The killing of three U.S. troops and wounding of dozens more on Sunday by Iran-backed militants is piling political pressure on President Joe Biden to deal a blow directly against Iran, a move he’s been reluctant to do out of fear of igniting a broader war.
Biden’s response options could range anywhere from targeting Iranian forces outside to even inside Iran, or opting for a more cautious retaliatory attack solely against the Iran-backed militants responsible, experts say.
American forces in the Middle East have been attacked more than 150 times by Iran-backed forces in Iraq, Syria, Jordan and off the coast of Yemen since the Israel-Hamas war erupted in October.
But until Sunday’s attack on a remote outpost known as Tower 22 near Jordan’s northeastern border with Syria, the strikes had not killed U.S. troops nor wounded so many. That allowed Biden the political space to mete out U.S. retaliation, inflicting costs on Iran-backed forces without risking a direct war with Tehran.
Biden said the United States would respond, without giving any more details.
Republicans accused Biden of letting American forces become sitting ducks, waiting for the day when a drone or missile would evade base defenses. They say that day came on Sunday, when a single one-way attack drone struck near base barracks early in the morning.
In response, they say Biden must strike Iran.
“He left our troops as sitting ducks,” said Republican U.S. Senator Tom Cotton. “The only answer to these attacks must be devastating military retaliation against Iran’s terrorist forces, both in Iran and across the Middle East.”
The Republican who leads the U.S. military oversight committee in the House of Representatives, Representative Mike Rogers, also called for action against Tehran.
“It’s long past time for President Biden to finally hold the terrorist Iranian regime and their extremist proxies accountable for the attacks they’ve carried out,” Rogers said.
Former President Donald Trump, who hopes to face off against Biden in this year’s presidential election, portrayed the attack as a “consequence of Joe Biden’s weakness and surrender.”
The Biden administration has said that it goes to great lengths to protect U.S. troops around the world.
One Democrat openly voiced concern that Biden’s strategy of containing the Israel-Hamas conflict to Gaza was failing.
“As we see now, it is spiraling out of control. It’s beginning to emerge as a regional war, and unfortunately the United States and our troops are in harms way,” Democratic Representative Barbara Lee said, renewing calls for a ceasefire in the Israel-Palestinian war.
NOT SO SIMPLE
Democratic Representative Seth Moulton, who served four tours in Iraq as a Marine, urged against Republican calls for war, saying “deterrence is hard; war is worse.”
“To the chicken hawks calling for war with Iran, you’re playing into the enemy’s hands—and I’d like to see you send your sons and daughters to fight,” Moulton said. “We must have an effective, strategic response on our terms and our timeline.”
Experts caution that any strikes against Iranian forces inside Iran could force Tehran to respond forcefully, escalating the situation in a way that could drag the United States into a major Middle East war.
Jonathan Lord, director of the Middle East security program at the Center for a New American Security, said striking directly inside Iran would raise questions for Tehran about regime survival.
“When you do things overtly you represent a major escalation for the Iranians,” Lord said.
Charles Lister of the Washington-based Middle East Institute said a likely response would be to go after a significant target or high-value militant from Iran-backed groups in Iraq or Syria.
“What happened this morning, was on a totally different level than anything these proxies have done in the past two to three months… (but) despite all of the calls to do something in Iran, I don’t see this administration taking that bait,” Lister said.
A U.S. defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said it was unclear what the second and third order effects would be in going after Iran.
“Unless the U.S. prepared for an all out war, what does attacking Iran get us,” the official said.
Still, Lord and other experts acknowledge that Israel had hit Iranian targets in Syria for years, without dissuading Iran, including four Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps officials in Damascus on Jan. 20.
The United States has also struck Iranian-linked targets outside of Iran in recent months. In November, the U.S. military said it struck a facility used not only by Iran-backed group but also by the Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps.
But Lister said the U.S. had gone after Iranians outside of Iran in the past, like the 2020 strike against top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, and only yielded a response during a limited period of time.
“So to an extent, if you go hard enough and high enough, we have a track record of showing that Iran can blink first,” Lister said.
The post Political Pressure Builds on Biden to Strike Iran After US Deaths first appeared on Algemeiner.com.
Israeli Hospital Earns Spot In Global Top 10
A hospital in central Israel was ranked in the top 10 of medical centers globally, in the new rankings out by Newsweek. Sheba Medical Center, located in Tel HaShomer in central Israel, was ranked the ninth best hospital in the world according to the US publication, its sixth year in a row.
“This is a distilled moment of Israeli pride. In this challenging period, Sheba has proven its professionalism and quality for the sixth time in a row. In many ways, this is a true expression of confidence in the entire Israeli healthcare system, for which I thank it from the bottom of my heart,” said Israeli President Isaac Herzog following the news.
The Director General of the hospital, Prof. Yitshak Kreiss, added; “This achievement represents a resounding endorsement by our colleagues around the world. Sheba is working diligently to make Israel a better, healthier place and highlights our abilities to be both a center of medical excellence, as well as a beacon of co-existence, where Jewish and Arab medical personnel are working side by side 24/7 to save the lives of civilians and soldiers- Jews, Moslems and Christians alike.”
According to the hospital, which placed 11th in last year’s list, thousands of patients came through their doors in 2023 from every continent on earth, “for the treatment they could not receive in their home countries.”
Concluding on a thoughtful note, Sheba wrote: “Being ranked by Newsweek as the 9th best hospital in the world is a major achievement and an honor, yet our greatest reward lies in the lives we touch and the hope we instill. Together, with our dedicated team of medical professionals, we will continue to push the boundaries of medical advancement, ensuring that every patient receives the highest standard of care regardless of their background or where they live. Thank you for entrusting us with your health and allowing us to be a beacon of hope beyond boundaries.”
Per the rankings, four of the top five hospitals in the world are in the US, with the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota at the top, followed by the Cleveland Clinic, Johns Hopkins Hospital, and Massachusetts General Hospital.
Also included in the list from Israel were the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, which ranked 64th in the world, and Rabin Medical Center’s Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva, placing 158th globally.
Second Synagogue in Tunisia Attacked Since October 7
A mob set fire to the courtyard of a Tunisian synagogue in the city of Sfax on Sunday, the second such incident since the Israel-Hamas war began in October.
Nobody was injured in the fire — as there are no Jews left in Sfax — and authorities were able to put out the fire before it spread and destroyed the building, but reported showed significant damage to parts of the synagogue.
Israeli Historian Edy Cohen posted a video of the fire and explained that this is yet another example of antisemitism in Tunisia. He argued that “Israel through the Western countries must help Tunisian Jews.”
היום בבוקר נשרף בית כנסת עתיק בתוניסיה .
כתבתי עשרות פוסטים ומאמרים על האנטישמיות הגואה בתוניסיה אשר הגיעה לשיאה לפני פחות משנה כאשר נהרגו שני יהודים בפיגוע של קיצונים.
ישראל באמצעות מדינות המערב חייבת לעזור ליהודי תוניסה. pic.twitter.com/8Nw1jkjtiw
— אדי כהן Edy Cohen (@DREDYCOHEN) February 26, 2024
In 1948, there were an estimated 105,000 Jews in the country. However, by 1967, that number had declined to 20,000 after many fled to countries such as Israel and France, and today Tunisia is estimated to only have about 1,500 Jews.
This is not the first time an antisemitic mob set fire to a synagogue since Hamas’s October 7 terrorist attack.
On October 17, rioters set fire to the el-Hamma Synagogue, doing considerable damage. People also entered the synagogue and destroyed much of it. The synagogue is not an active place of worship, as there are no Jews left in the city.
Videos from the riot show crowds of people walking in, around, and on top of the synagogue — including at least one person waving a large Palestinian flag.
En Tunisie, la synagogue d’El Hamma a été détruite et incendiée hier soir par des centaines d’émeutiers, sans la moindre intervention policière. De nombreuses vidéos sur TikTok et Facebook. Et pas la moindre mention dans les médias nationaux https://t.co/U601jWVYWq pic.twitter.com/6F8uIZhoe3
— Joseph Hirsch (@josephhirsch5) October 18, 2023
The riot was precipitated by false reports that Israel had bombed Al Ahli Hospital in Gaza, resulting in more than 500 casualties. News outlets such as The New York Times and The Washington Post uncritically reported the story.
Later, reports from those same outlets, along with human rights groups, suggested that a rocket launched by Palestinian terrorists malfunctioned and hit the parking lot of the hospital, killing dozens. U.S. and Israeli intelligence also conclude this is what took place.
But the damage of the initial reporting was done, whipping much of the Arab world into a frenzy, resulting in huge protests and — in this case — mob violence.
Just a year prior to the war, there was a deadly terrorist attack against the El Ghriba Synagogue on the island of Djerba, where the vast majority of Tunisia’s Jews live. The terrorist opened fire on security guards, killing two and injuring six. He also shot at Jews at the synagogue, two of whom were killed and another four were injured.
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From Ground Zero to the Gaza Border: US Medical Doctors Volunteer In Israel
On September 12, 2001, Dr. Marc Wilkenfeld, a specialist in occupational medicine, was treating victims of terror at a site that would later become known as Ground Zero. More than 22 years later, Wilkenfeld found himself 6,000 miles away from Ground Zero treating terror victims in Israel.
Wilkenfeld took leave of his job for two weeks to volunteer with IL-USDocAID, an initiative that was established in the immediate aftermath of the Hamas attacks on October 7, in which more than 1200 people were murdered and 253 were abducted to Gaza.
The project, a joint partnership between Israel’s Health Ministry and the Israel Economic Mission to the US, came in response to the sudden duress suffered by Israel’s health system from soaring casualties and the deployment of thousands of medical staff members, who serve in the IDF as reserve soldiers, to the frontlines.
Wilkenfeld said he was driven to come to Israel after seeing reports of mobilization efforts by Israeli civilians, some as early as October 7 itself. The idea of Israelis who were told to stay in their safe rooms rushing to help first responders wherever they could compelled him to action.
“In America, you feel helpless. What are you going to do? The ability to go here and even play a small role, just to give some advice medically – it’s a beautiful thing,” he told The Algemeiner.
Wilkenfeld took his family with him, who volunteered by cooking for soldiers while he was treating people.
In Israel, Wilkenfeld experienced many firsts. Despite 30 years of being active in the medical profession, including at the scenes of terror attacks, it was the first time he had ever encountered an ambulance station pockmarked by shrapnel and ambulances riddled with bullet holes.
Visiting physicians are given a choice to volunteer with paramedics in ambulances or work directly inside hospitals.
“When you have a doctor in the ambulance there’s more you can do as a paramedic,” Wilkenfeld said. “It also gives real strength for the paramedics to know that people want to come and give help.”
Wilkenfeld said the visit taught him not to pay too much attention to misinformation about Israel.
“I didn’t learn too much about medicine, but I learned a lot about Israel,” he said. “You read in the press that Israel is an apartheid state. But from a medical perspective it’s precisely the opposite.”
During his time in the country, Wilkenfeld said that all the patients he treated received the same medical care, from the “arab in east Jerusalem” to the “major rabbi from Har Nof,” an ultra-Orthodox suburb.
He noted, however, that working in Jerusalem was vastly different from the south, which suffered the brunt of the onslaught, where people are still in an acute state of shock.
“I’ve seen almost a thousand 9/11 responders, the responders in Sderot have the same look in their eyes,” he said of the southern Israeli city in which at least 50 civilians and 20 police officers were murdered. “They talk about the bodies in the ambulance station, about how to prioritize patients, that they haven’t slept in weeks.”
He also said that meeting with the families of hostages left him with a “terrible sadness,” rendering him speechless. Leaning on his medical expertise, however, eventually allowed Wilkenfeld to find his own voice to console them.
“It’s not possible to live in southern Israel and not have PTSD,” he said.
Wilkenfeld returned to his job in New York, where he serves as chief of occupational medicine and clinical assistant professor at NYU-Langone in Long Island, with a somber sense of the realities facing Israel.
He is already working to recruit more volunteers for the project if war should come to Israel again.
“If there is a next time, God forbid, now we can mobilize,” he said. “Now we know who to talk to, where things are.”
Parting ways with the Israeli medical personnel he worked alongside, Wilkenfeld was struck by their sacrifice amidst incomprehensible conditions.
“I leave and they have to live with this.” At the end of the day, he said, “they did much more for me than I did for them.”
To find out more about volunteering as a medic in Israel, click on the following link: IL-USDocAID: https://www.ilusdocaid.org/
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