News Digest — 12/6/23

IDF Chief Of Staff: 3rd Phase Of Ground Operation Against Hamas Has Begun

IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi stated that the IDF is launching the third stage of its ground campaign against the Hamas terrorist organization in Gaza with the encirclement of Khan Yunis.

“60 days after the war began, our forces are now encircling the Khan Yunis area in the southern Gaza Strip.” Halevi said.  “Simultaneously we continue to secure our accomplishments in the northern Gaza Strip.”

“Those who thought that the IDF would not know how to resume the fighting after the pause, were mistaken, and Hamas is already feeling this.  Many Hamas operatives, including senior commanders, have been eliminated in recent days,” he said.

The Chief of Staff announced: “We have moved to the third phase of the ground operations.  We have secured many Hamas strongholds in the northern Gaza Strip, and now we are operating against its strongholds in the south.”

“We operate professionally, evacuating the population from combat zones; striking Hamas from above and below ground with combined strikes from the air, sea and land.”

“We are deploying our ground forces into combat with powerful and precise support of fire and intelligence with a high level of accuracy.  Our forces engage with many terrorists and target them effectively, in an impressive manner.”

“With our forces are ISA representatives, bringing the capabilities of the organization.  Our forces are joined by representatives from across the IDF – this partnership really builds strength on the battlefield.”

Halevi blamed Hamas for the death toll in Gaza: “Many ask about the destruction in Gaza.  Hamas is the address.  Sinwar is the address.  Our forces find in nearly every building and house weapons, and in many houses terrorists, and engage them in combat.  We understand that part of their method is the weapons left in the houses.  A terrorist arrives in civilian clothing and conducts combat from there.  Striking them requires significant use of fire both to target the enemy but also of course, to protect our forces.  Therefore the forces operate powerfully, while making big efforts to mitigate as much as possible, harm to civilians,”

“The military pressure we are applying and have applied in recent weeks is severely damaging Hamas, advancing the achievement of all the war’s objectives, with the top priority of returning all the hostages home.”

Addressing the ongoing attacks from Lebanon, Halevi said: “Hezbollah chose to open fire at the end of the operational pause.  We identified this in advance and prepared for it.  We are resolutely acting against anyone preparing, or attempting to harm the citizens of Israel, IDF soldiers or those that pose a threat to our territory.  We are exacting a high price from Hezbollah, one that it is trying to hide, and we understand why.”

We are focused on Gaza, but together with this, we are continuing operational activities aimed at achieving a better security reality in the north of Israel,” he said.

Turning to the security situation in Judea and Samaria, he said, “In the Central Command, in Judea and Samaria, we are increasing the fight against terrorism, so far we must say with great success.  In the last two months, over 1,200 Hamas operatives were apprehended in Judea and Samaria, many terrorists who carried out attacks, some very serious attacks in the past, and some that were planning to carry out future attacks.  They were arrested or killed, and we are very determined to continue this effort.”



Hamas Commanders Killed By IDF Hiding In Tunnels

In a special report, the IDF and the Shin Bet on Tuesday (5th) revealed the targeting of senior Hamas members from the Northern Gaza Brigade and the Gaza City Brigade from within the tunnels, with most of these leaders being eliminated during combat.

The Northern Gaza Strip Brigade is the second largest in the Hamas terrorist organization. In an attack on a tunnel where the terrorist organization’s commanders were hiding, under civilian homes and near the Indonesian Hospital, IDF forces, guided by the Shin Bet and military intelligence, eliminated the brigade commander, Ahmed Ehandor, the deputy brigade commander, Al Rajab, and other senior members, including the commander of the support battalion, the head of the electronic warfare unit and the surveillance officer in the Northern Gaza Strip.

Ehandor was a member of the military wing’s executive council.  He was responsible for directing and managing all of Hamas terrorist activity in northern Gaza.

Simultaneously with the elimination of the commanders in the northern Gaza Brigade, the commander of the Beit Lahia Battalion, the commander of the Jabalia Center Battalion, other terrorists were eliminated also.

Due to the impact on the command and infrastructure, the operational capabilities of the Northern Gaza Brigade was significantly damaged.

The Gaza City Brigade is the largest in the Hamas terrorist organization.  In Gaza City, there are numerous military bases, as well as manufacturing sites and weapons storage facilities amidst the civilian population.

Gaza City is a prime example of Hamas’ use of the civilian population as human shields.  IDF forces guided by the Shin Bet and military intelligence, eliminated four battalion commanders in the Gaza Brigade, including the commanders of the Sabra, Shati, Daraj, Tafah, and Shuja’iyya battalions.

The Sabre Battalion was significantly damaged. Beside the battalion commander, other commanders in the central command chain were eliminated, and the battalion’s infrastructure and headquarters were rendered inoperable.  

In the Shati Battalion sector, IDF forces took control of key strongholds.  This battalion was responsible for central Hamas command posts, including Shifa Hospital command, whose underground infrastructure was thwarted.

In addition, the  Shati Brigade’s anti-tank head, head of air information, and the naval formation officer were eliminated.



US: IF Hamas Cared About Palestinian Civilians, They Would Surrender

US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller was asked about Palestinian casualties in Gaza on Monday (4th).  He responded: “You have to step back and remember that the Israeli military is one of the most professional militaries in the world.  They have legal determinations that they make when conducting strikes.  They go through procedures where they weigh civilian harm when they conduct any of these strikes.  They have put in place these plans…to evacuate specific neighborhoods to keep civilians out of harm’s way rather than just telling an entire population to move.  So they are going about this with a certain degree of deliberateness to try to minimize civilian harm.”

“The underlying problem of this entire situation…is that Hamas has embedded itself inside civilians – inside civilian homes, inside its mosques, in schools…It is Hamas that is putting these civilians in harm’s way…I’m surprised I don’t hear more people saying, why doesn’t Hamas lay down its arms?  Why doesn’t Hamas move out of schools?  Why doesn’t Hamas take additional steps to protect civilians?  Because we think they should.”

“We would welcome Hamas laying down its arms and surrendering at any point….They have sufficient fire power to have killed 1,200 people on Oct. 7.  So don’t tell me that Hamas can’t lay down their arms and take additional steps to protect civilians, let alone moving out of all the areas that are putting Palestinian civilians in harm’s way.  They absolutely can.  They could do it today if they cared at all about civilian life.”

“We support Israel’s right to continue to take actions to ensure that Hamas can never conduct terrorist attacks like it did on Oct.7 again….When you look at all the atrocities that Hamas carried out on Oct. 7 and the atrocities that they’ve carried out since, the fact that they continue to hold women hostages, the fact that they continue to hold children hostages, the fact that it seems one of the reasons they don’t want to turn women over that they’ve been holding hostage, and the reason this pause fell apart, is they don’t want those women to be able to talk about what happened to them during their time in custody – certainly there is very little that I would put beyond Hamas when it comes to its treatment of civilians, and particularly its treatment of women.” (State Department)



Amb. Gilad Erdan: ‘The UN Has Failed, Its Head Needs To Resign’

The United Nations has failed at its mandate, Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan said, speaking at the Jerusalem Post conference “The Second Front” on Monday (4th), adding that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres should resign.

“The Jewish people are facing a wave of hatred not seen in almost 80 years,” Erdan noted.  “And nowhere is this wave of Jew-hatred clearer than at the United Nations.”

“The UN was founded on the ashes of the Holocaust to prevent atrocities,” he emphasized.  “It is looked at as the bastion of civilization, a moral compass that all nations should follow.  Sadly, the UN has failed spectacularly to carry out its mandate.”

According to Erdan, the lack of condemnation by UN bodies and officials in the aftermath of the October 7 Massacre underscored the systemic bias against Israel throughout the organization.

“The very fact that the leader of this organization, the secretary-general himself, expressed an understanding for Hamas terror proves the illegitimacy of the UN,” the ambassador noted.  “Terror is terror.  There is never a justification for murdering innocent civilians in their homes.”

Erdan highlighted how the positions about Israel expressed by UN bodies or officials have often fueled anti-Semitism across the globe.

“The lies that UN bodies and officials spread about Israel make their way around the world before the truth can ever get its shoes on,” he said.  “These lies encourage anti-Semitism.”

Erdan also accused Guterres himself of making remarks showing “understanding for terror.”  “He must resign,” Erdan said.

“I will never stop fighting for the truth in the United Nations: none of us should,” the ambassador concluded.  “We must work together to expose the rampant hypocrisy and double standards that exist in this body that are influencing the next generation.”  



Researchers Find Roof Tiles From Hanukkah Period

Greetings from Antiochus Epiphanes: The earliest evidence to date for the use of ceramic roof tiles in the land of Israel has been uncovered in the City of David National Park surrounding the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem

Sixteen Hellenistic-period roof tile fragments dating from the 2nd century BCE were found in archaeological excavations conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) and Tel-Aviv University at the Givati Parking Lot Excavations, which are funded by the City of David Foundation.  The researchers, Dr. Yiftah Shalev and Dr. Filip Vukosavovic  from the IAA , and Prof. Yuval Gadot from Tel-Aviv University commented; “It is surprising how much a small discovery can open a tiny window into a vast world of research.”

The finds, dated to the time of the Greek Seleucid King Antiochus IV, the oppressor known from the story of Hanukkah, will be exhibited for the first time on Monday, December 11, 2023, at the Israel Antiquities Authority Conference, “In Those Days At This Time – The Hasmoneans Are Coming.”

Ceramic tiles were invented in Greece as early as the 7th Century BCE, with their durability and resistance to water, specifically rainwater and precipitation, gaining them a positive reputation and ensuring their rapid adoption in neighboring areas.  However, 500 years went by until they began to appear in the material culture of the Land of Israel.  In fact it appears that the person who brought them to Israel was none other than Antiochus Epiphanes – known to all of us from the story of Hanukkah.

The representatives of the Seleucid King, Antiochus IV, who reigned over vast areas from Syria to Persia, brought the knowledge and tradition of constructing tile roofs from Seleucid-controlled Syria,” say the researchers.

According to the story in the book of the Maccabees in 168 BCE, Antiochus IV undertook a military expedition to Jerusalem which led to the outbreak of the renown Maccabean Revolt.  In order to establish his control of the city, Antiochus constructed a mighty fortress that was known as the “Acra.”

The Greek soldiers residing in the fortress continued to rule the city after the Maccabean  cleansing of the Jerusalem Temple, and according to the descriptions in the books of the Maccabees and in the later writings of Flavius Josephus, the fortress embittered the lives of the Jewish residents in the city and the Temple.  Despite several descriptions of the fortress in Jewish and external sources, its exact location within the city still remains a puzzle debated by scholars.

The IIA researchers said, “tiles were very rare in our region during this period, and they were alien to local construction traditions, indicating that the technique of using tiles to roof parts of a tower or a structure inside that famous fortress was brought from Greek-controlled areas by foreign rulers.”

According to Dr. Filip Vukosavovic of the IIA: “Until now we had little material evidence for the presence of the Seleucid Greeks in Jerusalem.  The new tiles discovered in the City of David provide tangible remains of the Seleucid Greek presence in the region, linking us with the story of Hanukkah.  It’s very exciting to encounter the Seleucid ruler Antiochus IV face-to-face, almost 2,000 years after the events of Hanukkah.”

He further explains, “The climate and the relatively low precipitation in Israel, as well as other factors, do not justify the use of tiles for roofing, yet Antiochus still chose to make use of these roof tiles, probably for cultural reasons and to make a statement, by introducing Greek monumental material culture in the country at a short distance from the Jewish Temple.  It is therefore probably not incidental that with the collapse of Seleucid rule and the ascent of the Hasmoneans, roofing tiles disappeared from Jerusalem, until the arrivals of the new Roman conquerors.”

Eli Escusido, Director of the IIA, added, “It is interesting to discover that roof tiles have been a standard roofing component throughout the world, although their design, shape and size have evolved over the centuries.  It’s amazing how such an everyday item can teach us so much.”

The celebration of Hanukkah begins on Thursday night December 7 and ends on Friday night December 15.