Israel News

News Digest — 2/28/24

In News Surrounding Israel by The Friends of Israel

The IDF Chief Of Staff Says Hezbollah ‘Will Pay Very Heavy Price’ After Rockets Strike Strategic Base

About an hour after the IDF announced Tuesday evening (27th) that it had attacked sites in Lebanon, additional artillery attacks in southern Lebanon were being reported in the country.

The IDF spokesman announced late on Tuesday (27th) that its forces were currently attacking Hezbollah terrorist targets in Lebanon.  The attacks, he said, come after an anti-tank missile launched from Lebanon earlier in the day hit the IDF Aerial Control Unit in Meron – a base known as the “eyes of the state”  – and which has already been hit by Hezbollah barrages.

“A hit was identified in the area of the IDF Aerial Control Unit, and did not harm the site’s capabilities,” an IDF statement emphasized.  In addition, the IDF reported that approximately 20 launches were identified crossing from Lebanon into northern Israel, some of which were successfully intercepted by the IDF Aerial Defense Array and the rest fell in open areas according to IDF protocol.

IDF Chief of Staff Major General Herzi Halevi on Tuesday evening (27th) conducted a situational assessment at the northern border with the commanding officer of the Northern Command, Major General Ori Gordin, the commanding officer of the 146th Division, Brigadier General Yisrael Shomer and additional commanders.

The visit came in light of the escalation in the exchange of fire in recent days, including earlier on Tuesday evening (27th)  when a heavy volley of dozens of rockets was also launched into the Western Galilee, the same area that Halevi visited.

“Our forces are positioned here in order to locate the enemy and strike it.  We are not waiting for anything.  What we are saying is this: on the evening of October 7, Hezbollah decided to join in, and for that, it must pay a heavy price.  It’s clear that the first thing we need to do is push back the enemy.  Then, create a very strong barrier, establish strong intelligence gathering capabilities, position strong forces in the area as well as a strong civilian emergency response unit, and ensure there are bomb shelters and safe areas in homes and communities,” Halevi said.

“We’d like to tell you that there is no Hezbollah presence adjacent to the border fence or near it.  People have returned here, and I think that if we operate correctly, more people will return here, thanks first and foremost to the security,” he added.

Halevi also visited Moshav Shtula, and met the members of the civilian emergency response unit.

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said earlier this month the group’s attacks on Israel  would only end when Israel’s “aggression” against Gaza ends.

However, Defense MInister Yoav Gallant is now declaring that Israel planned to increase attacks on Hezbollah even in the event of a possible ceasefire in the Gaza conflict.  He said the goal was to secure a Hezbollah withdrawal from the border region, either through a diplomatic agreement or by force.



Gallant: Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas Hope To Turn Ramadan Into 2nd Stage Of Oct. 7

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Tuesday (27th) Israel has identified that Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas are aiming to take advantage of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and turn it into “the second stage of October 7, and “ignite the ground.”

Speaking during an assessment at the IDF Central Command, Gallant said, “Hamas’ main goal is to take Ramadan, with an emphasis on the Temple Mount and Jerusalem, and turn it into a second phase of their plan that began on October 7.  This is the main goal of Hamas, it is being amplified by Iran and Hezbollah.

“We must not give Hamas what it has not been able to achieve since the beginning of the war and converge the combat fronts,” Gallant warned.

Hamas called its mass-murdering October 7 onslaught on southern Israel “Operation Al-Aqsa Flood” in an effort to claim religious legitimacy for its atrocities.

Announcing the brutal incursion, Mohammad Deif, the Hamas military commander, urged Arabs in Jerusalem and inside Israel, the Negev, the Galilee and northern Israel to “set the earth on fire under the feet of the occupiers” – a call that has so far remained unanswered by Arab Israelis.

Hundreds of thousands of Muslims crowd the Temple Mount each Ramadan as religious fervor is heightened.  However, Israel has imposed restrictions on Palestinian access during times of heightened security tensions.

The Temple Mount, known to Muslims as the Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound, is considered  the holiest place in Judaism, where two Biblical Temples once stood, and the third-holiest site in Islam, making it a central flashpoint of the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

With Ramadan set to begin the second week in March, Israeli officials have expressed worries that the sensitive period could amplify tensions stemming from Israel’s war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip which has sparked worldwide Muslim anger toward the Jewish state.



IDF: Islamic Jihad Commander, 2 Other Gunmen Killed By Troops In West Bank

Three Palestinian gunmen, including a Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander, were killed by Israeli forces in the northern West Bank on Tuesday morning (27th), according to the Israeli Defense Forces and Palestinian health officials.

The Palestinian Authority health ministry said two of the men were killed in Tubas, located between Nablus and Jenin –  the third was killed in Far’a, nearby.

The ministry identified the men as Ahmed Jamal Daraghmeh, 26, Muhammad Samih Bayadseh,32, and Osama Jabr Zalat, 31.

The IDF and the Palestinian media identified Daraghmeh as the commander of a local wing of Islamic Jihad in the area, known as the Tubas Battalion.

According to the IDF, Daraghmeh was previously involved in shooting and explosive device attacks against troops operating in the West Bank.  It said he was killed by troops of the elite Duvdevan unit during a counter-terrorism raid in the area.

The IDF said the other two men – Bayadseh and Zalat – were also gunmen and killed by the commandos.  The troops also found a command room where local terror operatives used surveillance cameras to observe army activity, it added.

The IDF said that 14 wanted Palestinians were detained in overnight raids across the West Bank in Nablus and Hebron.

The Israeli military has intensified its near daily raids across the West Bank in the aftermath of Hamas’ October 7 attack, in operations aimed at dismantling Palestinian terror groups, including Hamas.

Since October 7, Israeli troops have arrested more than 3,200 wanted Palestinians across the West Bank, including more than 1,350 affiliated with Hamas according to security authorities.

The Palestinian health authority said that 400 Palestinians have been killed during that time period.   

Based on military estimates, the vast majority of those killed since October 7 were shot during clashes amid arrest raids, and many of them, according to data seen by the Times of Israel, were armed with either a firearm or explosive device.



IDF Ups Attacks Against Iran Revolutionary Guards In Syria – Gianluca Pacchiani

Israel’s years-long air campaign against Iran-linked groups and weapons in Syria has shifted into high gear in recent months, with strikes on high-value targets at a pace that is “changing the rules of the game,” according to experts.  Since December, more than half a dozen IRGC officers have been killed in suspected Israeli strikes on Syria.

Dr. Carmit Valensi, a senior researcher on Syria at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) , said Israeli airstrikes in Syria “are no longer just about attacking weapons transfers or attacking Damascus International Airport.”  Valensi noted that before fighting began in Gaza, killing members of the IRGC’s Quds Force or Hezbollah operatives would have been considered a red line, liable to spark a war.

“In wartime, we have a different set of rules, by which Israel has more freedom of operation…After the war against Hamas broke out, there were claims that Iran was increasing its presence in the south, preparing itself for opening another front with Israel.  But after Israel launched a very intense aerial campaign in Syria, they were deterred.”  (times of Israel)



Anti-Semitism Is Reaching World War II Levels Says Norwegian Rabbi

Anti-Semitism in Norway is at its highest level since World War II, the rabbi of the country’s capital city of Oslo told Israeli television on Monday (26th).

“There is a wave of anti-Semitism that we have not seen before,” said Rabbi Joav Melchior, who was born in Oslo but raised in Israel and currently leads the roughly 2,000-strong Jewish community of Oslo.  “We haven’t seen such a wave since World War II. such an aggressive wave of anti-Semitism, even at the level of what is said in the media.”

“It is expressed in the things that people say against Israel – both against Zionists and against Jews, which they did not say in the past.” he continued.  “It’s something that would not have been accepted in the public discourse without a very hard reaction.”

The rabbi’s comments follow actions by the Norwegian government that have been explicitly anti-Israel.  Speaking at a conference two weeks after the October 7 massacre – when Hamas terrorists stormed southern Israel, murdering over 1,200 and taking hostage more than 250 – Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide condemned Israel and not Hamas.  Additionally, he compared Israel’s defensive response to Russia’s attack on Ukraine, as well as forbidding the King of Norway from sending a letter of support and condolence to Israel following the attack.

In late October, a young Norwegian woman caused outrage around the world by carrying a viciously anti-Semitic placard at a pro-Hamas demonstration in Warsaw.  The woman defended her behavior in an interview with a Norwegian broadcaster, characterizing the State of Israel as “dirty” and underlining that her main regret was that the furor she generated had “undermined the pro-Palestinian movement.”

Melchior continued in the interview, saying, “There were certain cases of violence against Jews both in their homes and on the street.  Those people claim they are not against Jews, because there are Jews who also condemn Israel.  It is as if to say of the anti-Jewish movement, it is not anti-Semitic.”

Due to the rise in anti-Semitism and the general anti-Israel sentiment in the country, Melchior said many Jews are debating whether they want to continue living in Norway.

“I think the reason for immigrating to Israel should not be because of anti-Semitism, but out of Zionism and out of a connection to the people of Israel and the desire to live in the Land of Israel, and that is what we teach,” he added.



Hamas’ Agricultural Terrorism – Rebecca Sugar  (Wall Street Journal)

• At Kibbutz Alumim, 2 miles from the Gaza border, 300,000 chickens died following Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel.  Three coops were burned to the ground.  Terrorists also destroyed the automated food and water dispensers for the remaining five structures housing the flock.  After the attack, no one was around to tend to the chickens and the birds died of hunger and thirst.

• Terrorists targeted farmland, livestock, plants and infrastructure as they made their way across the western Negev, which produces 70% of the country’s vegetables, 20% of the fruit and 6% of the milk.  “The attack was designed to intentionally destroy agricultural production, but more than that, it was meant to destroy the identity of the region, to break the community,” said Danielle Abraham, executive director of Volcani International Partnerships, an NGO that addresses global hunger using Israeli technological innovation.

• Hamas killed 30 milking cows at Kibbutz Nahal Oz.  Those that survived went unmilked for nine days.  Many developed a painful condition that contaminated their milk and killed 70 of the herd.  Some that have recovered still are not producing milk.  Trauma from the sounds of explosions and gunfire seems to have suspended their production.

• Hamas terrorists damaged greenhouses and barns, many beyond repair.  They slashed crop nets and flooded orchards.  They burned irrigation pipes and destroyed the infiltration system for the local reservoir.  Estimates of income losses and infrastructure damage total more than $500 million.

• Attacks on Israel’s environment and natural resources aren’t new.  In 2005 Palestinian looters damaged roughly 900 of the 3,000 greenhouses Israelis left behind after they withdrew from Gaza.  In 2018 terrorists launched more than 800 incendiary balloons from Gaza, setting fire to 6,100 acres of agricultural land in the Negev.  Raids on Israel’s northern farms and arson in its forests have been regular occurrences.  Hamas attacked Israel’s blooming desert, a national symbol of innovation and resilience.

• Michal Uziyahu, liaison to the mayor of the Eshkol region, a cluster of 32 communities near Gaza says that more than 4,000 of Eshkol’s 17,000 residents are already back home, and half of the region’s Thai workers have also returned.