February 22, 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 Secured Hizbullah Pact for Joint Attack on Israel, Documents Reveal - Yossi Yehoshua (Ynet News)
    Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar secured a commitment from Hizbullah before the Oct. 7 terrorist attack to launch a joint assault on Israel, according to documents discovered by the IDF in Khan Yunis.
    New findings show that Sinwar counted on this scenario, claiming to have received Hizbullah's commitment to its participation.
    One document revealed Sinwar saying, "We received a commitment that the axis will participate in the large liberation project due to the nature of the relationship we are working on."
    Additional documents stated that the operation in Israel will trigger concomitant action from the north, on which Hizbullah trained under the banner of "occupying the Galilee."
    According to an Israeli source, Hizbullah's basic desire was to join in immediately, but Iran held the organization back because it knew Israel would react forcefully.
    Essentially, Hizbullah's dangerous capabilities were not built by Tehran at a cost of a billion dollars a year to serve as a force multiplier for Hamas, but rather as a response to a potential Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear facilities.

Gaza Protests Swell Against Hamas - Hadar Adi (Ynet News)
    There is growing popular resentment against Hamas and its leader Yahya Sinwar in Gaza after 4 1/2 months of fighting, as more footage of Gazans calling for the downfall of Hamas continues to surface.
    Videos circulated overnight Tuesday depicted angry crowds chanting slogans against Hamas and Sinwar in the northern Gaza city of Jabaliya and in Rafah in the south.
    See also New Group Challenging Hamas Rule in Gaza - Einav Halabi (Ynet News)
    A group known as Gaza's Liberators has recently begun to openly challenge Hamas' rule, as living conditions in the territory continue to worsen.
    The group has been distributing anti-Hamas materials in displaced persons' encampments scattered around the southern city of Rafah, calling for public protests against Hamas.
    Gaza's Liberators has published videos of protests in northern Gaza, with added commentary such as, "May God take revenge on [Hamas leader] Sinwar, the dog who ravaged Gaza."
    In a statement on Wednesday, the group called on Hamas leaders to stop the war.
    "One word is what we need - help - and climb down the ladder. Save what's left of us from the onslaught of the Jews."
    "We have no shelters, no tunnels and no Qatari and Turkish hotels like you do."
    Another statement read, "A message to the people of Hamas - you have neither the right nor the permission to force the defenseless to die in your place."

U.S. Destroys More Houthi Missiles (Reuters)
    The U.S. military destroyed seven anti-ship missiles, one missile launcher, and a drone originating from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen, U.S. Central Command said Wednesday.

London High Court Rejects Suspending Arms Exports to Israel (AFP)
    The London High Court rejected a petition to suspend British arms exports to Israel, the lawyers for the plaintiffs said on Tuesday.
    A coalition of legal advocacy groups had asked the High Court in January to expedite a judicial review of the UK government's decision to keep selling military parts and arms to Israel.

Victory Remains Israel's War Objective - Prof. Edward Luttwak (UnHerd)
    Israel's victory in Gaza is far from a distant prospect.
    The destruction of Hamas' infrastructure can be measured in the hundreds of kilometers of subterranean tunnels that the IDF has penetrated, cleared and thoroughly wrecked.
    Since many of these housed rocket workshops, a clear indication of progress is the drastic decline in the number of rockets launched from Gaza each day.
    A second vector of progress is the killing, wounding or capture of fighters, with the Hamas death toll reported as 12,000.
    When Israel's final offensive begins in Rafah on the Egyptian border, it will only loosely resemble previous Israeli attacks.
    Rafah has very few of the high-rise towers and mansions of Gaza City and Khan Yunis. This makes street-fighting much simpler because there are no looming heights with firing positions for snipers.
    The writer is a contractual strategic consultant for the U.S. government.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Defends Israel at Top UN Court - Marlise Simons
    At the International Court of Justice in The Hague on Wednesday, Richard Visek, the acting legal adviser at the U.S. State Department, urged that the court not call for Israel's immediate withdrawal from the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem. "This conflict cannot be resolved through violence or unilateral actions," he said. "Negotiations are the path to a lasting peace."  (New York Times)
        See also At International Court of Justice, U.S. Argues Against Declaring Israeli West Bank Rule Illegal - Jeremy Sharon
    The U.S. called on the International Court of Justice on Wednesday not to issue a ruling calling for a unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank. Richard Visek, a legal adviser in the U.S. State Department, said, "The established framework for achieving a comprehensive and enduring peace is anchored in UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. At their core, these and subsequent resolutions call for...peace and security for states in the Middle East, through the acknowledgment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every state in the area."
        Visek said that it would not be conducive to the achievement of peace for the court to issue an opinion "that calls for a unilateral, immediate and unconditional withdrawal that does not account for Israel's legitimate security needs," which, he said, were underlined by the atrocities perpetrated by Hamas against Israel on Oct. 7. Visek also pointed out that international law does not provide for an occupation to be declared unlawful or void, regardless of its duration.
        The ICJ is currently holding six days of hearings following a request by the UN General Assembly for the court to issue an advisory opinion on the legality of Israel's 56-year-long rule in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem. Advisory opinions are non-binding and Israel has not sent a delegation to The Hague to argue against the petition. (Times of Israel)
  • The American Citizens Fighting and Dying for Israel in the Gaza War - Steve Hendrix
    Amichai Oster, 24, was in the U.S. when Hamas attacked Israel on Oct 7. Within days, he was on a plane, among thousands of Americans and American Israelis who rushed to join the fight in Gaza. Oster was killed when an explosion hit his combat unit in northern Gaza on Jan. 1, 2024, one of at least 23 American citizens to be killed in recent months while serving in the Israeli military or police, according to the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.
        Naftali Yonah Gordon, 32, was born in Queens. He had been working as a physiotherapist and raising two daughters in Jerusalem when he rejoined his former armored unit after Oct 7. His tank was hit by a missile on Dec. 7. Gordon's wife, Pesi Gordon, whose own mother grew up in New York, said, "he was very, very connected to Israel. He gave his life for it." Pesi's sister, Malki Roth, was 15 when she was killed in the bombing of a Sbarro pizza restaurant in Jerusalem in 2001.
        21 Americans in IDF units have been killed inside Gaza. Another died along Israel's northern border with Lebanon in an exchange of fire with Hizbullah. A 23rd U.S. citizen was killed in Jerusalem while serving in Israel's border police.
        At least 32 Americans were killed during the initial Hamas rampage on Oct. 7. At least 11 others were among those taken hostage. The State Department said six U.S. citizens are still held in Gaza. (Washington Post)
  • Iran Sends Russia 400 Ballistic Missiles - Parisa Hafezi
    Iran has provided Russia with 400 powerful surface-to-surface ballistic missiles capable of striking targets at a distance of between 300 and 700 km., sources told Reuters. The shipments began in January. An Iranian military official said there had been at least four shipments of missiles and there would be more in the coming weeks. Some of the missiles were sent to Russia by ship via the Caspian Sea, while others were transported by plane. UN Security Council restrictions on Iran's export of some missiles, drones and other technologies expired in October.
        Russia had already received missiles from North Korea. However, Ukraine's top prosecutor said on Friday the ballistic missiles supplied by North Korea had proven unreliable on the battlefield, with only two of 24 hitting their targets. By contrast, Jeffrey Lewis, an expert with the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, said the Iranian missiles were precision weapons.
        Tehran also supplies Shahed drones to Russia. Ukraine's air force said in December that Russia had launched 3,700 Shahed drones during the war. (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Palestinian Terrorists Attack Israeli Motorists near Jerusalem, 1 Dead, 8 Wounded - Keshet Neev
    One Israeli was killed and eight were wounded after three Palestinians opened fire at cars in a traffic jam on Highway 1 near Ma'ale Adumim just outside of Jerusalem, Israel Police confirmed Thursday. The terrorists came in two separate vehicles and shot at people sitting inside their cars, before they were killed on the scene by armed civilians. (Jerusalem Post)
  • IDF Downs Rocket Fired at Eilat
    The IDF intercepted a missile over the Red Sea early Thursday fired at the Israeli city of Eilat, using the Arrow defense system. "The missile did not enter Israeli territory and did not pose any threat to civilians," the IDF said, though rocket sirens were sounded in the city. (Ha'aretz)
  • Israel's Knesset Rejects Imposition of Palestinian State in 99 to 9 Vote - Sam Sokol
    The Knesset voted on Wednesday to back Prime Minister Netanyahu's declaration opposing any "unilateral" recognition of a Palestinian state. The symbolic declaration also received backing from members of the opposition, with 99 of 120 lawmakers voting in support. Israel says that any permanent accord with the Palestinians must be reached through direct negotiations between the sides and not by international dictates.
        "The Knesset came together in an overwhelming majority against the attempt to impose on us the establishment of a Palestinian state, which would not only fail to bring peace but would endanger the State of Israel," said Netanyahu. Israeli leaders argue that Hamas' brutal rampage inside Israel on Oct. 7 highlighted the extreme danger of an autonomous Palestinian entity near its population centers. The atrocities have led to soaring support for Hamas among Palestinians. (Times of Israel)
  • Video: IDF Destroys Tunnel Used by Hamas Leaders - Yonah Jeremy Bob
    The IDF on Wednesday revealed a strategic tunnel in Khan Yunis that Hamas' leadership used during the war, which the army has since destroyed. The IDF's elite anti-tunnel Yahalom unit has destroyed 11 strategic tunnels that constitute the "center of gravity" of Hamas' tunnel network, with each one requiring an investment of millions of shekels.
        As the IDF explored the tunnel network, it used special intelligence methods to identify Hamas terrorists, which made it easier to kill them in battle. Once the IDF had eliminated the Hamas forces protecting the inner strategic tunnel area, they found extensive sleeping quarters, electric and water infrastructure, bathrooms, and kitchens stocked with food. The IDF said this strategic tunnel runs for more than a kilometer and had been used by Hamas leaders to manage the war.
        Yahalom has found 1,325 grenades, 940 improvised explosives, 696 rocket-propelled grenades, and many other weapons. The unit has mapped over 100 km. of tunnels and completely destroyed over 317 significant tunnel shafts, in addition to neutralizing a much larger number of tunnel shafts. (Jerusalem Post)
  • IDF Advancing Gaza City Pilot to Have Locals Take Over Aid Distribution
    The IDF has met with a group of Palestinian community leaders to establish a local Palestinian body to take charge of aid distribution as an alternative to Hamas in the Zeitoun neighborhood of Gaza City, Israel's Channel 12 reported Wednesday. The report noted the biggest challenge would be securing the area "to prevent Hamas from interfering."  (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Why Israel Will Not Let Up in Its War on Hamas - David Powell
    Israel has been under severe external pressure to halt its war against Hamas and not to pursue the leaders of the group into their last stronghold, Rafah in southern Gaza. The chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, Lt.-Gen. Herzi Halevi, responded on Feb. 13 that, while he appreciated advice from Israel's allies, his forces were capable of isolating their enemy from the civilian population and would work to evacuate civilians before launching an offensive against the remaining Hamas battalions in Rafah.
        Israel's war cabinet, which includes Netanyahu's chief political rival, appears adamant that the army cannot leave Hamas and its leader Yahya Sinwar intact in Rafah, as to do so would be a strategic defeat for Israel. Hamas would rightly claim victory simply by having survived and Hizbullah would be emboldened to step up its attacks across Israel's northern border.
        The trauma of Oct. 7 remains strong in Israel, where most people have personal experience of relatives or acquaintances killed or kidnapped or called up to fight in Gaza. For the outside world, those events have been largely eclipsed by the suffering of Gazan civilians. But, for most Israelis, the war, while not one they sought, needs to be fought to the end so that the existential threat that Hamas poses is finally removed. (Al Arabiya)
  • To Establish a Palestinian State Now, after October 7, Would Be a Strategic and Moral Failure - Eran Hermoni
    When the Oslo Accords were signed, I deeply believed in the political process of compromise and a peaceful solution. I sought to promote the two-state solution for years. But I can't accept it when I hear people calling for Israel to act now in order to establish a Palestinian state.
        The U.S. Administration is making a strategic mistake by trying to push Israel to establish a Palestinian state only four months after Oct. 7. How can this even be on the agenda, when Israel is still licking its wounds and mourning its dead?
        This policy ignores the grim reality: If Palestinian society had denounced Hamas and we could say that the massacre was carried out by a few extremists, then there might have been something to discuss. But a survey conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found that 72% of Palestinians believe that Hamas' Oct. 7 attack was justified, and in the West Bank, 82% supported it. Moreover, there is no alternative Palestinian leadership that opposed the massacre. None of the Fatah and PA leadership denounced Hamas for the massacre.
        Time must pass to make it clear that there isn't a connection between Oct. 7 and the establishment of a Palestinian state. When we bring it back to the table, it requires not ignoring the main challenge: Palestinian society would have to undergo a real process of renouncing terrorism and denazification, building up strong support for peace and acceptance of the existence of Israel. This is the way to ensure that the massacre of Oct. 7 won't become the symbol of Hamas' victory.
        The writer is General Secretary of Israel's Labor Party. (Newsweek)
  • UNRWA Is the Tip of the Iceberg at the UN - Olga Deutsch
    Since freezing UNRWA funding in January, after evidence emerged that the agency's employees participated in the murder and kidnapping of Israeli civilians in the Oct. 7 massacre, the U.S. said it will instead send money to other UN bodies and NGOs in Gaza. This is premature, ignoring the fact that serious problems with terror support, incitement and antisemitism are replicated throughout the entire ecosystem of UN agencies and NGOs active in Gaza and the West Bank. Stronger, broader, long-term action is needed before continuing to fund any organizations in Gaza.
        UNRWA has partnered with Palestinian NGOs to carry out "advocacy" projects to accuse Israel of "war crimes" and "violations of human rights" and seek condemnations of Israel from international bodies and governments. The biased reports and claims from UNRWA's NGO partners are often cited as "evidence" in UN investigations of Israel. South Africa's submission to the International Court of Justice accusing Israel of genocide - a charge that the U.S. has called "meritless" - contains 45 references to NGO publications and 13 footnotes citing UNRWA.
        The writer is vice president of NGO Monitor. (Washington Times)

  • Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Saturday sharply criticized pro-Palestinian protesters at American universities. Speaking at the Munich Security Conference, she expressed her dismay over the students at countless institutions of higher education, including Columbia University where she teaches, who began rallying against Israel in the immediate aftermath of Hamas' Oct. 7 attack.
  • "There is an invidious strain of antisemitism that has never gone away - but we had hopes it had been, certainly, submerged - that has been poking its head up quite some time now."
  • "What is so frustrating is that people have little to no information about all the efforts that were made, literally starting in 1948, but certainly moving most dramatically to the year 2000, to actually create a state for the Palestinian people. I say that because even when I'm teaching with very smart students...they have no idea about any of this."
  • "They have no idea about the collapse of the peace process, the rise of an intifada. They have no idea about then-prime minister Ariel Sharon, a man noted for his military experience, withdrawing from Gaza. They have no idea of Hamas' takeover of Gaza."
  • "They have no idea that another Israeli prime minister back when I was secretary of state, namely [Benjamin] Netanyahu, was willing at least to keep talking about some kind of two-state solution process."

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