Fdd's overnight brief

January 23, 2024

In The News


Twenty-three American citizens, most of whom served in the Israel Defense Forces, have been killed in the Israel-Gaza war since Oct. 7, according to the U.S. State Department. – Washington Post

Last summer, the Shapiros gave Israel a deadline. If the right-wing government continued its push to take power from the courts — a campaign that the couple believed put democracy, women’s rights and LGBTQ+ progress in jeopardy — they would leave. – Washington Post

Arab countries are working on a proposal for postwar Gaza that would create a pathway toward a Palestinian state in exchange for Saudi recognition of Israel, according to Arab officials. – Wall Street Journal

Fighting intensified in southern Gaza on Monday, with medical personnel reporting heavy exchanges of gunfire and a surge of Israeli tanks and troops into areas around hospitals. – New York Times 

Supporters and relatives of hostages captured in the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attacks burst into a meeting at Israel’s Parliament on Monday to demand that lawmakers take greater action to secure the captives’ release from Gaza. – New York Times 

Israel’s foreign minister was in Brussels on Monday to address his counterparts from the European Union, as part of a “diplomatic battle” to win support from the bloc amid deepening criticism over the human toll of the war and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s refusal to consider Palestinian statehood. – New York Times 

Twenty-four Israeli soldiers were killed in Gaza, the military said on Tuesday, the biggest death toll in a single day since the war began in October, amid what Palestinians said was the most intense bombardment of southern Gaza in the conflict. – Reuters

Israeli forces, advancing deep into western Khan Younis in Gaza’s bloodiest fighting so far in January, stormed one hospital and put another under siege on Monday, cutting off the wounded from trauma care, Palestinian officials said. – Reuters

After conquering a Hamas tunnel in the northern Gaza Strip, a group of Israeli soldiers went down it with some unusual kit in hand – not explosives, robot probes or pistols for close combat, but rather: old-style, dial-operated transistor radios. – Reuters

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pushed back on Monday after speculation that a new release of Gaza hostages was in the works, saying Israel was taking an unspecified initiative in the absence of an offer by the Palestinian militant group Hamas. – Reuters

European Union foreign ministers argued Monday that the creation of a Palestinian state is the only credible way to achieve peace in the Middle East, expressing concern about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s clear rejection of the idea. – Associated Press

Two supporters of Islamic State (ISIS) were arrested in east Jerusalem for intending to carry out a terror attack, the Israel Security Service (Shin Bet), Border Police, and Jerusalem District Police announced on Monday. – Jerusalem Post

While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told representatives of families of hostages held in Gaza on Monday “there is no genuine offer from Hamas” for a deal for the release of their loved ones, but rather an Israeli initiative he did not elaborate on, Ynet has learned that behind the scenes, efforts are underway on a framework that could lead to the return of hostages. – Ynet

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Monday dismissed a proposal by IDF senior officers for a temporary cease-fire with Hezbollah that would “create a new equation” against the Lebanese terrorist organization.  – Ynet

Less than two weeks after the opening of hearings at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, as part of a petition lodged by South Africa against Israel for alleged “genocide” in the Gaza Strip, the court is anticipated to deliver in the coming days a ruling on the petitioner’s request for a provisional order to halt the war. – Ynet

Hamas has published a 16-page document presenting a justification for its actions on October 7. The document denies that the terror group committed atrocities against civilians, and calls for an international investigation into the events of the day, branding Hamas a “national liberation” group, battling “colonialism.”  – Jerusalem Post

An armed terrorist was shot down by Israeli forces after approaching the Israeli settlement of Psagot in the West Bank on Tuesday morning. – Jerusalem Post

A current plan for an exchange between Israel and Hamas to return Israeli hostages has been outlined, according to Channel 13 reports on Monday. – Jerusalem Post

Over 100 IDF officers who have served in Gaza signed a letter on Saturday addressed to the Security Cabinet saying not to let residents of Gaza return to their homes until the hostages are released. – Jerusalem Post

Israel has reportedly submitted a proposal through Qatari and Egyptian mediators that would see it agree to pause its military offensive against Hamas for as long as two months, in exchange for a phased release of the remaining 136 hostages in Gaza. – Times of Israel

Palestinian Authority (PA) cabinet leader Mohammad Shtayyeh on Monday called on the international community to act to promote the recognition of “the state of Palestine”. – Arutz Sheva 

Editorial: The IDF must be given time to carry out that mission in Gaza. But time is running out regarding the hostages. It’s up to the government, with Netanyahu as its leader or someone else, to stave off the pressure to accept a ceasefire while keeping the hostages’ return a top priority. – Jerusalem Post

Alon Pinkas writes: When the Biden administration insists on the two-state solution it is exhibiting a profound misunderstanding of the Israeli zeitgeist and the current national psyche. … October 7 was not just a military, intelligence and conceptual debacle. It also instilled fear, uncertainty and humiliation in Israelis. When they hear “a Palestinian state,” many now intuitively think about seven more October 7s at seven different points along the border between Israel and the hypothetical state. Who in their right mind would entertain such a solution? – Haaretz

Amos Harel writes: The Khan Yunis operation expands the offensive to the southern part of the city and, most importantly, its western part, which contains a large refugee camp. The Palestinians also reported activity by Israeli forces near two hospitals in Khan Yunis. When the Israel Defense Forces occupied Gaza City, it searched several hospitals and found tunnels that Hamas had dug beneath them. These are areas where the IDF has conducted almost no ground maneuvers since the divisional assault on the city began more than a month ago. Following a long period in which the forces were static while they focused on locating underground tunnels and bunkers, an increased effort is now being made to degrade two regional battalions in Hamas’ Khan Yunis brigade that have so far suffered less damage – Haaretz

Matthew Levitt writes: In the years since my book came out, Hamas experienced two transformational events. The first watershed event for Hamas came in the wake of the group’s decision to participate in Palestinian national elections in 2006, resulting in Hamas winning 74 of 132 seats and ultimately leading a National Unity Government with Fatah. This came after the August 2005 withdrawal of all Israeli settlements and military forces from the Gaza Strip. Some predicted that by reconciling with their Palestinian political rivals in Fatah, Hamas would become more responsive to its own public and ultimately a more moderate movement, but that did not happen. Indeed, in June 2006 Hamas operatives penetrated into Israel via tunnels dug from Gaza, ambushed an Israeli border patrol, killing two soldiers and injuring two more, and kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. – Washington Institute 

Yonah Jeremy Bob writes: If Hamas’s top leaders perceive themselves to be invulnerable to Israeli attack behind hostages, and they do not care how many fighters they lose or how much territory the IDF takes over, and if they are not even trying all that hard to pick fights in the current time period, then the main problem is not numbers, but perception. At some point, the IDF will need to convince Hamas’s top leaders not only that they are destroying their forces, but that time is not on their side and their chances of survival are higher if they negotiate a return of the hostages than if they wait for an Israeli withdrawal. – Jerusalem Post

Alon Ben-Meir writes: The ultimate defeat of Hamas as a political force offers a historic opportunity to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that must not be missed. Unlike at any other time in the past, the two-state solution is now back at the front and center of any future Israeli and Palestinian discourse and is seen as the only viable option. This will necessitate new, courageous, and visionary leaders on both sides to seize this generational opportunity. – Jerusalem Post


Iran’s foreign minister will visit Pakistan next week, the two countries said Monday, following unprecedented attacks on either side of the border last week that appeared to target Baluch militant groups with similar separatist goals. – Associated Press

Iran is “very directly involved” in ship attacks that Yemen’s Houthi rebels have carried out during Israel’s war against Hamas, the U.S. Navy’s top Mideast commander told The Associated Press on Monday. – Associated Press

After U.S. personnel in the region are victimized, the White House deputy national security adviser insists America will respond ‘to establish deterrence in these situations, and to hold these groups accountable that continue to attack us.’ – New York Sun

Iran executed a man accused of killing a security officer in protests that followed the death in custody of Mahsa Amini in September 2022. – Bloomberg

Air strikes and diplomatic sparring between Iran and Pakistan have raised difficult questions for China and its influence in the region amid growing fears the upheaval sweeping across the Middle East could spread. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Imprisoned Iranian rapper Toomaj Salehi has been told he faces new additional charges that put him in jeopardy of facing the death penalty if convicted. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry released a joint statement from Islamabad and Tehran on January 22 that both sides agreed to resume the work of ambassadors after the foreign ministers’ phone conversations. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Russia & Ukraine

For nearly a year after Ukraine liberated towns along the war-scarred road to Kupyansk in the northeast Kharkiv region, residents hardly whispered fears of a second Russian occupation. They are now speaking them aloud. – Washington Post

For the first time since Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin established the international group to support Ukraine in April 2022, the United States will host the monthly gathering of about 50 countries out of money, unable to send the ammunition and missiles that Ukraine needs to fend off Russia.- Associated Press

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy thanked Ukrainians abroad on Monday for their support during Russia’s invasion, and proposed changing the constitution to allow dual citizenship. – Reuters

Russia launched a missile strike on Kyiv and Ukraine’s second-largest city of Kharkiv, wounding several people and damaging residential buildings in both cities, as well as a gas pipeline, Ukrainian officials said on Tuesday. – Reuters

The war in Ukraine has dented Russia’s confidence in its conventional forces and increased the importance to Moscow of non-strategic nuclear weapons (NSNWs) as a means of deterring and defeating NATO in a potential future conflict, a leading Western think-tank said on Monday. – Reuters

Russian energy company Novatek (NVTK.MM), opens new tab is likely to resume large-scale operations at its Ust-Luga processing complex and Baltic Sea terminal within weeks, following a suspected drone attack seen disrupting naphtha flows to Asia, analysts said on Monday. – Reuters

Australia on Tuesday imposed cyber sanctions on a Russian man for his role in the breach at insurer Medibank (MPL.AX), opens new tab, one of the country’s biggest data thefts which impacted about 10 million customers. – Reuters 

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, have become vital for Ukraine’s military since Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022. Hundreds can buzz over Russian positions in eastern and southern Ukraine at any one time. – Reuters 

Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny has been placed in solitary confinement for 10 days in a prison above the Arctic circle for “incorrectly introducing himself” to a guard, his spokesperson said late on Monday. – Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s campaign staff on Monday presented scores of boxes filled with signed petitions supporting his run in the March presidential election, a vote in which he’s almost certain to win another term in office. – Associated Press 

Russia’s foreign minister clashed with the United States and Ukraine’s supporters at a U.N. meeting Monday where Moscow ruled out any peace plan backed by Kyiv and the West, and China warned that further global chaos could impact the slowing global economy. – Associated Press

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk on Monday called the conflict in Ukraine a battle between “good and evil,” and vowed more support for Ukraine on his first visit to the war-torn country since returning to power. – Agence France-Presse

European Union countries including Germany and France are increasingly blaming each other for failing to provide Ukraine with enough weapons, threatening to chip away at the bloc’s unity as Kyiv enters a crucial phase in the war. – Bloomberg

Russian lawmakers want to confiscate the property of people who criticize the military invasion of Ukraine, intensifying the Kremlin’s crackdown on dissent against President Vladimir Putin. – Bloomberg


The Taliban are restricting Afghan women’s access to work, travel and health care if they are unmarried or don’t have a male guardian, according to a U.N report published Monday. – Associated Press

Pakistan security forces killed seven militants in a shootout in the country’s volatile southwest near the border with Afghanistan, the military said Monday. – Associated Press

More than 500,000 Afghans have fled Pakistan in the four months since Islamabad ordered undocumented migrants to leave or face arrest, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said Monday. – Agence France-Presse

Arabian Peninsula

The United States and Britain conducted a new round of strikes on Houthi targets Monday, U.S. officials said, intensifying Washington’s confrontation with the Yemeni militants whose maritime attacks have posed a threat to global commerce. – Washington Post

A Republican congressman is calling on Attorney General Garland and the Department of Justice to investigate allegations that Qatar took steps to spy on and discredit American lawmakers, steps that included hiring a former CIA official to aid in the operation. – New York Sun 

Saudi Arabia’s top diplomat said the kingdom would not normalize relations with Israel or contribute to Gaza’s reconstruction without a credible pathway to a Palestinian Arab state — a nonstarter for Israel’s government. – New York Sun

Michael Pregent writes: Qatar, our oil-wealthy “ally” in the Persian Gulf, is funding and harboring terrorists that not only threaten American forces but are attacking long-standing American allies. Worse yet, Doha believes this terrorist/ally balance is protected because the country hosts the largest U.S. military base in the Middle East. A U.S. base should give America leverage with the country hosting it — it should not give leverage to Iran, in the case of Iraq; and it should not give leverage to Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Houthis in the case of Qatar. – The Hill

Middle East & North Africa

Two Navy SEALs declared dead over the weekend after a mishap in the Arabian Sea earlier this month were identified Monday as Christopher J. Chambers, 37, and Nathan Gage Ingram, 27. – Washington Post

An undeclared war is festering all along the hill country that separates Israel and Lebanon. It involves nearly as many troops as the war in the Gaza Strip. So far it’s a largely static battle of missiles, artillery, bombing raids and stealthy infiltration. – Wall Street Journal

The U.S. on Monday hit Iraqi airline Fly Baghdad and its CEO with sanctions, alleging assistance to Iran’s military wing, and imposed a fifth round of sanctions on the militant group Hamas for abuse of cryptocurrency since the Oct. 7 attack on Israel. – Associated Press

The U.S. military on Monday denied claims made by the Yemeni Houthi movement that it had attacked American cargo ship Ocean Jazz in the Gulf of Aden. – Reuters

New Zealand will deploy a six-member defence team to the Middle East as part of an international coalition to uphold maritime security in the Red Sea, Prime Minister Christopher Luxon said on Tuesday. – Reuters

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with his counterparts from Iran, Turkey and Lebanon ahead of the United Nations Security Council meeting on Tuesday due to discuss the Middle East, the Russian foreign ministry said. – Reuters

A senior Egyptian official, Diaa Rashwan Chairman of the State Information Service said any Israeli action on the Philadelphi corridor – along the Gaza-Egypt border, could threaten relations between he two countries.  – Ynet

Nadwa Al-Dawsari writes: The Houthis’ political ambitions are deeply rooted in Zaydism, a school of thought within Shi’a Islam, whose central tenet is that the spiritual leader of Muslims should be a Hashemite or descendant of the Prophet Muhammad. Referred to as the Imam, this figure should not only hold a spiritual role but also serve as the leader of the state. The first Zaydi theocratic state was established by the religious and political leader Yehya bin al-Husayn in 983 CE, on the territory of what is today Saada Governorate. Husayn came to Yemen from Hijaz (modern-day Saudi Arabia) and became widely known as al-Hadi al-Haqq (“the Guide to the Truth”) because he was on a mission to guide Yemenis to the right path of Islam. – Middle East Institute


China has been lobbying non-Western countries to praise its human rights record ahead of a key U.N. meeting where it will face questions and criticism over its actions in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, according to diplomats and documents. – Reuters

China will need to “respond” to the US’s efforts to choke it of chip supplies, Beijing’s ambassador in The Hague said in an interview with a Dutch newspaper. But there is no need for the European Union to get swept up in the fight, he said. – Bloomberg

Tim Culpan writes: On balance, companies like BYD and SAIC seem more concerned with whether they can actually get their cars to market rather than the cost of doing so. When you’re a fast-growing company intent on breaking into new territories, long-term strategy may trump short-term financial returns. Should foreign markets like Europe, the US and the Middle East really take to Chinese EVs, then these ship deals will seem savvy. If not, they could hang like an albatross around carmakers’ necks. – Bloomberg

Christopher Cytera writes: Instead of confronting China head-on, the key is to keep innovating. Hydrogen cars represent one opportunity. Hydrogen power electric motors with a hydrogen fuel cell as the energy source instead of a lithium battery. Hydrogen suffers from the disadvantage that it requires electricity to be generated twice, once at a hydrogen production plant and again at the car, resulting in efficiency loss. But hydrogen offers a huge advantage: fueling time. It takes at least 20 minutes to refuel a battery-powered electric vehicle. It takes only two minutes for a hydrogen-powered electric vehicle, making hydrogen a viable gasoline replacement for long journeys and large vehicles. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Elliot Ji writes: It should not be surprising to see high levels of corruption in China’s secretive custodian of nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles. This is not only because bribery, rent-seeking, and graft are commonplace in the loosely supervised Chinese military and its defense acquisition systems. Large, politically salient, yet rarely tested systems like nuclear missiles are also magnets of bad behavior. – War on the Rocks


The Philippine government will not cooperate with the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) investigation into a brutal anti-narcotics campaign, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr said on Tuesday. – Reuters

The Philippines condemns the latest “provocative action” by Chinese coastguard against Filipino fishermen, the spokesperson of the National Security Council said on Monday. – Reuters

Australia has identified the Russian mastermind behind a crippling cyber attack, unmasking the 33-year-old hacker for the first time on Tuesday and linking him to an international crime syndicate. – Agence France-Presse

Australia won’t interfere in any moves by the Pacific nation of Tuvalu to end its diplomatic relationship with Taiwan, Foreign Minister Penny Wong said, following media reports that it could follow Nauru’s lead in shifting its alliance to China. – Bloomberg

A group of UN human rights experts called on Hong Kong to drop all charges against Jimmy Lai, ramping up pressure on the city as the former media mogul stands trial for sedition and colluding with foreign forces. – Bloomberg

President Joe Biden’s top economic aide said the national security implications of a Japanese company’s bid to purchase United States Steel Corp. deserve a close look from US officials. – Bloomberg


The leaders of Western Balkan countries pledged Monday to make full use of the European Union’s financial support plan of six billion euros (about $6.5 billion) as they continue to seek membership in the bloc. – Associated Press 

The leaders of Poland and Ukraine pledged on Monday to tackle political disputes that have hampered their critical wartime alliance and boost defence cooperation as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine grinds towards its third year. – Reuters

The leader of an ascendant right-wing party in Germany, Alternative for Germany, or AfD, says her party will push for a referendum seeking to extricate the country from the European Union if it comes to power. – New York Sun 

Around the clock, glowing slabs of steel move from one machine to the next in a Norwegian factory producing artillery shells desperately needed by Ukraine. – Agence France-Presse

Turkish parliament is set to vote on Sweden’s entry into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization this week, bringing the alliance to the cusp of completing its Nordic expansion. – Bloomberg


Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken touched down on a remote African island chain before heading on to the Ivory Coast on Monday, kicking off a four-nation swing through the continent intended to show the Biden administration’s continued interest in Africa amid major conflicts in the Middle East and Europe. – New York Times 

The European Union imposed sanctions Monday on six companies it said are responsible for trying to undermine stability in conflict-ravaged Sudan, largely targeting firms linked to weapons procurement and manufacturing. – Associated Press

The inauguration of Liberia’s new president Joseph Boakai, who succeeds former football star George Weah, was on Monday marked by the 79-year-old leader’s brief spell of exhaustion due to soaring temperatures, his party’s secretary general told AFP. – Agence France-Presse

The United Nations secretary-general, Antonio Guterres, is apparently more concerned about glaciers receding in Switzerland than he is about the tidal wave of famine and death sweeping steadily over Sudan. In his address to the World Economic Forum at Davos last week Mr. Guterres hit out at global warming but reserved fewer than two words for the latest African country to be wracked by chaos. – New York Sun

The Americas

A federal appeals panel in Boston ruled on Monday that a $10 billion lawsuit filed by Mexico against U.S. gun manufacturers whose weapons are used by drug cartels can proceed, reversing a lower court that had dismissed the case. – New York Times 

Colombia has intercepted its first narco-submarine of the year, the navy said Monday, as drug traffickers in the South American country produce record amounts of cocaine destined for Europe and the United States. – Associated Press

Venezuela’s attorney general on Monday said 14 arrest warrants were issued against civilians and former military personnel for allegedly conspiring against the government of President Nicolas Maduro. – Reuters

Brazil is moving ahead with the creation of an international security center in Manaus that will bring together Amazon nations in policing the rainforest, sharing intelligence and chasing criminals, a senior Brazilian police officer said. – Reuters

Ecuador’s police on Monday said they have captured the leader of Colombian armed group Oliver Sinisterra and that Ecuadorean authorities will return him to Colombia. – Reuters

Senior Mexican, U.S. and Guatemalan officials will meet as soon as possible for talks on migration, Mexican Foreign Minister Alicia Barcena said on Monday as she set out plans aimed at reducing pressures on the U.S.-Mexico border. – Reuters

Robert Peters and Maiya Clark write: Since 2010, the United States has been modernizing its nuclear enterprise. It is building a new nuclear-capable bomber, the B-21 Raider, to replace the aging B-2 Stealth bomber; the Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines, to replace the 40-year-old Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines; and the Sentinel intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), meant to replace the Minuteman III ICBMs first fielded in the 1970s. At the same time, various nuclear-capable cruise missiles are also being replaced, along with subordinate command-and-control architectures. – Heritage Foundation

Alex Velez-Green writes: These are impressive accomplishments by any objective measure, and they occurred despite the PLA’s ongoing problems with corruption. Consequently, shocking as these recent revelations are, American policymakers should not bet on corruption to hamstring PLA modernization, nor should they expect corruption or the effects of it to stay Xi’s hand. If they want to avoid war, they must instead take China seriously and prioritize investing in America’s ability to deter this powerful rival. – Defense News


North Korean government hackers focused on gathering strategic intelligence have carried out a series of campaigns against media organizations and high-profile experts in the country’s affairs, while also preparing a campaign likely designed to target cybersecurity researchers, according to a new report from SentinelLabs. – CyberScoop

According to the company’s CEO, Oleh Horokhovskyi, the bank faced its largest attack ever, with 580 million service requests over three days. During DDoS attacks, hackers attempt to disrupt the regular operation of an online service by overwhelming it with a flood of junk internet traffic. – The Record 

Cloud hosting services provider Tietoevry announced that one of its datacenters in Sweden “was partially subject to a ransomware attack” this weekend, affecting numerous customers and forcing stores to close across the country. – The Record


Autonomous weapons are coming. Recent Pentagon breakthroughs in experimental aerial and naval craft are paving the way for low-cost attack drones and new tactics that feature AI in key roles. Navy and Air Force experiments also highlighted how the U.S. military might employ autonomous weapons differently than China or Russia. – Defense One 

Aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) is now operating in U.S. 7th Fleet, USNI News has learned. The carrier chopped into the 7th Fleet area of operations over the weekend, a defense official confirmed to USNI News. – USNI News

Following the first flight of the Air Force’s newest stealth bomber, the Pentagon has formally approved the B-21 Raider program to begin production, the Pentagon’s top acquisition official confirmed to Breaking Defense today. – Breaking Defense