News Digest — 2/13/24

Netanyahu To Soldiers: One Of The Greatest Hostage Rescue Operations In Israeli History

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, together with the Inspector General of the Israel Police and the Commander of the Border Police on Monday (12th), visited the Israel National Counter Terrorism Unit and met with the fighters and unit commander, who – in an operation overnight rescued hostages Fernando Marman and Louis Har from Rafah in Gaza.

The Prime Minister gave an update on how he approved the complex operation several days ago and how he closely monitored the rescue operation from the ISA special operations control center.

Prime Minister Netanyahu and Minister Ben Gvir heard from the commanders and fighters about the dramatic moments of the rescue and the complexity of the operation, and the cooperation and integration among the various forces.

Netanyahu told the soldiers: “This is a day of joy mixed with sadness over our fallen soldiers.  However, I would like to tell you that the freeing of Louis and Fernando was one of the most successful rescue operations in the history of the State of Israel.”

He continued: “Several days ago, the operation was brought to me for approval and I approved it.  Afterward, several hours later, I thought about three things: One, I thought about the sacred nature of the mission.  Two, I thought about the risks in relation to the chances, and there were risks. Three, I thought about you, the fighters, I thought about what would happen at the decisive moment, because from experience, I know that at the breakthrough moment, the gap between victory and tragedy is a millimeter.”

At 01:40 Monday morning, I saw you placing the charge and seconds later I heard ‘We have the hostages.’ You eliminated the abductors, the terrorists, and made your way back without injury – a successful operation, a perfect operation,” he said.

“I would like to tell you: I am so proud of you.  I am proud of you, the ISA and the IDF worked like a well-oiled machine.  You are simply the best fighters there.   I came here to tell you this and to salute you on behalf of all citizens of Israel.  You are the best in the world.  Well done!!” the Prime Minister concluded.

The Prime Minister was accompanied by his Chief of Staff, Tzachi Braverman, National Security Council Director Tzachi Hanegbi, Israel police inspector general Koby Shabtai, the Prime Minister’s Military Secretary, Maj.-Gen. Avi Gill, and Border Police Commander Yitzhak Barik.



Defense Minister Gallant: ‘This Is A Turning Point, Hamas Is Vulnerable

Monday (12th) Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant visited the National Counter Terrorism Unit (Yamam) of the Israel Police, and was briefed  on the operation conducted overnight to rescue hostages held in Gaza.

Following the briefing, Minister Gallant held a discussion with troops serving in the unit and commended them for their determination and courage.  Gallant emphasized that successful operational efforts advance additional efforts related to the release of hostages.

“I came to salute you and to express my appreciation.  The result of the operation is very impressive, reflecting the capabilities of this unit and your ability to cooperate with the ISA and the IDF.  I saw your cooperation with the Navy Seals (Shayetet 13) and the Air Force.”

“Hamas is vulnerable – we are capable of going everywhere and achieving our missions.  The public knows it has someone to trust.”

“Our existence here depends on deterrence.  The symbol of this war cannot be the images of Nir Oz – the symbol must be the destruction of Hamas in Gaza and Khan Younis – the elimination of terrorists above and under the ground.  Thank You – you are on the frontline, and you represent our spirit.”



Egypt Says Peace Treaty With Israel Safe Despite Jitters Over Rafah Offensive

Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said Monday (12th) that Cairo is committed to upholding its peace treaty with Israel, amid reports in recent days that the agreement might be in jeopardy if the military proceeds with an offensive on the Gaza city of Rafah, abutting the border with Egypt. 

Cairo has expressed worries that an Israeli push into Rafah, which has swelled with Gazans displaced from parts of the Strip, could create a crush of refugees pushing into the Sinai Desert and exacerbate a humanitarian crisis in the Strip.

Cairo’s top diplomat was asked about the potential impacts of such an assault on his country’s relations with Israel by a reporter.

“There is a peace agreement between Egypt and Israel, which has been in effect for the past 40 years and will continue to be.  We are actively dealing with this matter at this stage,” Shoukry siad, during a trip to Ljubljana, according to quotes carried by Sky News Arabic.

The comments came days after The Wall Street Journal reported that Egyptian officials warned the decades-long peace treaty between Egypt and Israel could be suspended if Israel Defense Forces’ troops entered Rafah, or if any of Rafah’s refugees are forced southward into the Sinai Peninsula.

Over half of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million has fled to Rafah to escape the fighting in other areas, staying in tent camps and UN shelters near the border.  Egypt fears a mass influx of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees and claims those who leave may never be allowed to return.

Channel 12 News reported Sunday evening (11th) that senior officials from the Mossad spy agency, the Shin Bet security agency, and the IDF  had been in contact with their Egyptian counterparts to allay their concerns after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said sending troops into Rafah was necessary to win the four-month-war against Hamas.

“We will continue our efforts with both parties to reach an agreement that leads to the release of hostages and prisoners and ensures the entry of aid into the Gaza Strip,” Shoukry said Monday (12th).

Egypt has been reportedly warning Hamas that it should reach a hostage-for-ceasefire deal with Israel within two weeks, or Israel would move into Rafah.

On Sunday evening (11th), Hebrew media outlets reported that IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi told the Cabinet that he had already approved an operation in Rafah three times and that the military was prepared to carry out operations whenever it received the green light from the government.

In an effort to forestall a massive influx of refugees, Egypt has, over the past two weeks, stationed some 40 tanks near its border with Gaza, after reinforcing the border wall since the beginning of hostilities, both structurally and with surveillance equipment, according to Reuters.

War erupted in Gaza with Hamas’ October 7 massacres, which saw thousands of terrorists burst across Israel’s border by air, land and sea, killing some 1,200 people and kidnapping 253 to Gaza, mostly civilians.  In response, Israel launched an extensive military campaign aimed at eliminating the terrorist organization and returning the hostages, two of whom were rescued in a military operation in Rafah early Monday (12th).



Twins In The Border Police: “When She Got Shot, I Could Feel The Bullet” – Meir Turgeman

Noa and Shira Cohen are almost 20.  They’re twins that have been doing everything together since birth.  A year and a half ago, they enlisted in the Border Police.  On Oct.7, Noa recounts, “On comms, we heard a message: “Sderot station on fire, there are dozens of terrorists, please help!”

Driving down Route 34 near Moshav Yahini, “What we saw is the definition of horror.  Mortally wounded people, bodies lining up the road, gunfire coming from every direction.  We disembarked and immediately returned fire.  Then we saw a hand protruding from the trunk of a nearby car that was shot to pieces and we saw two terrified girls, one of which wouldn’t let go of me, screaming that she and her husband managed to escape the Nova music festival in Moshav Re’im.

Noa and her fellow Border Police officers took on the terrorists, standing between them and the moshav residents.  During the firefight, Noa was shot in the leg.

Meanwhile, Shira was in the heat of combat in Sderot, 4 miles away.  After two and a half hours of fighting, she could feel something was off with her sister, even though they were fighting in two separate locations.  “I sensed something was wrong with her,” said Shira.  “I called her and …one of her squad mates…told me she had been shot in the leg.  We’ve been connected in more ways than one since we were born.  When she got shot, I could feel the pain from the bullet.”  (Ynet News)



The Case Against Israel Rests On Lies – President Of Israel, Isaac Herzog

The international legal system has begun to ignore reality and truth.  Justice is unrecognizable, and noble ideals are perverted by terrorists and cynics.  These feelings were brought into focus as the International Court of Justice at The Hague in January considered South Africa’s accusation that Israel was guilty of genocide.

Amid the many demonstrable misrepresentations that emerged from the accusation against Israel, one caught my attention – a quote attributed to me.  On Oct. 12, five days after Hamas terrorists butchered 1,200 people in southern Israel and kidnapped hundreds more, a line that there was “an entire nation out there that is responsible,” referring to the Palestinians, was presented as if it justified  the killing of civilians.

At a news conference, not one journalist asked me about the pain in Israel or about the global implications of this act of catastrophic terror.  They were instead preoccupied with the effect this would have on Palestinians in Gaza – the territory that had produced and then celebrated the perpetrators of the attack.  The fact is that many Palestinian civilians entered Israel on Oct. 7 and participated in murder, rape and looting, much of it documented on film.  Palestinians were filmed cheering the massacre and jeering and attacking the hostages as they were led into captivity.

I pointed out that Hamas operates from within the heart of its civilian population and enjoys broad support.  I then stated, in no uncertain terms, that there are many innocent Palestinians, and that the State of Israel and our security forces don’t view innocent civilians as targets in any way.  I made it clear that Israel acts in keeping with international law.  These words were purposely distorted when presented to the court.

The South African case, brought in support of Hamas, is a blood-libel against the nation-state of the Jewish people – a “shameful-low” for an international system that emerged from the ashes of the Holocaust.  This abandonment of moral clarity, the desertion of the vision of international justice and its replacement by cynical politics and outright falsehoods, will have repercussions far beyond Israel.  (Wall Street Journal)



What Is The U.S. Government Doing To Enforce The Taylor Force Act? – Lt. Col. (res.) Maurice Hirsch (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

• The bi-partisan U.S. Taylor Force Act (TFA), adopted in 2018, declared that: “The Palestinian Authority’s practice of paying salaries to terrorists serving in Israeli prisons, as well as to the families of deceased terrorists, is an incentive to commit acts of terror.  As long as the PA continues to incentivize terror and reward the murder of Jews, there is no chance whatsoever to promote any constructive dialogue toward Israeli-Palestinian peace.”

• In addition to conditioning most of U.S. aid on the PA abolishing its “Pay-for-Slay” terror reward policy, as a long-term diplomatic goal, the Act urged “the Department of State to use its bilateral and multilateral engagements with all governments and organizations committed to the cause of peace between Israel and the Palestinians to highlight the issue of Palestinian Authority payments for acts of terrorism and to urge such governments and organizations to join the United States in calling on the Palestinian Authority to cease such payments immediately.

• Very little has been done to achieve the diplomatic goal of ending the terror payments.  It is apparent that the PA not only intends to continue paying its terror rewards but will pay rewards to the terrorists who participated in the Oct. 7 massacre as well.

• In 2018, following the adoption of the Taylor Force Act, Israel also adopted legislation that punishes the PA for its “Pay-for-Slay” policy by deducting the sum the PA pays to terrorists from the tax revenues it collects for the PA.

• To date, the PA has lost over $820 million, a sum equivalent to the PA payments to terrorists from 2018 through 2022.  When Abbas urges Washington to release the “Palestinian clearance funds,” he is referring to the sums withheld by Israel from the taxes as a direct result of the PA’s “Pay-for-Slay” policy.

• Moral clarity requires that Secretary Blinken unequivocally demand an immediate end to the PA’s “Pay-for-Slay” policy as a non-negotiable precondition to establishing any form of revitalized Palestinian entity.

The writer, Director of the Palestinian Authority Accountability Initiative at the Jerusalem Center, served for 19 years in the IDF Military Advocate General Corps and was director of the Military Prosecution in Judea and Samaria.