Today’s D Brief: Ceasefire extended; Artillery-production stats; NATO chief on Ukraine; Asian money flows; And a bit more...
It’s day five for the Israeli-Hamas ceasefire that was originally only a four-day agreement. That deal has now been extended to a sixth day on Wednesday to allow more hostages and prisoners to be released.
CIA Director William Burns traveled to Qatar Tuesday in the hopes of hammering out an even wider deal between the two warring factions that could include the release of men and soldiers, beyond only the women and children that the four-day deal involved. (Why is the spymaster playing diplomat? WaPo explains.)
Israel and Egypt’s intelligence chiefs are in Qatar, too, according to CNN, which notes: “Under the current agreement, three Palestinian prisoners are released for every one hostage that Hamas frees.” And Israeli officials say they’re open to extending the truce one day for every 10 new hostages released.
So far, Israel has released 150 detained women and children, and Hamas has released 50 of its 240 or so Israeli hostages taken captive after the group attacked Israel on October 7, killing at least 1,200 Israelis. The Israeli military response—featuring jets and tanks and a ground invasion of Hamas-held Gaza—has killed at least 15,000 Palestinians, 40% of whom are believed to be children, “with many more dead feared to be lost under rubble,” Reuters reported Tuesday.
One of the released Israelis says supplies are dwindling among the remaining captives. At first, they ate “chicken with rice, all sorts of canned food and cheese,” 78-year-old Ruti Munder told Israeli news on Monday. But more recently, “the economic situation was not good, and people were hungry,” she said.
More than 60% of homes across the Gaza Strip have been destroyed in the Israeli response, according to a United Nations-led aid group (PDF), which called the destruction “so extensive and widespread that there are, at a minimum, serious concerns regarding possible breaches of international humanitarian law.” An estimated 1.8 million people have been displaced from their homes in Gaza, which had a pre-war population of 2.3 million.
Israel is prepared to continue its ground invasion of Gaza, likely proceeding southward, when the ceasefire lapses, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his U.S. counterpart, President Joe Biden, in a phone call this weekend and in a video message on Sunday.
“At the end of the deal, we are returning full power to carry out our aims: destroy Hamas, ensure that Gaza won’t return to what it was and of course to free all of our hostages,” said Netanyahu.
The Pentagon, for its part, will soon fly three aid flights to Egypt’s North Sinai to get critical supplies into Gaza, White House officials told reporters Monday. The aid will be distributed by United Nations entities in Gaza, Defense One’s Patrick Tucker reports.
- “US tells Israel any ground campaign in southern Gaza must limit further civilian displacement,” AP reported Tuesday; The Hill and Axios have similar coverage;
- “Fearful, Humiliated and Desperate: Gazans Heading South Face Horrors,” the New York Times reported from the region Tuesday;
- House Speaking Mike “Johnson 'confident and optimistic' about Israel, Ukraine funding package's chances,” Politico reported Monday afternoon;
- And “Elon Musk visit[ed] Israel amid discussions on Starlink service in Gaza,” CBS reported Monday.
Welcome to this Tuesday 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 1958, the United States achieved its first full-range flight test of an intercontinental ballistic missile, the Series B Atlas ICBM, which flew over 5,500 miles after launching from Florida’s coast.
One year into efforts to boost production of artillery rounds for Ukraine, the United States and Europe are seeing radically different results, Defense One’s Sam Skove reported Monday.
The gist: The U.S. has increased its output of 155mm shells far faster than it originally forecasted, and plans to increase it further. But Europe has moved more slowly than it intended to, hampered by the consensus-focused nature of regional alliances. Meanwhile NATO, whose own procurement agency is also pursuing the acquisition of more 155mm rounds, is finding that prices have quadrupled.
For one fairly dramatic illustration of the differences, consider this: In October, NATO’s senior military officer, Adm. Rob Bauer, said that the price for one 155mm shell had risen from 2,000 euros ($2,170) at the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion to 8,000 euros ($8,500). For comparison, the U.S. currently pays $3,000 for its most modern shells, according to an Army spokesperson. Continue reading, here.
The view from Berlin: Supporting Ukraine “is of existential importance” for both Ukraine and all of Europe, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Tuesday in a speech to parliament.
Scholz spoke to lawmakers as Germany faces a dire financial crunch, which is forcing the country to take on more debt for the fourth consecutive year, according to the New York Times. Reuters has nonpaywalled coverage of the issue, here.
NATO’s battlefield assessment for Ukraine: “Even though the frontline has not moved so much, the Ukrainians have been able to inflict heavy losses on the Russian forces,” Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters Tuesday during a meeting of alliance foreign ministers in Brussels.
Reminder: “Most people in non-Western countries want Russia’s war on Ukraine to end as soon as possible, even if it means Kyiv ceding territory,” according to pollsters with the European Council on Foreign Relations, writing about two weeks ago.
Additional reading: “'At what cost?' Ukraine strains to bolster its army as war fatigue weighs,” Reuters reported Tuesday from Kyiv.
The U.S. Navy sent a destroyer near the contested Paracel Islands in the South China Sea on Saturday, officials from the 7th Fleet announced over the weekend.
Involved: The USS Hopper (DDG 70), which the Navy says “asserted navigational rights and freedoms” in the operation, which often irritates China—but not only China. Indeed, this latest freedom of navigation operation “challeng[ed] restrictions on innocent passage imposed by the People's Republic of China, Taiwan, and Vietnam,” the 7th Fleet said.
Developing: China is losing its economic leverage over Taiwan as businesses pivot to the U.S. and other markets, the Wall Street Journal reported last week from Taipei. However, “Fully decoupling from mainland China’s economy likely isn’t possible, and would be disastrous for Taiwan, not to mention China, even if it were,” according to some analysts. That’s partly because “About 21% of Taiwan’s total goods trade this year has been with mainland China, versus 14% for the U.S., though the U.S. share has risen from 11% in 2018.”
Relatedly, wealthy Chinese are increasingly moving their money out of the country, which seems to at least partially reflect “fears about the direction of the economy under China’s leader,” the New York Times reported Tuesday from Shanghai and Beijing. Still, despite an estimated $50 billion outflow monthly in 2023, “experts said the pace of money leaving China probably did not pose an imminent risk to the country’s $17 trillion economy” thanks to persistent exports.
- “West's de-risking starts to bite China's prospects,” Reuters reported Monday from Beijing and Hong Kong;
- “How the U.S.-China Rivalry Is Putting the Internet at Risk,” Time reported Tuesday;
- And “Here’s why the U.S. stock market and economy don’t need or even miss China,” via CNBC, reporting Sunday.
And lastly: US, UK publish guidance for secure-by-design AI. “Created by the U.S. Cybersecurity Infrastructure and Security Agency and the UK National Cyber Security Centre — with input from 21 other global ministries and agencies — the Guidelines for Secure AI System Development serves as the first of its kind in internationally agreed-upon AI development guidance,” FCW’s Alexandra Kelley writes in D1.