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Gaza in the Crossfire
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Gaza in the Crossfire

Palestinians attempt to evacuate before the next phase of war.

Happy Tuesday! Getting a speeding ticket is never fun, but imagine the horror of one Georgia motorist who opened his mail to find a $1.4 million fine after he was pulled over for going 90 mph in a 55 mph zone. That’s fast, but—as city officials later clarified—not $1.4 million fast. 

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • President Biden will visit Israel on Wednesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced during a visit there Monday. The trip will also include a visit to Amman, Jordan, where the president will meet with King Abdullah II of Jordan, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Meanwhile, two U.S. Navy ships, the USS Bataan and amphibious dock landing ship USS Carter Hall, are moving towards the Mediterranean carrying more than 2,000 Marines. The ships and service members could be on hand to help with a potential evacuation of U.S. citizens trapped in Israel as fighting intensifies.
  • Four Ukrainian children—the youngest 2 years old, the oldest 17—who were abducted and taken to Russia were returned to their families Monday as part of a Qatari-brokered deal. Ukrainian authorities said at least 16,000 Ukrainian children have been transported to Russia since the beginning of the war—for which the International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin—and Qatar hopes the negotiations over these four reunifications will serve as a model for future efforts to return kidnapped minors to Ukraine. Meanwhile, Putin arrived in Beijing Tuesday morning to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping in a rare overseas trip aimed at strengthening the two countries’ “no-limits” partnership. 
  • Judge Tanya Chutkan on Monday issued a limited gag order against former President Donald Trump as part of the government’s federal election subversion case. The order, which is more narrow than the one the Department of Justice requested last month, bars Trump from making statements targeting the prosecutors, potential witnesses, and employees of the court. Chutkan specified Trump may make comments about former Vice President Mike Pence—one of Trump’s Republican primary opponents and a witness in the proceeding—provided they do not touch on his role in the case. 
  • Attorney General Merrick Garland on Sunday opened a federal hate crime investigation into the stabbing death of Wadea Al-Fayoume, a 6-year-old Palestinian-American boy attacked by his family’s landlord in suburban Chicago on Saturday. Police say the 71-year-old Joseph Czuba—who’s been charged with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, two counts of hate crimes, and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon in Illinois—stabbed Al-Fayoume 26 times and the child’s mother, Hanaan Shahin, a dozen times. She is expected to survive. “This horrific act of hate has no place in America, and stands against our fundamental values: freedom from fear for how we pray, what we believe, and who we are,” President Joe Biden said in a statement Monday. 
  • NBC News will host the third Republican presidential primary debate—set to take place in Miami, Florida, on November 8—in partnership with Salem Radio Network and the Republican Jewish Coalition. The moderators and format have not yet been announced, but the Republican National Committee announced that in order to qualify, candidates must have campaign contributions from at least 70,000 unique donors and have at least 4 percent support in two national polls or in one national and one early-state poll. 
  • The Department of Justice on Monday moved to settle a class-action lawsuit filed by lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union representing thousands of families separated at the border during the Trump administration in 2017 and 2018. If the settlement is approved by the judge overseeing the suit, the plaintiffs will be subject to a unique asylum process that would allow U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services administrators—rather than an immigration judge—to review their asylum cases, taking into consideration the effect of the separation on the families’ mental well-being. Those who had already been denied asylum will be allowed to reapply. The agreement would also change Department of Homeland Security policy to clarify that a parent’s illegal entry into the United States is not sufficient reason to separate a family. 
  • Two Swedish nationals were shot dead outside a soccer match between Sweden and Belgium in Brussels late Monday night in what Belgian authorities are investigating as a terrorist attack. Police shot the suspected gunman, who fled the scene after opening fire outside the stadium, on Tuesday morning. Belgian investigators say video uploaded during the attack suggested the shooter was inspired by the Islamic State terrorist organization. Swedish officials increased the terror threat level this summer after a spate of protests featuring Quran-burnings in Stockholm.

Under Hamas’ Rule

Palestinian emergency services and local citizens search for victims in buildings destroyed during Israeli raids in the southern Gaza Strip on October 17, 2023 in Khan Yunis, Gaza. (Photo by Ahmad Hasaballah/Getty Images)
Palestinian emergency services and local citizens search for victims in buildings destroyed during Israeli raids in the southern Gaza Strip on October 17, 2023 in Khan Yunis, Gaza. (Photo by Ahmad Hasaballah/Getty Images)

For the past 10 days, a brutal war between Hamas terrorists and the Israeli military has raged in and around an area just twice the size of Washington, D.C. The Gaza Strip is densely populated, mired in poverty, controlled by an authoritarian terrorist regime—and as of last weekend, completely besieged by Israel as it tries to root out the Hamas terrorists once and for all.

The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry reports 2,750 Palestinians have been killed since the war began, though the source of that figure has historically not made a distinction between civilians and combatants—or between those killed by Israeli airstrikes and those killed (advertently or inadvertently) by Hamas. Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) cut off food, water, and fuel to the region last week in an effort to negotiate the return of at least 199 hostages taken by Hamas, and over the weekend, the Israeli government encouraged about 1.1 million Palestinians to evacuate northern Gaza ahead of an impending ground invasion. Hamas leaders, however, are actively discouraging Gazans from leaving their homes. As violence erupts around them, Palestinians are caught in the crossfire—and under the rule of a terrorist organization that is willing to exploit their suffering for their own extremist benefit.

“You are going to see pictures of Palestinian civilians that are going to be injured, killed,” GOP Sen. Mitt Romney said on Sunday from Tel Aviv. “I hope you recognize that those individuals are being killed because of Hamas, not because of Israel. Hamas is holding their own population, the Palestinian population, as human shields.”

In response to Israel’s siege and bombardment of Gaza, the United Nations has urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to open safe passages for both Gazan civilians and humanitarian aid. Convoys loaded with supplies of food, water, and fuel wait on the Egyptian-Gaza border at the Rafah crossing—and as of Monday it remained unknown which nation was keeping this access point closed. The Egyptian government is reportedly weighing whether to allow Palestinian refugees in, but the country has historically been opposed to such a move due to security concerns and a reluctance to exacerbate conflicts within its own borders.

“Hamas is in charge of the safety of Palestinians,” Israeli Ambassador to London Tzipi Hotovely told Sky News on Monday. “This is the time that Hamas needs to pay the price for its abuse, killing innocent Israelis and now preventing its own people to evacuate and to be safe.”

It’s a perfect storm of chaos in an already troubled region. “There’s two different things,” Aziz Abu Sarah, a Palestinian peace activist, told TMD. “There’s the humanitarian aspect of food and water and all of that, and there is tremendous fear. ‘Will I make it or not?’ Because of problems with electricity and problems with the internet right now in Gaza, they can’t even get in touch with their family and they don’t know if their families are alive or not. It’s a pretty disastrous reality.”

Hamas’ control of the Gaza Strip dates back to 2006, when the organization, running on a platform of anti-corruption and resistance to Israel, won a sizable majority of seats in Palestinian parliamentary elections—and then proceeded to forcefully take control of the region in 2007. Hamas has not held an election since, and has used the territory to launch attacks on Israel while hiding amongst civilians.

“They are a terrorist organization,” said Yasmine Mohammed, a Canadian-based human rights advocate and president of Free Hearts Free Minds. “They are there to use the land of Gaza as a military base. They were never there to actually take care of the Gazan people, they’re not interested in that.”

“These terrorist organizations have specific goals that they’re trying to meet,” added Mohammed, whose father was born in Gaza, “and they are certainly not legitimate governments.”

“There was a very constant sense of despair after Hamas came to power,” said Eman Mohammed, a photojournalist who grew up in Gaza and covered war in the region until 2014. “In the beginning, they really got elected, but then it became like, ‘came to power’ because people were stuck with them. They were not reelected. They did not run again and they did not initiate another election. It’s just like, stuck in a marriage. You cannot leave and you cannot seek a divorce. It’s just not an option.”

Tens of thousands of civilians have fled northern Gaza since Israel issued its warning over the weekend, traveling at IDF-designated times through safe passageways. Casualty numbers continue to climb as Israel bombards the region with airstrikes, and hospitals in the north have struggled to move sick and injured patients south—where hospitals are already overcrowded.

But Hamas has shown little interest in limiting such civilian casualties. “We tell the people of northern Gaza and from Gaza City, stay put in your homes, and your places,” said Eyad Al-Bozom, a spokesman for the terrorist organization. “By carrying out massacres against the civilians, the occupation wants to displace us once again from our land.” 

Such an order, however, may not have been necessary—or even intended for domestic consumption. “I don’t think Hamas needs to tell Gazans to remain in place. They don’t have somewhere else to go,” Eman Mohammed told TMD. “[That said, Gazans] are not getting the announcements that Hamas is giving, we’re the ones who are getting those announcements. They don’t have electricity, power, TVs, none of that. We’re the ones who are getting all that kind of propaganda that Hamas is announcing and broadcasting.”

Despite this exploitation and seeming lack of regard for civilian life, however, Hamas remains popular among Palestinians—a 2021 poll found a majority believed the group to be the “most deserving of representing and leading the Palestinian people.” Why?

“Every round of violence between Hamas and Israel has usually resulted in Hamas becoming a little bit more popular,” said Abu Sarah. The group’s projection of strength—in the face of what Palestinians see as the Israeli threat—has helped maintain Hamas’ popularity in Gaza. In a March 2023 survey, 71 percent of Palestinian respondents supported a fatal attack on two Israeli settlers in the West Bank town of Huwara that led to Israeli reprisals.

This phenomenon—support for Hamas growing after the IDF responds to terrorist violence—could explain the timing of last week’s attack on Israel, which put on pause ongoing normalization talks between Israel and Saudi Arabia. “As Saudi Arabia got closer to a peace agreement [with Israel], the Palestinian Authority was involved—Hamas was left out of those negotiations completely,” said Abu Sarah. “That was something that Hamas was not going to allow to happen because it would have hurt its standing. The Palestinian Authority since 1991 had not been able to deliver on its promises. And if the Palestinian Authority was able to deliver on its promises through peaceful means, that weakens Hamas.”

But what about the West? Why have some individuals around the world, rightly concerned with the safety and security of civilians in Gaza, extended that sympathy—or even support—to Hamas? Yasmine Mohammed believes it’s a symptom of the blurring of lines between the Palestinian people and their terrorist government. “Obviously Hamas is happy with being conflated with all Gazan people or all Palestinian people,” Yasmine Mohammed told TMD. “Because then that makes them look like legitimate people versus an actual terrorist organization.”

That said, it is a terrorist organization that was initially elected democratically, leading plenty in the West to assign wider culpability to the Gazan population. Abu Sarah pushed back on this notion for two major reasons. “The last time they had an election was 17 years ago,” he said. “And even then, Hamas did not win the majority of votes. They won a plurality.” Moreover, he pointed to the current young average age of Palestinians in Gaza. “Half of the population is under 18. So it means they weren’t even one year old when that election happened.”

In the absence of a democratic process, removing Hamas from power—or even demonstrating a desire to do so—could prove impossible for Gazans. “In reality, people in Gaza have never had a chance to choose their leader,” said Abu Sarah. “If you go out and protest, they will stop you.”

“It’s not a democracy, and I think people in the [United] States or around the world, even in Israel assume you could just go out and say no to Hamas,” he continued. “Hamas is a powerful organization. We saw what they did against Israel. If they could do that, to a country that is considered the most technologically powerful, imagine what they could do against people who would protest against them who have no guns, who have no political agency in Gaza.”

Worth Your Time

  • Charles C. W. Cooke is an Englishman who adopted American football—and after watching the Jacksonville Jaguars face off against the Buffalo Bills in London earlier this month, now his father is too. “Before kickoff, I had wondered to myself what my dad was likely to think of it all,” Cooke writes for National Review. “He had never watched an NFL game in his life, let alone in person, and the sport that he does watch religiously—soccer—is different in a number of pretty important ways. It is possible for a stranger to watch a soccer match and grasp its outline within minutes, but of football this is untrue. As a matter of fact, many of the rules of football are inscrutable to an outsider. To my delight, he seemed to get it quite quickly, and, better still, he seemed to enjoy it. Perhaps most gratifyingly of all, he echoed back to me a characterization that I have often made at football games: ‘This,’ he said, ‘is the successor to the Colosseum.’ And then it was over, and we started the long trek from America back to England. As our train wound its way out of London and back into the countryside, the football fans dwindled in number until the only passenger who was left wearing an NFL jersey was me. Aware of the sudden incongruity of my appearance, I commented on the change to my dad. ‘I guess there’s only one American football fan on the train now!’ I said. ‘No, Charlie,’ he replied. ‘There’s two.’”

Presented Without Comment

New York Times: Oprah Floated a 2020 Presidential Ticket With Mitt Romney, [McKay Coppins’] Book Says 

Also Presented Without Comment

Washington Post: Super PAC Backing Tim Scott Pulls Fall Ads as He Struggles to Gain Traction

“In a memo to donors, Rob Collins, co-chair of the Trust in the Mission PAC, wrote: ‘We aren’t going to waste our money when the electorate isn’t focused or ready for a Trump alternative.’” 

Toeing the Company Line

  • Reminder: We’re now just two days away from the Dispatch meet and greet (🔒) in Washington, D.C. We hope to see those of you who live in the DMV area Thursday night at 6 p.m. ET! Click here to register, and for more information.
  • It’s Tuesday, which means Dispatch Live (🔒) returns tonight at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT! The team will discuss the news of the week and, of course, take plenty of viewer questions! Keep an eye out for an email later today with information on how to tune in.
  • In the newsletters: Kevin advised against (🔒) being consumed by memory, Andrew and Drucker covered Jim Jordan’s effort to secure the speakership in Dispatch Politics, and Nick argued (🔒) moderate Republicans in the House may have more in common with Hakeem Jeffries than Jim Jordan.
  • On the podcasts: David and Sarah discuss decisions from three circuit courts and a gag order against Donald Trump
  • On the site: Stirewalt wonders why GOP Sen. John Barrasso decided to endorse Kari Lake for Senate, and Elizabeth Samson warns about the Iran nuclear deal’s sunsetting sanctions on Tehran. 

Let Us Know

Do you think Western media has done an appropriate job clarifying the distinction between Hamas and Palestinian civilians?

Click here for more coverage of the war in Israel.

James Scimecca works on editorial partnerships for The Dispatch, and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he served as the director of communications at the Empire Center for Public Policy. When James is not promoting the work of his Dispatch colleagues, he can usually be found running along the Potomac River, cooking up a new recipe, or rooting for a beleaguered New York sports team.

Mary Trimble is the editor of The Morning Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, she interned at The Dispatch, in the political archives at the Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po), and at Voice of America, where she produced content for their French-language service to Africa. When not helping write The Morning Dispatch, she is probably watching classic movies, going on weekend road trips, or enjoying live music with friends.