December 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:

Hamas Leader Sinwar Narrowly Evades Capture Twice - Emanuel Fabian (Times of Israel)
    IDF troops have twice managed to reach tunnels in Gaza in recent days where they believe Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar was hiding just before they arrived, Israel's Channel 13 reported Tuesday.
    IDF intelligence on the Hamas leader indicated that he is on the move rather than remaining in any one place for an extended period.
    During the manhunt for Sinwar, IDF troops uncovered a previous hiding space of Muhammad Deif, the commander of Hamas' military wing.

FBI: Nationwide Targeting of Jewish Institutions Appears Coordinated, Coming from Outside U.S. - Riley Hoffman (ABC News)
    A nationwide swatting spree of prank calls to emergency services targeting nearly 200 Jewish institutions over the weekend appears to have been a coordinated effort by an entity based outside the U.S., Assistant FBI Director Cathy Milhoan says.
    "Based on similar language and specific email tradecraft used, it appears the perpetrators of these threats are connected."
    More than 30 FBI field offices are investigating the threats, which violated multiple federal laws.

Israel Plans to Change Nature of Gaza Warfare within a Month - Amos Harel (Ha'aretz)
    Among Israel's political and military leadership, there is a growing understanding that the war in Gaza will be transitioning to its next stage over the course of the next month.
    Washington's recommendation is that the change include the establishment of a buffer zone on the Gaza border.
    The U.S has no reservations about Israel's desire to expand the Khan Yunis offensive.
    In a recent battle, the IDF captured a Hamas company commander and learned that he had no idea his battalion commander had been killed in an Israeli bombing.
    The more junior officer continued to fight, in part out of fear of his commander. Had he known that his superior was dead, he would have surrendered.

The Gaza War Inches toward the Day before "the Day After" - David Ignatius (Washington Post)
    Top Israeli officials have insisted that the war will last "months" longer, but that's partly to keep Hamas off guard.
    Israel's leaders know they need to transition to a new stage in the conflict, not least to allow reservists to leave the front lines and return to their jobs.
    Israeli officials appear to agree with the Biden administration on the basics: A postwar Gaza where Hamas cannot impose its political will, while other Palestinians take responsibility for governance.
    The State Department has prepared a 20-page document outlining basic steps and options for the post-conflict phase.
    Fighting will continue, especially in southern Gaza. But as Hamas' power is broken, U.S. and Israeli officials expect that Palestinians will step into new governance and security roles - with support from moderate Arab governments that hate Hamas almost as much as Israel does, even though they don't say so out loud.

Anti-Israel Demos Threaten Public Safety - Editorial (Toronto Sun-Canada)
    On Sunday, 150 protesters demonstrated inside Toronto's Eaton Centre outside Zara - a Spanish retail clothing chain - while the mall was crowded with Christmas shoppers.
    The professed justifications of the protesters are becoming increasingly divorced from the Israel-Hamas conflict.
    Zara has been targeted internationally for an ad campaign called "The Jacket," which the demonstrators claim contained imagery resembling corpses and scenes of destruction in Gaza, even though the company, which has apologized, said it was conceived in July and photographed in September - before the start of the war - and meant to show unfinished works in a sculptor's studio.
    See also Video: Pro-Hamas Protesters Block Grand Central Station as People Head Home for Christmas - Tom Gross (YouTube)
    See also Video: Protesters Shut Down Los Angeles Freeway Demanding Hamas Be Left to Rule Gaza - Tom Gross (YouTube)

The IDF Battles PTSD Before It Occurs - Ido Efrati (Ha'aretz)
    Every day, dozens of Israeli soldiers are pulled out of the heart of fighting in Gaza and brought to recovery centers in Israel.
    Soldiers tend to spend a few hours at a center, where they get checked by teams of psychiatrists and officers specializing in mental health.
    Some 80-90% return to their units in Gaza within a matter of hours.
    "We know that the most effective way to prevent PTSD is for them to start functioning again as quickly as possible. We have no magic pill for treating trauma. The best thing is to get back the feeling of control, coherence and continuity," said a senior mental health officer in the military.
    Health care professionals in the army say that most soldiers express normal and natural responses to battle, but don't suffer from PTSD.
    The officer noted, "When you can't sleep, feel tense, terrified and 'on edge,' this is a consequence of a rational and normal survival reaction to what we find on the battlefield."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Israel Air Force Denies Indiscriminate Bombing in Gaza Offensive - Gael Branchereau
    Faced with growing criticism, Israeli air force officers on Monday defended their actions in war against Hamas. "All the bombs we use are high-precision bombs," an officer told reporters. "We don't need the Americans to understand we want to limit casualties. We did not need to change our principles," saying Israeli forces had aimed at limiting civilian casualties "from the beginning."
        A report by Washington's Director of National Intelligence said that nearly half of munitions dropped by Israeli aircraft on Gaza were "dumb" bombs - unguided munitions with limited accuracy. The Israeli officer said that was inaccurate. "There (are) no dumb bombs" used in the current war. "All the bombs have accurate (targets), some of them by GPS, some of them by cameras, some of them by computers."
        Israel insists Hamas is to blame for mass civilian casualties, accusing the group of using innocent Palestinians as "human shields" and operating out of hospitals, schools and UN facilities. "For Hamas, the deaths of civilians is a strategy," IDF spokesman Daniel Hagari said Monday. "For us, it's a tragedy."  (AFP)
  • Inside U.S.-Palestinian Talks about Post-War Gaza - Barak Ravid
    White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan met on Friday in Ramallah with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and discussed with him how the Palestinian Authority could be involved in governing Gaza after the war ends.
        The Biden administration is proposing the PA re-activate some of the members of its security forces who live in Gaza and were on active duty until Hamas took over in a military coup in June 2007, to prepare a local security and police force for the enclave. There were 18,000 members of the Palestinian security forces on active duty in Gaza before Hamas took control. The PA continued to pay them after 2007 even though they didn't work. The Israeli government currently opposes any return of the PA to Gaza. (Axios)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • IDF Takes Control of Jabalya in Northern Gaza - Yonah Jeremy Bob
    The IDF has finished dismantling Hamas' three battalions in the Jabalya area of northern Gaza, killing hundreds of Hamas forces and arresting 500 terrorists. Over 70 of those arrested directly participated in the Oct. 7 massacre.
        Some of those who surrendered said they had not imagined the intensity of the Israeli attack. They also expressed anger at Hamas leader Sinwar for having abandoned them and were desperate for food and water. IDF sources described moments of surrender as large amounts of Hamas forces all coming out of their positions at once with their hands up.
        The IDF will now focus on the areas of Daraj and Tuffah, the only areas in northern Gaza that are still able to consistently fire rockets, with most rockets fired at Israel now coming from Rafah in southern Gaza. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Gaza Hospital Chief Confirms Facility's Use as Hamas Military Base - Yoav Zitun
    In footage released Tuesday by the Israel Security Agency, Ahmad Kahalot, director of Kamal Adwan Hospital in Jabalya, confesses that Hamas had transformed the medical center into a military base. "I was recruited by Hamas in 2010 with the rank of brigadier general. There are about 16 employees in the hospital who are Izz ad-Din al-Qassam military operatives - doctors, nurses, paramedics, clerks and staff members," he said.
        "They (Hamas) hide in the hospitals because they believe that a hospital is a safe place, that they won't be harmed while they are inside a hospital. Hamas has offices within the hospitals....There is a specific place for interrogations, internal security and special security."
        "Hamas leaders are cowards. They left us on the ground while they're deep in their hideouts. They have ruined us."  (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Israel's Tactics Are the Only Way to Crush Hamas - Col. Richard Kemp
    Former UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, writing in the Telegraph on Dec. 17, repeatedly misunderstands the situation in Gaza. To accuse Israel of "a killing rage" and "indiscriminate" assaults is untrue and unfair to an army that surpasses all others in its ability to attack an enemy while doing everything possible to minimize civilian casualties. Yes, many innocent civilians have been tragically killed. But Hamas plans all of its operations with one overriding aim: to force Israel to kill civilians in Gaza. That is an even higher priority for them than actually killing IDF soldiers and civilians.
        In the civilian-to-combatant casualty ratio, Israel has a better track record than most other armies in the world. If military operations that bring death, suffering and destruction on civilians is collective punishment, then that applies to virtually every war that has ever been fought. Israel must be allowed to defend itself with whatever military force is necessary. It simply has no other choice.
        The writer, a former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, was chairman of the UK's national crisis management committee, COBRA. (Telegraph-UK)
  • Israel Adjusts Battle Tactics in Gaza's South to Target Hamas Leadership - David S. Cloud
    Israel's military said it is adding forces to destroy tunnels and undertaking targeted raids aimed at Hamas' leadership in southern Gaza, after visiting U.S. officials pressed for a tactical shift away from larger-scale operations. The new moves are a response to the demands of southern Gaza's densely populated battle zone, Israeli officials said. Israeli officials said the use of targeted raids in Khan Yunis isn't a response to U.S. pressure. Israel's military leadership has said repeatedly they are conducting the war on their own terms. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Challenges Israel Will Face in a Post-War Gaza - Col. (res.) Miri Eisin
    The day after the war in Gaza there can be no Hamas, no terrorist military capabilities, and no education for the destruction of Israel. Security considerations will include an emphasis on effective control of the Philadelphi Route along the Gaza-Egypt border to prevent Hamas from regaining its strength. Israel also seeks to establish a buffer zone and continue its efforts toward the complete demilitarization of Gaza. In practice, there will be no full withdrawal.
        Even if Israel destroys Hamas' military capabilities in Gaza, how can it be prevented from integrating into the future civilian leadership? How can it be stopped from continuing to be an influential player in Gaza? Hamas also maintains a presence in the West Bank and Lebanon, as well as in Jordan, Syria, and more distant Muslim countries. The destruction of the Hamas regime and its military capabilities in Gaza will not eliminate the organization.
        The writer is managing director of the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) at Reichman University. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Troubling Poll Numbers for American Jews - Jonathan S. Tobin
    The Harvard/Harris monthly survey from December 13-14, 2023, asked: "Do you think that Jews as a class are oppressors and should be treated as oppressors, or is that a false ideology?" 67% of participants ages 18 to 24 responded that Jews are "oppressors." If that proves an accurate assessment of opinion among generations that will lead the U.S. in the future, then it also means that the assumption on the part of many Jews that "it can't happen here" will be proven wrong.
        The older one gets, the more likely the respondent was to correctly label talk of Jewish oppressors as a "false ideology." Those aged 25 to 34 answered 56% to 44% that it was false. Those aged 35 to 44 gave a 64% to 35% majority to the "false ideology" answer, with those aged 45 to 54, 55 to 64, and 65 and older opposing this smear by 76%, 85% and 91%, respectively.
        60% of 18- to 24-year-olds also said that the Hamas atrocities of Oct. 7 were "justified by the grievances of the Palestinians." Large majorities of every other age group said they were not justified. 76% of this age group bought into the fairy tale that Hamas "can be negotiated with to create peace rather than merely being committed to Israel's destruction." 53% of this age group think that college students should be free to advocate for the genocide of Jews. (JNS)
  • Why I Canít Stop Writing about Oct. 7 - Bret Stephens
    The single-minded loathing of Israel is another expression of antisemitism. Somehow the types of excuses that are unthinkable when it comes to some minorities become "essential context" when it comes to Jews. After Israel experienced the equivalent of more than a dozen Sept. 11s on a single day, some progressives instantly cheered it as an act of justified "resistance."
        Antisemitism is a problem for democracy because hatred for Jews, whatever name or cause it travels under, is never a hatred for Jews only. It's a hatred for distinctiveness: Jews as Jews in Christian lands; Israel as a Jewish state in Muslim lands. Authoritarians seek uniformity. Jews represent difference.
        America has been good to Jews since 1655, when the Dutch West India Company rebuked Peter Stuyvesant for refusing trade permits to some Jewish newcomers in what was then New Amsterdam. But if there's one lesson of Jewish history, it's that nothing good stays - and why we still say, at the end of every Passover Seder, "Next year in Jerusalem."  (New York Times)
  • Calling for a Ceasefire Is an Antisemitic Demand that Jews Endorse Our Own Genocide - Hen Mazzig
    As an Israeli Jew who helped Palestinian civilians during my five-year service in the Israel Defense Forces, I would love nothing more than for our two peoples to live side-by-side in peace. The only thing standing between us and a ceasefire is Hamas, a terrorist organization whose raison d'etre is to eliminate Israel and kill Jews. Calls for a ceasefire are neither a commitment to human rights nor an effort to preserve life. Instead, they are a demand that Jews not defend themselves from genocide.
        Calling for a ceasefire at this juncture is a demand that Jews lay down and accept the attacks against them. Pressuring Israel, which is on a rescue mission to release its citizens from captivity and bring a group of barbaric death agents to justice, will do nothing to bring peace to humanity or the region. (Newsweek)

  • The Houthi Threat from Yemen

  • The Houthis, Iran and U.S. Deterrence - Editorial
    The Houthis and their Iranian backers have already succeeded in their goal of damaging Western interests. They've forced the world to deploy scarce naval assets to defend commercial shipping. Yet they have paid no political or military price for this modern piracy.
        What if the Houthis and Iran don't heed the warning of Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and stand down? Will the U.S. do what it hasn't so far and retaliate with strikes on Houthi launch sites or missile stores? These questions go to the heart of failing U.S. deterrence against the world's rogues. Letting the Houthis terrorize a crucial world shipping lane is a failure that will further disrupt the Middle East and radiate to other parts of the world. (Wall Street Journal)
  • The Houthis Are Attacking Israel to Gain Support
    Yemen's Houthis, the Islamist group that has shot missiles and drones at Israel and is now intensifying attacks on key shipping lanes in the Red Sea, have progressed from being "a nuisance and a headache to a major strategic threat to Israel," according to Dr. Yoel Guzansky, a former member of Israel's National Security Council and a senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies.
        Guzansky says the Houthis have about 100,000 soldiers and "they have mastered a lot of techniques of firing missiles, and also are producing at least some of the drones they have been using....By fighting Israel and supporting the Palestinians, the Houthis hoped to gain a lot of support in Yemen and the region. And unfortunately, they were right."  (Ha'aretz)
  • Threating the Oil Market Was a Step Too Far by the Houthis - Doron Paskin
    The global shipping crisis intensifies due to repeated attacks by the Houthi rebels from Yemen on vessels in and near the Bab el-Mandeb strait. These attacks, backed by Iran, are prompting major international shipping companies to announce a halt to navigation in the Red Sea. The majority of oil and natural gas exports from Gulf countries to Europe pass through the Red Sea and the Suez Canal. It is reasonable to expect that oil shipping prices will rise as a result of the Houthi attacks.
        Countries such as China and India, with close ties to Iran, are sensitive to high oil prices and may be compelled to intervene and exert their influence to bring about stability. (Ynet News)

  • Israel's "third front" is in Judea and Samaria. Declarations praising the Oct. 7 massacre by senior Fatah officials are an attempt to stir up feelings towards a similar horrendous act of violence against the Jewish communities there or in those adjacent to the '67 lines such as Kfar Saba or Rosh Ha'Ayin. The scenario of the Palestinian Authority Security Forces (PASF) "turning their guns" on IDF forces and/or Jewish communities is rapidly developing into actuality.
  • The warning signs are too numerous to ignore. Dozens of terrorist attacks, attempted attacks, and shooting incidents at IDF forces or the civilian population in Judea and Samaria have been carried out since the beginning of 2023 by Palestinian policemen, members of the Preventive Security Forces, and members of other PASF units.
  • In recent counter-terrorist activity by the IDF, dozens of Fatah men have been killed. Fatah's al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades took up arms once again in 2021 and, prior to Oct. 7, appealed to its men, "What are you waiting for? Now is the time to kill the Jews." Only a few months prior to Oct. 7, Fatah published a collage of 24 photos of "martyrs," many of whom were members of the PASF who were killed in clashes with Israel.
  • Only two weeks ago, Tawfik Tirawi, the former head of the PA General Intelligence Service, told the Palestinian channel Al-Sharq that Fatah is involved in the fighting alongside Gaza, and that it has adopted terrorist groups in Nablus and Jenin, in which joint battalions of all the factions are operating together.
  • Maj.-Gen. (res.) Uzi Dayan, a former Deputy Chief of Staff and head of Israel's National Security Council, recommends preparing for a scenario of the PA turning its guns against us. He says, "There are tens of thousands of Palestinians who carry arms, and the potential of them carrying out a raid on some Jewish community exists at any given moment."
  • "We must base our preparations not in accordance with our enemies' intentions but their capabilities, and since the scenario of the PA turning its guns against us is by no means far-fetched, and the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria have the capability, coupled with an orderly ideology of hostility and hatred towards us, then we really need to prepare in accordance with their capabilities, according to the potential danger."
  • In recent weeks, clips have been posted on social media showing exercises conducted by the 45,000-strong PASF, which appear to be training for an armed conflict or war. On occasion, they resemble training carried out by the IDF's crack units. Other recent clips on social media have simulated raids on Israeli communities.

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