Israeli War Cabinet tells Hamas they have until Ramadan to release the Hostages

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Important Takeaways:

  • Israel sets date for Rafah offensive in ultimatum for Hamas: War cabinet member warns onslaught will begin in three weeks unless all hostages are released
  • Israel has threatened to invade Gaza’s Rafah by the start of Ramadan if Hamas does not return the remaining hostages in a dark ultimatum condemned by international observers.
  • The United States and other governments, as well as the United Nations, have issued increasingly urgent appeals to Israel to call off its planned offensive on Rafah, where three-quarters of the displaced Palestinian population has fled.
  • Some 1.2 million people are now taking shelter in sprawling tent encampments without access to adequate food, water or medicine in the city that used to be home to just 250,000.
  • But the Israeli government says the city on the Egypt border is the last remaining stronghold in Gaza of the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
  • ‘The world must know, and Hamas leaders must know – if by Ramadan our hostages are not home, the fighting will continue everywhere, including the Rafah area,’ Benny Gantz, a retired military chief of staff, told a conference of American Jewish leaders in Jerusalem on Sunday.
  • ‘Hamas has a choice. They can surrender, release the hostages and the civilians of Gaza can celebrate the feast of Ramadan,’ added Gantz, a member of the three-person war cabinet.
  • Ramadan, the Muslim holy month, is expected to begin around March 10.

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Despite being publicly and privately warned, Israel has begun bombing Rafah in the Gaza Strip

Rescued-Israeli-Hostages

Important Takeaways:

  • Israeli forces rescue 2 hostages in Rafah and hammer the crowded city
  • The dramatic rescue of Fernando Marman, 60, and Louis Har, 70, came amid mounting international concerns over a planned Israeli ground assault on Rafah.
  • Israeli forces retrieved the two Israeli men taken captive during the Oct. 7 Hamas attack in a “complex” overnight operation carried out “under fire in the heart of Rafah,” Israel Defense Forces spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said.
  • The operation included a “wave of strikes” to help “enable the force’s disengagement” and strike Hamas operatives in the area, he said.
  • The strikes set off widespread panic, according to the NBC News crew, with crowds racing to take loved ones, including children, to the Kuwait Hospital.
  • The IDF had confirmed overnight that its forces conducted strikes in the area of Shaboura

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Revelation of Hamas files showing instructions on converting medical equipment to bombs

Gaza Strip

Important Takeaways:

  • Hamas Manual Shows Bomb-Making From Medical Supplies; Ambassador Criticizes Kremlin For Being Too Friendly With Hamas
  • Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip recently discovered a Hamas manual with detailed instructions on how to produce bombs from medical equipment.
  • The huge number of files and documents specifically include instructions on using Hydrogen Peroxide, a regular hospital substance, as a key ingredient in producing explosives and rocket propellant material.
  • The Iranian-backed terrorist organization has a long history of exploiting dual purpose materials as key components in its production of weapons and terror infrastructure. For instance, the vast tunnel network, dubbed “Gaza Metro,” was largely produced through the terrorists’ large-scale confiscation of cement that was officially earmarked for the construction of civilian structures, such as hospitals and schools.
  • Hamas’ indigenous arms production capabilities have been boosted by individuals within its ranks with an engineering background and innovative skills. Due to the strict military blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt after the violent Hamas takeover in Gaza in 2007, much of the group’s rocket arsenal is produced from water pipes and streetlight poles.
  • The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, an Israeli security think tank based in Jerusalem, assessed in 2021 that Hamas had already developed significant local weapons production capabilities inside the Gaza Strip:
  • “The terrorist group (Hamas) was no longer a force fighting an asymmetrical war with asymmetrical tactics and weapons. Hamas is now manufacturing a large part of its own weapons, expanding its research, and developing drones and unmanned underwater vehicles, engaging in cyber warfare, and on the cusp of graduating from unguided rockets to precision GPS-guided drones and missiles.”
  • Hamas’s local weapons production is further supplemented with external weapons deliveries, mainly from its patron, the Iranian regime.

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CBS confirms plans for US strikes on Iranian targets

US-Strikes-Iran

Important Takeaways:

  • Plans for U.S. strikes on Iranian personnel and facilities in Iraq, Syria approved after Jordan drone attack
  • U.S. officials have confirmed to CBS News that plans have been approved for a series of strikes over a number of days against targets — including Iranian personnel and facilities — inside Iraq and Syria. The strikes will come in response to drone and rocket attacks targeting U.S. forces in the region, including the drone attack on Sunday that killed three U.S. service members at the Tower 22 base inside Jordan, near the Syrian border.
  • Speaking at the Pentagon Thursday, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters that the U.S. won’t tolerate attacks on American troops.
  • “This is a dangerous moment in the Middle East,” Austin said, noting that Israel’s ongoing war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip and attacks by Houthi rebels in Yemen on commercial shipping in the Red Sea were also happening in the region. “We will continue to work to avoid a wider conflict in the region, but we will take all necessary actions to defend the United States, our interests and our people, and we will respond when we choose, where we choose and how we choose.”
  • Weather will be a major factor in the timing of the strikes, the U.S. officials told CBS News, as the U.S. has the capability to carry out strikes in bad weather but prefers to have better visibility of selected targets as a safeguard against inadvertently hitting civilians who might stray into the area at the last moment.
  • Iran’s Reaction…any strike on Iranian territory or personnel would escalate tension in the tumultuous region, not make U.S. forces safer.

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Wars and conflicts erupting all over the place; the final battle of Armageddon doesn’t seem so far away

Megiddo

Important Takeaways:

  • As war creeps closer to Armageddon, the end of days doesn’t seem so far away
  • From Megiddo’s hilltop, there is a great view of the West Bank, no more than two miles away.
  • To the north, the rockets of Hezbollah – in total about 160,000 of them – are pointed in this direction while in the south, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are fighting raging gun battles with Hamas in a war that’s almost four months long.
  • Israel is on edge. Standing in Megiddo, right in the middle of the country and now home to a vast archaeological site, there is a sense of foreboding that pervades the region.

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Israel Defense Forces take control of strategic Gaza village in the South

Gaza-Strip-January-2024

Important Takeaways:

  • Khirbat Ikhza’a is just slightly southeast of Khan Yunis, making it an important strategic location for cutting off Hamas forces from maneuvering.
  • It is also only a few kilometers from the Jewish kibbutz of Nir Oz and was one of Hamas’s invasion launch points to take over that kibbutz on October 7, along with Nirim and Ein Hashlosha.
  • The IDF’s 5th Brigade destroyed hundreds of terror positions and killed dozens of Hamas terrorists to achieve operational control both above and below ground.
  • In addition, IDF forces found a variety of personal items, such as challah covers, bicycles, agricultural items that Hamas stole from Nir Oz residents, and some clues relating to Israelis who were kidnapped on October 7.
  • Further, the IDF seized a sizable number of mortars, rocket launchers, grenades, and guns. Also, IDF sources said every other house had weapons or terror-related items.

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IDF Minister Yoav Gallant reveals what’s next in the war against Hamas

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Important Takeaways:

  • Israel’s Defense Minister Releases Plan for Next Stage of War, ‘Day After’ Hamas Defeated
  • Gallant’s plan could therefore be a trial balloon — one distributed by the Netanyahu government but not formally adopted by it.
  • It begins with a description of the next stage (“Phase III”) of the war: “Fighting will continue until the goals of the war are achieved: (1) the return of the hostages, (2) the dismantling of Hamas’ military and governing capabilities and (3) the removal of military threats from the Gaza strip.”
  • In the northern Gaza Strip, where Hamas has largely been eliminated, Gallant suggests that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) will scale down operations, but will continue with “raids, the destruction of terror tunnels, aerial and ground activities, and special operations.”
  • In the southern Gaza Strip, where fighting is still intense, Gallant says that “operational efforts [will] focus on eliminating Hamas leadership and enabling the return of the hostages,” and that the IDF will continue to fight there “for as long as is deemed necessary.”
  • In “Phase IV,” or “The Day After,” Gallant suggests that Hamas will not control Gaza; that the Israeli military will have “operational freedom” in Gaza; that there will be no Israeli civilian resettlement in Gaza; that local “non-hostile” Palestinians will govern; and that the U.S. will lead a multinational “task force,” together with European and Arab nations, to rebuild the area. Israel will also retain the ability to inspect all goods entering Gaza, and Egypt will have a consultative role.
  • Crucially, the Palestinian Authority is completely excluded from the plan.

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Israel hits Hamas leader hiding out in Lebanon in Drone strike: Israel’s actions concern many that war is going to spread

Hamas-leader-killed

Important Takeaways:

  • How Israel’s war with Hamas is spiraling across the Middle East: As terror group’s deputy leader is killed in Beirut drone strike and targets are hit in Syria, fears grow of much wider regional conflict
  • Israel’s assassination of Hamas deputy leader Saleh al-Arouri in a drone strike in Lebanon’s capital Beirut on Tuesday has raised fears that the war in Gaza could spread beyond the Palestinian enclave and engulf the Middle East.
  • Arouri, 57, was the first senior Hamas political leader to be assassinated since Israel launched a brutal air and ground offensive against the group almost three months ago on the heels of the ruthless October 7 attacks on Israeli towns.
  • Lebanon’s heavily armed Hezbollah group, a powerful Hamas ally, previously vowed to strike back against any Israeli targeting of Palestinian officials in Lebanon, and said of the attack: ‘This crime will never pass without response and punishment.’
  • Hezbollah and the Israeli military have been exchanging fire almost daily over the Israeli-Lebanese border since Israel’s military campaign in Gaza began, but so far the Lebanese group has appeared reluctant to dramatically escalate the fighting.
  • A significant response now could send the conflict spiraling into all-out war on Israel’s northern border.
  • Meanwhile, Nasser Kanaani, spokesperson for the foreign ministry of Iran – the chief backer of Hamas and Hezbollah – said Arouri’s killing would ‘undoubtedly ignite another surge in the veins of resistance and the motivation to fight against the Zionist occupiers.

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Hamas says it will not discuss release of hostages unless shooting ceases: but who broke the last cease fire?

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Important Takeaways:

  • Hamas Cuts Off Hostage Negotiations; Refuses to Talk Under Fire
  • The Times of Israel reported:
  • A Hamas statement claims that it will not agree to free any more hostages or even negotiate over them until the end of fighting.
  • The stance, which has been trotted out by the terror group before, comes amid intense talks for a possible deal that would see hostages released in exchange for Palestinian inmates in Israeli prison. The group already claims it won’t accept a temporary truce.
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that Israel would continue the war to “eliminate” Hamas even if negotiations continued.
  • Pressure for talks rose last weekend, after the tragic deaths of three Israeli hostages who managed to escape their Hamas captors. Israeli soldiers mistook them from afar for terrorists.
  • The Israeli public, however, remains committed to the fight, even though there is also support for talks to free the hostages.
  • Palestinian rocket attacks against Israel continue: a large salvo was fired from a Hamas-controlled area of central Gaza toward Tel Aviv and central Israel on Thursday, but caused no injuries.

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Massive tunnel discovered by IDF just inside Gaza border

Hamas-Tunnel-in-Gaza

Important Takeaways:

  • IDF Uncovers Massive Tunnel Complex Built by Hamas Leader’s Brother
  • The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) revealed Sunday that it had discovered a massive tunnel complex built by Hamas just inside the Gaza border, 50 meters underground, wide enough to drive through at some points, and filled with weapons for attacking Israel.
  • The stunning find included a trove of intelligence materials, including videos — taken by Hamas itself — of the construction of the tunnel complex, which shows the massive amount of equipment and manpower devoted to the task, instead of Gaza’s own needs.
  • The construction was reportedly overseen by Muhammad Sinwar, the brother of Gaza-based Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar. One portion is near the Erez Crossing, which was used by Palestinian workers to enter Israel, and was attacked by Hamas October 7.

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