March 12, 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:

Port of Hope in Gaza: The Beginning of the End of the War - Col. (ret.) Yigal Carmon (MEMRI)
    The American initiative to build a temporary port off the coast of Gaza carries far-reaching military, political, and strategic implications.
    It suffices to see who is against this humanitarian move - Qatar and its ally Iran. Anything that disables the grip of Hamas and Qatar on the Gazan population is something Iran will oppose.
    Official Iranian media outlets describe the port as a plot against Hamas.
    The port initiative will cut off the Hamas-Qatar control of the supplies that until now came through the Rafah crossing, and from there were stolen by Hamas.
    The port will enable Israel to carry out the absolutely necessary military operation in Rafah with minimal civilian casualties since the population will move again to where there is a secure and constant flow of food thanks to the U.S. and the Emirates.
    The writer, former counter-terrorism advisor to two Israeli prime ministers, is founder and president of the Middle East Media Research Institute.

Italian Police Arrest Three Palestinians on Terrorism Charges (Reuters)
    Italian police said Monday they have arrested three Palestinians in l'Aquila, 120 km. northeast of Rome, who had set up a cell linked to the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and were planning attacks in an unspecified country.
    The Brigades are considered a terrorist group by Israel, the EU and the U.S.
    One of the three men is wanted by Israel and an Italian court is examining an extradition request for him.

IDF: Replacement for Hamas Won't Work while Sinwar Lives - Yonah Jeremy Bob (Jerusalem Post)
    Replacing Hamas as Gaza's ruler will not work until Gaza chief Yahya Sinwar is dead, say IDF sources.
    The current Israeli plan to replace Hamas with local clans can potentially work on a limited neighborhood basis, but to restore Gaza into a functioning fabric, Gazans will need to be convinced that Hamas cannot return by Sinwar's removal.
    Plans that pretend there are large groups of Gazans who already feel free of Hamas are ignoring current realities, say IDF sources.
    One change taking place is the downgrading of UNRWA as the main humanitarian aid organization in Gaza.
    The World Food Program (WFP) has taken over 50% of food deliveries in Gaza, and the IDF says it can take on an even larger role in the future.
    The UN has moved $300 million in food purchases to the WFP for the future.
    The IDF said there are a variety of other organizations that can replace different aspects of what UNRWA has done in Gaza, such as World Central Kitchen, KfW, Japan International Cooperation Agency, UNMAS, and USAID.

Gazans Barely See the Aid that Enters - Ahmed Abd Al-Salam (Media Line-Jerusalem Post)
    A dire shortage of food and essential humanitarian supplies in Gaza has captured global attention.
    A, a resident of Gaza, said they see aid enter Gaza, but they "don't know where it is headed. It goes to the gangs. Hamas controls 70% of it, and the rest goes to merchants who sell it in the market."
    "We do not receive aid except for a few things on rare occasions. The rest is for Hamas, and the merchants belong to Hamas. The prices are very high, and we cannot buy it."
    "The people of Hamas are in control. And if not, there are people and gangs affiliated with them....It is Hamas that takes the aid and distributes it to the dealers...and leaves us hungry."

The Failure of Deterrence Against the Houthis in Yemen - Zvi Bar'el (Ha'aretz)
    The war in the Red Sea is moving beyond its original pretext - Gaza - and is becoming a "war of liberation" whose objective is to preserve the Houthi regime and expand its control over Yemen and beyond.
    In tandem, the U.S. is having difficulties finding a suitable response that could ensure safe sailing in the Red Sea.
    The U.S. strategy is to "deter and degrade" the Houthis' military capabilities, but the Houthis are far from stopping their operations.
    Launch pads for drones and missiles are scattered over areas under their control, most of them mobile.

U.S. Delegation Leaves Saudi Arabia Early over Kippah Row (AFP-Guardian-UK)
    The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) said its delegation was near Riyadh visiting Diriyah, a historic town and UNESCO world heritage site, when the commission's chair, Orthodox rabbi Abraham Cooper, "refused their requests that he remove his religious head covering."
    USCIRF said officials requested that Cooper remove his kippah "while at the site and any time he was to be in public, even though the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs had approved the site visit."
    USCIRF, a U.S. government advisory body mandated by the U.S. Congress, said it was particularly regrettable it happened to the representative of "an American government agency that promotes religious freedom."
    Rev. Frederick Davie, the USCIRF vice-chair, described the incident as "stunning and painful."

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Strikes Have Stopped Iran Proxies in Iraq, Syria, but Not Houthi Attacks on Ships - Corey Dickstein
    U.S. Central Command head Gen. Michael Kurilla told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday that U.S. strikes in February on Iranian proxy militant groups in Iraq and Syria have deterred them from firing at American troops for more than a month.
        Kurilla said the Hamas attack on Israel on Oct. 7 "permanently changed" the region. "It created the conditions for malign actors to sow instability throughout the region and beyond. Iran exploited what they saw as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reshape the Middle East to their advantage." Blaming Iran for the uptick in violence throughout the region, Kurilla said that country should face more consequences for its actions.
        However, repeated U.S. strikes on Houthi rebels in Yemen have not deterred the group from its attacks on commercial and military vessels in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. Near-daily strikes against the Houthis have been defensive in nature - taking out drones or missiles before they can be launched or once they are on the way toward a target. The Houthis' weapons come from Iran, Kurilla said. (Stars and Stripes)
  • A New Terror Threat Is Emerging in Europe Linked to Iran, Gaza War - Bojan Pancevski
    In a previously unreported investigation last December, police in Austria and Bosnia arrested two separate groups of Afghan and Syrian refugees who carried arms and ammunition, including Kalashnikov assault rifles and pistols. Investigators found pictures of Jewish and Israeli targets in Europe on some of their mobile phones.
        Investigators said Europe's terror threat is coming from new sources, including Iran and its proxies in the Middle East, including Hizbullah and Hamas. In December, German police launched raids across the country targeting Hamas and its affiliates.
        German and Dutch investigators also arrested four people for receiving the order from Hamas to open a secret cache of weapons and attack Jewish targets in Berlin and elsewhere in Western Europe. German prosecutors said Hamas had buried the weapons underground in Europe years ago but that the suspects, all longstanding Hamas members involved in the group's overseas operations, wouldn't reveal where.
        Both Hamas and Hizbullah have so far used Europe as a fundraising hub and a safe house for operatives. But the recent raids on Hamas suggest those groups are now pivoting to plotting assassinations and sabotage in Europe, directed mainly at Jewish and Israeli targets. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Dutch King Defies Mosques to Attend Opening of New Holocaust Museum alongside Israel's President - Daniel Ben-David
    Dutch King Willem-Alexander defied calls by an alliance of over 200 Dutch mosques and attended the opening of a new Holocaust museum in Amsterdam alongside Israel's President Isaac Herzog on Sunday. The King said the inauguration of the National Holocaust Museum was of too "great significance and national importance" for him to not attend.
        The museum will also be the first in the country to explore how the involvement of Dutch officials under Nazi-installed laws led to 3/4 of Dutch Jews being murdered by the Nazis - the largest proportion of any European country. A group of anti-Israel protesters demonstrated outside the museum on the day of its opening. (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • 100 Hizbullah Rockets Pound Northern Israel - Darcie Grunblatt
    A barrage of at least 100 rockets were launched by Hizbullah at northern Israel on Tuesday morning. The IDF responded by attacking rocket launch sites in Lebanon. (Jerusalem Post)
  • IDF Strikes Tunnel Used by Senior Hamas Commander - Emanuel Fabian
    IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari confirmed Monday that the military targeted the deputy commander of Hamas' military wing, Marwan Issa, in Nuseirat in central Gaza on Sunday. "We are still evaluating the results of the strike, and we have not yet received final confirmation," he said. Also targeted was Ghazi Abu Tama'a, responsible "for all of Hamas' weapons in Gaza."  (Times of Israel)
  • IDF Foils Palestinian Suicide Bomber Headed for Tel Aviv - Elisha Ben Kimon
    The IDF and Israel Security Agency announced Monday they had successfully eliminated a terrorist in Zeita in the northern West Bank who was planning an imminent major attack in the Tel Aviv area. Mohammed Jaber, 34, was preparing to cross into Israeli territory, armed with a firearm and explosives.
        The Israel Security Agency has thwarted over 250 imminent terror attacks since the beginning of the year and remains on high alert for potential future attacks. (Ynet News)
  • Iran Stirs Terrorism in West Bank amid Ramadan - Elisha Ben Kimon
    Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Monday warned of a strong Iranian push to smuggle weapons into the West Bank to fuel terrorist attacks during Ramadan. He said that Tehran is "linked to everything happening in the West Bank and is trying to push weapons, ammunition, guidance, information, deception processes and perception into it."
        "Five months after the start of the war, it is clear that Hamas miscalculated in its assessment of the situation regarding what Israel knows how to do and what it is willing to sacrifice. They thought they would intimidate us, that they would weaken us, that they would inflict costs that would bring us to the brink of collapse, that our allies would abandon us - none of these things have happened."  (Ynet News)
  • Israeli Arab Family Member of Gaza Hostage Confronts Palestinian Ambassador at UN
    Israeli Arab Ali Ziadna, who has family members held hostage in Gaza, confronted Palestinian Ambassador to the UN Riyad Mansour on Monday, as seen in a video posted on X. Ziadna asked Mansour, "Why did they kidnap my family? What crime did they commit that Hamas kidnapped them? They have been in the tunnels for 5 months, and for what? On what basis? They returned the Thai workers without a deal and the Muslims who are like me and you are left in the tunnels hungry and in pain."  (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Israel's Diplomatic Challenges during the Gaza War - Amb. Ron Dermer interviewed by Alex Traiman
    Former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer, currently Minister of Strategic Affairs and a member of Israel's war cabinet, said: "You hear a lot of criticism in the media of Netanyahu or Netanyahu's coalition. But that is just a code word for criticism of Israel....When it comes to opposing unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state, dismantling Hamas, or finishing the job and winning the war, Netanyahu represents the overwhelming majority of the country."
        Why are the U.S. and Europeans now raising the issue of "settler violence"? "What they are doing is turning a molehill into a mountain because they are looking for some kind of moral equivalence. In reality, what you have are Israelis who have been relentlessly attacked by Palestinian terrorists, and they just want to be sure that they are not going to be shot at when they are driving on a main road, like what happened recently near Ma'ale Adumim. You have Jews that are afraid to get into their cars in Judea and Samaria."
        "Before we start the Rafah campaign, we are going over different ways to move Gazan residents who are now in the southern part of Gaza, to other areas north of Rafah - not to the north, but north of Rafah....The goals of the Rafah campaign are simple: First, we need to destroy the remaining battalions; we need to kill or capture the senior leadership of Hamas; and in doing so, we will essentially end the war."  (JNS)
  • What's Behind the Propaganda War Against Israel - Gerard Baker
    What does Israel have to do to be allowed by the rest of the world to defend itself? The insistent effort by some governments, officials and much of the media in the U.S. and Europe to get the Jewish state to relent against enemies that actively seek to destroy it gives rise to the suspicion that for too many of them, perhaps Israel doesn't deserve the right to exist at all. Fortunately, Israel doesn't need the West's permission to save itself.
        The president feels obliged to balance his support of Israel with a rhetorical campaign of increasingly shrill, daily denunciations of Israel's efforts in Gaza. He told MSNBC that the offensive in Gaza was "hurting Israel more than helping Israel...and I think it's a big mistake."
        Even after the horrors of Oct. 7, Israel is tagged as the aggressor in the media. Israel is said to have - either recklessly or out of genocidal intent - massacred tens of thousands of innocent civilians. But in the process of extirpating Hamas it was inevitable civilians would be killed. This wasn't simply because there is "collateral" damage in any large-scale warfare, but because Hamas intended it that way. To the terror group, the propaganda value of a dead Palestinian child is as great as that of an Israeli. (Wall Street Journal)
  • The Road to a Gaza Ceasefire Leads through the Rafah Offensive - Jacob Stoil and John Spencer
    When Hamas attacked and invaded Israel, it did so knowing there would be a massive response by Israel and an operation into Gaza. It knew many Gazan civilians would die, indeed they counted on it, referring to their population as a "nation of martyrs." Hamas' hope is that repeated attacks like Oct. 7 will eventually break the will of the Israeli population. To do that, Hamas would need to survive the war.
        Hamas saw that if the U.S. could be made uncomfortable enough with the continuing war, it would put more pressure on Israel to wind down operations. Hamas believes the U.S. will keep Israel out of Rafah, enabling Hamas to walk away with a strategic victory and emerge as the only Palestinian organization to defeat Israel.
        Without the realistic threat of an Israeli operation in Rafah, Hamas has no reason to seek a ceasefire, and given Hamas' strategy, there can be no truly lasting ceasefire if Hamas can return to control Gaza. Hamas' unwillingness to negotiate is entirely dependent on the U.S. acting as Hamas wants.
        Dr. Jacob Stoil is the Chair of Applied History at the West Point Modern War Institute, where Maj. (ret.) John Spencer is Chair of Urban Warfare Studies. (Newsweek)
  • Hamas Weaponized Sexual Assault to Deliver a Nessage - Paul Becker and Joel Poznansky
    The world was shocked on Oct. 7 not just by the scale of the Hamas attack on Israel but by its brutality and the sexual atrocities committed against women. The tactics involving extreme sexual violence and barbarous acts meted out against Israeli women, children and babies were new and deliberate. It is likely that these terrorists, intensively trained and rehearsed, had been purposely instructed to perform outrageous acts of sexual violence and to publish them on social media.
        Hamas leaders may have believed that these outrages, if publicized graphically, would cause debilitating fear and traumatize all Israelis, and that this new level of horror would persuade a significant segment of the Israeli population to feel defeated and leave their country. We believe it is more likely that Hamas leaders gambled that without the outrage caused by their brutality, they would not succeed in luring Israel into what they believed would be an unwinnable urban war in Gaza.
        Rear-Adm. Paul Becker, USN (ret.), is a former director for intelligence of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. Joel Poznansky served as a captain in the British Army. Both are active with the Jewish War Veterans of America. (The Hill)
  • Israel's Persian Spokesperson Believes "Israel's Only Friends in the Middle East Are the Iranian People" - Ohad Merlin
    Benni Sabti, 52, was born in Tehran seven years before the 1979 Islamic revolution. After suffering much persecution and harassment, Sabti and his family fled Iran by foot when he was 15, arriving in Israel through Europe. Later he helped establish the IDF Spokesperson Unit's Persian department and has been serving as the government's spokesperson in Persian.
        "Many Iranians are eager to hear about Israel in Persian - in their own language," he said. "The regime itself admits that 70-75% of the Iranian public watches the expatriate channels, including on social media, rather than the Iranian regime's outlets. Few watch the regime's channels."
        "Today, antisemitism originates almost exclusively from the regime. The pro-Hamas demonstrations are pushed by the regime itself - but the public is mostly not with them. At the start of the revolution, many were antisemitic, but the failure of the revolution and the totalitarian dictatorship it brought upon Iran led to a reversal and a rejection of antisemitism. Today, 50% of Iranians say that they are not hostile to Israel and even sympathize with it - and those are only the ones who dare to speak."
        "We need to push the West to stand up to Iran: not to give the regime any privileges or lift sanctions at our expense. This money translates very quickly into Hizbullah missiles. We must support Iranian youth. They are not in this game, they do not want the regime; they want freedom and happiness. Israel's only friends in the Middle East are the Iranian people."  (Jerusalem Post)

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz told the UN Security Council on Monday:
  • I have come here to protest, as loudly as I possibly can, against the crimes against humanity committed by Hamas murderers, carried out with the clear approval of their religious leaders to terrorize Israeli society. These murderers were so proud of abusing and raping our poor victims that they took pictures and broadcasted their terrible deeds live.
  • The United Nations has been silent regarding the actions of Hamas for too long. Over the past five months, since October 7, the United Nations has convened 41 times and has neither condemned nor denounced the brutal crimes of Hamas.
  • Hamas is the sole entity responsible for the crimes committed against humanity. Hamas killers breached the borders and attacked innocent Israelis who were peacefully in their homes and beds in kibbutzim, villages and cities.
  • Young people, boys and girls, came from all over the world to participate in the Nova Festival, a festival of peace and happiness. Hundreds of them were surrounded, attacked from all sides and brutally slaughtered. According to the UN report, this was not an act of war. These acts were the highest level of crimes against humanity.
  • Hamas' crimes are even more severe than the acts of terror perpetrated by al-Qaeda, ISIS, and other terrorist organizations that have been sanctioned by the United Nations. Do not turn your head away from the facts: Hamas must be declared a terrorist organization and face the harshest sanctions.
  • I demand that the UN Security Council exert as much pressure as possible on the Hamas organization to immediately and unconditionally release all the abductees, who today, as we speak, are being abused and assaulted, and are in great danger.

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