Sixteen days into the war and the overall news is not good. The only good news is that two of the 212 hostages held by Hamas have now been released. A mother and daughter from the Chicago suburb of Evanston were turned over to Israeli authorities on Friday afternoon through the intervention of the Americans, Qataris and the International Red Cross. According to Hamas they were released for humanitarian reasons (details of what that means are not clear) and as of today should be on their way back to the US. The bad news is that there are still 210 hostages being held by Hamas including 30 children as young as 8 months of age. The oldest hostage is 85. One of the young hostages, Ohad, will mark his 9th birthday on Monday in the hands of Hamas, definitely not where he or his family wanted to be on that day.
The story Hamas is now sending out to the world is that they never had any intent to take anything but military hostages. The civilians, according to them, were taken by Gaza residents who swarmed into Israel when the border fence was breached and it was those people who took the civilians. Of course, needless to say, if you believe that story it belies the other story that the Gazans are innocent civilians being held captive by Hamas.
Regarding humanitarian aid to Gaza, the first 20 trucks filled with aid for Gaza were admitted through the Rafah Crossing between Gaza and Egypt earlier today. Clearly it is only a drop in the bucket compared to what Gaza needs. Israel is not allowing any aid to come through Israel and, for whatever reason, Egypt seems to be reluctant to open the border long enough for the hundreds of rucks lined up in wait to enter.
The United States continues its oversight in the region as well as its materiel support for the IDF. Late last week a US navy vessel intercepted three rockets launched from Yemen which were headed in our direction. On Saturday the 45th US cargo aircraft since the war began landed in the Ramon Airport near Eilat laden with weaponry, part of the total of 1,000 tons shipped in here to date. In preparation for a potential regional war, America has also moved additional firepower into the region. Thank you, America.
It also appears that we have not yet cleared out all of the Gazan invaders from October 7th. Four of them were found hiding in Beersheba yesterday and were captured.
On the southern border with Gaza, rocket fire continues from Gaza into Israel. My Red Alert system shows rockets fired at Sderot at 2:40 PM today, Sunday, continuing the barrages albeit at lower intensity than previously. The IDF is massed on that border and aerial bombing continues but no ground movement as yet. The Homefront Command announced today that it was preparing to evacuate residents of Ashkelon who do not have access to shelters. Ashkelon is the largest city in Israel to be under regular bombardment from Gaza.
The northern border with Lebanon has also seen additional activity today with Israel widening its evacuation order for the north to everyone living within 3 miles of the border which includes Kiryat Shmona. The military activity there today has been greater than what we saw last week and is worrisome.
Judea and Samaria (i.e. what many refer to as the West Bank) is also heating up in response to Hamas’ call for Jihad. Israel bombed a mosque in Jenin there which it suspected housed a terror group planning a Hamas-style attack on Israel. There were large anti-Israel demonstrations in multiple locations in the area on Saturday as well.
What does inspire everyone here is the outpouring of support and cooperation from everyone as the entire country pitches in to address the daily needs of the population. One example should illustrate this. The entire population of Kibbutz Sa’ad in the Gaza envelope as it is called, has been evacuated to a Dead Sea Hotel and is functioning as a community with the hotel itself. Classes have resumed there for the students of the kibbutz, social and religious services are in place and the needs of the people are being met through the cooperation of everyone else involved.
For the up to 500,000 Israelis who have had to relocate from their homes as a result of the war, every effort is being made by those who have a regular place to sleep, to assist those less fortunate.
Let us hope that this war we did not want and did not start will end sooner rather than later with the minimum number of casualties.