Today's D Brief: Israel raids hospital; Ukraine gets key foothold; Robot-wingman price tag; Boeing’s good week; And a bit more.
Israeli troops are raiding Gaza's largest hospital looking for weapons and militants, but Americans are growing increasingly impatient with Israel’s brutal counterterrorism campaign to crush the Hamas terrorist group, according to two new surveys from Reuters/Ipsos and NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist.
The latest: Israel says its forces entered the Shifa Hospital for a “precise and targeted operation…in a very specific area” of the facility, and insist they’re “do[ing] everything in our power to mitigate the risk to civilians,” Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said in a video message on social media Wednesday.
Context: Israeli troops besieged Shifa for about five days and cut electricity there as part of a wider operation to hunt down alleged Hamas militants in multiple healthcare facilities across Gaza. Israel believes Hamas maintains a “headquarters” beneath or inside the Shifa hospital.
The White House, too, said it believes “Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad members operate a command-and-control node from Al-Shifa,” John Kirby of the National Security Council told reporters Tuesday. “They have stored weapons there, and they’re prepared to respond to an Israeli military operation against that facility,” said Kirby.
For what it’s worth: “We did not give an ok” to Israel’s military operations around the Shifa hospital, Kirby said in a call with reporters Wednesday morning. But he emphasized the U.S. does not dictate what Israel does in this conflict.
The Israeli Defense Forces on Monday released a six-minute video of at least one tunnel that terminates at ground level very close to the rear of the Rantisi hospital in Gaza. After ground robots and special forces entered first, Hagari went inside Rantisi to share footage of what he said were Hamas weapons stocked in the basement, including explosives and rifles.
A second opinion: “Hospitals are not battlegrounds,” United Nations aid chief Martin Griffiths wrote Wednesday on social media. “The protection of newborns, patients, medical staff and all civilians must override all other concerns,” he added.
New: Turkey’s president called Israel a “terror state” and threw his support behind Hamas, according to public remarks to lawmakers Wednesday in Ankara. “With the savagery of bombing the civilians it forced out of their homes while they are relocating, it is literally employing state terrorism," President Recep Erdogan said. “I am now saying, with my heart at ease, that Israel is a terror state,” he added.
Regarding his continued support for Hamas, he went on, “We will never shy away from voicing the truth that Hamas members protecting their lands, honor, and lives in the face of occupation policies are resistance fighters, just because some people are uncomfortable with it.” Reuters has more.
Developing: The White House just sent its former ISIS war czar Brett McGurk to the Middle East for stops in Israel, the West Bank, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, and Jordan.
His set of goals: To form “a coordinated approach to the current situation in the Middle East, with a focus on significantly expanding humanitarian assistance to Gaza, economic pressure on Hamas and other terrorist groups, and demands to immediately release hostages of multiple nationalities still being held by Hamas,” according to the White House, which elaborated further for each of McGurk’s destinations, here.
New: The U.S. has been “quietly” delivering weapons to Israel, including Hellfire missiles for Apache gunships, M141 shoulder-fired bunker-buster munitions, Joint Light Tactical Vehicles, and more, according to Bloomberg’s Anthony Cappacio.
About the declining U.S. support for Israel: Just under a third of Americans polled this week say Washington should continue to support Israel’s war against Hamas; that number was 41% just one month ago, Reuters reported Wednesday. Meanwhile, NPR this week found a 12-point rise from a month ago in the number of Americans who think the Israeli response has been “too much.” However, “a majority of Republicans (52%) said the response has been about right, up 8 points from last month,” according to NPR.
Notable: About 36% don’t want to authorize funding for either Israel’s war against Hamas or Ukraine’s defense against a Russian invasion. And a similar percentage, 35%, support funding both wars. “Another 14% only want to provide funding to Israel, and 12% only to Ukraine,” NPR reports.
And surprisingly, NPR found “51% of Republicans said [the U.S.] should focus more on its own problems and play less of a leadership role,” which is “a huge shift from the hawkishness of the not-so-distant GOP past.”
- “Qatar seeking Israel-Hamas deal to free 50 hostages and 3-day truce,” Reuters reported in an exclusive Wednesday;
- “With 102 Workers Killed, U.N. Agency in Gaza Struggles to Provide Aid,” the New York Times reported Tuesday;
- “Trudeau urges Israel to use 'maximum restraint' to protect Gaza civilians,” Canadian press reported Tuesday.
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 1942, the Battle of Guadalcanal concluded after five days of intense fighting near the Solomon Islands.
Ukrainian forces cross Dnipro River, establish small foothold, Ukrainian and Russian officials say. BBC: “US-based experts said earlier that marginal advances had been made into the village of Krynky, 2km (1.25 miles) inland from the river and 30km from the city of Kherson, recaptured a year ago.”
What that means: “Securing a bridgehead means that Ukrainian forces may be able to begin transferring armoured vehicles and air defence systems across the river. This would put them one step closer to breaking through to Crimea, the peninsula illegally annexed by Russia in 2014,” the BBC reports. Reuters has a bit more as well.
- “Ukraine's 'Secret Weapon' Is a Controversial Tech Company,” Time reported Tuesday;
- “Cash-starved Pakistan's $364 million 'secret' arms sale to Ukraine exposes 'neutral' claim: Report,” the Times of India reported Tuesday;
- “Inside the secret French camp where Ukrainians prepare for war,” Politico reported Sunday.
Boeing welcomes USAF interest in light-attack version of T-7 trainer, D1’s Audrey Decker reports from the Dubai Air Show. Last week, an Air Force official said at the International Fighter Conference in Madrid that a proposed light attack variant of the T-7 might replace aging F-16s—and that wasn’t the first time service officials had talked about it, said Boeing’s Donn Yates. Read on, here.
Boeing’s having a good week; NATO announced on Wednesday that it will replace aging AWACS jets with six E-7 Wedgetails based on Boeing 737s. That comes on the heels of a big airliner sale on Tuesday. Reuters has a bit more, here.
Robot wingmen should cost 1/4 to 1/3 of an F-35, Air Force says. Secretary Frank Kendall put a marker down on Tuesday, alerting defense planners and lawmakers that the service is serious about its plans to buy about a thousand drones to accompany warplanes into combat—and will need serious money to do so. F-35As are running about $70 million apiece right now. The War Zone has a good rundown on what Kendall said during an interview at the Center for a New American Security.
ICYMI: D1’s Decker looked at the questions still to be answered about the proposed drones, which the Air Force calls collaborative combat aircraft, or CCAs. Read that, here.