News Digest — 12/28/23

Hezbollah Strikes Northern Israel With Most Attacks In Single Day Of War

Hezbollah on Wednesday (27th) unleashed multiple rounds of rocket attacks and multiple drone strikes reaching approximately three dozen total attacks on Israel, reportedly the most the group has launched in one day since October 7.

While the attacks did not cause injuries, they caused significant damage in Kiryat Shmona and were also directed at Rosh Hanikra and Mount Dov.

The spike in attacks came after IDF strikes allegedly killed a Hezbollah member and Sayyed Reza Mousavi, a senior commander in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and as the IDF’s increased attacks have pushed half of Hezbollah’s forces from the border.

The IDF have been attacking Hezbollah overnight and continued to attack the terror group Wednesday morning  and afternoon (27th), both in response to the sources of the fire, but also in what appeared to be a gradual effort to destroy Hezbollah infrastructure south of Lebanon’s Litani River.

The rounds of exchanges of fire also came as IDF Chief-of-Staff Herzi Halevi visited IDF Northern Commander Maj. Gen. Uri Gordon and approved additional new unspecified operational plans.

Halevi also reiterated various messages about the IDF’s commitment to return security to the 80,000 or so Israeli northern residents who were evacuated from their homes in October.

Hezbollah launched more rockets and weaponized drones against Israel on Wednesday (27th) than it has in a single day since the spate of daily clashes began, security sources said.

Israeli airstrikes and shelling have killed more than 125 Hezbollah fighters, and about 25 or so Palestinian terrorists in Lebanon, according to Reuters who also reported that some civilians were killed.



Israelis Hear Drilling, Feel Shaking Amid West Bank Terror Tunnel Fears

Residents of Kochav Yair-Tzur Yigal, a town of about 9,000, in Israel’s Sharon region, have told authorities in recent weeks that they felt “shaking and drilling excavation noises” in their homes at night.

The town is located near the Green Line, only about 800 meters from Qalqilya in the West Bank, which is governed by the Palestinian Authority.  Residents are concerned that they are hearing the excavation of tunnels of the sort used by Hamas to attack Israel in the South and Hezbollah to attack Israel in the North.

“ I felt there was an earthquake far off  – like the bed I was lying on was moving and sailing,” said Baruch Ben Neria, a resident who reported his experience to the authorities.  “I’m not making it up,” he said.  “I’ve been feeling this for the last two years, and sometimes it lasts for several minutes in the middle of the night.  There’s quiet outside and then suddenly it happens.” 

“At first, I thought it might be heavy trucks passing on the road,” said Ben Neria, “but there weren’t any trucks in the middle of the night.”

“Qalqilya is a straight line from here, close by, they can dig toward us from there,” he continued.  “My house is something like 200 meters from the fence.  After what happened in Gaza, and the fact that they found tunnels in the Galilee in the past – which is really rocky terrain, similar to what we have here – the whole story raises a big question mark.”

Another resident of the town shared a video recording of the sound in a Facebook group for locals, several of whom said they’ve heard similar noises themselves.

Yuval Arad, head of the town’s regional council, said that an investigation has not yet been made to rule out the existence of tunnels, but the Ephraim Brigade has been referred to the issue and is expected to investigate it.

“Any strange sound we hear could sound to us like the digging of tunnels,” Arad said.  “On this issue, I believe the army will act – it is investigating great efforts into it precisely because of the strategic threat of an infiltration that a fence won’t stop.”

“If they enter from here,” Arad said, “It is into the soft underbelly of Israel.  A horror story like what we saw on October 7 would be just the beginning of what we would see here.”

The reports mirror similar concerns from residents of Bat Hefer, a community of about 5,000 located nearby.  “We have a fairly large group of people who hear sounds in several places here,” said Matan Buchner, a local.  “The last time I heard these drilling noises was last Thursday night (21st).”

Buchner took aim at the claims used to minimize residents’ concerns: “All the stories we are told here,” he said, “that the soil in northern Samaria is very difficult to dig in, is one big lie.  Our ancestors already dug cisterns and secret tunnels here, using the tools they had back then.  Now you can’t dig here?”

Following the complaints in Bat Hefer, which sits only about 800 meters from the West Bank city of Tulkarem, a terror hotspot that sees frequent IDF operations, three tests were carried out by a company specializing in the field, as well as the Home Front Command and the Defense Ministry.  These tests did not provide any evidence of the presence of tunnels, but further investigations are expected in the coming days by a specialized military engineering unit and a soil testing team from the Geophysical Institute.

Although the tests carried out in Bat Hefer found no signs of tunnels, residents from the locality are still worried.  They explained that localities on the border with Lebanon had reported these sounds for years before tunnels were finally revealed in a 2018 operation.

“The IDF is taking a serious look and listening to residents’ reports.  The security forces conducted scans…that did not produce findings at this time, and the issue is under continuous monitoring,” the IDF said.



IAF Chief Of Staff: Claims Of Indiscriminate Bombing Are Misleading

Chief of Staff of the Israeli Air Force, Brigadier General Omer Tischler, released a video in which he explains the Air Force’s operations planning principles and addresses what he calls misleading claims.

“Since the October 7 Massacre, the Israeli Air Force has been conducting a precise, focused, and process-based campaign,” Tischler began.

He proceeded to explain: “Our planning principles include: 1. Striking targets based on intel, and military necessity for close air support.  2. Evacuation efforts: They enable us to strike and maneuver in areas with minimal civilian presence.  3. Selecting the right munitions to minimize collateral damage: This allows us to accurately strike Hamas even though it operates within civilian areas.  4. Real-time monitoring: During the strike, we are monitoring the target area.  If it does not comply with our Standard Operating Procedures, we will abort.”

“With these principles in mind,” he continues, “I will now address issues that have been seen in the media:  To start, our use of so-called ‘dumb bombs.’  The term ‘dumb bombs’ describes munitions that are not guided-based.  These are standard munitions that are regularly used by militaries worldwide.”

“The claim that such munitions are indiscriminate or cause uncontrollable damage  is misleading.  Even though these munitions are not GPS-guided, they are still used accurately.  It is released in a specific release point calculated by the aircraft’s system to allow the pilot to strike a target accurately.”

Tischler also addressed the use of heavy munitions: “Why do we see so many craters?  Heavy munitions are detonated underground, preventing fragmentation and significantly reducing the blastwave and debris as a result.  In these strikes, the resulting  crater, visible in satellite images, indicates that the underground detonation has actually occurred on a military target and directly minimized damage to the surrounding area.”

“Additionally, in many cases, we use small PGMs to strike targets near sensitive areas.  Those targets include rocket launchers, commanders, tunnel shafts, and command and control centers, which are located throughout the Gaza Strip.”

In the video he emphasizes: “These are the principles that guide our operations.  But let me be very clear.  In war, mistakes can happen.  While they are exceptional, they are still made.  We study them, learn from them, and make changes to our process as a result.”

He said, “The Israel Air Force, together with the Ground Forces, will continue to conduct a precise, focused, and professional campaign in accordance with international law.

In conclusion, he said “This war started after Hamas brutally attacked our people.  We are fighting together in the air, at sea, and on the ground according to our values in order to defeat Hamas and bring our people home.”



Israel Stopped Apologizing On October 7 – Prof. Gil Troy

• For years, many outside Israel treated it just a tad condescendingly.  They cast Israel as a problem child – too wild, primitive, militaristic, fundamentalist, forever embarrassing their more enlightened, sophisticated selves.  It got worse during the Trump years.  Israel, not America, was somehow responsible for Trump because we thanked him for recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and facilitating the Abraham Accords.

• Since Hamas’ savagery, with young Israelis dying every day, the accusations, anguish, and apologetics must end.  Let’s be clear.  Israelis feel the love in every dollar raised, every meme posted, every prayer uttered, every vigil attended, and every demand made on American leaders to stand up for Israel, for American values, for the West’s future.  And the global surge in Jew-hatred appalls us and infuriates us.  But we are grateful and know it’s been tough.

• But you cannot equate the danger Israelis confront in Gaza or on the border facing Hezbollah, or when patrolling hostile Palestinian towns, with threats on leafy campuses.  And we just don’t have patience, during this hard, painful war, for all the anguish about Israel’s military tactics.  Yes, the IDF prefers keeping our kids alive and Israel safe from Hamas, to looking good on CNN.

• There are serious moral and strategic dilemmas regarding how to fight back against Hamas’ unspeakable crimes and its vows to repeat them.  It’s challenging with Hamas so embedded in Gaza – so popular there, so willing to hide in hospitals, mosques, and even behind women and children.  Israelis who know how painful it is to bury our young, take no delight in non-combatant casualties.

• Hamas – and the entire Palestinian movement that started cheering the terrorists and jeering us on Oct. 7 – has drawn a clear line in the sand.  We withdrew completely from Gaza – and they kept screaming it was “occupied.”  They hijacked billions sent to help their own people, instead they built an infrastructure of evil against us.  We were attacked – they broke the latest ceasefire and the one before that and the one before that.

• No, we’re not perfect.  But the moral choice is clear.  We in Israel, left and right, fight proudly together, without kowtowing or breast-beating; affirming life, even in these days haunted with death.  Join us.

The writer, a distinguished scholar of North American History at McGill University, is a senior fellow in Zionist thought at the Jewish People Policy Institute.



Can Gaza Change? – Ariel Kahana              

Israel is now cleaning up the terrorist forces that have accumulated in Gaza for three decades.  How does one control two million Arabs who have been taught from birth to kill “subhuman Jews,” especially in an area whose population has no aspiration for progress, but rather a culture of jihad and murder.

First, Hamas must be brought to absolute defeat, not just a “decisive blow.”  Gazans need to understand that Hamas brought terrible suffering upon them.  As long as Hamas does not surrender, there is nothing to talk about regarding the rehabilitation of Gaza.  If rehabilitation begins before Hamas disappears, the Gazans’ state of mind will have not been seared with their responsibility for the horrors.  There is also the question of why rebuild a neighborhood if two minutes later Hamas will take control of it again.

After clearing the area from terrorists, there must be a thorough “de-Hamasization” process.  It is vital to implement reforms that uproot both Hamas ideology and other anti-Semitic and anti-Israel content.  These must be basic preconditions.  UNRWA  cannot continue operating in Gaza, period.  UNRWA has not solved the problem of a single Palestinian refugee and instead educates future generations to kill Jews.

Gazans should be educated about tolerance, inclusiveness, and acceptance of the Jew as a normative neighbor.  This sounds fanciful, and the murderous demons will not disappear overnight or even in a decade.  But if we want life, there is no other way.

In an ideal world, it would be better if a foreign rule of any kind, Arab or Western, would clean up the Gazan cesspool, but the chances of this happening are slim.  Arab rulers do not want to be seen as helping Israel against the Palestinians.  It is therefore likely that the full burden will ultimately fall on Israel’s shoulders.  Before Israel commits to Palestinian self-rule, it must first make clear in intricate detail how the “de-Hamasization” process will be carried out.  This is a vital condition for Israel’s survival.