Hostages at center of Israel’s focus

Seth Frantzman is reporting from Israel.

“Since the beginning of the war, we have been working relentlessly for the release of the hostages, including using increased pressure since the start of the ground incursion,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on November 14, according to a statement from his office. The hostages are a center of attention. Israel’s operations in Gaza continued Tuesday, but appear to have slowed slightly in the last week as the IDF enters densely populated areas. Negotiations over the release of some hostages have been ongoing. 

The IDF said on Tuesday, November 14, that one of the hostages, a kidnapped soldier named Noa Marciano, had been killed in Gaza. Hamas released a video of her on November 13 showing her speaking about being abducted and held in Gaza, and then showing her lifeless body. She was killed during her captivity in Gaza, and her body continues to be held by terrorists. Marciano was one of a number of female soldiers who bore the brunt of the Hamas attack on October 7 when Hamas attacked an observation post used by the soldiers. Several were killed, and several were taken hostage. One of the kidnapped soldiers, Private Ori Megidish, was freed by the IDF during the early days of the ground offensive. Israel’s Hebrew media has focused on the story of the observers and their plight since the war began.  

Israel’s Yediot newspaper reported in the evening on November 14 that Ronen Bar, the head of the Shin Bet, Israel’s intelligence service, met with his Egyptian counterpart, Abbas Kamel, to discuss a potential hostage deal. He last met with Kamel in August 2022. President Joe Biden also said on Tuesday that a hostage deal would happen.  

Rocket fire continued on November 14 from Gaza. After several days where the number of rockets fired from Gaza appeared to decline, and there were few sirens in central Israel, there were two barrages on November 14. The first was in the early afternoon, aimed at Ashkelon, and the second in the evening targeted Tel Aviv. The second occurred as I was driving back from Gaza after visiting an IDF artillery battalion. It was rush hour, and commuters had no place to seek shelter. Many stopped their cars on the highway and crouched down. Although the sound of booms indicated some rockets were intercepted, one fell in Tel Aviv and injured three people.  

The IDF pushed into neighborhoods southwest of Gaza City, the IDF said on November 14. The 7th Armored Brigade and Golani Brigade secured areas in the Sheikh Ijlin and Rimal neighborhoods. This included government institutions “that Hamas utilized for military purposes,” the IDF said. The IDF took the local Gaza legislature, a police headquarters, and other areas. The IDF also said they had struck 200 targets in the last day. At Shifa Hospital, one of several hospitals that have become a center of attention in Gaza because of its proximity to the fighting, the IDF offered humanitarian assistance to the director general of the Shifa Hospital, the IDF said. “The IDF initiated a humanitarian effort to coordinate the transfer of incubators from a hospital in Israel to the Shifa Hospital in the Gaza Strip,” the Israeli army noted in a statement.  

There were also two incidents in Israel’s southern city of Eilat on November 14. One occurred in the early afternoon and the other in the evening. “Following the initial report regarding the sirens that sounded in the city of Eilat in southern Israel, an interceptor was launched following the suspicion of an aerial target. The sirens sounded due to the launch of the interceptor,” the IDF said about the first incident. Al-Ain news in the Gulf reported that after advice from Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen may begin to target Israeli ships in the Red Sea. This is a new escalation after one month of both Hezbollah and the Houthis targeting Israel with rockets, drones, and missiles.  

Hezbollah also continues to carry out attacks in northern Israel. In the afternoon, the IDF said that “terrorists launched anti-tank missiles and mortar shells toward IDF posts in the areas of Margaliot, Arab al-Aramshe, Yiftach, Shomera, and Mattat in northern Israel. The IDF is striking the sources of the launches in Lebanon.” 

Reporting from Israel, Seth J. Frantzman is an adjunct fellow at FDD and a contributor to FDD’s Long War Journal. He is the acting news editor and senior Middle East correspondent and analyst at The Jerusalem Post. 

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