Behind the News – February 2024
Jan 25, 2024 | AIJAC staff
ROCKET AND TERROR REPORT
Between the October 7 attacks and Jan. 19, at least 13,000 rockets, drones and other projectiles were fired into Israel, mainly from Gaza, but also including approximately 2,000 from Lebanon and around 30 from Syria. Some rocket attacks from Gaza continued throughout early January. These numbers don’t include the more than 2,000 failed launches from Gaza.
In the West Bank, Israel has arrested more than 2,650 wanted Palestinians, including more than 1,300 affiliated with Hamas, and 40 brigade-level raids had been conducted. The Palestinian Authority claimed more than 360 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank since October 7, mostly in clashes with IDF troops.
On Jan. 15, two Hamas terrorists committed a car ramming and stabbing attack in Ra’anana in central Israel, killing a 79-year-old woman and injuring 17 others.
100 DAYS OF WAR BY THE NUMBERS
The IDF released a data set on Jan. 14 reviewing the past 100 days of war. It said the IDF had struck around 30,000 targets in Gaza and killed more than 9,000 terrorist operatives, including two Hamas Brigade commanders and dozens of battalion and company commanders.
As of Jan.19, the IDF had suffered 194 deaths in Gaza, with more than 2,500 wounded.
7,653 trucks carrying 137,920 tons of aid had entered Gaza by then. The IDF also made 79,000 direct phone calls and 15 million recorded calls, dropped 7.2 million leaflets and sent 13.7 million texts warning Palestinian civilians to evacuate combat zones.
Separately, senior Israeli defence officials told the New York Times on Jan. 16 that Hamas’ tunnel network was now believed to be far more extensive than previously estimated, stretching 560-725 km, with some 5,700 entry shafts.
MEDICINE FOR GAZA HOSTAGES DEAL IMPLEMENTED
A first shipment of medicine entered Gaza from Egypt on Jan. 17 as part of a Qatari and French brokered deal between Israel and Hamas designed to deliver urgently required medication to the 45 Israelis held captive by Hamas in Gaza who require regular treatment. After 100 days without these treatments, there are serious concerns about the health and well-being of these hostages. Israel is relying on Qatar to fulfil a promise that the medicine will reach the hostages. Hamas’ conditions for the deal included that Palestinians receive 1,000 boxes of medicine for every box that goes to the hostages.
HAMAS’ INTERNATIONAL TERROR PLOTS EXPOSED
Israel’s Mossad and Shin Bet on Jan. 10 unveiled a comprehensive picture of Hamas’ plans in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East to launch terror attacks against Israeli and Jewish targets, including Israel’s embassy in Sweden. The investigation, in cooperation with European agencies, revealed Hamas operates a European network led by leaders in Lebanon which prepares terror plots and also sought to procure UAVs and enlist European criminal organisations for support.
There were subsequent reports of arrests of Hamas-linked suspects in Denmark, the Netherlands and Germany.
IDF: SLAIN PALESTINIAN JOURNALISTS HAD TERROR LINKS
The IDF presented documentary evidence on Jan. 10 indicating that two Gazan journalists killed in a car on Jan. 7 – Hamza Al-Dahdouh, son of Al Jazeera’s chief correspondent in Gaza, and Mustafa Thuraya – were members of terrorist groups. IDF Chief Spokesman Brig. Gen. Daniel Hagari provided Islamic Jihad documents indicating Hamza’s dual role as a terrorist-journalist in the group’s electric engineering unit. Similar documents named Thuraya as an officer in Hamas. The IDF asserted that the car both were in when they were killed was being used to operate a drone posing a threat to Israeli forces, leading to the airstrike against them.
CHINESE AND NORTH KOREAN WEAPONS FOUND IN GAZA
The IDF has discovered large caches of Chinese weapons in Gaza, including assault rifles and grenade launchers, hi-tech equipment such as telescopic sights for rifles and communications equipment capable of working within the terror group’s complex tunnel system. It is unclear how the weaponry was obtained.
The IDF also found North Korean-made weaponry being utilised by Hamas in Gaza.
ISRAEL KILLS HAMAS, HEZBOLLAH LEADERS IN LEBANON
The deputy leader of Hamas outside Gaza, Saleh al-Arouri, was killed in an alleged Israeli drone strike in the southern suburbs of Beirut on Jan. 2. Arouri was a major planner of Hamas’ October 7 attack on southern Israel and also coordinated efforts to attack Jewish targets in Europe.
Israel also confirmed that the IDF had eliminated a Syria-based Hamas official, Hassan Akasha, responsible for launching rockets at northern Israel in recent weeks.
Hezbollah announced the killing of a commander of its elite Radwan Force, Wissam al-Tawil, on Jan. 8, in an Israeli strike confirmed by Israeli officials. Ali Hussein Barji, the commander of Hezbollah’s drone forces in southern Lebanon, was killed in an airstrike the following day.
ISRAEL-HEZBOLLAH VIOLENCE ESCALATES FURTHER
Attacks and counterstrikes have increased sharply between the terrorist group Hezbollah and the IDF in southern Lebanon and northern Israel over recent weeks.
Since October 7, approximately 2,000 projectiles have been launched from Lebanon and Hezbollah has carried out more than 600 attacks, including numerous cross-border raid attempts, forcing the evacuations of more than 60,000 people from 42 communities in northern Israel.
Israel has struck approximately 750 targets in Lebanon and killed more than 170 terrorist operatives, mostly Hezbollah members. Fourteen IDF soldiers have been killed during the same time, and three civilians, including a mother and son whose home was struck by a Hezbollah missile on Jan. 14.
HOUTHI ATTACKS ON SHIPPING DRAW RESPONSE
Following more than 40 attacks on cargo ships in the Red Sea since November by Yemen’s Iranian-backed Ansar Allah (Houthi) militia, the US and UK launched a series of strikes against Houthi military targets in Yemen on Jan. 11 and 12.
A few days later, the Houthis targeted and damaged a US-owned cargo ship in the Gulf of Aden, leading to further US strikes on Houthi targets.
The Biden Administration announced on Jan. 17 that it was re-designating the Houthis as a terrorist group and applying financial sanctions.
IRANIAN ROLE IN HOUTHI ATTACKS EXPOSED
On Jan. 11, US forces seized a vessel off the Somalian coast carrying a shipment of Iranian weapons and components headed to Yemen, including warheads for ballistic and anti-ship cruise missiles as well as anti-aircraft system parts.
Media reports also revealed that some 200 Houthi fighters were trained inside Iran at the Khamenei Academy of Naval Sciences and Technology in Zibakenar.
Meanwhile, on Jan. 11, Iranian forces themselves seized an oil tanker near Oman, allegedly in retaliation for the US confiscating the Iranian cargo of that same ship in 2023.
IRAN RAMPING UP URANIUM ENRICHMENT
The latest report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) concluded that by the end of 2023, Teheran had increased the production of 60% enriched uranium – just below military grade – at its Natanz and Fordow facilities to around 9kg a month. This is a rate of enrichment three times faster than in the IAEA’s previous report in September.
Responding to the IAEA findings, a joint statement by the US, UK, France and Germany on Dec. 28 strongly condemned Iran’s “reckless behaviour”. Experts say Iran now needs only a week to produce enough fissile material for one warhead.
Stranger than Fiction
Turkey-Israel relations, generally hostile since current Islamist Turkish President Recep Erdogan became prime minister in 2003, had shown signs of a recent thaw, likely because Turkey’s economy was struggling. However, the Erdogan regime reverted to type once Israel was forced into war with Hamas.
In fact, for a country that has repeatedly committed armed attacks on its own neighbours to fight “terrorism”, Turkey has become extremely sensitive about anything pro-Israeli, as Israeli footballer Sagiv Jehezkel discovered.
Playing for Antalyaspor in Turkey’s top league, Jehezkel celebrated scoring a goal on Jan. 14 by showing the television camera his wristband, on which was written “100 days. October 7” together with a Star of David, expressing solidarity with the Israeli hostages in Gaza. He was then detained by Turkish authorities, sacked by his club and had his “completely unacceptable behaviour” condemned by the Turkish Football Federation. Turkish Justice Minister Yilmaz Tunc announced Jehezkel would be investigated on charges of “inciting people to hatred and hostility.” He was then deported.
On Jan. 17, a second Israeli player in Turkey, Eden Kartsev, was suspended and fined by his club Basaksehir for publishing an Instagram story calling for the release of Israeli hostages, something the club said, “harms sensitive values of our country”. Basaksehir has now decided to loan Kartsev to an Israeli club.
Perhaps most bizarrely, TV station TGRT sacked a newsreader and director because the anchor accidentally left a Starbucks coffee cup on her desk during the Dec. 24 bulletin. Furious viewers accused her of endorsing a company perceived as pro-Israel. In reality, Starbucks hasn’t even operated in Israel for decades. The only pro-Israel thing about it is that management dissociated the company from an anti-Israel statement made by one of its workers’ unions in October.