News Digest — 11/17/23

Hostages: Bodies Of Noa Marciano And Yehudit Weiss Found Near Shifa Hospital

The body of Israeli soldier Corporal Noa Marciano, who was abducted by Hamas during the Oct.7th attacks, was brought back to Israel after being found in a structure adjacent to the Shifa Hospital in Gaza on Thursday (16th), the IDF announced.

Following an identification process that was conducted by military medical and rabbinate personnel, IDF representatives informed her family that her body had been extracted and returned to Israeli territory.

Hamas had released a video of Marciano’s body earlier in the week, claiming she had been killed in an Israeli airstrike.  Israeli forces said that evidence suggested she had been killed by Hamas.

“The IDF sends its heartfelt condolences to the family and will continue to support them,” an IDF spokesperson said in a statement.

Marciano, a 19-year-old from Modiim, was a member of the 414th battalion in the Border Guard Corps.  She was kidnapped by Hamas from the IDF base at Kibbutz Nahal Oz, when it was stormed by terrorists during the October 7 massacre.

Also the IDF announced on Thursday evening (16th) that it had found the body of Yehudit Weiss, an Israeli civilian thought to have been taken by Hamas on October 7.

The remains of Weiss, a resident of the southern Kibbutz of Be’eri, were found near a structure adjacent to the Al-Shifa Hospital which serves as a military weapons cache, the IDF said. 

Her body was found by the IDF’s 603rd Combat Engineering Battalion operating in Gaza as part of Operation Swords of Iron.

Weiss was battling cancer before her death at the hands of Hamas.

“Today we were told that Yehudit’s body has been retrieved from Gaza,” her family told KAN News after the announcement.

Yehudit’s husband, Shmulik, was murdered in the Oct.7 massacre.

Israel’s military has said, “The national task before our eyes is to locate the missing and return the abducted persons home.  The IDF is operating alongside and in full coordination with the relevant national and security institutions in order to pursue these tasks.  We will not cease from this mission until it is completed.”




Netanyahu To CBS: We’re Trying To Wipe Out Hamas With Minimal Civilian Casualties

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told CBS News’ Norah O’Donnell, in an interview which aired on Thursday (16th), that a deal to secure the release of some hostages held by Hamas is closer than before.

The proposal would see Hamas release some of the women and children hostages in exchange for a ceasefire that would last three to five days.

Asked about the proposed deal and how close Israel is to securing the release of hostages, Netanyahu replied, “We’re closer than we were before we began the ground action” and added the ground operation has “put pressure on Hamas to achieve a ceasefire.”

“We’ll have a temporary ceasefire if we can get our hostages back,” Netanyahu told O’Donnell, adding, “I don’t think it serves that purpose for me to elaborate further on that.”

Netanyahu also insisted Israel is trying to wipe out Hamas “with minimal civilian casualties” and clarified Israel is “not seeking to occupy” Gaza.

“We want overall military responsibility to prevent the reemergence of terror,” he said.  “We’re not seeking to occupy.  That’s not our goal.  But our goal is to make sure what happens there is different.  To do that, we have to demilitarize Gaza and we have to de-radicalize Gaza.”

“Just as you had to have a different future after the conquest of Germany – to de-radicalize and deNazify Germany,” he said.  “After the conquest of Japan you made sure that the aggressive policies of Imperial Japan were different.  There was a cultural change.  We need a cultural change here.  We can’t have a civilian administration enter Gaza that will not fight terrorists, that is committed to funding terrorists as opposed to fighting terrorists.”

Netanyahu also said that liberating Palestinian Arabs from Hamas will “give them a real future.”  He said the Palestinian Arabs “need a leadership change.”

“I say let the Palestinians have all the powers to govern themselves, but none of the powers to threaten Israel,” he told O’Donnell.  “And that means not only making sure that Gaza is demilitarized, but also that Gaza is de-radicalized.  And if you ask me, we need a different civilian leadership than the one that has been offered to the Palestinians today.”

In a portion of the interview that was released earlier on Thursday (16th), Netanyahu said that there are “strong indications that Hamas kept hostages at Shifa Hospital.”

“If they were there, they were taken out,” he noted, and added that Israel has intelligence about the current condition of the hostages, but would not elaborate.



Alleged Israeli Airstrikes Target Damascus

Alleged Israeli airstrikes targeted a number of sites near Damascus on Thursday night (16th) according to Syrian state media.

The strikes targeted the town of Sayyida Zeinab, where Iran-backed militias have a heavy presence, according to the Syrian Capital Voice news site.  Footage reportedly from the scene showed a structure on fire.

A series of alleged Israeli airstrikes have targeted sites in southern Syria, the Damascus area, and Aleppo since the war between Israel and Hamas broke out in October.  The IDF has taken responsibility for some of the airstrikes reported in southern Syria, but has not responded to the other reports by Syrian media.

Several rockets were fired from Syria toward Israel in recent weeks as well, and the IDF said a drone which hit a school in Eilat recently was launched by an Iran-backed group in Syria.

Last week, alleged airstrikes reportedly targeted the Sayyida Zeinab area, with opposition-affiliated Syrian news sites reporting that casualties were caused in the strikes.

Two weeks before that, alleged Israeli airstrikes killed at least two at the Damascus International Airport.   According to SANA, the strikes caused structural damage, with Syrian air defenses responding to the strike. 



 IDF Chief Of Staff In Gaza: ‘We Are Close To Destroying Hamas’ System In Northern Gaza’

IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi on Thursday (16th) joined the IDF combat forces in the Gaza Strip and said that the war against Hamas is going as planned and it is possible even to expand it.

“In the forward thrust of the campaign, with what you are doing here with these battalions, the 36th and 252 Divisions, we are pretty close to destroying the military tactical formation that was in the northern Gaza Strip.  We will complete it.  We have a way to go, but we are closing in nicely,” Halevi stated.

He added in a conversation with the troops: “The IDF is going to continue its movement in the Gaza Strip, and as long as it depends on us, another area and another area, we will kill the commanders and operatives and destroy infrastructure.  Up until now, you’ve done well, take what you’ve learned until this point, almost three weeks, and make it even better.”

Earlier on Thursday (16th), the IDF announced that in the past week, soldiers of the Commando Brigade together with soldiers of the Armored and Combat Engineering Corps and with air support, conducted operational activity north of Al-Shati, the densest area that IDF has operated in since the beginning of the fighting in Gaza.

During the operational activity, the Commando Brigade coordinated 54 precise strikes from the air, sea and land, during which Hamas terrorists were eliminated, and terrorist infrastructure, booby-trapped buildings, and tunnel shafts were destroyed.



Hamas’ Grave Miscalculation on How Israel Would React – Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser

Hamas hopes a ceasefire will compel Israel to change its war objectives and revert to the softer approach that Hamas initially believed Israel would follow right after the Oct. 7 massacre.  I believe that Hamas leaders were convinced that the Israeli response would focus on targeted airstrikes and perhaps even a limited ground maneuver.  But they never anticipated that Israel would launch an all-out undertaking to eliminate Hamas along with retaking Gaza.

Hamas assessed that Israel’s problematic relations with the U.S., coupled with its inherent reluctance to pay the high price involved in a broad military operation to remove Hamas from Gaza, would ultimately prevent it from completely defeating Hamas, just like in previous flare-ups.  This time Israel adopted a different approach.

Most Western leaders understand the importance of Israel’s success in undermining Hamas and the moral justification for it.  As the fighting continues, Israel will need to remind Western leaders that letting Hamas stay in power would be beyond the pale and Israel can bring about its demise within a reasonable time without causing a humanitarian disaster in Gaza or leading to actions that would escalate into a regional war.

The writer, former head of the Research Division of IDF Military Intelligence, is Director of the Project on Regional Middle East Developments at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.



Hamas Is Murdering Palestinian Babies In Gaza Hospitals – Alan Dershowitz

Media outlets around the world are showing dead and dying Palestinian babies in hospitals – but what they are not showing is who murdered these babies.  Babies are now dying because Hamas has stolen the fuel to run hospital generators.  Babies are also dying because Hamas is using them as human shields to protect its murderous terrorists.

The main cause of these deaths is Hamas’ strategy, and a secondary cause is the role of the media in implementing the Hamas strategy.  The only way to break this cycle is for the media and the international community to expose and condemn it as a clear violation of the laws of war, which expressly prohibit the use of hospitals and patients to protect terrorists.  

Next time you see a dead Palestinian baby on TV, shed a tear for that innocent victim.  But point the finger of guilt at Hamas, not Israel.

The writer is professor emeritus at Harvard Law School.



Synagogue In Armenia Set On Fire In Latest Attack On Jewish Diaspora

A synagogue in Yerevan, Armenia was set on fire on Wednesday, November 15th, according to Azerbaijani Ambassador to Germany Nasimi Aghayev who shared footage of the attack.

The Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA) claimed responsibility for attacking the synagogue, according to Azerbaijani media.  The report continued that ASALA stated their plans to continue attacks against the Jewish community outside of Armenia also.

A similar attack occurred in October by ASALA, which targeted the World Jewish Center in Yerevan, the Jerusalem Post reported.

The attackers issued a statement saying: “The Jews are the enemies of the Armenian nation, complicit in Turkish crimes and the regime of [Azerbaijan President Ilhan] Aliyev.  The Jewish state provides weapons to Aliyev’s criminal regime, and Jews from America and Europe actively support him.  Turkey, Aliyev’s regime, and the Jews are the sworn enemies of the Armenian state and people.”

They added: “If Jewish rabbis in the United States and Europe continue to support Aliyev’s regime, we will continue to burn their synagogues also in other countries.  Every rabbi will be a target for us.  No Israeli Jew will feel safe in these countries.

After the incident, an Azerbaijani rabbi warned Armenian Jews to “leave before it’s too late,” in anticipation of worsening attacks.