IDF confirms death of Mohammed Deif’s deputy in Gaza strike

IDF confirms death of Mohammed Deif’s deputy in Gaza strike

UPDATE DESK | Israel At War

Rafa’a Salameh and terror master Mohammed Deif were targeted in the southern Gaza Strip.

A photo of Hamas terrorists Mohammed Deif (left) and Rafa’a Salameh found on a laptop during Gaza operations and released by the IDF, Jan. 7, 2024. Credit: IDF

The Israel Defense Forces confirmed on Sunday that Rafa’a Salameh, the commander of Hamas’s Khan Younis Brigade, was killed the previous day in a targeted airstrike on terrorist infrastructure in southern Gaza.

“Acting upon information from the Military Intelligence Directorate and the Shin Bet, fighter jets yesterday attacked in the Khan Younis area and killed Rafa’a Salameh, the commander of the Khan Younis Brigade of the Hamas terrorist organization,” the military announced on X.

“Salameh was one of the close associates of Mohammed Deif, the head of the military wing of the Hamas terrorist organization, one of the planners and executors of the October 7 massacre,” the IDF said in the post.

The army noted that Salameh joined Hamas in the 1990s and played a central part in the kidnapping of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit in June 2006. He also played a significant role in Hamas’s tunnel project and was responsible for rockets fired into the Jewish state from Khan Younis.

Salameh’s death “constitutes significant damage to the military capabilities of the Hamas terrorist organization,” added the military.

Salameh and terror master Mohammed Deif were targeted in a structure close to the Al-Mawasi humanitarian zone and Khan Younis.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday night that it could not yet be confirmed whether the two men died in the strike.

Speaking at a press conference from the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv, the Israeli leader said that “while there is no absolute certainty yet that they were eliminated, I would like to assure you that one way or another, we will reach the entire Hamas leadership.”

Hamas sources confirmed that Salameh was killed in the Israeli Air Force attack, while refusing to confirm or deny Deif’s death, according to a Sunday morning report in the pan-Arab daily newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat.

A top Hamas official told AFP on Sunday that Deif was “fine” despite the assassination attempt. “Commander Mohammed Deif is well and directly overseeing” the terror group’s armed wing, the official said. 

Israel’s Kan News reported on Saturday that security officials told the political echelon during a situational assessment that Deif was wounded from the attack, and that they are waiting for final confirmation, which could take time. The officials also confirmed that Salameh was killed.

Ynet on Sunday cited IDF intelligence that “dozens” of bodies were brought to Deir al-Balah’s Al Aqsa Hospital following the strike. The center reportedly became a fortified Hamas base following the raid, making it difficult to identify the bodies, one of which may be Deif’s.

Deif is the second in command in Gaza after Yahya Sinwar, the IDF’s top target after the two men led the planning and execution of the Oct. 7 massacre of over a thousand people in southern Israel. Deif, 58, the head of Hamas’s armed wing, the Qassam Brigades, is also responsible for planning several bus bombing attacks in the 1990s and 2000s.

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Israeli soldiers are finding Judaica in Gaza — and trying to locate the items’ owners

Israeli soldiers are finding Judaica in Gaza — and trying to locate the items’ owners


Similar posts of Judaica have cropped up in the more than eight months since Israel began its ground invasion of Gaza at the end of October.

Or, a solider fighting in Gaza, displays a seder plate he found in the territory. / (photo credit: OR/JTA

(JTA) — The commander of a small Israeli military drone unit in Gaza was on a routine reconnaissance mission with his team in an apartment in Rafah when one of his soldiers came across an object that looked strikingly out of place: a wood laminate challah board framed with the biblical injunction to “remember the Shabbat” in gold lettering, in Hebrew and English.

The commander knew that he was allowed to take property only if he needed to use it to fight the war, which didn’t apply here. But he wasn’t sure what to do.

“We’re definitely not allowed to take them as souvenirs or anything like that,” said the soldier, named Yoya. Military regulations prohibit soldiers from giving their full names to the press. “Stealing is forbidden and it’s also immoral. But in this case, when I saw that this was a Jewish item I said, ‘this can’t be theirs.’”

So he tried to locate the owner of the challah board by posting a photo of it on Facebook. While the post garnered 1,400 reactions and nearly 250 comments, nobody claimed the ritual object.

Similar posts have cropped up in the more than eight months since Israel began its ground invasion of Gaza at the end of October. Two weeks before Passover, another post made the rounds on social media — and was published in an Israeli news outlet — calling for the owners of a Seder plate found in a home in Khan Younis to claim their lost property.

Floor mosaic from the ancient synagogue in Gaza (credit: AVISHAI TEICHER/WIKIPEDIA)

In December, Yoya’s brother, Elisha, also an IDF soldier, found a Hanukkah menorah in the shape of a hamsa, a hand-shaped symbol, in a home in Khan Younis. The post said, without elaborating, that the menorah had “probably been taken on October 7” amid looting during the Hamas-led attack on southern Israel. 

Other troops who have encountered Judaica in Gaza have made the same assumption. Maj. (res.) Maor Lavi likewise found a menorah in what he described as the home of a terrorist in Gaza City’s Shejaiya neighborhood, alongside weapons, military uniforms and equipment.  Lavi told Israel’s public broadcaster Kan that he had a “gut feeling” it was stolen on October 7

“Next to the bed, we just saw the menorah sticking out on top of one of the dressers. We took it,” Lavi said. “I would really want to return it to its owner and find the person, the family it belongs to.”

His unit lit the menorah on the seventh and eighth nights of Hanukkah. Shortly after the incident, Lavi, a father of four, was killed. 

Regulations around seizing property

In response to inquiries, the Israel Defense Forces detailed its regulations regarding seizing property, though it did not specifically address the issue of Judaica. More broadly, Israeli military looting has been an issue during the war. 

In February, IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi called on soldiers “not to take anything that is not ours — be it a souvenir or a piece of military equipment.” Three months later, Israel’s Military Advocate General, Maj-Gen Yifat Tomer-Yerushalmi, announced that the IDF was investigating 70 incidents of suspected violations of the laws of war by IDF soldiers, including looting. Several soldiers have been indicted for alleged looting from Palestinians in recent years — including during operations in Gaza.

“As part of the fighting and subject to the military protocols, it is possible to use enemy property for military necessity, as well as take property that belongs to the terrorist organizations subject to the protocols regarding booty of war,” the spokesperson said. “Taking property in ways that are not in accordance with army protocols is prohibited by law. Incidents in which forces did not behave in accordance with protocols and the law will be examined.”

Lt. Col. (res) Maurice Hirsch, former director of the IDF’s Military Prosecution in the West Bank, noted that while there is no way to fully ascertain whether the menorah and objects like it were stolen, nor whether they were taken on Oct. 7 or beforehand, there is evidence of looting of Israeli homes and businesses by Palestinians on October 7. Prior to the attack, more than 18,000 Gaza Palestinians worked legally in Israel, so it’s possible they acquired the items then.

According to its author, Asa Kasher, violations like looting fly in the face of the IDF’s Code of Ethics, which stresses the “purity of arms.”

“It means that you use your military force only for certain purposes, for the purposes of fighting a war which is justified,” he said. “And looting is using your force in a wrong way, and therefore it is absolutely forbidden.”

But Kasher said that given the sheer scale of the current war – in which 300,000 reservists were called up in addition to regular soldiers — isolated incidents of looting, even if they number in the dozens, are statistically negligible and not indicative of the military’s broader conduct.

“It’s not the IDF. It’s the criminal margins that are expected if you have that quantity of people participating,” he said.

In the case of Jewish ritual artifacts, there is “cause to believe that they have been stolen and so soldiers would be entitled to seize those items and attempt to return them to their lawful owners,” Hirsch said. He added that as they attempt to return the items, the soldiers need to provide detailed documentation of where the objects were discovered, so that if the original owners were not identified, the artifacts could potentially be returned to the place from which they were taken.

He added however, that the IDF may harbor concerns over making exceptions for Judaica and ritual items, which “could give rise to a lapse of judgment by the soldiers where they would be taking property which is not even reasonably thought to be stolen — and that’s looting.”

Kasher asserts that a formal procedure should be in place for handling such items, where soldiers report them up the chain of command rather than taking them to their homes. “If taking the item is justified, it must be done by the state, not by the soldier,” he said.

To date, the seder plate and menorahs all lay unclaimed. Still, that hasn’t dampened Yoya’s hope to find the owner of the challah board. 

“I really wish we’ll find who it belongs to, because it definitely doesn’t belong in Rafah,” he said. 

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MKs back civilians suspected of murdering Hamas terrorist on Oct. 7

MKs back civilians suspected of murdering Hamas terrorist on Oct. 7

UPDATE DESK | Israel At War

The criminal case has been under investigation for several months but did not become public until a gag order was lifted.

Palestinian terrorists in a stolen IDF vehicle at the Erez Crossing between Israel and the northern Gaza Strip, Oct. 7, 2023. Photo by Atia Mohammed/Flash90.

Israeli lawmakers from across the political spectrum gave their backing on Sunday to three Israelis suspected of murdering a Gazan terrorist who infiltrated the Jewish state during the Oct. 7 massacre.

The criminal case has been under investigation for several months but did not become public until Thursday night, when the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court eased a gag order and ordered two of the suspects released to house arrest.

The three civilians—a discharged soldier, a United Hatzalah volunteer medic, both in their 20s, and an older individual—met up after they made their way to southern Israel to fight on the morning of Oct. 7.

According to the police account cited, the suspects detained a member of Hamas’s elite Nukhba Force, questioned him and executed him at the end of the interrogation.

Haaretz cited sources familiar with the case as saying that the body of the armed Palestinian terrorist was discovered in the Sha’ar HaNegev region, near the northeastern Gaza Strip.

However, defense lawyers said the suspects deny all charges, stressing that their clients risked their lives to save civilians and are being prosecuted for killing a terrorist who took part in the massacre.

Benny Gantz, head of the opposition National Unity Party, said on Sunday that “anyone who dared to cross the border [from Gaza] that day was sentenced to death. All of them posed a clear and immediate danger.”

“In this situation of chaos, surprise and guerilla fighting for many hours, we must give a broad backing and full support to those who are fighting—soldier, policeman or citizen,” wrote Gantz on X. “This is our duty towards those who saved human lives and protected our country, and I believe that the law enforcement system will also act in this spirit.”

The former War Cabinet member emphasized that he did not see the evidence supporting the case and that he “trusts law enforcement officials.”

National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir (Otzma Yehudit) said, “It would be better for the state attorney to remember that he is the attorney of the State of Israel, and not of its enemies.”

He added that prosecutor Amit Aisman, who recently asked to open a probe into Ben-Gvir over allegations of “incitement” against Gazans, also ordered the “crazy investigation against three heroic fighters who on October 7 went out to fight in the hell of the Gaza border area.”

Almog Cohen, another legislator from Otzma Yehudit, told 103FM Radio: “The people of Israel came [to the south] in all their glory because they understood a horrid massacre was taking place. And to come and judge?

“The police understand firsthand what would have happened if citizens who went down to the south were not there,” said the MK, who worked as a police officer in the Negev for more than a decade.

fundraiser in support of the suspects by the right-wing Torat Lehima group over the weekend exceeded its goal of 120,000 shekels (over $32,500), with donations topping some 150,000 shekels on Sunday night.

On Tuesday morning, right-wing activists are preparing to hold a rally outside the Samaria home of one of the murder suspects. “The people of Israel come to welcome the fighter Sa’ar Ofir on his way back from house arrest and thank him,” read the invitation distributed on social media.

“At 9 a.m. at the entrance to the town of Elkana in Samaria, Tuesday, 9.7, 3 Tammuz. The prosecutor’s office claims he is a murderer. The people of Israel declare that he is a hero,” added the flyer.

Some 3,000 Gazan terrorists, from Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Fatah and unaffiliated “civilians,” infiltrated the Jewish state on Oct. 7. The security forces killed approximately a thousand of the terrorists and captured many others.

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Israeli Radio Stations Boycott Roger Waters’ Music After He Denies Hamas Sexually Abused Victims on Oct. 7

Israeli Radio Stations Boycott Roger Waters’ Music After He Denies Hamas Sexually Abused Victims on Oct. 7

Shiryn Ghermezian

Roger Waters on “Piers Morgan Uncensored.” Photo: YouTube screenshot

Several Israeli radio stations announced they will no longer play songs by former Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters after he denied Hamas terrorists carried out sexual violence against their victims during the Oct. 7 attacks in a recent interview with Piers Morgan, Ynet reported on Thursday.

Waters appeared on the talk show “Piers Morgan Uncensored” on Tuesday and claimed there is “no evidence” that Hamas terrorists sexually assaulted some of its victims on Oct. 7, despite widely corroborated proof to the contrary, confirmation by the United Nations, and first-hand testimonies from former Hamas hostages.

“All the filthy disgusting lies that the Israelis told after Oct. 7 about burning babies and women being raped — no they weren’t,” Waters said.

Morgan fired back, “Actually women were raped. It’s been established by the United Nations. There is extensive evidence of assault and rape.”

However, Waters replied, “You can say anything you want [but] there is no evidence.”

A day after Rogers’ interview with Morgan aired, Hagit Pe’er — the president of NA’AMAT, the largest women’s organization in Israel — urged radio stations in the country to stop broadcasting songs by the singer. “We believe that a reputable and fair-minded radio station should take a stand against the harmful statements made by Mr. Waters,” Pe’er wrote in a letter sent to radio stations on Wednesday. “The appropriate course of action would be to refrain from playing his music until he acknowledges and apologizes for his deceptive and inflammatory remarks.”

Some Israeli radio stations agreed to adhere to Pe’er’s request, Ynet reported. Noam Cohen Gefen, who owns an Israeli radio station, told the Israeli publication: “Since the beginning of the war, and with Waters’ previous statements, we have almost completely stopped playing Pink Floyd’s songs, and they were put on air only as part of dedications and requests. We were shocked by the interview and will not play his songs in the foreseeable future.”

Israel’s two leading radio stations, Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation’s Kan and the Army Radio, did not announce a clear decision regarding the matter, but anonymous sources confirmed to Ynet that both will not play Rogers’ songs in the near future. 

NA’AMAT USA, the American branch of the women’s nonprofit organization, supported the call to boycott Waters’ music on Israeli radio stations. “We believe Israeli women. Hate-filled denials of the sexual violence targeting them on Oct. 7 should not be platformed anywhere,” NA’AMAT USA said. “We are grateful to NA’AMAT Israel President Hagit Pe’er for standing up for Israeli women. It is their voices that should be heard. NA’AMAT USA (formerly Pioneer Women) has supported Israeli women since 1925 and remains deeply dedicated to that mission today.”

Waters was outspoken against Israel and accused of outright antisemitism long before the Hamas atrocities of Oct. 7.

Last year, an explosive documentary showed fellow musicians detailing Waters’ long record of anti-Jewish barbs. In one instance, a former colleague recalled Waters at a restaurant yelling at the wait staff to “take away the Jew food.”

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Internal Jewish Divisions Pose the Greatest Threat of All

Internal Jewish Divisions Pose the Greatest Threat of All

Pini Dunner

Thousands of Jews gather for a mass prayer for the hostages in Gaza at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem, Jan. 10, 2024. Photo: Yaacov Cohen

On June 28, 1863, Samuel Goodwin Stout wrote a letter to his mother from Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. He was 20-years old and bursting with the optimism and adrenaline of a young Confederate soldier.

“Dear Mother,” he began, “I can inform you that I am well at this time, and I hope those lines will find you all well. We have been through Maryland, and we are now going through Pennsylvania. But we don’t think that we shall get far into Pennsylvania before we shall get into a fight. But we are all in good spirit. We have got a strong army with us — we have got 122,000 now across the Potomac.”

Days later, Samuel was on the battlefield at Gettysburg. It was one of the bloodiest days of the Civil War, often cited as the turning point of the conflict. There were approximately 51,000 casualties (killed, wounded, captured, or missing), with 23,000 from the Union Army and 28,000 from the Confederate Army.

Samuel survived that dreadful day, and — against the odds — survived the Civil War, dying in 1919 at the age of 75. But the positive spirit he displayed during the early part of the conflict, evident in his letter home, quickly disappeared, and by the time the war was over, he was damaged goods. Indeed, Samuel’s early letters were filled with zeal and a sincere belief in the cause he was fighting for, but as the war dragged on, the tone of his letters shifted dramatically. The eager participant was transformed into a war-weary young man, deeply affected by the brutal realities of conflict.

On February 10, 1864, he wrote a letter brimming with dejection: “I see no cessation of it. Now only to look to the all-wise and merciful God for peace, and that is the only way we are to have peace anyway. We have to give in to a higher power than Jefferson Davis or General Lee to end this horrible conflict in which we are struggling.” The idealism had faded, replaced by a longing for the war’s end and a divinely inspired return to peace.

The American Civil War is often referred to as the “War of Brothers.” This evocative phrase captures what was undoubtedly the most devastating aspect of this horrific conflict: that the war pitted family members and close friends against each other. It was truly a Milchemet Achim — the Hebrew phrase for civil war.

Stories abound of brothers fighting on opposite sides, like the Terrill brothers, James Barbour Terrill, a brigadier general for the Confederate army, and William Rufus Terrill, a brigadier general for the Union Army. Both were killed in battle. Another Terrill brother, Philip Mallory of the Confederate 12th Virginia Cavalry, was also killed in battle.

Every American family was somehow affected. The eager letter writer Samuel Goodwin Stout’s great-great-grandson is Mike Wise, the award-winning Washington Post sportswriter. While researching his family, Wise discovered that another ancestor, his great-great-great-grandfather Tilman Settles, was a Union Army corporal, killed by Confederates while walking back to his Missouri home in December 1861.

The impact of such a deeply personal conflict cannot be overstated. Families were torn apart, friendships shattered, and communities divided. The war forced individuals to confront loved ones as enemies, challenging their loyalties and convictions. This internal division was more devastating than any external threat could have been.

The emotional and psychological toll was immense, leaving scars that would last for generations. The Civil War’s legacy of bitterness and animosity lingered long after the last shot was fired, evidence of the profound damage caused by internecine strife. Unlike other conflicts that are fought against foreign adversaries, this war was fought within the national family, making the violence and suffering all the more personal and tragic.

In every epoch of human history, division and discord within societies and national groups have often paved the way for the most harmful consequences. The American Civil War may have been triggered by disagreements on states’ rights and slavery, but it was the tearing apart of a nation not yet a century old that left the deepest scars.

The memory of the blood-soaked fields of Gettysburg and Antietam act as grim reminders of what happens when a society turns against itself. But beyond the battlefield, it underscores a critical point: countries and societies are much more vulnerable to collapse because of internal strife than they are from external enemies. It wasn’t an invading force that brought the United States to the brink of destruction; it was its own internal divisions.

The theme of internal division resonates profoundly in the Torah portion of Korach. The story of Korach’s rebellion is one of the most distressing narratives in the entire Torah. Korach, a Levite, led a coup against his first cousins Moshe and Aaron, challenging their leadership and looking to overthrow them with the help of a group of malcontents, all of whom were part of the Jewish nation. As such, Korach’s challenge was more than just a power struggle — it was an insidious attack on the unity of the Israelite people.

In his writings, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks often reflects on the grave danger posed by fraternal strife, drawing from various episodes in the Book of Genesis, such as the conflicts between Cain and Abel, Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, and Joseph and his brothers. Sacks notes that these narratives highlight how sibling rivalry and internal discord lead to devastating consequences, which he says is the reason the Torah gives these stories so much attention.

As Rabbi Sacks puts it, “The greatest challenge to humankind is not the stranger, but the brother. Peace in the world begins with peace at home.”

Korach’s rebellion is a stark reminder from the dawn of Jewish history of the dangers of internal division, illustrating how internal discord can threaten our stability in ways that no other threat can. The rebellion against Moshe and Aaron by their cousin was more dangerous than any external threat the Israelites faced in the wilderness, as it came from within and sought to destabilize the core of their society.

The narrative of Korach’s rebellion concludes with a dramatic and divine resolution: the earth opens up and swallows Korach and his immediate family, and a fire consumes his 250 princely followers as they offer up incense (Num. 16:31-35). This powerful and terrifying punishment is intended to indicate the severity of the sin of causing and perpetuating division within the community.

We are living through a critical time in our history, when the threat of “Milchemet Achim” is very real, and probably poses the greatest danger we have faced as Jews for millennia.

The intensifying split between Jews in the Diaspora who have taken to using Israel as a punching bag, and the Jewish community in Israel, is deeply worrying. The factionalization of Israeli society, with the rifts that exist between right and left, religious and secular, haredim and non-haredim, are far more worrying than the threats from our enemies.

Divided we fall, but united — we not only stand, but we thrive beyond our dreams. Let us take on board the lessons of Parshat Korach, and learn from the devastation caused by the American Civil War. Rather than focus our energies on fanning the flames of division, we must use all our resources to find the common ground that can give us the foundation for a future full of light and hope.

The author is a rabbi in Beverly Hills, California.

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