On Day 5 of Israel’s war with Hamas the casualty rate has yet again risen significantly. Additional hostile acts by Hezbollah are stoking fears of a two-front war.
Late in the afternoon today, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and National Union Chair Benny Gantz announced the formation of a national emergency unity government. Five National Unity MKs will join the government as ministers without portfolio, and a new Security Cabinet will be comprised of Netanyahu, Gantz, and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, with Minister of Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer as well as National Unity MK Gadi Eizenkot (a former IDF Chief of Staff) serving as observers.
Yesterday morning, Israel’s President Isaac Herzog met with President and CEO of Jewish Federations of North America Eric Fingerhut, along with the CEO of UJA Federation New York Eric Goldstein, and Jewish Federations Senior Vice President Rebecca Caspi, to discuss the emergency situation.
President Herzog said, “Israel is under attack and its people are grieving. But the Jewish state has always shown incredible resilience under fire and today is strong, determined, and united.” The president specifically thanked global Jewry, and singled out the North American Jewish community for “standing shoulder to shoulder with Israel in its hour of need” and thanked us “for all you are doing to speak up, support and defend Israel on the global stage: In the corridors of power, the press, social media and throughout the public arena. We in Israel feel greatly comforted by the fact that the entire Jewish People is with us at this fateful hour.”
In a massive display of unity with Israel, Jewish Federations have organized (or are planning) more than 115 solidarity gatherings in communities across North America. See more here.
The Home Front
The IDF reaffirmed that it has regained control of all cities in the country’s south and successfully prevented multiple terrorist infiltrations of the border fence with Gaza in the last two days. In addition, a Hamas diver trying to enter Israel via the sea was killed. In the last 24 hours, there have been seven live engagements between troops and Hamas terrorists inside Israel, and IDF forces have neutralized 18 gunmen. The military continues to warn that some terrorists may remain inside Israel from earlier incursions.
As more bodies are discovered from Saturday’s attack, the official death toll has risen above 1,200, and funerals are being held around the clock (see here). The IDF Rabbinate and other officials are struggling with the sheer quantity of bodies, significantly slowing both the identification process and the go-ahead for funerals (see details here). To accommodate the large number of military casualties, a new section has been opened at the national military cemetery on Mt. Herzl. Last night hundreds of volunteers showed up on site, following an urgent call to begin the somber task of digging fresh graves (see photo here).
Updated figures indicate that at least 14 US nationals and two Canadian citizens were killed in the Hamas attacks, and that some 20 Americans and two Canadians are still missing.
Significant rocket fire continues across much of the country; earlier today, the city of Ashkelon reported direct hits to property, where two people were lightly injured. Five buildings in Sderot were also hit. Rockets have also been reportedly launched by Hamas drones. Early this evening, sirens sounded across northern Israel as Israeli airspace was breached.
For a fourth straight day, millions of Israelis ran to shelters as sirens blared. Schools and most businesses remained shuttered across the country. A large area around the Gaza Strip has been declared a closed military zone, to which entry by civilians is prohibited. See map here.
At least 360,000 soldiers have been called up, thus boosting security in all areas of the country in preparation for a potential ground invasion of Gaza. See here for video footage of the IDF Chief of Staff Hertzi Halevi visiting troops who are readying for battle.
The IDF has already carried out strikes against more than 2,650 targets across the Gaza Strip since fighting began. Some 1,300 of those targets are multi-story buildings containing Hamas assets, including war rooms where the terror group manages the fighting against Israel. Overnight, the military hit the home of relatives of Mohammad Deif, the Hamas military commander, in Khan Younis, killing the commander’s brother and other family members. See footage here of overnight air attacks and here for the Israeli Navy’s attacks.
In the country’s north, additional attacks have stoked fears of a second-front opening, this time between Israel and Iranian-backed Hezbollah. Yesterday, some 15 rockets were fired into Israel from Lebanon. Earlier today, the IDF carried out a drone strike against a Hezbollah post in southern Lebanon in response to an anti-tank guided missile attack on an Israeli military post on the border. The IDF also launched artillery strikes against the source of the rocket fire. Last night, rockets were launched from terror forces in Syria towards the Golan Heights. See here for details on the threat of a multi-front war. Haifa’s Rambam Hospital, in preparation for possible conflict in the north, has opened its three-level, fortified, underground hospital wards. Other hospitals are following suit.
In a live address, US President Joe Biden pledged his country’s unwavering support for Israel, saying, “There are moments in this life, when pure unadulterated evil is unleashed on this world…This is what they mean by human tragedy, an atrocity at an unprecedented scale. It brings to mind the worse rampages of ISIS… Sadly, for the Jewish people it’s not new. This attack has brought to the surface painful memories, scars left by a millennium of antisemitism and genocide of the Jewish people…. In this moment, we must be crystal clear, we stand with Israel.”
Biden also announced that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken would visit Israel tomorrow in an act of solidarity. Yesterday evening, a plane carrying advanced armaments from the US landed at the Nevatim Airbase in southern Israel. This move will facilitate significant military operations and increase preparedness for other scenarios. It has also been confirmed that the US is considering sending a second aircraft carrier to the Eastern Mediterranean, in addition to the USS Gerald Ford and its accompanying fleet of warships and missile ships. See here for a piece on the importance of the US naval support for Israel.
Also yesterday, the leaders of the world’s leading democracies, US, Germany, Britain, France, and Italy issued a joint statement condemning the attacks on Israel by Hamas and expressed their “steadfast and united support” for Israel. “Over the coming days, we will remain united and coordinated, together as allies, and as common friends of Israel, to ensure Israel is able to defend itself, and to ultimately set the conditions for a peaceful and integrated Middle East region,” said the statement by US President Joe Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.