforts by the U.S. and others had effectively “stalled,” the Times reports. 

“We call on Hamas and other groups in Gaza to end the rocket attacks immediately,” U.S. State Secretary Antony Blinken told reporters Monday during a visit to Denmark, adding, “we are ready to lend support, if the parties seek a ceasefire.”

Israel has so far not publicly revealed any evidence that it needed to destroy a 12-story building housing multiple media outlets in Gaza, including the Associated Press and Al Jazeera. Now the group Reporters Without Borders wants the International Criminal Court to investigate the bombing as a possible war crime, AP reports two days after the building was leveled in airstrikes with a mere one-hour notice to occupants on Saturday.

“I have not seen any information” that would justify leveling that building, Blinken said from Denmark. “Shortly after the strike we did request additional details regarding the justification for it,” he said, adding that at this point he’ll “leave it to others to characterize if any information has been shared and our assessment [about] that information.” Read more at Agence France-Presse.

Rewind: This all started after “Israeli police prevented Palestinians from gathering near one of the city’s ancient gates during the holy month of Ramadan, as they had customarily,” the Times reminds us. “At the same time, Palestinians faced eviction by Jewish landlords from homes in East Jerusalem. Many Arabs called it part of a wider Israeli campaign to force Palestinians out of the city.”

Back stateside, 29 U.S. senators put their name to letter Sunday calling for an “immediate ceasefire.” However, there were no Republicans on that letter, which was organized by Georgia Democrat Jon Ossof. 

Bigger picture for U.S. lawmakers: “Bipartisan support for Israel still endures, but analysts say the ground is perceptibly shifting” with growing support for the plight of Palestinians, WaPo’s Ishaan Tharoor writes

From Defense One

Defense Business Brief // Marcus Weisgerber: Defense Business Brief: A budget date; Army ditching Stryker gun; M&A continues; and more.

Defense One Radio, Ep. 82: “Robert E. Lee and Me” // Defense One Staff: Ty Seidule, a retired Army brigadier general, talks about the Confederacy, and inclusive changes throughout the recent history of the U.S. military.

Why the U.S. Needs a Space Czar // Christian Ruhl, Julia Ciocca, and Lauren Kahn: Bureaucracy must keep up with the new space age.

Toward a New Naval Statecraft // Brent D. Sadler: If the U.S. and its allies do nothing to complicate or slow China’s grey zone strategy, they risk ceding the global commons of maritime Asia.

Should We Care About That Letter? // Paula Thornhill: Retired generals and admirals are, first and foremost, retirees.

DOD Lifts Mask Mandate for Fully Vaccinated Personnel // Elizabeth Howe: Fully vaccinated DOD personnel are no longer required to wear a mask at Defense Department facilities.

Welcome to this Monday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston. And if you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. On this day in 1902, one of the oldest known analog computers was found in a shipwreck off a Greek island of Antikythera.

Space Force fires CO who alleged Marxism is creeping through the military. “Lt. Col. Matthew Lohmeier, commander of 11th Space Warning Squadron at Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado, was relieved from his post Friday by Lt. Gen. Stephen Whiting, the head of Space Operations Command, over a loss of confidence in his ability to lead,” reported Saturday.
Lohmeier, a former instructor and fighter pilot who transferred into the Space Force, self-published a book titled "Irresistible Revolution: Marxism's Goal of Conquest & the Unmaking of the American Military." But it was his comments on a subsequent podcast that cost him his job: “Regarding Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, he said, ‘I don't demonize the man, but I want to make it clear to both him and every service member this [diversity and inclusion] agenda, it will divide us, it will not unify us.’”
Jim Golby, a retired officer who studies civil-military relations, told that Lohmeier's advice to the junior ranks could undermine good order and discipline and or DoD diversity-and-inclusion policies. "Or maybe both," he said. Read on, here.

For your ears only: Retrace some of the ways the U.S. military led the nation in desegregation in our recent podcast with retired Army Brig. Gen. Ty Seidule, who authored the book, “Robert E. Lee and Me: A Southerner's Reckoning with the Myth of the Lost Cause.”
“The South of my birth was a racial police state,” said Seidule, a native of Alexandria, Va. “And it's important to know that because it was a racial police state, and people fought integration, you know, for decades after that — that we have a responsibility to understand that past and be honest about it.”
The oath that servicemembers take is “an anti-Confederate oath,” Seidule explained. “And we all take that oath. Everyone in Congress takes it. Everyone in the federal government takes it...And it's important for us to realize the context of that, which is it was about an insurrection.”
“One of the myths of America is that we believe that things are always gonna get better. Well, they don't always get better. And it takes people working to make things better.” Listen to the entire conversation (or read the transcript) here.

And finally today: In an apparent new first, the U.S. Air Force flew an AI-powered drone over Florida and the Gulf of Mexico this past month, Popular Mechanics reported late last week.
Involved: The service's Skyborg Autonomy Core System working with a Kratos UTAP-22 drone. "Once airborne, the drone’s turbojet engine took over, powering the drone for the next 2 hours and 10 minutes."
One big reason this matters: “The system will also allow the Air Force to boost the size of its aircraft fleet, as a single uncrewed drone will cost just a fraction of a modern, piloted fighter,” PM writes. Continue reading, here. Or check out Defense One’s Marcus Weisgerberreporting on these drones in early March, here.