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IDF Quietly Transitions to Phase 3 in the War Against Hamas

Israeli soldiers operate in the Gaza Strip amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian terror group Hamas, in this handout picture released on Jan. 2, 2024. Photo: Israel Defense Forces/Handout via REUTERS – Without fanfare, the Israel Defense Forces is transitioning from phase 2 in the war against Hamas—the high-intensity stage of surging ground forces throughout Gaza—to phase 3, involving far more targeted operations, with a focus on the south of the Strip.

The decision to do so is based primarily on the IDF’s assessment that it has succeeded in dismantling Hamas’s organized military structures in northern Gaza and in Hamas’s former heartland of Gaza City, leaving disorganized terror cells that have fallen back on independent guerrilla warfare tactics.

“While there are still terrorists and weapons in the north, they are no longer functioning within an organized military framework, IDF Spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said on Jan. 6. “We are now operating differently in that area, with a different mix of forces, to deepen our achievements. We are currently focusing on the central Gaza Strip, in the area of the central camps, and in the southern Gaza Strip, in the area of Khan Yunis.

“This is still a complex operational activity, with hard battles being fought both in the center and the south. The fighting will continue into 2024,” Hagari added.

This coming year will likely see the IDF divide Gaza in two, with IDF units deployed to defend the dividing line while also working to make sure that tunnels cannot be used to move from north to south Gaza.

In practical terms, this means that large numbers of soldiers are being discharged, with reservists returning to the workforce to nourish the badly neglected economy and recharge ahead of a potential call-up to the north.

The operations in remaining Hamas strongholds such as Khan Yunis are being led by the IDF’s 98th Division, which features many special forces operators.

In the central Gaza Strip, the IDF is still involved in significant fighting in the area of the central camps in Al-Bureij, where it is locating tunnels, large underground weapons factories (from which weapons were sent along the Hamas military tunnel network to positions all over Gaza) and terrorists.

Flexibility, adaptability and ambiguity

The IDF’s shift from phase 2 to phase 3 (phase 1 involved airstrikes and massing forces throughout October ahead of the ground incursion into Gaza) is not being declared or occurring in one clear maneuver, much like the IDF’s ground offensive was not declared when it began at the end of October.

This approach is indicative of a broader tactical philosophy emphasizing flexibility, adaptability and ambiguity. This ambiguity serves multiple purposes: It allows the IDF to adjust its tactics based on realities in the field without being constrained by prior public commitments, and it keeps adversaries uncertain about precise future moves.

The realities in Gaza mean it is now clear that different military tactics are needed in the north and the south. The IDF’s decision to release many brigades back to the economy while refreshing forces indicates a long-term view of the campaign while recognizing the need to maintain operational readiness on the Lebanese border as well.

The conflict has been prolonged, already lasting some 100 days, which requires the IDF to manage its human and material resources carefully.

Giving the 98th Division, with its special forces, the lead in the war, in contrast to the more conventional divisions, is a response to the unique challenges in southern Gaza. This includes more contained operations with a focus on specific Hamas centers of gravity, involving tunnels where Hamas’s leadership likely is barricaded, together with many of Israel’s hostages. Above ground, many civilians remain.

The nature of combat in southern Gaza is therefore slower, more precise and targeted, involving raids and focused assaults rather than large-scale rapid maneuvers.

In northern Gaza, dismantling Hamas’s organized military capacity has already seen the elimination of many commanders to disrupt command and control, surrounding areas like Jabalia with combined forces, and unprecedented collaboration between the air force and ground forces. These tactics have yielded significant results, including the surrender of many Hamas field terror operatives and the collection of valuable intelligence.

Meanwhile, rocket caches and underground infrastructure continue to be destroyed, despite the sporadic rocket fire that continues from Gaza at Israeli civilian areas.

As the IDF moves forward with its operations in central and southern Gaza, it is applying lessons learned from earlier phases. The focus on intelligence-gathering, using classified ways to deal with tunnels, precision strikes, and minimizing civilian casualties while effectively dismantling Hamas’s military capabilities is part of those lessons.

No less important, the IDF must retain full freedom of movement in the coming years and conduct persistent security raids in response to intelligence, to prevent Hamas from rebuilding capabilities to serve its genocidal intentions, just as Israel does in Judea in Samaria every night.

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‘American Leadership Will Not Waver’: Senate Passes $95.3 Billion Aid Package for Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan

US President Joe Biden addresses the nation on the Hamas onslaught against Israel. Photo: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

After months of negotiations, the Senate passed a $95.3 billion aid package for Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan on Tuesday by a vote of 70-29. 

The bill, if signed by President Biden, would provide $14 billion in military assistance to Israel to help it replenish the Iron Dome and weapons that can help it defeat Hamas. While US President Joe Biden supports the bill, it is not certain to pass the House of Representatives.

The aid package gives $9.2 billion for humanitarian aid to the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, along with people in Ukraine and other war zones. However, it is well documented that much of the aid to Gaza does not reach Palestinian civilians but instead goes to Hamas.

The bill also provides about $5 billion toward countering Chinese aggression and $2.5 billion for fighting the Houthis as they continue to terrorize civilian ships in the Red Sea, disrupting global trade.

In the immediate aftermath of the vote, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said the bill’s passage showed “that American leadership will not waver, not falter, not fail.” 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnel (R-KY) said, in a statement, that “Our adversaries want America to decide that reinforcing allies and partners is not in our interest, and that investing in strategic competition is not worth it. They want us to take hard-earned credibility and light it on fire.”

“But today,” he wrote, “the Senate responded by reaffirming a commitment to rebuild and modernize our military, restore our credibility, and give the current Commander-in-Chief, as well as the next, more tools to secure our interests.”

More progressive members of the Senate objected to funding Israel in its war against Hamas. Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT), called the idea of voting for Israel funding “unconscionable.” He wrote, “This bill provides Netanyahu $10 billion more in unrestricted military aid for his horrific war against the Palestinian people. That is unconscionable. I will vote NO on final passage.”

Some conservatives also voted against the bill because it did not include provisions to secure the U.S.’s southern border. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), released a statement making clear that while “It is important that Israel eradicates Hamas, that Taiwan remains resilient against China’s threats, and that Ukraine defeats Russia,” he would vote for the bill “only after America’s border is secured.”

The bill faces an uphill battle to pass in the House, where Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) has suggested provisions will have to be added to secure the southern border for him to bring it to the floor for a vote.

He said, “House Republicans were crystal clear from the very beginning of discussions that any so-called national security supplemental legislation must recognize that national security begins at our own border.“ 

Johnson continued, “In the absence of having received any single border policy change from the Senate, the House will have to continue to work its own will on these important matters.”

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Police are investigating after a group of anti-Israel protesters targeted Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital

Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital, a century-old Canadian medical institution originally built for Jewish doctors and patients who faced discrimination but which now treats all the city’s residents, became the latest target of anti-Israel protests on Feb.12. Protesters took over portions of southbound University Avenue with one individual climbing a scaffold and waving the Palestinian flag […]

The post Police are investigating after a group of anti-Israel protesters targeted Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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Yeshiva Loses its Ninth Student in War in Gaza

Fallen Israeli soldier Maj. Gen. Ziv Chen. Source: Twitter/X

Israelis on Monday woke up to bittersweet news: the good was the successful rescue of two hostages from the Gaza Strip. The bad, that three soldiers, Maj. Gen. Ziv Chen, Lt. Col. Nathaniel Elkoubi, and Maj. Yair Cohen were killed in separate fighting in the Strip.

Chen, 27, from Kfar Saba, was a graduate of a religious Zionist yeshiva in southern Israel which has now lost nine students in the war against Hamas in Gaza.

“We wanted to believe that we had finished paying the heavy price,” the head of the yeshiva, Rabbi Chaim Wolfson, told Hebrew media.

The yeshiva, Yeruham Hesder, is a program for observant Israelis who wish to combine regular military service with Torah study. A longer program than regular enlistments – five years total – there are thousands of students every year participating.

“We have lost a mainstay of the Beit Midrash (study hall). Ziv, as his name is, was all light,” Rabbi Wolfson added. “A loving and beloved man, I will bless you, everything he did was with infinite love. He loved people, loved the Torah, and everything he was involved in was done wholeheartedly.”

Chen was set to celebrate his wedding anniversary this upcoming Sunday with his wife Hillel, his family said.

At the funeral, held on Tuesday in his hometown, accompanied by hundreds of Israelis paying their respects, his uncle, Danny Chen, said about the fallen soldier: “He was a salt of the earth, a brilliant yeshiva student who loved the Land of Israel. He was a walking encyclopedia, very knowledgeable. Saturday night, two weeks ago, I saw him for the last time, always hugging and kissing. An exemplary child, a great loss. We are all shocked and hurt.”

The organization overseeing the Hesder yeshivot, the Hesder Yeshiva Association, released a statement that said, “We bitterly mourn the death of the soldier Maj. Gen. Ziv Chen, a fighter in the Givati ​​Brigade, student of the Hesder Yeshiva Yeruham, who fell in the war. On behalf of the leaders of the Hesder Yeshivas and all the rabbis and students, we embrace the family, the the rabbis of the yeshiva, its students and graduates, and pray for an overwhelming victory of our heroic soldiers over our vile and cruel enemies. May his soul be wrapped in the bundle of life.”

The three soldiers who perished on Monday were the victims of an IED explosion in Khan Younis in southern Gaza, where the IDF has been concentrating its fighting for the last few weeks.

As mentioned, Chen is the ninth soldier to fall during the war from the Yeroham Yeshiva. The other eight are: Sergeant Ariel Eliyahu, 19, Staff Sergeant Yanon Fleishman, 31, First Sergeant Eitan Dov Rosenzweig, 21, Captain Eitan Fish, 23, Sergeant Yakir Yedidia Shankolevsky, 21, Advanced Sergeant Gideon Ilani, 35, First Sergeant Elisha Levinstern, 38, and First Sergeant Ephraim Yachman, 21.


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