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Second Front? Tension In West Bank Reaching New Heights–  Mideast War, Day 21

Death count rises above 100 in the West Bank, as sources reports weapons flooding in through Iran.

Photo of people Palestinians throwing stones toward Israeli troops

Masked Palestinians youths use slingshots to hurl stones Friday toward Israeli troops during clashes with them following a solidarity march with the Palestinians living in Gaza

Jakob Mieszkowski-Lapping and Emma Albright

Massive protests materialized around the West Bank on Friday, and were particularly potent in Ramallah, the administrative capital of the Palestinian Authority, according to Al Jazeera journalist Hoda Abdel-Hamid who is reporting from the ground. The protestors are reportedly chanting in support of Hamas.

“You must not underestimate the amount of anxiety and fear that exists across the occupied West Bank,” said Abdel-Hamid. “I’ve been reporting for weeks now about the nightly Israeli raids and detentions. There is also the settler violence – an average of eight attacks a day and they are increasing.”

Weapons are “flooding” into the occupied West Bank through a complex network organized by Iran and its allies, mainly in Iraq and Syria, according to the Wall Street Journal. Israeli settlers are reportedly being armed by Israel’s government, at the direction of its far-right national security advisor Itamar Ben-Gvir.

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The Palestinian Health Ministry reported on Thursday that Israeli forces shot and killed a 17-year-old boy near Ramallah, bringing the total death count since October 7 in the West Bank to 105, according to Turkish state-run outlet Anadolu Agency.

Many of those deaths are attacks on Palestinians by Jewish settlers, which U.S. President Biden has denounced as “pouring gasoline on the fire.”

“The army has said it is ‘taking off its gloves’. So people are afraid,” said Abdel-Hamid.

Many have described the situation as a “powder keg.”

In a raid on the Jenin Refugee camp on Friday, Israeli army bulldozers destroyed a monument of the late Al Jazeera journalist, Shireen Abu-Akleh. She was shot in the head by Israeli gunfire while reporting on a raid in Jenin during May 2022.

Many fear that the war, which as of now remains largely contained inside Gaza, could expand to other parts of the region, starting with the West Bank. Analysts are also closely watching Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed Palestinian militant group in southern Lebanon, as it continues to trade fire with IDF positions in Northern Israel.

"Free Marwan Barghouti, a symbol of peace"

Left-wing French daily L’Humanité dedicates its front page to Marwan Barghouti, considered the most popular Palestinian leader who has been in Israeli prison for over 20 years. Some believe he could be the key to resolving the conflict, while Israel is content with the political stalemate created by the presence of Hamas in Gaza, and the powerlessness of a discredited Palestinian Authority.

Poll shows nearly half of Israelis support delaying ground offensive

Forty-nine percent of Israelis respond that “it would be better to wait” before launching a full-scale ground invasion of Gaza, according to a poll published on Friday in Israel’s Maariv daily. Only 29% of Israelis believed that the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) should “immediately” escalate to a ground offensive, while 22% were unsure.

It is unclear what has delayed the seemingly imminent ground offensive that Israeli officials have promised. Small-scale IDF raids into Gaza have occurred the past two nights, but the main operation is clearly being held up.

U.S. officials have reportedly expressed concern that Israel’s primary objective, to completely destroy Hamas, may not be achievable in the short term given the brutal counterinsurgency urban combat and complex tunnel system that awaits the IDF.

The support inside of Israel is down 16 percent from an October 19 poll that found 65 percent support for a major-ground offensive.

Macron proposes humanitarian coalition for Gaza, with Cyprus as hub

French President Emmanuel Macron says several European countries are looking to build a “humanitarian coalition” for Gaza.

Macron’s comments came after an EU summit in Brussels where he said that talks were being held with Cyprus and Greece over how to deliver the aid. “Cyprus could serve as a base for humanitarian operations,” Macron added.

Meanwhile, Philippe Lazzarini, commissioner general for UNRWA, the UN relief and works agency for Palestinian people, has described the trickle of aid entering Gaza as “crumbs”.

In a press conference in Jerusalem on Friday, he continued: “The current system in place is geared to fail. What is needed is meaningful and uninterrupted aid flow. And to succeed, we need a humanitarian ceasefire to ensure this aid reaches those in need.”

Earlier this week, Israel insisted it will not allow fuel in, arguing that Hamas had stolen fuel from the UN to use for military purposes. Lazzarini denied that Hamas had stolen fuel from the UN. “It pains me that humanitarian aid, a very basic right for people, is constantly questioned, while at the same time despair is live streamed on our watch.”

Hamas rules out hostages being released without ceasefire

Senior Hamas officials Hamas Bassem Naïm (left) and Moussa Abou Marzouk with Russian deputy Foreign Minister Mikhaïl Bogdanov

via Hamas

Hamas announced Friday that it has officially ruled out the release of hostages without having first secured a ceasefire with Israel. The announcement was made from Moscow, where the militant group held meetings Thursday with Russian officials. Russian officials assured reporters that their talks with Hamas were strictly concerning hostages, according to French daily Le Monde.

According to the Times of Israel, the total number of hostages that Hamas is holding is 233, five more from the estimated 228 a day earlier. Four women have been released so far.

Since October 7, Russia has appeared to distance itself from Israel, likely in an attempt to weaken the West. Israeli officials denounced Russia’s invitation to the Hamas delegation as “support” of terrorism and Hamas’ October 7 attack.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Putin's "Pig-Like" Latvia Threat Is A Chilling Reminder Of What's At Stake In Ukraine

In the Ukraine war, Russia's military spending is as high as ever. Now the West is alarmed because the Kremlin leader is indirectly hinting at a possible attack on Latvia, a NATO member. It is a reminder of a growing danger to Europe.

Photo of Russian President Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin

Pavel Lokshin


BERLIN — Russian President Vladimir Putin sometimes chooses downright bizarre occasions to launch his threats against the West. It was at Monday's meeting of the Russian Human Rights Council, where Putin expressed a new, deep concern. It was not of course about the human rights of the thousands of political prisoners in his own country, but about the Russian population living in neighboring Latvia, which happens to be a NATO member, having to take language tests.

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