News Digest — 1/17/24

IDF, Shin Bet Kills Head Of Terror Cell In Nablus During Overnight Operation

The head of a terrorist cell in Nablus was killed overnight in a joint operation between the IDF and Shin Bet, the military revealed on Wednesday morning (17th).

During the operation in Balata, within Nablus, the IDF and the Shin Bet eliminated the head of a terror cell, Amed Abdullah Abu-Ahalal, who was planning to carry out a large-scale terror attack, by using an IAF aircraft.

Abdullah was responsible for carrying out numerous attacks over the last year, including the shooting in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, which wounded two Jerusalem residents,

He was also responsible for the bombing attack against IDF soldiers in October, where one soldier was wounded. 

The IDF eliminated Abdullah after receiving an intelligence report from the Shin Bet regarding his intentions.  After he was killed, they found weapons in his vehicle.

The terror cell he belonged to received funding from Iran and cooperation from terrorists’ headquarters in Gaza.

Abdullah was eliminated in a precise Israeli airstrike.



IDF Major Escalation, Attacking Hezbollah Targets In Wadi Saluki

The IDF on Tuesday (16th) attacked dozens of Hezbollah targets in the Wadi Saluki village of southern Lebanon in a significant escalation between the sides.

Using both airstrikes and artillery, the IDF blanketed the area with missiles and shells, where it said Hezbollah had concealed large numbers of military buildings, infrastructure, and weapons.  The village is slightly west of Kiryat Shmona and Menara in the Upper Galilee.

According to the IDF, Hezbollah has repeatedly used the area to carry out attacks against both Israeli soldiers and civilians.

Other than its extensive use of the village and a wide opening to hit many targets in a specific area, there was not an expectation that the IDF would hit Wadi Saluki more in the future versus another dozen or so villages from where Hezbollah also operates.

On Sunday (14th), Hezbollah killed two Israeli civilians when it fired anti-tank missiles at a variety of other civilian locations.

This came not long after Hezbollah attacked a key IDF air defense base on January 6 and the IDF Northern Command headquarters on January 9.

Likewise, Hezbollah’s escalation came after the IDF has spent recent months gradually escalating attacks against Hezbollah forces in various southern Lebanon villages in order to push them back to an area beyond the Litani River.

In addition, the IDF has taken credit for killing Hezbollah’s drone chief in southern Lebanon and has been accused by Hezbollah of killing its Radwan chief as well as Hamas’ Deputy Chief Saleh al-Arouri while he was visiting Beirut.

IDF Northern Command Maj. Gen.Uri Gordon on Tuesday (16th) said that the IDF was ready for an even larger escalation if that would be what it takes to press Hezbollah back from the border and return security to Israel’s northern residents who evacuated the area in October.

“We are more prepared than ever…we can go to war tonight if needed,” Gordon said.  “We struck many terror cells in the North, more than 150 were destroyed, and a lot of their capabilities have been taken away.”

“We are working to peel away Hezbollah‘s capabilities and push it as far back as possible.”  There is much more to do to bring the desired result of improved security, and return northern Israel residents to their homes.”

It was unclear if Hezbollah would now escalate its attacks – it has 150,000 rockets and mortars, including long-range precision rockets, which can hit most of Israel – or whether both sides would step back  from the recent escalation.

Around 180 Hezbollah and Hamas terrorists have been killed in Lebanon since October, while just 20 IDF soldiers and civilians have been killed.

Israel has expressed hope for a diplomatic solution, including a Hezbollah withdrawal along the lines of UN Resolution 1701 from 2006, but to date, the terror group has resisted and defense officials have said time is running low to avoid a large war.

Earlier Tuesday morning (16th), the IDF said it sent special ground forces to operate inside Lebanon, eliminating a terror threat in the Ita al-Sha’ab area.

No other details were provided.



EU Adds Yahya Sinwar, Hamas Chief, To Terror List

The European Union on Tuesday (16th) added Yahya Sinwar, the leader of the Hamas terrorist organization in the Gaza Strip, to its list of international terrorists, imposing sanctions on him. 

“The Council decided on Tuesday (16th) to add one individual to the EU terror list.  This decision comes as part of the European Union’s response to the threat posed by Hamas and its brutal and indiscriminate terrorist attacks in Israel on 7 October. 2023,” the EU announcement reads.

“The individual designated today is Yahya Sinwar, the political leader of Hamas.  Following his listing, Yahya Sinwar is subject to the freezing of his funds and other financial assets in EU member states.  It is also prohibited for EU operators to make funds and economic resources available to him.”

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said in response to the EU’s move: “I congratulate European Union member states on their decision to add Yahya Sinwar, political leader of Hamas, to the sanctions list.  This is a just and moral decision.  I thank all our friends that supported this decision.  This decision is also a result of our diplomatic efforts to strangle the resources of Hamas, to delegitimize them and prohibit all support to them.  We will continue to eradicate the root of evil, both in Gaza, and wherever it raises its head.”

Sinwar is one of the masterminds of the October 7 massacre of over 1,200 people in southern Israel.  Under his direction, about 130 Israelis continue to be held hostage in Gaza after more than 100 days in captivity.

In late November, Sinwar gave his first public address since the massacre in which he threatened that worse was to come following October 7.  “Leaders of the occupation should know, October 7 was just a rehearsal,” he boasted.



Erdan To UN Chief: ‘The Very Least You Can Do Is Call Out The Terrorists’

Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations  Gilad Erdan, on Tuesday (16th), urged UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to call out Iran and its terror proxies.

Erdan was responding to a post on X from Guterres, who had written, “The longer the conflict in Gaza continues, the greater the risk of escalation and miscalculation.”

“We can not see in Lebanon what we are seeing in Gaza.  And we can not allow what has been happening in Gaza to continue,” added the UN chief.

In response, Erdan wrote on X, “Mr. Secretary-General, despite your cryptic words, what is happening in the Middle East didn’t erupt out of the blue.  Hezbollah, Hamas and the Houthis, under Iran’s direction, are driving the region to a point of no return.”

“Talk to the person solely to blame for all the terror and violence – Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.  I’m sure he’d love to speak with you,” added Erdan.

“The time has come for you to differentiate between good and evil.  The very least you can do is call out the terrorists.  Stop whitewashing the crimes of Iran and its terror proxies” concluded the Israeli ambassador.

In previous statements during the war, the UN chief has been particularly critical of Israel.  In one incident, he said that Hamas’ attack on Israel “did not happen in a vacuum” and appeared to blame Israel for the attack.

After his remarks were widely condemned, Guterres claimed his comments were misinterpreted and that he had indeed condemned Hamas.

He later criticized Israel once again, claiming that the high numbers of civilian casualties reported from Gaza show that there is something “clearly wrong” with Israel’s response to the Hamas attack on October 7.

Last month, Guterres invoked the rarely used Article 99 of the UN Charter in an attempt to force the Security Council to act and stop the ongoing war between Israel and the Hamas terror organization.

In response, then-Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said that “Guterres’ tenure is a danger to world peace.  His request to activate Article 99 and a call for a ceasefire in Gaza constitutes support for the Hamas terror organization, and provides a tailwind for the murder of the elderly, the kidnapping of babies and the rape of women.”



Finland Donates 1 Million Euros To MDA To Save Lives

Dr. Nina Nordstrom, the Ambassador of Finland, visited Magen David Adom’s National Dispatch Center in Kiryat Ono for the first time on Tuesday (16th), met MDA Director General Eli Bin and the senior management team, and signed an agreement to donate a million Euros to Magen David Adom to help save the lives of the residents of the State of Israel.

Ms. Nordstrom heard about the organization’s activities during the war, and in emergency times, especially about the many challenges faced by the teams on October 7th.  During a comprehensive tour of the Magen David Adom 101 Emergency Call Center, she met the MDA teams who answer calls from across the country, using advanced dispatch technologies, and heard the stories of the MDA, EMTs and Paramedics who are residents of the Western Negev and Sderot who provided medical treatment while under rocket and gunfire in the first days of the war, alongside heroic stories of MDA teams who sacrificed their lives while providing medical aid.

Nina Nordstrom, Ambassador of Finland, said: “It has been a privilege to learn about the outstanding practical work of the MDA Movement in Israel,”

MDA Director-General Eli Bin said: “I thank the Finnish Government for their generous donation to Magen David Adom, and the Ambassador of Finland Nina Nordstrom for her visit.  Today we showed the Ambassador Israel’s National Rescue Service that has existed for over 90 years, alongside the security forces, active at the highest standards, and saving lives of soldiers and civilians using the most advanced technologies in the world, throughout the lifespan of the State.  I thank the Finnish Government for their wonderful donation that will help us to act wherever needed, and as much as needed, in order to ensure Israeli residents’ medical wellbeing.”



Israeli Defense Minister Sees “Impressive Achievements” in Gaza War – Emanuel Fabian

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Monday (15th) that the “intensive phase” of Israel’s ground offensive in northern Gaza has ended, and it will soon be over in the Khan Yunis area in the south as well.  “We adapt our operations on the ground in accordance with the reality on the ground, as it becomes clearer to us, in accordance with military achievements, with the destruction of the enemy [Hamas], and in accordance with our intelligence,” Gallant said.  

In northern Gaza, “All the [Hamas] battalion frameworks have been dismantled.  We are now working to eliminate pockets of resistance.  We will achieve this via raids, airstrikes, special operations, and additional activities.”  In central Gaza, “We are destroying Hamas’ military industry, and its production centers.  These are the places that produce rockets, IEDs, explosives and other weapons to be used against us.  The achievements are very impressive.”  In southern Gaza, “IDF troops are focused on the head of the snake, the Hamas leadership.  As part of this action…the Khan Yunis Brigade is gradually disintegrating as a fighting force.”

“At the end of the war, there will be no military threat from Gaza.  Hamas will not be able to control and function as a military force in Gaza, and the IDF will have full freedom of action to do whatever is required to defend the citizens of Israel.  It may take a long time, but it will end with a single scenario – total victory.”

Gallant said only continued military pressure on Hamas would bring about a new hostage deal.  “If the fire stops, the fate of the hostages will be sealed for many years in the captivity of Hamas.  Without military pressure, no one will talk to us.  Only from a position of strength can the hostages be freed.”



I Saw How Hamas Is Embedded Within Gaza’s Population – Maj. (res.) Roi Yanovsky

While Gaza is perceived by the world as an overcrowded, third-world territory, I saw a wholly different picture during 100 days in the reserves inside Gaza.  Gaza City is a modern, well-developed city.  Big houses, a big plaza, parks, well-maintained walkways right on the beach and so much more.  It looks far more like Tel Aviv.  The world’s “most crowded?”  Not by a long shot.  Homes are loaded with fancy belongings, furniture, and appliances.  Most places are bigger than my Tel Aviv apartment.  Blaming their will to fight Israel on their poor living conditions does a disservice to the truth.

In most homes, every school and every public institution, the single most prevalent object seems to be a map of Israel.  Of course, it doesn’t say Israel, as it refers to the entire territory as Palestine.  They choose to inhabit an alternate reality, making it far more difficult to find common ground.

In every single neighborhood we were in, weapons, tunnels, explosive charges and launchpads were all conveniently located inside residential buildings.  The Palestinian civilians who reside there are acutely aware of all this.  Hamas operatives are fully aware that if they walk around unarmed in civilian clothing, the IDF is highly unlikely to view them as hostile.

Not only is Hamas embedded within the Palestinian population, the population is embedded with Hamas.  Its ideology can be found in practically every home.  Hamas would never have become this powerful without active assistance from the locals.

The writer is a journalist at Israel’s Channel 13.