News Digest — 10/11/23

Jerusalem Feels Like A Ghost Town Amid Gaza War – Seth J. Frantzman

Jerusalem, usually the bustling capital of Israel; with its tourists and pilgrims, eating places and politicians, has become deserted amid the war in Gaza.  Neighborhoods that are often full of life are still at night, no traffic and no children playing in playgrounds.  The city has been targeted by Hamas rockets since Saturday (7th).

With schools canceled, children are at home.  Many men have been called up to the IDF as its ranks swell by 300,000.  This leaves a city that is not only quiet but one waiting for what comes next.

In downtown Jerusalem, many shops are closed.  Most restaurants and coffee shops, for instance, were closed on Tuesday (10th).  Pinati, the famous hummus place on King George Street was closed.  The Aroma across the street was also closed.  Although the Pharmacy was open, most other shops were shuttered.  The one place that was open was a place called shawarma.  However, it was out of most of the salads that usually adorn the ‘laffa’ that the meat is rolled in.

Around the corner, the two delicatessens were opened, but McDonalds was closed.  A friend of mine staying in a hotel said that most of the hotels in the chain where he was staying had closed and he had to search for another hotel that was open. When the sun begins to set, a time when eating places usually do a brisk business, the streets become quiet.  There are no cars.  Parking lots are empty.  Gershon Agron Street, where the historic US consulate building is located, is entirely deserted.  The restaurant across the street is dark and empty, and the park where people gather is empty.

In only one neighborhood I drove through were kids playing outside and then only because they were sheltered on both sides by buildings and could easily go inside if there was a siren.  Streets that are usually jammed with traffic had few cars. The usually aggressive Jerusalem drivers and taxis didn’t use their horns.  Everyone seemed a bit on edge. At the First Station, which has become a hub of restaurants and people strolling around the old railway tracks, only one restaurant was open.  I sat with a friend for a bite to eat.  Only two tables had customers.

At supermarkets, the shelves are empty of some items, such as bread, batteries, milk and eggs.  With instructions for people to have their safe rooms stocked for three days, everyone grabbed what they could.  Many workers do not come to work.  This city, usually full of tour groups, has none.  Flights are canceled.  People who had come on a holiday or to see relatives are scrambling to find flights home, often through countries they did not intend.

This is the holy city, the capital of Israel, four days into the war.



Death Toll From Hamas Onslaught Passes 1,200 As IDF Steps Up Strikes On Hamas

The death toll from Palestinian terrorist group Hamas’ shock attack on Israel Saturday (7th) surpassed 1,200 on Wednesday (11th), with close to 3,000 injured and the fate of an estimated 150 people abducted and taken to the Gaza Strip still unclear.

The Health Ministry said earlier that 2,901 people had been injured, with over 500 still hospitalized including 26 who are critical and 340 who are in serious condition.

Funeral after funeral was held in Israel on Tuesday (10th) for soldiers and civilians alike as the country reels from the mass infiltration and massacre on Saturday (7th).

Security forces were still battling terrorists in the predawn hours of Wednesday morning (11th).

In a briefing around 8 a.m. on Wednesday (11th), Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said Israeli forces had killed 18 terrorists in Israeli territory during the previous 24 hours as sweeps continue to root out the last Hamas infiltrators.

“These are the same terrorists who did not flee back to Gaza.  They are in hiding places, near the border.  That’s why the scans are taking place with large numbers of troops.  There are tens of thousands of IDF fighters in the area surrounding Gaza,” he said.

On Tuesday night (10th) troops killed three Palestinian terrorists near the southern coastal city of Ashkelon.  The military said that troops of the 17th Battalion, along with a drone and a combat helicopter providing support, clashed with three gunmen close to Ashkelon industrial zone, just outside the city.

The incidents continued on Wednesday (11th), with the IDF saying forces had killed a Hamas diver trying to infiltrate via the sea in the early morning hours.  The military added that the Khan Younis and Gaza City docks, used by Hamas “to carry out terror attacks on the Israeli coastline,” were hit by artillery fire, missile boats, combat helicopters and ground artillery.

 Terrorists in Gaza were also continuing to launch rockets at Israeli cities and towns with projectiles directly hitting at least four buildings in the southern city of Sderot on Wednesday morning (11th).  The Magen David Adom ambulance service said its medics were treating a man who was moderately hurt by rocket shrapnel.

Terror groups have fired more than 5,000 rockets at Israel since Saturday (7th), the IDF said.

The military added that it had hit more than 80 sites in Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip Wednesday morning (11th).  Dozens of fighter jets carried out the strikes against targets, which included two banks used by Hamas, an underground tunnel, several war rooms, and other military installations, the IDF said.

The overnight strikes also hit the home of relatives of Mohammad Deif, the senior Hamas military commander, in the Qizanan-Najjar neighborhood in Khan Younis, according to Palestinian reports cited by Hebrew media.

The jets were said to have struck the home of Deif’s father, killing the terrorist’s brother, his son, and the brother’s granddaughter.



Missiles Fired From Lebanon, Mortars Launched From Syria As Northern Border Heats Up

Missiles were launched at Israel from both Lebanon and Syria, Tuesday (10th), with the Israeli military shelling posts in both nations in response, as fighting continued in southern Israel in the wake of a major attack launched by the Palestinian Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip.

The Israel Defense Forces said 15 rockets were fired from Lebanon at the Western Galilee, setting off sirens in several towns.  Four projectiles were intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system,  while the rest landed in open areas, causing no damage or injuries, the IDF said.

A short while later, an anti-tank guided missile was launched from Lebanon at an armored vehicle near the northern border of Avivim –  the IDF said no soldiers were wounded.  The Military said that a combat helicopter struck Hezbollah posts in response.

“The IDF is prepared for all scenarios and will continue to protect the residents of the State of Israel,” the military said in a statement.

Hamas later claimed responsibility for the rocket fire and Hezbollah said it carried out the ATGM attack.

Later Tuesday (10th) a number of mortars were fired from Syria at the Golan Heights.  The IDF said several of the projectiles crossed into Israeli territory and landed in open areas, causing no damage.

The IDF said it carried out artillery strikes in Syria in response, targeting the origin of the mortar fire.

The attacks came a day after Israeli forces clashed with terrorists on the Lebanon border.  The clashes left three Israeli soldiers and two Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists dead.

Three Hezbollah members were killed in Israel’s retaliatory bombing against the terror group’s sites.

Meanwhile, Wednesday morning (11th) a missile was launched at Lebanese territory towards Israel.

“Confirming the launch, the IDF said, “A short while ago, a launch of an anti-tank missile from Lebanon toward a military post adjacent to the community of Arab Al-Aramshe on the Lebanese border, was identified.”

Both before and after Monday’s (9th) clashes, several mortar shells were fired at Israel from southern Lebanon.  The IDF responded to those attacks with artillery fire.

On Sunday morning (8th), Hezbollah launched dozens of rockets at three Israeli positions in the Mount Dov region, causing damage but no injuries.

Hezbollah claimed to have fired rockets in solidarity with the Hamas attack in southern Israel.

Hezbollah has largely sat out previous rounds of fighting between Israel and Palestinian terror groups, though it allowed Palestinian factions to operate out of its territory in southern Lebanon.

But some fear the Lebanon-based terror group will open up a second front amid the war triggered by Saturday’s (7th) unprecedented invasion of Israel by hundreds of Hamas terrorists from the Gaza Strip.

On Tuesday night (10th), officials in Israel’s northern-most community of Metula urged residents to leave, fearing they could find themselves targeted if Hezbollah launched an assault against Israel.



Defense Minister: We’re Going On Full Offense, Gaza Will never Be What It Was

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant toured the Gaza Envelope Tuesday (10th)  and arrived at the headquarters in the Re’im area,  where he held a situational assessment with Defense Ministry director-general Major General Eyal Zamir, the commander of the Southern Command, Brigadier General Yaron Finkelman, and other commanders in the region.

Later, the Defense Minister visited Kibbutz Be’eri and met with the soldiers in the field who he praised for their actions in defending Israel and its citizens.

“You fought with great courage and acted in the spirit of the IDF, exactly as you should act,” said Gallant.  “You stood bravely on the front line, you struck many terrorists and saved lives.  You saw with your own eyes what we are fighting against – against human animals – the ISIS of Gaza.”

“Thank you for your heroic action in your defense mission, you will have the ability to change the reality here.  You have seen the price and you will get to see the transformation.  Hamas wanted a change in Gaza, it will change 180 degrees from what they thought.  They will regret this moment – Gaza will not go back to what it was,” he said.

“I have seen many soldiers and understand what you have gone through.  As a soldier who has seen friends fall in battle, I understand the sadness, the anger.  There will be no situation in which Israeli children are murdered in the fields and in which Hamas will continue to exist.  I have released all restraints – kill anyone who fights against us, by any means necessary.”

“Whoever comes to decapitate, murder women, Holocaust survivors – we will eliminate him at the height of our power and without compromise.  What we saw in the settlements was a massacre, but in the battles – you won.  We trust you and it is thanks to the IDF the State of Israel exists.  We’ll be back here in Be’eri, in a few months and things will be different.  We will settle the kibbutz to the last meter, and what happened in Gaza will not happen again,” Gallant said. 



Hamas And Islamic Jihad Are Criminally Liable For War Crimes – Amb Alan Baker

The indiscriminate firing of 5,000 rockets into Israel’s towns and villages violates the rule of distinction in international humanitarian law, which requires combatants to limit attacks to legitimate military targets.  This is a clear violation of accepted humanitarian norms and principles prohibiting targeting civilians.

The willful, deliberate, and hysteric massacre of civilians, including young people attending an open-air music event, as well as the indiscriminate entry into, destruction, and pillaging of private civilian homes in Israel’s towns and villages, and indiscriminate murder of civilians living in those homes, is a clear violation of all accepted humanitarian norms, for which Hamas and Islamic Jihad must be held criminally responsible.

The taking of multiple civilian hostages, including entire families, elderly, women, and infants, and their cruel and violent kidnapping and transfer to Gaza, as well as the loathsome exhibition of dead and mutilated bodies in the streets of Gaza, is an inexcusable and flagrant violation of humanitarian norms and an odious insult to humanity.

For these crimes, Hamas and PIJ leaders and commanders are accountable and prosecutable under international law, which considers non-state actors bound by customary norms of international humanitarian law when they become a party to an armed conflict.  Thus, they are punishable for crimes against humanity and war crimes. 

 The writer served as legal adviser and deputy general of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  He participated in the negotiation and drafting of the International Criminal Court (ICC) Statute.  (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.)



The Iran-Funded Pogrom Against Jewish Israel – Phyllis Chesler

This is what a pogrom looks like.  The pogromists target the most vulnerable civilians and do their worst.  Hamas took a page from ISIS’ Caliphate playbook and videoed their atrocities in real-time.  

This attack was far bigger than 9/11.  In terms of demographic equivalence, the Israeli population is 9 million people; the American population is 331 million.   800 Israeli dead and counting is the equivalent of 29,418 American deaths, 10 times the 3,000 killed in 9/11.  The number of wounded is 2,000 and counting.  In American terms, this is equivalent to 75,503 wounded.

(Since this article, Israel’s dead numbers 1,200; Israel’s wounded numbers 3,000)