First of all, as you might have read, the Israeli government is reporting that more than 700 people have been killed and more than 2300 injured. Included in this number - more than 260 young people were murdered at a "Nature Party" early on Saturday morning. Hamas and Islamic Jihad claim that they are holding more than 140 prisoners in Gaza. It is unclear how many of these people are alive, how many are injured - and if injured, how seriously. This includes young children, elderly, and others.
In response, Israel has been launching significant air force attacks on the Gaza strip - which reportedly includes a range of military targets including Hamas bases, weapons store houses and other facilities. Gaza authorities report more that more than 400 Palestinians have been killed. However, Hamas sent, by its accounts, some 1000 terrorists to Israel to carry out these attacks. Israel has killed or captured more than 250 of them. In short, just because a press service reports that a certain number of Palestinians were killed, that certainly does not mean that they were civilians - even though some civilians may have been killed.
Israeli Areas - Surrounding Gaza
The cities surrounding Gaza - 22 different towns and cities - suffered severe and devasting damage and losses. Israeli authorities report that all of these areas are now in Israeli control. However, there are still isolated Hamas terrorists and groups of terrorists hiding in unknown places. Israeli forces are combing these cities, door by door, to look for terrorists. They are also looking for civilians who may still be hiding or injured. Sadly, they are still finding bodies of those who were murdered. The army reports that some mines and other delayed timer devices were left in some places in these towns and cities - so they are being very cautious. Since Saturday morning, Hamas has apparently sent additional reinforcements and Israeli forces have fought and defeated these groups wherever they have encountered them.
Hamas continues to fire thousands of missiles at civilian areas across Israel. We had one alarm this morning and spent some time in the shelter. We heard a very loud noise - that sounded like one missile made it through the Iron Dome system but it is unclear where it landed. Later, Hamas fired another barrage of missiles and one was a direct hit on a house in Ashdod. There are reports of injuries from that hit. As I write, missiles are being fired by Hamas at locations all over the country though, fortunately, few of them are hitting targets.
More than 300,000 reserve soldiers have been called to report to duty. Israel is in a state of mass preparedness outside of Gaza, on its northern border, in Judea and Samaria (the "West Bank") and other areas. Just about everyone we know between the ages of 21 and 30 who are eligible for reserve duty have been issued an "Order 8" - and order to report too duty. It is truly frightening.
It is unclear at this point what military decisions will be made. A massive ground assault on Gaza is a definite possibility but Israeli officials will have to weigh carefully whether they can actually win this type of war against guerilla forces that are hidden among civilians in densely populated areas.
Israel is also making military calculations with respect to the possibility that Iran-backed Hezbollah might open up a second front against Israel from the North. This would be a massive escalation of the the conflict and would lead to tremendous damage in Israel and across Lebanon. It may also involve Syria and Iran. We certainly hope that things will not head in this direction, but Israel must be prepared for this possibility.
I don't really have very much to report here. There was apparently a meeting between Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Netanyahu this morning to discuss some type of expanded government - but nothing has been resolved. It is too early to discuss any type of resolution and it appears that we are likely to be in for weeks, if not months, of fighting before any resolution is possible. There are few countries with the ability to influence Hamas - other than Qatar and Iran - and to a much smaller degree, Egypt. But Hamas has nothing to offer now, other than the return of the prisoners that it is holding. They have launched a self-defined "war," killed more than 700 Israelis, mostly civilians, and injured more than 2300. Israel will certainly proceed with a massive response of some sort.
Prisoners and Hostages
This is a very difficult situation for Israel. The government would like to take every possible step to rescue every single one of the hostages - and hopefully most if not all of them are alive. But faced with the potential loss of thousands of additional lives if steps are not taken immediately, the government is faced with some extremely difficult decisions. We hope and pray that all of the prisoners are returned home safely as quickly as possible.
The homeland authority in Israel is advising people to remain in their homes and stay near bomb shelters. Many stores, especially supermarkets and pharmacies, are still open - but many other places are closed. Highways are fairly deserted. The airport is still operating but fewer and fewer airlines are flying to Tel-Aviv. As of this morning, El Al, Turkish Airlines, Emirates and a few others were still flying. But most European, North American and Asian airlines have suspended their service. On a personal note, I now have no idea when I will be back in Canada. I was supposed to fly this Thursday.
This attack has had a severe psychological impact on Israelis across the country. With such high numbers of casualties, almost everyone seems to know someone who was killed or injured. Beyond that, there is a sense of disappointment, anger and frustration at the apparent failure of intelligence, preparedness, operations and defence. Further, the Prime Minister and senior leadership continue to be AWOL. Prime Minister Netanyahu has not held any press conferences or taken other steps to address the public - other than one brief statement. None of his senior cabinet ministers have filled in. For many Israelis, it feels like the ship is moving along without a captain.
Israelis are glued to news stations to stay updated and most of the news is not very good. So that also has a significant impact on people.
That being said, the military leaders have shown great determination. Other Israelis, including Prime Minister Bennett and other former members of the government have been actively assisting the army, visiting people in hospitals and helping in other ways. Despite the current lack of political leadership, there is a real sense that Israelis will pull together and deal with this massive threat.
I do not plan on doing this every day - and there are numerous news sources out there for up-to-the- minute updates. Since today is Canadian Thanksgiving, work issues were less pressing and I had a bit of time. I will try to provide further comments and updates in the coming day though that will depend on being able to find the time.
We thank everyone for the warm notes of support and kind wishes. We are hoping for a quick but decisive end to this situation though we are realistically prepared for something that will take a while. I wish everyone all the best and hope and pray for the safety of our soldiers and civilians in this difficult period.