Today's D Brief: Gaza conditions worsen; China’s undersea prowess; Koreas plan spy-sats; Navy P-8 skids into the sea; And just a bit more.
Health conditions are worsening for the thousands of Palestinians in Gaza, where nearly three-quarters of the population has been forced to flee their homes as Israel’s military proceeds generally north to south as it hunts down Hamas terrorists. United Nations health officials have documented at least 72,000 cases of upper respiratory infections in displacement shelters across Gaza. “This compares with a pre-war monthly average of 2,000 cases in 2021, 2022,” the UN said Tuesday.
Shelters are overflowing and people are having to sleep outdoors, “even as winter rains have pelted the coastal enclave in recent days,” the Associated Press reported Tuesday. Meanwhile, “There are shortages of food, water and fuel for generators across all of Gaza, which has had no central electricity for over a month.”
It’s unclear how much more time Israel’s military will spend clearing Gaza of Hamas. But with each passing day, observers around the world are losing their patience with Israel’s heavy-handed and seemingly disproportionate response to the Hamas terror attacks that killed 1,200 Israelis and triggered this latest spate of violence. In response, Israeli airstrikes have killed an estimated 12,700 Palestinians, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry in the West Bank.
Possibly coming soon: Some kind of agreement to release at least some of the 200-plus hostages held by Hamas. A deal is reportedly closer than ever to becoming a reality, multiple outlets report Tuesday morning. Israeli officials are “expected to vote [Tuesday] on whether to approve a brief cease-fire that would allow for an exchange,” the New York Times reports.
The deal reportedly involves “Hamas releasing roughly 50 children and women, in exchange for more than 100 Palestinian women and teenagers jailed by Israel, as well as a pause in fighting that would last about five days,” according to the Times. The Wall Street Journal is tracking similar numbers.
Back stateside, more than a dozen senators are calling for the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza “immediately,” according to a letter the lawmakers sent to President Joe Biden this week. All 13 signatories are Democrats, and they’re also pushing for the release of hostages held by Hamas as well as the opening of the Kerem Shalom border crossing at the Gaza-Egypt border.
“Eliminating the threat posed by Hamas and protecting civilians are not mutually exclusive aims,” they also write in an admonishment of Israel’s widespread bombing campaign across Gaza. The lawmakers are additionally “concerned that increased and prolonged suffering in Gaza is not only intolerable for Palestinian civilians there but will also negatively impact the security of Israeli civilians by exacerbating existing tensions and eroding regional alliances,” according to the letter.
“This conflict will not be solved by force alone,” they advise near the end, and stress, “Preservation of and respect for innocent life is both morally right and the best hope for a long-term strategy to accomplish security, stability, and peace in the region.”
Developing: Iran-backed Houthis used a helicopter to board and hijack an allegedly empty cargo ship in the Red Sea on Sunday, then posted footage of their piracy to social media the following day. The incident occurred about 50 miles west of the Houthi-held Yemeni port city of Hodeida, where it is now docked. The 25 personnel on board—from the Philippines, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine and Mexico—are now hostages with uncertain fates, AP reports.
Known as Galaxy Leader, the 600-foot-long ship is a British-owned, Bahamas-flagged, Japanese-operated vessel managed by an entity called Ray Car Carriers. That company is owned by a man named Abraham Ungar, whom AP reports “is known as one of the richest men in Israel.” Likely for this very reason, the Houthis believe the ship belongs to Israel. “The detention of the Israeli ship is a practical step that proves the seriousness of the Yemeni armed forces in waging the sea battle, regardless of its costs and costs,” a Houthi spokesman said in a statement Monday, and added, “This is the beginning.” Reuters and the New York Times have a bit more.
Israeli troops are still fighting off militants attacking from southern Lebanon, including at least 18 different attacks Monday, according to the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War. View post-attack footage from damaged Israeli barracks, here.
Developing: U.S. forces in the Middle East allegedly attacked the convoy of an Iran-backed militia in Iraq on Monday, according to the Washington Institute. The group is known as Kataib Hezbollah, and a “junior member” was allegedly killed in the Monday strikes, whose origin—likely an AC-130 gunship, according to Jonathan Lord of the DC-based Center for a New American Security—is still unclear.
And U.S. forces at their al-Asad base in Iraq were reportedly attacked again on Tuesday. That attack and more than 80 prior related incidents are tracked in a detailed chart updated Tuesday by the Washington Institute, here.
- “Was Peace Between Israelis and Palestinians Ever Possible?” the New York Times asks in a retrospective feature assessing the Oslo Accord from 30 years ago;
- “Muslim country group to push for Gaza truce,” Reuters reported Tuesday from Ankara;
- And “China calls for ‘urgent’ action on Gaza as Muslim majority nations arrive in Beijing,” CNN reported Tuesday from Hong Kong.
Welcome to this Tuesday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston and Jennifer Hlad. If you’re not already subscribed, you can sign up here. On this day 10 years ago, protesters in Kyiv began demonstrating against pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych after he said he’d suspend signing an agreement bringing Ukraine economically closer to the European Union—away from Moscow’s orbit and influence. After three months of unrest and violence directed at protesters, the Russian military invaded eastern Ukraine, annexing Donetsk, Luhansk, and the Crimean peninsula.
A U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon patrol aircraft overshot its runway at Marine Corps Base Hawaii Monday afternoon and is now in the shallow, turquoise waters of the adjacent Kaneohe Bay. The mishap was witnessed by family members of Defense One’s Jennifer Hlad who were waiting to cross the airfield around 2 p.m. local time.
The aircraft initially touched down on what appeared to be a large puddle about halfway down the runway, and then slowed down before it went off the bay side of the airfield. “The bay’s depth in that area ranges from 5 to 25 feet,” according to the U.S. Naval Institute News.
Fortunately, all nine personnel on board were able to safely evacuate the aircraft, officials from the Navy’s 3rd Fleet said in a statement. “The crew, assigned to Whidbey Island, Wash.-based squadron VP-4 ‘Skinny Dragons,’ were on a detachment in support of maritime homeland defense,” officials said. Hawaii News Now has imagery of the P-8 in the shallow waters of Kaneohe in a video report of the incident, which you can watch here.
China is catching up to the U.S. Navy in undersea capabilities, the Wall Street Journal reports, citing the development of seabed sensor networks and pump-jet propulsion similar to that used in the latest U.S. subs. Read, here (paywall).
Elsewhere in the region: Both Koreas aim to launch first spy satellites by month’s end. Pyongyang will be trying again after two failed launches this year; Seoul plans to launch its first domestically developed military reconnaissance satellite on Nov. 30 aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base.
If the North succeeds, it will gain unprecedented visibility into U.S. and South Korean forces—but that’s not necessarily all bad, says Ankit Panda tells Reuters: “While Pyongyang could use these capabilities to queue nuclear attacks and conduct damage assessment, we might also see such a capability confer a stabilizing effect by allowing North Korea to maintain better strategic situational awareness in a crisis.”
And: the Philippines wants a maritime code of conduct. Manila has reached out to “neighbours such as Malaysia and Vietnam” to talk about creating rules for operating in the South China Sea, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said on Monday, “citing limited progress towards striking a broader regional pact with China.” (Reuters)