December 17, 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:

IDF Uncovers Hamas Ambush Utilizing Children's Cries in Hebrew - Yoav Zitun (Ynet News)
    The IDF published on Friday footage of an attempted Hamas ambush in Jabaliya, where children's dolls and backpacks connected to speakers played sounds of crying in an attempt to attract soldiers to be ambushed by terrorists hiding in an underground tunnel shaft.

IDF Arrests 90 Hamas Terrorists in Gaza Hospital (Jerusalem Post)
    Israel forces arrested 90 Hamas terrorists at the Kamal Adowan Hospital in Jabaliya on Saturday.
    Some of those arrested participated in the Oct. 7 massacre.

Under Iran's Auspices, Houthis Turn Red Sea into Strategic Threat Zone - Zvi Bar'el (Ha'aretz)
    The spillover of the war in Gaza to the Red Sea, with the Houthis joining the war against Israel, has developed into a strategic regional threat.
    The U.S. decided to speed up the establishment of an international coalition which will operate in the Red Sea in order to ensure free navigation, but it appears that parties capable of giving immediate assistance are not keen on joining.
    Egypt is the main party affected by the war waged by the Houthis against Israel. The Suez Canal, which in 2022-2023 brought Egypt $9.5 billion, could now lose most of its revenues.
    The Saudis are also not very keen on joining the American coalition out of a concern that Saudi Arabia would again become a target of the Houthis after the two reached a cease-fire agreement in April 2022.
    See also Half of Shipping Routes to Israel through Red Sea Halted due to Houthi Threat - Adiel Eithan Mustaki (Calcalist)
    Shipping giant Maersk announced that it will stop transporting goods through the Suez Canal following attacks by the Houthis in Yemen, and was quickly followed by two other large shipping companies.
    "About 99% of goods reach Israel by sea, and around 40% of the cargo arriving in Israel passes through the Suez Canal," said Dr. Elyakim BenHakoun from the Technion.
    "The consequence of stopping ship traffic in the Red Sea is to circumnavigate Africa, leading to an extension of shipping times by approximately two weeks to a month.... This roughly translates to an additional cost of $400,0000-$1 million per ship."

How Terrorists Exploit Humanitarian Organizations - Ari Heistein and Nathaniel Rabkin (Quillette)
    Humanitarian aid allows militant groups in the Middle East to evade responsibility for civil affairs while pursuing their agenda of mayhem.
    In fact, the terrorist groups often go much farther than this, and actually rely on aid streams to fund and equip the gunmen that commit their atrocities.
    Humanitarian aid has become a lifeline for these groups, enabling their deadly attacks.
    During the 15 years in which it has controlled Gaza, Hamas does not generally expropriate aid items directly, but rather uses its control of the government apparatus in Gaza to ensure that donor funds are siphoned off, either directly to Hamas or to entities it controls.
    For example, private security companies are all licensed by the Hamas Ministry of Interior, and their staff must be approved and trained by the ministry.
    UN and other aid group facilities therefore end up paying Hamas to guard them.
    Turning foreign aid into a source of revenue enables militant groups to deepen their hold on the territories in which they operate and increase their capacity for terrorism and aggression.
    Ari Heistein was a research fellow at Israel's Institute for National Security Studies. Nathaniel Rabkin has worked as an analyst for the U.S. Department of Defense.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • In Israel, U.S. National Security Adviser Denies Talk of Rift over Gaza War - Yara Bayoumy
    U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said in Tel Aviv on Friday: "We're not here to tell anybody, 'You must do X, you must do Y'." He emphasized that both Israel and the U.S. expected the pace of the fighting to ultimately slow down. Israel "was clear from the beginning that this war would proceed in phases. But there will be a transition to another phase of this war: one that is focused on targeting the leadership, on intelligence operations." He declined to specify a time frame, saying he did not want to "telegraph for the enemy what the plan is."  (New York Times)
  • U.S. Destroyer Downs 14 Houthi Drones in Red Sea - Kareem Fahim
    The USS Carney guided missile destroyer successfully downed 14 one-way attack drones in the Red Sea from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen on Saturday, U.S. Central Command said. Meanwhile, Britain's HMS Diamond also destroyed a drone on Saturday, Britain's defense secretary said. (AP)
  • Iran Hoped to Profit from Israel-Hamas War, But Big Gains Still Elude It - Laurence Norman
    Tehran has yet to reap tangible strategic gains from the Israel-Hamas conflict. Iran's diplomacy with the West, aimed at easing U.S. sanctions, has halted due to its support for Hamas. Billions of dollars that the U.S. had pledged to Iran in a prisoner-release deal sit effectively frozen.
        Iran is urging Arab countries that had established diplomatic ties with Israel to renounce them, but none has. At the summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Tehran's proposals for economic reprisals against Israel were rejected by Gulf countries, Egypt and Jordan.
        Iran has long called for U.S. forces and influence to be expelled from the Middle East, but the Gaza war has also rekindled America's mission of defending its interests in the region.
        Moreover, Israel is now for the first time intent on destroying Hamas, and doing so would deprive Iran of an important member of its anti-Western alliance. "The complete destruction of Hamas would be an embarrassment to Iran and create concerns among Iran's partners in the region that perhaps [the Iranians] aren't as reliable as they thought," said Emile Hokayem of the International Institute for Strategic Studies. (Wall Street Journal)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • IDF Reservist Killed, Two Wounded in Drone Attack from Lebanon
    Warrant Officer (res.) Yehezkel Azaria, 53, was killed Saturday and two other soldiers were injured in a drone attack near the northern community of Margaliot near the Lebanon border. (Ynet News)
  • Israel's Missile Defenses Protect Al Aqsa Mosque from Hamas Rockets - Moran Azulay
    Israel's ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan showed the General Assembly on Friday images of the Iron Dome defense system intercepting missiles aimed at Jerusalem and said it was Israel who protected the Al Aqsa Mosque from Hamas fire. Hamas launched eight rockets at Jerusalem and surrounding areas on Friday.
        "Hamas-ISIS is willing to blow up Al Aqsa and so many of you are willing to defend them," Erdan said. He added that a recent UN resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza "aims to keep Hamas in power, period."  (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Questions of Morality in the Gaza War - Amb. Dror Eydar
    The truth has to be told. Some of our soldiers were killed because we were trying to be moral. The pressure on the IDF because of collateral damage to the civilian population is reflected in the softening of preparatory bombardments before ground forces go in. Our soldiers find themselves in great danger because we avoid certain actions before the infantry forces enter the fray.
        We see how Hamas exploited humanitarian gestures to improve their positions. Most of the food that entered Gaza was forcefully taken by the terrorists and did not reach the population. Most of the fuel reached Hamas and helped ventilate their terror tunnels and provide electricity to the metalworking machines that produce more weapons to be used against us.
        We are told that the Palestinian Authority is the sane alternative to replace Hamas, but the Palestinian Authority pays murderers of Jews with salaries dependent on the number of people they murdered. A comparison of the Hamas and Fatah charters shows us that they both share the goal of destroying Israel and the Jewish people.
        The Palestinians have fired tens of thousands of rockets at Israel that could have killed thousands of people. The fact that we managed to block them does not change the goal of those who fired them: murder of Jewish people in their homeland.
        In this war, our victory must be clearly seen and understood by the enemy, in no uncertain terms or subject to interpretation. When it comes to the dilemma between our lives and the lives of our enemy, our answer must be clear and resounding: Our lives come first.
        The writer served as Israel's Ambassador to Italy. (Israel Hayom)
  • Intensifying Israeli Strikes in Gaza Will Save Lives and End the War - Meir Ben Shabbat
    There is no doubt about the sincerity of the declarations by President Biden and his people. Even if their vision regarding Gaza does not match that in Israel, they are fully in lockstep with Jerusalem on the need to topple Hamas and destroy its military capabilities. They see this as a moral goal in and of itself, as part of the fight against the forces of evil.
        The Biden administration's support for Israel has been expressed in concrete steps - from vetoing resolutions at the Security Council and arranging special financial assistance and supplying ammunition, to deterrent measures towards Iran and its proxies. However, at the same time, Washington has been setting expectations regarding the conduct of the war.
        The simplest way to bring about the collapse of Hamas' rule in the shortest time and at the lowest cost in soldiers' lives is through a combination of high-intensity fighting and a tight blockade, whose role is to limit the enemy's stamina. Yet humanitarian aid and fuel entering Gaza have significantly increased, which in practice means that they go toward strengthening the enemy.
        It is advisable to conduct the fighting with high intensity, similar to that which characterized the first stage of the war. This will make it possible to increase the effectiveness of efforts to topple Hamas and boost the chances for the release of the captives. In its absence, the pressure on Hamas will decrease.
        The writer, head of the Misgav Institute for National Security & Zionist Strategy in Jerusalem, served as Israel's national security advisor and head of the National Security Council. (Israel Hayom)
  • Israel Sees Peace with Hamas or the Palestinian Authority as Impossible - Walter Russell Mead
    With the Oct. 7 attacks still reverberating, there is no pro-"peace process" movement in Israeli politics today. No serious Israeli politician would dream of running on a platform of facilitating the emergence of a Palestinian state. Moreover, the Beltway chatter about "the day after" in Gaza overstates the difference between the Israeli and American positions.
        There is consensus in Israel not only that Hamas lacks the will (and the human decency) to be an interlocutor for a future Palestinian state, but also that the terminally corrupt and exhausted Fatah movement now in power in the West Bank is too ineffective and unpopular to survive the hard compromises that peace would require.
        Moreover, the Fatah leadership would be too vulnerable to being overthrown by more radical Palestinian movements for Israelis to trust it as a security partner. The chance of Israelis seriously engaging with an unreformed Palestinian movement on the old Oslo peace agenda is zero.
        The writer, a fellow at the Hudson Institute, is Professor of Foreign Affairs and Humanities at Bard College. (Wall Street Journal)

Why a West Bank Front Has Not Opened So Far - Neomi Neumann (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • At a time when the IDF is focused on waging war against Hamas and deterring Hizbullah, Hamas' calls to open a second Palestinian front in the West Bank have gone largely unheeded. At the same time, Israeli troops are engaged in daily operations to suppress violence there.
  • According to the Israel Security Agency, 128 significant terrorist attacks (that resulted in Israeli casualties) have been carried out in or from the West Bank since Oct. 7 - 101 in the northern part (Samaria) and 27 in the southern part (Judea). The vast majority were shootings (112), followed by stabbings (6), vehicular attacks (4), explosions (4), and rocket fire (2).
  • There has been a significant decline in terrorist attacks over the past three weeks compared to the huge spike seen in the first three weeks after Oct. 7. The IDF's daily operations are having an impact, with the killing of senior terrorists, the seizure of arms caches, and the introduction of the use of drones. Moreover, 2,150 Palestinians have been arrested in the West Bank since Oct. 7.
  • While PA President Mahmoud Abbas and senior Fatah figures have publicly condemned Israel, many PA officials privately hope that the IDF succeeds in smashing Hamas and killing its leaders. To facilitate this goal, PA forces have served as a restraining factor, preventing the public from confronting Israeli troops during IDF counterterrorism operations. The PA justifies this approach by telling the public that it is protecting them.
  • The best explanation for the relative passivity of most West Bank Palestinians is the traumatic memory of the second intifada, when they paid a huge price but failed to secure significant political achievements after four years of violence.

    The writer, a visiting fellow at The Washington Institute, is former head of the research unit at the Israel Security Agency.

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