February 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:

Israel Is Building a Road Bisecting Gaza - David S. Cloud (Wall Street Journal)
    The Israeli army is expanding a road across central Gaza to facilitate its military operations, part of its plans to maintain security control there for some time.
    The corridor south of Gaza City stretches 5 miles from the Israeli border to the coast and will allow Israel's military to continue to move quickly along a secure route, even after most troops pull out.
    While the IDF plans to withdraw from populated areas, it is also building a 1-km. buffer zone just inside Gaza's border with Israel, where Palestinians would be barred from entry. U.S. officials have publicly voiced opposition to the creation of a buffer zone.
    Israeli officials say they have no intention to permanently occupy Gaza but plan to maintain "security control" there for an indefinite period.
    Israeli officials have said they don't intend to let displaced Gazans return to the north at least until military operations are complete there and a deal is reached to return the 130 hostages and dead Israelis kidnapped by Hamas on Oct. 7.
    IDF Col. (ret.) Miri Eisin called the east-west corridor "long-term temporary - certainly for all of 2024."

Israel Sinks Effort to Oust It from African Union - Etgar Lefkovits (JNS)
    Israel has thwarted an effort by South Africa and Algeria to deprive it of observer status in the African Union, the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem said on Tuesday.
    The initiative to oust Israel from the AU, as well as the effort to have it cut off relations with Israel and accuse it of genocide, all failed in a weekend vote at the AU annual conference in Ethiopia, as a coalition of African states formed to oppose the move.
    Dan Diker, President of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, noted, "Regretfully, South Africa has not overcome its apartheid past and instead of progressing with the rest of the African continent has regressed to become a proxy of the Iranian regime, as we previously saw with the weaponization of the ICJ [International Court of Justice] against Israel."

$14 Billion U.S. Aid Package for Israel Crafted for Multi-Front War - Ron Kampeas (JTA)
    The U.S. Senate last week approved $14 billion in wartime foreign aid to Israel. It still must be approved by the House.
    The Israeli aid is more than three times the $3.8 billion the U.S. allocates to Israel in a normal year.
    Israeli defense specialists say a lot of the funding is targeted toward replenishing weapons stockpiles - as well as helping Israel prepare for a potential future fight against Hizbullah.
    A senior Biden administration official told JTA, "This is for Israel to defend itself in a multi-front war and to be sure it can deter a multi-front war."
    $5.2 billion is for missile defense systems, including $4 billion for short-range missiles for Israel's Iron Dome.
    $1.2 billion is for the Iron Beam laser antimissile system that is still in development.
    To enable Israel's strikes to be more targeted, $801.4 million is for precision weapons.
    Israel used money from its annual U.S. aid to pay for wartime munitions, such as Iron Dome. Israel would use $3.5 billion in new funds to return to its priorities, including the modernization of F-15 and F-35 aircraft.
    $4 billion goes to restocking weapons the U.S. keeps stockpiled in the region. These stocks have been depleted after President Biden allowed Israel to access them.
    This allocation makes sure the U.S. has the "readiness to respond to any emergencies," the official said.
    The bill is said to include $2 billion for Palestinians' humanitarian needs. The bill bans any aid from reaching UNRWA, which Israel says acts in collusion with Hamas, and will be channeled through nonprofit organizations and international aid groups.

Report: Iran Enabling Houthi Attacks across the Middle East (U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency)
    Since 2014, Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force has provided the Houthis a growing arsenal of sophisticated weapons used to attack commercial shipping in the Red Sea.
    Between 2015 and 2023, the U.S. and its partners have interdicted at least 18 Iranian smuggling vessels, seizing ballistic missile components, UAVs, antitank guided missiles, and thousands of assault rifles, rocket components and other illicit weapons on their way to the Houthis.

Gaza War Strengthened American Jewry's Connection to Israel - Yair Kraus (Ynet News)
    The head of the Diaspora Department at the World Zionist Organization, Nerya Meir, spoke at a Ynet conference about the transformation that took place in American Jewry following Hamas' Oct. 7 attack on Israel.
    "I draw optimism from the issue of the attitude of U.S. Jewry toward Israel. They just got further and further away from the issue of Israel, and suddenly the war came and changed everything."
    "Until the war, 45% of all U.S. Jews had some kind of concern for Israel, in the sense of caring. Data published by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations about two weeks ago already show 80% support for Israel."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Vetoes Arab-Backed UN Resolution Demanding Immediate Ceasefire in Gaza - Edith M. Lederer
    The U.S. on Tuesday vetoed an Arab-backed UN resolution demanding an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza. The vote in the Security Council was 13 in favor and 1 - the U.S. - against, with the UK abstaining. It was the third U.S. veto of a Security Council resolution demanding a ceasefire in Gaza and came a day after the U.S. circulated a rival resolution that would support a temporary cease-fire linked to the release of all hostages. (AP)
  • Houthis Target Ship Linked to Humanitarian Aid for Yemen
    On Feb. 19, Iranian-backed Houthi terrorists fired two anti-ship ballistic missiles at the M/V Sea Champion, a U.S.-owned bulk carrier delivering grain to Aden, Yemen, for the benefit of the Yemeni people. One of the missiles caused minor damage. (CENTCOM)
        See also French Navy Intercepts Two Houthi Drones in Red Sea
    The French navy shot down two drones overnight Monday over the Red Sea where Yemen's Houthis have been attacking ships, the Defense Ministry in Paris said Tuesday. France has deployed the Alsace, a frigate with air defense capabilities, and the Languedoc, an anti-submarine frigate, in the area. (AFP-Al Arabiya)
  • Israel Denies UN Report Claiming Israeli Forces Assaulted Palestinian Women - Debbie Weiss
    Israel has denied allegations made on Monday by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) charging Israeli forces with rape, abduction and extrajudicial killings of Palestinian women in Gaza. Israel's Mission to the UN in Geneva said, "Israel forcefully rejects the despicable and unfounded claims published today by a group of so-called UN experts, including one who just days ago legitimized the massacre of Oct. 7 in which more than 1,200 people were murdered, executed and raped, and another who publicly doubted the testimonies of Israeli victims of gender-based and sexual violence."
        "These [UN] mandate holders have remained silent on the horrific sexual violence and gender-based violence perpetrated by Hamas on and since Oct. 7. It is clear that the co-signatories are motivated not by the truth but by their hatred for Israel and its people."  (Algemeiner)
        See also New Report on Hamas' Sexual Violence on Oct. 7 - Tamar Uriel-Beeri
    A new report detailing Hamas' sexual violence on Oct. 7, sent to decision-makers at the UN, was compiled by the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel. It analyzes confidential and public testimonies, eye-witness accounts, and interviews with victims, first responders and witnesses. (Jerusalem Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • IDF Kills Dozens of Hamas Terrorists in Zeitoun Neighborhood of Gaza City - Emanuel Fabian
    The IDF launched a new large-scale raid on Gaza City's Zeitoun neighborhood, striking dozens of Hamas targets including observation posts, weapon depots, and tunnels, the army said Wednesday. So far, dozens of Hamas operatives have been killed in clashes and by airstrikes. Meanwhile, the IDF is operating in new areas in eastern Khan Yunis, killing many Hamas operatives. (Times of Israel)
  • 3 Palestinian Gunmen Killed in Jenin - Emanuel Fabian
    Three Palestinian gunmen were killed and 14 terror suspects were detained by Israeli troops in the West Bank city of Jenin on Tuesday night, the Israel Defense Forces said Wednesday. IDF troops also seized weapons and located explosive devices planted under roads in Jenin. An airstrike was carried out against a group of Palestinian gunmen who were shooting at the troops.
        The Israeli military has intensified near-daily raids across the West Bank in the aftermath of Hamas' Oct. 7 attack, in operations aimed at dismantling Palestinian terror groups. (Times of Israel)
  • Hizbullah Drone Crashes near Acre - Emanuel Fabian
    A drone launched by Hizbullah in Lebanon crashed into the yard of a home in Bustan HaGalil near the northern city of Acre on Tuesday.
        Hizbullah claimed a series of attacks on northern Israel throughout Tuesday. No injuries were reported. The IDF struck numerous Hizbullah positions in southern Lebanon, in response to its rocket and missile attacks. (Times of Israel)
  • Israeli Arab "Took Photos, Gave GPS Coordinates to Hamas" - Israel Moskovitz
    Rami Habibullah, 43, a teacher in the Galilee village of Ein Mahil, revealed to interrogators that he had aided Hamas by taking photographs of a security facility producing ammunition and providing the precise GPS location of the facility, sending this information to Hamas operatives on Telegram in October. Habibullah also met Hamas operatives in Turkey and transferred tens of thousands of shekels to them on various occasions. He confessed to having supported Hamas for years."
        Habibullah told his interrogators, "I thought about sending more locations if they needed them after the first one. I thought about sending Highway 1, Highway 6, and the Azrieli Tower." He said he sought revenge after the deadly explosion at Al-Ahli hospital in Gaza in October, which was initially blamed on Israel but turned out to have been from a failed rocket launch by Palestinian Islamic Jihad. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Hamas Must Not Get Away with Its Crimes - Editorial
    Is the U.S. about to pull the plug on its support for Israel in its struggle with Hamas? Washington has put forward a draft UN Security Council resolution calling for a temporary ceasefire in Gaza. The American resolution is less problematic for Israel than the Algerian-drafted motion demanding an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, which was vetoed by Washington.
        The practical impact of a ceasefire would be to allow the people responsible for Oct. 7 to get away with the atrocity and regroup. No amount of cleverly worded resolutions will resolve anything until those who want to see the Jewish state wiped off the map end their warped hatred. (Telegraph-UK)
  • Is the West About to Hand Victory to Hamas? - Col. Richard Kemp
    Just a few short months ago, the West claimed to stand united with Israel as it launched a war of self-defense after the atrocities of Oct. 7. Now even Jerusalem's closest allies seem to want to stop the conflict in Gaza before the Israel Defense Forces have achieved their objective of the destruction of Hamas. The West has developed a defeatist tendency in recent years of pursuing negotiated settlements that never really lead to peace, only to running sores that inevitably flare up again and again, or indeed to the victory of our enemies.
        The new U.S. draft UN Security Council resolution on the war in Gaza calls for a "temporary" ceasefire "as soon as practicable." The danger is that it really wants to impose a "peace" deal that would leave Hamas partially intact and end up solving nothing. What the U.S. seems incapable of recognizing is that the Israeli people can accept no solution to the current conflict that leaves the country in a weaker position than it occupied on Oct. 6.
        Israel did not want the conflict. It was the necessary response to the shocking crimes of Oct. 7, the slaughter of civilians, and the taking of hostages - evil terrorist acts that Israel rightly wants to ensure can never happen again. If the IDF does not move forward with its plans, Israel knows that it will only be a matter of time before we see another conflict in Gaza, as well as emboldened terrorists in the West Bank and on its northern border. Worse, the terrorists would know that the U.S. would never allow Israel to truly defeat them.
        The writer, a former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, was chairman of the UK's national crisis management committee, COBRA. (Telegraph-UK)
  • We've Got to Stop Believing Hamas' Lies about Civilian Deaths in Gaza - Isaac Schorr
    The global news media would have you believe that the Israel Defense Forces fighting in Gaza have gone far beyond anything that could be justified in response to the barbaric Hamas assaults on Israel last October, in which more than 1,000 men, women and children were murdered in the most horrifying ways.
        It is completely unreasonable to believe the terrorists of Hamas on the matter of how many people Israel has killed. Yet that is precisely what the media and everyone else does. The Hamas figure is not a fact: it is terrorist propaganda. As the renowned military historian Lord Andrew Roberts noted in the House of Lords earlier this month, we would not believe Vladimir Putin or ISIS on casualties inflicted by their enemies: there is no reason to treat the rapists, torturers and murderers of Hamas any differently.
        Roberts went on to point out that it's estimated that more than 9,000 of the dead were not innocent civilians but active Hamas fighters - and even Hamas admits that its dead fighters are included in the total. If one then accepts the Hamas-concocted death toll for the sake of argument and makes allowance for the fact that Hamas and its allies are also killing Gazans, the IDF are killing less than two civilians for every Hamas fighter they take out.
        Roberts said, "I speak as a military historian. Less than 2:1 is an astonishingly low ratio for modern urban warfare where the terrorists routinely use civilians as human shields. It is a testament to the professionalism, ethics and values of the Israel Defense Forces." The UN has assessed that a more normal ratio in urban combat would be 9:1. There is probably no other army in the world which could operate in Gaza as surgically as the IDF is doing.
        Students of history and statecraft understand that evil on the scale of Hamas - which charged over a border to murder, rape, torture and burn alive men, women, and children for the crime of being born Jews - must be wholly destroyed, rather than tolerated. They are able to distinguish between the bombs that fell on Dresden and those that fell on London. (Telegraph-UK)
  • Hizbullah Claims Seven Villages in Northern Galilee are Part of Lebanon - Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah
    On May 25, 2000, Israel withdrew its troops from its security zone in South Lebanon under the pressure of Hizbullah's guerrilla attrition warfare. 24 years after the zone's establishment, Israel decided that redeploying along its international border with Lebanon could potentially put an end to its military confrontation with Hizbullah, the Shiite Iranian-directed militia. After consultation with the UN, Israel retreated to the "Blue Line."
        The three places Israel decided not to withdraw from were the Rosh Hanikra tunnel crossing, Ghajar village, and the Shab'ah farms. Israel claimed that these last two were not part of Lebanon since they were part of southern Syria until the Six-Day War in June 1967. Hizbullah, in concert with the Lebanese government, refused to recognize the Israeli claim.
        Hizbullah has raised an additional claim regarding seven Shia villages in the northern Galilee whose residents left their homes in the course of the 1948 war and never came back. Those seven villages had been initially part of Lebanon under the French mandate. In a later agreement between France and Great Britain, the villages were included in British-controlled mandatory Palestine, although their residents maintained their Lebanese citizenship.
        Following the 1949 armistice agreement between Lebanon and Israel, the Lebanese government accepted the demarcation of the borders between Lebanon and mandatory Palestine as drawn in 1923. Accordingly, Lebanon relinquished its claim to those seven villages, which remained under Israeli sovereignty. A hundred years later, Hizbullah is demanding the restitution of those villages, even at the cost of a military confrontation with Israel.
        The writer was formerly Foreign Policy Advisor to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Deputy Head for Assessment of Israeli Military Intelligence. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

  • As a basic principle of the international law of armed conflict - as well as basic humanity - attacks against civilian sites are prohibited, unless those sites are used for military purposes. According to the U.S. Department of Defense law of war manual, if a hospital is used for "interference, direct or indirect, in military operations, such as the use of a hospital as a shelter for able-bodied combatants or fugitives, as an arms or ammunition store, as a military observation post, or as a center for liaison with combat forces," such uses can lead to a hospital losing its protected status.
  • Because of all the special protections surrounding hospitals, they have increasingly been used for military purposes by combatants such as al-Qaeda, Islamic State, and especially Hamas, who do not follow the laws of war and intentionally shield themselves behind protected objects and groups. As a result, the U.S. and many other countries have recently had to conduct operations against enemy forces in hospitals.
  • While the U.S. encountered only sporadic use of hospitals in Afghanistan and Iraq, in Gaza, in almost every hospital the IDF has arrived at, it has uncovered and published military use by Hamas, which purposefully and systematically developed a strategy to use Gaza's hospitals for military purposes. Hamas exploits the laws of war and public sensitivity to both hamper the IDF's actions and invite international condemnation.
  • In Gaza's largest medical complex, the Al-Shifa hospital, the IDF found weapons, ammunition, and equipment in many of the buildings, as well as a large Hamas tunnel with a full command and control architecture utilizing the hospital's power sources that had been constructed purposely under the hospital grounds. Hamas military activity was also documented at Sheikh Hamad hospital, Al-Quds hospital, Indonesian hospital, Al-Rantisi hospital, Kamal Adwan hospital, and Al-Nasser hospital.
  • To date, Israel has followed the rules when interacting with hospitals. It has provided warning before acting, and has gone beyond the requirements of the law. It has facilitated evacuation, provided its own supplies to the hospital, and helped provide alternative medical facilities until the ones being searched can restore full activities. Israel has refrained from attacking hospitals from the air, even where it would be lawful to do so, and has left hospitals as quickly as possible, allowing them to resume full operations.

    The writer is chair of urban warfare studies at the Modern War Institute at West Point.

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