January 16, 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:

Israeli Defense Minister Sees "Impressive Achievements" in Gaza War - Emanuel Fabian (Times of Israel)
    Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Monday that the "intensive phase" of Israel's ground offensive in northern Gaza has ended, and it will soon be over in the Khan Yunis area in the south as well.
    "We adapt our operations on the ground in accordance with the reality on the ground, as it becomes clearer to us, in accordance with military achievements, with the destruction of the enemy [Hamas], and in accordance with our intelligence," Gallant said.
    In northern Gaza, "All the [Hamas] battalion frameworks have been dismantled. We are now working to eliminate pockets of resistance. We will achieve this via raids, airstrikes, special operations, and additional activities."
    In central Gaza, "We are destroying Hamas' military industry, its production centers. These are the places that produce rockets, IEDs, explosives and other weapons to be used against us. The achievements are very impressive."
    In southern Gaza, "IDF troops are focused on the head of the snake, the Hamas leadership. As part of this action...the Khan Yunis Brigade is gradually disintegrating as a fighting force."
    "At the end of the war, there will be no military threat from Gaza. Hamas will not be able to control and function as a military force in Gaza, and the IDF will have full freedom of action to do whatever is required to defend the citizens of Israel. It may take a long time, but it will end with a single scenario - total victory."
    Gallant said only continued military pressure on Hamas would bring about a new hostage deal.
    "If the fire stops, the fate of the hostages will be sealed for many years in the captivity of Hamas. Without military pressure, no one will talk to us. Only from a position of strength can the hostages be freed."

How Did Hamas Fund Its Massive Tunnel System? - Ruth Marks Eglash (Fox News)
    Israeli troops fighting inside Gaza have been finding tunnel shafts or underground complexes, including weapons dispensaries or bunkers, discovered beneath homes, schools, mosques and hospitals.
    Some are vast, elaborate creations replete with elevators, electricity and full ventilation systems.  Some are even equipped with bedrooms, bathrooms and dining rooms, as well as command centers.
    According to Israeli military estimates, Hamas has spent tens of millions of dollars - and the last 16 years - digging and cementing an entire subterranean system rivaling London's Underground.
    How, in one of the world's most poverty-stricken territories, which relies largely on aid from UN agencies, regional and Western powers, did the terror group have the financial means to invest in such an intricate and expansive tunnel network?
    Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, president of the Israel Law Center, said, "Hamas took taxes from its residents and let others pay for everything that, as a government, it was supposed to take care of."
    Qatar supplied oil and funded humanitarian projects, the PA covered the costs of electricity, water, health and education, while UNRWA - including with funding from the U.S. - took care of a wide variety of needs for some 75% of the population considered refugees.
    "Hamas does not need to pay a dime for the population. Everything is taken care of by others. This allows them to use their money for military purposes."
    Dr. Ronnie Shaked, a researcher at the Truman Institute at Hebrew University, noted that Hamas received millions of dollars a year, as well as weapons and military training, from Tehran.
    Qatar was also directly involved in sending millions of dollars into Gaza.

Iran Sent Flowers to Hostages' Families in Attempt to Recruit Israelis as Spies - James Rothwell (Telegraph-UK)
    Israeli security officials said Iran set up several Hebrew social media pages and websites about the hostage crisis, which helped arrange for flowers to be sent to the victims' homes.
    The accounts also "tasked Israelis with photographing the residences of Israeli defense officials and other officials who appear frequently in the media and speak out against Iran publicly," the Israel Security Agency said.
    Iran also set up social media accounts on TikTok, Instagram and Telegram posing as Israeli far-right activists and impersonating the Israeli public broadcaster Channel 11.
    In December, the ISA warned that Iranian security services were contacting Israelis over social media, posing as potential business partners, such as estate agents, couriers, or even online dating service providers.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Houthis Hit U.S.-Owned Ship
    On Jan. 15, Iranian-backed Houthi militants fired an anti-ship ballistic missile that struck the M/V Gibraltar Eagle, a U.S.-owned and operated ship. The ship has reported no injuries or significant damage. Earlier in the day, U.S. forces detected an anti-ship ballistic missile fired toward the southern Red Sea commercial shipping lanes. The missile failed in flight and impacted in Yemen. (U.S. Central Command)
        See also Houthis Turn Their Sights on U.S. Ships in Red Sea - Benoit Faucon
    Fresh attacks targeted American ships in the Red Sea, days after the U.S. struck Iran-backed Houthi rebels. Recent Houthi attacks, initially directed against Israeli-linked vessels, have become increasingly indiscriminate. Most of the Houthi attacks have struck ships that have no apparent connection to Israel or its allies. Nasruddin Amer, a Houthi spokesman, told Al Jazeera, "The ship doesn't necessarily have to be heading to Israel for us to target it, it is enough for it to be American."
        A Pentagon official said, "It's a very active and dangerous situation in one of the world's most crucial shipping routes. The Houthis must stop what they're doing or their war machine will be destroyed."  (Wall Street Journal)
        See also Houthis Vow to Target British Ships in Red Sea - Daniel Martin (Telegraph-UK)
  • Iran's Revolutionary Guards Claim Attack on Israeli "Spy HQ" in Iraq - Parisa Hafezi
    Iran's Revolutionary Guards said they attacked the "spy headquarters" of Israel in Erbil, Kurdistan, on Monday. Iraq condemned on Tuesday Iran's "aggression" on a residential area near the U.S. consulate in Erbil where at least four civilians were killed and six injured.
        Prominent Kurdish businessman Peshraw Dizayee and several members of his family were among the dead after at least one rocket crashed into their home. Additionally, one rocket fell on the house of a senior Kurdish intelligence official and another on a Kurdish intelligence center. (Reuters)
        See also Three Armed Drones Shot Down over U.S. Base in Northern Iraq
    Three armed drones were shot down on Tuesday over Erbil airport in northern Iraq, where U.S. forces are stationed, Iraqi Kurdistan's counter-terrorism service said. (Reuters)
  • Britain to Ban Pro-Palestinian Protest Organizer Hizb ut-Tahrir as Terrorist Group - Charles Hymas
    Britain's Home Secretary James Cleverly has announced that Hizb ut-Tahrir will join a list of proscribed organizations which include Islamic State, al-Qaeda, and Hamas. The move means it becomes an offense to be a member of the group or to support it.
        Cleverly said: "Hizb ut-Tahrir is an anti-Semitic organization that actively promotes and encourages terrorism, including praising and celebrating the appalling October 7 attacks. Proscribing this terrorist group will ensure that anyone who belongs to and invites support for them will face consequences. It will curb Hizb ut-Tahrir's ability to operate as it does."
        A draft order banning the group will take effect from Jan. 19 if agreed by Parliament. Founded in 1953, Hizb ut-Tahrir is an international political group with a long-term goal of establishing a caliphate ruled under Islamic law. (Telegraph-UK)
        See also I Will Do Whatever Is Necessary to Vanquish Terrorism. That's Why We Are Proscribing Hizb ut-Tahrir - British Home Secretary James Cleverly (Telegraph-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israeli Woman Killed, 17 Wounded in Terror Attack in Ra'anana - Josh Breiner
    Edna Blustein, 79, was killed, and 17 people were wounded on Monday in a ramming and stabbing attack in the central Israeli city of Ra'anana. Three of the wounded are in serious condition. Mahmoud Zidat, 44, and his nephew Ahmed Zidat, 25, from Bani Na'im in the West Bank, were arrested after ramming civilians with three different vehicles. One of them stabbed a woman and took control of her car. He then started driving and ran over people. He then lost control of the car, got out of it and entered another vehicle, with which he continued to run over pedestrians. (Ha'aretz)
  • IDF Uncovers 60 Rockets Ready for Launch in Gaza
    IDF soldiers located 100 rocket launchers and 60 rockets ready for launch in the Beit Lahia area of Gaza, the IDF said Tuesday. During the operation, the soldiers killed dozens of Hamas terrorists. IDF forces also killed terrorists in north Shati and in the Khan Yunis area. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinian at Anti-Israel Rally in London: "We Must Normalize the Massacres as the Status Quo" - Micah Halpern
    At a pro-Hamas, anti-Israel rally in London, Mohammed el Kurd, a Palestinian from eastern Jerusalem, told the crowd: "We must normalize the massacres as the status quo." Oct. 7 has warped the world. Evil has overtaken good. Before Oct. 7, thoughtful, reasonable people would never have even thought this. There is no other interpretation to the call to "normalize massacres" than as a call to murder more innocent Jews. Another frequent slogan reads: "Liberate Palestine by any means." Now we know what "any means" really means. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Stopping the War Now Would Be a Security Disaster for Israel - Avi Issacharoff
    After three months of war against Hamas, voices are calling for stopping the war and retreating. But it's impossible to stop the war now. It would be a grave mistake and a security failure. We can't stop it because Hamas will only increase its demands in the negotiations over the hostages. A complete stop of the fighting and withdrawal from Gaza will lead to the restoration of Hamas' rule there, along with the recovery of its military capabilities. Then, we will see the next Oct. 7 sooner than expected.
        It's impossible to stop now because Israel has commitments to residents living close to the Gaza and northern borders, who need to return to their homes and be able to live there knowing they're safe. Israel's halt at this time will ruin any chance of a future agreement with the Palestinians and prove to them that Hamas' way is the solution. Any deal that includes an absolute halt in fighting now would pave the way for Israel's own defeat.
        The writer, a veteran Israeli journalist focusing on Palestinian affairs, is one of the creators of the TV series "Fauda." (Ynet News)
  • No Israeli Would Ever Be Safe amid Capitulation to Hamas - Ron Ben Yishai
    Israel must destroy the military capabilities of Hamas and prevent its leadership in Gaza from holding on to power there. This means the IDF must not at this time, or in the near future, end the fighting and withdraw from Gaza. If the Hamas infrastructure remains in place and its senior leadership remains unharmed, then no Israeli can be safe. An IDF withdrawal of forces from Gaza would be regarded as a capitulation to Hamas. It would be a complete sacrifice of the security of Israelis and would have significant strategic consequences.
        We would all be at risk of being kidnapped by any Iranian proxy. No Israeli would be able to travel safely abroad without fearing abduction, and that is especially true for the young travelers who visit third world countries. Furthermore, even a weekend getaway in the north would be risky.
        If Israel allows Hamas to remain in power in Gaza, they would only prepare for the next murderous assault from that border, while Israel's deterrence for all of its enemies would be lost, and any will of moderate Arab nations to normalize their relations with Israel would diminish.
        For Israelis to live with a modicum of security, the IDF must be allowed to complete its mission to destroy the Hamas military infrastructure above and bellow ground and remove its leaders. (Ynet News)
  • I Saw How Hamas Is Embedded within Gaza's Population - Maj. (res.) Roi Yanovsky
    While Gaza is perceived by the world as an overcrowded, third-world territory, I saw a wholly different picture during 100 days in the reserves inside Gaza. Gaza City is a modern, well-developed city. Big houses, a big plaza, parks, well-maintained walkways right on the beach and so much more. It looks far more like Tel Aviv. The world's "most crowded"? Not by a long shot. Homes are loaded with fancy belongings, furniture, and appliances. Most places are bigger than my Tel Aviv apartment. Blaming their will to fight Israel on their poor living conditions does a disservice to the truth.
        In most homes, every school and every public institution, the single most prevalent object seems to be a map of Israel. Of course, it doesn't say Israel, as it refers to the entire territory as Palestine. They chose to inhabit an alternate reality, making it far more difficult to find common ground.
        In every single neighborhood we were in, weapons, tunnels, explosive charges and launchpads were all conveniently located inside residential buildings. The Palestinian civilians who reside there are acutely aware of all this. Hamas operatives are fully aware that if they walk around unarmed in civilian clothing, the IDF is highly unlikely to view them as hostile.
        Not only is Hamas embedded within the Palestinian population, the population is embedded within Hamas. Its ideology can be found in practically every home. Hamas would never have become this powerful without active assistance from the locals.
        The writer is a journalist at Israel's Channel 13. (Ynet News)
  • Palestinian "Pay for Slay" Keeps Growing - Editorial
    Last Wednesday's Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, the PA's newspaper, announced 23,210 additional "martyrs," using the Hamas-supplied Gaza casualty figure that includes every dead Hamas terrorist. The PA pays a one-time lump sum plus a monthly stipend for life to the families of any "martyr" killed in a confrontation with Israel. The PA also recognized 3,550 new prisoners held by Israel since Oct. 7. Most were arrested in the West Bank, though 661 are Hamas terrorists from Gaza. They, too, will receive PA salaries. All are to be compensated by the PA, whose activities are subsidized with Western aid.
        Why does President Biden insist Israel hand over postwar Gaza to this group? Secretary of State Blinken also talks prematurely of giving it a state. No wonder the PA sees little reason to change. (Wall Street Journal)
  • A Hundred Days in Darkness: Israeli Hostages Held by Hamas - Rosie DiManno
    One hundred days since the atrocities of Oct. 7, 132 Israeli hostages remain in the hands of Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and God knows who else. Ten are over the age of 75. One, Kfir Bibas, turns one this week and has spent a quarter of his life in captivity - if indeed the baby is still alive. Of all those still in captivity, little is known of their condition and treatment. The International Committee of the Red Cross has not been permitted to see them. (Toronto Star-Canada)

  • The Iranian mullahs must be disabused of the notion that war is a viable pathway for them by a strong and coherent international response led by the U.S.
  • Iran has a long history of directing its coalition of the damned, carefully constructed by the late Major General Qassim Soleimani, against the West, to achieve Iran's revolutionary aims across the Middle East.
  • The Houthi rebels, Shia tribesmen from Yemen, are part of Iran's al-Quds Force network of subversive groups. It also includes Hizbullah in Lebanon, the Popular Mobilization militias in Iraq, the regime forces of Syria, and Hamas, until lately in control of Gaza.
  • It is time to raise our collective gaze to the real cause of the attacks: Iran. Iran acts directly as well as through its proxies, boarding and seizing ships not only close to its coast in the Strait of Hormuz but further afield as well, most recently in the Gulf of Oman.
  • The international community must present a course of action toward Iran aimed at curtailing its activities and those of its proxies. It would be a waste of time to do this through the UN.
  • Only once Iran is contained can we get back to finding a solution to the conflict in Gaza without a gun to our heads.

    Col. Tim Collins is a former British Army officer who served with the SAS and as commander of the Royal Irish Regiment during the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

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