Israel-Gaza Situation Report: Biden-Netanyahu Friction Increasing

Despite ongoing U.S. support for Israel’s war against Hamas, there is increasing tension between the leaders of the two nations over how it is being conducted and the post-conflict future.

President Joe Biden said Tuesday Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu needs to change his hardline government and warned support for the country’s military campaign is waning amid heavy bombardment of Gaza. Netanyahu meanwhile, thanked the U.S. for its support but said that he does not back Biden’s call for the Palestinian Authority to run Gaza after the war.

Speaking to Democratic donors in Washington, Biden said Netanyahu had a “tough decision to make” CNN reported.

“This is the most conservative government in Israel’s history,” Biden said, adding that the Israeli government “doesn’t want a two-state solution.”

Biden said Israel was beginning to lose support around the world, and argued Netanyahu “has to strengthen and change” the Israeli government to find an eventual long-term solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The remarks – delivered at an off-camera fundraiser, a venue in which the president has been more freewheeling than his usual White House appearances – amounted to some of Biden’s most candid to date about the war.

Netanyahu said he would block the Biden administration’s postwar plan to have the Palestinian Authority take over Gaza, The Wall Street Journal reported. That marks the sharpest sign of Israeli pushback against the U.S. blueprint for administering the enclave after the war.

“After the great sacrifice of our civilians and our soldiers, I will not allow the entry into Gaza of those who educate for terrorism, support terrorism and finance terrorism,” Netanyahu said, referring to the Palestinian Authority, which currently oversees parts of the West Bank, in a statement Tuesday.

“I will not allow Israel to repeat the mistake of Oslo,” he added, referring to the 1993 agreement that established the Palestinian Authority and which Netanyahu has long criticized.

Gaza will neither be Hamastan nor Fatahstan,” he added, referring to Hamas, whose attack on southern Israel launched the war, and to Fatah, the Palestinian faction that controls the Palestinian Authority.

Biden on Monday alluded to differences he has with Netanyahu.

Biden, speaking at a White House Hannukah reception, recalled his decades-long relationship with Netanyahu and noted he made an inscription on an old photograph of the two men.

​​”I wrote on the top of it, ‘Bibi I love you but I don’t agree with a damn thing you had to say.'”

“It’s about the same today,” Biden said, to scattered applause from the largely Jewish audience, adding that Israel is in a “tough spot” and that “I’ve had my differences with some Israeli leadership.”

He did not elaborate on what differences between the two men remained, though in recent weeks they have included issues spanning the current war against Hamas and treatment of Palestinians.

Biden also told those gathered that he was a Zionist.

In a further blow to Biden’s vision for a two-state solution, Netanyahu also intimated that Israel is preparing for the possibility of war with the Palestinian Authority forces. That’s according “This Morning,” an Israeli radio show on the KAN Reshet B channel

The radio show reported that “in a closed discussion with the prime minister that took place during the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Netanyahu was asked by Knesset members about the possibility of a ‘turning of the tables’ scenario.” That’s a situation in which PA forces turn their weapons against the IDF in the West Bank as part of a cooperation between Hamas and the PA. 

According to that show, Netanyahu replied: “The turning of the tables scenario is known to us and it is under consideration. We are discussing it. And we want to reach a situation where, should such an event occur, then within a few minutes there would be helicopters in the air responding to such an event.” 

In the wake of Netanyahu’s comments, Hamas on Tuesday called for the Palestinian Authority (PA) to cut off ties with Israel and join its fight.

“We call on the Palestinian Authority and its security services to transcend the effects of the Oslo Accords, stop all forms of security coordination with the occupation, and move to the square of comprehensive resistance and mobilize all energies to confront the occupation and its herds of settlers until the land and holy sites are liberated, and realize the aspirations of our people by wresting our full national rights from an occupation that only understands the language of force,” Hamas said Tuesday on Telegram.

Amid the political tensions, the fighting continues.

Strikes overnight and into Tuesday in southern Gaza — in an area where civilians have been told to seek shelter — killed at least 23 people, including seven children and six women, The Associated Press reported, citing hospital records and an Associated Press reporter who saw the bodies arrive at a hospital.

A video emerged on social media highlighting the destruction caused by Israeli attacks in Khan Yunis, southern Gaza’s largest city. It shows widespread damage to buildings and debris-littered streets.

There was also new video of IDF troops in action, patrolling streets in Gaza, bulldozers clearing a path and firing at Hamas fighters.

Israeli forces stormed the Kamal Adwan Hospital in northern Gaza ordering all men, including medics, into the courtyard, said Ashraf al-Qidra, spokesman for the Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza.

The U.N. humanitarian office said the hospital has 65 patients, including 12 children in intensive care and six newborns in incubators, according to The Associated Press. Some 3,000 displaced people are sheltering there, it said, all awaiting evacuation because of severe shortages of food, water and electricity.

The Israeli Navy said it has prevented “several” Hamas uncrewed undersea vessel (UUV) attacks.

The Israeli Navy did not provide details about how many, where or over what period of time, but it said that working with “operational headquarters, intelligence division, and other operational and technological units, along with combat forces on the ground,” it “successfully thwarted several unmanned underwater vessels, intended to attack Israel’s strategic maritime assets and coastlines.”

The IDF included a photo of one of the UUVs it said it captured.

The Israeli Navy also said its fleet of four new Sa’ar 6-class corvettes is fully operational and that for the first time, a Sa’ar 6 sailed to the Red Sea.

Described as Israel’s most capable warship, you can read more about what the Sa’ar 6 brings to the table in our report here.

The Palestinians are hoping that a vote Tuesday in the U.N. General Assembly on a nonbinding resolution demanding an immediate humanitarian cease-fire will demonstrate widespread global support for ending the war.

After the United States vetoed a Security Council resolution on Friday demanding a humanitarian cease-fire, Arab and Islamic nations called for an emergency session of the 193-member General Assembly on Tuesday afternoon to vote on a resolution making the same demand, according to The Associated Press.

Unlike Security Council resolutions, General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding. But as U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said Monday, the assembly’s messages “are also very important” and reflect world opinion.

Israel says Hamas killed 1,200 people and took 240 people hostage. Gaza’s health ministry says 18,205 Palestinians have been killed and nearly 50,000 wounded. The War Zone cannot independently verify casualty figures presented by either side.

Most of the 2.3 million people in Gaza have been driven from their homes and the United Nations has given dire warnings about the humanitarian situation in the coastal enclave, saying that hundreds of thousands of people are starving, Reuters reported.

Reports have emerged about secret negotiations over a hostage exchange between Israel and Hamas.

Qatar and Israel are holding secret talks in one of the European capitals regarding a potential hostage exchange, as reported on Monday on the Saudi Arabian website Elaph.

A senior diplomatic source revealed that the deal is expected to include children, women, and men, including three senior IDF officers who were captured by Hamas. 

The Saudi report states that Israel has committed to release around 300 Palestinian prisoners in exchange, in addition to ten veteran prisoners serving long sentences, including Marwan Barghouti, the leader of the Fatah movement.

In a Twitter thread, Axios reporter Barak Ravid said that Qatari officials reached out to Israel over the weekend in an effort to resume negotiations that broke down Dec. 1. That ended a seven-day ceasefire.

Israel, under U.S. pressure, reversed its decision and is allowing Palestinian Americans who live in the occupied West Bank to enter its territory for the first time since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack, Axios reported.

Shortly after the Oct. 7 attack, the Israeli government imposed a closure of the West Bank for security reasons and barred entry for Palestinians who live there, including more than 100,000 Palestinian workers who previously entered Israel every day. However, two U.S. and Israeli officials said the Biden administration told the Israeli government that if the issue wasn’t resolved this week it could lead to a suspension of Israel’s membership in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program, which allows a country’s citizens to travel to the U.S. for 90 days without first obtaining a visa.

Video has emerged showing the IDF blowing up a United Nation Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) school in Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza.

The military says it was used as a Hamas outpost, with a tunnel network underneath. As the building exploded, cheers can be heard cheering in the background. Al Jazeera reported that it was the latest incident of Israel targeting UN schools and buildings sheltering thousands of Palestinians.

The IDF Operations Directorate’s Influencing Department operates a Telegram channel called 72 Virgins – Uncensored, which targets Israeli audiences and shows the bodies of Hamas terrorists with the promise of “shattering the terrorists’ fantasy,” Haaretz reported.

The department is responsible for psychological warfare operations against the enemy and foreign audiences, according to the publication.

The channel, which boasts of “exclusive content from the Gaza Strip” and has published over 700 posts, images and videos of terrorists being killed and of destruction in the Strip, encourages its 5,300 followers to share the content so that “everyone can see that we’re screwing them.”

The Israel Defense Forces denies that it operates the channel, but a senior military official confirmed to Haaretz that the army is responsible for operating it. 

“There is no reason for the IDF to conduct influence campaigns on Israeli citizens of Israel,” said the official, who requested anonymity. “The messages there are problematic. It doesn’t look like an awareness campaign of an army like the IDF, but more like talking points for [far-right rapper] The Shadow, and the fact that soldiers operate such a problematic page is egregious,” he said.

The number of Israeli troops killed during the ground invasion rose to over 100 after fierce battles in southern Gaza. 

During one battle, “an explosive device was detonated at the forces and terrorists were identified in the area. The troops responded with live fire, directed aircraft and tanks, initiated contact, killed the terrorists, and struck the terror infrastructure in the area,” the IDF reported. However, five Israeli troops were killed in that incident. Another four soldiers were wounded, including one in serious condition. Along with another soldier killed in southern Gaza, that brings the toll of slain troops in the ground offensive against Hamas to 104, according to IDF figures.

Discrepancies arose as the numbers of wounded Israeli soldiers reported by the Israeli army were found to be significantly lower than figures reported by Israeli hospitals, Haaretz reported.

In its first information about the number of wounded, the Israeli army said on Sunday that 1,593 soldiers have been wounded so far in the Israel-Gaza war. This figure includes soldiers injured in Hamas’ deadly surprise attack on October 7. However, when compared with information released by Israeli hospitals, the number of wounded soldiers is significantly higher than the figure provided by the military.

The Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon alone reports treating 1,949 soldiers during the war – a figure that is higher than the IDF’s total number of injured soldiers. The total number of wounded soldiers reportedly admitted to all Israeli hospitals exceeds 4,500.

The dramatic divergence between the army and the hospitals’ numbers may be partially attributed to several factors, Haaretz reported. Some soldiers might have been registered as wounded in two hospitals after they were transferred from one hospital to another.

In some cases, it is possible that a soldier was hospitalized due to medical circumstances unrelated to the war. However, most hospitals have a specific section dedicated to patients wounded in the war and maintain a separate registration system.

Though Israel is deep into a push south, fighting is still taking place in the northern portion of the enclave.

In this video below, an IDF soldier is seen killing two Hamas fighters during a close-quarters battle in the Shejaia neighborhood even after he was wounded by a grenade.

In the Jabalya neighborhood, the IDF said its soldiers on Monday located explosive devices, AK-47 rifles, and an RPG which were hidden inside UNRWA-labeled bags inside a civilian residence. A truck containing long-distance rockets was also found near a school in the area. 

In the process of cleaning an area in Jabalya “from the danger of tunnel shafts and explosive devices, IDF troops located a lathe used for weapons production, as well as a Hamas launch site containing approximately 50 projectiles, some of which were loaded and ready to fire,” the IDF said. 

The fighting in that neighborhood remains fierce as you can see in this video below.

Israeli Military Police on Tuesday opened an investigation on suspicion of illegal shooting in the West Bank of a 25-year-old Palestinian man who was recorded in a video being shot by IDF troops after already being wounded, Haaretz reported Tuesday.

“Once the investigation is concluded, the findings will be submitted to the IDF legal adviser for examination.”

Hamas said the IDF killed a wounded Rami Al-Aboushi during an incident in the Al-Fara’a refugee camp, in the West Bank city of Tubas.

Al-Aboushi was shot without posing any threat, Hamas claimed on Telegram.

“It is a cold-blooded, sadistic execution that comes as part of a systematic policy followed by the terrorist government in Tel Aviv, and it takes place in audio and video, in front of the world, without any deterrent from the international community or international judicial institutions.”

The IDF said that more than 500 Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists were apprehended over the past month and transferred for further questioning by the ISA and Unit 504.

“Since the end of the operational pause, the IDF and ISA apprehended approximately 140 Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists in the Gaza Strip,” according to the IDF. “The operatives were detained in recent days by IDF soldiers. Some voluntarily turned themselves in and were transferred by field interrogators from Unit 504 in the Intelligence Directorate and the ISA for further questioning.”

Some of the Palestinian operatives were apprehended while hiding inside civilian buildings, schools, and shelters, the IDF claimed. The investigations yielded intelligence that assisted in locating additional terrorist operatives, as well as the security of IDF troops. The War Zone could not independently verify these claims.

Many of those surrendering to the IDF were involved in the October 7 massacre, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant stated on Monday evening during a televised address. 

“Hamas is on the verge of dissolution, the IDF is taking over its last strongholds,” Gallant said.

He added that Israel has no intention to maintain a permanent presence in the Gaza Strip

Of the hundreds of Palestinian detainees photographed handcuffed in the Gaza Strip in recent days, about 10 to 15 percent are Hamas operatives or are identified with the organization. That’s according to senior security officials who spoke to Haaretz Sunday. The IDF reported that the Palestinians who are not Hamas operatives that were arrested have been released. 

The intensity of urban warfare inside Gaza was captured in a video released by the IDF which show them engaging Hamas with M203 grenade launchers and a Matador man portable anti-armor and anti-bunker weapon, among other arms.

Israel said it is increasing the speed at which humanitarian aid bound for Gaza is being screened by conducting the inspections at the Nitzana and Kerem Shalom crossings. Still, the IDF emphasized “that no supplies will be entering Gaza from Israel, but rather all aid will enter through the Rafah Crossing.”

Hamas continued to launch rocket attacks on Israel on Monday, including once again in and around Tel Aviv.

Israel used U.S.-supplied white phosphorus munitions in an October attack in southern Lebanon that injured at least nine civilians according to a Washington Post analysis of shell fragments found in a small village. A journalist working for The Post found remnants of three 155-millimeter artillery rounds fired into Dheira, near the border of Israel. The shells incinerated at least four homes, residents said. The rounds, which eject felt wedges saturated with white phosphorous that burns at high temperatures, produce billowing smoke to obscure troop movements as it falls haphazardly over a wide area.

As we reported in a previous allegation of the Israeli use of white phosphorous: 

“White phosphorus is not a chemical weapon, as sometimes described, since it is primarily an incendiary weapon, although it’s also regularly used for making smokescreens and for target marking. Burning at around 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit, white phosphorus can obviously inflict terrible injuries and its use in densely populated violates international law.”

Of the nine injured in Israel’s attack on Dheira, at least three were hospitalized, one for days, the Post reported. Amnesty International says the incident should be investigated as a war crime.

Following publication of the Post story, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Monday the administration is “concerned” about the use of white phosphorous munitions and that they would be “asking questions to try to learn a bit more.”

“I can tell you we have not provided white phosphorous rounds to Israel since October 7th,” Air Force Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon’s top spokesman, told reporters Monday morning. “I can’t verify whether or not the rounds identified in this story were provided by the United States. Again, when it comes to our relationship with Israel, we’ll continue to communicate to them the importance of mitigating civilian harm.”

The fighting, meanwhile, continues along the Lebanese border, with the IDF saying it struck targets in Lebanon on Tuesday after taking fire.

Following the sirens that sounded Tuesday in Bar’am, a number of anti-tank missile and mortar shell launches were identified toward the area and the IDF artillery said it struck the sources of the fire in Lebanon. In addition, a number of launches were identified toward IDF posts along the northern border and an IDF fighter and tanks struck a Hezbollah launch post with weapons and terrorist infrastructure.

That followed attacks Sunday night by Hezbollah, which “launched several rockets toward the State of Israel,” according to the IDF. “One of the rockets was launched from 20 meters away from a United Nations compound in southern Lebanon. In recent days, additional launches have been made from the area toward the State of Israel.”

This is an ongoing practice that endangers the lives of UN soldiers and continues to systematically violate UNSC Resolution 1701.

Lebanese authorities say two houses were bombed Monday but there were no injuries.

IDF Northern Command chief Maj.-Gen. Uri Gordin is spearheading a new approach to targeting terrorist compounds that serve as launch points for Hezbollah attacks on Israel, the Jerusalem Post reported. Through “meticulous intelligence gathering, the IDF identifies these areas and systematically launches accurate attacks on the infrastructure that the Shi’ite terrorist organization has built over the years,” according to the publication. 

Notably, two specific locations, Kunin and Aita al-Shayib, situated about a kilometer north of the Lebanese border near Shtula, were targeted based on intelligence from the Intelligence Division and Northern Command.

Senior Hezbollah politician Hassan Fadlallah, in a statement to Reuters on Sunday, said Israeli air strikes were a “new escalation” to which the group was responding with new types of attacks, be it “in the nature of the weapons (used) or the targeted sites.”

Israel warned on Monday that skirmishes along the Lebanese border could not continue unchallenged.

Benny Gantz, a member of Israel’s War Cabinet and a former military chief of staff, told the U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken that the attacks by the Hezbollah militia from Lebanon required a response.

“Heightened aggression and increased attacks by Iranian-backed Hezbollah on Israel demand of Israel to remove such a threat from the civilian population of northern Israel,” Gantz said in a phone call, according to a statement from his office.

That echoed remarks made a day earlier by the current chief of staff of Israel’s military, Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, who said on a visit to soldiers on the border with Lebanon that continued violence by the militia risked pushing his forces to make “very clear change” in the confrontation and “return both safety and a sense of security.”

The general did not indicate how Israel would achieve that objective.

The IDF also said there were three rocket launches from Syria toward Israeli territory were identified. Two fell in open areas inside Syrian territory, and one launch fell in an open area in Israel. In response, the IDF fired toward the sources of the launches.

A loose-knit group of Iranian-backed militias called the Islamic Resistance in Iraq claimed two more attacks on U.S. forces in Syria, one on the Al-Omar oil field and one on the Koniko oil facility.

Pentagon spokesman Air Force Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder had no information about the attacks on Tuesday but a U.S. official on Monday acknowledged two attacks that day.

“On the morning of Dec. 11, a one-way attack drone was launched against US and Coalition forces at Al-Asad Airbase, Iraq, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss operational details. There were no casualties or damage to infrastructure reported.

There was also “a multi-rocket attack was launched against US and Coalition forces at Patrol Base Shaddadi, Syria,” the official added. “No casualties and no damage to infrastructure.”

The Islamic resistance in Iraq took credit for the Al-Asad attack and said they carried out another one on that base that the U.S. military official did not mention.

There have now been at least 92 attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria since Oct. 17, according to the official.

The Iranian-backed Kataib Hezbollah (KH) group has promised more attacks against U.S. troops until they leave Iraq. U.S Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, in a Friday call with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, singled out KH and another group, Haraket Hezbollah al-Nujaba, for the recent targeting of US personnel and said the US reserved its right to respond.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told al-Sudani that Washington expects Iraqi officials to take more action to prevent such attacks, and believes they have the capability to do so, a U.S. official told The Associated Press. In addition, during a recent trip to the region, CIA Director William Burns warned al-Sudani of “harsh consequences” if Iraq doesn’t act to stop the attacks, an Iraqi official said.

The attacks on U.S. facilities in Iraq and Syria, along with Houthi attacks in the Red Sea, are proof that the war has expanded beyond Gaza, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian told the Doha Forum on Monday.

“At any moment there is a possibility of a big explosion in the region, one not controllable by any party,” he said as he spoke through an English language translator in a virtual interview conducted by CNN’s Becky Anderson.

“At least every week, we receive a message from the US telling us that US bases in Syria and Iraq are targeted by some groups,” Amirabdollahian said. These groups are “defending the Arab and Muslim people of Gaza; that is why they are targeting US bases in Syria and Iraq.”

This is a developing story. We will update it when there is more news to report about the Israel-Hamas war.

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Howard Altman Avatar

Howard Altman

Senior Staff Writer

Howard is a Senior Staff Writer for The War Zone, and a former Senior Managing Editor for Military Times. Prior to this, he covered military affairs for the Tampa Bay Times as a Senior Writer. Howard's work has appeared in various publications including Yahoo News, RealClearDefense, and Air Force Times.