As we close in on the end of the 11th day of war here, lots of “stuff” is happening. Thankfully, while rockets are still coming from Gaza they are at a much lower rate and looking at my Red Alert app, there are significant gaps between volleys so, let’s hope that’s a good sign. The IDF has claimed that Hamas’ capacity to launch rockets has dropped to 100 per day from the march larger volleys of last week.
The number of Israelis displaced by the war has been variously quoted as 78,000 or more with one estimate even at 500,000 although that seems much too high to be considered reliable. Nevertheless, the border communities both in the south and the north have all been evacuated. In addition, about 1,000 families have left the country, a mixture of people who reside here and tourists who were here for the holidays but had no way of leaving given the cessation of most commercial flights into and out of Israel. As an example, American Airlines reported that they have cancelled all schedules to Israel through December 5th.
Reports of payments to the 1,500 families of the terrorists who invaded Israel on October 7th have now been verified as well. The Palestinian Authority is paying each family a one-time payment of NIS 6,000 (about $1,500) as well as NIS 1,400 ($375) per month for the rest of their lives. The Authority has allocated $2.8m for this purpose as obnoxious as that pay-for-slay policy of theirs is to all of us.
President Joe Biden is due here on Wednesday. It is rare for a president to visit a country at war when US troops are not involved, though this will be Biden’s second such trip this year, after traveling to Ukraine in February. He is scheduled to meet with the leadership here and then travel to Jordan. There he will meet with Jordanian, Qatari and Palestinian leaders as well.
Presumably he will try to walk that fine line between our desire to eliminate Hamas from the Gaza strip and the world’s increasing level of discomfort with the humanitarian crisis that has developed there. Hopefully his years of experience will serve him well. The Qataris probably have more influence with Hamas than anyone right now so we will see where that discussion takes us.
The US military has placed 2,000 troops on 24-hour alert (upgraded from 96 hours earlier this week) to prepare for a potential deployment to support Israel. The contingent is composed mostly of specialists who will be tasked with advising the IDF and providing additional medical support, but they would not serve in a combat role.
Hamas released their first video of an Israeli hostage speaking to the camera. She is one of 199 being held in Gaza. Hamas has also announced that they are prepared to unconditionally release all non-Israelis but have not found a safe mechanism to do so. We have heard no response to that from the Israeli side.
Skirmishes continue on the northern border as well although both sides seem to be indicating that they do not wish the activity to increase. Let’s hope that proves to be the case.
A handful of Israeli government officials — but not Prime Minister Netanyahu — took the blame for the failures that contributed to the Hamas attack. “We failed” said Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich. Added Ronen Bar, the head of the Shin Bet security service, “The responsibility for this falls on me.”
The European Union announced on Monday that it would launch a humanitarian air corridor to Gaza through Egypt, with the first flights expected later this week.
What has been most encouraging over the last 11 days is the incredible resilience of our people and their coming together to address the needs of the troops who are protecting us. Even after 9 months of nonstop demonstrations against the government’s plans for judicial reform which split the country, it did not take even 24 hours for the country to put all of those differences aside in the interests of addressing the threats that face us. We can only hope that after we are victorious, that we will have learned that a country like ours cannot afford internal dissension that pulls us apart.