News Digest — 2/21/24

Netanyahu: No Pressure Can Stop Us From Achieving Our Goals

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the Zikim military base  Tuesday (20th).  During his visit, he met with the IDF Artillery Corps’ elite Sky Riders Unit.

The Prime Minister was briefed by the commander of the unit on its unique abilities and its achievements during the fighting – he also viewed an exhibit of the unit’s various tools and capabilities including the operations system, communications and UAVs.  Prime Minister Netanyahu operated a UAV and used it to monitor the skies over Gaza.

He spoke with the reservist and conscript soldiers and heard from them about their activity up until now, as well as their readiness to continue fighting.

Netanyahu told the soldiers, “There is considerable pressure on Israel at home and abroad to stop the war before we achieve all our goals, including a deal at any price to free the hostages.  We very much want to achieve another release and we are prepared to go far but we are not prepared to pay any price, certainly not the delusional prices that Hamas is demanding of us, the meaning of which is the defeat of the State of Israel.”

“We are committed to continuing the war until we achieve all of its goals: Eliminating Hamas, releasing all of the hostages and ensuring that Gaza never again constitutes a threat to Israel.  There is no pressure, none, that can change this.”

The Prime Minister was accompanied by his Chief of Staff, Tzachi Braverman and his Military Secretary, Maj.- Gen Avi Gil.



IDF Distributes Newspapers With Important Message For Gaza Residents

A newspaper with a photo of Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar in a tunnel was distributed Tuesday (20th) in Rafah, Gaza, by the IDF.

The newspaper, Hametziut carried news regarding the war and messages to Gaza residents.

“Be careful: Here you will read the truth,” the newspaper warned.

Tuesday’s (20th) paper carried the message: “Is the fate of Sinwar’s children more important than the fate of your children?” alongside a photo of Sinwar escaping with his children through a tunnel.

A previous paper distributed included an item on Hamas’ Moussa Abu Marzouk, and included a quote from him saying, “The tunnels are so we can protect our militants and leaders.  The nation should be careful.”  The paper’s last page bore a message to Gaza’s residents: “You are still keeping silent.  Wake up!  The future is in your hands.”

This week, Gaza residents received notices calling on them to offer information to Israel’s security echelon regarding the whereabouts of the hostages.  Gazans were promised, via text messaging, a financial award to anyone who offered information regarding the Israeli hostages.

“Are you interested in a better future for your family and in a financial reward?  Do you have information on the hostages?  Don’t hesitate – contact us at this number,” the notice read.

Last week, the ISA distributed a notice in Rafah’s neighborhoods, attempting to enlist the residents to action.  The notice carried the phone number of the ISA director responsible for the area – someone called “Captain Hossam.”

“Let’s create a better future for both nations – together.  Hamas and the other factions have led you to hell,” it read.



Report: Hezbollah Has A Tunnel Network More Dangerous Than Hamas’

Hezbollah has a tunnel network more dangerous and more vast than Hamas’ system under the Gaza Strip, the French paper Liberation reported Sunday (18th).

The Iranian proxy has been digging them methodically since the end of the 2006 Second Lebanon War, said the report, although its forces had already begun boring the earth back in the 1980s to use tunnels the way Hamas does – as a means of moving troops unseen, storing weapons, and safeguarding its commanders from a potential Israeli invasion.

There are dozens and dozens of tunnels, some as deep as 80 meters (over 262 feet deep) underground, running for hundreds of kilometers under South Lebanon.  One of them is reportedly an astonishing 45 kilometers (5 miles) long.

General Olivier Fasso, who served as a UN liaison officer in Southern Lebanon and is currently a researcher at the French Institute for Strategic and Operational Education, told the paper that “Hezbollah buys land and turns some … into so-called nature reserves.  We believe they set up training camps or weapon caches in them and probably included shafts leading to these tunnels.  Israel, which was present in the area, managed to limit this spread until 2000, but Hezbollah reorganized from 2006 and had another 18 years to arrange this territory.”

One organization, called Green Without Borders, that masquerades as a group concerned with environmental issues on the Lebanese/Israel border, was put on the American foreign terrorist list to be sanctioned for the cover it provides Hezbollah in digging tunnels.

Israel published its discovery in December 2018 of six Hezbollah attack tunnels that were close to or already breaching its southern border, and destroyed them using explosives or injecting liquid cement along their lengths.  Fasso was present at the time in Lebanon and attested to their sophisticated ventilation systems.

In 2020, the IDF announced that it had begun working on an underground barrier on the northern border that would notify Israel in real time if Hezbollah would try to restart its terror tunnel project, saying then that the army did not believe any new tunnels were being dug.

According to Liberation, Israel knows at least some of the extant tunnels, and dropped white phosphorus bombs in specific areas over the border after the war began and Hezbollah began firing rockets in support of Hamas.  The chemicals burned away covering brush and revealed a dozen entrance shafts which were then destroyed.

While Lebanese authorities deny the tunnels’ existence, according to the report, an Israeli source told the paper that the IDF knows it could “encounter a well-prepared underground army” and is therefore not rushing to jump into all-out-war with the Iranian proxy.

In contrast to Hamas, which has to shore up its underground passageways with cement due to the sandy soil of the coastal enclave, the Hezbollah tunnels are bored through stone, which would be harder to collapse.  The report said that destroying them with explosives could even cause earthquakes or landslides.



2,000 Year Old Coin Discovered By Child Evacuated On October 7

An 11-year-old boy found a 2,000-year-old coin belonging to the Hasmonean King and high priest Alexander Yanai, Israel Antiquities Authority announced on Tuesday (20th).

Nati Tovikar was evacuated from his home Kibbutz Magen, following Hamas’ October 7 attacks.  He is currently living in one of the hotels for evacuated residents along the Dead Sea, where, on one of his explorations, he unexpectedly found an ancient coin from the time of Hasmonean King Alexander Yanai.  Nati proved great responsibility and citizenship by returning the coin to the Antiquities Authority.

Nati’s father Ronen, shared: “Sometimes when school is over, the kids go walking and exploring in the area of the hotel.  Nati is a curious boy who likes to look at the ground and search for interesting things.  After one trip, he came back to me excited and told me he found a small coin.  We researched the coin a bit on the Internet, and on Nati’s own initiative, he suggested calling and reporting the finding to the Antiquities Authority..  The great care we received and the fact that archaeologist Alex Freiberg came all the way to meet Nati and give him a certificate made him very happy.  It motivates him to show good citizenship next time as well.”

“Since October 7, we have guides from the educational centers of the Antiquities Authority organizing and conducting activities in hundreds of hotels where evacuees are staying.  The participants get a few moments of distraction from the difficult reality and are exposed to the world of antiquities,” said Orit Apalo and Einat Kashi from the Antiquities Authority.  

“We meet the residents of Kibbutz Magen as part of a wide range of activities carried out among evacuees in the Dead Sea region, and we are happy that the younger generation already knows about the importance of antiquities.”

According to Dr. Robert Cole, Head of the Coins Branch at the Antiquities Authority, “the coin that Nati found is a well-known coin of the Hasmonean King and high priest Alexander Yanai [Janai] (104-76 BCE).  On the face of the coin appears an anchor, and around it appears an inscription in Greek – “Alexander Basileus,” which translates “(of) Alexander the King.”  On the back of the coin appears a star with eight rays, surrounded by a crown of kings.  Between the rays, you can see an inscription, which appears in small letters.  Only a part of it can be deciphered here.  It recalls the name and the title of the king in ancient Hebrew: [Yohan]n/he/mel/[cha]/.”

Hasmonean rule reached the peak of its power and territorial expansion under Alexander Yanai.  As a Jew and an important Hellenistic ruler, he held the dual title of high priest and king – which is a noticeable feature in the inscription on the coin.

The coin was minted in the 80s BCE in very large quantities, and its wide distribution in Israel and neighboring regions indicates the expansion of the kingdom under Yanai’s rule.  Dr. Cole expands on this archaeological find, stating that “The coins of this type found along the coast of the Dead Sea are evidence of military and the king’s conquest against the Kingdom of the Nabatim in Jordan.  These coins were used to pay the king’s soldiers and to build and strengthen fortresses in the area (such as Masada, Makhvar, Qumran) – and also – to build a fleet of vessels that operated in the Dead Sea.  Hence, perhaps the anchor symbol that appears on the currency.”



What Americans Don’t Get About Israelis Fighting For Their Lives – Jonathan S. Tobin

The war in Gaza between Israel and Hamas is between a democratic nation fighting for its existence against an Islamist movement whose goal is the destruction of Israel and the Jewish people.  Yet many outside of Israel are increasingly speaking of ending the war as soon as possible.  This means that Hamas survives – and gets away with mass murder.  It means that Palestinians are rewarded with an independent state.  Somehow that makes sense in Washington.  But not in Israel.

The overwhelming majority of Israelis see it very differently.  The battle with Hamas isn’t one about Israelis ruthlessly harming Palestinians.  The hotels in Israel are full, but not with tourists.  They’re packed with hundreds of thousands of Israelis – families with small children and elderly people – who were forced to flee their homes near Gaza and near Lebanon due to rocket and missile fire from Hamas and Hezbollah.  They have been omitted in the breathless coverage of Palestinian suffering.

The Israelis who were called back into the military and willingly risked their lives fighting in Gaza, though eager to resume their regular lives, are just as ready to return to the battlefield because they know the job of destroying a deadly threat to their country isn’t finished.  Few Israelis are prepared to halt the war until all of the perpetrators of the October 7 massacres are stripped of their ability to repeat their crimes.

Morale among Israeli soldiers is high and stretches across all the cultural, political, and religious debates.  They don’t want to kill Palestinians and also grieve the loss of so many of their comrades – casualties made more likely because of the strict rules of engagement to lower the number of civilians killed, that prevent the Israeli Defense Forces from fully utilizing the firepower at their disposal.

Israeli soldiers know that they are defending their homes and families.

It’s the civic faith in the justice of their cause that resonates throughout Israeli society and pervades the thinking of those who have sent their loved ones to battle.  It is also felt by the grieving families of those who didn’t come home.  Israel is a nation united by both anguish and determination.

Israelis understand that their opponents are not in far-off lands like in America’s wars in recent decades.  The horrors of October 7 were not a one-off act.  Israel has suffered many terrorist attacks in which large numbers of civilians were killed by Islamist murderers, but Oct. 7 was the worst of them all.  What made it resonate throughout Israeli society was the certain knowledge that it was intended as a trailer for what Hamas – and the majority of the Palestinian population that supported and still supports those actions – intends to do to the rest of Israel.  (JNS-Israel Hayom)