News Digest — 2/2/24

Alleged Israeli Airstrikes Target Iranian Stronghold Near Damascus

Alleged Israeli airstrikes targeted Sayyidah Zaynab, a stronghold of Iranian militias, near Damascus early on Friday Morning (2nd), according to Syrian reports.

The strikes targeted the Sayyidah Zaynab area, which has been targeted several times by alleged Israeli strikes in recent months, according to the Syrian Capital Voice news site.

Sites near Aqraba, south of Damascus, were targeted as well, according to Nour Abo Hassan, a journalist in southern Syria.

The Syrian state news agency SANA reported that the airstrikes were carried out from over the Golan Heights and that the strikes only caused material damage without any casualties.

The strikes are the latest attributed to Israel in Syria as tensions continue to rise across the region.  The last strike on the Sayyidah Zaynab area was reported just a few days ago, with four members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) killed in that strike.

On Thursday, (1st) Reuters reported that the IRGC scaled back deployment of their senior officers in Syria due to a spate of deadly Israeli strikes, adding that the IRGC will rely more on allied Shiite militias to preserve their presence there.

Since December, Israeli strikes have killed more than half a dozen of their members, among them one of the Guards’ top intelligence generals.  Several of the strikes in which IRGC members were killed targeted the Sayyidah Zaynab area, according to Syrian reports.

On Tuesday night (1/30), the Israeli Air Force struck military infrastructure belonging to the Syrian Army in the Daraa Governorate of southern Syria after several rockets were fired toward the Golan Heights.



Israel Defeats Hamas In Khan Yunis, Over 10,000 Gazan Terrorists Killed

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced on Thursday night (1st) that Hamas’ forces in Khan Yunis have been officially defeated.

He said that after additional gains by the IDF in Khan Yunis, 10,000 Hamas fighters have been killed and 10,000 wounded, up from around 9,000 killed and around 8,000 wounded around a week and a half ago.

If true, along with the close to 2,500 Hamas terrorists who have been arrested, the percentage of Hamas forces out of commission would now be up to between 56-75%, up from 48-64% around 10 days ago, presuming Hamas’ forces pre-war were between 30,000-40,000.

Gallant’s statement that the IDF has completed taking apart Hamas’ remaining battalions in Khan Yunis, including in the western part of the terror group’s southern Gaza capital, would also seem to be a week or a couple weeks ahead of IDF statements.

Earlier this week, the IDF said it was on the verge of taking apart Hamas’ final Khan Yunis battalion in the western section but appeared to suggest that it could still be some weeks before the process was complete.

It was unclear if some additional dramatic progress had been made in the last few days or if Gallant was projecting forward by a week or so.

The IDF itself still has not announced full operational control in Khan Yunis as it did in northern Gaza in late December and early January.

The defense minister also vowed to rout Hamas in Rafah, where to date, the military has avoided using ground troops so as not to alienate Egypt.

However, an increasing number of top officials have suggested to the news media that Hamas’ top leaders and many hostages may have moved from Khan Yunis to Rafah.



Israeli Schools Near Gaza Border To Reopen As War On Hamas Progresses

The IDF announced on Thursday (1st) that schools can reopen in southern Israel close to the Gaza border due to the improved security situation achieved by the IDF’s operational control in some parts of Gaza, along with a major reduction in rocket fire.

The change is expected to transform the return of civilians who fled when the war started on October 7.

On January 1, the IDF announced that residents of six towns four to seven kilometers from the border would start returning, for the first time since October.  The first towns the IDF cleared to go back were three in the Ashkelon area and three in Shaar Hanegev.

Since then, thousands returned to their homes, but currently have no schooling, which is why many held off going back.

Despite the change, each town is being treated individually, and there are some in Shaar Hanegev and Eshkol still not permitted to open schooling.

Part of the issue relates to how many people are allowed to gather together in closed spaces.

With the IDF dropping the danger level from 3 to 2, 100 people are now allowed to congregate indoors together and up to 300 outdoors, whereas before the limits were 50 indoors and 100 outdoors, which made schooling difficult or impossible.

Generally, the IDF has first allowed residents to return to areas closer to northern Gaza, where it has had stronger control for longer, whereas towns closer to southern Gaza will need to wait longer, based on gains the IDF expects to make.  

Residents who had lived in towns that are four kilometers from the border will need to wait longer to return.  These towns number higher than those farther away, and because Hamas managed to significantly destroy houses and infrastructure there, it will take longer to rebuild before a return is possible.

Regarding a much larger number of towns which were zero to four kilometers from Gaza, Hamas managed to destroy a more significant amount of houses and infrastructure, which will take longer to rebuild before residents can return.

By press time, there had been no rockets fired from Gaza, nor had there been any on Wednesday (1/31), with one fired on Tuesday (1/30) towards Nahal Oz.  Throughout the whole month of January, Hamas only fired three significant double-digit barrages, and even those came nowhere close to the hundreds it could fire per day in the war’s early stages.



Report: IDF TO Distribute Aid Directly To Gazans 

The IDF may start distributing humanitarian aid directly to civilians in the Gaza Strip, Israel Hayom  reported Wednesday (1/31).

In the plan currently under consideration by the Israeli government, the army would work with the international bodies currently in full charge of the aid trucks passing into the coastal enclave after undergoing security inspections at Israel’s Kerem Shalom and Nitzana crossings.

According to the report, two aid centers will be established, one in the northern part of the Strip and one in the center, and the Gazans will have to go there in order to receive food, water, medicine and other basic supplies.

This kind of control over the aid would hopefully prevent Hamas from stealing the supplies, which includes fuel that directly allows it to prolong the war by powering their generators for electricity and maintaining a steady air supply in the tunnels in which they hide.

Currently the terror organization can physically take over the entering vehicles, as has been seen in video clips online, or can have one of its members who is employed by UNRWA, one of the main aid organizations receiving shipments from abroad, simply divert its trucks.

Channel 14 reported that last week, Shabak chief Ronen Bar told the cabinet that 50-70% of the aid trucks are either stolen outright or just emptied of their contents by Hamas.

Israel Hayom noted that the plan is only in its initial stage.  The IDF is currently studying it, and may make several changes before it comes to a vote.



Protest Outside Holocaust Museum Is ‘Antisemitic’, CAM Statement

A protest against the Israel war with Hamas took place in front of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum located in Washington DC on Thursday (1st).

Demonstrators blocking the street in front of the memorial museum claimed to be protesting Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza and the US strikes against the Houthi attacks in Yemen.

However, following the incident, the Combat Anti-Semitism Movement (CAM), a global organization dedicated to fighting anti-Semitism, released a statement claiming that the protest was undeniably an anti-Semitic incident.

According to CAM CEO Sacha Roytman, the protest’s location choice was an irrefutable indicator that the protest was not about the war but rather was targeted at Jews.

“These demonstrators, in choosing to stage their protest in front of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, an area of the city with no ties to the US military, Israel, Yemen, or the Palestinian people, chose to make their protest about Jews,” stated Roytman.

According to Roytman,there was no need to protest outside of the Holocaust memorial, as it had no connection to the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.

“The museum tells the story of the six million Jews who were murdered by the Nazis – it has nothing to do with Israel or the US military,” Roytman added.

Roytman offered a handful of alternative locations in the Washington area that could have been the location of choice for the protest, such as outside the White House, Pentagon, or the Israeli Embassy.

“The protestors showed their true colors.  This is anti-Semitism, plain and simple,” Roytman concluded.



Video Shows California Imams Voice Hatred For Jews, Praise Or Deny October 7

Numerous Imams across California have been giving mosque sermons that are filled with praise for Hamas’ shock October 7 terror onslaught on Israel, with hateful, anti-Semitic diatribes about Jews and apparent calls for violence, according to a video compilation translated and posted  by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).

The American watchdog group, which monitors and analyzes media in a host of languages including Arabic, Persian, Urdu and Turkish, noted that “in our extensive monitoring, our researchers have not found a single sermon denouncing Hamas or the October 7 attacks.”

The organization said researchers monitored Sunni and Shia Imams from major mosques, leading Muslim organizations, and other leaders associated with universities across the Golden State.  It did not specify exactly the number of individuals or sermons monitored, but highlighted hate speech comments from at least 11 religious leaders in the compilation.

One Imam in Santa Clara gave a December 13, 2023 speech in English at the Muslim Community Association in the city where he claimed that Zionism was “infused with white supremacy” and that Jews were “not semites” but Europeans who converted to Judaism while in Europe.”

The Imam, named as Amir Abdel Malik Ali of Masjid Al-Islam, accused Jews of “assassinating” biblical “prophets.”

“These Zionists know that they are in trouble,” he said.  “They also see that the Palestinians have more support than at any other time in history,” in the wake of the October 7 massacre.  

On that date, thousands of Palestinian terrorists slaughtered 1,200 people across southern Israel, mostly civilians, and abducted 253 people, amid brutal atrocities documented by the terrorists themselves.

Another Imam Taher Herzalleh, the director of outreach and grassroots organization at The American Muslims for Palestine, also appeared in the compilation giving a speech in December at a San Diego mosque in which he said it was “time to make the Zionists feel very uncomfortable on campus,” a reference to the anti-Israel protests on university campuses that have seen a sharp uptick in anti-Semitic incidents and harassment of Jewish students.

“Zionists are really going to regret the day they made Muslims their enemy,” he said in his speech.

“October 7 showed that the most poor, under-resourced, devastated, starving, people of the world, have destroyed the veneer of superiority that the West and the colonizers have fed us for generations,” Herzalleh said, adding that Gazans and Yemenis “are leading a fight against the most powerful superpowers in this world.  Allahu Akbar.”

He cited recent research that showed Americans aged 18-24 were not only more likely to support the Palestinians, “they support the resistance!” he stated.

“Free Palestine from the river to the sea.  We don’t follow their moral authority…We will enforce, we will bring the rules that Allah gave us to this Earth, because that’s what we were sent here for,” he added.

Other Imams on the video compilation agreed in essence with their comrades, and added even worse diatribes against the Jewish people with some disavowing the October 7 massacre took place.

Also heard in the video compilation, one Imam, Marc Manley, in a speech in Upland, California said Jews “are fabricating videos like a Hollywood studio” of the October 7 massacre, and prayed, “Oh Allah, annihilate the Zionist dogs in Israel.”    



The Briton Who Joined The IDF In Gaza  – Anonymous

My Dutch mother and English father met and fell in love at a kibbutz in Israel.  I was brought up in northwest London, but joined the IDF in 2014, and after two years joined the reserves.  I was at home in Tel Aviv with my friend on Oct. 7 and was called up.  Because I am a British citizen I have never been compelled to serve, but after Oct. 7 it was something I was proud to do.  “What choice do I have?”  I asked my friend.

My job is reconnaissance – I am the eyes and the ears of my unit, watching out for danger.  Going into Gaza we saw the scale of what we were fighting.  I would say that 75%, if not more, of the homes we went into had some sort of affiliation with Hamas.  Lots of weapons; we’d find RPGs and grenades on the floor.  We’d go into a pink bedroom and think about the young girl who lived there, and then go next door and see guns or detailed maps of Israel – knowing that that stuff was there because they wanted to kill us.

I know how strict the protocols are in terms of attacking buildings as one of my jobs was directing fire from helicopters or planes.  We never fired indiscriminately and the idea that we deliberately killed civilians is rubbish.  There would always have to be a specific danger to our troops and we were always aware not only of the civilians but also of the fact that any one of the buildings could contain one of our hostages.  In the British media, the picture of us as this monstrous war-mongering, child-killing machine couldn’t be more wrong.