Sherwin Pomerantz

Israel’s 146th Day of War

Day 146 and two more soldiers were killed on Wednesday in north Gaza. Seven other soldiers were seriously injured in the fighting as well.  This brings the total killed since Hamas invaded Israel on Oct 7th to 582 of whom 242 have been killed in combat  May their souls be blessed with a special place in the heavenly court.

A coordinated effort between Israel, Jordan, the US, UK and others has been dropping humanitarian supplies into Gaza from the air in order to increase the probability that the people who need it most will actually receive it rather than it being diverted by Hamas for their own use.  The supplies are also partially designated for a field hospital organized by the Jordanians.

In a related story dozens of Palestinians have been killed in a three-part disastrous delivery of humanitarian aid to northern Gaza.  The picture is still far from clear, but according to the IDF, the vast majority of Palestinians were killed while trampling each other to get to around 30 aid trucks around 4:00 a.m. today.  Hamas, without providing evidence, accused the IDF of committing a “massacre.”  The trucks had come from the Keren Shalom and Rafah crossings, traveled along the coastal road to a part of northern Gaza close to Rimal, and then cut into residential areas to make deliveries.

According to the IDF, and with a 100-second satellite video in support, thousands of Palestinians converged on the aid trucks and attempted to take supplies by force.  It is unclear in the video if and when Palestinians trampled each other, though the scene from the satellite footage is extremely chaotic and does show many Palestinians occupying the same space.  A second incident occurred a short time later at another spot at El-Nabusi Square, where unidentified armed Palestinians fired on the trucks and stole supplies. It was unclear who or how many people may have been injured at this stage, but IDF forces did not fire on anyone.

In the third stage, a large group of Palestinians descended on the aid trucks but also came close to a surprise protective force stationed nearby.  According to the IDF, once the large group of Palestinians progressed to only being a couple dozen meters away from them, the IDF forces fired in the air and issued warnings to stay away. When the same Palestinians continued to come closer to IDF forces to a point where the forces felt threatened, they were directed to fire at the Palestinians’ legs.  During this incident, an estimated 10 Palestinians were killed. It was unclear if these Palestinians had aggressive intentions or were civilians caught up in a chaotic moment.

The families of hostages still being held by Hamas in Gaza have begun a four-day march to Jerusalem to press for the immediate release of the remaining hostages.  The march will arrive in Jerusalem on Saturday and the intent is for the group to meet with members of the government on Sunday.

In a twist to the offer Israel has reportedly made to Hamas for a hostage deal, The New York Times reported that Jerusalem is ready to exchange senior terrorists specifically for the five female IDF soldiers whom Hamas is holding captive. Karina Ariev, Liri Albag, Agam Berger, Daniel Gilboa, and Naama Levy were all abducted from the Nahal Oz army base on the Gaza border on October 7th.  According to “two officials with knowledge of the talks,” Israel is willing to free 15 high-profile terrorists for these soldiers.  This would be the same 3 to 1 ratio that was used for the previous hostage deal in late November.

The soldiers would be among 40 hostages who are included in the deal reportedly woven in Paris last week between high-level officials from Israel, Qatar, Egypt and the U.S.  The other 35 would be those over the age of 50 or under 19, the ill and wounded, and other females.  They, too, would be freed at a 3 to 1 ratio, according to the paper, meaning a total of 120 Palestinian prisoners would be released.  This is different than previous reports that Israel was offering to release 400 Palestinian prisoners, a ten-to-one ratio.  In either case, there is still a large gap between the two sides.

Meanwhile, Hamas chairman and former Palestinian Authority premier Ismail Haniyeh (who resides in style in Qatar while his citizens fend for scraps of food) called for mass riots on the Temple Mount during the upcoming Islamic holy month of Ramadan, in the hopes of escalating tensions at the holy site.  During an interview with the Hezbollah-aligned Lebanese television network Al-Manar, Haniyeh on Wednesday called on Palestinian Arabs to “barricade themselves” inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque ahead of Ramadan, in order to break “the siege” on the Temple Mount.  (n.b. For the record, the Temple Mount is, of course, not under siege.)

Given the ongoing war against Hamas and Hezbollah and the elevated terror risk throughout the country, Israel is considering limiting the number of visitors to the Temple Mount during Ramadan, which begins on March 10th.  The Palestinian Authority condemned the plan, saying it constituted a declaration of a “holy war” on Muslim pilgrims.  National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir said last week there would be a quota for members of Israel’s 18% Muslim minority who wish to take part in peace prayers at Al Aqsa. But Israel’s Channel 12 TV reported on Wednesday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will overrule Ben-Gvir.  “The specific issue of prayer on the Temple Mount, in Al Aqsa, is currently still under discussion by the cabinet,” government spokesperson Avi Hyman said in a briefing on Thursday. He added that a final decision would take security and public health, as well as the freedom of worship, into account.

As we prepare for the onset of Shabbat here in Israel, experience  a good feeling in time of war and be inspired by the resilience of our combat soldiers.  To that end, take a moment to view this romantic episode which took place in a hospital here in Israel.

Am sure you will be moved as I was while watching a real-life experience that gives all of us hope for the future.

About the Author
Sherwin Pomerantz is a native New Yorker, who lived and worked in Chicago for 20 years before coming to Israel in 1984. An industrial engineer with advanced degrees in mechanical engineering and business, he is President of Atid EDI Ltd., a 32 year old Jerusalem-based economic development consulting firm which, among other things, represents the regional trade and investment interests of a number of US states, regional entities and Invest Hong Kong. A past national president of the Association of Americans & Canadians in Israel, he is also Former Chairperson of the Board of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies and a Board Member of the Israel-America Chamber of Commerce. His articles have appeared in various publications in Israel and the US.