January 21, 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:

Hamas Seeks to Wait Out Israel, Restore Presence in Northern Gaza - Meir Ben Shabbat (Israel Hayom)
    The Israeli campaign in Gaza is intense, but is unfolding in parameters Hamas has prepared for well.
    Fuel, food, and logistical support for Gazans have resumed, as has the presence of residents and terrorists in areas recently defined as combat zones.
    Such circumstances do not add pressure on Hamas. They only serve its "waiting-out and wear down Israel" strategy, providing Hamas with the hope that it could withstand the Israeli attack and ensure its continued existence as a military and governing entity in Gaza. For Israel, this is an intolerable scenario.
    On a practical level, it is appropriate to step up Israeli airstrikes in any area where ground forces have been reduced. Hamas must not be allowed to establish governance in these areas. Hamas terrorists and officials should be targeted wherever they try to renew their presence.
    Likewise, Israel should prevent residents from returning to northern Gaza and designate any area with tunnels as a combat zone.
    The writer, head of the Misgav Institute for National Security & Zionist Strategy in Jerusalem, served as Israel's National Security Advisor and head of the National Security Council.

Saudi Arabia, Jordan Help Circumvent Houthi Blockade of Red Sea - Itamar Eichner (Ynet News)
    To circumvent the danger in the Red Sea, where cargo vessels have come under repeated attacks from the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen, ships traveling from China and India are unloading their cargo in Bahrain and Dubai.
    The cargo is then loaded on Saudi and Jordanian trucks which travel over land to Israel, where Israeli trucks receive the goods at the King Hussein border crossing.

EU Targets Six People under New Hamas Sanctions Scheme (Reuters)
    The EU on Friday imposed asset freezes and travel bans on six people linked to Hamas, under a new sanctions regime targeting the Palestinian group.
    Arms trading, supporting actions undermining the stability or security of Israel, and involvement in serious humanitarian law or human rights breaches were cited as possible reasons for sanctioning.
    Hamas is designated as a terrorist organization by the EU.

Israel Has Tactical Superiority over Hizbullah in Lebanon Fighting - Jonathan Spyer (Jerusalem Post)
    Israel's northern border area is an active combat zone.
    About 170 Hizbullah fighters have been killed since Oct. 8, along with 19 members of other terror groups. Israel has lost nine soldiers and six civilians.
    U.S. envoy Amos Hochstein visited Israel and Lebanon last week in an attempt to find a diplomatic solution to the current impasse.
    Diplomatic processes generally require concessions on both sides. The systematic violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, however, has come from the Hizbullah side alone.
    Hizbullah began to rebuild its presence along the border immediately after the ceasefire that ended the 2006 war, in direct contravention of Resolution 1701, which requires it to stay north of the Litani River.
    From the Israeli point of view, it is being asked to discuss territorial concessions as a reward for Hizbullah's unilateral violations.
    The number of fighters that Hizbullah has lost is large and creeps up every week. In tactical encounters, Hizbullah appears to have little response to superior Israeli intelligence, and use of drones and missiles to target its teams close to the border.
    Hizbullah's fighters' recent combat experience was in fighting poorly armed and trained Sunni Islamist militias in Syria. It is now encountering a very different enemy that has tactical superiority.
    Hizbullah-associated Arabic media channels are nearly silent on the fighting at the Lebanon-Israel border, while giving saturation coverage to events in Gaza.
    Evidently, Hizbullah sees little to celebrate as its forces continue to absorb losses.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • White House: U.S. Still Opposes a Ceasefire in Gaza
    White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said on Friday that the U.S. still opposes a ceasefire in Gaza "for the same reason that we have in the past: We don't believe a ceasefire is going to be to the benefit of anybody but Hamas."
        "We do support humanitarian pauses, as I said, to try to get hostages out and more aid in. But we don't support a ceasefire at this time. I think it's important to remember that there was a ceasefire in place on the 6th of October, and Hamas, Mr. Sinwar, chose to break that ceasefire. He's the one that chose this war. There was a ceasefire, which we obviously were supportive of, and Hamas chose to break it."
        "The Israeli people have every right to expect that their military and that their government is going to act in their safety and security. And I guarantee you that if this was any other country, including this one, we wouldn't stand for that kind of threat to live next door to us like that - a threat that truly has existential ambitions. They want to wipe Israel off the face of the map. So the Israeli people have a right to expect that their government is going to try to protect them from that threat."  (White House)
  • Iranian and Hizbullah Commanders Help Direct Houthi Attacks in Yemen - Samia Nakhoul
    Commanders from Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and Hizbullah are on the ground in Yemen helping to direct and oversee Houthi attacks on Red Sea shipping, four regional and two Iranian sources told Reuters. Iran - which has armed, trained and funded the Houthis - stepped up its weapons supplies to the militia in the wake of the war in Gaza. Tehran has provided advanced drones, anti-ship cruise missiles, precision-strike ballistic missiles and medium-range missiles to the Houthis.
        IRGC commanders and advisers are also providing know-how, data and intelligence support to determine which vessels constitute Houthi targets. An Iranian insider said Iranian commanders had set up a command center in the capital Sanaa for the Red Sea attacks, run by the senior IRGC commander responsible for Yemen.
        "The Houthis are not acting independently," said Abdulaziz al-Sager, director of the Gulf Research Center think-tank. "The Houthis...are not that advanced....The Houthis don't have the means, resources, knowledge or satellite information to find the specific target and attack." White House national security spokeswoman Adrienne Watson also said that Iranian-provided tactical intelligence had been critical in enabling the Houthis to target ships. (Reuters)
  • U.S. Prepares for Sustained Campaign Against Houthis in Yemen - Missy Ryan
    The Biden administration is crafting plans for a sustained military campaign targeting the Houthis in Yemen after 10 days of strikes failed to halt the group's attacks on maritime commerce. The White House convened senior officials on Wednesday to discuss options for the way ahead.
        "We are clear-eyed about who the Houthis are, and their worldview," a senior U.S. official said. "So we're not sure that they're going to stop immediately, but we are certainly trying to degrade and destroy their capabilities." A diplomat said, "There's no appetite for invading Yemen. The appetite is to degrade their ability to launch these kinds of attacks going forward...and targeting their higher-level capabilities."
        A U.S. official said, "The principle that it simply can't be tolerated for a terrorist organization...with these advanced capabilities to essentially shut down or control shipping through a key international choke point is one that we feel very strongly about."  (Washington Post)
        See also U.S. Strikes More Houthi Anti-Ship Missiles - Kanishka Singh
    U.S. Central Command forces on Saturday struck a Houthi anti-ship missile that was aimed into the Gulf of Aden and prepared to launch. Late Friday, U.S. Central Command forces conducted strikes against three Houthi anti-ship missiles aimed into the southern Red Sea. (Reuters)
  • U.S. Personnel Wounded in Iranian-Backed Missile Attack on Iraq Airbase - Faris Tanyos
    Several U.S. military personnel were injured in a missile attack Saturday night by Iranian-backed militants on Al-Asad Airbase in Iraq, U.S. Central Command said. The base's air defense systems intercepted "most of the missiles," but "others impacted the base." This marks the 144th attack on U.S. troops stationed in Iraq and Syria since Oct. 7. (CBS News)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Senior IRGC Officials Dead in Strike on Damascus - Lior Ben Ari
    The Iranian news agency said on Saturday that the Revolutionary Guard's Quds Force intelligence chief and his deputy were among the fatalities in an Israeli strike on Damascus. Akram al-Ajouri, a senior member of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, was also identified as one of the casualties. (Ynet News)
        See also Iranian Official Targeted in Lebanon - Einav Halabi
    The Saudi Al Khadath channel on Saturday said that the commander for Palestinian affairs in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force was killed in an Israeli drone strike on a car traveling near the southern Lebanon city of Tyre. He was responsible for providing intelligence and technological assistance to Hamas in Lebanon. (Ynet News)
  • IDF Finds Tunnel Where Israeli Hostages Were Kept in Khan Yunis - Yoav Zitun
    The IDF has revealed a tunnel 20 meters underground in the center of residential Khan Yunis where Israeli hostages had been held. Troops found drawings made by hostage Emilia Aloni, 6, who was freed in November after being held for 54 days. "We saw five caged cells where we believe up to 20 hostages were held at various times, without any daylight, hardly any air, a lack of oxygen and terrible humidity," IDF Spokesperson Daniel Hagari said. (Ynet News)
        See also Video: The Tunnel in Gaza Where Israeli Hostages Were Held (Jerusalem Post)
  • After U.S. Pressure, Israel Approves Transfer of Frozen PA Funds to Norway - Sam Sokol
    Israel has been withholding tax revenues it collects on the PA's behalf that are transferred to Gaza, claiming the cash could be transferred to Hamas. The PA has refused to accept any of the tax revenues as long as the money for Gaza is not included. The U.S. has been pressuring Israel to release the funds.
        The Israeli government has now approved a plan to transfer the frozen funds to Norway, which will only transfer them to the PA with the express permission of Israel, with the U.S. serving as a guarantor of the plan's implementation. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Israeli Resolve Serves U.S. Interests - Prof. Eyal Zisser
    The U.S. was the first to stand by our side and embrace Israel after Hamas' murderous terrorist attack on Oct. 7. Since then, the Americans have continued to provide generous economic and military assistance, and also international political cover in a cynical and even hostile climate towards Israel.
        Yet the Americans are working to restrict Israel's freedom of action. They want the IDF to move to low-intensity fighting in Gaza, avoid holding territory there, and even demand the provision of aid to Gaza residents, enabling Hamas to continue its rule there. This is based on a long-standing American view of the region through Western eyes - as if Palestinian society and, in fact, all Arab societies have Western values. That is why the Americans pressed Israel to agree to let Hamas run in the 2006 Palestinian Authority elections, hoping this would lead to its moderation.
        One can only hope the Americans are aware that this war on Hamas has global implications that will affect Washington's standing in other parts of the world. After all, if Israel fails to achieve its war aims, it will be perceived as an American failure. And it will give tailwind to all those seeking to challenge the U.S.
        Friendship with the U.S. is an asset we must safeguard at all costs. But the U.S. will value us more if we stand our ground. Ultimately it will thank us when it realizes Israeli resolve is destined to serve them as well.
        The writer is a lecturer in the Middle East History Department at Tel Aviv University. (Israel Hayom)
  • Stop Punishing Our Allies while Rewarding Iran - Bianca Adair
    Continued appeasement of Iran under the guise of preventing the spread of war has predictably entrenched Iran and its allies, while U.S. passivity creates a leadership void that Ayatollah Khamenei is only too eager to fill. President Biden should instead pursue a strategy of neutralizing Iran's military and financial capacity to threaten U.S. allies and interests in the Middle East, and then contain Iranian aggression.
        The U.S. should share detailed, actionable targeting information on all of Iran's weapons depots and training camps in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen with a coalition of allies, including the UK, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel. Those targets must be destroyed to cripple Iran's ability to continue leveraging its terrorist proxies to fight on its behalf.
        At the same time, the U.S. must drop the pretext that Iran is a trusted player and can be induced with financial carrots to cooperate. Policies falling short of cutting off Iran's financial resources undermine any U.S. responses to the threats Iran poses.
        The writer, a former CIA operations officer with an expertise in Iran, is director of the Intelligence Studies Program at Catholic University. (The Hill)
  • Support for Israel Is Stronger than We Think - William Daroff
    An overwhelming majority of Americans say Hamas bears the responsibility for the Gaza war, including the majority of Republicans and Democrats, and the vast majority of American Jews support Israel in its war aims of bringing the hostages home and removing Hamas from power. The terror that Hamas practices represents an existential danger not only for Israel, but for the U.S., the West, and the entire world. The extremists using Judaism as their shield blocking access to Grand Central Terminal in New York or chaining themselves to the White House do not represent American Jews nor the American people.
        The writer is the CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. (Jerusalem Post)

Iran's Economic Attack: Blocking Israel's Trade Artery in the Red Sea - Aviram Bellaishe (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • On Nov. 19, 2023, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei called on the Muslim countries to "block Israel's [vital] arteries."
  • Iran is using the Houthis to prevent goods from reaching Israel through the Red Sea. Israel's Eilat Port has seen an 85% reduction in activity.
  • The aim is to increase the pressure on Israel at a time when Iran is in no position to take part directly in the war against Israel and the U.S. because of its own economic crisis.
  • Iran's economy is based on oil and its foreign currency revenues depend on its oil exports. It is necessary for the West to augment the pressure on Iran by ramping up economic pressure, among other things by preventing its illegal oil exports.
  • Israel should consider adopting a policy of an eye-for-an-eye or "a trade artery for a trade artery."
  • Israel should cooperate with international bodies to locate, track, and report on the Iranian tankers' violation of international laws on shipping, and consider more creative actions to hamper their movement.

    The writer, VP for Strategy, Security, and Communications at the Jerusalem Center, has served in senior government positions for over 25 years.

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