News Digest — 5/17/24

Israeli Defense Minister Says Rafah Operation ‘Will Intensify’ With Deployment Of More Troops

Despite US warnings about avoiding a full invasion, Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced that additional troops would be deployed in Rafah in an effort to destroy the final Hamas stronghold in Gaza.

In a statement released by Gallant’s office on Thursday (18th), he wrote, ”This operation will continue with additional forces that will enter [the area],”

“Several tunnels in the area have been destroyed by our forces, and more tunnels will be destroyed soon,” Gallant said in remarks provided by his office.

Overnight on Wednesday (15rh), the IDF deployed the Commando Brigade to Rafah, joining the 162nd Division’s Givati and 401st brigades which have been there since earlier this month.

Gallant added, “This operation will intensify, and Hamas is not an organization that can regenerate itself now.”

He continued, “It has no reserves, it has no ability to manufacture weapons, it has no supplies, it has no munitions, it has no ability to properly treat terrorists who are injured, and this means that we are wearing it down.”

Recently Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that 500,000 civilians had been evacuated from Rafah in preparation for the IDF operations.

Currently, the IDF has been engaged in targeted strikes against specific terror targets in the region rather than a full-scale invasion.

However despite warnings, the US sent $1 billion in military aid earlier this week, and said it would delay the shipment of thousand pound bombs to discourage Israel from carrying out intensive activities in the region.

In addition to the goal of eliminating Hamas’ infrastructure, another objective in the Rafah operation is to put military pressure on Hamas to free the remaining 132 hostages, particularly after the terror group refused to agree to the terms of the most recent hostage deal negotiated in Qatar. 



Early Morning Barrage In North: UAVs Fired From Lebanon Toward Nahariya

A series of sirens warning of the infiltration of hostile aircraft and of rocket fire were heard in Nahariya and the surrounding area early Friday morning (17th).

Subsequently, the Home Front Command announced later that the incidents were over.

The IDF confirmed that a number of UAVs infiltrated from Lebanon into the Western Galilee.  One of them was intercepted over the sea, and another UAV exploded in the Ga’aton area. No injuries were reported.

On Thursday (16th), an IAF aircraft, in a targeted strike in the area of Qana, eliminated a terrorist cell on its way to carry out an immediate terror attack on Israeli territory.

Throughout the day Thursday (16th), IAF fighter jets struck and destroyed a series of Hezbollah terror targets in Lebanese territory, including military structures and observation posts in several areas, and two military structures in which terrorists were operating in the areas of Houla and Naqoura.



Gilad Erdan: “UN Still Has Not Criticized Hamas For Oct. 7 Attack Or Kidnapping Israelis”

Israeli’s Ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, on Thursday (16th) criticized the UN for its failure to condemn Hamas for its October 7 attack on Israel and for its kidnapping of Israelis.

Speaking at a UN Security Council discussion which, for the first time, focused on the hostages being held by Hamas in Gaza, Erdan noted that “our hostages have been held in Gaza for 223 days, and this is the first meeting being held  by any UN body to focus on their suffering and ways to release them.”

“In the past 32 weeks since October 7, the Security Council and the UN have done practically nothing to secure the release of the hostages.  It is heartbreaking and amoral,” he added.

“Our hostages are enduring beatings, torture and  rape.  Those in need of medication are being deprived.  Those suffering from mental illness are languishing,” continued Erdan.

“Israel has done everything possible to get medication to the hostages in need – through the Red Cross and other mediators – but to this day, there has not even been any confirmation that they reached the hostages.  Not a word.”

While he acknowledged the importance of issuing calls to release the hostages, Erdan also pointed out that such calls do not have any real impact on Hamas.

“The hostages are the most urgent and critical humanitarian issue that the Council must focus on.  The reason the war started was not because of the humanitarian situation in Gaza.  There was a ceasefire on October 6th.  The reason this war started was because Hamas took our loved ones hostage and refused to release them!  Kidnapping the hostages was why this war began and the hostages are why the war continues!” he pointed out.

“If the Council truly wants this war to end, then bringing the hostages home should be the top priority!” Erdan said.  “How do you think the Israeli people feel when they see the dozens of UN meetings held only on the humanitarian situation in Gaza, and not even one meeting, formally, dedicated to securing the release of the hostages?”

“Until today, the inaction of the UN has been outrageous, but its true effect will be felt in the years to come.  It has become clear to all that taking innocent hostages as a weapon in the hands of terrorists bears no consequences from the international community,” he continued, warning, “This inaction may lead to a catastrophic precedent that will incentivize entities to kidnap civilians.”

He pointed out that Palestinian Arab Terrorist groups have inspired other groups in the past, noting, “Plane hijackings were first carried out by Palestinian terrorists and then became a global phenomenon.  The same can be said of the targeting of night clubs and revelers.  They were first carried out against Israelis by Palestinians before being adopted by other terrorists.  We all remember the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, the Reina massacre in Istanbul, and the attack at the Bataclan Theater in Paris, and lately the attack against Crocus City Hall in Moscow among many others.”

“Taking civilians hostage is now being tested on Israelis, but soon it will be the modus operandi of terrorists everywhere,” Erdan warned.

Kfir Bibas was taken hostage at 9 months old.  His brother Ariel was taken at 4-years-old.  Shlomo Mantzur, an 86-year-old, was dragged to Gaza.  They are all still there.  Take a moment to think about this.  It’s truly unfathomable.  Babies and grandparents are rotting in terror tunnels!  How can you call for a ceasefire before you’ve done everything possible to bring the innocents home?”

Erdan called for the UN to take action by designating Hamas as a terror organization, holding formal weekly meetings focused on ensuring the release of the hostages and passing resolutions condemning Hamas and demanding that the International Red Cross visit those in captivity.

“The Security Council passed Resolution 2474, mandating that all nations share the responsibility to return missing persons in armed conflict.  The Council should abide by its own resolution and take steps to implement it.  There is no humanitarian issue more severe!  Please, enforce your own words and take action against Hamas leadership and those who aid them! He added”

“If the spotlight is finally shined on the suffering of the hostages, if concrete action is taken, then a clear message will be sent to terrorists worldwide that: taking civilians hostage will never be tolerated.”

He added that the pressure on Hamas must come, not only from Israel, but also from the Security Council, noting, “As long as Hamas knows that the international community is only pressuring Israel, this will only embolden Hamas.  I urge you to uphold your mandate.  Make the hostages your prime focus, take concrete action against Hamas, and stand in support of Israel as we defend our future.”



Just How Many Of Gaza’s Civilians Are Entirely “Innocent?” – Alan Dershowitz and Andrew Stein

Gaza’s adult “civilians” include those who wear civilian clothing and work in civilian jobs by day but fire rockets by night.  There are also those who aren’t part of Hamas but took part in the terrorism of Oct. 7.  There are those who harbor and directly assist terrorists in their murderous activities, as well as those that help them hide hostages.

They include the thousands who built the terror tunnels, and those who allow their homes, hospitals, schools and mosques to be used to store rockets and ammunition, or to accommodate entrances and exits to the tunnels.  Finally, there are those who brought Hamas to power and who keep them there.

The truth is that no country in modern history has made more efforts, and has been more successful, in avoiding civilian casualties than Israel.  Yet, no nation in modern history has been condemned so irrationally for civilian deaths – which are largely the fault of those who started the war.  There is no moral, political, diplomatic or legal equivalence between terrorists who deliberately murder and rape, and democracies that seek to protect their citizens and take precautions to reduce civilian deaths.

Alan Dershowitz is  professor of Law, Emeritus at Harvard Law School.  Andrew Stein served as New York City Council president. (New York Post)



What A “Free Palestine” Means In Practice – Bret Stephens

Imagine that the campus protesters got their wish tomorrow: The creation of a “Free Palestine.”  Israeli leaders have repeatedly offered the creation of a Palestinian state – offers Arafat and Abbas rejected.  Palestinians have had a measure of self-rule in the West Bank since 1994.  Israel evacuated its civilians and soldiers from Gaza in 2005.  How much freedom have Palestinians enjoyed since then?

When Abbas was elected in 2005, it was for a four-year term.  He is now in the 20th year of his four-year term.  When Hamas won the 2006 legislative elections, it didn’t just defeat its political rivals in Fatah.  It overthrew the Palestinian Authority completely in Gaza after a brief civil war and followed it up with a killing, torture and terror spree that eliminated all political opposition.

Would an independent Palestinian state, living alongside Israel, improve its internal governance?  Not if Hamas took control – which it almost certainly would if it isn’t utterly defeated in the current war.  What the campus protesters happily envisaged as a utopian, post-Zionist state, would under Hamas be one in which Jews were killed, exiled, and prosecuted. (New York Times)



US Teachers Share Hitler’s Baby Picture, Ask Students To Rate Him As A ‘Solution Seeker’

Recently, US teachers putting a positive spin on Hitler during their social studies classes has troubled students and teachers particularly against the backdrop of anti-Semitism in America.

In Darien, Connecticut, a veteran middle school social studies teacher shared a baby picture of Hitler and called it “cute.”

In addition, he asked students to draw a swastika on their notebooks and list the positive things Hitler did for Germany.

The incident, which occurred in public Middlesex Middle School, is being probed by the administration and the teacher has been suspended.

“Maintaining a safe school environment free from anti-Semitism and other forms of hate is our top priority in the Darien Public Schools,” Superintendent Alan Addley wrote in an email to parents.

The incident is currently under investigation and, although he wouldn’t mention additional details, Addley said “the allegations are serious.”

Diane Sloyer, CEO of the United Jewish Federation of Stamford, Connecticut said, ”If this teacher did, in fact, do what has been said, I think that anybody who understands history would find it appalling and call for his immediate dismissal from the school system.”  

“So we’re watching closely, and I am confident that Darien schools will do the right thing,” she said.

Similarly, in a private school outside of Atlanta, a teacher was criticized after asking students to describe Hitler as a “solution seeker” and “ethical decision maker.”

Eighth grade students at the Mount Vernon School in Atlanta were asked to rate Hitler as a leader with questions such as: “According to the Mount Vernon Mindset Rubric, how would you rate Adolf Hitler as a “solution seeker?’  Second Question:  How would you “rate Hitler as a decision-maker?”

Many students and parents were troubled by the questions.

One student commented ,”Obviously, this is horrible in the current context…but Mount Vernon does odd things around here….it doesn’t always work to think outside the box….”

A request for comment to the Mount Vernon Middle School was not immediately returned.  A local TV station reported that parents expressed “outrage” and believed the assignment was anti-Semitic.  School officials have removed the assignment from the curriculum  and said in a statement that they “wholeheartedly denounce” anti-Semitism, the station reported.

Kristy Lundstrum, head of the school said, in a statement: “In this very heavy time, when our Jewish students and families have the added stress of world events, we want to be clear that the Mount Vernon School wholeheartedly denounces anti-Semitism.”