And then, this happened …
I was sitting at the back of a meeting of our national Jewish Federations of North America earlier this week, and maybe 150 or so leaders from around the continent were discussing how we help. What we’ve done, why it’s important, and more. Nationally, our Jewish Federations have raised $781 million for the Israel Emergency Fund. For trauma relief and terror victims, which goes to protect, to recover, to build resilience and stand in solidarity.
And then a speaker asked “how many of you have visited Israel since October 7th?” Every hand that I could see around me was in the air. All these lay and professional leaders who have all boarded planes in the last four months – exactly four months today – to hug, to show love, to stand in support. I’ve never been prouder to work for our Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest. Because at a moment’s notice, we can bring the entire solidarity and love of the Jewish community to Israel, right at the moment of need.
Also, thank you to the men of “United Citizens League” in Essex County, who hosted me last night for a full discussion on community security and safety. We’re grateful for your community spirit, and look forward to lots more collaboration.
Speaking of community spirit, and if you’re looking for something powerful to watch: our Jewish Historical Society of Greater MetroWest assisted a production company who made a very chilling and poignant documentary about the history of the Nazi movement in our country. JHS’s use of its Warren Grover Collection is the key to understanding the rise of facist groups during that period. JHS’s work with the production company spanned over a few months and the final product is outstanding. I totally recommend it, and you can see that they acknowledged the JHS in the credits. This is now online and you can view the film here: https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/nazi-town-usa/
In Israel, Staff Sgt. (res.) Hanan Drori, 26, died from a fungal infection after being seriously injured in Gaza, bringing the total of troops killed in the ground offensive against Hamas to 227(and to 563 since the outbreak of war). See Drori’s story here and details of all the fallen soldiers here. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the country last night. In his comments he said, “Peace and security require total victory over Hamas. We cannot accept anything else…. Without total victory Iran and its terror proxies—Hamas, Hezbollah, the Houthis and others—will be emboldened to subvert moderate states in the Middle East; they’ll threaten the entire free world….Only total victory will prevent that…. Total victory over Hamas will not take years. It will take months. Victory is within reach.” Watch his full remarks here.
The IDF uncovered a strategic tunnel under the city of Khan Younis that was used to hide high-ranking members of the organization and to hold hostages. The tunnel is believed to have held twelve hostages at various times, three of whom were released two months ago. During searches, several rooms were discovered inside the underground complex, including a barred cell where hostages were held, a bathroom, and a rest area used by terrorists holding the hostages. Additionally, intelligence materials and weapons belonging to Hamas were found. IDF Intelligence estimates suggest millions of dollars were invested in the construction of the facility, which is part of an intricate and interconnected underground network. It was linked to another tunnel where additional hostages were held. See video footage as well as photos of the findings.
Israel’s Government and the IDF are working on a plan that will see a lengthening of compulsory military service as well as reserve duty days, as a result of the war. Military service for males (and some females) will be extended from 32 to 36 months, and the age when males will no longer have to perform reserve duty will be changed from 40 to 45 for enlisted soldiers, (and up to the age of 50 for officers).
Khan Younis in southern Gaza has been the site of the war’s heaviest fighting in recent weeks. Dozens of terrorists, including high-ranking commanders, have been killed in targeted airstrikes and close-quarters combat. The IDF continues to uncover tunnels, weapons stores and other munitions aimed at killing Israelis. Military analysts have said that defeating Hamas in southern Gaza is key to defeating the terrorist organization and to removing its threat to Israel and the greater region. Some background: The IDF has dismantled hundreds of Hamas posts in Khan Younis including a military intelligence building, tunnel shafts, launch pads for firing rockets, a rocket manufacturing facility, communications posts and offices of many senior officials. Over the weekend, IDF troops raided the main headquarters of Hamas’s Khan Younis Brigade. The complex, known as the Al-Qadsia Outpost, also housed the office of Muhammad Sinwar, a senior Hamas military commander and the brother of the terror group’s leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar. The outpost included a training ground of model targets (including mock entrances to Israeli communities), IDF bases, and military vehicles, all of which were used by Hamas to do simulations and to prepare for the October 7 massacres. IDF discoveries in Khan Younis continue to reveal Hamas’s strategy of hiding behind human shields. The IDF uncovered an extensive tunnel system where Israeli hostages were held that was built under civilian infrastructure. Hamas terrorists continue to operate from and around Nasser and Al-Amal hospitals and launched a rocket from within Nasser Hospital. Terrorist infrastructure and weapons have been uncovered in the vicinity of schools and mosques, and Hamas terrorists have been found hiding within civilian shelters. The IDF established a humanitarian corridor from the city that was used by 120,000 Palestinians to evacuate to safer areas. The IDF identified 500 terror suspects hiding within the civilian population who were handed over for questioning. Field hospitals donated by Jordan and the UAE are operating in Khan Younis.
According to a report in the New York Times, Israel believes that 32 out of the 136 hostages are dead. In Israel, a careful process exists for declaring the death of a soldier where there is no body. The decision is assigned to a special committee made up of representatives of the IDF, the Ministry of Health, the Chief Rabbinate, medical personnel and others. According to the media, there are a further twenty hostages where insufficient evidence is available to make a clear determination. In the event that these people have also perished, then only 84 of the hostages remain alive.
Meanwhile, it is understood that Hamas has issued a counter-proposal to a possible hostage deal being suggested by Qatar, Egypt and the US. According to many reports, Hamas has now proposed:
- In Phase One, all women, children, elderly, the injured, and female soldiers (35 in total) would be released in exchange for one day of ceasefire per hostage plus ten days of ceasefire for negotiations. In addition, Israel would release 1,500 prisoners, 500 of whom would be chosen by Hamas (and would include some terror “heavyweights” such as those serving time for murdering Israelis, as well as those who participated in the October 7 massacres). Hamas is also demanding that the IDF withdraws its forces from the centers of cities in Gaza and that humanitarian aid to the Strip is doubled.
- In Phase Two, all remaining hostages would be released in exchange for a further 45 days of ceasefire, a large number of Hamas prisoners freed, and the IDF would redeploy all forces outside the Gaza Strip.
- In Phase Three, all bodies of Israelis would be returned in exchange for the bodies of Hamas terrorists; there would also be a third period of 45 days of ceasefire. A permanent arrangement for Gaza would also be negotiated. Israel is reportedly willing to consider allowing Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar to leave Gaza alive and go into exile as part of a deal.
- It is clear that Israel will not accept all of these conditions; however, negotiations continue.
The number of Hamas rocket attacks on Israel remains low. In the last two weeks, it has averaged just one or two per day. In the north, Hezbollah continues to fire at Israeli targets. Today, three soldiers were injured (one seriously) when terrorists fired an anti-tank missile at the city of Kiryat Shmone. In the Red Sea, the US, the UK and Israel continue to defend against attacks by the Iran-back Houthi rebels in Yemen. Similarly, the US military continues to strike at pro-Iranian targets in Syria and Iraq.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken began the second day of his seventh wartime visit to Israel. He met with war cabinet ministers Benny Gantz and Gadi Eisenkot today and then with Opposition Leader Yair Lapid. Yesterday, Blinken met with Prime Minister Netanyahu and other leaders. Read the full text of his remarks in Jerusalem yesterday, here.
Watch this video clip of Hamas officials vowing to “destroy Israel” and “murder Jews around the globe.”
Liora Argamani, the mother of Israeli hostage Noa Argamani, “just wants a chance to hug her daughter one last time and bid her farewell.” Liora is suffering from terminal brain cancer and time is running out.
Our Jewish Federations’ Israel Emergency Campaign has now surpassed $775 million system-wide; and has allocated more than $300 million to a wide range of humanitarian organizations in Israel. See a detailed update on allocations here.