Sherwin Pomerantz

The 185th Day of War in Israel

As we enter the seventh month of fighting in Gaza, Israel has lost 260 soldiers in battle. Since October 7th, more than 600 soldiers and security personal have been killed. On October 7th, more than 1,250 Israelis were murdered by Hamas terrorists, and over 250 were taken prisoner. 134 hostages, many presumed no longer alive, remain captive in Gaza.

The IDF said Sunday that it had withdrawn a division of ground troops from the southern Gaza Strip, as international mediators gathered with hopes of brokering a temporary cease-fire six months into a war that has now become the longest involving Israel since the 1980s.  Israel has significantly reduced the number of troops it has on the ground in Gaza over the past several months. Only a fraction of the soldiers that it deployed in the territory earlier in the war against Hamas remain.

Now, the last group of Israeli soldiers in the southern city of Khan Younis has left Gaza in order “to recuperate and prepare for future operations,” the army said. The withdrawal of the soldiers, members of the 98th Division, means that no Israeli troops are actively maneuvering in southern Gaza, the Israeli news media reported.  But Israeli officials made clear that the army would stay in other parts of Gaza to preserve its “freedom of action and its ability to conduct precise intelligence-based operations.”

The drawdown from Khan Younis, about four months after the IDF entered southern Gaza, raised questions about Israel’s plans in the face of widespread calls for it to de-escalate the conflict. It was also unclear what it might signal about Israel’s oft-stated plan to invade the southernmost city of Rafah, where more than a million have fled to escape the fighting.  Of course, with the withdrawal Hamas began firing rockets into Israel once again with five having been released earlier today.

 Six months after the Hamas attack on Israel, 27,000 Israeli evacuees remain in hotels, mostly from communities along Israel’s northern border, the Israeli Tourism Ministry announced on Sunday.  The number represents a steep drop from the more than 90,000 Israelis who were sheltered in hotels after the Oct. 7 massacre, even as the war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip rages on and amid a volatile situation on Israel’s northern border. Of the 27,000 people still housed in hotels, 21,000 are from communities along the northern border, while only 6,000 are from southern Israel, according to the ministry, which has paid the hotels 3.2 billion shekels ($850 million) to house the evacuees to date.

Seventy percent of evacuees from Gaza-border towns have since returned home despite ongoing intermittent rocket fire from the Hamas-ruled territory, according to Israeli military figures.  The drop in occupancy among evacuees at hotels nationwide also comes as the ministry is planning for post-war tourism to Israel after a virtual industry collapse over the last six months.

Activities continue to heat up on the northern border with Lebanon.  Israel has attacked sites deep inside Lebanon including in Tyre near the coast. At the same time volleys of rockets were fired overnight from Lebanon aimed at the Golan Heights.  No injuries were reported.

Good news has emanated from Cairo today with Egyptian State Radio reporting that progress in the negotiations for the release of the hostages has been made during the meetings there this week.  There is general agreement now between Israel and Hamas for the release of hostages in return for a temporary cessation of hostilities and the release of prisoners being held by Israel.  Both teams have left Egypt to return to their respecting homes for consultation and is it expected that the negotiators will reconvene in Cairo later this week.

Let us hope that the meeting in Cairo to continue dialogue about freeing the hostages will bear fruit so that those still alive may return to their loved ones.

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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