News Digest — 3/5/24

Gantz To US Officials: ‘Ending War Without Rafah Operation Unacceptable To Israel

Minister Benny Gantz on Monday night (4th) told Biden administration officials that despite the difficulties and the pressures, Israel will decimate Hamas leadership in Rafah, as part of the goals of the war in Gaza.

Among other things, Gantz told National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan that ending the  war without clearing out Rafah is like sending a firefighter to extinguish 80% of the fire,” Israel Hayom reported.

Gantz also met with other officials including the Vice President Kamala Harris, Senators and Congress people.  All of the officials pressured Gantz to allow more humanitarian aid into Gaza and claimed that Israel is not doing enough in this matter.

Israel Hayom reported that some of the discussion on humanitarian issues were “difficult” with US officials expressing doubt as to whether Israel is capable of evacuating 1.2 million Gazans currently in and around Rafah before the military operation begins.

Gantz rejected these statements, emphasizing that ending the war in Gaza without a military operation in Rafah is something which is unacceptable to Israel.  Regarding humanitarian aid, Gantz explained that the issue is not one of bringing aid into Gaza but rather of distributing it to the civilians, since Hamas takes over the distribution as part of the preservation of its civil rule in Gaza.  He also explained that in order to remove Hamas’ civil government abilities, it may be better to have a period of chaos in Gaza.

Gantz also rejected the idea of reinstating the Palestinian Authority in Gaza, noting that the Palestinian Authority has thus far not undergone sufficient change – something the US also demanded – for such a plan to be viable.  Instead, Gantz proposed creating a “Gaza civil administration.” 

A diplomatic source told Israel Hayom that there are deep differences between the perspective of the US government and that of most Israelis: in his visit, Gantz managed to close some of these gaps and present Israel’s viewpoint.



Foreign National Killed, 7 Hurt In Anti-Tank Missile Attack From Lebanon

A foreign laborer was killed and seven were wounded Monday morning (4th) when an anti-tank guided missile fired by terrorists in Lebanon struck an orchard near the border community of Margaliot, medics and the military said.

The attack was believed to have been carried out by the Hezbollah terror group which has been launching rockets, missiles, and drones at northern Israel daily amid the ongoing war in the Gaza Strip.

The Magen David Adom ambulance service said a man in his 30s was killed and two were listed in serious condition.  Another four men were moderately hurt, and one more victim was listed in good condition, MDA said.

The victims were all foreign laborers, reportedly from Thailand.

The wounded were taken to Beilinson, Rambam and Ziv Hospitals by MDA and Israeli Air Force helicopters.

In response to the anti-tank missile attack, the IDF said it shelled the launch site with artillery.

The IDF also said it had earlier struck a Hezbollah compound where members of the terror group were gathered in the southern Lebanon town of Chihine, and another site belonging to Hezbollah in Ayta ash-Shab.

Since October 8, Hezbollah-led forces have attacked Israeli communities and military posts along the border on a near-daily basis, with the group saying it is doing so to support Gaza amid the war there.

So far, the skirmishes on the border have resulted in seven civilian deaths on the Israeli side – including Monday’s (4th) incident – as well as the deaths of 10 IDF soldiers and reservists.  There have also been several attacks from Syria, without any injuries.

Hezbollah has named 229 members who have been killed by Israel during the ongoing skirmishes, mostly in Lebanon but some also in Syria.  

Early Tuesday (5th), Hezbollah claimed to have confronted two separate groups of IDF troops on the border in the area near the Israeli community of Zarit and several kilometers to the east near Lebanon’s Qalamoun.

A military spokesperson told the Times of Israel that the IDF was unaware of either incident occurring.



Hamas Says Of Hostages: ‘We Don’t Know Who’s Alive Or Dead

A senior Hamas official admitted to international media Monday (4th) that the terrorist group is unable to provide Israel with a list of the living hostages – one of the conditions for a potential ceasefire deal – because it is unaware of the health and location of many of the hostages being held in the Gaza Strip.

Bassem Naim, a Hamas representative, told AFP  that “we don’t know exactly who’s alive or dead.
Some of the hostages may have been “killed because of Israeli strikes or hunger,” he said, placing the blame for their potential deaths on Jerusalem.

Naim avoided acknowledging the possibility that some hostages were murdered by their captors or dead because they did not receive proper medical care for wounds they sustained in the Oct. 7 terror onslaught.

In a subsequent interview with BBC, Naim claimed that kidnapped Israelis are “in different areas” of the Gaza Strip and being held by “different groups.”

Notably, Shiri Bibas and her two children are believed to have been captured by a terror group other than Hamas.

As the governing authority in the Strip, Israel has repeatedly stressed that it holds Hamas ultimately responsible for the fate of the hostages.

Naim said that the terror group “has asked for a ceasefire to collect the data,”meaning to ascertain which of the hostages have survived and where they are located.

However, Naim contradicted his own claim later in the interview, saying that any details about the hostages was “valuable” and couldn’t be given to Israel “for free,” insinuating that Hamas was withholding the information as a bargaining chip during negotiations for a ceasefire.

Israel has maintained that it will not agree to continue negotiations for a six-week pause in fighting until it receives critical information about which hostages are alive or dead.



Security Services Foil Hebron Terror Cell Planning ISIS-Inspired Bomb Attacks

Security forces have foiled a terrorist squad which produced 100 improvised explosive devices and planned bomb attacks with the assistance of the Islamic State, according to a statement released Monday (4th).

The Shin Bet agency conducted the operation jointly with the IDF and Israel Police and said that they apprehended the terrorists in February, arresting four suspects from the Hebron area.

The terrorists were identified as Murad Marktan, Hasin Marktan, Muhammad Marktan and Ahmed Marktan, all residents of the village of Tarkomia.  Indictments were filed against them.

The Shin Bet investigation discovered that the four planned to attack Israeli forces in the area and produced 100 IEDs for this purpose.  The terror cell’s leader, Murad, was in contact with ISIS to receive training and learned to make the bombs online.

The squad was also in possession of M 16 and Carlo-type weapons which they planned to use for further attacks.  The guns were confiscated during the arrest and all the explosives were detonated by the police bomb squad.

“The Shin Bet will continue to act in order to thwart any attempt by terrorist elements operating against the State of Israel, and will work to bring to justice those involved in such actions,” the spokesperson concluded in a statement.   



Israel’s Founding Certainly Wasn’t Imperialist – Nigel Biggar

In December on Al Jazeera, University of Kent lecturer Dr. Shahid Hammouri said: “Israel is a colonizing power and the Palestinians the colonized indigenous population.”  That’s the simplistic melodrama.  Here’s the complicated truth.  Before 1914, Jewish corporations bought Palestinian land from Arab landlords to settle thousands of Zionist immigrants fleeing Russian pogroms.  Whatever our evaluation, this was no “invasion.”

In 1917 the British government made the Balfour Declaration, pledging to establish “a national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine, without prejudice to “the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities.”  A major motive was sympathy for the Zionist story of an exiled people yearning to return home.  At the same time, the British established two Arab states, Jordan and Iraq.  The cartoonish “decolonization” narrative doesn’t begin to do justice to the past.

The writer is Emeritus Regius Professor of Moral and Pastoral Theology at the University of Oxford.  (Telegraph-UK)



Playing Hamas’ Game on Aid To Gaza – Editorial

After the tragic stampede at a Gaza aid convoy on Thursday (2/29), President Biden decided to airdrop some aid to the Strip and increase his pressure on Israel.  The onus on Israel plays into Hamas’ strategy: Place civilians in maximum danger and trust the international community to set up Israel to take the blame.

In war, civilians flee to safety.  Only in Gaza has the world decided that all civilians must stay trapped in the war zone, in danger and harder to reach with aid.  One would expect Egypt to face great pressure to save lives.  The opposite occurred.  Rather than demand that Egypt follow its obligation under international law to accept refugees from the fighting next door, the US, the UN and aid organizations took up Egypt’s position and admonished Israel not to “displace” civilians from Gaza.

Only when it can damage Israel does it become the liberal position to close the borders and keep refugees penned in a war zone.  Instead of civilians fleeing the fighting, receiving aid in freer conditions and then returning after the war, they have been kept in Gaza to serve as “Israel’s problem.”  Rather than get Gazans to safety, the world’s humanitarian organs have demanded that Israel ceasefire, leaving Hamas in power with hostages in tow.  Gazans need aid, and they also need the world to stop playing Hamas’ game.  (wall Street Journal)



How Much Is A Dead Jew Worth? – Hodaya Karish Hazony

• Lital Shemesh, a host on Israel’s Channel 14, has written a new book, How Much Is A Dead Jew Worth? (Hebrew), a detailed look at the Palestinian Authority’s “Pay to Slay” policy.  The author explained in an interview that throwing a firebomb at a Jewish vehicle is worth NIS 4,000 a month to Palestinian terrorists.  Stabbing and critically wounding a Jewish youth – NIS 6,000.  A key factor in compensation is the amount of time the prisoner serves in jail.

• Already by the fifth year, the prisoner earns more than the average Palestinian, and much more than the minimum wage.  Abdallah Barghouti , a commander of the Hamas military wing in the West Bank, was sentenced in 2004 to 67 life sentences.  Over 20 years he has received more than a million shekels.

• The Palestinian Authority also pays compensation to Gaza residents and Israeli Arabs that have attacked Israelis.  It even gave a bonus to terrorists who are from eastern Jerusalem and are Israeli citizens.  And when the terrorists are released from jail, their years of incarceration are counted as part of their security for jobs in the PA civil service.  In the hostage release in November, one young Palestinian who was due to be released asked not to be freed because he would lose out on a PA bonus.

• Lt.-Col. (res.) Maurice Hirsch, former director of the Military Prosecution in Judea and Samaria, described cases where the defense attorneys requested a heavier sentence for their Palestinian clients in order to qualify for bonuses from the PA.  A week after the October 7 massacre, the PA announced that it would give grants to all the families of terrorists who participated.

• In the month after Oct. 7, the PA distributed close to $3 million to families of the 1,500 Hamas murderers who participated in the attacks.  Every family of a terrorist who was killed in the invasion of Israel received a grant of NIS 7,400 in honor of his participation in the murders and atrocities – a gift from the Palestinian Authority.  Seven percent of the PA budget today goes to families of terrorists.  This is money that incentivizes the murder of Jews.

• The PA has created a well-oiled murder machine which educates and incentivizes people to go out and kill Jews.  Today, the best-paid profession in the Palestinian Authority is to be a murderer.  When will the West take a stand and tell the Palestinians: “If you want our money, stop incentivizing terror.”