November 28, 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:

700 Pro-Iranian Fighters Deployed in Syria near Golan Heights - Jonathan Spyer (Jerusalem Post)
    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that 700 pro-Iranian fighters of "Syrian, Iraqi, Palestinian, and other nationalities," trained by Iran's Revolutionary Guards and Hizbullah, have been deployed in Syria's Quneitra Province immediately adjacent to the Golan Heights.
    Syrian journalist Samer al-Ahmad of the Middle East Institute reported that "some groups were trained on how to carry out drone and rocket attacks, while other groups were taught security operations and information-gathering techniques."
    Multiple elements of a pro-Iran regional alliance are now engaged against Israel and the U.S. on a near daily basis: from Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and the West Bank, as well as from Gaza.
    The writer is executive director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis.

Israeli Hostages Report Hunger in Captivity - Adir Yanko (Ynet News)
    Elderly women who were abducted to Gaza by Hamas and returned to Israel in the first two days of the hostage deal experienced an average weight loss of 8 to 15 kg. in captivity, the Israel Health Ministry reported on Monday.
    Michal Levi, a clinical dietitian at the Leumit healthcare fund, said this represents a decrease of at least 10-20% in weight over a month and a half. "A 10% weight loss in three months is considered rapid."
    A doctor who treated several captives said, "the amount of food the captives received each day was very small. In terms of food, most of them received half a slice of bread twice a day. That's what they reported. Occasionally, some people received more than that."

Elite IDF Unit Eliminated 300 Terrorists, Uncovered Hamas Command Posts under Al Shifa Hospital (Ynet News)
    Soldiers of the Israel Air Force's Shaldag unit completed nine days of combat at Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City before the ceasefire on Friday.
    The soldiers seized 70 Hamas military vehicles within the premises of the medical center.
    One of them, an ambulance, contained suitcases full of investigation materials of Hamas members suspected of collaborating with Israel in the past decade and interrogated.
    In the basement levels of Al Shifa Hospital, the soldiers found combat materials in all its wings, alongside operational command posts of Hamas leaders with evidence of the presence of top officials and Israeli hostages.
    Among the abundant intelligence found was a thick book used as Hamas' intelligence report on the IDF for 2022-2023.
    The tunnel network from the hospital led to the homes of senior Hamas officials.
    On Oct. 7, 250 Shaldag soldiers were deployed to fierce combat via nine Air Force helicopters. Five were killed.
    On the first day, the soldiers eliminated over 100 terrorists. During ground operations in Gaza, Shaldag soldiers have killed about 200 terrorists.

The Hamas-Iran Relationship - Matthew Levitt (Jerusalem Strategic Tribune)
    Iran has funded, armed, trained, and provided intelligence to Hamas for decades. Funding from Iran has been especially important for the group's military and terrorist structures.
    As U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan concluded when asked about Iran's role in the Hamas attack, "We have said since the beginning: Iran is complicit in this attack in a broad sense because they provided the lion's share of the funding for the military arm of Hamas."
    Hamas would not have been able to plan and conduct its Oct. 7 operation without years of Iranian training, Iranian weapons, and hundreds of millions of dollars in Iranian funding.
    Dr. Matthew Levitt is director of the program on counterterrorism and intelligence at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
    See also Iran's Implausible Deniability - Jay Mens (Tablet)

40,000 Workers from India to Help Israel Address Labor Shortages - Ofer Petersburg (Jerusalem Post)
    To address the current shortage of workers in the construction industry due to the war, a groundbreaking bilateral agreement between Israel and India was presented in the Knesset last week to bring 40,000 Indian workers to Israel, with their arrival expected within a matter of weeks.

Diaspora Jews Raise $750 Million for Israel - Zvika Klein (Jerusalem Post)
    Diaspora Jewry has raised $750 million to aid Israeli post-war recovery efforts, according to a meeting held on Monday in the Knesset.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Gaza Truce Unlikely to Last Much Longer - Dan Sabbagh
    Gaza's truce is unlikely to last much longer. The pause will be extended for a few days, as the current agreement allows for an extra day's truce for every 10 hostages Hamas is willing to release. But the IDF has been unambiguously signaling its desire to restart the military campaign.
        "I can't see the truce lasting more than a week," said Col. (ret.) Miri Eisin, a former Israeli military intelligence specialist who runs the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism. "The IDF wants to dismantle Hamas' terror capability and military capability, and the only way to do that is through a systematic and careful ground operation....It could be another month or two." All the signs point to the fact that Israel believes a military victory is possible. (Guardian-UK)
  • U.S. Tells Israel any Ground Campaign in Southern Gaza Must Limit Further Civilian Displacement - Aamer Madhani
    The Biden administration has told Israel that it must work to avoid "significant further displacement" of Palestinian civilians in southern Gaza if it renews its ground campaign aimed at eradicating Hamas, senior U.S. officials said, underscoring that the Israelis must operate with far greater precision in southern Gaza than they did in the north.
        Biden and top officials have been clear-eyed about Israel's desire to continue operations focused on Hamas. They have said they support Israel's goal of eliminating Hamas control over Gaza and the threat it poses to Israeli civilians, but have grown more vocal about the need to protect the lives of Palestinian civilians.
        Biden administration officials have told the Israelis they expect them to conduct operations in a way that will be "maximally deconflicted" with the operation of humanitarian aid facilities, UN-supported shelters and core infrastructure, including electricity and water. (AP-Washington Post)
  • Prisoner Releases Send Hamas Support Rocketing in West Bank
    Palestinians have been celebrating the return of dozens of detainees freed from Israeli jails, in exchange for women and children seized during the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas. That has seen the popularity of Hamas soar in the West Bank. Ahmed Abdelaziz, 63, joined the celebrations on Sunday in Ramallah. "I'm here in solidarity, and because I appreciate what Hamas has done. Seeing these young people get out of prison thanks to the resistance, I'm overjoyed." "They say Hamas are terrorists, but we are all Hamas," shouted the crowd. (AFP-France24)
  • U.S. Religious Leaders Call on Congress to Pass Aid to Israel - Lauren Sforza
    Fifteen leaders from religious organizations across the country co-signed a letter Monday calling on Congress to pass aid to Israel and to take action against antisemitism in the U.S. "With this letter, we issue a united condemnation of antisemitism and proclaim our support for Israel's right to self-defense. The United States government, and the people's representatives in Congress, cannot waver both in combatting antisemitism and in supporting the State of Israel."  (The Hill)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Gaza War Pause Extended by 2 Days to Free 20 More Captive Israeli Women and Children - Tovah Lazaroff
    The pause to the Gaza war due to expire Tuesday has been extended by two more days, as Israel welcomed the return of 11 captives and six foreigners on Monday night. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Hamas Releases Nine Israeli Children and Two Mothers Taken Hostage at Kibbutz Nir Oz (Jerusalem Post)
  • Hamas Leader Yahya Sinwar Met Israeli Hostages in Tunnels
    One of the released Israeli hostages recounted that in the early days of the war, she and other hostages were taken to Khan Yunis in southern Gaza, where they met Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar. He introduced himself in Hebrew. (Ynet News)
  • Saudi Arabia Envisions Gaza without Hamas - Majdi Halabi
    In discussions on the post-war reality in Gaza, senior Saudi officials say everyone agrees that the murderous Hamas regime will not stay in Gaza. Saudi Arabia is working on a diplomatic process involving all Gulf states along with Egypt, Jordan and Turkey. The emerging solution is based on a demilitarized Palestinian state under international and Arab supervision.
        The reconstruction of Gaza will be led by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, alongside other countries, and in the three years following the war, there will be an international and Arab mandate over Gaza. Saudi sources promise that they will address incitement and all related issues pertaining to an atmosphere of reconciliation and laying the groundwork for a tolerant and accepting environment based on true Islam, without distortions from Hamas and Iran. (Israel Hayom)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Summary Executions in the West Bank: The Disintegration of Palestinian Society - Khaled Abu Toameh
    In scenes reminiscent of the First Intifada, Palestinians "executed" two men from the Tulkarm refugee camp in the northern West Bank on November 24, 2023. During the First Intifada (1987-1993), more than 1,000 Palestinians were killed by fellow Palestinians on suspicion of "collaborating" with Israel.
        After the killings, the bodies of Hamzeh Mubarak and Azzam Jawabreh were dragged through the streets, where a Palestinian mob spat on them and chanted slogans in support of the Palestinian "resistance."  The bodies were later hanged from an electricity pole and a wall, limbs were cut off, and their bodies were "disposed of" in garbage bins.
        The lynching of the two men is a sign of the growing frustration of Palestinian terrorist groups in the West Bank in the aftermath of the Israeli security forces' success in arresting and killing dozens of their members in the past few weeks.  It is also an indication of the loss of control by the Palestinian Authority security forces. Since Oct. 7, the Palestinian forces have stopped pursuing Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad members in the West Bank.
        What is particularly disturbing is that the lynching did not attract the attention of international human rights organizations, reflecting the double standards that many in the international community apply to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
        The writer, an awarding-winning Israeli Arab journalist, lecturer, and documentary filmmaker, is a Fellow of the Jerusalem Center. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • As If Israel Simply Woke Up One Morning and Chose to Attack Gaza - Alan Shatter
    On Nov. 4, four weeks after Hamas' barbaric, murderous assault on Israel, the Irish Times published a grotesque, fact-free letter by 620 Irish academics accusing Israel of ethnic cleansing and genocidal violence. Any uninformed person reading the letter would have assumed Israel had simply woken up one morning and chosen to attack Gaza.
        The 620 regarded the entirety of Israel, the West Bank and Gaza as occupied territory and called on "all universities in Ireland to immediately sever any existing partnerships or affiliations with Israeli institutions." Put simply, over 600 of Ireland's academics and scholars proposed that all engagements between Irish and Israeli universities end until Israel ceases to exist and then they can be revived, which is something of an oxymoron.
        Their call was fully aligned with the objectives of Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Iran. But in Ireland, outside of a few critical letters, no one cared. It seems the academics' perspective coincided with that of many Irish journalists and too many of Ireland's politicians and general public.
        Hamas' obsessive commitment to Israel's extermination and its consistent violent opposition to any permanent peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has brought nothing but disaster to both Israelis and Palestinians. A more intellectually rigorous approach by the 620 would have been a call on Hamas to stop the rockets, release the hostages, and surrender to prosecution for their egregious war crimes and crimes against humanity.
        The writer is a former Irish Minister for Justice, Equality & Defense. (Times of Israel)
  • Israel's Emotional Whirlwind with the Hostage Release - Herb Keinon
    Hamas head Yahya Sinwar is obviously trying to capitalize on the emotions in Israel that the hostage release has unleashed. His hope is that in this emotional whirlwind, Israel will lose its compass, be blinded by the emotional upheaval, perhaps crippled by it and give in or give up, saying enough is enough, it's time to end the war and pay any price, including the price of ending the war, to win the release of the remaining 166 hostages.
        But he misreads the mood in Israel. Sinwar thinks that the emotions engendered by the hostage release, together with international pressure, will turn this temporary pause in the war into a complete stop. But beyond emotions, Israelis - like everyone - are driven by a will to survive, an instinct that compels them to take actions aimed at ensuring that survival. And most Israelis understand now better than ever that to survive in this cruel region, Hamas must be roundly defeated - a goal that has yet to be achieved. (Jerusalem Post)
  • On an Israeli Farm near Gaza, Rescuing a Crop - Howard LaFranchi
    Inside a 3-acre greenhouse less than 3 miles from the Israel-Gaza border, an army of volunteers snips red-ripe tomatoes from towering vines. The city dwellers-turned-farmworkers say the day's labor gives them a sense of solidarity with fellow Israelis in an area devastated by the brutal Hamas assault that killed 1,200 people on Oct. 7.
        Within days of the Hamas rampage, a region that furnishes 75% of Israel's domestically produced vegetables, 20% of its fresh fruit, and nearly 10% of its milk was deteriorating into a wasteland. The thousands of migrant farmworkers who normally tended the fields, mostly from Thailand, had fled home. Some were killed or taken hostage by Hamas.
        In the greenhouse, Mati Fishbein, a real estate agent, said, "I was an officer in the army for 25 years. I was the guy who delivered the message that your son had been killed in battle. That same sense of service you get in the military, you're seeing it here. This is the power of the Israeli people. In times of war we are trying to help each other."
        Elizabeth Blum, a math teacher, said, "I was a peace activist. I really believed in it." But then the atrocities of Oct. 7 occurred. "Now I really don't believe peace is possible. I lost all trust in any person, any desire for peace on the other side. I'm done."
        Idan Alon, who works on the farm, says, "People have to feel secure. They can't do a good job with their farms or whatever work they do if they are worrying every day their family might come under attack." Unless they feel safe, Israelis won't come back to the kibbutzim and the farming towns in the area, and the foreign farmworkers - he had 20 on his farm - won't return to Israel. (Christian Science Monitor)
  • Volunteers Flock to Israel to Fill Vacant Jobs - Erin Ailworth
    On a flight from Newark to Israel, emergency-room physician Dr. Dov Frankel, 50, was on his way to volunteer at Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon. Dr. Anne Montal, 36, a surgical resident at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, was also headed for Barzilai. "I don't feel as helpless now that I'm going to do something," she said.
        Some of the people are backfilling jobs left vacant by Israelis who have joined the war effort. Glenn Grossman, 69, who recently returned home to Florida after working on a farm in the Negev Desert picking olives and grapes, said, "You feel that you're filling a void."  (Wall Street Journal)

  • On Oct. 7, in the sleepy kibbutz of Kfar Aza near the Gaza border, Aviv and Livnat Kutz were hoping to spend the afternoon with their three teenage children and other likeminded locals flying kites near the fence as a gesture of peace towards their Palestinian neighbors. The corpses of the murdered Kutz family were later found huddled together in the same bed.
  • Looking back, the complacency that prevailed in Israel regarding the threat from Gaza was not only remarkable but agonizingly naive. In the conventional Israeli security picture, the Gazan militias were dwarfed by the threat of Hizbullah in Lebanon and Iran, which was on the threshold of nuclearization. Indeed, as one defense source told me: "If Iran had directed the attacks, Mossad would have known about it."
  • What Hamas has always missed is the fact that Israel is not a colonial power like France in Algeria. The Israelis have no other country to which to withdraw. And such is the alchemy of Israeli society, whose conscription culture creates deep bonds of social responsibility and national pride, that turning up the volume of agony on its public produces an equal and opposite reaction of solidarity and grit. The Jewish state is determined to defeat the enemy, whatever the price.
  • On the Israeli side, everything changed on Oct. 7. In butchering the innocent with such savagery, Hamas had changed the security calculation. Israel's policy of containment was torn up.
  • By way of spectacular success, Hamas had signed its own death warrant. If an effective deterrent is to be re-established, Hamas must be dispatched unequivocally, as costly as this will prove in terms of blood, treasure and international standing.
  • Last week, an old Palestinian colleague called me from the grounds of the hospital in Khan Yunis in Gaza. Hamas was facing a groundswell of repressed rage from its own people, he confided in hushed tones.

    The writer is editor of the Jewish Chronicle.

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