US lectures Israel over Gaza war – leaks

Fighting can’t go on for months, Secretary of State Blinken has reportedly said

Israel lacks “credit” to keep the fight against Hamas going for months and needs to change its tactics in the south of Gaza, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at a war cabinet meeting on Thursday, according to Israel’s Channel 12.

Blinken was in Jerusalem for meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the cabinet overseeing the war on the Palestinian militant group. Some of the quotes from the meeting somehow made their way to Channel 12, Israel’s most popular commercial TV station, which aired them on Thursday evening.

“You can’t operate in southern Gaza in the way you did in the north. There are two million Palestinians there,” Blinken said at one point, according to a translation from Hebrew posted by the Times of Israel.

“You need to evacuate fewer people from their homes, be more accurate in the attacks, not hit UN facilities, and ensure that there are enough protected areas,” the US diplomat added. “And if not? Then not to attack where there is a civilian population.”

When Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said that the entire Israeli society was united behind the objective of dismantling Hamas, “even if it takes months,” Blinken replied, “I don’t think you have the credit for that.”

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Hamas gunmen kill three Israelis at Jerusalem bus stop (VIDEO)

The leaked quotes also revealed that Israel does not want the Palestinian Authority to ever rule Gaza, because it “supports, educates, and finances terror,” according to Netanyahu.

Blinken said the US understands that, but “other states in the region need to know what you are planning,” because “The best way to kill an idea is to bring a better idea.”

Washington has backed Israel’s offensive against Gaza after the October 7 raid by Hamas that resulted in the deaths of an estimated 1,200 Israelis. Since then, however, the US government has faced public backlash over the deaths of some 16,000 Palestinians in the enclave, many of them women and children.

According to a statement issued by the State Department, Blinken has “reaffirmed the United States’ support for Israel’s right to protect itself from terrorist violence in compliance with international humanitarian law and urged Israel to take every possible measure to avoid civilian harm.”

Blinken also urged “immediate steps to hold settler extremists accountable for violence against Palestinians in the West Bank” and said the US “remains committed to tangible steps to advance a Palestinian state living in peace, freedom, and security alongside Israel,” according to State Department spokesman Matthew Miller.

Top US general warns lawmakers of funding crisis

A Pentagon official has claimed that failure to pass a new budget would hurt recruiting and block new projects

Funding for America’s troops will be jeopardized if US lawmakers continue to rely on stopgap funding measures, rather than passing a new Pentagon budget, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Charles Brown Jr. has claimed.

Brown issued his warning in a letter to members of the US Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday, saying the military will face a $5.8 billion shortfall in personnel funding if Congress does not pass a full-year spending bill. Like the rest of the federal government, the Pentagon has been operating under a so-called CR, or continuing resolution, since its fiscal year began on October 1, because US lawmakers haven’t been able to reach agreement on budget legislation.

A CR essentially kicks the financial can down the road, keeping funding at the previous year’s level and blocking new programs from starting. US House Speaker Mike Johnson reportedly plans to push forward a CR that will keep the government operating on stopgap funding for the whole fiscal year if lawmakers can’t come together to pass a budget.

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Brown warned that a year-long CR would prevent the Pentagon from starting any new construction projects or pushing forward with such key initiatives as modernizing US nuclear forces and ramping up production of artillery shells and other munitions. Funding for new warships would be cut sharply, and maintenance delays would undermine the US Navy’s readiness. Recruiting of fresh troops would have to be slowed, he added, and transfers of service members to their new duty stations would be delayed.

The Department of Defense plans to increase the pay of service members by 5.2% in the current fiscal year, but with spending frozen at the previous year’s level, it will be forced to cut other personnel costs, such as recruiting, to make up the difference.

US military spending is projected to rise by 3.6% in the 2024 fiscal year, to around $830 billion. The Pentagon already boasts more spending than the world’s nine next-largest defense budgets combined. In addition, President Joe Biden has requested congressional approval for $106 billion in supplemental national security funding, including $61.4 billion in additional military aid for Ukraine.

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“We owe our service members the tools they need to be successful,” Brown said in his letter. “We have asked them to modernize and accelerate the future capabilities they need to continue to deter and project credible combat power. We need full appropriations to stay ahead of pacing, acute, and unforeseen challenges.”

Hamas gunmen kill three Israelis at Jerusalem bus stop (VIDEO)

The shooting came amid a fragile ceasefire between the militant group and the Israeli military

Hamas fighters killed three Israeli civilians and injured others in a point-blank shooting at a crowded bus stop in West Jerusalem on Thursday. The militants were gunned down on the spot by off-duty Israeli soldiers.

The attack came hours after the Gaza-based militant group agreed to extend a truce with the Israeli military for a seventh day to allow for the continued exchange of hostages for Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.

Video footage of the attack showed two gunmen pulling up at the bus stop in a car, exiting the vehicle, and opening fire on the crowd with a pistol and a rifle. As the crowd disperses, the attackers try to get back into their car, but are shot dead by three men later identified by police as two off-duty soldiers and a civilian.

Three Israeli civilians were killed and at least eight others were injured. Israeli media identified one of the dead as a 74-year-old rabbi.

Footage of terror attack in Jerusalem this morning.

2 Hamas nazis opened fire on a group of religious Jews at a bus stop. 2 offduty soldiers and civilian eliminated the terrorists.

3 civilians killed
Livia Dickman, 24, Elimelech Wasserman, 73, and Hannah Ifergan, 60.

6 wounded

— RealPalestina(א”י)🇮🇱 (@LollllllaJR) November 30, 2023

Hamas claimed responsibility shortly afterwards, describing the attack as “a natural response to unprecedented crimes conducted by the Occupation [Israel],” including the Israeli military operation in Gaza and the alleged mistreatment of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

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Hamas militants launched a surprise attack on October 7, firing a sustained rocket barrage against Israeli towns and cities before sending its militants into Israel to occupy settlements and military outposts near the Gaza border. The group took around 240 hostages to the strip, more than 80 of whom have been released since the truce began last week. Around 1,200 Israelis were killed in the October 7 attack.

Israel responded by launching a bombing campaign on Gaza, before sending troops into the strip at the end of October. The Jewish state has faced heavy international criticism over its military campaign, which has left more than 15,000 Palestinians dead, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Around two thirds of this number are women and children, the ministry claims.

The shooting in West Jerusalem has not affected the truce. Israel still plans on resuming its Gaza offensive when the ceasefire expires, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stating on Thursday that “I swore to eradicate Hamas. Nothing will stop us.”

European Council chief pitches EU ‘cyber force’

Charles Michel urged member countries to move away from national defense models, framing the funding of Ukraine’s military as a success

The European Defence Agency must establish a “European cyber force” with offensive capabilities in order to keep Russia at bay and take the lead in the emerging field of cyber-defense, European Council President Charles Michel told an audience at the agency’s annual conference on Thursday.   

Cyber-defense is the future of security, Michel argued, insisting that Europe must get in on the ground floor by creating a bloc-wide cyber-force and making it a “fundamental component” of the EDA. “It would help us to take a position of leadership in cyber response operations and information superiority, and I believe it should be equipped with offensive capabilities,” Michel explained. 

Michel’s enthusiasm for cyber-warfare was echoed by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who argued individual nations should defer responsibility for defending cyberspace – a “flagship capability” – to the EU. 

Both leaders pushed for more “collaborative spending” on defense, framing bloc-wide spending on the conflict in Ukraine as a success story. However, member states are “buying alone and buying abroad” instead of pooling their resources and supporting continental businesses, von der Leyen complained, while Michel called for member states to remove regulatory red tape to streamline the purchase of weapons systems to better confront the Russian threat.

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To sweeten the deal, von der Leyen suggested states that cooperated by increasing their contribution to the EU’s war chest could receive fiscal incentives, such as leniency regarding debt repayment. Even previously stable nations such as Germany have experienced economic hardship after pouring billions of dollars into the conflict in Ukraine and cutting themselves off from their most affordable source of oil and gas via sanctions on Russia.

The European Commission earlier this year announced a collaboration with private companies on a €1.1 billion pan-European “cyber-shield,” to be comprised of systems for the prevention and detection of cyberattacks and an emergency mechanism capable of responding to them. While the details of the vetting process through which private-sector partners will be selected have not been agreed upon yet, legislators are expected to vote to establish and fund the cyber-shield next week.

The European Parliament reported a “sophisticated” denial-of-service attack last year coinciding with a vote to declare Russia a state sponsor of terrorism, blaming a “pro-Kremlin group” for the infiltration, which kept its website offline for several hours. 

EU leaders have been confronted with flagging enthusiasm for continued funding to Kiev. Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto on Thursday urged an end to weapons deliveries to Ukraine, declaring its conflict with Moscow was “not Europe’s fight” and reiterating previous warnings against fast-tracking Ukrainian membership in either the EU or NATO.

US closes secret tavern at key military base – media

The John Wayne Saloon has reportedly been shut down after a newspaper raised questions about alcohol use at NORAD

The US general overseeing Washington’s defenses against nuclear bombers and other threats by air has reportedly ordered the shutdown of a secret saloon after a major media outlet raised questions about daytime drinking inside the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).

US Air Force General Glen VanHerck closed the bar last week and demanded an investigation into how NORAD officers were allowed to operate a clandestine drinking joint during work hours, USA Today reported on Wednesday. Known as the John Wayne Saloon – named after an iconic American actor known for tough-guy roles – the tavern was located at Peterson Space Force Base in Colorado and served its patrons by invitation only, the newspaper said.

A John Wayne poster was affixed to the tavern’s door, and visitors had to enter a keypad code to gain access. “Nearby, lieutenant colonels and majors planned future NORAD operations,” USA Today said, citing unidentified officers and civilian employees familiar with the saloon. “Also at hand: computers with access to the Pentagon’s secret email system.”

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VanHerck told the newspaper that he had confirmed the presence of hard liquor, beer and a refrigerator in a locked office space with a John Wayne poster inside the NORAD headquarters. He also confirmed that the facility had access to “classified networks for planning purposes.”

The NORAD commander added that the presence of alcohol was “certainly something that was concerning enough to me to direct a commander’s-directed investigation.” The probe will determine whether alcohol use inside the NORAD headquarters compromised America’s national security, VanHerck said.

US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) studies have shown that military service is America’s heaviest-drinking occupation. Troops consume alcohol on 130 days out of the year, on average, and they binge-drink 41 times annually, according to an analysis of CDC data released in 2019.

Alcohol use is prohibited in US military offices without special permission. Waivers are sometimes granted for such events as retirement celebrations and holiday parties.

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NORAD is responsible for overseeing the airspace defenses of both the US and Canada. The US Northern Command (NORTHCOM), which coordinates the Pentagon’s response to attacks and natural disasters in North America, is also headquartered at Peterson Space Force Base. 

VanHerck said he hadn’t heard about any concerns regarding on-the-job drinking at NORAD prior to USA Today’s inquiry. He claimed credit for being “transparent” when the newspaper brought the secret tavern to his attention. “I would tell the people in the United States and Canada: trust the commands that defend them each and every day,” the general said. 

Earlier this year, VanHerck fired his NORTHCOM operations chief, US Army Major General Joseph Lestorti, citing “a loss of trust and confidence.” Several officials told USA Today that the ousted general was known for being gruff, demanding and intolerant of workplace alcohol use.

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