Weekly dispatches from Israel provided by Forbes Israel.
Local. Israel-Hamas war enters third month. Three months since Hamas launched a devastating terror attack against Israel, igniting a war that has claimed the lives of thousands, the conflict is intensifying and escalating in various arenas throughout the Middle East.
In the Gaza Strip: While deepening operations in the south and center of the Gaza Strip, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have taken nearly full control in the north, including Gaza City, where it has killed most of Hamas’ operational command chain and neutralized 12 Hamas battalions. In Gaza city, Israeli engineering forces have demolished Hamas’ extensive network of tunnels beneath Al-Shifa Hospital, which served as a hub connecting widespread Hamas command centers. The hospital, untouched by the demolition below ground, remains in operation.
In the center of the Strip, the Israeli Air Force eliminated Ismail Siraj, commander of the Nuseirat battalion in the center of the Gaza Strip, and his deputy, Ahmed Wehba. The Nuseirat Battalion under their command played a significant role in the October 7th terror attack. In other operations, the IDF killed dozens of Hamas terrorists and destroyed more than 100 terrorist tunnel shafts in neighborhoods and buildings used by Hamas.
In the south of the Gaza Strip, IDF forces killed dozens of Hamas terrorists fighting in tunnels under the city of Khan Yunis. During the operation, the forces located a tunnel shaft that led to an underground route hundreds of meters long, in which two “Nukhba” senior commanders were killed and five “Nukhba” terrorists surrendered.
On Thursday, Mamdouh Lolo, the head of Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s operational headquarters in the northern Gaza Strip, was killed in an IDF air strike. Lolo played a crucial role in orchestrating the lethal terrorist attack on October 7 and was an influential PIJ leader.
In Lebanon: Hamas’ deputy leader killed. Saleh al-Arouri, the deputy chairman of Hamas’ Political Bureau, a founding commander of its military wing and considered one of the architects of the October 7th terrorist attack, was killed in an airstrike Wednesday along with six other senior Hamas operatives. The precise assassination operation has been attributed to Israel, which has not taken responsibility for the operation.
The surgical strike took place in the heart of the Dahieh district in Beirut, the stronghold of the Lebanese Shiite terrorist organization Hezbollah. Among his many senior positions in Hamas, al-Arouri was considered Hamas’ “Foreign Minister” directly responsible for coordinating operations with Hezbollah and Iran and a close associate of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, who provided him personal protection. In a speech delivered the day after the assassination, Nasrallah stated that “this action cannot be tolerated,” and declared that Hezbollah would retaliate, raising concerns about a potential escalation leading to an all-out war in Lebanon.
Following Nasrallah’s speech, Hezbollah on Saturday launched dozens of rockets at military posts and civilian areas in Israel, sending thousands of civilians into shelters and protected areas. In response, the IDF attacked a terrorist squad that took part in the launches and completed a series of airstrikes in southern Lebanon against Hezbollah’s launch sites, military buildings and terrorist infrastructure.
On Monday, an Israeli air strike in southern Lebanon killed Jawad Al-Taweel, commander of Hezbollah’s elite Radwan force, and another Hezbollah fighter. The additional casualties inflicted raised the number of Hezbollah terrorists killed since the beginning of the war to more than 150 and Al-Taweel’s death heightens fears of more intense attacks by Hezbollah.
In the Red Sea: The Iranian-aligned Houthi militia ignores Western warnings and escalates attacks on trade routes. Last Wednesday, the White House published a joint statement on behalf of the coalition of countries formed under the leadership of the United States to secure the shipping lanes of the Red Sea against the repeated attacks from Yemen. “The Houthis will bear the responsibility of the consequences should they continue to threaten lives, the global economy, and free flow of commerce in the region’s critical waterways,” said the statement, which was described as “the final warning to the Houthis.” A day later, a Houthi drone boat loaded with explosives exploded in the Red Sea but did not cause any damage or casualties. According to a senior U.S. Navy commander, there are no signs indicating a decrease in the pace of attacks by the Houthis, who have carried out 25 assaults on cargo ships in the region since November 18th ostensibly in support of Hamas.
World. Dozens dead and hundreds more injured after blasts strike Qassem Soleimani memorial in Iran. At least 84 people were killed and 284 were injured in the worst terrorist attack on Iranian soil since the Ayatollah regime seized power in the Shiite Islamist Revolution in 1979. The attack took place in the midst of ceremonies marking the fourth anniversary of the death of Qassem Soleimani, commander of the elite Quds Force killed in an American attack in 2020. Two suicide bombers blew themselves up a few minutes apart near the cemetery in the city of Kerman, Soleimani’s birthplace. Senior officials of the Iranian regime, including President Ebrahim Raisi himself, blamed the U.S. and Israel and threatened revenge. The next day, in a statement published on ISIS-identified Telegram channels, the Sunni terrorist organization took responsibility for the attack in southeastern Iran. At the same time, several U.S. intelligence sources declared that the intelligence linking ISIS to the attack in Iran “is clear-cut and indisputable.”
Israel has named former Supreme Court President Aharon Barak, 87, to sit on the panel of 15 judges of the International Court of Justice at the Hague, Netherlands, hearing the allegations of genocide brought against Israel by South Africa. Barak, well-known for his “activist” stance on issues of judicial independence and human rights until his retirement from the Israeli Supreme Court, is an internationally recognized jurist.
Culture. NBA All-Star in Another Controversy Amid Anti-Semitic Claims. NBA star Kyrie Irving of the Dallas Mavericks, who has previously been linked to anti-Semitic incidents and was suspended last year from his previous team due to his support for an anti-Semitic movie, is once again at the center of controversy. The incident occurred during an away game against the Utah Jazz at the Delta Center in Salt Lake City. According to several reports, a group of rabbis attending the game displayed a sign reading “I’m a Jew and I’m proud.” The Jazz organization requested the removal of the sign, alleging that it was “causing a distraction to the players” in violation of a team regulation. A rabbi claimed on his X account that Irving was behind the demand to remove the sign but Irving has denied the allegation.
Since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas war, Irving has consistently expressed anti-Israel sentiments and demonstrated “solidarity with the Palestinians.” The new team owner, Miriam Adelson, one of the richest women in the world who purchased a 30% stake in the Dallas Mavericks for $3.5 billion, has strongly attacked those who speak out against Israel in the West. “We must disavow and shame them, deny them employment and public office,” Adelson stated in a special opinion column published in Forbes Israel at the beginning of the war. “If you condemn Hamas and then add a ‘but’ followed by condemnation of Israel, you’re dead to us,” Adelson wrote.
Itai Zehorai, Alan Sacks