December 25, 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:

Report: Hizbullah Withdraws from Israeli Border in Fear of Attack (Jerusalem Post)
    Hizbullah began withdrawing its elite Radwan forces from southern Lebanon over the weekend, amid fears over a surprise IDF attack, according to Israeli media.
    At least 123 Hizbullah terrorists have been killed by IDF precision strikes along the Lebanese border in two months, Hizbullah said Saturday.
    Thousands of Hizbullah operatives were repositioned further away from Israeli territory in addition to the Radwan forces.

IDF Carries Out "Wide-Scale" Airstrikes on Hizbullah as Rockets from Lebanon Hit North - Emanuel Fabian (Times of Israel)
    The IDF carried out "wide-scale" strikes against Hizbullah targets Sunday after barrages of rockets from Lebanon targeted multiple communities in northern Israel.
    Israeli planes hit military buildings, rocket launchers, and other infrastructure, while artillery shelled sources of fire.
    Israeli communities close to the frontier with Lebanon have been largely evacuated of civilians since October.
    A senior Israeli defense source told Walla that with "the extent of the [IDF] forces that have been positioned on the border from the beginning of the fighting," Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah has been denied the element of "surprise he was thinking of."
    "At the same time, the IDF is planning a strong and multi-layered line of fortifications to deny its [Hizbullah] capabilities in the future."
    "It will not be the same border after what we saw happen at the border of Gaza. It will be a different border."

U.S.: Israel Can Fight as Long as Gaza Gets Aid - Amos Harel (Ha'aretz)
    Earlier forecasts in Washington were that the Biden administration would demand that Israel end the high-intensity phase of the ground offensive against Hamas by the close of the year, and that the Americans would agree to only a further few weeks of fighting in the current format.
    In the meantime, the U.S. is on its Christmas-New Year vacation over the next 10 days and, if nothing exceptional happens during this time, the Americans won't ask Israel to stop.
    The deal between Biden and Netanyahu is that the president, who in any event morally endorses the Israeli response to the events of Oct. 7 and supports the elimination of Hamas, delays a ceasefire, in return for Israel allowing large quantities of humanitarian aid into Gaza.
    As long as aid gets into Gaza, and as long as fewer civilians are being killed, the U.S. is in less of a hurry when it comes to Israel moving toward a lower-intensity phase in the fighting.
    One week point in this agreement is that the humanitarian aid also helps Hamas.
    A large part of the aid brought into Gaza is plundered by Hamas; the fuel keeps the ventilation systems in Hamas' tunnels up and running, and the food aid increases the already large supplies that Hamas holds for its own people.

Revolutionary Technology Helps IDF Down Enemy Drones - Navit Zomer (Ynet News)
    It was recently announced that Israeli forces in Gaza eliminated a swarm of seven attack drones using the SMASH smart fire control system developed by the Smart Shooter company.
    Michal Mor, founder and CEO of Smart Shooter, had previously worked in the missile division of Israel's Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd.
    In 2006, when her husband was called up for reserve duty in the Lebanon war, she noticed his rifle had a standard low-tech site.
    "So, we incorporated into the rifle the technology used for missile interception, which I'm familiar with. The goal is to allow soldiers to hit the target precisely at the first shot," she said.
    The technology ensures a precise hit on moving targets, including drones.
    SMASH locks on the target and tracks its movement to synchronize the shot release for a swift and precise hit.
    Beyond the incredible accuracy, the system can track and hit from a range of 200 meters, compared to 50 meters with a rifle with a normal sight, which adds to the safety of the shooter.
    "Before the Gaza war, the SMASH was also used to take down the incendiary balloons that set Israeli fields surrounding Gaza on fire."
    The U.S. Marines, the British army, and those of the Netherlands, India and Germany have purchased Smart Shooter.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Battle for Southern Gaza Could Take Months, Israeli Military Says - Dov Lieber
    At least 16 Israeli soldiers were killed across Gaza over the past three days, as the IDF is now focusing on killing Hamas leaders and dismantling its extensive tunnel network. On Saturday, four Israeli soldiers were killed by improvised explosive devices, and another four were killed by an antitank missile fired at their armored vehicle. Five additional soldiers were killed in fighting on Friday. The growing death toll has led to some internal criticism that Israel is endangering soldiers by scaling back its use of force in response to U.S. demands to limit civilian casualties.
        A senior Israeli military officer commanding the battalion inside the city of Khan Yunis said it could take months before they have control over the city the same way the Israeli military now controls northern Gaza. The officer said Hamas is attacking Israeli forces from civilian shelters, and using women and children to gather intelligence or move weapons.
        In Khan Yunis, the IDF is using a grid system to move civilians out of areas it plans to attack rather than demanding they evacuate all at once as in northern Gaza at the start of the war. The Israeli officer said the system is working and that civilians are evacuating areas before Israel attacks. He said this has led to fewer civilian casualties, and the majority of casualties in Khan Yunis are now terrorists.
        At least 154 Israeli soldiers have been killed since the ground invasion of Gaza began eight weeks ago, making a total of 487 Israeli military deaths since Hamas' Oct. 7 attack. (Wall Street Journal)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Prime Minister Netanyahu: This Will Be a Long War
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Israeli Cabinet on Sunday: "The war is exacting a very heavy cost from us; however, we have no choice but to continue to fight. As of today, our forces have eliminated many thousands of terrorists....I told President Biden yesterday that we will fight until absolute victory - however long that takes. The U.S. understands this."
        "Let it be clear: This will be a long war. We will fight until the end - until the hostages are returned, Hamas is eliminated, and we restore security in both the north and the south."  (Prime Minister's Office)
  • IDF Clears Gaza City Schools of Hamas Terrorists
    Israeli forces completed a raid of schools in Gaza City's Sheikh Radwan neighborhood on Sunday, uncovering hundreds of weapons hidden by Hamas inside the schools. Several terrorists hiding in the schools were killed by Israeli forces. Dozens of terrorists were also detained and taken into Israel for interrogation. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Video: Inside Hamas Headquarters in Jabaliya - Yoav Zitun
    The IDF has destroyed the underground headquarters of Hamas in Jabaliya in the northern Gaza after documenting its network of giant tunnels and retrieving the bodies of five slain Israeli soldiers and hostages. The IDF on Sunday released dramatic footage showing soldiers rappelling down into the network of tunnels, as well as the explosion destroying them.
        IDF forces gained control over Jabaliya after intense battles which eliminated over 200 terrorists. These operations included terrorists engaging in gunfire while surrounded by civilians who had surrendered while waving white flags. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • How Israel Can Ensure Security in Post-War Gaza - Israel Kasnett
    As Israeli forces advance systematically in Gaza in response to Hamas' Oct. 7 massacre and years of rocket fire on Israel's civilian population, discussions have begun regarding the future governance of Gaza. Dr. Dan Diker, president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, told JNS that Israel and Egypt "will need to share national security responsibilities, each on its side of the border." Israel, "like in areas A and B of the areas under nominal PA control in Judea and Samaria, will always maintain the right to pursue terrorists" in post-war Gaza.
        "It remains unclear who and how internal policing will be handled in Gaza, but it is reasonable to assess that local police forces will secure their local districts. What is an essential precondition to future security for both Gazans and Israel is that the IDF destroys Hamas militarily and politically with an overwhelming victory. The Arab world as well as the Iranian regime and its terror proxies are watching carefully."  (JNS)
  • The Palestinians Don't Want a Two-State Solution - Jonathan S. Tobin
    U.S. President Joe Biden is pushing hard for the revival of a peace process that's been dead in the water for more than two decades, as well as for Israel to accept the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state alongside it. In theory, two states for two peoples coexisting in peace does sound ideal. But it's time for Biden and anyone who wants to advance a two-state solution to sober up about the Palestinians.
        As even the New York Times reported this week, in the aftermath of Oct. 7, the overwhelming majority of Israelis rejects any thought of a renewal of negotiations, let alone the imposition of a two-state solution. The Oslo Accords collapsed in the bloodshed of the Second Intifada, and remnants of those who advocated for more territorial retreats and Palestinian statehood are now completely discredited.
        As the Times noted, even people who considered themselves peace activists have finally drawn conclusions from a century of Palestinian hate and terrorism that culminated in the worst mass slaughter of Jews since the Holocaust. The fact that many of the victims of the Hamas pogroms living in the border communities were ardent peace advocates and yet were still murdered, raped and kidnapped by the Palestinians made a deep impression on the Israeli people.
        As the most recent polls conducted by Palestinian analysts show, more than 3/4 of Palestinians support the Oct. 7 attacks. The majority of Palestinians have always rejected peace and an independent state if it meant accepting the legitimacy of a Jewish state, irrespective of its borders. They share Hamas' goal of destroying Israel and slaughtering its people because their national identity is inextricably tied up with their century-old war on Zionism.
        Those who purport to be friends of the Jewish state must speak up and support the opinion of the overwhelming majority of Israelis. The choice is between Israeli security and Hamas' vision of endless war, which most Palestinians support. Anyone with even the most minimal knowledge of Palestinian politics knows that another two-state push will fail. If you care about preventing more Oct. 7 slaughter, then you need to respect the sensible desire of the Israelis to defend themselves and give up on fantasies about the Palestinians choosing peace. (JNS)
  • Our False Partners - Natan Sharansky
    Twenty years ago I visited 13 college campuses in the U.S. as an Israeli government minister. Since then, I appeared dozens of times at different universities, and with each visit I witnessed the new antisemitism growing stronger. In light of this experience, I insisted in many conversations with liberal American Jews that left-wing antisemitism poses the greatest threat, because it is buttressed by a powerful, all-encompassing ideology that divides the world into oppressors and oppressed, and assumes that moral righteousness always lies with the latter.
        This ideology assesses the moral value of an action not on its own terms but based on the identity of the agent. What is worse, if an action is thought to aid the downtrodden, it becomes acceptable to violate the most basic rights of those deemed to be their oppressors, including the rights of free speech and physical security.
        Liberalism asserts the primacy of the individual and affirms that human beings are of equal moral worth. Progressivism, as it is understood today, compromises individual rights and asserts the moral superiority of the oppressed over everyone else. Above all, because progressives see Israel as an oppressor and Jews as members of the privileged class, they believe that we are necessarily on the wrong side of history. To them, Israel is the last remnant of European colonialism and deserves to be attacked and dismantled.
        Some people believe that our goal should be to prove to progressives that Jews belong in the ranks of the oppressed, that not all of us are white and privileged. But why should we push ourselves into organizations whose ideology denies our equal rights and moral worth.
        Instead, we should carry on our own traditions with pride. Jews have a noble history of fighting against racism and injustice. In continuing to do so, without compromising who we are, we will find our true allies.
        The writer is a former political prisoner in the Soviet Union, former minister in Israeli governments, and former Chairman of the Executive of the Jewish Agency for Israel. (Tablet)
  • We Must All Condemn Hamas - Ahmed Fouad Alkhatib
    An increasing number of Gazans are openly and publicly condemning Hamas' actions and blaming the group for their misery. Hamas has engaged in several futile and utterly useless armed conflicts against Israel and turned Gaza into a citadel from which it dragged its people along a "resistance" project, resulting in tens of thousands of casualties and lasting scars and traumas.
        Dozens of Gazan Facebook accounts detest Hamas' lack of consideration for the well-being of its people, while others ridicule the group's mouthpieces and those who inflate the capabilities of "resistance" groups and understate the horrendous losses being endured by civilians. In video after video, we see Gazans blame Hamas for their misery, publicly decry its actions, and accuse its fighters of operating among civilians and contributing to their deaths.
        Most of my family members are living in Gaza. The overall mood among the population is characterized by exhaustion and an unprecedented desire for a fundamentally different future. Palestinians in Gaza want a life without Hamas and its violence, narrow ideology, and cultish glorification of death or "martyrdom."
        It also shouldn't be that difficult to condemn Hamas' brutal killing and kidnapping of Israeli women, children, and innocent civilians who were sleeping in their homes.
        The Palestinian people deserve capable leaders and parties, not an exclusionary death cult that has spent the past 30 years sabotaging an imperfect yet viable peace process. Normalizing the condemnation of Hamas is a moral, political, and strategic imperative to advance the pursuit of Palestinian rights, freedom, and self-determination.
        The writer is an American who grew up in Gaza. (Evening Standard-UK)

To Defeat Terror, Lenient Sentences for Terrorists Must End - Lt.-Col. (res.) Maurice Hirsch (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Many terrorists are being arrested in Gaza, as well as in Judea and Samaria. Arresting terrorists poses a particular problem: whereas a terrorist who has been killed cannot return to terror activity, a terrorist who has been temporarily detained does not lose his murderous ideology, and once released, he returns to action in the terror group.
  • If the terrorists and infrastructure are destroyed in Gaza, but in Judea and Samaria the terrorists are not killed or arrested and the terror infrastructure is not dismantled, Israel will fail in its task of toppling these organizations. The question is, what must be done to ensure that these terrorists do not go back to business as usual and rebuild the terror infrastructure?
  • In the Israeli legal system, including in the military courts, whereas the punishments for terror offenses stipulated by legislation are generally severe, in practice, the punishments handed down to the terrorists are very light. For example, the law - in Israel and in Judea and Samaria - authorizes judges to hand down a 20-year prison sentence to a terrorist convicted of stone-throwing. In actuality, if the terrorist gets a one-year term, it is a considerable achievement.
  • Judges do not distinguish between cases in which it is appropriate to let the offender be rehabilitated and cases in which the offender, an enemy terrorist, is not interested in "rehabilitation" because he does not see his terror activity as morally flawed. So, for decades, thousands of terrorists have benefited from light punishments that are designed for common offenders and not for terrorists.
  • Daily, thousands of terrorists benefit from lenient punishments, which defeats the whole purpose. Essentially, all that is needed to change the situation is a different approach by the State Prosecutor and the Military Prosecution in Judea and Samaria. For terror offenses, the prosecution's demand for punishment must differ from its demands for ordinary offenses.
  • The prosecution must petition to sentence the convicted terrorist to the maximum sentence instead of beginning with punishment at the lowest level and then ascending level by level according to the severity of the offense. If this change does not start with the prosecution, it will not begin at all, as it will certainly not change on the initiative of the judges. There is no need to revise legislation, only to make a policy change that can be carried out immediately.

    The writer served for 19 years in the IDF Military Advocate General Corps and was director of the Military Prosecution in Judea and Samaria.

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