German Elite Forces Are Ready For Possible Gaza Operation, Says Bild

Germany top Special Forces units to Cyprus

The German government has decided to deploy some of Germany’s top Special Forces units to Cyprus as it prepares for potential crisis situations in Israel, Gaza, and the Middle East, the German tabloid Bild reported on Wednesday, citing security sources.

The German Army’s Special Forces Command (KSK) has been deployed to the island nation in the Eastern Mediterranean, Bild said, adding that the German Navy Special Forces (KSM) unit, also known as combat swimmers, was deployed to the area as well. The German federal police Special Forces unit specializing in rescuing hostages (GSG 9) was sent there as well, the tabloid reported.

According to Bild, Berlin is preparing for “all scenarios” amid a continued escalation between Israel and the Gaza-based Palestinian Hamas militant group.

The conflict broke out after Hamas launched a massive attack against Israel, barraging it with rockets and briefly overrunning Israeli settlements located not far from Gaza. The attack and the follow-up clashes between the militants and the Israeli military claimed the lives of more than 1,400 Israelis, mostly civilians, according to authorities.

The militants also took more than 200 people hostage during their raid, Hamas has confirmed. According to Bild, there is a “double-digit number” of German citizens among the captives. The Special Forces could potentially be used to rescue them, the tabloid said, adding that the units could also be deployed to evacuate German citizens working in Gaza or even to help Germans get out of Lebanon if the conflict between Israel and Hamas spreads into its territory.

According to Bild, all the necessary equipment as well as several military transport aircraft, including the Airbus A400M Atlas and Lockheed C-130 Hercules, were transported to Cyprus. The German government had allegedly already informed the relevant parliamentary committees about its preparations, the media outlet said.

“We are ready for a cold start and prepared for all options,” Berlin said, according to Bild. A “cold start” in the language of the German military means a high state of readiness that would allow the units to be immediately deployed to a relevant area and become operational without any additional preparations.

The news came as tensions around Gaza continued to run high. On Tuesday, a strike on a hospital in Gaza killed more than 600 people, according to the local health authorities. Many Muslim nations immediately blamed the incident on Israel, which strongly denied any connection to the attack and, in turn, blamed it on the local Palestinian militant groups. On Wednesday, massive anti-Israeli demonstrations were held in many nations across the Middle East and North Africa. Protesters took to the streets from Morocco to Iran.

U.S. Will ‘Forever’ Stand With Israel, Says Biden

A media report said:

U.S. President Joe Biden has vowed continued support for Israel, during his visit, on Wednesday.

Washington would forever stand at its ally’s side, Biden pledged, while dismissing claims about Israel’s responsibility for Tuesday’s strike that killed hundreds, according to a Gaza Health Ministry tally.

“I come to Israel with a single message – you are not alone,” he said after a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “As long as the United States stands, and we will stand for ever, we will not let you ever be alone,” the U.S. president added.

Biden also called the October 7 attack on Israel launched by the Gaza-based Hamas militant group the deadliest one for the Jewish people since the Holocaust, adding that Washington would not stay idle in the face of a similar threat in the future.

“It has brought to the surface painful memories and scars left by millennia of anti-Semitism and the genocide of the Jewish people,” the U.S. president said, adding that his nation “will not stand by and do nothing again. Not today, not tomorrow, not ever.”

Earlier, Biden also denied that Israel was responsible for Tuesday’s strike on a hospital in Gaza that killed an estimated 600 people. The U.S. leader put the blame on Palestinian militant groups instead. When asked by journalists about what made him so sure of that, Biden replied: “The data I was shown by my Defense Department.” He did not provide any further details about the alleged evidence.

The strike provoked uproar around the world. Many Muslim nations, including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and Jordan, blamed the Israeli military for the bombing of the health facility. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on humanity to “take action to stop Israel’s unprecedented brutality in Gaza” in the wake of the hospital attack he said was “devoid of fundamental human values.”

Russia and the United Arab Emirates have called for an emergency UN Security Council meeting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict due to the attack.

The Israeli military strongly denied responsibility for the incident. The strike was a result of a failed rocket launched by a Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group falling on the facility, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said, citing intelligence data.

On Tuesday, Bloomberg reported that Biden was supposedly planning to propose a $100 billion aid bill that would include funding for Israel, Ukraine, Taiwan and the southern US border with Mexico. West Jerusalem had previously asked for $10 billion in “emergency” aid from the U.S., according to the New York Times.

Biden has told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he believes assurances given to him that the IDF was not responsible for the strike on Al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza.

“Based on what I have seen, it appears as though it was done by the other team, not you,” he told the Israeli leader on Wednesday.

Biden said he was “deeply saddened and outraged” by the incident, which has claimed over 600 lives, according to Palestinian officials.

Washington has pledged continued military assistance to Israel, after a deadly incursion into southern Israel earlier this month by the Palestinian militant group Hamas resulted in hundreds of deaths. The attackers also captured scores of hostages, whom they reportedly want to exchange for thousands of prisoners in Israeli custody.

The Israeli government has vowed to obliterate the organization and has subjected Gaza to heavy bombardments since the incursion by Hamas.

Biden arrived in Israel on Wednesday morning in a gesture of support for the Jewish state. He had been expected to travel to Jordan to meet King Abdullah II, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, however Amman canceled the summit after the hospital strike, which it pins on Israel.

Netanyahu claimed that Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a militant group allied with Hamas, likely caused the destruction at Al-Ahli. He insisted that a barrage of rockets launched by the group came close to the hospital, a claim they deny. 

The U.S. leader focused on alleged crimes committed by Hamas during his meeting with Netanyahu.

“They have committed evils and atrocities that make ISIS look somewhat more rational,” he claimed, referring to Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), the jihadist group infamous for its graphic on-camera executions.

Biden however stressed that Hamas “does not represent all of the Palestinian people and has brought them only suffering.”

Israeli President Isaac Herzog last week assigned some blame to Palestinian civilians, stating that “an entire nation out there is responsible.” “They could have risen up, they could have fought against that eveil regime which took over Gaza,” he declared.

Israel supported Islamist Hamas as a counterweight to the secular Fatah from the 1970s up until early 1990s. The two factions fought a bloody conflict for control of Gaza, following Hamas’ victory in the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections and Fatah’s refusal to form a joint government.

Biden on Wednesday argued that the Hamas attack on Israel was worse than the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

At least 31 Americans were among “more than 1300 innocent Israelis” killed by Hamas on October 7, Biden told the audience in Tel Aviv, from the music festival near the Gaza border to the nearby villages and kibbutzes. “Children slaughtered. Babies slaughtered. Entire families massacred. Rape, beheading, bodies burned alive,” Biden recited, comparing Hamas to Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) and their atrocities to “pure unadulterated evil” that cannot be rationalized or excused.

“Since this terrorist attack took place, we have seen it described as Israel’s 9/11. But for a nation the size of Israel, it was like fifteen 9/11s,” Biden said. “The scale may be different, but I am sure those horrors have tapped into some kind of primal feeling in Israel, just like it did and felt in the US.”

The U.S. leader urged Israelis to not get “consumed” by the “all-consuming rage” they surely feel, noting that the Americans were also enraged after 9/11, “and while we sought justice and got justice, we also made mistakes,”

Biden noted that Hamas “does not represent the Palestinian people,” who are “suffering greatly as well.” The people of Gaza “need food, water, medicine, shelter,” and the U.S. has asked Israel to agree to humanitarian deliveries from Egypt to the Palestinian territory – so long as they are inspected and do not go to Hamas.

The U.S. has pledged $100 million in new humanitarian assistance to both Gaza and the West Bank, to support more than a million displaced and conflict-affected Palestinians, Biden announced.

According to Biden, peace will only come with a “two-state solution” and the recent attacks have only strengthened his “commitment and determination” to get that done.

Biden told the Israeli audience: “Israel will be a safe, secure, Jewish and Democratic state today, tomorrow, and forever.”

Muslim Staff Afraid To Discuss Israel At White House, Says Huffpost

A Huffpost report said on Wednesday:

Several staff members of the administration of U.S. President Biden, in particular those with Muslim backgrounds, are worried about retaliation if they question Israel’s conduct in Gaza.

The outlet cited several staffers “across multiple agencies, most of whom work on national security issues,” but did not identify any of them by name.

The days since the Hamas attack on October 7 have been “the first time in the administration that there was a real culture of silence,” one official said. “It feels like post-9/11 where you feel like your thoughts are being policed, and you are really afraid of being seen as anti-American or an anti-Semite.”

Another, identified only as a career civil servant, said they were worried about the consequences of criticizing the president on social media. “I feel like there is no place for me in America anymore, and I am on thin ice with my clearance because of any heritage and because I care about my people dying,” the civil servant said.

Biden and the rest of the U.S. leadership, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, has pledged support for Israel in its ongoing war with Hamas.

“We must be crystal clear: We stand with Israel. And we will make sure Israel has what it needs to take care of its citizens, defend itself, and respond to this attack,” Biden said last week, later echoing the sentiment during a visit to Israel on Wednesday. 

A person working in the administration told HuffPost that the “inner, inner circle” deciding U.S. policy is “not at all diverse,” which defeats the point of having a variety of opinions at the table. “Does that completely explain the monstrous disregard for innocent Palestinian lives? No, but it is hard to think these things are entirely disconnected,” that person said.

The same person added that the Biden administration’s policy decisions “show stunning disregard for innocent Palestinians – and that same dehumanization is also reflected in how staff are being treated.” There was “so much care for some lives abroad, and for “certain” staff, but not others.

Another official described “a chilling effect” among the staff, noting that it took them several days to muster the courage to argue it would be bad for the U.S. “if we are seen as responsible for killing Palestinian children” and get into another Middle East war.

“There was awkward silence like a pin could drop, and I am like, ‘Are they going to report me to the House Un-American Activities Committee?” the official added.

A career bureaucrat with more than a decade’s experience in foreign policy described a culture of “self-censorship” among the younger staff in particular, who appear to be “shocked” by the difference between the Gaza response and the campaign rhetoric about human rights, or Ukraine. 

White House personnel director Gautam Raghavan held a call with “current and former high-level Muslim appointees” on Sunday, according to one person who took part. The two main themes were reportedly “the risk of increased Islamophobia nationwide and a sense that Muslim staff in the administration were in danger.”

In an email to HuffPost, Raghavan denied the claim that he had called the Israel-Palestine policy process “broken” insisting that he “only talked about how we could support and affirm our team members.”

Robyn Patterson, a White House spokesperson, told HuffPost that Biden has “assembled the most diverse presidential administration in history and is proud of the open, collaborative role his appointees play in advising on policy and strategy – including Muslim and Arab American team members.” She was the only other official quoted by name in the story.

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