January 4, 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:

U.S.: Al-Arouri Had "American Blood on His Hands" - Adam Taylor (Washington Post)
    With the killing of Saleh Al-Arouri in Beirut, a skillful emissary for Hamas has been removed from the equation. Arouri was seen as responsible for helping Hamas forge relations with Iran and its allies.
    Since 2015, the U.S. has offered a $5 million reward for information on Arouri, stating that he "funds and directs Hamas' military operations in the West Bank and has been linked to several terrorist attacks, hijackings, and kidnappings."
    A senior U.S. official said Arouri had "American blood on his hands. Very senior members of Hamas must be held accountable, and [Arouri] was held accountable."
    See also Al-Arouri Was Responsible for the Murder of Dozens of Israelis - Orit Perlov (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
    Saleh Al-Arouri was responsible for the series of attacks from the West Bank and Jerusalem this year before Oct. 7 which led to the deaths of over 30 Israelis.
    See also A Hamas Leader Dies in Beirut - Hanin Ghaddar and Matthew Levitt (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

Death of Al-Arouri a Severe Blow to Hamas - Ron Ben-Yishai (Ynet News)
    The targeted killing of Saleh Al-Arouri in Beirut dealt a severe blow to Hamas' ability to conduct operations against Israel in the West Bank, as well as to carry out rocket fire and attacks from southern Lebanon and Syria.
    Al-Arouri was the coordinator and initiator of terror and guerrilla warfare against Israel in these arenas since his release from Israeli prison in March 2010.
    The immediate result of Al-Arouri's killing will likely be a sense of persecution among the political leaders of Hamas who are currently in Qatar and others elsewhere outside of Gaza.
    Yahya Sinwar, leader of Hamas in Gaza, considered Al-Arouri a bitter political rival who was competing for the leadership of the organization.

Senior Hamas Operatives Killed with Al-Arouri in Beirut - Einav Halabi (Ynet News)
    The explosion that killed Hamas Political Bureau Deputy Chairman Saleh Al-Arouri on Tuesday also killed high ranking Hamas members Samir Fendi and Azam Al-Aqra.
    Fendi commanded the Lebanese Hamas military wing and planned attacks on Israel from Lebanese territory. He also acted as the conduit to the Houthi rebels in Yemen.
    Al-Aqra, a high-ranking member of the Hamas-Syria command, was implicated in the planning of a foiled suicide attack in Jerusalem in 2011. He was behind several terror strikes around the world including in China, Syria and Turkey.

Al-Arouri Sought to Undermine the PA - Amos Harel (Ha'aretz)
    Saleh Al-Arouri was behind attempts to undermine the rule of the Palestinian Authority.
    PA President Mahmoud Abbas raged at him after the Israel Security Agency in 2014 uncovered a widespread network that Al-Arouri was operating in the West Bank, which planned attacks against the PA and against Israelis.

Joshua's Altar on Mount Ebal Vandalized by Arab Rioters (Jerusalem Post)
    Joshua's Altar, located at Mount Ebal in the West Bank, was vandalized this week by Arab rioters coming from villages in the area.
    The rioters burned tires on the historic remains and sprayed Palestinian flags and inscriptions in Arabic on the stones of the altar.
    In the past two years, the alter has experienced a number of attacks by Palestinians, with some irreparably damaging the site's wall.

IDF Soldier Survives Anti-Tank Rocket Hit - Judy Siegel-Itzkovich (Jerusalem Post)
    "R.," 21, an IDF combat soldier serving in Gaza, was hit by an anti-tank rocket, causing blast wounds that shattered his ceramic protective vest.
    "Within an hour, I was in the operating theater at Soroka [Hospital]," he said.
    Dr. Danny Fink, director of Shaare Zedek Medical Center's cardiothoracic surgery unit, where R. was later transferred, said, "R.'s ceramic vest saved his life, combined with the immediate response of the teams in the field who properly identified the wound and treated it promptly."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S.: Israel Can Eliminate the Threat Hamas Poses to the Israeli People
    U.S. National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby said Wednesday: "The United States remains focused on working with a range of partners to help Israel defend itself, to surge humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza, and, of course, to defend our national security interests in the region. That most certainly includes protecting the free flow of international commerce in the Red Sea. To accomplish these goals, we have established and will continue to maintain a significant force presence in the Middle East."
        Regarding the killing of the Hamas leader in Beirut, "Al-Arouri was a noted designated global terrorist. And if he is, in fact, dead, nobody should be shedding a tear over his loss."
        "We believe that it is absolutely an attainable goal for the Israeli military forces to degrade and defeat Hamas' abilities to conduct attacks inside Israel. It can be done militarily. Are you going to eliminate the ideology? No. And are you likely going to erase the group from existence? Probably not. But can you eliminate the threat that Hamas poses to the Israeli people? Absolutely."
        "We showed that with respect to ISIS and al-Qaeda; it can be done. ISIS and al-Qaeda still exist, but they are nowhere near the kind of threats that they once posed. So, it can be done militarily."
        Regarding South Africa accusing Israel of genocide at the International Court of Justice, "We find this submission meritless, counterproductive, and completely without any basis in fact whatsoever."  (White House)
  • At Least 95 Dead in Blasts at Memorial for Iranian Commander Soleimani - Jared Malsin
    At least 95 people were killed and 211 others were wounded in explosions in Iran near a ceremony commemorating the death of Maj.-Gen. Qassem Soleimani, killed in 2020 by an American airstrike. U.S. officials said the U.S. had no involvement in the blast, and said they had no indication Israel was behind it.
        People familiar with Israeli operations say the country has told allies that it isn't involved with the explosions. The style of the bombing doesn't fit the pattern of alleged Israeli attacks, which have usually been more precise targeting of individuals or infrastructure connected to Iran's security forces. They said the likely culprits were Islamist opposition organizations inside Iran. (Wall Street Journal)
  • State Department: U.S. "Not Seeing Acts of Genocide" in Gaza
    State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller was asked on Wednesday about Turkey joining South Africa in charging Israel with genocide before the International Court of Justice over the war in Gaza. He replied, "Those are allegations that should not be made lightly and, as it pertains to the United States, we are not seeing any acts that constitute genocide....That is a determination by the State Department."  (U.S. State Department)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • IDF Sees Intense Fighting in Southern, Central Gaza - Emanuel Fabian
    Over the past day, IDF reservists in Khan Yunis directed an Israeli Air Force aircraft to strike three Hamas operatives attempting to plant a bomb. The troops killed another two Hamas gunmen hiding in a nearby building. An IAF fighter jet hit a Hamas weapons depot in Khan Yunis. Also in southern Gaza, after Hamas operatives fired anti-tank missiles at IDF forces, a short while later an IAF aircraft struck the cell.
        In central Gaza's Deir al Balah, IDF forces directed an airstrike on a building used by Hamas as an anti-tank missile launch position. A Hamas operative who arrived later to search for weapons was hit in a separate airstrike. In al-Bureij, troops located several long-range rocket launchers. Meanwhile, Navy strikes over the past day killed a number of Hamas operatives attempting to ambush ground forces. (Times of Israel)
  • IDF Kills 9 Hizbullah Operatives on Wednesday - Emanuel Fabian
    Hussein Yazbak, a Hizbullah commander in the southern Lebanon city of Naqoura, and three other members of the Iran-backed terror group were killed Wednesday in an Israeli strike, Hizbullah confirmed. The strike brought the death toll in Israeli strikes on southern Lebanon on Wednesday to nine Hizbullah members. Hizbullah said it carried out 11 separate attacks on northern Israel on Wednesday. (Times of Israel)
  • Israel: Houthi Attacks on Red Sea Ships Could Cost the World Economy Billions
    Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan told the UN Security Council on Wednesday: "The Houthi attacks on ships in the Red Sea are a precursor to the dark future expected for the region and the entire world if significant action is not taken against them urgently."
        "This is not an 'Israeli problem'; it is not even a 'Middle East problem.' This is a threat to the entire world. A complete closure of the Bab-el-Mandeb strait will cost the world economy $6 billion every day. This Council has already previously recognized the Houthis as a terrorist organization. Now is the time to impose sanctions on them and on those who finance or arm them. It is time to talk about the Shiite elephant in the room: the Ayatollah regime in Iran. They are the factor that connects and directs all the perpetrators of destruction."
        "Iran is hiding while it is the one pulling the strings, arms, and finances its terrorist organizations. The Houthis, terrorists who belong to one of the poorest countries in the world, would never have obtained ballistic missiles and exploding drones without Iran and would not have had the ability to locate ships without receiving intelligence from Iran in real time."  (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Iran, the Fulcrum of Mideast Violence - Editorial
    The Iranian regime might be tempted to blame Israel and the U.S. for the explosions Wednesday that killed more than 100 Iranians at a memorial for terrorist leader Qassem Soleimani, but such explosions aren't the way the U.S. and Israel have pursued Iranian targets when they have wanted to do so. Targeting civilians at a memorial service would be tactically and strategically stupid, as well as immoral. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Will Hamas Commander Yahya Sinwar Escape Gaza or Go Down in a Blaze of Glory? - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Since Hamas' October 7, 2023, attack on Israel, Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar, one of the masterminds of the massacre, has gone into hiding. He and two other Hamas commanders, Mohammed Deif and Marwan Issa, are believed to be hiding in the Khan Yunis area in southern Gaza, where thousands of IDF soldiers have been operating over the past few days. Sinwar, who spent many years in Israeli prison, is fluent in Hebrew and is aware that he has become Israel's No. 1 wanted terrorist because of his responsibility for the Oct. 7 carnage.
        Nearly three months into the Israel-Hamas war, Sinwar is beginning to realize that the moment is fast approaching when he must decide how he wants his end to look. Sinwar has three options. The first is to be killed by the IDF and go down in history as a martyr. Second, Sinwar could surrender to the IDF with the hope of being released in a future prisoner exchange deal with Israel. The third option is for Sinwar to leave Gaza, escaping through a tunnel to Egypt or leaving as part of an internationally sponsored deal similar to the one that allowed PLO leader Yasser Arafat and his forces to exit Lebanon in 1982.
        The general sense among Palestinian journalists in Gaza is that Sinwar would opt for martyrdom. They are convinced that he would rather die as a shahid than surrender or be captured by the Israeli military, which would entail an element of humiliation.
        Yet if he was given an "honorable" way out, such as being allowed to leave Gaza in an agreement engineered and supervised by Arab countries, he would find it hard to turn down the offer. Such a deal could elevate his status to the equal of Yasser Arafat and send a message that he is leaving Gaza triumphant because Israel was not able to kill or capture him. He sees other Hamas leaders based in Qatar, Lebanon, and Turkey who are continuing to operate and he could join them in pursuing the bloody fight against Israel.
        The writer, a fellow of the Jerusalem Center, is a veteran Israeli journalist. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • A Community Mourns a Fallen Son, U.S.-Israeli Amichai Oster - Sam Sokol
    Sgt.-1st Class (res.) Amichai Oster, 24, was on vacation in Salt Lake City, Utah, when he heard of the Oct. 7 Hamas invasion of Israel and "immediately set out to return home," his mother Marcy recalled at his funeral on Tuesday in Karnei Shomron. His family had moved to Israel from Cleveland when Amichai was 1.
        Marcy continued, "Recently, when he was home on a two-day leave, I told him that I felt responsible for the fact that he was fighting in a war and he didn't make the decision to come on aliyah, that we made it for him. He thought about it for a moment and replied, 'Mom, what makes you think that if you had never made aliyah that I never would have come here to fight for our country?'"
        "He was here doing exactly what he wanted to be doing. He died doing what he came home to do."  (Times of Israel-JTA)
  • As a Jewish Israeli Living in America, My Life Is Getting More Dangerous - Noa Aviv
    I was standing by the roadside near my home in Michigan holding a picture of a 10-month-old baby believed kidnapped to Gaza when a woman shouted at me, "Murderer! Genocide! Shame! Shame! Shame!" Many students on American college campuses have decided, at our expense, to be the justice warriors of their generation, to oppose anything that smacks of privilege (and Jews are often automatically accused of being privileged here).
        It's quite refreshing for me to be seen as white all of a sudden. Both my parents came from North Africa. Now it turns out that I'm white, too. Little did my father know that one generation later I'd be a full-fledged white person and be treated to all the gifts that come with that, such as personally being accused of genocide.
        My friends in Israel are running to the shelter, but I wonder if I am really safer than them. After all, when they go to work, everyone is supportive. When they come home, the neighbor from the building across the street isn't calling for their destruction. Here people I know are afraid to speak Hebrew or wear a kippa in public. (Ha'aretz)

A Dictator Can't Bring Peace to Gaza - Natan Sharansky and Bassem Eid (Wall Street Journal)
  • We each warned 30 years ago, after the Oslo Accords, when the free world chose to install Yasser Arafat as dictator over the Palestinian people, that this would undermine the prospects for peace. We both have intimate knowledge of dictatorships. We knew Arafat would never promote peace with Israel because all dictators need an external enemy. Only by mobilizing his people against the Jewish state could Arafat deflect their dissatisfaction with him and retain control.
  • In the years after Oslo, Arafat destroyed the beginnings of civil society, seized control over the economy, preserved refugee camps as a source of mobilization against Israel, and created an education system geared almost exclusively to promoting hatred of the Jewish state. Nevertheless, Israel remained under permanent pressure to give him - and later his successor, Mahmoud Abbas - more territory, money and weapons in the hope that at some point he could serve as Jerusalem's partner in peace.
  • Everyone in Israel remembers the crowds of Gazans who cheered the Oct. 7 terrorists as they paraded their victims. But one need only compare pictures of Germans demonstrating their loyalty to Hitler in 1943 with pictures from 1945 and 1955 to see that such enthusiasm is fleeting. Expressions of disillusionment with Hamas will increase as soon as Gazans are less fearful of their leaders - and there are signs this is already happening.
  • What does the "day after" look like for Gaza? There must first be a transitional period during which security remains in Israel's hands. Administrative control should pass to a coordinating body of representatives from the West and Arab countries that recognize Israel.
  • The mission of this body should be to rebuild the Palestinian education system, purging it of jihadism; destroy the refugee camps, giving their residents normal housing; and respect civil-society organizations, granting them the freedom to promote human rights and the rule of law. Only after this should elections be held; elections in a society that isn't free will have no significance.

    Natan Sharansky 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.
        Bassem Eid founded the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group in 1996.

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