News Digest — 3/18/24

Night Time Operation In Gaza: IDF Operates In Shifa Hospital

The IDF launched a precise operation in the area of the Shifa Hospital in the Gaza Strip early Monday (18th).

The IDF’s Spokesperson’s Unit said the operation is based on intelligence information indicating the use of the hospital again by senior Hamas terrorists to conduct and promote terrorist activity.

“Prior to the operation, IDF troops were instructed on the importance of operating cautiously as well as of the measures to be taken to avoid harm to patients, civilians, medical staff and medical equipment.  In addition, Arabic speakers have been brought to the area in order to facilitate dialogue with the patients remaining in the hospital.  “There is no obligation for the patients and medical staff to evacuate,” the IDF said.

The statement clarified that IDF troops will continue the humanitarian efforts in the area, both throughout and following the conclusion of the operation, providing food, water and medical supplies to the patients and civilians in the hospital’s compound.

“The IDF will continue to act in accordance with international law and against the Hamas terrorist organization – which operates from hospitals and civilian infrastructure in a systematic and cynical way, without the distinction between the civilian population and the organization’s terrorists,”said a statement.

The IDF previously operated in Shifa Hospital this past November.  During that time troops found evidence that Hamas operated military headquarters from the hospital.

The IDF also noted that, over the past few days,  the head of the Coordination and Liaison Administration (CLA) for Gaza spoke with the Director of the Gaza Ministry of Health about the Hamas terrorist organization’s activities within the Shifa Hospital, and the necessity to thwart them, in full coordination with the hospital’s administration.

“We see that the Hamas terrorist organization is continuing its military activities inside hospitals.  We are willing to provide any humanitarian aid needed.  Our request is simple: an immediate end to all of the terrorist activity in the hospitals,” the head of the CLA told the Director of the Ministry.

The IDF’s previous operation in Shifa Hospital in November, following the October 7 massacre found evidence that Hamas operated its military headquarters from Shifa.  U.S. intelligence, at the time, later confirmed to the New York Times  that terrorists evacuated the hospital days before the Israelis arrived, taking hostages with them.



Netanyahu: Israel’s Allies Have Short Memories, We’ll Operate In Rafah

“We will operate in Rafah.  It will take a few weeks, but it will happen.” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the start of the government Cabinet meeting on Sunday (17th).

“Some in the international community are trying to stop the war before all its goals are achieved.  They do this by making false accusations against the IDF, against the Israeli government, and against the Prime Minister of Israel,” Netanyahu added.

“They do this by trying to bring about elections now, in the midst of the war.  And they do this because they know that elections now will stop the war and paralyze the country for at least six months.”

“So let’s be clear,” the prime minister said, “If we stop the war now before all of its goals are achieved, it means that Israel has lost the war, and we will not allow that.  That is why we must not give in to these pressures, and we will not give in to them.” 

Netanyahu further noted, “And to our friends in the international community I say: Is your memory so short?  So quickly did you forget October 7, the most terrible massacre committed against Jews since the Holocaust?”

“So quickly are you ready to deny Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas?  Did you lose your moral conscience so quickly?”

“Since the start of the war, we have been fighting on two fronts – military and diplomatic.  On the diplomatic front, until now, we have succeeded in allowing our forces to fight in an unprecedented manner for five full months.  However it is no secret that the international pressure is increasing.”

The Prime Minister rejected international pressure on Israel to curb its counter-terrorism operations in the Gaza Strip, and vowed to move forward with the much anticipated ground operation in Rafah, the last Hamas stronghold in the coastal enclave. 

“To our friends in the international community, I say, instead of pressuring Israel, which is fighting a war, the justice of which is unparalleled, against an enemy of unparalleled brutality, apply your pressure to Hamas and its patron – Iran.  It is they who constitute a danger to the region and to the entire world,” added Netanyahu.  



Cabinet Approved National Remembrance Day For October 7 Massacre, Gaza War

The Cabinet on Sunday (17th) approved the observance of a national day of remembrance to commemorate the October 7 Massacre and subsequent Gaza War, to be held every year on the 24th of the Hebrew month of Tishrei.

The annual memorial will be marked by two state ceremonies honoring the memory of the servicemen and women who fell in the ongoing war against Hamas and the civilians murdered during Hamas’ brutal incursion.  It will be held separately from Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day, which is held on the 4th of Iyar.

Since the 24th of Tishrei falls on Shabbat this year, the first anniversary of the attack will be marked instead on its Gregorian date of October 7.

The idea of a day of remembrance was initiated with a Knesset bill by a mix of coalition and opposition lawmakers at the end of October.  Labor party MK Maama Lazimi, who helped spearhead the idea, said at the time that the October 7 massacre was “the hardest day the country has known and one of the hardest known by the Jewish people.”

“So many were murdered and lost their lives in the attack and the terrible disaster.  Such a memorial day will give us all an opportunity to remember the murdered and hear the great stories of heroism of those who defended the country with their lives.  I hope that the law will be widely accepted,” she said in a statement.

The unprecedented October 7 Hamas terror onslaught saw some 3,000 terrorists burst across the border into Israel by land, air and sea, killing close to 1,200 people, most of them civilians slaughtered amid brutal atrocities, and seizing 253 hostages of all ages, around half of whom remain in captivity.

Israel launched an offensive in Gaza aimed at eliminating the Hamas terror group and bringing home the hostages, during which 249 soldiers have been killed in action.

Lawmakers are currently working on legislation to criminalize the denial, minimization, or celebration of the massacre.

On November 7, one month after the brutal incursion, Israel observed a national day of mourning for the victims with a minute of silence at 11am  and ceremonies across the country.   



Veteran Israeli Diplomat: “The Palestinian Issue Cannot Be Solved In The Near Future” – Herb Keinon

• Zalman Shoval, 93, has had political contact with every Israeli leader from David Ben-Gurion to Benjamin Netanyahu.

• The former two-time ambassador to the U.S. said in an interview, “If you take a realistic, historical look at the situation [with the Palestinians], there is no avoiding the conclusion that there is no possibility for a relatively quick solution, because the actual conflict is not about the border being here or there. Or the settlements being here or there, or even about the settlements at all.”

• “It is about the basic refusal of the Palestinian Arabs, the Palestinian national movement – which is a relatively recent one – to recognize the right of the Jewish people to a national state of their own.  And that hasn’t changed.”

• Shoval recalled that U.S. President Joe Biden said in May 2021: “Until the region says, unequivocally, that they acknowledge the right of Israel to exist as an independent Jewish state, there will be no peace.”  “I hope he still remembers that.  That comment is significant and correct.”

• “The Palestinian issue cannot be solved in the near future.  Any stopgap attempt to create something artificial as a consequence of the war in Gaza today will bring negative results.  But this is not the way that Washington today seems to be looking at it, which is not helpful.”

• Regarding the future, Shoval said that he is worried “about the Western world in general, of which Israel must remain an integral part… I am concerned about the ability of the West to keep its stance against the enemies of the West – and these are ideological enemies.  This is an ideological contest.”



Former CIA Director Gen. Petraeus: Hamas Has To Be Destroyed – Lazar Berman

U.S. Gen. David Petraeus , who commanded the 2007-8 “surge” of troops in Iraq and later directed the CIA, told the Times of Israel that Hamas has to be destroyed.

“Hamas is irreconcilable,” he said.  “This is a very, very, fundamental idea…. They are the equivalent of Al-Qaeda or the Islamic State..  They have to be destroyed, just as we had to destroy the core al-Qaeda and how we helped the Iraqi security forces and the Syrian Democratic Forces destroy the Islamic State.”

Petraeus doesn’t see any option other than an offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah.  “Benny Gantz, my old comrade and friend, is exactly right when he said that you don’t send the fire department to extinguish  80% of the blaze.  You have to deal with all of it.”

“This is the most fiendishly difficult context for urban operations since 1945 at least.  You have 350 miles of very well-developed tunnels, subterranean infrastructure, factories, headquarters, all these different facilities underground.  You have high-rises that have to be cleared.  You’ve got to clear every building, every floor, every room, every cellar, every tunnel.  You have an enemy who doesn’t wear a uniform in most cases, who uses civilians as human shields, and still holds over 130 hostages, which obviously complicates a very complex situation.”



Housing Ministry Says 10,000 Foreign Workers To Arrive In Israel By June

The Ministry of Housing has begun a rapid plan to bring about 40,000 more foreign workers to Israel for jobs in the construction industry.

At an event to mark the arrival of Indian citizens to work in the construction industry, held at the National Labor Federation complex in Modi’in, officials stated that by the end of June, 10,000 foreign workers will arrive from India who will replace the foreign workers from China and Moldova who left after the war.

The event was attended by Moshe Arbel, Minister of the Interior; Yitzhak Goldknopf, Minister of Housing; Yoav Ben Zur, Minister of Labor; Yaakov Asher, Chairman of the Interior Committee, and many other industry leaders.

So far, 1,200 workers from India have arrived in Israel.  About another 1,200 Indian workers are now going through an absorption and training process.  In total, by May, about 5,000 workers from India will arrive and another 5,000 will have gone through a screening and training process for their arrival in Israel.

Eldad Nitzan, Chairman of the Foreign Workers Manpower Corporations in the Construction Industry said: “By the end of June, more than 10,000 foreign workers from India will be employed in Israel, while at the same time we will begin the process of absorbing 10,000 foreign workers from other countries such as Georgia, Sri Lanka, Azerbaijan, and more.”

“The arrival of foreign workers will save the construction industry, which is currently in collapse, and most of the construction sites are closed.”

“The goal is to ultimately bring 65,000 foreign workers to Israel to replace Palestinian workers, who have not been allowed into Israel from the West Bank since the war with Hamas broke out on October 7.”

Nitzan thanked the authorities “who rallied to save the construction industry in Israel,” adding, “I’m sure that we will be up to the task.”