IDF troops in Jabaliya > December 5, 2023. (Israel Defence Forces), via Twitter

Latest developments  

  • Israel has expanded its ground offensive into southern Gaza, promising to pursue Hamas commanders and operatives who took advantage of its targeted northern operation by moving southward. The southern city of Khan Younis, where Hamas is known to have concentrated its forces since Israel entered the northern Strip, has become the new focus of operations.
  • This follows the collapse of a the 7-day humanitarian pause on 1 December, after the firing of rockets into Israel from Gaza, including near Sderot and Ashkelon, by Hamas. Hamas also failed to provide a daily list of hostages to be released, in further violation of the truce agreement. On Monday, the US said that Hamas had caused the end of the humanitarian pause in order to avoid releasing female hostages because it did not want them to discuss their experiences, especially of sexual violence, once freed.
  • By 6 December, the IDF had surrounded Khan Younis and were operating in its centre. It has warned Hamas’s chief in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, that it is closing in on him. Troops have reportedly captured Hamas strongholds, located weapons and intelligence materials, as well as 30 tunnel shafts and a weapons depot inside a mosque. A barrage of rockets were also fired from Gaza at the southern Israeli city of Beersheba.
  • More reports have emerged of the conditions in which Hamas kept hostages that were released during the humanitarian pause, including evidence of drugging with tranquiliser pills before their release and at least 10 who were sexually abused in Hamas captivity. Other accounts of the harsh treatment of the hostages are continuing to emerge via family members, including beatings, and an account of a child hostage forced to watch footage of the 7 October attacks.
  • As well as Khan Younis, the IDF have also conducted activity in the Jabalia and Shejaiya areas in the northern Gaza Strip and in the Khan Yunis region in the south.
  • The IDF spokesperson said forces have completed the encirclement of Jabalia, located weapons and rocket launchers in civilian buildings, and directed aerial forces to attack terrorist squads. They attacked buildings from which terrorists operate, and located and destroyed rockets. Integrated land and naval forces raided the building of Hamas’ general security war room in Jabaliya, where they located surveillance and control equipment, weapons and maps.
  • The Biden administration has made clear its view that Israel is “making an effort” to minimise civilian deaths in Gaza. “There’s not a whole lot of modern militaries that would do that […] to telegraph their punches in that way”, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said. The IDF has introduced new high-tech mapping software to reduce further civilian casualties.
  • Rockets have continued to be fired at Israel. On Monday afternoon, a barrage of rockets was launched at central Israel, and another at the Beersheba region, with no injuries reported. Before dawn on Tuesday another barrage was launched at the Beersheba region, and in the afternoon at the cities, towns and villages surrounding the Gaza Strip and Ashkelon.
  • The humanitarian pause that was in place between 24 November – 1 December saw 110 hostages released, including 86 Israelis and 24 foreign nationals. 137 hostages remain in Hamas captivity, 126 of whom are Israeli and 4 from other countries.

Situation in Gaza 

  • Latest statistics indicate that some 50,070 tons of humanitarian aid has entered Gaza since 7 October. This includes 25,510 tons of food, 9,890 tons of water, 5,960 tons of medical equipment, 4,790 tons of shelter supplies, and 4,500 tons of mixed aid.
  • According to UNRWA, more than 80% of the Gazans have been displaced from their homes since the start of the conflict.
  • Israel approved an increase in fuel supplies to Gaza on 6 December that will gradually triple the daily quantity of fuel imported to 180,000 litres.
  • Israel’s Channel 12 has reported growing anger at Hamas amongst Palestinians in Gaza itself, with clashes between Hamas operatives and civilians over supplies and increasingly forthright criticism of the terror group.
  • Gaza’s health ministry, which is run by Hamas, has claimed that around 16,248 Gazans have died since the start of the operation – many of whom were Hamas terrorists according to the IDF – with around 43,616 injured. Figures issued by the Hamas-controlled Gazan health ministry group cannot be independently verified, and include both civilians and Hamas members killed, including victims of terror groups’ own rocket misfires. Overall, 85 Israeli soldiers have been killed in Gaza since the start of the Israeli ground operations.
  • There are estimated to be around 40,000 terrorists in Gaza in the form of Hamas’s Al-Qassam Brigades, of whom around 5,000 are thought to have been killed so far. The IDF has introduced new high-tech mapping software to reduce further civilian casualties.

The West Bank 

  • Tensions remain high in the West Bank, with Israeli security forces have conducting counterterror activities in the region. On Wednesday, the IDF said 16 wanted Palestinians were detained, three of whom were known Hamas operatives.
  • The increase in violence against Palestinians by extremist settlers has been condemned by the Israeli Government, including by President Herzog and Prime Minister Netanyahu. On Wednesday, defence minister Yoav Gallant signed an administrative detention order against a settler accused of assaulting Palestinians, which will be valid for the next four months.
  • On Tuesday, the US State Department said that it will impose visa restrictions on Israeli settlers involved in undermining peace, security or stability in the occupied West Bank.
  • Anthony Blinken said that the US had “underscored to the Israeli government the need to do more to hold accountable extremist settlers who have committed violent attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank”.

Northern border and Red Sea 

  • The beginning of the week saw Hezbollah continue its attacks against IDF posts and forces on the Lebanese border. Hezbollah claimed responsibility for 12 attacks, including attacks on Biranit, Shtula, Hanita, Manara and Mount Dov. A barrage of rockets was also fired at Kiryat Shemonah.
  • Hamas sources in Lebanon announced the establishment of an organisation called Pioneers of Operation al-Aqsa Storm, calling on young and adult men to join its ranks. The group was apparently established with Hezbollah’s blessing. Following criticism, Hamas was quick to claim it was not a military organization, but rather the “popular recruitment” of young Palestinians into its ranks.
  • On 3 December, commercial ships in the Red Sea came under attack by drones and missiles, and a US warship opened fire in self-defence, as part of an hours-long attack claimed by the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen. One of the attacked ships was reportedly British-owned.
  • American National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said they were holding talks with other countries regarding the establishment of a maritime task force of ships from partner countries alongside the United States to work to ensure the safe passage of ships in the Red Sea.

In the UK 

  • The UK has seen a huge jump in antisemitic incidents since Hamas’s initial attacks, with at least 1,890 antisemitic incidents across the UK since 7 October, many involving “symbols and language of pro-Palestinian politics as rhetorical weapons”, the Community Security Trust reports. This is the highest ever total reported to CST over the same period.
  • Last month, LFI chair Steve McCabe wrote to the Home Secretary calling for action on the “gaping chasm in the law that allows hateful extremists to operate with impunity”.
  • On 27 November, tens of thousands of people marched against antisemitism in central London in defiance of the spike in antisemitic incidents since 7 October.
  • On Monday, Israel updated travel warnings for dozens of western countries amid rising antisemitism around the world, including the UK.

What happens next

  • On 5 December, Netanyahu reiterated that Israel believes that Gaza will have to be demilitarised after the current war and cast doubt on the ability of international forces to implement this, pointing to the failure of UNIFIL in southern Lebanon since 2006.
  • Israel has reportedly told a number of Middle Eastern countries that it plans to create a “buffer zone between Gaza and Israel” to prevent future terror attacks following the current war.