I’m in meetings with colleagues from across North America and we’re discussing Israel advocacy, security, and community relations. 88% of the US Jewish population is now covered under a Jewish community security initiative (CSI) managed by the Jewish Federations. Every CSI includes community engagement, community security risk management, information sharing and intelligence, physical and operational security, emergency preparedness, and training and exercises. That’s us too. And I know that we have a lot more to do, but I also look back with gratitude at the lay and professional dedication that got us here.
So. Here we are. The Biden Administration has issued a new executive order to impose sanctions against four Israelis it said had committed violence in the West Bank. See this backgrounder for more information.
Registration for Birthright Israel’s summer round is now open. See this link for important information that will help potential participants and their parents navigate any concerns over the security situation. Interested parties can reserve their spot here. Registration is also open for Onward’s summer internships and fellowship programs – an opportunity for Birthright Israel alumni and others looking for a longer experience in Israel. Remember that Birthright and Onward receive significant funding from our Jewish Federation’s annual UJA campaign, because we’re committed to a vision of immersive Jewish experience.
Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Activities
An additional IDF soldier fell in battle in Gaza yesterday, bringing total IDF losses since the start of the ground operation to 225, and since the outbreak of war to 561. See details of all the fallen soldiers here.
Israeli troops killed dozens of Palestinian terrorists in battlesthroughout the Gaza Strip over the last 24 hours. In Khan Younis, which has been the site of the heaviest fighting in recent weeks, dozens of terrorists were killed in airstrikes and close-quarters combat. The IDF also uncovered weapons stores, including rockets, assault rifles, sniper rifles, grenades, and magazines. Over the weekend, IDF troops raided the main headquarters of Hamas’ Khan Younis Brigade, used by the terror group for training ahead of October 7. The complex, known as the Al-Qadsia Outpost, also housed the office of Muhammad Sinwar, a senior Hamas military commander and the brother of the terror group’s leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar. The outpost included a training ground of model targets (including mock entrances to Israeli communities), IDF bases, and military vehicles, all of which were used by Hamas to simulate and prepare for the October 7 attacks.
Reports suggest that Israel has accepted a hostage-release agreement, but that Hamas has not given its approval. According to some sources, under the first stage of the emerging agreement, Hamas would release some 40 hostages comprised of children, women, the elderly, and those with major injuries. In return, Israel would agree to a six-week ceasefire and would release thousands of Hamas terrorists, including those serving time for murdering Israelis, from prison. It is believed that 136 hostages remain in Gaza. The IDF has confirmed the deaths of at least 29 of them, citing intelligence and findings obtained by troops operating in Gaza and elsewhere. Since 2014, Hamas has also been holding the bodies of fallen IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, as well as of two Israeli civilians, Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed.
Meanwhile, superstar singer and social media influencer Montana Tucker, who traveled to Israel after October 7, walked the red carpet at the Grammy Awards on Sunday night in a dress meant to call attention to the Israelis who remain hostages in Gaza. In a nod to the 253 hostages taken captive by Hamas Tucker’s dress featured a large yellow ribbon at its center.
The number of Hamas rocket attacks on Israel remains low. In the last two weeks, it has averaged just one or two per day. Watch this troubling video of the immediate aftermath of a rocket strike in Ashkelon. In the north, Hezbollah continues to fire at Israeli targets. 3 IDF divisions deployed along the border have responded with defensive and offensive operations. 3,400 Hezbollah targets have been struck, and 200 terrorists targeted, with hits on 150 terror cells and 120 Hezbollah observation posts. In the Red Sea, the US, the UK, and Israel continue to defend against attacks by the Iran-back Houthi rebels in Yemen. Similarly, the US military continues to strike at pro-Iranian targets in Syria and Iraq.
US President Biden has urged senators to vote for a $118 billion bipartisan national security deal. The package includes new border enforcement policy as well as wartime aid for Ukraine, Israel, and other US allies; and earmarks $14 billion in military aid to the Jewish state. Biden said that the agreement “provides Israel what they need to protect their people and defend itself against Hamas terrorists,” and “life-saving humanitarian assistance for the Palestinian people.”
The House has now introduced its own, $17.6 billion standalone bill for aid to Israel; this is likely to set up a clash between the two chambers. Jewish Federations support passing emergency funding for Israel as quickly as possible. Last week, 400 Federation leaders met with dozens of Members of Congress on Capitol Hill, urging them to hasten the passage of this lifesaving aid.
US special envoy Amos Hochstein was in Israel over the weekend for talks with Israeli leaders on an emerging framework to push Hezbollah back from Israel’s northern border. According to unconfirmed media reports, Hochstein has conveyed signs of a possible diplomatic solution that would lead to Hezbollah’s moving back from the border. Meanwhile, Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant continued to warn Hezbollah that Israel has considerable capabilities to strike the Lebanese terror group that have not yet been used.
In a speech at the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles last night, Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason Jr. referred to the 360 Israelis gunned down at the Nova music festival on October 7.Mason said, “Music must always be our safe space. When that’s violated, it strikes at the very core of who we are. We felt that at the Bataclan Music Hall in Paris. We felt that at the Manchester Arena in England. We felt that at the Route 91 music festival in Las Vegas. And on October 7, we felt that again when we heard the tragic news from the Supernova Music Festival for Love, that over 360 music fans lost their lives, and another 40 were kidnapped…That day and all the tragic days that have followed have been awful for the world to bear as we mourn the loss of all innocent lives.”
Yisrael Beteinu leader Avigdor Liberman on “What should happen next.”
The Israel Democracy Institute writes about the unique role played by former Israeli Supreme Court President Justice Aharon Barak, who serves as an ad hoc judge on the ICJ panel. IDI’s Prof. Suzie Navot explains how Justice Barak’s powerful evocation of Israeli suffering against the backdrop of his history as a Holocaust survivor, along with his insistence on focusing on the horrors endured by Israelis that led to this war, affected the proceedings.