English LCCC Newsbulletin For Lebanese, Lebanese Related, Global News & Editorials
For October 17/2023
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For today
Parable Of The The Widow & The judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people
Luke 18/01-08: “Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, ‘In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, “Grant me justice against my opponent.” For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, “Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.” ’And the Lord said, ‘Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?’”

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on October 16-17/2023
Saudi Daily: Shi'ite Militia Commanders Have Arrived In Lebanon And Syria Ahead Of Possible Involvement In Conflict With Israel
Israel orders evacuations near Lebanon border
Building collapses in Mansourieh, several residents under rubble
Report: Local, int'l forces rule out Hezbollah-Israel war
Hezbollah destroys Israeli border surveillance cameras
Report: US asks Israel not to attack Lebanon first, vows help
Statement: Islamic Resistance hits Israeli targets with direct weapons
Netanyahu warns Hezbollah, Iran not to 'test us' in the north
Lebanese govt. scrambles to avoid being dragged into war
UN health agency rushes medical supplies to Lebanon
Egypt, Turkey, Qatar reassure Hezbollah on Gaza humanitarian efforts
Army finds 20 rocket launchers near Qlaileh
Israel shells south anew as Hezbollah claims attack on border posts
Canada urges citizens to leave Lebanon while flights remain available
Mikati meets French FM, Saudi ambassador
Mikati: Lebanese front in Hamas-Israel conflict in no one’s interest
French FM Colonna says Lebanese officials must prevent Lebanon from being dragged into regional events
Lebanese hold their breath as fears grow Hezbollah will pull them into war/Jamie Dettmer/Politico/October 16/2023
The Threat of Hezbollah Joining Hamas and Why Israel and the US Should be Prepared/David Adesnik/The Messanger/October 16/2023

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on October 16-17/2023
UN Security Council rejects Russia’s resolution on Gaza that fails to mention Hamas
Hamas Leader Who Led Kibbutz Attack Killed, Israel Says
U.S. Already ‘Militarily Involved’ in Israel War, Iran Says
Palestinians walk past piles of garbage, amid the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Khan Younis
Biden considers trip to Israel in coming days
Cairo summit on 'Palestinian cause' to be held Saturday
Day 10 of war: Will Hamas release captives if strikes stop?
Fears mount that Israel-Hamas war could spark wider conflict
Biden postpones trip to Colorado to discuss domestic agenda as the Israel-Hamas conflict intensifies
Middle East on ‘verge of the abyss,’ UN warns as Gaza suffers and Israel prepares for offensive
Saudi's crown prince snubbed the US Secretary of State by making him wait hours for a meeting before postponing it, report says
Talks fail to let aid reach Gaza; Israel evacuates Lebanon border
Turkish FM discusses with Haniyeh issue of hostages release
Blinken, Netanyahu shelter in bunker amid air raid sirens in Tel Aviv
First group of Canadians leave West Bank for Jordan as those in Gaza brace for worst
Israeli tanks with Ukraine-style ‘anti-drone cages’ line up on Gaza border
Trudeau calls for release of Hamas hostages, says three Canadians may be among them
Hamas attacks are a pogrom, says Sunak, as British sisters among missing

Titles For The Latest English LCCC  analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on October 16-17/2023
How Iran, the 'Head of the Snake,' Directly Helped Hamas's Assault on Israel/Khaled Abu Toameh/Gatestone Institute/October 16, 2023
‘Our Inheritance Is Turned Over to Strangers/Raymond Ibrahim/October 16, 2023
This unholy axis of Iranian thugs and Marxist psychopaths is an enemy of Muslims too/Jordan Peterson/The Telegraph/October 16, 2023
Iran’s plan to destroy Israel is hiding in plain sight/John Bolton/The Telegraph/October 16, 2023
The Choices of War: Hamas Using Kidnapped Israelis as Human Shields, What Should Israel Do?/Alan M. Dershowitz/Gatestone Institute/October 16, 2023
Supporting the Palestinian cause is a moral imperative, not a crime/Baria Alamuddin/Arab News/October 16, 2023
What Comes After the Flood?/Sam Menassa/Asharq Al-Awsat/October 16/2023

Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on October 16-17/2023
Saudi Daily: Shi'ite Militia Commanders Have Arrived In Lebanon And Syria Ahead Of Possible Involvement In Conflict With Israel
OMEMRI/October 16, 2023
Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria | Special Dispatch No. 10874
On October 14, 2023, the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat reported that delegations of military officials from Iran-backed Iraqi Shi'ite militias have recently arrived in Syria and Lebanon, in order to gather information and coordinate their activities with "local" militias ahead of their possible involvement in the conflict with Israel.
The report emphasizes that the militias have received no clear directive from Iran to become involved in the war, but that they are preparing to implement such a directive should it arrive. If correct, this scenario lines up with statements made since the October 7 inception of the Hamas-Israel war by leaders of many of these Iraqi militias, who have expressed their unreserved support for Hamas. These militia leaders have even threatened military action against Israel and U.S. interests in the region if Israel crosses any "red lines" in its campaign against Hamas or launches a second front in Lebanon, or if the U.S. intervenes militarily to assist Israel.[1]
It should be noted that some of these Iran-backed militias have forces deployed in Syria that are fighting alongside the Bashar Al-Assad regime against Syrian rebel forces. Some of these militias, such as the Asa'ib Ahl Al-Haqq militia and the Badr Movement, are represented in the Iraqi parliament as part of the Coordination Framework; their involvement in the war would have significant implications for the Iraqi government's official position regarding the war, as well as its relations with the U.S.
If these militias receive orders to open a front against Israel or the U.S., this would be an actualization of the "unification of fronts" strategy that has been openly advanced by Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, on Iran's directive, since May 2021. Several Iraqi militias have already indicated that they are willing to participate in this plan.[2]
The following is a summary of the main points of the Al-Sharq Al-Awsat report.[3]
Report: Delegations From The Militias Have Arrived In Syria And Lebanon To Gather Information
The Al-Sharq Al-Awsat report stated that according to "knowledgeable Iraqi sources," several "commanders from the armed factions loyal to Iran have arrived in positions in Syria and Lebanon, on the backdrop of the escalation in the Gaza Strip." The sources were reported as saying that although the leaders of the Coordination Framework (which comprises Shi'ite parties, most of which are armed militias) in the Iraqi parliament have received a "recommendation from a regional power" – i.e. Iran – to wait to be informed of a "final status" regarding developments in Gaza, "it appears that the officials in the field have begun to move towards positions in Damascus and Beirut."
Also according to the report, delegations from these militias, which include senior officers and fighters, have in the past few days arrived at Lebanon's and Syria's borders with Israel in order to gather intelligence and "to better familiarize themselves with the details in the field," as well as to coordinate with local militias. This is in "in advance of any possible operation."
The report stressed that while Iran has not yet issued clear instructions, it has clarified that the decision regarding direct involvement in the fighting with Israel will come "soon" and "in accordance with the expansion of the arena of the war and the involvement of other elements."
The delegations, according to the report, provided the leaders of the Iraqi militias with details, information, and possible scenarios so as "to inform them and in order to plan." The sources stressed that the militia leaders have no intention of taking action without clear instructions from Iran, which have not yet been received. Adding that according to the information it had received and that had been confirmed by three members of the Coordination Framework, the report continued: "Tehran has announced to its allies in Iraq that it has formulated a plan regarding the war in the Gaza Strip."
Report: Iran Has Instructed The Militias To Recruit Volunteers For The War Against Israel
According to the Al-Sharq Al-Awsat report, the outreach apparatuses if the parties belonging to the Coordination Framework have been publishing reports about "the Iraqi resistance [factions'] intentions to be on the ground and to carry out attacks against the American and Israeli interests." The report added that many in the Coordination Framework have used the term "geographically open conflict" to describe the Iran-backed resistance factions' possible responses to the war in Gaza.
Stating, for example, that on October 12, 2023 former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki had called for assisting the resistance in Gaza, saying that the attack on Jerusalem is a religious matter that affects all honorable people in the Arab world, the report also pointed out that Al-Maliki did not speak about a plan to take an active part in the fighting in Gaza.
In addition, the Al-Sharq Al-Aqsa report quoted Radio Farda,[4] the Iranian branch of the U.S.-operated "Free Europe" radio, as saying that in the past few days there had been a meeting of IRGC Qods Force deputy commander Gen. Mohammed Reza Falah Zada, Iranian Ambassador to Baghdad Mohammed Kadhim Al-Sadeq, Nouri Al-Maliki, and the leaders of Iran-backed militias in Iraq, including the Iraqi Hizbullah Brigades. In the meeting, according to the report, the Iranians requested intensification of the anti-Israel propaganda campaign and of support for Hamas. They also requested that volunteers be recruited to fight in the war against Israel. They also asked the militias to prepare to implement Iran's instructions.
Al-Sharq Al-Awsat assessed that not all the heads of the parties in the Iraqi government are eager to become involved in a broad Palestinian-Israeli conflict, but that Iran and other allies in the region could pressure them to do so following the deterioration of the situation in the Gaza Strip.
Also in its report, Al-Sharq Al-Awsat stated, citing "close associates" of the leaders of the Coordination Framework, that one of the main concerns is that there will be a direct threat to the "allies" in Lebanon and Syria, and that Iran is attempting to prevent this by all possible means, but that so far the Iraqis do not know how this is to be done.
Report: Iraqi Militias Say Iraq Will Stop Implementation Of The 2008 Strategic Agreement With The U.S. If U.S. Uses Its Bases In Iraq For Israel's Benefit
Al-Sharq Al-Awsat also noted in its report that members of the Coordination Framework have been discussing the possibility that the U.S. will use its bases in Iraq (Ayn Al-Asad and Al-Harir) in order to carry out an attack or to send forces to assist Israel. A member of the Framework reported that in such a case, Iraq would stop implementation of the 2008 Strategic Framework Agreement for a Relationship of Friendship and Cooperation between the United States and the Republic of Iraq, which sets out the principles of the U.S.-Iraq relations on the political, economic, cultural, and security levels.[5]
[1] See MEMRI JTTM Reports: Leaders Of Iran-Backed Militias In Iraq Vow Support To Palestinian Factions In Hamas Attack, Threaten To Respond To Any Israeli Or American Attack Against Them, October 7, 2023; Iran-Backed Militia Unit Listed Under Iraqi Government Sponsored Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) Releases Video Message Extending Support To Hamas In Attack Against Israel, October 9, 2023; Senior Officials Of The Iran-Led Axis Of Resistance: U.S. Intervention To Help Israel Fight The Palestinians In The Current Campaign Will Lead To The Involvement Of The Entire Axis Of Resistance And ‘Open The Gates Of Hell On It, October 9, 2023; Iran-Backed Iraqi Militia Leaders Threaten Retaliation Against U.S. If Washington Intervenes Against Hamas After Its Attack On Israel: 'If America Intervenes, We Will Intervene Without Hesitation', October 9, 2023; Leader Of Iraqi Hizbullah Brigades Threatens To Target Israel, U.S. Forces With Missiles, Drones 'If Necessary'; Calls On Iraqis To Make Donations To Gazans, October 11, 2023; Iran-backed Iraqi Kata'ib Sayyid Al-Shuhada' Milita: The U.S. Forces In The Region Will Be Legitimate Targets If America Intervenes, October 11, 2023; Leader Of Shi'ite Iraqi Militia: If U.S. Persists In Supporting Israel, We Will Attack Its Interests In Iraq And The Region, October 13, 2023.
[2] See MEMRI Reports: Al-Nujaba Spokesman: Golan Liberation Brigade Is Ready For Action; Any Violation In Jerusalem Will Lead To Attacks On Israeli, U.S. Interests In Region, July 16, 2021; Hizbullah Brigades: Responding To Nasrallah's Call For A New Equation That A Threat To Jerusalem Equals Regional War, July 17, 2023.
[3] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), October 14, 2023.
[4] Radiofarda.com, October 13, 2023.
[5] Iq.usembassy.gov, accessed October 16, 2023.

Israel orders evacuations near Lebanon border
Lauren Sforza/The Hill/October 16, 2023
The Israeli military on Monday ordered evacuations of residents in northern Israel who live near the Lebanese border to state-funded guesthouses. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said in a post on X, formerly Twitter, the plan was approved by Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and will be implemented by local authorities. It will affect 28 communities within 2 kilometers — about 1.2 miles — from the border. This comes as tensions between Iran-backed Hezbollah, which is based in Lebanon, and Israel have risen in recent days. Hezbollah has fired rockets numerous times at Israel, which has returned fire and struck multiple Hezbollah targets. The U.S. has labeled Hezbollah, like Hamas, a terrorist organization. The IDF said Sunday that nine rockets were fired from Lebanon into Israel, but Israel’s air defense intercepted five of them. It also confirmed it was striking the launch site in Lebanon as retaliation.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said it delivered medical supplies to Lebanon as a result of escalating violence, and it is preparing for more casualties. “WHO reiterates its plea for the protection of civilians, health workers & health infrastructure and ultimately for an end to hostilities and violence,” the WHO said in a post on X. Strikes from Lebanon have reportedly killed one Israeli soldier and one civilian, and Israel’s strikes on Lebanon have killed three civilians, including Reuters journalist Issam Abdallah, and four Hezbollah members. Hamas launched its unprecedented, deadly attack in southern Israel more than a week ago, prompting Israel to declare war on the group. More than 1,400 Israelis have been killed, with at least 199 being captured by Hamas and brought into Gaza, according to Israel. At least 2,750 Palestinians have been killed and another 9,700 wounded, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.

Building collapses in Mansourieh, several residents under rubble
Naharnet/October 16,/2023
A five-story building collapsed Monday in the northern Metn town of Mansourieh, trapping several residents under the rubble. Civil Defense chief Raymond Khattar said three residents were rescued unhurt while two were still under the rubble. MP Razi al-Hajj meanwhile said he has a list with the names of six citizens and a foreign domestic worker who are still under the rubble according to his sources. Media reports said a loud bang was heard in the building in the morning without prompting an evacuation. A Mansourieh Municipality member meanwhile told MTV that the municipality had warned that the building’s foundations were not sound, denying reports that the building had been damaged by the Beirut port blast. Caretaker Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi meanwhile inspected the site and reassured that Civil Defense crews would work throughout the night and would not leave until they rescue all those trapped under the rubble.

Report: Local, int'l forces rule out Hezbollah-Israel war

Naharnet/October 16,/2023
Lebanese and international parties have ruled out an all-out war between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon, a media report said. “Local and international forces reassured those who asked them yesterday about the possibility of the ignition of the (Lebanese) southern front, noting that the current circumstances make such a battle unlikely,” ad-Diyar newspaper quoted highly informed Lebanese sources as saying, in remarks published Monday. “But confirming anything during wartime is improper, seeing as a single uncalculated incident might take us to a totally difference situation,” the sources added. “It seems certain that the enemy has no interest to escalate, and it has openly declared it several times, but the Axis of Resistance cannot stand idly by should Gaza be invaded and its residents displaced or if the plan to eradicate the resistance goes forward, seeing as these are red lines whose crossing will not be allowed whatever the price might be,” the sources went on to say.

Hezbollah destroys Israeli border surveillance cameras
Associated Press/October 16,/2023
Hezbollah said Monday it has started destroying surveillance cameras on several Israeli army posts along the border as tension rose following the Israel-Hamas war that began Oct.7. Hezbollah's military media arm released a video showing snipers shooting at and destroying surveillance cameras placed on five points along the Lebanon-Israel border including one outside the Israeli town of Metula. The militant group appears to want to prevent the Israeli army from monitoring movements on the Lebanese side of the border after days of fire exchange that left at least seven people dead, including four Hezbollah fighters, on the Lebanese side. Since the Oct. 7, attack by the Palestinian militant Hamas group on southern Israel that killed more than 1,400 Israeli civilians and troops, tension has been on the rise along the Lebanon-Israel border. Hezbollah fighters fired anti-tank missiles on Israeli army positions and Israeli troops shelled border areas on the Lebanese side of the border. Israel and Hezbollah are bitter enemies that fought a monthlong war in the summer of 2006 that ended in a draw. Israel considers the Iran-backed Shiite militant group its most serious immediate threat, estimating that Hezbollah has some 150,000 rockets and missiles aimed at Israel. There are concerns that Hezbollah could join the war with Israel and earlier this month, President Joe Biden warned other players in the Middle East not to join the conflict and has sent American warships to the region and vowed full support for Israel. Hezbollah legislator Hassan Fadlallah said Sunday that the group is ready for all possibilities adding, "we don't want to reveal what the next step is." He said Hezbollah's next step "is tied to what is going on in Gaza." Meanwhile, French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna arrived in Beirut and met with caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati. She will also meet other officials to discuss border tensions. Colonna had visited Israel a week after a surprise attack perpetrated by Hamas, and is visiting Egypt and Lebanon to discuss the ongoing crises. Earlier Monday, the Israeli military ordered people living in 28 communities near the Lebanese border to evacuate. The military order affects communities that are within 2 kilometers of the border. Hezbollah has said the increased strikes were a warning and don't mean the group has decided to go to war. The World Health Organization said Monday it has sent two shipments of medical supplies to Beirut in preparation for potential escalation along the Lebanon-Israel border.

Report: US asks Israel not to attack Lebanon first, vows help

Naharnet/October 16,/2023
The U.S. has promised military assistance in case of an attack by Hezbollah on Israel but demanded that Israel not attack Lebanon first, Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth said. U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin met with a number of Israeli officials during his recent visit to Israel. “It is known that the head of the U.S. defense department proposed an agreement that would ensure that Israel would not be the first to attack Lebanon,” the newspaper said. Austin also promised that Washington would help if Hezbollah began attacking Israeli territory, it added. “Presumably Israel accepted the U.S. offer,” Yedioth Ahronoth said. There has been no official statement from Washington and Israel regarding such an agreement yet.

Statement: Islamic Resistance hits Israeli targets with direct weapons

LBCI/October 16,/2023
The Islamic Resistance announced in a statement that it targeted five Israeli sites, including the general site of Misgav Am, Khirbat Al-Manara, Hermon, Risha site, and Ramya site, using direct weapons and achieved confirmed injuries.

Netanyahu warns Hezbollah, Iran not to 'test us' in the north

Associated Press/October 16,/2023
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Monday Iran and Hezbollah not to "test" Israel in the north. "I tell Iran and Hezbollah not to test Israel or else they will pay a huge price," Netanyahu said, adding that Israel is prepared for a war on the northern front. "We will continue the war on the southern front and we are prepared for a war on the northern front," he said. Netanyahu gave a speech in the Israeli Knesset on Monday in which he said the world needed to unit to defeat Hamas. He said “this war is also your war,” and he compared Hamas to the Nazis. Palestinians in besieged Gaza crowded into hospitals and schools on Monday, seeking shelter and running low on food and water.

Lebanese govt. scrambles to avoid being dragged into war

Associated Press/October 16,/2023
Caretaker prime minister said Monday the country's politically paralyzed government has been scrambling to ease tensions along its southern border with Israel and avoid dragging the tiny country into a new war.Najib Mikati has spoken by phone with top U.S. officials and heads of state and top diplomats from the United Kingdom, France, Turkey, Qatar, Jordan, and Italy. "Lebanon is in the eye of the storm, and the region as a whole is in a difficult situation," Mikati was quoted as saying in a statement from his office. The Lebanese government remains critical of Israel, but fears a new war could further devastate its battered economy and put the lives of its approximately 6.5 million people at risk. There are concerns that Hezbollah will ignore concerns from the Lebanese government and escalate once Israel launches a ground invasion. Hezbollah and Israel have clashed along the border across several towns, but Hezbollah has not yet announced that it is joining the war. Meanwhile, French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna arrived in Beirut and met with Mikati. She will also meet other officials to discuss border tensions. Colonna had visited Israel a week after a surprise attack perpetrated by Hamas, and is visiting Egypt and Lebanon to discuss the ongoing crises.

UN health agency rushes medical supplies to Lebanon

Associated Press/October 16,/2023
The World Health Organization has sent two shipments of medical supplies to Beirut in preparation for a potential escalation of the so-far sporadic clashes on the border between armed groups in Lebanon and Israeli forces. The U.N. agency said in a statement Monday that it “has expedited the delivery of critical medical supplies to Lebanon in order to be ready to respond to any potential health crisis.” Two shipments containing “enough surgical and trauma medicines and supplies to meet the needs of 800 to 1,000 injured patients” arrived in Beirut from Dubai Monday the statement said. Lebanon’s health system has been overstretched since the country fell into a severe economic crisis four years ago. Many medical professionals have left the country and hospitals have faced supply and equipment shortages. The WHO noted that clashes on the border have already resulted in civilian casualties. “If these clashes escalate, more civilians will be at risk, and they will need immediate access to lifesaving medical care,” the statement said. Since the outbreak of the latest Hamas-Israel war on Oct. 7, armed groups in Lebanon, including Hezbollah, Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, have launched missiles at sites in northern Israel, while Israel has hit sites in southern Lebanon with airstrikes and shelling. Strikes from the Lebanese side have killed one Israeli soldier and one civilian, while Israeli strikes have killed three civilians on the Lebanese side — including Reuters journalist Issam Abdallah — as well as four Hezbollah fighters. Two members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad were killed Monday in clashes with Israeli forces after crossing the border between the two countries.

Egypt, Turkey, Qatar reassure Hezbollah on Gaza humanitarian efforts
Naharnet/October 16,/2023
Officials from Egypt, Turkey and Qatar have informed several sides in Gaza and Beirut that there are strong efforts to resolve the humanitarian file amid the ongoing war and siege on Gaza, a media report said. “These (humanitarian) steps will be imposed on the Israelis and the talks that took place with the U.S. side have focused on this step,” al-Akhbar newspaper quoted the officials as saying. “These capitals have intentionally informed Hezbollah of the matter, after the U.S. asked them to urge the party not to get involved in the war,” the daily said. “These messages were received after Western officials learned that Hezbollah was not exclusively linking its intervention to the expansion of the military operation against the (Gaza) Strip but also to the aggravation of the humanitarian crisis in it,” the newspaper said.

Army finds 20 rocket launchers near Qlaileh
Associated Press/October 16,/2023
The Lebanese army said Monday search operations have led to the discovery of 20 rockets launchers near the Lebanon-Israel border. The army said in a statement that four of the launchers discovered had rockets inside them and were ready to be fired. The army said military experts are working on dismantling the launchers that were discovered near the village of Qlaileh, south of the port city of Tyre. Over the past days dozens of rockets have been fired from Lebanon into northern Israel as tension rises in the region over the war in Gaza.

Israel shells south anew as Hezbollah claims attack on border posts
Naharnet/October 16,/2023
The Israeli army on Monday fired artillery shells at the outskirts of the Lebanese border town of Dhayra after Hezbollah attacked military posts on the frontier. In a statement, Hezbollah said its fighters attacked five Israeli military posts with "the right and appropriate weapons." It also said that the group achieved "certain hits." Media reports meanwhile said that Hezbollah only fired gunshots at Israeli surveillance cameras, drawing the Israeli retaliatory fire.

Canada urges citizens to leave Lebanon while flights remain available

LBCI/October 16,/2023
The Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Jolie announced on Monday on the X platform that Canadians should consider leaving Lebanon while they can because of the growing security risks in the region. She also stressed, "As the crisis continues in Gaza, the West Bank, and Israel, the security situation in the region has become increasingly volatile." "Canadians in Lebanon should consider leaving while commercial flights remain available," Joly said.

Mikati meets French FM, Saudi ambassador
LBCI/October 16,/2023
Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati discussed bilateral relations between Lebanon and France and the current situation in Lebanon and the region during a meeting with French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna this afternoon at the Grand Serail.
The French delegation accompanying Minister Colonna, including Ambassador to Lebanon Hervé Magro at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs Anne Grillo, and several advisers, participated in the meeting. On the Lebanese side, the diplomatic adviser to Prime Minister Mikati, Ambassador Boutros Assaker, and former minister Nicolas Nahas were present. During the meeting, Mikati "emphasized the need to make all necessary contacts and diligent efforts to keep Lebanon away from regional tensions, considering that "the ceasefire contributes to achieving this." He also stressed "the necessity of intensifying high-level international and Arab meetings to prevent escalation."In turn, Minister Colonna expressed her concern about the situation in the region, stating that "France supports Egypt's proposal to hold a meeting for leaders of some Arab and European countries, in addition to the permanent members of the Security Council. France is trying to find a framework to solve the current issues and explore solutions that prevent unpredictable escalation." Mikati also received Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to Lebanon and discussed bilateral relations between the two countries and the importance of working to keep Lebanon away from the tensions in the region. The ambassador handed over an invitation from the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques to attend the fifth Arab-African Summit scheduled to be held in Riyadh on the eleventh of next month.

Mikati: Lebanese front in Hamas-Israel conflict in no one’s interest

Arab News/October 16, 2023
BEIRUT: Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister, Najib Mikati, said on Monday Beirut had been working to ease tensions along its southern border with Israel and avoid dragging the country into a new war. “Lebanon is in the eye of the storm, and the region as a whole is in a difficult situation,” a statement from his office said. The Lebanese government remains critical of Israel but fears a new war could further devastate its battered economy and risk the lives of its people. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Iran and its Lebanese affiliated group Hezbollah not to “test” his country in a speech on Monday to the Israeli Knesset. Mikati also said that his government was continuing at home and abroad to keep the situation calm inside Lebanon as much as possible and to distance itself from the repercussions of the ongoing war in Gaza. The prime minister has spoken by phone with top US officials, heads of state, and top diplomats from the UK, France, Turkiye, Qatar, Jordan, and Italy.
Lebanese authorities should take all necessary measures to avert a war with Israel, France's Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna said in Beirut on Monday. Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan will visit Lebanon on Tuesday to discuss regional, global, and bilateral issues. Mikati also said that no one was interested in taking risks and opening a front in southern Lebanon because the people could not bear it. “No one can predict what might happen. Everything changes by the hour according to the course of events, and no one can predict anything,” he said. But he blamed Israel for seeking to “increase its provocations.” Mikati’s remarks came as the Lebanese Armed Forces dismantled seven ready-to-launch Grad rockets near Hanniyeh — a small town in the Tyre District within the UNIFIL area of operations in southern Lebanon.
Israel and Hezbollah remain on high alert on the Lebanese border after a tense and cautious night, when Israel fired flares and phosphorous shells over the area.
Sunday witnessed Israeli airstrikes on Hezbollah targets, including a site belonging to the “Green Without Borders” organization. However, daily skirmishes on the southern Lebanese border and Gaza Strip remain controlled under previous international agreements and rules of engagement since 2006. An Israel Defense Forces statement announced a plan to evacuate residents up to 2 km from the Lebanese border to state-funded guesthouses. The IDF also claimed that Iran instructed Hezbollah to carry out Sunday’s attacks on the border.
“We have strengthened our units on our northern border and will respond firmly and forcefully to every operation against us,” said army spokesperson Avichay Adraee, who added that Hezbollah fired shells on Sunday “at the request and with the support of Iran, in an attempt to divert our attention from operational efforts in the south, thus exposing Lebanon and its citizens to danger.” Adraee also warned that “if Hezbollah miscalculates in provoking us, the response will be deadly.” Hesham Dibsi, a Palestinian researcher and director of the Tatwir Center for Studies, told Arab News that the escalation on the Lebanese border with Israel coincided with the hardening of Arab political positions on Israel and led to the US changing its tone. “This, in turn, led to embarrassment for the Iranian side, which had stressed that it would not intervene in the war unless Israel targeted it,” he said. “Pending developments, the clash between Israel and Hezbollah will not deviate from the rules of engagement.” Lebanese Forces Party MP Fadi Karam said “the decision to go to war today is in Iran.”He added: “After monitoring the Iranian and Israeli rhetoric since last Saturday, it seems the step was taken to enter the war. “If Hezbollah enters the war, we do not know what will happen to Lebanon, and if Iran also joins in, what will Russia’s position be?” Karam added he believes that the deadlock over the appointment of a new Lebanese president meant the country’s opposition had inadvertently hindered possible Lebanese engagement in Israel, as Hezbollah had been frustrated in selecting a president loyal to it. “If the party had been able to do that, we would have gone ahead of Hamas in the war against Israel,” he said.

French FM Colonna says Lebanese officials must prevent Lebanon from being dragged into regional events

LBCI/October 16,/2023
The French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna stated on Monday that “the situation is worrying and dangerous,” and appealed “from Beirut to everyone to bear responsibility and control the situation, and that Hamas must not be confused with the Palestinian people.”She pointed out, "Lebanese officials should play their role in preventing Lebanon from being dragged into regional events, and France takes what is happening very seriously and will spare no effort to restore the path to peace."Furthermore, she added, "A humanitarian corridor must be opened to ensure that aid reaches the Palestinian people, and Hamas cannot capture an entire population." She also noted, "The scale of the attack on Israel indicates that it was planned and organized, and I demand the release of prisoners without delay and without conditions. It is important to be vigilant and not confuse Hamas with the Palestinian people."

Lebanese hold their breath as fears grow Hezbollah will pull them into war
Jamie Dettmer/Politico/October 16/2023
Border fighting is crackling, and concern is mounting that Iran will push its Shiite proxy Hezbollah to an all-out assault against Israel.
BEIRUT — Once again, the Lebanese are glued to their TV sets and are compulsively checking their cell phones, following every twist and turn of skirmishes on the border, trying to weigh up whether another war is imminent.
In desperation, they are asking themselves how a nation so often shattered by conflict — and pummeled by an economic crisis — is again at risk of tipping back into the abyss.
“People are exhausted — they can’t take much more,” said Ramad Boukallil, a Lebanese businessman, who runs a company training managers. “Lebanon is reeling — we have had four harsh years with the economic crisis, people are skipping meals and can hardly get by. We had the port explosion, the pandemic, a financial crash. Please God we’re not hit with another war,” he added, in a conversation at Beirut airport.
The chief fear for many Lebanese is that they could soon be the second front of Israel’s war against its Islamist militant enemies, after Hamas’ brutal onslaught against Israel a week ago that killed more than 1,300 people. While most eyes are focused on an expected retaliatory ground assault against Hamas in Gaza, Israeli forces have also declared a 4-kilometer-wide closed military zone on Lebanon’s southern border, where they have exchanged fire with Hezbollah, a Shiite political party and militant group based in Lebanon.
One person close to Hezbollah said the Golan Heights — Syrian land occupied by Israel to the southeast of Lebanon — was shaping up into an especially dangerous flashpoint, saying Hezbollah has moved elite units there in the past few days.
Finger on the trigger
For now, this border fighting appears contained, but Iran’s flurry of regional diplomacy is heightening the anxiety that Tehran could be about to commit its proxies in Hezbollah headlong into the war. Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian warned on Saturday that if Israel doesn’t halt its military campaign in Gaza, then Hezbollah, a key player in the Tehran-orchestrated “axis of resistance,” is “prepared” and has its “finger is on the trigger.”
“There’s still an opportunity to work on an initiative [to end the war] but it might be too late tomorrow,” Amir-Abdollahian told reporters after meeting Hamas’ political leader Ismail Haniyeh in Qatar where they “agreed to continue co-operation” to achieve the group’s goals, according to a Hamas statement.
Mark Regev, an adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told Britain’s Spectator TV his country was ready for Hezbollah, which he labeled a twin of Hamas. “Hezbollah could try to escalate the situation, so my message is clear: if we were caught by surprise by Hamas on Saturday morning, we are not going to be caught by surprise from the north. We are ready, we are prepared. We don’t want a war in the north but if they force one upon us, as I was saying, we are ready and we will win decisively in the north too.”
To try to forestall any such thing happening, the United States has dispatched two aircraft carrier strike groups to the region and President Joe Biden publicly warned outside actors — taken to mean Iran and Hezbollah — not to get involved. “Don’t,” he said.
“That was music to my ears,” said Ruth Boulos, a mother of two, as she sipped coffee at a restaurant in Raouché, one of the most expensive neighborhoods in Beirut, dotted with modern skyscrapers. “Let’s hope Hezbollah listens,” she added.
At nearby tables, mostly well-heeled Lebanese Christian families could be heard debating whether the country will once again be mired in war and whether they should get out now, joining other affluent Lebanese who have been leaving because of the economic crisis that’s left an estimated 85 percent of the population below the poverty line.
That may start to become more challenging. Airlines are getting nervous. Germany’s Lufthansa has temporarily suspended all flights to the country.
Lebanon’s caretaker government has no power to influence the course of events, Prime Minister Najib Mikati has admitted. He told a domestic TV channel Friday that Hezbollah had given him no assurances about whether they will enter the Gaza war or not. “It’s on Israel to stop provoking Hezbollah,” Mikati said in the interview. “I did not receive any guarantees from anyone about [how things could develop] because circumstances are changing,” he said.
Thanks to Lebanon’s hopelessly fractured politics, the country has had no fully functioning government since October 2022. The cabinet only met Thursday amid rising concerns that the border skirmishes might lead to the war’s spillover. It strongly condemned what it called “the criminal acts committed by the Zionist enemy in Gaza.” Ministers later told media the country would be broken by war. Lebanon “could fall apart completely,” Amin Salam, the economy minister, told The National.
Scarred by war
The rocket and artillery skirmishes along the Lebanese border since Hamas launched its terror attack on Israel have been of limited scope but have killed several people, including Reuters videographer Issam Abdallah. They are not, however, entirely out of the ordinary. An officer with the United Nations peacekeepers in southern Lebanon, who asked not to be identified as he’s not authorized to speak with the media, said he thought the skirmishes were mounted to keep Israel guessing.
The Lebanese are no strangers to toppling over the precipice. There are still grim pockmarked reminders dotted around Beirut of the 1975-1990 Lebanese civil war, a brutal sectarian conflict that pitched Shiite, Sunni, Druze and Christians against each other in a prolonged and tortuous quarrel that drew in outside powers, killed an estimated 120,000 people, and triggered an exodus of a million.
In 2006 the country was plunged into war once again when Hezbollah seized the opportunity to strike Israel a fortnight into another war in Gaza. Hezbollah, the Party of God, declared “divine victory” after a month of brutal combat, which concluded when the U.N. brokered a ceasefire. Hezbollah’s capabilities took everyone by surprise, with Israel’s tanks being overwhelmed by “swarm” attacks.
Some see that brief war as the first serious round of an Iran-Israel proxy war, something more than just a continuation of the conflict between Arabs and Israelis.
No one doubts, though, that another full-scale confrontation between Israel and Hezbollah would be of much greater magnitude.
Armed with an estimated 150,000 precision-guided missiles thanks to Iran, which has been maintaining a steady flow of game-changing sophisticated weaponry for years via Syria, Hezbollah has the capability of striking anywhere in Israel and has a force that could easily be compared to a disciplined, well-trained mid-sized European army — but with a difference; Hezbollah has thousands of war-hardened fighters, thanks to its intervention in the Syrian Civil War.
Speculation is rife that air strikes on Damascus and Aleppo airports in Syria on Thursday were a step by Israel to impede Hezbollah’s arms supply line from Iran. Others see it as a warning to Syria not to get involved — Syrian support for Hezbollah could be especially important in the Golan Heights.
Hezbollah itself has been rehearsing for what its commanders often dub “the last war with Israel.” Hezbollah’s intervention on the side of President Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian Civil War was an “opportune training” opportunity, a senior Hezbollah commander told this correspondent in 2017. “What we are doing in Syria in some ways is a dress rehearsal for Israel,” he explained.
Fighting in the vanguard alongside Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Hezbollah fighters honed their skills in urban warfare. When Hezbollah first intervened in Syria, Israeli defense analysts viewed the foray as a blessing — better to have their Lebanese arch-enemy ensnared there.
But concern rapidly mounted in Israel that Hezbollah was gaining valuable battlefield experience in Syria, especially in managing large-scale, offensive operations, something the Shiite militia had little skill at previously. Other enhanced Hezbollah capabilities from Syria include using artillery cover more effectively, using drones skillfully in reconnaissance and surveillance operations, and improving logistical operations to support big integrated offensives.
A question of timing
But will Hezbollah decide to strike now?
“I don’t think Hezbollah will open a second front,” Paul Salem, president of the Middle East Institute, and a seasoned Lebanon hand, told POLITICO. But he had caveats to add. “That assessment depends on what the Israelis do in Gaza.”
“If Israel moves in a big way in Gaza and begins to get close to either defeating or evicting Hamas, let’s say like the eviction of the PLO from Lebanon in 1982, then at that point Hezbollah and Iran would not want to lose Hamas as an asset in Gaza,” he said.
“That’s a strategic imperative that might spur them to open a second front to make sure that Hamas isn’t defeated. Another factor will be the human toll in Gaza — if it is huge that might force Hezbollah’s hand because of an angry Arab public reaction,” Salem adds.
Tobias Borck, a security research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, said Hezbollah faces a dilemma.
When it fought Israel in 2006 it became very popular across the Arab world, but that flipped when it intervened in Syria with “people asking — even Shiites in its strongholds in southern Lebanon and the Beqaa Valley — what fighting in Syria had to do with resisting Israel, its supposed raison d’être, although it exists really to protect Iran from Israel,” he said.
“Hezbollah has to regain legitimacy and that puts an awful lot of pressure. That’s the worrying factor for me. How can Hezbollah still maintain it is the key player in the ‘axis of resistance’ against Israel and not get involved?” he added.
On Friday, Hezbollah deputy chief Naim Qassem told a rally in the southern Beirut suburbs that the group would not be swayed by calls for it to stay on the sidelines of the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, saying the party was “fully ready” to contribute to the fighting.
“The behind-the-scenes calls with us by great powers, Arab countries, envoys of the United Nations, directly and indirectly telling us not to interfere will have no effect,” he told supporters waving Hezbollah and Hamas flags.
The question remains what that contribution might be.

The Threat of Hezbollah Joining Hamas and Why Israel and the US Should be Prepared
David Adesnik/The Messanger/October 16/2023
Long before Hamas captured a string of towns in southern Israel, gunning down residents or taking them as hostages, Hezbollah planned to launch a similar attack in the north. Hamas is a Palestinian organization that belongs to the Sunni branch of Islam. Hezbollah hails from Lebanon and practices the Shiite variant of the faith. What they share is a commitment to destroying the State of Israel as well as a dependence on Iranian weapons and financing.
While fighting Hamas on the southern front, the Israeli military, or IDF, is already contending with increasingly aggressive probes by Hezbollah across the Lebanese border. Clashes in the north claimed the lives of three Israeli soldiers on Monday, while more than a dozen rockets have flown across the northern border from Lebanon into Israel. But these are only preludes. The far greater risk is a decision by Hezbollah — which is much better armed than Hamas — to unleash its arsenal of up to 150,000 rockets, including hundreds of precision-guided munitions that could target either clusters of civilians or infrastructure such as power plants, seaports, and air bases.
There is ample evidence that Hezbollah had — and may still have — plans to combine a massive rocket barrage with a ground assault and massacre like the one perpetrated by Hamas. In 2018, the Israeli military began exposing a series of tunnels underneath the Israeli-Lebanese border. One of them was more than half-a-mile long and reached a depth of more than 250 feet — the height of a 20-story building. The tunnel had electrical wiring, fuse boxes, and communications equipment. Another tunnel crossed the border near Metula, a town perched on a sliver of land surrounded by Lebanese territory on all sides. Commandos emerging from the tunnel would have been in exactly the right position to block the one road leading in and out of Metula, cutting off its 1,700 residents.
Israel fought a month-long war with Hezbollah in the summer of 2006. From the first day to the last, hundreds of rockets rained down on northern Israel, killing more than 40 civilians and forcing its population either to stay in bomb shelters or seek refuge in the south. At the time, Hezbollah’s arsenal consisted almost entirely of “dumb” rockets, so called because their accuracy is minimal and those who launch them exercise no control once the weapon is in the air.
Yet one particular incident illustrated the destructive potential of more precise weapons. An Iranian-made anti-ship missile with a range of more than 100 kilometers struck an IDF warship off the Lebanese coast, severely damaging the vessel and killing four sailors. Increasingly, Hezbollah displayed the capabilities of an army, not a guerrilla force. After the war, Hezbollah moved to rearm and acquire more advanced weapons. The IDF has not released a public estimate of how many precision guided munitions (PGMs) Hezbollah has stockpiled, yet on background, officers have put the number in the hundreds. While Hamas slaughtered the innocent, Hezbollah may aspire — and be able — to damage or destroy the infrastructure on which Israel depends to wage war and drive its high-tech economy. Strikes against airfields and other military bases could delay Israel from launching an effective counter-attack. Likely targets also include electrical, gas, oil, and nuclear facilities.
If and when it launched a counter-attack, the IDF would encounter the traps and fortifications Hezbollah has built into the craggy hills of southern Lebanon over the past two decades. In the aftermath of the 2006 conflict, Israel was stunned to discover extensive underground facilities with electricity, ventilation systems, and provisions for their inhabitants. Some facilities were built within sight of the Israeli-Lebanese border, practically under the noses of the UN peacekeepers supposedly preventing Hezbollah from turning the border into a fortress.
After the war in Lebanon, Israel developed and deployed its Iron Dome system to defend against rockets, along with related systems that target longer-range missiles. Tested by Hamas in multiple rounds of escalation, Iron Dome achieved extraordinary success. But there are only so many Iron Dome batteries, and the inventory of interceptor rockets is limited. Facing barrages from both Hamas and Hezbollah at the same time may push the system to its limits. More importantly, if the munitions that penetrate Israeli air spaces are PGMs, they are likely to do far greater damage.
The Iranian supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, would likely be the one to decide if and when Hezbollah enters the war on Hamas’ side. Hezbollah acknowledges the Iranian supreme leader as the ultimate authority on all matters, secular and sacred. At times, foreign observers have hoped that Hezbollah would prioritize Lebanese interests over those of Tehran’s Islamic revolution, but the group has proven faithful to its doctrine.
Will Hezbollah enter the war if Hamas buckles under the hammer blows that Israel is preparing to deliver? Or is Tehran more likely to send it into action if Israeli troops become entangled in Gaza’s dense urban terrain, presenting an opportunity to strike when the IDF is vulnerable?
The United States does not want this to become a multi-front war. President Biden warned on Tuesday, “Let me say again — to any country, any organization, anyone thinking of taking advantage of this situation, I have one word: Don’t. Don’t.” While the top U.S. general said he does not see signs of “additional players” preparing to get involved, a senior Pentagon official said, “We are deeply concerned about Hezbollah making the wrong decision and choosing to open a second front to this conflict.”From al-Qaeda to the Islamic State and Hamas, terrorists have a long track record of making what America thinks is the wrong decision. U.S. and Israeli leaders should prepare for the worst.
*David Adesnik is a senior fellow and director of research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (@FDD). He is working on a co-authored book about the conflict between Israel and Iran.

Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on October 16-17/2023
UN Security Council rejects Russia’s resolution on Gaza that fails to mention Hamas
AP/October 17, 2023
UNITED NATIONS: The UN Security Council rejected a Russian resolution Monday night that condemned violence and terrorism against civilians but made no mention of Hamas, whose surprise attack that killed 1,300 Israelis was the worst Jewish massacre since the World War II Nazi Holocaust. Only four countries joined Russia in voting for the resolution. Four countries voted against it, including the United States. Six countries abstained. Russia’s UN ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, had urged support for the resolution to respond to the “unprecedented exacerbation” of the situation, citing the council’s inaction since the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip. It was unclear if the council would vote Monday night on a rival resolution from Brazil that would condemn’s the Hamas attack. The UN’s most powerful body, which is charged with maintaining international peace and security, has not taken a position on the Hamas assault or on Israel’s response with airstrikes that have killed 2,750 Palestinians and an order to Gazans in the north to head south to avoid an expected ground war. The Russian draft resolution would have called for “an immediate, durable and fully respected humanitarian cease-fire ” and “strongly condemns all violence and hostilities directed against civilians and all acts of terrorism.” It never mentions Hamas. The Brazilian draft resolution calls for “humanitarian pauses” and also “firmly condemns all violence and hostilities against civilians and all acts of terrorism.” But it also “unequivocally rejects and condemns the heinous terrorist attacks by Hamas.” Apparently expecting the defeat of its resolution, Russia also proposed two amendments to the Brazilian draft resolution to be voted on separately after the vote on the Russian resolution but before the entire Brazilian resolution would be put to a vote. One amendment would add a call “for an immediate, durable and fully respected humanitarian cease-fire.” The second proposed amendment “also unequivocally condemns indiscriminate attacks against civilians as well as against civilian objects in the Gaza Strip depriving civilian population of means indispensable for their survival, in violation of international law.”The Security Council had met behind closed doors Friday for the second time in five days on the Israel-Hamas war, but couldn’t reach a united approach. Russia proposed its draft resolution and Brazil, the current council president, circulated its rival draft over the weekend.

Hamas Leader Who Led Kibbutz Attack Killed, Israel Says
Matt Young/The Daily Beast./October 16,/2023
Israeli Defense Forces announced Sunday that they had killed a Hamas commander they believe is responsible for an attack on a planned community near the Gaza border, called a kibbutz. A statement released by the military said Billal Al Kedra, the a commander of Hamas’ southern Khan Yunis Nukhba commando forces, was “neutralized” in Gaza on Saturday following intelligence reports of his location. The army claimed Al Kedra led the attack on Kibbutz Nirim on Oct. 7, and while the numbers of dead is unclear, a witness who survived the attack told CNN: “They just slaughtered everyone. They killed kids, babies, grandmothers.” Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorist operatives were also neutralized during the operation, the IDF said. In a separate strike Sunday, the commander of the Hamas Southern District of National Security Muetaz Eid was also killed, the Israeli Air Force said.

U.S. Already ‘Militarily Involved’ in Israel War, Iran Says

Dan Ladden-Hall/The Daily Beast/October 16, 2023
Iran views the United States as already being militarily involved in Israel’s conflict with Hamas, an Iranian official said Monday. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani was asked if Tehran would engage if the U.S. weighed in on the conflict. “Iran considers that the United States is already militarily involved in the conflict between Israel and Palestinians,” Kanaani said at a news conference. “The crimes of the Zionist regime are carried out with the support of the United States, and Washington must be held accountable.” He also said Hamas—which is backed by Iran—is ready to release hostages but is unable to do so because of Israeli airstrikes. Kanaani said freeing the captives would “require preparations that are impossible under daily bombardment by the Zionists against various parts of Gaza,” according to The Wall Street Journal. Israel believes 199 people are being held hostage by Hamas.

Palestinians walk past piles of garbage, amid the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Khan Younis
DUBAI (Reuters)/Mon, October 16, 2023
The United States is already heavily involved in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians and must be held to account, an Iranian official said on Monday. The U.S. is bolstering its firepower in the Middle East in response to war between its ally Israel and the Iranian-backed Palestinian militants Hamas amid fears of regional spillover. Asked if Tehran would engage if the U.S. weighed in, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani said: "Iran considers that the United States is already militarily involved in the conflict between Israel and Palestinians.""The crimes of the Zionist regime are carried out with the support of the United States and Washington must be held accountable," he added at a news conference. The newest U.S. aircraft carrier - also the world's largest - is already in the eastern Mediterranean and is due to be joined by a second U.S. aircraft carrier in coming days.U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday the aircraft carriers are not a provocation but a deterrence.

Biden considers trip to Israel in coming days
Associated Press/October 16, 2023
President Joe Biden is considering a trip to Israel in the coming days but no travel has been finalized, a senior administration official said. It would be a powerful symbol of sympathy and support following the brutal attack by Hamas. A trip would be a chance for Biden to personally affirm to the Israeli people the U.S. is standing firm behind them. But it would come amid growing fears that a looming Israeli move into Gaza could spark a wider war with devastating humanitarian consequences. And Biden's presence could be seen as a provocative move by Hamas' chief sponsor, Iran, or potentially viewed as tone deaf by Arab nations as civilian casualties mount in Gaza. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has already been traveling around the Mideast this past week trying to prevent the war with Hamas from igniting a broader regional conflict. The official could not publicly discuss internal deliberations about the potential presidential travel and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. Biden also made his strongest public statements yet to restrain Israel after the Oct. 7 attack that killed more than 1,400 people including at least 30 U.S. citizens, warning in an interview with CBS' 60 Minutes that aired Sunday that Israel should not reoccupy Gaza. "I think it'd be a big mistake," Biden said. "Look, what happened in Gaza, in my view, is Hamas, and the extreme elements of Hamas don't represent all the Palestinian people. And I think that it would be a mistake for Israel to occupy Gaza again."
Israel left Gaza in 2005; Hamas won the elections the next year. Still, Biden said, "taking out the extremists ... is a necessary requirement." Biden and his administration officials have refused to criticize Israel or its bombing campaign that has killed civilians in Gaza. But they've urged Israel, Egypt and other nations to allow for humanitarian aid and supplies into the worsening conflict zone.
"I'm confident that Israel is going to act under the rules of war," Biden said in the interview. "There's standards that democratic institutions and countries go by. And I'm confident that there's going to be an ability for the innocents in Gaza to be able to have access to medicine and food and water."
Blinken, meanwhile, heard criticism of Israel's military operation from Egypt President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi. After Cairo he traveled on to Jordan and planned to return to Israel on Monday, carrying to Israeli leaders the feedback he received in a rush of meetings with leaders throughout the Arab world.
Egypt's state-run media said el-Sissi told Blinken that Israel's Gaza operation has exceeded "the right of self-defense" and turned into "a collective punishment." Blinken told reporters before leaving Egypt that "Israel has the right, indeed it has the obligation to defend itself against these attacks from Hamas and to try to do what it can to make sure that this never happens again." Mindful of the potential human cost in Gaza, Blinken said "the way that Israel does this matters. It needs to do it in a way that affirms the shared values that we have for human life and human dignity, taking every possible precaution to avoid harming civilians.''Earlier Sunday, the envoy met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh, talks that built upon earlier sessions with the leaders of the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority.
Blinken said that what he heard in every meeting with Arab leaders "was a determination of shared view that we have to do everything possible to make sure this doesn't spread to other places, a shared view to safeguard innocent lives, a shared view to get assistance to Palestinians in Gaza who need it and we're working very much on that." The White House also appointed David Satterfield, a former ambassador to Lebanon and Turkey, to lead U.S. efforts to get humanitarian assistance to "vulnerable people through the Middle East." Satterfield was expected to arrive in Israel on Monday.
From Washington, Biden's national security adviser said the U.S. was not "making requests or demands of Israel with respect to its military operations." Jake Sullivan, making the rounds of the Sunday TV news shows, said the administration was "simply stating our basic principles — the principles upon which this country is based and all democracies, including Israel, are based. It's what makes us different from the terrorists, that in fact we respect civilian life."He said the U.S. was "not interfering in their military planning or trying to give them instructions or requests specific." Sullivan said the U.S. is conveying the message in public and in private that "all military operations should be conducted consistent with law of war, that civilians should be protected, that civilians should have a real opportunity to get to safety" and have access to food, water, medicine and shelter. Those remarks marked a shift in the U.S. administration's comments in recent days as officials have heard concerns from Arab leaders. Those leaders expressed the consequences of what a humanitarian catastrophe resulting from an Israeli ground offensive would do not only to Palestinians but also in inflaming public opinions in Arab nations and potentially destabilizing relatively friendly countries. Sullivan also said the U.S. has been unable so far to get American citizens out of Gaza through Egypt's Rafah crossing with Gaza.
Blinken made clear in Egypt that the U.S. will not waver in supporting Israel, saying, "We will stand with it today, tomorrow and every day and we're doing that in word and also in deed.''In his roughly hourlong meeting with Prince Mohammed at the de facto Saudi leader's private farm outside Riyadh, Blinken "highlighted the United States' unwavering focus on halting terrorist attacks by Hamas, securing the release of all hostages, and preventing the conflict from spreading," the State Department said. "The two affirmed their shared commitment to protecting civilians and to advancing stability across the Middle East and beyond," according to a department statement. The Saudi description of the meeting focused primarily on Palestinian civilians, echoing the sentiments that the other Arab leaders with whom Blinken has met. It said Saudi Arabia would object to the targeting of "civilians in any way or disrupt(ing) infrastructure and vital interests that affect their daily lives." The prince "stressed the need to work to discuss ways to stop the military operations that claimed the lives of innocent people," the Saudi Press Agency said in a report about the meeting.

Cairo summit on 'Palestinian cause' to be held Saturday
Agence France Presse/October 16, 2023
Leaders in Qatar and Kuwait received invitations Monday for a summit in Cairo to be held on Saturday to "discuss developments and the future of the Palestinian cause and the peace process".State media in both countries announced the invitations a day after Cairo announced its intention to host "a regional and international summit on the future of the Palestinian cause", during a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Day 10 of war: Will Hamas release captives if strikes stop?
Associated Press/October 16, 2023
More than a million people have fled their homes in the Gaza Strip ahead of an expected Israeli invasion that seeks to eliminate Hamas' leadership after its deadly incursion. Aid groups warn an Israeli ground offensive could hasten a humanitarian crisis. Israeli forces, supported by U.S. warships, positioned themselves along Gaza's border and drilled for what Israel said would be a broad campaign to dismantle the militant group. A week of blistering airstrikes have demolished neighborhoods but failed to stop militant rocket fire into Israel. The war that began Oct. 7 has become the deadliest of five Gaza wars for both sides, with more than 4,000 dead. The Gaza Health Ministry said 2,750 Palestinians have been killed and 9,700 wounded. More than 1,400 Israelis have been killed, and at least 199 others, including children, were captured by Hamas and taken into Gaza, according to Israel.
1. Water has run out at U.N. shelters across Gaza and overwhelmed doctors at the territory's largest hospital struggled to care for patients they fear will die once generators run out of fuel.
2. U.S. President Joe Biden is considering a trip to Israel in the coming days, though no travel has yet been confirmed.
3. An urban battle during Israel's 2014 war against Hamas offers a glimpse of the type of fighting that could lie ahead.
Here's what's happening in the latest Israel-Hamas war:
The Roman Catholic Church's top representative in the Holy Land has said he would be willing to offer himself in exchange for Hamas' hostages if it would help bring children home. Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa's offer wasn't a formal proposal but a response to a journalist's hypothetical question. It was unlikely to be considered seriously by Hamas, which is believed to be holding at least 199 people in Gaza after its Oct. 7 incursion into Israel. Asked on a Zoom briefing Monday with Vatican-based reporters if he would be willing to offer himself for the hostages, Pizzaballa said: "If I'm available for an exchange? Anything, if this could bring about the freedom of children, no problem. My absolute willingness."Pizzaballa has been criticized by Israel for an initial responses to the Hamas attack by Christian leaders in Jerusalem. The Israeli government in particular singled out a statement Oct. 7 by the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem, of which Pizzaballa is a part, and statements expressing concern for Palestinian victims in Gaza.
The patriarchs' statement made no explicit mention of the Hamas attack, restating in general terms its condemnation of any act that targets civilians. Pizzaballa on Monday distanced himself from the statement, suggesting he was not involved in its release. He said he felt some "perplexity" about how it was released and said he understood Israel's anger. "The Israeli Foreign Ministry is very irritated, to use an euphemism. I understand their reasons, I also feel some perplexity," he said, but said he wouldn't elaborate out of a sense of correctness vis a vis other church leaders. There are around a dozen Christian leaders in Jerusalem, many of them representing eastern rite Catholic or Orthodox churches that trace their presence in the region to the times of the Apostles.
France says Gaza residents must be allowed to leave, accusing Hamas of preventing them from doing so, and wants the blockade of Gaza eased to allow in humanitarian aid.
The message was delivered Monday by French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna on a visit to Egypt, following talks the previous day with officials in Israel. "The blockade doesn't respect humanitarian law," she said. "Humanitarian aid must be permitted to enter Gaza, because it's unacceptable to leave women, men, children who aren't responsible for Hamas' crimes suffering like this."Colonna also accused Hamas of preventing people from leaving Gaza. "It's unacceptable," she said. The minister reiterated that France is worried that the Israel-Hamas war could spread to other parts of the region, warning "the situation is serious, even dangerous.""France appeals to all groups or states who could seek to profit from the situation to abstain from doing so," she said. Colonna was scheduled to hold more talks later Monday with officials in Lebanon.
Ahmed Abdul-Hadi, the representative of Hamas in Lebanon, insisted Monday that the decision to launch the surprise Oct. 7 attack in southern Israel was made by Hamas leadership and not directed by Iran or any other outside party, but he said that in event of a ground invasion of Gaza, allied groups will intervene. The war in Gaza is "a Palestinian battle and the decision to enter it was a Palestinian decision" made by Hamas and its military wing, the Izz ad-Din al Qassam Brigades, "together with the Palestinian resistance factions," he said in an interview with The Associated Press ahead of a conference convened by the group in Beirut. Hamas officials have denied that Iran was directly involved in planning the deadly attack or gave it the green light, and to date no government worldwide has offered direct evidence that Iran orchestrated the attack. However, many have pointed to Iran's long sponsorship of Hamas that has included training, funding and providing it with weapons. Abdul-Hadi said that Hamas allies Iran and Hezbollah will not allow Israel "to crush Gaza" or to launch a "comprehensive ground attack," but that the groups have deliberately left ambiguity about when and how they would respond. "This is up to the developments in the situation at the time."In case of a "ground attack, regardless of its level," or if "more and more massacres continue to be committed" in Gaza and Hamas is using up its resources, he said, there will be "surprises announced."
Syrian President Bashar Assad discussed the volatile situation in Gaza and ways of ending Israel's attacks with his Russian counterpart.
Assad's office said in a statement released Monday that Assad and Vladimir Putin called for aid to be allowed to enter Gaza and for an end to the Israeli bombardment and displacement of Palestinians. Russia has been a main backer of Assad since Syria's conflict began more than 12 years ago, and joined the war in 2015. Israel's military has carried out several attacks in Syria over the past week targeting the airports of Damascus and the northern city of Aleppo, putting them out of service.
Crowds of Palestinian dual nationals waited anxiously at the still-closed Rafah crossing on Monday, sitting on their suitcases or crouching on the floor, comforting crying infants and trying to entertain bored children. For many, the despair over the impasse was turning to outrage. "They are supposed to be a developed country, talking about human rights all the time," Shurouq Alkhazendar, a 34-year-old whose two children are American citizens, said of the United States. "If you want to do one of the basic things that you are talking about you should protect your citizens first, not leave them all alone suffering and being humiliated in front of the crossing." Rafah, Gaza's only connection to Egypt, was shut down nearly a week ago because of Israeli airstrikes. While people wait to leave on the Gaza side, aid supplies are stalled inside Egypt. Mediators are pressing for a cease-fire.
JERUSALEM — Iran's Foreign Ministry said Monday that Hamas potentially was ready to release the nearly 200 hostages it is holding if Israel stops its campaign of airstrikes on the Gaza Strip. The militant group hasn't acknowledged making such an offer.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani spoke at a news conference in Tehran. Iran's theocracy is a main sponsor of Hamas in its fight against Israel, Tehran's regional archenemy. Hamas officials "stated that they are ready to take necessary measures to release the citizens and civilians held by resistant groups, but their point was that such measures require preparations that are impossible under daily bombardment by the Zionists against various parts of Gaza," Kanaani said. Hamas has said it will trade the captives for thousands of Palestinians held by Israel in the kind of lopsided exchange deals that have been reached in the past. Iran has warned it could enter the war as well if Israel launches a widely anticipated ground offensive in the Gaza Strip in the coming days. Already, the Lebanese Shiite militia group Hezbollah, which is also sponsored by Iran, has launched missiles into Israel, though it insists that represents a "warning" for Israel rather than its full entry into the war. "We heard from the resistance that they have no problem to continue resisting," Kanaani said, referring to Hamas. "They said the resistance holds military capability to continue resisting in the field for a long time."
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has returned to Israel for the second time in less than a week to consult with senior Israeli officials about discussions he had with Arab leaders over Israel's war with Hamas. Blinken arrived in Tel Aviv on Monday after a six-nation tour of Arab states during which he heard the concerns of Arab leaders about an impending Israeli ground invasion of Gaza causing a humanitarian catastrophe for Palestinians and possibly igniting a broader regional conflict. His talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and members of his national security team come as the White House is weighing a potential trip to Israel by President Joe Biden as early as this week. Blinken will also meet separately with Israeli President Isaac Herzog, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and opposition leader Yair Lapid. Biden, Blinken and other senior U.S. officials have pledged unwavering support for Israel as it responds to deadly Hamas attacks that have killed more than 1,400 Israelis since last week. But as Israel's plans for a massive military response to eradicate Hamas have gelled, Arab states and others have become increasingly alarmed at the prospect of mass civilian casualties and a major humanitarian crisis. After visiting Israel last Thursday to express U.S. solidarity, Blinken toured the region, meeting with the leaders of Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, Qatar, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, all of whom have said civilians must be protected and given assistance to survive the Israeli operation.
As those concerns have grown, the U.S. has also stepped up its emphasis on the importance of Israel respecting the laws of war regarding the treatment of civilians as it pursues Hamas. Blinken and other U.S. officials have been exploring ideas on setting up safe zones in the Gaza Strip and ensuring that badly needed humanitarian supplies reach civilians there. Blinken has twice extended his diplomatic mission and plans to return to Jordan after his stop in Israel.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak says he is working with other leaders from around the world to ensure the Israel-Hamas conflict does not spread. Sunak, who has spoken by phone to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and met King Abdullah of Jordan in London on Sunday, said "nobody wants to see regional escalation. And certainly the Israeli prime minister does not, when I've spoken to him." Sunak said Britain has sent Royal Air Force surveillance aircraft to the eastern Mediterranean to "make sure that no arm shipments, for example, have been sent to other terrorist organizations in the region."
Sunak also said he had raised with Netanyahu "the need to minimize the impact on civilians" of Israel's offensive against Hamas. "And the humanitarian situation is one which of course we're concerned about, and that I've raised in all the calls and interactions I've had with other leaders from across the region," Sunak said.

Fears mount that Israel-Hamas war could spark wider conflict
Agence France Presse/October 16, 2023
Fears that the Israel-Hamas conflict might spread were growing Monday, with Israeli troops poised to launch a ground offensive into Gaza, Tehran saying that if it does so "no one can guarantee control of the situation," and Washington expressing fears of possible Iranian involvement. Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian issued the Iranian warning during an official visit Sunday to Qatar, adding that unless what he called the "barbaric attacks" on citizens and civilians in Gaza are stopped, the crisis may expand. Warning Iran to stay out of the war, the United States voiced concern over an escalation in the conflict sparked by the surprise Hamas attacks on Israel on October 7. "There is a real risk of an escalation of this conflict -- the opening of a second front in the north and, of course, of Iran's involvement," National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told CBS. And John Kirby, spokesman for the U.S National Security Council, told "Fox News Sunday" that the U.S. did not want to "see another terrorist group like Hezbollah widening this, and opening fronts to distract against the fight against Hamas." Clashes between Hezbollah and the Israeli army have grown more intense in recent days along Israel's border with Lebanon. Over the past week, about a dozen deaths have been reported on the Lebanese side, most of them combatants but also a Reuters journalist and two civilians. Meantime, at least two people have been killed in Israel.
'A risk'
In a statement Sunday, Hezbollah claimed responsibility for a new attack in northern Israel, near the Hanita kibbutz, saying it had killed or wounded several soldiers and destroyed two tanks and another military vehicle. And the Palestinian Hamas, which has fighters in Lebanon, said it had fired several rockets into northern Israel. Israeli fighter jets have struck several Hezbollah positions in Lebanon, according to the Israeli army. "The situation on the border is extremely dangerous," according to Heiko Wimmen, an analyst with the International Crisis Group. While individual clashes there may represent just "one notch up on the escalation ladder," such details "matter hugely," he said on X. Sullivan, for his part, told ABC: "We see a real risk of escalation on the northern border, and that is why President Biden has been so clear and so forceful in saying that no state and no group should seek to exploit the situation to their advantage or should escalate the conflict."U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had announced Saturday that the United States was sending a second carrier group to the eastern Mediterranean "to deter hostile actions against Israel or any efforts toward widening this war following Hamas's attack."
The USS Eisenhower and its escort ships will join the carrier group led by the USS Gerald R. Ford, which was deployed to the region earlier in the week. Sullivan said Washington had private channels to communicate its concerns to Tehran -- and had used them in recent days.
In Gaza, Israeli reprisal attacks have killed more than 2,670 people, including more than 700 children, while wounding more than 9,600 people, according to local authorities. More than 1,400 people have been killed in Israel and more than 120 Israelis have been taken hostage, officials in Israel say. The bodies of more than 1,500 Hamas fighters have been found near Israel's border with Gaza, the officials add. "Iran cannot just watch this situation as a bystander," Amir-Abdollahian told Al Jazeera. The Islamic Republic has provided both financial and military support to Hamas, but has repeatedly denied any involvement in the October 7 attack. Kirby, however, said that even if the U.S. so far lacks specific intelligence linking Iran to the Hamas attacks, Tehran cannot escape a share of responsibility. "Of course Iran is broadly complicit, and this has helped Hamas function and be able to conduct the terrorist attack they have conducted," he said. Lindsey Graham, an influential U.S. senator known as a foreign policy hawk, issued a blunt warning to Tehran. "Iran," the Republican lawmaker said on NBC, "if you escalate this war, we're coming for you."

Biden postpones trip to Colorado to discuss domestic agenda as the Israel-Hamas conflict intensifies

WASHINGTON (AP)/October 16, 2023
President Joe Biden postponed a trip to Colorado on Monday to stay in Washington and focus on the growing conflict in the Middle East, setting aside an opportunity to pitch his economic accomplishments as he runs for reelection.
Biden had been heading to the district of Rep. Lauren Boebert, where he was to visit CS Wind, the world's largest facility for wind tower manufacturing. But the White House said just a few hours before Biden was set to take off for the trip that it would be rescheduled.
Instead, Biden is expected to hold a series of high-level meetings with aides on Israel and the growing humanitarian concerns in Gaza. The Democratic president is weighing a decision to visit the region in what would be a striking symbol of support for Israel following the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas that killed more than 1,400 Israelis. More than 2,300 Palestinians have died in the ensuing Israeli bombardment of Gaza, which is bracing for a ground invasion. At least 30 U.S. citizens have also died, and 13 remain missing, the State Department says.
It’s rare for presidential travel, which is meticulously planned for security and logistical purposes, to be called off at the last minute. Biden's decision reflects the competing pressure that he faces as he tries to manage bloody conflicts in Ukraine, where the Russian invasion is in its second year, and now the Middle East, always one of the world's most combustible regions. There are concerns that a second front could open in Israel's north, which neighbors the Hezbollah-controlled territory in Lebanon's south. There have already been reports of sporadic fighting along the border. Iran backs both Hamas and Hezbollah. Two U.S. aircraft carrier strike groups have been dispatched to the Eastern Mediterranean in an effort to deter a widening war. Domestic and foreign policy priorities have collided for Biden before. He was scheduled to visit Papua New Guinea and Australia after attending the Group of Seven meeting in Japan earlier this year, but the two stops were scrubbed because of the standoff over the debt ceiling back in Washington. Rather than deepening ties with countries in the Indo-Pacific region, Biden jetted home to hash out a deal with Republicans to prevent a first-ever default.
The change in Monday's schedule costs Biden a chance to turn Boebert into a political foil as he showcases the Inflation Reduction Act, his signature domestic legislation and the source of hundreds of billions of dollars for clean energy incentives.
Boebert has called the law “a massive failure” that “needs to be repealed.” But Biden was planning to demonstrate otherwise when he visits CS Wind in the town of Pueblo. The company is undergoing a $200 million expansion that is expected to create 850 jobs by 2026 with help from the tax benefits in the law.
Pueblo is one of the anchors of Colorado's sprawling 3rd Congressional District, which covers more ground than Pennsylvania. Boebert won her seat in 2020 and barely held on to it during the 2022 midterms. There's maximum chaos in Congress right now for House Republicans, who ousted Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California as their speaker but have been unable to settle on a replacement. Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, a prominent ally of Donald Trump, is the current leading candidate to replace McCarthy, but victory for him is uncertain. Despite low unemployment and slowing inflation, Biden has been struggling to convince Americans that his policies are good for the U.S. economy. An August poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research said just 36% of U.S. adults approve of Biden's handling of the economy, roughly where his numbers have stood for a year and a half. The president and other top administration officials have been traveling the country to promote their Investing in America agenda. Last week, the president visited a marine terminal in Philadelphia, where he announced that the area would become one of seven regional hubs for producing and delivering hydrogen fuel. “I truly believe this country is about to take off," Biden said. "For the first time in a long time we’re actually investing in America.”

Middle East on ‘verge of the abyss,’ UN warns as Gaza suffers and Israel prepares for offensive

Helen Regan, Hadas Gold, Nadeen Ebrahim, Abeer Salman, Hamdi Alkhshali, Jessie Gretener and Sara Smart/ CNN/October 16/ 2023
Conditions in Gaza have deteriorated dangerously, experts say, with serious shortages of clean water and food as tens of thousands of Palestinians attempt to flee crippling airstrikes and an Israeli ground offensive. Israel’s military said Saturday its forces are readying for the next stages of the war, including “combined and coordinated strikes from the air, sea and land” in response to the unprecedented October 7 terrorist attacks by the Islamist militant group Hamas, which controls the enclave. At least 1,400 people were killed and many taken hostage during Hamas’ rampage, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) told CNN on Sunday, in what US President Joe Biden described as “the worst massacre of Jewish people since the Holocaust.”Further escalation of the long-running conflict increasingly risks spilling over regionally, prompting the Pentagon to order a second carrier strike group and squadrons of fighter jets to the region as a deterrence to Iran and Iranian proxies, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon. “We are on the verge of the abyss in the Middle East,” United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned in a statement Sunday. He issued urgent appeals to Israel and Hamas: “To Hamas, the hostages must be released immediately without conditions. To Israel, rapid and unimpeded aid must be granted for humanitarian supplies and workers for the sake of the civilians in Gaza.”
“Each one of these two objectives are valid in themselves. They should not become bargaining chips and they must be implemented because it is the right thing to do,” he said.
For days, Israel has cut off the Gaza population’s access to electricity, food and water, prompting warnings of dire humanitarian crisis.
Pope Francis on Sunday also called for the establishment of humanitarian corridors in Gaza and for the release of hostages taken by Hamas.
In over a week of bombardment, Israeli airstrikes have killed least 2,670 people in Gaza, including hundreds of children, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.
Casualties in the besieged strip over the past eight days have now surpassed the number of those killed during the 51-day Gaza-Israel conflict in 2014, a ministry spokesperson said. A growing number of nations, global rights groups and organizations are calling on Israel to respect international rules of war, urging the protection of civilians’ lives, and not to target hospitals, schools and clinics in densely inhabited Gaza. Many families, some of whom were already internally displaced, are now crammed into an even smaller portion of the 140-square-mile territory. Hamas rocket attacks on Israel have meanwhile continued into the weekend. A barrage on the city of Sderot saw residents being evacuated to other areas of the country on Sunday.
Calls for Israel to respect rules of war
Gaza is suffering shortages of every kind, including body bags, say aid groups. Internet access, through which residents communicate their plight to the world, is shrinking. Food stocks are dwindling, the World Food Programme has warned.
Hospitals have run out of painkillers and many Gazans are beginning to suffer from severe dehydration due to lack of drinking water, according to medical NGO Medecins sans Frontieres. “The situation is very difficult…today for two hours we searched for drinkable water—even drinkable water is not available anymore,” said Dr. Mohammed Abu Mughaiseeb, the organization’s deputy medical coordinator in Gaza. “There is food. No electricity, no pumping of normal water as well, the hospitals are barely working… They are bombing all day. We don’t know what’s going to [happen] tomorrow and where we are going.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office told CNN Sunday that Israel has restored water to southern Gaza, where many Gazans have been told to flee. However, the director of the Water Authority there said he didn’t know if water was available because the electricity necessary to pump water for use had not been restored.
Israel is also in the process of creating a humanitarian zone where food, water and other provisions could be accessed in Gaza, Israeli ambassador to the United States Michael Herzog told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday.
The UN could not confirm the plan. “What we can tell you is that we have nothing to confirm at this time, but obviously we have been working round the clock with various interlocutors to ensure humanitarian access in Gaza,” the spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General, Stéphane Dujarric told CNN.
Aid has been piling up on the Egyptian side of Rafa crossing, the only entrypoint into Gaza that Israel does not control. But so far, the crossing appears nonfunctional; Egypt says that airstrikes on the Gaza side have made roads inoperable, and Jordan has said it is seeking assurance that aid convoys will not be targeted by Israeli warplanes. Footage on Sunday showed aid deliveries continuing to arrive into Egypt’s El-Arish stadium in preparation to enter Gaza once the Rafah crossing is open. On the Gazan side, thousands of people are stuck at the crossing, with several citizens of the US and other countries telling CNN they have been unable to leave the embattled territory. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken promised Sunday that “Rafah will be open,” after meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. “We’re putting in place with the UN, with Egypt, Israel, with others, the mechanism by which to get the assistance in and to get it to people who need it,” Blinken said. He also announced the appointment of former US Ambassador to Turkey David Satterfield to help coordinate US aid efforts. Satterfield will be “on the ground tomorrow” in Israel, he said. El-Sisi said on Sunday during his meeting with Blinken that Israel’s response to the deadly Hamas attack had gone beyond its right to self-defense. It “amounts to the collective punishment of the Gaza Strip, home to 2.3 million Palestinians,” he said.
His criticism echoed that of several rights groups, with Amnesty International and Norwegian Refugee Council describing the forced relocation of civilians as a violation of international law earlier in the week.
Mass evacuation ahead of Israel’s expected escalation
The clock is ticking for residents fleeing south through the battered streets of Gaza after the Israeli military told civilians to leave northern areas of the densely populated strip. More than half of Gaza’s 2 million residents live in the northern section that Israel said should evacuate, or risk danger in its next phase of retaliation. “We will commence significant military operations only once we see that civilians have left the area,” IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus told CNN early Sunday.
“I cannot stress more than enough to say now is the time for Gazans to leave.”Civilians packed into cars, taxis, pickup trucks and donkey-pulled carts. Roads were filled with snaking lines of vehicles strapped with suitcases and mattresses. Those without other options walked, carrying what they could. Videos showed explosions and bodies along a Gaza evacuation route on Friday. Several bodies, including those of children, could be seen on on a flat-bed trailer that appears to have been used to evacuate. The IDF on Sunday denied that the Israeli military was involved in the strike on Salah Al-Deen street, suggesting an explosive device had been planted on the route. “It was only this morning that we were able to confirm and announce that this was not on IDF strike,” IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said in an interview with CNN. It appears from footage the IDF has viewed that “the explosion came from beneath,” he said. Palestinians search for casualties under the rubble in the aftermath of Israeli strikes, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, October 14. -
Several UN agencies have warned that mass evacuation under siege conditions will lead to disaster, and that the most vulnerable Gazans, including the sick, elderly, pregnant and disabled, will not be able to relocate at all. Palestine Red Crescent Society spokesperson Nebal Farsakh told that although they had been notified by Israel to evacuate Al-Quds hospital in Gaza City, they did not have the means to do so. “We have around 300 patients at the hospital. Some of them are in the intensive care unit. We have children in incubators. We can’t evacuate them,” Farsakh said.
What would a ground invasion look like?
Israel, which has massed troops and military equipment at the border with Gaza, said its ramped up offensive will feature hundreds of thousands of reservists and encompass “a wide range of operational offensive plans.”In addition to widespread airstrikes, Israel’s army is preparing troops for an “expanded arena of combat,” the IDF said in a statement on Saturday. The preparations have placed “an emphasis on significant ground operations.” Hamas has shown a level of military capability far beyond what was previously thought, and a recent CNN investigation found it is probably well-prepared for the next phase of the war. The IDF hit 250 military targets mostly in northern Gaza on Sunday, it said in a statement. It claimed to have killed Muetaz Eid, Commander of the Hamas Southern District of National Security, during the strikes. Eid was located through intelligence from the IDF and the Israel Security Agency, the statement said. Hamas did not immediately comment on the IDF report. Complicating an Israeli offensive in Gaza are up to 150 hostages captured by Hamas – including soldiers, civilians, women, children and the elderly – and who are being held in the crowded enclave. IDF spokesperson Conricus said it is a priority to get hostages out of Gaza, despite the difficulty that a dense urban area adds to the fight. Pointing to the “elaborate network of tunnels” that Hamas has, he said hostages “are most likely held underground in various locations.”
“Fighting will be slow. Advances will be slow, and we will be cautious,” he said.
Speaking to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Sunday, Israeli President Isaac Herzog said his country is trying to “move civilians to that they will not be hurt” while going in to “uproot that infrastructure of terror.” He also showed small booklet which he said contains tactics used by Hamas to kidnap and torture people.
“This was found on the body of one of the terrorists. This is a booklet, okay? This booklet is an instruction guide how to go into civilian premises, into a kibbutz, a city, a moshav… how to break in. And first thing, what do you do when you find the citizens? You torture them,” Herzog said.
In a first clear and stark denouncement, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday condemned the Hamas attacks, saying the militant group’s actions “do not represent the Palestinian people.”Abbas “affirmed his rejection of the killing of civilians on both sides and called for the release of civilians, prisoners and detainees on both sides,” during a phone call with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Sunday, the official Palestinian press agency WAFA reported. He also warned against forcing Palestinians out of Gaza, which he said would represent “a second catastrophe for the Palestinian people,” according to WAFA.
Regional concerns grow
As Israel battles Hamas, it also faces the threat of a wider conflict on new fronts. Israel has said it is ready in case there are attacks from neighboring Lebanon or Syria. Syria’s military reported late Saturday that an “air aggression” by Israel, originating from the Mediterranean Sea, damaged Aleppo International Airport and rendered it nonoperational. Meanwhile, Iran’s Mission to the UN warned on Saturday that if Israel does not stop its attacks on Gaza, “the situation could spiral out of control and ricochet far-reaching consequences.”The comments came as Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian met with Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh in Doha, Qatar on Saturday, according to Iran’s official news agency IRNA. The agency said it was the first official meeting between Iranian officials and Haniyeh since surprise Hamas attack on Israel that Hamas called Al-Aqsa storm. Hostilities with neighboring Lebanon are being closely monitored internationally, as an escalation could draw the powerful Iran-backed Hezbollah paramilitary group into the conflict. For days, Lebanon-based Palestinian militants have launched rockets into Israel, leading to Israeli attacks on Lebanese territory, including Hezbollah positions. Hezbollah has fired back at Israeli border positions with precision-guided missiles. On Saturday, Israel returned fire after Hezbollah launched an attack on the disputed territory of the Shebaa farms near the Israel-Lebanon border, with CNN teams on the ground reporting prolonged shelling.
Mourners also gathered Saturday for the funeral of Reuters journalist Issam Abdallah in southern Lebanon after he was killed when Israel fired artillery into the area where he and other journalists were on Friday. The IDF said it was reviewing the circumstances surrounding the incident on the Lebanese border.
*CNN’s Caitlin Hu, Mariya Knight, Kareem Khadder, Artemis Moshtaghian, Adam Pourahmadi, Sarah El Sirgany, Tamara Qiblawi, Pauline Lockwood, Kareem Khadder, Eyad Kourdi, Sana Noor Haq, Hande Atay Alam and Chloe Liu contributed reporting.

Saudi's crown prince snubbed the US Secretary of State by making him wait hours for a meeting before postponing it, report says
Tom Porter/Business Insider/October 16, 2023
Mohammed bin Salman reportedly kept Antony Blinken waiting for hours for a meeting, then didn't show, a report said. It came as Blinken, the US secretary of state, tried to persuade the Saudi ruler to condemn the Hamas terror attacks. Arab countries have criticized Israel's response to the Hamas attacks. Saudi Arabia's ruler kept US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, waiting for hours for a meeting, then didn't show up until the next day, in an astonishing snub to the US' top diplomat, The Washington Post said. In the wake of the Hamas terror attacks in Israel, Blinken last week visited several US allies in the Middle East in a bid to rally them around the US' position, including Mohamed bin Salman. The core goal of the trip was to persuade the leaders to condemn Hamas' brutal violence, and try and tamp down unrest in their countries sparked by the new fighting. But Blinken reportedly got a cold reception in Riyadh, where key differences between the US and Saudis emerged. Blinken had expected to meet Mohamed bin Salman in the evening after touching down on Saturday, but was kept waiting for hours, with the crown prince eventually showing up the next morning, the report said. In the meeting, the crown prince reportedly called for Israel to halt military operations "that claimed the lives of innocent people," after Israel bombarded the densely populated Gaza strip, and imposed a blockade on food, fuel, and other supplies. He also reportedly called for the conflict to be de-escalated. The Saudi position is in contrast to that taken by the Biden administration. The US president has backed Israel's bid to eliminate Hamas in the wake of the terror attacks, but has called for civilian lives to be protected. Blinken's attempts to find common ground with Egypt's President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, another US regional ally, also met with little success, the report says. There were signs in recent weeks that Saudi Arabia and Israel were on the verge of a historic agreement, that would've seen relations between them normalized. Analysts believe that among Hamas' core aims in launching the October 7 attacks was ruining the talks. Saudi Arabia has long been among the US' key regional allies, but in recent years its ruler has sought to steer a more independent course for the kingdom, forming closer ties with US rival China. Last year, a diplomatic spat erupted when the Saudis snubbed the Biden administration and refused to increase oil production.

Talks fail to let aid reach Gaza; Israel evacuates Lebanon border
GAZA/JERUSALEM/ISMAILIA, Egypt (Reuters)/October 16, 2023
-Diplomatic efforts failed to get aid to the besieged Gaza Strip on Monday, and Israel ordered the evacuation of its villages in a strip of territory near its border with Lebanon, raising fears the war could spread to a new front. Israel has vowed to annihilate the Hamas movement that rules Gaza, after Hamas fighters burst across the barrier to Israel on Oct. 7, gunning down 1,300 Israelis, mainly civilians, in the deadliest day in Israel's 75-year-old history. It has put Gaza, home to 2.3 million Palestinians, under a total blockade and pounded it with unprecedented air strikes, and is widely expected to launch a ground assault. Gaza authorities say more than 2,800 people have been killed there, around a quarter of them children, and more than 10,000 wounded are in hospitals desperately short of supplies.
According to the United Nations, a million Gazans have already been driven from their homes. Power is out, sanitary water is scarce, and the last fuel for hospital emergency generators could be used up within a day.
Residents said overnight air strikes were the heaviest yet, and the bombing carried on through the day. "We were inside the house when we found bodies scattering, flying in the air - bodies of children who have nothing to do with the war," said resident Abed Rabayaa, whose neighbour's house in Khan Younis, the main city in the southern part of the enclave, was hit overnight. In the biggest sign yet that the war could spread to a new front, Israel ordered the evacuation on Monday of 28 villages in a two km- (1.2 mile-)deep zone near the Lebanese border. Lebanon's Hezbollah movement said it had targeted five Israeli positions. Clashes this last week have been the deadliest in the Lebanon border area since a 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, which, like Hamas, is an ally of Iran. In a speech to parliament, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israelis should prepare for a long battle. "Now we are focused on one target: to unite forces and charge forward to victory. This requires determination because victory will take time," he said. "And I have a message for Iran and Hezbollah, don't test us in the north. Don't make the same mistake you once made. Because today the price you will pay will be much heavier."
The 10 days of strikes so far have failed to eliminate Hamas' capacity to fire rockets into Israel, where warning sirens sounded. Hamas said it fired a barrage at Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. During one alert, Netanyahu and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken - visiting Israel for the second time in five days - briefly sheltered together in a bunker. Diplomatic efforts have concentrated on getting aid into Gaza through the Rafah crossing with Egypt, the sole route out that is not controlled by Israel. The Egyptian side of the crossing was deserted on Monday, with trucks loaded with supplies waiting at the nearby town of Al-Arish. Cairo said the Rafah crossing was not officially closed but was inoperable due to Israeli strikes on the Gaza side. "We are waiting for the green light for the aid to enter and dozens of volunteers are ready at any time," a Red Crescent official in northern Sinai said.
Early on Monday two Egyptian security sources had told Reuters a ceasefire for several hours in southern Gaza had been agreed for aid and evacuations at Rafah. However, Egyptian state TV later quoted an unnamed, high-level source as saying no such truce had been agreed, and Israel and Hamas also both denied it.
"There is an urgent need to alleviate the suffering of Palestinian civilians in Gaza," Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry told reporters, adding talks with Israel on opening Rafah for aid had so far been fruitless. U.N. humanitarian aid chief Martin Griffiths was travelling to Cairo on Tuesday to try to get supplies through. "It is critical that life-saving assistance is allowed to move through the Rafah crossing without delay," his office said. Washington has been focusing on getting the crossing briefly opened to allow some of the few hundred Gazans with U.S. passports to leave. Shoukry said Egypt could allow medical evacuations and let some Gazans cross with permission to travel. But there has been no public talk of Egypt accepting a mass influx of refugees, meaning the vast majority of Gazans are unlikely to be offered a route out. Egypt and other Arab states say a mass exodus would be unacceptable, amounting to the expulsion of Palestinians from their land. Those trying to reach the crossing inside Gaza described the route as perilous and under Israeli attack. "On our way to the crossing they shelled Rafah Street and we started screaming," said one resident near the crossing, Hadeel Abu Dahoud. "Nowhere is safe in Gaza. Wherever we go there's shelling, shelling, crying, screaming, blood." Israel has said more than a million people in the northern half of the enclave must head to the southern half for their safety even though Hamas has told them to stay put. While tens of thousands have complied and fled, the United Nations says there is no way to move so many people without causing a humanitarian catastrophe. With each day of air strikes, Gazans have been clawing at the rubble of flattened buildings with bare hands to rescue neighbours and recover the dead, with virtually no mechanical equipment to clear away the wreckage. Civil emergency officer Abid Saqir told Reuters at one bomb site that there were at least 1,000 bodies trapped under rubble at locations across the enclave. Mohammad Abu Saleema, director of the Shifa hospital, the Gaza Strip's biggest, said seriously wounded patients must be sent to hospitals outside Gaza or there would be no room for more to be treated. Medics said they will have to switch off lifesaving hospital equipment if they run out of fuel for hospital generators. "If the hospital stops working, the whole world will be responsible for the lives of hundreds and thousands of patients who rely on our services, especially from Shifa," said Ashraf Al-Qidra, a Gaza health ministry official.

Turkish FM discusses with Haniyeh issue of hostages release
LBCI/October 17, 2023
The Turkish Foreign Minister discussed with the head of the Political Bureau of Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, the possibility of releasing the hostages held by the movement in the Gaza Strip, according to his office on Monday.

Blinken, Netanyahu shelter in bunker amid air raid sirens in Tel Aviv
TEL AVIV (Reuters)/Mon, October 16, 2023
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sheltered in a bunker for five minutes on Monday when air raid sirens went off in Tel Aviv during their meeting, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said. All the meeting participants have since moved out of the bunker, resumed their meeting and were going to a command center at Israel's defense ministry to continue their discussions, he said. The incident occurred as President Joe Biden weighs a trip to the region himself amid an Israeli bombardment of Gaza after Hamas' deadly attack on Israel 10 days ago. "During the Secretary's meeting with PM Netanyahu and the war cabinet, the air raid sirens went off and they sheltered in bunker for five minutes," Miller said. Blinken returned to Israel after an intense series of visits with regional leaders to try to contain the Israel-Hamas conflict and secure humanitarian aid and safe passage for U.S. citizens and civilians in Gaza.

First group of Canadians leave West Bank for Jordan as those in Gaza brace for worst
The Canadian Press/Mon, October 16, 2023
OTTAWA — Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly announced Monday that the first group of Canadians have crossed safely from the West Bank into neighbouring Jordan as violence continues in Israel's escalating war against Hamas. Joly made the announcement this morning on X, the platform previously known as Twitter, thanking the Global Affairs staff who she says worked around the clock to make it happen. The federal government says 21 Canadians, plus 10 foreign nationals from Australia and New Zealand, took a bus out of the West Bank, a Palestinian territory that Israel has occupied since 1967, and where it has established numerous settlements. Long-simmering tensions in the region exploded on Oct. 7 when fighters with Hamas — a group Canada has designated a terrorist entity — stormed into Israel from the Gaza Strip, killing hundreds of civilians and taking more than 150 people hostage. More than 1,400 Israelis have been killed. So far, Canadian officials have confirmed at least five Canadians were killed in the attacks. Israel has responded by bombarding Hamas-controlled Gaza and cutting off food, water and electricity to 2.3 million Palestinians. At least 2,778 have been killed and 9,700 wounded in Gaza, according to the health ministry there, and more than a million have fled their homes. Many people have resorted to drinking dirty or sewage-filled water, risking the spread of disease. Hospitals in Gaza face collapse as water, power and medicine near depletion, and hundreds of thousands of Palestinians searched for dwindling food supplies. Thousands of patients’ lives were at risk, U.N. officials said, and mediators struggled for a ceasefire to let in aid waiting at the Egyptian border. Israel has said the siege will end only when hostages are freed. Israel is planning a massive ground invasion, and Canada is working to try to help as many as 300 Canadians and their families escape Gaza after a plan to allow people to leave via Egypt over the weekend fell through. Canadians need to register with Global Affairs in order to get help leaving the region. Officials say more than 6,800 Canadians are registered in Israel, and more than 450 in the West Bank and Gaza. Canada has also arranged airlifts out of Israel. The first flights departed last week, with 128 citizens, permanent residents or their relatives landing in Athens on the first military flight from Tel Aviv, followed by a second flight of roughly 153 people. Defence Minister Bill Blair said Sunday that the Canadian Armed Forces has taken 1,000 people out of Israel since Oct. 12. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said he remains "deeply concerned" about the situation in Gaza, where millions remain trapped.
Last week he pledged an initial $10 million in aid for urgent needs in Israel and the Gaza Strip.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 16, 2023.

Israeli tanks with Ukraine-style ‘anti-drone cages’ line up on Gaza border
Joe Barnes/The Telegraph/October 16, 2023
Israel continues to deploy soldiers, tanks and armored vehicles near the Gaza border in Ashkelon, Israel Images of Israeli tanks fitted with the roof-mounted armour were circulated as thousands of the country’s troops mass on the border with Gaza - Anadolu Agency. Israeli tanks have been installed with “cope cages” to defend them from drones dropping small bombs in a tactic used in Ukraine. The tanks have been seen approaching the Gaza border ahead of an anticipated ground offensive against Hamas terrorists. The metal cages resemble the roof-mounted armour used by Russian and Ukrainian forces to prevent bombs being dropped often by small shop-bought drones through open hatches or onto weak points. Hamas terrorists deployed drone tactics similar to those adopted in the Ukraine war when they disabled observation towers during the attack on Israel. Both Russia and Ukraine commonly use improvised drones to drop mortar bombs or grenades into the hulls of enemy tanks to destroy them. The metal cages have appeared on the Challenger 2 tanks, donated to Kyiv by Britain, in a sign even the most heavily armoured weapons require added protection. Images of Israeli tanks fitted with the roof-mounted armour were circulated as thousands of the country’s troops mass on the border with Gaza ahead of an “imminent” invasion. The country has called up some 360,000 reservists ahead of the anticipated ground offensive to eliminate Hamas terrorists in their Palestinian stronghold. Israel last month unveiled its Merkava Mk4 Barak tank, which the country’s defence ministry said was one of the most advanced in the world. Vehicle recognition experts have suggested these tanks are among those massed on the border with Gaza, fitted with the so-called cope cages.
Military build-up around town of Ashkelon
Most of the military build-up has come around the town of Ashkelon, close to Israel’s southern border. Lieutenant General Herzi Halevi, Israel’s military chief, told soldiers nearby they would be entering Gaza to root out Hamas, targeting “every place, every commander, every operator”. Despite the timetable for the expected offensive slipping, Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, has insisted there is no ceasefire to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza, according to his office.
Israel has urged 1.1 million people living in the north of Gaza to move south of the Wadi Gaza, a river that cuts the Strip in two, ahead of the ground offensive. Last week, Ukraine’s spymaster said Hamas terrorists’ use of drones had provided evidence of Russian involvement in training for the surprise attack on Israel on October 7. Major-General Kyrylo Budanov said tactics used to target Israeli armoured vehicles had strongly mirrored those used by Russia in Ukraine.

Trudeau calls for release of Hamas hostages, says three Canadians may be among them
The Canadian Press/Mon, October 16, 2023
OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is calling on Hamas to immediately release its hostages, which may include at least three Canadians. Today marks the first time Trudeau spoke in Parliament since fighters stormed into Israel from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip on Oct. 7, killing hundreds of people and taking a reported 199 people hostage. Speaking in French, Trudeau says three Canadians have been reported missing and may be among those held captive by Hamas, which Canada has listed as a terrorist group. Earlier in the day, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly confirmed the first group of Canadians have crossed safely from the West Bank into neighbouring Jordan as the violence continues. The federal government says 21 Canadians, plus 10 people from Australia and New Zealand, took a bus out of the West Bank, a Palestinian territory that Israel has occupied since 1967 and where it has established numerous settlements. Officials say as many as 300 Canadians and their families are looking for a way to escape Gaza, which Israel has blockaded and cut access to electricity, food, water and humanitarian aide.

Hamas attacks are a pogrom, says Sunak, as British sisters among missing

Ben Riley-Smith/The Telegraph/October 16, 2023
Rishi Sunak declared the Hamas attacks on Israel a “pogrom” on Monday as it was revealed two British teenage girls are missing. The Prime Minister said at least six British citizens were killed in the Hamas assault and a further 10 are still missing as he addressed MPs for the first time since the atrocity. The identities of the British citizens, some of whom are understood to be dual nationals, were not confirmed by the Foreign Office after the Prime Minister spoke. But The Telegraph can disclose details of two British sisters who disappeared on the morning of Hamas’s attacks at their home in Israel just a few miles from the Gaza border. Sisters Noiya Sharabi, 16, and Yahel Sharabi, 13, have not been seen since their British mother, Lianne, was killed after Hamas fighters stormed Kibbutz Be’eri where they lived. Eli Sharabi, 51, the children’s father, is also missing. The last communication relatives had with the family was on the morning of the attack. It is unclear where they are now, raising fears they may have been kidnapped by Hamas. Raz Matalon, the teenagers’ uncle said the UK had a “responsibility” to help find the girls, telling The Telegraph: “I want to see the involvement of the British Government.”In his House of Commons address, Mr Sunak said of the Hamas attacks: “Elderly men, women, children, babies in arms – murdered, mutilated, burned alive. We should call it by its name: it was a pogrom.”
The Prime Minister is the first international leader to call it a pogrom, a reference to the organised massacres of Jews in Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries.
His comments came as it was reported Joe Biden is considering a visit to Israel in what would be a strong show of support as the country prepares to invade Gaza.
A spokesman for Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, said an official invitation had been delivered, and local media reports claimed the US president could visit as soon as Wednesday. But in Gaza, US efforts to open the Rafah border into Egypt, allowing dual-nationals to flee to safety, appeared to flounder, despite Mr Sunak being among world leaders pushing for its reopening. The border remained closed on Monday night as more than one million Palestinians fled the north of Gaza, where the invasion is expected to begin. It came as Hamas demanded the release of 6,000 Palestinians in exchange for what they claimed were up to 250 hostages held in Gaza.
Hossein Amirabdollahian, Iran’s foreign minister, also warned that if Israel did pursue a full ground invasion, the spread of the war to other fronts was “approaching the unavoidable stage”.In a sign of growing fears within Israel of an invasion from the north, 28 Israeli communities were evacuated from within a 1.2 mile zone of the Lebanese border, where IDF jets have carried out bombing raids on Hezbollah, the Iranian-sponsored terror group.
In the Commons, the Prime Minister repeatedly voiced support for Israel’s right to defend itself, warning that Hamas was using Palestinian people as “human shields” as a land invasion of Gaza looms.
In a message to the Hamas kidnappers, Mr Sunak said: “We called for the immediate release of all hostages. And I say to them. We stand with you. We stand with Israel.”
But the Prime Minister also went further than at any time before in stressing the need for Israel to stay within the law and respect human life in its response to the Hamas assault.
Mr Sunak said: “The question is: how should we respond? I believe we must support, absolutely, Israel’s right to defend itself. “To go after Hamas, take back the hostages, deter further incursions, and strengthen its security for the long term.
“But this must be done in line with international humanitarian law but also recognising that they face a vicious enemy that embeds itself behind civilians.
“As a friend, we will continue to call on Israel to take every possible precaution to avoid harming civilians. “I repeat President Biden’s words – as democracies ‘we are stronger and more secure when we act according to the rule of law.’
“Humanity. Law. Decency. Respect for human life. That’s what sets us apart from the mindless violence of the terrorist.”
Mr Sunak also announced that the UK would give £10 million more in aid to Palestine, increasing the total by a third.
It will be spent by third parties like the United Nations and charities, with Mr Sunak stressing steps will be taken to make sure Hamas does not directly benefit from any of the money. Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, in his speech repeated his support for Israel’s right to defend itself, telling the Commons: “Labour stands with Israel. Britain stands with Israel.”But he, too, raised the need for a measured response, adding: “Israel’s defence must be conducted in accordance with international law. Civilians must not be targeted. “Innocent lives must be protected. There must be humanitarian corridors. There must be humanitarian access, including food, water, electricity and medicines.
“So that hospitals can keep people alive and so that innocent people do not needlessly die and there must be proper protection for all those who work selflessly so aid can be delivered to victims.”Meanwhile, in Israel, Mr Netanyahu gave a warning to Hezbollah in a speech to the Israeli Knesset, saying “don’t test us in the north”.He said Israel would extract a “far heavier” price than in previous conflicts with Hezbollah. The Knesset was evacuated shortly afterwards as rockets were fired towards Jerusalem. On Monday, The Telegraph witnessed a steady stream of Israeli military pick-up trucks, carrying troops, heading to reinforce the border. The deployments reflect spiralling concern in Washington, which has sent two aircraft carriers to the Middle East, about the outbreak of a regional war.
The splitting of the Israeli army is also thought to be one factor that has delayed the start of the invasion of Gaza. The UN’s refugee agency, UNRWA, working in the Gaza Strip said on Monday that people claiming to be from the Hamas-run health ministry forced them out of their headquarters and took supplies of fuel and medical equipment. UNRWA later deleted the tweet and put out a statement saying “no looting” had taken place and medical supplies had been transferred to “health partners.” It can be dangerous to criticise Hamas within the Gaza Strip. On Monday, Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state returned to Israel after a whirlwind trip through Gulf and Arab states aimed at averting a regional war. At a joint press conference, Yoav Gallant, the Israeli defence minister, thanked the US for its support and warned the war with Hamas would be “long”.“The price will be high, but we are going to win for Israel, for the Jewish people and for the values that both countries believe in,” Mr Gallant said. The two million people trapped in Gaza face a growing humanitarian crisis, with supplies of water running low and healthcare facilities on the brink of collapse.

Latest English LCCC  analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on October 16-17/2023
How Iran, the 'Head of the Snake,' Directly Helped Hamas's Assault on Israel
Khaled Abu Toameh/Gatestone Institute/October 16, 2023
"We coordinated with Hezbollah and with Iran and the Axis [of Resistance] before, during and after the battle at the highest level." — Hamas representative Ahmed Abdulhadi, revealing Hamas coordination before and during the massacre, Newsweek, October 11, 2023.
Another Hamas official, Ali Baraka, told Russia's state-run RT outlet that his group had secretly planned the assault for two years and did not inform any other factions or allies, including Iran and Hezbollah, of the "zero hour." Baraka confirmed that Iran "gives us money and weapons."
While many in the West chose to disregard Iran's role in arming, training and funding Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the same cannot be said about a large number of Arabs who have long been warning of Tehran's expansionist actions in the Middle East. Some of those Arabs have been openly talking about how Iran uses its proxies to wreak havoc not only on Israel, but on some Arab countries. Through its proxies, the Iranian regime now effectively occupies Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, in addition to the Gaza Strip. The Arabs, in short, see clearly what many Westerners apparently want to remain oblivious to.
"Hamas is an organization affiliated with the clerical regime in Iran, just like Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthis in Yemen, and the Popular Mobilization Forces in Iraq, and it is the same axis that threatens Saudi Arabia and Kuwait day and night. We differentiate between a just cause and a terrorist axis." — Mansour al-Malik, Saudi Arabian petroleum engineer, on X, October 8, 2023.
"Iranian Regime Mouthpiece Kayhan : Iran Is The Mind And Hands Behind Hamas; Operation 'Al-Aqsa Flood' [The Invasion of Israel] Was Planned By Qods Force Commander Qassem Soleimani Before he Was Killed; Khamenei Hinted in August 2022 at 'The Complete Conquest of Israel." — Report by the Middle East Media Research Institute, (MEMRI), October 12, 2023.
"Iranian Website Asr-e Calls On Iranians Not To Speak Out On Iranian Involvement In 'The Hamas-Israel Conflict' – For Fear Of Harming Iranian Interests...." — Report by MEMRI, October 13, 2023.
What will it take for the US and its allies to grasp that the appeasement of the Iranian regime is read by the mullahs and their proxies as weakness? If such appeasement continues, make no mistake: today, the carnage is Israel; tomorrow, it will be the US and Europe.
What will it take for the US and its allies to grasp that the appeasement of the Iranian regime is read by the mullahs and their proxies as weakness? If such appeasement continues, make no mistake: today, the carnage is Israel; tomorrow, it will be the US and Europe..
The Biden administration insists that it does not have any evidence of Iran's "direct" involvement in the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel. The Biden administration has apparently totally dismissed the Wall Street Journal report on October 9, "Iran Helped Plot Attack on Israel Over Several Weeks," as well as the Washington Post's "Hamas received weapons and training from Iran, officials say."
Hamas leaders have indeed long been boasting of the financial and military aid they receive from Iran to enable them to pursue the Jihad (holy war) to slaughter Jews and extinguish Israel. Based on the statements of these leaders, it is massively clear that without Iran's support, and reported planning, Hamas could not have carried out the massacre of Israelis near the border with the Gaza Strip.
Unlike the US administration, a growing number of Arabs are convinced that Iran is the "head of the snake" and that it was involved, deeply, in the Hamas massacre. These Arabs have taken to social media platforms to voice their outrage over the Iranian regime's responsibility for the assault.
Hamas's representative in Lebanon, Ahmed Abdulhadi, revealed last week that his group coordinated with Iran and its Lebanese terror proxy Hezbollah before and during the massacre. "We coordinated with Hezbollah and with Iran and the Axis [of Resistance] before, during and after the battle at the highest level," Abdulhadi said in an interview with Newsweek.
On October 12, Abdulhadi was among a number of Hamas officials who went to Beirut Airport to welcome Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian. "We came to Beirut Airport to welcome the Iranian foreign minister and thank him for Iran's solidarity with Palestine," Abdulhadi told reporters.
Abdulhadi and other Hamas officials have been holding regular meetings with Iranian officials in Beirut and Tehran over the past few years. Last month, the Iranian foreign minister said after a closed meeting with leaders of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Beirut that Iran remains committed to supporting the Palestinian "resistance and the liberation [of Palestine]." When Iranian officials talk about supporting the Palestinian "resistance," they are referring to atrocities such as the ones inflicted by Hamas on October 7.
Another Hamas official, Ali Baraka, told Russia's state-run RT outlet that his group had secretly planned the assault for two years and did not inform any other factions or allies, including Iran and Hezbollah, of the "zero hour." Baraka confirmed that Iran "gives us money and weapons."
Hamas has never concealed the fact that it receives financial and military support from Iran. In 2020, senior Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar revealed that Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani, the slain commander of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, had handed him $22 million in his first meeting with him in 2006. Al-Zahar said that when he was appointed as Hamas's foreign minister, he met with then Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and presented him with several demands, which the Iranian president referred to Soleimani.
In 2021, senior Hamas official Osama Hamdan said that "what has been revealed about Soleimani's role in supporting the Palestinian resistance is only a small part so far." Hamdan disclosed that Soleimani had sent Kornet anti-tank guided missiles to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.
Yahya Sinwar, the Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, said in 2017 that Soleimani had "contacted us and put all of Iran's military and technological capabilities at our disposal." According to Sinwar, Soleimani communicated with the military wing of Hamas, which carried out the October 7 carnage in Israel, as well as the armed wing of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and offered to help them in their Jihad (holy war) against Israel. "We are with every alliance that will serve the Palestinian national cause and serve the resistance of our people," Sinwar added.
Hamas's savage assault on Israel came in the framework of the Iranian-backed wish, since its 1979 Islamic Revolution, to eliminate "the Zionist entity." Iran's supreme leader, president and other senior officials have repeatedly called for the destruction of Israel. The October 7 attack, in addition, also seems part of the Iran's efforts to prevent normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia or any Arab state.
Palestinian politician Jihad al-Khaizaran said that the assault marked "the beginning of a war to liberate the Palestinian territories and eliminate the Zionist entity." Al-Khaizaran told the Saudi newspaper Okaz: "The Palestinian resistance has been preparing for the operation for a long time."
While many in the West chose to disregard Iran's role in arming, training and funding Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the same cannot be said about a large number of Arabs who have long been warning of Tehran's expansionist actions in the Middle East. Some of those Arabs have been openly talking about how Iran uses its proxies to wreak havoc not only on Israel, but on some Arab countries. Through its proxies, the Iranian regime now effectively occupies Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, in addition to the Gaza Strip. The Arabs, in short, see clearly what many Westerners apparently want to remain oblivious to.
Without Iran's support, Hamas would not have been able to hold onto power in the Gaza Strip since 2007. At that time, the terror group staged a bloody coup against Mahmoud Abbas's Palestinian Authority after killing hundreds of his loyalists. Without Iran's backing, Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups would not have been able to fire tens of thousands of rockets into Israel. Without Iran, Hezbollah would not be as powerful as it is in Lebanon, where it is armed with hundreds of thousands of rockets that are ready to be launched at Israel at any moment.
Mansour al-Malik, a petroleum engineer from Saudi Arabia, wrote on October 8:
"Hamas is an organization affiliated with the clerical regime in Iran, just like Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthis in Yemen, and the Popular Mobilization Forces in Iraq, and it is the same axis that threatens Saudi Arabia and Kuwait day and night. We differentiate between a just cause and a terrorist axis."
Kuwaiti political analyst Talal al-Ghazi wrote:
"Hamas's relations with Iran have been in place since its [Hamas's] founding. Hamas's relations with Iran have been since 1990, when they [Hamas] pledged allegiance to Iran and opened an office in Tehran. No one should tell us that Hamas turned to Iran because the Arabs abandoned it. The Arabs did not support Hamas because it is an arm of Iran."
"Iran has denied any connection to the [Hamas] military operation, but indicators prove otherwise," commented Egyptian Middle East expert Huda Raouf.
"It is well known that Iran has established a relationship with non-state actors and armed groups in the Arab countries, as it provided them with financial and military support and training in a way that created entities parallel to the state institutions. Likewise, the relationship with Hamas was a major key for Iran to influence the Palestinian issue in a way that makes it extend its influence."
Raouf said that Tehran's mullahs are afraid that rapprochement between the Arab states and Israel would isolate the Iranian regime regionally. "[Iran] also wants to deliver messages that it can obstruct any efforts to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict," she wrote.
On October 12, the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) published a report titled:
"Iranian Regime Mouthpiece Kayhan: Iran Is The Mind And Hands Behind Hamas; Operation 'Al-Aqsa Flood' Was Planned, Orchestrated By Qods Force Commander Qassem Soleimani Before He Was Killed; Khamenei Hinted In August 2022, August 2023 At 'The Complete Conquest' Of Israel"
The next day, October 13, MEMRI published another report titled:
"Iranian Website Asr-e Calls On Iranians Not To Speak Out On Iranian Involvement In 'The Hamas-Israel Conflict' – For Fear Of Harming Iranian Interests and International Status."
The report ends:
"It should be noted that in its October 10, 2023 editorial, the regime mouthpiece Kayhan took pride in Iran's involvement in the attack by the Palestinian resistance group Hamas against Israel. It attributed the planning of the attack to IRGC Qods Force Commander Qasem Soleimani, prior to his January 2020 assassination in a U.S. airstrike, and it said that Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei had said in an August 2023 speech that a big victory was on the horizon."
The Biden administration appears to be acting as if nothing will stop from failing to confront the Iranian regime, thereby ensuring that it will view the US administration's contortions as tacit permission to escalate its proxies' aggression.
That, in fact, is one of the reasons countries have proxies: to deflect attention from themselves so they can sit back in comfort and claim "plausible deniability."
What will it take for the US and its allies to grasp that the appeasement of the Iranian regime is read by the mullahs and their proxies as weakness? If such appeasement continues, make no mistake: today, the carnage is Israel; tomorrow, it will be the US and Europe.
*Khaled Abu Toameh is an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem.
© 2023 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

‘Our Inheritance Is Turned Over to Strangers’
Raymond Ibrahim/October 16, 2023
All throughout Western Europe, Muslims are transforming churches into mosques. They are not doing this by force and conquest, as their ancestors once did, but legally: Europeans are selling or in some cases donating churches into becoming mosques.
In a video uploaded on Aug. 16, 2023, a Muslim man, while videotaping a church in the UK, said:
You’ll be excused to think that this is a church. But as is the case across the UK, we’ve took it over. It’s now, actually, a mosque, a masjid. Christianity is depleting; atheism is unfulfilling; Islam is here and is here to stay. The British people, they may not like it but as is the case with many things, there may be something which you don’t like which is good for you [Koran 2:216]. So, carry on making those churches for us. Keep them empty, we’ll buy them in a few years’ time and we’ll make them into a mosque.
The video continues by showing several other UK churches and cathedrals now turned into mosques. The same thing is happening all over Europe.
While the abandonment of these churches is reflective of shrinking attendance, that, in itself, is not limited to shrinking numbers of Christians, but of growing numbers of Christians who see in churches nothing more than a building, one which, whether it stands or falls, has nothing to do with their “internal faith.”
Such nonchalance stands in stark contrast to how previous Europeans saw and understood church buildings—and their response to any Muslim who would dare suggest turning them into mosques.
Indeed, it was to liberate one particular church, the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem—which, built on the site of Christ’s resurrection, had been repeatedly desecrated by Muslims—that European pilgrims sacrificed everything and marched thousands of miles to fight and die in the Crusades.
In 1217, for example, a Crusades preacher paraphrased Lamentations 5:2—“Our inheritance has been turned over to strangers, our homes to foreigners”—to express Christian outrage that the Holy Land and its many sacred sites and churches were in Muslim hands: “the Land of Promise,” he preached, “is our inheritance and the place where Christ was buried and suffered is our home. And this inheritance is given into the hands of [Muslim] gentiles…. Now our holy inheritance is seized; the holy places are profaned; the holy cross is made a captive.”
Today, of course, almost every Western Christian would “cringe” at such words. To them, churches are just buildings. All that matters is if one is saved.
Right or wrong, such thinking is reflective of the ongoing “abstraction” of Christianity—the transformation of it into a thought, an idea, a set of beliefs to be preserved only in the individual Christian’s mind. Outward manifestations—in this case, church buildings—are meaningless.
Thus, if Christians once spent so much to erect massive cathedrals all throughout Europe—formerly booming with masculine voices of confident worshippers—today these buildings are the haunt of little old ladies lighting candles for their departed loved ones—that is, when these buildings are not actively being pawned off to exultant Muslims who transform them into mosques. In France alone, one church is “disappearing”—one way or another—every two weeks.
Self-professed Christians who see no problem with this, who care little for concrete manifestations of the faith, should be mindful lest they abstract Christianity into oblivion.

This unholy axis of Iranian thugs and Marxist psychopaths is an enemy of Muslims too

Jordan Peterson/The Telegraph/October 16, 2023
Over the last few years, I have engaged in continual dialogue with people across the spectrum of Islam, from Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who left her religious upbringing behind, through to moderates such as Mustafa Akyol and Hamza Yusuf, and even some of the more hardline commentators whose perspectives are popular among Muslim millennials in the UK.
I have done this because I believe that Jews, Christians and Muslims share more in common than what divides them, and because I know that since there is no such thing as a world without religion, we must do what is best with what we have been bequeathed.
I am in serious trouble this week, nonetheless, because I argued that the authorities in Israel should give the terrorists who invaded their land, torturing and killing their citizens, the hell they most truly deserve.
How could I say such a thing, some argued, while simultaneously maintaining my desire for a rapprochement between the peoples of the Abrahamic tradition? Let us begin that discussion by rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s.
Hamas’s motivation – and Biden’s failure
The attack on Israel by the monsters of Hamas occurred not because Muslims and Jews are destined, by religious necessity, to be at each other’s throats, but because Hamas’s biggest supporters in Iran – a country run by thugs, and deemed so even by its own people – had become concerned that the rulers of Saudi Arabia would continue in their laudable attempts to formulate a productive peace with Israel.
Four Arab countries signed the Abraham Accords, a Trump-era initiative that should have garnered that ex-president, for all his manifold faults, a Nobel Peace Prize (at least in a world where the likes of Barack Obama were deemed worthy of such an honor). Behind the current signatories – the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan – stood the Saudis, without whose tacit agreement no such steps would have been taken, and everyone knew it. Joe Biden and the Democrats had, therefore, an historic and unparalleled opportunity to bring the occasionally-troublesome Saudis formally into the fold soon after they took office, building on the Trump administration’s work. Instead, with miraculous short-sightedness, they alienated them almost immediately, choosing – instead of peace – to deny to the previous President of the United States any honor for his revolutionary breakthrough, one deemed utterly impossible by the blinkered fools who ruled the State Department for decades.
Despite being snubbed so insultingly, and their consequent and justified anger (remember their unwillingness to provide the US with additional oil, when Biden asked, and their recent flirtation with China?) the Saudis had been strongly considering the continuation and extension of the Abrahamic peace process. In consequence, the totalitarian mullahs of Iran – working with Hamas – were driven to desperation, knowing full well that such an agreement would undermine and isolate them fatally. This is the same Iran, by the way, that the Democrats, under Biden, have utterly failed to resist and control, continuing a pattern well-established by the aforementioned Nobel Laureate Obama.
All this means, therefore, that the Saudis could have been on side two years ago had Biden seized the opportunity, thereby negating Hamas’s (and Iran’s) primary aim in attacking Israel. Instead, he and his fellow Democrats downplayed the significance of the Trump administration’s cardinal achievement just to score the cheapest (and yet most expensive) of political points.
So here we are again, with Israeli and Palestinian blood once again being unnecessarily spilled.
Social media and fetishisation of bloodshed
One of the most shocking elements of this entire tragedy is how many in the West, particularly on the radical Left, have been championing a cause devoted to naught but violence. As a psychologist, I view this as a phenomenon facilitated by the power, accessibility and irresponsibility of social media, which allows for toxic traits exhibited by a small minority to propagate and proliferate, with none of the usual real-world consequences.
A particular form of psychopathology has been well-detailed in recent decades: a combination of Machiavellianism (instrumental manipulativeness and deceit), narcissism (inflated false self-esteem and desire for unearned attention and status), and psychopathy (a malignant mixture of criminal propensity, callousness and parasitism). These are collectively known as the Dark Triad. More recent investigators of the structure of the darkest of temperamental propensities found it necessary to add an extra dimension to the matrix: sadism – positive delight in the suffering of others. So today we have the Dark Tetrad.
Dark Tetrad types fit well into what is known as Cluster B of personality disorders. Those who manifest Cluster B symptomatology have, in addition to their other psychologically and socially dangerous tendencies, the proclivity to claim positive virtue or outright victim status while pursuing their utterly self-serving, grandiose and destructive ends. They lie, cheat, steal, gossip, reputation-savage, brag, claim credit when none is due, and distribute blame to everyone but themselves – all the while pursuing nothing but their own immediate, immature, hedonistic self-gratification, trumpeting their moral virtue and/or brandishing their identity as oppressed innocents.
It is this narrow, and historically ostracised, behaviour that has been encouraged and facilitated in its distribution by contemporary social media. When such individuals organise – and this happens, from time to time – they threaten the integrity of the entire society within which they operate, hoping to light everything aflame and dance, orgiastically, in the ruins.
This happened after the French Revolution. It happened in Soviet Russia. It happened in Nazi Germany. It’s happening now, in the West, with the rise of the most demented woke causes.
This warped psychological perspective has an appeal to groups larger than just the core individuals, and in various surreal guises. How else are you to explain the staggeringly incomprehensible spectacle of, for example, ‘Queers for Palestine’ – perhaps the most egregious example of the union of the desire by ‘progressives’ to tear down everything in the West that is worthy, even at the cost of formulating an alliance that would in an instant be suicidal if it ever made itself manifest.
An appeal to Muslims
So that is one way social media enables subtle forms of psychological manipulation within the West. But what about from outside?
There are many Muslims willing to believe conspiratorial narratives – also spread on social media – about Jewish people. Many of these narratives, if one looks at their source, are deliberately spread by the brutal Iranian regime.
I might inquire of the Muslims who accept such stories: is Iran your idea of a worthy Islamic state? The very Iran whose citizens, Muslims all, have revolted against their psychopathic masters for more than a year (and dreamed about it for much longer than that)? The very Iran whose hypothetically religious leaders have to oppress their own women?
I would also ask the same Muslims to consider those in the West who have allied themselves with the cause of the Palestinians in the days since the Hamas invasion. Many of those university students and radical professors you see as your allies are Marxists. Remember – the essential and absolute enemy of the communist utopia is the very religious practice you share with your Abrahamic brothers.
Then there’s the increasingly delusional alphabet brigade of the LGBT ‘community’, foolish and blind enough to assume that commonality of hypothetical oppression is enough to unite it, somehow, with the mullahs of Tehran and the gangsters of Hamas. This is useful idiocy on a scale undreamed of by the most extreme of Leninists and Maoists alike.
Tell me this, honestly, those of you desirous of genuinely practicing your faith: do you really think you have anything in common with those who have hypothetically sided with you in the West in the past week? And tell me, again, how that alliance is more suitable to your faith than recognition of your Abrahamic commonality with the Christians and the present-day descendants of the ancient Hebrews?
I would argue that the Saudis, and the other signers of the Abraham Accords, have a stark choice in front of them, as do the distributed and various people of the Islamic world. They can allow the thugs, particularly those in Iran and Palestine, to triumph in their propagandistic efforts to prop up their own dismal, miserable and tyrannical states. They can, in consequence, scuttle the new peace treaty signed with Israel, forgo all the obvious benefits for the Muslim world offered by that agreement, and acquiesce to continued rule by the cruelest of hypocrites, misusing faith in the worst possible of ways.
Or they can consider the universal message in Islam, Judaism, and Christianity alike: do not attribute to yourself the virtue of the divine when acting on your own behalf, let alone when acting in the thrall of the forces of darkness themselves.
I plead with those of you reading this in the Muslim world: remove the blindfold (as we should, equally, in the West) and see what is so starkly manifesting itself in the world: toxic ideologies, whether from Iran or pseudo-Marxists in the West. We must all of us turn away from the terrible tempting path of righteous destruction, continue the work already begun in uniting the people of the book, and thereby bring a productive, generous, wise and lasting peace to this benighted but still not-yet-doomed and even potentially wonderful green-and-blue orb.
We need a transcendental axis to revolve around, to move us beyond a blinkered materialism, to protect us against a foolish populism, and to lift up our eyes to the eternal Heaven, beckoning above us. In the West, we have that – for all the faults of the followers of the creeds, and even, with the creeds themselves as currently understood – in the form of Islam, Christianity and Judaism. We need our Abrahamic faith, lest the hedonistic pagans and worse prevail, and we need to stand, united, behind it. And that is why I am pro-Muslim, but anti the thuggish behaviour we have seen in the past week. And if you are a true follower of Allah, that is the decision that is incumbent upon you, in equal measure.
And that goes as well for Jews and Christians, too.

Iran’s plan to destroy Israel is hiding in plain sight
John Bolton/The Telegraph/October 16, 2023
Jerusalem and its allies should be considering how Iran and its surrogates will respond to Israeli retaliation against Hamas in Gaza. Alongside Hezbollah, the major unknown currently is whether possibly Syria or even Iran itself will intervene in a much bigger way.
Over the years, Russia and Iran have supplied Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas with missiles and drones. Hezbollah’s arsenal is enormously larger than that of Hamas, amounting to tens of thousands, perhaps 150,000 missiles, compared with Hamas’s arsenal in the single-digit thousands. Moreover, long experience in cross-border terrorism and military conflict against Israel and other foes of Iran makes Hezbollah particularly dangerous.
Simultaneously, growing criticism of the Jewish state will increase among its fair-weather friends. Iran and some or all of its puppets will use asymmetric warfare against the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), including sophisticated and extensive propaganda and influence operations in the West, accompanied by “lawfare”, a systematic effort purportedly based on international law intended to delegitimise Jerusalem’s campaign against Hamas and other adversaries.
How Iran, Syria and Hezbollah act militarily depends on whether the Hamas attack was a one-off, or if a deeper strategy is in play. Perhaps it was just conducting a reconnaissance-in-force, probing Israel’s defences. Or perhaps Hamas aimed to tie down significant IDF forces in Gaza so that Hezbollah could attack with far greater force from Lebanon and Syria.
Hamas, Hezbollah, and Syria are key elements of Iran’s “ring of fire” strategy to isolate and pressure Israel and its Arab friends, as are Yemen’s Houthi rebels and the Shia militia groups which Iran is even now forging into an Iraqi version of Hezbollah. The Biden administration shows no sign that it knows how Iran intends to implement this strategy, or over what period.
Unfortunately for Israel, Iran and its terrorist satellites can launch concerted military campaigns at times of their choosing. Or they could follow a salami-slicing programme of terrorist pressure on Israel for an extended period. Iran may be seeking thereby to strain Israel’s already divisive domestic politics, and hope Jerusalem’s international support erodes due to short attention spans and the press of other affairs, including the Ukraine war.
Critical to Iran’s global strategy of wearying Israel’s Western support is to heighten criticism of Israel for exercising its right to self-defence. Widespread demonstrations last Friday at the behest of Hamas showed that anti-Israel propaganda was already pre-positioned.
Meanwhile, within three days of the Hamas assault, the lawfare barrage began, unsurprisingly launched by the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor, asserting that conflict in Gaza falls under ICC jurisdiction. This shows how farcical and illegitimate the ICC itself is, recognising as it does an imaginary “state” of Palestine that even the feckless UN doesn’t include as a member, despite decades of Palestinian efforts to gain entry.
Simultaneously, Josep Borrell, the EU representative of foreign affairs, claimed Israel’s blockade of Gaza violated international law, as though combatants had an obligation to care for civilians in enemy-controlled territory. This is roughly equivalent to saying that, in the Second World War, Britain and America had an obligation to allow food and other supplies to reach Germany.
Anti-Israeli criticism and second-guessing will surely intensify as Israel pushes into Gaza. And just in case anyone forgot, Hamas alone has ruled Gaza since 2007, when Israel withdrew. If Gaza has been misruled and neglected, Israel is hardly to blame. Ask Gaza’s Arab neighbours.
Tellingly, just days later, Russia’s foreign ministry criticised Israeli air strikes on Syrian airports as violations of its sovereignty and international law. Such an official statement marks a dramatic reversal of longstanding Russian practice of ignoring Israeli bombing raids against Iranian convoys delivering missiles and other military supplies to Hezbollah or Syrian forces.
Previously, Moscow insisted only that Jerusalem take steps to deconflict from Russia’s Syria-based air and ground forces, to avoid casualties and potential hostilities between the two of them. Suddenly to express concern about Syrian “sovereignty”, which barely exists in much of the country without Iranian or Russian support, suggests that Damascus and perhaps Moscow are preparing to enter any conflict directly against Jerusalem.
We do not know with certainty what is coming next, but we do know already that the Hamas invasion was well-planned and probably long in preparation with Iran, Hezbollah and others. On Saturday, Iran’s foreign minister threatened Israel directly, saying Hezbollah was preparing “a huge earthquake” against Israel if it attacked Gaza. Israel has already accused Iran of directing recent Hezbollah attacks from Lebanon. All the pieces are there: Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria and possibly Russia.
Does anyone still say Iran is not directly involved? Israel’s allies must prepare for a potentially extended military and propaganda effort to divide the Jewish state internally and isolate it from even its strongest allies. The time is now.
*John Bolton is a former US national security adviser

The Choices of War: Hamas Using Kidnapped Israelis as Human Shields, What Should Israel Do?

Alan M. Dershowitz/Gatestone Institute/October 16, 2023
Israel has a right under international law to prefer preventing the deaths of its own civilians over inadvertently causing the deaths of enemy civilians.
These and other micro-questions do not detract from the macro-answer that when a tragic choice must be made between the life of a soldier and a civilian, all other things being equal, the civilian life should be preferred.
Historians have long debated whether Churchill was aware of but refused to warn the residents of Coventry to get out of the way of the Luftwaffe bombing that caused 507 civilian deaths, because such a warning would have disclosed to the Germans that the British had cracked Germany's Enigma code. This disclosure would have caused the deaths of many British soldiers who were relying on intelligence secured from Enigma, which would have dried up if the Germans knew it was compromised.
Of course, every civilian death in Coventry was entirely the fault of the Nazis, legally, morally and politically, just as every death to an Israeli hostage used as a human shield would be the fault of Hamas, regardless of who actually fired the fatal shot. But this doesn't solve the problem for Israeli policymakers, generals or soldiers of how much risk to their own civilian hostages should they be willing to take to achieve their legitimate military goals.
Israel should try to negotiate the freedom of hostages as if there were no ground war, and should pursue the ground war as if there were no hostages.
The bottom line is that Israel should be free to strike whatever balance it seems appropriate. It will , of course, do everything it can to preserve the lives of the hostages, while Hamas will do everything it can to use the hostages as weapons against the Israeli military. It will not be easy but it must be done.
Israel has a right under international law to prefer preventing the deaths of its own civilians over inadvertently causing the deaths of enemy civilians.
The long-practiced Hamas strategy of using Palestinian children and other civilians as human shields raises the important and old moral issue of weighing the lives of enemy civilians against the lives of one's own civilians and soldiers. Even if some of the Palestinian "civilians" are not entirely innocent, and even if their deaths were unintended and collateral to legitimate military objectives, they are tragic. Israel has a right under international law to prefer preventing the deaths of its own civilians over inadvertently causing the deaths of enemy civilians.
No such moral calculus is available to measure the cost to Israel of inadvertently causing the deaths of its own citizens who are illegally and immorally being used as human shields by Hamas, in Israel's legitimate efforts to prevent future attacks to its civilians and current attacks on its soldiers. This is more a tactical than a moral issue, though it contains elements of both. But it involved complex decisions that Israel alone is entitled, indeed obligated, to make. No international law or claims of universal morality have a say, because the balance here is between the lives of Israeli hostages and other issues.
How then should Israel weigh the lives of the hostages against those of its soldiers and its future civilian victims? There is no clear answer provided by history, morality, military tactics or any other body of knowledge and experience. But a few generalizations may be relevant and instructive.
The lives of a country's civilians are valued more than military lives. This is because the role of the soldier includes risking his or her life in the interest of protecting civilians. This may not be as obvious in a nation like Israel with near-universal conscription. These and other micro-questions do not detract from the macro-answer that when a tragic choice must be made between the life of a soldier and a civilian, all other things being equal, the civilian life should be preferred.
But all things are never equal, especially in the fog of war, or even in the planning of war from a headquarters distant from the battlefield. Tactical and strategic considerations may require the sacrifice of civilian lives. The story of Winston Churchill's decision regarding the German bombing of Coventry whether completely true, partially true, illustrates the dilemma.
Historians have long debated whether Churchill was aware of but refused to warn the residents of Coventry to get out of the way of the Luftwaffe bombing that caused 507 civilian deaths, because such a warning would have disclosed to the Germans that the British had cracked Germany's Enigma code. This disclosure would have caused the deaths of many British soldiers who were relying on intelligence secured from Enigma, which would have dried up if the Germans knew it was compromised.
Of course, every civilian death in Coventry was entirely the fault of the Nazis, legally, morally and politically, just as every death to an Israeli hostage used as a human shield would be the fault of Hamas, regardless of who actually fired the fatal shot. But this doesn't solve the problem for Israeli policymakers, generals or soldiers of how much risk to their own civilian hostages should they be willing to take to achieve their legitimate military goals.
To paraphrase Yitzhak Rabin: Israel should try to negotiate the freedom of hostages as if there were no ground war, and should pursue the ground war as if there were no hostages. The latter is a lot more difficult to accomplish than the former because Hamas' unlawful use of Israeli civilian hostages imposes logistical restrictions on the military options available on the ground.
The bottom line is that Israel should be free to strike whatever balance it seems appropriate. It will , of course, do everything it can to preserve the lives of the hostages, while Hamas will do everything it can to use the hostages as weapons against the Israeli military. It will not be easy but it must be done.
*Alan M. Dershowitz is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law, Emeritus at Harvard Law School, and the author most recently of Get Trump: The Threat to Civil Liberties, Due Process, and Our Constitutional Rule of Law. He is the Jack Roth Charitable Foundation Fellow at Gatestone Institute, and is also the host of "The Dershow" podcast.
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Supporting the Palestinian cause is a moral imperative, not a crime
Baria Alamuddin/Arab News/October 16, 2023
Throughout the liberal, democratic Western world, where freedom of expression and speaking out for human rights are fundamental articles of faith, Harvard graduates have been threatened with being placed on an employment blacklist for espousing pro-Palestine views. France’s interior minister banned pro-Palestinian demonstrations and ordered all foreign nationals who “commit antisemitic acts” to be deported. Similar measures have been introduced in Germany and elsewhere. British Interior Minister Suella Braverman, a woman with an undistinguished record of openly voicing racist views, told senior police officers that waving a Palestinian flag or engaging in pro-Arab chants could be criminal acts. Hamas’s slaughter of children, pensioners and civilians was disgusting, wrong and damaging to the Palestine cause. However, there have been insidious efforts to attribute these horrors to the entire Palestinian nation. Western politicians and media voices rushed to adopt the most virulently conceivable pro-Israel language, while lacking the courage to speak out with comparable moral clarity about the mass murder of Gaza civilians which is already well under way.
Western support for Israel is lauded as noble and sacred, while even equivocal support for Palestinians is suspicious, dangerous and possibly criminal. There is calculated amnesia that this is a conflict with a long, bloody history of atrocities by both sides. Every killing of Israelis to date has inevitably been avenged by disproportionate acts of collective punishment meted out by an infinitely more destructive military. Those who in recent days have uncritically embraced the Israeli political establishment are just as culpable as those who cheered Hamas’s bloodletting in fueling the hatred and setting the stage for future carnage.
We must have the courage to even-handedly hold both sides to account.
In the US, Britain and Europe, ascendant populist alt-right politicians and media outlets cynically and amorally exploit the Palestine issue as an extension of their anti-liberal culture wars. Soaring tensions fuel militancy on both sides, provoking despicable attacks on both Jews and Muslims, and targeting schools and places of worship around the world. Daesh and Al-Qaeda recruitment materials exploitatively portray Western support for Israel as the continuation of a “crusader” war against the Muslim world.
Communities are increasingly divided, with large rival pro-Palestine and pro-Israel demonstrations in cities such as New York, Paris and London. Moderate Jews have been among the most outspoken voices in raising concerns about the bombardment of Gaza, while blaming Netanyahu and his far-right extremist cabinet colleagues for driving communal tensions to boiling point, amid glaring lapses in security.
Actual antisemitism must be condemned, particularly as Arabs and Jews are close cousins sharing the same Semitic origins and intimately related languages. But there have been perpetual efforts to stigmatize and cancel all pro-Palestinian sympathies as antisemitism, when in reality support for the Palestinian plight is an inevitable consequence of the universal championing of human rights and international justice.
Those around the world who peacefully champion humanitarian causes such as Palestine, including moderate Jews who share the vision of two coexisting sovereign states, must be respected and heeded.
Among the genuine testimonies of what occurred on October 7, media and social media outlets unquestioningly hosted a deluge of unsubstantiated rumors, misinformation and fake footage, often with the systematic goal of demonizing Palestinians as “animals” and “sub-humans” who deserve extermination. Social media messages falsely claimed that Arab-Israeli “traitors” helped breach the Gaza fence, setting the stage for further anti-Arab violence. In recent days, militant settlers staged fatal revenge attacks against West Bank Palestinians.
A viral report alleging that Hamas had beheaded babies was widely disseminated through the media and the atrocity denounced by President Joe Biden, before the Israeli government and White House were forced to deny that this had ever happened, and CNN issued an apology for peddling such falsehoods. The BBC was savaged for not calling Hamas terrorists, while its studios were sprayed with red paint by pro-Palestine activists for “manufacturing consent for Israel’s war crimes.”
Within every historical rights movement, moderates coexisted alongside radical militants. That included anti-apartheid activists, US civil rights, the suffragettes, Irish republicans and indeed the Zionist movement — a cause for which numerous future Israeli leaders perpetrated terrorist attacks: including Menachem Begin’s involvement in the 1946 attack on the King David Hotel in Jerusalem and Ariel Sharon’s oversight of the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacres, the latter manifesting brutality far exceeding that of recent days. Current extreme-right ministers glorified Baruch Goldstein’s 1994 massacre of 29 Palestinians in a Hebron mosque, an act celebrated by the Zionist extreme right as a model for how all Palestinians should be expunged from the land.
Testimonies of Israeli mothers who didn’t know whether their children were alive, dead or taken hostage brought me to tears because of a personal memory from Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon. The school bus had been supposed to bring my two daughters home, but amid the chaos the driver conveyed them to a safe location near a hospital. For an entire day I frantically believed they could be dead, or lost for ever. Those hours of near insanity prompted us to flee Lebanon as refugees. I wonder how many Israelis who fled volatile border areas will likewise choose to never return, or depart Israel altogether.
Counterproductive attempts to carpet bomb Gaza until there are no militants left standing merely undermine Israel’s security by cultivating new embittered generations who cherish fantasies of indiscriminate revenge, thus empowering hateful factions such as Hezbollah and Hamas. Violence breeds only abhorrent, perpetual violence.
Israel’s right to self-defense, statehood and security has been loudly trumpeted in recent days, and indeed growing numbers of Arab states have already subscribed to these principles. All Palestinians modestly seek are some of these same rights accorded to them, including governing territories which according to legally binding UN resolutions belong to them. Those around the world who peacefully champion humanitarian causes such as Palestine, including moderate Jews who share the vision of two coexisting sovereign states, must be respected and heeded. For the sake of appeasing a vengeful extreme-right Zionist lobby, the West must not overnight jettison hundreds of years of hard-won political rights, freedoms and human rights advocacy.
• Baria Alamuddin is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster in the Middle East and the UK. She is editor of the Media Services Syndicate and has interviewed numerous heads of state.

What Comes After the Flood?
Sam Menassa/Asharq Al-Awsat/October 16/2023
The Aqsa Flood operation Hamas launched against Israel could change the course of the entire region’s politics for decades to come. Israel’s wound will not heal quickly or easily, given the sense of humiliation it engendered and the number of people killed, wounded, and taken hostage after Hamas successfully infiltrated its Israeli territory and hit Israeli with its rockets. Israel has responded with hysterical and unrestrained bombardment of the Strip, leaving hundreds dead, thousands injured, and indescribable destruction in its wake. “Tragic" does not seem enough of a word to describe the Palestinian operation, Israel's response, and its repercussions.
It would not be hyperbolic to compare the significance of this current war with those of 1967 and 1973. In fact, it may leave a more substantial impact on the region and the balance of power within it. Its background and repercussions can be seen from three parameters: Palestinian, "regional-international," and Israeli, albeit with differences in the scale of each dimension’s impact.
In our discussion of the Palestinian factors, we will not delve into all of the suffering that has been inflicted on the Palestinians over the past seventy years, the violence, displacement, and denial of rights they have endured at the hands of Israel that could justify their recourse to the use of force. We will not go into how several players have exploited their cause, the sins of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), and its entanglement in the swamp of intra-Arab disputes.
Instead, we will focus on how the Palestinians have let themselves down over the years by walking away from and squandering opportunities that they should have seized when they still had the chance. Indeed, given all of their own grave errors in judgments in this regard, we cannot put the blame for their troubles solely on the occupier, although it does bear significant responsibility.
We begin with their contributions to thwarting the Oslo Accords, which allowed for the establishment of the Palestinian National Authority, paving the way for a two-state solution. Ten Palestinian factions opposed the agreement, while Yasser Arafat took an ambivalent position on peace, continuing to support the "armed struggle" behind the scenes. This struggle was crowned with the Al-Aqsa Intifada (also referred to as the Second Intifada) of 2000. However, the Palestinians’ most consequential blunder was their failure to lay the foundations for the establishment of a state.
The second disappointment came in 2007, when Hamas decided to end all negotiations with the "national unity" government, seizing control of the Gaza Strip by force of arms and throwing members of Fatah from rooftops. It thereby instigated the ongoing "Palestinian-Palestinian" conflict; more importantly, it allowed Israel, at a time when the world was engrossed by fears of violent political Islam,to push the narrative that there is no distinction between the struggle for Palestinian rights and Hamas' extremist ideology.
Today, the ‘Aqsa Flood’ has indeed shaken the mighty state of Israel, but its objectives remain obscure: is it the liberation of territory, an attempt to empower Hamas at the expense of the Palestinian Authority, or an effort to put an end to "Arab-Israeli" normalization?
The "regional-international" factors are the shifts being seen in several key regional countries. Due to regional threats and the shaky policies of global powers, regional actors began prioritizing their national interests and development in their countries, focusing on the containment of regional conflicts and seeking balanced international ties. All this has weakened the Arab dimension of the “Arab-Israeli conflict" and turned it into a "Palestinian-Israeli conflict."
Iran's expansionist agenda and its “quasi-nationalization” of the Palestinian cause have played a pivotal role in precipitating this shift, as did Washington's misguided decision to turn its back on its traditional allies in the region.
Iran and its allies are convinced that Israel’s deep internal schisms have left it vulnerable, and they sense an opportunity to gradually undermine Israel’s stability until its existence is in peril. This view, however, underestimates Israel's immense destructive capacity and the international support it enjoys, including from both China and Russia. All the gains that Iran claims to have accumulated in the region have become burdens; the countries it controls have been torn apart and are riddled with civil strife and tensions with neighbors, in addition to suffering from dismal economic and social conditions.
Iran's role in the region has hit a dead end, and the only path forward seems to be reigniting the "Palestinian-Israeli" conflict. There is no other way for Iran to retrieve their appeal after support for them plummeted. Another potential motive could be to divert US energy away from the Arab Gulf and undermine its support for Ukraine.
The Israeli factors do not end the rise of extreme right-wing power and its violence against Palestinians. Israelis' deep divisions and the country’s unprecedented protest movement have exposed the deep political and social rifts of Israeli society, which has implications for its military and security agencies and are seen as signs of weakness.
Tel Aviv made two serious mistakes, one is a political misjudgement and the other is an intelligence failure. The political mistake was trusting Hamas’s pledges to keep things calm in Gaza. This original sin was not reversed by any of the Israeli governments that have been formed since, due to their misguided belief deals can be made with Islamists like Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Indeed, they ignored these groups’ ideological denial of Israel's right to exist, as well as the fact that they consider all Israeli citizens to be soldiers and legitimate targets.
Israel tolerated the rise of Hamas at the expense of secular and moderate forces, because of its conviction that this would undermine PLO and Fatah and divide the Palestinians. Israeli governments thus made deals with Hamas aimed at maintaining stability in the Strip. Israel’s staggering blunder, however, was its intelligence failure, which was a consequence of the first mistake and allowed Hamas to capitalize on the element of surprise.
What comes after the ‘Aqsa Storm’ and Israel’s response? The only certain outcome is more death, destruction, and displacement in Gaza. Palestine and its cause will not benefit, and Israel will not gain anything more than an attempt to restore its deterrence and punish Hamas. Meanwhile, civilians, especially Palestinians, will pay a hefty price. The costs will mean that Hamas can never become a legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.
Moreover, its extreme ideology gives an excuse for Israel to perpetuate its cruelty, racism, and violence against the Palestinians. A national unity government that excludes extremists remains the best chance for coming out from the other end of this war and discrediting the argument that Israel has no genuine partner for peace in Palestine, which it exploits to avoid concluding an agreement with the Palestinians.
The only real way out is through a radical political solution that recognizes the Palestinian people’s rights. This solution will remain tenable even after the war, and its framework has already been outlined by Washington and certain influential Arab nations, notably Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan. These countries could play a role in helping the Palestinian Authority and the PLO solve their quagmire, by initiating peace talks for a two-state solution sponsored by the US and Arab powers that accounts for the new state of affairs on both sides.
Only a comprehensive settlement can remove the "Palestinian card" from Iran and its allies' hands. The two-state solution is the only path toward Palestinian moderation and recognition of Israel's right to exist. Washington can turn this war - tragedy - into an opportunity, as happened following the 1973 war.