Six days into the war here and as I opened my lap top today there was a Facebook posting from a colleague, Alan Feld, one of the early technology venture capital pioneers here in Israel. The notice did not speak about the death of one person but rather two brothers, Sgt. Maj. Noam Slotky and Sgt. Maj. Yishai Slotky, the sons of Rabbi Shmuel Slotky (Head of the International Association of Synagogues) and his wife Talia. The two brothers died in battle on the Gaza border as part of the group that was defending Israeli positions there when they were overrun by Hamas terrorists.
Can one even imagine how the parents felt when they received the knock on the door from the Israel Defense Forces representative? How did the mother feel when, knowing who was at the door, asked “Which one?” and the military representative answered: “Both of them,” No parent should ever have to face that truth. Never, ever, ever!!!
The numbers here continue to climb. Deaths resulting from the brutal invasion of Hamas terrorists last Saturday have now climbed over the 1,300 mark (169 of them Israeli soldiers). Of those, 25 were Americans. In addition, it is now estimated that Hamas took more than 150 people hostage, ranging from small children to old men and women many of whom were dragged from their homes, shot and kidnapped Of those being held 11 are members of just one Israeli family.
Over the last 24 hours, in addition to what we knew earlier about the beheading of babies, it is now clear that a number of IDF soldiers who, after they were killed, were then decapitated by the Hamas barbarians.
The Hamas attack was far larger than anything the group had attempted before, with a coordinated destruction of Israel’s network of electronic border surveillance and remote-controlled weaponry, as well as dozens of breaches in the border barrier. The Israeli military, which took days to regain control of the areas affected, has said it recovered the bodies of 1,500 Palestinian gunmen who took part in the assault and were killed.
In retaliation, Israel overnight attacked 2,400 targets in Gaza by air, which included 136 command centers and 40 underground staging facilities. No doubt Hamas is feeling the pain but there is more yet to come.
The good news, if there can be good news in this environment, is that a War Cabinet has been formed here composed of people who have experience dealing with the kinds of issues that Israel is now facing. The government that has been in power since the end of last year was almost totally bereft of ministers with the kind of experience required to manage a military challenge. The agreement by Benny Gantz, a former IDF Chief of Staff, who is well respected throughout the country, joined by Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (who himself was a former candidate for Chief of Staff) brings people into the government who are experienced in managing military campaigns. Additional advisors such as Gadi Eizenkot, another former IDF Chief of Staff, adds strength to the governance team.
That team will know how to deal with Hamas, which has threatened to kill hostages if Israel strikes civilian homes without warning. Israel “will make sure that by the end of this operation, Hamas will have zero military capabilities,” Tal Heinrich, a spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said on Wednesday in a briefing with reporters, making clear that the objective is to destroy the Al Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s military wing.
Earlier today US Secretary of State Antony Blinken landed in Israel as well. At the Prime Minster’s Office after his arrival he said: “The United States has Israel’s back. We’ll have it tomorrow, we’ll have it every day, We stand resolutely against terrorism.”
Meanwhile, in the north, the Israeli military said it had struck Hezbollah targets in Lebanon with aircraft and artillery on Wednesday, in response to a missile attack by the group. The number of casualties on both sides remained unclear. Israel continues to watch that border carefully as it would make life more difficult for all of us here if we had to deal with a two-front war.
Having said all of that, the spirit of our troops is high, the people of Israel are unified with one goal, to stop Hamas and the level of volunteer activity to support our troops is mindboggling.
Let us hope that the combination of intelligence, governance, commitment, spirit and unity will be sufficient for us to prevail against the enemies of Israel bent on our destruction.