I am not going to recap in this blog the full extent of the massacre conduct by Hamas terrorists last week. I will say that over the past week, we have learned more and more details of the extensive planning that went into this attack with the clear aim of murdering civilians, taking hostages, looting and other outrageous acts. More than 1,300 Israelis were murdered and more than 3,000 were injured - all of this conducted by the official government that runs and controls the Gaza strip - Hamas - which announced its actions as a "declaration of war" on Israel last week.
Since last week, Israel has launched extensive air raids on Gaza and has killed several of Hamas' senior military commanders. Hundreds of thousands of Israeli troops have been called up and many are massed at the border of Gaza, prepared to enter if and when they receive the order to do so.
Although Israel has warned residents of northern Gaza to leave and take shelter in the south - and has threatened to begin a ground option "at any time" - the extent and nature of the pending Israeli operation is yet to be determined. It is clearly a top priority for Israel to destroy the entire network of Hamas tunnels, weapons and communications facilities and everything else that Hamas has built up underground across Gaza. How exactly Israel plans to do this remains to be seen. However, Israelis across the political spectrum are largely unified and view the complete destruction of Hamas' military capabilities as an imperative and the key war aim for Israel.
As we know, Hamas is funded, trained and supported by Iran as well as Qatar and to some extent, Turkey. Hamas also works closely with Iran's proxy, Hezbollah, which controls Lebanon and parts of Syria. Hezbollah has pledged, at least in some form, to support Hamas in this war. It may well be that Hezbollah and Hamas have a detailed plan as to how and when Hezbollah will get involved. Or perhaps Hezbollah is playing it by ear.
Since the war began, Hezbollah has been slowly increasing its involvement - just enough to avoid starting a full scale war. They have fired unmanned drones, missiles, rockets and other weaponry at Israel but in small quantities. Today, Hezbollah stepped up its attacks. In the morning, they fired an RPG that killed one Israeli and injured five others. Later this afternoon, they fired another RPG that killed two more civilians. As I have been writing this blog, Hezbollah has fired 7 more RPGs at Israeli troops. Israel has answered these attacks with air strikes and other retaliatory measures, though still on a relatively restrained scale. However, at this point, it now seems to be a question of when, rather then if, Israel will be in a full scale war with Hezbollah and Lebanon. This may well erupt completely today or tomorrow.
Lebanon has a massive storehouse of missiles, drones, rockets and all types of other weaponry. Hezbollah has thousands of Hezbollah fighters gathered near the border and it seems very unlikely that they will decide to stay out of the war. The US has two aircraft carriers in place, one in the Mediterranean off the coast of Israel. It is unclear what role the U.S. will play in a fight between Israel and Hezbollah, but President Biden's speeches suggest that the U.S. is likely to use its air power if Israel is attacked by Hezbollah/Iran.
To the east of Lebanon, thousands of troops are now ready in Syria, some from Syria and some from Iraq. So far, these troops have fired a few times towards Israel. There are suggestions that Hezbollah would rather attack Israel from the east - and have Syria serve as the war theatre rather than Lebanon. However, Israel is not buying this. If Israel is drawn into an all out war with Hezbollah, Israel will almost certainly flatten parts of Beirut and other areas in Lebanon. That threat may be the one thing that is restraining Hezbollah so far.
Palestinian areas in Judea and Samaria including groups in Jenin are also threatening to get involved, all to help spread the army thinner. Right now, this does not seem to be a major threat but it may develop into one.
The major player behind all of this is clearly Iran, which is controlling the strings of everything that is going on. It is unclear whether Iran is interested in joining this war, though it has threatened to destroy Israel for many years. The U.S. aircraft carriers may be a deterrent here but we simply don't know what Iran has planned as part of this war.
Stories of Bravery
There are hundreds of stories of incredible acts of bravery that took place last week by police officers, soldiers, civilians and others. I wanted to mention a few.
In the kibbutz of Nir Am, the leader of the Kibbutz's Readiness Forces, Inbal Lieberman (26), received an early notification of an impending attack. She sprung into action, got all of the forces up and ready and developed an action plan and spread the forces (12 of them) to different stations across the Kibbutz. With her direction, the Kibbutz forces held off and killed waves of Hamas terrorists - until Israeli enforcements were later able to arrive and engage the remaining Hamas forces further. No civilians were killed at Nir Am, one of the few developments that suffered no civilian casualties and was not destroyed by the terrorists on Saturday October 7, 2023.
Another story involves Yair Golan, who is a former Knesset member for the left wing Meretz party. He is also a retired Major General in the IDF. He is 61. He received phone calls from different people early Sunday morning about kids who were trapped at the Nova party - and were reporting that Hamas terrorists were massacring people. Described as a "one-man army," Golan wasted no time. He grabbed a weapon, got into his car and sped to the area. In what sounds like scenes from a Mission Impossible or James Bond movie - he raced to locations provided to him by trapped party-goers, using their cell-phones. Along the way, he killed several Hamas terrorists. He loaded up his car, drove the kids to safety and went back to pick up other groups. It is unclear how many he brought to safety but the stories are simply astounding. Earlier this year, Golan was being called a "traitor" and "anarchist" by some Likud members since he opposed Netanyahu's attack on the judiciary. Now many of those same members are saluting his bravery and thanking him.
I also want to mention the story of Moran Tagdi, a police officer who took control of a dangerous situation involving a group of Hamas terrorists fighting from the rooftop of a two story complex in one of the Kibbutzim. A group of officers and soldiers were involved in an intense gunfight with Hamas terrorists who had grenades, RPGs and other weapons. Tagdi came up with a plan - and told the other officers to continue to occupy the attention of the terrorists. She sent Whatsapp messages to her kids, telling them that she loved them, since she didn't know if she would survive. She took two fighters with her. They snuck around the rear of the building, made her way up the stairs and killed the three terrorists.
There are hundreds of other stories but the stories I have cited caught my attention his week. Many stories didn't turn out as well. One Israeli commando apparently killed more than 40 Hamas terrorists himself over a period of three hours before he ran out of ammunition and was killed himself. Another group of Kibbutz Readiness forces tried to fight back but were hit with rocket launchers by Hamas and were all killed - and unable to stop Hamas pillaging, murder and hostage-taking in their kibbutz. More than 250 Israeli soldiers and more than 40 police officers were killed fighting back.
It is evident that even in the face of a massive surprise invasion by terrorists intent on carrying out all kinds of heinous crimes, there were many points of light in the form of brave police officers, soldiers and civilians who acted quickly and saved lives.
As you probably know, there are more than 140 hostages in Gaza, of all different ages, taken by Hamas. We have very limited information about them or their whereabouts. It may be that the IDF is trying to rescue some as we speak - though so far - Israel has only managed to retrieve some bodies of hostages who were either killed in Hamas captivity or whose bodies were taken by Hamas for negotiations. We have not heard about any efforts by the Red Cross or any other "humanitarian" organizations to try and release these hostages. President Biden met personally with family members of some of the hostages. While Israel always makes it a key priority to rescue its hostages, it is facing major challenges in the context of this current war. I have to believe that the army is taking whatever steps it can but this is a very difficult situation.
We appreciate the many warm messages we have received. Things are extremely stressful here. The war is threatening to spin out of control and grow into a much wider regional conflict. We are concerned for the safety of family members, friends, neighbours, community members and others - and there is a great deal of uncertainty how long this might go on. It could be several months or longer.
Israel is determined to remove Hamas from Gaza as a threat and to ensure that Gaza cannot threaten Israel militarily. It is also determined to capture or kill all of those who were responsible for the heinous terrorist acts committed last week. Both of those goals may take a while and may lead to months and months of fighting - while Israel may also have to fight one or two additional fronts at the same time.
We hope and pray that this will all end quickly and successfully for Israel, however one might describe "success" in these circumstances, given what has taken place so far.