March 20, 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:

Cruise Missile from Yemen Enters Israeli Airspace, Explodes North of Eilat - Yoav Zitun (Ynet News)
    A cruise missile fired on Monday night from the Houthi-controlled area of Yemen fell in an unpopulated area north of Eilat, the IDF confirmed Tuesday.

Two IDF Soldiers Wounded by Hizbullah Rocket Fire - Tzvi Joffre (Jerusalem Post)
    Two IDF soldiers were wounded by Hizbullah rocket fire near Manara in northern Israel on Tuesday.
    Several rockets were fired from Lebanon toward Israel throughout the day and a suspicious aerial object was intercepted near the border as well.
    The IDF struck Hizbullah targets in southern Lebanon.

Saving Sinwar - Judith Miller (Tablet)
    The Palestinian in the clinic at one of Israel's highest security prisons near Beersheba had a persistent pain in the back of his neck. He trembled and had trouble walking.
    Yuval Bitton, then a 28-year-old dentist, suspected that his patient might be suffering from an ischemic cerebrovascular accident, resulting from a life-threatening brain tumor. "He needs to be hospitalized, immediately," Bitton advised the prison doctors.
    The surgery took hours. The prisoner survived. The year was 2004.
    The patient was Yahya Sinwar, the Palestinian who in 2017 would become the leader of Hamas in Gaza and subsequently the mastermind of the Oct. 7 attack in Israel in which 1,200 mostly Israeli civilians died and 240 were taken hostage.

Report: Israelis Are Fifth Happiest in the World despite Ongoing War - Jacob Laznik (Jerusalem Post)
    Israel is ranked as the fifth happiest country in the world despite the war in Gaza and the Oct. 7 massacre, according to the 2024 World Happiness Report, released on Wednesday.
    Israel dropped by one spot after ranking fourth happiest last year.

The U.S. Plan for Aid Relief in Gaza - U.S. Navy Commander (ret.) David Levy (BESA Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
    In his 2024 State of the Union address, President Biden said, "I'm directing the U.S. military to lead an emergency mission to establish a temporary pier in the Mediterranean on the Gaza coast that can receive large ships carrying food, water, medicine, and temporary shelters."
    Washington has taken ownership of the Gaza humanitarian emergency by committing significant U.S. resources to mitigate the crisis.
    In the early 1990s, the U.S. initiated a humanitarian aid operation in Mogadishu, Somalia, to alleviate the severe famine and restore order amidst the country's civil war.
    What was meant to be an aid distribution operation escalated into a military engagement when local warlords appropriated all the aid and monopolized its distribution. Intense urban warfare resulted in 18 US soldiers killed and 73 wounded, with as many as 1,000 Somalis killed.
    Some in Gaza have adopted a strong Islamist worldview and may see the U.S. effort not as international aid relief but as the U.S. attempting to gain a foothold in Dar al-Islam (the territory of Islam). For Islamists, the use of force against Americans would be part of their jihad.
    Some Palestinians are already calling the U.S. port another form of occupation.
    President Biden assured Americans that there would be no U.S. military personnel with "boots on the ground." This likely means U.S. and foreign contractors to do the job.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Congress Bars Funds to UNRWA until March 2025 - Patricia Zengerle
    An agreement reached by U.S. congressional leaders and the White House on a massive funding bill will continue a ban on U.S. funding for UNRWA, the main UN agency for Palestinians, until March 2025, two sources said on Tuesday. The U.S. paused funding after Israel accused some of the agency's employees in Gaza of participating in the deadly Oct. 7 Hamas attack. The U.S. is UNRWA's largest donor, providing $300-400 million annually. (Reuters)
  • Marwan Issa, the Senior-Most Hamas Leader to Be Killed in the Gaza War - Adam Rasgon
    Marwan Issa, the deputy commander of Hamas' military wing in Gaza and a presumed mastermind of the Oct. 7 assault on Israel, was confirmed dead on Monday by U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan after an Israeli airstrike more than a week ago. The IDF said on March 11 that Israeli planes had targeted Issa in an underground compound in central Gaza.
        Issa, 58, had served since 2012 as a deputy to Mohammed Deif, leader of Hamas' Qassam Brigades. Salah al-Din al-Awawdeh, a Palestinian analyst close to Hamas, described Issa's position as "part of the front rank of the military wing's leadership." Former Israeli military intelligence chief Maj.-Gen. Tamir Hayman said Issa was simultaneously Hamas' "defense minister," its deputy military commander, and its "strategic mind."  (New York Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • IDF Arrests 300 Suspects in Shifa Hospital, including Islamic Jihad Terrorists
    The IDF has arrested 300 suspects during its ongoing operation in Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, the IDF Spokesperson's Unit said Tuesday. Among those arrested were dozens of terrorists from Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad who were involved in directing terrorist operations in the West Bank, operating public relations units, and operating in the Islamic Jihad's rocket unit. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also IDF: 90 Terrorists Eliminated in Shifa Hospital Operation - Yoav Zitun (Ynet News)
        See also Israeli Defense Minister: "It Will Take as Long as It Takes" to Eliminate Hamas' Military Force - Yoav Zitun
    Referring to the IDF's raid on Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Monday, "The place that Hamas terrorists thought was their hiding place and safe place quickly became a death trap in the Al Shifa area. In this process, we took another step toward dismantling Hamas, another brick, another blow. It will continue and intensify until we eliminate the Hamas organization and everything it represents. There will be no military rule and there will be no capability of a Hamas military force in Gaza. It will take as long as it takes; we will eliminate this evil."  (Ynet News)
  • Two Israeli Security Agents Wounded in Gush Etzion Shooting Attack - Elisha Ben Kimon
    Two agents from the Israel Security Agency were wounded Tuesday in a shooting attack in Gush Etzion, south of Jerusalem. Ziad Humran, 30, from Jenin, ambushed the two. One of them shot and killed their assailant. (Ynet News)
  • Netanyahu: "We Have a Debate with the Americans over the Need to Enter Rafah, Not over the Need to Eliminate Hamas"
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday: "We have a debate with the Americans over the need to enter Rafah, not over the need to eliminate Hamas....We see no way to eliminate Hamas militarily without destroying these remaining battalions. We are determined to do this."
        "Out of respect for the President, we agreed on a way in which they can present us with their ideas, especially on the humanitarian side. Of course, we fully share this desire to facilitate an orderly exit of the population and the providing of humanitarian aid to the civilian population. We have been doing this since the beginning of the war. However, I made it as clear as possible to the President that we are determined to complete the elimination of these battalions in Rafah, and there is no way to do this without a ground incursion."  (Prime Minister's Office)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Gaza's Understanding of U.S. Humanitarian Aid: A "Free Lunch" - Dr. Dan Diker and Zvi Yehezkeli
    Gazans interpret U.S. humanitarian aid without a quid pro quo as unqualified American support for Hamas and Gaza and a rejection of Israel. Therefore, Gazans interpret U.S. aid as an implicit justification for their actions on Oct. 7, 2023. Gaza views American air drops, seaport plans, and aid convoys as concrete illustrations of American solidarity with Palestinian "liberation," which aims to eradicate Israel. Moreover, U.S. aid does not come with a "price tag" of thanks or loyalty to American aid providers.
        The U.S. humanitarian aid approach has been a strategic mistake. In the more "forgiving" Western culture, it may seem cruel to demand something in return for aid. Yet, in Middle Eastern culture, giving without getting in return is considered submission. This approach weakens Israel and the West, bolsters Hamas, and renders these programs political and perceptual failures for Israel and the West.
        Dr. Dan Diker is President of the Jerusalem Center. Zvi Yehezkeli is head of the Arab desk at Israel's Channel 13 News. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Israeli Considerations for Postwar Gaza - Ron Ben Yishai
    Prime Minister Netanyahu's strategic objectives for postwar Gaza include:
        1) There will not be an independent Palestinian state made up of the West Bank and Gaza and connected by a land corridor above- or below-ground, which explains the broad rejection of the U.S. call for a role for the revamped Palestinian Authority in the Strip after the war.
        2) Gaza would no longer pose a threat to Israel's sovereignty and security and would remain demilitarized and under the security control of Israel, with a secure zone along the border. The civilian administration would no longer educate young Palestinians to seek Israel's destruction.
        3) Completely severing any connection with Israel in all civilian spheres so that any hardship in Gaza could not be blamed on Israel.
        4) UNRWA must be dismantled, not only in Gaza, but in the West Bank and in neighboring Arab states as well, due to an understanding that preserving the Palestinians' refugee status and their economic dependence on the UN organization encourages resistance to Israel.
        UNRWA would be replaced first by international and regional humanitarian organizations, until a local civilian administration can be established to meet the needs of the local residents while under the supervision of regional or international partners. (Ynet News)
  • Israel's "Allies" Should Reckon with Reality - Stephen Daisley
    Everyone wants an end to the fighting in Gaza. The urgency is understandable. Yet, Israel intends to continue fighting until it has a) freed its hostages or their bodies and b) sufficiently incapacitated Hamas and Palestine Islamic Jihad to delay a repeat of Oct. 7 in the near future.
        Hamas understands that Operation Al-Aqsa Flood was its greatest ever success, killing 1,200 Jews, turning the West against Israel and derailing progress towards Israeli-Saudi normalization. Support for Hamas is surging in the West Bank.
        If the international community wants Israel to stop bombing Gaza, the international community should take over Gaza and stop Hamas attacking Israel. But the global community, with its cherished norms and spottily applied international law, much prefers to chastise Israel from afar. Get any closer and it would have to confront some unpleasant truths about those it caricatures as villains and those it fetishizes as victims.
        It would find itself in Israel's shoes, learning on the job that messy as Jerusalem's military strategy sometimes is, it is based on bitter experience of the enemy and a necessary ruthlessness that matches the nature of the threat. (Spectator-UK)

  • In World War II, the people of the United States did not worry about the devastation of civilian neighborhoods in Berlin brought about by Allied bombers or hardships visited upon "innocent Germans." Millions of Germans were killed or injured because of the war begun by Hitler, and the same is true of Japanese civilians killed by the Allied bombings of the Japanese home islands: the rulers of Imperial Japan brought that upon themselves.
  • Now intense pressure is being brought to bear on the Israel Defense Forces to limit their offensive as a result of "reports" of casualties in Gaza put out by Hamas. We cannot believe the Hamas numbers. What we do know is that Israel has no choice but to prosecute the war in Gaza until Hamas is destroyed, it's senior leadership dead or fled, and a semblance of security returned to the people of Israel.
  • For 17 years, Israel pursued a policy of co-existence with the terror organization that controlled Gaza, with Israeli government after government counting on the evolution of Hamas into a governing authoritarian regime but not one devoted to massacring Jews. Now we know that Hamas is a death cult. If allowed to remain in Gaza in any significant size and with its underground fortress intact, it will be a matter of time until Hamas unleashes another wave of horrific barbarism.
  • Israel must absolutely enter and subdue all of Rafah, must absolutely destroy the underground fortress, and must re-take the Philadelphi Corridor between Gaza and Egypt to prevent smuggling the mind-boggling amount of weaponry that Hamas amassed in Gaza since Israel withdrew from the Strip in 2005.
  • The war in Gaza must be won by Israel and the only reason there is a war at all is because of Hamas. Only the end of Hamas in Gaza - which means a ground operation in Rafah - will bring peace to that devastated region.

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