Tu B’Shvat greetings to my readers.
In the worst incident since the onset of the ground war, 21 IDF soldiers were killed in Gaza as they were preparing explosives to demolish two buildings on Monday. A terrorist firing a rocket-propelled grenade triggered the explosives, causing the buildings to collapse on the soldiers inside. Report here
Israel intends to control a buffer zone inside Gaza after the war to allow the residents of the Western Negev to return to their homes with relative security. The IDF is demolishing buildings that served as observation and firing positions on Israeli communities adjacent to the border. Report here
Today, Thursday, air raid alarms marked the first time since Sunday that projectiles were apparently launched from Gaza towards Israel. Report here
In northern Gaza, Israeli forces are carrying out mop-up operations to locate every last rocket launcher and any other Hamas threat…
On Sunday, IDF forces located eight long-range rocket launchers embedded in the ground and covered by an olive grove. Beneath the launchers was a tunnel. Report here
The IDF has revealed a tunnel 20 metres underground in the centre of residential Khan Yunis, accessed from inside a home, where Israeli hostages had been held. “We saw five caged cells where we believe up to 20 hostages were held at various times, without any daylight, hardly any air, a lack of oxygen and terrible humidity” . Report here Short video of the tunnel View here
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that any person or organization that “cannot unequivocally condemn the evil that Hamas did” on October 7 has “no conscience, no morality, no decency and deserves no respect.”
“I also reject any attempt to draw an equivalence between Israel’s actions and those of the terrorists who videotape their appalling crimes, who rape and murder with gratuitous zealotry. Report here
The IDF Arabic Spokesperson posted footage of a rare protest against Hamas in central Gaza where a group of mainly women and children demanded that Hamas return the Israeli hostages to end the war so that they (the Gazans) can return home. Video here
As the IDF began ground operations in Gaza, it realized an urgent need to be able to charge communications devices and drones. Within a week an energy pack was created that allows the charger for the drone to be used from a tank. It also halved the charging time needed. The pack was large and heavy so within two more weeks they produced special 3D-printed cables and developed a card to provide an effective electrical solution that was lighter and more compact. Report here
The war has seen a massive rise in female conscripts to combat units, and unprecedented engagement of women in active combat.
Capt. Amit Busi, 23, commands a company of 83 soldiers, nearly half of them men, in one of several mixed-gender units fighting in Gaza. Her search-and-rescue engineers help infantry troops enter damaged and booby-trapped buildings at risk of collapse, as well as help evacuate wounded soldiers from the battlefield. Report here (paywall)
Stories of individual acts of heroism continue to emerge. On Dec. 13, off-duty paramedic Yuval Hizkiya was on her way out of Gaza in a convoy when the tank in front her was hit by an anti-tank missile, killing Elisha Loewenstern and seriously injuring Shachar Shiloni.
Hizkiya rushed out to tend to Shiloni and applied a tourniquet to his wounds while shooting at approaching terrorists. He remained unconscious for three days before waking up, and is now in rehab.Report here
Last week the Jordanian military claimed its field hospital in Khan Yunis had been badly damaged as a result of Israeli shelling, but aerial imagery shared by the IDF shows all of the tents intact. The IDF said “The hospital is not damaged and continues to function and provide medical care to those who need it” .Report here
Opposition Leader Yair Lapid called on Jordan’s Government to curb incitement against Israel following the circulation of social media videos showing a restaurant in the Jordanian city of Kerak named “October 7,” an apparent celebration of Hamas’s massacre of Israelis on that day.Report here
According to a recent Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research survey, over 90% of Palestinians believe that “Hamas did not commit the atrocities seen in the videos” on Oct. 7. That number is 97% among West Bank residents, compared to 83% of Gazans. Report here
Israeli President Herzog told the World Economic Forum in Davos last week “If you ask an average Israeli now about his or her mental state, nobody in his right mind is willing now to think about what will be the solution of the peace agreements because everybody wants to know: Can we be promised real safety in the future?…Israel lost trust in the peace processes because they see that terror is glorified by our neighbours…. There is an empire of evil emanating from Iran,” whose activities are going to “undermine any peace process and any stability in the world.”Report here
Hezbollah attacks continue among them a barrage of rockets and missiles fired on Tuesday. Two mortar shells that were fired by Hezbollah into Israel last week are suspected to have contained deadly white phosphorus.Report here and here
Druze volunteers are Israel’s second line of defence in the North. Lt.-Col. (ret.) Falah Gadban, 60, the first-response team’s commander in Hurfeish a Galilean Druze town said, “We didn’t want to be refugees, even temporarily.”
Lt.-Col. (ret.) Abdo Kadi, 67, the deputy commander, said: “We decided that in no way, shape, or form are we evacuating our town. We’ll fight to the end. Whoever tries to infiltrate or harm us or the State of Israel, we’ll stop them.” Article here
US tech giant Google has announced that it is launching a $4 million fund to provide a lifeline to cash-strapped Israeli startups developing artificial intelligence technologies as they struggle for survival during the ongoing war.Report here
Mouna Maroun (Vice President and Dean of Research at the University of Haifa).
I’ve spent the majority of my life in Israel’s north, a beacon of coexistence where Jews and Arabs have lived side-by-side in harmony…
When I saw pictures of the Arabs and Bedouins who were killed (on Oct 7), I saw myself.
But there is a silver lining. A recent survey by the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) indicated that 70% of Arabs in Israel identify with the State of Israel, the highest percentage who feel part of the state since they began asking this question in 2003.Article here
Hamza Howidy: I remember 16 years ago when I was a child in Gaza and Hamas supporters were celebrating their victory in taking control of Gaza from Fatah.
I remember Fatah detainees being dragged by Hamas members on motorcycles with signs of torture on their bodies…I remembered Bahaa Balousha’s three children who were under the age of 10, who were killed by masked men because their dad was a Fatah member. This is who Hamas has always been…they are psychopaths. Article here
To mark Tu B’Shvat, Simon Walters, British Ambassador to Israel planted cyclamen flowerbeds in the official residence ordered from ‘Ben Ben nursery from Nativ HaAsara’ The nursery, along other businesses in the Gaza envelope, were severely affected by the horrific attacks on October 7. Report & photo here
Israel’s rock climbing team was barred from participating in the international competition “Dock Masters 2024” in Utrecht due to “security concerns”. Report here
The International Ice Hockey Federation overturned its ban on Israel competing in the world championship.
The Israeli U20 ice hockey team opened its Division III Group A world championship campaign with a 8-6 victory over New Zealand, followed by a 7-3 win against Bulgaria.
From “Follow Team Israel”
Israel’s Guy Sasson has reached the Australian Open final of the quad wheelchair singles. He is also in the final of the doubles.
Israeli swimmers won 15 medals at an international meet in Geneva. Martin Kartavi secured his place at the Paris Olympics in the 50m freestyle.
JPOST Editorial: A Just War with an Overwhelming Cost
In the horrific explosions in central Gaza on Monday, just metres away from Israel’s border, 21 fathers, sons, husbands, and brothers were extinguished, 21 dreams were snuffed out, 21 families were left devastated…
One might have expected that a tragedy of this magnitude would have led to a chorus of voices inside Israel saying, “Enough is enough; it is time to end the war and bring the soldiers home.” But that chorus did not emerge, and that is telling. To the contrary, the dominant message heard Monday was the need to continue forward, despite the mind-numbing loss…
This war with Hamas is a just war of no choice. This explains the widespread support to continue it, despite the exorbitantly high price and the pain and sorrow felt by millions of Israelis. Article here
Brendan O’Neill: Our activist class..have obsessively devoted themselves to the cause of Gaza, to the exclusion of every other issue on earth. War in Darfur, murderous pogroms against Christians in Nigeria, the hunger haunting 50 million people in Central Africa, the Uighur crisis, Ukraine… none gets so much as a look-in with the…campaigning cliques who have unilaterally decreed that Gaza is all that matters…. Where were these people when tens of thousands of Muslims, including Palestinians, were slaughtered in the war in Syria? Or when Yemeni civilians perished under Saudi bombardment? Or when the mullahs of Iran massacred hundreds of their own citizens for the sin of standing up for women’s rights?
It seems to me that it isn’t concern for Muslim life that motors the protesting classes – it’s contempt for Israel. It is only when the Jewish state is involved in the loss of a Muslim life that the middle-class left takes to the streets in vast numbers.Article here
Eugene Kontorovich: Gaza is unique among modern war zones. It hasn’t produced waves of refugees leaving for neutral countries. This has been deliberate, the result of policies by Hamas and Egypt tacitly supported by the U.S.
Months after the start of the Russia-Ukraine war in 2022, 3.5 million Ukrainians had applied for temporary residence in countries such as Poland and Germany. The Syrian civil war produced five million refugees. The U.S. invasion of Iraq produced two million international refugees. Fleeing a war zone and seeking asylum in a neutral country is a human right enshrined in the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention.
Yet three months after Oct. 7, fewer than 1,000 people – either foreign nationals or wounded – have been allowed by Egypt and Hamas to leave Gaza… By not pressuring Egypt to open its border, according to its obligations under international refugee law, the U.S. is letting Gaza become a pressure cooker of civilian suffering…Why would the U.S. support locking Gazans in like North Korea does? Since 1948, Arab states and the UN have refused to treat Palestinians like ordinary refugees, keeping them in a unique intergenerational limbo to provide a reservoir of resentment against Israel.(paywall) Article here
Deborah Danan: Survivors’ accounts, video evidence, and the interrogation recordings of apprehended Palestinians paint a damning picture of the complicity of Gazan civilians both in the Oct. 7 attack and its aftermath. It challenges the inclination to draw distinctions between ordinary Palestinian civilians of Gaza and their terror leaders.
CCTV footage shows that around 700 Palestinians stormed Kibbutz Nir Oz. It is estimated that the overwhelming majority of those, around 550, were civilians.
Irit Lahav from Nir Oz, who shuttled Palestinian cancer patients several hours from the border with Gaza to their treatments in central Israel, told me “How can we ever get over this sense of betrayal? The Palestinian public simply hates us.”
Nir Shani, from Be’eri, speaking of the involvement of Gazan civilians, said, “I don’t differentiate between them and Hamas. Let me know of one Palestinian in Gaza who tried to save a Jew and maybe I’ll change my mind.” Article here
Ilan Berman: A poll last month by the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research found that, in the aftermath of Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre, support for the group has surged in the West Bank and risen modestly in Gaza as well. Nearly 3/4 of those polled expressed approval of the terror group’s actions.
Israel and the international community need to contend with the fact that, far from being captives of Hamas, the plurality of Palestinians have come to see the group as their standard-bearer. Article here
Bassam Tawil: The last thing the Middle East needs is another Iran-dominated terror state that would destabilize security and stability and pose an existential threat to Israel…By continuing to obsessively stick to the creation of a Palestinian state, the Biden administration is actually sending a message to Iran and its terror proxies that terrorism pays – that if they inflict more pain and casualties on Israel, the Americans will reward them with a state of their own next to Israel to facilitate their mission of continuing their Jihadist murder spree against Jews and finally obliterate Israel. Article here
Ephraim Mirvis (Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth): It should be obvious that if Israel’s objectives were genocidal, it could have used its military strength to level Gaza in a matter of days. Instead, it is placing the lives of its own soldiers at risk in its ground operations, securing humanitarian corridors and providing civilians with advance notice of its operations, even to the detriment of its military objectives…If there is indeed a genocidal force in this conflict, it must surely be Hamas, whose rape, sexual mutilation and cold-blooded murder of innocent civilians, which it proudly broadcast to the world, is clear evidence of its dehumanization of Jews.(paywall) Article here
D.Tel Editorial: For more than 70 years, every offer to make a deal for a two-state solution has been rejected by the Palestinians. It is not Israel that is intransigent, but Palestinian elites and their misguided Western supporters. It is the fault of Hamas, and their Iranian paymasters, that peaceful coexistence is now further off than ever. The path to mutual peace cannot be reached without defeating Hamas.(paywall)Article here
Prof. Eyal Zisser : Yet the Americans are working to restrict Israel’s freedom of action. They want the IDF to move to low-intensity fighting in Gaza, avoid holding territory there, and even demand the provision of aid to Gaza residents, enabling Hamas to continue its rule there. This is based on a long-standing American view of the region through Western eyes – as if Palestinian society and, in fact, all Arab societies have Western values. Article here