December 13, 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:

Israel Begins Pumping Seawater into Hamas' Gaza Tunnels - Nancy A. Youssef (Wall Street Journal)
    Israel's military has begun to pump seawater into Hamas' vast complex of tunnels in Gaza, according to U.S. officials briefed on the Israeli military's operations, part of an intensive effort to destroy the group's underground infrastructure.
    Flooding the tunnels, which would likely be a weekslong process, began around the time Israel added two more pumps to the five pumps installed last month and conducted some initial tests, U.S. officials said.
    Egypt in 2015 used seawater to flood tunnels operated by smugglers under the Rafah border crossing with Gaza.

Flooding Hamas Tunnels: A Legal Assessment - Aurel Sari (Lieber Institute at West Point)
    Israel's reported action to flood Hamas tunnels under Gaza aims to degrade Hamas' ability to operate.
    Pumping enough water into the tunnels to completely flood them may take weeks. Most Hamas fighters should therefore have sufficient time to evacuate them.
    Flooding Hamas' network of tunnels with sea water raises a range of legal questions under the law of armed conflict.
    The overall conclusion to be drawn is that the operation would not be incompatible, in principle, with Israel's obligations.
    The tunnels are military objectives liable to attack. Filling them with water would not be an indiscriminate attack.
    Bearing in mind the very significant military advantage that may be expected from putting the tunnels out of operation, the level of collateral damage that may be anticipated is unlikely to be excessive.
    The writer is an Associate Professor of Public International Law at the University of Exeter and a Fellow of Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe.

Hamas Used Toxic Substance to Kill Nahal Oz Troops on Oct. 7 (Times of Israel)
    An investigation into the deaths of IDF surveillance soldiers serving at the Nahal Oz base on Oct. 7 has revealed that they were killed by a toxic gas that caused suffocation and loss of consciousness within a few minutes of exposure.
    According to Israel's Channel 12, an unspecified toxic flammable substance was thrown through the entrance of the building which housed the soldiers' command center, where 22 people were hiding.
    "They set fire to materials that ignited and spread, which contained toxic gases that could cause suffocation in a few minutes or even less than that."
    Seven soldiers managed to escape through a bathroom window.

Why the Images of Hamas Prisoners Sparked Outrage - Jonathan S. Tobin (JNS)
    Recent pictures from Gaza show Palestinian men of military age who had surrendered to the Israel Defense Forces and are kneeling and stripped down to their underwear with their hands tied.
    Those who not so long ago gloried in the unspeakable suffering inflicted on Oct. 7 by Hamas were now reduced to the status of helpless captives.
    On their faces could be seen the impact of their defeat and, perhaps, the realization that the calculations of their leadership that they could wage war on Israel with impunity were wrong.
    Are such images humiliating for those in the pictures? Of course. But if you're angry about the wounded pride of members of a barbaric terrorist group, then maybe you're the one who has no moral compass, not the Israelis.
    The main reaction on the part of much of the international community to the largest mass slaughter of Jews since the Holocaust was outrage that Israel would use military means to ensure that such a horrific crime could not be repeated.
    But the pictures of Palestinian prisoners do touch a nerve. The photos provoke anger because they show that Hamas is losing the war they started against the Jews.

American Donors Supplying IDF with Thousands of Bulletproof Helmets and Vests - Ariel Kahana (Israel Hayom)
    The "Am Yisrael Chai" project has raised $1.5 million to buy 4,000 tactical helmets, and 25,000 pieces of clothing, including tactical uniforms, fireproof overalls, and winter gear, and is literally saving lives.
    The equipment includes ceramic vests, armored backpacks, and telescopic sights.
    One Jewish community from the New York area is behind the operation and has already brought 11 shipments to Israel.
    The driving force behind the project said, "I've never been involved in donating to Israel or the IDF....But this is about saving soldiers' lives and I can't just sit by and watch."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • President Biden: "Nobody on God's Green Earth Can Justify What Hamas Did; They Have to Be Eliminated"
    President Joe Biden told a campaign reception in Washington on Tuesday: "Hanukkah is different after the October 7th attack.  As I said after the attack, the safety of the Jewish people, the security of Israel as an independent Jewish state, is literally at stake.  But it is unshakeable, our commitment to Israel. We continue to provide military assistance to Israel as it goes after Hamas....We'll continue leading the world in delivering humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian civilians as well to emphasize to our friends in Israel the need to protect civilian life.  And they understand it."
        "There's a lot to do - a whole lot to do. First and foremost, do everything in our power to hold Hamas accountable.  They're animals.  They're animals.  They exceeded anything that any other terrorist group has done in memory. But, secondly, we have to work toward bringing Israel together in a way that provides for the beginning of an option of a two-state solution."
        "But nobody, nobody, nobody on God's green Earth can justify what Hamas did.  They're a brutal, ugly, inhumane people, and they have to be eliminated."  (White House)
  • UN General Assembly Calls for Immediate Gaza Ceasefire - Paul Godfrey
    The UN General Assembly voted 153-10 with 23 abstentions Tuesday for an immediate humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza in a non-binding resolution, four days after the Security Council threw out a similar plan when the U.S. vetoed it.
        Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan wrote on X, "During today's emergency meeting in the UN General Assembly on the Israel-Hamas war, I made clear to all the ambassadors before the vote: if you want a real ceasefire, call the Hamas offices in Gaza and ask for Yahya Sinwar. Tell him that when Hamas lays down its weapons, turns itself in and returns all the hostages, then there will be a real ceasefire that will last forever."  (UPI)
        See also How Countries Voted on the UN General Assembly Ceasefire Call - Niha Masih
    The countries voting against the UN General Assembly resolution on Tuesday demanding an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza included Israel, the U.S., Austria and the Czech Republic. Countries that abstained included Argentina, Bulgaria, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Netherlands, Romania, Slovakia, Ukraine, the UK, and Uruguay. Countries voting in favor included Canada, Australia, Japan, Brazil, China, Denmark, Finland, Greece, India, Norway, Poland, Russia, and Spain. (Washington Post)
  • Yemen's Houthis Bar All Ships Sailing to Israel from Red Sea - Mohammed Alghobari
    Yemen's Houthis said Saturday they would target all ships heading to Israel, regardless of their nationality. A Houthi military spokesperson said all ships sailing to Israeli ports are banned from the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea. The Houthis have attacked and seized several Israeli-linked ships in the Red Sea and its Bab al-Mandab strait in a show of support for the Palestinians. Israel said attacks on ships was an "Iranian act of terrorism" with consequences for international maritime security. (Reuters)
        See also Houthi Rebel Attacks Rattle Global Shipping - Benoit Faucon
    The U.S. is pushing allies and partners to assemble a maritime coalition that can strengthen security in the Red Sea. "The actions that we've seen from these Houthi forces are destabilizing," said Pentagon spokesman Brig.-Gen. Pat Ryder on Tuesday. "This is an international problem that requires international solutions."
        The UK has deployed the HMS Diamond, a destroyer in the Royal Navy, which is joining other UK ships in the Gulf and Indian Ocean. The HMS Lancaster is already in the region, as well as three UK mine hunters and at least one support ship. (Wall Street Journal)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Nine IDF Soldiers Killed in Gaza City Ambush
    Nine IDF soldiers died in a series of blasts while searching buildings in the Gaza City suburb of Shejaiya, it was announced Wednesday. While responding to gunfire from an apparently booby-trapped building in the heart of the Shejaiya casbah, there was a large explosion and several soldiers were wounded. A second blast went off when a second group attempted to come to the aid of the injured soldiers. A third force then attempted to reach the group and was hit by an explosion as well. (Times of Israel)
  • Netanyahu: "Gaza Will Be Neither Hamastan nor Fatahstan" - Tovah Lazaroff
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday thanked the Biden administration. "I greatly appreciate the American support for destroying Hamas and returning our hostages. Following an intensive dialogue with President Biden and his team, we received full backing for the ground incursion and blocking the international pressure to stop the war. Yes, there is disagreement about 'the day after Hamas' and I hope that we will reach an agreement here as well."
        Netanyahu explained that Hamas cannot govern Gaza after the war, but neither can the PA, particularly in light of its policy of providing monthly financial stipends to terrorists and their families. "Gaza will be neither Hamastan nor Fatahstan....After the great sacrifice of our civilians and our soldiers, I will not allow the entry into Gaza of those who educate for terrorism, support terrorism, and finance terrorism."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Wounded Israeli Tank Reservist Describes Fighting in Gaza - Aaron Poris
    Master Sgt. (res.) Eytan T. said that on Oct. 7, "I immediately sent a WhatsApp message to my commander and told him that no matter what, I'm coming to the reserves. I understood that it's a real war and that I need to be there to save my country, to save the people of the south. I have children. The eldest is 17, and he started his testing for the IDF. At midnight, when I went to the reserves, I told him, 'Dad's going to the war, so you don't need to.'"
        Two days after the ground invasion of Gaza began, "we started to fight Hamas. We entered the first line of homes in the city and started to fight the terrorists. We received some fire. We'd see Hamas shoot at other units or near us, and we'd destroy them." T. said Israel is winning every battle. The IDF is leagues ahead of the terrorist group in practice and capability.
        A week into the ground invasion, T. was injured when his tank unit came under heavy fire in northern Gaza. When he woke up in Soroka Hospital in Beersheba, "I asked myself, 'What am I doing here? I need to be in Gaza, fighting alongside my friends.'...It took me time to understand that I was injured."
        "This war is a test for Israel," T. said. "If we don't destroy Hamas, then Hizbullah will know it. Iran will know it. And they'll see in that minute that Israel is weak, and they'll come to attack us. We know it from the north, from Syria....They plan. They're ready to attack us, and they want to see if we're strong enough to damage Hamas or not."
        Since the ground operation began, 104 soldiers have been killed in action and thousands have been injured. More than 300 soldiers were killed in the initial attacks on Oct. 7. (Media Line-Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Israel Is Winning Decisively in Gaza - Col. Richard Kemp
    Israel is winning decisively in Gaza, with Hamas consistently outgunned and outfought. The butchers of Oct. 7 are beginning to lay down their weapons and surrender in droves or just run away. The last few days have seen some of the heaviest fighting so far. The consequences have been devastating for the terrorists. Many have been killed, including battalion commanders who cannot be replaced. The growing number of prisoners will give up critical intelligence on operational plans and the whereabouts of senior Hamas leaders.
        Within Gaza, ordinary people know their lives have been devastated and loved ones killed and maimed as a result of Hamas' actions. The fight is not yet over but Israel's objectives are being met with greater speed and effectiveness than many expected.
        Wisely, the Israelis took little heed of American and British military experts that urged restraint, advising the IDF not to invade with armored divisions but instead rely on special forces raids as they themselves had done in Iraq and Afghanistan. That didn't work there and it wouldn't have worked in Gaza.
        Netanyahu was also right about his strategy for preventing a regional war: go strong and Iran's proxy terrorist groups will waver. Hizbullah and its masters in Tehran are clearly shaken as they watch their allies in Gaza being eviscerated. With all this plain to see, why is there a narrative in the West that Israel is somehow failing?
        The writer, a former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, was chairman of the UK's national crisis management committee, COBRA. (Telegraph-UK)
  • There Is No Such Thing as a "Humane" War - Francis P. Sempa
    Writing in Responsible Statecraft, David C. Hendrickson argues that Israel's proclaimed war aim of destroying Hamas should be reconsidered because there is no way to "humanely" destroy Hamas. Hendrickson condemns Israel for not fighting with "restraint," and says it risks committing "wickedness on a titanic scale in order to achieve total victory."
        His recommendation to Israeli leaders is to "accept limited war and seek the containment of the enemy, not its obliteration." In other words, Israel should conduct the war in a way that entails the greatest risk to the lives of its warriors and that will leave Hamas forces in position to terrorize, rape, and massacre Israeli citizens another day. That is somehow "just." The notion of a clean, humane war is a fairy tale that has no relation to reality.  (Real Clear Defense)
  • No "Ceasefire" by Hamas Can Be Trusted - Editorial
    Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday called for a "sustainable ceasefire" in Gaza - part of a growing international effort putting pressure on Israel - but not Hamas - to end the war in Gaza. The UN General Assembly ceasefire resolution that Canada voted for doesn't even mention Hamas.
        We disagree with any call for a ceasefire that simply gives Hamas an opportunity to reload. Hamas started this war through an unprovoked terrorist attack on Israel, murdering, raping and kidnapping civilians. Israel had every right to defend itself. It has every right to remove that threat to its security. Canada designated Hamas as a terrorist organization more than two decades ago. How can a terrorist organization be trusted to abide by a ceasefire? (Toronto Sun-Canada)
  • Forget about Israeli-Palestinian "Peace" - Leon Hadar
    Another war between Israelis and Palestinians has helped stir new discussion about reviving the "peace process." Perhaps the time has come to cease peace processing and fantasizing. Instead, we need to lower our expectations. Israelis have yet to recover from the horrors of Oct. 7 and the massacre of more than 1,200 Israelis. Moreover, the Arabs are watching the destruction in Gaza and the death of thousands of Palestinians. The bottom line is that Israelis and Palestinians aren't ready for a great reconciliation between their two peoples.
        The writer is a Senior Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI) in Philadelphia. (National Interest)

After Hamas Is Destroyed in Gaza - Richard Goldberg (Commentary)
  • If Washington and Jerusalem share an end-state objective of a Gaza that can never again pose a terror threat to Israel, the question about its future needs to be reframed to ask: What cannot come next?
  • First, Hamas and other terrorist organizations cannot be part of Gaza's future. Demands for a ceasefire in Gaza before Hamas is dismantled would guarantee that the territory remains a base of terror operations indefinitely.
  • Hamas apologists will try to persuade us there is no military solution, only a political one. That is a lie that Israel's military can expose if given the opportunity to finish the job.
  • Second, Israel cannot repeat the mistake of unilaterally abandoning security control of Gaza. Israel gave up security control believing it would get peace in return. Instead, it got 10,000 rockets and a metastasized Hamas threat on its border over the subsequent 15 years, leading to the massacre of Oct. 7.
  • Israel's long-term security control over Gaza - alongside Palestinian civilian control - is the only viable path that safeguards the objective of preventing Gaza from reemerging as a staging ground for terrorism.
  • Third, no political party or governing authority that pledges to destroy Israel, promotes terrorism against Israel, or pushes economic warfare against Israel can be part of a post-Hamas Gaza. This principle excludes the Palestinian Authority (PA) from any role in Gaza.
  • The PA pays people to carry out terror attacks against Israelis and promotes the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign of political and economic warfare against Israel.

    The writer is a senior adviser at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

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