News Digest — 3/26/24

‘9 Killed In Strike On Iranian Militia Targets In Syria’

Nine operatives were killed overnight in strikes against pro-Iranian militia targets in the Deir ez-Zor and Al-Bukamal regions in eastern Syria, London-based opposition war monitor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Tuesday (26th).

According to reports, the attacks targeted a farm in the town of Al-Mayadin, two militia headquarters in Al-Bukamal, a headquarters in the Al-Abbas area and a residential neighborhood in Deir ez-Zor.

The Syrian Observatory reported that a “senior figure” was killed in the strike which took place several hours after an Iranian cargo plane landed at the Deir ez-Zor airport, carrying Revolutionary Guard personnel and logistical equipment.  According to the Syrian Observatory, the plane arrived from Damascus and was loaded with communications equipment and cameras, which were then transported by truck to an unknown location.

Hezbollah-affiliated Lebanese network Al-Mayadin reported overnight that the US military carried out the strikes, but a senior American military official later denied this in a conversation with Al-Jazeera.  According to the official there were no American strikes in Syria that night.

The Syrian Observatory reported that eight of the casualties were pro-Iranian militia operatives, and one was Syrian.  They indicated that at least the attack on Deir ez-Zor was likely carried out by Israel.



Gallant: IF IDF Ends Gaza War Early, Hezbollah Will Start Next War Sooner

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Monday (25th) said if the IDF ends its war in Gaza prematurely, this will likely lead to Hezbollah being more audacious about launching a larger attack against Israel from the North.

Gallant said, “There is no moral basis for stopping the war until we return home all the hostages.  If we do not achieve a decisive and absolute victory in Gaza, a bigger war in the North will come closer.”

Gallant delivered his message from the White House in Washington DC, an hour after the UN Security Council voted to demand Israel end the war and right before he met with US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Gallant said he came to Washington to remind top officials of the need to keep the IDF stronger than its enemies.  Further, he said he would not drop Israel’s demand to complete the removal of Hamas from power.

In addition, without specifying how, he said that Israel and the US would develop an alternative to Hamas for managing Gaza.



Netanyahu Cancels Delegation To US After Biden Withholds UN Security Council Vote

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday (25th) canceled a high-level delegation to Washington after the Biden administration failed to veto a UN Security Council resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in the war against Hamas, the Prime Minister’s Office announced.

After four failed attempts, the Security Council passed its first resolution calling for an immediate halt to the military operation in the Gaza Strip until the end of Ramadan on April 9.

The resolution, which also called for the release of Israeli hostages, was supported by 14 nations, including veto holders China, Russia, the United Kingdom, and France.  US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield abstained, allowing the measure to pass 14-0.

Following Monday’s (25th) vote, Jerusalem announced that “In light of the change in the American position, Prime Minister Netanyahu decided that the delegation will not depart.”

Netanyahu said that the changed US position “hurts the war effort and the effort to release the hostages” by giving the Hamas terror organization hope that international pressure will bring about a ceasefire without freeing the captives.  

The Israeli delegation was slated to travel to Washington this week for talks on the looming Israel Defense Forces operation in Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah.

It would have included Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer and National Security Adviser  Tzachi Hanegbi.

Washington had said the discussion would focus on alternatives to a military operation in the city amid reports that President Joe Biden is considering conditioning aid to Israel if Jerusalem moves ahead with the Rafah incursion.

The final four Hamas battalions with some 3,000 gunmen are concentrated in Rafah.  Netanyahu has repeatedly said that all of the Hamas battalions must be defeated to prevent the terrorist organization from regrouping and re-establishing itself to threaten Israel again.

Netanyahu told visiting Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday (22nd) that the Jewish state cannot declare victory without destroying the battalions in Rafah.  “I told him that I hope we would do this with US support, but if necessary, we will do it alone,” the prime minister said.

Around three-quarters of Jewish Israelis and a majority of Israelis overall support expanding the military operations against Hamas to Rafah, according to polling conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute.

Last month, Israel put forward an evacuation plan for civilians in Rafah,  The proposal envisions 15 campsites of around 25,000 tents each (375,000 tents, in total) where displaced Gazans will be relocated.



Shin Bet Seizes Iranian Weapons Intended For West Bank Terrorists

The Shin Bet and the IDF on Monday (25th) announced that they had busted a vast Iranian network for smuggling more serious weapons into the West Bank to help dramatically increase the danger Palestinian terrorists can present to Israel.

A statement named  Juad Ofri and Munir Mukdach as lead officials affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps who have been masterminding the efforts.

It identified them as linked to Unit 4000 of the IRGC Special Operations Division and Unit 18840 of the Quds Force in Syria, which falls under Division 840 led by Atzar Bakri.

The agency said that its arrests of some Palestinian suspects helped it unravel the wider plot to destabilize the entire West Bank and achieve much higher “quality” terror attacks against Israel.

The Shin Bet said that an operation regarding Mukdach led to the seizing of a very large amount of advanced weapons that had penetrated the West Bank.

Among the weapons seized were two BTB15 significant explosives with shrapnel, five YM-2  anti-tank weapons, four M203 grenade launchers, 31 rocket-propelled grenades of different models., five advanced explosive mechanisms for arming a variety of weapons, 25 grenades, 50 guns, and a variety of other weapons.

Interrogations also helped reveal additional new information about Mukdach, a Palestinian who has also operated with Hezbollah in Lebanon for years and has continued to try to pursue large-scale attacks on Israel.



United Purim Procession Through Streets Of Jerusalem

Thousands took part in the “United On Purim” Adloyada [festive procession] in Jerusalem on Monday morning (25th).

The Adloyada was led by a display of pictures of the hostages who have been held captive in Gaza for 171 days, alongside a display of 134 yellow cranes, as the number of hostages.

Several of the hostages’ families led the Adloyada, including the families of Lior Rudaeff, Romi Gonen, Carmel Gat, Itzik Elgarat, ofer Calderon, Omer Shem Tov, Uriel Baruch and Tal Shoham, who were accompanied by Mayor Moshe Lion.

The United On Purim Adloyada was adapted to the spirit of the times and its final program was approved after meetings were held between the Jerusalem Municipality and the headquarters of the hostage families regarding the nature of the event, the name of the Adloyada and the musical content.

The procession featured displays of a roaring lion, the symbol of Jerusalem, a live orchestra, 40 dancers in white dresses that turned to different colors inspired by a popular children’s book, and the Tower of David turned into a huge merry-go-round, where old and new mixed at a fast pace.  Other exhibits included a Mechanical spider, giant puppets, a colored cloud machine, and a boy floating on a giant Dove of Peace. There was also a bouncy family of kangaroos in a performance prepared by evacuees from Sderot together with residents of Jerusalem, and even the donkey of the Messiah was there.



In A Sane Universe, The Democratic World Would Pull Behind Israel Until The War Is Won – Jake Wallis Simons

We have entered a topsy-turvy universe.  International institutions are used as weapons of Hamas, while those fighting for freedom and democracy are smeared as the agents of genocide.  British Foreign Secretary David Cameron has vowed to halt arms sales if Israel attacked Rafah. Given their small amount, it is hard to see what this is supposed to achieve.  But showing that you care about the Palestinians is apparently more important than destroying jihadism.

While Israel has achieved a civilian-to-combatant casualty ratio that is likely lower than in any comparable theater of war, Hamas has convinced the world that it is acting out of wanton bloodlust.  In the broadcast media, footage of suffering civilians is ubiquitous, but have you ever seen a picture of the thousands of dead or wounded terrorists?  Hamas censors this material.  No Western media outlet makes this clear to its viewers.  This is a deceit that turns public opinion against Israel, furthering the aims of Hamas.

In a sane universe, the democratic world would pull behind Israel until the war is won.  It would express its differences behind closed doors, working together to limit civilian casualties while freeing the hostages and beating the jihadis.  This would reassure Saudi Arabia that the West stands by its friends, encouraging it to normalize relations with Israel.

Instead, the international community is mobilizing to block an Israeli victory, and at the same time it is blocking peace.  Deep underground, the leaders of Hamas must be licking their lips.

The writer  is editor of the Jewish Chronicle – UK.  (Telegraph-UK)



UK Threat To Withhold Israel Arms-Sales Is A Show Of Western Weakness – Col.Richard Kemp

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron has claimed that Israel is deliberately and unnecessarily holding up humanitarian aid and deliveries into Gaza.  This is patent nonsense.  I recently visited the Kerem Shalom Crossing and witnessed a highly efficient operation in which staff were working round the clock to get aid into Gaza.

Multiple reports, first-hand accounts and video evidence show that the blockage is not on the Israeli side but lies with an inadequate UN distribution system as well as extensive hijacking by Hamas strongmen who divert much of the aid for their own use and sell the rest of it off at inflated prices.

Now Cameron seems to be on the verge of making a grand gesture by cutting off British weapons supplies to Israel in the midst of war, threatening betrayal of one of Britain’s most important allies.  Britain supplies Israel less than 0.9% of its total arms imports.  Most are technical components, a large proportion for non-military dual use or items exported onwards to third countries.  The effect on Israel would be negligible.

Yet a reciprocal move against Britain would be operationally more significant.  Arms imports from Israel represent 2.7% of the UK total, including some extremely important systems, notably UAVs, anti-tank missiles and armored vehicle defenses.  It’s also worth noting that arms sales from Israel increased substantially from 2006, a time of great military need for the UK, at the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The greater danger is that even Israel’s closest allies would be seen to turn on it.  This would strengthen Hamas, whose entire strategy is based on Israel being ultimately constrained by the international community.  This is a time when the civilized world should be putting its energies into demoralizing Hamas, not giving them hope that Israel will be pressured into halting at the final stages of its offensive against them.

Moreover, for the British government to embargo Israel, or even threaten it, will be used by anti-Israel activists as absolute confirmation that their lies are true, and deployed to incite even greater Jew-hatred on our streets.

At a time of increasing danger from the despotic axis of China, Russia, and Iran, we are seen to be afraid to stand by our allies when the going gets tough.  What kind of message does that send to both our friends and our enemies?

The writer, a former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, was chairman of the UK’s national crisis management committee, COBRA.  (Ynet News)