Hizbullah Prepared for Invasion of Northern Israel
- Maj. (res.) Tal Beeri (Alma Research Center
For the past two years, Hizbullah has been preparing to infiltrate Israeli territory and take over Israeli military bases and communities in the Galilee.
Since the summer of 2022, Hizbullah's Radwan unit has reached the operational capability to fulfill its mission and Hizbullah was on the verge of deciding to authorize the invasion.
It would begin with massive rocket and mortar fire along the entire border and the neutralization of border surveillance devices by sniper fire, UAVs, and anti-tank fire.
Radwan Unit operatives would then storm the barrier throughout the entire sector, on foot and with motorcycles and ATVs.
In practice, on Oct. 7, Hamas effectively copied the invasion plan of the Radwan unit and implemented it.
The events of Oct. 7 proved again that any physical or technological obstacle will inevitably be breached.
It is our assessment that, at any given time, Hizbullah can implement its operational plan to invade Israeli territory.
Israeli Hostages Freed from Gaza Recount Violence, Hunger and Fear
- Katherine Rosman (New York Times
As some Israeli hostages captured by Hamas on Oct. 7 have been released, they have relayed stories of their captivity to family members.
The New York Times
interviewed the family members of 10 freed hostages.
They described how the hostages, many of them children, were deprived of adequate food, living on a single piece of bread per day for weeks. Others were fed small portions of rice or pieces of cheese.
The Red Cross was denied access to the hostages.
Many of the hostages have come home malnourished, infested with lice, ill, injured and deeply traumatized.
Many of the family members interviewed, whose parents or siblings remain in captivity, were reluctant to share the most incriminating details of their captivity lest the militants retaliate against the hostages still in their custody.
By Thursday, 102 hostages had been released from Gaza, most of them women and children, while 210 Palestinians had been released from Israeli prisons.
Israel Considers How to Remove Threat of Hamas Fighters in Gaza
- Dion Nissenbaum (Wall Street Journal
Some Israeli and U.S. officials are discussing the idea of expelling thousands of Hamas militants from Gaza as a way to shorten the war.
The idea is reminiscent of the U.S.-brokered deal that allowed Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and thousands of fighters to flee Beirut during Israel's 1982 siege of the Lebanese capital.
The aim is to provide some Hamas fighters with an exit strategy and make it easier to rebuild Gaza once the fighting ends.
One proposal for how to govern a post-Hamas Gaza would create "Hamas-free safe zones" ruled by a new Gaza authority backed by Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
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House Votes to Block Funds to Iran
- Marc Rod (Jewish Insider
The U.S. House of Representatives voted 307-119 on Thursday to freeze the $6 billion in Iranian funds released as part of the administration's hostage deal with Iran, which the administration has said it informally refroze following the Oct. 7 Hamas attack.
The House voted 231-198 for an amendment to cut off any further sanctions relief to the Iranian regime - permanently freezing all sanctioned Iranian assets and preventing the lifting of any sanctions on Iran in any form going forward.
The House also voted 241-181 to prohibit the U.S. from directly providing any funds to Iran.
The House approved by a voice vote an amendment calling on Qatar to cut off its support for Hamas; turn over Hamas leaders to the U.S. and Israel; close the Hamas office in Qatar; and cut off funding to Hamas.
The administration is reportedly considering pressing Qatar to shut down Hamas activity in the country after the current hostage crisis is resolved.
U.S. "Profoundly" Worried over Turkey's Financial Links to Hamas
- Adam Samson (Financial Times-UK
Brian Nelson, the U.S. Treasury's undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in Istanbul on Thursday that Washington was "profoundly concerned" about Turkey's role in facilitating Hamas' access to international finance.
Turkey had historically played a "prominent role" in allowing the militant group behind the October 7 attack on Israel to access funds.
Turkey's President Erdogan has called Israel a "war criminal," while referring to Hamas as a "liberation" movement.
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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
- Fighting Resumes in Gaza, Israel Accuses Hamas of Violating Ceasefire - Siladitya Ray
Israel accused Hamas of violating a week-long ceasefire and resumed its aerial bombardment of Gaza on Friday. Heavy fighting was reported.
See also Ceasefire Ends, Israel-Hamas War Resumes - Tzvi Joffre
An hour before the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas was set to end on Friday morning, Hamas renewed rocket fire toward Israel. The IDF launched airstrikes against Hamas targets.
The Prime Minister's Office said Friday, "The terrorist organization Hamas-ISIS violated the agreement, did not live up to its commitment to release all the kidnapped women today, and launched rockets at the citizens of Israel. With the return to fighting we emphasize: The Israeli government is committed to achieving the goals of the war - to release our hostages, eliminate Hamas, and ensure that Gaza will never again pose a threat to the residents of Israel." (Jerusalem Post)
- U.S.: Israel Agrees to Protect Civilians when Gaza War Resumes - Michael Birnbaum
The Israeli government agreed to form a "clear plan...that puts a premium on protecting civilians as well as sustaining and building on the humanitarian assistance that's getting into Gaza" before resuming its assault on southern Gaza, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Thursday in Tel Aviv. Blinken said the U.S. wants Israel to designate safe zones for civilians to gather, to avoid significant further displacements, and to try to spare critical infrastructure such as hospitals.
"I underscored the imperative to the United States that the massive loss of civilian life and displacement of the scale we saw in northern Gaza not be repeated in the south," Blinken said. "As I told the prime minister, intent matters, but so does the result." Still, he indicated that the Biden administration had no intent to abandon Israel nor push for a permanent ceasefire so long as Hamas is able to threaten Israel from Gaza.
Israeli experts say that balancing the desire to root out Hamas while extending full protection to civilians will be difficult, especially given the dense crowding in southern Gaza, where most of the residents from the north have gathered to escape the initial fighting. The IDF "will need to be very, very cautious," said Michael Milshtein, former chief of Palestinian affairs for Israel's Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories. "It will not be easy." (Washington Post)
See also below Observations: The Americans Want Israel to Avoid Evacuating Palestinians from Combat Areas, But This Will Put More Civilians in Harm's Way - Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
- Israeli Army Publishes Map to Advise Gazans of Safe Evacuation Areas
The Israeli army said on Friday that with the resumption of fighting it had published a map to advise Gazans of safe areas for their evacuation. An Israeli army website in Arabic shows an Evacuation Zone Map, explained also in an Arabic-language video released on social networks. The map divides the territory of Gaza "according to recognizable areas to enable the residents of Gaza to orient themselves and understand the instructions, and to evacuate from specific places for their safety if required." (Reuters)
See also Israel: "The Residents of Gaza Are Not Our Enemy" - Tzvi Joffre
According to Palestinian reports, the IDF dropped leaflets over southern Gaza on Friday warning residents of several neighborhoods in Khan Yunis to evacuate to shelter areas in Rafah, warning "the city of Khan Yunis is a dangerous combat zone."
IDF spokesperson for Arabic media Avichay Adraee said the IDF "makes great efforts to distinguish between civilians and terrorists. The residents of Gaza are not our enemy. Because of this, the IDF seeks to conduct a controlled and precise evacuation of the Gazan population with the aim of removing them as much as possible from the war zone. Residents of Gaza, obeying the evacuation instructions is the safest way to protect your safety, your life, and the lives of your families." (Jerusalem Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
- Eight Israeli Hostages Released on Thursday - Ofer Aderet
Eight Israelis were released from Hamas captivity on Thursday including six women and two Bedouin teens kidnapped from Kibbutz Holit. Bilal Alziedana, 18, and his sister Aisha, 17, who were freed, were working alongside their father, Youssef Hamis Alziedana, 53, who has been working with the kibbutz's cows for 17 years. Youssef and their brother Hamza, 22, are still held hostage by Hamas.
- Hamas Branded, Drugged Child Hostages
Yaniv Yaakov, the uncle of brothers Yagil (12) and Or (16) Yaakov, Israeli hostages who were returned to Israel earlier this week, said, "Each child that was taken by Hamas was taken on a motorbike and they took every child, took his leg and put it on the exhaust of that motorbike, so they have a burn so they will be marked if they run, if they escape, so [Hamas] can find them....They were drugged, they were treated so bad, but at least they are with us." (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
The Gaza War
- How the IDF Will Resume Its Fighting in Gaza - Yaakov Lappin
The Israel Defense Forces are using the current pause in operations since Nov. 24 to enhance readiness, learn from recent battle experiences, and develop future operational plans. On Sunday, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant outlined the way in which the IDF would return to the fighting.
"Remember that while you are organizing and resting and investigating, the enemy is doing the same thing. You will meet something that is a bit more prepared. Therefore, they will first meet the bombs of the air force, then the shells of the tanks and artillery and the blades of the D9 [armored bulldozer], and in the end, also the fire of the infantry soldiers. We will fight across the entire Strip."
"Everywhere I go, I hear: 'Let us complete the mission, go all the way.' I want you to know that the Israel Defense Forces, the security system, the Government of Israel, all the people of Israel, and certainly, I personally, stand 100% behind you until you complete the mission. We do not stop until we are finished." (JNS)
- Israelis Know that This Is a Pause - Not the Beginning of a Ceasefire - Richard Miron
Israeli TV screens have been filled for the past few days with pictures of families reunited amid tears and hugs. The sirens that have regularly punctuated daily life have fallen silent as a pause in fighting between the IDF and Hamas holds while the exchange of Israeli women and children for Palestinian prisoners goes on. But all this is likely to end very soon as the fighting resumes with equal or even greater intensity.
Following the atrocities of Oct. 7, Israel has pledged to destroy Hamas on the ground as a functioning military and political entity in Gaza, and it is not going to be diverted from that objective, even if some hostages remain in captivity.
Israeli security sources say the next military operation will extend from the north of Gaza to the south where most of Hamas' leadership and fighters are now situated. This
phase is expected to take a few months, followed by a continuing need to conduct raids and operations with a reduced level of manpower to destroy the last vestiges of Hamas.
Yahya Sinwar, the evil genius behind the massacres on Oct. 7, believes that Israel will blink first when it starts losing ever more soldiers on the field of battle, and as it faces growing international criticism of its military operations. But the mood in Israel is different from anything I have experienced in the past. People from all parts of society, left, right, religious and secular are resolute. The images and horrors of Oct. 7have changed the country.
This is a war that must be fought and won, whatever the cost to Israel itself. Ordinary people and security experts alike know that if they fail to destroy Hamas, then their country will be weakened and fatally vulnerable in the face of all its enemies. For Israelis, this conflict is existential. They are fighting to recover their deterrence which was stripped away on Oct. 7. They are battling against an enemy in Hamas with whom they cannot negotiate and with whom there can be no option but to eradicate as a threat.
The writer is a former spokesman for the UN Secretary General's Middle East Envoy.
- PA's Abbas a "Liability" in Planning for Post-War Gaza, Arab Officials Say - Jacob Magid
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has become a "liability," contributing to reluctance from Arab leaders to fully cooperate with the Biden administration's strategy for a post-war Gaza, two Arab diplomats told the Times of Israel.
The Arab diplomats expressed skepticism that the 87-year-old president, plagued by longstanding corruption allegations, is capable of reuniting the West Bank with Gaza under the PA. Both diplomats, representing separate countries, insisted that their reservations regarding the PA president are shared by other U.S. allies in the region and have been for some time.
Former PA official and Abbas adviser Ghaith al-Omari, currently a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said, "The weakened state of the PA that we see today happened completely under Abbas' watch, and he is seen as a leader who is ineffective." (Times of Israel)
- Some Ideas Are Worth Destroying - David Hazony
"Hamas is an idea, and you can't destroy an idea," say pro-Hamas apologists and a wide range of well-meaning commentators. Nobody ever called Hamas an idea before Oct. 7. Suddenly, in light of Israel's decision to end Hamas' reign in Gaza, it's fashionable to call it an "idea." Hamas is not really an idea. It's a terror organization, with weapons that include rockets and tens of thousands of armed soldiers.
To the extent that Hamas really is an idea, it's a pretty horrifying one. The idea, after all, is to kill Jews. More specifically, it is a fantasy of the destruction of Israel and its replacement, not with a prosperous and peaceable independent Palestinian state, but with brutal Islamist rule. The Islamist idea is not nationalist; it knows no borders and embodies no national aspirations. It is more like the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood that spawned it, or like the Iranian regime ideology of a grand global battle.
You actually can destroy an idea, or at least sufficiently disempower and disincentivize it so that it becomes harmless. The implication of the phrase - if you can't destroy an idea, one shouldn't bother trying - is tantamount to abandoning the world to the worst ideas of its worst actors.
What does it take to destroy an idea? First, you take away its guns.
Ideas are like sports teams: Losers are less attractive than winners. This is what the U.S. did to ISIS, and what Israel is doing in Gaza. Second, you take away funding, legal status, and social license. But the most important thing is to provide better ideas.
Develop them, hone them, empower them, fund them, repeat them, teach them in schools, to show, over and over, why those ideas are better than the barbarism of Hamas. (Los Angeles Jewish Journal)
- The Scope of Hamas' Campaign of Rape Against Israeli Women Is Revealed, Testimony after Testimony - Hilo Glazer
Dr. Cochav Elkayam-Levy, of the department of international relations at Hebrew University, founded the Civil Commission on October 7 Crimes by Hamas against Women and Children. She said it was not the viewing of dozens of graphic videos disseminated by Hamas. Nor was it the pictures of women, the state of whose bodies leave no doubt as to the terrible things that had been done to them before they were murdered. Nor was it even the horrific eyewitness accounts of the Zaka search and rescue organization volunteers and the people at the victim-identification center.
What caused Elkayam-Levy to break down this week was a brief phone conversation with Michal Herzog, the wife of Israel's president. "Suddenly someone like her calls me and asks: 'How are you doing?' How am I doing? I am doing terribly. But I am not the story here."
Elkayam-Levy gathered a team of 15 lawyers, activists, criminologists and researchers from various fields - all of them women, all volunteers. During these past weeks, the women of the nongovernmental commission have been hard at work gathering testimony and documentary materials related to the day of the massacre, with the aim of putting together a database of crimes against women and children.
The evidence leaves no room for doubt: Under cover of the massacre, Hamas carried out a campaign of rape and sexual abuse at many of the communities adjacent to Gaza that it attacked.
Terrorists who were arrested by Israel have testified to their interrogators that the mission assigned to them included rape. A military source cited by Yediot Ahronot noted that "the terrorists related that the aim of cutting off heads and rape was to sow fear and alarm in the Israeli public." (Ha'aretz)
Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, former head of the Research Division of IDF Military Intelligence, spoke to the Jerusalem Center on Nov. 29, 2023, about the intelligence challenges surrounding the war in Gaza.
- Q: There have been complaints that Israel's attacks in northern Gaza weren't precise enough and that there was extensive collateral damage. As Israel begins to operate in southern Gaza, to what extent will Israel be able to better target just the terrorist infrastructure and to make our attacks more precise?
- Kuperwasser: It's not going to be easy. We are under pressure from the Americans to not evacuate people from civilian areas that are used by Hamas in order to shield them from our attacks. If we are not going to evacuate them, we will have to shoot at Hamas operating in those areas that we are going to confront. Then I'm not sure we can minimize the number of people who are hurt as collateral damage.
- The Americans, on the one hand, want us to avoid the use of evacuation, but, on the other hand, this will actually expose more civilians to harm's way. It's a strange situation. We shall have to finish the job. We will have to resume the military operations. When we finish taking over the northern part of Gaza, we shall have to move to the south. And Hamas is going to again use the people of the south as human shields. And when we fight them, I'm not sure that we can really avoid collateral damage.
- The Americans live in some sort of wishful world where we can hit every Hamas operative with pinpoint weapons. Whenever we can do that, we do that. Of course we make a big effort to avoid collateral damage. And the IDF has gotten very high marks compared with other militaries around the world for everything we do in order to avoid collateral damage. But the best way for us to avoid collateral damage was to tell the people in Gaza City to move south. About a million did that and they saved their lives.
- Hamas has managed to create an atmosphere in which the Americans are worried about a humanitarian disaster and that's why they ask us to fight with one hand tied behind our back. Not that we can't win the war this way as well, we can, but it's just going to prolong the war, make it more difficult, and not necessarily lessen the number of civilian casualties, maybe to the contrary.
- If they leave Khan Yunis when we operate in Khan Yunis, if they leave Rafah when we operate in Rafah, they are going to be safer. The question is, to what extent can we find places that are safe for them inside the southern part of Gaza. I don't think that's such a big problem. The southern part of Gaza, unlike the northern part, is much less populated and there are empty areas that can be turned into locations where the evacuees can stay until we finish the job.
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