News Digest—1/16/24

IDF Uncovers 100 Rocket Launchers As Operations In Gaza Continue

The IDF has succeeded in killing more Hamas terrorists and uncovered approximately 100 rocket launchers, according to an IDF statement on Tuesday (16th).

In the Beit Lahia area, soldiers of the 401st Brigade Combat Team located about 100 rocket launchers and about 60 rockets ready for launch.

During operations to recover the rockets, the soldiers engaged dozens of Hamas terrorists and killed them.

In North Shati, cooperation between the Israel Air Force and soldiers of the 5th Brigade Combat Team directed an aircraft and a combat helicopter, resulting in the killing of nine terrorists.

In the Khan Yunis area, soldiers from the 7th Brigade Combat team directed several aircraft to eliminate terrorists identified in the area.  An observation device was also destroyed by a combat helicopter.

Also in the Khan Yunis area, soldiers from the Paratroopers Brigade Combat Team identified an armed terrorist near their location and eliminated him.  Shortly after, another terrorist was identified in the same building, who was eliminated by tank fire from the combat team.

Meanwhile, sirens sounded Tuesday morning (16th) in Netivot and in Israeli communities near the Gaza border.  According to reports, around 50 rockets were launched in a barrage from Gaza into southern Israel. 

In Netivot, one of the rockets struck a store selling electrical appliances.  Firefighters were searching the affected store and neighboring stores to ensure no one was trapped or injured.

Later reports noted a direct strike in Givolim as well.




1 Dead, 18 Wounded In Terrorist Rampage In Central Israel

One person was killed and 18 more wounded in a terrorist attack in central Israel Monday afternoon (15th).

The combination ramming and stabbing attack occurred in the city of Ra’anana, northeast of Tel Aviv, at 1:44 p.m. Monday (15th) when two Palestinian Arab terrorists stabbed a female driver, stole her car, and slammed into pedestrians at a bus stop on HaHaroshet Street.

After crashing the car, the terrorists exited the vehicle on Ahuza Street and hijacked another car, continuing the rampage.

The terrorists then exited the vehicle again and began stabbing passersby.

Police forces at the scene cordoned off the area  and managed to find and apprehend the terrorists.

Authorities have identified them as 44-year-old Mahmoud Zidat and 24-year-old Ahmed Zidat.  Both men are residents of the Palestinian Authority-administered town of Bani Naim, near Hebron, and both were illegally residing in Israel.

Emergency first responders from Magen David Adom (MDA)  and United Hatzalah were dispatched to the scene to treat the victims and evacuate them to local hospitals.

One of the victims, a 70-year-old woman, was rushed to Meir Medical Center in critical condition before succumbing to her wounds.

Two others , including a 34-year-old man and a 16-year-old boy, are listed in serious condition.

Eight others are listed in moderate condition, while the rest are in light condition.Two of the victims were evacuated to Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv, while the remaining victims  are being treated at Meir Hospital in Kfar Saba.

Seven of the victims wounded in the attack were children, most of whom were injured as they left school.



President Of Argentina To Visit Israel In February

Argentina President Javier Milei will visit Israel in February, becoming the first Latin American leader to come to the Jewish state since the war against Hamas in Gaza began.

The solidarity trip, part of one of his first tours abroad since taking office in December, signals a major shift in Argentine policy towards the United States and Israel after decades of pro-Arab support.

A very public leader who studies with a rabbi, Milei has pledged to move the Argentine Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

During his visit, which is scheduled for February 5-9, Milei is slated to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Isaac Herzog in Jerusalem and pray at the Western Wall.  His office is also considering a tour of the border-area kibbutzim, attacked by Hamas during the terrorist group’s October 7 massacre, and is planning a meeting with Argentinians living in Israel who were among those targeted in the attack. 

Netanyahu had invited Milei to Jerusalem in a congratulatory phone call last month and called him a “true friend” of Israel.

An Iconoclast and political outsider, Milei was elected in November amid a burgeoning economic crisis and inflation in Argentina that has topped 140%.  A week after his election victory, he visited the U.S. for government meetings and stopped at the grave in New York of the late Lubavitcher Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, in his third such visit last year.

“I want to emphasize our complete solidarity with the people of Israel following the terrorist acts committed by the Hamas terror organization,” Milei told then-Foreign Minister Eli Cohen in a meeting in Buenos Aires last month along with relatives of hostages being held by Hamas in Gaza.  “I support Israel’s full right to defend itself against those terrorist attacks,” he said.

His staunch support for Israel both ditches decades of unequivocal backing for Arab countries in the predominantly Catholic Latin American nation under both left-and right-wing governments and contrasts with neighboring Brazil, whose leftist leader, President Lula da Silva, has been highly critical of Israel’s war in Gaza.



Hamas Accuses Hezbollah Of Joining War Effort Only Symbolically

Hamas and Hezbollah agreed to carry out a “comprehensive ground invasion” into Israel following the “Guardian of the Walls” operation in 2021, after discovering in that clash “gaps in Israel’s security” that would enable terrorists to infiltrate from the north and south, conducting ground attacks along with rocket fire, sources in Hamas told the Saudi network Asharq on Monday (15th).

The sources claimed that, despite the preparedness of both terror organizations for the planned invasion, Hezbollah was surprised by the timing of Hamas’ attack on October 7.  Faced with military support from the U.S. and fearing destruction, Hezbollah “opted to participate only symbolically in the war.”

The Hamas sources described that within the framework of the planned invasion, the terror organizations were supposed “to disrupt the activities of the IDF and state institutions,” with the goal being “to force Israel to withdraw from the West Bank to the 1967 borders, including East Jerusalem.”  According to their accounts, Hamas terrorists were supposed to infiltrate into Israel from the south, Hezbollah terrorists from the north, and support-forces from Syria, accompanied by Hezbollah strikes on sensitive sites in Israel, including power and water stations and airfields, using precision missiles.”

As reported, Hamas and Hezbollah terrorists began preparing for this comprehensive  invasion,  but when Hezbollah was surprised by the timing of Hamas’ sudden attack on October 7, it chose to wait and see the Western response to such an unexpected terror attack.

According to the sources, when Hezbollah realized that the U.S. had moved additional aircraft carriers and combat ships to the region, “they preferred to avoid destruction and decided to participate in the war symbolically.”  Therefore, they claimed that since October 7 the Lebanese terror organization Hezbollah has been engaging Israeli forces through “limited clashes” in southern Lebanon.



Gilad Shalit Met Hostages’ Families, Shared How He Endured Hamas Captivity

Former soldier Gilad Shalit recently met with the families of several Israelis kidnapped by Hamas on October 7 and shared with them how he endured five years as a hostage of the Gaza-ruling terror group, Israel television reported Monday (15th).

Shalit expressed his support for the families and told them that their loved ones would be able to survive and recover, despite the difficulties, according to Channel 12  news.

Shalit, who was captured by Hamas in a 2006 cross-border attack and held in Gaza for five years, was said to have reached out to families of the hostages in the days after the Hamas-led onslaught three months ago, when Palestinian terrorists stormed the border with Israel, killing some 1,200 people and abducting around 240, mostly civilians.

In the first days after the attack, Shalit reportedly offered to help the families, but with the shock of the aftermath of the Hamas atrocities, a meeting was only held in recent days with a few family representatives of hostages still held in Gaza.

According to the report, Shalit told the group that their loved ones could return and live full, happy lives, as he has since returning to Israel in 2011.  Though many details of Shalit’s recovery have not been disclosed, he has traveled the world, studied at university, written a sports column for the Yediot Ahronot newspaper and gotten married since he was released, in a controversial exchange that saw Israel free 1,027 Palestinian security prisoners, including Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar, who is thought to be a key mastermind of the October 7 attack.

Channel 12 reported Shalit said it was important for him to share his experience with the hostages’ family members and to support them however possible.

It is believed that 132 hostages abducted by Hamas on October 7 remain in Gaza – not all of them alive – after 105 civilians were released from Hamas captivity during a weeklong truce in late November.  Four hostages were released prior to that, and one was rescued by troops.  The bodies of eight hostages have also been recovered and three hostages were mistakenly killed.  The Israel Defense Forces has confirmed the deaths of 25 of those still held by Hamas, citing new intelligence and findings obtained by troops operating in Gaza.  One more person is listed as missing since October 7, with fate unknown.

Hamas has been holding the bodies of fallen soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin since 2014 as well as two Israeli civilians, Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, who are both thought to be alive after entering the Gaza Strip of their own accord in 2014 and 2015 respectively.



Israel’s “People’s Army” At War – Raphael S. Cohen (Foreign Policy)

• Since the October 7 Hamas terrorist attack on Israel, a parade of U.S. defense officials have offered advice – largely unsolicited – about how Israel should conduct its offensive in Gaza, based on lessons the U.S. learned from its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

• There are many reasons why Israel has so far chosen to ignore these recommendations.  For starters, Iraq and Afghanistan were much larger and half a world away; Gaza is far smaller, more compact, and right next door to Israel.  Then there’s the fact that the U.S. lost the Afghanistan War and produced a muddled outcome in Iraq.

• Yet there is another important factor at play.  The Israel Defense Forces’ relationship with society, cultural predilections, and norms of behavior are unique.  Fewer than 1% of Americans serve on active duty and all do so by choice.  The IDF is at its core a draft military, designed to be what Israel’s founding prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, called a “people’s army,” both a reflection of society and the glue that binds the people together.

• On Oct.7, the IDF failed not only to protect the Israeli public but failed to protect its own: At least 274 Israeli soldiers, plus dozens of local security officials, were killed that day.

• Current and recently-retired IDF officers have told me of the need to “restore the trust” in the IDF, and these concerns color how the officers are approaching the war in Gaza.  For the military and its leaders charged with executing this war, the fight is deeply personal.

• Israel views its war as an existential, society-wide struggle.  With rockets still falling on Tel Aviv and Jerusalem; active fighting in Gaza, Lebanon, the Red Sea, and beyond; and surging global anti-Israel sentiment, the IDF sees itself fighting on all fronts.

The writer is Director of the Strategy and Doctrine Program at the Rand Corporation’s project Air Force.