Four days into our war of survival here and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have made progress but there is still much work to do. What makes all of this even more challenging is the parallel process of recovering all of the over 900 bodies which need to be identified, cleared for burial and then returned to the families for ritual purification and finally actual burial.
Permit me to deal with the work of the IDF first. As of writing this, all of the territory which had been under temporary control of the Hamas terrorists has been captured by the IDF and is now under our control. During this process 1,500 Hamas operatives were killed and their bodies are now being held by Israel.
We now know that over 900 Israelis died as a result of the invasion by Hamas with some 2,800 wounded. There are over 100 Israelis who are captives of Hamas in Gaza (some estimates say 150) of whom 11 are Americans, along with others who hold German, French, Swiss, etc. citizenship as well as Israeli. Earlier today Hamas threatened to execute the captives unless Israel ceases the bombing raids.
The Israel Air Force has bombed 200 targets in Gaza, all of which have been identified as part of the Hamas military structure, and most of which are housed within residential buildings. The aim of Hamas in doing this is to use their citizens as human shields. Sadly, based on what happened here over the weekend, Israel understands that they probably mean what they say in this regard.
The infiltration of Hamas terrorists continues in the south and all those who tried to enter through underground tunnels, forested areas and the like have been neutralized. However, there is still a belief that some of those who came in on Saturday may still be hiding in various structures in Israeli towns and villages. Rocket fire continues to rain down from Gaza with late afternoon attacks today on Tel Aviv and Central Israel as well.
On the Lebanese border in the north of Israel there were also incursions of Hizballah operatives. All of them were neutralized but, sadly, three of our boys were killed today in that area as well. So the work continues and it appears that the effort to defang Hamas will be a long and costly one.
What has been especially difficult for our troops is the recovery effort of those who died over the weekend and whose bodies are yet to be removed from where they fell. Members of the IDF teams assigned to this task along with medical personnel who have joined them are now uncovering the atrocities committed by the Hamas invaders.
For example, while the Hamas troops did go house to house to murder Jews, in some cases they set fire to the residences in order to force the Jews to come out so they could be murdered as they exited. However, there were inhabitants who either chose not to exit or simply could not do so. IDF personnel reported today that they found many bodies burnt beyond recognition, citizens who perished in homes that became crematoria.
In Kibbutz Be’eri in the south, our troops found 100 dead members, fully 10% of the population of the kibbutz slaughtered.
In other cases, our boys came upon dead babies who had been decapitated by the marauders, butchered like so many animals. And we found out today that the devastating video of the young women in the white slacks with dark stains on her bottom who was hustled into a Hamas jeep, was raped multiple times after her capture and the stains were from her blood.
The hate that manifested itself in the murder in cold blood of so many of our people has a long history for sure.
Some twenty years ago when former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes visited Israel, my company took him and his group to meet Shimon Peres, who, at that time, was not in government but was a respected leader of the Labor Party (he later became President of Israel). Peres waxed eloquent about the new Middle East after the signing of the Oslo Accords a few years earlier and the signing of peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan as well.
I remember the meeting in Tel Aviv and Gov. Barnes taking the floor after Shimon Peres spoke. Barnes, in his heavy Southern drawl, looked at Peres and said, “Mr. Peres, you’re wrong. They hate you. They will always hate you and the sooner you understand that the better off you will be. “
To be sure, the peace agreements with Jordan and Egypt remain in place and the Abraham Accords added more countries to the peace roster. But the animosity with the Palestinians seems not to have ever waned. The barbarism and man’s inhumanity to man that was demonstrated this past weekend gives credence to Gov. Barnes’ observations of twenty years ago.
May it be the will of the One above to end this violence, protect our troops, make them victorious and bring them home safely to their families.