News Digest — 2/27/24

Hezbollah Rains 60 Rockets Down On Golan After Israeli Strikes

Hezbollah on Monday (26th) fired dozens of rockets toward the Golan in a significant departure from its general focus on the northern Galilee.

The Lebanese terror group said it was aiming for an IDF Golan base in retaliation for Israeli strikes near the city of Baalbek, which were unusually deep strikes into Lebanon’s territory.

Baalbek is around 62 miles away from the Israeli border and is in Lebanon’s northeast, whereas most IDF attacks to date have been focused only on southern Lebanon, or on Beirut, which is still much further south than Baalbek.

There were no reports of injuries from what Hezbollah said was a 60-rocket barrage.

The IDF did not say how many rockets were fired, but the Home Front Command only recorded 20 rocket sirens, appearing to ignore much of the Golan rocket fire as not dangerous during this round.

Occasionally, Iranian-affiliated militias from Syria have fired small numbers of rockets on the Golan, but nothing near Monday’s (26th) volume from Hezbollah.  The Golan has mostly remained quiet recently.

Continuing the rounds of retaliation, the IDF later said it had killed senior Hezbollah official  Hassan Hussein Salami in an airstrike on southern Lebanon.

Salami, whose rank is equivalent to that of a brigade commander, was hit on the way to the southern Lebanon village of Majdel.  This was one of the rare cases where the IDF intentionally took credit for the assassination.

According to the IDF, Salami commanded one of Hezbollah’’s regional units, including managing attacks on IDF troops and Israeli communities in northern Israel, especially Kiryat Shmona.

Further, they said Salami was involved in directing the Hezbollah attack on an IDF base – Brigade 760.

The IDF appeared to take public credit due to Salami’s role in attacks on IDF bases, something the IDF has tolerated less than Hezbollah attacks on empty evacuated villages.

According to Reuters, at least two simultaneous strikes hit around Lebanon’s city of Baalbek, two security sources said.

An Israeli man was injured by a barrage of rockets fired at Moshav Shtula in the Galilee by Hezbollah on Monday (26th).

Earlier on Monday (26th), Hezbollah said it had shot down an Israeli Hermes 450 drone over Lebanese territory with a surface-to-surface missile, the second time it has announced a downing of this type of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).

The Israeli military stated earlier on Monday (26th) that two missile launches had targeted an Israeli Air Force UAV operating over Lebanon.  The first, it said, was intercepted by Israel’s David’s Sling aerial defense system, but the drone “fell inside Lebanese territory” after the second missile attack.

“The David’s Sling aerial defense system intercepted a surface-to-air missile that was fired toward an Israeli Air Force UAV operating in Lebanon,” the IDF said in a statement.  “Following the launch of the interceptor, sirens were sounded in the area of Alon Tavor in northern Israel.”

“A short while after, an additional missile launch toward the UAV was identified and  the UAV fell inside Lebanese territory.” 

The timing of the IDF’s decision to attack deeper into Lebanese territory seemed to come as a response to Hezbollah’s shooting down of the IDF drone.

Meanwhile, Defense MInister Yoav Gallant on Monday (26th) said that the evacuated northern residents will not return to their cities and homes before the hostages held by Hamas were returned.

In a meeting with hostage families, he reassured them that Israel was doing everything both militarily and diplomatically to bring back the around 100 living hostages, and the 30-plus bodies of hostages who were killed.

Although his formulation that northern residents would need to wait to return home until the hostages are released was in some ways not surprising, this was also a more explicit admission than usual that it will likely be months before the threat from Hezbollah is neutralized, even if a temporary ceasefire with Hamas is reached. 

Gallant has consistently reiterated that the IDF will continue to attack Hezbollah until all its forces are pushed back from the border with Israel all the way to an approximate point north of the Litani River – even if there is a temporary ceasefire in Gaza.

In the South, IDF Division 162, along with the Nahal Brigade and engineering forces, unearthed an underground tunnel network that connects the north and south of the Gaza Strip, the military announced on Monday (26th).

The underground route runs for some 6 miles and passes under a hospital and a university.

After gaining operational control of the network, soldiers examined and destroyed large portions of it.

This was not the first such north-south extended Gaza tunnel, but its discovery and destruction is another sign of the gradual progress of the IDF in taking apart Hamas’ tunnel infrastructure.

Fully destroying that infrastructure is expected to take years.



Israel: UN Secretary-General Must Resign

Israel’s envoy to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, called on UN Secretary -General Antonio Guterres to resign, citing his defense of a UN relief agency found to have extensive ties with Hamas and his failure to unequivocally condemn the attacks of October 7.

Ambassador Gilad Erdan excoriated Guterres Monday (26th), after the Secretary-General criticized the Security Council for not taking decisive action vis-a-vis the war in Gaza.

Guterres claimed the divide within the Security Council on Gaza and the war in Ukraine had undermined its authority “perhaps fatally.”

Guterres said “the Security Council needs serious reform to its composition and working methods.”

The U.S. last week vetoed the latest Security Council resolution which would have demanded an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, marking the third such veto by the U.S. since the war in Gaza began.

In response to Guterres comments, Erdan accused the Secretary-General of allowing UNRWA, the UN relief agency for Palestinians, to become a de facto terrorist organization.

“The Security Council did fail in dealing with the war in Gaza, but contrary  to the Secretary-General’s distorted claim, it failed by not condemning the massacre committed by Hamas and not uniting to support Israel, the attacked party, in our war to eradicate Hamas terrorism and prevent further atrocities,” said Erdan.

“Unfortunately the Secretary-General sees the flaws in others, but he is blind to his own failings and failures.”

“The Secretary-General, who expressed understanding for the October 7 massacre and devotes his efforts only to the humanitarian situation in Gaza, bears the main responsibility for the fact that the UN agencies that operate under him have become terror auxiliaries and some of them, such as UNRWA, has become an actual terrorist organization,” Erdan continued.

“Unfortunately for all of us, the Secretary-General sees the UN’s role solely as helping the terror-supporting population in Gaza and does not at all understand the UN’s role in fighting terrorism and preventing the murder of innocents around the world and in Israel.  Instead of criticizing others, the UN Secretary-General should draw the right conclusions and resign today,” concluded Erdan.



 The October 7 Massacre Was The Outcome Of Palestinian Statehood In Gaza – Caroline Glick (JNS)

• According to a “new wisdom” making the rounds in foreign-policy circles in Washington, Israelis were so traumatized by Hamas’ brutal invasion on Oct. 7 that they can’t think straight about their interests.  This is the reason why 85% of Israelis oppose Palestinian statehood and 99 out of 120 Knesset members voted on Feb. 21 for a resolution opposing unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state by foreign governments.

• The “new wisdom” that Israelis are acting out of trauma is deliberately manipulative.  Obviously, the atrocities meted out that day by thousands of Palestinians against thousands of Israeli civilians and soldiers left a gaping hole in the hearts of every Israeli.  How could it be otherwise?  But it doesn’t follow that their post-Oct. 7 positions are an emotional response to trauma, which Israelis can be expected to abandon once they get past their emotional angst.

• Israelis have responded rationally and bravely to the events of that day and immediately mobilized for war.  The goal of the war – embraced by more than 90% of Israelis – is total victory. Over the enemy that did this.  Victory for Israelis means no Palestinian state.  This isn’t a vengeful or emotional determination.  It is a rational understanding that Oct. 7 was the outcome of Palestinian statehood.

• Gaza has been an independent Palestinian state since Israel withdrew all of its civilians and military forces in 2005.  They have been fully sovereign for more than 18 years.  The Palestinians in Gaza, Judea and Samaria freely chose to be ruled by Hamas, which they overwhelmingly support.

• If Israelis are intent on preventing a recurrence of Oct. 7, then they have no choice other than to oppose the re-establishment of the Palestinian state in Gaza, much less its expansion into Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem.  This is a rational response to a brutally clarifying event.  It is irrational for America to pretend this reality away.



The Legality Of The Israeli Buffer Zone In Gaza – Avraham Shalev

Israel is considering establishing a security zone within Gaza, along the border, to prevent terrorist infiltration of Israel, such as occurred in the Oct.7 massacre.  It is asserted that Israeli demolition of homes in the zone is unjustified by military necessity.  Furthermore, it has been argued that the establishment of a buffer zone in Gaza consists of an illegal occupation of Gaza territory.

Yet, Israel’s actions stem from clear military necessity.  Moreover, states are entitled to hold enemy territory in the lawful exercise of their right to self-defense.  This was seen most recently in the examples of the Turkish buffer zones in Syria and Iraq.  Neither the U.S. nor the EU have denounced these buffer zones as a violation of international law or as illegally diminishing the territory of Syria.

While it has been argued that any buffer must be established on Israeli territory, given that some of the Israeli communities invaded on Oct. 7 are barely one km. from Gaza, such a buffer zone would be ineffective as a means of defense.

Stephen Schwebel, former president of the International Court of Justice, wrote: “A state acting in lawful exercise of its right of self-defense may seize and occupy foreign territory as long as such seizure and occupation are necessary to its self-defense.  As a condition of its withdrawal from such territory, that state may require the institution of security measures reasonably designed to ensure that that territory shall not again be used to mount a threat or use of force against it of such a nature as to justify exercise of self-defense.”  (Kohelet Policy Forum)



Christian Media Adopts Use Of Judea And Samaria Over West Bank – Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman

The National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) annual convention on Feb.21 endorsed a resolution opposing “the use of the erroneous  term ‘West Bank” to describe the biblical heartland of Israel and called on its members to refer to the region by its historic name of Judea and Samaria.”  NRB has over 1,100 member organizations that reach millions of viewers, listeners, and readers.

The resolution highlights that “Judea and Samaria…includes sites such as Hebron, Bethel, Shiloh and Shechem, along with many other places with rich biblical heritage” and that scripture foretells the “return of the Jewish people to Judea and Samaria.”  “The presence of the Jewish people in Judea and Samaria in modern times is a blessing to the Palestinians living there, as Israeli investment and jobs provide economic opportunity for their Palestinian neighbors.”

Israel Allies Foundation President Joshua Reinstein, who spoke at the event, explained that the term “West Bank” is merely a geographical one applicable to the country of Jordan, which occupied the area from 1949 to 1967.  Jordan renamed the area the West Bank because of its location west of the Jordan River.