News Digest — 6/20/24

Hezbollah’s Nasrallah Threatens Galilee Invasion, Warns Cypress Over Ties With Israel

Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah addressed the war with Israel Wednesday (19th), stating in a speech that “an invasion of the Galilee remains on the table if the confrontation escalates.”

Nasrallah also threatened Cyprus for the first time for allowing Israel to use its airports and bases for military exercises.

Cyprus is not known to have offered any land or base facilities to the Israeli military, but has in the past allowed Israel to use its vast airspace – its flight information region (FIR) – to occasionally conduct air drills, but never during the war.

Nasrallah also claimed that “The enemy hides its losses on the northern front but has not been able to conceal the number of evacuees.  Since the beginning of the war, there has been an attempt to underestimate the support fronts for Gaza.  Forty-two settlements have been completely evacuated.  We are not seeking a full-scale war with Israel.”

Nasrallah referred to senior Hezbollah leader Taleb Abdullah, who was killed last week.  “The loss of Hezbollah leaders strengthens our resolve.  We are determined to continue the campaign against Israel.  Abu Taleb was the first field commander to open the support front for Gaza and the resistance,” he said, adding: “Our front has a very important role.  The battle on the Lebanon front has inflicted significant losses on the enemy.  There are attempts to separate the front in Lebanon from Gaza.”

Meanwhile, IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi and Israeli Air Force Commander Tomer Bar visited the northern border Wednesday (19th) and spoke to the troops.  “The enemy will encounter our capabilities at the right time.  We possess powerful capabilities, of which the enemy knows only a fraction” Halevi said.

“We have been engaged in a prolonged war for over eight months, and you have been engaged in a complex defense over that period of time.  This defense provides a great deal of security to the citizens and the IDF, but we are not content with that.” he added.

“We have many offensive forces in the IDF focused on attacking Hezbollah, so if the fighting continues, it will be on a different scale in the north.”



Syrian Officer Killed In Alleged Israeli Strike; Hezbollah Explosive Drone Hits The North

Syrian state media said that Israeli drones struck military sites in southern Syria, and separately the IDF said it targeted a weapons depot belonging to Hezbollah.

A Syrian military officer was killed in an alleged Israeli airstrike in southern Syria on Wednesday morning (19th), the state-run SANA news agency reported.

Citing a military source, SANA said two Syrian military sites  in Quneitra and Daraa were targeted by Israeli drones.  The strikes also caused “material losses,” the report added.

There was no comment on the strike from the Israel Defense Forces, which has carried out hundreds of strikes inside Syria since the outbreak of that country’s civil war in 2011, mainly targeting attempts to transfer weapons to the Hezbollah terror group, an Iranian proxy, or to keep Iranian fighters themselves from gaining a foothold near Israel’s border.

Alleged Israeli strikes have ramped-up since the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip began on October 7, when the Iran-backed Palestinian terror group Hamas launched a massive cross-border attack on Israel that killed 1,200 people.

Israel responded with a military offensive to destroy Hamas and free the 251 hostages that terrorists kidnapped from Israel during the onslaught and took as hostages to Gaza.

Hezbollah has been exchanging near-daily fire with the Israeli army since the day after the Hamas attack, to show support to Gaza amid the war there.

On Wednesday morning (19th), the IDF said an explosive laden drone launched from Lebanon struck the Metula area in northern Israel.  The drone caused damage to a vehicle in the community, but no injuries.  The military said additional suspected drones were shot down by air defenses over the northern town of Sde Eliezer and over southern Lebanon on Wednesday (19th). 

Exchanges of fire between Hezbollah and Israel continued Wednesday (19th) after IDF generals approved battle plans for an offensive in Lebanon on Tuesday evening (18th).

Israel has warned it can no longer tolerate Hezbollah’s presence along its border, with tens of thousands of Israelis displaced from their homes in the north due to the rocket and drone attacks, and has warned that should a diplomatic solution not be reached it will turn to military action to push Hezbollah northward.

Across the border, Hezbollah has named 348 members who have been killed  by Israel, mostly in Lebanon but some also in Syria.  In Lebanon, another 63 operatives from other terror groups, and a Lebanese soldier have been killed.

The near-daily skirmishes on the border have resulted in 10 civilian deaths on the Israeli side as well as the deaths of 15 IDF soldiers and reservists.



‘Israel’s War With Hamas Is Free World’s Battle Against The Evil Empire’ – Herzog

Israeli President Isaac Herzog met with American lawmakers Wednesday (19th), as part of a visit organized by the pro-Israel lobby group American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

The bipartisan AIPAC House delegation was led by Maryland Democrat Steny Hoyer, and included nine members of Congress.

In announcing the group trip, Hoyer said the visit “comes at a decisive moment for our two nations.”

President Herzog hosted the delegation at the president’s residence in Jerusalem, and spoke with the lawmakers about Israel’s ongoing war against Hamas.

Herzog said the war against the terror group was a battle of “the free world” against an “Empire of Evil,” urging unity for Israel’s efforts to destroy Hamas.

“I say repeatedly, we are utterly grateful to the United States of America for standing with us in this war,” Herzog said.

“And I’m very grateful to the President of the United States for being here at the beginning of the war and sending a clear message on behalf of the American people.  And we also respect tremendously the bipartisan support that crosses all divides and conflicts within American society.”

“We are fighting here the battle of the free world against the Empire of Evil.  That’s why we must stay together.  And if we have anything to discuss, it should be discussed quietly.”

The bipartisan visit comes ahead of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s planned address to a special joint session of Congress later this month.



Hamas Desperate For Manpower Enlists 16-year-olds

Hamas is struggling to fill its ranks with new recruits, after nearly half of its members have been eliminated so far during the Swords of Iron campaign.  The terror group’s control over the territory is deteriorating with local clans seizing control of humanitarian aid distribution.

The number of new Hamas recruits is estimated by Israeli sources at hundreds, Israel Hayom has learned.  Despite efforts to reorganize in various areas of the Gaza Strip where the Israeli military’s intense operation has concluded, Hamas has yet to restore its capabilities from October 7.

The IDF estimates more than 15,000 Hamas operatives have been killed.  However a permanent and complete cessation of IDF activity in the strip would likely allow the terror group to conduct more extensive recruitment over time.  The relatively low number of recruits may indicate the difficulties the organization is facing, especially considering the immense recruitment potential in the Strip.

On the other hand, this may be just the tip of the iceberg.  Yoni Ben Menachem, a senior researcher at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, told Israel Hayom that “most of the recruits are teenagers aged 16 and above, whom Hamas’ military wing is recruiting in exchange for payment.  Being young and enthusiastic, it gives them motivation. This phenomenon has been occurring for more than two months and is very concerning.”  He added that “these youngsters know the terrain well and run fast.”

The recruitment of operatives is taking place as Hamas’ control over the distribution of humanitarian aid appears to be deteriorating.  In recent days, reports from the Strip indicate that criminal gangs from local clans in Khan Yunis and central refugee camps are looting humanitarian aid trucks. Even if some cooperation with Hamas is occurring behind the scenes, this reflects the chaos in the Strip.  Hamas is attempting to instill fear among Gazans through public executions, one of which was documented on Tuesday (18th).

Against this backdrop, Palestinians have been increasingly attacking Hamas in recent weeks.  “Gaza residents feel that Hamas’ leadership lacks a clear vision for achieving stability,” a Palestinian source told Israel Hayom.  “Hamas is facing growing resistance.  The victory that Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh spoke about is divorced from reality.  Israel controls Gaza from north to south, and so far,  there are no indications that Hamas achieved victory; on the contrary, Hamas is worried about the day after this conflict.”  It should be noted that Hamas’ situation varies from one area to another.  In the northern Gaza Strip, for instance, there are no functioning battalions, but local guerilla organizations exist.  Leading them is Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades senior member Ezz Al-Din Al-Haddad, who commanded the now-disbanded Gaza City Battalion.  The situation in KhanYunis and the central camps is more complex for three reasons: First, under the cover of the civilian population, some operatives were evacuated from Rafah and have more freedom of movement; Second, in Deir al-Balah, the IDF has yet to conduct ground maneuvers against Hamas’ battalion in the city; and Third, there are more potential recruits compared to the northern Strip, where only 300,000 people remain.

The snake’s head hasn’t been hit yet  – Yahya Sinwar.  Moreover, other senior Hamas leaders in the Strip have not been eliminated either during the recent maneuver in Khan Yunis.  These include the head of the military wing, Mohammed Deif; and Khan Yunis battalion commander, Rafa Salama.  This means that the IDF needs more time for raids and clearance operations to fully eliminate Hamas.  At this stage, Hamas is still in the “twilight phase” – the transition of the terror group from a military force with absolute rule to a guerilla organization with limited capabilities.



Canada Lists Iran’s IRGC As A Terrorist Group

Canada is listing Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization and could investigate former senior Iranian officials living in the country, a senior cabinet member said on Wednesday (19th).

“Canada will use all possible tools to combat terrorist activities carried out by the IRGC,” Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc told reporters, saying the announcement reflected “very strong and compelling evidence.”

The United States took a similar step in April 2019.

Opposition legislators have long demanded the IRGC be listed as terrorists, but the liberal government had declined saying to do so risked unintended consequences.

Canada already lists the IRGC’s overseas arm, the Quds Force as a terror group.  Ottawa broke off diplomatic relations with Tehran in 2012.

The IRGC, a powerful faction that controls a business empire as well as elite armed and intelligence forces in Iran, has been accused by Western nations of carrying out a global terrorist campaign.  Iran rejects that.

“Current and former senior Iranian government officials who are in Canada may be investigated and removed,” LeBlanc said.  He did not give details on the identities and numbers of people this might include.

Once a group is placed on the terror list, police can charge anyone who financially or materially supports the group, and banks can freeze assets.  In October 2022, Canada said it would ban the IRGC’s top leadership from entering the country and promised more targeted sanctions.



Israel Is Not A Colonial State.  If Anything, It’s The Reverse – Naomi Greenaway

The distorted narrative painting Israel as a country of “colonizers” is a tawdry falsehood.  Given that many Israelis were driven out of surrounding Middle-Eastern countries and many others were survivors of the Holocaust, branding them “colonial” is laughable.

My own grandfather was nine when, in 1935, his parents managed to get him out of Mashhad in Iran – a city where being Jewish was punishable by death.  Following pogroms in Mashhad a century earlier, those who weren’t murdered or didn’t manage to escape were forced to convert to Islam.  At home, his family preserved their identity and traditions.  My grandfather would tell me about their underground synagogues, clandestine matzah baking on Passover, and secret Shabbat observance.

In Baghdad, my husband’s grandfather wasn’t having a great time either.  After Iraqi independence, Jews were no longer allowed to hold public office, their homes were regularly looted. Riots saw them murdered and abducted.  Most of the Jews fled, leaving everything they possessed behind.

If you can spot a colonialist in this story so far, please do stop me.  Some 850,000 Jews were driven out of their homes in Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Tunisia, Iran and Libya.  The Holocaust survivors also don’t fit the colonial bill.  (Telegraph-UK)