News Digest — 12/19/23

Report: Israel Demands Hezbollah Be Pushed 6 Miles From The Border

Israel has told the US administration that it wants Hezbollah to be pushed roughly six miles from the border as part of a diplomatic deal to end tensions with Lebanon, Axios reported Tuesday (19th), citing three Israeli and US officials.

According to the report, attacks by the Lebanese terror group were one of the main issues discussed during Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s meeting on Monday (18th) with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant in Tel Aviv.  The Israeli officials told Austin that Israel couldn’t accept that tens of thousands of its citizens were displaced for months because of the security situation on the other side of the border.

Officials told Axios that during the meeting, Netanyahu and Gallant told Austin that as part of this agreement, they want Hezbollah not to be allowed to go back to its positions along the border, which Israel destroyed in the last two months.  US and Israeli officials said that the US administration understands Israel’s concerns and will push for a peaceful solution.

Following the meeting, Gallant spoke to the press and addressed the repeated attacks from Lebanon: “We will bring back the residents of the north to their homes on the border after full security will be restored.  We prefer to do so via understanding, ensuring that the border region is clear of terrorists and does not allow direct threats to our citizens.  If such a process is not implemented diplomatically, we will not hesitate to act.”

Since October 7, Hezbollah has carried out hundreds of attacks on Israel, including rocket, anti-tank missile, and UAV attacks on communities and military positions in northern israel.  Five Israeli civilians have been killed in these attacks, and 80,000 civilians in northern Israel have been evacuated from their homes.

On Monday (18th), the IDF accused the Hezbollah terrorist organization of launching attacks at Israel from UN sites and positions of the Lebanese military.

“By continuing to operate and fire projectiles and UAVs from southern Lebanon at Israel, Hezbollah is violating UN Security Council Resolution 1701,” the IDF stated.

“Moreover, Hezbollah has carried out many of these attacks from areas near UN positions and Lebanese Armed Forces’ compounds.  This demonstrates Hezbollah’s blatant abuse of the international and national institutions responsible for security in southern Lebanon.”

“While Hezbollah continues to violate UNSCR 1701,the IDF will continue to defend Israel’s northern border from any threat,” the military added.



Netanyahu To U.S. Defense Secretary Austin: ‘This Is A War Of Civilization Against Barbarism’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday afternoon (18th) met with U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin at the Kirya in Tel Aviv.

In remarks to the press before the  meeting. Netanyahu told Austin: “We’re fighting a war of civilization against barbarism.”

“When we spoke at the meeting, I expressed again our commitment – Israel’s commitment to achieve total victory against Hamas.  And we think that this is not only our war, but in many ways your war, because you are leading the forces of civilization in the world,” he said.

The Prime Minister told Austin: “This is a battle against the Iranian axis of terror which is now threatening to close the maritime Strait of Bab-el-Mandeb.  This threatens the freedom of navigation of the entire world.  I appreciate the fact that you are taking action to open that strait.  It’s not only in our interest, it’s in the interest of the entire civilized community.”

Secretary Austin said that America’s commitment to Israel “is unshakeable.”

“I know that Israel is a small, tight-knit country, and I know that all Israelis were touched by the vast evil committed by Hamas,” he said.  “I’m here to mourn with you for the innocent souls taken from you on October 7.  I’m also here to stand alongside the families of those still missing in Gaza, including U.S. citizens.”

The Secretary described the task force the U.S. is leading in the Red Sea to protect freedom of navigation from Iran and its Houthi proxies, and demanded an end to “Iran’s support for Houthi attacks on commercial vessels.”

Also participating in the meeting on the Israeli side were Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, National Security Council Director Tzachi Hanegbi, IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Herzi Halevi and the Prime Minister’s Military Secretary, Maj.Gen Avi Gil.

For the American side, the meeting was attended by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Charles Brown, Secretary Austin’s Chief of Staff Kelly Magsamen and Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Israel Stephanie Hallett.

An expanded meeting with the members of the War Cabinet was held after the meeting.

Austin landed in Israel on Monday morning (18th) after leaving for the Mideast trip Saturday night (16th).

“I’m headed to Israel, Bahrain, and Qatar to underscore U.S. commitments to strengthening regional security and stability, and working with partners and allies to advance defense capabilities,” he wrote on X at the time.



South Africa Warns: Citizens Fighting For Israel Could Face Prosecution At Home

South Africans fighting for Israel in Gaza could face prosecution at home, the government warned Monday (18th), according to the AFP  news agency.

The foreign ministry said it was “gravely concerned by reports that some South African nationals have joined the IDF to fight in Gaza, or are considering doing so.”

 “Such action can potentially contribute to the violation of international law and the commission of further international crimes, thus making them liable for prosecution in South Africa,” the ministry warned.

It did not specify how many South Africans are thought to have enlisted..

The government had previously said that the State Security Agency (SSA) was tracking them down.

Anti-Israel sentiments remain prevalent in South Africa, where the government has frequently accused Israel of applying a policy of “apartheid” towards Palestinian Arabs.

Tensions in South Africa have been on the rise since the start of Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza.

The South African government announced last month it was recalling its ambassador and entire diplomatic mission from Israel in protest against Israel’s attempt to defend itself from the Hamas terror organization following the October 7 massacre.

Later, South Africa called in Israeli Ambassador Eliav Belotsercovsky for a formal reprimand, citing “public comments” he had made.

In late November, a majority of South African lawmakers voted in favor of a motion calling for the closure of the Israeli embassy and the cutting of diplomatic ties until Israel agrees to a ceasefire in Gaza.

This past summer, a South African lawmaker called for a Cape Town-based Jewish day school to be “deregistered” due to the fact that many of the school’s graduates  go to Israel and enlist in the IDF.



IDF Destroys Hamas Statue Dedicated To Killing Of Golani Soldiers

The soldiers of the Golani Brigade captured the center square of Gaza City’s Shejaiya neighborhood and destroyed a statue dedicated to the deaths of IDF soldiers, the IDF stated  on Monday evening (18th).

The Shejaiya  square, named “Palestine Square,” had a statue erected glorifying a blow dealt to troops of the Golani Brigade during 2014’s Operation Protective Edge.

On July 20, 2014, at 1:05  a.m., an armored personnel carrier (APC) carrying seven soldiers of the Golan’s 13th Battalion detonated an explosive device it had driven over in Shejaiya.  All seven on board were killed.

Another six soldiers from the brigade were killed in combat in the area over the course of the morning.

“We are here, the 13th Battalion, at the place where the terrorist organization Hamas erected a statue glorifying the tragedy that befell the brigade during Protective Edge,” the commander of the 13th Battalion said.  “We send a clear message to Hamas: Wherever such a statue is erected, we will come and destroy it.”

After Protective Edge concluded, Hamas subsequently dedicated a victory square at the site with a statue featuring a fist coming out of an APC.  The statue also had three discs, one of which bore the name of Oron Shaul, a fallen IDF soldier whose body is held by Hamas, the IDF added. 

On Monday (18th), nine years after the thirteen Golani soldiers fell in Shejaiya, troops from the 188th Brigade’s combat team, along with the Golani Brigade’s 13th Battalion, seized control of the site and demolished the Hamas statue.

The seizure of Shejaiya’s infamous “Palestine Square” came several days after another IDF victory in the neighborhood.

On Friday (15th), IDF troops of the 188th Brigade took over and destroyed the headquarters of the Hamas Shejaiya Battalion.



How Jews Escaped Their Dismal Fate – Alan G. Futerman and Walter E. Block

• Throughout history Jews have suffered mass murder on a regular basis over two millennia.  No matter the location or era, Jews were prisoners of an inescapable sinister cycle: Enter a society, live and thrive there for some time, and soon enough be robbed, attacked, murdered or expelled.

• This closeness to death, accompanied by latent, primal fear, followed Jewish existence and persisted in this people’s subconscious minds.  Jews carry with them a chronic  sensation of inevitable doom.  This same fear, this feeling of inevitable catastrophe, is what most Jews felt on October 7.  

• Jews need to defend themselves.  There is no other way to assure freedom and flourishing if their precondition, self-protection, is outsourced to the goodwill of others.  A Jewish state can always fight back.  On May 14, 1948, something changed.  Jews gained the power to defend themselves.

• These past few months we have witnessed rallies calling for mass murder, condemnation, denunciations of Jews – all while the Jews have had to endure a barrage of horrific images and testimonies of the massacres.  Yet Jews in Israel, instead of crying over their inevitable doom, are striving for victory in the face of their enemies.

• Jews are human beings with self-respect.  They won’t accept gratuitous and unwarranted attacks or vicious rapes.  They won’t accept mass murder – never again.  Jews will defend themselves, as a people, in their own homeland.  Finally!

The writers are co-authors of The Classical Liberal Case for Israel



IDF Advances In Khan Yunis – Yoav Zitun

IDF forces have advanced in the Khan Yunis region since Sunday (18th),  conducting a raid on the office of the Khan Yunis Brigade commander, targeting terrorist infrastructure and subterranean tunnels and securing control of Bani Suheila Square at the heart of Khan Yunis.  “Over the past week, 7th Brigade troops eliminated numerous terrorists, located approximately 30 tunnel shafts, and destroyed numerous anti-tank and lookout posts in the area.  They also confiscated grenades and anti-tank missiles and found intelligence materials including phones, computers and Hamas guidebooks,” the IDF said.

The 7th Brigade commander said, “There are terrorists and armaments in every home here, and in some locations we found military diving gear, including wetsuits.  In other locations, we found considerable digging equipment and even a GroPro used by a terrorist who took part in the Oct 7 massacre.

The combat in Khan Yunis, the second-largest city in Gaza, presented unique challenges compared to the deserted streets of Gaza City in the north.  “We raided the home of terrorists and in the basement we found three Hamas operatives hiding among 20 civilians, 15 of them children.”

“These are complex dilemmas, but our troops are well-trained and strong….They know they are fighting a just war and making history….We will not stop until we eliminate Hamas.”