December 24, 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:

Video: Watch Terrorists Planting Explosive Devices (Israel Defense Forces)
    A camera found on the body of a terrorist in northern Gaza contains footage of terrorists planting explosive devices and setting up booby traps aimed at IDF troops.

Israeli Doctors: Many of 30 Released Female Hostages Were Assaulted in Gaza - Kim Hjelmgaard (USA Today)
    Two Israeli doctors who have been treating released hostages and an Israeli military official familiar with the matter confirmed to USA Today that some released hostages revealed they suffered violent sexual assaults in captivity.
    One of the doctors assessed that "many" of the released Israeli female hostages aged 12 to 48 - there are about 30 of them - were sexually assaulted while held by Hamas in Gaza.

86 Homes Damaged in Northern Kibbutz by Missile Fire from Lebanon (Times of Israel)
    "86 houses were damaged here in [Kibbutz] Manara, some completely destroyed and some only with shattered windows" from Hizbullah rocket fire, community manager Yochai Wolfin told Israel's Channel 11.
    The kibbutz has been largely evacuated of civilians.

Poll: 96 Percent of Saudis Believe Arab Nations Should Sever Ties with Israel - Catherine Cleveland (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
    91% of Saudi citizens agree that "this war in Gaza is a win for the Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims," according to a Washington Institute poll conducted from Nov. 14 to Dec. 6.
    96% agree that "Arab countries should immediately break all diplomatic, political, economic, and any other contacts with Israel."
    95% of Saudis believe that Hamas did not actually kill Israeli civilians.
    Positive attitudes toward Hamas shifted from just 10% in August to 40% in November-December.
    87% agree that "recent events show that Israel is so weak and internally divided that it can be defeated some day."

Video: Oketz K-9 Unit Dog Explores Gaza City Tunnel - Yoav Zitun (Ynet News)
    Israeli forces uncovered a network of tunnels, an underground command center, and buildings that served as Hamas bases in the Issa area of southern Gaza City, the IDF reported Friday.
    The Yahalom combat engineers and the Oketz K-9 unit examined the multi-level tunnel system and then demolished it.

Palestinian Security Official Shot by Islamic Jihad - Einav Halabi (Ynet News)
    Muhammad Bayan Abed, a member of the Palestinian Authority's Preventive Security Service, was shot by Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) operatives in the West Bank after posting a video in which he calls Hamas an "Iranian proxy."
    The PIJ operatives shot him in the leg and later shared a video of him writhing in pain.

"Leaving Is Giving In to Hamas": The Old-Timers Who Stayed at the Kibbutz after October 7 - Meirav Moran (Ha'aretz)
    After Oct. 7, all the members of the kibbutzim across from Gaza were told to leave.
    Two months later, companies of soldiers are camped in the yards, but they're not the only ones living there. There are also a handful of kibbutz members who refused to leave, violating the evacuation order.
    They are sons and daughters of the founders of these kibbutzim, which predate the state.
    They have principles: do not abandon farmland, do not forgo your home, do not withdraw from settled ground, not even if the enemy threatens you with rifles and missiles.
    They remember being shelled as children, they grew up in antitank trenches, they experienced firsthand the evacuation of communities under fire, and they - some of them now over 80 - are not about to repeat that.
    Nurit Dvori, 75, was the first girl born on Kibbutz Be'eri. She and her husband Avraham, 79, have 15 grandchildren from five children, all of whom made their homes in Be'eri.
    "I am not afraid to be at the kibbutz," Avraham says. "The danger has passed at this stage....The invasion that took place here isn't going to happen again."
    Yankele Koffman, 70, a member of Kibbutz Re'im, didn't leave his home on Oct. 7.
    "I told them: 'You can bring the police, as far as I am concerned you can bring an army - I'm not budging.' Someone has to turn on the water in the fields, right?"
    "We sowed potatoes and wheat and got the field crops back on track....Everything is budding and green and growing the way it should in this season."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • UN Security Council Passes Resolution on Gaza Aid but Does Not Call for Suspension of Hostilities - Farnaz Fassihi
    The UN Security Council on Friday adopted a resolution to allow more aid for civilians in Gaza, after nearly a week of intense diplomatic wrangling to prevent the U.S. from vetoing the measure. The resolution stopped short of past attempts to impose a ceasefire. The vote was 13 to 0, with the U.S. and Russia abstaining. U.S. Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said she was deeply disappointed that the resolution did not condemn Hamas' terrorist attack on Israel.
        Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan thanked President Biden for "standing on Israel's side" throughout the negotiations and "maintaining defined red lines." "The resolution maintains Israel's security authority to monitor and inspect aid entering Gaza," Erdan said, adding, "The UN's focus only on the aid mechanisms for Gaza is unnecessary and disconnected from reality - Israel, in any case, allows the entry of aid on any necessary scale."  (New York Times)
  • Iranian Spy Ship Helps Houthis Direct Attacks on Red Sea Vessels - Benoit Faucon
    Iran's paramilitary forces are providing real-time intelligence and weaponry, including drones and missiles, to Yemen's Houthis to target ships in the Red Sea, Western and regional security officials said. Tracking information gathered by a Red Sea surveillance vessel controlled by Iran is given to the Houthis.
        "The Houthis don't have the radar technology to target the ships," said a Western security official. "They need Iranian assistance. Without it, the missiles would just drop in the water." U.S. officials have said privately they are looking at an offensive military response to the attacks. While the Houthis have said the attacks are in retaliation for Israel's war in Gaza, the ships they have attacked have little or in some cases no links to Israel.
        In 2021, Israeli mines damaged an Iranian spy ship that had also been stationed in the Red Sea, and it was replaced by the vessel currently helping the Houthis, Western officials said. On Friday, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant warned, "If they continue to provoke us, try to attack Eilat with missiles or by other means, we will know what to do."  (Wall Street Journal)
  • U.S. Navy Shoots Down Four Houthi Drones in Red Sea - Diana Stancy Correll
    The Navy destroyer USS Laboon shot down four unmanned aerial vehicles Saturday in the Red Sea that originated from Iran-allied Houthi rebels in Yemen, U.S. Central Command said. The drones "were inbound" to the destroyer as it conducted a patrol in the southern Red Sea.
        After shooting down the drones, the Laboon responded to distress calls after two commercial vessels came under attack on Saturday. "The M/V Blaamanen, a Norwegian-flagged, owned, and operated chemical/oil tanker, reported a near miss of a Houthi attack drone," CENTCOM said. "A second vessel, the M/V Saibaba, a Gabon-owned, Indian-flagged crude oil tanker, reported that it was hit by a one-way attack drone with no injuries reported....These attacks represent the 14th and 15th attacks on commercial shipping by Houthi militants since Oct. 17."
        CENTCOM also said that two Houthi anti-ship missiles were fired into international shipping lanes in the Red Sea from Houthi-controlled areas on Saturday, but no ships reported being harmed. (Navy Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Coordinated IDF Ground and Air Operation Eliminates Dozens of Terrorists in Gaza City - Dennis Bihler
    In a joint operation, IDF ground forces and the Israeli Air Force eliminated dozens of Hamas terrorists in the southern part of Gaza City. IDF forces lured the terrorists to escape into a building used as a Hamas command center in the Issa neighborhood, and fighter jets were deployed to strike and eliminate them. During the strike, IDF troops identified armed terrorists attempting to launch an attack and eliminated them with precise sniper fire. (Ynet News)
  • The Gaza-Egypt Border Became Hamas' Smuggling Hub - Amir Bohbot
    The IDF Southern Command is working on a plan to address the Philadelphi Corridor along the Gaza-Egypt border in order to prevent the rearmament of Hamas terrorists. An IDF special forces officer explained, "The scope of the captured munitions since the beginning of the war is unprecedented. The volume of munitions and anti-tank missiles used against us is on a scale reminiscent of the warfare of global Jihadist organizations in Syria and Iraq."
        The numbers show that Hamas smuggled weapons and ammunition through tunnels beneath the Philadelphi Corridor or crossed through an Egyptian-controlled checkpoint. (Walla-Jerusalem Post)
        See also Report: IDF Asks Egypt to Evacuate Forces from Rafah Border Area
    The IDF has informed Egypt of its intention to occupy the Philadelphi Corridor in the Rafah border area and asked Egyptian soldiers to evacuate the area, Arab media reported Saturday. (Maariv-Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Victory in Gaza Is Up to the Israeli Public, Not the U.S. - Ron Ben-Yishai
    In recent discussions with senior IDF commanders, I got a clear impression that the IDF can achieve a decisive outcome in Gaza and accomplish the war's goals. However, achieving this will require at least several months to complete. Security experts believe that, at the moment, this doesn't depend on the U.S. but on Israeli public opinion, resilience, and political support.
        The destruction in northern Gaza is making it much harder for Hamas terrorists to come out from underground tunnels and fire at IDF forces. However, in the less densely populated Khan Yunis area and Hamas camps north of the city, tunnels are almost everywhere, making it easy for terrorists to operate from within them. The IDF has discovered that Hamas' underground facilities are 500% larger than previously estimated.
        As long as the IDF was moving, terrorists didn't rush to combat them but focused on laying explosives to ambush the troops. Now, as the IDF moves less and shifts to eliminating infrastructure, the terrorists are moving in their anti-tank units to target the IDF.
        The IDF and the Air Force can't fully employ their firepower in southern Gaza due to the number of safety zones for the civilian population scattered in the Khan Yunis area, with Hamas preventing them from escaping. There is also the desire not to harm Israeli hostages.
        Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar still believes he could pressure the international community to stop the fighting while leveraging the Israeli captives for more time.
        At Israel's northern border, the Air Force operates intensively to push Hizbullah away from the border fence. But it's clear that this can't be done solely from the air and will likely require a limited ground operation to distance Hizbullah not only beyond the current range of its anti-tank guided missiles (8 km.), but beyond it. (Ynet News)
  • A Two-State Solution Is Wishful Thinking - Jake Wallis Simons
    Who still has the luxury of believing in the two-state solution? Not the people whose families were slaughtered on Oct. 7, nor parents with sons on the frontlines. To many of them, a Palestinian state must feel like a bizarre response to the worst atrocity in Israel's history. But in London and Washington, the concept is back in fashion.
        In an ideal world, a democratic Palestine living in peace alongside its Jewish neighbor would be wonderful. But wishful thinking won't get you very far. Believing in fairies doesn't make Tinkerbell real. In fact, blind belief sometimes makes things worse. You keep repeating the same mistakes.
        In truth, Israelis have been pursuing two-states for decades, with blood and tears the only result. It began with the Oslo Accords in the 1990s. But while Yasser Arafat was talking peace in English, his Arabic speeches were a stream of extremism and rejectionism. Western diplomats chose to put their fingers in their ears and in 2000, the Palestinians unleashed the Second Intifada. The peace efforts were rewarded with suicide bombings.
        The core of the problem has always been that Palestinians are taught to be allergic to a Jewish state. You can't make peace on a diplomatic level when from cradle to grave, Israelophobia is widespread in Palestinian society.
        The writer is editor of the Jewish Chronicle-UK. (Telegraph-UK)
  • Anti-Zionism Is Deadlier than Antisemitism - Dr. Joshua Muravchik
    Some say that anti-Zionism isn't tantamount to antisemitism. It's worse. Antisemitism always stings, but in the West today, it usually doesn't wound. For the most part, we dwell among our gentile neighbors in safety.
        Jews faced with anti-Zionism are under much greater threat. Since the birth of Israel, and its baptism by fire when the Arab states and local Arabs tried to destroy it, anti-Zionism can only mean the destruction of Israel, which is home to some seven million Jews as well as two million Arabs and other minorities.
        Iran's repeatedly proclaimed goal is to wipe Israel from the map. Hamas in its charter and Hizbullah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, in his speeches go further, saying they want to kill all the world's Jews. Hizbullah has slaughtered Jews at Iran's orders as far afield as Buenos Aires, but the real target is Israel. There is no escaping the reality that the end of Israel could only mean the death of millions of its Jews. The fulfillment of anti-Zionism means nothing less than a second Holocaust.
        The writer is an Adjunct Professor at the Institute of World Politics in Washington. (Wall Street Journal)
  • The Brewing Lebanon Deal - Dr. David Wurmser
    A U.S. plan is emerging to diffuse tension along Israel's northern border. Under the proposed plan, Hizbullah is to withdraw its forces northward, Israel concedes all the disputed areas along the border, and the area between Israel and Hizbullah will be filled by the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF).
        The UN established a mechanism to demarcate the border between Israel and Lebanon and such a demarcation was completed. Thus, there is no real disputed territory. They are disputed only because Hizbullah raised spurious claims. Yet, under the plan, Hizbullah is rewarded - and its resistance validated and continued existence as an armed militia legitimized - by a full Israeli withdrawal in all of the areas (Kfar Shouba, Sheba Farms and Ghajar) in addition to other disputed parcels.
        Under the plan, the LAF would secure the border and a buffer zone south of the Litani River. But the LAF has long been proven to be an entirely dysfunctional fiction as a sovereign force. It cannot in any way cross Hizbullah, and to believe it can, going forward, is simply delusional. It has functioned until now only as a cover and human shield for Hizbullah, despite the vast sums of money, equipment and training that have been given to the LAF by the U.S.
        However, Hizbullah likely will not accept the plan since it would be a humiliation for Hizbullah if it withdrew voluntarily under an Israeli threat.
        The writer is an American foreign policy specialist. (Institute for a Secure America)

  • I live in Kibbutz Nirim, less than two km. from the border with Gaza. People from my community have always held our hands out in peace to the residents on the other side of the border. I have participated in a number of projects and interactions with Palestinians, to try to build bridges. I've worked with people from Gaza who understand that we in Israel genuinely believe in coexistence with anyone who wants to live in peace with us. I always tell whoever will listen that it is in our best interest to see them thrive and prosper and have good lives.
  • On Oct. 7, many of those bridges collapsed. People on Nirim were reporting in the kibbutz's WhatsApp group that they were hearing automatic machine gun fire and shouting in Arabic outside their houses. We were alerted to shutter and lock doors and windows, then lock ourselves in our safe rooms. The problem was that the doors of the safe rooms, which were built to keep us safe from mortars, rockets and shrapnel, as opposed to infiltration by terrorists, do not lock. When we were finally evacuated from Nirim on Oct. 8, we had to drive through an active war zone.
  • I had believed, when the Qatari suitcases of dollars were allowed into Gaza, that all our lives would be safer. In light of the discoveries made by our troops now fighting inside Gaza, clearly the money was invested in building an underground terror network instead of helping Gazans. I had faith in the belief that if we allow thousands of Gazans into our country for work, they would be able to feed their families and live better lives. We now understand that it was many of those people whom we were hiring who were busy at the same time betraying us, mapping out our communities, including names of residents and where they lived, in order to weaponize that knowledge on Oct. 7.
  • The trust we put in them enabled the slaughter of over 1,200 people and the kidnapping of over 240, many of whom were and are my friends. It is also what has caused those of us who live on Nirim and the other border communities to be refugees in our own country. Can any of us ever trust any of the Gazans on the other side as not being Hamas collaborators, or not betraying my safety because Hamas terrorists have forced them to, by threatening them or their family by putting a gun to their head?
  • I fear that the bridges so many of us strived to work towards have been blown to smithereens. In their place are the dark shadows of doubt and suspicion of our neighbors, and for that, I have Hamas and what they did to us on Oct. 7 to blame, as well as misguided citizens and countries of the world who embolden and support these terrorists.

    The U.S.-born writer has lived on the border with Gaza since 1975. Her dear friend and usual editor, Judih Weinstein Haggai, an American-Canadian-Israeli citizen, is being held captive in Gaza.

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