Australia/Israel Review


Behind the News – March 2024

Feb 28, 2024 | AIJAC staff

Weapons found in UNRWA’s Gaza headquarters (Image: IDF)
Weapons found in UNRWA’s Gaza headquarters (Image: IDF)

ROCKET AND TERROR REPORT

As of Feb. 16, at least 13,000 rockets, mortars and other projectiles had been fired at Israel since October 7, mostly from Gaza and Lebanon but also from Syria and Yemen. As of Feb. 20, 237 IDF troops had been killed in Gaza since the start of the ground invasion, while Israel estimates approximately 12,000 Hamas members had been killed. Hamas continues to hold around 134 hostages, at least 31 of whom have reportedly been killed. 

Israeli operations against Hamas and other terrorist groups continue throughout the West Bank, resulting in at least 394 Palestinian deaths since October 7, according to the PA Health Ministry, mostly terrorists killed in targeted operations or those clashing with security forces. 

On Feb. 16, a terrorist shot six Israelis, killing two, at the Re’em Masmiya Junction in southern Israel. There have also been numerous other stabbing and car-ramming attacks.

 

TWO HOSTAGES RESCUED IN RAFAH

On Feb. 12, intelligence gathered during the ground operation in Gaza allowed Israeli security forces to rescue two hostages from a building in Rafah – Fernando Simon Marman, 60, and Luis Har, 70, kidnapped from Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak on October 7. The terrorists guarding the two were caught by surprise and immediately killed, with more terrorists killed in a subsequent firefight. Heavy bombardment of Hamas military sites in Rafah by Israel following the rescue allowed for their safe return into Israel.

 

IDF HUNTS TERRORISTS IN HOSPITALS

On Feb. 17, after repeated warnings, IDF troops entered the Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, Gaza’s second largest, coming under gun and rocket fire from terrorists barricaded in the hospital and its grounds. Sixteen terrorists were killed. Once inside, the Israelis detained hundreds of terror suspects, including high-ranking Hamas terrorists, some wearing medical garb, and found weapons caches, communication infrastructure, a vehicle used in the October 7 attacks and an Israeli vehicle stolen that day, as well as unopened medication that Hamas had promised to deliver to hostages in a January deal. Israeli forces also delivered supplies to the hospital.

In early February, Israeli special forces arrested approximately 20 Hamas terrorists hiding inside the Al-Amal Hospital in western Khan Younis without gunfire or injury to any patients or staff. 

Meanwhile, on Jan. 30, Israeli commandos infiltrated Ibn Sina Hospital in Jenin in the West Bank, killing three members of an armed Hamas cell said to be planning imminent terror attacks. No one else was hurt.

 

UNRWA’S HAMAS LINKS

On Feb. 10, the IDF revealed a massive air-conditioned Hamas computing and data centre it had discovered directly under the Gaza headquarters of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). This was connected to Hamas’ tunnel system, with an entrance in an UNRWA school nearby. The data centre’s electricity supply came from cables running from inside UNRWA’s headquarters.

This discovery came after Israel revealed 12 UNRWA employees directly participated in the October 7 attacks, with Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant revealing their personal details. Israel also said it has additional intelligence that more than 30 UNRWA employees actively participated in the attacks and approximately 12% of UNRWA’s 13,000 employees in Gaza are members of Hamas or other terrorist groups.

 

ISRAEL’S RAFAH EVACUATION PLAN

In mid-February, the Wall Street Journal reported that Israel had presented to the US a draft plan to evacuate civilians from Rafah before attacking Hamas there.

Under the plan, Palestinian civilians would be relocated to the coastal area of the strip into 15 campsites with 400,000 tents and medical clinics – funded by the US and Arab countries.

Senior Israel officials have repeatedly pledged that the IDF will evacuate Palestinian civilians prior to an attack on Rafah. 

Senior Hamas leaders and 10,000 Hamas terrorists are thought to be hiding among the 1.2 million Palestinians in Rafah, most of whom evacuated there from other parts of the strip. Most of the remaining Israeli hostages are also assumed to be there. 

Meanwhile, Israeli officials have said that their intelligence estimates that roughly 60% of humanitarian aid entering the strip via the Rafah crossing ends up in Hamas’ hands.

 

ISRAEL-HEZBOLLAH VIOLENCE CONTINUES

On Feb. 3, the IDF announced Israel had struck more than 3,400 Hezbollah sites in Lebanon and Syria since October 7 in response to ongoing daily cross-border Hezbollah attacks on Israel, killing 200 terror operatives, mostly from Hezbollah. 80,000 residents of Israel’s north have been evacuated from their homes ever since October 7, and 427 houses had suffered structural damage as a result of Hezbollah attacks. 

Thus far, the ongoing border clashes have resulted in six civilian deaths on the Israeli side, as well as the deaths of nine IDF soldiers and reservists. 

A barrage of rocket fire launched by Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon struck the northern Israeli city of Kiryat Shmona on Feb. 19. On Feb. 14, a Hezbollah rocket barrage targeting the northern city of Safed killed an Israeli soldier. 

Meanwhile, the US and four of its European allies are working on a diplomatic deal to prevent an escalation between Israel and Hezbollah based on the partial implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701 which ended the second Lebanon war in 2006. This plan would require Hezbollah to move its forces several kilometres away from the border. 

 

US RETALIATES AGAINST IRANIAN PROXY MILITIA

Three US Army soldiers were killed and 30 were injured in a Jan. 29 drone attack on their outpost in Jordan by Iranian proxy militia based in Iraq. 

The US conducted airstrikes on 85 targets across Iraq and Syria on Feb. 2 in retaliation. 

On Feb. 7, a US drone attack killed a commander of Iran’s Kata’ib Hezbollah proxy in Baghdad who the US said was directly responsible for planning attacks on US forces. Meanwhile, drone attacks on US bases by Iranian proxies continued.

Media reports blamed Israel for attacks on two major gas pipelines in Iran in mid-February.

 

HOUTHI ATTACKS MEET US AND UK COUNTERSTRIKES

Houthi attacks against commercial and navy ships in the Red Sea continue. A Feb. 19 missile strike on a British ship forced the crew to abandon the ship, and they also struck a Greek-flagged ship bring humanitarian aid to Yemen. On Feb. 2, Israel used its Arrow long-range missile defence system to shoot down a rocket fired in the direction of Eilat.

On Feb. 19, the European Union launched a naval mission to help protect cargo ships against the Houthi attacks, joining a US-led naval force already in the region. 

US-led counterstrikes on the Houthis have been continuing. On Feb. 3, US and UK strikes hit 36 Houthi military targets across 13 sites in Yemen after exchanges of more limited attacks on previous days. Further US strikes on Feb. 4 killed 40 Houthi terrorists. 

 

AL JAZEERA JOURNALIST REVEALED TO BE HAMAS TERRORIST

The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) revealed that an additional Al Jazeera journalist, Mohammed Wishah, was also a Hamas military commander, based on documents found on a laptop seized in northern Gaza. Wishah served in Hamas’ anti-tank missile units until 2022 and later shifted to research and development in the group’s aerial units. Photos showed Wishah training Hamas members and firing anti-tank missiles. 

 


Stranger than Fiction

Unto Wards

It has been well established that Hamas uses hospitals in Gaza for military purposes – for tactical advantage but also, no doubt, for the propaganda benefits of having Israeli forces being seen attacking hospitals. 

However, the message that it’s bad PR to attack hospitals hasn’t reached some of Hamas’ supporters in North America.

On Jan. 16 in New York City, pro-Palestinian protestors from the radical ‘Within our Lifetime’, which calls for Israel’s destruction, demonstrated outside the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, accusing it of abetting genocide.

Within Our Lifetime leader Nerdeen Kiswani urged the crowd to “Make sure they hear you, they’re in the windows” and led a chant of “MSK, shame on you, you support genocide too.” The people “in the windows” included cancer patients, among them children. And what had this nefarious medical institution done to “support genocide”? It had, as Kiswani explained on X (formerly Twitter), accepted a donation from billionaire Ken Griffin, who had previously spoken out against students at his alma mater Harvard University who had blamed Israel for the October 7 atrocities. That’s all. Yet somehow Kiswani thought targeting a cancer hospital would help her cause.

In Toronto, on Feb. 12, there was a pro-Palestinian protest outside Mount Sinai Hospital, which was established by the Jewish community and has a Jewish Star of David in its emblem. Organisers at least had the sense to later claim – not very credibly given that protestors paused outside it for some 15 or so minutes – that the hospital wasn’t specifically targeted, and was just on their protest route. This certainly didn’t stop demonstrators climbing the portico and scaffolding at the hospital to wave Palestinian flags, and waylaying a Jewish doctor in his car. 

Canadian PM Justin Trudeau and other officials condemned the protestors’ actions as antisemitic.

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