February 11, 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:

Why Israel Is Winning in Gaza - Prof. Edward Luttwak (Tablet)
    From the start of Israel's counteroffensive into Gaza, almost all the media military experts immediately warned that Israel could not possibly defeat Hamas.
    They said its invasion of Gaza would certainly result in a horrifying number of Israeli casualties, before resulting in a bloody stalemate.
    And that was before it was realized that there were hundreds of miles of tunnels beneath Gaza, from which fighters could emerge, set up instant ambushes, and then safely escape.
    Yet as of this writing, the actual number of Israeli soldiers killed in the counteroffensive is 225, a very small number, given the magnitude of the forces involved on both sides and the exceptional complexity of the battlefield.
    The Gaza fighting to date has been an exceptional feat of arms. A conservative estimate is that 10,000 Hamas fighters have been killed - a 1 to 44 kill radio.
    Then there is the unique equipment of the IDF. Israeli Merkava tanks were not penetrated and cooked by the Russian Kornet missiles that Hamas has.
    In addition to its thick armor, each Merkava has its own Trophy counterweapon that intercepts incoming missiles and rockets at close range.
    Also unique to Israel is the Namer infantry carrier, a battle taxi that allows Israeli troops to move about in perilous urban space protected by more armor than any combat vehicle in history.
    The locked-down crew can see everything on large screens whose images come from microcameras safely embedded in the armor.
    When Israel's infantrymen dismount and advance on foot, they are guided by the warnings and directions of those who monitor the movement of any enemies close by with the cameras of their mini-drones that look for snipers and mortar crews in the next street over.
    Moreover, the IDF troops in Gaza are determined to fight as hard and as long as necessary to grind down Hamas until nothing is left.
    It is now evident that the tactical victory that Hamas achieved on Oct. 7 has become a leading driver of its strategic defeat, by compelling the Israeli government to persist and by motivating its troops to fight until Hamas' destruction.
    The writer is a contractual strategic consultant for the U.S. government.

Germany Deploys Air Defense Frigate to Red Sea - Sebastian Sprenger (Defense News)
    The German air defense frigate Hessen set sail Thursday toward the Red Sea, marking Berlin's contribution to a growing international naval protection force for cargo ships transiting the crucial commercial route against Houthi attacks.

The UN Refugee Agency in Gaza and Hamas - Patrick Kingsley (New York Times)
    When the UN launched an investigation a decade ago into whether some of its employees in Gaza were members of Hamas, it was not long before a senior UN legal officer in the territory started receiving death threats.
    First there were emails. Then came a funeral bouquet, delivered with the legal officer's name. Finally, a live grenade was sent.
    The legal officer was evacuated. This is part of the back story to the current crisis embroiling UNRWA.
    Israel says UNRWA is a completely compromised organization that is too weak to protect against infiltration and needs to be replaced by a more neutral aid group.
    Philippe Lazzarini, UNRWA's commissioner general, said Friday, "Our employees are part of the social fabric of Gaza and its ecosystem. And as part of the social fabric in Gaza, you have also Hamas."

UK University Rabbi Goes into Hiding after Death Threats over IDF Service - David Barrett (Daily Mail-UK)
    Rabbi Zecharia Deutsch, a chaplain at Leeds University, was forced into hiding with his family on Thursday at the advice of police after receiving hundreds of malicious calls including death threats over his role as an IDF reservist.
    Pro-Palestinian campaigners have accused Rabbi Deutsch of "genocide" after he returned to Israel after Oct. 7 to serve in the Israel Defense Forces.

Arab Israelis Operated under Direction of Hamas (i24News)
    Rami Habiballah, an Arab Israeli resident of the northern Israeli town of Ein Mahil, was arrested in January together with two accomplices after taking photos of a military site and recruiting other operatives at the direction of Hamas, the Israel Security Agency revealed on Sunday.
    He had reached out to Hamas and wanted to promote terrorist activities in Israel.
    Habiballah sent a photo of a military site near his residence and its exact location, in order for Hamas to fire rockets at the sensitive area.

Israel at War: Daily Zoom Briefing
by Jerusalem Center Experts
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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Netanyahu: Not Operating in Rafah Means Losing the War - Meredith Deliso
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with ABC News as Israel prepares to launch a ground assault in the southern Gaza city of Rafah. "We're going to get the remaining Hamas terrorist battalions in Rafah, which is the last bastion," he said.
        The U.S. has said Israel must consider the potential impact on the hundreds of thousands of people living there. "I agree with the Americans," Netanyahu said. "We're going to do it while providing safe passage for the civilian population so they can leave....We're not cavalier about this. This is part of our war effort to get civilians out of harm's way. It's part of Hamas' effort to keep them in harm's way."
        "Those who say that under no circumstances should we enter Rafah are basically saying, lose the war. Keep Hamas there."  (ABC News)
  • Iran Recruiting British Muslims to Spy on Jews and Dissidents - Natalie Lisbona
    Iran is recruiting British Muslims on pilgrimages in the Middle East to spy on Jews and dissidents in the UK. Recruiters from the Revolutionary Guards approach British Shias visiting religious sites in Iran and Iraq. They are told to return to the UK and gather information on prominent British Jews or targets such as synagogues. Some spy on British-based Iranian dissidents.
        On Feb. 8, an Israeli official said that since Hamas' Oct. 7 massacre, they had given a higher-than-usual number of warnings to the UK over potential attacks by Iranians or their proxies. Experts have also warned that some Iranians who come to study at British universities on state scholarships are also spies.
        Kasra Aarabi, of United Against Nuclear Iran, said IRGC recruiters did not focus on hiring British Iranians, who are usually secular and oppose the Ayatollah regime. But British Shias who originated from Pakistan, Iraq and Lebanon were targeted. Most British Muslims belong to the Sunni sect of Islam. But there are up to 400,000 UK Muslims who belong to the Shia sect, which is the state religion of Iran. (Daily Mail-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • IDF Uncovers Hamas Intelligence Center under UNRWA HQ in Gaza City - Emanuel Fabian
    Hamas hid its data center and server farm - complete with an electrical room, industrial battery power banks and living quarters for Hamas terrorists operating the computer servers - beneath the headquarters of the UNRWA Palestinian refugee agency in the upscale Rimal neighborhood of Gaza City. New intelligence emerging from Israel Security Agency interrogations of captured terrorists helped pinpoint its location.
        The IDF in recent weeks has returned to carry out smaller operations in northern Gaza. Two Israeli officers were killed during the operation to reach the Hamas data center, both by sniper fire. The main entrance to the tunnel was located under a UNRWA school in the area. However, it had been blocked off by Hamas by the time troops arrived. Instead, combat engineers dug down eight meters to reach the underground passage.
        Hamas' data center contained half a dozen rows of server cabinets, each with racks of computers for Hamas' operations. Hard drives and some of the computers were taken to Israel to be investigated by intelligence authorities before the tunnel system was demolished in a large explosion. The IDF knows of several more "strategic" Hamas tunnels in Gaza that it will reach in time.
        Col. Benny Aharon said, "There is no doubt that UNRWA staff knew that [Hamas] was digging a massive tunnel beneath them....Whoever worked at UNRWA knew very well who was coming in, and who they were covering for. UNRWA provides cover for Hamas, UNRWA knows exactly what is happening underground, and UNRWA uses its budget to fund some of Hamas' military capabilities, this is for certain." The IDF said electrical cables leading from the UN building were providing power to the Hamas infrastructure belowground. (Times of Israel)
  • Biden Gives Israel 45 Days to Submit Report on International Law Violations - Hannah Sarisohn
    President Joe Biden issued a memorandum on Thursday asking countries receiving U.S. military funding to prove they're following international humanitarian and human rights laws. For weeks, reporters have pressed the White House and State Department to assess if Israel is following international law in the Gaza war.
        Biden's memorandum requires states receiving military aid to provide the State Department and Congress with thorough reports every fiscal year with details of any alleged law violations, explanations for military actions in question, and the process taken to asses legality in making those decisions. For countries actively involved in armed conflict, the memorandum requires the first assessment to be submitted within 45 days of Feb. 8, or the transfer of defense articles will be paused.
        White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Israel had been briefed on this memo and had reiterated a willingness to provide these types of assurances. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Hamas Is Retreating in Khan Yunis - Avi Issacharoff
    Driving toward Khan Yunis, one sees destruction of huge, almost biblical proportions. No home in the area is habitable and not a single person remains. This is a disaster that the Gazans and Hamas have brought upon themselves. It's uncertain whether they even comprehend the enormity and extent of the devastation, which will take many long years to repair. On "the day after" the war ends, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians will wish to return to their homes, only to find nothing but ruins.
        Hamas has retreated, is in hiding, and avoids direct confrontation with IDF soldiers, choosing instead to seek refuge in tunnels. They have abandoned Khan Yunis. Even if Hamas survives, it will not be able to offer any logical justification for the reckless gamble of Oct. 7, a cost that every Gazan resident is now bearing.
        "The IDF is functioning like an immense shredder," an officer described, "progressing incrementally every day....The battalion commander of Khan Yunis has absconded....Yet, the conflict is far from concluded. In our sector alone, approximately 200 members are still concealed within the tunnels. They navigate in civilian attire, unarmed, stashing their weapons in various hideouts, emerging to launch attacks before vanishing once more. In recent weeks, we haven't come across any group larger than four individuals."
        The writer, a veteran Israeli journalist focusing on Palestinian affairs, is one of the creators of the TV series "Fauda."  (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • There Are No Historical Comparisons to What Israel Has Faced in Gaza - John Spencer
    Everyone wants to compare Israel's war against Hamas in Gaza to other battles or wars. Israel is fighting a defensive war predominately in urban areas and not a single urban battle. Israel is a military that follows the laws of war, takes steps to prevent civilian casualties, facing 30,000 defenders in 400+ miles of tunnels and embedded in civilian areas and populations across multiple cities. The defenders use human shields.
        The defenders (Hamas) held over 200 (now 136) civilian hostages to include babies, launches thousands of rockets (+12k so far) at civilian populated areas of Israel, and the war is occurring within a few miles from Israel. There is no historical comparison to these contextual variables.
        Comparisons do not show there is a way to defeat a dug-in enemy defender without destruction even while implementing all precautions and limits on the use of force required by the laws of war.
        The writer is chair of urban warfare studies at the Modern War Institute at West Point. (X)
  • The Empty Sloganeering of a "Two-State Solution" - Danielle Pletka
    It is beyond ironic that the vile attacks of Oct. 7 have revived the notion of a two-state solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians - an idea that was, until that moment, politically moribund. But it remains the only idea available to the lazy diplomatic and peace-processing class, flailing to "do something" in response to the far Left's anti-Israel-driven outrage over the war in Gaza.
        The one question no one has bothered to ask is, Is it good for the Palestinians? And the short answer is, no. The fate of the Palestinians is of little genuine interest to their putative champions. To be "pro-Palestinian" has come to mean little more than to be anti-Israel. The rise of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) focused not on the actual lives of Palestinians but on the "virtue" of killing Israelis and other Jews.
        The PLO maintained its death grip on the reins of the Palestinian cause by insisting that no Palestinian move into permanent housing or demand equal rights in the Arab lands they occupied, thereby creating permanent stateless "refugees." How was this about the betterment of Palestinian lives? Even after the 1993 Oslo Accords, which created the Palestinian Authority, the question of Palestinian well-being at the hands of their own masters never entered the equation.
        In the West Bank and Gaza, we saw corruption, declining levels of education, collapsing economic security, Islamist indoctrination, murder, kidnapping, and crime - all at the hands of the PLO in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza, from which Israel withdrew in 2005. Right now, the Palestinian people are pawns, props in a local, regional, and global game that puts their real interests last.
        The writer is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. (National Review-AEI)
  • Ghost Town on the Gaza Border - Tunku Varadarajan
    There was life once in the little kibbutz of Nir Oz in Israel. Men and women grew wheat and potatoes. Gaza is visible from the outer ring of the kibbutz. There were 150 houses in Nir Oz, including those that were burned down, and every one is empty now, its residents dead, kidnapped or living elsewhere as "internally displaced persons." Only four houses remain undamaged. Flowers bloom alongside charred houses. Abandoned tricycles and strollers tell of a place that was full of children.
        Also dead is the two-state solution - the idea of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, which would give sovereignty to the people from whose midst came those who laid waste to this kibbutz on Oct. 7. For eight hours they hunted down the kibbutzniks, murdering 46 people and abducting 71, making Nir Oz proportionately the hardest-hit of the kibbutzim that Hamas invaded. No Israeli politician of consequence speaks today of a Palestinian state, except to dismiss the idea as insane.
        Amit Siman Tov, 40, who walked me around her ghostly quiet kibbutz, like her neighbors, wished the Gazans well. She recalls farmhands from Gaza working the fields with her father. "He was their good friend. They used to have coffee in our house. The relationship was positive." Before Oct. 7, she would point to Gaza during bike rides and tell her kids: "There are children and women living there, just like me and you." She wouldn't say that now. "Our trust has gone. Completely gone."
        She escaped with her life on Oct. 7, barricaded in their safe room, though the terrorists set the house on fire. She and her husband and four children laid down urine-soaked sweatshirts at the foot of the door to stop smoke from seeping in. The terrorists killed her mother, brother, sister-in-law, 5-year-old twin nieces, and 2-year-old nephew.
        Like many Israelis, a senior academic who has served as a policy adviser to several Israeli prime ministers scoffs at complaints of a "disproportionate" Israeli response to Hamas' atrocities. He would tell Gaza that "if you do to me something that I cannot tolerate, I will do something that you cannot tolerate, but at a much higher level of violence."
        Few Israelis disagree. They reject the view that Israel must forswear force if civilians might be hurt. That would give barbarians immunity, allowing them to destroy civilization because it is civilized.
        The writer is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and at New York University Law School's Classical Liberal Institute. (Wall Street Journal)

How Oct. 7 Has Changed Hearts and Minds in Israel - Dr. Michael Milshtein (Ynet News)
  • The unprecedented magnitude of the Gaza war has generated a profound change in hearts and minds. It has become an existential battle.
  • The strong, violent urges exhibited by Palestinians against Israelis as a whole on Oct. 7, and the lack of criticism and all-around disregard for the brutal massacres, going as far as to argue that they had never taken place, have led many Israelis to wonder whether this is a burning animosity rooted deep within the Palestinian collective mindset.
  • They are not only "sobering up" from the possibility of making peace but are also realizing that there is an enormous gap between the two communities with regard to moral values, truth, human life, and the ability to be empathetic toward others. The war has cast aside concepts such as coexistence and a political arrangement, creating instead an unprecedented blood score.
  • This development evokes dark thoughts about the Palestinian national movement and its relations with Israel. The ongoing war is the strongest blow ever to be delivered by the Palestinians to Israel. The Palestinians are priding themselves in the fact that they have now returned to center stage, while proving their ability to destabilize the entire world: from Lebanon, through the Red Sea, to within Western countries.
  • Not a single person in the Palestinian system has been heard wondering what prospects lay beyond these momentary accomplishments, when Gaza lies in ruins, the Israeli peace camp is going extinct, the concept of the two-state vision has become synonymous with a dangerous hallucination, and deep distrust toward Palestinians has seeped into Israeli society.
  • In the hearts and minds of the Israeli collective, the war has led to the assumption that Palestinian independence poses an existential threat to Israel since it has now been proven that the extensive freedom enjoyed by Gazans following the Israeli disengagement in 2005 was primarily utilized to accelerate a violent struggle.
  • Israel may be forced to determine - unilaterally - the physical borders separating it from the Palestinians while ensuring long-lasting control over the gates between this entity and the world - the border area between Gaza and Egypt. This vision may not be very appealing, but in the Middle East, it is sometimes more important to be realistic than optimistic.

    The writer is Director of the Palestinian Studies Forum at Tel Aviv University's Moshe Dayan Center.

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