News Digest — 7/3/23

IDF Launches Large-Scale Operation In Jenin, 7 Suspected Terrorists Killed

The IDF on Sunday night (2nd) launched its largest operation in Jenin since the Second Intifada with a series of more than ten airstrikes and moving brigade-forces into the northern West Bank Palestinian city.

IDF Chief Spokesman Brig-Gen. Daniel Hagari said early Monday (3rd) that, as of now, the operation is focused on Jenin, but that it could expand to other parts of the northern West Bank, known as Samaria.

There were no indications that the IDF would expand the operation to the central and southern portions of the area.

So far, at least 7 suspected Palestinians are dead and dozens wounded.

One IDF soldier was slightly wounded by shrapnel during the operation and was taken to the hospital for medical treatment.

The goal is to root out the terror apparatus in Jenin.

Hagari refused to set a timeline for the operation, but the impression was that it would last a minimum of several days, and could easily last weeks or longer, but would not be open-ended and would not lead to the IDF trying to permanently hold territory in any way.

Soldiers located and confiscated an improvised rocket launcher and other weapons, and destroyed a laboratory for the production and storage of explosives, according to an IDF statement.

The IDF was careful not to attack any Palestinian Authority security forces and Hagari specifically said that the operation is against local Jenin terror groups and not the PA.

For more than half a year, Jenin has, in any case, been beyond the control of the PA.

Hagari would not identify which terror groups, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Lions’ Den. the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine or others, have been struck so far, saying it was too early to know.

According to Hagari, the strategy of the operation was to root out a deep and systematically developed terror apparatus in Jenin, which has grown over several months and has gone way out of control.  He said that over 50 terror attacks had emanated from Jenin and over 19 terrorists had fled there to escape after carrying out attacks.

Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad have each transferred millions of shekels to their cells in Jenin during 2023.

The IDF estimates that 25% of Jenin residents identify with Islamic Jihad and 20% with Hamas.  Of the 49,000 Palestinians living in Jenin, about 18,000 live in the Jenin ‘refugee camp’ which has been at the heart of the conflict since March 2022, but even more in 2023.

So far, IDF forces are not going house-to-house and have only taken up positions in portions of Jenin.  The IDF also has not yet used tanks in Jenin, though it could in the future if fighting gets out of hand.

Hagari was adamant that the operation had no name because it is not a full-scale operation, and would not lead to a war, therefore did not receive or need cabinet approval.

However, at the same time, the home front was on high alert should Gaza, Hezbollah or other groups attempt to intervene or attack Israel.

The IDF chief spokesman said that the operation was approved 10 days ago, but that the IDF had waited for local holidays to end as well as improved weather conditions.

Israel warned the US a week ago that it would soon act decisively against the terror in Jenin, without giving exact details of the operation, Kan reported.

The IDF stated that it was conducting an “extensive counterterrorism effort throughout the city and in the ‘refugee camp.’  Among the targeted strikes was a joint headquarters used by the Palestinian factions in Jenin as an observation post, a gathering place for armed terrorists, a storage site for weapons and explosives, and a contact and communication center for operatives, according to a joint statement by the IDF and Shin Bet.

The headquarters was also used to shelter terrorists on the run.

Jenin has become a “sanctuary city” for terrorist operatives, and the intelligence that has been accumulated has indicated that there is an effort by Iran and its proxies, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, to transfer a lot of money and weapons to terrorists,” Israeli National Security Advisor Tzachi Hanegbi stated on Monday morning (3rd).

“The IDF and the security forces are now working to attack terrorist operatives, explosives laboratories and rocket manufacturing centers, based on high-quality and accurate intelligence, and with the aim of avoiding harming those not involved as much as possible.  Troops from the commando brigade, paratroopers and Golani are taking part in the operation,” Hanegbi added.

The heads of the biggest opposition parties expressed their support for the operation on Monday morning (3rd).  “I strengthen the security forces operating in Jenin at the moment.  We are all behind you,” Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid wrote on Twitter.

“We are all one front against terrorism.  Any determined and responsible action by the government will receive full backing,” National Unity party chairman and former Defense Minister Benny Gantz stated.

This past month, the IDF used helicopter and drone strikes against terrorists for the first time since 2006 in order to rescue ambushed soldiers and in order to strike terrorists who were escaping a shooting attack in real time.

Residents of Jenin received messages reportedly from the IDF at the outset of the operation, which read: “Security forces are operating in the area against the militants.  Stay at home and protect your families.”

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement expressed outrage at the strikes in Jenin, stating “The aggression against Jenin will not achieve its goals, and we will keep Jenin as an example of steadfastness.”

“Jenin will not surrender and our fighters are determined to confront and fight no matter the sacrifices.”  The Zionist enemy bears full responsibility for all the consequences of this aggression.  The resistance will confront the enemy and will defend the Palestinian people, and all options are open to strike the enemy in response to its aggression in Jenin,” added Islamic Jihad.

Ismail Haniyeh, the head of Hamas’ political bureau, called on Palestinians throughout the West Bank “to stand by Jenin and defend its people in order to thwart the enemy’s plan.”

The strikes come less than two weeks after the IDF killed a terrorist cell near Jenin with a drone strike.  The cell was conducting a shooting attack near the Jalameh crossing in the area, according to a joint statement by the IDF and Shin Bet at the time.



Netanyahu Condemns Anti-Semitic Attacks In French Riots

“Israel condemns attacks on Jewish targets in the riots across France,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the start of Sunday’s (2nd) Cabinet meeting.

“The government views with utmost concern the displays and waves of anti-semitism sweeping over France,” Netanyahu said.  “In recent days we have witnessed criminal assaults against Jewish targets.”

“We strongly condemn these attacks and we support the French government and its fight against anti-Semitism,” he added.

Rioters vandalized the Holocaust memorial site in Paris, known as the Memorial to the Martyrs of the Deportation, during the ongoing violent anti-police demonstrations on Friday (6/30).

The monument honors the memory of 200,000 people sent from Vichy France to Nazi concentration camps.

Video footage of the incident show rioters shouting and writing anti-police slogans on the wall of the site.  Other videos circulated on social  media appeared to show the phrase “we’re going to make a Shoah” spray-painted nearby.

“It’s truly horrifying to witness the Memorial to the Martyrs of the Deportation in Nanterre being vandalized,” the European Jewish Congress tweeted.  “This shameful act of disrespect for the memory of the victims of the Holocaust must be unequivocally condemned and those responsible held accountable.”

Netanyahu ally and French-Israeli lawmaker Meyer Habib, who represents French expats living in the Eastern Mediterranean region, said on Saturday (1st) that the riots come from areas where anti-Semitism was allowed to flourish unfettered.

“This looks like an Intifada in the heart of France,” Habib said.  “France is on fire, with 249 police officers injured.  Nothing, not even the dramatic death of a young man justifies this chaos.”

According to Habib, “in these lost areas of the republic, for years there has been an undisturbed growth of hatred of France, white people and Jews.”

Habib contrasted the response to the killing of 17-year-old Nahel M. by a police officer, which sparked the riots, to the murder of 65-year-old Jewish woman Sarah Halimi, who was murdered in her home in 2017 by a man who shouted “Allahu Akbar” while attacking her.

“Sarah was beaten for 20 minutes in front of 20 police officers.  Her murderer is practically free and no one rioted or burned  anything,” said Habib.



IDF Strikes Syria After Air Defense Missile Explodes Over Southern Israel

The IDF struck a Syrian air defense battery after a Syrian air defense missile exploded mid-air over southern Israel on Saturday night (1st), according to the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit.  Additional targets in the area were hit as well.

The explosion on Saturday night (1st) came amid reports of alleged Israeli airstrikes in the Homs Governorate in central Syria.

No special directives were issued for the home front and no rocket sirens were activated by the missile.  Shrapnel from the missile landed in Rahat in southern Israel, over 111 miles from the closest border with Syria and 240 miles from  Homs.  The air defense missile was identified as an S200 surface-to-air missile.

Syrian state media reported on Saturday night (1st) that Syrian air defenses were activated in the Homs Governorate in response to alleged Israeli airstrikes in the area.  The Syrian state news agency SANA reported that no injuries were caused in the strikes.

The last alleged Israeli airstrike to target sites in Syria was reported on June 14 when a Syrian soldier was seriously injured in strikes targeting Damascus, according to SANA.

The Capital Voice news site reported at the time that explosions were heard in the area of the headquarters of the Syrian Army’s 1st Division in al-Kiswah, south of Damascus, which is used by Iranian and Iran-backed forces as well.  A fire broke out at the headquarters amid the strikes, according to the report.

Syrian air defense missiles have overshot and flown into Israeli airspace in the past.

In February 2022, rocket sirens sounded in and near Umm el-Fahm in northern Israel, after an anti-aircraft missile fired from Syria exploded mid-air.

In September 2021, a Syrian surface-to-air missile (SAM) was launched toward Israel and detonated over the Mediterranean Sea.  Some of the shrapnel from the missile was found later in northern Tel Aviv.



Israel Warns Hezbollah: ‘We Will Remove The Tents Even At A Cost Of Confrontation

The tension on Israel’s northern border is increasing amid the erection of two tents by the Hezbollah terror organization in the Har Dov enclave on the Blue Line, and the defense establishment has passed a message on to the terror organization’s leaders, stating: “We will remove the tents, even at the risk of a confrontation,” Channel 12 reported.

According to the report, Israel’s message comes one day after Lebanese MP from Hezbollah, Mohammad Ra’ad refused the UN’s request to remove the tents which were erected on Israeli territory, stating, “If the enemy doesn’ want war, then it is better that it remains silent.”

Amid the complex security situation, an argument arose in the IDF over the needed plan of action.  However, before a military action, the government wished to solve the issue through diplomatic channels, with the US, France and UNIFIL – the temporary UN force in Lebanon.  The coming days will prove crucial for the two sides, being characterized by international attempts to reach an agreement. 

Following the initial report of the two tents, Jerusalem decided to work through diplomatic means to avoid a confrontation.  More than that, the IDF declared that although armed Hezbollah fighters occupied the tents, it was “just another provocation by the organization on the border,” adding that they do not pose a threat.

Earlier on Sunday (2nd), during IDF work near Kibbutz Manara on the border, several Lebanese citizens confronted the troops.  The rioters threw stones at the IDF bulldozer, and the soldiers retaliated using riot dispersal tools.

On Monday morning (3rd) Israeli news media reported that Hezbollah had “quietly” removed one of the tents, on  the Israeli side of the border.  However, the other one still remains there



Israel To Buy Another F-35 Squadron in $3B. Deal

Israel will move forward with purchasing a new squadron of US-made F-35 stealth fighter jets in a $3 billion deal, Israel’s Defense Ministry announced on Sunday (2nd).

The purchase of 25 additional F-35s from the Maryland based Lockheed Martin would bring Israel’s fleet of Stealth jets to 75.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant approved the purchase on the recommendation of Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt-Gen. Herzi Halevi.

Israeli officials will issue an official procurement request to the American F-35 Directorate, with the transaction to be formally signed off in the coming month.

Other US companies involved in the production include the Connecticut-based Pratt and Whitney for the plane’s engines.

The Defense Ministry said the planes were being financed through US military assistance.

Israel and the US signed a 10-year $38 billion Memorandum of Understanding providing a framework for US military assistance in 2015.  The assistance primarily comes through the US Foreign Military Financing (FMF) program and the US Department of Defense’s share in the financing of joint projects, such as missile defense systems.