News Digest — 3/15/24

War Cabinet To Discuss Hamas’ Latest “Unrealistic” Demands

The War Cabinet is scheduled to gather Friday (15th) to discuss Hamas’ new proposal for a ceasefire-hostage deal.

On Thursday (14th), the terror organization gave its response to the proposal after weeks of anticipation.  Hamas said in a statement that it gave Egyptian and Qatari mediators a comprehensive proposal for a hostage deal that includes a ceasefire, release of Palestinian prisoners, delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza, return of displaced Palestinians to their homes, and a withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Strip.

A senior Israeli official told Axios that “Hamas’ response was relatively positive and included for the first time the number of prisoners that Hamas demands to be released”  for each category of hostages who are to be freed during the first phase of the deal.

According to the source, the number is still too high, but “there is something to work with.”

A deadline for the IDF withdrawal from Gaza would be agreed upon after the first stage, the Hamas proposal said.

Additionally, according to the senior Israeli officials cited by Axios, Israel received indications from the Qatari and Egyptian mediators of hints of a shift among Hamas’ leadership that may lead to progress in the high-stake negotiations.

Meanwhile the Office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has labeled the new demands “unrealistic.”

Qatar and Egypt have reportedly significantly increased their pressure on Hamas, including threats from Doha to expel senior Hamas officials and freeze Hamas bank accounts.



Career Soldier, 51, Killed In Stabbing In South; Terrorist Shot Dead By Victim

A senior non-commissioned officer in the Israel Defense Forces was fatally stabbed in a terror attack at a gas station in southern Israel on Thursday (14th).  The assailant, an Israeli citizen originally from the Gaza Strip, was shot dead by the victim.

Another three people were slightly wounded.

The attack took place inside a branch of the Aroma coffee chain at Beit Kama Junction, just north of Beersheba.

Surveillance camera footage from the attack showed the assailant approaching Chief Warrant Officer Uri Moyal from behind, pulling out a knife and stabbing him in the back.  Amid a struggle, the terrorist was seen attempting to also stab Moyal in the neck.  The pair then fell to the ground, as another man was seen trying to pull the knife from the terrorist’s hand.

Moyal was seen managing to get up, then opening fire at the terrorist with his handgun, before collapsing outside the cafe.

Moyal, 51, a father of three from the southern town of Dimona, served as a senior technology and maintenance NCO at the Nahal Infantry Brigade’s training base.

The Magen David Adom ambulance service said it took the victim to Soroka Hospital in Beersheba in critical condition, where he was pronounced dead shortly upon arrival.

The terrorist, a 22-year-old resident of the southern Bedouin city of Rahat, was killed.

He was identified by the Shin Bet security agency as Fadi Abu Altayef, an Israeli citizen from Rahat, but originally from the Gaza Strip.  Abu Altayef’s mother is from Rahat and his father  is from Gaza.  They currently both reside in Gaza, according to the Shin Bet.

Abu Altayef  grew up in the Gaza Strip until the age of 18, according to police.  He was given Israeli citizenship in 2019 after getting married to an Israeli woman.

Police said officers raided Altayef’s home in Rahat and “collected findings for the investigation.”

The attack came a day after a Palestinian stabbed a soldier and a security guard at a West Bank checkpoint near Jerusalem.

Tensions in Israel and the West Bank have been high since October 7, when some 3,000 terrorists burst through the Gaza border into southern Israel in a Hamas-led attack, killing at least 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and seizing 253 hostages.  Israel responded with an aerial campaign and subsequent ground operation with the goal of destroying Hamas and ending its 16-year rule over Gaza  and securing the release of the hostages.

The Israel Defense Forces has continued to operate throughout the West Bank and police have been on high alert in Israel, in light of concerns about a possible escalation of violence, especially during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which began on Sunday (10th).



IDF Chief To Hold Crucial Commanders’ Meeting On Future Of Gaza War

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. General Herzi Halevi will hold a crucial meeting on Sunday(17th) of virtually all of the military’s high command and brigadier generals-division commanders to plot out the future of the war.

Regarding Gaza, where much of the war was over in northern Gaza in early January and in the rest of Gaza other than Rafah, by early February, the focus will be learning lessons for improving in any future operations, even as Hamas is not currently a true security threat.

Addressing the North, there is more intense focus because there could still be a broader general war in the coming weeks or months.  Part of the meeting will be especially focused on preventing Hamas from using Ramadan to cause the IDF to make mistakes that could unnecessarily inflame the region.

In Gaza on Thursday (14th), IDF troops unearthed a weapons cache under a bed in a bedroom in Khan Yunis and a rocket launcher near a school, the military said.  The discoveries came after forces conducted special targeted missions in the center of a built-up area, the military said.

During operations, the troops raided apartments used for terrorists’ hideouts in addition to Hamas military strongholds.  In the same area, the soldiers found a rocket launcher near a school and subsequently destroyed it, the military added.

In the North, Hezbollah launched numerous rocket attacks from Lebanon into the Malkia area of northern Israel.  The IDF counterattacked a series of Hezbollah military compounds.

One Hezbollah military compound struck by IDF fighter jets was located in the area of Naqoura in southern Lebanon.  IDF artillery also struck the area of Wadi Hamoul, removing a threat.  Additionally, the IDF struck other terrorist infrastructure in the Yaroun area.

Separately, a Hamas Nukhba terrorist who took part in the October 7 massacre attempted to end his own life in an Israeli prison, Israel media reported on Thursday afternoon (14th).

The terrorist was reportedly hospitalized at Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba.



Delegation Of Latin American Leaders Make Post-October 7th Solidarity Trip To Israel

A delegation of mayors and governors from Latin America arrived in Israel this week for a special solidarity trip, five months after the October 7th invasion of Israel and beginning of the present war between Israel and Hamas.

In the face of a recent surge in anti-Semitism and hostility towards Israel in Latin America, the Combat Anti-Semitism Movement (CAM) brought the first-ever delegation of Latin American leaders from across the region to Israel for a four-day solidarity visit.

Participants included Governor of Panama City, Panama; Carla Brittannia Garcia Borace,  Governor of Maldonado, Uruguay; Enrique Andres Antia Behrens, Mayor Jose Anibal Flores Ayala of La Paz, Honduras; Mayor Isabel Margarita Valenzuela Ahumada of Colina, Chile; and Mayor Juan Fernando Lopez Fuentes of Quetzaltenango, Guatemala.

The Latin American leaders were joined by CAM  Advisory Board for Latin America Chair PiIar Rahola and Cam Director of Hispanic Affairs Shay Salamon.

The delegation traveled to Sderot and Ofakim, visited the site of the Nova music festival massacre, met with family members of Israeli hostages, and held an official meeting with the Federation of Local Authorities in Israel to discuss the possibility of twinning their cities with Israeli cities.

The backdrop to this delegation was the rise of anti-Semitism and hostility to Israel in Latin America in the aftermath of the October 7 attack.

In February, Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva compared the IDF’s war against Hamas to the Holocaust, and was supported by the presidents of Venezuela, Colombia, and Bolivia.

Mexico is supporting South Africa’s case against Israel at the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

Chile’s President Gabriel Boric has condemned Israel and recalled his country’s ambassador from Israel – and last week, without warning, Chile decided to exclude Israeli firms from Latin America’s biggest aerospace fair to be held in Santiago in April.

Alongside all of this, there has been a spike in anti-Semitism across the region, with officials from both the United States and the Organization of American States publicly raising the alarm on the rising anti-Semitism in Latin America, calling it, “a tsunami” with increases of hundreds of percentages.

“At a time of rising anti-Semitism globally, to have so many prominent local and regional leaders from Latin America visit Israel, serves as an antidote to hate,” said CEO of CAM, Sacha Roytman.

“We believe in the importance of harnessing local leadership to fight hatred of Israel.  Governors and mayors have a unique ability to proactively confront anti-Semitism at the local level, knowing their communities ‘up close.’”

“In addition, they have the authority to begin various initiatives in the field of education, to bring changes in policy, and to make a tangible difference on the street level,” Roytman added.

“The impact of a visit to Israel produces a deeper understanding of what the Jewish state is facing.”

CAM’s outreach in Latin America began nearly three years ago, and since then it has worked diligently to build meaningful partnerships and friendships with influential leaders, lawmakers, community organizations, and civil society activists from a diverse assortment of religious, political and cultural backgrounds in the region to combat anti-Semitism together.

CAM en Espanol has organized regional summits hosted by Uruguay in 2023, Panama in 2022 and Guatemala in 2021.

“The movement began its activity in Latin America in 2021, and the political transformations we see across Europe have not surpassed this region,” said CAM Director of Hispanic Affairs, Shay Salamon.

“Even in countries that have traditionally stood by Israel, we note with great concern a change in rhetoric on the part of their elected leaders.  The visit of governors and mayors from countries like Chile and Honduras on such challenging days shows the desire for continued cooperation at the municipal level and the burning need to fight the rising anti-Semitism in Latin America.”



Gaza Must Be Deradicalized As Well As Demilitarized – Gadi Ezra and Aviva Klompas

The “Day After” proposal recently offered by Israeli leaders recognized that the key to long-term stability lies not just with demilitarizing Gaza, but with deradicalizing it.  The plan calls for changing the culture of hate in religious, educational, and welfare institutions.

The deep-rooted hate and rampant incitement in Palestinian society must be addressed, from students’ textbooks, which routinely call for the elimination of Jews, to streets and squares named after jihadists who had murdered innocent Israelis – an ethos that glorified violence against Israelis.

The Palestinian leadership remains committed to terrorism, both in Gaza under Hamas and in Judea and Samaria under the Palestinian Authority, which still stands by its “pay to slay” policy of financially rewarding terrorists and their families.

Israel must work with international partners to marginalize the forces that foster, fund, and incite hate.  That means increasing oversight of how aid dollars are used. It means overhauling Palestinian education systems and curricula so that they do not dehumanize Jews or call for Israel’s destruction.  

We cannot revert to a reality where Israel has security control, but Gaza is populated by an aggrieved civilian population that regards Israelis as subhuman.  Instead we must demilitarize and deradicalize.

Gadi Ezra is a former director of Israel’s national Public Diplomacy Unit.  Aviva Klompas is a former director of speechwriting at the Israeli Mission to the UN.  (The Hill)



A Visit To The Qatari-Built Hamas Stronghold In Gaza – Hanan Greenwood

The Hamad neighborhood in Khan Yunis consists of luxury homes in multi-story buildings, built by Qatar, located just a few hundred feet from the sea, with a view of the ruins of the Israeli communities of Netzarim and Kfar Darom.  

“We have been fighting for five months already, but this is the toughest combat zone we have been in so far.  The terrorists here are suicidal, they fight for every square foot,” IDF officers of the Commando Brigade said.

“This neighborhood looks nice, but it is actually one big battlefield,” says Lt.-Col. M.  “There isn’t a single location where we didn’t encounter terrorists or ammunition.  This is a very significant battle with very significant achievements.  Unfortunately, two of our fighters were also killed right here.”

“There isn’t a day that we don’t encounter the enemy here.  There is a very large number of them here, an unusual amount compared to what we have experienced so far in Khan Yunis,” explains Col. Y.  “There are a lot of terrorists who decided to retreat to this area in recent months from other areas.”

Outside one of the buildings I met a physician for one of the units, a reservist who has been serving since Oct. 7.  A psychiatrist  by profession, he told me, “Morale is high, it’s amazing.  I wish everyone had the level of courage and the will to win like these fighters.”

In one of the buildings, a terrorist used his family members as human shields.  The IDF fighters identified a woman and two children raising their hands, with the barrel of the terrorist’s gun behind them.  The forces managed to eliminate the terrorist, with the woman only lightly injured.