January 31, 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:

Iran-Aligned Iraqi Militia Announces Suspension of Attacks Against U.S. Troops - Timour Azhari (Reuters)
    The Iran-aligned Iraqi armed group Kataib Hezbollah announced on Tuesday the suspension of all its military operations against U.S. troops in the region.
    Kataib Hezbollah is the most powerful faction in the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, an umbrella group of Shi'ite armed factions that have claimed more than 150 attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria since the Gaza war began.
    See also Iran-Backed Militia's "Suspension" Won't Change U.S. Plans for Reprisal, Pentagon Says - David S. Cloud (Wall Street Journal)
    President Biden said Tuesday that he had decided on the U.S. response to an Iraqi militia drone strike that killed three American soldiers, emphasizing that the U.S. held Iran responsible but didn't seek war with Tehran.
    "They're supplying the weapons to the people who did it," Biden said.
    Maj.-Gen. Pat Ryder, a Pentagon spokesman, said the Iraqi militia's announcement wouldn't affect planning to retaliate for Sunday's drone strike against a small U.S. outpost in Jordan.
    Iraqi militia groups with close ties to Iran have attempted more than 165 rocket, missile and drone attacks in Iraq and Syria since mid-October. This was the first attack that resulted in U.S. deaths.
    For decades, Iran has provided the financial and military backbone of a network of loyal militias across the Middle East that broaden its military footprint and push back against American and Israeli influence.
    Since Oct. 7, Iran's network of armed groups has stepped up attacks on Israeli or U.S. interests.

Expert: Israel Minimizes Civilian Casualties More than Anyone in History (Jerusalem Post)
    Israel has done more to prevent civilian casualties in Gaza than any other army in the history of war, John Spencer, Chair of Urban Warfare Studies at the Modern War Institute at West Point and a retired U.S. military officer, argued on X on Tuesday.
    Spencer provided multiple examples of precautions that the IDF takes that other armies do not, at least not to the same extent, or even at all.
    He noted that the IDF will "provide [a] warning and evacuate urban areas/cities before the full combined air and ground attack begins. While the tactic does alert the enemy defender and provide them the military advantage to prepare further, it is one of the best ways to prevent civilian casualties."

Iranian Charged with Hiring Hit Men to Kill Exiles in Maryland - Leo Sands (Washington Post)
    The U.S. Justice Department has charged Iran-based Naji Sharifi Zindashti, 49, with recruiting a team of gunmen to assassinate a man and woman residing in Maryland after one of them defected from Iran.
    Zindashti offered to pay two Canadian nationals $370,000 for the murders.
    The "charges show a pattern of Iranian groups trying to murder U.S. residents on U.S. soil," Assistant Director Suzanne Turner of the FBI's Counterintelligence Division said Monday.

U.S. Students Have a History of Taking the Wrong Side - Rafael Medoff (Jerusalem Post)
    A recent poll showed only 27% of Americans aged 18 to 29 as more sympathetic to Israel than to the Palestinian Arabs, as compared to 63% of Americans 65 or older.
    The reason for their hostility is their ignorance of the history and facts of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
    Ignorance among the younger generation about foreign affairs is not a new problem in America.
    In the 1930s, polls found 63% of college students favored unilateral American disarmament.
    In 1934, 25,000 American college students took part in a one-hour walkout from classes to demonstrate their opposition to U.S. involvement in any war.
    The strike mushroomed to 175,000 participants in 1935, then 500,000 in 1936 - nearly half the national college student population.
    President Franklin D. Roosevelt told the American Youth Congress that their positions were "based perhaps on sincerity, but, at the same time, on 90% ignorance" of the subject matter.
    "There is room for improvement in common-sense thinking and definite room for improvement in the art of not passing resolutions concerning things one doesn't know anything about."
    The writer is founding director of the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies.

Israel at War: Daily Zoom Briefing
by Jerusalem Center Experts
View Daily Briefing at 4:00 p.m. (Israel), 9:00 a.m. (EST)
    View recent briefings

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S.: The International Community Should Call on Hamas to Lay Down Its Arms and Release Every Single Hostage
    U.S. Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Tuesday: "If Hamas actually cared about the needs of the Palestinians in Gaza, they would end this conflict today. This is a conflict Hamas set in motion on October 7, when they carried out the deadliest attack against Jews since the Holocaust. And so, the entire international community should call on Hamas to lay down its arms, to stop using civilians as human shields, and to release every single hostage."   (U.S. Mission to the UN)
        See also U.S. Calls for "Fundamental Changes" before UNRWA Funding Resumes - Matt Berg
    The U.S. needs to see "fundamental changes" at UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, before it resumes funding the agency, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Tuesday. After Israel said several UNRWA staffers took part in abductions and killings during the Hamas attack on Israel on Oct. 7, top donors including the U.S. and Germany suspended funding pending an investigation.
        "We need to look at the organization, how it operates in Gaza, how they manage their staff and to ensure that people who commit criminal acts, such as these 12 individuals, are held accountable immediately," she said. The U.S. has given nearly $1 billion to UNRWA in the past three years, including $296 million in 2023. (Politico)
        See also EU Demands Urgent Audit of UN Palestinian Refugee Agency
    The EU on Monday demanded an "urgent" audit of the UN Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA and said it is reviewing funding, following Israeli allegations that some staff participated in Hamas' Oct. 7 attack. The audit must be led by European Commission-appointed experts and conducted alongside a UN investigation into the claims, said commission spokesman Eric Mamer. The EU is one of UNRWA's top donors. (AFP)
  • Defense Minister Says Israeli Civilian Presence in Gaza Will Not Be Allowed - Barak Ravid
    Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told U.S. officials last week that Israel will not allow the rebuilding of Israeli communities inside Gaza. U.S. Ambassador to Israel Jack Lew and U.S. envoy for humanitarian affairs David Satterfield asked Gallant about the buffer zone being built near the border. Gallant stressed the buffer zone would be temporary and for security purposes only.
        Maj.-Gen. Oded Basyuk, head of the IDF Operations Directorate who attended the meeting, said the IDF wouldn't allow Israeli civilians to enter the buffer zone because it would contradict the security purpose, a senior Israeli official said. (Axios)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • After War Ends, Israel Will Maintain Military Control of Gaza - Emanuel Fabian
    Israel will maintain military control of Gaza once the war against Hamas is over, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday.
        Referring to the recent counterterror operation inside a hospital in the West Bank city of Jenin, he said, "This is military freedom of operation at the highest level, and yet we don't control the area in a civilian sense. This is achievable [in Gaza as well], and it will take time." He added that the work of destroying Hamas' existing military infrastructure "is finite" and is moving forward despite significant challenges. (Times of Israel)
  • IDF Reveals Atlantis Project to Flood Gaza Tunnels - Yoav Zitun
    The Israel Defense Forces on Tuesday revealed new details about the Atlantis project to channel large volumes of seawater into underground terrorist tunnels in Gaza. Professionals analyzed the soil characteristics and water systems in the area to ensure that damage is not done to the area's groundwater. Pumping of water is only carried out in tunnel routes and locations that are suitable. (Ynet News)
  • IDF Troops Continue Gaza Operations, Eliminate Hamas Terrorists
    The Israel Defense Forces continued their active engagement in the northern and central regions of Gaza over the past 24 hours, eliminating a significant number of terrorists, the IDF Spokesperson Unit reported on Wednesday.
        Through several confrontations with armed militants, the 401st Brigade operating in the northern region eliminated more than 15 terrorists affiliated with Hamas. In an operation targeting a terror enclave situated within a school compound, 10 Islamic Jihad operatives were apprehended. Furthermore, IDF forces uncovered and destroyed five rockets primed for launch.
        The Nahal Brigade operating in the central region eliminated over ten armed terrorists within a remarkably short timeframe. Additional hostile elements were neutralized as IDF units expanded their operations.
        On the outskirts of the northern area, the 5th Brigade, in collaboration with Air Force units, engaged and eliminated armed terrorists operating dangerously close to IDF positions. In the course of these operations, significant caches of weapons, documents, and military equipment belonging to Hamas were discovered. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israeli Intelligence Chiefs in Cairo to Discuss Egypt-Gaza Border - Yonah Jeremy Bob
    IDF intelligence chief Maj.-Gen. Aharon Haliva and Israel Security Agency head Ronen Bar visited Egypt on Monday to discuss the future of the Egypt-Gaza border. Israel wants to begin acting to end Hamas control of the border, cutting off the Egypt-Gaza border tunnels and building a new obstacle on that border to make smuggling more difficult. (Jerusalem Post)
  • IDF Jets Strike Syrian Army Positions in Response to Rocket Attack - Emanuel Fabian
    The IDF says fighter jets carried out strikes against Syrian Army positions in the Daraa area in southern Syria Tuesday night in response to a rocket attack on the southern Golan Heights. Three rockets fired from Syria hit open areas.
        On Wednesday morning, several rockets were fired from Lebanon at Menara and Kfar Yuval, landing in open areas and causing no injuries. The IDF carried out artillery shelling in southern Lebanon to foil planned Hizbullah attacks. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Why the International Court of Justice Ruling Is Unsatisfactory - Raymond Wacks
    Provoking Israel by their despicable depravity of Oct. 7, the butchers in Gaza have reaped a whirlwind whose calamitous consequences will endure for decades.
        It is extraordinary that the judges fail to acknowledge the critical fact that Israel is fighting an enemy that is demonstrably committed to the Jewish state's annihilation. They surprisingly overlooked the terrible reality that Israel's cold-blooded foe hides its fighters, weapons, and hostages in a subterranean city, and operates among civilians in schools, mosques, and hospitals. It also continues to fire rockets into Israel.
        The court uncritically concurs that various bellicose statements, uttered in the aftermath of the gruesome Oct. 7 attacks, demonstrate the requisite intention by Israel to commit genocide. A moment's thought would explain why, following the barbaric, sadistic onslaught, which left at least 1,200 dead, many wounded, and 250 taken hostage, certain Israeli political and military leaders promised vengeance and retaliation for the unspeakable suffering that befell so many innocent citizens and foreign visitors.
        The writer is Emeritus Professor of Law and Legal Theory at the University of Hong Kong, and was previously Professor of Public Law at the University of Natal in Durban, South Africa. (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
  • Israel Is the Frontline in the Battle for Freedom - Dr. Fiamma Nirenstein
    On Oct. 7, Israel did not only suffer the deadliest antisemitic attack since the Holocaust, but Jews worldwide must now contend with an army of genocidal lies, ignorance, defamation and denial. The peak of this horrific eruption of racism was the blood libel that the once-noble South Africa brought before the International Court of Justice, falsely accusing Israel of genocide.
        It was a bitter irony to see Israel in the dock rather than Hamas, which committed a genuinely genocidal assault that it documented with bloodthirsty pride. Those who target the Jewish people always have the ultimate ambition of destroying liberal democracy and the Judeo-Christian values on which it is built.
        The legacy inherited from Nazism has now been witnessed by some who themselves survived the Nazis' crimes. Gina Semetrich was 91. Originally from Czechoslovakia, she emerged from the Holocaust to rebuild her life and family in Kissufim, a kibbutz near the border with Gaza. On Oct. 7, she was beaten and murdered by Hamas Nazis.
        Sara Jackson, 88, another survivor of the Holocaust, barricaded herself in her home at Kibbutz Sa'ad, just as she had done during a pogrom in Poland decades ago. She helped shelter three boys who had managed to escape the Nova Festival, where 360 innocents were massacred.
        We must courageously face what is happening. We must accept that Israel has no choice but to end this war by destroying the new ISIS on its border with a victory on the most difficult battlefield imaginable. "Never again" means understanding that Israel is now the frontline in the battle for freedom and for life itself. And it is fighting for all of us.
        The writer, a fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, served as vice president of the Committee on Foreign Affairs in the Italian Chamber of Deputies. (JNS)
  • Israeli Public Relations Will Not Solve the Problem of the World's Moral Bankruptcy - Irwin J. Mansdorf, Ph.D
    By agreeing to even hear South Africa's spurious "genocide" charge against the Jewish state, the International Court of Justice failed miserably. There was nothing that any Israeli public relations could have done about it. The ICJ took seriously a charge that was simply ludicrous and absurd, as any reasonable person would recognize. Yet here were judges, who are supposed to represent right vs. wrong, failing to exercise not only proper legal judgement but also simple common sense.
        The fact that judges who were trained in Western democracies were part of this farce is even more disturbing. So was the fact that the treaty creating the ICJ was formulated in the wake of a genocide against the Jews of yesterday, but failed to protect Jews from a party that wishes no less for the Jews of today. It is inconceivable that these judges were not fully aware of the truth. They simply did not care.
        In a ridiculous move, the ICJ accused Israeli President Isaac Herzog, a consensus figure in Israel known for his moderation and mild-mannered personality, of engaging in "incitement" by using language that any rational person would consider appropriate after the type of attack perpetrated by Hamas. We are dealing with a distorted value system, not a lack of information.
        It is senseless to believe that, after experiencing the atrocities of Hamas, Israel would have to "explain" anything. It is futile to continue trying to convince people with debased moral standards that beheading, rape, kidnapping and random murder are wrong. Rather than investing energy and resources into convincing others, we would be better served by continuing our fight to be a "light unto the nations" and doing what is right.
        The writer is a fellow at the Jerusalem Center of Public Affairs specializing in political psychology and a member of the emergency division of the IDF Homefront Command. (JNS)

Abolish the UN's Palestinian Refugee Agency - Bret Stephens (New York Times)
  • UNRWA employees were involved in the Hamas massacre of Oct. 7 and Israeli intelligence estimates that 1,200 of UNRWA's 12,000 employees in Gaza have links to Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
  • But the fundamental problem isn't that UNRWA is infested with terrorists and their sympathizers. It's that UNRWA may be the only agency in the UN system whose central purpose is to perpetuate grievance and conflict. It should be abolished.
  • The UN has two agencies dedicated to the plight of refugees. One, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, is responsible for nearly all the world's 30 million refugees, with a mandate to help them resettle in third countries if they can't go home. The other is UNRWA. No other group except for Palestinians gets its own permanent agency.
  • Why? In part, because neighboring Arab countries refused to fully absorb Palestinian refugees. The changing borders and independence movements of the postwar era produced millions of refugees, including 800,000 Jews who were kicked out of Arab countries that had been their homes for centuries. Nearly all of the world's refugees found new lives in new countries - except for Palestinians.
  • The Palestinians have been kept as perpetual refugees as a means of both delegitimizing Israel and preserving the irredentist fantasy that someday their descendants will "return" through the elimination of the Jewish state. UNRWA's very existence keeps this hope alive.
  • Palestinians should be citizens of the countries in which they live - just as some two million Arabs are in Israel. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict can't be solved so long as millions of Palestinians have been turned into the world's only permanent refugees. By doing that, UNRWA makes itself an obstacle to peace.

Daily Alert is published Sunday through Friday during the war.
Unsubscribe from Daily Alert.