January 3, 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:

Elimination of Hamas Leader Arouri Strengthens Israeli Deterrence - Yoav Limor (Israel Hayom)
    The elimination of Saleh Al-Arouri is significant not only in the context of revenge and harming the Hamas leadership but also in recovering Israeli deterrence.
    Carrying out such a targeted killing during a war requires excellent intelligence and high operational capabilities for a problematic and dangerous target, which only a few security services in the world possess.

Senior Hamas Official Saleh Al-Arouri: We Want Total War with Israel (MEMRI)
    Hamas Political Bureau Deputy Chairman Saleh Al-Arouri, 57, killed on Tuesday in Beirut in an Israeli airstrike, told Lebanon's Hizbullah-affiliated Al Mayadeen TV on Aug. 25, 2023:
    "A total war has become inevitable. We all consider it necessary. We want it....We talk about it behind closed doors. We are meeting with all the parties that [will take part] in this total war.... We will certainly defeat them."
    He said that in a "total conflict," Israel's airspace, seaports, electricity, water supply, and communications will be shut down, and that Hamas is capable of imposing a curfew in Israel and bringing its economy to a standstill.

Poll: Most Israelis Oppose Scaling Back Hamas War - Anders Hagstrom (Fox News)
    A poll conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute and released Tuesday found that 75% of Jewish Israelis "do not think Israel should agree to U.S. demands to shift to a phase of the war with a reduced heavy bombing in populous areas."
    65% of Jewish citizens believe that continuing intensive fighting in Gaza remains the most effective means of getting their hostages home.

Palestinian Clans May Temporarily Administer Gaza (Times of Israel)
    The IDF and Israel Security Agency reportedly favor a plan for Palestinian clans in Gaza to temporarily administer humanitarian aid and resources for their local regions after the war to remove Hamas ends, Israel's Channel 11 reported Monday.

Expert: Hizbullah Has Tunnel Network Far More Sophisticated than Hamas' - Tal Schneider (Times of Israel)
    Intelligence indicates a vast tunnel network in southern Lebanon, deep and multi-pronged, that was begun and developed by Hizbullah long before the one in Gaza.
    Tal Beeri of the Alma Research and Education Center, which focuses on the security challenges on Israel's northern border, served for decades in IDF intelligence units and has spent years investigating Lebanon's subterranean network.
    Several years ago, Beeri discovered a map of the "Land of the Tunnels" in southern Lebanon.
    Beeri said, "We have identified several kinds of tunnels in Lebanon: First, what everybody calls attack tunnels, particularly large and long tunnels that lead from area to area. One can enter them in vehicles and even medium-sized trucks."
    "It could be that there are also 'proximate tunnels.' These are similar to the attack tunnels that the IDF thwarted in 2019 but don't cross the border. They enable access almost to the border, and from there to emerge and attack."
    See also Report: Hizbullah's "Land of the Tunnels" - Tal Beeri (Alma Research and Education Center)

Fears of Violence between Jews and Arabs inside Israel in Wake of Gaza War Proved False - Ephraim Lavie (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
    Two weeks after the Hamas terror attack on Oct. 7, 90% of the Jewish public in Israel and 70% of the Arab public estimated there would be severe violence between Jews and Arabs within days, as there was during the Israel-Hamas clash in May 2021. This fear proved false.
    Most of the Israeli Arab public condemned the terror attack and expressed in words and deeds their shared fate with the Jewish majority.
    An Israel Democracy Institute survey found that 66% of Muslim citizens and 84% of Christians and Druze feel part of the state.

Hamas Tortured Me for Dissent. Here's What They Really Think of Palestinians - Hamza Howidy (Newsweek)
    I was born in Gaza, attended school in the al-Shujaiya neighborhood of Gaza City, and studied at the Islamic University of Gaza, along with future Hamas leaders and current members.
    I observed a huge social gap between the wealthy elite who belong to Hamas and the rest of the population who were increasingly living in poverty. Public sector jobs were limited to Hamas members.
    Though we knew dissenters were subject to imprisonment, torture, and even murder, in 2019 a few of us decided to join forces and voice our opposition to Hamas in a "We Want to Live" demonstration. We were all arrested.
    I was held for 21 days, was beaten with batons and sprayed with cold water in the late winter night hours. After we were released, we suffered ongoing harassment by Hamas members.
    Most of those who participated in the demonstrations emigrated from Gaza.
    The continuous threats from Hamas members and accusations of treason made me lose hope that I could make any kind of change. I left Gaza in August to seek a better future for myself and my family.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Hamas Says Senior Leader Killed in Attack in Beirut - Abeer Salman
    An airstrike targeted a Hamas office in Beirut on Tuesday. Hamas media said Saleh Al-Arouri, deputy head of the political bureau of Hamas, was "martyred." Al-Arouri was one of the founding members of Hamas' military Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades in the West Bank, and is considered to be the mastermind behind arming the group. He spent 15 years in Israeli prisons before being deported. (CNN)
        See also Hamas Deputy Head Killed in Israeli Drone Strike - Yonah Jeremy Bob
    Hamas' deputy leader outside of Gaza, Saleh Al-Arouri, was killed along with at least five other people in an Israeli drone strike in Beirut. Arouri was one of the master planners of Hamas' Oct. 7 massacre in Israel. Arouri gave the order to kidnap and murder three Israeli teenagers in 2014, which led to the 2014 Gaza conflict. Azzam Al-Aqra and Samir Fendi, two commanders in Hamas' al-Qassam Brigades, were killed in the strike as well. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Killing in Beirut Highlights Hamas-Hizbullah-Iran Ties
    An Israeli drone strike targeted an office of Hamas in Dahiyeh, a Beirut suburb known as home to many supporters of Hizbullah. The killing of senior Hamas military commander Saleh Al-Arouri comes barely a week after the killing in Damascus of Iran's most influential military commander in the region, Seyed Radhi Mousavi. With these attacks, Israel could be sending a message to Tehran that it is capable of targeting any person - no matter how senior - who has a say in the coordination among Iran-backed groups in the region.
        Arouri was in charge of Hamas operations in the West Bank. He was also responsible for coordination between Hamas and Hizbullah and Iran, and had visited Tehran more than half a dozen times in recent years. Arouri developed special relationships with both Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah and Saeed Azadi, the Iranian Quds Force commander responsible for the Palestinian dossier. (Amwaj.media-UK)
  • Hamas Used Shifa Hospital in Gaza as a Command Center, U.S. Intelligence Says - Julian E. Barnes
    A senior U.S. intelligence official said on Tuesday that the American government continued to believe that Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad used Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza and sites beneath it to exercise command and control activities, store weapons and hold "at least a few hostages." The IDF took control of the facility in November in an operation that came under intense international scrutiny. Hamas fighters evacuated the complex days before the IDF operation, destroying documents and electronics as they left, the U.S. official said.
        News organizations including the Washington Post have continued to raise questions about Hamas' presence at the hospital, but the new intelligence that the hospital was used by Hamas represents the most current American assessment, officials said. (New York Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israeli Defense Minister: Gaza War Is Not Nearing an End - Emanuel Fabian
    As the Israeli military began shifting into lower gear in northern Gaza, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Tuesday that any sense that Israel was ending the campaign to dismantle Hamas "is wrong." He told IDF troops in central Gaza, "To the north, we destroyed 12 Hamas battalions. Terrorists still remain, a few thousand of the 15,000 or 18,000 that were in the area. A large number of them were eliminated and others fled to the south."
        In northern Gaza, Gallant said, the IDF would continue to conduct smaller operations to root out the last Hamas operatives. "The goal is to exhaust the enemy, kill [its operatives], and achieve a situation in which we control the territory."
        Gallant said that in southern Gaza the IDF was focused on infrastructure above Hamas tunnels in the Khan Yunis area "where senior Hamas officials are hiding, at great depths. We are reaching them...and it is happening already now."  (Times of Israel)
  • Hamas Moves to Guerrilla Warfare in Gaza - Yoni Ben Menachem
    After more than 80 days of fighting, the IDF assesses that gaining control of the Khan Yunis area could take several months until the military elite of Hamas is effectively eliminated. Hamas' fighting style involves small squads operating from a network of tunnels, launching surprise attacks, and using anti-tank missiles, RPGs, explosives, IEDs, and snipers.
        The IDF faces difficulties mastering the extensive tunnel system. Some parts of the tunnels are 200 feet deep and accessible by elevators. To counter this challenge, the IDF is considering accelerating the evacuation of the Palestinian population from the Khan Yunis area and shifting to targeted commando raids based on precise intelligence.
        Looking ahead, the IDF aims to occupy the Rafah area and the "Philadelphi Corridor" along the Egypt-Gaza border, a region riddled with tunnels used for smuggling weapons. This operation requires coordinating with Egypt and evacuating displaced persons near Rafah.
        The writer, a senior researcher at the Jerusalem Center, is a veteran Arab affairs and diplomatic commentator for Israel Radio and Television. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Israel Must Send a Clear Message to the U.S. - Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser
    A decisive victory in the complex campaign against Iran and its proxies requires a clear outcome in Gaza. This war has been forced upon Israel, and it began under extremely difficult opening conditions. For that very reason, both Israel and the U.S. must end it in victory. This means Israeli control at the end of high-intensity fighting over the entire area, including Rafah and the Philadelphi Route on the border with Egypt.
        Ending major combat operations before this goal is achieved will allow Hamas to claim that it forced Israel to effectively change its war goals and will encourage its supporters who set themselves the goal of ensuring Hamas' survival in Gaza. As long as Hamas is perceived by the population as a governing entity, it would be able to claim it had won.
        It is also important to drive home the message in talks with the U.S. that defeating Hamas requires creating a reality that will not allow terrorists to rear their heads. Gaining control over the entire area will also give Israel the necessary leverage to release the captives. The Americans' stated desire to avoid getting dragged into a regional war and have Israel end major combat operations even before completing the takeover of the entire Strip encourages Iran and its proxies to continue to gradually escalate their use of force, in the hope that the U.S. administration will stop Israel.
        Defeating Hamas and convincing the U.S. that this is also a war over the regional and global order are key in the effort to create a new security reality along the northern border that will give residents a sense of security and allow them to return home. This is the condition to secure shipping through the Bab al-Mandeb strait. And this is the condition to promote efforts to establish normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia.
        The writer, former head of the IDF Military Intelligence Research Division, is a senior project manager at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. (Israel Hayom)
  • Female Reservists from the Sky Rider Drone Unit Helped Soldiers Destroy the Enemy and Emerge Unscathed - Bat-Chen Epstein Elias
    For more than two hours, female soldiers from the IDF's Sky Rider drone unit, who were watching the sector from above, escorted the Golani Brigade's 13th Battalion inside Gaza, guarding it from enemy fire. They saw from above how the terrorists tried to get close to the battalion's Namer APCs and how, thanks to the orders and direction they gave to the forces on the ground, the terrorists retreated under fire. Thanks to their directions, the soldiers emerged from the fierce battle almost unscathed.
        The Sky Rider unit belongs to the 215th Artillery Brigade. Using UAVs, it is responsible for providing visual intelligence to forces maneuvering on the ground. It is also responsible for dispatching combat helicopters or sending in additional forces.
        Lt. S.T. describes how on Nov. 1, "we saw with the drone heavy fire directed at our forces' vehicles....At first, the battalion was ordered not to leave the vehicles to keep the soldiers safe. They were traveling with hatches and turrets closed, and they had no way of knowing what was going on outside the APCs. So, the fact that we were there with the battalion was critical for them." Minute by minute, they directed combat helicopters, as well as artillery and mortar fire, to the site of the battle.
        Sgt. S., 24, said, "Suddenly, we saw an insane amount of fire directed at our soldiers. These are soldiers we were with in preparation for battle, people we know; we're directing the troops and the helicopter and hoping that our directing fire is really helping our forces."
        Staff Sgt. A., 23, recalls, "The terrorists were so close that it looked like they wanted to place IEDs on the vehicles. But the fire we directed at them managed to drive them away....It's an amazing feeling to see a tank moving in the right direction thanks to our reporting and then firing a shell that pushes the terrorists away. That's why I volunteered for this position. Just for that moment."
        R., 23, said, "We saw squads of terrorists who wanted to hit our soldiers from close range. We were also afraid that they would try to kidnap soldiers....We were sure we had just seen the 13th Battalion hit really hard." But on the day after the battle, they were told that the 13th Battalion had left the field with only seven lightly wounded from smoke inhalation. They had managed to protect the soldiers from enemy fire. (Israel Hayom)
  • Israel Wants UNRWA Out of Gaza - David Isaac
    Israel's Foreign Ministry has prepared a classified report calling for the removal of UNRWA from Gaza in the long-term, noting that the UN relief agency works against Israel's interests. Kobi Michael, a senior researcher at Tel Aviv University's Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), says UNRWA "should be dismantled. It was established because of pressure by the Arab world as a platform to leverage the interests of Arab leaders against the State of Israel using the Palestinian [refugee] issue."
        James G. Lindsay, an American civil servant who served as UNRWA's general counsel, has called for a close examination of its activities, saying it doesn't solve the Palestinian refugee problem, but rather perpetuates it. He noted that the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which handles all the rest of the world's refugees, "does not consider someone a refugee who has acquired citizenship in another country....If you can't be a refugee under those definitions, then a very large number of UNRWA Palestinian refugees would not be refugees at all."
        Kobi Michael said, "The idea that we are still talking about Palestinian refugees is not reasonable. We're talking about fifth-generation refugees when actually they are not refugees at all."
        The worst aspect of UNRWA is that it's controlled by Hamas. "All the workers of UNRWA in the Gaza Strip - something like 13,000 - all of them are approved by Hamas." Michael said UNRWA is essentially Hamas' educational arm, which is funded by the international community, even though education isn't even part of UNRWA's mandate. That's one more service that Hamas doesn't need to provide, enabling it to pour more of its money into its military, he said. (JNS)
  • Anti-Semitic Incidents in Ireland Are Rare, but for the First Time I Am Concerned about My Security - Oliver Sears
    The Oct. 7 attacks in Israel by Hamas and the subsequent assault on Gaza by the Israel Defense Forces has seen a rise in anti-Semitism globally, including in Ireland. Many Jews in Ireland have been shaken to the core, concerned about personal safety and asking the kind of questions about their long-term future that belong to the nightmare of European Jewry in the 1930s. I can scarcely believe I am having to write these words in Ireland in 2023.
        Many Jews tell me they are keeping their heads down or even that they want to hide. When I tell them that my mother and grandmother were forced into hiding their identities during the Nazi occupation of Poland, and that I absolutely refuse to hide, they look at me with both admiration and concern.
        During my almost 40 years here, I have never hidden my Jewish identity; there have been anti-Semitic incidents, but they are rare. For the first time, however, I am concerned about my security. Trinity College Dublin and University College Dublin are now campuses where Jewish students and members of staff do not feel safe.
        Why are Jews around the world held to account for the actions of the Israeli government when this correlation does not apply to any other country? Christians are not attacked for the predations of the U.S., nor are Muslims abused for the transgressions of Iran.
        The writer is founder of Holocaust Awareness Ireland. (Irish Times)

Does the World Hate Gaza and the Gazans? - Lt.-Col. (res.) Maurice Hirsch (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Over the last 500 years, at least, the Gaza Strip has been a backwater. For the last 100 years, Gazans have increasingly been used as pawns, by both the Arabs and the international community, in their efforts to vilify Israel and the Jews. Paradoxically, Israel did more for the Gazans than any other of its changing rulers.
  • For 400 years (1517-1917), when the area was part of the Ottoman Empire, it was never recognized as linked to Judea and Samaria. From 1948 to 1967, Gaza remained under Egyptian control. Yet Egypt merely administered the Strip under perpetual military law, never granting its residents Egyptian citizenship.
  • At the same time, no UN resolution ever called on Egypt to end its illegal occupation of the Strip and withdraw or to recognize the new Arab state envisaged by the UN Partition Plan. The areas that are now so often referred to as the "Occupied Palestinian Territories" do not appear to have been "Palestinian territories" until they were liberated by Israel in 1967.
  • Despite Israel's "disengagement" from Gaza in 2005 and its redeployment to the Armistice Line of 1949, the international community invented the claim that Israel remained an "occupier" of Gaza. In no other situation in the world is a country considered an "occupier" of another region without "boots on the ground" and without exercising effective control.
  • On October 7, 2023, over 3,000 terrorists led by Hamas infiltrated Israel from Gaza and murdered more than 1,200 Israelis. Israel responded by declaring all-out war on the Gazan terrorists. In normal circumstances, a war situation almost always results in the creation of refugees forced to flee the fighting. But the war in Gaza created no new refugees. Instead of welcoming their Arab brothers, Egypt refused to allow Gazans to cross into the Sinai Peninsula, lining up tanks and armored vehicles along the border to prevent the Gazans from fleeing.
  • The international community may not actually hate the Gazans. Rather, the international community hates Israel and is willing to do its utmost to vilify and condemn the Jewish state. To serve this goal, the international community uses the Gazans as pawns and cannon fodder. Gazans' lives don't matter to the international community unless they can be weaponized against the Jews and the Jewish state.

    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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