News Digest — 4/12/24

Report: Israel Expecting Iran Attack Within Day Or Two

Israel is preparing for a direct attack from Iran on southern or northern Israel as soon as the next 24 to 48 hours, a person familiar with the matter told the Wall Street Journal on Thursday night (11th).

A person briefed by the Iranian leadership, however,  said that while plans to attack are being discussed, no final decision has been made.

Iran has publicly threatened to retaliate for an attack last week in Damascus, Syria,  that Tehran said was an Israeli airstrike on a diplomatic building and in which top Iranian military officials, including a senior member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps were eliminated.

Earlier on Thursday (11th), Iranian sources told Reuters that Iran has signaled to Washington that it will respond to the attack attributed to Israel in a way that aims to avoid major escalation and it will not act hastily.

Iran’s message to Washington was conveyed by Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian during a visit on Sunday (7th) to the Gulf Arab State of Oman, which has often acted as an intermediary between Tehran and Washington, the sources said.

Later a US official told Reuters that the United States expects an attack by Iran against Israel but one that would not be big enough to draw Washington into war.

CBS News reported last week that the US has picked up intelligence on what an Iranian retaliatory strike might look like.

According to the report, the American intelligence indicated that Iran is planning a retaliatory strike that would include a swarm of Shaheed loitering drones and cruise missiles.

Another report in The New York Times cited two Iranian officials who said that Iran had placed all its armed forces on full high alert and a decision had been made that Iran must respond directly to the strike attributed to Israel in Damascus in order to create deterrence.  



Netanyahu Says Israel Prepared ‘Defensively And Offensively’ As Iran Attack Looms

Prime  Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday (11th) that Israel prepared “both defensively and offensively”for any attack on it as Iran threatened retaliation for the assassination of high-ranking Revolutionary Guard members in Damascus earlier this month.

Netanyahu made the remarks during a visit to the Tel Nof Airbase in central Israel where he met with members of the 133rd Squadron, which operates F-15 fighter jets.

He received a briefing from the base’s deputy commander and the squadron commander about their war efforts, telling pilots, “We are in challenging days.  We are amid the war in Gaza, which continues with full force.  Meanwhile we persist in our efforts to return our captives but are also prepared for scenarios involving challenges from other fronts.”

“We’ve established a simple principle,” Netanyahu added, “Whoever harms us, we will harm them.  We are ready to respond to Israel’s security needs. Both defensively and offensively.  The people of Israel and I trust you, and may we all have great success.”

Meanwhile, US Central Command Commander Michael Kurilla landed in Israel on Thursday (11th) and is set to meet with IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi at the IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv to closely observe Israel and the United States’ offensive readiness and multi-layered defense, and to tighten coordination in these two areas as part of preparations for a potential Iranian attack.  On Friday (12th) Kurilla is scheduled to meet with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

Meanwhile, Saudi newspaper Al Hadath reported that the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, claimed that “Damascus refuses to allow an Iranian response against Israel from Syrian territory.”

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has reiterated threats of an attack, in response to which Israel clarified several days ago to the United States that “an attack from Iranian territory would compel us to respond directly.”

This led to tightened security coordination between the IDF and the US military, and Thursday night (11th) US President Joe Biden declared that his country would do “whatever it takes to protect Israel’s security.”

In the messages exchanged between the two nations, it was further stated that if the attack is carried out directly from Iran, there will be a severe response, and if it is conducted through proxies, the response will target them.  Additionally, the messages indicated that if the attack results in no damage or casualties, the event could be overlooked.



Argentine Court: “Terrorist Iran” Behind Israeli Embassy Bombing

Three decades after the attack on the Israeli Embassy and a Jewish center in Argentina, an Argentine court declared on Thursday (11th) that Iran was responsible for the attack and called the Islamic Republic a “terror state.”

The judges ruled that Iran ordered the attack in 1992 on the Israeli embassy and the attack on the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) Jewish Center in Argentina in 1994.

The embassy attack killed 29 people, While the AMIA attack two years later killed 85 people.

The court called the AMIA attack a “crime against humanity.”

One of the judges, Carlos Mahiques, told Radio Con Vos, “Hezbollah carried out an operation that responded to a political, ideological and revolutionary design under the mandate of a government. of a state [Iran].”



IDF Launched ‘Targeted Operation’ In Central Gaza’s Nuseirat After Heavy Bombardment

The IDF said Thursday (11th) it launched a ‘targeted operation’ against Hamas in the central Gaza Strio in the early morning hours,  pushing into an area on the outskirts of Nuseirat largely left untouched by troops until now.

Heavy airstrikes and military shelling pounded parts of Nuseirat before troops moved into the area, which sits adjacent to the lone corridor where Israeli soldiers remain in Gaza.

Palestinians said there was a strike on a residential building and that towers were also struck.

The Israeli Defense Forces said the air force and artillery troops carried out strikes against dozens of Hamas targets, including tunnel infrastructure.  The navy also carried out artillery strikes near the coast to support ground troops, the IDF said.

The operation followed intelligence indicating “the presence of terror infrastructure and many terrorists in the area,” the army said.

Soldiers engaged with armed fighters in the night hours, including a gunman who emerged from a tunnel and was hit with an airstrike.  According to IDF troops, they also located several rocket launchers.

Hamas-linked media reported heavy fighting in the area continued throughout the day on Thursday (11th).

Israel had not previously operated on the ground in Nuseirat, though last month Hamas’ third-in-command Marwan Issa, was killed in an airstrike in the area.

The operation occurred as Israel appeared to dial back the use of ground troops and shift from a wide-scale offensive to pinpoint operations.  This was in line with US demands for changes to the way fighting is taking place amid international concern over the deaths of civilians in the Strip and claims of near-famine conditions.

Just one brigade – comprising several thousand troops – remains in the Strip where it is holding an east-west corridor that essentially splits the enclave into two.

At the height of the IDF’s offensive against Hamas, it had multiple divisions – with roughly 30,000-40,000 troops in the Strip.

Israel’s officials have said that 18 of Hamas’ 24 original battalions in the Gaza Strip have been dismantled, meaning they do not function as an organized military unit, although smaller cells still exist.

Four Hamas battalions remain virtually untouched in southern Gaza’s Rafah, and another two are in the central part of the Strip, according to Israeli assessments.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly said he approved the military’s plans for an operation in Rafah, although he has not given the green light to carry them out.

The planned Rafah offensive has caused intense consternation in the international community, including in the U.S. and Egypt, due to the southern Gaza City now hosting more than a million Palestinians displaced from elsewhere in the Strip.  Israel has said it is making plans to evacuate and protect civilians from Rafah as part of its offensive plans.

The war erupted when thousands of Hamas terrorists poured across the border with Israel in a mass assault on October 7 during which they killed 1,200 people and abducted 253.

Israel responded with a military offensive to destroy Hamas and free the hostages, half of whom remain in captivity in Gaza.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says more than 33,000 people have been killed in the fighting, an unverified figure that includes some 13,000  Hamas gunmen Israel says it killed in battle.  The IDF says it also killed another 1,000 Hamas and other terrorists inside Israel on and immediately after October 7.



Anti-Israel Rioters Plan Global Economy Disruption

Anti-Israel activists in 30 cities across four continents are threatening to disrupt the global economy on April 15 in an attempt to destroy the Jewish state, the anonymous A15 Action group announced this week.

“For 75 years, Israel has operated with impunity.  But the Zionist project must end now,” states a video promoting the initiative.  “The time has come to open up new fronts against the Zionist war machine.”

“We are organizing and coordinating, and on April 15, we will disrupt global logistical hubs, and we will clog flows of capital worldwide,” continues the ad, adding that “symbolic actions are not enough.”

Metropolises targeted include, London, Barcelona, Taipei, Montreal, Seattle, Athens, Detroit, Genoa, Miami, Oakland, Melbourne, Catalonia and “dozens of other cities across the world,” according to the video.

A15 Action warned that “if one city faces police repression, other cities will extend or expand blockages” and instructed all participants not to talk to law enforcement as “we have each other’s backs.”

It was not immediately clear who was behind the initiative.  The A15 Action website, first registered on March 22, did not list any contact info besides an anonymous email address hosted by ProtonMail, a secure service based in Switzerland that guarantees users total privacy.

Former US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman charged on X that the planned April 15 riots have “nothing to do with Israel or the Palestinians – most of the protesters are entirely ignorant of those issues.”

“It’s a Marxist movement to destroy capitalism, freedom and democracy.  The protestors have cleverly hijacked a complex issue and tapped into the ever-present vein of anti-semitism,” he wrote.



Why I Got A Gun – Matti Ftiedman

I was recently at an indoor shooting range in Jerusalem watching new gun-license applicants blast paper targets.  They included a young mother who’d been evacuated from Sderot after Hamas terrorists killed dozens of her neighbors on Oct.7.  A religious woman was trying out a stomach holster that could be concealed under her shirt – she’s a kindergarten teacher and doesn’t want to frighten the children.

Many visitors to Israel are startled by the sight of armed young men and women in uniform carrying M-16s on the bus, assuming an enthusiasm for weapons and a free approach to acquiring them.  But Israelis have no legal right to bear arms.  Guns are simply a tool for protection against the Arab violence that has shaped this society over the last century.

Before October 7, less than 2% of Israelis owned guns.  Since the attacks, more than 300,000 Israelis have requested gun permits.  Gun ownership is still tightly restricted and involves paperwork beyond the wildest dreams of U.S. gun-control advocates.  If you’re cleared for a permit by the Ministry of Internal Security after a background check of your medical and psychological records and your military service, and then pass a test that includes firing 100 bullets, you’re licensed to own and carry a single weapon.  You cannot buy another gun.  It’s virtually impossible to buy a rifle.

For years, we have suffered regular episodes in which Palestinian men go berserk in public places with knives or guns, killing people until they themselves are shot and killed by security forces or an armed civilian.  In Jerusalem, where I live, I can think of a dozen such attacks in the last year.

We have now absorbed lessons from the Hamas attack.  The first is that we could not afford any further delusions about the intentions or capabilities of our Palestinian neighbors.  These delusions had just led  to the deaths of 1,200 Israelis like us, many of whom were murdered in their kitchens and living rooms, and to the kidnapping of 250 more, with enthusiastic support across the Palestinian public.

The second lesson involved our basic assumption that security forces would always arrive fast.  In Israel, guns are a matter of communal defense.

The writer was an Associated Press reporter in Jerusalem between 2006 and 2011.