We are making progress against Hamas in Gaza one step at a time – which is exactly how we have been told this war was to be fought.
But there are days on which I ask, does it have to be this hard?
We lost two more soldiers today. And yes, this is so hard.
There are operations in process as I write, and so this will be brief. I find, however, that I am constitutionally unable to go into Shabbat without posting.
In the last couple of days, eyes have been on Shifa Hospital, the largest hospital in Gaza City. The IDF has been saying that this – in large part in tunnels beneath the hospital — is where Hamas has its command-and-control headquarters.
On Tuesday, in a briefing, United States National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters:
“We have information that Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad used some hospitals in the Gaza Strip including Shifa and tunnels underneath them to conceal and to support their military operations and to hold hostages.”
Well then, how nice of you to confirm what Israel has been saying for years.
But then, then I was stunned when he said: “We do not support striking a hospital from the air…”
And I asked myself if, in spite of all the evidence of how carefully the IDF has been operating, does the US National Security Council truly believe that Israel might strike a hospital from the air?
Or – as is far more likely the case – was this said for PR purposes, in order to let the world, and most especially the Arab and Muslim world, know that the US is protecting the civilians in Gaza?
Vile, in either case.
So let us look at how the IDF is handling the operation inside Shifa Hospital, which began Tuesday night, and is not yet complete.
Prior to entry into the hospital complex, IDF troops came under attack by Hamas gunmen and killed at least five terrorists.
From a release put out by the IDF (emphasis added): “Based on intelligence information and an operational necessity, IDF forces are carrying out a precise and targeted operation against Hamas in a specified area in the Shifa Hospital.”
The IDF forces include medical teams and Arabic-speaking soldiers “who have undergone specified training to prepare for this complex and sensitive environment, with the intent that no harm is caused to the civilians being used by Hamas as human shields.”
The IDF publicized a safe evacuation route for civilians to leave Shifa and assisted in broad evacuations ahead of its operation against Hamas. Regular communication with hospital authorities has been maintained. There has been no “friction” with the medical center patients and staff.
Baby food and medical supplies that had been brought into Gaza by IDF tanks reached Shifa on Wednesday. (I believe the incubators had been brought in earlier.) The medical teams and Arabic speakers within the IDF units were working to ensure that the supplies reached those in need.
There had been an expectation that some of the hostages might be found in the tunnels under Shifa, but regrettably this has not been the case. The IDF indicates, however, that it is still conducting “focused” searches inside the hospital and has “clear information” linking the hostages to the hospital.
It seems likely a good deal of additional information will yet emerge from this operation, as materials and laptops are examined.
Defense Minister Gallant participated in a situational assessment of the 36th division today (Thursday) and received a briefing. Said Gallant (emphasis added):
“I came today to the division whose special forces are operating in Shifa Hospital. There are significant findings – we are working precisely and determinedly, selectively, but very, very determinedly.
“In the past day, we completed the capture and cleansing of western Gaza City; the next stage has begun- the forces are working precisely, determinedly, decisively, with very high coordination between the Air Force, Navy, and ground forces, accompanied by encompassing and strong intelligence.
“…as we deepen this operation, up the pressure on Hamas and wear out more headquarters, strike more tunnels, eliminate more operatives, and take out more of the organization’s leaders, the larger the chance to return the hostages becomes since this enemy only understands strength and we are explaining well what strength is.”
A joint operation of several days between soldiers of the 188th Armored Brigade, and Flotilla 13 (“Shayetet 13”), ended today when the troops took operational control of the Gaza harbor.
Hamas had been using the harbor as a training facility for its naval commando forces and for executing naval terror attacks.
My last posting including a marvelous picture of our troops holding Israeli flags inside of the building of the Hamas parliament.
There will be no more pictures such as this, I am pleased to report: The IDF has blown up the building! The message to Hamas is powerful.
I alluded to the hostages a couple of times above, and now turn to very tentative news about them. This, then, is hardest of all.
Information on the Qatari proposal that would bring about the release of 50 hostages is incomplete, and not fully consistent from all sources. Israel is demanding that the 50 include mothers and children (as Israel will not accept the separation of family units). It is not clear if all of the 30 plus children being held would be released.
In return, according to a Israel National News report, Israel would release 150 Hamas terrorists who have not murdered Israelis. Other reports referred to the release of women and minors.
Humanitarian aid would be increased (which means Hamas would acquire more) and there would be a brief ceasefire. Earlier reports referred to a three-day ceasefire, but now there is talk of five days, which is horrendous. The longer the ceasefire, the more the Hamas troops can rest and re-organize.
But we must, must bring about the release of our captives.
Israel has not yet accepted the deal, as there is indecision about whether to hold out for better terms. This is where the point made by Gallant and others is relevant. The more Hamas is hurting, the better the terms we might get. Some prefer to hold out until we can get everyone. And yet, to bring out children now…
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Much more after Shabbat!
Pray to Heaven for Israel, my friends. Pray for the safety of our boys and the rescue of our hostages, and the strength and wisdom of our leaders. Pray with a heart filled with hope, not fear.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.