March 17, 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 Confirms Its Number 3 Leader Killed in Airstrike - Yael Halfon (Jerusalem Post)
    Marwan Issa, deputy to Hamas military chief Mohammed Deif and number three in Hamas' high command, was killed in an IDF airstrike on a terror tunnel in Nusirat in central Gaza last week, Israel's Channel 11 reported Sunday, citing Palestinian sources.

Fatah Slams Hamas as Responsible for Current Nakba (Catastrophe) - Ohad Merlin (Jerusalem Post)
    Fatah on Friday blamed Hamas for the disastrous outcome of the Oct. 7 massacre, saying "those who were responsible for...the Nakba [catastrophe] which our Palestinian people live...have no right to dictate national priorities."
    "Did Hamas consult the Palestinian leadership or any Palestinian national party when it made its decision to carry out the 'adventure' of last Oct. 7, which led to a catastrophe more horrific and crueler than the Nakba of 1948?"
    See also Fatah's Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade Took Part in Oct. 7 Massacre (Jerusalem Post)
    The Fatah-affiliated al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade took part in the attack on Oct. 7, Israel's Channel 11 reported Saturday, quoting officials from the group.
    The report also claimed that the Al-Aqsa Martyrs trained battalions in the West Bank and prepared them for war.

Israel Preparing Buffer Zone with Gaza to Secure Border Region - Camille Bressange (Wall Street Journal)
    Israeli forces are creating a buffer zone alongside Gaza's border with Israel.
    Israeli officials say the exclusion zone is a critical security measure in their plan to demilitarize Gaza and assure Israelis that they can return safely to the communities near the border that were evacuated after the Oct. 7 attack.
    With a no man's land more than half a mile wide, Israeli troops would be able to see and stop anyone approaching the border.
    The Biden administration is opposed to the plan.

Blocking Newspaper Trucks Is NOT "Peaceful Protest" - Editorial (New York Post)
    When anti-Israel activists swarmed the plant that prints the New York Times, The Post and other newspapers the other day, aiming to stop the papers' distribution, cops passed on making arrests because this was supposedly "peaceful protest."
    No: It was a forceful attack on a private enterprise (on private property, too), and on the freedom of the press.
    So now we get uncontrolled "pro-Palestine" demonstrations, targeting everything from the Thanksgiving Day parade to Christmas services at St. Patrick's Cathedral, with periodic actions to close commuting chokepoints from Grand Central Station to city bridges and assaults on the press.

The UK Has an Islamist Problem - Jonathan Spyer (Jerusalem Post)
    There have been weekly mass demonstrations in London in support of the Palestinian side in the Gaza war.
    Since the UK has little influence on Middle East events and no influence on Israeli or Hamas decision-making, demands for a "ceasefire now" on the streets of London will produce nothing on the ground in the Middle East.
    The demonstrations are significant, however, in that they showcase the arrival in British public life of a new political force: a mass, Islamist-led street presence that seeks to enforce its will on the public space and intimidate its opponents.
    The weekly demonstrations for Gaza attract upwards of 250,000 participants.
    Prime Minister Rishi Sunak warned on Feb. 29 that there was a "growing consensus that mob rule is replacing democratic rule."
    A flyer handed to me at the March 9 march contained the logos of organizations backing the protests. Two have clear links to Hamas.
    The Muslim Association of Britain was co-founded by Mohammed Kathem Sawalha, a former senior Hamas military operative in the West Bank.
    The MAB is a Muslim Brotherhood-associated group. Its leaders include Azzam Tamimi, described by the Daily Telegraph as Hamas' "special envoy" in the UK.
    Friends of al-Aqsa is described by Israel's Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center as "harboring an intense hatred for Israel, campaigning for its elimination, denying its Jewish character, and supporting Hamas."

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • As Gaza War Rages, U.S. Military Footprint Expands across Middle East - Steve Hendrix
    U.S. Air Force C-130s are dropping pallets of emergency food aid into northern Gaza. A U.S. Army crew is on its way to Gaza to build a floating pier. Thousands of miles away, U.S. fighter jets and attack helicopters roared off the flight deck of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower to combat Houthi fighters attacking ships in the Red Sea. All are part of the U.S. military's expanding footprint in the Middle East - a region President Biden had hoped to de-emphasize.
        After the wind-down of the "forever wars" in Iraq and Afghanistan, the administration had wanted to pivot and direct its foreign policy power toward countering Russian aggression and Chinese expansionism. However, the war in Gaza has taught Biden a lesson many presidents have learned before: It's not so easy to quit the Middle East. (Washington Post)
  • U.S. Attempts to Stop Arms Smuggling to Yemen - Dan Lamothe
    The Biden administration is expanding efforts to surveil and intercept Iranian weapons being smuggled to Yemen, where Houthi militants have staged a deadly campaign of violence against commercial shipping that has proved resilient to six weeks of military strikes, said U.S. officials. The initiative seeks to map seafaring routes used by Tehran and stop the arms shipments while in transit.
        Since November, the U.S. Defense Department has documented at least 105 attacks on merchant vessels off Yemen, including about 40 over the past week. Houthi weapons include one-way attack drones, rockets, ballistic missiles and explosive-laden drones that can skim the waves and travel underwater.
        Kenneth "Frank" McKenzie Jr., a retired Marine Corps general who led CENTCOM from 2019 to 2022, said cutting off the flow of lethal arms from Iran to the Houthis is critical. "We need to recognize that, and we need to put resources against it."  (Washington Post)
  • Palestinians Ignore Hamas Call for Protests at Al Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan - Jared Malsin
    Tens of thousands of worshipers gathered in and around the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem during the first Friday prayers of Ramadan as Palestinians appeared to ignore Hamas' call for protests, Israeli police said. Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh called for Palestinians to march on Al Aqsa at the start of Ramadan, which began Sunday. The march didn't materialize.
        On Thursday, Hamas issued another demand for action. "We call upon our people in Jerusalem, the West Bank, the interior, and the occupied lands to mobilize and confront the occupation's schemes against the blessed Al Aqsa Mosque." However, Hamas' calls for an uprising fell flat. (Wall Street Journal)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • IDF: Palestinian Gunmen Killed Gazans Waiting for Aid, Army Did Not Fire - Emanuel Fabian
    The IDF on Friday denied claims by Hamas that troops had opened fire on crowds of civilians waiting for aid at Kuwait Square in Gaza City, saying that Israeli soldiers did not shoot at any stage during the incident and that Palestinian gunmen caused the casualties.
        According to the IDF's probe, a convoy of 31 trucks containing food and other humanitarian aid made its way to northern Gaza on Thursday night. An hour before the convoy arrived at an IDF-established corridor, armed Palestinians opened fire while civilians were waiting for the aid trucks.
        "As aid trucks were entering [the corridor], the Palestinian gunmen continued to shoot as the crowd of Gazans began looting the trucks," the IDF said, adding that it also identified several civilians who had been run over by the trucks. "A review of our operational systems and IDF troops found that no tank shelling, airstrike or gunfire was carried out toward the Gazan crowd in the area of the aid convoy."
        The IDF also issued aerial footage showing Palestinian gunmen opening fire amid the crowd during the first incident, an hour before the aid trucks had arrived. "Hamas terrorists continue to harm Gazan civilians who are seeking food, and Hamas is blaming Israel for it."  (Times of Israel)
        See also Watch: Palestinian Gunmen Open Fire on Gazan Civilians before Humanitarian Aid Arrives - Dennis Bihler (Ynet News)
  • Over 100 Tons of Humanitarian Aid Enter Gaza by Sea and Air - Hannah Sarisohn
    A ship carrying 130 pallets of humanitarian equipment and 115 tons of food and water from the World Central Kitchen (WCK) organization, led by the UAE, arrived in Gaza from Cyprus in coordination with Israel, the IDF announced on Friday. The IDF said the vessel and the aid underwent a comprehensive security check.
        Additionally, U.S. Central Command conducted its 11th airdrop of humanitarian aid into Gaza on Friday. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also One Killed, Several Injured in Northern Gaza Crush over Aid Airdrop - Einav Halabi
    One person was crushed to death and others were injured in Beit Lahia in northern Gaza as a result of a stampede while crowds were waiting for an airdrop of humanitarian aid, the Palestinians reported Saturday. (Ynet News)
  • Netanyahu: New Warfare Standards Give Terrorists Immunity
    In an interview with John Spencer, Chair of Urban Warfare Studies at West Point's Modern War Institute, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu explained why it was imperative for Israel to enter Rafah to win the war in Gaza. He noted pressure on Israel not to send its forces into Rafah. "If you say you cannot attack an enemy that embeds itself in an urban area, while they attack your urban areas, you're effectively saying, 'I can't fight, I lose the war.'"  (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Video: Prime Minister Netanyahu interviewed by John Spencer (X)
  • Hamas Imam Opens Fire on Hebron Jews - Yoav Zitun
    Sheikh Mahmoud Nofal, the imam of Hebron's Al-Qasim Mosque and a Hamas operative, opened fire with an AK-47 rifle toward the Jewish community in the city of Hebron while visiting a nearby Muslim cemetery on Saturday, before being shot dead by security forces. (Ynet News-Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • A "Revitalized" Palestinian Authority? - Editorial
    The Biden Administration is pitching its "two-state solution" to Israel with the lure of a "revitalized" Palestinian Authority. However, a new report by Regavim, an Israeli NGO, reveals a pattern of Palestinian police "turning their Western-supplied guns on the State of Israel" and then being glorified for their terrorism by the PA.
        It specifically identifies 76 officers of the Palestinian Authority Security Forces (PASF) who have been killed or arrested while carrying out terrorist attacks against Israelis in the past three years. The latest example is Capt. Muhammad Manasrah, who shot up a gas station on Feb. 29, murdering two Israelis.
        The PASF was created to fight Hamas terrorism in collaboration with Israel, but for too long it has abetted, committed or celebrated terrorism. A serious reform would begin by axing the PA's "pay-for-slay" program, which pays terrorists in prison as well as families of "martyrs," such as the Oct. 7 killers. A reformed PA would also cut the incitement to hatred against Jews from its media, sermons and schools.
        The two-state solution is one of those diplomatic constructs that sounds nice but crashes against reality. In this case it's the reality that today's Palestinian leaders don't want Israel to exist. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also Dozens of Palestinian Authority Security Personnel Involved in Terror - Ohad Merlin (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Read the Report - Officers by Day, Terrorists by Night: Palestinian Authority Security Forces Officers' Involvement in Terrorism (Regavim)
  • Former CIA Director Gen. Petraeus: Hamas Has to Be Destroyed - Lazar Berman
    U.S. Gen. David Petraeus, who commanded the 2007-8 "surge" of troops in Iraq and later directed the CIA, told the Times of Israel that Hamas has to be destroyed.
        "Hamas is irreconcilable," he said. "This is a very, very fundamental idea....They are the equivalent of al-Qaeda or the Islamic State. They have to be destroyed, just as we had to destroy the core al-Qaeda and how we helped the Iraqi security forces and the Syrian Democratic Forces destroy the Islamic State."
        Petraeus doesn't see any option other than an offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah. "Benny Gantz, my old comrade and friend, is exactly right when he said that you don't send the fire department to extinguish 80% of the blaze. You have to deal with all of it."
        "This is the most fiendishly difficult context for urban operations since 1945 at least. You have 350 miles of very well-developed tunnels, subterranean infrastructure, factories, headquarters, all these different facilities underground. You have high rises that have to be cleared. You've got to clear every building, every floor, every room, every cellar, every tunnel. You have an enemy who doesn't wear a uniform in most cases, who uses civilians as human shields, still holds over 130 hostages, which obviously complicates a very complex situation."  (Times of Israel)
  • U.S. Fails to Understand What This War Means to Israel - Meir Ben Shabbat
    President Biden's standing by Israel at the start of the war with Hamas will be remembered as one of the high points in the special relationship between the countries. But this has been blunted by the passage of time and the images from Gaza.
        Biden's demand to increase humanitarian aid and related initiatives (airdrops, maritime pier) show that his administration has not internalized that the problem is not delivering aid to Gaza, but its distribution within it. Hamas will take control of everything that enters. It will use it to supply its fighters (and prolong their ability to fight) and strengthen its rule. The way to prevent this is to deliver the aid to areas where Hamas would not be able to access it.
        The U.S. discounts the extent of public support for Hamas in Gaza, and the fact that it is entrenched in all spheres of life. The administration holds an optimistic assessment regarding the ability to bring about deep change through governmental models under Arab or international auspices.
        America's vision includes peace agreements between Israel and Saudi Arabia and the establishment of a Palestinian state. But from Israel's perspective, normalization with Saudi Arabia will not compensate for Hamas' non-defeat. Talk of a "Palestinian state" after the Oct. 7 massacre constitutes a prize for Hamas and expresses a lack of understanding of the sentiment in the Israeli public. Anyone who thinks that after Oct. 7 Israel will take risks like those taken in the past lives in a fantasy land.
        The Biden administration has not internalized that for Israel, the defeat of Hamas is an existential issue. It is not like America's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which were conducted thousands of miles away. Israel's deterrence that collapsed on Oct. 7 will not be restored if Israel stops short of meeting the goals it has defined for the war. The temptation for players in our region to attack it will grow.
        The writer, a former Israeli national security advisor, is chairman of the Misgav Institute for National Security & Zionist Strategy in Jerusalem. (Israel Hayom)

  • Zalman Shoval, 93, has had political contact with every Israeli leader from David Ben-Gurion to Benjamin Netanyahu.
  • The former two-time ambassador to the U.S. said in an interview, "If you take a realistic, historical look at the situation [with the Palestinians], there is no avoiding the conclusion that there is no possibility for a relatively quick solution, because the actual conflict is not about the border being here or there, or the settlements being here or there, or even about the settlements at all."
  • "It is about the basic refusal of the Palestinian Arabs, the Palestinian national movement - which is a relatively recent one - to recognize the right of the Jewish people to a national state of their own. And that hasn't changed."
  • Shoval recalled that U.S. President Joe Biden said in May 2021: "Until the region says, unequivocally, they acknowledge the right of Israel to exist as an independent Jewish state, there will be no peace." "I hope he still remembers that. That comment is significant and correct."
  • "The Palestinian issue cannot be solved in the near future. Any stopgap attempt to create something artificially as a consequence of the war in Gaza today will bring negative results. But this is not the way that Washington today seems to be looking at it, which is not helpful."
  • Regarding the future, Shoval said that he is worried "about the Western world in general, of which Israel must remain an integral part....I am concerned about the ability of the West to keep its stance against the enemies of the West - and these are ideological enemies. This is an ideological contest."

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