Today's D Brief: Israel hunts through hospital; China, US to restore military ties; Shutdown averted, for now; Air Force IO; And a bit more.
Israeli troops are still raiding the Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza, the region’s largest, though so far they have uncovered “scant evidence of Hamas” at the facility, according to the Washington Post. The Associated Press has similarly skeptical coverage.
The Israeli military, however, is insisting it has found “countless Hamas weapons…in the Shifa Hospital's MRI building,” according to Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, who released a video Wednesday evening recorded inside Shifa. But even considering Conricus’s dispatch, “The Israeli military didn’t show evidence Wednesday of underground complexes or prove its allegations of a Hamas tunnel network connecting to the hospital, but said it was still in the process of combing through Al-Shifa,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
The White House, for its part, isn’t worried about the apparent lack of evidence so far. “We have our own intelligence that convinces us that Hamas was using al-Shifa as a command and control node and most likely as well as a storage facility—that they were sheltering themselves in the hospital, using the hospital as a shield against military action and placing the patients and medical staff at greater risk,” John Kirby of the National Security Council said Thursday in a call with reporters. He repeated his “command and control node” claim several times, though he did not elaborate or offer supporting evidence.
New: The U.S. Navy shot down a drone flying toward the USS Thomas Hudner destroyer (DDG 116) in the southern Red Sea on Wednesday. It’s unclear if the drone was armed or what its purpose was, but it “originated from Yemen and was heading in the direction of the ship,” according to U.S. defense officials.
Hazardous duty: U.S. troops across the Middle East, in Iraq and Syria mostly, have been targeted in various drone and rocket attacks more than 50 times since October 17, when the Israeli military response to the October 7 Hamas attacks began gaining momentum. Nearly all of those attacks on U.S. forces have been unsuccessful (that is, inaccurate); some have been intercepted (most recently, in the Red Sea); but some have landed inside bases and outposts, collectively injuring 56 U.S. troops—all of whom have returned to duty, according to defense officials.
- “The Israeli military has set its sights on southern Gaza. Problems loom in next phase of war,” AP reported Wednesday from Jerusalem;
- “Five Miles and a World Apart, Younger Activists Dream of a New Peace Process,” the New York Times reported Thursday;
- “If Gaza were in your city, how much would be destroyed?” which is a multimedia report published Monday by al-Jazeera;
- “The U.S. has special rules for satellites over one country: Israel,” NPR reported Thursday;
- And “Joe Biden issues strident defence of refusal to call for ceasefire in Gaza,” the Guardian reported Thursday after the leaders of the U.S. and China met Wednesday in San Francisco.
Welcome to this Thursday 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 1776, Sint Eustatius (in the northeastern Caribbean) became the first foreign government to recognize the new United States.
Xi, Biden agree to restore military ties. “Beijing severed them in a burst of anger over then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan in August 2022,” writes the Washington Post after the leaders met in San Francisco on Wednesday. Joe Biden and Xi Jinping “also agreed to strengthen counternarcotics cooperation in the hopes of lessening the United States’ fentanyl crisis” and to “to restart climate talks after a years-long pause.” More, here.
Shutdown averted through the holidays. Senators on Wednesday evening passed another short-term spending bill (known as a continuing resolution) in a 87-11 vote, sending it to the White House ahead of Friday’s midnight deadline to fund the government or face another seemingly unnecessary shutdown.
The latest CR passed the lower chamber earlier in the week, despite dissent from more than a dozen far-right House lawmakers who insist on spending cuts under President Biden, though that frugality was notably absent in the prior administration, as Utah Sen. Mitt Romney pointed out in April. Those hard-right House lawmakers blocked a separate spending bill from consideration Wednesday evening; that proposal would have cut Justice Department funding by more than a billion dollars, which several vulnerable Republicans could not support, as the New York Times reported Wednesday.
The new “stopgap” bill maintains 2023 spending levels for the next two months, which is why the hard-line GOP faction refused to support it, too, earlier this week. The bill passed the GOP-led House anyway with 209 Democrats in support but just 127 out of 221 Republican lawmakers backing the legislation.
This latest CR is a bit unusual in that it has two different deadlines: one that funds “military construction, the departments of Veterans Affairs, Agriculture, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and energy and water programs until Jan. 19”; and another deadline that will pay for other programs and departments, including the military, until February 2, according to Govexec.
Notable: It lacks new funding for Ukraine, Israel, the Pacific region, or border security, as the White House had requested. Still, President Biden has signaled he will sign the new bill ahead of its midnight-Friday deadline. Looking ahead: “Somehow, both sides will have to square their differences across a dozen spending bills in the new year,” Politico reports. And given House Speaker Mike Johnson’s promise to avoid stopgaps in the future, “January and February could be hard deadlines to bridge the spending divide between both chambers.”
- “Mitch McConnell’s Strength Is Tested in Fight for Ukraine Aid,” the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday;
- “Why Republicans Are on the Verge of Fistfights,” via Politico reporting Wednesday;
- “Trump’s violent talk shows signs of taking over Congress,” The Hill reported Thursday.
There’s a new kind of American extremist, and they’ve “sparked the deadliest wave of U.S. political violence in decades,” according to a special report published Wednesday by Reuters. Nearly all of them are fascinated with right-wing politics, but they’re also animated by entirely “fictional narratives,” like the Q-Anon conspiracies that were taken mainstream thanks to social media during the Trump administration.
According to Reuters, “these radicals often eschew firm creeds,” and “embrace whatever brew of notions, no matter how divergent, blends with their particular grievances.” The full report is quite lengthy, but worthwhile reading. Dive in, here.
The battle of the Black Sea, so far. USNI News’ Heather Mongilio has a month-by-month look at Ukrainian operations against Russian naval forces in the Black Sea.
Lastly: Air Forces Cyber turns focus to information operations. The service’s cyber command is devoting more time to training airmen in information warfare, from uncovering disinformation campaigns and networks to attempting to influence the audience themselves, Lt. Gen. Kevin Kennedy, who leads 16th Air Force, said during a Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies event Wednesday.
About a year ago, Kennedy and other 16th Air Force leaders met to discuss how to improve information warfare; they decided to focus on training. Now, he says, information operations must be fully integrated into broader non-kinetic effects such as electronic and cyber warfare, he said. D1’s Patrick Tucker has more, here.