March 28th – Day 173 of the war: News in Brief


1. Three people have been injured in a terror attack in the Jordan Valley this morning. A 30-year-old man is in moderate condition after being shot, and another man in his 20s and a 13-year-old boy lightly hurt after a gunman, disguised in IDF uniform, opened fire on vehicles, including a bullet-proofed school bus, on the Route 90 highway that intersects the village of Auja. Elsewhere in the West Bank, three Palestinians were killed during an Israeli raid in Jenin yesterday. As troops looked to arrest wanted men, two gunmen were killed by a drone strike and a third by IDF fire after troops responded to his throwing an explosive device. During the raid, a vehicle containing primed explosives was safely destroyed, several Palestinians detained, and weapons seized. Periodic violence has continued in the West Bank since the start of Ramadan, though not the major escalation desired by Hamas. Since October 7th, the IDF has arrested around 3,600 West Banke Palestinians, including more than 1,600 with Hamas affiliations. The Palestinians say over 450 have been killed in that time, the majority in clashes with the IDF.

2. Intensification of the fighting has continued on Israel’s northern border following the death of an Israeli civilian yesterday.  According to Lebanese sources, 16 people were killed yesterday in two separate IDF attack in southern Lebanon, making it the highest death toll in a single day since the war begun. Seven of those killed were part of al-Jamal al-Islamiyya terror cell that was attempting an infiltration into Israel. In a separate incident, the IDF targeted a Hezbollah cell. According to Hezbollah, six of their fighters were killed, taking Hezbollah’s causalities to 258 since the war begun. The other fatalities are understood to be affiliated with the Shite Amal movement. In parallel, Hezbollah has continued to fire rockets and anti-tank missiles into northern Israel, with at least 10 rockets launched so far this morning. Last night the head of the IDF Northern Command, Maj Gem Ori Gordin, released a statement saying, “We are at war. We have been at war for almost half a year now, and it doesn’t end with Hezbollah. Tonight, we are operating against al-Jama’a al-Islamiyya, a successful thwarting of a large number of operatives, and this morning Hezbollah itself decided to respond against Kiryat Shmona. We are conducting very significant strikes against Hezbollah, and we will continue to be aggressive in order to strike and push Hezbollah back significantly. We are determined to change the security situation in the north so that the residents can return to the north safely and with a sense of security. On the other hand, we are striking Hezbollah very powerfully and strongly… and also causing a lot of damage in the area where it operates. If we understand that we need to act, we will act tonight as well, and the readiness is there.” 18 Israelis have been killed in the north – 11 soldiers and 7 civilians.

3. According to US officials, Prime Minister Netanyahu has broached rescheduling the meetings between Israeli and US officials he cancelled earlier this week after the US abstained on a UN Security Council ceasefire resolution. The central US focus of the scheduled diplomatic mission of Strategic Affairs Minister Dermer and National Security Council chair Hanegbi was to have been finding creative solutions as an alternative to an IDF ground operation in Rafah. White House National Security Communications Adviser John Kirby yesterday gave an interview to Israel’s Channel 12. Where he struck an empathetic tone regarding Israel’s predicament, noting “Hamas has made clear that they’d like nothing better than to conduct another slaughter like they did on the 7th of October,” he said, “and that’s why we’re continuing to support Israel in their self-defence needs.” On Rafah, Kirby said “we recognise that there’s a need to go after Hamas… Hamas still represents a viable threat and we know that there are Hamas fighters in Rafah.” However, “we don’t believe that going in on the ground in Rafah is a good idea in a major way, that there are other ways to get after that threat.” Meanwhile, Netanyahu defended his decision to cancel the trip, in a meeting with Florida Republican Senator Rick Scott. “The bad thing about the US decision,” Netanyahu said, “was it encouraged Hamas to take a hard line and to believe that international pressure will prevent Israel from freeing the hostages and destroying Hamas.” His response was “a message to Hamas: ‘Don’t bet on this pressure, it’s not going to work.’ I hope they got the message.” Israeli media reports suggest that Israel has begun to prepare for an operation in Rafah, including by purchasing 40,000 tents from China which might be used to shelter evacuated civilians.

4. An IDF soldier, First Sgt. Nissim Kahlon, was killed in action in the southern Gaza Strip yesterday. Kahlon was searching a building in Khan Yunis when a gunman in the building opened fire, killing him and wounding another soldier. Kahlon’s death brings the total number of troops killed on and since October 7th to 597; 253 since the ground operation in Gaza began. Elsewhere in Gaza, the IDF and Shin Bet continue to conduct precise operational activities in Shifa Hospital and in the area of Al Amal. Since the beginning of the latest operation in and around Shifa ten days ago, the IDF says 200 Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad fighters have been eliminated. Israel continues to work to protect the hospital and its operations. During military activity yesterday, the IDF Spokesperson’s Office said “troops evacuated civilians, patients, and medical teams to alternative medical facilities that the IDF set up to enable proper medical treatment to continue.” In missions in Al Amal in Khan Yunis, troops found weapons, explosive devices, and mortar shells. The Israeli Air Force also struck several targets in Gaza yesterday, including terror tunnels and an underground launcher.

5. The state last night asked the High Court of Justice for an extension until 2.00pm today to present its answer to petitions about the ultra-Orthodox exemption from the military draft. Having failed to introduce a legislative solution on the question when previous legislation expired in July last year, the temporary delay afforded the government will run out next week, after which the government will technically be required to cease funding for Yeshivas and ultra-Orthodox men will be liable for drafting. Legislation guaranteeing ultra-Orthodox men in full-time Torah study continued exemption from the draft was promised by Netanyahu to his ultra-Orthodox coalition partners when the current government was established. However, as well as widespread criticism from the opposition, Netanyahu has faced push-back from within his own party, most notably Defence Minister Gallant and Ministers Dichter and Barkat, and from war cabinet Ministers Gantz and Eisenkot. A cabinet meeting scheduled for Tuesday was postponed when it became clear than Netanyahu’s mooted solution would not have the required support. The strains of six months of war have laid bare wider Israeli resentments at the inequality of the burden placed on non-ultra-Orthodox Israelis. Ultra-Orthodox parties have threatened to quit the coalition if their demands for a total exemption are not met, and so Netanyahu is faced with a seemingly insoluble conundrum in that any legislation which would satisfy the ultra-Orthodox would be opposed by Gallant and Gantz and would also almost certainly fail to meet the standard of equality imposed by the High Court