February 27, 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:

Hizbullah's UAVs Threaten Israel - Dr. Yehoshua Kalisky (Institute for National Security Studies)
    As part of the fighting in the north, Hizbullah is using UAVs for suicide attacks.
    Israel's air defense copes well with them, but sometimes the UAV's advantages - slow flight speed at low altitude and low radar signature - deceive the detection and defense systems.
    As a result, and since there is never a hermetic defense, there are occasional infiltrations of UAVs into strategic sites and military bases.
    In the third week of February 2024, two UAVs infiltrated Israel and unexpectedly hit civilian targets without being detected.
    The writer, a senior researcher at INSS, was a senior scientist at the Nuclear Research Center Negev (NRCN).

Israel Assures Egypt of Advance Warning on Rafah Offensive - Yossi Yehushua (Ynet News)
    Israel Security Agency Director Ronen Bar and IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Herzi Halevii visited Cairo last week to assure Egyptian officials that they would not be caught by surprise by any Israeli action in Rafah, American officials said on Monday.
    They told the Egyptians that the war against Hamas cannot be completed without dealing with Rafah on the Egyptian border.
    Israel and Egypt must also coordinate the construction of an underground barrier along the border to prevent future smuggling of weapons to Hamas.

Gaza Food Aid Shifting from UNRWA to UN World Food Program - Ariel Kahana (Israel Hayom)
    According to data from the IDF Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, 52% of the food entering Gaza is delivered to the UN World Food Program (WFP), 34% to UNRWA, and the rest to other aid organizations.
    A security source said the shift reflects Israel's desire to reduce UNRWA's role in managing civilian life in Gaza, after mounting evidence showing UNRWA employees were active participants in the Oct. 7 atrocities.

Houthis Knock Out Underwater Cables Linking Europe to Asia - Assaf Gilead (Globes)
    The Houthis in Yemen have damaged four communication cables in the Red Sea between Jeddah in Saudi Arabia and Djibouti in East Africa, causing serious disruption of Internet communications between Europe and Asia, with the main damage felt in the Gulf countries and India.

IDF Ups Attacks Against Iran Revolutionary Guards in Syria - Gianluca Pacchiani (Times of Israel)
    Israel's years-long air campaign against Iran-linked groups and weapons in Syria has shifted into high gear in recent months, with strikes on high-value targets at a pace that is "changing the rules of the game," according to experts.
    Since December, more than half a dozen IRGC officers have been killed in suspected Israeli strikes on Syria.
    Dr. Carmit Valensi, a senior researcher on Syria at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), said Israeli airstrikes in Syria "are no longer just about attacking weapons transfers or attacking Damascus international airport."
    Valensi noted that before fighting began in Gaza, killing members of the IRGC's Quds Force or Hizbullah operatives would have been considered a red line, liable to spark a war.
    "In wartime, we have a different set of rules, by which Israel has more freedom of operation."
    "After the war against Hamas broke out, there were claims that Iran was increasing its presence in the south, preparing itself for opening another front with Israel. But after Israel launched a very intense aerial campaign in Syria, they were deterred."

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • After U.S. Strikes, Iran's Proxies Scale Back Attacks on American Bases - Farnaz Fassihi
    Iran has made a concerted effort to rein in militias in Iraq and Syria after the U.S. retaliated with a series of airstrikes for the killing of three U.S. Army reservists this month. Since the Feb. 2 U.S. strikes, American officials say, there have been no attacks by Iran-backed militias on American bases in Iraq and only two minor ones in Syria. Before then, the U.S. military logged at least 170 attacks against American troops in four months. The relative quiet suggests that Iran does have some level of control over the militias.
        The lull marks a sharp turnaround by Iran. Tehran had for months directed its regional proxies in Iraq and Syria to attack American bases as part of a wider battle against Israel. A U.S. official said the Pentagon was prepared to hit more militia targets if necessary but had determined that carrying out more strikes now would be counterproductive. (New York Times)
  • U.S. Intelligence Agencies Collaborating with Israel in Search for Hamas Leader Hiding in Gaza - Shane Harris
    The Israeli military is confident that Hamas leader Yehiya Sinwar, the architect of the Oct. 7 attacks in Israel, is hiding inside tunnels beneath Khan Yunis in southern Gaza, surrounded by a human shield of hostages. U.S. officials said they concur with the Israeli assessment.
        Israeli soldiers working inside the tunnels have retrieved information left behind by Hamas fighters that has helped to better understand the underground system. They have discovered Hamas administrative files, computers and phone directories. They also discovered evidence that Sinwar may have been one step ahead of them. According to Israeli press reports, soldiers have found Sinwar's clothes, notes that he wrote by hand, and even a toothbrush he may have used.
        U.S. intelligence analysts are helping with some of the tunnel mapping, contributing powerful analytic technologies that fuse fragments of information. Closing off the massive tunnel network takes significant time and explosives. Israeli forces have looked for nodes that, once destroyed, can render other passages running off them effectively inoperative. U.S. intelligence agencies have also assisted in the analysis of intercepted communications and data from recovered computer hard drives as well as information from interrogations.
        There are no U.S. intelligence personnel on the ground in Gaza, and the Americans are not assisting Israel in the day-to-day effort of locating Hamas fighters, U.S. and Israeli officials said. (Washington Post)
  • Greek Frigate to Join EU Red Sea Mission
    The Greek frigate Hydra departed for the Red Sea on Monday to participate in a mission to protect merchant ships from attacks by Yemen's Houthis, a defense ministry official said. The government said several Greek-owned merchant ships have been hit off Yemen since November, and that the Houthi attacks have disrupted Greek-owned commercial vessels' activities at the country's Piraeus port. (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • IDF Troops Kill over 30 Terrorists in Northern Gaza
    IDF troops killed over 30 terrorists on Sunday as operations in Zaitoun in northern Gaza continued, the IDF Spokesperson Unit reported. In central Gaza on Sunday, IDF troops killed over ten terrorists. Concurrently, IDF forces are intensifying their activities in the area of Khan Yunis in the south. (Jerusalem Post)
  • IDF Unearths Tunnel Network Connecting Northern and Southern Gaza
    The IDF on Monday announced it had unearthed an underground tunnel network that connects the north and south of Gaza. The tunnels run for 10 km. and pass under the Turkish hospital in central Gaza and the Israa University in Gaza City. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel Strikes Deep inside Lebanon for First Time since Start of War - Yoav Zitun
    The IDF intercepted a surface-to-air missile launched by Hizbullah after Hizbullah intercepted a large Israeli drone, and then the IDF attacked deep inside Lebanon on Monday for the first time in the war. The IDF said fighter jets attacked sites near the Lebanese city of Baalbek in the Beqaa Valley, 100 km. north of Metula, that were used by Hizbullah's Aerial Defense Array, in response to the downing of the UAV. (Ynet News)
  • IDF Kills Senior Hizbullah Commander in Targeted Strike - Emanuel Fabian
    The IDF eliminated senior Hizbullah commander Hassan Hussein Salami in an airstrike while he was driving in southern Lebanon. Salami was the commander of a regional unit in Hizbullah and oversaw attacks on IDF troops and Israeli communities in northern Israel. Salami was involved in anti-tank missile attacks on Kiryat Shmona and an IDF base. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Achieving the Aims of the War in Gaza - Prof. Azar Gat
    The aims of the war in Gaza as defined by the Israeli Cabinet are the destruction of Hamas' military and governing infrastructure and the release of the hostages. The aims relating to Hamas are both necessary and achievable.
        Since the start of the ground offensive in Gaza, it has become clear that both the IDF's regular and reserve forces function at an exceptional level. The close cooperation between the ground forces, air force, fire power, and intelligence is unlikely found in any other military today. Their fighting spirit and determination are admirable, and naturally so, given the crucial nature of their mission in their eyes.
        The tunnel system in Gaza is far more complex, advanced, and vast than previously estimated, and Hamas had enormous quantities of weapons and ammunition. Nevertheless, the IDF took control of Gaza City and are close to a similar achievement in the Khan Yunis area. This cost over 200 Israeli soldiers' lives so far, a heart-breaking price, but far lower than the assessments and fears prior to the operation.
        Militarily, it is possible to destroy Hamas' command, military units, and infrastructure. After their destruction, the IDF must prevent Hamas from reviving by continuous action on the ground. Yet the IDF is unlikely to eliminate Hamas as a guerrilla force. Its popularity is strong, necessitating "mowing the grass" operations similar to those in the West Bank for any foreseeable future.
        The writer holds the Ezer Weizmann Chair of National Security in the School of Political Science, Government and International Relations at Tel Aviv University. (Institute for National Security Studies)
  • At Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis, IDF Achieves War Goals with Precision - Yaakov Lappin
    As IDF special forces entered Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis on Feb. 15, which like every other medical, educational and civilian site in Gaza served as a Hamas military hub, 200 Hamas members surrendered without firing a shot. Out of an estimated 10,500 Gazan civilians in the compound, the IDF evacuated around 8,000 before forces entered.
        Once Israeli forces entered the hospital, the IDF continued to work with medical staff to protect patients and move them out of combat zones. A large amount of water and food, including baby food, was also delivered by the IDF to those remaining in the facility. The IDF was in close touch with hospital staff regarding medical supplies, and during the operation, the hospital received a generator from the IDF to ensure continued power supply to the Intensive Care Unit.
        With 3/4 of Gaza under IDF control, the military has demonstrated that, despite predictions of doom, it can operate in the most challenging urban warfare environment in the world. The IDF has removed roughly half of Hamas' army from the battlefield. The IDF is gradually moving into the more targeted mopping-up phase in the north and central Gaza, shattering Hamas as an organized army. (JNS)
  • Demanding Parity between Islamophobia and Antisemitism Is Nonsensical - Editorial
    The term Islamophobia entered political discourse in 1997, popularized in a report from the Runnymede Trust. The report focused on perceived anti-Muslim prejudice, though it was not apparent back then that there was a popular animus towards Muslims reflected in widespread violent behavior.
        Politicians who refuse to acknowledge their own perceived Islamophobia are now being denounced as racists, even though Islam is a religion. It also differs from antisemitism, a centuries-old prejudice that has been used in the past to exclude Jews entirely from a country or to murder them in their millions. To demand parity between the two is an abuse of language. (Telegraph-UK)

Hamas' Agricultural Terrorism - Rebecca Sugar (Wall Street Journal)
  • At Kibbutz Alumim, 2 miles from the Gaza border, 300,000 chickens died following Hamas' Oct. 7 attack on Israel. Three coops were burned to the ground. Terrorists also destroyed the automated food and water dispensers for the remaining five structures housing the flock. After the attack, no one was around to tend to the chickens and the birds died of hunger and thirst.
  • Terrorists targeted farmland, livestock, plants and infrastructure as they made their way across the western Negev, which produces 70% of the country's vegetables, 20% of its fruit and 6% of its milk. "The attack was designed to intentionally destroy agricultural production, but more than that, it was meant to destroy the identity of the region, to break the community," said Danielle Abraham, executive director of Volcani International Partnerships, an NGO that addresses global hunger using Israeli technological innovation.
  • Hamas killed 30 milking cows at Kibbutz Nahal Oz. Those that survived went unmilked for nine days. Many developed a painful condition that contaminated their milk and killed 70 of the herd. Some that have recovered still aren't producing milk. Trauma from the sounds of explosions and gunfire seems to have suspended their production.
  • Hamas terrorists damaged greenhouses and barns, many beyond repair. They slashed crop nets and flooded orchards. They burned irrigation pipes and destroyed the filtration system for the local reservoir. Estimates of income losses and infrastructure damage total more than $500 million.
  • Attacks on Israel's environment and natural resources aren't new. In 2005 Palestinian looters damaged roughly 900 of the 3,000 greenhouses Israelis left behind after they withdrew from Gaza. In 2018 terrorists launched more than 800 incendiary balloons from Gaza, setting fire to 6,100 acres of agricultural land in the Negev. Raids on Israel's northern farms and arson in its forests have been regular occurrences. Hamas attacked Israel's blooming desert, a national symbol of innovation and resilience.
  • Michal Uziyahu, liaison to the mayor of the Eshkol region, a cluster of 32 communities near Gaza, says that more than 4,000 of Eshkol's 17,000 residents are already back home. Half of the region's Thai workers have also returned.

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