News Digest — 6/19/24

Foreign Minister : ‘Hezbollah Will Be Destroyed In A Full-Scale War’

Foreign Minister Israel Katz warned on Tuesday (18th) that the Hezbollah terrorist organization would be destroyed in a war with Israel after a Hezbollah drone filmed sensitive sites in the Haifa area.

“Nasrallah boasted today (Tuesday) about filming the ports of Haifa, operated by international companies from China and India, and threatened to attack them,” Katz said.

“We are very close to the ‘moment of decision’ to change the rules against Hezbollah and Lebanon.  In an all-out war, Hezbollah will be destroyed and Lebanon will be severely hit,” he said.

“The State of Israel will pay a price on the front and home fronts, but with a strong and united nation, and the full power of the IDF, we will restore security to the residents of the north,” the Foreign Minister said.

Earlier Tuesday (18th), the Lebanese Al Mayadeen network published a nine-minute video taken by one of the Hezbollah terrorist organization’s new ‘Hoopoe’ drones.  The UAV penetrated deep into Israeli territory and filmed its flyover of the port of Haifa.

The UAV filmed multiple sensitive sites, including chemical storage sites, oil storage sites, and the entire port.

Hezbollah has escalated its attacks on northern Israel in recent weeks.  Multiple large-scale fires have been started in the north by Hezbollah attacks.



Strengthening Israel’s Security: Mobile Bomb Shelters To Be Installed In the North

As clashes between Israel and Hezbollah in the north escalate, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ) is actively assessing and addressing the needs of the 60,000 displaced civilians who have been living in hotels and shelters across the country for the past eight months.

Since October 7, IFCJ has focused on supplying vulnerable communities with emergency equipment and coordinating with municipalities, welfare agencies, and the local security system to maximize protection and preparations for crises, focusing on northern and southern border communities.

The organization has committed to implementing an additional 50 mobile bomb shelters in northern Israel in the coming weeks, along with 123 that were authorized in recent weeks and are in the last phases of implementation.

The northern town of Kiryat Shmona which is 1.2 miles from the Lebanon border, has been targeted multiple times a day, with 80% of its 23,000 residents evacuated.  IFCJ also plans to install 32 shelters in the industrial area of Kiryat Shmona, which is not evacuated like the rest of the town.

According to Safwan Marich, Director of the Safety and Emergency Response Division for the IFCJ, the threat of a northern front opening up as military attention remains focused on Gaza poses a critical threat to Israel’s defense in ways that have the potential to endanger hundreds of communities across Israel’s northern border.

“With Hezbollah and other Iranian proxies located on our northern borders, we are facing an enemy that possesses the technological means to make this threat much more frightening and in need of a comprehensive response.”

“Perhaps the greatest lesson that we have learned from the last eight months is that we don’t have the luxury to not be prepared for the worst,” said Yael Eckstein, President of the IFCJ.

“While we have the greatest appreciation for the heroic bravery of Israel’s military, which we know will ultimately be victorious, the current threats mean that our Homefront needs to be equipped and ready for the possibility of sustained and devastating attacks.  With the love and commitment of our hundreds of thousands of supporters around the world, the IFCJ is steadfast in continuing to provide the practical support and needs for the safety of the people of Israel at this most critical time.”



Nearly 13,000 Acres In Northern Israel Burned By Hezbollah Rockets

Northern Israel is just as much of a battlefield as the south was after October 7, as skirmishes with Hezbollah intensify; trees, agricultural lands and especially wildlife all end up paying the price; ‘Restoration will take years.’

Since the beginning of the year, more than 12,800 acres of nature reserves and natural areas have been scorched in the Golan Heights and Upper Galilee due to rocket and missile fire from Hezbollah into northern Israel.  A significant portion of these fires erupted in the last two weeks.

According to data from the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, the areas that have suffered the most extensive damage so far are in the Upper Galilee (approximately 7,400 acres) and the Golan Heights (approximately 5,500 acres).  About half of the burned area is within nature reserves and national parks, while the other half consists of open spaces and forests.

In the Upper Galilee, a total of 7,345 acres have burned (including 2,900 acres of Nature and Parks Authority lands).  In the Golan Heights, 5,590 acres have been torched.  By comparison, in 2018, when Palestinians in Gaza launched incendiary kites and balloons toward the border area, 3,212 acres of reserves and national parks burned, based on the authority’s data.  This contrasts with 5,930 acres of reserves and national parks that have burned in northern Israel since the beginning of 2024.

Amit Dolev, an ecologist from the Northern District at the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, said it is unclear what the lasting effects of the fires will be.  We still don’t know the long-term consequences.  The vegetation will usually regenerate by next year.  Many trees regenerate after a fire, but some like cypress and pine, do not.  Due to the intense and widespread fighting we are experiencing today, we can’t reach most places – the extent of the fires is large,” he said.

“Small wildlife, such as reptiles, do not survive the fires.  Larger wildlife, such as wild boars, can escape,” said Dolev.  “Surely all wildlife has less food available.  Tabor oaks will usually manage to regenerate, even if they experience a large fire, but it will take them many years to reach their former state.”

”Thousands of acres have burned.  We know that some areas burned with intense fire and others less so,” said Eran Heims, director of the Upper Galilee regional Israel Nature and Parks Authority.  “Ultimately, every area that burns also destroys the habitat of wildlife and vegetation.  We try to reach the fire center as quickly as possible as soon as it starts, but it is important to understand that our work is carried out in areas where rockets are falling.”



Why Israel Will Never Back Down – Josh Feldman

Hamas terrorists murdered 61 of the 950 residents of Kibbutz Kfar Aza and kidnapped 19.  Kfar Aza is just 60 miles from the center of Israel.  The implications of this fact seem to be lost on those in the West who are bewildered by Israel’s refusal to end its war against Hamas.

Israel’s founders understood that Jewish powerlessness was no longer viable.  After nearly 2,000 years of exile and persecution, Israel promised to radically alter the Jewish condition: Jews could not defend themselves; they would determine their own destiny.

As Israeli philosopher Micah Goodman has written, the horrors of the Oct. 7 massacre awakened Israelis  to “the fragility of Israel’s existence.”  While much of the world has moved on from the deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust,  Israelis have not.  When, post-Oct. 7 Israelis describe Hamas as an intolerable threat, they mean it.  Israelis understand that their ability to defeat Hamas will determine whether or not Israel has a future in the region.

The Jewish state can secure its existence in the Middle East only if the forces that wish to destroy it are deterred.  But if Israel loses the war in Gaza, Goodman explained, “the Middle East loses its fear” of Israel.  In other words, “if there is no victory, there is no survival.”  And no amount of international pressure or outrage can convince Israelis to sacrifice their very existence.

If Israelis feel they are being forced to choose between international opprobrium and death, they’ll choose the former without thinking twice.  Perhaps more than any other nation, Israelis understand that nobody else can be trusted to secure the Jewish State’s existence.  Israelis have learned to believe their enemies’ threats,  and not to rely on their friends’ promises.

In 2004, U.S. President George W. Bush promised Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that should Israel pullout of Gaza, “the United States will lead efforts…[to] prevent the areas from which Israel has withdrawn, from posing a threat.”  That promise was not kept.  (The Hill)



It’s Time To Start Using The Term “Palestinian Civilian” Correctly – Arsen Ostrovsky and John Spencer

The four Israeli hostages rescued from Gaza last week were held captive by Palestinian civilians in their home in central Gaza – including a journalist with bylines in Al Jazeera and his physician father.  This is a perfect opportunity for a long-overdue conversation about the use of the phrase “Palestinian civilian.”

Let’s get something straight from the outset: When you take hostages, you risk death.  The moral and legal responsibility for any casualties resulting from the operation to free the hostages rests fully with Hamas and those holding hostages captive.

If you are a journalist or physician holding hostages, you are no longer a “civilian.”  The Geneva Convention makes it unequivocally clear that civilians lose that protection when they take direct part in the hostilities.  In other words, when you hold hostages captive, you become a legitimate military target.

Lawmakers, journalists and diplomats are blindly accepting reported casualty figures from the Gaza Health Ministry, which is no more than a propaganda arm of Hamas.  A group that murders, massacres, rapes, beheads, and abducts people, and has a relentless history of fabricating stories, inflating casualties, and using their own civilians as human shields, is not exactly the world’s most trustworthy source.

As long as the press and world leaders continue to push false narratives and unsubstantiated casualty figures, they are only enabling and empowering Hamas and perpetuating the violence and suffering they claim to seek to end.

Arsen Ostrovsky, a human rights attorney, is CEO of the International Legal Forum and senior Fellow at the Misgav Institute for National Security.  John Spencer is chair of urban warfare studies at the Modern War Institute at West Point.  (Newsweek)



Israel Approves Plan To Import 92,000 Foreign Workers

Seeking to address a labor shortage, Israeli officials approved a quota of 92,000 foreign workers to fill jobs in agriculture, industry, hotels and restaurants, the Prime Minister’s Office announced on Tuesday (18th).  This marks the first time Israel has authorized foreign workers for the restaurant industry.

Seventy percent of the quota is specifically set aside for agricultural laborers.  Israeli agriculture is facing staggering losses in production and manpower.  Before October 7, Israel had 29,000 foreigners, mostly Thais, working in farms, orchards, greenhouses and packing plants.

Israeli workers who might have filled the gaps have been called up for military reserve duty while Palestinian laborers are currently banned as security risks.  Many growing areas are within 1.2 miles of the Lebanese border where farmers have not been able to freely access fields and orchards.

“Despite the challenges of the war, the packing house works around the clock, with the aim of providing fresh Israeli produce continuously, while dealing with the directives of the Home Front Command,” said Asaf Keret, CEO of Beresheet, a fruit-packing business jointly run by several kibbutzim in the Upper Galilee and Golan Heights.

As Keret was addressing a delegation of fruit growers and agricultural officials touring Beresheet’s orchards, he called on the government to boost agriculture with further measures, such as grants for planting, raising larger quotas, and other incentives.

“The fruit growers are at the height of the picking season and are faced with picking under the fire of Hezbollah, and we are prepared to market the produce of the farmers of the Galilee and the Golan to the marketing chains and wholesale companies.  Thanks to our dedicated farmers and workers, I am sure that we will be able to supply the produce to the residents of the State of Israel,” Keret said.

The remaining foreign workers will fill gaps in industry, and hotels, with 2,000 to work for the first time in restaurants.

Since October 7, Hezbollah rocket barrages and drone attacks have killed 10 civilians and 15 soldiers.  Leaders of the Iran-backed terror group have said they will continue the attacks to prevent thousands of residents of northern Israel from returning to their homes.

Israeli officials have been calling for Hezbollah to be disarmed and removed from Southern Lebanon in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1701 which ended the 2006 Second Lebanon War.