News Digest — 3/25/24

‘We Eliminated Haman, We will Eliminate Sinwar As Well’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu participated on Sunday evening (24th) in the Purim Megillah reading with the commanders and soldiers of the Military Police Corps’ Erez Battalion.

Netanyahu told the soldiers: “I am very impressed with your work at all times, but especially these days.  The challenges you face have increased significantly, to say the least.”

“Missions have been intensified and so has your performance.  You are defending the State of Israel, the citizens of Israel, around the clock, in many missions, you put yourself at risk and some even sacrificed their lives.  I want to commend you and tell you – well done.  Thank you very much.”

He added, “I want to thank the Rabbi for reading the Megillah so eloquently and also for the important comments you made alongside the reading – these are very important comments; they are not marginal.  They are at the crux of the matter.  Today we celebrate Purim.  An anti-Semitic enemy, the evil Haman, arose more than 2,000 years ago in ancient Persia, and sought to wipe the Jews off the face of the earth.  Those Jews rose, united, fought and won a total victory.”

“Today in modern Persia, a new enemy has arisen – the Iranian regime, which seeks to destroy the Jewish state.  We have already seen what one of this enemy’s messengers did.  On October 7th Hamas committed what even President Biden termed ‘absolute evil.’  Absolute evil cannot be defeated by leaving it intact in Rafah.  Just like in ancient times, just like our brethren, we too must unite, fight and win.  We will enter Rafah and achieve a total victory.  We eliminated Haman, we will eliminate Sinwar as well,” Netanyahu said.



Book Of Esther Read At Shooting Scene: ‘Terror Only Strengthens Us’

Hundreds of residents of Dolev and nearby Jewish communities gathered at the site of a recent terror attack in Samaria to read the Book of Esther, in honor of the Purim holiday on Sunday (24th).

On Friday (22nd), a Palestinian terrorist shot at a minibus near Dolev, triggering a seven-hour-long security incident.  The terrorist, armed with a sniper rifle, shot and killed Israeli soldier Ilay Garfinkel and wounded six other troops, as he moved between various hidden positions in the area.

Eventually the terrorist was spotted by a battle helicopter and killed.

On Sunday morning (24th), locals read the Book of Esther, an especially prescient act considering that the holiday is about Jewish victory over an ancient Persian attempt to slaughter them.

“Now, as then, our enemies are attempting to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews – young and old, women and children (Esther 3:13),” said Yisrael Gantz, head of the Binyamin Regional Council, in a media statement.

“We can neither flounder nor falter.  We must go on offense against the villages in the area, and change our approach to security.”

Gantz added that security forces must be permanently stationed at the attack site, which he said has long-been a prime target for terrorists.

“This intersection must be guarded.  We have warned since the beginning of the war that this is a weak spot,” he continued.

“The many residents who visited this area show that we are not afraid, but we expect a change in the security and infrastructure so that what happened Friday (22nd), where civilians were locked inside their homes due to the ongoing threat, does not reoccur.” 

In a joint statement, the heads of nearby towns said that the residents of the area will not be broken by such attacks as occurred on Friday (22nd). 

“We are here to tell our enemies that terror only strengthens us.” they said

“Make no mistake, every attack only makes us stronger.  As Zeresh (Haman’s wife portrayed by the midrash) said to Haman: ‘If Mordechai be of the seed of the Jews, before whom thou hast begun to fall, thou shalt not prevail against him, but shalt surely fall before him.’” 



‘Hamas Hijacked The Shifa Hospital’

IDF Spokesperson Daniel Hagari on Sunday (24th) gave a statement in English in which he provided an update on the IDF’s operation against Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Shifa Hospital in Gaza, which is in its sixth day.

Hagari noted that so far, 170 terrorists were neutralized in or around the hospital compound while firing at Israeli forces.  He added that the IDF apprehended hundreds of terror suspects with confirmed ties to Hamas or Islamic Jihad, making this one of the most successful operations since the start of the war.

“A large number of these terrorists were involved in planning and executing the brutal massacre of October 7,” he stated. “This operation is not over.  Right now, Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists are barricading themselves in Shifa hospital wards.”

“Hamas is destroying Shifa Hospital.  Hamas is firing from inside the Shifa Hospital Emergency Room and Maternity Ward and throwing explosive devices from the Shifa Burn Ward.  Terrorists hiding around the hospital fired mortars at our forces, causing extensive damage to the hospital buildings,” said Hagari.

“I repeat, Hamas is firing mortars at the Shifa Hospital.  Hamas is destroying the Shifa Hospital.  Hamas hijacked the Shifa Hospital and hid behind the sick and injured, waging war from inside Shifa Hospital.”

The IDF, he noted, “operates with precision and acts with care towards the patients and medical staff inside the hospital.  We do this because we distinguish between the Hamas terrorists and the civilians they are hiding behind.”

“We do this because our war is against Hamas, not against the people of Gaza.  And our actions prove this,” Hagari added.

He further noted that since the beginning of the operation at Shifa Hospital, the IDF has assisted the sick and wounded and helped move many of them out of harm’s way, while also bringing in dozens of medical devices, over 10 thousands units of medication, hundreds of medical supplies; and food, water, and other equipment into the hospital.

“When Hamas’ attacks resulted in the failure of the hospital generator, our troops helped restore electricity to the hospital.  Our operation at Shifa Hospital proves once again: Hamas systematically uses hospitals to wage war and constantly uses the people of Gaza as human shields,” said Hagari.



Hezbollah Launches 50 Missiles At Northern Israel

Hezbollah launched 50 missiles into northern Israel on Sunday (24th) following an IDF strike on a terrorist weapons’ plant in Lebanon.

The Iron Dome system intercepted most of the missiles with others falling in open fields.

The missile barrage was one of the heaviest since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas war on October 7th, with Hezbollah claiming responsibility for the attack.

Israel has been targeting Hezbollah positions deep inside Lebanese territory to damage the Iran-backed terror group’s infrastructure.

Late Saturday night (23rd), Israel targeted Baalbek for the fourth time since the beginning of the conflict with Lebanon and struck a Hezbollah weapons manufacturing plant 62 miles from the Israeli border.

According to Bachir Khodr, governor of Baalbek, three people were killed in the strike which occurred close to the residence of a senior Hezbollah member.

Around the same time as the strikes in Baalbek, airstrikes attributed to Israel occurred in the Qalamoun Mountains in Syria, north of Damascus, according to Syrian news.

Earlier on Saturday (24th), the IAF struck a building in Kfar Kila in southern Lebanon that housed terrorists.

Hezbollah launched missiles towards Mount Dov, Margaliot and Shomera in northern Israel on Saturday (23rd).

The escalation of missiles in the north of Israel is reportedly happening because Iran is encouraging Hezbollah to up its attacks on Israel’s north.

According to a report from an Iranian source, Iran is concerned that after Israel’s intended operation in Rafah to destroy the remaining Hamas battalions, it will then attack Lebanon.    

An Iranian source told the Arabic Post that Iran urged Hezbollah to step up attacks only after “it had become certain of Israel’s intention” to operate in Rafah, which would be interpreted to mean that Lebanon “will be next.”



Police Clash With Jordanian Protesters Trying To Storm Israeli Embassy

AMMAN, Jordan (Reuters) – On Sunday (24th), riot police fired tear gas to push back hundreds of Jordanian demonstrators marching on the Israeli Embassy in Amman, to protest Israel’s military operation in and around Gaza Hospitals.

Protesters chanted “No Zionist embassy on Jordanian land.” while others shouted slogans in support of the Hamas terror group.

“We want to go to the borders and kill and kidnap Zionist soldiers.  Revenge …revenge … Oh Hamas, bomb Tel Aviv,” they yelled.

Authorities initially deployed riot police to disperse demonstrators gathered in the Kaloti mosque in the capital, who were planning to march on the heavily fortified Israel Embassy nearby.

The Israeli Embassy, where protesters gather daily, has long been a flashpoint of anti-Israel protests at times of turmoil in Gaza and the Palestinian territories.  Israeli Ambassador Amir Weissbrod has been in Israel since leaving Jordan for security reasons in the wake of the Oct. 7 massacre.

Jordanian authorities allow protests but say they cannot tolerate any attempt to storm the embassy, instigate civic unrest or try to reach a border crossing with the West Bank or Israel.

They have arrested hundreds of activists and protesters, they say, who have broken the law since war was triggered on Oct. 7 as Hamas terrorists rampaged through southern Israel, killing some 1,200 people, mostly civilians  and capturing some 253 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

Hamas Health authorities in the Gaza Strip, say 32,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s offensive, but the figures cannot independently be verified because officials do not differentiate between terrorist combatants and civilians. 

Many of Jordan’s 12 million citizens are of Palestinian origin.



There Is No Rafah Workaround – Meir Ben Shabbat

The Americans are seeking to discuss alternatives to an Israeli military operation in Rafah.   They will not disagree on the necessity of dismantling Hamas’ Rafah Brigades.  They will also support the demand for effective control over the border with Egypt to prevent arms smuggling into Gaza.

They will likely present an alternative to a large-scale military operation that will include several components: First, American support for Israeli offensive air operations and limited ground raids on targets in the Rafah area; Second, a mechanism for Israeli-Egyptian coordination, with the support of the US and other countries, to prevent smuggling across the border.  As for toppling Hamas, the entry of Palestinian Authority elements into Gaza is likely their envisioned solution.  

However, based on past experience, it is not possible to uproot Hamas and strip it of its military capabilities solely through air operations or limited raids.  As for international mechanisms to prevent the smuggling of weapons, such initiatives have been attempted for years.  Despite the good intentions and serious commitments made, the attempts failed miserably.  There is no reason to assume the results will be different this time.

Meanwhile, IDF activity on the ground continues to deliver results.  The IDF raid on Shifa Hospital in Gaza serves to demonstrate that Israel is determined to continue the mission in Gaza without compromise.

The writer, a former Israeli national security advisor, is chairman of the Misgav Institute for National Security & Zionist Strategy in Jerusalem.



Why Israel Plans To Attack Rafah Despite U.S. Doubts – Carrie Keller-Lynn

While the U.S. is trying to dissuade Israel from launching a ground assault on the Gaza City of Rafah, Israel says taking Rafah from Hamas is too important to its strategy for winning the war.  Seizing control of Rafah is vital if Israel is to forestall a Hamas-led insurgency in Gaza, said Danny Orbach, a military historian at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.  “An insurgency can intensify only when it has safe havens,” he said.  Israel says Hamas has for years used Rafah and the Gaza-Egypt border zone to smuggle in weapons.

“U.S. leaders don’t understand that since Hamas’ October 7 attack, the Israeli public strongly supports eliminating the group as a threat, whatever the cost in Israeli and Palestinian lives,” said Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Yaakov Amidror, a former Israeli national security adviser.  “In the end, we have to go there and destroy the military capability of Hamas in Rafah.”

Israel has promised it will prepare the evacuation of many of the refugees currently crowded into Rafah before launching a ground assault.  IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said earlier this month that Israel would work with its international partners to build “humanitarian enclaves” inside Gaza where refugees evacuated from Rafah can get food, water, shelter and medical treatment.  A ground assault against Hamas in Rafah would take place only once those facilities are ready.  (Wall Street Journal)