Israeli Prime Minister Binyomin Netanyahu defended the Israeli military’s ongoing attacks on Hamas positions in northern Gaza, as the United States signaled its displeasure at Gaza’s hospitals coming under attack. International criticism and angry pro-Palestinian protests have also mounted over the rising civilian death toll since October 7, h, according to the Hamas health ministry in Gaza, now exceeds 11,000 people.
Israeli forces were “proceeding as quickly as we can but also as carefully as we can because we want to minimize civilian casualties and we want to minimize casualties on our side,” Netanyahu told NBC News on Sunday.
“We have no battle with patients or civilians at all,” Netanyahu said, and claimed that the most recent Israeli advances on the ground in northern Gaza are “actually reducing the number of civilian casualties because the civilian population is heeding our call to vacate” that area.
The ground offensive that Israel launched into Gaza on October 27, has seen Israeli ground forces, accompanied by tanks and armored bulldozers, first surround Gaza City, and then penetrate the military areas where Hamas has its most critical infrastructure as well as command and control centers.
Israel has vowed to destroy Hamas after thousands of its terrorists overran more than 20 communities in southern Israel on October 7, killing some 1,200 people and kidnaping an estimated 239 hostages.
ONGOING NEGOTIATIONS TO FREE THE HOSTAGES
According to Israeli estimates, Hamas currently holds around 180 hostages inside Gaza, Palestinian Islamic Jihad holds roughly 40 hostages, and unaffiliated terrorists in Gaza are believed to hold an additional 20 people, significantly complicating the ongoing negotiations for their release by Qatari mediators.
The Washington Post reported Tuesday that, according to an Israeli official, a potential prisoner swap is being negotiated under which Hamas would release a group of between 70 to 100 hostages, who are women and children, in return for the release of at least 120 Palestinian women and young men currently being held in Israeli prisons for terrorist-related activities. Under the terms of the deal, Israel would also reportedly agree to a cease-fire in Gaza lasting up to five days during which time the prisoners would be safely returned to Israel and large quantities of humanitarian aid would be delivered for Gaza’s civilian population.
On Tuesday, the Israeli army confirmed a Hamas video that claimed that one of the hostages being held in Gaza had been killed by an Israeli air strike. She was a 19-year-old female soldier named Noa Marciano, from Modiin, who was captured on October 7 when Hamas fighters overran the Israeli military base at Nahal Oz where she was stationed.
ISRAELI TROOPS REPORT VICTORIES IN GAZA CITY BATTLES
Meanwhile, the intensity of the fighting inside Gaza continues to increase. On Tuesday, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) announced that it had captured several Hamas government buildings in the Sheikh Ijlin and Rimal neighborhoods of Gaza City, including the Hamas parliament and governor’s house, and the building which houses the Hamas offices for its military wing, intelligence division, and police force. Israeli soldiers have also seized a university-level engineering building in Gaza City where Hamas technical experts develop new weapons and a major training base.
Over the weekend, a coordinated attack by Israeli air force, tank, and artillery units, reportedly killed 150 terrorists in the battle for the Hamas stronghold in northern Gaza known as Outpost Badr.
Last Thursday, Israeli troops from the Nahal Infantry Brigade captured a stronghold known as Outpost 17 in the Jabaliya refugee camp. During that battle, which lasted for 10 hours, both “above ground and in an underground route in the area,” Israeli troops killed dozens of Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists, and captured “significant” Hamas battle plans.
In addition, soldiers from the Israeli army’s 162nd Division reported killing more than 50 Hamas gunmen last week during a battle in the Hamas “military quarter” in Gaza City adjacent to the Shifa hospital. The area has been called “the heart” of Hamas’ operational activities because it includes the largest Hamas training camp, its intelligence and air defense headquarters, command centers, weapons manufacturing facilities and storehouse, and its political offices.
ISRAELI CASUALTIES INSIDE GAZA LIGHTER THAN EXPECTED
According to former British army commander and anti-terrorism expert Richard Kemp, writing in the British Telegraph newspaper, the Israeli military campaign in Gaza, using a large combined arms force, has been surprisingly successful so far, defying predictions by some American military advisors that such an assault put Israeli troops at risk of suffering a major bloodbath. Instead, Kemp observes that Israel has “encircled Gaza City and is assaulting terrorist strongholds, killing large numbers of fighters including key commanders, smashing command posts and gaining valuable intelligence, while its forces have sustained fewer casualties than anticipated.” As of Tuesday, the IDF has reported the deaths of fewer than fifty soldiers since the start of its operations to destroy Hamas in Gaza.
Kemp also notes that Israel has achieved this success despite the fact that “cities are the toughest environment to fight in, especially when on the attack, with innumerable rat-runs, covered fire positions, and concealment for booby-traps, command-detonated explosive charges, snipers and ambushes. . .
“The vast tunnel network that Hamas has constructed beneath Gaza represents another element of extreme danger. But. . . the IDF is simply avoiding entering tunnels wherever possible, preferring instead to detonate or collapse them from above ground.”
As a result of these battlefield successes, Kemp notes various “signs that Hamas is now under enormous pressure. Rocket launches from Gaza are at the lowest level since the war began, and Hamas leaders are reportedly pleading with Hezbollah in Lebanon to mount sustained attacks to divert the IDF’s attention.
“Another sign that Hamas is in trouble is its willingness to negotiate through Qatar over freeing hostages in exchange for [an extended] cease-fire, [but] Israel has rightly resisted this idea,” Kemp wrote approvingly.
Buoyed by Israel’s impressive success so far on the Gaza battlefield, Netanyahu affirmed his resolve Sunday to press on with the war, and rejected the growing calls from the diplomatic community for an immediate halt to the fighting due to the large number of casualties being reported by Hamas.
Asked whether Israel could persevere in the face of widespread anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian protests across the United States and around the world demanding that Israel agree to a cease-fire, Netanyahu told NBC, “We will win this war. We have no other choice.”
HAMAS UNDER PRESSURE IS MAKING CONCESSIONS ON A HOSTAGE RELEASE
He also noted that “after the [Israeli] ground operation began, Hamas started changing its position on the proposed deal for the release of the hostages. It’s because they are stressed.” Netanyahu added, “If there is a deal, we will discuss it.”
Regarding the current location of the Israeli hostages being held in Gaza, Netanyahu said enigmatically, “We know a lot — but I am not talking about it.”
He also spoke about the ad hoc formation in the wake of the October 7 attack of “an alliance for peace” that “includes Israel, the United States, the moderate Arab states, and the rest of the civilized world.”
A few days earlier, Netanyahu told Fox News, “I think it’s clear what Gaza’s future has to look like, at the end of this battle, Hamas will be gone, we will destroy Hamas, not only for our sake but for the sake of everyone, for the sake of civilization, for the sake of Palestinians and Israelis.”
WHY ISRAEL MUST TAKE OVER GAZA AGAIN
“What we have to see is Gaza demilitarized, deradicalized, and rebuilt, and all of that can be achieved,” the prime minister said. He also emphasized that even though Israel doesn’t want to conquer, occupy, or govern Gaza, in the wake of the October 7 attack, it really doesn’t have any other choice.
Netanyahu wouldn’t predict how long it would take for the IDF to destroy Hamas. He compared the war in Gaza to the years-long fight by a U.S.-led coalition to defeat the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, He then said he hoped it would not take that long, but then added, “I set goals, not timetables.”
In a televised interview Sunday with veteran CNN reporter Dana Bash, Netanyahu was asked whether Israel is doing enough to facilitate the release of an estimated 239 hostages, mostly civilians, who were kidnapped on October 7 and who are still being held in Gaza.
He answered, “Yes, we’re doing everything we can around the clock.
“I can’t talk about it. I have personally met with the families of hostages several times. And it just tears your heart out. . .”
NETANYAHU PRESENTS ISRAEL’S TWO MAIN WAR GOALS
“We’re doing everything and many things that I can’t say here, obviously, but this is one of our two war goals. One is to destroy Hamas, and the second is to bring back our hostages.
“We will do everything we can, and we think the entire world should join us, demand from the Red Cross that it demand visits to the hostages. Demand the unconditional release of the hostages. Say that this is barbarism that is unacceptable.
“I’d like to see the U.N. secretary-general, who basically laid the blame on Israel, lay the blame on these savages, demand that they obey international law because Israel is fighting according to international law.
“The Israeli army is doing an exemplary job trying to minimize civilian casualties and maximize terrorist casualties. But we need the international community not to give succor, support, and moral support and legitimacy to the sheer evil that Hamas represents.”
When asked by CNN reporter Bash, “whether there can be a negotiation that works towards a deal to free large groups of hostages in exchange for a sustained, days-long pause in fighting,” Netanyahu said that he might consider such a deal if it meant the release of a sufficient number of the hostages.
“I said that we’re going to pursue the battle to destroy Hamas to its end,” the prime minister began. “But I also said that the only cease-fire that we would consider is one in which we have our hostages released. And that remains true.”
At another point in the interview, Netanyahu also expressed his dismay at Hamas’ willingness to take Israeli babies as hostages. “Who takes a baby hostage? What is this — taking children hostages, threatening to kill them? This is savagery of the highest order. . .”
ISRAEL IS FIGHTING TO PROTECT CIVILIZATION AGAINST BARBARISM
“So, obviously we’re doing everything in our power to. . . destroy Hamas, because, without it, none of us have a future. And it’s not only our war. It’s your war too. It’s the battle of civilization against barbarism. And if we don’t win here, the Middle East will fall. Europe is next. You [the United States] will be next.”
The reporter then asked, “So how long of a pause would you be willing to support? Days, for example?” Netanyahu rejected the premise of her question.
“That’s not a pause,” Netanyahu insisted. “If you’re talking about stopping the fighting, that’s exactly what Hamas wants. Hamas wants an endless series of pauses that basically dissipates the battle against them.”
He then compared Israel’s current situation in Gaza to World War II after the U.S. and its allies had conducted the successful invasion of Normandy. Their war goal was nothing less than Germany’s unconditional surrender, and they would have rejected any German offer for a cease-fire that would have allowed the Nazis to recover.
Similarly, Netanyahu said, Hamas would prefer a cease-fire now that would force Israel’s military to “hold off. Let us replenish our supplies. Let us get out of our terror tunnels. Let us rearm ourselves and so on. Obviously, we’re not going to do that,” the prime minister declared.
The CNN reporter then noted that “the U.S. says that any postwar plan for Gaza must include Palestinian-led governance and Gaza unified with the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority. You appeared to reject that. You said Israel will not accept a ‘civilian authority there that educates its children to hate Israel.’
“Are you saying that Israel would not accept giving control of Gaza over to the Palestinian Authority after the war?” Bash asked.
NETANYAHU’S 3-STAGE PLAN FOR ENDING THE GAZA THREAT
In response, Netanyahu laid out a more detailed three-stage plan for permanently ending the security threat to Israel from Gaza.
“First thing we have to do,” he began, “is destroy Hamas, because, otherwise, they will do it again and again and again. And they have said so. So we will destroy Hamas.
“The second thing we have to understand is that there has to be an overriding and overreaching Israeli ‘military envelope,’ because we have seen [that] any place that we leave, [where] we just exit, give it to some other force, very soon, [there is a] terrorism resurgence, so we have achieved nothing.
“The third thing we have to understand is that a civilian authority has to cooperate in two goals. One is to demilitarize Gaza, and the second is to de-radicalize Gaza. And I have to say that the Palestinian Authority has unfortunately failed on both counts.
“They don’t demilitarize the West Bank, Judea and Samaria. We have to do it. We have to go in and fight the terrorists. They don’t de-radicalize.
“[Instead] they teach their children the hatred of Israel. They pay for terrorist murderers and their families. The more Jews they kill, the more they pay.
“They refuse, to this day, 36 days after this savagery, to condemn what Hamas did on October 7.”
WHY NETANYAHU IS DEMANDING A DIFFERENT PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY
“There has to be a reconstructed civilian authority. There has to be something else.
“Otherwise, we’re just falling into that same rabbit hole, and we’re going to have the same result. Remember, the PA [Palestinian Authority] was already in Gaza. When Israel left Gaza, it handed the keys over to the PA. And what happened? Within a very short time, Hamas took over, and kicked them out. They weren’t willing to fight Hamas. They’re still not willing to fight Hamas.
“So, you have to have some kind civilian Palestinian authority that is willing to fight the terrorists, and importantly, educate their children for a future of peace, cooperation, prosperity, [and] cooperation with Israel, not the annihilation of Israel.
“So far, that hasn’t happened. The burden of proof is on the PA, and they failed every single count. I say that regrettably, but honestly. We have to be realistic about what we expect. We can’t fall back on formulas that failed. We have to succeed to give Gaza a better future, not bring it [back] to a failed past. . . Let’s create a different reality there.”
CNN REPORTER INSISTS THAT NETANYAHU TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR OCT. 7
The otherwise cordial CNN interview ended on a sour note for Netanyahu, when reporter Bash insisted that he “take personal responsibility for failing to prevent the October 7 attacks and protecting your people. I know you say the time for that will come after the war. Why won’t you take responsibility now?”
Netanyahu responded by saying, “I have already addressed that many times. And I said this whole question will be addressed after the war.” He had also said previously, “There will be an investigation, and everyone will have to answer difficult questions. We all bear the responsibility. No one will avoid responsibility.”
But when reporter Bash refused to accept that response, and insisted that Netanyahu accept the blame for the Hamas attack immediately, Netanyahu asked, “Did people ask Franklin Roosevelt [that question] after Pearl Harbor? Did people ask George Bush [that question] after the surprise attack of September 11? Right now, I think what we have to do is unite the country for one purpose, and one purpose alone — that is to achieve victory.
“That’s what I did. We formed a unity government. . . And what the people [of Israel] expect me to do right now is two things. One, achieve this victory and bring the hostages back, and, second, assure that Gaza never becomes a threat to Israel again.”
Netanyahu then repeated, “I said that I’m going to answer all the questions that are required, including the questions of responsibility. There will be enough time for that after the war. [For now] let’s focus on victory. That’s my responsibility now.”
BIDEN PUSHING FOR A POST-WAR RETURN TO THE TWO-STATE SOLUTION
Unfortunately, Netanyahu’s formula for the pacification of Gaza after Israel achieves its goal of victory over Hamas fundamentally conflicts with the Biden administration’s vision of reviving the failed two-state solution and the creation of a Palestinian state, starting the day after the fighting in Gaza stops.
As a Wall Street Journal editorial notes, “While Israel focuses on winning the war against Hamas, the U.S. has been pressing for commitments on what will come next. Speaking in Tokyo last week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken laid out five ‘Nos’: “No forcible displacement of Palestinians from Gaza. . .. No use of Gaza as a platform for terrorism or other violent attacks. No reoccupation of Gaza after the conflict ends. No attempt to blockade or besiege Gaza. No reduction in the territory of Gaza.”
The editorial continues, “Mr. Blinken followed his five ‘Nos’ with three ‘Musts’: the way forward to peace “must include the Palestinian people’s voices and aspirations at the center of post-crisis governance in Gaza. It must include Palestinian-led governance and Gaza unified with the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority. And it must include . . . a pathway to Israelis and Palestinians living side by side in states of their own, with equal measures of security, freedom, opportunity, and dignity.”
But in response to questions from reporters about the impracticality of the U.S. trying to impose a “two-state solution” on Israel and the Palestinians the day after the fighting in Gaza stops, Secretary of State Blinken did admit that “that there may be a need for some transition period at the end of the conflict” in which Israel keeps some control. In essence, he was agreeing with Netanyahu’s earlier statement that, “I think Israel will, for an indefinite period, have the overall security responsibility because we’ve seen what happens when we don’t have it.”
NETANYAHU IS INSISTING ON ISRAELI SECURITY CONTROL OF GAZA
Netanyahu has been insisting in his recent statements that after the fighting stops in Gaza, Israel must retain security control there, by which he means that Israeli forces must retain the ability to enter Gaza freely in order to hunt down terrorists, in much the same way that it has been doing in response to the recent increase in the number of attacks in the West Bank.
The Wall Street Journal editorial also cited the historical evidence supporting Netanyahu’s conclusion that the Palestinian Authority is not up to the peacekeeping task in Gaza. When Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 and turned it over to the Palestinian Authority, the people of Gaza promptly voted for a Hamas-led government in 2006 and then saw Hamas overpower the PA in 2007, staging a violent coup in which PA officials in Gaza were thrown off the roofs of buildings. Since then, the editorial notes, “the Palestinian Authority hasn’t held another election in the West Bank, knowing Hamas could win there, too.”
The editorial also condemns the chutzpah of the PA’s 87-year-old ruler, Holocaust-denier Mahmoud Abbas, for trying to dictate terms for a post-Gaza war peace, by telling U.S. officials that he will only agree to take over Gaza again “as part of a comprehensive solution including a Palestinian state.”
Netanyahu has also made it clear that, while Israel does not want to rule over Gaza’s population, which has been indoctrinated since 2007 in hatred for Israel by Hamas, it now sees little choice. “We don’t seek to conquer Gaza, we don’t seek to occupy Gaza and we don’t seek to govern Gaza,” he said. “[But] we’ll have to find a civilian government that will be there, [and] we have to have a credible force that, if necessary, will enter Gaza and kill the killers. . .”
GAZA MUST BE DEMILITARIZED, DERADICALIZED AND REBUILT
“What we have to see [after the fighting stops],” Netanyahu concluded, “is Gaza demilitarized, deradicalized and rebuilt,” under Israel’s supervision.
For those who may be unhappy with that proposed outcome in Gaza, the Wall Street Journal editorial asks, “If Israel isn’t taking on the terrorists, who will?”
Certainly, it would not be another United Nations peacekeeping force like the one in southern Lebanon, which has failed so miserably in carrying out its mandate after the 2006 war to prevent Hezbollah from rearming. Perhaps it could be a multi-national force from the several Sunni Arab states that have recognized Israel, although that seems unlikely at the current time due to the extreme hostility towards Israel in the Arab street.
The editorial notes that while Blinken “talks as if the [long moribund U.S.-sponsored Oslo] peace process can soon return to ‘regularly scheduled programming,’ after October 7, it can’t. . . Until there is substantive change among Palestinians, it is futile to demand that Israel empower them to do it all over again in central Israel.”
The editorial therefore concludes that the only way to ensure that Gaza is never again used “as a platform for terrorism” is through “a decisive Israeli victory and more [post-war] flexibility than [the Biden administration’s] “Nos” and “Musts” allow.
In a televised interview with Fox News conservative commentator Sean Hannity on Monday night, Netanyahu began by thanking the American government and its people for standing with Israel. He also thanked President Biden for his ardent support of Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas in the wake of the October 7 attack.
NETANYAHU SAYS ISRAEL IS FIGHTING A WAR BETWEEN GOOD AND EVIL
Then Netanyahu returned to the concept he mentioned in his CNN interview, that Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza is a battle between good and evil, between barbarism and Western civilization.
“Who’s going to win?” Netanyahu asked rhetorically. “Are the good guys going to win or the bad guys are going to win? And, of course, we have to make sure that the forces of good, the forces of peace, the forces of progress and prosperity, win, and not the forces that take us back to the Dark Ages. That’s the battle.
“It will affect every single person, not only in the Middle East, but well beyond, because, if Israel is in peril, if the Middle East goes down, Europe is next.
“It’s like ISIS,” Netanyahu explained. “You know, people thought [ISIS] was a local thing. It wasn’t. It was a global thing. And it affected Americans. It beheaded Americans.”
“What the antisemites don’t realize is, the attacks start with the Jews, but they never end there,” the prime minister said. “That’s what happened in the Holocaust. People said, oh, well, the attacks of the Nazis on the Jews before World War II, or even [at] the beginning, that’s OK.”
“No, it wasn’t, because it afflicted all of humanity, all of civilization, and that’s what you have here too,” Netanyahu continued. “The reason they’re attacking Israel is that this axis of terror understands that we’re the forward position of the West and of civilization. We’re just a stumbling block on the way to you.”
GAZA CIVILIANS USING ISRAEL’S HUMANITARIAN PAUSES TO FLEE
As the Israeli invasion of Gaza entered its third week, the main focus of international attention was the fate of the patients and medical personnel in Gaza’s hospitals, who are being used by Hamas as human shields, and the fate of the civilians whose neighborhoods in Gaza City have been turned into rubble by Israeli attacks on the military targets that Hamas deliberately placed in their residential areas.
Israel’s military forces also have the daunting task of finding a way to attack the terrorists hiding in the maze of tunnels that Hamas has built underneath Gaza’s hospitals, mosques, and schools over the past 16 years, while at the same time preserving as many innocent civilian lives as possible.
The intense fighting and Israeli air force bombardment in northern Gaza has prompted hundreds of thousands of Palestinian civilians to follow Israel’s advice, and embark on a perilous march to the south. While Israel has agreed to daily pauses of four to six hours in the fighting to allow for the evacuation of civilians, it has rejected calls for longer periods of cease-fire because they would give the Hamas forces, which have been battered by intense Israeli air and ground attacks, an opportunity to regroup, recover and attack once again.
The so-called humanitarian pauses were announced on Thursday, November 9, by both Prime Minister Netanyahu and Biden administration spokesman John Kirby in separate but coordinated statements. Netanyahu told Fox News that “the fighting continues against the Hamas terrorists, but in specific locations for a given period of a few hours… We want to facilitate a safe passage of civilians away from the zone of fighting, and we’re doing that.”
Israel also opened a second north-south safe passage corridor for civilians in Gaza on the road along the Mediterranean coast, in addition to the original safe passage route, the Salah-a-Din highway located further inland.
Before the announcement, Biden had been pressuring Netanyahu for the previous two weeks to agree to much longer pauses in the fighting, in order to ease the growing criticism of Israel and the U.S. in the diplomatic community over the high number of casualties in Gaza that Hamas has been reporting. But Netanyahu rejected the pauses of three days or longer that Biden had originally asked him for, because they would have given Hamas too much of a respite from Israeli military pressure. They would also have made it much more difficult diplomatically for Israel to renew the fighting in Gaza again once each of the pauses was over.
BIDEN CALLS THE PAUSES “A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION”
Nevertheless, Biden welcomed the shorter pauses that Netanyahu was willing to implement. In a message on X (formerly known as Twitter), the president wrote, “These pauses will help get civilians to safer areas away from active fighting. They are a step in the right direction.
“You have my word: I will continue to advocate for civilian safety and focus on increasing aid to alleviate the suffering of the people of Gaza,” Biden added.
Then, in an apparent effort to further distance himself from Israel’s determination to keep fighting until Hamas is destroyed, Biden reiterated, “Let me be clear: Israel makes its own decisions.”
“They are fighting an enemy embedded in the civilian population, which places innocent Palestinian people at risk. They have an obligation to distinguish between terrorists and civilians and fully comply with international law,” the president wrote.
Biden also admitted in response to a reporter who asked him if he was frustrated with Netanyahu’s response to his requests for pauses in the Gaza fighting, that “It’s taken a little longer than I hoped.”
In order to make it harder for Hamas to exploit the daily pauses in military operations, Israel is shifting the starting locations each day and announcing them with very little advance notice. For example, on Sunday the IDF announced a “tactical pause of military operation for humanitarian purposes” in the Jabalya refugee camp and Ezbet Mallin to last only for four hours during which time Gazans in that area wanting to evacuate could safely travel towards the south.
Video footage showed men, women, and children making the trek, on foot and on donkey-drawn carts, many waving white flags and carrying little more than a backpack full of essential items. Explosions could be heard nearby.
ANOTHER 200,000 CIVILIANS IN GAZA HAVE ALREADY GONE SOUTH
Israel estimates that the humanitarian pauses have already enabled up to another 200,000 civilians to flee from the areas of most intense fighting in the north to reach areas of “relative safety” in the south. That means that more than two-thirds of Gaza’s total population of 2.3 million people have now heeded Israel’s pleas for them to abandon their homes to avoid the fighting.
The IDF’s Arab-language spokesman, Avichay Adraee, in a tweet announcing the expanded safe passage routes to the civilians of Gaza, said, “Do not listen to what some Hamas leaders say from [the safety of] their hotels abroad or from the underground places they have arranged for themselves and their family members. For your safety, take advantage of the [open roads] to move south, beyond Wadi Gaza.”
In addition, IDF spokesman Daniel Hagari said that huge numbers of Gaza civilians are taking advantage of the safe passage routes to reach safety in the south because they now “see that Hamas has lost control” in northern Gaza to the invading Israeli ground forces.
ISRAEL ON THE VERGE OF CONQUERING GAZA CITY
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant declared Monday that Israeli forces would soon fully capture Gaza City. “There is no force of Hamas capable of stopping the IDF,” Gallant said confidently. “The IDF is advancing at every location. The Hamas organization has lost control in Gaza: Terrorists are fleeing south, and civilians are looting Hamas bases. They have no confidence in the [Hamas] government.”
Previously, Gallant announced that the Israeli army was employing unspecified methods to ensure that there are no Hamas fighters or Israeli hostages among the tens of thousands of Gaza civilians moving south under Israeli protection. “We take everything into account,” Gallant said. “First, we want all the Palestinian [civilians] to leave Gaza City. That is important so that we have freedom of action [against Hamas]. We don’t want to harm them. Those who don’t head south are placing themselves in danger.
“[Second] we have methods… to ensure that those who leave are those who are supposed to leave, and that we get our hands on all the rest.”
AN EMPHASIS ON THE SAFE RETURN OF CHILD HOSTAGES
Gallant also reiterated the government’s pledge that Israel will not stop fighting Hamas until all of the captives are returned, especially the dozens of children who have been abducted and are now being held by the Hamas “animals.”
“We won’t stop the fighting until we get them back,” the defense minister promised. “What father stops looking for their children? I see them as my own kids,” he declared.
Declaring that the war in Gaza is “the most justified war that Israel has ever fought,” Gallant depicted it as a fight “against evil, against those who wanted to publicly display the murders [on October 7 in order] to drive us out of our land.” He also expressed his full confidence in the Israeli soldiers who have told him they are willing to do “everything” to achieve victory.
Meanwhile, the Israel Defense Forces said it had “opened and secured a passage” for civilians to leave from the Rantisi and al-Nasr hospitals in Gaza City. Both pediatric hospitals are now empty. The last holdouts in Rantisi left on Sunday, a day after the staff at Nasr evacuated its patients and displaced the civilians seeking safety there.
Dr. Bakr Gaoud, the head of the Rantisi hospital, said, “We dragged our patients on their beds on the street to the south.” He added that the patients in poor condition were brought to the nearby Al Shifa hospital, while everyone else made their way south, away from the main area of fighting.
HAMAS PRISON FOUND BENEATH A GAZA CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL
On Tuesday, IDF spokesman Daniel Hagari presented the evidence Israeli troops had found the previous evening, showing that Hamas had committed a war crime by storing weapons and holding hostages in the rooms underneath the Rantisi children’s hospital.
One of the prison cells in the hospital’s basement was set up to look like a living room, featuring window curtains covering a tiled wall and a calendar of guard shifts starting on October 7. In an adjoining room was a chair with a woman’s robe and a rope sitting next to one of its legs, which was apparently used to keep the hostages tied up. Next to the chair was a piece of equipment donated by the World Health Organization, with a baby bottle on top and diapers lying next to it on the floor. The prison complex beneath the hospital also included makeshift bathrooms, a kitchen, and ventilation pipes.
Israeli troops also found a cache of weapons in the hospital’s basement, including suicide bomb vests, grenades, AK-47 assault rifles, explosive devices, and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs).
In a video that was photographed in the hospital’s basement, IDF spokesman Hagari is seen standing in a room decorated with a colorful children’s drawing of a tree above the cache of terrorist weapons which were found there and displayed on the floor, as he explains that “Hamas uses hospitals as an instrument of war.”
Aid groups and medical workers at the few remaining hospitals still functioning in northern Gaza said that they too were pinned down by fighting and had no electrical power, because they had exhausted their supplies of fuel needed to run their emergency generators.
The Palestine Red Crescent Society is the Muslim equivalent of the Red Cross. It operates Al-Quds Hospital in northern Gaza, where 14,000 Gaza civilians had taken shelter. It, too, was no longer in operation because of a power outage due to lack of fuel. A spokesman for the Red Crescent also said that the Al-Quds hospital was about to be overrun by Israeli tanks.
HAMAS IS USING AL-SHIFA AS ITS COMMAND CENTER
Meanwhile, Al-Shifa, Gaza’s largest hospital, with 1,500 beds and a staff of 4,000, has become a major battle zone in recent days. Israeli and American intelligence agencies have long believed that it houses Hamas’ most important command and control centers, as well as the headquarters of its senior military leadership. However, the Israeli military insists that it is “taking all feasible measures to mitigate harm to civilians in the hospital.” A senior Israeli official has said that Hamas might also be holding some of its Israeli hostages taken on October 7 in the tunnels underneath the hospital, further complicating the Israeli military’s mission there.
During several previous Israeli military incursions into Gaza since the Hamas takeover in 2007, Al-Shifa was spared by the Israeli military out of concern for civilian life, but at the cost of leaving the Hamas command and control complex and other facilities beneath the medical center intact. That is a mistake that Israeli officials insist will not be repeated this time, despite any international outcry.
“The hospital will be surrounded, [and] pressure will be put on people to leave,” said Chuck Freilich, a former Israeli deputy national security adviser. “I don’t see Israel going headlong against the civilians, but the hospital — or at least what’s underneath it — has got to be cleared out, [but] it’s not going to look good [to the rest of the world],” Freilich warned.
A large portion of the buildings that now make up the Al-Shifa complex were built by Israel during the years when it ruled Gaza, from the end of the Six Day War in 1967 until the disengagement that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon ordered in 2005.
AL-SHIFA’S UNDERGROUND “METRO”
When Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007, after ousting the PA, it began to dig out the areas next to the original basements of Al Shifa’s buildings. Then it started digging deeper, adding several floors underground, with designated spaces for meetings, living quarters, and weapons storage facilities, and connected the hospital to the rest of the network of reinforced terrorist tunnels that Hamas was building throughout Gaza.
Today, both Hamas and Israeli intelligence officials refer to the tunnels underneath Al-Shifa as “the Metro,” comparing it to the largest stations in New York City’s subway system.
Hamas officials officially deny using the Al-Shifa hospital as a military facility, but during a three-week skirmish between Israel and Hamas in 2008, journalists reported seeing armed Hamas fighters dressed in civilian clothing roving freely through civilian areas of the hospital. During the 2014 Israeli invasion of Gaza, Hamas leaders routinely used the hospital grounds as a safe place to hold its news conferences with reporters, and, according to an Amnesty International report, Hamas used “the outpatients’ clinic area, to detain, interrogate, torture and otherwise ill-treat suspects, even as other parts of the hospital continued to function as a medical center.”
According to Munir al-Bursh, director-general of Hamas’ Gaza Health Ministry, around 10,000 displaced Gaza civilians and 1,500 patients were still trapped at Al-Shifa hospital last Sunday, and the hospital was “besieged” by Israeli forces “from all sides.”
HAMAS REFUSED ISRAELI OFFERS TO HELP THE HOSPITAL
Al-Shifa has also lost its electrical power and can no longer run its emergency generators because Israel has not permitted diesel fuel to be included in the truck convoys that have been bringing humanitarian into Gaza through Egypt’s Rafah border crossing. Israel argues that outside shipments of fuel are unnecessary because Hamas has huge stockpiles of fuel hidden in Gaza, but is unwilling to share it with local hospitals or the civilian population. Israeli officials also believe that Hamas would steal any new supply of fuel brought into Gaza, to keep the ventilators running in the hundreds of miles of terrorist tunnels used by its fighters.
Prime Minister Netanyahu said Sunday that Hamas authorities had refused Israel’s offer Saturday night to provide Al-Shifa with “enough fuel to operate the hospital, operate the incubators and so on.”
He also told NBC “We offered the Al-Shifa Hospital fuel to operate the hospital. They refused. I offered to build a field hospital and help transfer the patients to the southern areas of Gaza. [But] Hamas is hiding in the hospital and does not want the hospital to accept the fuel.”
Nevertheless, on Sunday morning, Israel delivered an emergency shipment of 75 gallons of diesel fuel near the entrance of the hospital, for the purpose of restarting the generators supplying electricity to the incubators. But according to the IDF spokesman, Hamas fighters did not permit members of the hospital staff to go outside in order to bring in the containers of fuel. Bursh later confirmed that Hamas had rejected the emergency shipment of Israeli fuel, because, he said, it was only a fraction of the 2,500 gallons of fuel the hospital needs to run all of its generators each day.
Meanwhile, after the last of the electrical power for the incubators in Al-Shifa shut down, the medical staff moved more than 30 premature babies to beds near a still-functioning HVAC unit in an effort to keep them warm. IDF spokesman Richard Hecht said that the Israeli military was trying to help evacuate the babies from Al-Shifa, but that “Hamas is meddling in this,” and that assistance from a neutral third party, such as the International Red Cross, was needed to save them.
AL SHIFA’S STAFF IS AFRAID TO LEAVE
The Israeli military said it has told members of the staff at Al-Shifa that people inside the hospital can safely evacuate via the doors on the east side, but doctors at the hospital say that the heavy gunfire and explosions continuing in the vicinity of the hospital make trying to leave from there still unsafe, and that any movement of wounded patients is unfeasible. Dr. Ahmed Mokhallalati, a surgeon at the hospital, told the Washington Post that out of the hundreds of patients remaining in Al-Shifa, about 60 are in critical condition. He also said that “the area [around the hospital] was full of smoke, literally you can’t see more than 10 meters [about 30 feet] in front of your eyes.”
After a second day of intense fighting Sunday in the immediate vicinity of the hospital, IDF spokesman Hecht said that Israeli soldiers still “haven’t gone in yet,” and said that their ultimate goal was to convince the Hamas fighters still inside Al-Shifa “to come out and surrender,” rather than putting the patients and medical staff inside the hospital at further risk.
Meanwhile, the IDF announced on Tuesday that it was organizing the transfer of 37 incubators, four ventilators, and other pieces of medical equipment to the Shifra hospital in order to help save the lives of its patients after the hospital’s director accepted the offer from a senior Israeli official.
Though the Biden administration has continued to support Israel’s right to continue its war of self-defense and to oust Hamas from Gaza, American officials have continued to insist that Israel must do everything it can to reduce civilian deaths and keep Gaza’s hospitals safe.
BIDEN AIDE SULLIVAN WARNS ISRAEL AGAINST “FIREFIGHTS IN A HOSPITAL”
“The bottom line for the United States is that we do not want to see firefights in a hospital,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told CNN on Sunday.
“We do not want to see innocent patients who are sick or wounded be injured or killed in the crossfire,” he said. “So that is how we look at this issue, and that is how we are communicating with our Israeli counterparts.”
On the other hand, in another interview with CBS News Sunday, Sullivan noted that Israel has said it’s working to ensure the safety of patients “while they also try to figure out a way to deal with the fact that Hamas is operating outside the bounds of any civilized concept of how you would think about using a hospital, [and] using human shields.”
Sullivan also agreed that “without getting into intelligence information, we can just look at the open-source reporting that Hamas is using hospitals as it uses many [legally protected] facilities for command-and-control, for weapons storage, to house its fighters, and this is a violation of the laws of war.”
While re-confirming President Biden’s initial position “that Israel has the right, indeed the responsibility, to go after Hamas, which continues to represent a threat to the State of Israel,” Sullivan also made it clear that the U.S. intends to pressure Israel into accepting a two-state solution leading to the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, once the fighting in Gaza is over.
“The basic principles of the way forward are straightforward,” Sullivan said. “No reoccupation of Gaza; no forcible displacement of the Palestinian people; Gaza can never be used as a base for terrorism in the future; and Gaza’s territory should not be reduced.”
“Ultimately, we do want to see the reconnection, the reunification of control between the West Bank and Gaza under Palestinian leadership.
NO GOING BACK TO OCTOBER 6
But Sullivan also said that the Biden administration recognizes that, “Post-October 7, we cannot go back to the way things were on October 6. That goes for ensuring that Hamas cannot represent a continuing threat to Israel. . .
“Hamas spokespeople have in fact said they want to repeat October 7 again and again until Israel is wiped out, that they want to be in a permanent state of war with Israel.
“Israel is going to prosecute this campaign against a terrorist group,” Sullivan declared, but then added, “We also can’t go back to October 6 when it comes to governance [of Gaza and the West Bank].”
GAZA’S HUMANITARIAN CRISIS CONTINUES
According to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), as of Saturday evening, 914 trucks carrying humanitarian aid have crossed the Egyptian border into Gaza, with Israel’s permission, since the deliveries were started on October 21. But those deliveries are “far below the quantities [of food, water, and other humanitarian supplies] needed to meet the needs of over 2 million people besieged in Gaza,” the agency said.
As a result, the situation of the civilian population of Gaza grows more desperate by the day. For example, according to OCHA, no bottled water has been distributed to displaced people living in shelters across Gaza for more than a week.
Hospitals in southern Gaza were already overcrowded and stretched for resources before the hospitals in the north closed down. They are ill-equipped to receive any more patients among those civilians who have been fleeing from the north at Israel’s suggestions. Only two hospitals in the south have the capacity to treat complex injuries, and they are already struggling to treat those who have been injured in central and southern Gaza, according to Fikr Shalltoot, the Gaza program manager for the Medical Aid for Palestinians organization.
At Abu Youssef El-Najar Hospital, a small medical facility in the Gaza half of the city of Rafah, located on the Egyptian-Gaza border, there are limited supplies of electricity, gas, medicine or water, a doctor working there has told the Washington Post. The hospital also has just 18 dialysis machines to serve more than 200 patients with failing kidneys, the doctor added.
HEZBOLLAH STEPPING UP ITS MISSILE ATTACKS IN THE NORTH
Meanwhile, both Israel and the United States were concerned about the deadly missile attacks on northern Israel from Lebanon by Hezbollah, and the possibility that they could escalate into a full-scale war in support of Hamas in Gaza, forcing Israel to divide its forces.
The Axios news site reported that Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin had called Israeli Defense Minister Gallant to express his concerns that Israel might provoke Hezbollah with its strong military responses to the sometimes deadly cross-border attacks.
Gallant responded by assuring Austin that Israel also did not want a second front to open in Lebanon, and did not believe this would happen, while noting that it was Hezbollah that was ramping up its attacks on Israel.
Since Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel, Hezbollah has conducted and overseen daily strikes from Lebanon, across Israel’s northern border resulting in the deaths of two Israeli civilians and six Israeli soldiers. But so far Hezbollah has stopped short of launching a full-scale military campaign.
On Sunday, 13 Israeli civilians were wounded, and one was killed by an anti-tank guided missile fired by Hezbollah at a number of vehicles near the northern community of Dovev, close to the Lebanese border. Some of the casualties were employees of the Israel Electric Corporation, who had come there to repair power lines that were damaged by a previous attack from Lebanon.
In another Hezbollah attack, seven Israeli soldiers were wounded by a mortar shell that landed near the northern community of Menara.
Hezbollah continued to fire anti-tank guided missiles at northern Israel on Monday. Two Israelis were hurt in that attack.
In response, Israel has attempted to walk a fine line, retaliating with significant firepower, using its artillery and air power to strike selected Hezbollah targets in Lebanon, but avoiding a response strong enough to prompt Hezbollah to escalate the simmering conflict into a full-scale second front on Israel’s northern border.
Since October 7, 71 Hezbollah members, eight Palestinian terrorists, a number of civilians, and one Reuters journalist have been killed by the Israeli retaliatory fire at Hezbollah targets in Lebanon.
SLOW RESPONSE TO THE IRANIAN-INSPIRED ATTACKS ON U.S. TROOPS
Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Austin said U.S. forces carried out two air strikes against Iran-supported forces in eastern Syria on Sunday in retaliation for a series of rocket and drone attacks on bases where American troops were stationed in Syria and Iraq since the war started in Gaza, wounding at least 56 U.S. troops. It was the third time the U.S. military had carried out such strikes, and Austin hinted that the U.S. was willing to strike again.
“These attacks must stop. And if they don’t stop, we won’t hesitate to do what’s necessary to protect our troops,” Austin said Monday in Seoul, after holding security talks with his South Korean counterpart.
WILL ISRAEL RUN OUT OF TIME TO FINISH THE JOB?
While the threat of an unintended escalation of the war in Gaza into a large-scale regional conflict between Israel and Iran’s proxies in the region remains real, the greater danger, from Israel’s point of view, is that the Biden administration will run out of patience and cut off its crucial military support before the Israeli army can finish its mission of destroying Hamas in Gaza.
But even after Hamas is ultimately defeated, it seems certain that there will be difficult times ahead for the U.S.-Israeli alliance, as Biden and Netanyahu clash head-on over their differing visions for a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Israel’s future in the Middle East.