Today marks 17 days of war in Israel that shows little sign of being scaled back. The Israel Defense Forces bombed 320 terror targets in Gaza over the last 24 hours attempting to clear the strip of its Hamas leadership. The Israeli military spokesperson confirmed that 222 people were abducted into Gaza. This includes babies and old people as well. As a result of the invasion by Hamas there are now 21 children who are orphans from 13 families. 18 of those 21 are cases where both parents were killed. To date the military has suffered the loss of 308 of its troops.
While the ground invasion has yet to begin, today a great deal of Israeli military equipment was repositioned indicating that the entry into Gaza may begin sooner rather than later. Rocket fire from Gaza continues to slow but remains a danger to those in the south as do the occasional rockets from Lebanon directed at the north of Israel. It is, of course, possible that Israel is intentionally holding off the ground invasion preferring to bomb the northern Gaza in an effort to get Hamas to yield, whatever that means. Or to have the troops go in to mop up as it were. Time will tell.
In a televised interview earlier today, Mosar Hassan Yousef, author of the book “Son of Hamas” opined that comparing Hamas to ISIS is not accurate as Hamas is much more dangerous than ISIS.
Regionally the US seems to be preparing for an escalation of hostilities well beyond Gaza. In addition to the two large aircraft carrier attack groups positioned in the Mediterranean Sea off our coast, another aircraft group is moving into position in the Persian Gulf to counter the appearance of Chinese naval vessels in the area. In addition, the US has destroyers in the Red Sea, one of which downed three missiles last week fired by Yemen in the direction of Israel.
US ground troops have also been deployed in the region. At the end of last week 10,000 army combat troops deplaned in Saudi Arabia and set up operations there in anticipation of a possible deployment in the region. This in addition to the 2,000 marines who arrived in the region earlier in the week. Clearly the US is trying to warn the Shiite Axis headed by Iran but including Iraq, Yemen, and Hezbollah in Lebanon not to escalate the war beyond Gaza.
Regarding humanitarian aid to Gaza, additional trucks laden with aid for Gaza were admitted through the Rafah Crossing between Gaza and Egypt again today. But it is a one-way street, as the Egyptians are not letting anyone enter Egypt from Gaza, not even foreign nationals.
Regarding the resiliency of the population, it was reported today that 200,000 Israelis had returned to Israel to support the war effort, both those who were called to service and others who simply wanted to be here. According to reports ElAl airlines was even letting people sit on the floor in order to accommodate the demand. They also flew on the Sabbath something that has not been done since the law was passed limiting their operations to six days a week, Selected train routes in Isael also ran on the Sabbath, really unique as trains do not normally run here on Shabbat.
I continue to be impressed with the incredible level of unity and volunteerism that surfaced basically overnight. And, as importantly, the disunity that we saw for the first nine months of the year has been totally shelved. Let’s hope this all ends soon and that we will have learned from the experience the need for us to continue united and mutually respectful of each other and the sacrifices made by all.