January 5, 2024
Special Edition
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In-Depth Issues:

Islamic State Claims Responsibility for Suicide Bombings in Iran - Jon Gambrell (AP)
    Islamic State claimed responsibility Thursday for two suicide bombings that killed at least 84 people and wounded an additional 284 on Wednesday in the worst militant attack to strike Iran in decades.
    Islamic State identified the two attackers and used disparaging language when discussing Shiites, which Islamic State views as heretics.

IDF Targets Tunnels under Khan Yunis - Yonah Jeremy Bob (Jerusalem Post)
    The IDF said that its current approach of advancing in Khan Yunis gradually but in a comprehensive way, rooting out and destroying all of the massive tunnels and shafts, is time-consuming but the best available strategy.
    Sometimes, the IDF may only have seconds to hit Hamas terrorists when they emerge from the shafts either to try to ambush Israeli forces or after the IDF has created a dangerous situation for them within the tunnels, which flushes them out.
    See also Surrendered Terrorists Say "Many Killed in Tunnels" - Yoav Zitun (Ynet News)
    After IDF soldiers destroyed a tunnel shaft leading to a vast underground compound beneath Khan Yunis where terrorists and Nukhba commando forces were staying, five Nukhba forces surrendered.
    They later confessed that two company commanders and many Hamas personnel had been killed in the tunnels due to the IDF underground attack.
    See also Video: IDF Destroys Underground Hamas Compound, Tunnel System in Gaza City - Yoav Zitun (Ynet News)

IDF Finds Terrorists in Khan Yunis - Yoav Zitun (Ynet News)
    According to the IDF, the mission in southern Gaza is significantly different from that in the north, focusing on reaching the Hamas terrorist leaders, hiding deep underground.
    Therefore, the task is slower, with the safety of soldiers taking priority over speed.
    Forces in the field emphasize that cooperation with the Israeli Air Force is continuous and precise, alongside a more selective and efficient use of tank shells to avoid civilian casualties and any wasting of ammunition, but firing tank shells against any identified threat - without limitations.
    Col. Oded Ziman of the 55th reservist brigade said: "The brigade launched an attack on the strongholds in Khan Yunis where the enemy was entrenched, eliminating many terrorists, striking terror infrastructure both underground and above ground, and capturing terrorists who provided crucial intelligence in interrogations."
    "The collaboration between the Israeli Air Force and ground forces is exceptional; I have never dreamed of such effective and rapid cooperation. Just this morning, I needed fire, and within two minutes, a colleague from Military Intelligence contacted me and we launched the airstrike."

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Houthi Drone Boat Detonates in Red Sea - Phil Stewart (Reuters)
    A Houthi drone boat packed with explosives detonated in the Red Sea on Thursday but failed to cause any damage or casualties, the U.S. Navy said.
    The Iran-aligned Houthis in Yemen have launched wave after wave of exploding drones and missiles at commercial vessels since Nov. 19.
    The Houthis have said their attacks target ships with Israeli links or were sailing to Israel. But many vessels that have been attacked have had no Israeli connection and were not bound for Israeli ports.
    Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, who leads U.S. Naval forces in the Middle East, said, "Regardless of the vessel's company ownership or its destination, these Houthi attacks are for sure destabilizing and contrary to international law and clearly...must stop immediately."

Jordanian Airstrikes Target Iran-Linked Drug Smugglers in Syria - Suleiman Al-Khalidi (Reuters)
    Jordan on Thursday launched air strikes inside Syria against warehouses and hideouts of Iranian-backed drug smugglers, Jordanian and regional intelligence sources said.

Argentina Arrests Three from Lebanon, Syria in Maccabi Games Terror Plot - Itamar Eichner (Ynet News)
    Argentine media have reported the arrest of three suspects, all of Syrian or Lebanese descent, in a terrorist plot to attack Jewish targets during the Pan American Maccabi Games, which opened on Dec. 28 and concludes on Jan. 5.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Towns Empty and Farms Languish as War Stalks Israeli-Lebanese Border - Euan Ward
    The border between Israel and Lebanon has become a landscape of abandoned towns and neglected farms as escalating strikes by Hizbullah have displaced more than 80,000 Israelis. In northern Israel, military orders to evacuate have kept people from their homes for nearly three months amid daily missile and rocket attacks from Lebanon.
        "Every day people are being fired on," said Moshe Davidovitz, head of the Meta Asher Regional Council and chairman of the Confrontation Line Forum in the north. "Every day they're running into shelters. It's intolerable, and it cannot continue. We can't go on being ducks in a shooting range."
        Many residents work in agriculture and have been all but cut off from the farms, hothouses and chicken coops that are their livelihood, he said. One farmer, a father of three, was killed in a strike launched from Lebanon last month as he drove to his apple orchards. (New York Times)
  • U.S. Strike Kills Militia Leader Blamed for Iraq Attacks - Ahmed Rasheed
    The U.S. on Thursday targeted Mushtaq Jawad Kazim al Jawari, a leader of the Iran-aligned Iraqi militia Harakat al Nujaba, who was involved in planning and carrying out attacks against American personnel, the Pentagon said. Witnesses said a drone fired at least two rockets at the headquarters of the Nujaba militia in eastern Baghdad, striking a vehicle in the compound. (Reuters)
        See also U.S. Killing of Militia Leader Marks Bid to Stop Attacks on Its Forces in Iraq - Nancy A. Youssef
    A deadly American drone strike Thursday in Baghdad was the first known targeted killing of an Iranian-backed militia leader by the Biden administration, marking a more aggressive bid to stop ongoing attacks on its forces there, U.S. officials said.
        "What the U.S. showed was that it can pick a specific terrorist leader, track him in a vehicle and kill him. We haven't seen the Biden administration do anything like that with Iran-backed militias until now," said Michael Knights of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
        State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said, "People need to stop taking strikes against our soldiers, and if they take strikes against our soldiers, we're going to do what we need to protect ourselves, as any country would do." Militias supported by Iran have carried out at least 120 attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria since Oct. 17. (Wall Street Journal)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israeli Defense Minister: Palestinians Will Be Responsible for Post-War Gaza - Michael Hauser Tov
    Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Thursday that after the war in Gaza is over, "Hamas will not rule Gaza, and Israel will not exercise civil control over Gaza. It's Palestinians who live in Gaza, which is why Palestinian players will be responsible for it, on the condition that they are not hostile toward Israel and will not operate against it....After the war's goals are achieved, Israel will not be responsible for civil life in Gaza."
        Gallant added that there will be no limits on military operations in Gaza, with Israel retaining the right to operate there freely. (Ha'aretz)
  • Israel Tells U.S. Envoy: "We Will Not Tolerate Threats by Iranian Proxy Hizbullah" - Emanuel Fabian
    Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told U.S. special envoy Amos Hochstein on Thursday, "There is only one possible result - a new reality in the northern arena which will allow for the secure return of our citizens," referring to the 80,000 residents of northern Israel who have been displaced by Hizbullah attacks since Oct. 7. "We find ourselves at a junction. There is a short window of time for diplomatic understandings, which we prefer. We will not tolerate the threats posed by the Iranian proxy, Hizbullah, and we will ensure the security of our citizens."
        Israel has increasingly warned that if the international community does not push Hizbullah away from the border through diplomatic means, it will take action. (Times of Israel)
  • Israel Targets Senior Islamic Jihad Commander in Gaza
    The IDF and Israel Security Agency on Thursday announced the targeted killing of Islamic Jihad commander Mamdouh Lolo, who served as the group's leading operations officer in the region. Lolo routinely directed attacks on Israeli targets. (i24News)
  • IDF Finds Booby-Trapped UNRWA Kindergarten in Samaria - Elisha Ben Kimon
    IDF forces on Thursday completed a 40-hour counterterrorism operation in Nur Shams near Tulkarm, detaining suspects, confiscating weapons, and destroying two bomb-making laboratories and hundreds of explosive charges. During searches, the forces found a booby-trapped UNRWA kindergarten on the ground floor of a multi-story building.
        A senior security official said, "The operations are designed to suppress the activities of terror cells in the West Bank - which in recent months have begun operating in coordination with Hamas in Gaza and abroad, as well as with Islamic Jihad and with the assistance of Iranian elements - to execute terror attacks."  (Ynet News)
        See also IDF Operating Intensively Against Terrorist Threat in Judea and Samaria - Hanan Greenwood
    IDF forces operated in the Nur Shams refugee camp in Samaria, close to the Israeli city of Netanya and the Route 6 highway, taking apart military infrastructure that was built up over many years.
        It was only a matter of time before that infrastructure was used to carry out serious terrorist attacks inside Israel. At the same time as the war in Gaza, the Judea and Samaria Division set out to annihilate the threat facing the most populated area in Israel.
        A senior military official said, "The terrorists made extensive use of civilian homes as laboratories for the production of ammunition, of hospitals as places of refuge, and of mosques as locations for firing on IDF soldiers. There is a mosque here from which they shoot on a daily basis, and its entire surroundings are completely booby-trapped. Today we returned to the building where terrorists had set up a war room, with a thousand cameras and an explosives laboratory, and found that they had re-established the laboratory."  (Israel Hayom)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • U.S. Aid Dollars for Palestinian Terrorists - Editorial
    According to Palestinian Authority law, the terrorists who started a war on Oct. 7 will be compensated financially for a massacre well done. The same PA that President Biden wants to run postwar Gaza will reward the murderers' families with grants followed by monthly stipends for life. That means taxpayers from the U.S. and Europe will help pick up the tab.
        The PA's "pay-for-slay" program costs more than $300 million a year, about 8% of the PA budget. Leaders of the PA's dominant Fatah faction have praised the Oct. 7 massacre, while its military wing claims to have taken part. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Lesson of the Strike that Killed Soleimani - Gen. (ret.) Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr.
    Four years ago this week, at the direction of the president, forces under my command struck and killed Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad. He was arriving there to coordinate attacks on our embassy and coalition targets across the region. It takes will and capability to establish and maintain deterrence. The Iranians have always feared our capabilities, but before January 2020, they doubted our will.
        Regrettably, the U.S. hasn't remembered the importance of matching demonstrable will with our capabilities. Even before Hamas' Oct. 7 attack, Iranian forces were launching missile and drone strikes on our bases across the region, acting through proxies that gave them a measure of deniability. Our response has consistently been tentative, overly signaled and unfocused.
        Iranian leaders work with Lenin's dictum that "you probe with bayonets: if you find mush, you push. If you find steel, you withdraw." Tehran and its proxies are pressing their attacks because they haven't confronted steel. The ability to stop such probing generally depends on a swift and violent counterattack. Delaying and equivocating usually means the response needed to re-establish deterrence has to be much larger than it would have been if it had been applied in a timely manner.
        Protecting free passage through such global choke points as the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait is more important than avoiding escalation. Taking strong action against the Houthis isn't likely to lead to theaterwide escalation. Unfortunately, it is the U.S. that is being deterred, not Iran and its proxies.
        The writer, who served as commander of U.S. Central Command (2019-22), is executive director of the Global and National Security Institute at the University of South Florida. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Israel Is Not Obligated to Allow Gazans to Return Home during War - Ariel Kahana
    According to a memo submitted Wednesday to Israel's political leadership by three legal experts - Dr. Raphael Bitton, Prof. Eugene Kontorovich, and Prof. Avi Bell - Israel has no legal obligation to allow Gaza residents to return to their homes in northern Gaza as long as the fighting continues. They noted that Israelis from border communities have not been allowed back home either.
        They concluded: "The IDF has no legal obligation to enable the return of the population to northern Gaza, and such a duty is unlikely to emerge in the coming months. The IDF has a vital military need justifying non-return of the population as long as fighting continues and as long as the goal of freeing the captives remains."  (Israel Hayom)
  • Western Civilization Is Under Threat from Without and Within - Brendan O'Neill
    On numerous occasions in 2023 I've wanted to call out both barbarism and its intellectual apologists, to express disgust for these new enemies of Western civilization. From Hamas to the radical Islamists in Europe who feel inspired by Hamas to the West's own sons and daughters of privilege who make excuses for Hamas - all have proven themselves to be the adversaries of truth, culture and reason. Surely no one will now deny that Western civilization is under assault on two fronts: from without and within.
        The apologism for Hamas in privileged circles has been mind-blowing. Hamas' bestial violence against the Jews has been denied, downplayed or outright justified. A "day of celebration" is how one privately educated pretend radical in Britain described the racist butchery of 7 October. The sympathy shown by woke Westerners for Hamas' apocalyptic violence reveals a moral kinship between these two sections of society. It exposes their shared contempt for Western civilization, their shared indifference to human suffering, and their shared loathing of freedom.
        We cannot afford to underestimate how significant it is that many of our young sympathize with Hamas and view the Jews they butchered as oppressors. Both wokeism and Islamism scorn the idea of Western civilization. Both disavow Enlightenment as Western arrogance. And both hate Jews. One side views them as pigs and monkeys, the other as an oppressor class.
        Jews have come to be seen as the embodiment of modernity, and therefore the enemies of modernity, whether that's the civilization skeptics of our own elite universities or the civilization attackers of radical Islam, turn on them. Viciously. There is a reluctance, these days, to speak of a clash between civilization and barbarism. Yet its existence can no longer be ignored. On one side, there are those who have abandoned reason, on the other, those of us who wish to defend it. (Spiked-UK)

A New Existential War: Israel's Perception of the Enemy's Goals - Maj.-Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen (Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
  • Many believed that in the era of peace with Egypt and Jordan, and with the collapse of Syria's army in the civil war, the era of threats from state armies had ended. Experts explained that while there were remaining threats from terrorist organizations, they did not pose an existential threat to the State of Israel. On Oct. 7, Israel received a painful wake-up call that this was a dangerously wrong assessment.
  • Israel had become accustomed to focusing on the nuclear threat as an existential danger. However, combined with the threat from Hizbullah in the north, Palestinian terrorist organizations now represent an overarching regional threat.
  • For years, it has been argued that economic development and prosperity for the Palestinians are the key to achieving stability and order. But Hamas' leadership has taught us that its conduct is guided not by the Palestinians' economic situation but by a deep religious rationale.
  • Western cultural observers, who for centuries have separated religious motives from the political, diplomatic, and military considerations of state leaders, have no tools with which to understand the leadership of Iran, Hizbullah, and Hamas, which are driven by religious conviction.
  • It is crucial that the Israeli leadership understand the religious logic guiding Israel's enemies. Mohammad Deif, head of Hamas' military wing, named the current war "Al-Aqsa Flood," in the belief that through this battle, a great cosmic salvation would unfold. Israel's victory must be decisive in a way that neutralizes the belief among the leadership of Hamas, Hizbullah, and Iran that the day of Israel's destruction is at hand.
  • The central goal of the war for Israel should be that upon its conclusion, a profound disappointment will be instilled in the Islamic believers who started and sustained it. They must be forced to accept that once again, their time has not come, and the gates of heaven have not opened before them.
  • Victory is not only contingent on the magnitude of the achievement on the battlefield but on the trends in the struggle that develop in the days after the war. The Hamas vision will likely persist - but Israel's ability to force jihadist believers to recognize their weakness increases the chances of a temporary cessation of their struggle.

    The writer, a senior research fellow at the BESA Center, served in the IDF for 42 years, commanding troops in battles with Egypt and Syria.
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