GCC, UK urge Iraq to complete demarcation of borders with Kuwait

GCC, UK urge Iraq to complete demarcation of borders with Kuwait
British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly speaks during an interview with Reuters, during the 78th United Nations General Assembly at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, US, September 19, 2023. (Reuters)
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Updated 23 September 2023
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GCC, UK urge Iraq to complete demarcation of borders with Kuwait

GCC, UK urge Iraq to complete demarcation of borders with Kuwait
  • “They underlined the importance of Iraq’s commitment to Kuwait’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” according to a joint statement published on KUNA news agency

DUBAI: The foreign ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council member states and UK Secretary of State James Cleverly have urged Iraq to complete the demarcation of Kuwaiti-Iraqi maritime borders.

In a joint statement released Friday, the officials urged Iraq to respect international agreements, especially regarding the demarcation of Kuwaiti-Iraq borders.

The statement followed a meeting between Cleverly and GCC Secretary-General James Al-Budawi on the sidelines of the 78th session of the UN General Assembly in New York.

“They underlined the importance of Iraq’s commitment to Kuwait’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” according to a joint statement published on KUNA news agency.

Tensions have been rising between Kuwait and Iraq after the Iraqi Federal Supreme Court earlier this month ruled an agreement regulating navigation in the Khor Abdullah waterway was unconstitutional. The court said the law that ratified the accord should have been approved by two-thirds of Parliament.




Kuwait’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sheikh Jarrah Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah met the UN Baron Tariq Ahmad, and EU Deputy Secretary-General Enrique Mora. (KUNA)

Kuwait’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sheikh Jarrah Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah has discussed with UN officials and Western diplomats the latest Iraqi Supreme Court verdict regarding Khor Abdullah.

Sheikh Jarrah met Thursday the German Minister of State Tobias Lindner, UK Minister of State for the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia and the UN Baron Tariq Ahmad, and EU Deputy Secretary-General Enrique Mora.

The land border between the two was demarcated by the UN in 1993 after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, but it did not cover the length of their maritime boundaries, which was left for the two oil producers to resolve.

An agreement between the two nations was reached in 2012 and ratified by each of their legislative bodies in 2013.


Why did Israel fail to foil Hamas attack plot despite specific warnings?

Why did Israel fail to foil Hamas attack plot despite specific warnings?
Updated 7 min 20 sec ago
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Why did Israel fail to foil Hamas attack plot despite specific warnings?

Why did Israel fail to foil Hamas attack plot despite specific warnings?
  • Failure to act all the more remarkable as Israel had acquired a copy of the battle plan prior to the assault
  • Social media abuzz with conspiracy theories government knew about impending events but let it happen

LONDON: On Oct. 6, 1973, Israel was taken completely unawares by an attack by a coalition of Middle East states, led by Egypt, that came very close to wiping it off the map.

In the end Israel, backed by a massive airlift of advanced weaponry and other support from the US, survived the Yom Kippur War, albeit at great cost — more than 2,600 of its soldiers were killed, and thousands more wounded.

But “it was a massive intelligence failure,” said Ahron Bregman, a UK-based Israeli historian, author and political scientist.

Palestinians take control of an Israeli Merkava battle tank after crossing the border fence with Israel from Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on October 7, 2023. (AFP/File)

Afterward, in a society left “in a state of deep collective shock,” hard questions were asked of Israel’s politicians, the military and the intelligence community and, “supposedly, lessons were learnt.”

But almost exactly 50 years later to the day, on Oct. 7, 2023, Israel was taken by surprise once again, this time by a Hamas assault that left at least 1,200 Israeli citizens and soldiers dead, and saw almost 250 carried back into Gaza as hostages.

Now, in an Israel wracked and divided by self-doubt, anxiety and anger at the failure of its government and much-vaunted military forces not only to anticipate and prevent the attack, but also to respond to it in a timely fashion, hard questions are being asked once again about what went wrong, and who is to blame.

“Like in the Yom Kippur War, the Israelis had all the information in front of them — everything, all the details,” said Bregman, a senior teaching fellow in the Department of War Studies at the UK’s King’s College London, who served in the Israeli army for six years.

“This was another massive intelligence failure on the part of the Israelis.

“In the future, the Hamas attack on the seventh of October will be taught in military schools, alongside Pearl Harbor, Operation Barbarossa (Germany’s surprise attack on Russia in 1941) — and the Yom Kippur War.”

Thanks to a startling leak, presumably from within Israel’s intelligence community, it is clear that the failure in the run-up to Oct. 7 was all the more remarkable because Israel had acquired a copy of Hamas’ battle plan prior to the attack.

On Nov. 30 The New York Times ran an exclusive story claiming that Israeli officials had obtained the plan “more than a year before it happened ... But Israeli military and intelligence officials dismissed the plan as aspirational, considering it too difficult for Hamas to carry out.”

Hamas had “followed the blueprint with shocking precision” and, concluded The Times, “what could have been an intelligence coup turned into one of the worst miscalculations in Israel’s 75-year history.”

Disenchanted intelligence operatives are not the only Israelis coming forward with revelations about Israel’s failings leading up to Oct. 7.

Evidence is now emerging that in the months, weeks and days leading up to the Hamas attack repeated warnings by Israeli army observers tasked with monitoring the “Iron Wall” between Israel and Gaza were ignored or dismissed.

Video feeds from cameras along the length of the high-tech fence, which in 2021 was given a $1 billion upgrade, are monitored day and night by members of the Israel Defense Forces’ Combat Intelligence Collection Corps.

The wall seemed formidable: a 6-meter-tall fence, topped with razor wire and embedded in deep concrete foundations to foil tunnelling, bristling with sophisticated surveillance systems and remote-controlled machine guns mounted on towers along its length.

But on Oct. 7, the high-tech wall was defeated by a combination of low-tech bulldozers, explosives and drones that dropped bombs into the machinegun nests.

One of the first targets of the Hamas fighters who poured through the breached fence was a military base at the kibbutz of Nahal Oz, about 1 kilometer inside Israel. There, 25 of the 27 female observers were killed.

As Israelis look for answers to explain why the Hamas attack was so successful, and the Israeli military’s response so inadequate, the two women who survived the attack on the base have now come forward with allegations that repeated warnings given by them and their colleagues were brushed aside by superior officers.

According to a report in The Times of Israel, for at least three months before the attack the observers spotted and reported repeated and increasingly suspicious activities, including “Hamas operatives conducting training sessions multiple times a day, digging holes and placing explosives along the border.”

Yet all these signs were “disregarded as unimportant by intelligence officials.”

One of the two survivors from Nahal Oz told Israel’s Kan public broadcaster that she had watched Hamas operatives training at the border fence for weeks.

Maya Desiatnik realized it was “just a matter of time” before something big happened, but her repeated warnings were ignored. And on Oct. 7 something big did happen.

She began her shift that day at 3:30 a.m. All was quiet at first, but at 6:30 a.m. “we saw people running to the border from every direction, running with guns,” she told Kan. “We saw motorbikes and pickup trucks driving straight at the fence.

“We watched them blow up the fence and destroy it. And we might have been crying but we continued to do our jobs at the same time.”

But the expected support from rapid-response troops, summoned as per protocol, did not materialize.

“It’s infuriating,” Desiatnik told Kan. “We saw what was happening, we told them about it, and we were the ones who were murdered.”

Israel makes much of the fact that women serve alongside men in its armed forces. With certain exceptions, every Jewish, Druze or Circassian citizen over the age of 18 does compulsory military service.

Men are expected to serve for at least 32 months and women, who frequently feature in IDF videos, for a minimum of 24.

But one explanation for the failures on Oct. 7, said Bregman, “is in my view to do with gender.”

“Most of the observers along the border, who follow and report on Hamas activities, are women soldiers,” he said.

“Yet in the weeks and months leading up to Oct. 7, they kept reporting to their superiors, all of whom were men, of course, saying ‘Look, they are preparing an attack on us, here is all the information,’ and they were dismissed.

“And I believe that one of the reasons why they were dismissed was the fact that they were young women.”

But the military’s deadly lack of confidence in its female observers was just one of several failings that contributed to the disaster on Oct. 7, Bregman says, including “the very existence of the fence.

“There is a psychological dimension here. You think ‘Well, I’ve got a fence, I am protected,’ and then you start cutting corners, thinking you don’t need so many troops in this area.

“On Oct. 7 yes, there was a very sophisticated fence, like nothing else anywhere in the world. But there was nobody to protect it, because most of the troops were elsewhere, in the West Bank.”

In his view, Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, also has a lot to answer for.

“Netanyahu believed that if you could just feed Hamas with money and jobs in Israel, it would keep quiet. The belief in Israel was that Hamas was deterred from going to war, but that belief was in Israeli heads, and not in Hamas’.

“Netanyahu wanted to believe that Hamas would not go to war, and this idea filtered down to the military itself, and they ended up believing it.”

Inevitably, social media is abuzz with conspiracy theories about Oct. 7, including that the Israeli government knew about the impending attack but let it happen, in order to justify a wholesale assault on Gaza.

The slow response by Israel’s military to the attack is attributed to a claim, accompanied by the hashtag #BibiKnew, that Netanyahu ordered the IDF to stand down on the day.

“But I think we have too many solid explanations for this intelligence failure to start believing in conspiracy theories,” said Bregman.

“It was not in Netanyahu’s interests to go to war. His entire strategy was to have Hamas in power so he did not have to do the two-state solution.”

The success of the attack was not due entirely to Israeli failings.

“If you look back at the military history of Hamas, you can see that it is a very adaptable organization, and the Israelis failed to realize this,” said Bregman.

It is also clear that, in the words of “a source close to Hamas,” speaking to Reuters, “Hamas used an unprecedented intelligence tactic to mislead Israel over the last months, by giving a public impression that it was not willing to go into a fight or confrontation with Israel while preparing for this massive operation.”

As part of this subterfuge, Hamas had refrained from attacking Israel for two years, and created the impression that “it cared more about ensuring that workers in Gaza ... had access to jobs across the border and had no interest in starting a new war.”

Yossi Mekelberg, professor of international relations and an associate fellow of the MENA Program at UK-based international affairs think tank Chatham House, has no doubt that there will be a full accounting for the disaster of Oct. 7 when the fighting finally stops.

“There are rumors and leaks and although it’s clear that there was a systemic failure, until we hear evidence under oath in an investigation it’s difficult to know exactly what happened,” he said.

“But there must be an inquiry, there is no other option. When the war is over, and a lot of reservists are discharged, they will be the first to demand an inquiry, the families of those who were killed on Oct. 7, the families of those who were taken hostage, the families of the soldiers that were killed since Oct. 7, they will all relentlessly demand an inquiry, and rightly so.”

He is hesitant to predict the political outcome of the disaster for Netanyahu and his right-wing Likud party: “Who knows, in politics, but I will be very surprised if he’s not done.”

Fifty years on from Yom Kippur, Israel is once again in a state of “deep collective shock.”

Yet ultimately, amid domestic dismay at Israel’s failings before, during and after Oct. 7, and growing concern at home and abroad at the IDF’s disproportionate meting out of death and destruction in Gaza, it may be the Israeli response rather than the Hamas attack itself that proves to be a tipping point in the seemingly endless cycle of violence.

“I really think we are at a junction here,” said Mekelberg.

“I would like to see people draw the conclusion that conflict and bloodshed achieve nothing, but add to the anger and the bitterness and the need for revenge, and that this needs to change.

“What is needed now is different leadership, that will create some hope, and there could be a much better future for both Israel and Palestinians — and I think the potential is endless.”

 


Israeli fire injures 3 Lebanese soldiers: medical source

Israeli fire injures 3 Lebanese soldiers: medical source
Updated 09 December 2023
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Israeli fire injures 3 Lebanese soldiers: medical source

Israeli fire injures 3 Lebanese soldiers: medical source
  • Israeli artillery fire targeted the vicinity of a Lebanese army post in Ras el-Naqura, lightly injuring three soldiers
  • An AFP photographer at the scene saw the soldiers lying on stretchers, exhibiting signs of breathing difficulties but with no open wounds

BEIRUT: Three Lebanese soldiers were lightly injured Friday by Israeli shelling in southern Lebanon, medical sources said, while the Lebanese army reported no casualties in a second attack on a hospital.
Hezbollah also announced the death of four of its fighters on Friday.
“Israeli artillery fire targeted the vicinity of a Lebanese army post in Ras el-Naqura, lightly injuring three soldiers,” a medical source told AFP.
An AFP photographer at the scene saw the soldiers lying on stretchers, exhibiting signs of breathing difficulties but with no open wounds.
On Tuesday, two people, including a Lebanese soldier, were killed in Israeli cross-border shelling — the first among Lebanese army personnel to be killed since the start of almost daily exchanges of fire on the border between Israel and Iran-backed Hezbollah.
The Israeli army acknowledged the incident and expressed “regret,” saying it was targeting a Hezbollah position and not the army.
The Lebanese armed forces, deployed to the border area, reported a second attack on Friday.
“On December 8, 2023, the military hospital in the town of Ain Ebel was bombed by the Israeli enemy, causing material damage but no casualties,” it said in a statement.
Regular cross-border fire began following the start of the Israel-Hamas war, triggered by the Palestinian Islamist movement’s surprise October 7 attack on Israel.
Hezbollah, an ally of Hamas, claimed responsibility on Friday for a series of attacks against Israeli troops and positions near the border.
Meanwhile, Israel continues to hit border areas in what it says is an attempt to destroy Hezbollah’s infrastructure.
Since October 7, border violence has killed at least 120 people in Lebanon, the majority Hezbollah fighters but also 16 civilians, including three journalists, according to an AFP count.
On Thursday, a civilian was killed in northern Israel by an anti-tank missile fired from southern Lebanon, bringing the number killed in attacks from Lebanon to at least six Israeli soldiers and four civilians, according to authorities.
Hezbollah had claimed responsibility for the anti-tank missile on Thursday, saying it was targeting Israeli military barracks.
On the same day, Islamic Jihad, a Palestinian armed group, announced the death of two of its fighters, bringing the number of its members killed in southern Lebanon to eight.


Israelis kill 6 Palestinians in West Bank assault

A woman reacts during the funeral of Omar Abu Baker, 16, in the West Bank. The boy was killed in an Israeli raid, near Jenin.
A woman reacts during the funeral of Omar Abu Baker, 16, in the West Bank. The boy was killed in an Israeli raid, near Jenin.
Updated 08 December 2023
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Israelis kill 6 Palestinians in West Bank assault

A woman reacts during the funeral of Omar Abu Baker, 16, in the West Bank. The boy was killed in an Israeli raid, near Jenin.
  • 14-year-old boy among the dead as troops storm Al-Fara refugee camp amid intense fire

RAMALLAH: Israeli forces shot dead six Palestinians on Friday in a raid on a refugee camp in the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian Health Ministry said, as the army confirmed it conducted a “counterterrorism” operation.

The ministry said those who lost their lives included a 14-year-old boy and an 18-year-old.
It said they had been killed “by bullets from the occupation (Israel) in the Al-Fara refugee camp” near Tubas.
The Palestinian Red Crescent also reported having treated six people wounded by gunfire, one of them critically.
“Clashes escalated with the (Israeli) forces who stormed the camp amid intense fire and ... explosions,” said the official Palestinian news agency Wafa.
The Israeli army said in a statement that during a joint military and Shin Bet counterterrorism operation, “two wanted suspects were apprehended,” listing both as prominent “terrorists” who had previously been imprisoned.
“During exchanges of fire, a number of terrorists were killed,” it added.
“Two M-16 rifles were found on the terrorists who were killed.”
Residents of the camp gathered for funeral processions on Friday morning, carrying the bodies of those killed in the raid through the streets.
The spot where one of them was shot had been turned into a makeshift memorial, with a pool of blood surrounded by stones and a Palestinian flag draped nearby.
Violence has flared in the territory since the outbreak of the war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
On Wednesday, the Palestinian Health Ministry said four Palestinians, two of them teenagers, were killed in multiple Israeli operations around the West Bank, which has been occupied by Israel since 1967.
The Palestinian Authority says Israeli fire and settler attacks in the West Bank have killed at least 263 Palestinians since the Israel-Hamas war began.
This exceeds the entire death toll of 235, most of them Palestinians, killed in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict last year.
Last month, 14 Palestinians were killed in an Israeli raid in the city of Jenin, according to the Ramallah-based Palestinian health ministry.
It was the highest West Bank death toll from a single raid since 2005, according to UN records.
Israel’s military said at the time that soldiers and other security forces had killed “several terrorists” with a drone strike and others in gunfights, seizing weapons and destroying a “tunnel shaft containing ready-to-use explosive devices.”
Israeli officials and military have regularly charged that the Jenin refugee camp in the city had turned into a “terrorist hub” where armed groups are among tens of thousands of residents.
According to the medical charity Doctors Without Borders or MSF, since the war erupted, Palestinian gunshot victims in the West Bank are now being shot more often in the head and torso rather than the limbs.
Without specifying who was responsible for the shootings, MSF’s international president Christos Christou said on Thursday there had been a “clear shift” in the injuries witnessed by MSF staff.
“When you see that shift in the trauma, you will see more and more dead people,” he said.

 


Gaza health system ‘is on its knees’

Gaza health system ‘is on its knees’
Updated 09 December 2023
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Gaza health system ‘is on its knees’

Gaza health system ‘is on its knees’
  • “Children and people begging and crying for water — we’re at that level, where the most normal and basic supplies are not available anymore,” Lindmeier said

GENEVA: Gaza’s health system is on its knees and cannot afford to lose another ambulance or a single hospital bed, the World Health Organization has warned, “The situation is getting more and more horrible by the day ... beyond belief, literally,” WHO spokeperson Christian Lindmeier told a press briefing in Geneva.
“The health system is on its knees. Gaza cannot afford to lose any more health facilities, another single ambulance, any more hospitals ... or even a single hospital bed more.”
The UN’s humanitarian agency OCHA said late on Thursday that only 14 of the 36 hospitals in the Gaza Strip were functioning in any capacity. The UN says about 80 percent of the population has been displaced, facing shortages of food, fuel, water, and medicine, along with the threat of disease.
“Children and people begging and crying for water — we’re at that level, where the most normal and basic supplies are not available anymore,” Lindmeier said.
“Right now, the calculation for Gaza is 1 to 2 liters of fresh water a day — that’s water for everything, not only for drinking.
“People are starting to cut down telephone poles to have a little firewood to keep warm or cook if they have anything available.
“Civilization is about to break down.”
Lindmeier said a convoy was supposed to take medical supplies to Al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City on Friday and evacuate 12 patients to the south.
“That mission, we were told this morning, had to be suspended because of the security situation,” he said.
Health workers in the Gaza Strip do not have enough food and water to continue working, he said.
“Patients are bleeding on the floor, trauma wards resemble battlefields,” said Lindmeier.
“This callousness must end. We need a ceasefire and we need it now.”

 


US criticizes Israel on Gaza civilian toll as UN to hear ceasefire demand

US criticizes Israel on Gaza civilian toll as UN to hear ceasefire demand
Updated 08 December 2023
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US criticizes Israel on Gaza civilian toll as UN to hear ceasefire demand

US criticizes Israel on Gaza civilian toll as UN to hear ceasefire demand
  • US Secretary of State Antony Blinken calls it imperative for Israel to ‘put a premium on civilian protection’
  • Blinken mention the gap between ‘the intent to protect civilians and the actual results’ seen on the ground

GAZA/WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in his strongest public criticism of Israel’s conduct of the war on Hamas in south Gaza, said there was a gap between the government’s declared intentions to protect civilians and the casualties.

“As we stand here almost a week into this campaign into the south... it remains imperative that Israel put a premium on civilian protection,” Blinken told a press conference after meeting British Foreign Secretary David Cameron in Washington on Thursday.

“And there does remain a gap between... the intent to protect civilians and the actual results that we’re seeing on the ground.”

Israel says it must wipe out the Hamas militant group after its attack on Israel two months ago and is doing everything possible to get civilians out of harm’s way, including warnings about military operations.

US President Joe Biden spoke separately by phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jordan’s King Abdullah on Thursday. Biden “emphasized the critical need to protect civilians and to separate the civilian population from Hamas including through corridors that allow people to move safely from defined areas of hostilities,” the White House said.

More than 17,170 Palestinians have been killed and 46,000 wounded, according to the Gaza health ministry, since Oct. 7, when Israel began bombarding Gaza in response to a cross-border rampage by Iran-backed Hamas militants, who control the enclave. The Hamas attack killed 1,200 people, with 240 people taken hostage, according to Israel’s tally.

The Israeli military on Friday said 92 of its soldiers had been killed in Gaza fighting since its ground incursions began on Oct. 20.

CEASEFIRE DEMAND AT UN AS GAZA FIGHTING RAGES

Hundreds more Palestinians were killed as Israel fought Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip’s biggest cities on Thursday — 350 people, according to Gaza health ministry spokesperson Ashraf Al-Qidra. Israel said its forces killed a number of gunmen in Khan Younis, including two who emerged firing from a tunnel.

Arab states have renewed their push for an immediate humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza, with United Arab Emirates asking the UN Security Council to vote on Friday morning on a draft resolution.

The United States and ally Israel oppose a cease-fire, saying it would only benefit Hamas. Blinken is due to meet top diplomats from Arab states, including Egypt, on Friday in Washington.

The draft was amended to say both “the Palestinian and Israeli civilian populations must be protected in accordance with international humanitarian law” and to “demand the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages.”

A resolution needs at least nine votes in favor and no vetoes by the five permanent members — the United States, Russia, China, France or Britain — to be adopted. The US does not support any further action by the council at this time.

As pressure mounts on Israel over the civilian toll of its war to destroy Hamas, the Palestinian Authority is working with US officials on a plan to run Gaza after the war is over, Bloomberg News reported.

Citing Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, it said the preferred outcome would be for Hamas to become a junior partner under the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), helping to build a new independent state that includes the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.

“If they (Hamas) are ready to come to an agreement and accept the political platform of the PLO, then there will be room for talk. Palestinians should not be divided,” Shtayyeh said, adding that Israel’s aim to fully defeat Hamas is unrealistic.

KEREM SHALOM BORDER CROSSING TO OPEN

In a development that should help smooth the way for more humanitarian aid to reach Gaza, Israel agreed to a US request to open the Kerem Shalom border crossing for the inspection of trucks and their cargo, a US official said on Thursday.

Egypt, along with the United Nations, has been lobbying Israel to speed up an inspection process, which requires the vehicles to drive to Egypt’s border with Israel before looping back to Rafah. The number of trucks crossing daily has dropped to fewer than 100, from nearly 200 during a Nov. 24-Dec. 1 truce, according to the United Nations.

Kerem Shalom sits at Gaza’s southern border with Israel and Egypt and the crossing was used to carry more than 60 percent of the truckloads going into Gaza before war erupted two months ago.

With no end in sight to the fighting, a top White House national security aide, Jon Finer, said the United States had not given Israel a firm deadline to end major combat operations against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

There are many “legitimate military targets” remaining in south Gaza, including “much if not most” of the Hamas leadership, Finer said at the Aspen Security Forum in Washington.

Meanwhile, hostages still held by Hamas have been kept incommunicado in Gaza despite Israel’s calls on the Red Cross to arrange visits and verify their wellbeing.

Marking two months since Hamas’ attack, the start of the Jewish festival of Hanukkah was a solemn moment for many in Israel.

Idit Ohel, whose son Alon, 22, was kidnapped by Hamas gunmen from an outdoor music festival where 364 people were killed, said she was hoping for a miracle.

“He doesn’t know it’s Hanukkah. I don’t think he knows the days, what’s day, what’s night,” said Ohel. “But he’s in our hearts all the time.”