Australia/Israel Review


Behind the News – January 2024

Dec 19, 2023 | AIJAC staff

Hostages being freed from captivity (Image: Reddit)
Hostages being freed from captivity (Image: Reddit)

ROCKET AND TERROR REPORT

As of Dec. 11, at least 11,500 rockets and other projectiles had been launched from Gaza since Oct. 7. Hundreds of other projectiles were fired from elsewhere – Lebanon, Syria and Yemen – prompting Israeli retaliatory strikes. 

As of Dec. 13, at least 115 IDF soldiers had been killed since the start of the ground operations inside Gaza.

Israel has continued to strike hundreds of targets daily in Gaza and began intensive ground operations in the south of Gaza after Hamas violated a seven-day humanitarian pause by firing rockets shortly before it expired on Dec. 1. 

Tunnels and weapons depots have been uncovered in countless civilian structures. By Dec. 12, Israel said it had captured more than 500 Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists, many of whom had chosen to surrender. No reliable estimates exist for casualties in Gaza, though on Dec.11, Hamas was claiming an overall number of more than 17,000 killed. Israeli sources say at least 6,000 Palestinian casualties are Hamas operatives. 

On Nov. 30, two Hamas terrorists killed three civilians and wounded five in a shooting attack in Jerusalem. A fourth Israeli civilian was accidentally killed by responding soldiers. 

On Nov. 24 in the West Bank, Hamas brutally and publicly murdered three Palestinians accused of collaborating with Israel, with Palestinian mobs then abusing the bodies. 

Continuing Israeli raids throughout the West Bank have seen the arrests of thousands of terrorist suspects. More than 250 West Bank Palestinians have reportedly been killed since October 7 – a few of these have been civilians killed by settlers or caught in crossfire, but the overwhelming majority have been terrorists or involved in violent clashes with the IDF. 

 

IDENTIFYING THE OCTOBER 7 VICTIMS

More than two months after the worst massacre of Jewish people in a single day since the Holocaust, Israeli authorities are still working on identifying some of those murdered by Hamas on October 7. As of Dec. 13, 859 civilians and 274 soldiers had been identified, with extra effort being made to identify the remaining deceased babies, children and elderly. Among those identified are two infants, 12 children under the age of ten, 36 aged between ten and 19, and 25 people aged 80 and over. There are another 15 murdered Israelis whose remains are being held by Hamas. 

 

TEMPORARY CEASEFIRE AND HOSTAGE RELEASES

A seven-day ceasefire between Nov. 24 and Dec. 1 resulted in the release of 105 Israeli and foreign national hostages. There were 81 Israeli women and children and 46 people holding foreign passports (including some Israeli dual nationals), 23 of whom were Thais. The hostages were freed in exchange for the release of 240 female and minor Palestinian prisoners, some 60% of whom had been convicted of, or charged with, terror offences. One hundred and thirty-six hostages remained in Gaza – two children, 20 women and 114 men, including ten aged 75 and older. Nineteen hostages have been found or declared dead. 

A US State Department spokesperson said the ceasefire ended because Hamas refused to release the remaining female hostages as originally agreed, possibly because it didn’t want them to reveal what had been done to them. (For details of released hostage testimony, see p. 22).

 

IDF PUBLISHES MAP SHOWING GAZA SAFE ZONES

On Dec. 1, when fighting resumed following the breakdown of the truce, the Israeli army released a map advising residents of Gaza of safe evacuation areas. The map, available on an Israeli army website in Arabic, and distributed in flyers and phone messages, divided southern Gaza into numerous numbered districts so the civilians could be advised in which districts there was fighting, and which safer neighbouring districts to evacuate to. 

Israel’s evacuation zones map (Image: IDF)

CROSS-BORDER FIGHTING WITH LEBANON AND SYRIA

The IDF resumed daily cross-border fighting with Hezbollah and other terrorist groups in southern Lebanon on Dec. 1, following the resumption of attacks on northern Israel with the end of the ceasefire with Hamas. Hezbollah, while not party to the truce, temporarily ceased attacks during that week. The IDF has had to respond to mortar, anti-tank missile and rocket fire from Lebanon on a daily basis. Overall, between Oct. 7 and Dec. 12, there were at least 434 attacks on Israel from Lebanon while Israeli counter-strikes have reportedly killed dozens of terrorists in Lebanon, including at least 100 Hezbollah operatives. 

Airstrikes on Syria attributed to Israel reportedly killed two Hezbollah fighters on Dec. 8 and three on Dec. 10, while two Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Brigadiers were killed in Syria on Dec. 2. 

 

HOUTHI ATTACKS ON ISRAEL AND RED SEA SHIPPING ESCALATE

On Nov. 26, the Israel Air Force intercepted an unmanned aerial vehicle en route to Israel from Yemen, and an Israel-linked commercial tanker in the Gulf of Aden was seized by armed attackers, reportedly Somalis, who later surrendered to US forces.

On Nov. 29, a US Navy warship shot down an Iranian-made drone fired from Yemen that flew within 1,370 metres of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier. On Dec. 3, a US Navy destroyer shot down three drones fired from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen during a sustained attack in the Red Sea that lasted for several hours, with commercial ships nearby also attacked. On Dec. 9, the Houthis vowed to attack any ship in the Red Sea bound for Israel.

On Dec. 10, two drones were fired at a French warship in the Red Sea, which shot down both.

On Dec. 11, a Houthi missile struck a Norwegian tanker they claimed had been heading for Israel.

On Dec. 13, the Houthis fired two missiles at a fuel tanker in the Red Sea, while a US warship shot down a Houthi drone in the area. 

The US reportedly began talks with allies to establish a naval task force to guard ships travelling through the Red Sea following the Dec. 3 attack. Australia was asked to contribute a warship on Dec. 13. 

 

INTEL ABOUT THE HAMAS PLAN IGNORED

New revelations suggest Israeli security forces had concrete information about the Hamas October 7 attack plan for more a year, but viewed the plan as aspirational and failed to prepare to meet the threat.

A New York Times report in late November exposed that in May 2022, Israeli intelligence had obtained a secret 30-page document code-named “Jericho’s Wall”, outlining Hamas’ battle plan. 

Aharon Haliva, the head of IDF intelligence, and Eliezer Toledano, the head of the IDF’s Southern Command, reportedly dismissed the information presented, arguing Hamas lacked the capabilities to carry out such a large-scale and ambitious attack. 

 

IRAN PROXIES CONTINUE ATTACKS ON US TARGETS

The IRGC and its proxies have attacked US bases in Iraq and Syria more than 80 times since Oct. 7, including firing rockets at the US embassy in Iraq on Dec. 8. 

As of Dec. 13, the US had launched fewer than ten retaliatory strikes in response, killing more than a dozen IRGC proxy operatives, including five in a strike in Iraq on Dec. 4. 

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported in late November that 700 militiamen from Syrian, Palestinian and Iraqi IRGC proxy forces were being deployed to Syria’s border with Israel in the Quneitra province. 

 


Stranger than Fiction

GIMME A BREAK

While most injuries become obvious quickly, some, such as delayed concussion, can manifest well after they’re incurred. Now Palestinians seem to have discovered another example – delayed broken bones. The poor victim of this hitherto undiscovered condition was Palestinian youth Mohammad Nazzal, who was freed from Israeli jail in late November as part of the recent hostage release deal between Israel and Hamas.

Video footage of Mohammad’s release shows him freely using his arms without discomfort. However, within 24 hours of returning home, he was unveiled to media with both his arms in casts from the elbows to fingertips, recounting having had both his hands broken in a beating at the Israeli prison.

Perhaps the poor fellow was extremely stoic – but, far more likely, this was a cynical attempt by Hamas to deflect attention from the appalling way it treated its hostages. Yet our media still treats the terror group as a reliable source.

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