The Israel Defense Forces' expanded authorization for bombing non-military targets, the loosening of constraints regarding expected civilian casualties, and the use of an artificial intelligence system to generate more potential targets than ever before, appear to have contributed to the destructive nature of the current war on the Gaza Strip, an investigation by progressive Israeli website +972 reveals. These factors, as described by current and former Israeli intelligence officials, have likely played a role in producing what has been one of the deadliest military campaigns against Palestinians since the Nakba of 1948.
Since the Gaza bombardment began, three joint Jewish-Arab gatherings for coexistence and mutual solidarity have been held in Haifa, hosted by the Israeli city's Ahmadiyya Mahmud Mosque. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community convened the first meeting on Oct. 30, bringing together representatives from various faiths, including Jewish rabbis, Christian pastors, Muslim and Druze imams, and even a Buddhist monk. The meetings have drawn up to 600 attendees. The Ahmadiyya amir of the Holy Lands, Muhammad Sharif Odeh, urged Jewish guests not to justify collective retaliation: "It is haram [unlawful] to kill civilians and innocent people—this is not the right way, there are other solutions, without weapons. Muslims and Jews have lived together for more than 1,300 years, and Jews were given their rights under the Muslim rule... Muslims and Jews should know that not speaking up in the face of oppression destroys the human feelings in our hearts, and stops us from feeling empathy towards the pain and suffering of each other." (Al Hakam)
US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan met in Jerusalem Jan. 18 with President Isaac Herzog, signaling continued US support for Israel's new far-right government—despite the Biden administration's supposed opposition to its policies such as settlement expansion and annexation of the West Bank. The trip coincided with Israel's eviction of a wildcat settler outpost in what Israeli authorities call the "Samaria" region of the West Bank.
Anti-government protests have been mounting in Israel each week since the new far-right administration led by Benjamin Netanyahu took power at year's end. The night of Jan. 21 saw over 100,000 march in Tel Aviv, while thousands more took to the streets in Jerusalem, Haifa and other cities. The protests have won support from pillars of Israel's traditional political establishment as well as the left opposition. The formerly ruling Blue & White coalition of ex-defense minister and Netanyahu rival Benny Gantz declared on its official Twitter account: "We will continue to take to the streets and demonstrate in favor of democracy and against the coup d'état."
Israel's new National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir made a brief visit to al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem on Jan. 3, flanked by a heavy security detail and a fellow Orthodox Jewish worshipper—eliciting immediate outrage from both the Palestinian leadership and the Jewish state's own allies. The Palestinian Authority called the move "an unprecedented provocation," with Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh accusing Ben-Gvir of staging the visit as part of an agenda to turn the site "into a Jewish temple." He called on Palestinians to "confront the raids into al-Aqsa mosque." Hamas warned that Israel is approaching a "red line."
The Israeli military has installed robotic weapons that can fire tear-gas, stun-grenades and "non-lethal" bullets in two volatile locations on the West Bank. One is atop a turret at al-Aroub refugee camp; the other in the nearby city of Hebron, where soldiers often clash with Palestinian residents. When young protesters pour into the streets hurling rocks and improvised firebombs at Israeli soldiers, the robotic weapons unleash gas and projectiles on them, according to witness accounts. The robo-weapons, produced by Israeli firm Smart Shooter, use artificial intelligence to track targets. Israel says the technology saves lives—both Israeli and Palestinian. But, as YNet states in its Nov. 16 report on the installation, "critics see another step toward a dystopian reality in which Israel fine-tunes its open-ended occupation of the Palestinians while keeping its soldiers out of harm's way."
Scores of Jewish worshipers were reportedly arrested when Nigerian state security forces raided a synagogue in the Igbo village of Orji, Imo state, on Oct. 30. Local media reported that soldiers burst into the temple during Shabbat services and fired in the air before taking several away in military vans, apparently on suspicion of supporting the Biafra separatist movement. "Among those arrested is the head of the Association of Jewish Faith Synagogue, whom they mistreated and took away," one witness said.
The Houthi rebels who control much of Yemen's north, including the capital Sanaa, last week deported 13 Jews from three families—effectively ending the millennia-old Jewish community in the country. The group was reportedly transferred to Egypt as part of a deal to free Jewish prisoner Levi Salem Marhabi, who has been held by Houthi authorities for over four years. One of the 13 deported Jews told London-based Arabic international newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat: "They gave us a choice between staying in the midst of harassment and keeping Salem a prisoner or having him released. History will remember us as the last of Yemeni Jews who were still clinging to their homeland until the last moment. We had rejected temptations time and time again, and refused to leave our homeland, but today we are forced."