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Hamas Turns Gaza Streets Into Deadly Maze for Israeli Troops

FILE PHOTO: A terrorist fires a rocket launcher during what Hamas says is an engagement with its fighters during a battle with Israeli forces amid Israel’s ground offensive in a location given as near Beit Hanoun, Gaza, in this still image taken from video released November 17, 2023. Hamas Military Wing/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo

The Israeli army’s death toll in Gaza is already almost twice as high as during a ground offensive in 2014, a reflection of how far it has pushed into the enclave and of Hamas’ use of guerrilla tactics and an expanded arsenal.

Israeli military experts, an Israeli commander and a Hamas source described how the Islamist group has used a big weapons stockpile, its knowledge of the terrain and a vast tunnel network to turn Gaza’s streets into a deadly maze.

At their disposal they have arms ranging from drones rigged with grenades to anti-tank weapons with powerful twin charges.

Israel’s military said on Sunday that 121 soldiers had been killed since the ground campaign began on Oct. 27, when tanks and infantry began to push into Gaza’s cities and refugee camps.

That compares with 66 in the 2014 conflict, when Israel launched a more limited three-week ground incursion but the goal then was not to eliminate Hamas.

“There is no comparing the scope of this war to 2014, when our forces mostly operated no deeper than a kilometer inside Gaza,” said Yaacov Amidror, a retired Israeli major-general and former national security adviser who is now at the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA).

He said the army “has yet to find a good solution for the tunnels,” a network hugely expanded in the past decade.

Israel’s offensive was launched after the Oct. 7 rampage by Hamas gunmen who Israel said killed 1,200 people and took more than 200 hostage – some of them now freed.

Hamas-controlled health authorities in Gaza say thousands of people have been killed in the Palestinian enclave since the war began, although experts have cast doubt on the reliability of their casualty figures.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday Israel would wage war “until absolute victory.” Israeli officials have said it could take months before being complete.

“It has been a challenge from day one,” Ophir Falk, foreign policy adviser to Netanyahu, told Reuters, saying the offensive had come with a “huge price” in Israeli soldiers.

“We know that we’re going to probably have to pay an additional price to complete the mission.”

HEAVY FIGHTING

Hamas has posted videos on its Telegram channel this month showing fighters with bodycams weaving through buildings to launch shoulder-held rockets at armored vehicles. One of them, posted on Dec. 7, was from Shejaiya, east of Gaza City, an area where both sides reported heavy fighting.

In another post on Dec. 5, a camera emerges from a tunnel, like a periscope, to scan an Israeli camp where soldiers rested. The post said it was later hit by an underground blast.

Reuters could not verify the videos.

A Hamas source, who spoke to Reuters from inside Gaza on condition of anonymity, said fighters moved as close as possible to launch ambushes “taking advantage of the land we know like no others do,” often moving around or emerging from tunnels.

“There is a huge discrepancy between our power and their power, we don’t fool ourselves,” he said.

Hamas has not said how many of its fighters have been killed. Israel’s military has said it has killed at least 7,000. The group has previously dismissed the Israeli figure, saying it includes civilians.

Hamas spokespeople outside Gaza did not immediately respond to Reuters requests for comment on this article.

An Israeli commander, who fought in 2014, said the expanded scope of this operation meant more troops were on the ground, giving Hamas the “defender’s advantages,” so higher troop casualties were to be expected. He asked not to be named because he is an active reservist in this war.

Israel’s military does not release numbers of troops involved or other operational details.

Israel’s Channel 12 television showed one army reservist unit, wary of booby-trapped doors, smashing through the wall of a building to enter a room to discover a munitions cache.

Mirroring tactics used in 2014, Israel’s military has posted images on social media showing routes smashed through built-up areas by bulldozers so troops can avoid existing roads that might have landmines.

Even in some districts in north Gaza where many buildings have been pounded into rubble, bouts of fierce fighting have persisted.

BUILDING UP FORCES

“Hamas made some huge steps to build up its force since 2014,” said Eyal Pinko, a former senior official with Israel’s intelligence services who is now at Bar Ilan University’s Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.

He said some advanced arms, such as Russian-designed Kornet anti-tank missiles, were smuggled in with the help of Hamas’ ally Iran. But he said Hamas had mastered building other weapons in Gaza, such as RPG-7 rocket-propelled grenades, and the militants now had a bigger munitions reserve.

Hamas posts have said the group’s weaponry includes “tandem” anti-tank weapons with two charges to pierce armor, which Pinko also said was in the terrorists’ arsenal.

Hamas videos often show big blasts when vehicles are hit. Israeli military experts said a blast did not mean a vehicle was destroyed as they said it could also be caused by defensive systems that exploded to halt incoming projectiles.

Ashraf Abouelhoul, the managing editor of Egypt’s Al-Ahram daily who previously worked in Gaza and is a specialist on Palestinian affairs, said terrorists moved as close as possible to launch missiles and “locally-made projectiles.”

But he said Israeli drones and other tactics were eroding their ability to surprise, even in urban areas. “City fighting has become more difficult” for the terrorists, he said.

Israel’s military posted a video this month that it said showed terrorists emerging from a tunnel under a bombed building, before both were struck by missiles.

“Hamas may post their new weapons and tactics, (but) in principle, it remains a guerrilla resistance movement,” said Alexander Grinberg, a former Israeli military intelligence officer with the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security.

The post Hamas Turns Gaza Streets Into Deadly Maze for Israeli Troops first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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University of California Student Government Passes BDS Legislation

Graphic posted on a social media account administered by University of California-Davis chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine on February 17, 2024. Photo: Screenshot/Instagram

The University of California-Davis (UC Davis) student government passed on Friday legislation adopting the boycott, divestment, and sanctions, (BDS) movement and falsely accusing Israel of genocide.

“This bill prohibits the purchase of products from corporations identified as profiting from the genocide and occupation of the Palestinian people by the BDS National Committee,” says the measure, titled Senate Bill (SB) #52. “This bill seeks to address the human rights violations of the nation-state and government of Israel and establish a guideline of ethical spending.”

Puma, McDonald’s, Starbucks, Airbnb, Disney, and Sabra are all named on SJP’s “BDS List.”

Powers enumerated in the bill include veto power over all vendor contracts, which SJP specifically applied to “purchase orders for custom t-shirts,” a provision that may affect pro-Israel groups on campus. Such policies will be guided by a “BDS List” of targeted companies curated by SJP. The language of the legislation gives ASUCD the right to add more.

“No ASUCD funds shall be committed to the purchases of products or services of any corporation identified by the BDS List as being complicit in the violation of the human rights guaranteed to Palestinian civilians,” the bill adds.

A notable provision of the bill regards the charter for the Special Committee on Ethical Standing. It says the committee must be “dissolved” in a year and its”responsibilities” absorbed by UC Davis’ Ethnic and Cultural Affairs Commission, a division of the student government that which describes itself as a special advocacy group for non-white students. The requirement makes BDS a permanent policy of the school and links it to the issue of racial justice, which, on a college campus, serves as a safeguard against any future attempt to pass legislation proscribing the adoption of BDS.

SJP praised the bill’s passing and signing by ASUCD’s president, Francisco Javier Ojeda.

“The bill that was passed prevents any of the $20 million in the ASUCD budget from being spent on companies complicit in the occupation and genocide of Palestinians, as specified by the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement,” the group said on social media. “From McDonald’s to Sabra to Chevron, none of our student feeds that fund ASUCD operations will be used to financially support 30+ companies that are complicit in Zionist violence.”

Students for Justice in Palestine at University of California-Davis is one of many SJP chapters that justified Hamas’ massacre across southern Israel on Oct. 7. In a chilling statement posted after the world became aware of the terrorist group’s atrocities on that day, which included hundreds of civilian murders and sexual assaults, the group said “the responsibility for the current escalation of violence is entirely on the Israeli occupation.”

According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapters — which have said in their communications that Israeli civilians deserve to be murdered for being “settlers” — lead the way in promoting a campus environment hostile to Jewish and pro-Israel voices. Their aim, the civil rights group explained in an open letter published in December, is to “exclude and marginalize Jewish students,” whom they describe as “oppressors,” and encourage “confrontation” with them.

The ADL has urged colleges and universities to protect Jewish students from the group’s behavior, which, in many cases, has violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

The post University of California Student Government Passes BDS Legislation first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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‘Horrifying and Heart Wrenching’: IDF Releases New Footage of Shiri Bibas and Her Young Sons in Gaza 

Ofri Bibas Levy, whose brother Yarden (34) was taken hostage with his wife Shiri (32) and 2 children Kfir (10 months) and Ariel (4), holds with her friend Tal Ulus pictures of them during an interview with Reuters, as the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas continues, in Geneva, Switzerland, Nov. 13, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

The IDF released “horrifying” new footage on Monday showing Israeli hostage Shiri Bibas and her two children flanked by gunmen in the Gaza Strip, filmed shortly after their abduction during the October 7 Hamas-led attack on southern Israel. 

Captured by surveillance cameras in Khan Younis, the footage shows Bibas wrapped in a sheet and clutching her red-haired sons, Ariel, aged 4, and Kfir, who was only 9 months old at the time of their abduction, and is the first proof of life since October 7. The children’s father, Yarden Bibas, was separately abducted and his condition remains unknown.

IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari expressed the military’s deep concerns over Shiri and her children’s fate. 

“Seeing this young mother clutching her babies surrounded by a group of armed terrorists is horrifying and heart wrenching,” he said at a press conference on Monday. 

“Those who have the audacity to question our need to operate in Gaza, but don’t have the basic decency and humanity to demand that Hamas release our hostages first of all, they all should take a good look at this terrified mother, Shiri, clutching her babies,” he said, adding that the IDF would “leave no stone unturned” in returning the hostages. 

The IDF, according to Hagari, lacks sufficient information to ascertain whether they are alive or dead but is “making every effort to obtain more information about their fate.” The footage was obtained from a Khan Younis military post belonging to the Mujahideen Brigades, a small armed group who are holding Bibas and her children. 

The Bibas family said in a statement that the videos “tore our hearts out.”

“Witnessing Shiri, Yarden, Ariel and Kfir, ripped away from their home in Nir Oz into this hellscape, feels unbearable and inhumane,” the family said.  “We’re issuing a desperate call to all the decision-makers in Israel and the world who are involved in the negotiations: Bring them home now. Make it clear to Hamas that kidnapping children is out of bounds.”

The family also called for Shiri and her children to be prioritized in any future hostage release deal with Hamas. 

Hamas had claimed in November that Shiri, Ariel, and Kfir were casualties of an IDF strike, a claim the IDF has contested as unverified and said at the time that the claim was part of the terror group’s “cruel and inhuman” psychological warfare. Hamas also released a video of a visibly distressed Yarden Bibas after he had been informed by his captors that his wife and children were killed by the IDF. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the footage as “heartbreaking” and said it “reminds us who we are dealing with — brutal baby kidnappers.”

“We will bring these kidnappers of babies and mothers to justice. They won’t get away with it,” Netanyahu said.

Irit Lahav, spokeswoman for the embattled community of Nir Oz, said that the video “reminds us that we are all held hostage until the return of all the hostages.”

A quarter of Nir Oz’s residents were either kidnapped or murdered on October 7. 

The post ‘Horrifying and Heart Wrenching’: IDF Releases New Footage of Shiri Bibas and Her Young Sons in Gaza  first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Antisemitism Accusations Lodged Against Middlebury College

Illustrative: Pro-Hamas demonstrators are detained by police officers in New York during a protest at the Brooklyn Bridge. Photo: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton

Accusations of institutional antisemitism against Middlebury College in Vermont have been lodged in a civil rights complaint filed by StandWithUs (SWU), a nonprofit that promotes education about Israel.

The complaint, filed with the US Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) argues that high level Middlebury College officials, by refusing to enforce anti-discrimination policies equally, have fostered a “pervasively hostile climate,” which prevents Jewish students from enjoying the full benefits of being a college student at a higher education receiving federal funds, according to the complaint.

A timeline of events laid out in documents provided by SWU begins after Hamas’ massacre across southern Israel on Oct. 7, when the school issued a statement that did not acknowledge the deaths of Israelis, but instead only alluded to “violence happening now in Israel in Palestine.” The following week, the administration allegedly obstructed Jewish students’ efforts to publicly mourn Jews murdered on Oct. 7., denying them police protection for a vigil, forcing them to hold it outside, and demanding that the event avoid specifically mentioning Jewish suffering. In an email to one Jewish group that planned a vigil, Vice President and Dean of Students Derek Doucet said, “I wonder if such a public gather in such a charged moment might be more inclusive.”

A month later, the administration uncomplainingly accommodated Students for Justice in Palestine’s “Vigil for Palestine,” providing campus police, space on campus, and a speech from a high ranking official, a request which organizers of the Jewish vigil had been denied.

StandWithUs also noted that Middlebury allegedly ignored numerous complaints of antisemitic harassment committed by anti-Zionist groups. After a local Chabad rabbi  wrote to school officials reporting acts of “intimidation,” including preventing Jews from entering the cafeteria, during a “Day of Resistance” event organized by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), the school’s associate vice president of safety warned him not to report the incidents to outside law enforcement, saying that doing so would be a “risk to individuals and to our community.” The official also denied being aware of any antisemitic incidents.

“The hostile environment at Middlebury College and the administration’s failure to act to correct it are unacceptable,” Carly Gammill, Director of Legal Strategy at SWU Center for Legal Justice, in a press release issued on Friday. “Too often, when Jewish students raise concerns about antisemitism, they are subjected to administrators who deflect the bigotry at play”

“Jewish students deserve the same level of respect, consideration and lawful response as all minority groups when they report cases of bigotry and discrimination,” Gammill added.

Middlebury also allegedly refused to punish anti-Zionist students for using their social media accounts to publish hate speech. Social media posts that cheered Hamas’ atrocities as “decolonization,” called Jews “colonizers” deserving of being victims of violence, and said “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” proliferated in the days and weeks after Oct. 7, but this day, Middlebury has never issued a statement condemning antisemitism.

The Algemeiner has asked Middlebury College to comment on SWU’s allegations.

“Middlebury college has failed egregiously to provide adequate protecting for Jewish students seeking to remedy persistent antisemitic bigotry on campus,” Yael Lerman, SWU director of the Center for Legal Justice said in Friday’s press release. “Middlebury administrators disregarded student allegations, attempted to silence them, neglected to enforce its own rules, and at times were complicit in discriminating against Jewish students. In doing so, the college has violated its obligations under Title VI and must be held accountable.”

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

The post Antisemitism Accusations Lodged Against Middlebury College first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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