Sherwin Pomerantz

The 174th Day of Israel’s War Against Hamas

Thankfully, the Israeli government has asked the Biden administration to reschedule a planned meeting in Washington, just days after Prime Minister Netanyahu ordered the meeting cancelled in protest over the recent United Nations Security Council vote demanding an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.  On Monday, after the US mission to the UN declined to utilize the American veto, allowing a resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, Netanyahu nixed plans to dispatch a delegation to Washington to discuss the much-anticipated IDF operation in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah.  On Wednesday, however, according to reports in NBC News and Reuters, a US official cited, said that the Israeli government is now seeking to reschedule the trip, and has reached out to the White House.

In the interim, Tuesday and Wednesday saw two days of meetings between Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and senior officials in the White House and Pentagon, where discussions focused on Israel’s planned military operation in southern Gaza not on how to stop it, but on how to protect civilians during its rollout. The businesslike tone of the talks was a departure from previous weeks, when top US officials bluntly warned Israel against an all-out offensive on Rafah.

 The IDF has now begun isolating Rafah in southern Gaza and has started taking steps to evacuate the city’s civilian population, Channel 12 reported on Wednesday.  The moves come despite intensifying international opposition to a ground operation in the last Hamas stronghold, which Israel says is necessary to defeat the terrorist organization. The final four Hamas battalions, comprising some 3,000 terrorists, are holed up in the city, according to Israel.

There are also well over a million Gazans sheltering in Rafah, causing concern regarding potential harm to noncombatants.  As part of the preparations for the operation, Israel has authorized the purchase from China of 40,000 tents for Rafah evacuees, which will be moved to the Gaza Strip after arrival in Israel, according to the report. “Clear places will be defined in the Strip where the tents will be placed and the refugees will stay,” the article states. All of this is intended to shield non-combatants from harm once the Rafah incursion begins in earnest

Regarding the number of Hamas fighters in Gaza, 30,000 was always an estimate for how many fighters Hamas had. Israel now knows that the number was too low. Given the numbers provided by IDF sources, Israel has killed roughly 13,000 members of Hamas.  Already back in early February, the IDF had wounded another 10,000 to such a degree that it was assessed that they would not be able to return to battle and had arrested an additional 2,300.  The IDF has not provided updated wounded and arrest numbers since then, but simply adding together a series of public announcements regarding arrests, such as the more than 500 Hamas terrorists arrested at Shifa Hospital, at least 3,500 would have been arrested to date.  This means that roughly 26,000 Hamas members have been put out of action by Israel to date when adding together the total killed, wounded, and arrested.

Until Tuesday, IDF sources had said that there were four Hamas battalions in Rafah and two left in central Gaza, leaving around 6,000 Hamas forces.  Adding 26,000 and 6,000 would have exceeded the 30,000 total but could be considered close enough to be generally accurate. However, on Tuesday, Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer said that Hamas has 8,000 of its forces in Rafah. Adding an additional 4,000 to 32,000 brings us up to 36,000.  But that is not the end of it. Recently, IDF sources gave a briefing indicating that 70% of Hamas forces in Khan Yunis, out of an original 4,500, had been removed from the battlefield. That would leave at least 1,300 additional forces in Khan Yunis.

All in all the new total of Hamas troops seems closer to 40,000.

Israel mourns the passing of former Sen. Joseph Lieberman, a good friend of Israel, a former US Vice-presidential candidate and a serious Jew and as well.  His personal commitment and steadfast support for Israel was always very much appreciated as was his standing on principle rather than politics when he supported John McCain’s candidacy for US President, even though they were both from different political parties.  May his memory be blessed.

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.