Sherwin Pomerantz

The 173rd  Day of Israel’s War Against Hamas

Following a heavy barrage of 30 rockets from Hezbollah in Lebanon overnight, one individual was killed, and two were reported as lightly wounded in Kiryat Shmona, Maariv reported. Additionally, damage was caused to property in the area. The barrage was fired in response to Israeli attacks on southern Lebanon, Hezbollah stated.

Magen David Adom paramedics reported that they rescued the body of 25-year-old Zahar Bashara, from the Druze village of Ein Kaniya in the Golan Heights. Bashara was found without signs of life following a direct hit from one of the rockets, which Hezbollah took credit for. Bashara worked in Kiryat Shmona’s industrial sector. He was pronounced dead at the scene. MDA announced that the worker was not a resident of Kiryat Shmona.

The US-Israel relationship remains on a collision course due to a public disagreement over Israel’s war on Hamas. Following the US’s decision not to veto a UN Security Council resolution that called for an immediate cease-fire, Prime Minister Netanyahu criticized Israel’s most significant and most strategic ally. This is likely to amplify the significant pressure on Israel to cease its military operations in the Gaza Strip.

Responding to the non-binding resolution’s adoption, Netanyahu stated the US “is harming the war effort and efforts to release the hostages.” Resolution 2728 demands an immediate cease-fire during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the immediate, unconditional release of all the hostages held by Hamas since its surprise offensive on Israel on October 7 last year.

Netanyahu argued that the US’s support for a cease-fire without the prior unconditional release of the 134 hostages held by the Gaza-based group “gives Hamas hope that the international pressure will allow them to achieve a cease-fire without the release of our hostages.” Netanyahu also canceled the departure of an Israeli delegation to Washington, which was set to discuss military plans for operations against Hamas in Rafah, a city in southern Gaza.

Israeli military briefers showed journalists a map of Gaza illustrating the case that the IDF is steadily winning its battles – if not yet the war – against Hamas. The IDF says it has “dismantled” 20 of the original 24 Hamas battalions. Dismantled does not mean destroyed; its remnants are still capable of waging a lethal insurgency. The IDF could soon turn its focus to the four “completely operational” Hamas battalions in Rafah. The city is above a network of Hamas tunnels that the IDF suspects hold not only thousands of fighters, but also its “most wanted” commanders – alongside more than 100 Israeli hostages.

The battlefield looks very different than it did a month or two ago. “It is now warfare. It is not a full-scale war. It is very different,” said Amos Harel, defense analyst for Ha’aretz, describing the change in intensity and reduction of IDF forces active in Gaza. “The IDF tactical advantage is clear.” There is less bombardment, less artillery and tank fire by Israel, and less ambushes, RPG assaults and sniping by Hamas. Far fewer Israeli soldiers are dying. Almost all of the Israeli reservists have gone home.

After nearly six months of fighting, the Israeli military might not have complete control of the strip, but they have freedom of movement. Kobi Michael, a former head of the Palestinian desk at Israel’s Ministry for Strategic Affairs and now a senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies, said the IDF is now carrying out more precise raids – aimed at targets where its intelligence officers say Hamas is regrouping, such as Shifa hospital in Gaza City.

Israel, overall, has settled into a routine with most of the country functioning even though the 130 hostages still held by Hamas is always on the minds of all of us.   May the come home soon.

About the Author
Sherwin Pomerantz is a native New Yorker, who lived and worked in Chicago for 20 years before coming to Israel in 1984. An industrial engineer with advanced degrees in mechanical engineering and business, he is President of Atid EDI Ltd., a 32 year old Jerusalem-based economic development consulting firm which, among other things, represents the regional trade and investment interests of a number of US states, regional entities and Invest Hong Kong. A past national president of the Association of Americans & Canadians in Israel, he is also Former Chairperson of the Board of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies and a Board Member of the Israel-America Chamber of Commerce. His articles have appeared in various publications in Israel and the US.
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