News Digest — 5/16/24

Hezbollah Drone Hits IDF Air Force Base in The North

A Hezbollah drone struck an IDF air force base in the north on Wednesday (15th), the IDF cleared for publication on Thursday (16th).

The exact nature of the harm was still being reviewed, and additional aspects are under a gag order.

Hezbollah claimed responsibility on Wednesday (15th), saying it was their deepest strike to date.

The IDF succeeded in shooting down a second attack drone launched by Hezbollah,

Already on Wednesday (15th), Lebanese and Israel media said that up to dozens of rockets as well as some anti-tank missiles were fired at the Western Galilee, including the Mount Meron area where the IDF has an air force base.  There were no reports of injuries.

Hamas in Lebanon has claimed responsibility for at least some of the rockets, though it appeared that many of their rockets misfired and even injured local Lebanese individuals, possibly killing one.

Sirens blazed in Rosh Hanikra, Betzet, Meron, Bar Yohai, Shlomi, and other locations.

The mixed Hezbollah and Hamas response came after the IDF announced early Wednesday (15th) the killing of a Hezbollah commander, which itself came after several IDF soldiers were wounded in the North on Tuesday (14th), with one Israeli civilian being killed.



Hamas Fired Rockets Into Sderot To ‘Unload’ Weapons Stocks As IDF Closed In

IDF forces entered the heart of Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip on Wednesday (15th), intensifying operations in the area.

Several rockets were launched from Jabaliya into Sderot on Wednesday (15th), with rocket alert sirens sounding in the city at least six times since the beginning of the week.

Initially, the IDF reported that all rockets targeting Sderot  were intercepted successfully.  However, it was later reported that one rocket hit an unoccupied building, causing damage.  Also two women were injured while seeking shelter during the rocket attacks.

The rocket attacks on Sderot were launched from a location just a few hundred feet away from where the Paratroopers Brigade was operating.  This military tactic, colloquially known as “unloading stocks,” involved Hamas depleting their ammunition stores at positions before the arrival of troops.  The current IDF operations aim to destroy these weapons caches.

According to the IDF, the 7th Armored Brigade, the Paratroopers and the 46oth Brigades of the 98th Division faced off against dozens of armed cells in intense combat in Jabaliya over the last day, resulting in the elimination of dozens of terrorists.  In one incident, the Israeli Air Force targeted and eliminated the terrorist squad responsible for firing rockets at Sderot on Tuesday (14th).

Meanwhile, 162nd Division forces continued to operate east of the city of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.  The IDF said that the Givati Brigade raided a Hamas military outpost used for training in recent days, eliminating terrorists in face-to-face combat.  Also a compound simulating many IDF tools and weapons, including a model of a tank, was located.

The IDF also reported that Nahal Brigade forces completed their withdrawal from Gaza City’s Zeitoun district on Wednesday morning (15th) at the end of a week-long counterterrorism operation.  A 2nd Brigade combat team reportedly continues to operate in Zeitoun.

The army said that Air Force aircraft attacked and destroyed about 80 terrorist targets over the last day including military compounds, weapons storage facilities, missile launchers, observation posts and additional sites used for terrorist activity.

UPDATE:  5 Israeli soldiers were killed and 7 wounded in an incident of friendly-fire in northern Gaza’s Jabaliya on Wednesday (15th), the military announced on Thursday morning (16th). 




There Is No Alternative To Military Victory

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a video in Hebrew on Wednesday (15th) in which he discussed the continued fighting in the Gaza Strip, the pressure on Israel to end the war, and the issue of the day after the war is over.

“Our forces are fighting across the Gaza Strip, in Jabaliya, Zeitoun, and Rafah.  We are doing this while evacuating the civilian population and while carrying out our duties for its humanitarian needs,” Netanyahu opened.  “Our responsible efforts are bearing fruit.  Until now, in Rafah, nearly half a million people have evacuated from the combat zones.  The humanitarian catastrophe that they spoke about did not happen, and it won’t happen.”

He added: “The elimination of Hamas is a necessary step to ensure that on the ‘day after’ there won’t be any element that threatens us in Gaza.  Approximately a hundred days ago, I authorized security officials to allow local Gazans, who are not affiliated with Hamas, to integrate into civilian management of the food distribution in Gaza. The attempt was unsuccessful since Hamas threatened them and even hurt some of them to deter the others.

“As long as it isn’t clear that Hamas doesn’t rule Gaza military, no one will be willing to take on the civilian management of Gaza out of fear for their wellbeing,” Netanyahu explained amid criticism on the fact that he has yet to hold discussions on post-war plans.

“Therefore the talk about the ‘day after,’ when Hamas is still intact, will remain just talk – empty of substance.  In contrast with what’s being claimed, for months we’ve been dealing with various attempts to find a solution for the complex problem.  Some of the attempts are secret and it’s good they are.  This is part of the objectives that we set for the war, and we are determined to achieve them,” he added.

“In any case, there is no alternative for military victory,” Netanyahu emphasized and clarified that “the attempt to bypass it with one claim or another is just cut off from reality. There is one alternative to victory: defeat,  Military and diplomatic defeat, national defeat.  My government will not agree to this.”

In addition, he mentioned the decision that was passed by the government on Wednesday (15th).  “Today the government opposed the UN decision from last week to promote recognition of a Palestinian state.  We will not give any reward for the terrible massacre of October 7th, which 80% of Palestinians, both in Judea and Samaria and in Gaza support.  We will not allow them to establish a terrorist state from which they can attack us even more fiercely.”

He added: “No one will prevent us, Israel, from exercising our basic right to defend ourselves – not the UN General Assembly and not any other entity.  We will stand together with our heads held high to protect our country.”



Israeli Ambassador Denounces The UN As A Terrorist Organization

The United Nations has become compromised by its sub-organizations that provide critical support to terror, Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan told Hebrew-language media on Wednesday morning (15th).

Speaking to Army Radio, Erdan charged that “the UN, since Israel withdrew from Gaza, has essentially become a collaborator with Hamas, and more than that, has become a terrorist entity of its own.”

When asked to elaborate on his remarks, Erdan clarified that he believed frequent and disproportionate targeting of Israel for alleged human rights violations in the forum underscored that the UN’s agenda is in line with that of the enemies of the Jewish state.

Erdan also noted that employees of the UNRWA office in Gaza, which is a UN-funded agency that was created to provide humanitarian aid, participated in the October 7 terror onslaught.

Despite clear evidence of UNRWA workers, who are technically on the UN payroll, kidnapping women and dead bodies – sometimes while using official UN vehicles – the UN has refused to disband the organization.

On Tuesday evening (14th), Erdan announced that he had successfully lobbied the UN to hold its first-ever discussion aimed at freeing the Israeli hostages in Gaza, who have been held captive for more than seven months.

“Following our relentless diplomatic effort, the Security Council will finally convene on Thursday (16th) … for a meeting focused solely on the situation of our hostages and ways to exert pressure for their release,” Erdan wrote on his X account.

“The Council will have to look into the eyes of Dr. Shoshan Haran, who was freed while her son-in-law Tal Shoham is still being held by the Hamas terrorists, will have to listen to Ayelet, the mother of the late Jonathan Samerano whose body was kidnapped by UNRWA workers,” he continued.

“The Council must realize that Israel will not stop until all the hostages are released and that the address for applying pressure is ONLY the terrorist organization Hamas!”



Jordan Thwarts Iranian Plan To Smuggle Weapons Into Kingdom

Amman thwarted a suspected Iran-led plot to smuggle weapons into Jordan to carry out acts of sabotage and undermine the ruling Hashemite dynasty, Reuters reported on Wednesday (15th), citing two sources familiar with the matter.

The arms were transferred from Iran-backed militias in Syria to a cell of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan with links to the Hamas terror group in Gaza, the Palestinian offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood currently engaged in a war with Israel following its cross-border invasion on Oct. 7.

Members of the terrorist squad–Jordanians of Palestinian descent–were arrested in late March and the cache was confiscated, the sources said.

Tehran has been trying to flood Judea and Samaria with weapons via Jordan to be used in terrorist attacks against Israelis in recent years, but this marks the first confirmed instance where the target is the kingdom itself.

The plot underscores rising concerns in Amman over efforts to destabilize the reigning dynasty led by King Abdullah II amid anger on the street over ties with Israel.

An estimated 70% of Jordan’s 12 million citizens are Palestinian.  Since the October 7 attack and during the ensuing war against Hamas in Gaza, there has been a surge in protests and riots outside the Israeli embassy in Amman.

However, regional observers told JNS that despite the report, the Al-Maquar compound in the capital is not in imminent danger of falling into Islamist hands, as the ruling family is aware of these threats and is taking action.  But it does serve as a warning to Amman.

“The revelation of an Iranian-led plot to smuggle weapons to Islamist groups in Jordan is deeply concerning but not entirely surprising,” Dr. Ofir Winter, a senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) at Tel Aviv University, told JNS.

“KIng Abdullah II has long been aware of the sectarian tensions in the Middle East and has previously warned about Iran’s aggressive actions,” Winters continued, noting Abdullah’s comments dating as far back as 2004 that Tehran was attempting to establish a hegemonic “Shia Crescent,” exerting its influence via terrorist proxies in Iran, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.  

Despite its small Shia population of just 2% of the population, the kingdom is vulnerable to Iranian influence as Tehran and its regional proxies “are leveraging Sunni Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas to gain influence,” he said.

Winter continued, “Islamist groups are attempting to capitalize on the ongoing conflict  in Gaza, framing it as an Islamic religious war against Israel, to restore their status in the Arab world, starting with Jordan.

Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood play an outsized role in Jordan and have cultivated a loyal following despite the government shuttering the Hamas offices there in 1999 and outlawing the Muslim Brotherhood in 2016 with the closing of its offices in Amman, the professor noted.

In its 2016 action, Amman transferred ownership to a splinter group called the Muslim Brotherhood Association.  In 2020, Jordan’s top court dissolved the country’s branch of the Muslim Brotherhood .

Surveys demonstrate that the Muslim Brotherhood enjoys widespread support, with more than two-thirds of respondents having a positive view of the Islamiat movement.  At the same time, nearly half of respondents see Iran as a competitor and an enemy.

“This discrepancy underscores the complexity of Jordan’s internal dynamics and the potential for instability.  The kingdom’s pro-American orientation is seen by pro-Iranian and Islamist elements as a key obstacle to their resistance efforts against Israel, given Jordan’s strategic geographic location and its long border with Israel,” Winter said.

Dr. Joshua Krasna, a researcher at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University, said Hezbollah, the Iranian terrorist proxy in Lebanon, has also been a player in attempting to destabilize the Hashemite Kingdom.

“Iran and Hezbollah have been trying to use Jordan as an active front, for attacks on Israeli targets in the kingdom but even more as a conduit for weapons and personnel into the West Bank, for decades,” Krasna, a former Israeli diplomat, told JNS.  “Jordan’s security forces dedicate great efforts to uncovering and preventing these activities: it considers both Iran and Hezbollah as dangerous enemies to its internal security.”

He said he was not surprised that Iranian elements would attempt to exploit the current war to bolster Hamas in Judea and Samaria and to open up a “third front” in Jordan, with part of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan closely affiliated with Hamas.

“I don’t think this revelation reflects particularly on the monarchy and internal stability in general, which has been challenged over the past decade by negative social and economic developments, but does not seem to be in imminent danger,” he said.

Krasna stressed the importance of Amman countering the destabilization efforts.  The Jordanians have worked closely with Israel’s security apparatus over the years, but the relationship between Amman and Jerusalem has been severely tested by the current war in Gaza.

Winter said, “Jordan must continue to bolster its security measures and seek regional and international support to counter these destabilizing activities.”