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IDSF Weekly War Summary #23 March 10-March 16, 2024



Overview

  • US-Israeli tensions have escalated, with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, delivering harsh criticism of Israel and Netanyahu. This is the first time such a senior political figure who is also a leading Jewish American voice has called declared the Israeli Prime Minister as one of the four primary obstacles to peace and directly called for new elections to Israel that would lead to his removal. He also placed a lot of blame on Israel for the civilian casualties in Gaza which is widely being interpreted as a threat to condition future military support for Israel. President Biden agreed with his statement.

  • The US Administration is attempting to create a false divergence between Israeli war policies and Israeli public opinion, attempting to underpin the Israeli government’s intransigence to American demands like the creation of a Palestinian state based on the makeup of an obstinate government. The Administration refuses to recognize that the policies undertaken by Israel, such as planning to dismantle the last Hamas battalions in Rafah, have consensus in Israeli public opinion.

  • Biden still hopes to reach a temporary ceasefire during Ramadan, which would later become permanent. On March 12th, the Qatari Foreign Minister said the sides are still far from reaching a deal. The US Administration has recently changed course, and have adopted a similar line to Hamas leader, Ismael Haniyeh, which blames Israel’s “extremist” government as the main hurdle to reaching a deal.

  • In a terrorist attack in Bet Kama, an Israeli Bedouin terrorist named Fadi Abu Latif from Rahat murdered with knife stabbing Chief Warrant Officer Uri Moyal, 51, a senior technology and maintenance NCO at the Nahal Brigade’s training base, from the city of Dimona. Abu Latif was a former Gaza resident who received Israeli citizenship and moved to Israel in 2019 as a result of family unification. Moyal managed to shoot the terrorist to death and neutralize him before succumbing to his wounds.

  • The IDF conducted an aerial attack based on precise intelligence in Dir el Balah in an attempt to eliminate Marwan Issa, second in the Al Qassam Brigades command (Hamas’ military wing). Issa is suspected to have been killed in the strike. Netanyahu’s close advisors said it was an “extremely significant move”. Hamas reportedly admitted Issa’s targeted killing.

  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the governmental cabinet have approved the military plan to conquer Rafah with the commensurate steps to move the civilian populations to safe zones. This stage is crucial in obtaining the war’s main objective of destroying Hamas’ military and governance capabilities. By dismantling the remaining 6 battalions of Hamas in Rafah, Israel also hopes to put more pressure on Hamas to release hostages, once it understands Israel’s seriousness in completing the mission.

  • Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant is reportedly considering appointing senior Palestinian Authority figure Majed Faraj, known for his strong ties with the security apparatus and even the CIA, to oversee civilian affairs in Gaza.

  • A new American intelligence report suggests that the conflict will last longer than expected. Iran will continue its regional attacks against Israel, and it is only a matter of time before attacks in Iraq resume. The report also says Netanyahu’s government would fall and Israel will head to elections which could explain the Administration’s recent confrontations with Netanyahu.

  • Hamas has issued a counteroffer to an Israeli hostage release deal which would include 3 different stages. This would result in its top priority of Israel ending the war, removing Israeli troops from Gaza and allowing Gazans to return to the north and allowing in more humanitarian aid.

  • The IDF started the logistical works needed for a port to be built which would connect to the US planned pier in the sea bringing in humanitarian aid.

  • Hamas has reportedly killed clan heads that were in contact with Israel. Israel plans to initiate a plan of local rule by clan leaders, which is Hamas’ main fear. Hamas called upon its supporters to find any “traitors” who collaborate with Israel and execute them.

  • The IDF spokesperson revealed that since the start of the conflict, over 4,000 targets have been struck in Lebanon, mostly in the southern part of the country. Around 300 militants have been killed, and over 750 injured. The IDF destroyed 70 occupied command posts, struck 450 targets related to the Radwan Force, 50 terror infrastructure sites for precision-guided missiles, and 150 observation posts along the border with Israel.

  • Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas Appoints New PA Prime Minister, Mohammad Mustafa include 3 who is replacing Mohammad Shtayyeh.

International

  • A Security Council meeting addressed Hamas-perpetrated sexual assaults against Israelis on October 7th. UN envoy Pramila Patten’s report confirmed the high probability of sexual violence against Israelis by Hamas. During her visit to Israel, she gathered clear and convincing evidence of sexual assaults on abducted Israelis.

  • US, Cyprus, EU, UK, UAE, and Qatar Foreign Ministers discussed virtual conference on opening sea access for humanitarian aid to Gaza. They agreed the maritime route should be part of a comprehensive effort, including land crossings, and continued air assistance, urging Israel to open additional crossings.

  • The Biden Administration imposed sanctions on two Israeli outposts, Havat Moshe and Havat Zvi, and three “settlers” accused of destabilizing Judea and Samaria. Washington urged Israel to do more to prevent settler violence, which it sees as a hurdle to Israeli-Palestinian peace. It also announced visa restrictions on what it considers extremist settlers.

  • Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong announced renewed funding for UNRWA after initially suspending aid to UNWRA on January 27 after its involvement in the October 7th atrocities came to light. About AU$6 million in withheld funding will be released immediately, with an additional AU$4 million for UNICEF and AU$2 million for a separate UN facility in Gaza. Australia will also provide Jordan and the UAE with 140 parachutes for aerial aid.

  • A source indicated Egyptian authorities fear the establishment of a larger maritime zone, which could affect the current situation and border crossings between Egypt and Gaza. There are concerns that the zone may become an exit route for Gazan residents. Egypt’s presidency cannot openly oppose the establishment due to its high level of coordination with the US and the EU.




Gaza Strip

Diplomatic

US-Israeli tensions have escalated, with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer delivering harsh criticism of Israel and Netanyahu. Schumer, who is also a leading Jewish American voice and referenced the translation of his last name as a “Guardian of Israel” prominently in his speech, declared Israeli Prime Minister as one of the four primary obstacles to peace and directly called for new Israeli elections that would lead to his removal.  He accused Israel of advancing policies that would maintain a state of war for the foreseeable future, harm Israel’s survival as a Jewish state, and continue to hemorrhage international support.  He presented the priorities of the Israeli Prime Minister in direct contrast to the needs of the Israeli people, in a similar tone to that of President Biden and Vice President Harris.

In an unprecedented move, he suggested that if Israeli policy does not change, the US would need to use its leverage to affect policy. This is the first time such a senior political figure has called for the application of pressure on Israel by insinuating that Israel’s execution on the battlefield does not meet American standards and may condition future military support for Israel on adaptation to American standards. Biden expressed support for Schumer’s remarks stating “I think he expressed serious concerns shared not only by him but by many Americans,” although the speech itself was not coordinated with the White House.

In Israel, politicians from across the board (including Netanyahu’s rivals) have rejected Schumer’s attempts to meddle in Israeli politics by calling for an early election and the replacement of Netanyahu. Minority Leader Senator Mitch McConnell condemned Schumer for suggesting that the US should involve itself in the domestic politics of a democratic ally.

The US Administration are trying to create a false divergence between Israeli war policies and Israeli public opinion, attempting to underpin the Israeli government’s intransigence to American demands like the creation of a Palestinian state based on the makeup of an obstinate government. The Administration refuses to recognize that the policies undertaken by Israel, such as planning to dismantle the last Hamas battalions in Rafah, have consensus in Israeli public opinion. The idea of creating a Palestinian state is rejected by the majority of Israelis, as suggested by a recent poll by the INSS.  On February 21, the Knesset voted 99-9 to oppose international diktats of the sort that Senator Schumer outlined.

Biden still hopes to reach a temporary ceasefire during Ramadan, which would later become permanent. On March 12th, the Qatari Foreign Minister said the sides are still far from reaching a deal. The US administration has adopted a similar line to Haniyeh, which blames Israel’s “extremist” government as the main hurdle to reaching a deal. Over the week, Netanyahu and other Biden administration officials exchanged messages through their speeches that opposed each other. Netanyahu said in a speech to AIPAC that he is committed to destroying the Rafah brigades of Hamas, and preventing Israel from doing so would essentially mean preventing Israel from achieving total victory. Netanyahu also said that he does not carry out his own personal agenda but acts in accordance with the will of the majority in Israel. The same messages were repeated in Netanyahu’s interview with Politico.

  • Defense Minister Gallant is reportedly considering appointing senior Palestinian Authority figure Majed Faraj, known for his strong ties with the security apparatus and even the CIA, to oversee civilian affairs in Gaza. Faraj is a prominent opponent of Hamas. This move comes as Israel constructs a new administration in place, signaling a complex process likely to take months and years ahead.

  • Security Minister Gallant has signed an MOU with the State Department promising that American made weapons would be used in compliance with international law. This may seem to be a minor a technicality, as Israel abides by international law, but is symbolic of the Biden’s administration’s application of pressure on Israel to present that to their political base that they using diplomatic pressure to restrain Israel’s aggressiveness on the battlefield.

  • A new American intelligence report suggests that the conflict will last longer than expected. Iran will continue its regional attacks against Israel, and it is only a matter of time before attacks in Iraq resume. The report warns that Netanyahu’s government is in jeopardy, with Israel facing widespread protests and upcoming elections. They claim Netanyahu’s refusal to cooperate with the Palestinian Authority poses a problem for Israel. It also argues that eradicating Hamas, supported by the majority of Gaza Arabs, is not feasible, predicting a lengthy process ahead.

The Hamas Hostage Deal

  • Hamas has issued a counteroffer to an Israeli hostage release deal which would include 3 different stages. That would result in its top priority of Israel ending the war, removing Israeli troops from Gaza, and allowing Gazans to return to the north and allowing in more humanitarian aid. The deal included the release of 700-1000 terrorists for 40 hostages in the first round of releases. Israel’s government has insisted that these demands are delusional. Meanwhile, an Israeli delegation headed by Mossad Chief, David Barnea, is scheduled to travel this week to Doha to discuss the deal.

  • Hamas presented a more stubborn stance, outlining 5 demands for any hostage deal: complete Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, a full ceasefire commitment, returning all residents northward, humanitarian aid to Gaza, and lifting the blockade post-war. Additionally, they called for recognition of a Palestinian state in Gaza and Judea and Samaria, holding inclusive elections including Hamas, and forming a transitional government that includes Hamas.

  • Ismail Haniyeh, head of Hamas’s political bureau, stated that President Biden’s rhetoric is shifting, requiring substantial actions to halt “the war of massacre and starvation” against Palestinians in Gaza and northern territories. He emphasized that the combat and diplomatic negotiations are part of the same battlefield. Hamas is insisting on its unyielding resistance to end the conflict. There is an opportunity for a multi-stage agreement if the Israeli government relinquishes its stubbornness.

  • Jake Sullivan, US National Security Advisor, stated that they are determined to achieve a ceasefire lasting at least six weeks, during which hostages will be released. Once accomplished, they will seek to progress towards a more permanent arrangement. Sullivan also emphasized that a military operation in Rafah that does not protect civilians is something President Biden cannot support, which is tantamount to informing Hamas that their strategy of using human shields will be rewarded and remain effective, guaranteeing more civilians will be put in harm’s way.

  • Hamas representative in Lebanon, Walid Kilani said and emphasized that there would be no agreement without a comprehensive ceasefire in Gaza, IDF withdrawal from all areas of the territory, provision of aid, supplies, and infrastructure to northern districts and Gaza City, the return of detainees, and genuine negotiations on the hostage deal without any obstacles. He expressed confidence that the time will come when Israel will yield to their conditions. He mentioned the “Shalit Deal,” where at the beginning of negotiations, Israel offered to release a 1:1 Palestinian prisoner in exchange, but after they hardened their positions, it managed to release 1,027 Palestinian prisoners. Hamas sees the “Shalit Deal” as a negotiation model for the hostage deal. By hardening its positions, they aim to pressure Israel into yielding to their terms, thereby releasing as many imprisoned terrorists in Israel as possible, allowing them to return to the cycle of terror.

Operational

The IDF started the logistical activities needed for a port to be built which would connect to the US planned pier in the sea bringing in humanitarian aid. Satellite images have shown how the terrain has changed. The first ship with humanitarian supplies from Cyprus funded by the UAE arrived in Gaza with the US sending a separate ship from Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia. In the coming days, an American team of experts is expected to arrive to determine ways to operate and provide security for the makeshift port being built with an expected capacity equivalent to 200 trucks worth of aid a day.

Netanyahu and the governmental cabinet have approved the military plan to conquer Rafah with the commensurate steps to move the civilian populations to safe zones. The plan would be presented to the American Administration for review. IDF Spokesman, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, said that the IDF plans to evacuate the population to islands along the strip and most of the people would be housed along the shoreline. The IDF is planning to engage with international NGO’s and other actors to deliver aid, food, shelter and even creation of field hospitals.

  • The IDF conducted an aerial attack based on precise intelligence in Dir el Balah in an attempt to eliminate Marwan Issa, second in the Al Qassam Brigades command (Hamas’ military wing). Issa is suspected to have been killed in the strike. Netanyahu’s close advisors said it was an “extremely significant move”.

  • Israel completed a road within Gaza that would facilitate distribution of aid to Northern Gaza.

  • Based on intelligence information, a targeted aerial elimination was conducted against Mahmoud Abu Hasna, an operative from the operational department of Hamas’s military wing in the Rafah area. Abu Hasna was responsible for, among other things, Hamas’ intelligence gathering regarding IDF forces ahead of attacks against them. He was also involved in controlling humanitarian aid and distributing it to Hamas operatives.

  • Israel allowed the transfer of aid to the northern Gaza Strip through its territory instead of through Rafah or Kerem Shalom. It has been reported that several trucks entered through a breach called “Checkpoint 96,” though its exact location is unclear. The food trucks headed slightly northward to the Beeri road and southward to the Zaytoun neighborhood, to a place known as “The Kuwaiti Intersection.” The food was distributed to northern Gazans without intentional violent incidents to avoid confrontation with Hamas.

  • UNRWA continues to distribute humanitarian aid inside Gaza, aid which is often stolen and used by Hamas rather than reaching the population. Israel’s strategic objective may be compromised if it fails to establish its own humanitarian aid distribution mechanism in Gaza that would further weaken Hamas and pave the path to UNRWA’s dismantlement.

  • Israel is considering using international private security companies to protect humanitarian aid shipments entering the Gaza Strip, according to two official sources and a former official in the American government who spoke to NBC. The sources indicated that Israel has already approached several security companies on the matter. According to the report, Israeli officials raised the idea in recent weeks with senior figures in the Biden administration. However, the sources noted that the United States is against American forces entering the Gaza Strip—whether they are soldiers or employees of private security companies.

  • Palestinians reported that dozens were killed and over 100 wounded in a “new massacre” in the Gaza Strip, this time in Kuwait Square in the Zaytoun neighborhood of Gaza City. According to reports from Gaza, at least 40 people waiting for aid convoys were killed.

  • Based on initial and thorough investigations conducted by the IDF during the night, it was found that “no fire was directed at the aid convoy or at the crowd in Kuwait Square,” stated an IDF spokesperson. A ‘false flag’ PR campaign designed to engage media was created ahead of the first Friday of Ramadan, aiming to stir up tensions in other areas and create a similar situation to the false aid truck event on February 28th, when Israelis were accused of targeting civilians The IDF released a video of Hamas shooting in the air near an aid truck in the process of unloading as a lesson from the event on February 28th in which Hamas claimed that Israel was shooting at civilians.

Hamed Neighborhood

The IDF’s activity continues in the Hamed neighborhood in the northwest of Khan Yunis. Forces raided several apartments used for terrorist purposes, arrested Hamas operatives, and discovered combat equipment, sniper rifles, explosive barrels, grenades, tactical helmets, and intelligence materials. Additionally, the forces found a weapons workshop containing materials for manufacturing weapons and a concrete factory used for producing components for tunnels.

The elite units of the Commando Brigade are fighting to complete the occupation of the Hamed neighborhood. According to reports, they are finding weapons caches in every house in that neighborhood. Many terrorists are falling captive (including commanders of the Nukhba force), and the Givati reconnaissance unit captured a local Hamas operative. After interrogation, it was revealed that 15 terrorists were entrenched in the local terror infrastructure. The reconnaissance unit launched an aerial strike that killed all 15 terrorists. The neighborhood has not yet been fully conquered and cleared.

The Duvdevan unit, which is part of the Commando Brigade, is also fighting in the Hamed neighborhood. The challenge in that neighborhood is the density of multi-story buildings, which provide perfect cover for guerrilla fighters and snipers. Moving between houses to eliminate terrorists at point-blank range and to capture weapons caches poses a daunting challenge. For example, it was reported that the unit eliminated three terrorists holding a woman and two children as human shields while successfully avoiding harming civilians, a testament to their high combat capability.

Clans in Gaza

Hamas has reportedly killed clan heads that were in contact with Israel. Israel has plans to initiate a plan of local rule by clan leaders, which is Hamas’ main fear. Hamas called upon its supports to find any “traitors” who collaborated with Israel and execute them. “The Association of Palestinian Tribes, Clans, and Families” announced that they are not an alternative to any Palestinian political system but rather a national component, supporting resistance and defending against Israel.

The organization added that Palestinian tribes, clans, and families are an integral part of Palestinian society and support comprehensive resistance. The statement emphasized that cooperation with the enemy in forming “village leagues” or establishing collaborationist systems serving Israel is prohibited, and anyone who participates in such actions will be treated as collaborating with Israel. It also stressed that managing Palestinian affairs is an internal matter and a Palestinian right, and they will not allow anyone to interfere with it.

The clans released a statement declaring their continued support for Hamas and refusal to cooperate with Israel.

Hamas praised Palestinian families in the Gaza Strip who refused to cooperate with “the malicious plans of the occupation.” According to Hamas, Israel is trying to create coordination bodies from within the Palestinian people, and the families’ refusal emphasizes their support for resistance, the Hamas government, and the security bodies of the people.

Domestic Arena

  • In a terrorist attack in Bet Kama, an Israeli Bedouin terrorist named Fadi Abu Latif from Rahat murdered with knife stabbing Chief Warrant Officer Uri Moyal, 51, a senior technology and maintenance NCO at the Nahal Brigade’s training base, from the city of Dimona. Abu Latif was a former Gaza resident who received Israeli citizenship and moved to Israel in 2019 as a result of family unification. Moyal managed to shoot the terrorist to death and neutralize him before succumbing to his wounds.

  • The 98th Division Commander, Brigadier General Dan Goldfous, whose troops have been fighting in the Khan Younis area made a speech in which he called on the Israeli leadership to “live up to” the sacrifice of the fallen soldiers and “make it worth” for the combatants. The speech was deemed controversial and overtly political as some of the messages were not coordinated with the IDF Spokesperson Unit. He was summoned to Chief of Staff, Herzi Halevi for a reprimand conversation and he issued an apology.

  • Sephardic Chief Rabbi in Israel, Yitzhak Yosef, said that if the ultra-orthodox would be coerced into joining mandatory military service, they would leave Israel. Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah referenced these comments as an example of internal division that signals the crumbling of Israeli society.




Lebanon

Operational

  • Hezbollah attacked 14 times one day, including the firing of 100 rockets in two barrages towards the Golan Heights. The terrorist organization declared its readiness and willingness to match Israel if it escalates the fighting.

  • Nasrallah met with senior Hamas officials in Beirut.

  • Near Tyre, the Israeli Air Force eliminated a prominent Hamas operative in Lebanon. Additionally, the Air Force targeted two positions of the Syrian army to deter Assad from granting Hezbollah free rein in the Syrian Golan Heights.

  • The IDF spokesperson revealed that since the start of the conflict, over 4,000 targets have been struck in Lebanon, mostly in the southern part of the country. Around 300 militants have been killed, and over 750 injured. The IDF destroyed 70 occupied command posts, struck 450 targets related to the Radwan Force, 50 terror infrastructure sites for precision-guided missiles, and 150 observation posts along the border with Israel.



Judea and Samaria

  • Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas Appoints New PA Prime Minister, Mohammad Mustafa Tire who is replacing Mohammad Shtayyeh, who announced his resignation on Feb. 26, along with that of his entire administration. In 2015, Abbas appointed Mustafa as chair of the P.A.’s billion-dollar Palestine Investment Fund. A year earlier, as Ramallah’s Minister of Economy, he oversaw the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip in the wake of Israel’s military operation against the Hamas terrorist group. According to sources the appointment is in coordination with the American Administration despite internal resistance from the Fatah ranks.

  • A terrorist attack by an Israeli Arab originally from Gaza who received residence 3 years ago killed an IDF NCO who managed to neutralize the terrorist.

  • Despite Hamas’ incessant calls for Jihad during Ramadan the first week of Ramadan as well as the first Friday passed very quietly with no major sparks of violence.




Yemen

  • The Houthis fired ballistic missiles at a civilian ship in the Red Sea. The US Central Command launched a preemptive strike, destroying 4 Houthi missiles and another ground-to-air missile in northern Yemen. Russia claims the Houthis successfully tested a missile launch to target either Israel or maritime objectives.

  • The Houthis launched two ballistic missiles towards an American destroyer in the Red Sea, although they missed their target. The US Central Command retaliated by striking 2 Houthi bases, while US and British air forces attacked targets around Al Hudaydah. There were no other incidents in the Middle East, but Iran’s Defense Minister stated that since 2022, the country’s security industries have increased their exports fivefold.

  • Although the Houthis didn’t declare a new attack, they announced US and British strikes in three northern Yemeni provinces. It was reported that Iran increased its liquid gas exports by 28% compared to 2022, with China being the main recipient. Additionally, from March 11th to 15th, the navies of Iran, Russia, and China have been conducting their annual joint exercises in the Gulf of Oman.

Iran

  • The Wall Street Journal reports a rise in terrorist organizations’ activities in Europe, orchestrated by Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas, recruiting young Muslims to carry out attacks against Israeli and Jewish targets. Security forces in Germany, Austria, and Italy have already arrested such organizations. Typically, these operations start with fundraising and humanitarian aid for Gaza Arabs, followed by terrorist representatives directing them towards violence.

The British newspaper The Telegraph reveals that Iran is transferring missiles and weaponry to Hezbollah via European ports, including Italy, Spain, and Belgium, in order to “obscure the nature and origin of the shipments.” According to the report, “Europe has giant ports, and Tehran exploits this for subterfuge. It’s very easy to manipulate things in the large ports where items need to pass through quickly, rather than in a small port where there would be more scrutiny.”














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