February 8, 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:

12 Smuggling Tunnels from Sinai Still Operational - Dov Lieber (Wall Street Journal)
    Israeli officials insist that underground tunnels in Rafah on the Egyptian border are a key route for smuggling weapons and materiel into Gaza, and that establishing more control over the border is key to demilitarizing Hamas and other armed groups in Gaza.
    Israel told Egypt there are at least 12 tunnels left between Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula, Egyptian officials said.
    "Without finishing in Rafah, it's impossible to talk about changing the reality with Gaza," said Michael Milshtein, former head of Palestinian affairs for Israeli military intelligence.
    "Leaving Rafah an open gate between the world and Gaza means that Hamas immediately will start reconstruction of its military capacities."

The IDF's Campaign inside Hamas Tunnels - Ron Ben-Yishai (Ynet News)
    When the IDF began incursions into Gaza City, Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar and his comrades fled from the subterranean Hamas command centers of northern Gaza to the compounds in Khan Yunis in southern Gaza where they likely remain.
    Now, IDF special forces are pursuing the group in the labyrinth of branching tunnels while the Hamas leadership flees and remains in constant motion with Israeli hostages as their human shields.
    The main tunnel facilities are located beneath hospitals, schools, mosques, clinics and UN facilities.
    The tunnel network in Khan Yunis is the largest of all, not only because it's the home base of Yahya Sinwar and Mohammed Deif, but also because the terrain in southern Gaza, geologically, is more conducive to digging, with tunnels deeper and wider than in northern Gaza.
    At the outset of the war, the IDF specifically avoided engaging in direct combat within the tunnels, concerned about the risks.
    The IDF later concluded that if they wanted to neutralize Hamas' leadership, there was a need to fight within the tunnel network.
    In the end, the IDF developed methods to detect the enemy from a distance and advance inside the tunnels without being detected.
    In one instance in Khan Yunis, IDF fighters surprised militants underground, awakened them from their sleep, and subdued them.
    In another case, IDF soldiers reached a blast door and successfully opened it. Behind it were three terrorists who surrendered.

Inside the Hamas Tunnels that Concealed Militant Leaders and Israeli Hostages - Dov Lieber (Wall Street Journal)
    Beneath the rubble of a bombed-out residential neighborhood in Khan Yunis lies a subterranean complex built to shelter senior Hamas leaders and hold Israeli hostages.
    An access shaft hidden in an unassuming family home leads to a sophisticated underground warren with several kitchens, fitted out with gas stoves and refrigerators, as well as sleeping quarters and bathrooms.
    The tunnels I saw appeared to have been abandoned with relative haste. Dishes remained in the sinks. A trash basket was filled with discarded medical supplies.
    After twists and turns, the tunnel opened into a living complex with tiled floors, walls and ceilings. Rooms were equipped with electric fans to deal with the stifling heat and humidity.

U.S. Seeks to End Israel-Hizbullah Fighting - Barak Ravid (Axios)
    The U.S. has been working to diffuse tensions and restore calm to the Israel-Lebanon border.
    Israel, meanwhile, has warned publicly that the situation along the border must change before it would allow the tens of thousands of evacuated Israeli citizens to go back to their homes near the border.
    A source said the U.S. believes Hizbullah has been underestimating the severity of the situation.
    Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah sent messages to the U.S. through intermediaries that he knows the U.S. controls Israel and would therefore stop it from going to war against Lebanon.
    The U.S. made clear to Nasrallah through Lebanese officials that this was not the case and warned against making a miscalculation.

IDF Technology Unit Applies Big Data to Save Lives in Gaza War - Yonah Jeremy Bob (Jerusalem Post)
    The IDF Lotem Technology Unit's big data collection and analysis capabilities are being applied to the Gaza war.
    On Oct. 17, at a time when Hamas was still firing hundreds of rockets per day, including large numbers toward Rishon Lezion, Lotem analysts broke down Hamas rocket firing patterns to determine where they would most likely place their rocket launchers to hit a funeral procession of the extended Zohar family in Rishon Lezion for family members killed by Hamas at Nahal Oz.
    The analysis led to concrete attacks by the IDF against Hamas targets.
    There were other cases where the IDF utilized big data to redirect firepower at specific areas on a predictive basis of where Hamas rocket launchers would be located.
    In another specific case, Lotem traced a pattern of rockets being fired toward Israel from a mosque and a school in a Gaza civilian area and was able to target the rocket-launching crews.
    Before the IDF invaded Gaza, Lotem analyzed where Hamas was likely to position its forces to be able to attack soldiers as they entered critical areas.
    The IDF was then able to preemptively target these areas, paving the way for a much cleaner entry by IDF ground forces into Gaza with much fewer casualties than had been anticipated.
    Lotem also enabled the IDF to preemptively target parts of Gaza where Hamas would need to place its rocket launchers to try to strike IDF mass staging areas near the border before the troops would enter.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Strike in Baghdad Kills Iranian-Backed Militia Commanders - Helene Cooper
    A U.S. Special Operations retaliatory drone strike on a vehicle in Baghdad on Wednesday killed two senior leaders of the Kata'ib Hezbollah Shiite militia - Arkan al-Elayawi and Abu Baqir al-Saedi - that U.S. officials blame for recent attacks on American personnel. (New York Times)
        See also Swarm of Suicide Drones Attacks U.S. Army Base in Syria - Yuval Barnea
    A U.S. army base in the Al-Omar oil field in the Kurdish-controlled region of northeastern Syria was attacked on Wednesday by a "swarm of suicide drones," according to Egypt-based Bayan-gate news. (Jerusalem Post)
  • House Foreign Affairs Committee Votes to Cut Off U.S. Aid to UNRWA - Marc Rod
    The House Foreign Affairs Committee voted 30-19 on Tuesday to immediately and permanently cut off all U.S. aid to UNRWA in response to allegations that some of its employees were involved in the Oct. 7 attack on Israel. Republicans argued that UNRWA's ties to terrorism, the use of its facilities to house Hamas infrastructure and weapons, and its use of antisemitic classroom materials are longstanding. Reps. Kathy Manning (D-NC), Jared Moskowitz (D-FL) and Brad Schneider (D-IL) voted in favor of the move.
        Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) said, "UNRWA is the most corrupt, antisemitic, terror-complicit agency perhaps ever, but certainly at the United Nations. Yes, there are humanitarian concerns, we all recognize it. But it can't go to UNRWA. Their time is up."  (Jewish Insider)
        See also After Suspending UNRWA Funding, U.S. Aims to Send Aid to Other Groups Operating in Gaza - Jacob Magid
    The U.S. is looking at sending its humanitarian funding for Gaza to other agencies after deciding last month to suspend aid to UNRWA, the State Department said Monday. "We're looking at what options exist for supporting civilians in Gaza through partners like the World Food Program, UNICEF and other NGOs," deputy spokesman Vedant Patel said. "We will redirect funding for UNRWA to other partners to provide assistance in Gaza." Typically, the U.S. provides UNRWA with between $300 and $400 million annually, making it the world's largest donor to the agency. (Times of Israel)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Intense Fighting in Khan Yunis
    IDF soldiers from the Commando Unit continued to engage in intense fighting in western Khan Yunis. Since Wednesday, the unit arrested dozens of suspects, including two who were involved in the Oct. 7 attacks. IDF Paratroopers and soldiers from the Givati Brigade eliminated more than 20 terrorists. In northern Gaza, soldiers from the 401st Brigade eliminated 10 terrorists in multiple encounters. The Nahal Brigade, operating in central Gaza, killed four Hamas terrorists. (Jerusalem Post)
  • IDF Soldiers Injured by Hizbullah Missile
    Numerous anti-tank missiles were fired by Hizbullah from Lebanon at Kiryat Shmona, Biranit, and Mt. Hermon in northern Israel on Thursday. Three soldiers were injured at an IDF base close to Kiryat Shmona. In response, IDF fighter jets struck at Hizbullah targets and a military compound near Khiam in southern Lebanon from which the missiles were fired. (Jerusalem Post)
  • 60 Percent of Gaza Aid Ends Up with Hamas - Yehuda Shlezinger
    According to Israeli military sources and political figures, 60% of the aid entering Gaza ends up with Hamas. "Even 10% of humanitarian aid reaching Hamas is very serious, so 60% is really bad," said a senior official. (Israel Hayom)
  • IDF Kills Senior Terror Operative, 2 other Gunmen near Tulkarem - Emanuel Fabian
    Undercover Border Police officers and IDF reservists killed senior terror operative Moatasem Ali and another two gunmen in the Nur Shams refugee camp near Tulkarem on Wednesday. Ali was responsible for previous shooting attacks against IDF troops. (Times of Israel)
  • Terrorist Killed by IDF Forces near Nablus
    A Palestinian terrorist opened fire on Thursday at IDF reserve soldiers stationed near the village of Deir Sharaf near the city of Nablus. IDF soldiers returned fire and killed the terrorist. The gunman hid behind a vehicle and hit Palestinian civilians present at the scene. (Jerusalem Post-Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • How the Gaza War Changed Israel's Vision of Security - Yaakov Katz
    On March 27, 2002, a Palestinian suicide bomber killed 30 Israelis who had just sat down for a festive Passover Seder, after a month which saw more than 100 Israelis murdered by Palestinians in attacks across the country. That same evening, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon ordered the Israel Defense Forces to come up with a plan to change the paradigm.
        Two days later Israel launched a full-scale offensive in the West Bank known as Operation Defensive Shield. The results of the offensive, which saw the Israeli military return to all the Palestinian cities it had evacuated a few years earlier as part of the peace process, have been felt now for 22 years.
        Israel did not defeat Hamas and Islamic Jihad back then. What it did was create a new security reality in which it can operate with freedom when and where it wants to. This is worth keeping in mind when thinking about a possible end to the ongoing war in Gaza.
        What Israel has essentially done is create the conditions needed to be able to continue to operate in Gaza in the months and years ahead, just as the IDF has been doing since 2002 in the West Bank.
        The U.S. and Europe will not like this, but will need to understand that Israel does not have a choice. The war, forced on Israel by the brutal Hamas massacre of 1,200 people, changes the way that the Jewish state will conduct security going forward. Israel no longer believes in the idea that high and thick fences will protect it or contain a threat like Hamas. Today it understands that security requires a strong offense just as much as a powerful defense.
        The writer is a senior fellow at the Jewish People Policy Institute.  (Newsweek)
  • The Fraudulent Case Against "Violent Settlers" - Liel Leibovitz
    U.S. officials are using pro-Palestinian NGO sources to back a controversial effort aimed at punishing the Jewish state. In November, a month after Hamas terrorists murdered 1,200 Israelis and kidnapped hundreds more, Israel's ambassador to the U.S. Michael Herzog attended a meeting on Capitol Hill. Instead of focusing on Hamas or Hizbullah, the lawmakers, including senior-ranking senators from both parties, wanted to focus on the risks posed by roving bands of allegedly violent settlers in the West Bank.
        Much of the information they were citing came from a single, ostensibly impartial source: Lt.-Gen. Michael R. Fenzel, who currently serves as the U.S. security coordinator to Israel and the Palestinian Authority (USSC). The USSC is well-known for its regular briefings and reports about "extremist settlers," which it provides to members of Congress. According to sources in and out of the U.S. government familiar with Fenzel's reports, nearly every claim presented as fact seems to have been lifted directly, sometimes verbatim, from the websites of highly partisan pro-Palestinian organizations.
        In the past 12 months, 13 Israelis were murdered by Palestinians in Jerusalem and 17 in the West Bank - not counting those slaughtered on Oct. 7, 2023 - while doing nothing more provocative than driving home or stopping for gas. The number of Palestinian civilians who have been killed by Israelis under such conditions over the same time period is zero. But the story the administration has been telling anyone who will listen is very different.
        By scrubbing any mention of the daily violence directed by Palestinian terror operatives against Jewish civilians living in the West Bank from his reports, Fenzel has eliminated the clear retaliatory motive for the vast majority of attacks by Israelis against West Bank Palestinians. Thinly laundered reports from expressly anti-Israel organizations, designed to support an illusion of innocent Palestinians being violently attacked by bloodthirsty Israelis, paint a picture of an Israeli equivalent to the Palestinian atrocities of Oct. 7, lending itself an easy "both-sides" posture.
        The Biden administration wants to isolate so-called "extremist settlers" as a major threat to regional stability. Biden's new executive order says they constitute "a serious threat to the peace, security, and stability of the West Bank and Gaza, Israel, and the broader Middle East region...[and are] threatening United States personnel and interests." Palestinian terrorism regularly attacking Israelis in Judea and Samaria, Jerusalem, and elsewhere went unmentioned. (Tablet)
  • Why the West Can't Deter Iran - Dan Zamansky
    The single dominant idea within Western commentary on the subject of the proper response to Iran's continuing attacks is the danger of escalation and the consequent need to avoid it. The practical implication of this nonsensical approach is that any aggressor, not just Iran, can attack the West, and then be shielded from effective countermeasures by the perceived necessity to avoid a so-called escalatory cycle. In substance, concerns about escalation have become a ready excuse for either complete inaction or insufficient action, in the face of attack on Western interests.
        The West's de-escalation obsession is part of a larger problem, a desire for a diplomatic solution to resolve security crises as if by magic. Michael Oren has diagnosed the consequences, that "by showing fear, rather than backbone, in the face of Iranian aggression, the U.S. is only inviting defeat."
        Israel's actions show how Iran can be dealt with. Multiple air strikes in Syria which have killed its military personnel have led Iran to withdraw senior officers from the country, and demonstrate its aversion to being sucked directly into a conflict. To put this more clearly, Iranians do not like to have their officers killed and are afraid that Israel will kill many more if Iran were to attack Israel directly.
        It is most unfortunate that American policy is currently incapable of following such a course of sustained military pressure, reflecting the West's continuing unwillingness to attack its enemies with sufficient strength and intensity. The futility of the limited strikes so far carried out against Yemen is brought into sharp relief by the fact that since the first strikes on January 11, sailings through the Red Sea have continued to decline.
        The situation cannot continue as it is. Either the course of Western policy will change, or Iran and others will assume that the West has become completely incapable of defending itself effectively, and all Western and pro-Western forces in the Middle East will come under continuously growing pressure.
        The writer is a British-Israeli historian. (Ynet News)
  • A Proportionate Response, Informed by Jewish Law - Shlomo Brody
    In the summer of 1982, Israel was strategically bombarding a besieged Beirut to uproot the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which had long terrorized the Jewish state from its northern border. During the siege, Shlomo Goren, Israel's chief rabbi and a supporter of the war, declared that Jewish law required Israel to allow combatants and noncombatants to flee Beirut.
        The great medieval scholar Maimonides had codified a Talmudic opinion that the "fourth side" of a besieged city must remain open as an evacuation corridor. Doing so gives combatants an incentive to flee; otherwise, they might fight to the finish, at great cost to both sides. The Israeli army agreed and left open two major escape routes from Beirut. The IDF had no interest in the PLO terrorists fighting to the last man. Goren would deem this gesture a prime example of how Judaism can teach the world how to fight wars ethically.
        Since Hamas' brutal Oct. 7 attack, Israelis are united in believing that the country must remove the threat of Hamas from its border. Yet they have not opposed their government's attempts to forewarn Gazan civilians of impending attacks, or to create evacuation corridors from neighborhoods in which Hamas embeds its fighters. Israelis want to minimize noncombatant casualties. The Jewish state's enemies target its citizens, but Israel will not respond in kind.
        The writer is executive director of Ematai and the author of Ethics of Our Fighters: A Jewish View of War and Morality. (City Journal)
  • Why Campus Antisemitism Matters - Leonard Saxe
    Title VI of the Civil Rights Act obligates a university to protect members of ethnic, racial, and religious groups from discrimination. Under the act, Jewish students must be treated in the same way as those who are members of other protected groups. But many universities seem not to acknowledge the problem.
        In the wake of the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas, as reports of antisemitic incidents spiked, my colleagues and I launched a program of research to document Jewish young adults' experiences of antisemitism. Since the war began, we have conducted surveys with nearly 7,000 Jewish young adults across the U.S.
        Not surprisingly, we found that antisemitism experienced by Jewish students is now far more prevalent than in the past. Many respondents commented that they were afraid to be recognized as Jewish. Schools with the highest levels of antisemitic hostility include elite private universities in the Northeast, as well as large public universities in California and the Midwest.
        1/3 of the Jewish students reported personal experiences of insult or harassment. Many said that they were blamed for Israel's actions because they were Jews. Respondents expressed far greater concern about antisemitism emanating from the political left than from the political right, even among those who identified as politically liberal.
        Historically, Jews have been the "canary in the coal mine" and anti-Jewish discrimination has often served as an early warning of broader societal turmoil. Confronting antisemitism on campuses is therefore not only important for members of the Jewish community, but also for higher education and the aims of civil society.
        The writer is professor of Jewish Community Research and Social Policy at Brandeis University and director of the Cohen Center for Contemporary Jewish Studies and Steinhardt Social Research Institute.  (Tablet)

  • The hopeless, corrupt, failed, and incompetent Palestinian Authority is no more capable of administering Gaza than it has been capable of administering the West Bank areas.
  • One wonders how and why serious international leaders continue to spout the absurd "two states" cliche as if it were a sort of magical panacea that, if repeated often enough, will somehow magically move out of the sphere of wishful thinking. It is inconceivable to imagine that a viable, peace-loving Palestinian political entity could materialize out of the present Middle East realities.
  • The idyllic vision of "two states living side by side peacefully" has never in fact been agreed to by the involved parties themselves - the Palestinians and Israelis. On the contrary, as agreed in the still valid Oslo Accords, the permanent status of the territories remains an open negotiating issue.
  • The accords make absolutely no mention of any Palestinian state entity. As such, repetition of the call for a "two-state solution" both prejudges the potential, future outcome of a permanent status negotiating process and seriously underestimates regional realities.
  • Clearly, a two-state solution could not be imposed on unwilling parties. It could only emanate from a negotiated settlement between Israel and a unified, fully representative, responsible, and capable Palestinian leadership, and not a conglomeration of terror groups.
  • A politically and economically unstable and non-viable Palestinian entity would represent an open invitation to more Iranian meddling and intrusion in much the same way as is occurring in Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen. This would constitute a constant and even greater threat both to Israel's security, as well as to regional and international stability.

    The writer, Director of the Institute for Diplomatic Affairs at the Jerusalem Center, served as Legal Adviser and Deputy Director-General of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and participated in the negotiation and drafting of the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians.

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