With the combined efforts of Shin Bet, Israeli domestic intelligence, Mossad, its external spy agency and all the assets of the Israel Defense Forces, it is frankly astounding that nobody saw this coming.
Saudi Arabia would be willing to boost oil production next year in a move aimed at earning goodwill with Congress toward a normalization agreement with Israel that would include a key mutual defense pact and weapons deal with Washington, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.
According to the report, which cited Saudi and US officials, Riyadh has told the White House it would be willing to increase oil production if crude prices are high to help secure the deal.
Washington has been working for months to broker a normalization deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia that would mark a historic breakthrough in the Middle East and a diplomatic feat in an election year for US President Joe Biden, whose administration has been pushing the potential agreement. A number of senior Biden administration officials have traveled to Riyadh over the past year to advance talks.
Saudi Arabia, home to Islam’s holiest sites, has never recognized Israel and has long insisted it would not do so without a just resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Riyadh did not join the US-brokered Abraham Accords, which saw its Gulf neighbors Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, as well as Morocco, establish formal ties with Israel in 2020.
In addition to the defense pact with the US and the arms sales, Riyadh has also demanded US cooperation on a civilian nuclear program on Saudi soil, as well as Israeli concessions to the Palestinians to secure the normalization deal.
On Wednesday, 20 Democratic senators penned a letter to Biden in which they expressed their general support for the normalization effort but stressed their concern over Saudi security and nuclear demands while urging the Biden administration to use the deal to advance a two-state solution.
Saudi Arabia’s offer to boost oil production if market conditions are favorable early in 2024 marks a departure from last year, when it rebuffed a US request to help lower oil prices by upping production, and tame inflation amid high market volatility following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022, which has upended economies worldwide.
Last October, Riyadh, Moscow and other top oil producers decided on a deep cut in production to boost crude prices, a move denounced by the US as a concession to Russia that would hurt the global economy. In June, Riyadh announced a fresh oil output cut following a meeting of major producers aiming to prop up prices despite fears of a recession.
These decisions by the Saudi-led Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, better known as OPEC, and the wider array of aligned oil producers led by Russia and known as OPEC+, have pushed prices higher.
OPEC+ countries produce about 60 percent of the world’s oil. The next meeting of the group is scheduled for November 26.
On Friday, a barrel of benchmark US crude rose 48 cents to settle at $82.79, while Brent crude, the international standard, rose 51 cents to $84.58. US crude has been generally pulling back since topping $93 per barrel last week. That has offered some relief on the inflation front after crude had been charging higher from $70 in the summer.
In its report Friday, the WSJ said that Saudi negotiators emphasized to the US that “market conditions would guide any action on production” early next year.
Officials familiar with the ongoing normalization talks said the discussions “didn’t represent a long-term agreement to cut prices,” according to the report.
Last week, the White House said Israel and Saudi Arabia were moving toward the outline of a historic US-brokered deal to normalize relations.
“All sides have hammered out, I think, a basic framework for what, you know, what we might be able to drive at,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters. “But, as in any complex arrangement, as this will inevitably be, everybody is going to have to do something. And everybody is going to have to compromise on some things,” Kirby said.
In an address to the United Nations General Assembly on September 22, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel was on “the cusp” of a transformative peace agreement with Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman told Fox News last month that “every day we get closer” to his country normalizing ties with Israel, while clarifying that the Palestinian issue is still a “very important” component of the process.
The Palestinians have remained a sticking point in the negotiations. The Biden administration has pushed Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians as part of a potential deal, but Netanyahu is constrained by his far-right coalition partners, who oppose steps toward Palestinian statehood.
The Palestinian Authority has presented a list of potential steps it would like to see taken in the context of the normalization talks with Washington and Riyadh.
The proposed steps have included US backing for recognition of Palestinian statehood at the United Nations; the US reopening its consulate in Jerusalem that historically served Palestinians; the scrapping of congressional legislation characterizing the PLO as a terror organization; the transfer of West Bank territory from Israeli to Palestinian control; and the demolition of illegal outposts in the West Bank.
Earlier this week, the leader of the opposition National Unity party, Benny Gantz, visited Washington to hold quiet meetings with White House officials, including on the Saudi deal. Gantz is a former defense minister and IDF chief of staff and one of the most prominent members of the opposition.
Gantz has said he would not join the coalition to help secure a normalization deal, but would be willing to back an agreement from outside the government.
Opposition Leader Yair Lapid visited Washington last month, where he met with Biden administration officials and senators to discuss the Saudi agreement and other issues.
Also over the past week, two Israeli ministers visited Saudi Arabia, the first-ever official Israeli visits to the country, marking a regional breakthrough. A third Israeli minister is hoping to make the trip next week for a climate conference.
In September, an Israeli delegation of nine staffers flew to Saudi Arabia as observers for the UNESCO World Heritage Committee meeting. The delegation was led by the head of Israel’s Antiquities Authority and included diplomats, according to an Israeli official.
Hamas militants entered Israeli territory in the early hours of this morning, appearing to take control of multiple communities in southern Israel. Fighting is still ongoing in areas of southern Israel.
Hamas fired over 2,000 rockets toward Israel, according to the Israeli authorities.
The death toll is Israel is at least 22, according to Israeli emergency services. Israel’s health ministry said at least 545 wounded have arrived in hospitals. Palestinian media is reporting the death toll in Gaza is four.
Israel launched strikes in Gaza.
There are reports of Israeli hostages now in Gaza.
“We are at war and we will win it,” the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said in a video address to the country.
Tens of Palestinians have been killed in Israeli air strikes in Gaza, local health officials said, Reuters reported.
US defence secretary, Lloyd Austin, said in a statement that Washington would make sure Israel has what it needs to defend itself.
I am closely monitoring developments in Israel. Our commitment to Israel’s right to defend itself remains unwavering, and I extend my condolences to the families of those who lost their lives in this abhorrent attack on civilians. Over the coming days the Department of Defense will work to ensure that Israel has what it needs to defend itself and protect civilians from indiscriminate violence and terrorism.
Israel’s president, Isaac Herzog, has called on the international community to condemn “Hamas, its allies, and its backers in Iran.”
Today we saw the true face of Hamas. A terrorist army whose only goal is the cold-blooded murder of innocent men, women, and children. Supported and directed by their proxy commanders in Iran, they carried out an unprovoked, heinous attack against the Jewish state on a Jewish holy day. Innocent civilians were massacred and wounded, and many are still under attack. The State of Israel will take all measures necessary to eliminate this clear and immediate danger to our citizens. Israel will overcome in the face of all challenges. I call upon the family of nations – this war waged against us marks a line in the sand. Now is the time to hear clear, unequivocal condemnation of Hamas, its allies, and its backers in Iran. Now is the time to stand firm with Israel in support of its just and moral battle in the face of an abhorrent enemy.
The EU’s foreign affairs chief, Josep Borrell, had calls with ministers from Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
— Josep Borrell Fontelles (@JosepBorrellF) October 7, 2023
While the Israeli authorities have yet to confirm reports that Israeli citizens are being held in Gaza, local media is already discussing fears that the country is facing a long hostage crisis.
Israel’s Channel 12 reports that the death toll has risen to at least 40 and that 74o people are injured.
Israeli media is reporting that at least 40 people have been killed in the country. Photograph: Channel 12
Shehab news agency, which is affiliated with Hamas, says that a five-storey building has been destroyed after an Israeli strike.
مراسل شهاب: طائرات الاحتلال الحربية تدمر منزل عائلة البطنيجي والبدرساوي المكون من 5 طوابق قرب جامعة القدس المفتوحة بحي النصر غرب مدينة غزة. pic.twitter.com/OSysBoyVzR
— وكالة شهاب للأنباء (@ShehabAgency) October 7, 2023
Al Jazeera reports there are “intense and ongoing” Israeli drone and artillery attacks in Gaza’s eastern areas.
There are also strikes in Jabalia, Beit Lahia, Bureij, Khan Younis and Rafah, according to the report.
Speaking at the beginning of a cabinet meeting, the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said the country would now focus on three goals:
To clear the impacted areas from militants and restore security
To impose a vast cost on Israel’s enemy
To shore up other areas so that no one would make the mistake of joining the war
“I call on all of Israel’s citizens to unite,” he said, so that the country would reach its aim of winning the war.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad have both claimed to be holding Israeli soldiers hostage.
There are images of an alleged Israeli soldier being held hostage circulating on social media, but these images are not verified and Israeli authorities have not confirmed that military personnel have been seized by militant groups.
Al Jazeera reports that “dozens of casualties” have been brought to Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza and that “a large number of grieving families rushed to the hospital after receiving the news”.
US White House National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said that Washington condemns the attack and extends condolences.
The US unequivocally condemns the unprovoked attacks by Hamas terrorists against Israeli civilians. There is never any justification for terrorism. We stand firmly with the government and people of Israel and extend our condolences for the Israeli lives lost in these attacks.
The national security adviser ,Jake Sullivan, has spoken to Israel’s national security adviser, Tzachi Hanegbi, the spokesperson said.
Egypt’s foreign ministry said their officials “are making intensive contacts at all levels to contain the current crisis,” in order to “spare the region from further tension and instability and prevent the situation from spiralling out of control.”
Foreign ministry spokesperson Ahmed Abu Zeid said that Egypt’s top diplomat, the foreign minister, Sameh Shoukry, began consulting with the Jordanian foreign minister Ayman al-Safadi, “to consult…regarding efforts to stop the escalation between the Palestinian and Israeli sides.”
“The two ministers agreed to continue consultation and close coordination during the coming hours,” he added.
Shoukry also spoke with the foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates, which signed an agreement to recognise and establish formal relations with Israel in 2020.
According to a statement from the Egyptian side, Shoukry “was keen to inform his Emirati counterpart of the communications that Egypt is conducting to stop the escalation and try to contain the crisis. The two sides agreed on the seriousness of the current situation and the necessity of making every effort to prevent the security situation from getting out of control and exposing the lives of civilians to further risks and threats.”
The Egyptian foreign ministry also hinted at possible further contact between Egyptian officials and other actors involved, a nod towards the frequent contact between Egyptian intelligence officials and Hamas as well as the Islamic Jihad, a line of negotiations that has often proved more effective in scaling back action from Palestinian militants than talks between diplomats.
Egypt brokered a ceasefire that ended three days of fighting between Israel and the Islamic Jihad militant faction in Gaza last August, including Israeli airstrikes on Gaza which killed at least 49 people.
Top Egyptian intelligence official Abbas Kamel has long remained the face of Egyptian consultations with militant factions in Gaza, despite rarely if ever discussing these negotiations publicly. Kamel, currently the head of Egypt’s general intelligence service, visited the besieged coastal enclave of Gaza two years ago to bolster the terms of a ceasefire to a previous round of fighting between militants and Israeli forces.
Delegations from both Hamas and the Islamic Jihad also held talks in Egypt last June chaired by Hamas’s senior political leader Ismail Haniyeh and Ziad al-Nakhala, leader of the Islamic Jihad, where they discussed Israeli control of Jerusalem including the incursions by settlers into al-Aqsa Mosque compound, one of Islam’s holiest sites.
The talks followed a visit by the Palestinian prime minister, Mohammad Shtayyeh, to Egypt to discuss the situation in Gaza and the West Bank.
Israeli media are continuing to broadcast interviews with relatives of Israelis who appear to be missing.
In the meantime, the Israeli authorities are still not fully in control of multiple communities, with reports that some civilians are being held hostage by Hamas militants.
A ground infiltration by Hamas gunmen into Israeli towns and villages on the periphery – an unprecedented development in the 16 years since the Islamists took over the strip – is ongoing, with the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) saying seven villages and towns are under Hamas control. The Israeli army also put the number of projectiles at around 2,000.
Unconfirmed initial reports and graphic pictures and video appeared to show that gunmen had opened fire in the border town of Sderot, killing several Israeli civilians and soldiers. One elderly woman was confirmed dead in a rocket attack, and another four people in Bedouin villages in Israel’s south killed by rocket fire.
Twenty-two Israelis have been confirmed dead so far and 545 injured, with the death toll likely to rise.
At least one person has been killed in Gaza in retaliatory Israeli airstrikes, and five Hamas militants killed inside Israel.
Read the full story here.
The Palestinian Islamist group Hamas has launched a surprise attack on Israel, its biggest in years.
Here’s what we know so far:
Hamas militants entered Israeli territory in the early hours of Saturday morning, appearing to take control of various communities in the south of the country. Fighting is still going on in some areas.
Hamas fired more than 2,000 rockets toward Israel, according to the Israeli authorities.
The death toll in Israel is at least 22, according to Israeli emergency services. The country’s health ministry said at least 545 wounded were being treated in hospital. Palestinian media report the death toll in Gaza as four.
Israel has launched airstrikes on Gaza.
There are reports of Israeli hostages in Gaza.
“We are at war and we will win it,” the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said in a video address to the country.
The British prime minister, Rishi Sunak, said he was “shocked by this morning’s attacks by Hamas terrorists against Israeli citizens”. “Israel has an absolute right to defend itself,” he said.
President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has made a phone call to President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, Report informs referring to AzerTag.
The head of state congratulated Vladimir Putin on his birthday and wished him new successes in his statehood activities and robust health.
Vladimir Putin thanked the President of Azerbaijan for his attention and congratulation.
The heads of state underlined successful development of friendly relations between the countries in various fields, and discussed the issues related to the prospects for cooperation and new contacts.