Today's D Brief: Israel pushes south in Gaza; Zelenskyy briefs senators; Subs to get anti-ship missiles; P-8 pulled from the sea; And a bit more.
Israeli troops have officially extended their ground invasion to the southern Gaza Strip in the hopes of hunting down fighters believed to be hiding among the rubble and what remains of the Palestinian territory previously ruled by Hamas militants and terrorists.
CNN published satellite imagery showing convoys of Israeli armored vehicles heading south toward Khan Younis, Gaza, on Monday. The New York Times calls Khan Younis southern Gaza’s “largest city,” and already it’s hosting “some of the heaviest combat of the two-month war amid growing concerns that there is almost nowhere left for civilians to flee.” The Associated Press published a map of the region, illustrating the most recent movement by Israel’s military, here.
Developing: Israel is considering flooding Hamas’s tunnel network under Gaza with salt water from the Mediterranean Sea, U.S. officials told the Wall Street Journal on Monday. “Each of at least five pumps can draw water from the Mediterranean Sea and move thousands of cubic meters of water per hour into the tunnels, flooding them within weeks.”
Worth noting: “It isn’t clear whether Israel would even consider using the pumps before all the hostages are released from Gaza,” the Journal writes. Another problem is the uncertainty surrounding the effects of saltwater on groundwater reserves and the stability of the ground beneath countless buildings in Gaza.
Accountability watch: “U.S.-made Joint Direct Attack Munitions were used by the Israeli military in two deadly, unlawful air strikes on homes full of civilians in the occupied Gaza Strip,” the human rights group Amnesty International reported in an investigation released Tuesday. The strikes occurred on 10 and 22 October, and killed 43 civilians, including 9 children, 14 women and 10 men, according to Amnesty.
Supporting evidence includes metal fragments that “clearly show the distinctive rivets and harness system that indicate they served as a part of the frame that surrounds the body of the bomb of a JDAM. In addition, the codes stamped on the plates from both sets of recovered scrap, 70P862352, are associated with JDAMs and Boeing, the manufacturer.”
Why it matters: “Amnesty International did not find any indication that there were any military objectives at the sites of the two strikes or that people in the buildings were legitimate military targets, raising concerns that these strikes were direct attacks on civilians,” and “As such, these attacks must be investigated as war crimes,” Amnesty advises. Continue reading, here.
This morning on Capitol Hill, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul led a briefing of Republican and Democrat committee members alongside “several family members of individuals held hostage by Hamas.” McCaul recounted several gruesome details of the actions of Hamas terrorists on October 7 in Israel because, as he said, “What we’re seeing in Gaza is very dark.” Many hostages hadn’t seen the sunlight in over 50 days, he said.
“Hamas is responsible for this. Not Israel. Not the Palestinian people,” McCaul said Tuesday. The conference is ongoing, and you can watch it live or in reruns on YouTube, here.
This afternoon on Capitol Hill, the Pentagon’s Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Celeste Wallander is scheduled to testify on Africa before House lawmakers probing “The Sahel in Crisis: Examining U.S. Policy Options,” before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa. That begins at 2 p.m. ET. Details and livestream, here.
- “Global journalist group says Israel-Hamas conflict is a war beyond compare for media deaths,” AP reported Tuesday;
- “Israeli Military Admits Two Civilian Deaths For Every Hamas Fighter In Gaza,” Agence France-Presse reported Monday;
- And “Putin to make rare trip abroad to discuss Israel-Hamas war with UAE and Saudi Arabia,” the Guardian reported Tuesday.
Welcome to this Tuesday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston and Jennifer Hlad. Share your newsletter tips, reading recommendations, or feedback for the year ahead here. And if you’re not already subscribed, you can do that here. On this day in 1879, Clyde Vernon Cessna was born in Iowa. He would later found the Cessna Aircraft Corporation in 1927.
Ukraine’s president will remotely join a classified briefing this afternoon in the Senate, Punchbowl News reported Monday.
Senate leader Chuck Schumer, meanwhile, is targeting a vote on the White House’s $106 billion supplemental request—linking Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan, and additional funds for border security—possibly as soon as Wednesday.
- “Ukrainian Sniper Breaks Cover to Claim World-Record Hit of More Than 2 Miles”—though some marksmen told the WSJ that they’re dubious.
U.S. subs to start carrying anti-ship missiles to deter China. Sometime after the start of fiscal 2025, some attack submarines will be armed with the new Maritime Strike variant of the RTX Tomahawk, whose special guidance system enables them to hit “mobile targets,” the Navy program manager told Bloomberg.
Why? The missiles’ range of roughly 1,000 miles will greatly extend the sub fleet’s ability to sink enemy ships.
The Navy started work on the project in 2017 and took delivery of the first missiles for tests last year before declaring it ready for combat. The fiscal 2025 deployment is about a year behind the schedule announced in 2020.
Work on shorter-ranged anti-ship missiles is also underway. In 2021—nearly a quarter-century after the UGM-84A Harpoon was removed from U.S. submarines—the Navy announced that it was paying Boeing to update the 150-mile missiles to return to underwater service.
Tragic update: The U.S. Air Force said Tuesday it believes all eight servicemembers aboard the CV-22 Osprey that crashed off the shore of southern Japan’s Yakushima Island on November 29 have perished. As a result, the U.S. military forces investigating have “transitioned search and rescue operations to search and recovery operations,” officials said Tuesday.
So far, “the remains of three Airmen have been recovered, the remains of another three Airmen have been located and are in the process of being recovered, and the remains of two Airmen are still being located,” according to a statement from Air Force Special Operations Command.
The deceased include:
- Maj. Jeffrey T. Hoernemann, 32, of Andover, Minnesota;
- Maj. Eric V. Spendlove, 36, of St. George, Utah;
- Maj. Luke A. Unrath, 34, of Riverside, California;
- Capt. Terrell K. Brayman, 32, of Pittsford, New York;
- Tech. Sgt. Zachary E. Lavoy, 33, of Oviedo, Florida;
- Staff Sgt. Jake M. Turnage, 25, of Kennesaw, Georgia;
- And Senior Airman Brian K. Johnson, 32, of Reynoldsburg, Ohio.
“The honorable service of these eight Airmen to this great Nation will never be forgotten, as they are now among the giants who shape our history,” Air Force Special Operations Command's Lt. Gen. Tony Bauernfeind said in a statement.
And lastly: After nearly two weeks in the water, the U.S. Navy’s P-8A Poseidon that overshot its runway at Marine Corps Base Hawaii on November 20 has finally been recovered. Salvage crews used inflating bags of various sizes to remove it from Kaneohe Bay and transfer it back onto the runway on Saturday, the Navy’s Third Fleet said in a statement Monday. Base officials explained further in a press conference streamed live on Facebook.
“We will continue the work that needs to be done to characterize the state of the coral and damage that was done in the area,” the base’s commanding officer Col. Jeremy Beaven said. Environmental experts have inspected the underwater impact zone, but are still working to understand the effects and necessary mitigation measures.
The reconnaissance plane is now parked on the tarmac, where it can be examined and repaired. Fortunately, no one was injured in the incident; the mishap is still under investigation. View recent images of the aircraft, here.