News Digest — 2/6/24

PM Netanyahu Orders IDF To Find new Alternative To UNRWA Within A Week

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered IDF Chief Of Staff Herzi Halevi and the military to find other alternatives to the reliance on UNRWA in all matters related to humanitarian aid in Gaza, which is currently transferred directly to the disgraced organization, within the coming days Kan news reported on Tuesday (6th).

According to the report, citing senior members of the Security Cabinet, Netanyahu has given Halevi  until the end of the week to find such alternatives.

Israel currently transfers all humanitarian aid for Gaza to UNRWA which oversees its distribution to the Gaza population, while Hamas takes a substantial part of the aid.

Over the past months, allegations have come to light regarding the connections between the UN organization, that is meant to aid “Palestinian refugees,” and the Hamas terrorist group, with some of its employees even participating in the October 7th massacre.  This comes after years that Israel has worked with the organization in the Gaza Strip, and has even exempted it from excise tax on fuel.

On Monday (5th), UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced the formation of an independent investigation to look into accusations that 12 UNRWA employees took part in the Hamas massacre of October 7.

Over a dozen nations, including the US, Canada, Australia, the UK, Finland, Germany, Scotland, the Netherlands, France and Japan have frozen funding to the organization.



‘We Were All Lied To – Gaza City Was Modern And Developed Before October 7’ – Roi Yanovsky

I was recently released from reserve duty in Gaza, after serving 100 days in the IDF.  Since the world can’t see firsthand the things I saw there, I feel I have to share.

For years, well before October 7, we’ve heard about how terrible life is for the poor, oppressed Gazans.  How anti-Israel activists and media outlets claim the Gaza Strip can be compared to an open-air prison.  This became the standard, accepted narrative about life in Gaza, promulgated by Al Jazeera and international human rights groups. But now, having experienced it myself, I can confidently tell you that we were lied to.

Gaza has been depicted as a backwards, “densely populated” area that’s been under Israeli “siege’ for years.  There’s no bigger lie than this.  Pre-war Gaza was a modern, beautiful, developed city – with large, furnished houses, wide avenues, public areas, a promenade, and parks.  It looked much better than any other Arab city “from the river to the sea.”  Gaza City reminds me more of Tel Aviv than the awful slums that some people try to make it out to be.

And of course, Gaza is far from being the “most densely populated area in the world.”

If this is how a city looks after two decades of siege, “then I want to be sieged.”  The houses in Gaza were full of goods and food from across the Middle East, the houses had modern furniture, appliances, and pretty much any up-to-date consumer product and electronics you can imagine.

There are also high-end mansions that could easily have been in Los Angeles or Beverly Hills.  There was no lack of wealth in Gaza.

I realize now that the optimistic notion that “If only Gazans had the chance for a better life, they would not be fighting Israel,” is irrelevant for Gaza.  Many of them had everything a normal person in the West strives for, yet Hamas still executed their October 7th massacre.

The most common thing I saw inside the houses was a map of the State of Israel, with the heading “Map of Palestine.”  There is no mention of the internationally recognized borders of Israel, or any Israeli city or kibbutz.  The goal of eradicating the only Jewish state was not hidden or played down, it was everywhere.

Despite the prosperity we saw in Gaza City, it was hiding something you won’t see in any Western city.  Every neighborhood we visited had staged and ready-to-operate Hamas combat zones – weapons, tunneling, explosives, rocket launch zones, all inside normal family homes, some already built with openings in the walls to enable moving easily between buildings.

Gazans knew about Hamas’ hidden combat infrastructure and received many warnings from the IDF to leave ahead of our arrival.  We saw the IDF’s pamphlets that were dropped by the Israeli Air Force everywhere we went.  Those who decided to stay in the fighting zones are either Hamas terrorists, or people who knowingly decided to stay in areas that are used by Hamas for battle.

We also saw that Hamas terrorists rarely moved around armed or in uniform.  They are terrorists but even they believe the IDF is a moral army.  They know IDF soldiers will not shoot them if they walk around as “civilians.”  They butchered Israeli civilians on October 7, but we came into Gaza looking only for terrorists and they took advantage of it.  They prepare their weapons in advance, typically near building entries, and pick them up just before attacking.  This is one reason why fighting in Gaza is significantly more complex than other arenas.  This is why, when they say civilians die, you’ll never know if they were Hamas members attempting to kill soldiers before they died.

Like any terror group Hamas’ strategic weapons are lies and propaganda.  That’s how they were able to promote their lie about a “siege” in the world’s leading media outlets.  That’s how the Gaza Ministry of Health, controlled by Hamas, is able to publish ridiculous, unverified numbers of casualties every day, which are used by the US State Department and other Western governments.

The Gaza I saw was different from the lies we’ve been fed by Hamas.  As they cling to their control of Gaza, we shouldn’t fall for the other lies they propagate.  Like any other terrorist group, they must be dismantled.

Roi Yanovsky is an IDF reservist who was recently released after 100 days in Gaza.



Egypt Threatens End Of Treaty With Israel If Even A Single ‘Palestinian Refugee Crosses the Border

An Egyptian official told Israel Hayom that even one “Palestinian refugee” across its border may end or suspend Egypt’s decades-old peace treaty with Israel.

The treaty which was signed by Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat in 1979 may be threatened, according to Egyptian sources, if there is a ‘Palestinian refugee’ crisis in Egypt following Israel’s war with Hamas.

“If even one Palestinian refugee crosses over – the peace agreement will be nullified,” one Egyptian  officer said.

Another Egyptian official was slightly more moderate and indicated the treaty would be suspended rather than nullified.

Egypt is concerned that if some of the 1.4 million refugees who are currently in Rafah spill over past the Egyptian border, the country will face a long-term refugee crisis.

The anger of Egyptian officials has risen over memos published by the Israeli Intelligence Ministry recommending the relocation of many of the Gazan refugees into Egypt.

Israel faces a challenge as it strives to eliminate Hamas from Rafah, which borders on Egypt, that the fighting may cause the refugees there to flee south and may anger Egypt with whom Israel has a long-standing peace treaty.

In addition, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s insistence that Israel maintain security controls in Gaza after the war may include an IDF patrol on the Philadelphi Corridor which borders Gaza and Egypt.

An IDF presence would prevent the smuggling of weapons and allow Israel to monitor activities on the border, although Egypt has said that an Israeli military presence may threaten its sovereignty.

Given that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi would also like to see Hamas gone from the area, security on the Gaza border with Egypt will likely require close communication between Egypt and Israel to maintain security while not violating prior treaties.



Over 100 Arrested At Pennsylvania State Capitol Protest Calling To Divest From Israel

HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania — Police took into custody more than 100 people protesting the Pennsylvania state government’s investments in Israel on Monday (5th), shutting down a demonstration on the steps of the Capitol Rotunda in Harrisburg.

A spokesperson for the Department of General Services, which includes the Pennsylvania Capitol Police said 126 people were taken into custody at what he described as an unpermitted, unauthorized demonstration.  They were ordered to disperse before being arrested, issued citations for trespassing and then released, said spokesperson Troy Thompson.

The protestors, many wearing T-shirts that said “divest from genocide,” clapped and chanted during the protest, which organizers said was targeted at the State Treasury Department’s investment in Israel bonds.

One large sign said the state should reinvest that tax money in housing, schools and climate.  There were chants of “free Palestine” before and after they were arrested.

The event began Monday morning (5th) outside the Capitol but had moved to the Rotunda by early afternoon.

Lilah Saber, a participant in the protest, said it was solely focused on the state’s investment in Israel bonds.

Pennsylvania Treasurer Stacy Garrity, a Republican, said state treasurers of both parties have invested in Israel bonds for more than 30 years.  The state’s share of Israel bonds rose by $20 million after the Hamas-led October 7 terror onslaught that sparked the war in Gaza and is currently $56 million, Garrity said in a statement released by her office.

“The state also holds about $8 million in other Israel-based securities.  Together with the $56 million, that amounts to about 0.14% of the funds the Treasury Department actively manages, Garrity said.



Yahya Sinwar Is Working To Fulfill Sheikh Ahmed Yassin’s Vision – Yoni Ben Menachem

Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar envisions himself as a significant and historic Muslim figure who will bring honor to the Muslim nation by defeating Israel.  The assault on Israeli communities surrounding Gaza, orchestrated by Sinwar on October 7, 2023, marked the initial phase of his strategy to bring about the downfall of the State of Israel, as indicated by sources within Hamas in Gaza.  Sinwar anticipated that his surprise offensive would prompt the direct military engagement from Hezbollah, Iran, and other allies across the Middle East, culminating in a wide-ranging assault on Israel from multiple fronts, ultimately leading to its defeat.

More than two decades ago, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the founder of Hamas, and Yahya Sinwar’s mentor, prophesied in an interview with Al Jazeera that Israel would cease to exist by 2027, based on interpretations of the Quran.  Therefore, it is imperative for the conflict to conclude with a decisive Israeli victory – as well as Sinwar’s demise – thereby thwarting his ambitions and preventing Sheikh Ahmed Yassin’s vision from taking root among the populace of Gaza.  (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)



Iran’s Growing Role in Judea And Samaria – Irina Tsukerman

• The Palestinian Authority is facing the prospects of infiltration of pro-Iran elements and increasing pressure locally to engage with Iran.  Iran’s penetration into the Arab street in Yemen, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Gaza has contributed to this challenge.

• Iran’s ability to navigate Palestinian rivalries to get factions to fight Israel under the Hamas umbrella on Oct. 7 was a significant accomplishment.

• Moreover, Tehran made forays even into the circles close to Mahmoud Abbas through meetings between Fatah Central Committee insiders and prominent Iranian officials as early as 2014.  Rumors of Iran’s outreach to the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade go back to the days of the Second Intifada.

• Fatah leader Jibril Rajoub, then Deputy Secretary of the Fatah Central Committee, established relations between Iran and the PA in 2014 when he traveled to Iran to meet with the Iranian foreign minister.  In 2018, another member of Fatah’s Central Committee, Abbas Zaki, called for Arab dialogue with Iran over resistance to Israel.

• By helping Hamas position itself as the leader of violent anti-Israel resistance, Iran is pushing the PA to embrace similar rhetoric and public action more openly and to lend support to Iranian proxies.

• Abbas may ultimately be cornered with no choice but to accept Iran’s self-serving assistance, if only to remain relevant in light of Hamas’ apparent success.

The writer, a national security and human rights lawyer, journalist, and geopolitical analyst, is a Fellow at the Arabian Peninsula Institute and a Fellow at the Jerusalem Center.