News Digest — 4/17/24

2 Hezbollah Senior Commanders Killed In IDF Strikes, Attack Drones Injure 3 In Northern Israel

The Israeli military and Lebanon’s Hezbollah exchanged fire on Tuesday (16th), with the terror group launching two attack drones at northern Israel as 2 top Hezbollah commanders were killed in airstrikes.

Three people were lightly injured in the Hezbollah drone attack, according to media reports and local authorities.

The Israel Defense Forces said the two explosive-laden drones struck areas near the northern community of Beit Hillel.

Hezbollah also claimed to have targeted an Iron Dome battery in the area.  The terror group has made similar claims in recent months, which have been dismissed by the IDF as empty boasts.

Shortly after the Hezbollah drone attack, Lebanese media reported one dead in an Israeli drone strike on a vehicle in the town of Ain Baal, near Tyre about nine miles from the Israel border.

The IDF later confirmed it had carried out the strike, saying it targeted and killed the commander of Hezbollah’s coastal region.

Ismail Yousef Baz, whose rank is equivalent to a brigade commander, was “a senior and veteran official in the military wing of Hezbollah,” holding several positions, the latest being the commander of the coastal region, the army said.

“As part of his position, he was involved in advancing and planning rocket and anti-tank missile launches towards the State of Israel from the coastal area in Lebanon,” it said.

Hezbollah announced Baz’s death, saying he was killed “on the road to Jerusalem,” a term for  operatives slain in Israeli strikes.

Hours later another drone was reported by Lebanese media to have hit a vehicle near Chehabiyeh, killing a Hezbollah commander of the elite Radwan forces, identified as Muhammad Shehouri.  He was Radwan’s western district rocket unit commander. 

Baz and Shehouri were the sixth and seventh Hezbollah brigade commanders  killed by Israel in recent months, according to the IDF.  The military has said that more than 30 Hezbollah commanders have been killed in its strikes in the past six months.

Israel has threatened to go to war to force Hezbollah away from the border if it does not retreat and continues to threaten northern communities, from where some 70,000 people were evacuated to avoid the fighting.

Since October 8, Hezbollah has attacked Israeli communities and military posts along the border on a daily basis with rockets, drones, anti-tank missiles and other means, saying it is doing so to support Gaza amid the war there.  Hezbollah is an Iranian proxy in Lebanon, as are the Palestinian terror groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad.   



Israel Is Not Intimidated By Iranian Onslaught, Says Defense Minister

Iran’s massive missile and drone attack over the weekend will not “deter Israel,” Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told IDF troops Tuesday (16th), lauding the highly successful efforts of the Israeli military and a coalition of Western powers and moderate Arab states in intercepting incoming projectiles.

Gallant visited Israel’s northern border Tuesday (16th) , where he held an operational situation assessment together with senior IDF officials and troops operating in the area of the Western Galilee.

During his visit, Gallant held a discussion with IDF commanders about efforts to drive Hezbollah forces away from the Israeli border, and commended soldiers for their performance.

The Defense Minister also discussed the Iranian attack on Israel over the weekend, emphasizing that Iran will “fail to deter” Israel and to prevent Israel from acting against Iranian attempts to strengthen its capabilities across the Middle East.

Gallant noted that less than 1% of the incoming missiles and drones managed to reach their targets inside Israel, despite a massive barrage of over 500 projectiles.

“The Iranians attacked us aggressively using over 500 weapons, yet not a single cruise missile or UAV reached Israel, and out of 100 ballistic missiles, four fell in Israel.  This is the result of our preparations with our international partners, as well as the IDF’s capabilities,” Gallant told the IDF.



On High Alert Since October 7, Hospitals Were Already Prepared To Deal With Iran Attack

When Iran fired hundreds of missiles and drones at Israel overnight Saturday-Sunday (13th-14th), there was no need for Israeli hospitals to go on emergency footing;  they have been on high alert since the beginning of the war with Hamas in Gaza six months ago, employing an extensive range of strategics to be ready for any eventuality.

This heightened emergency preparedness, along with risk calculations of the IDF Home Front Command, meant hospitals were not required to take additional precautions during the unprecedented attack from Iran.

Although the hospitals are prepared to handle mass casualties, such an event was averted when the 500 missiles and drones launched by Iran were nearly entirely intercepted by Israel and its allies air defenses.

 The lone injured Israeli was a 7-year-old Bedouin girl severely wounded in the head by shrapnel from an intercepted ballistic missile that fell on her home in a community in the south which had no rocket shelters.

The girl was rushed to Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba, where she underwent surgery and is now in the pediatric intensive care unit.

Even in peaceful times, Israeli hospitals are required by the IDF Home Front Command to annually carry out full-scale emergency drills. A three-year cycle has hospitals rotating among earthquake, mass casualty, and toxic chemical leak or attack scenarios.

However, since October 7, emergency preparedness has been kicked up a notch in all hospitals.

“It’s fundamentally about always being mentally alert, that we are in a different situation.  It is war time and we are in a war zone.  It doesn’t matter that the missiles are coming from Gaza, Hezbollah or further to the east, or from the south, Yoel Har-Even, vice president of Global Affairs at Sheba Medical Center said.

“It’s about saving lives – our own and those we are responsible for at the hospital.  This situation has never changed, but sometimes the alert level is sharpened,” he said.

Professor Michael Halbertal, director-general of Rambam medical Center in Haifa,  said that his hospital remains on high-alert and has maintained the underground hospital it opened early in the war.

Almost immediately after the war’s outbreak, Rambam set up its underground hospital in 36 hours.  This fortified hospital, with its 2,000-bed capacity, is the largest such facility in the world.

As the north’s only tertiary care hospital and level-one trauma center, Rambam must be ready for any situation, including an escalation of the direct confrontation between Israel and Iran or a full-scale war with Hezbollah in Lebanon.

In a video message distributed  to health reporters, Dr. Noy Cohen, deputy director-general at Assuta Medical Center in Ashdod, said that his hospital and all others in the country were ready for the Iranian attack.

“All our systems are operational and inventories are full in terms of medications, equipment, and diesel fuel for generators.  And in terms of manpower, we are prepared for any eventuality,” Cohen said.

The Magen David Adom emergency response service also announced that it was on high-alert.  In addition, it launched a pre-Passover blood drive appeal to shore up the supply of blood and blood products during the holiday and in case of an escalation of the war.

For months there have been warnings of possible electricity shortages or full blackouts in the event of full-scale war breaking out in the north.   

Many of the hospitals said they have enough reserves of various kinds to operate if electricity fails, including an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) which is a large battery that keeps equipment running until generators automatically kick in.  

While Har-Even declined to share specifics about how much emergency fuel Sheba Medical Center stores, he did say that the hospital had enough reserves of all kinds to keep it operating for a few weeks to a few months.  

 If a war causes a power outage, there is also help for emergency power for home use.  Yad Sarah, the largest volunteer-staffed organization in Israel providing health aid equipment and home care services, is making portable power stations available.  Those on oxygen machines or other medical equipment can be plugged into 50 pound batteries whose power can keep  equipment going for days depending upon usage.

“So far, dozens of people have reached out to us and received these power stations,” said Yad Sarah CEO Moshe Cohen.  Following Sunday morning’s (14th) events with Iran, we expect more people to ask for help in the coming days.”



House Approves: ‘From The River To The Sea’ Is Anti-Semitic

The US House of Representatives on Tuesday (16th) passed a resolution condemning the chant “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free,” as anti-Semitic, Fox News reported.

The House GOP-led resolution, introduced by Rep. Anthony D’Esposito  (R-NY) passed in a 377 to 44 vote.  43 Democrats and 1 Republican voted against it.

Members of the so-called “Squad” of Progressive Democrats were among those who voted against it, including Reps. Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Jamaal Bowman, Cori Bush, and House Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal.

One Republican Rep. Thomas Massie, voted against the measure as well, according to Fox News.

The bill is a part of a list of 17 measures House Republican leaders are putting up for a vote this week aimed at affirming support for Israel and condemning Iran after the latter launched a barrage of airstrikes at Israel over the weekend.

Tlaib has in the past claimed that “From the river to the sea is an aspirational call for freedom, human rights, and peaceful coexistence, not death, destruction, or hate.”

That remark elicited a response from fellow Democrat Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who wrote to Tlaib: “This phrase means eradicating Israel and Jews,  Period.  Dressing it up in a new PR ploy won’t change that.”

Tlaib was censured last November for her harsh rhetoric toward Israel, including her use of the phrase.



UN Committee Unable To Agree On Palestinian Bid For Full Membership

A United Nations Security Council committee considering an application by the Palestinian Authority to become a full UN member “was unable to make a unanimous  recommendation” on whether it met the criteria, according to the committee report seen by Reuters on Tuesday (16th).

The Palestinian Authority is still expected to push the 15-member Security Council to vote – as early as this week – on a draft resolution recommending it become a full member of the world body, diplomats said.

Such membership would effectively recognize a Palestinian state.  The Palestinians are currently a non-member observer state, a de facto recognition of statehood that was granted by the 193-member UN General Assembly in 2012.

But an application to become a full UN member needs to be approved by the Security Council, where Israel’s ally, the United States, can block it, and then at least two-thirds of the General Assembly.

Little progress has been made in achieving Palestinian statehood since the signing of the Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the early 1990s.

“Regarding the issue of whether the application met all the criteria for membership … the Committee was unable to make a unanimous recommendation to the Security Council,” the report said, adding that “differing views were expressed.”

UN membership is open to “peace-loving states” that accept the obligations in the founding UN Charter and are able and willing to carry them out.



Tehran’s Mayhem Cannot Be Tolerated – Editorial

Israel’s leaders and people are forever being entreated to avoid escalation and to act proportionately.  They are hectored, lectured and told to act responsibly.  No other country in the world is required to behave in this way when it is attacked by states that want to wipe it off the face of the earth.

Yet it is not Israel that has caused all of the trouble, but Iran.  It is the ayatollahs in Tehran who bankrolled Hamas and encouraged its murderous pogrom last autumn.  It is Iran who arms and funds Hezbollah in Lebanon, where thousands of missiles – provided by the Iranians – are targeted at Israel.  It is Iran who supports the Houthis in Yemen currently subjecting the world’s shipping to the threat of drone and missile attacks, forcing vessels away from the Suez Canal.

Where are the protest marches against Iran, against its treatment of women and minorities, its efforts to arm itself with nuclear weapons, its extra-judicial killings?  Why is a brutal, theocratic autocracy considered somehow deserving of greater latitude than a democracy responding to attacks on its territory?  No one should any longer harbor illusions about Iran’s malign role in the Middle East.  Its hand can be detected in all of the region’s most dangerous crises.  Allowing the ayatollahs to continue with their campaign of mayhem is no longer an option.  (Sunday Telegraph – UK)