Friday, February 09, 2024

From Ian:

Elliott Abrams: The U.S. Promises Palestinians a State While Demanding Nothing in Return
After criticizing Israel’s conduct of the war at a press conference in Tel Aviv, Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed the need for “a concrete, time-bound, irreversible path to a Palestinian state.” Elliott Abrams comments:

Even if one assumes that creating a Palestinian state is an important goal, what Blinken has done here is to destroy any preconditions. Blinken of course said that new state should live side by side with Israel in peace, but he did not make that a condition of its creation.

If the path forward is “time-bound and irreversible,” there are by definition no conditions that would slow or preclude creating that state. . . . A “time bound and irreversible path” to Palestinian statehood demands nothing of Palestinians. They are not asked to confront hatred of Jews, not asked to end terrorism, not asked to create decent and effective governance. Instead of being asked to reform their institutions and confront the murderers in their midst, they are asked for nothing. And if that is what they are asked for, that is what they will deliver.

This U.S. position would be understandable in many ways were it entirely cynical. . . . The deeper problem with the U.S. position today is that it appears to be idealistic: Blinken actually means what he says and does want a “time-bound and irreversible path” that will create a Palestinian state no matter how great a danger to Israel it presents. If so, he is promoting a policy that does Palestinians no favors and endangers Israelis.
Col. Kemp: Biden and Cameron are falling into Hamas's trap
They know that in an election year the last thing President Biden wants is to allow US forces to get dragged directly into another serious conflict in the Middle East. So rather than permit the Houthis’ disastrous assault on world trade and the continued humiliation of largely unanswered attacks on US bases to continue, the hope is that Biden will pressure Israel to cease the war in Gaza and refrain from intensive conflict against Hizballah in Lebanon.

Both Iran and Hamas have been given good reason to believe that is possible. Since the start of his presidency Biden has been appeasing the ayatollahs, not only by turning a blind eye to their regional aggression but also releasing millions in frozen assets to help fund it. While both Britain and the US have stood staunchly by Israel since 7th October, they have also compromised their backing by digging at Israel and trying to “two side” the conflict, including innuendo that the IDF is being less than discriminating and proportionate in its strikes against Hamas.

In the same vein, Washington has made a show of sanctioning Israelis accused of isolated and often low-level attacks against Arabs in the West Bank while paying little attention to the far more deadly organised terrorism there by Arabs against Israelis, often backed by Iran.

Both countries have also given emphasis to re-energising a “two-state solution” in the wake of this conflict, most notably in imperious pronouncements by Foreign Secretary David Cameron and his American counterpart Antony Blinken. Any such idea at this point is nothing other than facile. Apart from its sheer impracticability following the October 7 massacre, it seems to reward and further incentivise terrorism.

Of course much of this is for electoral purposes, to balance undoubted support for Israel with a nod to the vehemently and increasingly strident anti-Israel elements among the voters in both countries. But it is also highly dangerous, not least for the civilians of Gaza. It encourages Hamas to hold out hope for Western diplomatic intervention in their favour and therefore helps prolong the war. Hence their impossible demands in these negotiations in the face of impending destruction.
Col. Kemp: 'Hamas plans to use civilians until the last Palestinian is dead'
The war in the Gaza Strip has brought together Israelis from all different walks of life and facets of society with a shared goal of defending their home from Hamas terrorists in the wake of the October 7 attack.

Jews, Christians, Muslims, Druze, Circassians, and others stand united, showcasing diversity and camaraderie. Yahya Mahamid, an Israeli Arab speaker, educator, activist, IDF veteran and self-described Zionist, embodies this unity.

He discussed his journey with Colonel Richard Kemp, a former UK Armed Forces commander, in the Ynet studio. Raised in an Arab city to despise Israel, Mahamid shared how he grew to love the country and join the army.

"I see my service and the IDF as part of my duty to my country, Israel. As an Israeli citizen, I have a duty to my country, just like any other citizen in the world although my education growing up did not put me on this path," he says.

"Unfortunately, I grew up with a very negative image of Israel and the Jewish people, and I was put on a path of a different identity, a made-up identity. But later on in life, I realized and embraced my Israeli side and my Israeli identity, and therefore my duty, was to serve in the IDF and to protect the people of Israel and the country." What do you mean by a made-up identity?

"Up identity made-up identity. I was told that I was not Israeli only solely on the fact that I'm Arab. I was told that I am very distant from Israel and later on I connected to the actual land and dirt of this country. When you put on that green uniform and you fight and you sweat and you bleed and you forge a brothers-in-arms relationship with your colleagues and with your fellow soldiers, you feel connected to this land. And this is a shared feeling among all soldiers in the world, soldiers fight for their country because they're connected to the values and to the flag and to the land of that country."

And did you pay a price within your own family or community for joining the IDF?

"Joining the IDF has definitely been a challenge, and one of those challenges was because going against the flow and forging a new path usually comes at a price. Unfortunately, my family excommunicated me for a few years, because of my service and even before that because of my pro-Israel opinions. And I don't blame them because some other folks in my town where I come from have endangered my family and threatened my family solely on the fact that I hold other views, different views. But on the brighter side, my company commander, when I joined the IDF, called up my mother and told her that I joined the army and he highly encouraged her to go back into contact with me and that I am her son and based on that conversation, me and my mother spoke for the first time after three years."

Why Israel Is Winning in Gaza
One reason is known to all: The Israeli army remains wedded to the British method of intensive and prolonged individual instruction for its soldiers before their in-unit training, so that nobody enters Gaza without at least a full year’s worth of combat instruction, much more than their American counterparts had in Vietnam when the U.S. last used conscripts.

Another reason is that the IDF did not fall into the illusion that normal infantry soldiers, howsoever well-trained, could venture into invariably booby-trapped and deviously interlinked Hamas tunnels and fight successfully. More than 25 years ago, the IDF established its Yahalom (an acronym that means “diamond” in Hebrew) combat engineer unit that specializes in tunnel warfare to learn all its many tricks and perils, so that when a new tunnel entrance is discovered in Gaza by advancing troops there is no rushing in Israeli-style, until Yahalom soldiers arrive to lead the way, very carefully. By substituting low-frequency sensors, heavy earth-moving equipment, minidrones, and bullets for jet fighters, heavy artillery, and smart bombs, Israel has effected massive cost savings while reducing its reliance on U.S. resupply—and taking the steam out of propaganda claims about bombing and artillery massacres.

Finally, there is the equipment much of it unique to the IDF, and already in high demand by foreign armies. Israeli Merkava tanks, unlike the seemingly formidable German Leopard tanks that failed to spearhead Ukraine’s big offensive, were not penetrated and cooked by the remarkable Russian Kornet missiles that Hamas also has. That’s because, in addition to its thick armor, each 60-ton Merkava went into Gaza with its own Trophy counterweapon that intercepts incoming missiles and rockets at close range.

Also unique to Israel is the turretless Namer infantry carrier, a battle taxi in effect, that allows Israeli troops to move about in the perilous urban space protected by more armor than any combat vehicle in history. When armored vehicles enter defended urban areas they must do so almost blindly, because their commanders cannot stand in their turrets to look all around, as they do in open ground, without fatally exposing themselves to close-in artillery and mortars, and also snipers. Yes, there have always been observation slits, periscopes and protected sights but they only offer narrow views, of little use when a hundred windows and balconies overlook the fight.

In the Namer by contrast, nobody has to stand in an open hatch to view all 360 degrees of the outside world, because the locked-down crew can see everything on large screens whose images come from microcameras safely embedded in the armor.

Even when Israel’s infantrymen in Gaza must dismount, or advance on foot from the start, they are guided by the warnings and directions of their commanders, who monitor their movement and those of any enemies close by with the cameras of their minidrones that can see them from above, while other flying cameras look for snipers and for mortar crews in the next street over. While these days even Iran manufactures drones, Israel was the first country to produce remotely piloted vehicles as they were originally known some 60 years ago, and still today leads the way, producing both the smallest—mechanical flying insects—and some of the largest. They are especially useful in Gaza because it takes many eyes to surveil the very complicated urban landscape.

None of the above would matter if the troops fighting in Gaza were not determined to ensure that they will not have to come back, by fighting as hard and as long as necessary to grind down Hamas until nothing is left of its fighting strength. Of that the best evidence is provided by a misunderstanding: The soldiers of a reserve battalion of several hundred, rotated out after much hard fighting to bring in a fresh battalion, mistakenly thought that Israel was starting to retreat altogether, and staged a protest until they were reassured—and also reprimanded—for protesting while still in uniform.

It is now evident that the tactical victory that Hamas achieved on Oct. 7 with all its scenes of unimaginable horror has become a leading driver of its strategic defeat, by compelling the Israeli government to persist in spite of the atrocious plight of the hostages, by motivating IDF troops to fight until its destruction, and by forfeiting much potential support even from within the Arab world, allowing all Arab governments that had them to maintain diplomatic relations with Israel. That feckless American college students sing its praises will not avert the well-deserved fate that awaits Hamas, and without the heavy casualties that some feared while others gleefully anticipated.
Giant Hamas tunnel found under UNRWA’s Gaza headquarters
During a meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Prime Minister Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Wednesday, the American diplomat was shown photos of a giant tunnel that was exposed in recent days underneath the central headquarters of UNRWA in the Gaza Strip. The meeting was attended by senior officials from both sides.

The Israeli leader showed Blinken proof of the misuse of the UNRWA headquarters’ underground premises for apparent terrorist tunneling purposes.

The tunnel that was revealed in the meeting was found in the Rimal neighborhood of Gaza City. According to the Israel Defense Forces, it is believed to be one of Hamas’s strategic tunnels.

This comes amid the ongoing revelations that staff of the U.N. relief agency for the Palestinians were actively involved in the Oct. 7 attack against Israel and have long been disseminating incitement against Israel through various platforms, including as teachers.

Seth Mandel: Netanyahu Isn’t Taking the Bait
It must be said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has shown a renewed level of focus and diplomatic prudence of late. This is especially noticeable in light of Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s inconsistency-of-message and Democratic senators’ coordinated strategy of escalating their delegitimization of Israel’s war effort.

Put simply: A lot people are baiting Bibi, and Bibi ain’t biting.

This contrasts with the situation a couple months ago when Netanyahu was allowing pointed disagreements over postwar Gaza to bleed into the public debate. He’s showing more diplomatic deftness these days, and the result is that Israel’s position seems less precarious than perhaps at any time since October 7.

Yesterday, there were several tests of Netanyahu’s restraint. Some of them came from Blinken. The most controversial comment from the secretary of state’s diplomatic blitz came at a press briefing after his meetings with Netanyahu and with President Isaac Herzog. “Israelis were dehumanized in the most horrific way on October 7th. The hostages have been dehumanized every day since,” he began. “But that cannot be a license to dehumanize others.”

Blinken was referencing specific incidents, but there’s no way to know that unless you know that—to state the obvious. The Biden administration has an interest in Israel maintaining its legendary military discipline, so the president wants the stories about soldiers uploading taunting videos of their exploits in Gaza to stop. Blinken had also said this: “Israel must ensure that the delivery of life-saving assistance to Gaza is not blocked for any reason, by anyone.” He was referring to a few families of hostages who protested at the Kerem crossing by blocking aid trucks from getting through. Those trucks went a different route and arrived at their destination late—far from a crisis deserving of public admonishment from the secretary of state.
Douglas Murray: US should fight to defend borders in Ukraine, Israel — and at home
Our allies in Israel know this. One of the things that has struck me in Israel and Ukraine during their recent wars is how an invasion by a foreign power or terrorist statelet focuses the mind.

This time last year Israelis were in stand-offs against each other in the streets over proposed judicial reforms.

It took a brutal brigade-sized terrorist invasion of their country to bring them to their senses and remember what is really at stake.

Wouldn’t it be good if a dose of that reality could erupt in DC without this country ever having to undergo any similar horror?

But it is stunning watching the debate how far removed the legislature remains from the problems at home and abroad.

It is not as though the Ukrainians want to fight. Any more than the Israelis do. In my view they deserve our support as they fight to protect their homes and their borders.

But it increasingly seems as though people who recognize that cannot also recognize that we face a catastrophe here at home.

Pro-immigration Democrats and Republicans used to claim that America’s migration crisis was different from Europe’s and that the people coming into this country were at least Hispanic and therefore closer culturally than the Africans and Middle-Easterners who poured into Europe in recent years.

Well look at the pictures from the southern border and you will see that the people coming into this country are a veritable United Nations. Noticeably dominated by sub-Saharan Africans.

If Democrats think that these people are going to come in en masse and integrate happily into American life in their millions then they should look at the integration catastrophes that are roiling Europe today and think again.

But again we come back to the main point. Why can’t Ukraine, Israel and the USA have borders? It seems obvious. Just not in DC.
Seth Mandel: The Long and Winding Road to Israel and Ukraine Aid
Schumer’s strategy is essentially to bet that, combined, the two parties have enough centrists to pass the aid bills together. Israel supporters plus Ukraine supporters equals passage.

Ah, but there’s a problem with this equation. Schumer may need to subtract legislators who approve of what’s in this bill but are threatening not to vote for it because it also doesn’t include other things. Legislators such as hawkish Ukraine supporter Lindsey Graham. “You’ve hurt the cause of Ukraine by trying to shortchange the debate on the border,” Graham said today. “You may get this bill passed without any border, but it’s going nowhere in the House.”

Graham thinks the Senate hurt the cause of Ukraine by forwarding a bill that can’t pass the House, and it can’t pass the House because it doesn’t have border security…which was the poison pill that killed the last bill on launch.

This is beginning to feel like one of those riddles we used to have to solve in grade school: How do you get the chicken and the fox and the omnibus appropriations bill across the river without ever leaving the fox alone with the chicken or a congressman alone with the appropriations bill?

Of course, the New York Times tells us, the Democrats “also have a wish list of changes.” What do the Democrats hope Santa brings them? A potshot stunt aimed to satisfy their desire to mess with Israel. “Nearly 20 Democratic senators, most of them from the left wing of the party, have signed on to a proposal that would require recipients of security aid to use weapons in accordance with U.S. law, international humanitarian law and the laws of armed conflict—and not hamper efforts to send humanitarian aid to civilians. While the measure does not specifically mention Israel, it was inspired by senators’ concerns about that country’s bombardment of the Gaza Strip running afoul of international law.”

These Democrats are looking for a way to bend their own interpretation of something Israel will do in the future to try to tie the Jewish state’s hands behind its back while Hamas keeps shooting. It won’t pass or even accomplish anything constructive, but Congress can’t throw a bad-faith party without inviting the Squad, so here we are. Everybody come get some sour candy.

Still, the bill’s having received 67 votes without yet tossing a few sardines to the dolphins is a sign that there really is a path for this legislation. At the end of this circus we’ll likely have a bill. And a migraine.

Netanyahu orders IDF to prepare for evacuation of Rafah ahead of military operation
Ahead of an expected ground invasion in the southern Gazan city of Rafah, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered the IDF to prepare to evacuate the civilian population of the city.

Netanyahu made the announcement on Friday after Israel reported that Rafah was the last remaining Hamas stronghold.

Situated in southern Gaza on the Egyptian border, Hamas’s power in Rafah means the terror group controls the crossing where humanitarian aid and smuggled goods enter Gaza.

There has been international criticism of Israel’s plan to invade the crowded town, where an estimated 1.5 million Palestinians have relocated after fleeing fighting elsewhere in Gaza.

Reports of the planned clearing of Rafah comes after Israel conducted airstrikes on Rafah early Friday morning.

According to reports, airstrikes overnight and into Friday hit two buildings in the city, while two other sites were bombed in central Gaza. Associated Press reported that 22 people were killed.

On Thursday, Joe Biden said that the US did not support the planned offensive in Rafah without consideration for the civilian population.

National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters that an Israeli offensive in Rafah is “not something we would support.”

Biden also described Israel’s response to Hamas’s October 7 massacre as “over the top,” adding that he was seeking a “sustained pause” in the war.
Jonathan Tobin: Biden’s and Blinken’s words do real harm
Words matter. That’s the thing to remember about the libelous descriptions of Israel’s efforts to eradicate Hamas terrorists that came forth from both U.S. President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken in recent days. The administration is paying a political price for standing with the Jewish state after the Oct. 7 pogroms that constituted the largest mass slaughter of Jews since the Holocaust. The left-wing intersectional base of the Democratic Party, including officeholders and the president’s re-election campaign staff, is in open revolt against Biden over his refusal to date to cut off the resupply of arms for the Israel Defense Forces or to go along with U.N. Security Council resolutions to impose a ceasefire that would allow Hamas to survive the war and emerge as its victor.

That’s why it’s possible to dismiss the recent statements by Biden accusing Israel of an “over the top” response to the slaughter, rape, torture and kidnapping of its citizens, and demanding a “prolonged pause” in the war as mere rhetoric aimed at easing the political pressure on the administration. Yet those words do matter, and they are doing far more damage than perhaps American observers, who may view them solely in the context of the president’s increasingly desperate political trouble, understand.

Every sign of weakening U.S. support only encourages Hamas terrorists to hang on longer in the dwindling portions of the Gaza Strip where they remain as Israel’s military methodically closes in on them in their tunnel hideouts. And it prolongs, rather than shortens, the suffering of the remaining Israeli hostages still being held captive by terrorists, as well as the Palestinians in Gaza. If Hamas leaders think that Israel’s sole superpower ally is ready to turn off the supply of arms—either by the excuse of new specious restrictions being imposed by Washington or simply Biden’s whim—then they are willing to wait it out so in the end, they can win.

These hateful and false descriptions of Israeli actions, which are belied by the unprecedented care that the IDF takes to avoid civilian casualties and that have cost soldiers’ lives, also serve to encourage antisemitism in the United States that has been fueled by efforts to delegitimize Israel and its Jewish supporters.
Biden: Response in Gaza Strip ‘over the top’
For its part, the Biden administration is reportedly bucking decades of U.S. foreign policy by considering a plan to unilaterally recognize a Palestinian state, despite deep opposition to the move within Israel.

Both Axios and The New York Times reported about this potential major shift in the American approach towards Palestinian statehood, which hitherto has emphasized direct negotiations between Jerusalem and Ramallah.

In the months since Hamas’s Oct. 7 terrorist assault, the Biden administration has been pushing for Palestinian statehood as part of a major normalization pact and regional security initiative between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

The Palestinian issue was not reportedly seen as a major obstacle to a Jerusalem-Riyadh detente before the Hamas attack, but Washington’s stance has apparently changed.

According to the most recent “Peace Index” survey released by Tel Aviv University, when asked whether they support the creation of a “Palestinian” state alongside Israel, 66% of Jewish respondents said they opposed such a move, while 27% expressed support for the creation of a “Palestine.”

Meanwhile, Biden on Thursday issued a memorandum requiring allies who receive U.S. military aid to provide “credible and reliable written assurances” of their adherence to international law.

Under the new guidelines, the State Department and the Department of Defense will be required to issue periodic reports on whether American allies are meeting the requirements.

The memo does not mention specific countries but comes amid increasing calls in the U.S. to condition aid to Israel due to its offensive to eliminate Hamas.

On Feb. 1, the Biden administration issued an executive order sanctioning “persons undermining peace, security and stability in the West Bank,” citing “high levels of extremist settler violence, forced displacement of people and villages and property destruction.”

Adopting what it calls a “holistic approach” to the Middle East regional crisis, the White House named four sabras, or native-born Israelis, whom it is sanctioning: David Chai Chasdai of Givat Ronen; Yinon Levi of Meitarim Farm; Einan Tanjil of Kiryat Ekron; and Shalom Zicherman of Mitzpe Yair.

In response, Netanyahu said that “the overwhelming majority of residents in Judea and Samaria are law-abiding citizens, many of whom are currently fighting—as conscripts and reservists—to defend Israel.

“[My government] acts against all Israelis who break the law, everywhere. Exceptional measures are unnecessary,” added the premier.

Thousands rally in Jerusalem against ending Hamas war
Thousands of Israelis, including soldiers, parents of fallen soldiers and relatives of Hamas hostages, took part in a rally on Thursday in front of the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem.

The rally concluded a five-day cross-country march titled, “Victory March: Keep Going Until IDF Victory,” organized by Reservists Until Victory, a group established by Israeli reservists who served in the Gaza Strip and along Israel’s border with Lebanon since Oct. 7.

Both the march and the concluding rally called on Israel to continue the war against Hamas in Gaza until achieving a decisive victory.

Galit Waldman, the mother of Maj. Ariel Ben Moshe, 27, a commander in the Sayeret Matkal unit who was killed in action in Kibbutz Re’im on Oct. 7, and Hila Baruch Lilian, a resident of Sderot and a representative of the Otef Israel Forum of residents of the Gaza surrounding communities, addressed the protesters in Jerusalem.

Eliyahu Liebman, whose son Elyakim Liebman, 24, was kidnapped by Hamas into Gaza, and Itzik Bunzel, the father of Sgt. Amit Bunzel, 22, a Paratrooper from Shoham who was killed in action in central Gaza on Dec. 6, also addressed the crowd.

“Amit was a soldier in the Israel Defense Forces, and his job was to return the kidnapped,” Bunzel said in his speech. “If I had the chance to talk to him I would have told him: Amit, my son, don’t hesitate, kill as many terrorists as possible, do everything you can to return the kidnapped.”

“Amit, unfortunately, will not return, but other soldiers are still fighting and I want to say to them that they keep fighting until victory,” he continued.

“Our enemies should know that the IDF is a winning army and not one that hesitates,” added the bereaved father.

US, Qatar working to expel Hamas from Doha
The US and Qatar are working together to expel Hamas leaders from Doha, Al-Arabiya reported on Friday.

The head of Hamas's politburo, Ismail Haniyeh, has lived in luxury in Doha for years. Qatar has been central in meditating talks aimed at reaching a ceasefire and a release of the hostages being held by Hamas in Gaza. The Al-Arabiya report did not provide further details about the alleged Qatari and American efforts to expel Hamas from Doha.

In October, The Washington Post reported that Qatar and the US had agreed to discuss Hamas's presence in Doha once the crisis in the region was resolved, although it was unclear what exactly that would entail. In December, Israeli media reported that Qatar had agreed to exile Hamas leaders if a ceasefire was reached, although a Qatari official denied that this was the case.

Hostage release, ceasefire talks remain stuck

The report came as ceasefire and hostage release talks between Israel and Hamas remained stuck in place.

According to Al-Arabiya, negotiations in Cairo concerning a deal to release the hostages held by Hamas and to institute a ceasefire were "stuck," and Hamas's response to the most recent proposal was "an embarrassment to Egypt's efforts with the US."

On Thursday, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed reported, citing Egyptian sources, that a high-level Egyptian security delegation visited Israel on Wednesday to discuss a new round of negotiations for a ceasefire agreement that would take place in Cairo.

According to the report, Israeli and Egyptian officials discussed plans by the IDF to expand operations in Rafah, and it was agreed that a decision on the matter would be postponed in order not to obstruct the negotiations in Cairo.

Seth Frantzman: Detect and destroy: The IDF unit protecting Israel from rockets
When rockets are fired at Israel by terrorist groups such as Hamas, the launches are detected, and the sound of sirens sends Israelis running to shelters. Since the war in Gaza began, more than 10,000 rockets have been fired at Israel at an unprecedented rate. During the first hours of October 7, thousands of rockets blanketed southern and central Israel. While rocket fire has been significantly reduced by the IDF’s operations in Gaza, the threat remains.

One of the IDF’s units that plays a role in detecting rockets and helping to determine from where they are launched, so that the source can be destroyed, is the 611th Battalion of the 282nd Fire Brigade. The Jerusalem Post spoke to the commander and another officer of this unique and important unit that uses radar and other technology to help Israel respond to threats in Gaza or on other fronts. This group of soldiers plays a key role in the war effort.

The unit commander, Lt.-Col. B., whose full name is withheld for security reasons, describes his small force as a “close-knit unit.” It guards and protects Israel and provides important “hits on the enemy,” he says. The unit helps to correct Israel’s artillery fire, increasing its accuracy, thus providing the precision to defend against threats and to aid operations in Gaza.

“All the artillery shot in Gaza was exactly because of our unit,” he says.

It fills the commander with pride to discuss how the unit is able to use its radar technology and other assets to spot missiles being launched by the enemy, give soldiers real-time warnings to reach shelters, and provide coordinates so that fire can be directed against the enemy.

The soldiers in this war are motivated to defeat and destroy Hamas.
“We know if they stay, that they will kill us and do the same thing they did [on October 7]. The whole world is looking at what we do right now, and they are looking to see that light will defeat the evil and [overcome] the dark[ness].”

'Surrender, your fate is death': Nukhba commander warns Hamas

El Al flight makes emergency landing after violent passenger attempted to infiltrate cockpit
An El Al flight from Prague to Tel Aviv was forced to make an emergency landing in Greece after a “violent passenger” attempted to enter the plane’s cockpit, according to Israeli media reports on Thursday.

The Israeli national airline wrote in a statement that flight LY2522, scheduled to fly from the Czech capital to Israel, made an emergency landing in Thessaloniki, Greece where the disruptive passenger was apprehended by local security services.

"El Al has a zero-tolerance policy for violence, and we shall continue to ensure the safety of our passengers,” the statement said.

Israeli news outlet N12 later reported that the passenger was detained by on-board security personnel after he attempted to infiltrate the cockpit. According to N12, onboard security officers described the passenger in question as being “apparently of Arab descent.”
Hezbollah’s narrative on Al-Aqsa Flood: Tailored to appeal to specific Western sensibilities
Both domestically and in certain circles abroad, the Resistance Axis and its narrative are capable of attracting support due to their ability to manipulate the reasons behind the casualty count lopsided in Israel’s favor, and to frame themselves – with their relatively primitive means of warfare – as fighting an unstoppable Israeli juggernaut. Thus, every Israeli military action is labeled ‘udwan (aggression). Israel, they say, never acts in self-defense. That is only an excuse for the Jewish state to act on its inherently rapacious and aggressive intentions, its raison d’etre to wantonly shed Arab blood and steal Arab land. In his speeches since the onset for the war, for example, Nasrallah said the Palestinian body count in the current war only served as a reminder of “the barbaric…true nature of this Entity.”

The horrors of Oct. 7, documented by the assailants themselves, risked puncturing that narrative – albeit only among the morally-inclined. It gave unprecedented international imprimatur to the Israel Defense Forces to eliminate Hamas, the same way the world had rallied behind the United States’ mission to defeat Al-Qaeda after 9/11, or the global campaign to destroy ISIS. But were Israel to accomplish that goal, Hezbollah and Iran would lose the immeasurably valuable asset into which they had transformed Gaza since the 2005 Israeli Disengagement. If Israel couldn’t be stopped militarily, then appeals had to be made to world opinion to argue that Israel’s war is unjust at its core – hence the attempt to deny any of the atrocities committed by Hamas and to argue that the organizations actions on Oct. 7 were resistance activities aimed at military targets – including false attributions to Haaretz and Yediot Ahronoth of stories that “hundreds” of the Israeli victims were actually killed by Israeli forces themselves. This element of the narrative in particular reinforces both the Resistance Axis’ claim of the unjustness of Israel’s war and its claims about Israel’s inherently bloodthirsty and barbaric nature.

But this element of the narrative aims to obscure reality, and there’s a sleight of hand at play: the Resistance Axis does not recognize the concept of an Israeli civilian. Hamas, which has been trying to undo the damage to its image wrought by its October 7 rampage, has a history replete with suicide bombings and other attacks that deliberately target civilians. Hezbollah too has no qualms about harming Israeli civilians.

Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, a scholar sympathetic to Hezbollah, wrote in her 2002 book on the organization – Hizbu’llah: Politics and Religion – that as part of its commitment to denying Israel’s legitimacy or right to exist and commitment to destroying Israel, Hezbollah also does not recognize the existence of Israeli civilians as such and views attacks against them as legitimate. The concept of an Israeli civilian, let alone an innocent one, is anathema to the organization. “… We place quotation marks around ‘[Israeli] civilians’ because the entire [Zionist] entity is an occupier, these are occupiers…” Nasrallah recently stressed. “There is not a single innocent Jew in Palestine now,” Ghorayeb quotes longtime Hezbollah official Hussein Al-Mousawi as saying. Insofar as it views the Israeli state and Israeli society – collectively and as individuals – as identical, and identical existential threats to Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims, both must be liquidated.

“There is no possibility of dialogue or reconciliation with Israeli society as there is with Western society,” writes Ghorayeb, and states that Hezbollah views violence against Israeli civilians as a legitimate means to achieving its stated desire to liberate Palestine “from the river to the sea.” In his own book, Naim Qassem, Hezbollah’s Deputy Secretary-General and most articulate communicator of the group’s ideology, justifies attacking Israeli civilians as a means of eroding Israel’s national will and international legitimacy. Chillingly, according to Ghorayeb, this legitimization of attacks against Israeli civilians extends to Israeli children – enjoined by no less an authority than sheikh Mohammad Yazbek, the chairman of Hezbollah’s Judicial Council, the body tasked with determining religiously permissible actions.
Israel attempts to assassinate two high-ranking Hezbollah commanders in south Lebanon
Forces under Al-Debes’ command were responsible for anti-tank missile fire targeting the northern Israeli city of Kiryat Shmona and Metula, on the Lebanon-Israel frontier. Earlier that morning, Hezbollah had claimed an attack on Kiryat Shmona that seriously wounded an IDF soldier at Camp Gibor. Camp Gibor serves as the Headquarters of the Hiram Regional Division, responsible for security tasks in the eastern sector of Israel’s border with Lebanon. While an Israeli military spokesman was unable to tell AFP whether Al-Debes was responsible for that morning’s specific attacks on Kiryat Shmona. However, Galei Tzahal reported that Al-Debes had indeed been responsible for that morning’s attacks, while other Israeli military sources – which was echoed by an Israeli military source to Sky News Arabia.

Shortly afterwards, reports began emerging that the other – but primary and actual – intended target of the strike was Ali Karaki, whom media outlets described as a “Hezbollah military commander” but, more significantly, “the general military commander of Hezbollah” and “the highest-ranking military command personality in the Hezb[ollah], and a member of its Jihad Council,” which oversees the group’s whole military apparatus. Those reports indicated that Karaki had survived the Israeli strike, which was the second attempt on his life. It does not appear that Karaki was the Hezbollah member described as wounded but “in serious condition.” Reports indicate that Karaki was not in the car at the time it was struck and had avoided being hit by the drone strike after having successfully camouflaged himself.

Ali Karaki, born on February 25, 1967, is a long-standing member of Hezbollah. In the late 1980s, he allegedly belonged to the Hezbollah cell, which carried out attacks on fifteen targets in Paris between December 1985 and September 1986. Karaki has been counted as a senior leader of Hezbollah’s Jihad Council for at least five years. He previously commanded the Muawaniyeh 105, Hezbollah’s southern command, and was responsible for military operations in south Lebanon. He was born in Ain Bouswar, a village in south Lebanon’s Nabatieh District. He holds both Lebanese and Guinean citizenship, and is also known as Muhammad Ali Karaki and Muhammad Karaki. The United States Department of State designated him as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) in September 2019 for his role in Hezbollah.

It is possible, but highly unlikely, that this Ali Karaki – the target of today’s Israeli strike – is identical to the eponymous individual arrested by Azerbaijan in 2008 over a plot to blow up the Israeli Embassy in Baku in retaliation for the assassination of Hezbollah military commander Imad Mughniyeh. That Ali Karaki, described as a veteran of Hezbollah’s external operations unit, was sentenced to 15 years in prison and disclosed intelligence information regarding his Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) contacts – making his reintegration into Hezbollah’s ranks at such a senior level implausible.

Whether or not Israel succeeded in killing Ali Karaki and Abbas Al-Debes, the attempt on the life of two members of Hezbollah as high-ranking as this pair is an unmistakable escalation by the Israelis. The group cannot be expected to remain passive in the face of such a strike, all the most so if they have been killed. But their death or survival is almost secondary to the message that Israel was trying to send its adversaries in Hezbollah – that its patience with the group’s ongoing attacks is running out, and that it should consider none of its leadership safe, irrespective of the consequences.

Tracy-Ann Oberman: Jewish women always speak up. We refuse to be silenced
In the past fortnight, I have had more interaction with the Metropolitan Police than ever before in my life. First came a face-to-face interview lasting two-and-a-half-hours, then follow-up calls. Even more interviews are to come. What is the reason for all this? To put it bluntly: success.

For those of you who regularly read this column, you will be aware that I have co-created a stage version of Shakespeare’s difficult play The Merchant of Venice.

In my version, called The Merchant of Venice 1936, I play the vilified Jewish moneylender, who demands a pound of flesh from the aristocratic merchant Antonio, who reneges on a payment for a loan.

My Shylock is female, a world first for a full-scale production, and is based on my Belarusian immigrant great-grandmother. Set against the backdrop of Oswald Mosley and the Battle of Cable Street in 1936, my production ends by re-enacting an East End moment of unity. Londoners of all backgrounds — Irish, Afro-Caribbean, English working class, dockers and trade unionists — all stand with the Jewish community, linking arms, building barricades, chanting “they shall not pass” in the faces of the marching Blackshirts.

Audiences are on their feet almost every night, and some come back three or four times to watch the production. The reviews have been overwhelming, even from Jeremy Corbyn’s favourite newspaper, the Morning Star, which gave us five stars (that pleased me enormously). It’s been called the most important Shakespeare production of 2023. I’m flooded with gratitude and pride.

When I first started working on the project in 2018 for an initial four-week run, I had no idea that this little production would still be running a year later. That’s the least of it. The play has sold out a 13-week national tour and been invited by the Royal Shakespeare Company to have two residencies at the Swan Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, where, due to popular demand, it has been standing room only.

JW3 creates a lovelock bridge for the hostages
The bridge that links the entrance to JW3 with Finchley Road will be newly unveiled as the Lovelock Hostage Bridge this weekend.

The walkway will be fitted with over 100 padlocks displaying hostages’ names as well as countless padlocks signed by hostages’ family members and high-profile personalities.

On Sunday, the padlocks will be attached to the Lovelock Hostage Bridge as part of an installation conceived by the branding expert Marcel Knobil, and launched in collaboration with the 7/10 Human Chain Project.

“I felt that there was a desperate need to help reawaken the national and international media to the plight of the hostages,” Knobil said.

The idea was inspired by lovelock bridges around Europe. Knobil noted a dual symbolism in the locks; on the one hand, they traditionally represent a commitment of love and loyalty, and, on the other, the entrapment of being locked up.

As a result, the padlocks bearing the hostages’ names will be removed from the bridge as each hostage is released.

Padlocks signed by members of the hostages’ families will sit alongside locks signed by dozens of prominent figures, including Dame Maureen Lipman, Tracy-Ann Oberman and Nick Ferrari. Holocaust survivor Lily Ebert BEM, Eylon Levy, Rachel Riley and Vanessa Feltz are also participating in the installation.

In new ad, Michael Rapaport urges Americans to lobby for hostages’ release
As hundreds of millions of people tune in to the 2024 Super Bowl on Sunday, the Hostages and Missing Families Forum is unveiling its own game-time ad campaign on social media, calling on Americans to support releasing the 136 hostages still held by Hamas in Gaza.

The ad features actor Michael Rapaport, who visited Israel in December, hawking The campaign appears to be a typical Super Bowl-related ad, until Rapaport reverts to his usual foul-mouthed speech as he urges viewers’ help in getting the hostages released.

He asks viewers to log on to, a website created by the Forum, where they can fill out an email form to be sent to their local representatives, seeking their assistance with the hostage crisis.

The ad campaign was created by the Hostages and Missing Families Forum, the organization that has been assisting and supporting the families of the Israeli abductees.

The Forum’s hope with the Super Bowl-timed ad is to reach new audiences who may not be aware or do not have current information about the remaining hostages held in Gaza, abducted on October 7 during the Hamas assault on Israel’s southern communities.

“It’s a campaign that looks like the kind of ad that runs during the Super Bowl,” said a representative of the Forum. “Everybody is always looking for all the Super Bowl ads, so ours will pop up on social media, on YouTube, Tiktok, anywhere people look for mentions about the ‘big day’ and the ‘big game.'”

Sirhan Sirhan For Eight American Hostages Held In Gaza?
Israel knows full well about the danger of releasing politically-driven murderers: the mastermind of the October 7 massacre, Yahya Sinwar, was released from Israeli jails in 2011 along with 1,000 other Palestinian prisoners for a single Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit.

The Biden Administration is actively attempting to coax a Hamas-Israeli deal which could release dangerous Palestinian Arab murderers of Israelis. It remains to be seen if America will similarly release a known Palestinian killer of an American senator to free American civilian hostages taken hostage into Gaza.

Sirhan’s release would be a cause for huge celebration among Palestinians, and it’s likely that public squares would get named for him. He might even become the next president of the Palestinian Authority, just so Palestinian Arabs could shove a middle finger into the heart of American consciousness.

The Israel Guys: This WEAPON Is Being Used By MILLIONS To Attack Israel
How is it even possible that a social media app could be turned into such a weapon! With a 50 - 1 ratio… 50 pro palestinian views to one pro Israel view. Is that just happen stance? or is that by design? By the looks of it it’s by design and we now face an entire generation of brainwashed heads falling into the hands of a few social media guru’s…. Sounds bad! Let's break it down now. You can decide for yourself!

No ‘easy answer’ in terms of the IDF being able to ‘root out’ Hamas from Gaza
ANU North America Director John Blaxland says there isn’t an “easy answer” in terms of the Israeli Defense Forces being able to root out Hamas from Gaza.

“It’s a devilishly difficult situation,” he told Sky News Australia.

“Anybody who thinks that there’s an easy answer to this is ... delusional.

“The politics of this is absolutely devilishly difficult to unravel.

“Netanyahu ... domestically, he’s supported by (the) right wing of the Israeli political spectrum who are heavily invested in maintaining the momentum for tracking down Hamas and defeating Hamas in detail.”

Mr Blaxland said, however, this comes at a cost, which appears to be “intolerable” internationally.

Terrorism expert expresses shock over ‘venom’ of pro-Hamas protesters
Former presidential envoy and terrorism expert Marshall Billingslea has expressed his horror at the “venom” and “vitriol” of pro-Hamas protesters across the world.

Some protesters have applauded Hamas for the atrocities committed on October 7, where around 1,200 Israelis were murdered.

Mr Billingslea said the “hate-filled reaction” witnessed in the past few months wasn’t seen even after 9/11.

“I would say many of our democracies have a real problem on their hands if this is the kind of reaction that kind of attack provokes,” he told Sky News host Erin Molan.

“Here in the United States we are quite concerned and the FBI is quite concerned about the potential for terrorist attacks here as well.”

In the UK, Terrorizing Politicians Gets Results, Not Outrage
Last week, a member of the UK parliament named Mike Freer announced that he is not seeking reelection and plans to withdraw from politics altogether. The reason? Repeated threats and harassment due to his support for Israel, and an attempt to burn down his office on Christmas eve. Douglas Murray comments:

It strikes me that had it been far-right extremists who had been targeting Freer, MPs might have had something to say. They might even—rightly—have said that this country should do everything it can to stop far-right extremists attacking MPs. But this was different. The hatred comes from a different direction, so they were silent. Freer himself gave an interview last week in which even he tried to get around the truth of his own situation. He refused to identify the ideology of the people who have been targeting him.

I remember a different Britain. A Britain where Margaret Thatcher stood in Brighton after an attempt on her life and told the world that the men of violence must not be allowed to win. But we don’t live in that society anymore. We have decided that the men of violence are winning, and that we must as a result all just keep our heads down.
‘Rather sad’: Douglas Murray roasts Joe Biden over latest ‘gaffe’
President Joe Biden accidentally calling Egypt's President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi the “president of Mexico” is not just “another Biden gaffe”, author Douglas Murray warns.

The President made a national address after he was found to have “wilfully” retained and disclosed highly classified documents in the garage, offices and basement den of his home in Delaware.

“The idea that the same man is in the most powerful position in the world is something which is just a scandal you and I have talked about before,” Mr Murray told Sky News host Rita Panahi.

“The Democrats have clearly been trying to cover it over.

“They've been hoping he'll get better, or something like that. It'll become less noticeable, and they can just they can just allow him to, to roll on.”

‘I’m quite upset by it’: Julian Leeser on the Aboriginal flag used in Palestine protests
Liberal MP Julian Leeser says the issues going on in Israel and Gaza have “nothing to do with” Indigenous issues in Australia.

The Aboriginal flag is often used at pro-Palestinian protests around Australia.

Mr Leeser sat down with Erin Molan to discuss the use of the Aboriginal flag for an anti-Israel agenda.

Mr Leeser told Sky News host Erin Moley that the deep friendship and respect between Jewish and Indigenous Australians “goes back decades”.

“I’m quite upset by it.”

"We know what it means when a Greens MP speaks of Jewish tentacles and the exclusion of Jews"
"We know what it means when a Greens MP speaks of Jewish tentacles and argues publicly for the exclusion of Jewish people": Julian Leeser, Liberal Party Member of Parliament -

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on the antisemitic behaviour of Greens MP Jenny Leong.
"I condemn any forms of antisemitism including the comments by my local member": Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese calls out antisemitism from NSW Greens MP Jenny Leong in response to a question from Opposition MP Paul Fletcher in Parliament.

‘Jew List’ published by Australian pro-Palestinian activists forces
Executive Council of Australian Jewry co-chief executive Alex Ryvchin described the document as a “Jew list” designed to target those speaking out against antisemitism, according to the Jewish Chronicle.

Speaking to the Herald, Ryvchin said, “These people have painstakingly collected the names, faces, professions, and other personal information of a group of Australians whose sole common trait is that they are Jews.

“They are telling those who chant ‘Where’s the Jews?’ exactly who and where the Jews are.

“It is a ‘Jew list’ drawn up and published in a menacing manner intended to inflict maximum emotional damage and professional loss.”

Victoria police are investigating the incident.

Government announces stringent new measures to crack down on disorder at anti-Israel marches
The Home Office has announced new laws to target protesters who cover their faces, climb onto public monuments, or use roadblocks and pyrotechnics as a means to protest.

The series of measures are part of a new criminal justice bill and follow police warnings that some protesters have used face coverings to conceal their identities to avoid criminal convictions.

Police already have the power to ask individuals to remove masks at protests, but this new crime will empower officers to arrest individuals who disregard their orders and offenders will face a month behind bars and a £1,000 fine.

Protesters who climb war memorials will also face a £1,000 penalty and up to three months in prison.

Flares and other pyrotechnics will be banned from protests, and protesters will no longer be able to cite the right to protest as a reasonable excuse to get away with disruptive offences, such as blocking roads.

In a video shared on X/Twitter, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced the new police powers to crack down on what he called “intimidating and appalling behaviour.”

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Elder of Ziyon - حـكـيـم صـهـيـون

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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