Eighteen days into the war with Hamas and there does not seem to be any lessening of rocket activity from the south. Multiple rocket barrages rained down on central Israel including Tel Aviv although most were neutralized by the Iron Dome system. However, Ben Gurion Airport was closed for a while, the second time since the fighting began 18 days ago.
Overnight two elderly hostages were released by Hamas, Yocheved Lifshitz, 85 and Nurit Cooper, 79. The exchange was made at the Egyptian border with Gaza where Egypt’s medical personnel provided ambulance service and immediate medical treatment. Both were then transferred to the Israeli authorities and taken to Icihilov Hospital in Tel Aviv for evaluation. Their husbands who are also being held by Hamas, remain in Gaza.
Lifshitz, accompanied by her daughter and other members of the family, held a (IMHO badly managed) press conference this afternoon. She described in detail how she was abducted by a Hamas terrorist and transported to Gaza hanging on the back of a motor bike with her head dangling on once side of the bike and her legs on the other. She also spoke about how she was continually beaten by the driver as they made their way across the border.
Once there she was led through the extensive underground tunnel system built by Hamas which she compared to a spider web given all of the tunnels that seemed to radiate in all directions. She was kept in a room with about 25 other hostages. She then went on to say that she was treated well by Hamas, given needed medications, food as well as mattresses arranged on the floor for people to sleep on. While she made a point of saying that she had been through hell, in many respects she was complimentary of the way she was treated and a picture at her release even shows her shaking hands with the Hamas terrorist who delivered her to the waiting Egyptians. In many respects the press conference was seen by some as a public relations win for Hamas.
In an additional note, Lifshitz and her husband were well known peace activists and befriended residents of Gaza who came into Israel to work and for medical treatment. Her husband was even one of the people who regularly drove Gazans in need of medical care to hospitals in Israel so they could get to their medical appointments. Strange way to show gratitude for that was it not?
French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in Israel on Tuesday to express “full solidarity” with Israel amid the ongoing war against the Hamas terror group. The French leader is pressing for the “preservation of the civilian population” in the Gaza Strip, “halting the colonization” of Judea and Samaria and the “resumption of a genuine peace process” to create a Palestinian state, according to his office.
It was reported today that the United States is preparing for possible mass evacuations of its citizens from Israel and Lebanon should the war against Hamas in Gaza spark a regional conflagration. Four US officials familiar with the government’s contingency planning told The Washington Post that Americans living in the two neighboring countries were of particular concern.
According to State Department estimates, around 600,000 US citizens reside in Israel and another 86,000 were believed to be in Lebanon on Oct. 7, when Hamas attacked Israel, murdering more than 1,400 people, wounding more than 5,100 and taking 222 hostages back to Gaza. The officials stressed that a mass evacuation is unlikely and is clearly the worst-case scenario. However, it “would be irresponsible not to have a plan for everything,” one official said.
Yesterday and today Israeli showed foreign journalists footage of the atrocities committed by Hamas terrorists during their Oct. 7 assault on southern Israel.
The IDF on Monday also published two segments from the interrogation of Hamas terrorists who participated in the massacre. “The plan was to go from house to house, throw grenades and kill everyone there, including women and children,” the terrorist said. He also told interrogators that Hamas had instructed them to behead their victims.
“The purpose of entering Israeli territory was to kidnap civilians; they want as many hostages as possible,” one of the terrorists revealed. He added, “They [Hamas] promised us that whoever brings a kidnapped person will receive an apartment and $10,000.”
Another terrorist talked about the instructions to seize the Sufa military post and kill the residents of Kfar Aza, saying: “The instructions were to kidnap anyone we came across—elderly, women and children. We were ordered to kill everyone in Kfar Aaza and empty the kibbutz of its people.”
The terrorists also described the rape of many of the women who were killed in the onslaught and the order they had to behead both soldiers and civilians after killing them. When asked if the Quran permits such atrocities, one of them answered “No.”
On the issue of humanitarian aid to Gaza, the 3rd group of trucks entered the area on Monday which brought the total to 50 double trailer trucks entering since the weekend.
The US, now with the cooperation of British naval forces as well, continues to upgrade its presence in the region as well. This in an effort to prevent a regional war but also in response to attacks on US installations in Syria, Iraq and in the Red Sea.
Finally, the ground incursion remains on hold with all kinds of reasons being given. These include urging by the US not to do it at all, urging by retired Israeli military generals to wait a bit longer and probably a desire as well to delay the shift in the world’s support for our cause if we take that step. Yet the troops remain in place and, from all we can tell, are ready to move forward and with high morale.
A few of my correspondents seem to be discomfited by my references to the need for prayer during this trying period and requests to the Holy One to keep us safe. I hear the concern but as a person of faith I do what I do. I am also reminded of the saying attributed to World War II journalist Ernie Pyle, that “there are no atheists in fox holes.” Indeed, and may we merit God’s protection during these difficult days.