News Digest — 6/18/24

Half Of Hamas Terrorists In Rafah Killed

The Israeli Defense Forces has made significant progress in the ongoing operation against Hamas forces in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, with an army spokesman claiming Israel has destroyed about half of Hamas’ fighting forces in the area, with at least 550 gunmen killed thus far.

The IDF’s 162nd Division has been actively engaged in Rafah for over 40 days, as part of the effort to destroy Hamas’ last remaining intact battalions, located in the southern Gaza enclave.

The IDF’s 162nd Division has suffered 22 fatalities thus far during the Rafah operation.

Initially, Israeli forces secured the city’s eastern outskirts and the Egyptian border crossing in early May.  The operation then achieved the capture of Rafah’s Brazil neighborhood approximately a week and a half later.

In the third phase of the offensive, the IDF took control of the entire Egypt-Gaza border known as the Philadelphia Route, and moved into the city’s northwestern Tel Sultan neighborhood.

The IDF confirms at least 550 gunmen have been killed in Rafah, with more terror operatives believed to have been eliminated in strikes against buildings and tunnels.  Additionally, many operatives fled the area as the military offensive commenced.

Prior to the beginning of the IDF operation in Rafah, Hamas had four active battalions in the city,  with two – Yabna, or South Rafah, and East Rafah – being completely destroyed.

Of the two remaining battalions, both Shaboura in the north and Tel Sultan in the west remain intact, but have been badly degraded in terms of combat effectiveness.

Along the Philadelphi corridor, the IDF has discovered hundreds of rockets, including long-range projectiles aimed at central Israel, and over 200 tunnel shafts leading to numerous underground routes.

Israeli forces have identified at least 25 major tunnels reaching the Gaza border, some of which likely extend into Sinai and were used by Hamas for smuggling weapons.  The military is conducting further investigations into these tunnels.

Apart from securing the Philadelphi Route, the IDF has established complete operational control over the Brazil neighborhood and the NPK neighborhood of Rafah, near the Shaboura and Yabna camps, which are known Hamas strongholds.  Troops have killed dozens of gunmen in tunnels within these areas.



IDF Eliminates Key Hezbollah Operative During Lull In Rocket Fire

The last time Hezbollah claimed responsibility for any attack on Israel was on Saturday (15th) around 2 pm, when it claimed to have hit a military base on the border with a swarm of drones.  The IDF, for its part, has not stopped its rocket fire, and on Monday (17th) Hezbollah announced that another operative had been eliminated, Muhammad Mustafa Ayoub, from the town of Selaa in southern Lebanon.

Hours after the assassination, the IDF published documentation of the attack on Ayoub, who is described as “a key operative in the Rocket and Missile Department of Hezbollah’s Nasser Unit.”

Over the last few months, Ayoub was involved in promoting terror attacks against Israeli civilians and communities; he promoted and planned terror attacks from southern Lebanon against the State of Israel, according to the IDF.

“His elimination is part of the IDF and Israeli security forces’ activity to impede Hezbollah’s military build-up in terms of weaponry and its stockpiling of weapons designated for use in terror attacks against Israeli civilians and communities,” the IDF said in a statement.

Hezbollah has pledged to continue fighting in the north as long as the IDF continues its operation in the Gaza Strip, so the lull in attacks in recent days is unusual.  A possible reason for the current quiet is the Eid al-Adha holiday, or the Feast of Sacrifice, which includes mass prayers by the residents of southern Lebanon.  The cessation of Hezbollah’s attacks allowed some of the residents to return to their homes, assuming that the IDF will not attack as strongly as in recent days, as long as the terrorist organization does not return fire.  In this way, the Lebanese also receive a certain respite from the severe escalation of fighting in recent weeks, which Hezbollah actually forced upon them.

On Sunday (16th), in an unusual statement to the English media, IDF Spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari warned the international community that Hezbollah is bringing Israel to “the brink of what could be a wider escalation – one that could have devastating consequences for Lebanon and the region.”  He emphasized that “Hezbollah is endangering the future of Lebanon, so that it can be a shield for Hamas – the Hamas terrorists who murdered the elderly, raped women, burned children and kidnapped Jews, Muslims and Christians, during their massacre on October 7.”



Countering Iranian Arms Smuggling With Civilian Security Squads

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant visited the Gilboa and Emek HaMaayanot regional councils on Monday (17th), to conduct a situation assessment with IDF officials and council leaders on strengthening security in the towns against various threats with an emphasis on shooting from the Jenin area.

Gallant met with Gilboa governor Danny Atar and Emek Hamaayanot governor Itamar Matias, and emphasized the importance of cooperation between local authorities and the IDF.

At the end of the tour Gallant updated the council leaders that the Ministry of Defense would contribute to local security by purchasing drones, arming the civilian security squads with advanced weapons, establishing rapid response teams, and repairing the fences and security routes.

While on the tour, he said: “In Gilboa, Emek Hamaayanot, and the Ta’anachim, we are preparing against any threat.  On one hand we operate in a focused manner in Jenin, in the refugee camps, and everywhere to thwart terrorism.  On the other hand we are reinforcing the civilian security squads and rapid response teams, and establishing for them the most advanced weapons and best training, including departmental firearms, drones, and all equipment required to operate in the area and ensure an immediate response until the arrival of the IDF forces.”

He added: “In the face of the Iranian effort to smuggle weapons and ammunition from the east towards Jenin, we are doing everything we can to stop it, and I commend the security forces who are making the necessary effort and also achieving good results.”



For 3rd Consecutive Year, Israel Sets New Defense Exports Record: Over $13 Billion In 2023

The Director General of the Israeli Ministry of Defense, Maj. Gen. (Res) Eyal Zamir, and the Director of the IMOD International Defense Cooperation Directorate (SIBAT), Brig. Gen. (Res.) Yair Kulas announced on Monday (17th) that Israeli defense exports for 2023 hit a record $13.073 billion.

Israel again reached an all-time peak in defense exports in 2023, marking the third consecutive record-breaking year in the scope of defense agreements.  Throughout the year, Israel’s various defense industries signed hundreds of significant defense contracts worldwide with the help and support of the Israel Ministry of Defense, including deals amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars.

In recent years, the Israel Ministry of Defense has defined defense exports as a central priority.  The Ministry of Defense led a national effort to strengthen security-strategic relations worldwide, expand defense exports to new markets, remove bureaucratic barriers, and reduce regulations, following Defense Export Control Agency (DECA) regulations and international conventions.

This year concluded on a remarkably high note with record-breaking export deals, underscoring the steadfast commitment of the Israel defense industry to international clients.  Notably, the export of missile and rocket air defense systems reached a significant milestone, accounting for 36% of the total deal volume, up from 19% in 2022.

Director General of the Israel Ministry of Defense Maj. Gen. Eyal Zamir commented on the record: “The remarkable achievements of the Israeli defense industries have doubled defense exports within five years.  Nations worldwide are recognizing the success of Israeli defense systems, especially in air defense, appreciating their crucial role in safeguarding citizens.  Since the onset of the war, the Ministry of Defense has invested tens of billions of dollars in domestic procurement.  This strategic approach is expected to further boost our global defense export.”

Director of SIBAT, Brig. Gen. Yair Kulas added: “This year marks the third consecutive year that Israel’s defense exports have set new records, with significant expansion of production lines to meet rising global demand from defense ministries and military forces worldwide.  These achievements showcase our industry’s capabilities and the effectiveness of our technological and operational advancements in air, sea, and land.”

Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant stated: “Israel continues succeeding in its international cooperation and industrial defense exports even during a year marked by war.  This is a reflection of the capabilities and creativity of our industries and our people.  While our industries are primarily focused on providing the defense establishment with the capabilities to support our troops, and defend our citizens, they are also continuing to pursue areas of cooperation and exports to international partners.”



Major F-15 Deal With Israel Gets Green Light After Congressional Holdout

Two influential Democratic lawmakers in the House and Senate have signed off on a major arms sale to Israel, paving the way for the transfer of 50 F-15 fighter jets worth more than $18 billion, along with air-to-air missiles and precision-guided munitions, according to The Washington Post’s reporting, citing three US officials familiar with the matter.

The decision by Representative Gregory Meeks (NY)  the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Senator Ben Cardin (MD), the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, came after months of intense pressure and pro-Israel advocates.

Initially Meeks had publicly vowed to block the arms package unless he received assurance from the administration about how the warplanes and munitions would be used in Gaza, and of the protection of civilians.

“I don’t want Israel’s weapons to be utilized to have more deaths,” Meeks said to CNN in April, “and I want to be sure humanitarian aid gets in.”  He added that he also wanted a two-state solution.

After months of holding up the arms sale, Meeks and Cardin signed off on the transaction a few weeks ago, according to US officials cited by The Washington Post who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss arms transfers.

A spokesman for Cardin said the sale went through the “regular review processes.”  “Any issues or concerns Chair Cardin had were addressed through our ongoing consultations with the administration and that’s why he felt it appropriate to allow this case to move forward,” Eric Harris, the communications director for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was quoted by the Post.

The decision underscores the substantial appetite in Washington to continue the flow of arms to Israel, despite concerns from some members of Congress that the United States should use its leverage to pressure Israel to reduce the intensity of the war and allow more humanitarian aid into Gaza.

If ultimately approved, the transaction would be one of the largest arms sales to Israel since the conflict began.  The weaponry, often paid over many years, is partly financed by the $3.3 billion in funds Washington provides to Israel every year, according to The Washington Post.



Miami Mayor, Federal Judge Help Clean Up Anti-Semitic Graffiti

A Jewish-owned bagel shop in Miami was defaced over the weekend with anti-Israel graffiti.

According to NBC6South Florida, Holy Bagels on Northwest 1st Street was sprayed with the words “Free Palestine” and “Stop Genocide.”  In addition, the suspect, who was caught on surveillance camera, tore down a “Stand With Israel” banner that was displayed in front of the store.

Josh Nodel, the owner of the shop, told the local station that he was devastated by the attack.  “We’ve been targeted because of hate, because they know we are Jewish, we are supporters of Israel,” he added.

In the face of the hateful act, Nodel received some strong support from none other than Miami Mayor Francis Suarez and Federal Judge Roy Altman, who came to help clean up the vandalism.

“My grandparents went through the 1940s in Europe, and this is how it started, spray-painting Jewish businesses…we will not allow anti-Semites to silence us here, to convince us that the West is broken or bad,” Judge Altman told NBC6.

“I think this is meant to scare people, to try to give the impression that we don’t control our city, that our city can be overrun by acts of illegality and hate and that’s not acceptable to us,” Mayor Suarez added.