Note to reader: We wanted to give you a trigger warning on what you may read below. We have chosen, as with every night of these briefings, to not share horrific images, however we want to alert you as sensitively as we can to the reports coming out of Israel and Gaza.
What to Watch and Read Today
- FOLLOW: CFI Instagram and X
- READ: The UK’s solidarity with Israel has been commendable, but we must crack down on Iran and its proxies
- READ: US pauses funding for UNRWA after staff accused of involvement in October 7 massacres
- SHARE: Lord Cameron visits Israel to discuss securing the immediate release of hostages
Leader of the House of Commons Penny Mordaunt: “We mus tnot rest until [the hostages] are all home”
Leader of the House of Commons Penny Mordaunt said in Business Questions that, “we must not rest until [the hostages] are all home” on Thursday, and thanked the families of five hostages still held in Gaza: Liri Albag, Elisa Cohen, Idan Shtivi and Gali Berman, which visited Parliament this week in two delegations. Mordaunt met with the family members and “listened to their brave testimony”, according to the Leader of the House of Commons official X account (formally Twitter).
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak stated this week that the Royal Air Force “engaged in a second wave of strikes against Houthi military targets in Yemen”. The move followed the “ongoing and imminent threat from the Houthis to UK commercial and military vessels” and was taken together with the U.S., with support from Australia, Bahrain, Canada and the Netherlands. The strikes were, “fully in line with international law, in self-defence and in response to a persistent threat”, added the Prime Minister.
He said that Iran and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) “poses a significant threat to the safety and security of the United Kingdom and our allies particularly given Iran’s direct threats against people here in the UK”.
In a House of Commons Debate entitled Action Against Houthi Maritime Attacks, Former Deputy Prime Minister Rt. Hon. Dominic Raab MP warned of “IRGC attacks in the Persian gulf”. Alicia Kearns MP agreed that “there are a number of Iranian proxies” across the Middle East, with Tehran the “fundamental threat to UK security and to stability in the region”.
Sir Bernard Jenkin MP expressed his “full support” for the UK’s military action, which was equally welcomed by Anthony Mangnall MP. The “suffering” of hostages in the region was highlighted by Dr. Lisa Cameron MP, who said that they are facing “unconscionable long-term psychological trauma”.
Greg Smith MP urged Government action on recent BBC reports which revealed that “senior IRGC generals have made extremist speeches to United Kingdom students that are riddled with antisemitism and the promotion of violence. This radicalisation simply must stop”.
Cyber-attacks “coming from Iranian proxies” pose a danger to maritime shipping, according to James Morris MP. He urged the need to “strengthen the cyber-resilience of our maritime partners”.
Commons Debates the Situation in the Red Sea
In a separate debate this week, Defence Secretary Grant Shapps called the Houthi’s attacks “unlawful and callous”, adding that “what these Iran-backed Houthi pirate thugs forget is that it is the least well-off nations and people who suffer”. He said the Houthis “are actually opportunists. Only as far back as 2015, they did not support Hamas. Now they claim their entire programme is in support of Hamas’ illegal activities”.
Rt. Hon. Sir Liam Fox MP, Alicia Kearns MP and Rehman Chishti MP called for proscription of the IRGC during the debate, speaking about the threats that the Iranian military branch poses to British interests and international stability. Fox called the Abraham Accords “a great exercise in leadership to bring reconciliation” which “threatened Iran’s hegemony—as it saw it—over the Islamic parts of the Middle East”. As such, Iran has mobilised all of its proxies, an “‘axis of resistance’ against the West” which “will keep going as long as it possibly can. It will not seek peace; it will resist peace at all times”, he asserted, adding that “it is right that Hamas cannot be part” of any future settlement.
Alicia Kearns MP warned of Houthi military capability, discussing the former dictator of Yemen, who defected to the Houthi cause and “brought with him ballistic and cruise missiles” now in use against the “Royal Navy, the U.S. and allies”. She outlined the terror group’s single “F-5 jet”, “helicopter pilots” and “so much more domestic capacity beyond what they are being given by the Iranians”.
In a separate Business Questions session, CFI Officer Nicola Richards MP called on the Government to “help protect supply chains in the context of the disruption to trade in the Red Sea” on Thursday, referring to the Iran-backed Houthis, and said that the constituents of West Bromwich East “do not want an increase in prices as a result of the terror attacks”.
Parliament holds debates marking Holocaust Memorial Day
On Holocaust Memorial Day, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office hosted an event to honour the lives of the six million that perished. Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron met with Holocaust survivor Eve Kugler during the event. “People have to understand. But they have to know the history”, Kugler told the Foreign Secretary.
CFI Parliamentary Officer Andrew Percy MP said that, “never did I think that I would have the experience in my lifetime of visiting the site of a pogrom and smelling the rotting flesh of Jewish people who had been murdered. That happened for me three and a half weeks after 7 October”, reflecting on a visit to the sites the Hamas-led 7th October massacre on a CFI organised delegation to Israel.
He added that, “having delivered education on the Holocaust, I never thought that in my time I would bear testimony”. The “brownshirts of the Nazis on our streets”, replaced by “hard-left activists”, equally call for a society “cleansed of Jews”. He continued, “the cries of, ‘The Jews are our misfortune’ have been replaced on our streets by calls for jihad, calls for an intifada and demands for Muslim armies to rise up and fight Israel (…) Look at our streets. What do we have? Nazi and Soviet-era propaganda marching down our streets, and it is not being tackled”.
CFI Parliamentary Officer Nicola Richards MP led a separate debate in which she spoke of meeting with hostage families in Parliament, calling the 7th October “the biggest loss of Jewish life in a single day since the Holocaust”. Speaking of her time in Israel at the beginning of the month with CFI, she said that the table of shoes she witnessed at an exhibition about the Nova music festival massacre reminded her “of the pile of shoes in Auschwitz”. Unlike her visits to Poland, she knew “exactly how [7th October victims] looked and how they might have lived”, after seeing brands of makeup such as L’Oréal that were left behind. “I know that they were not any different from me: young women in their 20s or 30s”, said Richards, before describing the horrors she had witnessed in videos of the atrocities, “I felt completely overwhelmed trying to grasp the scale of it”.
CFI Parliamentary Vice Chair Rt. Hon. Theresa Villiers MP called on the Government to “renew” it’s commitment to the pledge “Never Again”, and warned that “we should be in no doubt in this House of the genocidal intentions of Hamas towards Israel and all Jewish people”. Villiers attended the recent CFI trip to Israel, and recounted her experience. The “misappropriation” of the word ‘genocide’ in the contemporary international debate is an “affront to the victims of the unspeakable crimes that we remember today”, she added.
CFI Parliamentary Officer Bob Blackman CBE MP gave an address on the suffering of those that survived the “atrocities” of the Holocaust, and said that this year’s theme of the ‘fragility of freedom’ was “particularly fitting”, considering the state of global instability and “a terror war raging in Israel and Gaza”. He said that almost 80 years after the Holocaust, “the Jewish community is again being unjustly marginalised”, pointing to 7th October and a “surge in antisemitic hate in the United Kingdom” as a “terrifying example” of religious hatred. “It is truly appalling that in this country today schoolchildren have to hide their uniforms on the bus to protect themselves just because they show them to be Jewish”.
Dr. Matthew Offord MP said that “there is a clear link” between traditional antisemitic attitudes and the “terrorist attacks in Israel on 7 October. Those attacks were no different from what the Nazis were doing”, he stated. During his trip to Israel with CFI, Offord said that he witnessed bodies at Shura base which “could not be identified”. Some were “headless, some were just a head, some were limbs and some were bodies fused together by fire”. Offord warned against newly emergent antisemtisim at the UK’s academic institutions. At UCL, he recalled a Jewish student’s experience, when she was told that “there are no Arabs in Israel, all Jews are wealthy and Jews control the world—all the usual tropes that we are now hearing more and more”.
CFI Executive Director James Gurd: “Hamas’ tactics recalled the depravity of ISIS”
CFI Executive Director James Gurd has written in Conservative Home about visiting Israel in the aftermath of the atrocities committed by Hamas on 7th October. “Hamas’ tactics recalled the depravity of ISIS”, he said before highlighting the role of Hamas weaponry procured from China via Iran.
Gurd said that the Palestinian Authority’s “endorsement of extremism should trouble Western and Arab capitals”. Warning of the dangers of Iran and its paramilitary IRGC forces, Gurd asserted that “the best course of action” is to “proscribe the IRGC”.
ICJ rejects South Africa’s call for immediate ceasefire in Gaza
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has rejected South Africa’s demand for an immediate ceasefire, upholding Israel’s right to self defence against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, in line with international law.
Additional provisional measures imposed by the court include ensuring the prevention of genocide, facilitation of humanitarian aid and preservation of evidence – all of which conform to Israel’s standing commitments. It has also ruled that Hamas must oblige by the “immediate and unconditional” release of all the hostages held illegally in its captivity.
In a televised address on the ruling, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that: “Israel’s commitment to international law is unwavering. Equally unwavering is our sacred commitment to continue to defend our country and defend our people”. He added that “the court’s willingness to discuss [genocide] at all is a mark of disgrace that will not be erased for generations”.
The judgement dealt with an urgent intervention sought by South Africa, requesting nine emergency measures against Israel. The measures would act to restrain Israel from its offensive until a judgement was made on the controversial case of genocide brought against Israel by Pretoria.
Israel has said that it is confident that the court will reject the unfounded claims at the merits phase of the ICJ proceedings. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has called the case “completely unjustified and wrong”, and it has been repeatedly condemned by the UK.
Israel declared war following the Hamas-led massacre of 7th October, which resulted in the death of 1,200 mostly-civilians and abduction of 253 as hostages to Gaza, including babies and the elderly. The Strip’s Hamas-run health ministry has said that over 25,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s offensive, including what Israel asserts to be some 10,000 Hamas terrorists. Over 200 IDF soldiers have been killed in the war so far.
The ruling makes provisions that means Israel will have to report back to the court in a month.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Khomeini: “Cut off the lifeline to Israel”
“Cut off the lifeline to Israel”, urged Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in a message to states across the Middle East on Wednesday.
He had asserted that Middle Eastern nations should stop pressing for policies “beyond their control”, such as a ceasefire in Gaza, and should instead begin proactively severing economic and political links to the Jewish State.
Also on Wednesday, Turkish President Erdogan said that he met with his Iranian counterpart to discuss the need to end Israel’s campaign in the Gaza Strip. Turkey does not consider Hamas a terrorist organisation.
Through the IRGC, Iran trains and equips terror groups across the region, including the Houthis in Yemen, which have attacked over 30 international vessel, Hezbollah in Lebanon, which have almost daily launched rockets and UAV’s into Israel, the Islamic Resistance, which has attacked U.S. positions in Iraq, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) in Gaza.
U.S. stops funding to UNRWA after employees implicated in 7th October massacre
The U.S. has paused funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), after 12 of its employees having been reportedly implicated in the 7th October onslaught against Israel.
UNRWA has opened a probe into the incidents to establish the truth “without delay”, according to UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini, and has terminated the contracts of those accused.
“There must be complete accountability for anyone who participated in the heinous attacks of October 7”, said U.S. spokesperson Matthew Miller, whilst the E.U. has stated that it is “extremely concerned” of UNRWA’s reported support for Palestinian terror groups.
A Telegram group of 3,000 UNRWA teachers in Gaza was recently reported to celebrate the Hamas massacre of 7th October, and Hamas’ military wing was recently revealed to have written to the head of Gaza’s education directorate demanding educators be excused from work for military training.
$8-12 million per month is reportedly being funnelled into Hamas by international charities and aid organisations, revealed reports this week. The transfer of funds by aid groups has enabled finances to evade international sanctions, according to Washington and Israel’s National Bureau for Counter Terror Financing.
“This is financial jihad”, said Hamas politburo chief Ismail Haniyeh this month. Trade-Based Terror Funding, which transfers money to Hamas through local Gazan business owners in return for goods, helps the terror group evade traditional sanctions. Hamas reportedly receives approximately $360 million per year from Qatar and $100 million from Iran, supplemented by an allowance from the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority and local tax revenues.
An international task force has looked to counter the funding and trace its origins since the onset of the war. The UK, U.S., Germany, the Netherlands, Canada and eleven other nations partake in the task force.
21 IDF troops killed in single strike on Monday
21 IDF soldiers were killed on Monday in the worst single day attack since the onset of the war in Gaza. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that “we experienced one of the most difficult days since the outbreak of the war”.
“Our hearts are with the dear families in their most difficult time”, added Israel’s Defence Minister Yoav Gallant.
The soldiers were killed when Hamas terrorists fired rocket-propelled grenades on buildings sheltering the troops, setting off explosives stored on-site and resulting in the entire buildings’ collapse just 600 meters from the border fence in the central Gazan neighbourhood of Maghazi. The building may have been filled with explosives for a scheduled demolition.
Two additional soldiers were killed, and two more injured, when a separate rocket-propelled grenade was fired at an IDF tank taking aim at the terror cell.
“The State of Israel woke up this morning to a painful and difficult update: 21 dead, among the best of our country who volunteered to defend their homeland”, said IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, who visited the scene on Tuesday.
Foreign Security Lord Cameron visits Israel to discuss renewed hostage deal
On a trip to Israel on Wednesday, Foreign Security Lord Cameron met with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Israel Katz, outlining his three goals: Securing the immediate release of the hostages, increasing aid to Gaza and ensuring an immediate humanitarian pause, as well as the movement toward a permanent ceasefire.
Hamas has rejected the latest Israeli proposal for a ceasefire, reportedly refusing to relinquish power in the Gaza Strip at the continued expense of Palestinian civilians. “Any agreement must be based on ending the aggression and the occupation’s complete pullout from the Gaza Strip”, said senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri.
Reports indicated that a month-long pause in fighting would be granted by Israel in exchange for the staged release of the 132 hostages still held in captivity by the terror group. However, Hamas insistence on a permanent ceasefire and full IDF withdrawal from Gaza has led to a significant hurdle in the negotiations. Hamas has also called for a 10-14 day pause before any hostages begin to be released, 100 security prisoners released for every “humanitarian” hostage freed and hundreds more prisoners in later stages.
The U.S. “certainly want another humanitarian pause so we can get aid in and hostages out”, said its National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby, and has supported Israel’s mission to defeat Hamas.
The latest rounds of U.S. led so-called “shuttle diplomacy” began on 28th December and has reportedly reduced Hamas’ intended extended pause in fighting to around 30 days. The terror group has since refused to negotiate further until a permanent ceasefire has been agreed.
Israel’s Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said that, “the most extreme people in the Hamas negotiations are the ones who are the furthest away from the Gaza Strip, those who fly in luxury planes [and] sit in luxury hotels”, whereas “most [Gazans] want to stop” fighting.
Yesterday, Israel’s war cabinet convened to discuss the ongoing hostage negotiations. CIA director William Burns and Mossad chief David Barnea will meet with Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani in Europe in coming days to discuss ongoing negotiations.
Hamas releases new propaganda hostage video
Hamas has released a propaganda video today showing a clip of Danielle Gilboa, 19, Karina Ariev, 19, and Doron Steinbrecher, 30. The five minute clip stitched videos together of the hostages, who urged Israel’s Government to bring them home.
Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron meets with hostage families at CFI Business Lunch
Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron met with hostage families at the CFI Annual Business Lunch, including the families of Danielle Gilboa, 19, and Liri Albag, 18, who remain in Hamas captivity.