December 28, 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:

Securing the "Philadelphi Corridor": A Strategic Imperative for Israel - Yoni Ben Menachem (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    The IDF's imminent security control over the Philadelphi Corridor separating Egypt and Gaza underscores the critical importance of controlling this key passageway.
    The corridor, stretching approximately 14 km. along the entirety of the Gaza-Egypt border, has become a highway for weapon-smuggling from Egypt to Hamas, despite Egypt's claiming to have destroyed the smuggling tunnels years ago.
    Both Egypt and Hamas vehemently oppose Israel's control over the corridor.
    Recent requests by Israel to have Egyptian military units relocate away from the Gaza border have been rebuffed by Egypt.
    Gaining control of Gaza's southern border through the Philadelphi Corridor is important for the demilitarization of the region after the conflict.

Hizbullah Fighting a War of Attrition on Israel's Terms - Baruch Yedid (JNS)
    Israel Air Force strikes in Lebanon are exacting a heavy price from Hizbullah for its rocket fire, forcing the terrorist group into a war of attrition being fought on Israel's terms.
    Hizbullah has been firing rockets at northern Israel daily since Oct. 7, leading to the evacuation of tens of thousands of Israelis from communities near Lebanon.
    In response, "Hizbullah's front line of outposts was hit very hard by the IDF and, among other things, the forces hit terrorist infrastructure, command and control facilities, lookouts and warehouses where weapons were stored," an IDF source said.
    A Shi'ite source in Lebanon said that Israel has targeted Hizbullah facilities located in or very close to 91 villages across southern Lebanon. Civilians have been killed in those strikes, and residents blame Hizbullah for putting them in harm's way.
    "Recently, [Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan] Nasrallah has also been hearing criticism from the Shi'ite communities who ask him whether you have pledged to be the defender of Lebanon or have you become the defender of Hamas and ISIS," the IDF source said.
    "The ratio of casualties between the IDF forces and Hizbullah is 1-13," an Israeli political source said.

Israel Faces an Intolerable Situation in the North - Amb. Michael Oren (Israel Hayom)
    Whenever America tells us "Don't go to war" and we reply "Yes, but" - in 1948, in 1956, in 1967, in 1981 (destruction of the Iraqi reactor) - we earn respect from Washington.
    Today, the Americans keep telling us "Don't go to war against Hizbullah." Yet Israel faces an intolerable situation in the north and a threat that no sovereign state in the world would tolerate.
    American naval forces are in the area, among other things, to help us intercept Hizbullah's missile fire.
    But if one missile or drone hits an American destroyer, the U.S. could find itself involved in a war.
    In fact, those same forces that serve as a deterrent against Hizbullah and Iran also give the U.S. an effective veto over the scope of Israeli military activity.
    The writer is a former Israeli ambassador to the U.S.

After Injuries in Wars and Terror Attacks, IDF Reservists Came to Fight Again - Korin Elbaz-Alush (Ynet News)
    Among the stories of heroism that have come to light since Oct. 7 are the reservists who suffered severe injuries in the past, but despite the physical and mental scars, they did not think twice.
    They put on uniforms and volunteered for reserve duty as soon as the war broke out.
    Ben Atia, 42, a father of two, was a young soldier in 2000 when a Palestinian terrorist stabbed him in the neck and caused near-fatal injuries.
    He says today, "I did not hesitate at all. Volunteering for the reserves is important to me....My younger brother is in Gaza. This is what we know: as long as we are alive, we stand up and contribute."
    "I understand that I am not invincible. I know what will happen if I get injured, but that doesn't control me."
    Moti Dahan, 41, a father of three, was mortally wounded in the Second Lebanon War from a mortar in southern Lebanon. Following that injury, Dahan underwent 17 surgeries on his leg and still has shrapnel in his body.
    He says, "When I saw what was happening on Oct. 7, I immediately decided to return to the reserves....It was impossible to stop me....This is a war which needs all of us."
    During his reserve service near Gaza, Dahan hears and sees the evacuation helicopters.
    "Every helicopter like this that passes over me gives me chills. I understand that there is one person or more, whose life will no longer be the same."
    "I myself visit the wounded and try to strengthen them as much as possible, and I hope that the fact that I am here, on duty, is also something that strengthens and conveys the message that there is life afterwards."

Israel at War: Daily Zoom Briefing
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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Israel Warns that Time for Diplomacy over Hizbullah Attacks Is "Running Out" - Nadav Gavrielov
    Along the border with Lebanon, Iran-backed Hizbullah is continuing to fire rocket barrages into Israel. Israeli war cabinet member Benny Gantz told reporters: "The situation in the northern border necessitates change. The time for a diplomatic solution is running out. If the world and the government of Lebanon don't act to stop the fire toward northern communities and to push Hizbullah away from the border, the IDF will do that." The Israeli military said Wednesday that its northern command was in a "state of very high readiness."  (New York Times)
  • Israel Intensifies Offensive in Central Gaza - Sune Engel Rasmussen
    Israeli forces intensified their ground offensive in central Gaza as Israel on Wednesday instructed civilians living in Bureij and Nusairat to evacuate to the town of Deir al-Balah. IDF spokesman Daniel Hagari said Wednesday that Israel was nearing the completion of its offensive in Bureij. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Hamas and Other Palestinian Groups in Gaza Are Firing Rockets into Israel Every Day - Nadav Gavrielov
    As Israel wages a war in Gaza aimed at dismantling Hamas' military capacity, the armed group and its affiliates have continued to fire rockets at Israel nearly every day. Since Oct. 7, Hamas and other armed groups have fired 12,000 rockets into Israel, a quarter of them on Oct. 7, the Israeli government has said. The ongoing salvos, although less frequent than at the start of the war, are an indication of the size of Hamas' arsenal. In nearly three months of war, 15 people in Israel have been killed in strikes and 700 others injured, according to Israel's emergency services.
        Israeli officials have said the rocket attacks show that Hamas is continuing to terrorize Israeli civilians. "If we don't diminish Hamas' rocket-firing capabilities, Hamas will continue firing rockets at Israelis," IDF chief spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said Wednesday. Many rocket launches early in the war were from northern Gaza, where the Israelis say they now have operational control.
        Israel has accused Hamas of using civilian centers like hospitals and crowded neighborhoods as cover for their military operations. The military recently publicized video that shows rockets and launching infrastructure that soldiers found near a mosque, in a compound used for youth activities, in playgrounds, and near children's swimming pools. Some 10-20% of Hamas rockets fail and fall into Gaza, killing Palestinians, Human Rights Watch said in a recent report. (New York Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • IDF Chief of Staff: Israel Expanding Operations in Gaza, War to Last Many More Months - Emanuel Fabian
    IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Herzi Halevi said Tuesday that the military is expanding its operations in southern and central Gaza as it is close to dismantling all Hamas battalions in northern Gaza. He said the IDF "will not allow a return to the security reality before Oct. 7, and we will not allow such an event to be repeated."
        "The Air Force continues to strike non-stop. A building falls when it is an enemy target, a building falls when it poses a danger to our forces. The IDF is focused and precise in its operations. Wherever our forces attack, they are accompanied by heavy fire from the air, sea and land. In every operation in which our forces require firepower, they receive the required cover at its best."
        "This war has necessary and not easy goals to achieve, it takes place in complex territory. That's why the war will continue for many more months, and we will work with different methods, so that the achievement will be maintained for a long time," he said, adding that the IDF is constantly learning and adapting its fighting methods to each area of Gaza it operates in. "There are no magic solutions, no shortcuts in the thorough dismantling of a terror organization, but stubborn and determined fighting. And we are very, very determined."  (Times of Israel)
  • Northern Israel Hit by Heaviest Hizbullah Rocket Barrages since Outbreak of War - Emanuel Fabian
    Rockets fired from Lebanon pummeled the towns of Rosh Hanikra and Kiryat Shmona in northern Israel on Wednesday in a major escalation of violence. Six rockets struck inside Kiryat Shmona, causing damage to residential buildings and infrastructure. An additional three rockets were intercepted by Iron Dome, with the remainder landing in open areas.
        The city, normally home to over 20,000 people, has been largely evacuated in recent months, along with other towns near Israel's border, due to near-daily rocket, missile and drone attacks launched by Hizbullah and allied groups. (Times of Israel)
  • Iran-Backed Iraqi Militia Targets Golan Heights with Kamikaze Drone - Tzvi Joffre
    A kamikaze drone launched by an Iran-backed militia in Iraq damaged a building in the southern Golan Heights on Wednesday night. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Why Israel Can't Accept a Ceasefire - Prof. Edward Luttwak
    Hamas has never pretended to be fighting for the well-being of Gaza's population, or for Palestine as a national cause. It serves global Islam that rejects all nationalisms and demands supremacy over all other religions. In other words, it accepts no responsibility for the dead and wounded of the war, or for Gaza's reconstruction. Hence, if there is a permanent ceasefire, Hamas can start to prepare its next surprise attack, hoping for another Oct. 7 of indiscriminate killings.
        Steadfastly ignoring this inevitability, retired generals and even Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin have urged the Israelis to reduce their attacks in order to win over Gaza's population. Yet this is to forget that such a formula failed in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan: populations dominated by brutal extremists cannot be "won over."
        For the Israelis, however, there is clarity. While the end of the offensive that Hamas, the UN, and countless American and British undergraduates demand would mean a complete defeat for Israel, the continuation of the war is the essential precondition of victory.
        The Biden Administration has been asking the Israelis to hurry up with their fighting and to use less air power, less artillery, and more infantry to reduce civilian casualties. But to move faster in Gaza's intricate urban terrain would sharply increase Israeli casualties. The same is true of any imposed reduction in artillery fire and air strikes.
        The unavoidable reality is that Israel cannot end its offensive, nor even accept protracted ceasefires in exchange for hostages. Instead, its forces must persist until every basement and tunnel has been cleared and Hamas' cadre of trained fighters has been drastically reduced. Of course, destroying the military power of Hamas cannot by itself bring about a permanent state of peace in Gaza. But if Hamas can no longer subject Gaza's population to its perpetual war, it will be victory enough.
        The writer is a contractual strategic consultant for the U.S. government.  (UnHerd)
  • The Intellectuals Are Wrong: Hamas - as Part of the Jihad - Is Not the Oppressed - Ben Dror Yemini
    Hamas could not have become what it is without the support of the free world. Palestinians would not have rejected any peace initiative or compromise without the protection they have been given by Western media and academia. The intellectuals encouraged Palestinian obstinance. There is a long list of professors, journalists and human rights activists who backed Palestinian rejection of peace initiatives and justified "resistance," which is another word for terrorism. Hamas, as part of the Jihad, is not the oppressed. It seeks to impose its oppressive Islamist imperialism on the rest of the world.
        Highlighting and bolstering the nakba, when Palestinians were displaced in the 1948 War of Independence, does not help resolve the problem of refugees; it perpetuates it and UNRWA only ferments more hate.
        The West funds UNRWA annually. In 2022, it was to the tune of $1.6 billion. This massive amount of money delivered to the offspring of refugees year after year since 1950 could have paid for housing for each of those families and the construction of infrastructure and industrial zones. But no. The money is spent on perpetuating their refugee status, and on an education system that nurtures the hope of the destruction of Israel.
        It is the free world that is ultimately paying the price because it nurtured the hatred of Israel in headlines and on campuses and that hate is now turning on the free world itself. Muslim clerics in Hamburg, Paris, London and Chicago are raising a new generation filled with hate and when they enter universities, they hear the same from their professors: hate for the West, hate for America, hate for Israel and hate for Jews. That is not the way to advance reconciliation, compromise and peace. Israel ultimately can defend itself, but can the free world say the same? (Ynet News)
  • The IDF Is Fighting a Two-Level War in Gaza, Making Military History - Ron Ben Yishai
    The fighting in Gaza is a war carried out on different levels. The top level is above ground and the bottom is a tunnel city with underground bases built over 15 years at great financial cost and with much sophistication. Control only above ground does not weaken the hold that Hamas has on Gaza and would not prevent it from renewing its military capabilities.
        The underground infrastructure includes rocket launchers and rocket production facilities as well as command centers. Only destruction of the underground networks would achieve Israel's goal to eliminate Hamas - and for that the military needs time to complete the job.
        But fighting in the underground complexes is a military first. The American forces in Vietnam did fight the Vietcong in tunnels and bunkers, but they were used to remain out of sight before striking and not as fortified military positions. Hamas constructed its tunnel networks to be used as positions from which to attack IDF troops while also providing protection from air raids. The fighting above ground will continue as long as Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad forces remain organized inside their underground bases and are able to attack Israeli forces above ground.
        The IDF has taken control of 60% of Gaza and is taking apart the Hamas infrastructure in the north. In Khan Yunis, the troops focus the fighting on intelligence-led targets. The IDF is fighting intensely where Hamas is still able to fight in an organized manner. (Ynet News)
  • Israel Must Stay the Course on Gaza War - Editorial
    The war against Hamas is almost 12 weeks old and the fighting is not going to end soon. The massive gains made by the IDF, with over 8,000 Hamas operatives killed, numerous tunnels exposed and destroyed, and the terrorists' capabilities severely compromised, have been muted by the high cost of casualties.
        The going is slow and painstaking, and the international community's pressure to agree to a ceasefire without achieving our goals is growing stronger all the time. Thankfully, the U.S., and especially President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, understand the cause-and-effect at play and realize that the untenable situation in Gaza is solely due to Hamas. However, as the war drags on, pressure from the U.S. will increase as well.
        Israel needs to remain firm against the forces that would prevent it from achieving its goals. The revelations that are still emerging months after the atrocities of Oct. 7 show that Israel needs to stay the course, realize there is no quick fix, accept the pain and anguish that comes with losing the best people that Israel has to offer, and strengthen all of our resolves that the war we're fighting is just and necessary. The deaths of the Oct. 7 terror victims and the 164 soldiers who have fallen in the battle to eliminate the Hamas threat must not be in vain. (Jerusalem Post)

A Coordinated Media Attack on Israel by The New York Times, Washington Post, and CNN - Lenny Ben-David (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • The New York Times (December 21, 2023) claimed Israel's air force used U.S.-provided 2,000-pound bombs in Gaza, specifically a model that "is one of the most destructive munitions in Western military arsenals." But the Times based its analysis on the wrong bomb, a Mark-84, a bomb that explodes on impact with little penetration properties.
  • The Washington Post (December 22, 2023), with its satellite and visual analysis, claimed that "the evidence presented by the Israeli government falls short of showing that Hamas had been using the [Shifa] hospital as a command-and-control center."
  • CNN, following the New York Times, claimed that Israel's 2,000-pound bombs were responsible for the high casualty rate among Gazans. But it appears that CNN was also relying on data from general-use MK-84 bombs and not earth-penetrating bunker busters that explode underground.
  • What is clear in one CNN map is that the bunker-buster bombs did not damage nearby schools or injure children, but they were deployed to destroy Hamas tunnels, which also explains why the craters were in a linear pattern as if the Israeli pilots were bombing a long stretch of tunnel.
  • Even suggesting that the IDF sought to harm Gazan school children is a blood libel. But genuinely puzzling is why CNN had a very tiny caption that admits Israel used bunker-busting bombs that avoid explosive damage on the surface.
  • All three media analyses relied on "weapons experts and investigators" formerly from the U.S. government, the UN, and non-governmental organizations such as Human Rights Watch. Not surprisingly, the experts are also known for their animosity to Israel. The consequences of the fraud are Members of Congress calling to cut military aid to Israel.

    The writer, former Deputy Chief of Staff in Israel's Washington Embassy, is Director of the Institute for U.S.-Israel Relations at the Jerusalem Center.

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