News Digest — 1/9/24

Hezbollah Elite Commander Killed In Israeli Airstrike In Southern Lebanon, Security Sources Say

A senior commander in Hezbollah’s elite Radwan force was killed in an Israeli strike on South Lebanon, security forces told Reuters on Monday (8th).

Lebanese media reported that an “Israeli drone” struck a car in the Lebanese village of Majdel Selm in South Lebanon, 6 miles from the Israel-Lebanon border, killing two people.

The security sources identified the commander as Wissam al-Tawil, the deputy head of a unit within the Radwan force.  They said that he and another Hezbollah fighter were killed when their car was hit in an airstrike.

In an official statement, Hezbollah labeled Tawil a “commander” also known as “Hajj Jawad.”  The group announced he died as a “martyr on the path to Jerusalem,” a designation Hezbollah uses for its fallen since the war began on October 7.

According to Arab reports, Tawil was a field commander.  Saudi channel Al Hadath reported that he led Hezbollah’s 800th Infantry Unit in Syria and recently the Radwan force’s 122nd Unit.  Israel has not acknowledged the strike.

Syrian opposition forces claim Tawil fought in rural Aleppo and Eastern Syria for years, frequently traveling between Lebanon and Syria.

He’s related to Hassan Nasrallah through marriage and is the brother of Fadi and Qasim Tawil, both Hezbollah members who were killed.  His uncle, Hani Tawil, was killed in Syria last October. 

A Lebanese security source told French news agency AFP that the Hezbollah officer had a “leading role in directing operations in South Lebanon.

Al-Tawil’s killing comes less than a week after the assassination of Hamas deputy leader Saleh Al-Arouri in an airstrike in the heart of Beirut’s Dahieh District, considered Hezbollah’s base of operations.  The shiite group blamed the attack on Israel and vowed retaliation.



Maariv Interview: ‘Israel Cannot Rule Out Terror Tunnels Under West Bank Settlements,’ Expert Says

After years of hearing about the tunnel threat in the North and South, now the residents of the Seam Line fear the threat has expanded to the eastern front.  Dr. Daphne Richemond-Barak, an expert in the field, explained in an interview with Maariv why this is nothing less than an oversight.

The Seam Line area is made up of towns that lie between separation markers in the West Bank (walls, security fences, etc), and the Green Line, including both settlements and Palestinian villages.  If estimates include east Jerusalem, this amounts to about 8.5% of the West Bank.

In recent weeks, similar complaints have been forwarded to Israeli security forces by Seam Line residents, who believe they can hear the digging of tunnels in their area.

“In the two years before the discovery of the tunnels in the North, there were many residents who complained, but at first they were not believed,” recalled Dr. Richemond-Barak, a senior lecturer at the Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy and Strategy at Reichman University, who recognizes a great similarity between the various arenas.

“Even if there is currently no real threat, once we realize that our enemies are using the underground in all sorts of ways, we have to anticipate and prepare for such a threat.  How can this be a surprise to anyone at this point, when we know there are tunnels in Gaza, Lebanon, and the entire Middle East.”

“We also know that in Jenin, underground infrastructure was found six months ago.  If they are digging inside Jenin, why wouldn’t they try to dig under the Green Line now?  If there is evidence of digging inside Jenin, why wouldn’t we find tunnels in Bat Hefer?  The pattern is being repeated in each of the arenas.  As soon as we see activity in one arena, we need to be proactive and realize that we may see the same activity in other arenas as well,” she said.

“And in the arena in question, there is no separation between Jewish and Palestinian settlements, which may increase the level of threat.”

“This is a very important point.  Theoretically, such tunnels could be inside Jenin, under the Green Line, or between Jewish and Palestinian settlements.  We must not rule out such a possibility.  If we understand that they know what to do with the knowledge and how to maximize the solution, then it could certainly be that they dug tunnels between Jewish and Palestinian settlements.  It’s entirely possible,” she continued.

“If you have to rank the level of difficulty according to the type of soil, then you can say that the soil that is easiest to dig in is the sandy soil in the Gaza Strip.  In the West Bank, digging is more complex than in the Gaza Strip, and on the Lebanese border, it is the most difficult to dig, but what is important to say in this context is that we know even if the type of soil is a little more difficult to dig, it still doesn’t stop the enemy.  Look at Hezbollah carving tunnels in stone.  Such difficulties do not deter any player in the arena.”

“Since the discovery of the first tunnels in the Gaza Strip, Israel has invested many resources in developing a technological solution to the underground challenges.  In 2015 underground tunnel mining was found.  In October 2017, it was cleared for publication that the Southern Command established a technological laboratory for locating tunnels, which includes experts in various fields who analyze the information collected by the system.”

“The IDF has tools, but what is important is the change in perception.  Look at the Green Line, how long it is, and how close it is to Jewish communities,” Richemond-Barak added.

“There is no doubt that this is serious work, but there is a difference between saying it will take a long time and not being aware of the threat.  The basic concept should be that the possibility exists and that it should be checked.  What we lack is an understanding of the threat itself.  We first need to recognize it,” Dr. Richemond-Barak concluded.



Major Rally In The Hague To Support Israel Thursday

A demonstration in support of Israel is scheduled to take place in the Hague, Netherlands this Thursday (11th).  The event is a response to the recent legal actions taken by South Africa against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

The Center for Information and Documentation Israel (CIDI), in partnership with Christians for Israel and other organizations, are backing the event.  “In these challenging times, it is crucial to show our unwavering support for Israel,” said a CIDI spokesperson.  We urge everyone who stands with Israel to join us in this peaceful demonstration of solidarity.”

South Africa has accused Israel of genocide, leading to a high-profile case at the ICJ.  The court is expected to hear preliminary arguments this week.

The rally, termed a “Solidarity Manifestation,” aims to gather supporters at 8:45 AM at Lange Voorhout, proceeding to the Peace Palace, home of the ICJ: “This is more than a rally; it’s a statement for peace and justice,” stated an organizer.

A significant feature of the rally will be the  presence of a delegation from Israel, including families of Israelis held hostage by Hamas in Gaza.  “We want the world to see the human side of this conflict,” said an organizer.  

The International Court of Justice will hold hearings this week in a case brought by South Africa accusing Israel of genocide in the Gaza War and seeking an emergency suspension of its military campaign.

The ICJ, also called the World Court , is the highest United Nations legal body, established in 1945 to deal with disputes between states.  It should not be confused with the treaty-based International Criminal Court, also in The Hague, which handles war crimes cases against individuals.

South Africa has asked the court to order Israel to suspend its military actions in Gaza, to stop any genocidal acts or take responsible measures to prevent genocide and issue regular reports to the ICJ about such measures.

The ICJ’s rulings are final and without appeal, but it has no way of enforcing them.  However,  a ruling against Israel could hurt its international reputation and set legal precedent.



Jewish UK Defense Secretary’s Daughter Drops University Course Due To Anti-Semitism

Tabytha Shapps, the daughter of Jewish UK Defense Secretary Grant Shapps, said in an interview with the Telegraph, that she had to drop out of a course about Israel when classmates described the country as an “apartheid state.”

The second-year poli-sci and economics student at the University of Leeds said that her classmates were “talking about Israeli apartheid and Israel’s agenda as a genocidal state,” adding: “As the only Jew in the class… I sat there thinking, what about the injustices of the 1,200 Israelis killed on October 7th?”

Shapps also described how an anti-Israel protest on campus at the end of November quickly escalated into “anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist chants,” making me feel unsafe after the march.

According to the report, Tabytha’s mother, Belinda Shapps, wrote to the university to raise the issue of her daughter’s safety and was sent a generic response that read, in part: “The university has an explicit duty in law to take such steps as are reasonably practicable to ensure that freedom of speech within the law is secured for members, students, employees, and visiting speakers.”

A spokesman for the University of Leeds said: “Whilst the university has a legal duty to support free speech, anti-Semitism or Islamophobia of any kind will not be tolerated, and we do not support any viewer actions which make others feel unsafe or unwelcome on campus.”

“Our security teams are liaising with local police and the Community Security Trust to ensure our students feel safe, and we urge students to report any incident for investigation and action.”

“The university is providing a wide range of support for students who are affected by the conflict and will continue to listen and respond to their concerns.”



Head Nurse At Soroka Medical Center Recalls Oct 7 Horrors – Sarit Rosenblum

Tal Hayun, 46, head nurse at Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba, recalls the haunting images from Oct, 7: “Within a few hours, we were faced with an unbelievable number of organs that had to be amputated in the operating rooms.  These organs arrived almost completely severed or were injured when the wounded individuals lay in the field for hours with blocked arteries.  The medical trolleys, which are typically used for transporting equipment quickly became filled with hands and legs.”

After seeing the alarming messages on that Saturday morning, “it became clear that it was time for me to report to work…. Suddenly hundreds of wounded individuals arrived, including both uniformed soldiers and civilians.”  For two days the operating rooms operated non-stop.  “Everyone worked together and no one wanted to leave.  As the night approached, around 11 or 12 o’clock, the influx of the wounded to the emergency room subsided, but the operating rooms continued to function…. We received the most severely injured patients, unrecognizable and unidentified, covered in soot, sedated and connected to ventilators.”

“Among all of them, there was one soldier that stands out in my memory,,,, On his stretcher, there was a phone that incessantly rang.  The screen read ‘Mom.’… Should I answer the call?… How do you console a mother desperately seeking her child?… I didn’t answer.”

“For me, Oct 7 is an ongoing reality.  Every day, more helicopters touch down and more wounded are brought in…. My hope is that one day we can return to focusing on healing the sick, rather than treating the wounded.”



The Morality Of IDF Maneuvers In Gaza – Col. Richard Kemp

• The IDF is facing one of the most difficult and complex combat environments any armed forces ever had to deal with.  Most of Hamas’ forms of operation directly and intentionally contravene the laws of armed conflict.

• Hamas has constructed an extensive network of underground tunnels which add exponentially to the challenges.  I am not aware of any comparable purposely-built underground complex that any armed forces have had to tackle in any other conflict.

• Hamas and its fellow Gaza terrorists have, over several years, been preparing the territory with weapons and ammo caches, booby traps, mines, kill zones, and ambush and sniper positions.

• They have an armory that includes sophisticated ground combat systems including thermobaric anti-armor missiles, explosively formed penetrator IEDs, long-range sniper rifles, explosive suicide vests, remote detonation equipment, attack drones, surveillance drones, and ground-mounted surveillance cameras.  In addition, they have positioned a vast array of mobile rocket launchers that continue to attack Israel’s civilian population.

• It is a standard Hamas tactic for terrorists to move unarmed, in civilian clothing, among the civilian population, collecting weapons stashed in civilian buildings and then carrying out attacks against IDF troops.  In addition, Hamas is holding a large number of hostages in Gaza, which adds significant complications as the IDF seeks to rescue them and to avoid inadvertently killing them.

• In my opinion, the IDF has taken all reasonable measures to achieve its mission while minimizing harm to the civilian population and maximizing humanitarian relief.  Nor are Israel’s military objectives optional or negotiable.

• To eliminate the potential for a recurrence of another Oct.7-like massacre, which Hamas leaders have repeatedly threatened, Hamas’ fighting capabilities must be destroyed; its ability to continue firing lethal rockets into the Israeli population must be denied; and every possible effort must be made to rescue the hostages.

The writer, a former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, was chairman of the UK’s national crisis management committee, COBRA..