On this, the 51st day of the war in Israel, the good news is that both Hamas and Hezbollah seem to be observing the four day pause in hostilities. Let’s hope it remains so.
Happily, 13 Israeli hostages were returned back to Israel each day on Friday and shabbat with an additional group due Sunday afternoon as well. The list of hostages to be released today has already been shared with Israel. In addition, 13 Thai nationals and one Philippine citizen, foreign workers who were taken hostage on October 7th as well, have also be repatriated. Right now, there are still 195 hostages remaining in Gaza. To date, none of the American citizens taken hostage have been released. US President Biden said yesterday that he is monitoring this and that the State Department is working on it as well.
Among the Israelis released yesterday was the Asher family, a mother and two young daughters. The father Yoni, was in Europe two weeks ago for a meeting of the European Union where he made an impassioned plea, in English, for the release of all the hostages as well as his wife and two young daughters (https://www.instagram.com/p/CzuRCuTqgi0/). His presentation was noteworthy for the fact that this secular Israeli, at the end his remarks, stood up, covered his head with his hand, and in Hebrew recited the Jewish statement of faith, Hear O Israel, the Lord is Our God, the Lord is One. His heartfelt prayers were answered yesterday with the return of this family.
Sadly, Hamas did renege on one aspect of the mutual agreement with Israel. They promised not to separate family members as they returned Israeli hostages. Yet, among those returned on Saturday a number of them represented situations where part of the family remains in the hands of Hamas. To date only women and children have been released from captivity.
Earlier today the New York Times published a piece under the title Gaza Civilians, Under Israeli Barrage, Are Being Killed at Historic Pace.
The article states that “While wartime death tolls will never be exact, experts say that even a conservative reading of the casualty figures reported from Gaza shows that the pace of death during Israel’s campaign has few precedents in this century. People are being killed in Gaza more quickly, they say, than in even the deadliest moments of U.S.-led attacks in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, which were themselves widely criticized by human rights groups.”
All of us here lament the fact that so many civilians in Gaza have had to pay the price for the massacre which Hamas foisted on Israel on October 7th for no reason other than to kill as many Jews as possible and take hostages to be able to trade them later for Palestinian prisoners in our jails, which is what is happening now.
But comparisons to other wars are neither useful nor relevant. The war in Ukraine which still rages there, was caused by one nation coveting the land of another nation and ordering an attack for the purpose of seizing that land. As the Israel-Gaza war of today, it was unwarranted to be sure and a clear violation of one nation’s sovereignty by another. But it was not designed by Russia to eradicate either Ukraine or its citizens.
The war that the West waged to free Kuwait from the seizure of the country by Iraq was, again, a similar situation to Russia’s advance against Ukraine. But Iraq’s purpose was not to eradicate Kuwaitis. And in neither Ukraine’s situation nor that of Iraq-Kuwait did they defend their countries by placing the tools of war under hospitals, schools and private residences.
In the case of Hamas their leadership basically caused the high level of civilian fatalities because of their wanton disregard of the value of human lives, those of their own citizens and clearly ours as well. For the press to be critical of the (sadly) sizable level of civilian deaths, when those were caused primarily by Hamas’ willingness to sacrifice the lives of all of their citizens to accomplish the genocide of Jews, is beyond belief and incredibly disappointing.
Let us hope that the current pause in hostilities accomplishes it objectives and that our troops will ultimately be victorious