News Digest — 4/4/24

Anticipating Iranian Revenge: IDF Recruiting Reservists For Air Defense System

As part of a situation assessment carried out by the IDF on Wednesday evening (3rd), it was decided to consolidate and recruit reserve personnel for the air defense system.

The mobilization of reserves follows Iranian threats, sounded after the assassination of the senior member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Hassan Mahdavi in Syria this week.

Earlier the Chief of Staff Lt. Col. Herzi Halevi visited Khan Yunis and held a situation assessment with the commander of the Southern Command, Colonel Yaron Finkelman, commander of Division 98, Lieutenant Colonel Dan Goldfuss, commander of the commando formation, Lieutenant Colonel Omer Cohen, and other officers.

During the meeting, the Chief of Staff spoke to the commando officers and soldiers, presented them with the operational situation and praised them for their fighting in the Gaza Strip.

The Chief of Staff said that, “On Sunday (3/31) we left Shifa, and you are still here. We are also pressing to intensify the achievements.  We are also pressing to try to bring about a shift in the negotiations, to close an agreement on the release of the hostages.  This is of ultimate importance.  This is a very important mission.  We will see results only from more intense pressure and we will press harder, however necessary.  We’ll press harder.  You are doing great.”

“Another battalion being dismantled, another Hamas commander killed, another infrastructure destroyed.  This is the way to put pressure on them and to eventually release the hostages.”

“One thing is certain,” he added.  “As long as you continue working the way you are, our ability and also the national ability to find a solution for these things, in a better way, is significantly higher.  Keep going strong, keep bringing good achievements.  Provide quality battle procedures and keep moving forward.” 



Gallant: War In The North Will Be A Catastrophe For Lebanon, Hezbollah

At the end of a home front exercise in the Haifa District on Wednesday (3rd), Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said that a war in Lebanon would be disastrous not only for Hezbollah, but also for Lebanon.

The minister said that Israel was preparing for various scenarios and threats against near and distant enemies.

“We are increasing our preparedness, and at the same time,  we are also expanding our action against Hezbollah, and against other entities that threaten us; we are striking our enemies all over the Middle East,” Gallant said, referring to the alleged Israeli airstrike which killed a senior Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC) commander earlier this week.

Gallant added that a war with Hezbollah would “be a difficult challenge for the State of Israel, but it would be a catastrophe for Hezbollah and Lebanon.”

Gallent’s comments come amid heightened tensions on Israel’s northern border.

The IDF announced on Wednesday (3rd) that jets had struck Hezbollah infrastructure and military posts in the area of Kfar Hamam.

Jets also attacked one of the posts that terrorists used to launch rockets onto Mount Dov earlier in the day.

Also on Wednesday (3rd), rocket sirens sounded across Israel’s northern border.  No injuries were reported according to the IDF.

On Tuesday night (2nd), the IDF carried out additional strikes on Hezbollah structures in the Blida and Aynata areas.



IDF Spokesman: Hezbollah Bomb Wounded UN Peacekeepers

A roadside bomb planted by Hezbollah terrorists wounded several UNIFIL peacekeepers in Lebanon over the weekend, the IDF spokesman announced on Wednesday (3rd).

On Saturday (3/30), an explosion wounded three UN soldiers and their local translator while they were on a foot patrol near the southern Lebanese village of Rmeish, but the origin of the blast was initially unclear.

Media reports said the injured soldiers hold Norwegian, Chilean, and Australian citizenship.  The translator is a Lebanese national.

All four men are now hospitalized in moderate condition.

Lebanese officials were quick to accuse Israel, saying the four had been injured by an IAF air strike.

Lebanon’s state-controlled National News Agency claimed that an “enemy [Israeli] drone” was to blame.

Israel launched an investigation into the explosion and determined that it had no aerial forces operating in the area at the time of the blast.

The Israeli army later found that the peacekeeping team was wounded by “the detonation of an explosive device that had been previously planted in the area by Hezbollah,” said IDF Arabic language spokesman Avichay Adraee.

UNIFIL and the UNTSO organization, an offshoot of UNIFIL created specifically for the Blue Line border demarcation between Lebanon and Israel, condemned the explosion, without stating who was responsible.

The “safety and security of UN personnel must be guaranteed,” Unifil said shortly after the blast, calling on “all actors to cease the current heavy exchanges of fire before more people get hurt.”

“All actors have a responsibility under international humanitarian law to ensure protection to non-combatants, including peacekeepers, journalists, medical personnel, and civilians,’ UNTSO said in a media statement.

Notably, the attack on the UN peacekeepers has not sparked significant global outcry.



A Message To Israel?  Russia Deploys More Forces In Syria’s Golan Heights

Russia’s Defense Ministry announced on Wednesday (3rd) it had deployed additional forces in the Syrian-controlled areas of the Golan Heights, where Israel had allegedly struck at an increasing rate over the last few months.

The forces, from Russia’s military police, were tasked with de-escalating tensions in the Syrian provinces of Quneitra and Daraa, as well as monitoring the longstanding ceasefire issued as part of the Syrian Civil War.

According to Russia, military posts belonging to the Syrian military are located below the Russian observation posts, set up to monitor “possible provocations.”

Russia’s decision to make its presence in the Golan Heights comes after Moscow condemned a strike blamed on Israel, targeting the Iranian consulate in Syria.

Moscow called on the Jewish state to cease such “completely unacceptable” actions and has requested a meeting with the UN Security Council regarding the Strike.

Last year, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov accused the United States of being “hypocritical” in its recognition of the Golan Heights as part of sovereign Israel.

Lavrov, who compared the Golan Heights to Ukraine’s war-torn Donbas, hinted that the U.S. does not take its own vow to “respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all UN member states seriously.”

Just before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, its deputy ambassador to Geneva told the UN Security Council that “Russia doesn’t recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights – they are part of Syria.”



Officials Condemn Anti-Israel, Anti-Semitic Graffiti At 2 Pennsylvania Synagogues

Two Pennsylvania area Conservative synagogues were vandalized in similar incidents over the past several days, the latest in a growing number of Jewish institutions to be targeted since war erupted in Gaza after Hamas’ October 7 massacre in southern Israel.

One synagogue, Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El in the suburb of Wynnewood, had a banner expressing solidarity with Israel tagged with a swastika over the weekend.  Another synagogue Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel in center city, Philadelphia, had graffiti sprayed on the sidewalk by its entrance last week.

Other Jewish institutions have been targeted across the country in the wake of the war, including in the Philadelphia region just weeks ago: “Free Gaza” graffiti was spray-painted on a Jewish-owned business in nearby Narberth on March 15th.  The business owner is an Israeli who has relatives being held hostage by Hamas in Gaza.

It was the second time in as many weeks that Beth-Hillel-Beth El’s Israel banner had been defaced.  The first time the previous weekend, nondescript paint was splashed on the banner, which reads, “Out Community Stands With Israel.”  The community replaced the banner the next day and intends to do so again now that it has been defaced for the second time, its senior rabbi told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.    

“Thank God the community is OK,” Rabbi Ethan Witkowsky said.  “We’re shaken but we’re strong and we’re healthy and safe.”

The synagogue’s leadership offered a more pointed rebuke of the graffiti on Facebook, “A swastika is not  a commentary on the policies of the State of Israel, nor is it a sign of solidarity with Palestinians,” they wrote over the weekend.  “It’s a symbol of hatred and division.”

Security footage shows two women using stencils to spray paint  a phrase outside the one synagogue.  Andrew Goretsky, the Anti-Defamation League’s regional Philadelphia director, told JTA that the phrase was the disputed anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian rallying cry “From the river to the sea,” which many Jews consider to be a call for the destruction of the State of Israel.

“As a Jewish person, when we hear ‘from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,’ we hear a threat to half of the people in the entire world who share our identity,” Goretsky told local news outlets.  Approximately half of the world’s Jewish population lives in Israel.

Authorities have not indicated whether they see the cases as connected.  While PA Governor Josh Shapiro wrote on X that the Pennsylvania State Police is “coordinating with our law enforcement partners on the incidents,” a spokesperson for the State Police told JTA that local authorities had rejected their offer of help and were handling each case in its own jurisdiction.

“It is heartwarming to have our local officials care about this,” Witkowsky said.  “In many ways I think that the great fear of our community is not that someone would paint a swastika on a sign.  It’s that someone would paint a swastika on a sign and no one would care.”

The war in Gaza erupted after Hamas’ October 7 massacre, which saw some 3,000 terrorists burst across the border into Israel by land, air and sea, killing some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and seizing 253 hostages amid horrific acts of brutality.



The Only Formula For Israel’s Survival Is Victory – Jonathan S. Tobin

• The reason why so many people around the world are moved to demonstrate their sympathy and solidarity for the perpetrators of the largest mass slaughter of Jews since the Holocaust isn’t much of a mystery.  That Israel is being judged by standards applied to no other nation on earth is obvious.

• Although pro-Hamas propagandists and their fellow travelers call what is happening a “genocide,” the human cost of conflict is miniscule when measured against actual genocides, such as those that have occurred in recent decades in Africa or the ongoing campaign by China against its Muslim Uyghur population.  There was no international movement – let alone mass demonstrations – in the streets of the world’s cities about any of those conflicts and genocides.  Even the illegal and brutal Russian invasion of Ukraine hasn’t generated the same kind of intense passion in the form of public demonstrations.

• Since the 1993 Oslo peace accords, three decades of Palestinian terrorism and rejection of Israel/U.S. offers of statehood have sobered Israelis up about the intentions of their Arab neighbors.  The Second Intifada – five years of Palestinian suicide bombings of civilians on buses, and in restaurants and schools from 2000 to 2005 – and now the horrors that took place on Oct. 7 have created a broad consensus among Israelis mandating both the elimination of Hamas and opposition to Palestinian statehood for the foreseeable future.

• Neither the territorial withdrawals of Oslo nor its disengagement from Gaza in 2005 made Israel popular.  The same was true of the offers of statehood made to the Palestinians in 2000, 2001 and 2008.  In fact, the opposite was true.  The more Israel took risks for peace by giving up its rights and endangering its security, the more despised it became around the world.  Rather than convincing the international community of its good intentions, concessions to the Palestinians made Israel appear to be a thief returning stolen property to its rightful owners.

• Tragically, the spectacle of Jewish suffering and victimhood on Oct. 7 had a similar impact.  Rather than demonstrating the barbaric nature and genocidal goals of Israel’s opponents, the anti-Zionists argued that the Jews had it coming.  The spilling of Jewish blood has only incited more hatred against Jews.  If the current war ends in anything but total victory over Hamas, Israelis should expect no wave of sympathy or understanding.

• The only formula for Jewish survival is the one that Zionist statesman Ze’ev Jabotinsky wrote about in his 1923 essay, “The Iron Wall,” in which he preached that only when the Arab world realizes that it can’t defeat the Jews can peace be possible.  Those who care about Israel must take these lessons to heart and realize that the only solution to its current situation is for Jerusalem to ignore its critics and push through to victory.