We are now in the 30th day of war, a full month since the massacre of October 7th and the war shows no signs of winding down. If anything it is becoming more intense.
In spite of our troops now being positioned in Gaza and having surrounded Gaza City on all sides, rockets continue to be launched at Israel with one even reaching Eilat on Saturday. To date 28 Israeli soldiers have lost their lives in the war with almost 300 others killed during the massacre as well.
US Secretary of State has been in the region since Friday. He first met with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to convince Israel to agree to a humanitarian pause in the fighting. Israel rebuffed the approach saying that now is the time to pursue the Hamas leadership not give them an opportunity to regroup. Blinken was in Amman on Saturday for a summit with Arab leaders who told him that they were having trouble controlling the rioters in their various countries. The implication being that they were more or less happy to see Hamas brought to its knees, and just fine with Israel taking care of that but having difficulty maintaining order in their countries given the protests over the casualties in Gaza. Blinken was scheduled to be in Ramallah today to meet with Palestinian President Abbas.
On the northern border with Lebanon, we are seeing a controlled conflict in line with Nasrallah’s speech on Friday where he said Lebanon has no interest in escalating the conflict. But Israel continues to be fired upon from Lebanon and some of those rockets do cause damage in the evacuated towns of the north, the latest one hitting Kiryat Shmonah.
Diplomatically, Turkey and Hungary have joined the ranks of countries who have recalled their ambassadors from Israel. Foreign passport holders stuck in Gaza are now being allowed to leave for Egypt, albeit slowly. So far fewer than 100 Americans have been able to get out through the Rafah border crossing.
Citing rising antisemitism worldwide since Israel declared war on Hamas, Israel’s National Security Council on Friday urged Israelis to reconsider any travel abroad while calling on those flying overseas to avoid outward displays of their Jewish and Israeli identities. In a joint statement with the Foreign Ministry, the National Security Council said Israelis should “weigh the essentiality” of their travel plans before departing and take additional precautions while out of the country.
US and Israeli interests in the ongoing Middle East conflict seem to be diverging in both the short and long term, muddying the path to ending our war against Hamas. Above all, Israel views Hamas as an existential threat and sees eradicating it as a crucial goal; anything short of that is a failure. The US has committed to helping Israel defeat Hamas, but for President Biden, the threat goes beyond Hamas. His administration is trying to keep its allies united against Iran, Russia and China. Both countries want to avoid a larger regional war, but Israel is willing to take more risks in pursuit of defeating Hamas.
The fate of the hostages continues to grip the country—people struggle not to weep when they think of four-year-old children in captivity, without their parents, without anyone they know. Who is putting them to sleep? Is anyone holding them, singing to them? Maybe reading them a story in a language they understand? Does anyone come to them when they wake up screaming in the middle of the night? What will they be like when they get out?
This morning’s news carried an interview with a young woman whose 85-year-old grandmother was taken captive. She has dangerously high blood pressure, back problems that require medication, uses a walker— she’s in her 80’s. After the painful interview, the interviewer said, “Thank you for joining us. We hope your grandmother and all the others will be home very soon.” To which the young woman replied, “I’m not optimistic. In her condition, after thirty days …. I doubt it.”
Today, the 30th day after the massacre marks the shloshim (Hebrew for 30) which is the end of the traditional 30-day mourning period observed for everyone except parents (for whom the mourning period stretches to a full year). Israeli President Chaim Herzog has asked that at 6 PM tonight everyone light a memorial candle for the 1,400 people killed on October 7th. May their memories be for a blessing and may we learn well the lesson of their sacrifice.