Liveblog (2): Israel under attack

14 November 2023

Israel under attack

On Saturday, Oct. 7, Israel was attacked by Hamas terrorists. 1400 Israelis were killed, 5400 were injured and more than 200 people (between 9 months old and 85-years-old) were kidnapped. They are still in captivity and their whereabouts and how they are doing remains unknown.

This liveblog starts on the 30th of October. Click here to see the previous liveblog (7-28 October). 

Dec. 8, 14.00 (CET)

Photo: Jonatan Sindel/Flash90

Yesterday evening, on the first night of the Jewish Holiday Hannukah, 138 candles were lit at the Western Wall in Jerusalem for the 138 Israelis who are still being held hostage in the Gaza Strip by Hamas terrorists.

Dec. 6, 14.00 (CET)
Update from our correspondent in Israel, Yochanan Visser

Herzi Helavy, the commander-in-chief of the Israeli army, gave a press conference this morning explaining the situation on the various fronts. According to him, Hamas has lost many commanders since the resumption of the ground war. As for the northern front, the army continues with purely defensive actions aimed at protecting the civilians of northern Israel. It was clear from his words that the IDF is not currently considering launching an offensive against Hezbollah and Hamas in southern Lebanon.

Warning: Graphic content!!

The English-language Israeli newspaper The Jerusalem Post published an article yesterday about the atrocities Hamas committed against female IDF soldiers on October 7. The article was based in part on the testimony of IDF forensic experts who bore the bodies of murdered female IDF soldiers on October 7. One of these experts was Shari Mendes, an IDF reservist working for the IDF rabbinate. Mendes gave her testimony at a United Nations building in New York. There, the Israeli action group held ‘Hear Our Voices: Sexual and gender-based violence during the Hamas terrorist attack on October 7,’ held a meeting with UN diplomats and reporters.

Mendes said there had been sexual mutilation of bodies of the female soldiers. Many had been killed by bullets in their vaginas or breasts. Other bodies were headless or breastless. In a filmed report, an eyewitness told us that she had seen a terrorist cutting off the breasts of female IDF soldiers and playing with them after raping the dead body. There were many bodies without heads or other limbs and one decapitated body had a knife protruding from the neck.

Other bodies of female IDF soldiers had all the characteristics of being burned alive at very high temperatures. The terrorists had mutilated the faces of many female IDF soldiers beyond recognition. They had been shot in the face or eyes. According to IDF experts, mutilating the faces of the female soldiers was evidently part of Hamas’ operational plan. Other soldiers had been shot through their skulls at close range and had large holes in their heads so that the brains came out.

Mendes and the Shura team of the IDF rabbinate worked day and night to pay the remains of the female IDF soldiers the tribute due every dead person but them in particular, she told the shocked audience. Evidently, the meeting did not miss its effect on UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and the UN Women’s Rights Organization either. After eight weeks, they finally condemned ‘Hamas’ brutal attacks on Israel on October 7’.

Red Sea Area
In the Israeli seaside resort of Eilat (in the south), the air alert went off again around 1 p.m. this afternoon after Yemen’s Ansar Allah militia fired a ballistic missile at Eilat. The missile was shot out of the sky over the Red Sea by the IDF’s Arrow 3 anti-missile shield.

The IDF succeeded in dividing the town of Khan Younis into two parts. The same thing happened earlier with the town of Jabalya in northern Gaza. The troops in Khan Younis are engaged in house-to-house fighting after the Israeli Air Force carried out large-scale bombing last night. Retaking Gaza and destroying the Hamas regime is likely to take a long time (Defense Minister Galant talks about two months).

There is still no full IDF control of northern Gaza, especially Jabalya. There are still firefights going on between the terrorists and IDF units. The IDF further seized a huge amount of rockets, RPGs and anti-tank missiles in northern Gaza today.

Northern Israel
The (so far) limited war with Hezbollah in northern Israel continues unabated, albeit less intensively. This could also be due to the heavy rainfall in Lebanon today. It was reported by Lebanese media that the IDF conducted a drone attack on a Hezbollah position near the village of Yaroun. There was also artillery shelling by the IDF on several targets in southern Lebanon, according to the same sources. Just moments ago, the IDF confirmed the reports in the Lebanese media.

Nov. 22, 15.20 (CET)
Update from our correspondent in Israel, Yochanan Visser

Israelis woke up this morning with a glimmer of hope – for the first time since Black Sabbath on October 7 – as fifty hostages are likely to be released by Hamas. The full Israeli government debated late into the night an exchange of these fifty-plus hostages for one hundred and fifty Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. Finally, the decision was made to approve the deal, brokered by Qatar and the US government. Only Otzma Yehudit’s three ministers voted against it.

Itamar Ben Gvir, the leader of this group, says that this prisoner exchange is dangerous for Israeli hostages and may lead to the death of more IDF soldiers when the war resumes after a four-day cease-fire. Indeed, Hamas will have time to regroup and move weapons, which will frustrate the IDF advance. According to the National Security Minister, some youthful hostages and women – despite this deal – will remain in Gaza, which is morally unsound. Ben Gvir also said that Israel should have waited until Hamas was truly brought to its knees, as that would have created a better chance of a deal in which virtually all hostages would have been released.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu assured the cabinet and the Israeli public that the IDF will finish the job against Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad after the cease-fire ends. “We are at war and will continue the war until we achieve our goals. Those goals are the elimination of Hamas, the return of all hostages and a Gaza that no longer has threatening elements.”

Details cease-fire agreement
Hamas will release 12 to 13 hostages every day for the next few days, starting Thursday, Nov. 23. Among them are children and women (mothers). Palestinian Islamic Jihad says it will not release hostages “because they are not part of the deal and thus can continue their terrorist activities.” Of the 40 children being held, only 30 will be released, while of the 13 hostage mothers, only eight will be released. This immediately sparked criticism because it was always said that Israel would not allow Hamas to make a selection of children and mothers.

At this stage, Israel will release 150 female and juvenile Palestinian terrorists who are not being held for murder. These are young men aged 16 to 18 who were mostly convicted of throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails. Among the women are terrorists who wanted to carry out knife attacks or were involved in organizing terrorist attacks. If there were an extension of the cease-fire, another 150 Palestinian prisoners could be released. For every 12 to 13 hostages, 37 to 38 Palestinian prisoners would be released.

Israel will allow two hundred trucks carrying humanitarian aid per day into Gaza during the cease-fire, including fuel. The latter was also criticized for allowing Hamas to replenish its depleted supply of fuel.

Israel will withhold spy drones and balloons flying over Gaza for six hours a day during the four days of the cease-fire. This is also controversial because it would allow Hamas to move weapons and troops. However, the IDF and Shin Bet say Israel has other means of spying on Gaza. These could be spy satellites or drones that can observe from a high altitude without being seen from the ground.

The swap and cease-fire agreement was brokered by a team from the Biden administration and a team of Qatar negotiators led by Emir Al-Thani. Al-Thani had a telephone conversation last week with President Joe Biden who demanded more concrete information about the hostages to be released. Several days ago, Hamas finally gave the requested information to the emir and the Americans, after which Biden called Prime Minister Netanyahu. The latter reluctantly gave a preliminary green light to move forward with the agreement.

Hamas has now announced a large number of rockets will be fired at Israel just before the temporary truce takes effect. This has always been the practice in previous cease-fire deals between Israel and the jihadist terror group in Gaza. Israelis now have 24 hours to submit petitions against the government’s decision on the deal to the Supreme Court. If the court rejects these petitions, implementation of the deal can begin.

No decline in fighting
Meanwhile, fighting continues on two fronts. Air alarms sounded in several places in both the south and north. It is expected that after the Gaza cease-fire takes effect, Hezbollah will increase its attacks on northern Israel. More actions by the Ansar Allah militia in Yemen are also expected. Iran announced Tuesday that it was considering a fourth front against Israel. That could be the Golan.

Nov. 20, 19.45 (CET)
Update from our correspondent in Israel, Yochanan Visser

Gaza after the war
With the Israeli army making progress in Gaza, we see discussions develop about the future of Gaza once the IDF has recaptured Gaza. Most of the ideas, however, amount to hot air as we shall see.

US President Joe Biden has his own thoughts on the future of Gaza and the never-ending conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs. The president took the unusual step of writing an opinion article for The Washington Post in which he not only wrote about the war in Ukraine, but also laid out his vision for the future of Gaza and the resolution of the more than 100-year conflict.

“The Palestinians deserve a state”, Biden wrote before addressing the resolution of the conflict and the future of Gaza. According to Biden, the solution to the conflict is still a ‘two-state solution’: “two peoples living side by side with an equal degree of freedom, opportunity and dignity. The president then addressed the future of Gaza. In his view, Gaza must never again be used as a platform for terror, but Gaza must also never again be the site of a “new occupation, siege or blockade”. “Gaza and the West Bank should be reunited under one governing structure, the Palestinian Authority, which must be revitalized.” According to Biden, violence by “settlers” in Judea and Samaria must stop. At the same time, he indicated that terrorist threats should never again be able to arise from Gaza and the West Bank.

PA disqualifies itself
The American president thus believes that a resuscitated Palestinian Authority should take over the administration of Gaza. However, for the Israeli government, as well as the Israeli opposition, this is a no-go. Especially after the PA claimed on Sunday that the Israeli army would be responsible for the massacre at the Nova music festival last October 7. The PA claimed that the IDF had applied the so-called Hannibal protocol to the festival. This protocol, abolished in 2016, provided for almost complete military freedom to prevent the kidnapping of IDF soldiers. In a statement posted on its pages on social media, the PA Foreign Ministry further claimed that Israel had fabricated video footage meant to justify the offensive against Hamas. The statement disappeared after a furious response from the Israeli government.

The PA’s continued failure to condemn the October 7 massacre is an absolute no-go for Israel regarding Biden’s idea of renewed PA rule in Gaza. This week, the PA-affiliated terror group El Aqsa Brigade even acknowledged that it had participated in the atrocities in southern Israel on Black Shabbat. Biden’s vision for the future of Gaza’s governance will thus remain a pipe dream. Other ideas about the administration of Gaza after the war have since been floated, after Israel made it clear it was not interested in a repeat of the situation between 1967 and 2005.

United Nations?
One idea is a transfer of the administration of Gaza to the United Nations. Even as a temporary measure, however, this is also a no-go for Israel. This is because of the bad experience with UN agencies including UNRWA that takes care of Palestinian refugees and all their descendants, including in Gaza. UNIFIL in Lebanon, for example, was supposed to keep Hezbollah away in the area south of the Litani River. The Lebanese terror group now sits literally on the border with Israel and has been free to prepare its current offensive against the IDF. UNIFIL is nowhere to be seen.

Another idea is to ask a group of moderate Muslim states to assume the interim administration of Gaza. The question, however, is whether any states can be found that are willing to enter the Gaza quagmire. In fact, all of these solutions ignore the fundamental problem with Gaza. Since 2007, when Hamas violently took power in Gaza, entire generations have been brainwashed about Israel and Jews in general. We should realize that a significant portion of the terrorists who committed the atrocities on October 7 were civilians. Among them were even children as young as ten years old. Survivors in the kibbutzim around Gaza said that these children actively assisted in the slaughter of Israeli civilians and often showed pleasure in what they did.

Denazification in Gaza
Israeli politicians are now talking about the idea of a denazification process for the Palestinian population in Gaza following the overthrow of the Hamas regime. However, the process the Allies unleashed on the German population after World War II was primarily aimed at purging government institutions of Nazis. Only then were German textbooks rewritten and efforts made to build a liberal democracy in Germany.

In the case of Gaza, however, the hatred of Israel and Jews is based almost entirely on Hamas’ version of Islam. This now is the main problem, which resulted in the orgy of violence on October 7. The war being waged against Israel is a Ribat for Allah, a war meant to guard the borders of an Islamic state. This is not only the interpretation of Islam of Hamas, but in fact of the PA as well. This now raises the question of how the “denazification process” in Gaza should take place and by whom it should be led.

Saudi Arabia
When looking for an example of a recent example of a similar reform process in the Muslim world, Saudi Arabia comes to mind. There, under the leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS), sweeping reforms were implemented that ended Wahhabism, an extreme form of Islam that long defined life in Saudi Arabia. MBS’ reforms not only gave women in Saudi Arabia greater freedom and in some respects the same rights as men, but also made Saudi Arabia a leading nation in the Middle East. Instead of being an inward-looking country where non-Muslims were not welcome, Saudi Arabia became a place where some elements of Western culture became commonplace, such as concerts and sporting events.

The war launched by Hamas on October 7 was partly directed against the normalization process between Saudi Arabia and Israel, according to insiders. That process had reached a decisive stage and went against Iran’s plans for the Middle East. Before that, Saudi Arabia had indicated that the Palestinian issue should be included in the normalization process, but made no demands of Israel on the resolution of the conflict. The war Israel is now waging against Iran’s resistance axis reportedly brought no change in MBS’s attitude toward the normalization process with Israel. In fact, the fall of Hamas in Gaza fits into his vision of a more modern and liberal Middle East without the Muslim extremists led by Iran who constantly cause wars. Therefore, Saudi Arabia may well take a leading role in rebuilding Gaza and the necessary reforms in society there after the war. A solid scenario is more realistic than the plans Biden and others have regarding the need for change in Gaza.

Nov. 16, 12.00 (CET)
Update from our correspondent in Israel, Yochanan Visser

Israeli TV station Arutz 13 aired a short documentary this week about Oz, a farmer from the Negev. Oz, a father of four daughters, understood a disaster was unfolding in the Gaza border area on October 7 and grabbed his small truck and drove it at breakneck speed to the Nova music festival, next to kibbutz Be’eri.

On the way, he saw numerous burned-out cars and bodies of murdered Israelis, but he kept on driving to the festival site. Knowing the terrain very well, he managed to reach the festival site through the fields. He saw hundreds of young people desperately trying to get away from the terrorists who were firing at everyone. He picked up as many youths as he could and brought them to Moshav Masloel, where he lives. Oz ended up making 15 trips to the festival grounds and was nearly shot dead by two Hamas terrorists whom he mistook for IDF soldiers. The two were standing next to the corpse of an IDF soldier and when he shouted, ‘What’s happening?’ he understood they were terrorists. He shouted something in Arabic and stepped on the gas pedal. As if by some miracle, he was not hit by the bullets the terrorists fired at him.

Oz saw terrorists raping women, while others were shooting at anything that moved. In the end, Oz saved 120 young people in six hours’ time. Watch the report on Oz’s rescue here. The video is in Hebrew, but the images speak for themselves. The young woman at the end of the video is one of Oz’s daughters.

A video was also published in Israel this week about the children kidnapped by Hamas, of whom nothing has been heard after their disappearance. It involves dozens of children, the youngest being nine months old. You can watch the video here:

IDF soldiers from the 551st Brigade who entered a house in Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza found seven rockets under the bed in a child’s room. The house belongs to a Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist and was full of weapons and ammunition. In the al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, ‘important discoveries’ were made in the underground section about the Hamas command center located in the hospital. The director of al-Shifa hospital claimed yesterday afternoon that Hamas had taken dozens of bodies with it when it fled the hospital. He gave no further information about the identity of these dead people.

The IDF is still operating in the al-Shati refugee camp in northern Gaza. The search for weapons and terrorists is complicated by the high population density of the neighborhood. The ground action in al-Shati is being supported from the air by the Israeli Air Force, which has so far conducted 54 precision missile strikes on houses where terrorists had set traps for soldiers. IDF soldiers further found large stockpiles of weapons in a hotel filled with booby traps.

Elsewhere in Gaza, IDF units found a number of Iranian Bader 3 long-range rockets. These missiles could have easily reached the city of Haifa in northern Israel. In the area along the coast, IDF units are moving slowly. They have to be especially mindful of snipers firing at them from tower blocks. Large quantities of roadside bombs are also being used to hinder the IDF’s advance. It is clear, however, that Hamas and PIJ are fighting a losing battle. There is no more man-to-man fighting, only traps aimed at killing IDF soldiers and slowing the advance.

It was also announced last night that IDF soldiers found the body of Yehudit Weiss. She was one of the 240 kidnapped in Gaza. Yehudit’s body was found in a building next to al-Shifa hospital. After forensic examination, Yehudit’s family in kibbutz Be’eri was notified.

Northern front
Yesterday, Israel also responded again with bombings to threats from southern Lebanon. Israeli military censorship makes it difficult to get a clear picture of the fighting in the north. Hezbollah and other Lebanese media yesterday reported incessant shelling and bombing by the ‘Zionist occupation’. Al-Manar, Hezbollah’s mouthpiece, reported a total of eight attacks on ‘soldiers of the occupation’ with, presumably, Kornet anti-tank missiles. According to sources in Syria, Hezbollah has stationed eight hundred elite troops at the foot of Mount Hermon on the Golan Heights in recent days.

Nov. 15, 20.00 (CET)
Update from our correspondent in Israel, Yochanan Visser
Yesterday, the largest pro-Israel rally in the USA took place Washington DC. Nearly 300,000 people gathered in the US capital for a pro-Israel rally, using the slogan ‘Never Again’. The manifestation was primarily aimed at the release of hostages, from an estimated 33 countries, held by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Most of them are Israelis or Israeli citizens with foreign passports.

Families of the hostages also attended the manifestation, which was further attended by politicians from the Democratic and Republican parties. Senator Chuck Shumer of the Democratic Party pointed out that the slogan ‘From the river to the sea’ means that today’s Israel should be a country without Jews.

After the rally, an opinion survey was published in the USA that showed that one in five students at American universities is a supporter of Hamas. There has long been a very anti-Israel climate on the campuses of American universities in which Jewish students increasingly feel unsafe.

Humor is a powerful weapon in Israel’s fight against its enemies and in the international media arena. The BBC in England is perhaps the most hostile medium in the Western world. Channel 12’s satirical program Eretz Nehederet now recognizes the value of satire in exposing the absurdity of the behavior of the pro-Palestinian masses and media in the West. Eretz Nehederet featured a ‘BBC interview with Hamas leader Yahiah Sinwar’ on Tuesday night. The skit was in English and appeared to be aimed at an audience outside Israel.

Judea and Samaria
There is anxiety among Jewish residents of villages in Judea and Samaria. This has to do with fears of a coordinated attack on a number of Yishuvim as these communities are called in Israel. The concern increased on Tuesday after an exercise involving so-called paragliders was spotted in a Palestinian village in Samaria. Hamas used these flying parachutes on October 7 during its bloody invasion of southern Israel.

The situation in Judea and Samaria may be tense, but it does not compare to the reality on the other fronts. In the heartland of Israel, the IDF has the security situation under control as was evident again today. IDF units conducted raids in a suburb of Ramallah and in El Bireh. Furthermore, every yishuv in Judea and Samaria has its own security team that is on alert twenty-four hours a day and is trained as well as hardened in fighting terrorism.

Northern front
Shiite militias in southwestern Syria attacked the Golan Heights again last night with rockets. There were no reports of damage or worse. The IDF responded with artillery shelling on positions of these militias that approached up to five kilometers from the border.

The front with Lebanon was again the scene of hit and run attacks by Hezbollah. IDF used artillery to respond to continued rocket and mortar shelling by Hezbollah and Hamas in Lebanon. According to Lebanese media, Israel also sent reconnaissance drones as far south as the Litani River. The IDF is preparing to expand its confrontation with Lebanese terror movements and the Iranian resistance axis. Also today, the skies over northern Israel were full of the sound of fighter planes and drones.

News from Gaza today was dominated by the IDF’s activities around the al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City. There is a fair amount of fake news on this subject. For example, it was claimed that the IDF was conducting a siege of the hospital that serves as Hamas’ war headquarters. This is pertinently false. From the beginning, the IDF has guaranteed free access at one of the entrances to al-Shifa. The claim that the hospital ran out of fuel is also false. The IDF has continuously offered to deliver fuel to the hospital and is also supplying a variety of medical supplies such as incubators and respirators. According to the latest reports, IDF special units entered the underground section of al-Shifa and began combing the Hamas headquarters. There are also reports that IDF soldiers are in the western wing of the hospital where they are in contact with the medical staff and are assisting with the clearance of al-Shifa. The IDF also took over al-Quds hospital in Gaza City last night. This after the building was completely evacuated.

Nov. 15, 17.14 (CET)

More than 200 people have been held hostage by Hamas in Gaza since October 7th. Children, women, men and the elderly. No one knows about their fate. Do not silence their voices: pray for them. Bring them home now!