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The News Not Noise Letter: Hamas’ Hostage Game
Subheading: Hamas released two more hostages – why? Plus: Israel under pressure as threats of a wider war loom, and police say no motive in Detroit synagogue killing.
Hamas released two more hostages today. They are Yochaved Lipshitz, 85, and Nurit Cooper, 79. We will share more about them below.
I wish I had a gentle way to ease you into the rest of the news. I wish I didn’t feel the need to write the following: today I’m reporting on the tragedies befalling people on various sides of this conflict. This work isn’t meant to minimize anyone’s loss, draw comparisons, or take sides. As a journalist, it’s my job to share with you the realities on the ground, on all sides.
Today Israeli officials showed international journalists video of the 10/7 massacre made from terrorist-GoPro videos stitched together. I haven’t watched all 40 minutes – but I’ve seen enough. I won’t describe the horrors; if you’re curious you can read this. I will say that watching human beings getting butchered is an experience that’s hard to convey. It’s a journey from numbness to nausea to despair and back to work. Israeli officials say the video screening is meant to remind those covering the war – and through them, the larger world – that Israel was provoked; that the war is a response to a terror attack that took Israeli lives and hostages and threatened the country’s sense of safety.
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Across the border in Gaza right now, Hamas terrorists are lying in wait. Israeli officials say they are likely planting IEDs and booby traps above ground and in their tunnel network under the city, preparing for Israel’s soldiers. Around Hamas, 2 million Gaza civilians, many of them children who were born in Gaza, cannot leave. The borders are sealed. 40% of Gaza’s residents are children ages 0-14. 50% under age 18. The Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza reports 2,055 children have been killed since 10/7 another 830 are missing in the rubble; remember this is a Hamas-controlled entity so that figure may not be exact. AP reports that, according to aid workers, at least 130 premature babies in hospital incubators are at “grave risk” of death because generators are low on fuel and none is allowed to enter Gaza. CNN reports doctors are performing operations without painkillers. None of this captures the look in the eyes of Palestinians in Gaza, waiting. I’m linking to the accounts of two Palestinian photographers documenting the horrors in Gaza. @motaz_azaiza @m.z.gaza Warning: The images are graphic. And some in this audience have taken offense to the language they use in captions. I think it’s a perspective worth seeing if you choose.
Against this backdrop Israel has now identified 222 hostages in Hamas custody. One of them is Ohad Munder-Zichri, taken with his mother and grandparents from Kibbutz Nir Oz. His family says he loves the Rubik’s Cube and baseball and can’t see without his glasses. It’s his birthday. He turned 9 in Hamas captivity today.
There is no grace in war. I can’t ignore the victims of Hamas’ 10/7 massacre, the hostages in Hamas custody, or the civilians living in Gaza, where no place is truly safe. It’s all part of the story.
Here are the headlines:
Two More Hostages Released: Hamas released two more hostages Monday.
Who: They are Yochaved Lipshitz, 85, and Nurit Cooper, 79, both of Nir Oz kibbutz, both Israeli citizens. They were both abducted from the Nir Oz kibbutz on the day of the massacre. Both have husbands still in custody. The women are now in Israeli custody and being transported to a hospital for medical treatment and to reunite with their families. They will be debriefed by the Israeli government for information that could help locate and free other hostages. Lipshitz’s grandson Daniel said of his grandmother, “We simply hope she’s okay, that her health is good, and we’re waiting to see her.” Both women’s husbands remain as hostages in Gaza.
Why: On Telegram, Hamas says they released the women on humanitarian grounds. In what has to be the weirdest PR clip I’ve ever seen, Hamas even filmed the captives having tea and making chit chat with their captors (not linking to that video to avoid circulating propaganda). On CNN, Kurt Volker, longtime US diplomat and former US Ambassador to NATO, explained that when Hamas slowly releases hostages, that makes it “harder for Israel to go ahead with a full-scale invasion, and that means time goes by and increasingly public sentiment is trending against Israel in capitals across the world. So this is a Hamas tactic from the beginning – taking the hostages as a way to try to hold off an Israeli full scale assault.”
The Others: 220 others remain in Hamas captivity. Israel has not yet launched a full scale ground invasion and diplomats are working to win the release of the others. The Qatari government has been acting as an intermediary.
Trapped but Not Captive: As many as 600 Palestinian Americans are trapped inside Gaza, many waiting by the Rafah Crossing for permission to leave. The Secretary of State and US envoy say Hamas is preventing foreign nationals from exiting. They’re not hostages, but not free to leave either.
Aid Trickles in Through the Rafah Crossing: As Israel faces calls to delay a ground invasion so that aid can arrive in Gaza and negotiators can work to release more hostages, President Biden and PM Netanyahu agreed on a phone call to a “continued flow” of humanitarian relief into Gaza. The gate at the Rafah Crossing has opened to allow in convoys of aid three days in a row, now; today 20 trucks entered.
Provisions: So far, the relief is limited to food, water, and medical supplies. Fuel has not been allowed in and aid workers say there will be dire consequences for Gaza’s hospitals and water desalination plants if it doesn’t arrive soon. In a live interview on CNN, IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said Hamas is holding 1000 liters of fuel and should share this with the people.
The Need: The UN says the civilian population needs 10 times as many trucks to eat, drink and receive medical care.
Obama Weighs In: As Western leaders urge Israel to delay the ground invasion, former President Obama added his voice to the chorus. In a long statement he said that “Israel has a right to defend its citizens against such wanton violence,” but spent most of the statement warning, “the world is watching closely as events in the region unfold, and any Israeli military strategy that ignores the human costs could ultimately backfire.” It’s a reminder that this conflict threatens to create new dividing lines not just around the country and the world but also within the Democratic party.
Fighting Intensifies on Many Fronts: As pressure mounts, Israel still has not launched its ground invasion. Inside Gaza, the IDF said it struck 320 Hamas targets Sunday, including command centers, critical tunnels, and military compounds. One Israeli soldier died and three more were injured during an operation inside the Gaza Strip. Fueling fears of a broader war: on the northern border as Israel holds on its invasion of Gaza, the conflict with Hezbollah is heating up; on Monday, the IDF says they intercepted multiple drones launched from Lebanon and took out multiple Hezbollah cells, as Hezbollah steps up its attacks. Israeli forces launched deadly operations in the West Bank. Israeli airstrikes on Syria disabled the Aleppo and Damascus airports this weekend, according to Syria’s state-run media. And, in Iraq and Syria, more drones from Iran-backed terror groups continue to target US troops and military posts.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the US is sending more air defense to the region to protect American soldiers, and that additional troops are under “prepare to deploy orders” in the event that they are needed. Austin did not say how many troops are being readied.
$10,000 a Hostage: The Israeli police and Shin Bet, the internal security service, say they’ve learned a lot from interrogations of captured terrorists, including sites to target inside Gaza and details about the 10/7 massacre. They say it was highly planned; that militants were told specifically to kidnap children and older women; and that anyone who took a hostage was promised a reward of $10,000 and an apartment.
Target of Islamophobic Attack: Hanaan Shahin has been released from the hospital in Illinois. She is the mother of the 6-year-old Palestinian boy who was stabbed to death by their landlord. She was also injured in the attack. Attorney General Merrick Garland said, “This incident cannot help but further raise the fears of Muslim, Arab, and Palestinian communities in our country with regard to hate-fueled violence.”
Morality Police Killing: In the Islamic Republic of Iran, teenager Armita Geravand was pronounced brain-dead after the morality police allegedly beat her for wearing a hijab improperly. This comes a little over a year after the killing of Mahsa “Jina” Amini which sparked major public outrage and monthslong demonstrations in the streets.
NYT Apologizes for Hospital Reporting: The New York Times issued a lengthy apology in Monday’s Editors’ Note for its initial coverage of the explosion at the Al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza. The editors explained that early coverage “relied too heavily on claims by Hamas, and did not make clear that those claims could not immediately be verified. The report left readers with an incorrect impression about what was known and how credible the account was.”
They’re Multiplying: Now that Rep. Jim Jordan is out of the running for GOP House Speaker, nine of his colleagues are vying for the spot. The GOP will hold an internal vote to pick their next nominee Tuesday. Reminder: the government runs out of money November 17. It’s hard enough to reach a spending agreement when Congress has a leader and is open for business. Do you see where this could be headed?
Detroit Synagogue Killing: 40-year-old Samantha Woll, an active member of the Detroit Jewish community, was found stabbed to death outside her Detroit home Saturday morning. Her killing sent shock waves through the US Jewish community. Today Detroit police say “no evidence has surfaced suggesting that this crime was motivated by antisemitism.” Police say they have no suspect and no motive and they say the crime happened inside her house early in the morning with no sign of forced entry. At the time of her death Woll was President of the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue. She helped found the Muslim-Jewish Forum of Detroit — an “interfaith collective” that worked to “build and deepen important relationships that did not previously exist between the young Jewish and Muslim communities.” The murder comes as national law enforcement is on high alert for increased acts of antisemitism and Islamophobia in response to the war between Israel and Hamas. Detroit police “ask the community to remain patient while our investigators and law enforcement partners continue their work.”
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