Today's D Brief: Public pressure on Israel; Damaged Russian warship, in photos; Moscow claws back exported arms; China’s recruiting woes; And just a bit more.

Under growing pressure from some world leaders, Israeli officials are emphasizing their alleged restraint and generosity as their troops and tanks are on the brink of a likely very difficult urban fight to eliminate Hamas fighters from Gaza City in the days ahead. 

Protests in cities around the world in support of Palestinian civilians have been steady since the conflict erupted when Hamas terrorists killed an estimated 1,400 Israelis in a surprise attack one month ago. Very few protests globally have been in support of Israel, as researchers from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project reported Tuesday. 

Israel’s military response to the October 7 attacks—including thousands of airstrikes across Gaza—has killed more than 10,000 Palestinians, according to Palestinian authorities. The United Nations’ top official this week called the enclave a “graveyard for children” due to Israel’s seemingly indiscriminate strikes, including last week at a refugee camp where Israel says it killed a Hamas leader. 

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres went further on Wednesday, telling Reuters in New York, “There are violations [of the laws of war] by Hamas when they have human shields. But when one looks at the number of civilians that were killed with the [Israeli] military operations, there is something that is clearly wrong.” 

Guterres, on the power of images and photos: “It is also important to make Israel understand that it is against the interests of Israel to see every day the terrible image of the dramatic humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people,” he said Wednesday. “That doesn't help Israel in relation to the global public opinion.”

This week, U.S. President Joe Biden also reportedly pushed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a three-day ceasefire in Gaza as part of a wider plan to get some hostages out of Hamas custody. That’s according to Axios, reporting Tuesday. 

On Tuesday, Israel released video of a recent aborted airstrike “called off moments before launch because civilians were identified in the area,” according to the IDF. The Israelis are also emphasizing humanitarian aid trucks they’re allowing into Gaza after pressure from White House officials and others around the globe last week. However, UN officials said Wednesday, “The daily volume of humanitarian assistance entering [Gaza] from Egypt meets a fraction of people’s needs.” Meanwhile “Drinking water brought in serves just 4 percent of Gaza’s residents, while desperately needed fuel remains banned.”

An estimated 1.5 million people in Gaza are now displaced, and overcrowding concerns are setting in at refugee sites throughout the area, according to the UN. What’s more, “Thousands of cases of acute respiratory infections, diarrhea and chicken pox have been reported among people taking refuge at UNRWA shelters,” officials said Wednesday. 

The IDF says it just opened “another evacuation corridor” Wednesday that would allow civilians in Gaza to move south away from the besieged portions of Gaza City. Israel later extended that evacuation corridor window “by an extra hour, until 15:00 today, allowing many more Gazans to move south for their safety,” officials said on social media. 

Those announcements follow a G7 statement (PDF) Wednesday in support of “humanitarian pauses and corridors” to allow “food, water, medical care, fuel and shelter, and access for humanitarian workers” to civilians in Gaza. 

The diplomats also “emphasize[d] Israel’s right to defend itself and its people, in accordance with international law, as it seeks to prevent a recurrence” of the October 7 attacks. They also threw their support behind “at a two-state solution, which envisions Israel and a viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace, security, and mutual recognition, remains the only path to a just, lasting, and secure peace.” Reuters and the Associated Press have more from Tokyo.

Panning out: “A third of buildings in northern Gaza are damaged or destroyed,” the New York Times reported Tuesday using satellite imagery. 

Blast from the recent past: Check out images of a Patriot air defense system transiting from North Carolina’s Fort Liberty en route to Israel. The photos were taken on 25 October but only posted to DVIDS on Tuesday. 

In case you’re wondering, the U.S. military says it has four objectives, or “lines of effort” for its troops dispatched to the Middle East over the past several weeks: 

  • Protection of U.S. forces and citizens in the region.
  • Flow of critical security assistance to Israel as it defends against further Hamas terrorist attacks.
  • Coordination with the Israelis to help secure the release of hostages held by Hamas, to include American citizens.
  • Strengthening of force posture across the region to deter any state or nonstate actors from escalating the crisis beyond Gaza.

Additional reading: 

Welcome to this Wednesday 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 2004, more than 10,000 U.S.-led troops besieging the Iraqi city of Fallujah began their assault to kill insurgents throughout the city in what would later be known as the Second Battle of Fallujah, following a much smaller operation seven months earlier.

As Ukrainian ground troops struggle to regain invaded territory, its military appears to have struck another Russian navy vessel with a missile. Here are new images of the aftermath of the Saturday strike, which appears to have targeted the missile corvette Askold, docked at the Zaliv shipyard beside the Kerch Strait in occupied Ukraine. 

Developing: Ukraine’s president wants to postpone elections currently slated for 2024, AP reported Tuesday from Kyiv. One big problem is that Ukrainian law does not allow for elections during impositions of martial law, as is still the case under more than 600 days of Russian military invasion.  

“I believe that now is not the right time for elections,” President Volodymir Zelenskyy said Tuesday. “We must realize that now is the time of defense, the time of the battle that determines the fate of the state and people, not the time of manipulations, which only Russia expects from Ukraine,” he said. Read more at AP

We now have an especially curious window into Russian rail development in occupied southern Ukraine, thanks to the recent investigative work of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Mark Krutov.  

New: Russian defense industry officials are asking old customers like Pakistan, Egypt, Belarus, and Brazil to give back old parts like helicopter engines so Russia can continue its occupation of Ukraine, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday. This includes about 150 Mi-8 and Mi-17 engines Egypt will reportedly ship back to Russia, possibly as soon as next month. 

And for foreign soldiers in Ukraine, a U.S. foundation provides a vital lifeline for medical treatment. “The heavy involvement of private foundations highlights how the U.S. and friendly governments remain relatively hands-off when it comes to medical support for Ukraine’s military, even as they provide tactical training and weapons worth billions.” D1’s Sam Skove has more, here.

Carrier watch: The U.S. Navy’s CVN 76 and CVN 70 were spotted drilling together in the Philippine Sea on Tuesday. See those images from the Navy itself over on DVIDS.

And lastly: China’s military is struggling with recruiting, too. The Economist: “The PLA is struggling to attract enough technologically skilled recruits to operate all its modern weaponry. Many of those with the requisite skills are choosing higher-paid jobs in industry or, worse, going abroad. Among those who do join up, the turnover rate is high.”

The one-child policy, The Economist avers, “produced a generation of mostly only-children with overly coddling parents. Potential recruits, whose world revolves around smartphones and social media, are put off by the PLA’s austerity and increasing focus on political education.”

Influence-via-infrastructure watch:

  • China is looking to build a military base in Oman, advisors tell Biden (Bloomberg)
  • Chinese spies have thoroughly penetrated the networks of ostensible ally Cambodia, where Beijing is building a naval base (WaPo)
  • The U.S. plans a $553 million shipping terminal in Sri Lanka (AP)