Today's D Brief: Israel severs Gaza; F-15EX cost rises; Strange toll on artillery crews; And a bit more.

Israel says its troops have severed Gaza into a north and a south ahead of a likely larger ground invasion of the Hamas-held Palestinian enclave. It’s been 31 days since Hamas terrorists attacked Israel, killing 1,400 people in an assault that’s led Israel’s military to encircle Gaza. Israeli troops could launch their Gaza invasion as early as Monday, according to the Associated Press and al-Jazeera.

Latest: Israel says it attacked 450 targets across Gaza on Sunday, marking one of the busiest days for Tel Aviv’s air force and artillery troops. Israel cut off communications again in Gaza over the weekend, which is the third time that’s happened since this latest conflict began; some, but not all, of those services were being restored on Monday. The Palestinian death toll, meanwhile, rose above 10,000 over the weekend, according to the health ministry in Gaza. And CIA Director William Burns is visiting Israeli officials after arriving there Sunday, according to the New York Times

New: The U.S. Navy just sent a nuclear-powered (but not nuclear-armed) submarine to the Middle East and announced its arrival to the region Sunday on social media. The vessel is believed to be the USS Florida (SSGN-728), which can carry more than 150 Tomahawk cruise missiles. 

America’s top diplomat State Secretary Antony Blinken spent the weekend visiting Middle East leaders like Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati, Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani, Jordanian King Abdullah II, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the occupied West Bank, Cyprus President Nikos Christodoulides, and Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia' Al Sudani

Worth noting: Blinken’s Egyptian and Jordanian counterparts said Saturday that “Israel’s war had gone beyond self-defense and could no longer be justified as it now amounted to collective punishment of the Palestinian people,” according to AP

And in an unusual turn, the King of Jordan is visiting NATO on Monday for talks with officials in Brussels. Not a whole lot else to know out of that meeting, which alliance officials announced Sunday. 

Blinken’s regional goals: “prevent the spread of the conflict in Gaza and find ways to increase the flow of humanitarian assistance,” he wrote on social media. He began the weekend hoping to build consensus for a temporary ceasefire in Gaza; but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected that on Friday unless Hamas releases its 220-plus hostages first. 

“All of this is a work in progress,” Blinken said Monday, according to the AP’s Matt Lee, reporting with the secretary’s traveling press corps. “We don’t obviously agree on everything, but there are common views on some of the imperatives of the moment that we’re working on together,” Blinken told reporters. 

Blinken also visited Turkey Sunday evening, though he did not speak with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is not expected to throw his support behind Israel in its fight against Hamas. 

By the way: Turkish police on Sunday had to use tear gas and water cannons to disperse protesters near the Incirlik Air Base, which hosts U.S. troops still fighting ISIS terrorists in the region. “Protesters were also seen hurling plastic chairs, rocks, and other items at police, who fired smoke bombs at crowds,” Reuters reported from the southern Turkish city of Adana. 

ICYMI: U.S. F-16s shot down a Turkish drone a month ago after it “had been observed conducting airstrikes in a U.S.-restricted operating zone about a kilometer from U.S. forces in Syria.” The shootdown happened around noon local time on October 6 near Hasakah, officials from the Tampa-based Central Command said in a statement Monday. (An earlier version of The D Brief stated the shootdown happened on November 6.)

In Baghdad, Blinken warned Iran it will defend U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria, who have been attacked by militants (many of whom are believed to be supported in some way by Iran) at least 40 times since Hamas attacked Israel on October 7. 

But it’s not all Israel-vs.-Hamas for Blinken. His points of discussion for Turkish officials include “Euro-Atlantic security, ongoing support for Ukraine, and the need to maintain NATO Alliance unity.”

Japan, South Korea, and India are Blinken’s next stops this week, according to his public itinerary. Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin is set to join Blinken for talks with their counterparts in New Delhi later this week. That will follow a G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Tokyo and discussions with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, Foreign Minister Park Jin, and National Security Advisor Cho Tae-yong regarding “Russia’s war against Ukraine and Russia’s growing military cooperation with the DPRK,” according to the State Department. 

Additional reading: 

Welcome to this Monday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston. If you’re not already subscribed, you can sign up here. On this day in 1971, the U.S. tested its largest underground hydrogen bomb near Alaska, on Amchitka Island in the Aleutians.

War against ISIS takes strange toll on artillery crews. To fight the terror group over the past decade, the Pentagon has opted for artillery strikes over close combat, the New York Times writes. But this has “meant that a small number of troops had to fire tens of thousands of high-explosive shells — far more rounds per crew member, experts say, than any American artillery battery had fired at least since the Vietnam War. Military guidelines say that firing all those rounds is safe. What happened to the crews suggests that those guidelines were wrong.”

The symptoms include hallucinations, depression, and death by suicide. “Interviews with more than 40 gun-crew veterans and their families in 16 states found that the military repeatedly struggled to determine what was wrong after the troops returned from Syria and Iraq.” Read on.

Putin aims to keep power for the rest of the decade, sources say. “Vladimir Putin has decided to run in the March presidential election, a move that will keep him in power until least 2030, as the Kremlin chief feels he must steer Russia through the most perilous period in decades, six sources told Reuters.”

Meanwhile, Russia’s latest sub had successfully test-fired a ballistic missile.  The Imperator Alexander III is the fourth of the seven planned Borei-class subs intended to be the new sea-based leg of Moscow’s nuclear triad. (AP)

F-15EX price tag rises. Three years ago, Boeing officials confidently predicted a flyaway cost of under $80 million for this new variant of the half-century-old F-15. But under the contract inked in September, the Air Force will pay about $90 million apiece for planes in Production Lot 2 and expects to pay $97 million in Lot 3 and $94 million in Lot 4, Air Force spokesperson Ann Stefanek confirmed.

So Boeing is looking for ways to cut costs. “We're looking at ‘how do we buy at scale’. We're looking at ‘how do we partner with suppliers for long-term affordability’. We're looking at ‘how do we control our own costs in the factory, whether that's kind of infrastructure cost or whether that's efficiency that we can continue to build in?’” Mark Sears, vice president of fighters at Boeing, told D1’s Audrey Decker. Read on.

And lastly: This afternoon in Washington, the Pentagon’s Principal Director for FutureG & 5G Tom Rondeau is scheduled to visit the Atlantic Council for a virtual event on “Integrating 5G technology for a more networked force.” That’s slated to begin at 2:45 p.m. Details and livestream, here.