Sherwin Pomerantz

The 220th day of war in Israel

Close-quarters ground combat between Hamas fighters and IDF troops raged in parts of northern Gaza over the weekend. The fighting fit into a now familiar scenario: the IDF returning to an area where it had defeated Hamas earlier in the war only to see the group reconstitute in the power vacuum left behind. That persistent lawlessness has raised concerns about the future of Gaza. On Sunday, US Secretary of State Blinken said on “Face the Nation” that Hamas was already “coming back” in parts of Gaza and that Israel had not presented the United States with any plan for when the war ends. That had left him concerned that Israeli victories there would be “not sustainable” and would be followed by a gap “that’s likely to be filled by chaos, by anarchy, and ultimately by Hamas again.”

On Sunday, the IDF said our soldiers had “eliminated a number of terrorists in close-quarters combat” in the Gaza City neighborhood of Zeitoun. In nearby Jabaliya, from which Israel ordered civilians to evacuate on Saturday, troops went in overnight after fighter jets struck more than two dozen targets, according to an IDF statement. The operation was “based on intelligence information regarding attempts by Hamas to reassemble its terrorist infrastructure and operatives in the area,” the statement added.

Yahya Sinwar, the top Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, is not hiding in Rafah, according to American officials. US officials say Israeli intelligence agencies agree with the American assessment that Mr. Sinwar and other Hamas leaders are not hiding in Rafah, at the southern edge of Gaza. The two countries’ spy agencies believe that Mr. Sinwar most likely never left the tunnel network under Khan Younis, the next major city to the north, according to American officials. Hamas’ tunnel network is deepest under Khan Younis, going down as many as 15 stories in some places. Mr. Sinwar is also protected by a group of Israeli hostages he uses as human shields to dissuade Israeli forces from raiding or bombing his location, US and Israeli officials have said.

Rafah stands as the sole Hamas stronghold in Gaza, as it is the only one among the four cities in Gaza that the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) hasn’t fully entered. While the IDF took over the Rafah crossing on Thursday in what Washington described as a limited operation, the possibility of a full-scale operation is still on the table despite international discord. The Israeli authorities argue that this is crucial for the dismantling of Hamas’ military and governmental infrastructure.

In an absurd twist of logic, Egypt plans to join South Africa’s genocide petition against Israel at the International Court of Justice, its Foreign Ministry announced on Sunday, as part of its campaign to force Israel to halt a pending major military operation in Rafah. Israel’s attacks on Gaza, Egypt said, “include deliberate targeting of civilians, infrastructure destruction, forced displacement, and creating unbearable living conditions, leading to an unprecedented humanitarian crisis in Gaza.  These actions constitute a flagrant violation of international law, humanitarian law, and the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 regarding the protection of civilians during wartime,” the Foreign Ministry stated.

Egypt, the same country that is preventing Gazans who want to escape the war zone to do so by leaving via the Rafah Crossing, spoke up two days after South Africa turned to the ICJ and asked that it order Israel to stop its military operation in Rafah. The world has indeed turned upside down.

As we end Memorial Day in Israel

In July 1943, the Allies bombed Hamburg, Germany and killed 35,000 to 40,000 civilians.  Then, in February 1945, the US decided to bomb Dresden, Germany. In two days, between February 13-15, 1945, just months before the end of the war in Europe, the Allies dropped 3,900 tons of explosives and incendiaries on the city. 25,000 to 35,000 civilians were killed in the bombing of Dresden. To end World War II, the US in 1945 dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki killing between 130-260,000 civilians.

This is just WWII. Today, there is the ongoing (!) war between Saudia Arabia and Yemen, where the death toll is close to 1,000,000 civilians, and still counting. And let’s not forget the Syrian Civil War, where hundreds of thousands of civilians were butchered. Then there was the Iraq civil war, Libya, Afghanistan, Sudan, etc, and in all of these, the civilian death toll was huge.

More recently, over 30,000 civilian deaths have occurred in the past two years as a result of the Russia-Ukraine war. Yet, we never heard anyone complain that these deaths were disproportional nor did anyone worry about a humanitarian crisis.

Now Israel is fighting Hamas, responding to the most devastating massacre of Jews since the Holocaust. If we take the death toll Hamas is publishing, it’s about 34,000 including their military losses. The IDF assessment, which is very credible, believes that 12-13,000 of these were Hamas terrorists. All in all, we’re talking about 20,000 civilian deaths in Gaza, which is the most complicated, hostile urban warfare area in the entire globe! And yet the entire world is enraged about the number of civilian casualties and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and demands Israel, the country that was attacked by Hamas, stop the fighting short of victory.

Not to discount the tragedy of any of this, but why is Israel the only country not allowed to win wars? And why have none of these countries ever been brought to the International Court of Justice and placed on trial for genocide?

The question screams out for an answer…why? Why? Why? Frankly, there are no logical answers only prejudicial ones. Which is why we have no choice but to continue to victory.

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.