Israel News

News Digest — 2/26/24

In News Surrounding Israel by The Friends of Israel

IDF Presents Rafah Military Operation And Evacuation Plan To War Cabinet

The IDF presented to the War Cabinet its plan to both evacuate Palestinian civilians from Rafah and to militarily destroy some of the last Hamas battalions in the area of Gaza near the Egyptian border.

In addition, the Cabinet approved a plan late Sunday night (25th) to provide “humanitarian assistance to the Gaza Strip in a manner that will prevent the looting that has occurred in the northern Strip and other areas,” according to the Prime Minister’s office.

Earlier in the day Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with CBS’s “Face the Nation” about the importance of a Rafah operation in assuring an IDF victory over Hamas.

“Once we begin the Rafah operation, the intense phase of the fighting is weeks away from completion, not months, weeks away from completion,” Netanyahu said, as he indicated that the Israel-Hamas war could be wrapped up this spring.

“We’ve already destroyed 18 of the 24 Hamas terrorist battalions, and four of them are concentrated in Rafah.  We can’t leave the last Hamas stronghold without taking care of it, obviously, we have to do it,” Netanyahu said as he defended the pending operation which has drawn worldwide condemnation even before it has begun.

Concern is high for the fate of over 1.3 million Palestinians in the area, many of whom fled there from northern Gaza.

Netanyahu spoke as Israel has expressed cautious optimism about the possibility of a deal for the release of the remaining 134 hostages out of the 253 Hamas seized during its massacre in southern Israel on October 7, which sparked the Gaza war.

Netanyahu confirmed to CBS that a deal could delay the  Rafah operation.  “If we have a deal, the operation will be delayed somewhat.  But it’ll happen,” Netanyahu said.  He stressed, however, that “if we don’t have a deal, we’ll do it anyway.  It has to be done.  Because total victory is our goal, and total victory is within reach.  Not months away, weeks away once we begin the operation.”

Netanyahu told CBS, “this war has been forced upon us by a cynical enemy that not only targets our civilians, has raped, beheaded, burnt babies alive, killed children in front of their parents and parents in front of their children.  This enemy not only targets civilians but hides behind civilians.”

“If America had suffered a similar attack,” Netanyahu stated, “they’d be doing a whole lot more, by way of a military response.”

“Israel has gone to extraordinary lengths, calling up people, civilians, Palestinians in Gaza, telling them leave your homes, sending pamphlets, we have done that effort, Hamas tries to keep them from evacuating at gunpoint, we’ll clear them out of harm’s way, we’ll complete the job and achieve total victory, which is necessary to give a secure future for Israel, a better future for Gaza, a better future for the Middle East, and a set-back for the Iran terror axis.”

“””That’s in all of our interests.  It’s in America’s interest too,” Netanyahu said as he concluded the interview.



 2 Hezbollah Members Killed As Israel Allegedly Strikes Israel-Lebanon Border

Two members of the Hezbollah terror group were killed as Israel allegedly carried out an airstrike on a truck near the Syria-Lebanon border on Sunday morning (25th).

Footage showed the truck engulfed in flames on a road outside Qusayr, a Syrian city south of Homs near the border with northern Lebanon.

Shortly after the strike, Iran-backed Lebanese terror group Hezbollah announced that two of its operatives were killed “on the road to Jerusalem,” its term for operatives slain in Israeli strikes.  It did not say where the two were killed.

The pair were identified as  Hussein a;-Dirani and Ahmed al-Afi, from Qsarnaba and Brital, two towns  in the Baalbek District, adjacent to the Syrian region where the alleged strike took place.

Their deaths brought the terror group’s toll since the beginning of the war in the Gaza Strip to 214.

Shortly after the reported strike, and throughout Sunday afternoon (25th), several volleys of rockets were fired from Lebanon at northern Israel, all apparently landing in open areas, according to the Israeli Defense Forces and police.

The Israeli military declined to comment on the strike near Qusayr, an area identified in the past as a Hezbollah stronghold.  There was no comment from Syrian authorities.

While Israel does not, as a rule, comment on specific strikes in Syria, it has admitted to conducting hundreds of sorties against Iran-backed terror groups attempting to gain a foothold in the country over the last decade.  The Israeli military says it attacks arms shipments believed to be bound for those groups, chief among them Hezbollah.  Additionally, airstrikes attributed to Israel have repeatedly targeted Syrian air defense systems.

Active hostilities between Israel and Iran-backed groups, especially Hezbollah, have escalated since October 7, when Palestinian terror group Hamas launched an onslaught into southern Israel, killing some 1,200 people and kidnapping 253 others.  Israel has responded with a devastating military campaign in Gaza aimed at toppling Hamas and freeing the hostages.  

Since October 8, Hezbollah has launched hundreds of rockets, drones and anti-tank missiles at northern Israel, drawing Israeli strikes in response.

So far, the skirmishes with Hezbollah on Israel’s northern border have resulted in six civilian deaths on the Israeli side, as well as the deaths of 10 IDF soldiers and reservists.  There have also been several attacks from Syria, without any injuries.



Israeli Flags Fly At Pro-Bolsonaro Rally In Brazil

A large rally in the Brazilian city of Sao Paulo took place on Sunday (25th) in support of former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, Ynet reported.

During the rally, Brazilian and Israeli flags were flown side by side, in a show of solidarity with Israel following current President Lula da Silva’s controversial comparison of Israel’s actions against Hamas in Gaza to those of Adolf Hitler’s.

Bolsonaro, known for his staunch support  of Israel, often showcases Israeli flags at rallies, and his sons have been seen in the past wearing IDF and Mossad shirts, according to Ynet.

Brazilian media reported that Israeli flags were displayed at Sunday’s (25th) rally “in solidarity with the Jewish community in face of the recent anti-Semitic attacks by Lula da Silva comparing the war on Hamas to the Holocaust.”

The supporters of Bolsonaro had gathered to show support for the former President as he finds himself embroiled in several investigations.

Da Silva caused an uproar last week after he compared Israel’s actions in Gaza to those of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler against Jews during World War II.

Foreign Minister Israel Katz called the Brazilian Ambassador Federrico Mayer for a reprimand in the wake of Da Silva’s comments.  The reprimand took place in the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem.

“We will not forgive, and we will not forget: In my name and in the name of all citizens of Israel, tell President Lula that he is a persona non grata in Israel until he apologizes and retracts his statements,” Katz told the ambassador.

Later, da Silva announced that the Brazilian ambassador to Israel would be recalled and that Brazil has decided to summon Israel’s ambassador to the country for a reprimand.

Despite the uproar over his comments, the Brazilian President on Saturday (24th) doubled down on his rhetoric writing on X, “What the Israeli government is doing is not war, it is genocide.  Children and women are being murdered.”



Iran’s Khamenei On Gaza: Islam Will Overcome “Crooked” Western Civilization

In a meeting in the Khuzestan province of Iran, on the southern boundary of the country bordering Iraq and the Gulf States, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Hosseini Khamenei, on Sunday (25th) called Western civilization “crooked” and said “the right culture and correct logic of Islam will overcome it,” Iranian state media reported.

Just prior to that, in the same speech, the ayatollah said, “This is the real face of Western culture and civilization and liberal democracy, which on the outside are ironed politicians with smiles on their faces, but on the inside are rabid dogs and bloodthirsty wolves.”

Khamenei discussed the war in Gaza, while condemning what he described as Western hypocrisy.  “Westerners, who make noise and uproar for the execution of a criminal, face the slaughter of 30,000 innocent people in Gaza, and the United States brazenly vetoes the resolution to stop bombing Gaza for the umpteenth time.”

In another part of his speech, the ayatollah praised the people of Gaza, saying, “The resistance forces’ standing and the enemy’s dismay from their destruction, as well as the patience of the people of Gaza in the face of bombings and calamities, show a strong religious faith.”

Following the October 7 massacre, Ayatollah Khamenei praised Hamas, stating in his speech, “We kiss the foreheads and arms of those who planned the attack on the Zionist regime.”

In late December, General Ramezan Sharif, the spokesperson of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), took credit for the massacre, stating these were “acts of revenge” for the killing of “Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani by the US and the Zionists,” according to Iran’s state-sponsored news agency ISNA.  Sharif retracted his claim after it was met with severe criticism.

In an interview with NBC in early February, Iranian ambassador to the UN Amir Saeid Iravani said referring to the Palestinians, “We’re sending arms, we’re training them and empowering them.”

The Iranian regime is a well-known sponsor of terrorist organizations across the Middle East, including Hamas, Hezbollah and the Houthis, among others.  In addition to funding the terror operations, they also provide training and intelligence for these organizations.



The West Must Stand With Israel – Editorial

In the case of Israel, the West is rapidly losing the moral courage to stand for what is right.  In the days after Oct. 7, it was widely accepted that, in order to prevent such an evil occurring again, Hamas had to be utterly defeated.  Yet before the Israelis had even embarked on ground operations, the criticism and hand-wringing had already begun.

The same disgusting tendency which casts Western countries as innately and uniquely evil turned its sights upon Israel, denying that it had any right to defend itself, or to rescue the hostages still held by Hamas in Gaza.  Shockingly, such sentiments appear to be gaining ground in public discourse, while political leaders are equivocating.

It is disturbing just how quickly the actual cause of this conflict – the pogrom of Oct. 7 – appears to be being forgotten.  It speaks to the limited attention spans of Western societies, as well as the power of the hard-left to shape the political and broadcast media narrative.  Israel did not start this war.  It deserves, and was promised, our support.  The West cannot go back on its word now, and should remember why we gave it in the first place.  It is long past time that the democratic world rediscovered its moral center.  (Sunday Telegraph-UK)



Two Nations Are Fighting For Their Existence Against Absolutist Enemies.  One Is The Victim Of A Double Standard – Niall Ferguson

• Two democracies are under attack by a sworn foe of Western civilization.  One is in Eastern Europe, the other in the Middle East.  One is vast;  the other tiny.  Both have recently seen unarmed civilians, including children, brutally slaughtered, tortured and kidnapped by their enemies.  Both are sending their sons, husbands and fathers into brutal battles.

• Yet, despite all these resemblances, these two fighting democracies are treated much differently by the world.  One is praised for its heroism; the other is condemned – even accused of genocide and ethnic cleansing.

• One is encouraged to fight on to victory, “for as long as it takes;” the other is told to agree to an immediate ceasefire before victory has been achieved.  The armed forces of one country can do no wrong; those of the other are charged with “war crimes.”

• How can we explain the fact that Ukraine is lionized and Israel reviled?  Is it because the enemies of Ukraine and Israel are in some way different?  In many ways, Russia and Iran are like two peas in a pod.  They are brutal autocracies in which the rule of law and human rights count for nothing.  They murder without compunction their enemies at home and abroad.  They each pose threats that extend far beyond Ukraine and Israel.

• Thirty years ago, Israel agreed with the Palestine Liberation Organization on the beginnings of Palestinian self-government under the Oslo Accords – “a separate Palestinian entity short of a state,” in the words of Prime MInister Yitzhak Rabin.  Prime Minister Ehud Barak went even further at Camp David in 2000, but PLO leader Yasser Arafat walked away from the table.  Have the Palestinians enhanced the case for statehood in subsequent years? No.

• The Palestinian Authority is an oxymoron: Palestinians despise it, and it has no authority.  A large majority of the inhabitants of Gaza, to say nothing of the Palestinians of the West Bank, prefer Hamas.  The nature of Hamas was laid bare on Oct. 7 which should be regarded as an event disqualifying the Palestinians from self-government, not entitling them to it.  

The writer is a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.