News Digest — 1/24/24

Poll Reveals: Majority Of Israelis Oppose Prisoner Deal To End War

The majority of Israelis oppose a prisoner exchange deal that will include ending the fighting and releasing all security prisoners in Israeli prisons according to a new study conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute.

According to the study, 25% of the Jewish public suspects that such a deal would be incorrect, and 35% believe that they are sure that it would be incorrect.

Additionally, 21.1% of the Jewish public said that such a deal would be correct, and 10.4% said they were sure that such a deal would be correct.

However, 57.8% of the Arab public are sure that such a deal would be correct, and 20.7% suspect that such a deal would be correct.

Another 7.5% of the Arab public suspect that such a deal would be incorrect, and 3.8% are sure that such a deal would be incorrect.

In total, 52% of Israelis are against such a deal as opposed to 39.6% who support it.

Regarding the possibility of investigating the failures surrounding the October 7 massacre, 48% of the Jewish public oppose opening an investigation right now, as opposed to 46% who support an immediate investigation.

Regarding the performance of the IDF and the War Cabinet, 88% stated that the IDF is operating well in the war, as opposed to 46% who believe that the War Cabinet is doing well.

Regarding the National Unity party remaining in the government, 24.5% stated that they are sure that the party should remain as part of the government, and 30.2% stated that they suspect the party should remain in the government.  Another 17.7% stated that the party should leave the government, and 12.6% were certain that the party should leave the government.



IDF Continues Attack On Khan Yunis As Israeli Forces Encircle The City

Israeli forces from the 98th Division continued their encirclement of Hamas terrorists in the southern Gaza city of Khan Yunis, the IDF said Wednesday morning (24th).

The IDF said its forces intensified operations against Hamas in the south, killing seven terror cells with sniper, tank, and aerial fire, as ground forces were aided by Israeli Air Force fighter jets.

In Khan Yunis, soldiers carried out targeted raids against terror targets in the area, striking a terrorist cell that planned to carry out anti-tank fire aimed at Israeli troops.

Another armed terror cell, as well as a cell that hid and attempted to carry out an ambush on Israeli forces, were taken out in aerial strikes directed by troops on the ground.

On Tuesday (23rd), the IDF continued its new, major division-level push in western Khan Yunis, which it had started on Monday (22nd), maintaining the most intense fighting since early December.  Between Monday (22nd) and Tuesday (23rd), over 100 Hamas terrorists have been killed in larger-than-usual organized battles, with around 50 Hamas fighters killed on Monday (22nd) and a similar number on Tuesday (23rd).

The IDF called western Khan Yunis the heart of Hamas’ operations in Gaza, including areas where its two top leaders, Yahya Sinwar and Mohammad Deif, grew up.

In Gaza’s central area, the IDF Yiftach Brigade located and identified an armed spotter gathering intelligence and planning an attack on nearby Israeli forces.  He was targeted with artillery fire.



Chief Of Staff At Site Of Disaster: ‘We Paid The Painful Price Of War, But We Will Go On’

On Tuesday (23rd), Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi, Commander of the Gaza Division, Brigadier General Avi Rosenfeld, and commander of the Southern Brigade, Colonel Tal Ashur, held a preliminary investigation at the site where 21 IDF soldiers fell on Monday (22nd) in Gaza.

“Israel woke up this morning to a harsh and painful message: 21 soldiers dead.

The best in this country, those who volunteered to protect our home and paid the most expensive price.  We share in the grief of their families for the heavy loss and know that their pain is too much to bear, “ the Chief of Staff said.

“If this is any comfort, I would like the families to know that the soldiers fell in battle near the border fence, during an operation in the buffer zone between the Israeli communities and Gaza.  This is a mission whose entire purpose was to create the security conditions required for the residents of the Gaza surrounding communities to return to their homes in safety.  This is the reason we went to war, which began in a cruel attempt to end life.  Now we are more determined than ever to bring life back here and with even greater energies.”

The Chief of Staff added, “I have just returned from the site where the soldiers fell and I met the commanders.  I heard initial insights and first lessons.  We, as always, will investigate the incident in depth and learn the lessons while continuing fighting, so that such an incident will not happen ever again.”

He said, “Today we are grieving the loss of 21 soldiers – all dear reservists who deserve enormous respect and appreciation from the entire country, for volunteering, for their determination and endless consent to give to their country.  They started their service together, in the Givati Brigade, and continued in the reserves.  They come from all parts of Israeli society and from all over Israel – they are a model group and an example for all of us.  No one is dearer to us than them.  We will bow our heads but stand tall to continue the fighting for the defense of our homes.  We are still fighting.”

“The fighting will be long and many more challenges await us.  We are refreshing our forces and changing methods of fighting, knowing that we will return and be in need of more reservists again after they rest.  We are attentive to the needs of all reservists.  We embrace and appreciate them all. In light of the ultimate mission, we remain united – for the security of the citizens of israel.”

He also said, “On this difficult day it is important to say, we have been fighting for 108 days and we have not forgotten the seventh of October.  We have not forgotten why we went to war.  Over the last day, we have expanded the fighting in Khan Yunis, we have gained more achievements, and at the same time, we are continuing to fight in northern Gaza and deepening our achievements there.  We are eliminating and injuring many terrorists, many commanders – Hamas murderers, and we will continue to act with great determination against them.”

The Chief of Staff concluded, “On this day we have paid the great and painful price of war, but the war we are fighting now is necessary and is like no other war.  We will continue to fight for our obvious right to live here in security.”



Around 240,000 Holocaust Survivors Alive Today, And Require Extensive Care

According to an updated report, there are now approximately 240,000 Holocaust survivors alive today, and although their numbers are declining because of advanced age, they require extensive funding for their care.

The report was created by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, which periodically creates a review of survivors to negotiate with Germany to provide for their needs.

The most recent report broke down information on survivors by age and country.

The oldest living survivor is Rose Girone who lives in New York and is 112.  Her daughter Rhea Bennicasa, is 85, around the median age for survivors today (86).  Rhea said, “My mother will be first to tell you, we’re very lucky all around.”

Of the remaining Holocaust survivors, the majority (61%) are women.

They live in 90 countries; 49% are located in Israel, 18% in North America, another 18% in Western Europe, and 12% in the former Soviet Union.

Gideon Taylor president of the Claims Conference says that now that survivors are in advanced age is when they need the most assistance.  “Now is the time to double down on our attention with this waning population.  Now is when they need us the most,” he said.

The Claims Conference organization negotiates an amount with Germany – last year, it was 1.4 billion – and this amount is distributed through local agencies.

The funds are required to provide food, medicine, social assistance and at-home nursing care, while a portion is also used for Holocaust education.

The story of the oldest Holocaust survivor, Rose Girone and her daughter Rhea Bennicasa began in Germany, where Rose’s husband Julius was imprisoned in Buchenwald camp and was released if he promised to leave the country with his family.

They fled to Shanghai which was occupied by Japan, and the family was made to live as refugees in a tiny room that was a converted bathroom.

Rhea said, “Our experiences were not like people in camps, people that were branded in any fashion.  Our experience was so different,” she said.  “And for me as a child, whatever circumstances you’re given as a child, you accept them.  This is your life.”

It was in Shanghai that Rose knitted to make a living and she later started a sewing business to support herself and her family when they moved to New York.

Rose has been living in a nursing home for the past two years, and Rhea comments, “My mother goes with the flow and rolls with the punches.”

She repeated her mother’s advice, “Don’t ever get up without a purpose.  You have to have a purpose every day.”



Palestinians Deny Hamas’ Oct. 7 Atrocities – Gianluca Pacchiani

• Palestinian diplomat Abdullah Abu Shawesh claimed to Al Jazeera  in January that no Israeli civilians were killed in the Oct.7 onslaught on communities near Gaza, and that accounts of rape and other atrocities “were lies,” dismissing the overwhelming evidence.  On the Palestinian street, these views reflect mainstream beliefs, with polling showing high levels of denial.

• According to a Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PCPSR) poll last month, over 90% of Palestinians believe that “Hamas did not commit the atrocities seen in the videos” on Oct. 7.  That number is 97% among West Bank residents, compared to 83% of Gazans.

• PCPSR director Khalil Shikaki said this is due to the lack of coverage in Palestinian and Arab media.  85% of Palestinians said they had not seen videos of the acts.

Al Jazeera, which Shikaki estimated is the main news outlet for half of the population, “was more focused on the glorification of what happened, relying on the official statements by Hamas and repeating those quite often.”  The Qatari outlet published videos of Palestinians celebrating the attack in what it described as outbreaks of “spontaneous” and “overwhelming joy.”

• “Many Palestinians believe…that the large-scale destruction could not have been produced by a small armed group [of Hamas fighters]. But rather, it must have been the work of Israeli tanks or helicopters,” Shikaki said.

• Michael Milshtein, head of the Forum for Palestinian Studies at the Dayan Center at Tel Aviv University, said, “Palestinians live in a state of perpetual victimhood; they always find a justification for whatever they do.  They cannot accept the elevated levels of violence that exist in their midst, nor the fact that they are capable of perpetrating war crimes.”



Hamas: We Reject The Two-State Solution

Khaled Mashal, the leader of Hamas abroad, told Kuwaiti podcaster Amar Taki in January 2024: “We have nothing to do with the two-state solution.  We reject this notion, because it means you would get a promise for a Palestinian state, yet you are required to recognize the legitimacy of the other state, which is the Zionist entity.  This is unacceptable.”

“Especially following October 7, I believe that the dream and the hope for Palestine from the River to the Sea, and from the north to the south, has been renewed.  The Palestinian consensus – or almost a consensus – is that we will not give up on our right to Palestine in its entirety, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, and from Rosh Hanikra to Eilat or the Gulf of Aqaba.”

“I believe that October 7 has enhanced this conviction, has narrowed the disagreements, and has turned the idea of liberating Palestine from the River to the Sea into a realistic idea that has already begun… We are standing on its threshold.” (MEMRI)