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CONDITIONS IN GAZA LIKELY TO WORSEN AS CONFLICT PERSISTS; UPDATES ON AID, HOSTAGES, DIPLOMACY, ETC.

(The Situation Update Report [SUR] is a near real-time brief of a possible threat or situation being monitored by The Counter Threat Center. The information is accurate at the time of reporting, but may be subject to change.)


Gabriel Helupka, Dan Flanagan, Nicholas Novak, William Bos, Wissal Mabrouk

Jennifer Loy, Chief Editor

October 23, 2023


Fires in Israel and the Gaza Strip[1]


Current Situation: At the time of reporting, the Counterterrorism Group (CTG) has gathered the following information on the current conditions in the Gaza Strip.


Healthcare Infrastructure: Doctors Without Borders (MSF) warned that Gaza’s healthcare system is facing an imminent collapse. They said hospitals are overwhelmed and lack medical resources.[2] Health infrastructure is encountering indiscriminate attacks. On October 17, a rocket attack struck al-Ahli Arab Hospital, although the cause is currently inconclusive. Hundreds were reportedly killed.[3] On October 8, the Al-Quds Brigade of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) posted a Telegram video with the caption “Direct hit in Barzilai Hospital.” The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) attributed the attack to Hamas. IDF airstrikes reportedly hit the Indonesian Hospital in Beit Lahiya, killing three and injuring five others. They also reportedly struck an ambulance near Nassar Hospital in Khas Yunis, injuring several paramedics.[4]


Humanitarian: The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports an estimated one point four million people have been displaced in Gaza. More than 544,000 are sheltering in 147 UN Reliefs and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) facilities under “increasingly dire” conditions. The Gaza Health reportedly estimates roughly 4,137 Palestinian fatalities and 13,162 injuries. Israel official sources say there are about 1,400 Israeli fatalities and 4,629 injuries. The Gaza Housing Ministry alleges at least 30 percent of all housing infrastructure has been destroyed or damaged since the conflict’s inception. OCHA reports a full electricity blackout and a ban on fuel imports for backup generators, having severe negative impacts on healthcare and safe drinking water access. They also say increased unsafe drinking water consumption raises the threat of infectious disease outbreaks.[5] The IDF claims Hamas possesses a fuel reserve of over one million liters that they refuse to hand out. They also claim Hamas uses the fuel to light their tunnels, homes, and rocket launchers.[6] The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) announced humanitarian aid has crossed into Gaza from Egypt.[7] US President Joe Biden announced his administration will continue efforts to ensure the Rafah border crossing remains open to provide aid to Gaza.[8]


Hostages: Two American hostages, Judith Tai Raanan and Nathalie Shoshana Raana, were released by Hamas.[9] The IDF confirms Hamas is holding over 200 hostages.[10] Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the UN Secretary-General António Guterres, said he “renews his call for an immediate and unconditional release of all hostages.”[11] Abo Obaida, Hamas Spokesperson, said that Hamas informed Qatar they would release two Israeli hostages by the names of Nurit Yitzhak and Yohavd Levshitz, “for compelling humanitarian reasons and without compensation. However, the occupation government refused to receive them.”[12] The IDF has not publicly commented at this time. Obaida also announced that Hamas is ready to release two female hostages on October 22 with the same procedures as the release of the two Americans.[13] The IDF has not publicly commented at this time.


Diplomacy: Iran’s Foreign Minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian mentioned Iran’s intentions to send humanitarian aid to Gaza through Egypt, and condemned the attacks of Israel on Gaza.[14] On October 21, a peace summit was held in Cairo, Egypt, to address the conflict in Gaza in which UN Secretary-General António Guterres reaffirmed his plea for Gaza to receive immediate and continuous humanitarian aid, Hamas to release all hostages and for committed efforts to avoid the spread of violence.[15]


Information: The IDF Home Front Command released the following guidelines for multiple regions in Israel beginning Sunday, October 22, 2023, at 18:00 until Tuesday, October 24, 2023, at 18:00.[16]

  • Limited Activity - Gaza Envelope, West Negev, and Ashkelon

  • Educational Activities: Educational activities are prohibited.

  • Gatherings and Services: Gatherings can be held with a limit of up to 10 people outdoors and up to 50 people indoors. Funerals can be held with a gathering limit of up to 15 people. The beaches are closed to the public.

  • Workplaces: It is possible to carry out an activity in a place from which a standard protected space can be reached within the time available to reach shelter.

  • Limited Activity - West Lachish, some of the towns in Lachish (Ashdod, Gan Yavne, Bnei Aish)

  • Educational Activities - Educational activities are prohibited.

  • Gatherings and Services - Gatherings can be held with a limitation of 10 people outdoors and 50 people indoors. Funerals can be held with a gathering limitation of up to 100 people, and mourning tents with up to 50 people outdoors. Beaches are closed to the public.

  • Workplaces - It is possible to carry out an activity in a place from which a standard protected space can be reached within the time available to reach shelter.

  • Partial Activity - The Confrontation line, Northern Golan, Golan Regional Council towns, and Katzrin

  • Educational Activities - Educational activities can be held inside a standard protected space only, without having students travel between the various cities.

  • Gatherings and Services - Gatherings can be held with up to 30 people outdoors and 300 people indoors. Beaches are closed to the public.

  • Workplaces - Can operate indoors or in a place from which a standard protected space can be reached within the time available to reach shelter.

  • Partial Activity - Yarkon, HaShfela, Dan, Shfelat Yehuda, Jerusalem, Center Negev, Lachish, and Ma'ale Adumim town

  • Educational Activities - Educational activity can be held in a place from which a standard protected space can be reached within the time available to reach shelter.

  • Gatherings and Services - Gatherings can be held with up to 30 people outdoors and 300 people indoors. Beaches are closed to the public.

  • Workplaces - Can operate indoors or in a place from which a standard protected space can be reached within the time available to reach shelter.

  • Full Activity - HaMifratz, Center Galilee, Lower Galilee, Upper Galilee, and Emek Ha'Yarden Regional Council towns

  • Educational Activities - Educational activity can be held in a place from which a standard protected space can be reached within the time available to reach shelter.

  • Gatherings and Services - Gatherings can be held with up to 1000 people.

  • Workplaces - Operating without restrictions.

  • Full Activity - Eilat, Arava, South Negev, Beit Shean Valley, HaAmakim, Wadi Ara, Menashe, HaCarmel, Sharon, Yehuda (except for Ma'ale Adumim), Shomron, Dead Sea and Ba'qa

  • Educational Activities - Educational activities can be held without restrictions.

  • Gatherings and Services - Gatherings can be held with up to 1000 people.

  • Workplaces - Operating without restrictions.[17]

Military: The IDF is readying the next stage of the conflict, including a ground invasion of Gaza. Regular and reserve units have been deployed and are taking part in training exercises. According to LTC Yair Zuckerman “The Nahal Brigade has been training in recent days and is ready for any mission. We are facing the enemy with determination, looking into the enemy’s eyes and telling them ‘no more.’ ‘Am Yisrael Chai’ (the people of Israel live), and we represent this generation, we will prevail.”[18] IAF (Israeli Air Force) attacked Hamas targets, including an operational headquarters, anti-tank weapons, and underground infrastructure.[19] IDF fighter jets killed Muhamad Qatmash, the Deputy Head of Hamas' Artillery Array, in the Gaza Strip on October 22.[20] An IDF tank “accidentally fired and hit an Egyptian post adjacent to the border in the area of Kerem Shalom” on October 22.[21]


Economic: Since June 2007, Israel has blockaded the Gaza Strip after Hamas gained power, negatively impacting the Gazan economy. In 2022, the unemployment rate was 46.6 percent and 62.5 percent among youth.[22] Approximately 64 percent of Gaza households are considered food insecure and require assistance, amounting to over one point 3 million residents.[23] As of 2022, the poverty rate in Gaza was 61 percent.[24]


Day/Time of event: October 23, 2023


What is the current threat:

  • There is a roughly even chance Hamas will release more non-Israeli hostages, likely seeking to de-escalate tensions and allow for increased humanitarian aid to Gaza. They will likely attempt to portray a sense of goodwill, very likely aiming to gain public support from sympathizers to pro-Palestinian causes.

  • The IAF will almost certainly continue carrying out coordinated bombings of Hamas targets, very likely assessing the group's response and reactions before an IDF ground invasion. The continuous spread of acts of violence will very likely increase the possibility of spillover. The IAF will likely launch preemptive strikes in Syrian airports, targeting suspected weapons shipments from Iran to Middle Eastern proxies, particularly Hezbollah.

  • Diplomatic efforts will unlikely produce a joint agreement towards containing acts of violence. Protests worldwide condemning the international community’s stance will almost certainly prevail.

  • Unemployment in Gaza will almost certainly continue to increase, as citizens very likely shelter in place to avoid IAF airstrikes. Hamas will likely leverage rising unemployment rates to host recruitment events, very likely portraying themselves as a humanitarian organization. This will likely result in increasing recruitment for Hamas operations, very likely using civilian recruits to deter IDF airstrikes on humanitarian infrastructure. Hamas will likely use civilian infrastructure to conceal its military and operational assets.

Who will it directly impact:

  • Israel civilians

  • IDF personnel

  • Gaza civilians

  • Hamas fighters

  • Hamas hostages

  • Hezbollah fighters

  • Aid workers

  • Healthcare personnel

  • UN personnel

  • NGO personnel

  • Egyptian military personnel


The Counter Threat Center (CTC) is providing regular updates on the evolving situation and war between Israel and Hamas. This report is being provided under our Global Public Good mandate to assist in providing situational awareness and actionable intelligence to protect and save lives. If you or your organization need intelligence reports of this kind and more to protect you, your people, or your organization please subscribe. Try us for 7 days free. We work each day to detect, deter, and defeat terrorism and threats that cause harm through intelligence and other solutions. Click here to learn more: https://www.counterthreatcenter.com/subscriptions

 

[1] Fires in Israel and the Gaza strip by Pierre Markuse licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data 2023)

[2] MSF, from X, via CyberHUMINT

[5] Hostilities in the Gaza Strip and Israel | Flash Update #14, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, October 2023, https://www.ochaopt.org/content/hostilities-gaza-strip-and-israel-flash-update-14?_gl=1*1q0yij8*_ga*MTcxMTMzMTY0Ny4xNjk3ODk4Mzg0*_ga_E60ZNX2F68*MTY5Nzg5ODM4NC4xLjEuMTY5Nzg5ODQxOC4yNi4wLjA

[6] IDF, from X, via CyberHUMINT

[7] IFRC, from X, via CyberHUMINT

[9] IDFSpokesperson, from X, via CyberHUMINT

[10] IDF, from X, via CyberHUMINT

[11] Statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General - on the situation in the Middle East, Cairo Summit for Peace, October 2023

[12] CTG Threat Hunter 1 via Telegram

[13] Ibid

[14] Amirabdolahian,from X, via CyberHUMINT

[15] At Cairo Peace Summit, Guterres stresses need for sustained humanitarian aid to Gaza, UN News, October 2023, https://news.un.org/en/story/2023/10/1142642

[16] Home Front Command guidelines following the security situation, National Emergency Portal, October 2023, https://www.oref.org.il/en

[17] Ibid

[18] CTG Threat Hunter 1 via Telegram

[19] IAF, from X, via CyberHUMINT

[20] IDF Fighter Jets Neutralize Muhamad Qatmash, the Deputy Head of Hamas’ Artillery Array in Gaza, IDF, October 2023

[21] Ibid

[22] Gaza Strip | The humanitarian impact of 15 years of the blockade - June 2022 [EN/AR/HE], reliefweb, June 2022, https://reliefweb.int/report/occupied-palestinian-territory/gaza-strip-humanitarian-impact-15-years-blockade-june-2022-enarhe

[23] HUMANITARIAN RESPONSE PLAN OPT, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, October 2023, https://www.ochaopt.org/sites/default/files/HRP_2023.pdf?_gl=1*gzndrt*_ga*NDcxMTM3NDI3LjE2ODU2MjE3OTY.*_ga_E60ZNX2F68*MTY5ODA2ODUxMi40LjEuMTY5ODA3MDE5NC42MC4wLjA.

[24] WFP Palestine: Gaza Market Monitoring - Flash Update #2 (October 2023), reliefweb, October 2023, https://reliefweb.int/report/occupied-palestinian-territory/wfp-palestine-gaza-market-monitoring-flash-update-2-october-2023

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