Fdd's overnight brief

May 8, 2024

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News


The Biden administration paused the shipment of thousands of weapons to Israel, including controversial 2,000-pound bombs, amid mounting concern about the country’s plan to expand a military operation in southern Gaza that could dramatically increase the conflict’s death toll, U.S. officials said Tuesday. – Washington Post

The Biden administration put an optimistic face Tuesday on prospects for a cease-fire and hostage release deal between Israel and Hamas, even as Israel began offensive action inside the southern Gaza city of Rafah, closing off all access for humanitarian aid to an area where more than 1 million civilians have crowded to escape Israeli military operations. – Washington Post

A Palestinian doctor at a medical center in Rafah said on Tuesday that 27 bodies had been brought there since the start of Israel’s incursion, in which ground troops entered the southeast corner of Gaza and took control of the Gazan side of a border crossing with Egypt. – New York Times

With its seizure of the Gaza side of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt on Tuesday, Israel has now closed two key crossings for aid into Gaza, drawing sharp warnings from international agencies and officials who said the moves could exacerbate an already dire humanitarian crisis in the enclave. – New York Times

Hamas informed negotiators on Monday that not all of the 33 hostages who would be freed in the first phase of a possible cease-fire deal with Israel are still living and that the remains of those who have died would be among the initial releases, according to two people familiar with the talks. – New York Times

The Israeli military said Wednesday that it has reopened the Kerem Shalom crossing into Gaza, a key terminal for the entry of humanitarian aid that was closed nearly three days earlier after a Hamas rocket attack killed four Israeli soldiers nearby. – Associated Press

Families of hostages held in Gaza have urged the United States and other governments with citizens among the captives to pressure Israel to strike a deal with Hamas for their return. – Times of Israel

Hostage Lior Rudaeff was murdered by Hamas terrorists on October 7 and his body is currently being held in Gaza, the Hostages and Missing Families Forum announced on Tuesday evening.  – Ynet

The White House thinks the Israeli operation to capture the Rafah crossing doesn’t cross President Biden’s “red line” that could lead to a shift in U.S. policy towards the Gaza war, two U.S. officials told Axios. – Axios

Editorial: Victory over Hamas is necessary for Israel’s security and the restoration of its effective deterrence in the Middle East. Present chaos aside, the Abraham Accords and moves toward a Saudi-Israeli normalization agreement indicate the broadly shared interest of a more peaceful, prosperous future that moves beyond today’s hatreds and ideological fanaticism. – Washington Examiner 

Marc Champion writes: The right kind of cease-fire would trade exile of the Hamas leaders responsible for Oct. 7’s atrocities for Israel’s permanent withdrawal from Gaza and acceptance that there must be a wider political settlement. If Yahya Sinwar and other Hamas commanders truly cared about Palestinian lives, they’d say “yes.” – Bloomberg

Yevgen Korniychuk writes: May the friendly relationship between the Israeli people and Ukraine continue to exist, and serve as a beacon of hope and inspiration for all who cherish the values of freedom and justice. How long will we continue to bury our children, women and men? We must put an end to the axis of evil. We must unite against terrorism. – Jerusalem Post

Shoshana Bryen writes: President Biden has been rhetorically good on Israel’s security requirements since October 7, and the coordination of Israel’s defense against Iranian attack was excellent. But his undermining of Israel’s decisionmaking is a mockery of the “mourning” on Yom HaShoah. – Newsweek

Douglas Albatef writes: Again and again, they have seen the ability of Jews to defend themselves as the greatest redemptive gift. They exhorted us to maintain unity and understand that with God’s help and both unity and resolve we will prevail. Their perspective is vital, reaching back through time and circumstance, recognizing that with the strength that is within us, we can truly say: “Never again.” – Arutz Sheva

Naveh Dromi writes: We need to continue to fight, also in Rafah, for the hostages, living and dead, and for the safety of all Israeli citizens, especially those who will return to live in the communities near the Gaza border. The threat of kidnapping needs to be removed from the toolbox of the terrorist organizations once and for all, and the way to get there is by turning over every stone in Rafah until all the terrorists are eliminated and until Hamas military power is completely dismantled. – Ynet

Anshel Pfeffer writes: If Netanyahu ends the talks, whether because he and the war cabinet reach the conclusion that Hamas’ demands cannot be met or because he fears losing his coalition, or both, the next step will have to be expanding the campaign in Rafah to the city itself. This is where Israel may finally cross the Biden administration’s red line. – Haaretz

Chuck Freilich writes: Finally, Israel is unlikely to ever again have as good a friend in the White House as Biden, who defines himself as a Zionist and might wish to crown his pro-Israel career by ensuring its long-term robustness, by concluding a defense treaty. Given both long-term socio-political trends in America,, as well as ongoing tensions over various issues, Biden may be the last president open to such an arrangement. A bilateral defense treaty, normalization, and a new regional security architecture, would be the ultimate victory over Hamas and Iran. They are ideas whose time has come. – Haaretz 


Iran and the U.N. nuclear watchdog will continue talks aimed at ending an impasse on many issues between them and should strike a deal on a package of measures “soon”, the watchdog’s chief Rafael Grossi said on Tuesday as he returned from an Iran trip. – Reuters

The extent of Iranian involvement in Hamas’s decision to initiate the massacre on October 7 has not yet been fully disclosed – and according to various sources in the Arab media and the Iranian opposition, it is possible that the connection between the Revolutionary Guards and Hamas was even deeper and wider. – Jerusalem Post

Josh Rogin writes: Malley has critics in Congress who see him as too cozy with the Iranian regime and its allies. Lawmakers and the public have a right to know the details of any alleged transgressions. But Malley also has a right to know his fate, one way or the other. And the administration should have its top Iran envoy either cleared or charged, so it can effectively manage this crucial foreign policy challenge. – Washington Post

Karim Sadjadpour writes: The dream of Iran’s Islamist leaders, on the other hand, is to end Israel’s existence. Israel’s conflict with Iran has been a war of necessity, but Iran’s conflict with Israel has been a war of choice. It won’t be over until Iran has leaders who put Iranians’ interests over Israel’s destruction. – New York Times

Richard Miniter writes: It could also open a non-military international relief center near Port Sudan and distribute food and medicine to non-combatants by helicopter, as the Reagan Administration once did. It could step up counter-terrorist cooperation across the region to capture Iran’s military trainers and drone parts deliveries. Finally, Biden could direct the navy to sink Iran’s spy ship, which relays targeting information on American and allied shipping in the Red Sea. Iran set a trap for Israel and America. When its jaws clamp shut, who will voters and allies blame? – The National Interest

Russia & Ukraine

Ukrainian authorities said Tuesday that they have arrested two officers in the agency responsible for protecting senior government leaders and accused them of developing a plot to assassinate President Volodymyr Zelensky and other top Ukrainian officials — as a “gift” to Russian President Vladimir Putin for his inauguration. – Washington Post

In the gilded Andreyevsky Hall of the Grand Kremlin Palace where Russian czars were once crowned, Vladimir Putin on Tuesday swore the oath of allegiance on Russia’s constitution at his inauguration for a fifth term as president. The traditional pomp and ceremony conveyed his might as Russia’s supreme, uncontested leader for the past quarter-century. – Washington Post

Russian missiles and drones struck nearly a dozen Ukrainian critical infrastructure facilities in a major airstrike early on Wednesday, causing serious damage at three Soviet-era thermal power plants, Kyiv officials said. – Reuters

Russian prosecutors said on Tuesday they had designated U.S. non-profit group Freedom House as an “undesirable” organisation in Russia. – Reuters

Russia and Ukraine have accused each other at the global chemical weapons watchdog in The Hague of using banned toxins on the battlefield, the organisation said on Tuesday. – Reuters

Rumbling out of its forest hideout, the hulking German-supplied howitzer has only a few minutes to fire before slipping back under cover to evade Russian surveillance in the skies above. – Reuters

In Prime Minister Meloni, President Zelensky has one of his best friends in Europe. It is a complicated continent, though, and not even Italy has a lock on a uniform position to stake out with respect to a war increasingly seen as moving along two tracks. The first is stalemate and a certain ennui that comes with it; the second is global stakes in the conflict that are only getting higher. – New York Sun

Garry Kasparov writes: A war can’t be won by following the rules set in peacetime. The only way to win this long war is through regime change in Moscow and Tehran. Such change will be brought closer by isolating Russia and Iran politically and economically and by halting their foreign aggression. – Wall Street Journal

Andrew C. Kuchins and Chris Monday write: That is deeply suboptimal for Russia’s future, nor is it in the interests of Europe or the United States—or even China and India as they draw benefits from this in the short term. However, as long as Russia is on a war footing and Vladimir Putin is the leader, this is not likely to change. Bringing more balance back to Russia’s geopolitical position will be the task for future leadership. – The National Interest

Kseniya Kirillova writes: Putin’s Russia has become a fully-fledged criminal state, where wrongdoers receive state-sanctioned immunity. For the ordinary citizen, seeking to ignore the war and continue their daily lives, it is becoming increasingly difficult to turn away from the consequences. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Middle East & North Africa

Tunisia’s public prosecutor on Tuesday detained Saadia Mosbah, a prominent activist and head of a nongovernmental group that defends the rights of migrants, human rights groups said, hours after President Kais Saied accused some groups that defend Sub-Saharan migrants of treason. – Reuters

A previously unknown terrorist organization claimed to have murdered a Jewish businessman with Israeli, Ukrainian, and  Canadian citizenship in Egypt on Tuesday in revenge for Israeli military action in Gaza and because of claims he was a Mossad agent. – Jerusalem Post

An alleged airstrike on an emergency relief center in south Lebanon, in March 2024, was made using US-manufactured weaponry, according to a Tuesday release from the organization Human Rights Watch (HRW.) – Jerusalem Post

Northern Israel was targeted multiple times from Lebanon on Tuesday with rockets and “suspicious aerial targets” — believed to be explosive-laden drones launched by Hezbollah — setting off numerous sirens in the Galilee Panhandle. – Times of Israel

Egypt does not intend to create a crisis in its relations with Israel over the occupation of the Rafah crossing on Tuesday night by IDF forces. – Arutz Sheva

Korean Peninsula

Kim Ki Nam, a North Korean propaganda chief who helped build personality cults around the country’s three dynastic leaders, has died at 94, the North’s state media said. – Associated Press

Several structures have been demolished at one of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s luxurious residences, new satellite images reveal. – Newsweek

Ukrainian state prosecutors say they have examined debris from 21 of around 50 North Korean ballistic missiles launched by Russia between late December and late February, as they seek to assess the threat from Moscow’s cooperation with Pyongyang. – Reuters


Taiwan’s military is prepared for any moves China may make around the time President-elect Lai Ching-te takes office later this month, the island’s deputy defence minister said on Wednesday. – Reuters

Chinese President Xi Jinping left France on Tuesday after a two-day trip during which he offered no major concessions on trade or foreign policy, even as President Emmanuel Macron pressed him on market access and Ukraine. – Reuters

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Tuesday called on China to play a bigger role in helping poor countries with their debt burdens and said that he raised the issue with Chinese President Xi Jinping during his recent trip to Beijing. – Reuters

A Chinese court sentenced the former head of one of the country’s three major state-owned phone carriers to 16 years in prison Tuesday on charges of accepting bribes and abusing his authority, part of leader Xi Jinping’s politically-tinged anti-corruption campaign. – Associated Press

President Xi Jinping lauded his nation’s ties with Eastern Europe as a boon for the world’s No. 2 economy as he arrived in Belgrade on a trip designed to promote China’s potential as a trade partner – Bloomberg

A Hong Kong court allowed the government to ban a popular protest song when used with criminal intent, a move likely to fan fears about diminished free speech in the city. – Bloomberg

Lionel Laurent writes: In China, no doubt, the trip will be hailed as a success whatever happens. For Europe, the message should be to plan for the worst in a more dangerous geopolitical environment, especially as accusations of Chinese cyberattacks and espionage rise — a German parliamentary aide was recently arrested on charges of spying for China. – Bloomberg

Ariel Cohen and Wesley Hill write: Taipei and Washington must act fast. Large-scale shifts in military strategy take years to implement, and this prescribed approach will be no different. Often, wars are won years in advance through the right procurement strategy. America’s spectacular victories in World War II, which were based on massive naval and air fleets, are the best testimony to this. Russia and China are explicit about their intentions. The clock is ticking. – Newsweek

Emily Kilcrease writes: War with China would be an economic catastrophe. Sanctions can help avoid it, but only if the United States plays its modest hand well. A better sanctions strategy is essential to this effort, and so, too, is ratcheting up pressure on Russia. If the United States and its partners cannot effectively isolate Russia from the global economy, then there is little hope that they would fare better against the far greater challenge of China. – Foreign Affairs

South Asia

The Taliban defence ministry on Wednesday rejected Pakistan’s allegations that Afghans were involved in an attack on Chinese engineers, as ties between the neighbouring nations sour amidst rising insecurity. – Reuters 

The Afghan Taliban said on Tuesday they have quelled protests in a northern province over security forces’ attempts to eradicate opium poppy cultivation which generates income for many impoverished farmers. – Reuters

Andy Mukherjee writes: Even as a pliant Election Commission looks the other way, Modi must weigh the consequences of his dog whistles. The Indian prime minister’s desperation for a third term is putting a target on the back of a vulnerable minority — and placing millions of lives at risk. – Bloomberg


Japan has described as “regrettable” U.S. President Joe Biden’s comment that “xenophobia” is stifling the Asian nation’s economic growth, the top government spokesperson said on Tuesday. – Reuters

Tensions around Georgia’s controversial draft “foreign agents” law could hit the country’s economy and investor confidence, the president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) warned on Tuesday. – Reuters

Germany sent two warships to the Indo-Pacific region on Tuesday in a bid to strengthen its military presence in the region amid rising tensions between China and Taiwan and over the disputed South China Sea. – Reuters

U.S. President Joe Biden’s bid to draw Vietnam closer as a strategic ally will clash head-on with his desire for union workers’ votes on Wednesday as the Commerce Department hears testimony on whether to designate Vietnam as a “market economy”. – Reuters

Cambodia’s former Prime Minister Hun Sen asked Myanmar’s ruling general on Tuesday to allow him to speak to detained Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi on a video call, a request he said the junta chief would consider. – Reuters

Military force from the United States, Australian and the Philippines launched a barrage of high-precision rockets, artillery fire and airstrikes to sink a ship Wednesday as part of largescale war drills in waters facing the disputed South China Sea that have antagonized Beijing. – Associated Press

Brunei has purchased six H145M helicopters from Airbus Helicopters as the Southeast Asian nation recapitalizes its fleet for close air support, surveillance and other operations. – Defense News

Editorial: The Georgian Dream and its allies likely have the votes to pass the foreign-agent legislation and override a veto. But the police response has galvanized protesters. Georgians understand that this is how Putinism spreads, insidiously and in stages, as challengers to the ruling party are stigmatized, prosecuted and harassed as foreign agents. – Wall Street Journal


Italy said on Tuesday that planes used by charities to track migrant boats in difficulty would no longer be able to fly from airports on the islands of Sicily, Pantelleria and Lampedusa that are close to the shipping routes. – Reuters 

German prosecutors ordered a search of the Brussels offices of a member of the European Parliament for the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) on Tuesday after an aide was arrested in Germany last month on suspicion of espionage for China. – Reuters

Moldova will not obstruct the supply of Russian gas to its breakaway Transdniestria region after a transit deal with Ukraine expires this year, the Moldovan energy minister said on Tuesday. – Reuters

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said on Tuesday that in order for Europe to avoid conflicts and be safe it must increase its defence capabilities, and he repeated his call for the construction of a common European air defence system – Reuters

Poland’s first nuclear plan is realistically seen starting operations in 2040, several years later than planned by the previous government, Industry Minister Marzena Czarnecka said on Tuesday. – Reuters

Belarus on Tuesday launched drills involving missiles and warplanes capable of carrying tactical nuclear weapons, which close ally Russia has deployed there amid tensions with the West over Ukraine. – Associated Press

Italy’s president told the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine can’t be solved by rewarding its aggression and peace can only come when Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity are restored. – Associated Press

EU countries approved a plan worth 6 billion euros ($6.45 billion) to support Western Balkan states on Tuesday aimed at accelerating reforms and economic growth in the region, as they seek future membership in the bloc. – Associated Press

Finland’s decision to store some military equipment in Norway, and later in Sweden, has been long in the making, but gained urgency after Russia’s long-range demonstrations in Ukraine and was sped up further still by the Nordic nation’s recent entry into NATO, according to Finnish officials. – Breaking Defense 

Gustav Meibauer and Christopher David LaRoche write: They are right in one key way, though: Berlin now faces an opportunity to reimagine its national security. Should Germany’s leaders be willing to grasp it — and mounting evidence indicates they may not — we implore them to weigh dearly whether the high costs of a nuclear program are worth its supposed benefits. The atomic option may seem a seductive, because straightforward, way ahead. But Germany may be better served if its elites focus on reforming its conventional security strategy, not wishfully thinking about quick fixes and superweapon dreams. – War on the Rocks


South Africa’s election on May 29 could bring momentous change, with polls suggesting the ruling African National Congress is likely to lose its majority after 30 years in power. – Reuters

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Tuesday that the island state of Cape Verde had become the first African country to agree to attend a world “peace summit” aimed at finding a solution to Ukraine’s more than two-year-old war against Russia. – Reuters

Eighteen people were killed and 32 wounded on Friday when at least five rockets fell on camps sheltering displaced people around the eastern Congolese city of Goma, the U.N. humanitarian agency OCHA said, updating an earlier death toll of 12. – Reuters

Ghana’s Supreme Court will on Wednesday start hearing a case that has the potential to both threaten the West African country’s $20 billion debt restructuring and test the World Bank’s commitment to support LGBTQ rights. – Bloomberg

Hussein Solomon writes: Whatever the motivation behind South Africa’s charging Israel with genocide, we can state two things categorically. First, it is not in the country’s national interests. Second, human rights considerations were not what motivated the ANC to rush off to The Hague. – Jerusalem Post

Mariam Ogboye writes: Dispute resolution mechanisms would need to be more robust and resilient to help member states overcome acrimonious relations. The EAC will also have to delicately straddle adhering to shared principles and respecting sovereignty, which each member state partially surrenders as they uphold collective values. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

The Americas

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken met with senior Latin American officials in Guatemala on Tuesday as part of the Biden administration’s push to get countries in the region to ramp up enforcement of their borders and expand legal ways to migrate. – New York Times

U.S. military planes filled with civilian contractors and supplies have begun landing in Haiti, paving the way for a seven-nation security mission, led by Kenya, to deploy to the troubled Caribbean nation in the coming weeks, American officials say. – New York Times

The Chinese state-owned company at the center of a dispute over operations of a megaport it is building on Peru’s Pacific coast insisted on Tuesday on terms agreed with the government, as some local officials have sought to backtrack on the deal. – Reuters

The three men accused of murdering Canadian Sikh leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar last year in a killing that triggered a diplomatic crisis between Canada and India appeared briefly in a British Columbia courtroom on Tuesday. – Reuters

Persistent Chinese election meddling has the potential to undermine Canadian democracy, Canada’s main spy agency said on Tuesday in the latest official warning about clandestine activity by Beijing. – Reuters 

United States

The Biden administration has repatriated a family of 10 American citizens who had been stranded for years in desert camps and detention centers in Syria run by a Kurdish-led militia that battled the Islamic State, according to officials. – New York Times

The time had come to take a stand, and so President Biden gripped both sides of his lectern and made an urgent vow to the marbled atrium filled with Holocaust survivors and their descendants. – Wall Street Journal

Two influential Republican U.S. lawmakers have urged President Joe Biden to prevent a French company from working on civil nuclear power projects with Russia’s state-owned nuclear company Rosatom, saying doing otherwise would help fund Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine. – Reuters

The US military has completed construction of the Gaza aid pier, but weather conditions mean it is currently unsafe to move the two-part facility into place, the Pentagon said on Tuesday. – Agence France- Presse

Two Republican lawmakers said they believe the security clearance of Rob Malley, who is on unpaid leave from his post as US special envoy for Iran, was suspended because he allegedly sent classified documents to his personal email account and downloaded them to his personal mobile phone. – Times of Israel

The Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF), a major American foundation that contributes to many pro-Palestinian causes, gave grants to organizations which funnel money and support to terrorist groups, and continued to do so after being told about the NGOs’ activities, The Jerusalem Post has learned. – Jerusalem Post

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., is demanding answers from Attorney General Merrick Garland about which left-wing groups are funding anti-Israel demonstrations causing “chaos” across campuses nationwide. – Fox News

Bret Stephens writes: Supporting a two-state solution would be one such way. Insisting that Palestinians deserve better leaders than Hamas is another. Building bridges with Israelis is a third. Instead, without knowing it, you are my daily reminder of what my Zionism is for, about and against. For that, if nothing else, thank you. – New York Times



The personal information of British army, navy and air force members has been hacked in a significant data breach, raising alarm over a growing threat from cyberattacks by hostile states, Britain’s defense secretary said on Tuesday. – New York Times

TikTok’s new lawsuit to block a U.S. law forcing the social media company’s Chinese parent to divest it or be banned could spark a landmark clash over free speech, government power and the balance between open commerce and national security, experts told Reuters. – Reuters

Britain, the U.S. and Australia have sanctioned and unmasked a senior Russian leader of the notorious cybercrime gang LockBit, the British government said on Tuesday. – Reuters

The United States announced cyber-related sanctions on Russian national Dmitriy Yurevich Khoroshev on Tuesday, who it described as a senior leader of the LockBit ransomware group. – Reuters

Our era of fast technological change is enabling “a bit of a special ops renaissance,” in which technologies such as distributed AI and autonomy can give smaller teams an edge against larger adversaries, the head of U.S. Special Operations Command said Tuesday. – Defense One

The government of China’s objective in deploying Volt Typhoon hackers to break into U.S. critical infrastructure is to “cause disruption and sow societal panic,” a senior cybersecurity official said Tuesday. – The Record

Microsoft has deployed the GPT-4 large language model in an isolated, air-gapped Azure Government Top Secret cloud for use by the Department of Defense, the company announced Tuesday. – DefenseScoop


Teledyne FLIR Defense plans to provide more than 100 of its Rogue 1 attack drone, capable of targeting infantry and armored vehicles, to the U.S. Marine Corps this year. – Defense News

Overly restrictive handling of U.S. intelligence and battlefield insights that boxes out allied forces is a failing move, according to the leader of Space Operations Command. – Defense News

U.S. Cyber Command wants to increase the complexity of simulations and actors within its premier training platform, integrating more multidomain scenarios into practice as malicious cyber activity grows more sophisticated and cybersecurity becomes more ingrained in military planning. – DefenseScoop

Peter Suciu writes: Swarms of small sea drones might also shield valuable crewed assets including aircraft carriers and submarines. In turn, they could strike troop-carrying ships from China if it tries to invade Taiwan, Bryan Clark, an advisor to the Navy on autonomous craft and a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, explained to Reuters. The age of the sea drone has arrived. The United States cannot afford to fall behind. Just as combat aircraft ended the battleship’s dominance, so UUVs could humble the aircraft carrier. – The National Interest