Tuesday, February 06, 2024

From Ian:

IDF confirms 32 out of 136 remaining hostages dead
At least 32 of the remaining 136 hostages captured by Hamas during its Oct. 7 terrorist onslaught are confirmed to have died, The New York Times reported on Tuesday, citing a confidential Israel Defense Forces intelligence assessment.

Their families have been updated, according to four IDF military officials who spoke anonymously to discuss classified information.

Jerusalem was also assessing unconfirmed reports indicating that at least 20 additional captives may no longer be alive, the officials said.

The Hostages and Missing Families Forum, which represents relatives of the captives, on Tuesday evening confirmed the deaths of 31 people held in Gaza.

“According to the official data we have, there are 31 victims,” the forum said in a statement. “Before the article was released, an official message was given to all the families of the abductees by the liaison officers that there is no change in the situation assessment.”

Hamas abducted more than 240 people during its bloody rampage across the northwestern Negev, in which some 1,200 people were murdered and thousands more wounded.

One hundred five hostages, mostly women and children, were released last year as part of a ceasefire deal, which Hamas broke when it refused to hand over the last group of captives. Four more were released by Hamas before the ceasefire, while one hostage was rescued by Israeli troops.

The figure of 32—or possibly even 52— dead captives is significantly higher than previously thought and would mean that more than one-fifth of the remaining hostages have been killed. Last month, Jerusalem said Hamas was believed to be holding 28 bodies in Gaza.
WSJ Editorial: Israel's Untold Gaza Progress
You may have missed it amid the media defeatism, but Israel is winning its war in Gaza. Hamas losses are mounting, and support for the Israeli war effort has endured around the world longer than Hamas expected. The war is far from over, but Hamas' southern stronghold of Khan Yunis is falling. Hamas' remaining forces face an Israeli advance on all sides, and Israel is now fighting below ground in force.

U.S. restrictions and Israeli caution have slowed the war and Israel needs time to achieve victory. Hamas is counting on Western powers to deny it that time. The "CNN strategy" of using human shields to gain media sympathy has worked every time for Hamas, but, so far, not this time. Oct. 7 was too brutal. This war has passed 120 days, and the U.S. and Europe refuse to call for a ceasefire.

Israel says it has killed, incapacitated or arrested some 20,000 of Hamas' 30,000 men, and the losses have quieted its rocket fire, down more than 95% from the war's early days.

The Biden Administration, despite its second-guessing, continues to provide munitions and diplomatic cover. The latest Harvard CAPS-Harris poll finds that large majorities of Americans support Israel and its war aims. Europe's elected leaders are also holding the line, and no Arab state has quit the Abraham Accords. Winning the war is essential for a secure Israel and a chance for Palestinians to have a normal life in Gaza.
JCPA: Yahya Sinwar Is Working to Fulfill Sheikh Ahmed Yassin's Vision
Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar envisions himself as a significant and historic Muslim figure who will bring honor to the Muslim nation by defeating Israel.

The assault on Israeli communities surrounding Gaza, orchestrated by Sinwar on October 7, 2023, marked the initial phase of his strategy to bring about the downfall of the State of Israel, as indicated by sources within Hamas in Gaza.

Sinwar anticipated that his surprise offensive would prompt the direct military engagement from Hizbullah, Iran, and other allies across the Middle East, culminating in a wide-ranging assault on Israel from multiple fronts, ultimately leading to its defeat.

More than two decades ago, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the founder of Hamas and Sinwar's mentor, prophesied in an interview with Al Jazeera that Israel would cease to exist by 2027, based on interpretations of the Quran.

Therefore, it is imperative for the conflict to conclude with a decisive Israeli victory - as well as Sinwar's demise - thereby thwarting his ambitions and preventing Sheikh Ahmed Yassin's vision from taking root among the populace of Gaza.

Jonathan Tobin: Three years of Biden’s Iran appeasement not so easily undone
Obama’s nuclear deal enriched and empowered Iran to the point where it felt free to pursue regional hegemony with abandon, including by backing Houthi terrorists in Yemen against that country’s government and Saudi Arabia. Among Biden’s first acts was to reverse Trump’s policy that supported the Saudi war against the Houthis. Freed of that pressure, the Houthis are not only a bigger threat than they were several years ago but are now able to shoot Iranian missiles at Israeli targets, in addition to ships traversing the Horn of Africa into the Red Sea.

While Trump’s sanctions led Iran to cut back funding of terrorism, as even The New York Times was forced to admit in 2019, the relaxing of those sanctions by Biden was a gift to Hamas, Hezbollah, the Houthis and various Iraqi forces allied with Tehran. The Iranians and their allies were also clearly convinced that Biden’s feckless pursuit of a new and even weaker nuclear deal, as well as the disgraceful rout of Americans during Biden’s skedaddle from Afghanistan, was the best gauge of U.S. strength and will. It’s hardly a stretch to conclude that the unspeakable atrocities of Oct. 7 were made possible by certain assumptions in Tehran and Gaza about the United States. They must have believed that an attack on Israel was a more plausible strategy under a weak U.S. president.

It is to be hoped that Biden and his foreign policy have drawn the correct conclusions from the disasters that they have presided over abroad and understand that appeasing Iran leads only to more bloodshed. They do appear to have repented, at least in part, their animus for the Saudis that characterized their approach to Mideast policy, if only because the Ukrainian war made Middle Eastern oil more important.

Hamas survival equals victory for Iran
But a few airstrikes taking out no major Iranian assets won’t restore the deterrence that Trump achieved and which was foolishly discarded. More to the point, the Iranians fully understand the implications of current Biden administration policy efforts to scale back Israeli efforts in the war against Hamas and to pressure Jerusalem to agree to a ceasefire that would allow Iran’s ally to emerge from the conflict without being fully defeated. Should such a deal, brokered in no small measure by Iran’s ally Qatar, be made, it might free the remaining Israeli hostages being held by Hamas. Yet it would also constitute a major strategic victory for Tehran.

With Hezbollah threatening Israel from the north and the Houthis running wild in Yemen, Iran has other cards to play as it seeks to enhance its hold on the region and to further endanger Israel and humiliate the United States. At this point, an administration that was serious about stopping Iran would understand that Israel’s eradication of Hamas—and to do so without Hezbollah doing much to help their Islamist allies in Gaza—would be a devastating blow to Iran’s status in the region. Tehran’s strength has rested on, in Lee Smith’s accurate characterization, as being “the strong horse” in the Middle East that was destined to defeat the Americans and around which Muslims should rally lest they be stuck backing the losing side.

The only way to convince the region to unite against Iran is for the West to start acting like it wants to defeat the Islamist tyrants. That was the impression that Trump’s actions gave, and the same would happen if Biden stopped trying to hamstring Israel’s campaign to eliminate Hamas. Yet if Biden is determined to stop the war before that happens and to be content with meaningless gestures to restrain Iran, it will be clear even to Arab states that loathe Tehran that as long as Biden is in the White House, the ayatollahs are indeed that strong horse to be feared and obeyed.

Biden’s post-Oct. 7 strong statements of support for Israel and his commitment to allow the flow of arms and ammunition to continue to flow despite the opposition of much of his party to the Jewish state was to his credit. But it doesn’t erase the fact that his policies made this crisis and the horrible losses suffered by Israel possible. If his desire to win back his left-wing intersectional base leads to policies—however much they will be spun as rooted in sympathy for suffering Palestinian civilians or a desire to free Israeli hostages—that will leave Hamas still standing when the shooting stops, then he will be handing Iran a triumph that may even eclipse Obama’s nuclear deal as a gift to a regime that hates the West and America as much as it does Israel.
Seth Mandel: American Jews Must Expect More From Congress
Elissa Slotkin, the Democratic congresswoman seeking Michigan’s open Senate seat this year, is coasting to her party’s nomination in what will be a hugely important state for the presidential election on down the ticket. It will also be an interesting test of post-October 7 politics in America.

Slotkin, who is Jewish, has been distancing herself from Biden over his Israel policy. She also voted against censuring Rashida Tlaib for amplifying calls to wipe Israel off the map, though Slotkin did bring herself to criticize Tlaib, profile in courage that she is.

Slotkin has, in fact, been panicking in the months since Hamas’s attacks on Israel, and it bodes poorly for the future of her party. The former CIA analyst has lost her nerve right at the most important moment of her congressional career, when she could have been perfectly positioned to counter the conspiratorial anti-Semitism that has come to dominate progressive spaces.

Instead, she has bought into talking points about Israel favored by Bernie Sanders, such as the idea that this war is Benjamin Netanyahu’s war and that he is responsible for the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. She let it be known to the Washington Post that she worried Biden would cost her the Senate election. She said the killing of three U.S. soldiers in Jordan by an Iranian proxy meant a “pause” in Gaza was more important than ever, accepting a framing of the conflict that sees Israel’s defensive war—the prosecution of which Slotkin has already criticized as “not in line with American interests”—as endangering American troops.

Over the weekend, Slotkin criticized a provocative headline in a Wall Street Journal opinion column about anti-Semitism in Dearborn. But using the headline to dismiss the entire article feels cheap when the substance of the piece documented an alarming trend that deserves attention. Multiple rallies extolling the Hamas attacks of October 7 in their immediate aftermath are very different from private comments made at a religious service. That is not to defend an anti-Semitic sermon in comparison but to note that there is a very public quality to the anti-Semitism crisis in America that is crowding Jews out of communal spaces. Slotkin describes herself as “the only Jewish member of [Michigan’s] congressional delegation.” Surely with that self-publicized distinction come obligations.
While US won’t say it wants ceasefire, it seeks humanitarian pause it can turn permanent
As the Israel-Hamas war reaches its fourth month, the Biden administration is sticking firm to its stance opposing a permanent ceasefire in the Gaza Strip with Hamas still intact. Publicly, at least.

“We don’t believe that right now a general ceasefire is the best approach,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said in late January, explaining that it would leave in place Hamas terror leaders who have vowed to continue perpetrating devastating attacks like the October 7 onslaught in which some 1,200 people were killed and 253 were taken hostage.

Instead of a permanent ceasefire, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan reiterated Sunday that Washington is seeking “a sustained pause in hostilities” to get the remaining hostages out of Gaza and funnel more humanitarian aid into the Strip.

However, the administration is also hoping to use this still-elusive extended pause to negotiate a more permanent ceasefire in Gaza. Ending the fighting for good, a senior US official told The Times of Israel on Monday, would allow the administration to advance regional initiatives that include an Israel-Saudi Arabia normalization agreement and the creation of a political horizon toward an eventual Palestinian state.

“If we get a humanitarian pause, we want to be in a position to move as quickly as possible on the various pieces of day after – reconstruction of Gaza, [Palestinian Authority] reform, governance of Gaza, two states, normalization. Some of which are obviously quite difficult and quite complex,” said a second senior US official, who briefed reporters en route to Riyadh with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday.

The first US official clarified that negotiations for a humanitarian pause and a hostage deal are not on the cusp of a breakthrough, given that Hamas has not swayed from its demand for a permanent ceasefire and a complete withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza — both nonstarters for Jerusalem.

An Arab diplomat familiar with the negotiations said mediators are hoping to break the impasse by including language in the deal for an extended pause that would see Israel commit to holding talks during that time on a more permanent ceasefire.
Joel Pollak: ‘Pro-Israel’ Biden Would Veto Standalone Israel Bill: White House
President Joe Biden would veto a standalone bill to aid Israel during its war against Hamas terrorists, according to the White House, which insists on linking Israel aid to spending on the war in Ukraine, as well as Democrats’ immigration funding bill.

CNN.com reported Monday:
“The Administration spent months working with a bipartisan group of Senators to reach a national security agreement that secures the border and provides support for the people of Ukraine and Israel, while also providing much-needed humanitarian assistance to civilians affected by conflicts around the world,” the White House wrote in a statement. “Instead of working in good faith to address the most pressing national security challenges, this bill is another cynical political maneuver.”

“The security of Israel should be sacred, not a political game,” the statement continued.

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA) said late last week that he would offer a standalone bill to aid Israel. The House had already passed a bill offering Israel over $14 billion in aid last year, with money to be provided through cuts to Biden’s expanded Internal Revenue Service.

President Biden took the unusual step in October of tying aid to Israel to aid to Ukraine, which has become less popular recently. Critics argued that Biden was using Israel as a pawn and risking the failure of the aid package.

IDF probing alleged violations of regulations and international law during war on Hamas
The Israel Defense Forces has launched an internal probe of possible violations of international law by troops during the ongoing war against the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip, the Haaretz daily reported Tuesday.

A specially formed team of investigators will look into various incidents, including the alleged killing of dozens of civilians in a strike that targeted a Hamas commander and the mistaken shooting of three escaped Israeli hostages who were abducted from Israel during the devastating Hamas October 7 attack that sparked the war.

IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi appointed former military Operations Directorate chief Yoav Har-Even to lead the team. It will operate under the auspices of the military’s top-tier General Staff Fact-Finding Assessment Mechanism.

IDF Advocate General Brig. Gen. Yifat Tomer-Yerushalmi has given the team authorization to begin work.

The IDF confirmed the developments to Haaretz, saying in a statement the investigation would “examine reports and complaints regarding the violation of Israeli and international law during the fighting.”

“The mechanism has begun the process of collecting data and information about the various events that took place during the fighting and is in the initial probe stages.” the IDF said.

The team has already met several times recently to prioritize a list of incidents it intends to look into, the report said. The team will present its findings to the military advocate, which will decide whether to open a military police investigation into any of the cases.

According to Haaretz, in most of the cases on the list, there were many civilian casualties or there was significant damage to sites such as hospitals, educational institutes, and administrative buildings.
Gantz announces move to Gaza border town, four months after October 7
War cabinet Minister Benny Gantz announced on Sunday evening he will move to the Gaza border town of Yad Mordechai, four months after southern Israel was ravaged by thousands of infiltrating Hamas terrorists on October 7.

Israel lost valuable time in dismantling Hamas's rule over Gaza through "feet dragging," Gantz further said.

Gantz appeared to attack Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's public comments over the Gaza hostage deal, which Netanyahu stressed would not be accepted "at any cost.

"It is not right to share information with our enemies and to invent red lines, even if there are ones," Gantz said on Sunday. "My friends and I, too, have [red lines].

"Let's keep them for behind closed doors to avoid harming the efforts to get a good deal, even if it will be painful," the minister added.

Likud: Netanyahu is fighting for total victory in Gaza
The Likud issued a statement in response to Gantz's comments, saying that Netanyahu is "fighting for total victory.

"Those who think that entry of Palestinian Authority officials to the Gaza Strip will defeat Hamas is wrong," the Knesset's ruling faction further stated. "There is no alternative but a complete victory."

The exchange came amid a noticeable rise in political tension between Netanyahu and the right-wing camp in general and Gantz and fellow war cabinet member, Minister-without-portfolio Gadi Eisenkot, over conduct surrounding a possible hostage deal.
Inside Khan Yunis with the IDF Commando Brigade
The Maglan unit had eliminated three terrorists just a few hours before we arrived. They had been hiding in a small alley, from where they sent an innocent-looking person to the main street to see if there were any soldiers around. When he signaled that the coast was clear, they came out with an RPG rolled inside a carpet to hide it.

Col. Omer Cohen, head of the IDF Commando Brigade, explained: "They act like civilians, and when they recognize you, they enter one of the houses, arm themselves, shoot, throw away the weapon, and continue as if nothing happened. If I...identify them ahead of time, we know to wait for them and strike."

Major G, the commander of the Maglan unit, says his soldiers have killed about ten terrorists since the morning hours. He explains, "Our unit has lost members, and they and the bereaved families are pushing us. They want us to continue for them."

Col. Cohen describes the units in his brigade: "They are all excellent raiding units that specialize in night fighting and fighting in built-up areas. They have a high firing capability in all types of antitank weapons, and each one has a specific purpose. Egoz is a guerilla unit that knows how to hit the enemy in places he didn't expect. Maglan is a collection, exposure, and attack unit that knows how to identify an enemy from a distance and destroy it. Duvdevan is a leader in fighting in built-up territory, and...has returned to fight in Judea and Samaria."

"Almost every house here is loaded with arms," explains Col. Cohen. "What was life like here beforehand? Terror and more terror, and hatred for the State of Israel. You can find it behind every closed door. You ask what is an existential war? It is an enemy you cannot exist next to." The brigade has lost 32 soldiers since the fighting began, and they continue to operate like a well-oiled machine.
Gallant: 'There Will Be No Israeli Civilian Administration in Gaza'
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said in a briefing with Israeli media Monday night that when the war ends, there will be no Israeli civilian control in Gaza, and Hamas terrorists will either surrender or die.

Military operations involve political actions as well, he noted, adding that “only the establishment of an alternative government will ensure the end of Hamas’ rule.

“Let me again be clear: at the end of the war, Hamas will no longer control Gaza, Israeli civilian control will not exist in the Strip, and the IDF will retain complete freedom to operate militarily,” Gallant said.

“This is the time to make the right decisions so that we can meet the political goals that we set, and enable an exit to a new setting in which it will be possible to expand the circle of peace over the circle terror.”

The IDF is continuing its integrated operations with ground forces, air force and navy forces working together to eliminate the terrorist group’s military and administrative capabilities, while also continuing to search intensively for the hostages they are holding.

“Eighteen Hamas battalions have been disbanded and no longer function as combatant military frameworks,” Gallant said. “About half of the Hamas terrorists are dead or seriously wounded … This ground operation is one of the most complex and complicated in the history of wars; 110 abductees have been returned so far.

“We are continuing the pressure to return all the abductees remaining in the hands of Hamas, and we will also reach places we have not yet fought in, including Rafah,” Gallant said.

“The end of every terrorist in Rafah will be the end of those in Khan Younis and Gaza: surrender or death.”
Gallant delivers address amid major gains in Khan Yunis
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant delivers address, boasting of speedy IDF advance as Sinwar flees from hiding place to hiding place.

IDF encircles Khan Yunis hospital considered final Hamas stronghold
Israeli forces have encircled the Nasser Hospital in northern Khan Yunis, one of the "final Hamas strongholds in the southern Gaza city," a military source told Israeli media on Tuesday.

Israeli Air Force fighter jets struck targets near the hospital early Tuesday morning. Defense establishment officials believe that senior Hamas officers and commanders who remain in Khan Yunis are hiding in the hospital.

Troops of the 98th Division and the Paratroopers Brigade continued operations in Khan Yunis, where they encountered Hamas terrorists in civilian clothes and operating out of civilian areas, the IDF’s Spokesperson’s Unit said earlier on Tuesday.

In the past few days, soldiers killed dozens of terrorists and arrested some 80 suspected terrorists, including a number of terrorists who partook in the October 7 massacre.

Givati Brigade snipers eliminated more than 15 terrorists while fighters of the 646th Brigade Combat Team killed a lookout hiding in a building.

During the operations, Paratrooper and Egoz fighters found various weapons, among others, grenades, Kalashnikov rifles, and RPG missiles, according to the IDF.
IDF kills Islamic Jihad terrorist who took part in Nir Oz massacre
A Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist who participated in the Oct. 7 massacre of civilians at Kibbutz Nir Oz was one of dozens of terrorists Israeli forces killed across the Gaza Strip over the past 24 hours, the IDF said on Tuesday morning.

An Israeli fighter jet guided by intelligence information killed the Islamic Jihad terrorist in Deir al-Balah, the central Gaza Strip. Of Nir Oz‘s 400 residents, approximately one-quarter were killed or kidnapped on Oct. 7.

The Israeli military pressed its offensive against Hamas in Khan Yunis in southern Gaza and in raids in the north and center of the Strip.

Most of the fighting took place in Khan Yunis, Gaza’s second-largest city which is regarded as a personal stronghold of Hamas leader in the Strip Yahya Sinwar.

The 98th Division continued to fight in western Khan Yunis, clearing new areas above and below the ground. Troops encountered armed Hamas terrorists in civilian clothes preparing to attack. Over the last day, Israeli forces killed dozens of terrorists and arrested about 80 terrorism suspects, including several who participated in the Oct. 7 attacks.

Seth Frantzman: As US, Iran trade blows, Afghans and Kurds in Syria may pay price
Iranian-backed militias in Iraq targeted US forces in Jordan on January 27, killing three Americans; the US responded this past Friday, striking 85 targets in Iraq and Syria. Many of the targets were empty buildings but several reports have said that among the casualties were members of the Iranian-recruited Liwa Fatemiyoun, a unit of Shi’ite Afghans who serve Iran’s interests in Syria.

According to the cited sources, including Omar Abu Layla, a Syrian expert and head of Deir Ezzor 24, the number of Fatemiyoun killed included eight men. Iran International reported similar information.

This means that the Afghan recruits were killed in the strikes. The question is, why were Afghans killed in Syria if the perpetrators were linked to the Iranian-backed Iraqi militia Kataib Hezbollah? Kataib Hezbollah is the worst of the Iranian-backed forces in Iraq because it is not only closely linked to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), but also because it is the most brutal, best trained, and most die-hard of the Iranian-backed forces in Iraq.

The Afghans were killed because their bases in Syria tend to be simple, poorly constructed, and are used by Iran as cannon fodder in Syria. Iran exploits Afghan Shi’ites, a persecuted minority in Afghanistan, luring them, with promises of money and rewards of faith, to come and fight in Syria.

And this isn’t the first time. They used them first during the Syrian civil war, which started in 2011. These men embraced the Iranian ideology, even putting out statements threatening Israel. Over the last decade, they died by the dozens and hundreds in Syria; Iran puts them on the frontline and in exposed positions.
Seth Frantzman: Can US airpower stop the threats in Yemen, Iraq and Syria?
This situation is unprecedented. In the past, when Israel and Hamas fought, the conflicts did not usually expand beyond the borders of Gaza and Israel, into the West Bank.

Iran has since brought militias to Israel’s borders and operationalized them to attack from the North via Hezbollah, to close off the Red Sea to shipping, and to carry out 160 attacks on US forces in Iraq and Syria. Iran also got the militias to attack US forces in Jordan, killing three people.

We have reached a situation where the goal is regional war. Iran is seeking to close the Red Sea to commercial ships, save for ships linked to its friends in Moscow and Beijing. As such, this is part of the wider anti-Western, anti-Israel, and anti-US strategy that Iran is putting out. The key question becomes: Can the floating “city” of the Eisenhower off the coast stop the attacks? The NBC reports leave many questions unanswered.

The US is also operating against Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and Syria, having carried out attacks on 85 sites on Friday in response to the murder of three Americans in Jordan on January 27. It doesn’t appear those strikes hit significant targets, meaning that the groups still have a plethora of missiles and drones with which to continue to carry out their threats.

The US also appears to be hampered in its strikes in Iraq and Syria by the fact that some countries don’t want to participate in the strikes. Jordan assured Iraq it was not involved in the retaliation.

Many countries in the region appear to be hedging their bets on this. US key partners in the Gulf, for instance, have been concerned about US policies for years. The US pressured Saudi Arabia to end its role in fighting the Houthis in Yemen; Saudi and Iran then reconciled in a China-backed deal last year. Now, the Saudis wonder why the US pressured them to stop their war, only for the US to now strike at Yemen.

These complex factors add a lot of uncertainty to whether the US can accomplish its goals in Yemen, Iraq, and Syria. Will the strikes stop the attacks by the Iranian-backed forces or merely reduce some capabilities?

There will be lessons to learn, and it appears the ball is in Iran’s court for now.
Seth Frantzman: Reporter's Notebook: Northern Israel under the clouds of war
As it has been for the last two weeks, it rained heavily yesterday at the Mahanyim intersection in the North. At the Route 90 hamburger stand, people came and went from the well-known local establishment. Snaking from Kiryat Shmona toward southern Galilee, Route 90 passes the Hula Valley, a gorgeous area that serves as a bird sanctuary framed by the Golan hills that stretch up toward Lebanon.

Nowadays, the area is often subject to rocket fire from the Iranian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah, based in Lebanon, while the Israeli communities close to the border have been evacuated for almost four months.

A sign along one of the hills reads “We are all hostages” in Hebrew, which makes you ask: In what ways are we hostage to this war? The North is hostage because its residents cannot reside hosting; instead, in the first few days of the war, some 300,000 reservists were called up. It is also hostage due to daily rocket and mortar fire from Lebanon, setting off sirens and alarming people who are still there.

Statements put out by officials are a mix of claims that security will be restored and that Hezbollah should not test Israel. Over the last month, they have run the gamut, from claims that the likelihood of war is high to assertions by Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Sunday that “each attack in Lebanon advances us in changing the security situation on the northern border… We still haven’t used all our special capabilities. The noses of our planes are pointed North.”

Attempting to live a normal life
This tough talk appears in contrast to the situation on the ground, where people are trying to go about their normal lives as a winter storm batters the area.

On Monday, fog blanketed the mountains and hills of northern Galilee; the roads have checkpoints and there is not much traffic. Areas that might once have catered to tourism are badly affected, with residents frequently interviewed on Israeli media describing the difficulties of being evacuated or living under the clouds of war. They face uncertainty, and instability, having had to leave behind work or move children from one community to the next.

These hills are full of history, including that of previous wars. All around, there are old bunkers and forts, not only from the last 75 years but dating back thousands. Parts of that history are now so close to the border that they are in the evacuated areas. For instance, close to Jish, also known as Gush Halav, there is a church in the town, and beyond it, down the valley, is the Baram National Park, where an ancient synagogue is preserved. This is located around two kilometers from where sirens sounded on Monday in Yiron and Avivim on the border, indicating a Hezbollah threat.
Hezbollah rocket wounds two Israeli soldiers
Two Israeli soldiers sustained minor injuries on Tuesday morning in a Hezbollah rocket attack on a military post in the area of Moshav Margaliot, near the border with Lebanon, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

The soldiers were evacuated to a hospital and their families were informed, said IDF Spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari.

According to Hagari, IDF forces detected several launches that crossed into Israeli territory from Southern Lebanon. Artillery units fired on the source of the attacks.

The Iran-backed terrorist organization claimed responsibility for the attacks, including the launch of two heavy “Burkan” rockets, which can carry an explosive payload of more than 1,000 pounds.

Earlier on Tuesday morning, Israeli Air Force jets struck a Hezbollah terror base near Marwahin on the Lebanese border.

Overnight Tuesday, IAF jets attacked Hezbollah operational facilities near Meiss el-Jabal, also in Southern Lebanon, and shelled the terror group’s positions with artillery to “remove threats,” per the IDF.

Hezbollah has been initiating a series of fire exchanges with Israel since Oct. 7 as the Jewish state fights Hamas terrorists to the south.

The Shi’ite terror group fired more than 2,000 rockets at Israel between Oct. 8 and Jan. 9, in addition to dozens of anti-tank missiles.

The attacks have killed five Israeli civilians and nine soldiers.

Lebanon rejects proposal for Hezbollah withdrawal from Israeli border - report
Lebanese Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib rejected an international proposal for Hezbollah to withdraw away from Israel’s northern border to behind the Litani River, as set out under United Nations Security Council 1701.

His statement was carried by the Arabic language newspaper Al-Watan in advance of a visit today by French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne, following his stop in Israel on Sunday.

This formula of a Hezbollah withdrawal eight to ten kilometers from the Israeli border was “rejected by Lebanon, which will not accept half-solutions that do not bring the desired peace and do not secure stability,” Bou Habib told Al-Watan.

He demanded the full implementation of Resolution 1701, which included resolutions to points of geographical disputes between Israel and Lebanon, such as in the area of Sheba Farm and the village Ghajar, explaining that no partial solutions were possible when it came to Resolution 1701, which set out the ceasefire terms that ended the Second Lebanon War.

That resolution forbids the presence of a non-state actors, such as the Iranian proxy group Hezbollah, in the area between the Litani River and Israel’s border.

Houthi leader says Iran-backed group will escalate attacks if Gaza war continues
The leader of Yemen’s Houthis, Abdul Malik al-Houthi, says the group “will further escalate” if Israel’s war against Hamas does not stop. Israel is four months into a war with the terror group triggered by its October 7 massacre across southern Israel.

Iran-aligned Houthis have been targeting commercial vessels with drones and missiles in the Red Sea since mid-November, in what they describe as acts of solidarity with Palestinians in the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza.
Houthis fire missiles at two ships in the Red Sea, one sustains minor damage
Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthis fired missiles at two vessels in the Red Sea, they said on Tuesday, causing minor damage to a cargo ship that was sailing off the coast of Yemen's Hodeidah.

The Houthis have been targeting commercial vessels with drones and missiles in the Red Sea since mid-November, in what they describe as acts of solidarity with Palestinians against Israel in the Gaza war.

The group's military spokesman said it fired naval missiles at the Morning Tide and Star Nasia, identifying the Barbados- and Marshall Islands-flagged ships, respectively, as British and American.

British maritime security firm Ambrey said a Barbados-flagged, general cargo ship owned by a British company suffered damage from an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) while sailing south east through the Red Sea.

No injuries were reported. The ship performed evasive maneuvers and continued its journey, Ambrey said.

Daniel Gordis: She was healthy and full of life when she was kidnapped, and this is what they did to her ...
Here’s a quick headline from Haaretz, last night. It reads:

Israelis who were supposed to be able to die at a ripe old age in their own beds are rotting away in a dank tunnel, but he has time.

It’s a reference to Netanyahu, of course, and growing national frustration with the government’s inability to find some way to get the remaining hostages home. Haaretz, obviously, has never been a huge fan of Bibi—but this headline could have appeared in almost any Israeli newspaper this week.

For much of the past ten days or so, Israelis have waited anxiously to hear whether Hamas would accept a proposal by Israel that would have led to the return of all of the hostages, in various stages, in exchange for a cease-fire of some sort—the exact details were not clear.

As of today, not only is there no deal, but both the Israeli and American governments are warning that we should not get our hopes up, that there is no deal about to be hatched. This, understandably, was yet another agonizing disappointment for the families of the hostages, who worry that with each passing day, more will die and others will become very ill.

As the above video makes clear, the treatment of the hostages has, in some cases, been horrifying. The video about Elma Avraham came out around the 100th day of captivity on Israeli TV about three weeks ago. What she and her children say about the urgency of getting the rest of the hostages out has only become more urgent.

Israelis are quite rightly consumed by the hostage issue. Yesterday, on the way to Tel Aviv, I stopped at a red light and saw the sign below right outside the window of my car.

It’s the now ubiquitous array of hostages still being held, with the Hebrew words that say “No stopping until they all come home.” On the sign, though, someone pasted some white paper and wrote 讘讻讜讞 - 讘诇讬 诪讜”诪, which means, “by force, no negotiations.”

Obviously, if Israel could have brought the hostages out by force, it would have. So they’re likely to get home only through negotiations—but it’s clear that the frustration is wearing on an already weary society.

The former hostages using data to help Oct. 7 victims
In the aftermath of Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel, many organizations in Israel, the U.S. and beyond have come together to advocate for the release of hostages held in Gaza and support their families. But only one is made up of former hostages using their experiences and a data-driven approach to advise the loved ones of those still in captivity and the Western governments trying to bring them home.

Hostage Aid Worldwide was established in 2020 to fight for hostages around the world to be released and to prevent future instances of hostage-taking. It tracks hostages worldwide and advocates for their release, as well as for policies to disrupt what they call “the hostage-taking business model.”

The organization’s president is Nizar Zakka, who was held hostage in Iran for four years, and its board includes Alan Gross, who was wrongfully imprisoned in Cuba for five years, Iranian women’s rights activist Masih Alinejad, Sam Goodwin, who was held hostage in Syria, and others.

Zakka told Jewish Insider that the organization has “the largest database of hostage cases in the world, from 1975 until today…We have over 10,000 cases studied, detailed and reported on, and we developed a pattern of how each case was resolved in order to use this data for future cases, prevent hostage-taking and end the hostage business.”

Gross explained that because “Hostage Aid Worldwide was founded by former hostages, we have a perspective about this that other people might not have, of great sensitivity for the hostages and hostage families.”

In addition, Gross said that HAW is unique in its “data-driven, very analytical” approach. “Anything we can do to improve the situation, we’re willing to do,” he added.

Caroline Glick: Victor Davis Hanson: Hamas & Hezbollah believe US will not help Israel
On this week’s episode of “The Caroline Glick Show,” she talks with American classicist, military historian and political commentator Victor Davis Hanson about the state of American politics and culture, and how it will affect the Middle East and Israel.

Will the progressive takeover of American educational, political and military institutions continue to erode U.S. support for Israel? Should Israel supporters just wait in the hopes that a pro-Israel president like Donald Trump will win the presidency? How should Israel react to American foreign policy?

All this and more in this far-reaching interview with one of today’s foremost historians and analysts.

Lt. Col. Conricus: ‘Hardly a House in Gaza Doesn’t Have an Entrance to a Tunnel, Shaft, or Weapons’

These are not pro-Palestinian protests, they are hate parades: Eylon Levy | Visegrad24 Podcast
Visegrad24 presents an in-depth series covering the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict. This comprehensive series features on-the-ground interviews, bringing firsthand insights from a diverse range of voices, including politicians, professors, journalists, experts and influencers.

Our guest today: Eylon Levy, official Israeli government spokesman, serving in that capacity since the start of 2023 Israel–Hamas war.

00:00 - Introduction
1:50 - The world's obsession with Jews
3:41 - Geopolitical ramifications of the Israel-Hamas war
5:53 - Where will Gazan civilians go?
09:50 - Deradicalization of Palestinians
12:00 Eternal refugees - UNRWA's role
14:00 What can the West learn from Israel
15:54 - Pro-Hamas hate parades in the West
19:09 - Will there be a war with Hezbollah?
21:23 - Israel and the UN
23:38 - Why Israel fights
24:15 - What happens after the war?

"The second intifada was Russian roulette" : Sharren Haskel | Visegrad24 Podcast
Visegrad24 presents an in-depth series covering the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict. This comprehensive series features on-the-ground interviews, bringing firsthand insights from a diverse range of voices, including politicians, professors, journalists, experts and influencers.

Our guest today:
Sharren Haskel: Israeli politician, member of the Knesset for the National Unity Party.

Britain Can’t Protect Its Own Government Ministers from Islamists
Two and a half years ago, a member of Britain’s parliament was murdered in a church in southeast England where he was meeting his constituents. Ali Harbi Ali, a 25-year-old who called himself a soldier of the Islamic State, said “Sorry” to David Amess before pulling a knife from his pocket and stabbing the Conservative lawmaker repeatedly in the stomach. When two constituents heard Amess’s screams and rushed into the room, Ali said simply, “I’ve killed him.”

In an interview with police after his arrest, Ali said that a month before the attack, he had visited the constituency of Mike Freer, another Conservative MP, armed with the intent to harm.

“That’s when I bought the stab vest,” Freer tells me over the phone from his home in his constituency of Finchley and Golders Green, a leafy corner of northwest London once represented by Margaret Thatcher and home to one of the UK’s largest Jewish communities.

Last week, Freer, 63 and a justice minister in the British government, took an even more dramatic measure to protect his safety. He announced that he will be stepping down at the next election because of the “intolerable stress” on his husband and extended family from the “several serious threats to my personal safety.”

Freer, who was attending a meeting in central London at the time Ali visited his office, said he escaped the attack “by the skin of his teeth.”

“Just walking across the road to get a can of Coke could have been fatal,” Freer said.

It isn’t just the near-miss with Ali. Freer said that during his 14 years in parliament he has seen an escalation of abuse, intimidation, and threats. The most recent incident came last Christmas Eve, when his office—the same building once used by Thatcher—was set ablaze in an arson attack that Freer says “melted the phones, melted the computer screens, and caused the ceiling to collapse.” Paul Harwood, 42, and Zara Kasory, 32, have been charged with arson and are awaiting trial. The police have not given a possible motive for the attack but said it is not being treated as a hate crime.

“The arson attack was the final straw,” Freer said when we spoke over the phone shortly after his announcement last week. “It just made me think ‘God, this is all getting too much.’ ”

Freer’s decision to prioritize his family’s well-being is a depressing sign of the times: a gay conservative justice minister hounded out of office by threats of violence, including from Islamist extremists. What’s more, it suggests the assassin’s veto—the use of violent threats to silence speech—is alive and well in the UK.

The same week Freer declared he did not feel safe to continue as an MP, Stephen Pollard, the former editor of The Jewish Chronicle, Britain’s leading Jewish newspaper, revealed that he too had been targeted by Islamists and had relied on police protection for years. On Sunday, a theater in central London canceled a pro-Israel event with the journalist and Free Press contributor Douglas Murray, citing threats to employees. Accusing the theater of “cowering to a campaign of intimidation,” Murray said in a post on X that “We have arrived at the point where theaters in London no longer feel safe to support free speech—or at least not when the subject is about Jews or Israel.”

MPs have been a focus of Islamist intimidation and violence in recent years. In 2010, Labour MP Stephen Timms was the first UK lawmaker targeted. A 21-year-old student named Roshonara Choudhry stabbed him twice in the abdomen at an East London community hall, later telling police she had wanted to “punish” the politician for voting for the invasion of Iraq. (Amess’s killer said he had targeted MPs who had voted for air strikes against ISIS in Syria.) The following year, Islamist group Muslims Against Crusades posted a picture of Freer on their website with the message “Let Stephen Timms be a warning.”

In 2011, while Freer was meeting with constituents at a local mosque, members of Muslims Against Crusades burst in and called him a “Jewish homosexual pig” and accused him of “defiling the house of Allah.” Freer, who is not Jewish, was forced to retreat into a back room at the mosque until police came to his aid. At the time, Freer was not public about his sexuality, and only spoke openly about it in debates over same-sex marriage two years later.

The next time he visited the mosque, he required police protection. “They could only shout at me on the way in and out that time,” he told me. (The British government has since banned Muslims Against Crusades, making membership in the group a criminal offense.)
Man arrested on suspicion of threatening Finchley and Golders Green MP Mike Freer
The Met Police has arrested a man in connection with threatening phone calls directed at Mike Freer, MP for Finchley and Golders Green.

On 1 February, the police obtained a report from Freer’s office that the conservative MP had received “an abusive and threatening phone call” on the previous day. Authorities launched an investigation which led to the arrest of a 46-year-old man on 6 February “on suspicion of malicious communication,” according to a press release from the Met. The suspect remains in custody at a north London police station.

In a statement last week, Freer, 63, announced that he would be stepping down from the next general election after 34 years of public service for the area of Finchley and Golders Green, citing “several serious threats to my personal safety” since his election to the role of MP in 2010.

Freer referred to an arson attack at his office in Finchley on 24 December 2023, for which a separate investigation saw the arrest of a man and woman who were charged with arson with intent to endanger life. The police investigation established the offence was not a hate crime and the two incidents are not believed to be linked.

Detective Superintendent Will Lexton-Jones, from the local policing team in north-west London, said: "It is vitally important for elected officials and their staff they can be confident in their safety and security, and we are committed to ensuring this.

"Today’s arrest sends a clear message: we will not tolerate threats or aggression of any kind towards elected officials. We will deal quickly and robustly with such offences.
‘Staggering’ level of ‘complacency and cowardice’ at work in British politics
Writer and presenter Connor Tomlinson warns there is a “staggering” level of “complacency and cowardice” after Tory MP Mike Freer announced he won’t contest re-election.

Mr Freer last week announced he won't contest re-election after receiving death threats and an arson attack on his office over his pro-Israel views.

The Tory MP’s constituency has a high level of Jewish people living in the area and since October 7 he has been “unabashedly” pro-Israel, according to Mr Tomlinson.

“He's also a gay man with a husband and so the adjacent Muslim constituents in his and other boroughs didn't take too kindly to that,” Mr Tomlinson said.

“But when he's been doing interviews in the last week for British TV stations like GB News and Talk TV when asked, ‘are you afraid of Islamist terrorism?’ He's downplayed it.”

Mr Tomlinson added that these politicians are “beyond saving from their own cowardice”.

Ritchie Torres: I won’t back down to threats over my support for Israel
To go from being admitted to hospital with suicidal thoughts related to his sexuality and dropping out of college to US congressman at the age of 31 shows the inner steel of Ritchie Torres.

So when he tells me he fears he might be assassinated over his vocal support for Israel, it’s a surprise. That a sitting member of Congress will be killed, he says as a matter-of-fact, is “when”, not “if”.

The frontline in the fight for Western values and free speech now runs straight through cities like New York. It’s no longer soldiers fighting in dusty, foreign fields who risk their lives to protect our way of life and beliefs.

His transgression? To point out that Israel is a liberal, Western-style democracy that should be defended from terrorists. For which he has been labelled a “genocide enabler” in inflammatory rhetoric that he believes is “almost bound to escalate to the level of violence”.

“I do fear for my personal safety, and I have long felt that the assassination of a member of Congress is not a question of if, it’s a question of when,” he says flatly.

“But I grew up in public housing in the Bronx and I do not scare easily.”

MEMRI: Dearborn, Michigan Mayor Abdullah Hammoud In A Pro-Palestinian Rally: This Is A City Of Resistance; Biden Must Decide Whether He Listens To Us Or To Those Who Stuff His Pockets with Money; Other Speakers: Biden Is A Cancer In Our Country; White House And Congress Must Be Cleaned Of The Bloodthirsty Killers; Israel Will Be Dismantled; We Will Have Victory In Palestine And Victory In D.C.

Sharri Markson exposes protest ‘cover-up’ by NSW Police amid fresh revelations
Sky News host Sharri Markson exposes a “cover-up” by NSW Police amid revelations they ignored testimonies from numerous witnesses who heard the "gas the Jews" chant at the Sydney Opera House protest last year.

Ms Markson revealed NSW Police failed to interview others who heard the “gas the Jews” chant despite being provided with their details.

"Police obtained statements from several individuals who attended the protest indicating they heard the phrase however these statements have not attributed the phrase to any specific individual,” a statement from NSW Police read.

The Sky News host also revealed police failed to start tracking down the “gas the Jews” footage from the group that first made it public until just before Christmas.

One witness, who didn’t want to be named publicly, had a statutory declaration done and sent to police. They called him on February 2 but then never followed up.

“Police didn't say the ‘gas the Jews’ chant hadn't happened – they just said at their press conference on Friday they couldn't prove it to the standard required for criminal prosecution and they couldn't identify any individuals who allegedly said it,” Ms Markson said.

“That is very different to saying the ‘gas the Jews’ chant didn't happen. Yet, bizarrely in the wake of this press conference, some are celebrating a journalism win – it’s sick and twisted.”

Ms Markson pointed to statements from MLC Stephen Lawrence and former ABC fill-in host Antoinette Lattouf who celebrated the findings.

“We all know how disgusting that protest was; how un-Australian; how racist,” she added.

“We all know the police failed our entire Australian community – escorting the vile protesters and allowing the spectacle to unfold and the images to be broadcast globally, tainting our Australian icon the Opera House.

“There is no question the majority of Australians hate the scenes that took place and want the police to act with the laws that are there to protect Australians.

“This has all been an upsetting episode; it's gaslighting the Jewish community.”

‘Seam of hatred’: Witness recounts Sydney Opera House protest
Anglican Minister Mark Leach says Australia has a “wonderful history” of being a cohesive and inclusive society as he condemned the actions of protesters at the Sydney Opera House last year.

The rally outside the Sydney landmark took place two days after Hamas attacked Israel on October 7.

Mr Leach sat down with Sky News host Sharri Markson to discuss his experience at the protest and what he witnessed outside the Sydney Opera House.

“The only silver lining I can see out of October the 9th is that it has revealed the extent of this deep division," he said.

“And this ugly racist seam of hatred.

“We as Australians need to say no to that hatred.”

Pro-Hamas demonstrators tried to shut down a comedy show in Toronto but failed
David Menzies attended the Yuk Yuk’s Comedy Club in Toronto where they hosted a 'Stand Up for Israel' comedy show featuring a roster of Jewish comedians. However, pro-Hamas demonstrators gathered in front of the comedy club.

More than 100 anti-Israel protesters arrested at Pennsylvania Capitol
Pennsylvania police officers arrested more than 100 anti-Israel protesters in the state Capitol on Monday afternoon who were demanding that the state divest its Israel Bonds holdings.

There was no permit for a protest, according to Pennsylvania’s Capitol Police and State Police. The arrested protesters were issued “summary citations for trespassing” and released, per police.

Pennsylvania invests some $56 million in Israel Bonds, including a $20 million investment since Oct. 7, according to an Oct. 12 press release from Stacy Garrity, the state treasurer.

“Israel is our greatest ally in the Middle East, and I will always stand with them,” Garrity stated at the time. “Israel bonds are a smart, dependable investment with a proven track record—and it’s especially important to show our support at a time when the people of Israel are facing horrific terrorism.”

She added that Pennsylvania and Israel have a “strong relationship.”

“Pennsylvania’s new investment in Israel bonds sends a powerful and uplifting message to Israel at this exceedingly difficult time,” Dani Naveh, president and CEO of Israel Bonds, stated at the time. “The state’s tremendous commitment also provides impactful and much-needed assistance on the ground, through financial support that helps secure the future of the State of Israel and its people.”

On Monday, the anti-Israel protesters sought to cast their protest as an economic statement, with some bearing banners stating “Divest from genocide, invest in PA” and “Fund PA schools.”

Jewish Voice for Peace, the Philly Palestine Coalition and the Pennsylvania Council on American-Islamic Relations organized the protest.

Buy the EoZ book, PROTOCOLS: Exposing Modern Antisemitism  today at Amazon!

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This blog may be a labor of love for me, but it takes a lot of effort, time and money. For over 19 years and 40,000 articles I have been providing accurate, original news that would have remained unnoticed. I've written hundreds of scoops and sometimes my reporting ends up making a real difference. I appreciate any donations you can give to keep this blog going.


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