October 31, 2023

Israel-Hamas conflict: Israeli forces free soldier in Gaza; video of three hostages emerges; death toll continues to climb

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Mid-East, Ukraine wars could ‘distract’ US from China

By James Massola

One of the United States’ most senior military officers has warned that wars in the Middle East and Ukraine could challenge America’s ability to project power and deter China in the Indo-Pacific.

Marines Lieutenant-General Stephen Sklenka, the deputy commander of all US forces in the Indo-Pacific, said the United States had not yet had to divert any of its vast naval or air resources away from the region, even as the US committed significant military resources to support Israel and Ukraine, but he warned of the potential for “strategic distraction”.

Japanese destroyers with US and British carriers pictured during operations in the Philippine Sea in 2021.Credit: AP

“So far, we haven’t had any stuff taken out of this theatre. There is always the chance of what I refer to as a strategic distraction. But I think we’ve made it pretty clear that you know, the United States, we are a great power, and great powers can do multiple things simultaneously, I think our secretary of defence has said we can walk and chew gum at the same time,” he said in an interview.

“There’s no doubt that a dangerous world creates circumstances where resources can be strained. You know, we’ll wait and see what happens. What I’m most hopeful for is that this fight in the Middle East does not spread out into a much broader regional one. But there is that potential.”

Sklenka was speaking on the sidelines of the Australian-American Honolulu Leadership Dialogue, a gathering attended by senior military officials, politicians, representatives of both nations’ intelligence communities, defence industry and academics.

He also criticised China for increasingly aggressive interceptions of other nations’ ships and planes in the South China Sea, including an RAAF P-8 maritime surveillance aircraft in May last year, and Philippines ships and a US B-52 bomber in separate incidents last week.

Read the full story here.


Putin accuses West for stirring unrest in Dagestan

Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused the West and Ukraine for stirring up unrest inside Russia after rioters in the predominantly Muslim Dagestan region stormed an airport to “catch” Jewish passengers on a flight from Tel Aviv.

The United States condemned the events, which a US State Department spokesperson said had “looked like a pogrom”.

Videos showed rioters – mostly young men – waving Palestinian flags at the airport at Makhachkala, the regional capital of Dagestan on Sunday evening. Placards read “there is no place for child killers in Dagestan” and another saying “we are against Jewish refugees”.

Dagestan is a headache for Putin, as the unrest in the area is where Russian security forces once fought an Islamist insurgency.

Putin accused the west and Ukraine for helping whip up the unrest via social media, part of what he said was Washington’s agenda of creating global chaos to ensure its continued dominance and prevent rivals like Russia from taking their place in a new multipolar world.


Speaking at a meeting with security chiefs Putin said shadowy US-backed forces were trying to destabilise and split Russia’s multi-ethnic and multi-confessional society.

“For this purpose, they use a variety of means, as we can see – lies, provocations and sophisticated technologies of psychological and information aggression,” he said.

“The events in Makhachkala last night were inspired also through social networks, not least from the territory of Ukraine, by the hands of agents of Western special services.”



UN agencies address Security Council on Gaza

By Olivia Ireland

The United Nations Security Council has heard from several agencies describing the situation in Gaza, which have called for a ceasefire and the protection of civilians.

Executive director of the United Nations Children’s Fund Catherine Russell told the Security Council the lack of clean water and safe sanitation in Gaza is on “the verge of becoming a catastrophe”.

“More than 420 children are being killed or injured in Gaza every day – a number which should shake each of us to our core.

“Unless access to clean water is urgently restored, more civilians, including children, will fall ill or die from dehydration or waterborne diseases,” she said.

“As if this wasn’t enough, children in both Israel and the State of Palestine are experiencing terrible trauma – the consequences of which could last a lifetime.”

Russell said the agency was doing its best to reach all children in need, but the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza was extremely challenging.

The United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs had representative Lisa Doughten brief on Gaza, saying more than 1.4 million people are internally displaced in Gaza.

A Palestinian woman kisses the sheet-covered body of a child killed during an Israeli airstrike outside Al-Aqsa hospital in the Gaza Strip.Credit: AP

“We are deeply concerned by allegations of military installations in the close vicinity of hospitals and the request by Israeli authorities for hospitals, including Al Quds and Shifa, to be evacuated – there is nowhere safe for these patients to go, and for those on life support and babies in incubators, moving would almost certainly be a death sentence,” she said.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency For Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) commissioner-general, Philippe Lazzarini, also gave an update, saying “this is the highest number of UN aid workers killed in a conflict in such a short time”.

“There must be strict adherence to international humanitarian law,” he said.

“This means civilians and civilian infrastructure, including UN premises, schools, hospitals, places of worship, and shelters hosting civilians must be protected all over the Gaza Strip, north and south, and at all times.”


German-Israeli festival attendee confirmed dead

German-Israeli dual citizen Shani Louk, who was killed while fleeing Hamas’ October 7 attack on the Supernova festival, has been formally identified as dead.

Shani Louk, 22, has been confirmed dead after Hamas’ October 7 attack.Credit: Instagram

Louk, 22, was among the hundreds of victims who attempted to flee as militants stormed the outdoor dance party near Kibbutz Urim, close to the border with Gaza.

As footage of the early stages of the raid circulated online, family members recognised the 22-year-old girl as one of the victims, The Telegraph reported.

Louk’s mother told German news agency dpa that she had been told by the Israeli military of her daughter’s death.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Hamas must be held accountable for Louk’s death.

“The news of Shani Louk’s death is terrible,” Scholz wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. “Like many others, she was brutally murdered. This shows the full barbarity behind the Hamas attack – who must be held accountable.”

“This is terror, and Israel has the right to defend itself.”



Benjamin Netanyahu rejects ceasefire calls

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected calls for a ceasefire, saying the war will be long and difficult.

During a news conference on Monday evening (Israeli time), Netanyahu rejected calls for a ceasefire to facilitate the release of captives or end the war, which he said will be long and difficult.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected calls for a ceasefire.Credit: AP

“Calls for a cease-fire are calls for Israel to surrender to Hamas,” he said.

“That will not happen.”

Netanyahu faces mounting anger over Israel’s failure to prevent the worst surprise attack on the country in a half century, but said he had no plans to resign.



Woman fears for kidnapped relatives

By Olivia Ireland

An Israeli citizen has spoken of her grandparents being kidnapped by Hamas when the terrorist organisation invaded Israel, questioning how her elderly relatives will survive.

Speaking on ABC’s Radio National program, Ofir Mezger said her grandfather’s last message to her was saying they were safe before she lost contact with her relatives.

A relative of a hostage reacts during a rally calling for hostages to be released in Tel Aviv.Credit: Getty

“We are worried because my grandparents are not in good health, my grandma is 78, my grandpa is 80 – he broke his leg a few months ago and he has diabetes,” she said.

“My grandma is not so healthy … I’m just thinking about my grandma, like how will she survive this? And how do they treat her?”

Miezger said the rescue of Israeli soldier private Ori Megidish gave her hope for her grandparents but still felt confused on how she felt.

“Every drop of information … is giving me hope,” she said.

“At the same time, when I’m thinking about what they’re going through, sometimes I’m thinking maybe it’s better for them not to be alive in the hands of Hamas.”


Hamas needs to be ‘rooted out’: Shorten

By Caroline Schelle

NDIS and Government Services Minister Bill Shorten has spoken about the Israel-Hamas conflict, saying the last thing Australia needs is division.

“The last thing that this country needs is division based on the terrible scenes we’re seeing in Palestine and Israel,” he told Nine’s Today this morning.

NDIS and Government Services Minister Bill Shorten.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

He also spoke about the six former prime ministers who condemned “hatred” spread by Hamas in a joint letter.

“Hamas wins if this country becomes divided, so I think the statement by the ex-prime ministers should be acknowledged,” Shorten told the program.

The letter also reflects the position of the Albanese government, he added.

“We feel desperately for the civilians in Palestine, but we also recognise that the psychotic nature of the gangster regime of Hamas is just despicable and needs to be rooted out, but we’ve got to try and do it in a way which minimises the suffering of civilians on all sides.”


Netanyahu lauds ‘achievement’ after Israeli soldier’s rescue

The Israeli military has announced the rescue of a female soldier who was captured during Hamas’ wide-ranging October 7 attack inside Israel, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised as an achievement.

Private Ori Megidish “is doing well” – the Israeli military said – and has met with her family after being extracted from Gaza.

Israeli soldier Private Ori Megidish (centre) is shown with relatives in this undated photo. The Israeli army said on Monday that Megidish was freed from Hamas captivity during Israel’s ground offensive in the Gaza Strip.Credit: AP

Netanyahu said Megidish’s rescue was “an achievement that expresses our duty to bring about the liberation of all the hostages”.

The Israel Defence Force and internal security agency Shin Bet said she has undergone medical checks.



Israel warns citizens to leave northern Caucasus after mob storms airport

Israel has warned its citizens to leave northern Caucasus after a mob stormed an airport in Russia’s Dagestan region when a flight from Israel landed there.

Hundreds of men, some carrying banners with antisemitic slogans, rushed onto the tarmac of the airport in Makhachkala, the capital of the predominantly Muslim region, on Sunday night (local time), looking for Israeli passengers on the flight from Tel Aviv, according to Russian news reports.

People in the crowd walk shouting antisemitic slogans at an airfield of the airport in Makhachkala, Russia.Credit: AP

The attack seemed to be partly fuelled by anger at Israel’s actions in Gaza, where it has been at war with Hamas following a deadly incursion by the militant group earlier this month. Several people in the mob were waving Palestinian flags.

One group was seen trying to overturn a police patrol truck, while another video showed rioters on the tarmac surrounding a Red Wings aircraft which had arrived from Tel Aviv.

One placard brandished by rioters in an unverified social media post said: “There is no place for child killers in Dagestan.”

Another said: “We are against Jewish refugees.”

More than 20 people were wounded, with two in critical condition, and police made 60 arrests. Police also said they had identified 150 of the most active participants.

Israel raised its travel warning level to 4, the highest level, calling on citizens to avoid all travel to Dagestan and neighbouring regions, and for those who are there to leave as soon as possible.

AP, Reuters


Israel’s operation into Gaza expected to ‘expand and intensify’

The Israeli military operation inside Gaza is expected to continue to “expand and intensify” as video circulates showing an Israeli tank and bulldozer blocking Gaza’s main highway.

Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, an Israeli military spokesman, declined to comment on where Israeli forces are deployed. However, he said additional infantry, armoured, engineering and artillery units had entered Gaza and the operations would continue to “expand and intensify”.

Palestinians leave their homes following Israeli bombardment on Gaza City on Monday.Credit: AP

The military said troops have killed dozens of militants who attacked from inside buildings and tunnels. It said that in the last few days, it had struck more than 600 militant targets, including weapons depots and antitank missile launching positions. Palestinian militants have continued firing rockets into Israel, including toward its commercial hub, Tel Aviv.

Hamas said its fighters clashed with Israeli troops who entered the north-west. It was not possible to independently confirm battlefield claims made by either side.

Meanwhile, a video circulating on social media showed an Israeli tank and bulldozer in central Gaza blocking the territory’s main highway, which the Israeli military in recent weeks has suggested Palestinians used to evacuate to the south.

The video, taken by a local journalist, shows a car approaching an earth barrier across the road. The car stops and turns around. As it heads away, a tank appears to open fire, and an explosion engulfs the car. The journalist, in another car, races away in terror, screaming, “Go back! Go back!” at an approaching ambulance and other vehicles.

The Gaza Health Ministry later said three people were killed in the car that was hit.


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