Good Monday morning.
In today’s edition of the Daily Kickoff, we report on the latest military updates on the ground in Israel and Gaza, and look at how Capitol Hill is responding to the ongoing terror attacks and hostage situation.
A bombshell report published by The Wall Street Journal on Sunday afternoon confirmed that Iran was intimately involved in the planning of this weekend’s multifront attack on Israeli communities.
The report, by Summer Said, Benoit Faucon and Stephen Kalin, found that Iran’s involvement in preparations for the attack began in August, with final sign-off for the deadly attacks, which have so far killed more than 700 Israelis, coming from Iranian officials a week ago. Two other officials — one European and one an advisor to the Syrian government — confirmed Iran’s role in the attacks. Earlier on Sunday, a Hamas official told the BBC that Tehran had given its support for the attacks.
U.S. and Iranian officials have so far denied Tehran’s involvement in the planning of the attacks. But Iran has long been a financial sponsor of both Hamas and Hezbollah, Jewish Insider’s Executive Editor Melissa Weiss writes, the latter of which is deeply entrenched in Lebanon and reportedly has thousands of missiles poised to strike Israel’s north.
The WSJ report brings up renewed questions about the Biden administration’s recent prisoner swap with Iran, which included the unfreezing of some $6 billion in Iranian funds from a South Korean bank. Sent to Qatar, the funds were earmarked for humanitarian purposes, but critics of the deal argue that the money frees up other funds that will be distributed for Iran’s terror proxies across the region.
The report created shockwaves on Capitol Hill. Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN) said that if the report was confirmed, “principled nations of the world must unite and neutralize the most repugnant, repressive, destabilizing regime in the world.”
“Evil,” Phillips added, “cannot be appeased any longer.”
Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA), who is running for Senate in California, blasted the loss of life in both Israel and Gaza. She said the U.S. policies, including not being tough enough on Iran, have “allowed terrorism to flourish, and it’s refused to take a strong enough stance against Iran, who is backing Hamas and Hezbollah.” Read more below on how legislators in Washington are approaching the deadly attacks.
Israeli officials, including Ambassador to the U.N. Gilad Erdan, cited past videos of Palestinian terrorist leaders thanking Tehran for its fiscal and material support.
In the last 12 months, the American Enterprise Institute’s Danielle Pletka notes in Foreign Policy, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian has twice traveled to Beirut to meet with Palestinian factions, stressing, Pletka writes, “unity among the groups and the imperative to expand the fight from Gaza to the West Bank.”
Israeli security expert Raz Zimmt expressed some skepticism about Iran’s in-depth involvement in the planning of the attacks, but assessed that regardless of Iran’s level of involvement, “the danger of escalating into an event involving Iran and Hezbollah has increased significantly.”
And in Israel, while speaking today with mayors from the the country’s south, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on them to “stand strong, because we are going change the Middle East.”
“I know that you went through terrible and difficult things. What Hamas will go through will be terrible and difficult…we are only getting started,” Netanyahu said.
Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant said in a statement today, “I have given an order – Gaza will be under complete closure. There will be no electricity, food or fuel [delivered to Gaza]. We are fighting barbaric [terrorists] and will respond accordingly.”
operation iron sword
IDF spokesman: Rules of the game in Gaza have changed
Israeli forces regained full control of the area around the Gaza Strip on Monday morning, two days after Hamas’ invasion of Israel began, following sustained combat between Israeli forces and Palestinian terrorists who infiltrated the border from the enclave, IDF Spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said, Jewish Insider’s Ruth Marks Eglash reports.
‘In control’: “We are in control of all the communities around Gaza,” Hagari said in a press conference. “There may still be terrorists in the area,” he added. “We have almost completed evacuating Gaza border residents, however, Sderot will not be evacuated yet.”
‘Change of paradigm’: Earlier Monday, the army’s foreign press spokesman, Lt. Col. Richard Hecht, told reporters, “We are in a different game right now, the scope is completely different. There has been a change of paradigm right now… this is war, and the scale is completely different.”
Read the full story here.
squad under fire
Reps. Tlaib, Bush face condemnation from several congressional Democrats — and the Israeli ambassador to the U.S.
Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Cori Bush (D-MO) yesterday blamed U.S. military aid to Israel for contributing to the massive Hamas terror attack on Israel, which has left more than 700 Israelis dead. Tlaib also described Hamas’ actions as “resistance” to Israeli “apartheid.” The comments come as most U.S. lawmakers have offered strong support to Israel in the conflict, without many of the typical calls for cease-fires and de-escalation by both sides in the hours following the onset of the attack. The exception to this has been members of the far-left Squad and a handful of other lawmakers aligned with them, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Torres’ condemnation: Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY) condemned the comments by his colleagues. “U.S. aid to Israel is and should be unconditional, and never more so than in this moment of critical need,” Torres told JI in a statement. “Shame on anyone who glorifies as ‘resistance’ the largest single-day mass murder of Jews since the Holocaust. It is reprehensible and repulsive.”
Gottheimer’s remarks: Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) highlighted the barbarism committed by Hamas terrorists in his own response. “Two of my colleagues called for America to end assistance to Israel, despite the countless images of Israeli children, women, men, and elderly, including Americans, murdered by radical Iranian-backed Hamas terrorists,” Gottheimer told JI. “It sickens me that while Israelis clean the blood of their family members shot in their homes, they believe Congress should strip U.S. funding to our democratic ally and allow innocent civilians to suffer.”
Ambassador’s response: Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Herzog responded directly to Tlaib, in an impassioned statement on X, formerly known as Twitter. “How much more blood needs to be spilled for you to overcome your prejudice and unequivocally condemn Hamas, a U.S.-designated terror organization?” Herzog wrote. “Hundreds of innocent Israeli civilians massacred in cold blood on a holy day. Babies kidnapped from their mother’s arms and taken to Gaza. An 85-year-old woman in a wheelchair and a Holocaust survivor taken hostage. Is that not enough, @RashidaTlaib?”
WSJ’s view: The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board condemned calls from Squad members for de-escalation and a cease-fire.
Congress plans action to support Israel amid political paralysis
Lawmakers in the House and Senate announced on Sunday following Hamas’ assault against Israel a number of steps to support Israel — but much of the planned action is likely to be delayed by gridlock in Washington, including the lack of an elected House speaker. Two groups of House lawmakers have announced plans to introduce resolutions supporting Israel, while the Senate is working to move up the timeline for confirming former Treasury Secretary Jack Lew as the U.S. ambassador to Israel, Jewish Insider’s Marc reports. But the House’s plans could be delayed by the ongoing speakership vacuum, and the Senate will be out of session for the next week.
McCaul/Meeks resolution: Reps. Michael McCaul (R-TX) and Greg Meeks (D-NY), the top Republican and Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, are circulating a resolution condemning the terror attacks, spotlighting Iranian support for Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups and supporting Israel. The resolution, first reported by Axios and obtained by JI, declares that the House “stands ready to assist Israel with emergency resupply and other security, diplomatic and intelligence support.”
Nunn/Davis resolution: Reps. Zach Nunn (R-IA) and Don Davis (D-NC) are working on a separate resolution, which sends a similar message that includes support for potential supplemental aid. A spokesperson for Nunn said that most freshman Republicans and military veterans have joined the resolution but that it is not yet final. The Nunn/Davis resolution describes the attack as an “act of war against Israel,” highlights the connections between Palestinian terrorist groups and Iran and supports Israel’s right to “act in self-defense against Hamas” and other terror groups.
Few details on Americans missing, killed in Israel
As Hamas’ assault on Israel entered a third day, details about American citizens killed or taken hostage by the terrorist organization remained scant. At least nine Americans have been killed, and others are missing, with some believed to have been kidnapped by Hamas and taken hostage in Gaza, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports.
Fact checking: Secretary of State Tony Blinken said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that the U.S. is “working to get the facts” about reports of American hostages. Israeli Minister for Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer said on CNN on Sunday that “scores of hostages” were taken into Gaza. “I can tell you there’s also American hostages as part of that number as well,” Dermer added. An Israeli Embassy spokesperson declined to offer any specifics but told JI that “those are people with dual citizenship like a lot of Israelis.”
Death toll: A National Security Council spokesperson told CBS News on Monday morning that at least nine Americans were confirmed dead. “We extend our deepest condolences to the victims and to the families of all those affected, and wish those injured a speedy recovery,” a National Security Council official told Axios. “We continue to monitor the situation closely and remain in touch with our Israeli partners, particularly the local authorities.”
Ankara advocacy: Secretary of State Tony Blinken said he asked his Turkish counterpart, Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan, to push “for a cease-fire and the release of all hostages held by Hamas immediately.”
A Father’s Love:Haaretz’s Amir Tibon recounts his parents’ efforts to rescue him and his family on the southern kibbutz of Nahal Oz, which had come under attack by Hamas terrorists. “One text message we received gave us a sliver of hope: My father, General (Ret) Noam Tibon wrote that he was on the way from Tel Aviv. We had no idea how he would get here. But just like our girls put their faith in us during these critical hours, we also put ours in him. Only later, in the evening, did I hear what he and my mom went through that day, how many people they helped save, and the heroism they showed on their trip down here…. On their way to Nahal Oz, they met other IDF forces who had divided up the area among themselves for scouting and ‘cleansing’ purposes. My dad joined a group that were going door to door and ended up killing six terrorists and freeing dozens of kibbutzniks who had been locked up in their safe rooms for 10 hours. Some of our neighbors were shocked to see ‘Amir’s dad’ among the soldiers who had come to rescue them. They sent us text messages about his presence, but by then, our batteries were dead. The only sign we had that they were getting closer were the gunshots that could be heard every time they encountered the terrorists. The final hour in the safe room was the hardest of all. The darkness was oppressive, the air was getting thin, and the girls were growing more impatient. The only thing that kept them calm was our promise that their grandfather was on his way. At 4 p.m., we heard a knock on the window and then a familiar voice. Galia immediately said: ‘Sabba is here.’” [Haaretz]
Hostage Crisis:The New Yorker’s Adam Rasgon interviews Israeli real estate consultant Yoni Ashar, whose wife, children and mother-in-law are being held hostage by Hamas. “‘I’m in a different world than the one I was in yesterday. I think everyone who is a parent of small children wouldn’t want to think about their loved ones being taken by Hamas. So all I can focus on is them getting through this situation and back to safety. But, of course, like every other parent, I’m terrified and fearful — I worry about what will happen in the coming days. The uncertainty is so hard to deal with. It’s extremely difficult. I don’t know how much time it will take to bring them home. Not to mention, when you’re reaching out to officials all day and no one responds, it feels like you’ve been abandoned. That you’re in no man’s land. It almost feels like there’s nobody I can rely on.” [NewYorker]
What Went Wrong: The Washington Post’s David Ignatius considers the intelligence failures that contributed to Hamas’ assault in Israel’s south. “True intelligence failures result not simply from a lack of information but also an inability to understand it. Israelis knew the malevolent hatred that animated Hamas and its backers in Iran. What they didn’t appreciate was the creativity and competence of their adversaries. This was a level of organized malice that was, literally, unthinkable. Just as Americans never imagined that the Muslim fundamentalists of al-Qaeda would have the perverse genius to fly airplanes into buildings, Israeli analysts don’t seem to have appreciated that Hamas fighters could escape the barricaded compound of Gaza with paragliders. Israelis evidently didn’t credit their foe’s ability to operate simultaneously across air, sea and land. And they certainly didn’t appreciate Hamas’s and its allies’ ability to keep secrets.” [WashPost]
Around the Web
Regional Implications: Semafor’s Jay Solomon considers the possibility that Israel’s war with Hamas could transform into a broader regional conflict.
Washington Worry: Tablet magazine’s Liel Leibovitz writes that U.S. policy toward Israel contributed to the weekend’s attacks.
Fake News: Verified X accounts spread a doctored White House release claiming Washington authorized emergency aid to Israel; the original release was dated to July and was related to Ukraine funding.
Concerns on the Continent: Western European Jewish communities are under increased police protection following the weekend attacks in Israel.
Abu Dhabi Comment: The UAE’s Foreign Ministry called Hamas’ attacks “a serious and grave escalation” and called for protection for civilians and an end to the violence.
Normalization Efforts: The Biden administration on Sunday maintained its commitment to potential normalization between Saudi Arabia and Israel.
On Hold: Officials in Germany and Austria have reportedly suspended aid to the Palestinians.