News Digest — 1/31/24

Netanyahu Rules Out Mass Release Of Terrorists, End Of Gaza War For Hostage Release

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed Tuesday (30th) that his government will not agree to a mass release of jailed terrorists as part of a deal to secure the return of Israeli captives in Gaza.

Speaking at the Bnei David Yeshiva in the Israeli town of Eli in Samaria Tuesday (30th), Netanyahu ruled out agreeing to end the current war in Gaza or releasing large numbers of jailed terrorists as part of a hostage deal with Hamas.

“This is not another round,” Netanyahu told students and faculty, “neither is it an exchange of blows, nor is it an operation – it is total victory.  Nothing less.”

“I am committed to it.  Our fighters are committed to it and the overwhelming majority of the people are committed to it.  We will not compromise on anything less than total victory.”

Netanyahu’s address comes two days after Israeli, Qatari, Egyptian, and US intelligence chiefs met in Paris Sunday (28th) to discuss a possible hostage release deal.

While Israel reportedly accepted the framework reached in Paris, Hamas rejected it Monday (29th), demanding such a deal include both the mass release of terrorists held in Israeli jails as well as a conclusion to the current war and the withdrawal of the IDF from the Gaza Strip.

“I hear talk about all kinds of deals,” Netanyahu continued.  “I would like to make it clear: We will not conclude this war without achieving all of its goals.”

“This means eliminating Hamas, returning all of our hostages and ensuring that Gaza never again continues as a threat to Israel.”

On Monday (29th), Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said that roughly half of Hamas’ 30,000 terrorists in Gaza have been either killed or wounded in the war.

“We have already killed a quarter of the Hamas terrorists, at least,  and the same number are wounded,” he told the IDF Artillery Corps reservists serving near Gaza.

Nevertheless, Gallant added that it would take Israel months to complete the destruction of Hamas forces in Gaza. 

“Terrorists remain, and we are fighting against pockets of resistance… it will take months, not just one day.”



IDF Chief Of Staff: ‘Where Necessary, We Enter The Most Complex Places

IDF Chief of Staff LTG Herzi Halevi on Tuesday (30th) met reserve commanders from Battalion 8208, who lost 21 of their soldiers last week, along with the Commanding Officer of the Gaza Division, BG Avi Rosenfeld, and the Commanding Officer  of the Southern Gaza Brigades, Col. Tal Ashur.

“This morning soldiers of the Yamam Unit entered into a hospital in Jenin, inside which a terrorist cell was planning to carry out a serious attack and to kill Israeli civilians.  We do not want to turn hospitals into battlefields, with patients on the right and doctors and nurses on the left, and terrorists in the middle.  But we are even more determined not to allow hospitals in Gaza, Judea, Samaria, Lebanon, above ground or in tunnel shafts and tunnels under hospitals, to become a places that are covers for terrorism and ones that allows terrorists to stash weapons, to rest, to go out to carry out an attack,” the Chief of Staff emphasized.

According to him, “Where necessary, we enter even the most complex places to eliminate terrorism, to harm terrorism, to strike terrorists.  And where there is fighting, to eliminate them.  We are fighting against serious terrorism, it brought us into Gaza with great force, we will continue to operate in Gaza, we will continue to reach wherever Hamas is, we will continue to attack, we will continue to kill terrorists, we will continue to destroy infrastructure.”

Halevi addressed the soldiers: “I am impressed by how well you carry out these tasks, you combine very well with all the infantry and armor capabilities, the connection to combat engineering, which was also connected to the difficult event last week.  These combinations are professional and strengthen your spirit and prevent cracks, this is what will give us the ability to go to a long, complex war, and at the end of the road with a victory that is very important and will also be very clear.  There is a lot of appreciation for the battalion’s actions, a lot of appreciation for dealing with the situation.”



IDF Confirms: Water Being Pumped Into Hamas Tunnels

In cooperation between units in the IDF and the Ministry of Defense, various tools were developed to channel large volumes of water into Hamas’ terror tunnels in the Gaza Strip.  This is part of a range of tools deployed by the IDF to neutralize the threat of Hamas’ subterranean network of tunnels.

These capabilities consist of installing pumps and pipes, the materialization of engineering developments, and the ability to locate tunnel shafts suitable for the deployment of these tools.  The capability was developed in a professional way, including analysis of the soil characteristics and the water systems in the area to ensure that damage is not done to the area’s groundwater.  The pumping of water was only carried out in tunnel routes and locations that were suitable, matching the method of operation to each case.

The IDF stated that the project was developed following combat procedures, accelerated force-building efforts, and training forces with technological expertise.  This tool is one of a range of capabilities developed by the IDF and Israel’s security establishment in recent years to operate against Hamas’ underground infrastructure in the Gaza Strip.  These efforts against Hamas also include airstrikes, underground combat operations, and special operations with technological assets.

The tool represents a significant engineering and technological breakthrough in combating the threat of underground terror infrastructure and is the result of a collaborative effort between various bodies in Israel’s security establishment.



Thousands In India Flock To A Recruitment Center For Jobs In Israel -Rajesh Kumar Singh

Thousands of Indian men, mostly skilled construction workers and laborers, flocked to the federal government’s screening center in Lucknow on Thursday (25th) for jobs in Israel.  Anoop Singh was told he would make $1,600 a month in Israel – significantly more than the $360-$420 he could get for the same work in India.

A week-long recruitment drive began on Jan. 23, with a 15-member Israeli team overseeing the process and expecting to fill over 5,000 positions for masons, carpenters and other construction workers.  Many see this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that could change their lives for the better.

The states of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh have advertised for around 10,000 positions each for construction workers in Israel.  New Delhi and Jerusalem last year inked an agreement that would allow 40,000 Indians to work in the fields of construction and nursing in Israel.  According to 2022 data from India, there are nearly 13,000 Indian workers already in Israel, especially in the caregiving sector.  (AP-Washington Post)



UNRWA School Students In East Jerusalem Say ‘Stabbing Jews Brings Respect For Palestinians’

“I am ready to carry out a suicide attack” is what a student at an UNRWA school in East Jerusalem says to the camera, in a video filmed in 2022 by the Bedein Center for Near East Policy Research.  Another student says that “we have to fight the Jews to prove that we are stronger than them.”   

The students are recorded saying that “stabbing and trampling Jews brings respect to the Palestinians, we are ready to carry out suicide attacks,” and “we are taught that the Jews kill our children.  I will stab and run over them.”  One of the students says that “we are taught that Al-Aqsa and all of Palestine is ours,” and in the video, another shares that “we are taught that Jews are terrorists.”

David Bedein, director of the research institute that has been dealing with UNRWA and the Palestinians since 1987, notes: “In the textbooks of UNRWA students in the Shuafat refugee camp, there are pictures praising murderers who committed terrorist attacks and killed many Israelis, used as role models.”

Following publication of the video, the deputy mayor of Jerusalem and the chairman of the United party Aryeh King, contacted the chairman of the Jewish National Fund (JNF), Ifat Ovadia-Luski.  The UNRWA school in question was established on land owned by JNF, and King demanded that the school be vacated.  In an appeal to Luski, he wrote that the expectation was that the area would be used for the benefit of the Jewish people and the Land of Israel, but in reality the UNRWA school was established “where, according to the evidence, they teach hatred of Jews and incite against the State of Israel.”

JNF stated in response that “in accordance with the Israel Land Authority law and in accordance with the agreement between the state and the JNF, the Israel Land Authority manages JNF lands.  Any information regarding the owners and/ or encroachers of the land and their action should be addressed to the Israel Land Authority.”

About 119,000 students study in the Arab education system in East Jerusalem: 45,000 in official educational institutions, 58,000 in unofficial, recognized institutions and 15,380 students in institutions that operate without a license, which are not funded or supervised by the state (about 13% of East Jerusalem students).

On Tuesday (30th), the Knesset held a joint discussion with the Education Committee and the Committee of Children’s Rights to mark the International Day of Education, in which the lawmakers spoke about anti-Semitic content taught in the Palestinian education system.  It was decided that there would be strict supervision in educational institutions in East Jerusalem.

“It’s crazy that the 11th and 12th grades are given textbooks with anti-Semitic content and incitement against the state,” committee members said and called for the removal of anti-Semitic content from Palestinian education plans and sharply criticized the United Nations and UNRWA “for not doing anything against the Palestinian education industry that teaches jihad, the demonization of Jews and Israelis, and delegitimization of the State of Israel.”

On Friday (26th) and Saturday (27th), UNRWA faced an uproar when nine contributing countries decided to freeze funding that was intended for the organization despite the commissioner-general’s announcement of an investigation into the allegations that UNRWA employees were involved in the murderous terrorist attacks on Israel on Oct.7.



1,200 UNRWA Staff – Not Just 12- Have Links To Hamas Or Islamic Jihad – Carrie Keller-Lynn

Around 10% of UNRWA’s 12,000 employees in Gaza have links to Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad,  and 49% have close relatives who belong to the Islamist militant groups – both designated as terrorist organizations by the U.S. – according to Israeli intelligence estimates shared with the U.S.  Of the 12 employees listed in an intelligence dossier, two helped kidnap Israelis, two others were tracked to sites where scores of Israeli civilians were shot and killed, and others coordinated logistics for the assault, including procuring weapons.

UNRWA “as a whole is a haven for Hamas’ radical ideology,” said a senior Israeli government official.  The report said 23% of UNRWA’s male employees had ties to Hamas, a higher percentage than the average of 15% for adult males in Gaza, indicating a higher politicization of the agency than the population at large.

Since October 7, Hamas has stolen more than $1 million worth of UNRWA supplies, including fuel and trucks, according to the intelligence report.  Hamas operatives are deeply enmeshed within the UNRWA aid-delivery enterprise and coordinate transfers for the organization.  (Wall Street Journal)



Massachusetts Man Arrested For Alleged Threats To Bomb Synagogues, Kill Congregants

A Massachusetts man was arrested Monday (29th) for allegedly threatening to kill members of the state’s Jewish community and to bomb local synagogues, the US attorney;s office in Boston said.

John Reardon, 59, of Mills, Massachusetts, allegedly called Congregation Agudas Achim in Attleboro, Massachusetts, on Jan. 25 and left a voicemail making several threats to kill congregants and bomb the synagogue, including that “if you kill the Palestinians, we can kill you,” federal authorities said.  Ten minutes later, he allegedly made a call to another local synagogue and a Jewish organization.

Reardon was scheduled to appear in the US District Court in Boston Monday afternoon (29th).  If convicted, he faces a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000.

“The allegations concerning the series of threats Mr. Reardon made against the Jewish community are deeply disturbing and reflect the increasing torrent of anti-Semitism across our country and right here in Massachusetts,” Acting United States Attorney Joshua S. Levy said in a statement.  “The numbers do not lie — incidents of anti-Semitism are spiking.”

Jodi Cohen, special agent in charge of the FBI, Boston Division, accused Reardon of “using his words as a weapon, leaving threatening messages to frighten members” of Congregation Agudas Achim.

“No one should have to fear becoming the victim of physical violence at the hands of an angry stranger,” Cohen said.

Since the Hamas attack on Israel, October 7 and Israel’s subsequent military offensive in Gaza, there has been a sharp rise in the incidents of harassment, anti-Semitic hate crimes, and claims of bias against Jewish communities globally.