Israel’s War Against Hamas Continues

Happy Tuesday! According to early Nielsen figures, a whopping 123.4 million viewers tuned into Sunday’s Super Bowl LVIII across networks and streaming platforms—making it the most-watched telecast in American history. Enjoy that record while it lasts, CBS—Dispatch Live starts tonight at 8 p.m. ET.

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • The Senate voted 70-29 early Tuesday morning to pass a $95 billion aid package for Ukraine, Israel, and the Indo-Pacific with 22 Republicans joining most Democrats to advance the legislation after a proposal that would have paired such aid with border security measures fell apart in recent weeks. The package now heads to the House, but Speaker Mike Johnson said yesterday the lower chamber is unlikely to take the legislation up due to its lack of border security provisions.
  • Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin—who was diagnosed with prostate cancer late last year—is expected to return to “normal duties” Tuesday after he was hospitalized on Sunday for a “bladder issue,” according to a statement Monday from his doctors at Walter Reed Military Medical Center. Austin, who was just released on January 29 from a monthlong hospital stay, “underwent non-surgical procedures under general anesthesia,” the doctors said. “The current bladder issue is not expected to change his anticipated full recovery” from prostate cancer. As a result of the hospitalization, Austin canceled a trip to Brussels scheduled for later this week. He had planned to meet with other NATO defense ministers and the Ukraine Defense Contact Group. 
  • A Dutch court on Monday ordered the government of the Netherlands to stop exporting parts for F-35 jets to Israel, finding “a clear risk that Israel’s F-35 fighter jets might be used in the commission of serious violations of international humanitarian law,” referring to Israel’s war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The Dutch government said it would enact the decision—which came during a visit to Israel by Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte—while also appealing it to the Dutch Supreme Court. “The government believes it is up to the State to [determine its] foreign policy,” the government said in a statement. “The government is lodging an appeal in cassation because it believes the Court of Appeal did not take sufficient account of this.” The decision is the result of a suit brought by three human rights organizations.
  • Former President Donald Trump on Monday asked the Supreme Court to pause last week’s unanimous decision from a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court that found he was not immune from prosecution for acts he undertook while president. The stay—requested as Trump appeals the decision—would in effect delay his trial for his attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. Rejecting the stay would send the matter back to the trial court, allowing Special Counsel Jack Smith’s case to proceed. 
  • Kelvin Kiptum, a Kenyan runner who held the men’s marathon world record, died Sunday in a car accident in western Kenya. In October, the 24-year-old athlete ran the Chicago marathon in two hours and 35 seconds, besting the record held by his fellow Kenyan, Eliud Kipchoge, by 34 seconds.

Israel vs. the Tunnels

A man writes “released and rescued” on a poster of missing Israeli, Louis Har on a wall at Hostages Square on February 12, 2024, in Tel Aviv, Israel. The Israeli military says it has rescued two hostages from captivity in Rafah, whilst two 21-year old IDF soldiers were killed in overnight fighting in the Gaza Strip. (Photo by Amir Levy/Getty Images)

On October 11, just days after Hamas’ deadly attack on Israel that sparked the war that’s been raging ever since, we wrote to you about global support for Israel—and how it was unlikely to last long. “The longer it goes on, the harder it will be for Israel to retain any kind of goodwill in the international community,” Greg Brew, an analyst at Eurasia Group, told TMD at the time. “Once images of dead and injured Palestinians replace images of dead and injured Israelis in the international media, the focus on public attention is going to shift and it is going to shift on the situation in Gaza as opposed to the situation in Israel.”

With the war now in its fifth month, that certainly seems to be the case. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have been pushing the battle into new territory in recent days—Rafah, a city on Gaza’s southern border with Egypt and teeming with displaced Palestinians—but the U.S. and other allies are pressing for renewed negotiations between Israel and Hamas. Despite U.S. opposition and requests from Biden for a concrete plan to protect civilians still in the city, the IDF carried out airstrikes in Rafah early Monday morning as cover for a mission to rescue two hostages being held in the city. Israel sees the new campaign as central to its strategic mission: saving those still in Hamas’ captivity and eliminating the terrorist group once and for all.

Amid the ongoing conflict, Biden welcomed King Abdullah II of Jordan to the White House on Monday, where the two discussed ongoing negotiations for another hostage exchange and pause of the war in Gaza. Their conversation likely centered on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—or “this guy,” as Biden has reportedly begun to disparagingly refer to the Israeli leader among his staff.

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