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March 11, 2024 Update

Update on War in Israel from the Jewish Federations of North America:

 

On Tuesday, March 5, the Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act (H.R. 7521) was introduced to the US Congress with broad bipartisan support. Jewish Federations of North America are supporting this bill to help address the proliferation of antisemitic content on social media, specifically on TikTok. The historic rise in antisemitism has been documented both by the federal government, which showed FBI Hate Crime data reaching “historic levels” last year, and the ADL, which tracks a 336% rise since the Hamas terror attacks on Israel of October 7. See more here

Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Activities

  • The IDF is said to have attempted to assassinate Marwan Issa, the deputy head of Hamas’s military wing, in an airstrike in central Gaza. According to media reports, Issa was hiding in the Nuseirat camp, and on Saturday night, the IDF carried out an attack on a building where he was believed to be located. Five Palestinians were killed in the strike, although it is not yet confirmed whether Issa, who is considered to be number three in the terror organization in Gaza, was among them.

  • Israel has said that it will move forces into the city of Rafah to eliminate the last Hamas stronghold in the Strip which is located there. The IDF also believes that some of the hostages and Hamas leaders are in the town (earlier this month, IDF special forces rescued two Israeli hostages from captivity in an apartment in the city). Nonetheless, media is reporting that the Biden administration is not expecting Israel to expand its ground operation into Rafah in the near future. In an interview over the weekend, the US President highlighted “deep US concerns over civilian deaths in Gaza” and called the planned IDF operation in southern Gaza’s Rafah a “red line.”

 

Rockets

  • In the north, Hezbollah continues to fire at Israeli targets, triggering significant Israeli retaliations. The IDF announced yesterday that it is training to deploy supplies to troops inside Lebanon, in case of an invasion of that country. Commentators suggest that the announcement is likely a way to exert pressure on the Lebanese government (and the international community) in order to have it, in turn, pressure Hezbollah, into redeploying north of the Litani River in order to avoid a full-scale war with Israel.

  • The number of Hamas rocket attacks on Israel remains very low (less than one per day on average), due to Hamas’ significantly diminished capabilities.

  • In the Red Sea, the US, the UK and Israel continue to defend against attacks by the Iran-back Houthi rebels in Yemen. Similarly, the US military continues to strike at pro-Iranian targets in Syria and Iraq.

 

Hostages

  • Some 134 men, women, children and elderly hostages remain in Hamas captivity, 156 days since they were seized.  Israel is understood to have accepted the terms of a hostage deal negotiated by the US, Qatar and Egypt, but Hamas continues to reject the offer.

  • Released hostages have shared harrowing accounts of physical and emotional torture in very harsh conditions. A recent UN report found “clear and convincing information” that sexual violence, including rape, sexualized torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment has been committed against hostages, and “reasonable grounds” to believe that such violence may be ongoing against those still held in captivity.

  • Egypt, Qatar and the U.S. had been pushing hard for a hostage deal before the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan began last night, and have called on Hamas to accept the terms of a framework worked out in Paris last month that would put in place a six-week pause in fighting and free some 40 hostages, including women, children, female soldiers and the elderly - in exchange for Palestinian security prisoners.

  • The Biden administration has publicly stated that Israel accepted the broad terms, while Hamas is refusing to agree to the proposal. Earlier this week President Biden said, “It’s in the hands of Hamas right now.”

  • It has been reported that Hamas demanded that a ceasefire must be in place before freeing any hostages. Hamas also demanded that Israeli forces withdraw from Gaza, sufficient aid must be allowed in, all displaced Gazans will be allowed to return to their homes, a large number of prisoners including convicted terrorists will be released, and that it will receive certain machinery that it claims would be used for clearing rubble.

  • Furthermore, Hamas has delayed providing information, such as a list of hostages it is holding, that would allow a deal to progress. 

  • In President Biden’s State of the Union address last week, he recognized the 250 hostages, and acknowledged the families of American hostages in the audience that are still being held in captivity.  “I pledge to all the families that we will not rest until we bring their loved ones home,” he said. He added that “Israel has a right to go after Hamas. Hamas could end this conflict today by releasing the hostages, laying down arms, and surrendering those responsible for October 7th.” The President also instructed the U.S. military to lead an emergency mission to establish a pier off the coast of Gaza that would allow for the facilitation of increased amounts of humanitarian aid. 

 

International Response

  • President Biden announced in last week’s State of the Union address, a new American plan to build a temporary seaport off the shores of northern Gaza.

  • The plan is for the US armed forces to build a makeshift, offshore dock which would serve as an entry-point to Gaza for humanitarian aid. Goods would be supplied by the United Arab Emirates and ships would be examined for weapons in Cyprus before sailing to Gaza.

  • It is also possible that the temporary port may also serve to allow Gazans to export goods in the future.

  • Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said that plans to provide aid to Gaza via the temporary port, will “advance the collapse of Hamas’s rule.” He said, “The process is designed to bring aid directly to the residents and thus continue the collapse of Hamas’s rule in Gaza. We will bring the aid through a maritime route that is coordinated with the US on the security and humanitarian side, with the assistance of the Emirates on the civil side, and appropriate inspection in Cyprus, and we will bring goods imported by international organizations with American assistance.”

  • Israeli Ynet news outlet reported today that the idea of the temporary port originated from Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

  • President Biden also said over the weekend that Prime Minister Netanyahu is “hurting Israel more than he’s helping. In response, Netanyahu said that Biden was “wrong.” See details here.

  • With other airlines having largely suspended flights to Israel since October 7, El Al announced that its profits for the fourth quarter of 2023 were up 370%. Read more here.

 

Further Reading

Broad agreement in Israel as to what should come next in the war.

 

Stories Of Heartbreak, Heroism, and Hope

Listen to this interview with released hostage Aviva Siegel recounting her agonizing ordeal spending 51 days in Hamas captivity. Her husband Keith still remains in the hands of terrorists. 

Read the story of 28-year-old Arbel Yehud, known by her family as “the favorite aunt” with a magnetic smile who always plays with, and takes care of, her nieces and nephews.  An astronomy and space exploration guide, Arbel was in her home on Kibbutz Nir Oz when terrorists seized her and her boyfriend Ariel and took them by force into Gaza. Even though Hamas promised to release all women in an earlier hostage deal, Arbel has spent her 154th day in captivity. Arbel and Ariel recently returned from a trip to South Africa and have many bright plans for the future. 

Israel’s President Isaac Herzog: Israeli heroines are everywhere

 

Upcoming Webinars

The Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI): Mondays and Thursdays from 11-11:30 am ET

The Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI): Regular webinars sponsored by Jewish Federations and the Jewish Agency are offered. A rotating team of analysts of Israeli military affairs, the US-Israel relationship, Israel’s political system, and of the country’s diverse society will speak every Monday and Thursday from 11-11:30 am ET. No registration is required. Join here.



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