November 20, 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:

Video: Fortified Terror Tunnel Exposed underneath Gaza's Al-Shifa Hospital - Yoav Zitun (Ynet News)
    IDF forces uncovered a tunnel used by Hamas underneath Gaza City's Al-Shifa hospital, the army reported Sunday.
    A spiral staircase leading to a 55-meter-long (180-foot) terror tunnel, situated 10 meters (30 feet) deep, was discovered beneath the compound.
    See also How Intelligence Led Israel to Hamas' Shifa Terror Tunnel - Yonah Jeremy Bob (Jerusalem Post)

Video: Hamas Brought Hostages into Shifa Hospital on Oct. 7 - Emanuel Fabian (Times of Israel)
    The IDF released surveillance camera footage from Shifa Hospital showing Hamas terrorists bringing in Nepali and Thai citizens who were abducted from Israel on Oct. 7.
    The video proves that Hamas used Shifa Hospital on the day of the massacre.
    Further images show Hamas terrorists inside the hospital and outside the rooms of the hostages.
    The bodies of hostages Yehudit Weiss and Cpl. Noa Marciano were found near the Shifa complex several days ago.

Palestinian Authority Denies Hamas Music Festival Massacre - Einav Halabi (Ynet News)
    The Palestinian Authority denied on Sunday that Hamas terrorists carried out the massacre at the Nova music festival near Kibbutz Re'im on Oct. 7.
    The statement, sent to foreign ministries worldwide and the UN, claimed that "Israeli helicopters" caused the deaths of at least 350 participants at the party.
    According to the Israel Police, the first Israeli helicopter reached the compound hours after the massacre began.

UK Doctor Who Worked at Shifa Confirms Gaza Hospital Used for "Non-Medical Purposes" - Gianluca Pacchiani (Times of Israel)
    A British doctor who used to work at Shifa Hospital told France 24 that there were areas of the hospital where he could not go or else he would be shot.
    "I stayed away, but I saw a few dodgy-looking non-medical characters going in and out all the time. It was a ward leading to a basement."
    "People were genuinely fearful. I cannot emphasize too much the air of collective paranoia that existed there." He said if hospital staff were 10% frightened of possible Israeli airstrikes, they were 90% frightened of being persecuted by Hamas.

Foreign Doctors Come to Israel to Help amid War - Renee Ghert-Zand (Times of Israel)
    Twelve thousand doctors, nurses and paramedics from around the world have informed Israel's Health Ministry that they are ready to hop on a plane to Israel and volunteer their services during the ongoing war with Hamas.
    The readiness of these physicians - most Jewish, but not all - to leave their busy practices abroad has been heartwarming for Israel's medical community. So far, more than 150 have come to help.
    More than 5,000 civilians, IDF soldiers and police officers were injured on Oct. 7 and in the ensuing war.
    "We are not recruiting volunteer doctors from abroad to serve with the IDF or on the frontlines. We need them on the home front, filling in for Israeli doctors who have been called up for military service," said Dr. Asher Salmon, head of the Health Ministry's international relations division.
    Dr. Avi Schlager, a pediatric surgeon from Florida volunteering at Schneider Children's Medical Center in Petah Tikva, said, "We're going to look back on this time and ask ourselves whether we did everything we could to help in this critical moment."

Israel Receives Dozens of New Armored Ambulances (Jerusalem Post)
    Dozens of ambulances that were built and armored in the U.S. arrived at Ben-Gurion Airport on Sunday, according to Walla.

Israeli Volunteers Step In for Foreign Farm Laborers - Anuj Chopra (AFP)
    Kibbutz Nir Oz was one of the communities hit the hardest by the Hamas attacks on Oct. 7, with a quarter of its 400 residents killed or abducted by Hamas gunmen.
    Tens of thousands of volunteers - including entire school classes - have signed up across Israel to temporarily replace foreign workers killed, abducted or forced to flee after the attacks.
    At Nir Oz, 15 Thai farm workers were killed in their quarters.
    The volunteers are transported to the farm daily under military escort.
    As Palestinian rocket fire continues, they have 15 seconds to seek shelter when rocket alert sirens blare.
    Many of the volunteers appear driven by a patriotic mission they say is nearly as vital to Israel's future as they believe the war on Hamas is - tending the farms, animals and fields that have been abandoned since Oct. 7.

In the Wake of the War, Antisemitism in China Reaches New Heights - Capt. (res.) Tuvia Gering (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
    Since the beginning of the war in Gaza, antisemitism has exploded on China's social media and traditional media, spouted by Communist Party media outlets, senior researchers, and diplomats who dehumanize Jews and demonize Israel.
    Official sources take an active part in fueling the discourse.
    The writer is a researcher at INSS' Israel-China Policy Center.

Israel at War: Daily Zoom Briefing
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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Israel Shifts to Tougher Phase of Gaza War - David S. Cloud
    Israeli forces have largely succeeded in taking control of northern Gaza. But they have only partially destroyed Hamas' military capabilities and haven't captured or killed many of its top leaders, senior Israeli officers say. Many Hamas fighters are believed to have escaped to the south as Israeli troops moved in. Israel's plan for attacking Hamas in the south is likely to be complicated by the large number of civilians now packed into the area.
        "We are determined to keep moving forward," Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the Israeli military's chief spokesman, said Friday. "This will happen wherever Hamas is, and it is also in southern Gaza." Israeli officials say they have no choice but to also invade southern and central Gaza to remove Hamas from power in response to the Oct. 7 cross-border attack. (Wall Street Journal)
  • My Children Are Being Held Hostage by Hamas - Maayan Zin
    On Oct. 7, my daughters, Dafna, 15, and Ela, 8, were kidnapped by Hamas. Noam, their father, was likely killed in front of their eyes. I spend every day switching between hope and dread. Our entire country has mobilized to rescue Dafna and Ela, foreign leaders know their names and are trying to secure their freedom, and thousands of miles away from here, strangers hold vigils and put up posters showing their faces.
        At the same time, I can see that the ideology of hatred that drove Hamas to kidnap my daughters continues to grow stronger around the world. The soldiers fighting their way to Dafna and Ela face people who would rather die than let my girls go free. Thousands of miles away, strangers scream for more violence, another intifada, another war to push us into the sea. (Washington Post)
  • Surge in Iranian Proxy Attacks on American Military Positions in Iraq and Syria - Alex Horton
    Retaliatory airstrikes approved by President Biden have failed to stop a surge in attacks on deployed U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria. Since Oct. 17, U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria have faced near-daily assaults from rocket fire and one-way drones, recording at least 61 incidents and about as many injuries at 10 bases used by American personnel. So far, Biden has authorized three rounds of airstrikes, all in eastern Syria. "Are we trying to deter future Iranian attacks like this? Well, that's clearly not working," said one Defense Department official.
        Anger over U.S. support for the Israeli military campaign in Gaza has heightened concern among Biden and his deputies that any overreaction to the attacks on U.S. personnel could incite a wider conflict. In conjunction with the airstrikes, administration officials have urged Tehran repeatedly over the past month to rein in the militia groups it supports, cautioning that the U.S. has "the right" to respond "at a time and place of our choosing."  (Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Houthis Claim to Hijack "Israeli" Cargo Ship - Lior Ben Ari
    Yemen's Houthi rebels hijacked an Israeli-leased cargo ship with 25 crewmembers on board, Saudi media reported on Sunday. The Bahamian-flagged Galaxy Leader was carrying cars from Turkey and was seized in the southern Red Sea en route to India. The crew were of various nationalities, including Ukrainians, Bulgarians, Filipinos and Mexicans; no Israelis were on board. The ship was leased to a Japanese company from a British company partly owned by Israeli Rami Unger. Two ships owned by Unger were previously attacked by Iran in the Gulf of Oman in 2021.
        Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the ship "was hijacked under Iranian direction by the Houthi militia in Yemen....This is another act of Iranian terrorism, representing a significant escalation in Iran's aggression against the citizens of the free world, and has international implications for the security of global shipping routes."  (Ynet News-Jerusalem Post)
  • U.S. Continues to Back Israel's Operations against Hamas in Gaza - Jacob Magid
    While the Biden administration has gradually intensified its rhetoric about the importance of protecting civilians in Gaza, Washington's support for Israel's operations against Hamas continues, an Israeli official said. He said the U.S. has concerns regarding "collateral damage and humanitarian issues" that it continues to raise, but Israel is attentive to them. "We really listen to them and we do what we can, as long as it doesn't undermine our ability to operate on the ground militarily."
        The Israeli official explained that "the prime minister didn't say the PA will never go back [to Gaza], rather that it would need to undergo significant reforms in order to do so." He said this stance is backed by much of the international community, including the Arab world, given the current state of the PA, which is struggling just to control the West Bank. (Times of Israel)
  • IDF Troops Enter Luxury Homes of Hamas Leaders in Gaza - Yoav Zitun
    Senior Hamas officials set up residence in Gaza City's upscale Al Rimal neighborhood, using their luxurious lodgings as command centers and digging tunnels underneath. IDF forces uncovered 35 tunnel shafts in the neighborhood leading to the Hamas underground network of tunnels and command centers, and found large quantities of weapons, the military said Sunday. When tunnel shafts are uncovered, they are marked and specially trained dogs are sent in to probe for explosives before special forces enter. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • The Legal Justification for the Raid on Shifa Hospital - Pnina Sharvit Baruch and Tammy Caner
    Hospitals are granted "special protection" under the laws of war due to their humanitarian role. This special protection may be removed if a party to the conflict makes use of medical assets outside of their humanitarian function and exploits them for combat purposes.
        This includes situations in which a hospital is used as a headquarters, a hiding place for fighters, a base for launching attacks, an observation post to transmit information of military value, or an ammunition repository - all uses attributed to Hamas in Shifa Hospital. As a result, Shifa lost its immunity and became a legitimate military target for attack.
        To remove the special protection of a hospital, the laws of war require the attacking party to provide due warning to stop the misuse and a reasonable time for the warning to be heeded. In recent weeks, Israel has publicly warned against the misuse by Hamas of Shifa hospital and enabled ample time to stop this misuse. In addition, Israel provided medical equipment and other supplies, including incubators, baby food, oxygen, and fuel, as well as means to evacuate patients.
        Unfortunately, the international community's response plays into the hands of Hamas, which seeks to pressure Israel to cease its attacks and thus limit Israel's ability to dismantle the Hamas military infrastructure. As such, it provides Hamas with an incentive to continue operating out of hospitals and use civilians as human shields, while turning the laws of war into weapons against those who respect them. This undermines the primary aim of these laws - to protect civilians during war.
        Col. (res.) Adv. Pnina Sharvit Baruch, former head of the International Law Department of the IDF Military Advocate General (MAG) Unit, heads the program on law and national security at INSS, where Tammy Caner is the coordinator of the program.  (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
  • How Could Anyone Find Common Cause with Hamas? - Kathleen Parker
    The blame for the current war belongs to Hamas. Its surprise attack on Oct. 7 brought death on both sides. Israel has promised to keep pushing forward until all Israeli hostages, estimated to be 243, are released, and that's understandable.
        I've tried to imagine how Americans would have responded had similar atrocities been committed on our turf. We know what happened following 9/11. But 9/11 was abstract and mechanical - airplanes against buildings, not quite real.
        What happened in Israel was in many instances face-to-face, intimate. The Hamas militants looked their victims in the eyes before slitting their throats, or mowing down their children, or setting fire to the living. Their cruelty is inconceivable to any normal person, and yet they laughed and celebrated with whoops as they killed and killed and killed. How could anyone find common cause with such people? (Washington Post)
  • The World Must Recognize Antisemites for What They Are - Ravit Hecht
    Underlying the anti-Israel Palestinian propaganda that is now thriving around the world is espousal of the ethnic cleansing of Jews from this region. It's not about a return to the 1967 lines, but the annihilation of the Jewish national home and the expulsion of Jews from this place.
        Anyone who doesn't recognize that the Jewish people everywhere are under a racist attack; or who looks for underlying reasons for the heinous crimes committed by Hamas; or who tries to minimize or even outright deny some of the horrors of Oct. 7, is collaborating, consciously or unwittingly, with an antisemitic assault. Anyone refusing to see Hamas as a barbaric organization that committed crimes against humankind itself is collaborating with an antisemitic attack.
        Anyone denying the right of a nation to defend itself after an attack, the cruelty of which cannot be expressed in words, with the people who perpetrated it vowing to repeat it at the first opportunity; anyone who fails to distinguish between the way the IDF conducts itself in Gaza and the way Hamas treated its victims, is collaborating with an antisemitic attack.
        There is an unconscious racist expectation in the West that Palestinians are not bound by what is expected of any human being, to recoil with horror from a sadistic massacre and come out forcefully against a murderous and barbaric culture. (Ha'aretz)
  • Israel's Soldiers Vow "Never Again" - Fiamma Nirenstein
    Israel is advancing slowly but steadily into the heart of Hamastan. This is a war to the finish, and Israel intends to finish it. Irwin, an IDF soldier who just returned from India, told me: "We know that we can die, but the purpose is bigger than us. There is no choice. We will not suffer another attack like the one on Oct. 7." These soldiers fight out of love for their homeland, for their homes and families.
        Shahar, 30, a paratrooper, recounts, "On the 7th, they sent us directly to the kibbutzim. As soon as we arrived in Be'eri, in Alumim, we were hit in the face by the blood, the dead on the ground, the horrors and a huge number of terrorists. I lost a very dear friend of mine there. Entering Gaza to fight is the most natural thing. I was injured in the back and head, but I asked to return as soon as possible. My grandparents were Holocaust survivors, my father fought in the Yom Kippur War. Never again is now - and now, it's my turn."
        "If we show weakness, Hamas will try to tear us to pieces again. It makes me angry that the world doesn't care about us. We do everything to save the civilian population. Hamas uses them as a human shield. My mother takes people from Gaza to hospitals in Israel. We offer incubators to hospitals that hide terrorist leaders. What else do you expect from us?"
        The writer, a fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, served as vice president of the Committee on Foreign Affairs in the Italian Chamber of Deputies. (JNS)
  • What Comes "the Day After"? - Irwin J. Mansdorf, Ph.D
    As we have been told over and over since the war began, "something has changed" in Israel. What the residents of the Gaza envelope communities need more than anything is a renewed feeling of confidence in their country, built on the assurance of personal safety and security.
        In many ways, Fatah and the PA it dominates are ideological clones of Hamas. Both have rejected and denied Jewish history, both continue to claim title to the entire Land of Israel, both glorify and celebrate the murder of Israelis, and both turn a blind eye to a culture of hate based on teaching children that violence is an acceptable means of "liberation." Palestinian children are still educated to reject Israel's existence and to honor and glorify terrorists. The U.S. apparently wants the PA that underwrites this educational system to govern a post-war Gaza.
        Many Israelis now see who their neighbors are, what those neighbors have been taught, what they believe and what they are prepared to do to realize their dream of "freeing" Palestine "from the river to the sea." For many Israelis, the PA does not need to be "revitalized" and brought back to life. It needs to be dismantled and replaced.
        The writer is a fellow at the Jerusalem Center of Public Affairs specializing in political psychology and a member of the emergency division of the IDF Homefront Command. (JNS)
  • Britain Is the New Capital of Anti-Israel Hate - Douglas Murray
    It amazes most Israelis - as it amazes me - that Britain has seen some of the worst scenes of all the anti-Israel marches across the world. The first protests in London happened before Israel had even begun its military response to Oct. 7. Rallies were held within hours of the massacres. What other country, having suffered a set of atrocities hardly superseded in the whole history of violence, wouldn't get even one day of sympathy? Only the Jewish state. And everybody in Israel knows as much.
        Pakistan is currently in the process of forcibly deporting two million Afghans. Nobody cares. Bashar al-Assad is in his twelfth year of killing Muslims in Syria and the world's cameras turned away long ago.
        Israel withdrew from Gaza unilaterally, and very painfully, in 2005 - removing every Jew. They handed over the land and got rockets in return. Everyone around the Gaza border and across wider Israel was used to running from rockets to the shelters.
        It was Hamas who broke what ceasefire existed on Oct. 7 when its legions gunned down young people at a music festival, went door-to-door in small communities, and burned people alive in their homes. I have been to the sites of many of these massacres. Many of the residents of kibbutzim were peace activists. I have seen with my own eyes the peacenik literature that lies among the blood stains and looted remains of their houses.
        In my view, Israel can look after itself. Watching the unity of this nation at war assures me of that. (Telegraph-UK)

The Israel-Iran Endgame - John Jenkins interviewed by Katie Stallard (New Statesman-UK)
  • John Jenkins, the former director for the Middle East and North Africa at the Foreign Office in London, said senior Israelis refer to the conflict between Israel and Hamas as a paradigm shift. The Israelis realize the policy they have pursued for the past two decades, of seeking to "mow the grass" - periodically debilitating Hamas and Hizbullah in small-scale conflicts - has essentially collapsed.
  • They now cannot tolerate a Gaza which is under Hamas control. That also means that they will not be able to tolerate the sort of presence that Hizbullah has established over the last 23 years in southern Lebanon.
  • The Iranians see great virtue in strategic patience. They think Israel will eventually disappear because it is divinely ordained: their duty is to help it along, but not to provoke a regional conflict - particularly with two U.S. carrier groups off the coast of Lebanon and Israel - that would precipitate a major U.S.-Israeli attack on key Iranian assets, in Iraq, Syria, or indeed in Iran itself.
  • Israel is a very powerful mobilizing issue for Iran because a lot of these Shiite militias think the destruction of Israel is necessary to facilitate the return of the Hidden Imam. Shiism has this belief in the return of the Twelfth Imam, who will come back at the end of time as a Mahdi, bringing about the destruction of Israel, the destruction of the Jews.
  • The Iranians want the U.S. out of the Middle East. There are severe obstacles to this: one is the presence of Israel, which they believe will be expelled from the region like the Crusaders. This isn't going to happen, but that doesn't mean they don't believe it.
  • How do you negotiate with a state which believes that this is divinely ordained and just needs to be helped on its way?

Daily Alert is published Sunday through Friday during the war.
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