Current as of 9:00AM EST, 24JAN22
Despite mounting pressure to end the war in the Gaza Strip, Israel continues to remain defiant to Hamas demands, raising concerns regarding the plight of Israeli hostages and fears of a wider conflict in the Middle East. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu on January 20 rejected conditions presented by Hamas to end the war and release hostages that would include Israel’s complete withdrawal and leaving Hamas in power in Gaza. A senior Hamas official said Israel’s refusal to end the military offensive “means there is no chance for the return of (Israeli) captives.”
- Humanitarian Crisis: According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, the Palestinian death toll soared past 25,000 and United Nations (UN) officials state the war has displaced 85 percent of Gaza’s residents. UN officials also report a quarter of the population of 2.3 million is starving due to the lack of humanitarian assistance. Israeli officials said 260 aid trucks entered Gaza on January 21, the highest number since the war began, and communications in the Strip are gradually returning after an eight-day blackout.
- U.S. Support: Netanyahu told reporters he stressed in a conversation on January 19 with President Biden he rejects postwar plans for a Palestinian state. Biden reaffirmed his commitment toward helping the Palestinians move toward statehood and U.S. officials have increasingly called on Israel to scale back its assault in Gaza. A senior adviser to Netanyahu later stated Israel intends for Palestinians to govern themselves, but without the capability to threaten Israel.
- Military Operations: Israel’s military announced the death of a 19-year old hostage held in Gaza, and Israeli Defense Minister Gallant said troops discovered a Hamas tunnel in Khan Younis in southern Gaza and disabled Hamas’ command structure in the northern Strip. Israeli citizens are growing increasingly divided over the government’s military strategy, with some Cabinet members stating the only way to free hostages is through a cease-fire. Family members of remaining Israeli hostages in Hamas custody are also intensifying their protests, with demonstrations occurring outside of the Prime Minister’s residence and the Israeli parliament, and large numbers of protestors blocking major highways in Tel Aviv. Nonetheless, Netanyahu’s far-right coalition partners continue to push him to step up the offensive, with some calling for the “voluntary” immigration of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from Gaza and the re-establishment of Jewish settlements.
- Regional Relations: Iran’s president vowed to retaliate after five Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps members were killed in an airstrike in Syria on January 20. According to U.S. Central Command officials, U.S. personnel were injured in a ballistic missile attack on Al-Asad Air Base in Iraq on January 20, marking at least 143 times U.S. and Coalition forces have come under attack in Iraq and Syria since October 7. Meanwhile, U.S. forces destroyed a Houthi anti-ship missile in the Gulf of Aden. Lebanon’s National News Agency reported two people were killed and five others were injured in an Israeli drone strike in southern Lebanon over the weekend.
- Protests: Protests continued over the weekend in cities across the world. Demonstrators marched through downtown Raleigh, North Carolina on January 21, and an anti-Israel march interrupted the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, and held up traffic as filmgoers attended movie premiers and parties in the area. More than 9,000 protestors gathered in Brussels, Belgium for a “Justice for Palestine” demonstration. At least 4,000 pro-Palestine protesters in Melbourne, Australia rallied on Saturday and Sunday and prevented an Israeli ship at the city dock from unloading, in a move that has shut down all operations at the major shipping terminal resulting in the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Australian economy, according to Australian officials. At least 10 police officers were injured in Vicenza, Italy on January 20 during clashes with protestors demonstrating against the presence of Israeli exhibitors at a jewelry show.
The drafting of more than 300,000 Israelis to reserve military service and funding shortages are directly impacting Israel’s technology sector. Israel’s tech firms are a key part of the country’s economy and some analysts are concerned the ongoing war could drive a wider slowdown in 2024.
- During the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland last week, Dror Bin, the Chief Operating Officer for the Israel Innovation Authority encouraged participants to invest in Israel’s startups.” He said the Authority requires financial support from the private sector to deliver grants to Israeli startups. Prior to the war, Bin said it was relatively easy for startups to raise money and he urged investors to continue supporting Israel.
Israel’s technology sector has grown rapidly over the past decade and accounts for almost half of all exports and a fifth of economic output, according to the Innovation Authority. Since the war, the sector has grown about three percent and is now expected to slow to 1.5 percent this year.
We continue to urge anyone with business interests in Israel and the surrounding regions to exercise extreme caution, and to consider postponing any upcoming travel. We also encourage travelers to avoid all demonstrations and maintain awareness of their surroundings in areas with protest activity. Travelers and businesses should also consider:
- Watching for updated U.S. Department of State worldwide travel advisories.
- Avoiding areas in and around Israel, Lebanon, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and other portions of the Gulf.
- Reaching out to Concentric’s experts for support. Concentric can provide:
- Emergency evacuation and secure transportation, and support from local partners;
- Active monitoring and intelligence support, including tailored risk and travel assessments;
- Tailored security consulting and executive protection agents;
- Cybersecurity and digital privacy protection.
If you are interested in a briefing with Concentric’s Chief Executive Officer Mike LeFever or a member of Concentric’s team on any of these topics, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Feature image source.