News Digest — 12/27/23

IDF Chief Halevi: Gaza War Could Take Months, IDF Targeting IDF Leaders

IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Herzi Halevi on Tuesday (26th) said that it could even take months to arrest or kill Hamas’ top leaders and “many months” to finish fighting Hamas.

Halevi implied that he recognized the broader diplomatic and political context will not allow a full all-out war for that long and said that the IDF would adjust itself to different intensity levels of fighting as needed.

The IDF chief also said that Israel would need new security mechanisms and tactics even after the different levels of fighting became less intense to ensure long-term security for Israeli residents in the south.

“This war has critical goals which are not easy to achieve and take place in a complex environment.  Therefore, this war will continue for many months, and we will act in different ways so that our achievements will be sustained over time,” said Halevi. 

He said, “We will also get to the leaders of Hamas, whether it takes a week or months.”

Halevi described the IDF as having operational control of northern Gaza, while recognizing that Hamas forces who faded into the civilian populations will still emerge with ambushes from time to time.

Next, he said the IDF must ramp up its dominance in southern Gaza, where Khan Yunis is the new focal point, and also make sure it addresses Hamas in central Gaza, even as that mission is somewhat lower profile.

Despite killing Hamas’ central Gaza Brigade Commander Ayman Nofal in October, mopping up Hamas’ forces in central Gaza is expected to take a period of weeks since they mostly have not been attacked to date.

Rocket fire from Gaza on Tuesday (26th) increased, but fewer than 25 sirens were heard on both the northern and southern fronts.  This came as the IDF significantly increased its firepower in Gaza, striking around 100 targets with a special focus on southern Gaza.

Meanwhile, in the north of Israel, an anti-tank missile seriously wounded a civilian guard at a church in the Shumrah region of Western Galilee Tuesday (26th).  9 soldiers were wounded by a second anti-tank missile when they came to aid the civilian guard.

In response, IAF planes attacked Hezbollah infrastructure in Lebanon, including a building that housed the terrorist who launched the anti-tank missiles.



IDF Seizes Makeshift Rockets, Firearms In Raid Near Tulkarem

IDF security forces  seized makeshift rockets and other weapons during a night raid in the Nur Shams refugee camp near Tulkarem in the West Bank, the military said Tuesday (26th).

The discovery was not the first time rockets have been located in the West Bank.  Throughout the year, there have been several failed launches of rockets from Jenin,  and troops have found makeshift rockets in the city.  However, such a discovery in Tulkarem is noteworthy, as it is far closer to Israel’s major population centers in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area.

Security forces operating in the Nur Shams camp detained wanted Palestinians and seized explosives, including dozens of primed IEDs and other equipment at an explosives lab, according to the military.

One soldier was lightly wounded during clashes with Palestinian gunmen amid the operation, the IDF said.  The soldier was hurt by shrapnel after gunmen opened fire and hurled explosives at troops.

The building housing the explosives lab was later destroyed in a controlled manner by combat engineers, the army said.

In May, Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar said security forces had foiled attempts by Palestinians in the northern West Bank to manufacture rockets to be launched at Israel.  Bar said the efforts were led by a senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader who was killed by Israel in the Gaza Strip during a five-day flareup in violence that month.

Violence in the West Bank has soared since October 7th, when thousands of Hamas-led terrorists burst into Israel from the land, air, and sea in a shock assault in which they massacred more than 1,200 people and seized some 240 hostages.    

Since October 7, IDF troops have arrested more than 2,550  wanted terrorists across the West Bank, including more than 1,300 affiliated with Hamas.

Based on military estimates, the vast majority of those killed since October 7 were shot dead during clashes amid arrest raids, and many of them, according to data seen by the Times of Israel, were armed with either a firearm or an explosive device.”



Gallant Hints Israel Behind Commander’s Death In Syria

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, on Tuesday (26th) hinted at Israel’s involvement in the killing of a senior member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, Brigadier General  Sayyed  Reza Mousavi in Syria on Monday (25th).

Speaking to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting in Tel Aviv, Gallant said Israel was fighting attacks on seven fronts: Gaza, Lebanon, the West Bank, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Iran and has responded to six of them.  “I am telling you in the most explicit terms, here and now, that anyone who acts against us is a potential target.  No one is immune,” Gallant said.

The ministry briefed members of the defense committee on the IDF operations in the various fronts and the process of the war in Gaza and said it would be a long one.  “We will require national determination and the resilience of the Israeli public,” he said.

“Israel will know what to do.  The results in Gaza are evident to all, especially to Hamas, Iran and Hezbollah, but I want to tell you, this is a long and hard war that comes at a heavy cost, but its justification could not be higher.  We were brutally and barbarically attacked so as to deter us from living here.”  The minister went on to say that those who carried out the attack on October 7, sealed their fate.  “It may take months or years, but this must be brought to an end.”

Gallant said that failing to reach the objectives of the war would not be a problem only for those living in the south or in the north.  “The problem would be that people would not want to live where we would not be able to protect them.  In this war, whoever is stronger in the national sense, in the values and in unity, survives, and I say that we will triumph over Hamas.  They did not think of where they were leading themselves.  We will win and the entire region will understand that fact.”

Committee chair Yuli Edelstein spoke of the need to ensure the financial compensation of soldiers in the reserves who dropped their lives, businesses and families to rush to the defense of the nation and may face economic repercussions because of the government’s failing to address the challenge from the legal and regulatory perspective.

“I will not agree to even one soldier being preoccupied over his home and income while he risks his life in war.  Our soldiers must concentrate on the fighting and know that the government is protecting them as they are protecting the country,” Edelstein said, adding that he and the defense minister are working to ensure a quick solution to the problem.



Iran Warns Israel Over Killing Of IRGC General In Syria

An alleged Israeli airstrike on Monday (25th) in a Damascus neighborhood killed a high-ranking Iranian general, Iran’s state media said.

The killing of Razi Mousavi, a long-time adviser of the Iranian paramilitary Revolutionary Guard in Syria, comes as clashes along the Lebanon-Israel border between Hezbollah and Israel continue to intensify with fears of the Israel-Hamas war sparking a regional spillover with Iran-backed troops.  The alleged Israeli strikes killed two other generals earlier this month in Syria.

In a statement , the IRGC said Mousavi was martyred in a criminal missile attack by the “fake and child-killing Zionist regime” adding that the usurping and savage Israeli regime would undoubtedly pay the price for this crime.

The IRGC statement emphasized that more details would be provided to the Iranian nation soon.  Israel struck the Sayida Zeinab neighborhood, located near a Shiite Muslim shrine, according to Iran’s official news agency IRNA, and Britain-based opposition war monitor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights..

IRNA described Mousavi as a close companion of General Qassim Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force who was slain in a US drone strike in Iraq in January 2020.

Neither the Israeli military nor Syrian state media immediately issued a statement about the attack.  Though IRNA didn’t provide other details about the attack, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the Israeli military targeted Mousavi after he entered a farm in the area, which allegedly was one of several offices for Hezbollah.  The Lebanese militant group, alongside Iran and Russia, has played a key military role in keeping President Bashar Assad’s government in power throughout the Syrian conflict.

Israel has carried out hundreds of strikes on targets inside government controlled parts of war-torn Syria in recent years.  It doesn’t usually acknowledge its airstrikes on Syria, but when it does, it says it is targeting Iranian-backed groups there. that have backed Assad’s government.



Opinion: Jesus Was Not A Palestinian, We Need To Dispel That Myth Forever – Jordan Cope

With Christmas bells ringing and billions celebrating, Jesus, a Jew would be in for a real surprise, (and identity crisis) to hear guests on His birthday claiming that He was from Palestine, a term He never encountered during His lifetime.  Nevertheless its that time of year, when like clockwork, some pro-Palestinian activists have again begun unleashing social media posts claiming that Jesus – born in Bethlehem, was a Palestinian.

In reality, Jesus was an observant Jew who lived in His indigenous homeland of Judea and Galilee – from the manger to the grave.  The myth that Jesus was Palestinian, a ploy designed to invite Christians to support Palestinian nationalism, often morphs into deliberate efforts to deny Jews their history, indigeneity, and right to sovereignty in Israel.  Ironically, as Jews seem to combat rising anti-Semitism, now might be a good time to set the record straight on Christianity’s most important figure.

Christian sources say that Jesus was born a Jew and He lived in a Jewish Kingdom located in much of modern Israel, where Jews have now lived consecutively for 3,000 years.  His disciple Luke noted that like all other Jewish boys, Jesus was circumcised on the eighth day (Luke 2:21) and later attended synagogue (Luke 4:16).  According to Mark, Jesus was referred to as a rabbi (Mark 10:51), and per Matthew, Jesus’ last meal was a Passover seder (Matthew 26:17).

Importantly Jesus hailed from the Jewish Kingdom of Judah, “the southern province of [historic] Israel.”  Matthew painstakingly detailed that Jesus was “born in Bethlehem in Judea” (Matthew 2:1) and that He preached throughout Galilee and Judea (Matthew 19:1).

Jesus also surely prayed as a Jew at the Temple in Jerusalem, which He referred to as a “house of prayer” when citing Isaiah, according to Matthew 21:13).

Unsurprisingly, “Palestine” is never referenced in the New Testament, according to Middle Eastern historian Bernard Lewis.  That is because during Jesus’ lifetime, “Palestine” never existed. 

The term Palestine derives from Philistia after the land of the Philistines, a people originally from the Aegean coastline (modern day Greece and Turkey).  Goliath was defeated and the Philistines disappeared centuries before Jesus was born.  After Imperial Rome defeated the third Jewish uprising, Roman forces massacred and expelled massive numbers of Jews from Judea and renamed it : Syria Palestina.  This was in 135 CE, over a century after Jesus’ death (sometime around 27-33 CE). 

The new name was a derogatory name “to minimize Jewish identification with the land” and punish the rebellious Jews by naming the country after their biblical enemies.

As evidenced by the Romans, the erasure of Jewish memory, identity, and culture from Israel has become a mainstay tactic for anti-Semitism over millennia.

What would Jesus now say about Palestinian-American “activists” such as comedian Amer Zaher, BDS supporter Linda Sarsour, and even Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas, who in recent years have depicted Jesus as “Palestinian.”

Speculation abounds, but the motive for Jewish erasure deserves quick mention, given its dangerous implications.

In October 2023, Hamas terrorists invaded Israel, massacring 1,200 people.  Hamas’ charter clearly seeks to distort and deny Jewish history in Israel, presenting Jews as foreign colonizers.

The Hamas Charter notes: “In the face of the Jews’ usurpation of Palestine, it is compulsory that the banner of Jihad be raised… With their [the Jews] money they were able to control imperialistic countries and instigate them to colonize many countries…” 

The erasure of Jewish history is also a key element in the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s National Charter, which observes, “claims of historical or religious ties of Jews with Palestine are incompatible with the facts of history…”

Abbas rejects Jewish ties to the Jewish people’s holiest site, the Temple Mount, whose custodians, the Waqf, stand accused of having “deliberately” tried “to obliterate evidence of Jewish history” when it conducted excavations beyond its mandate on the Temple Mount in 1996.

Understanding this denial of Jesus’ Jewishness is therefore crucial for understanding global anti-Israel misinformation and anti-Semitism.  As a victim of anti-Semitism, Jesus likely would have been confused and perhaps insulted, to be portrayed as Palestinian, an identity whose etymological roots were sowed by the very empire – the Romans – whose soldiers subjected Him to anti-Semitic abuse before crucifying Him.  “Hail, King of the Jews!” the Romans said, before slapping Him (John 19:3)

As a Jew with a ministry in Judea (a region including part of today’s West Bank), Jesus, if here today in similar circumstances, might have even been rejected by some anti-Israel activists as a “foreign”settler.  Such an accusation surely would have confused Jesus.  

However, when history is politically inconvenient, sometimes truth hardly matters.  The ahistorical myth that Jesus was a Palestinian is often rooted in nationalist propaganda designed to erase Jewish history and memory, a centuries-old system of anti-Jewish oppression.  For the sake of preserving intellectual honesty and historical integrity while rejecting anti-Jewish narratives, one must not only restore Jesus’ Jewish identity and indigeneity but dispel once and for all the claim that “Jesus was Palestinian.”

The writer is the director of policy education at StandWithUs, an international education organization devoted to combating anti-Semitism and misinformation about Israel.