A second consecutive night of Israeli air strikes against top Gaza Strip terrorists eliminated what the Jerusalem Post described as "three of Hamas's most important military commanders," constituting "the worst and most painful blow dealt" to the organization's military infrastructure in recent years. The liquidations - in which Israel targeted among others veteran terrorists Muhammad Abu Shamala and Raed al-Attar - took place within a day of an air strike against Hamas's military chief Mohammed Deif. Hamas claims Deif survived, but has admitted that Shamala and al-Attar were killed. The operations have been almost universally assessed as operation and intelligence coups for the Israelis, which will immediately and in the long-term erode Hamas's ability to wage war. Chemi Shalev, the U.S. editor of Israel's left-leaning Haaretz newspaper, described the consensus as one under which the assassinations had plunged Hamas into an "unprecedented crisis of confidence and capability." Veteran Arab affairs journalist Avi Issacharoff went further, emphasizing that that Shamala and al-Attar "were not mere senior commanders" but instead "long-term veterans with experience and knowledge that cannot be easily replaced." Issacharoff also assessed that the recent strikes indicate that "intelligence discipline at the very top of [Hamas's] Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades has cracked" and that "those members... who have survived are now desperately trying to figure out what went wrong." Assassination attempts against terror group leaders - successful or not - inevitably erode those groups' command and control capabilities, as top figures become suspicious of each other and scale back their electronic communications. One theory currently being floated is that Deif had been located due to a phone call that came from Khaled Meshaal, who Hamas describes as the head of its political bureau. Jonathan Schanzer, vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), noted on Twitter that the scenario runs against the suggestion - occasionally aired in some parts of the Western foreign policy community, and found among other places in British laws regarding Hamas - that there is a genuine and robust division what Hamas calls its military and political wings.
Hebrew University Cave Research Unit finds record-breaking 187-meter deep cave near border with Lebanon. Researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have discovered the deepest cave in Israel, reaching a depth of 187 meters below ground. Located near Israel’s border with Lebanon, the cave is 30 meters deeper than the previous record-holder on Mount Meron, which was mapped 30 years ago, at 157 meters. “This particular cave is an interesting surprise, and our most significant find in recent decades,” saysProf. Amos Frumkin, director of the Cave Research Center. “Discoveries like this give us an idea of the depth of the natural underground system that provides our groundwater, and allows us to better understand what’s happening even further down. We have made serious progress in the study of caves and we look forward to further interesting discoveries soon.” The new cave was recently mapped by researchers from the Cave Research Unit in the Hebrew University’s Department of Geography: Vladimir Buslov, Yuri Lisovic, and Boaz Langford. It was first reported by a resident of Moshav Shtula in the Upper Galilee. The initial examination included rappelling to a depth of 100 meters below ground. Researchers discovered life in the cave including a striped salamander. The previous cave on Mount Meron has been considered Israel’s deepest since spelunkers from the Cave Research Center plumbed its depths in 1984. (via Israel21c)
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