October 26, 2023
Special Report
A project of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Israel's Global Embassy for National Security and Applied Diplomacy

In-Depth Issues:

Hamas Fighters Trained in Iran Before Oct. 7 Attacks - Summer Said (Wall Street Journal)
    Roughly 500 Palestinian Islamist militants from Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad participated in specialized combat training exercises in Iran in September, led by officers of the Quds Force of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, according to people familiar with intelligence related to Hamas' Oct. 7 attack on Israel.
    The Wall Street Journal, citing senior Hamas and Hizbullah officials, has reported that the Quds Force helped plan the attack and agreed that it could go ahead at a meeting in Beirut on Oct. 2 with leaders of Hamas and Hizbullah.

Biden: "No Confidence" in Death Toll Provided by Hamas (Reuters)
    U.S. President Joe Biden said on Wednesday he has "no confidence in the number that the Palestinians are using" for the death toll in Hamas-run Gaza.
    "I have no notion that the Palestinians are telling the truth about how many people are killed. I'm sure innocents have been killed, and it's the price of waging a war."

House of Representatives Approves Resolution Condemning Hamas by 412 to 10 - Ron Kampeas (JTA)
    The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday overwhelmingly condemned the deadly invasion of Israel by Hamas by 412-10.
    The resolution declares that the House "stands with Israel as it defends itself against the barbaric war launched by Hamas and other terrorists" and "stands ready to assist Israel with emergency resupply and other security, diplomatic, and intelligence support."

U.S. to Send Two Iron Dome Batteries to Israel - Noah Robertson (Defense News)
    "The U.S. Department of Defense is currently engaged in planning to support the provision of U.S. Iron Dome batteries to Israel," a U.S. Defense Department official said.
    The U.S. Army bought the two Iron Dome systems at the request of Congress several years ago.
    Other U.S. security aid entering Israel includes air defense supplies and munitions, artillery rounds, armored vehicles, and precision-guided munitions.
    With more than 2,000 rockets intercepted, Iron Dome is among the most successful air defense systems in the world, said Tom Karako, director of the missile defense project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
    Should the current war widen beyond Gaza, Hizbullah has tens of thousands of rockets it could fire, he said.

Palestinian Authority Likely to Pay Millions to Hamas Perpetrators' Families - Ariel Kahana (Israel Hayom)
    The Palestinian Authority is expected to start paying millions of shekels to the families of thousands of terrorists who took part in the slaughter in Israel on Oct. 7.
    According to senior researcher Maurice Hirsch at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, the PA is gearing up to pay out grants in the sum of 9 million shekels [$2.25 million] to the perpetrators' families.
    The calculation is based on 1,500 bodies of Hamas terrorists that have been found.
    Each of their families will receive an initial grant of 6,000 shekels and then a monthly benefit of 1,400 shekels, meaning that the Authority will disburse an additional 2.1 million shekels to the families in November.
    Hirsch noted that the payout has nothing to do with each terrorist's organizational affiliation or place of residence.

Switzerland Suspends Funding of 11 Palestinian and Israeli NGOs (SWI-Switzerland)
    Switzerland is suspending financial support for 6 Palestinian and 5 Israeli NGOs active in the field of human rights, the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs announced on Wednesday.
    The decision makes it possible to conduct an in-depth analysis of the compliance of these organizations' communications with the FDFA's code of conduct and anti-discrimination clause.

Turkey's Erdogan Praises Hamas, Cancels Visit to Israel - Tuvan Gumrukcu (Reuters)
    Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday, "Hamas is not a terrorist organization, it is a liberation group, 'mujahideen' waging a battle to protect its lands and people."
    Turkey hosts Hamas members on its territory.
    Erdogan also said he had cancelled a previously planned visit to Israel.

The Legality of Israel's Fight Against Hamas - Hillel Neuer (X)
    Lord Guglielmo Verdirame, professor and barrister in public international law, told the UK's House of Lords on Wednesday:
    "Israel has described its war aims as the destruction of Hamas' capability. From a legal perspective, these war aims are consistent with proportionality in the law of self-defense, given what Hamas says it does and what Hamas has done and continues to do."
    "Asking a state that is acting in self-defense to agree to a ceasefire before its lawful defensive objectives have been met is, in effect, asking that state to stop defending itself."

Israel Is Acting Proportionately Against a Terrorist Enemy - Arsen Ostrovsky (Politico)
    Before the bodies of the 40 Jewish babies massacred by Hamas were even buried, many self-proclaimed experts were already charging Israel with acting disproportionately in response to the attacks on Oct. 7.
    But what is a "proportionate" response to dozens of infants being shot, burnt and decapitated?
    The pesky Jewish state remains the only democracy in the world that's condemned for acting "disproportionately" each time it refuses to surrender and allow its citizens to be slaughtered.
    To state the obvious, saving the lives of millions of your citizens from an attempted genocide is an entirely legitimate, legal and just military purpose by any measurement.
    The writer is a human rights attorney and CEO of The International Legal Forum.

Weapons Flood West Bank, Fueling Fears of New War Front with Israel - Sune Engel Rasmussen (Wall Street Journal)
    Iran and its allies have accelerated efforts to smuggle weapons into the West Bank.
    A senior Jordanian security official said networks of smugglers, assisted by the Syrian government and Iranian-backed militias like Hizbullah, were growing.
    "The weapons flow has really increased, specifically over the past year. This is because Iran has been much more focused on the West Bank recently, and trying to arm some of the groups there, especially the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which is Iran's more direct partner," said Michael Horowitz, Israel-based head of intelligence at Le Beck International, a risk consulting firm.
    Through a network of loyal militias, Tehran has established a land corridor across Iraq and Syria into Lebanon and, via Jordan, into the West Bank, allowing it to transport troops, equipment and weapons to its allies.
    Weapons smuggled into Jordan include Iranian replicas of U.S.-made Claymore antipersonnel mines, M4-style assault rifles, TNT and other explosives, and handguns, according to the senior Jordanian official.

Israel at War: Daily Zoom Briefing
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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Israel Agrees to U.S. Request to Delay Invasion of Gaza - Dion Nissenbaum
    Israel has agreed, for now, to a request from the U.S. to delay its expected ground invasion of Gaza so the Pentagon can place air defenses in the region to protect U.S. troops, according to U.S. officials. U.S. military and other officials believe that American forces will be at heightened risk by various Iran-backed militant forces once the invasion begins.
        "Israel is going to move ahead with the next stage in our campaign to destroy Hamas in response to the Oct. 7 massacre," Israeli government spokesman Eylon Levy said Wednesday. But many factors "are being taken into account. Israel is not shooting from the hip. We will use our force judiciously."
        "We are coordinating with the U.S. on a very strategic and very detailed level and we value this very much," said an Israeli official. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also below Observations: Israel Sees Gaza Ground Invasion as Inevitable - Ben Caspit (Al-Monitor)
  • Biden Weighs Striking Iranian Proxies after Attacks on U.S. Troops - Dan Lamothe
    President Biden faces mounting pressure to strike Iranian proxies that have repeatedly attacked and injured U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria this month. Biden said Wednesday that he warned Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, that if Tehran continues to "move against" U.S. forces in the Middle East, "we will respond." Nearly two dozen American troops were hurt within the last eight days after 14 or more aerial assaults on their bases in Iraq and Syria.
        Retired Gen. Joseph Votel, former head of U.S. Central Command, said the U.S. has "unfortunately" allowed the attacks to become "a little bit of a norm" by not responding to them. With the additional military assets dispatched to the region, "we can and should respond more directly to these threats on our troops."
        Bradley Bowman, senior director of the Center on Military and Political Power at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and an Afghanistan war veteran, said, "If you have these attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria and we don't respond in some way, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to think that we're going to get more of the same. The goal here is to prevent a smaller problem from becoming larger. We cannot permit cost-free attacks on our troops."  (Washington Post)
  • Israeli Airstrikes Eroding Hamas Military Infrastructure in Gaza - Patrick Kingsley
    Since Hamas terrorists from Gaza raided Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,400 people, the Israeli military has struck more than 7,000 targets inside Gaza. Israelis say there is a necessity and a method to their strikes, which are not about retaliation but defense. The campaign is focused on degrading Gazan military infrastructure. Israeli officials argue that strikes that ease an Israeli ground advance will help reduce the loss of life for Palestinian civilians and Israeli soldiers alike, once the invasion begins.
        Israel has targeted scores of Palestinian rocket launchers, command centers and munitions factories. It has also used powerful bombs to collapse a network of tunnels that Hamas has dug deep beneath urban centers. It has targeted mosques that served as weapons depots and operation centers, and has targeted Hamas commanders in their homes.
        The strikes appear to have curbed the Palestinians' rocket-firing abilities. There were fewer than 20 air raid sirens across Israel on Wednesday, compared with hundreds during the first days of the war. "Israel is not in a hurry," said Amos Yadlin, a retired Israel Air Force general. "The U.S. destroyed ISIS over five years so Israel doesn't have to destroy Hamas in six days."
        A group of Arabic-speaking Israeli soldiers regularly telephone community leaders in northern Gaza to push them to encourage their neighbors to flee. The soldiers harvest phone data to monitor how many people are leaving particular neighborhoods. This data informs the military's decision about where and when to strike. (New York Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel: Hamas May Release Some Captives - Itamar Eichner
    There's a "considerable chance for a significant deal" to release a large number of captives from Gaza, senior Israeli officials said Wednesday. The agreement, mediated by Qatar, will focus on the release of women, children and the elderly. However, the officials emphasized that such negotiations will not halt the impending ground offensive into Gaza. They further noted that Israel's patience was wearing thin. The officials indicated that the senior leadership of Hamas is primarily underground, and there's no substitute for a ground operation. (Ynet News)
  • 15,000 Israeli Civilian Volunteers Help Victims of Hamas - Sue Surkes
    Israeli civil society has quickly mobilized to support fellow citizens in distress. Volunteers organize medical supplies, psychological support, and clothing and equipment for evacuees from the Gaza border area - many of whom left just with the clothes on their backs. More than 100,000 Israelis have been evacuated and displaced. At a massive underground parking lot, hundreds of volunteers were unloading donated equipment, unpacking and sorting it, and repacking it into boxes for transport all over the land.
        As of Oct. 19, volunteers based at the Tel Aviv International Convention Center had distributed nearly 2/3 of 12,526 items of civilian equipment donated, found accommodation for 8,000 displaced families, distributed 120,000 food portions and 200 packs of medical supplies, transported 8,000 civilians and soldiers, provided 1,000 activities for evacuated children, and sent out 150 sets of shiva (seven-day mourning period) equipment.
        2,000 volunteers from the high-tech sector used their skills to identify missing and kidnapped Israelis. The unit, headed by internet expert Prof. Karine Nahon, used artificial intelligence to try to identify the missing, with volunteers going through hours of video material, frame by frame, looking for clues.
        "We did facial recognition, matching social media with visual material from different scenes and used AI to identify clothes. We even identified distinguishing marks like tattoos because some of the bodies had been decapitated," said Chava Rotman. "The high-tech people came here and invented new algorithms to find out where the missing people were" and were able to whittle the names of thousands of missing people down to a couple of hundred.
        "We might be sending a washing machine to people who have lost their house, or 400 mattresses to a place where evacuees are staying, or 5,000 (donated) portions of food from a restaurant in Tel Aviv," Daniel Sweig explained, adding, "We're people who haven't been mobilized [to the army] yet, but want to help, rather than sit at home."  (Times of Israel)
        See also Video: Israel's Volunteer Army (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:

    The Hamas Massacre

  • Journalists Witness Depths of Hamas Depravity - Orlando Radice
    In one piece of footage, a Hamas terrorist screams "Allah Akhbah" as he tries to behead a dead man with a shovel. Another clip shows terrorists entering a house and talking to each other as a small girl, aged around eight, hides under a table. One of them proceeds to shoot her dead. These clips were among the shocking footage shown to international journalists by the Israeli government on Monday.
        Israeli journalist Jotam Confino wrote that he saw "A father and two sons (roughly seven and nine) running for their lives in their underwear into what appears to be a bomb shelter with an open entrance. A Hamas terrorist throws a hand grenade into the shelter, killing the father, and badly injuring the two sons who run back into the house."
        An IDF spokesman told the journalists: "We want people to understand what we are fighting for. This is something else. Something has happened to Israel. This is a crime vs. humanity. This is good vs. bad. Death vs. life."
        "It's nothing to do with Islam. Why did they strap GoPros to themselves? Why do they call the family of who they murdered? Because they are proud of what they did? Rape - where is Islam? Burn - where is Islam? Behead - where is Islam? This is a crime against humanity. They killed babies, old people, sick people....We won't allow the world to forget who we are fighting."  (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
        See also I Watched Hamas Unleash Hell - David Patrikarakos (Free Press)
  • Video Shows Hamas Slaughtering Israeli Women Soldiers - Nick Parker
    Video recovered from a Hamas killer's head-cam, posted on the Israeli Telegram channel South First Responders, shows the "execution of Israeli female conscripts." After throwing a grenade into a room full of injured female conscripts, the conscripts are hiding under a table covering their heads. The terrorist moves a chair aside to fire at point blank range and execute them.
        It doesn't end here. The terrorists fire again. The camera captures a woman's high pitched wail before she is shot dead. Amidst the last gasps of the conscripts, the terrorists fire a final kill shot to execute them.
        Renana Gome was on the phone to her sons in Kibbutz Nir Oz as they cowered from Hamas fanatics hammering on the family's door. She heard her terrified 12-year-old son begging terrorists: "I'm too young - don't take me" as he was kidnapped with his 16-year-old brother and dragged into Gaza.
        Gome said: "I always tell my kids that the kids in Gaza struggle a lot harder, that they have a much worse life....My heart goes out to every child in Gaza who is killed. But what kind of mother grows such monsters? How can it be that I'm so empathetic to them, and they don't see us as humans? I used to be so pro-Palestinian. But I found out in the worst way that they are not neighbors."  (U.S. Sun)
  • Paramedic Found Young Girls Raped, Executed by Hamas - Itamar Eichner
    Prime Minister Netanyahu's foreign media spokesperson Eilon Levy shared the harrowing accounts of a paramedic who witnessed an incident in a home in Kibbutz Be'eri. "I enter a home of a family, and while we're looking for injured people, civilians to rescue...I open with my team one of the rooms of that house," the paramedic says.
        "I see two girls lying, one on the bed, one on the floor...a 14-15-year-old teenager....Someone executed her right after he brutally raped her, while just shooting her in the head. She was left there to lie in a pile of blood. And that is the first time I actually, like a slap in the face, understand we're not acting against terrorists here, we are acting against savages, inhumane savages."  (Ynet News)

  • How Should Israel Respond?

  • Deterring but Not Defeating Hamas Allowed It to Grow Stronger - Max Boot
    In order to limit civilian loss of life in Gaza, a lot of well-meaning people in the West are calling for a cease-fire or suggesting that Israel should limit its response to Hamas to precision airstrikes and commando raids to take out high-level Hamas operatives and to free hostages. That advice is well-intended but ultimately misguided and futile. If Israel were to declare a cease-fire now, that would be tantamount to rewarding aggression and inviting more of it in the future.
        A narrowly focused counterterrorism strategy is being pushed by analysts who warn that Israel should avoid the kind of quagmires in Iraq and Afghanistan that the U.S. found itself in after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. But there is a big difference in scale between Hamas now and al-Qaeda then. Al-Qaeda in 2001 had only 170 members, according to terrorism expert Peter Bergen. A few thousand other jihadists, who were not formal members, had been trained in its camps in Afghanistan. The 9/11 "planes operation" itself was carried out by 19 terrorists.
        The Oct. 7 assault on Israel, by contrast, involved an estimated 1,200 Hamas militants. The organization has 15,000-40,000 fighters in Gaza, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad might have 15,000 more. That makes Hamas closer to a conventional military force than a terrorist cell. It can't be destroyed by a small number of special operations forces, no matter how skilled. Nor can it be defeated from the air: There is no history of air operations proving decisive in warfare absent a ground component.
        If Israel were to rely on special operations raids and airstrikes, it would be reverting to the "mowing the lawn" strategy it followed for years of trying to degrade and deter, but not defeat, Hamas. The Oct. 7 attack revealed that policy's failure by showing that Hamas actually grew stronger and bolder after previous Israeli assaults. (Washington Post)
  • If Hamas' Crimes Are Allowed to Stand Unanswered, They Will Be Repeated - Prof. Cary Nelson
    Two to three thousand members of highly organized murder squads cross an international border and set about murdering civilians in as gruesome and indiscriminate a manner imaginable. With that barbaric mission completed in a day, some in the international community immediately begin calling for a ceasefire. A ceasefire keeps Hamas in power.
        Those urging a ceasefire stand behind what appears to be the most basic humanitarian motive: prevent further loss of life. Meanwhile, no reprisals for murdering men, women, and children are to follow. No sanctions. No punishments. No accountability. We are all to accept what happened and move on. Except that if the crimes are allowed to stand unanswered, they will be repeated or horrifically reinvented within a few years at most.
        If Israel fails to demonstrate that organized, wanton, antisemitic murder sprees will not be tolerated, these new forms of Hamas butchery will become Israel's new normal. The Hamas pogrom presents Israel with what really is this time an existential threat. It has to be treated that way. There will need to be a definitive material difference in the status of Hamas if Israelis are to feel safe again. Deterrence regarding Hamas has lost its credibility.
        Decades of wishful thinking must come to an end. Hamas is not and never will be a partner for peace. Its charter's call to kill Jews by any means possible has only one meaning: the literal one.
        The writer is Professor of Liberal Arts & Sciences emeritus at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. (Fathom-BICOM-UK)
  • Israeli Military Action to Defeat Hamas Is Proportionate to the Threat from Hamas - Prof. Alan Johnson
    What is meant by "proportionality" in war? The goal pursued by military action must be proportionate to the ongoing threat faced. Israel's goal of the removal of Hamas as the controlling political and military power in Gaza is proportionate because 7 October made clear that Hamas now poses an existential threat to Israel.
        Israel's goal is proportionate to the revelation that the mass slaughter of all the Jews of Israel will be attempted again and again by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad until successful, under the guiding hand and financial support of a nuclear threshold state religiously committed to Israel's destruction, Iran. Although Hamas has declared this eliminationist goal openly, again and again, Western liberal opinion refused to take it seriously. ("No, they can't mean that! No one can mean that!")
        7 October 2023 should have brought an end to the games that Westerners play with genocidal Hamas statements, to their clever-clever "translating" of them into mere "rhetoric." But Israel's neighborhood is a bit different from the Modern Languages Association annual conference. In that region, when someone says they intend to kill you, they really intend to kill you. All of you.
        The writer is the editor of Fathom Journal. (Fathom-BICOM-UK)

  • Responding to Israel's Critics

  • Questions for Israel's Critics - Yair Lapid
    How many Jews need to die before you stop blaming us for everything that happens? 1,400 were murdered. How many more do you need? Hamas abducted Abigail. She's 3. Who abducts a 3-year-old girl? How can it be that there are people demonstrating against Abigail and in support of the people who abducted her?
        I understand that you feel the Palestinians are suffering, but do you really have no interest whatsoever in actual facts? Do you know that Hamas doesn't support a two-state solution? They don't even want to free Palestine. That's not the kind of movement they are. Hamas is a radical Islamist organization, like ISIS. Their goal is an Islamic caliphate across the Middle East without Jews, without LGBT people, without Christians, even without moderate Muslims.
        There is a reason that you're protesting against us these days and, like everything else, it comes from feelings. Because, as opposed to everything you think about yourselves, everything you say about being color blind, humane, champions of human rights and all the rest, you have one other personality trait - you are antisemites. I know you think you're not, but you are.
        The writer is a former prime minister of Israel and currently the leader of the Opposition in the Knesset. (Times of Israel)
  • Why Is Israel Being Blamed for the Hamas Massacre? - Yossi Klein Halevi
    How is it possible that, in much of the international community, there is "understanding" for the mass atrocities of Oct. 7? That in certain circles there is greater outrage against Israel's response to the Hamas massacre than to the massacre itself? That those who feel most vulnerable on liberal American campuses are not Hamas supporters but Jews?
        This moment fits the historical pattern of antisemitism in the ease with which much of the world has, over the last decades, erased the Israeli understanding of the conflict. A systematic and astonishingly successful campaign has negated the Israeli historical and political narrative. The Jewish state has been transformed into an irredeemably evil society that has lost its right to exist, let alone defend itself.
        Hamas is not working for the creation of a Palestinian mini-state on the West Bank and Gaza, but for the destruction of Israel. For Hamas, all of Israel is "occupied," and no two-state solution would end its war against the Jewish state. In 1995, at the height of the Oslo peace process, Hamas launched its first wave of suicide bombings. The communities decimated on Oct. 7 were, in Hamas terminology, "settlements," though they are within Israel's internationally recognized borders.
        The sadistic frenzy of Oct. 7 was not an expression of political frustration, but one of primal Jew-hatred. But the Jews today are no longer helpless. We can defend ourselves, and we can strike back against those whose vision of a better world depends on our disappearance. Oct. 7 was a reminder of the necessity of Jewish power. In a world in which genocidal enemies persist, powerlessness for the Jewish people is a sin.
        The writer is a senior fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute. (Times of Israel)

  • Israel seems to be waiting for a green light from Washington to launch its ground assault on Gaza. The ground operation is being delayed, apparently in order to give the Americans time to deploy additional forces in the region.
  • "The U.S. is aware that the IDF's entry into Gaza is liable to set off additional arenas....They want to complete their preparations. This involves a major shift of forces...and there is no reason why we should not wait until this move is completed," a senior Israeli security source said. Biden has also urged Israel to take advantage of a small window of opportunity to free at least some of the 220 Israeli and foreign hostages.
  • Israelis are learning what it's like to prepare for war together with America. "To all those who support a defense pact," a senior Israeli defense official said, "I suggest examining how we now coordinate everything with the Americans, how we don't do anything contrary to their opinion, at least for now, and how we do all this without having a defense alliance."
  • "It's not that you can't attack without a green light from the Americans," an Israeli War Cabinet source said. "The Americans don't forbid us or veto anything, they only advise us closely and we cooperate fully. They immediately put at our disposal, without us even asking, all the power and backing of a superpower. That said, we know how to appreciate what we received. Two aircraft carriers and $14 billion is a major event, and we have to pay for that too, at least on the level of cooperation."
  • The senior War Cabinet source said, "The Middle East has been looking up to us for the past decade. We were the only ones who took on Iran on an almost daily basis, we contributed greatly to the defeat of ISIS, the Israel Defense Forces [IDF] have operated in almost every corner of the Middle East and beyond with phenomenal success, and then suddenly comes a small terrorist organization. Everyone, from Cairo to Amman, Abu Dhabi, Riyadh, Beirut and Tehran, is raising their eyebrows. We must show them we are still a regional superpower."
  • "This is the most important point - our deterrence," the senior War Cabinet source said. "The region must quickly understand that whoever harms Israel the way Hamas did, pays a disproportionate price. There is no other way to survive in our neighborhood than to exact this price now, because many eyes are fixed on us and most of them do not have our best interests at heart."

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