January 2, 2024
Special Report
A project of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Israel's Global Embassy for National Security and Applied Diplomacy

In-Depth Issues:

The Current Fighting in Gaza - Amos Harel (Ha'aretz)
    The intensity of combat in northern Gaza is declining. Two Hamas brigades in the north have been hit hard and have suffered thousands of casualties.
    Hamas is now staging mainly sporadic attacks by small units, while conducting a last-ditch battle in Daraj and Tuffah in eastern Gaza City.
    Other IDF offensive operations are focused mainly on Bureij in the center of Gaza and the Khan Yunis area.
    The rate of Israeli casualties recorded in the last few days has been lower than in the previous two weeks.
    Major engineering work is being carried out to level the area within Gaza beyond the border fence, where Israel intends to create a new security perimeter.
    Meanwhile, thousands of Gazans have returned to their destroyed neighborhoods in northern Gaza. It is likely that Hamas fighters without uniforms or visible weapons move among them, mainly in areas where the IDF has reduced its presence.

Israeli Residents of Six Gaza Border Towns Set for Return Home - Yonah Jeremy Bob (Jerusalem Post)
    Residents of six Israeli towns which are 4-7 km. from northern Gaza have been cleared to return home.
    The IDF is promising to station significant defensive forces in the area.
    Moreover, the IDF now has the freedom to respond aggressively within Gaza to any provocation.

Israel to Defend Military Action in Gaza at International Criminal Court - Itamar Eichner (Ynet News)
    Israel plans to present its case at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, aiming to dismiss South Africa's petition for an interim order demanding the immediate suspension of Israeli military actions in Gaza.
    Israel will attend the hearing for an interim order, National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi told Ynet on Monday.
    "Israel, a long-standing signatory to the Genocide Convention, will not boycott the proceedings. We will participate and refute the absurd accusation that amounts to a blood libel."
    "The Jewish people have experienced genocide more profoundly than any other nation, with six million of our people brutally slaughtered. A similar cruelty was inflicted on Israeli citizens in the massacre of Oct. 7, but this time we have the capability to defend ourselves against those seeking our destruction."
    "The absurd petition against the right of the victim to self-defense is disgraceful, and we expect all civilized nations to stand with our determination."

Old IDF Reservists Create a New Tank Battalion - Sue Surkes (Times of Israel)
    A group of soldiers long since released from the army and a collection of tanks no longer in use have been brought together to create Phoenix, a new armored tank battalion that is already seeing action in Gaza.
    Grasping that the army needed more tanks, Maj. (res.) Dan Levit and reserve officer Erez Sa'adon located a list of 95 vehicles that had been decommissioned by the military and went from base to base to try to move the aging machines.
    The army concluded it could make 10 of them operational within three days, and that more could be made ready later on.
    "We found 24 tanks," Levit said. The head of the Armored Corps asked, "But what about people?"
    "So we wrote a message on WhatsApp that we were looking for people. Within 24 hours, 650 volunteers had come forward."
    Soon the group had assembled three tank companies. Seeing their success, the army now wanted nine.

Israel's Population Reaches 9.84 Million (Globes)
    At the beginning of 2024, Israel's population was 9.842 million, the Central Bureau of Statistics reports.
    7.208 million (73.2%) are Jewish, 2.080 million (21.1%) are Arabs, and 554,000 (5.7%) are others, including Russian-speaking immigrants who are not Jewish.

Israel at War: Daily Zoom Briefing
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View Daily Briefing at 7:30 p.m. (Israel), 12:30 p.m. (EST)
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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Israel to Pull Several Brigades from Gaza - Aaron Boxerman
    The Israeli military said Monday it would begin withdrawing several thousand troops from Gaza at least temporarily, in the most significant publicly announced reduction since the war with Hamas began. Israeli military spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari emphasized that the move did not suggest any compromise of Israel's intention to continue fighting until it destroys Hamas, and fighting across Gaza remained intense.
        Reservists from at least two brigades will be sent home this week, the Israeli military said, and three brigades will be taken back for scheduled training. "The withdrawal is a clear signal that the fight is entering a new phase, in line with what the U.S. has been asking for," said Lt.-Gen. Mark C. Schwartz, former American security coordinator for Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
        IDF Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser explained, "In substantial parts of northern Gaza, we're ready to advance to the next stage (of the fighting). We can dilute our forces there, because we've taken control. To hold on, you need fewer (forces) than it took to take over."  (New York Times)
        See also Israel Prepares for Long-Term Conflict in Gaza - Carrie Keller-Lynn
    Israel began preparations for prolonged fighting in Gaza, reshuffling forces as it weighs how to sustain lower-intensity fighting over the long term. Destroying Hamas' military capabilities is expected to take at least several more months. The military has recalibrated the types of troops required, now relying more heavily on commando and combat engineering forces, as Israel tries to penetrate subterranean tunnel infrastructure and hunt down senior Hamas leadership.
        While some Western analysts have questioned whether Israel can succeed in its goal of eradicating Hamas, the new military plans reflect Israel's determination to pursue that goal. Swapping out forces who have been serving for long periods in Gaza is important to refresh weary troops ahead of a planned long campaign.
        "Once you stop advancing and you take over...to stay there with so many soldiers is what guerrilla forces want you to do," said Ofer Shelah, a military analyst with Tel Aviv University's Institute for National Security Studies. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Anti-Israel Protest at JFK Airport Delays 60 Flights - Stephen Yang
    Hateful anti-Israel protesters yelling inflammatory chants snarled traffic at Kennedy International Airport on Monday, creating a nightmare on one of the busiest travel days of the year. "NYPD, KKK, IDF, you're all the same," protesters inside an SUV screeched through a megaphone.
        Some 60 flights were delayed, 15 caused by crews arriving at the airport late as the protests impeded traffic to JFK for over two hours. A law enforcement source confirmed that balloons were flown over the airport by protesters. Social media users voiced their outrage at the protesters clogging up traffic.
        On Dec. 27, protesters blocked the Van Wyck Expressway, halting access to JFK and forcing travelers to walk to their terminals in the rain with their luggage. (New York Post)
  • Iranian Warship Enters Red Sea
    Iran has sent its Alborz destroyer to the Red Sea, Tasnim news agency reported on Monday. (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • 5 Soldiers Hurt in Rocket Strike on Western Galilee
    At least five IDF soldiers were hurt in a rocket attack on the Western Galilee on Monday. Amid rocket fire at Israeli communities in the north, the IDF conducted strikes on south Lebanon throughout the day. On Monday evening, the IDF intercepted a drone launched by Hizbullah over the northern city of Kiryat Shmona. (Ynet News)
  • 4 Palestinian Gunmen Killed in West Bank, IDF Reservist Wounded
    During an overnight raid in the West Bank town of Azzun, IDF reserve forces killed four armed Palestinian gunmen who had attacked troops with explosives and live fire from inside a house. One soldier was injured in the exchange of fire. (Times of Israel)
  • Pro-Iranian Militias in Syria Fire Rockets at Golan Heights
    Pro-Iranian militias fired rockets toward the southern Golan Heights from southwestern Syria on Monday night, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • America's Mainstreaming of Hamas, Antisemitism and Terror - Dr. Dan Diker and Khaled Abu Toameh
    We are currently witnessing the mainstreaming of Hamas in the U.S. Thousands of protesters across American cities and more than 200 university campuses have been calling to destroy the small, democratic, Jewish-majority state instead of advocating for a peaceful Palestinian one alongside Israel.
        Since Hamas' Oct. 7 massacre in Israel, tens of thousands of American university students, faculty, and supporters have been chanting, "From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free," a call to replace the only Jewish-majority state with the 23rd Muslim Arab-majority one. Behind many of the demonstrations is Students for Justice in Palestine, a Hamas-linked group which quotes or echoes slogans and rhetoric from the 1988 Hamas Charter and Hamas leaders.
         Hamas' jihadi rhetoric and extremist ideology is inciting violence against Jews and Jewish institutions across North America today. Senior Hamas official Mahmoud al-Zahar has threatened to target Jews "wherever they are." In the aftermath of the Oct. 7 massacre, Israel and diaspora Jewry are both targeted for elimination.
        Dr. Dan Diker is president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, where veteran journalist Khaled Abu Toameh is a senior fellow.  (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Jihad on Campus Unmasked: How Pro-Hamas Students for Justice in Palestine Hijacked U.S. Universities  (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Israeli Knesset Members Question President Biden's Statements on Violent Acts Against Palestinians - Ariel Kahana
    23 Israeli MKs wrote to U.S. President Joe Biden on Sunday. "First and foremost, we would like to express our gratitude, on behalf of the People of Israel, for your staunch support of the State of Israel and for your unflinching stance in these difficult times," they wrote.
        "As members of Israel's Knesset and the Knesset Caucus to Combat Antisemitism and Delegitimization, we, like you, denounce violence against innocent civilians. We are turning to you today regarding a number of statements you made recently pertaining to a 'phenomenon' you have called upon our government to address, namely, violence perpetrated by Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria against Palestinian Arabs."
        "The data at our disposal indicates that the scope of these incidents is limited to a very small number of isolated events, which pales in contrast with the vastly larger scope of violent incidents perpetrated by Palestinian Arabs against the residents of these same Jewish communities. In fact, the quantity and quality of violent incidents emanating from the Jewish sector in Judea and Samaria is not only minuscule in comparison to Palestinian violence but is also similarly dwarfed when compared to the rate of violent crime in any other community or society."
        The letter asks that Israel be allowed to view the information on which the U.S. made the accusations, since data in Israel shows a 50% drop in such incidents in recent months compared to the equivalent period in 2022. (Israel Hayom)
  • The Peace Processors Return - Elliott Abrams
    The slaughter of Israelis by Hamas on Oct. 7 has greatly affected Israeli opinion. A Palestinian state today is simply too dangerous. Yet former State Department officials Daniel Kurtzer and Aaron David Miller, writing in Foreign Affairs on Dec. 22, call to "create an independent Palestinian state" as the only solution to the conflict.
        They write, "Hamas' terrorism may well encourage a further radicalization of the Israeli population." Now think about that. Some Israelis were not keen on an independent Palestinian state because they've been living with Palestinian terrorism and intifadas and rockets from Gaza for decades. Now that view is called "radical" and if more Israelis feel that way after the massacres of Oct. 7, that isn't common sense or self-defense; it's "further radicalization."
        The two peace processors conclude that President Biden "can make it clearer to the Israelis that the continued strength of their relationship with Washington rests on Israel understanding that it cannot reoccupy Gaza, and that their ultimate security guarantee will be a peace agreement with a similarly peace-minded Palestinian state." Those last words are breathtaking. What better example of the Tinker Bell effect than thinking that Israel will be secure because there will be "a similarly peace-minded Palestinian state."
        From everything we can see about Palestinian politics and public opinion, basing Israeli security on dreams about Palestinian pacifism is nuts. That is the problem with the two-state solution: No one can explain how a sovereign and independent Palestinian state will not constitute a grave security threat to Israel (and Jordan as well). Kurtzer and Miller, like all the peace processors, just wish this away, conjuring up a mythical Palestine that loves peace.
        The writer, a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, served as deputy assistant to the president and deputy national security advisor, where he supervised U.S. policy in the Middle East for the White House. (National Review)

Why Is the Gaza War Different? - Jonathan Spyer (JNS)
  • The closest recent parallel to the current Gaza war, both in terms of the actions that triggered it and the way it is being conducted, is the U.S.-led Coalition's war against Islamic State in 2014-19.
  • I am one of the small group of journalists who covered the ISIS war from close up and who are currently reporting on the Gaza war. Both the similarities in the wars and the enormous difference in Western perception of them are striking.
  • In each case, an Arab movement of Sunni political Islam set out on a campaign of wholesale slaughter against a non-Arab and non-Muslim population: Kurdish-speaking Yazidis in the case of ISIS, Israeli Jews in that of Hamas.
  • The current Israeli campaign in Gaza particularly resembles the Coalition's battle against ISIS in the Iraqi city of Mosul, the largest urban center that the ISIS jihadis controlled. Getting them out of there took nine months of fighting. The Mosul fighting involved the slow enveloping by conventional infantry and armored forces of a well-dug-in jihadi enemy, closely resembling the Israeli ground incursion in Gaza.
  • Estimates suggest that there were between one and four civilians killed in Mosul for each ISIS fighter slain. Insofar as can be currently ascertained, the ratio of civilian to military dead in Gaza appears to broadly resemble that of Mosul.
  • Yet no one demonstrated for the civilians killed by Coalition bombing during the ISIS war. There were no furious crowds in Western cities denouncing "genocide." Most in the West understood that the deeds of Islamic State and its ideology made it necessary that it be removed from power, in spite of the deaths of innocents that this would involve.
  • It is difficult not to conclude that the reason for the furious demonstrations today is because Jews are involved.

    The writer is director of research at the Middle East Forum and director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis.

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