The Home Front
The IDF declared that it has regained control of all cities in the country’s south, and has also secured the entire border fence with Gaza, preventing additional terrorist infiltrations. At the same time, the military warned that some terrorists may remain inside Israel from earlier incursions. On Tuesday afternoon, members of an elite IDF unit killed four terrorists on Zikim Beach. The military says it spotted four armed men and “exchanged fire with the terrorists in the area and eliminated them.” The IDF confirmed that no terrorists have successfully managed to infiltrate into Israel from Gaza since yesterday.
All the Israeli communities adjacent to the Gaza border have been evacuated except for individuals who opted to remain in their homes. Most of the population is now staying either in hotels around the Dead Sea or in the center of the country. Last night, the IDF located 30 missing people near Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha in the south, three days after the initial attacks. The group of 16 Israelis and 14 Thais, who were all in good health, had been hiding, having run from Hamas gunmen. In an indication of the scale of the terrorist invasion that took place on Saturday, the bodies of at least 1500 Hamas militants have been found inside Israel.
The Israeli Government last night also confirmed that it knows the names of all those who are being held hostage by Hamas in Gaza and that at least 50 families have been informed. Watch the disturbing testimony of Avital, an Israeli mother who was kidnapped with her neighbor Adi Kaplon-Vital and her two children. Hamas terrorists took Adi to Gaza and gave the children to Avital who was released and is interviewed here. Adi is still being held by Hamas.
Intensive rocket fire continued throughout the day yesterday, but the frequency of attacks dropped overnight. On Tuesday afternoon, significant barrages have been fired at cities in the center of the country, including Tel Aviv and Herzliya.
For a third straight day, millions of Israelis ran to shelters as sirens blared, and schools and many businesses remained shuttered across the country. The Home Front Command advised all Israeli citizens to keep at least 72 hours’ worth of dry food and water in their shelters. Parents of school-aged children have been advised to remove social media apps from their kid’s cell-phones as Hamas is expected to release graphic videos of some of the hostages shortly, in order to avoid additional trauma.
The death toll, mainly from the first day of fighting, continued to rise dramatically and has now surpassed 900 victims. Of these, some are Arab and Druze Israelis, at least 11 have US citizenship and 2 are Canadian. In addition, 2 Canadians are among the missing. Citizens from other countries have also been killed, including 12 from Thailand and others from the UK, Germany, France and numerous other nations. (See more about American and Canadian victims here).
As is often mentioned, Israel is a small country where “everyone knows everyone.” As a result, it is rare to find an Israeli who does not know at least one person who has been killed. The country is also physically small, and the sounds of fighting and explosions can be heard by vast swathes of the population, on an almost constant basis. Television stations have been broadcasting news 24 hours a day since early on Saturday morning with no commercial or other breaks. During the news and discussions by military and other experts, the names and photos of those killed scroll down the side of screen. Among the dead are the son of the former Superintendent of Israel’s Fire and Rescue Services, the sister of a prominent TV anchorwoman, the son of a former government minister in Naftali Bennett’s cabinet, the Fire Chief of Kiryat Gat, the Mayor of Sha’ar Hanegev, and people’s friends, neighbors and others. Watch here the extremely difficult footage of a young woman explaining how the terrorists live-streamed the murder of her grandmother on the victim’s own Facebook page.
Above all, Israelis are haunted by the almost incomprehensible images of some 260 youth who were slaughtered at a rave party.
Tragically, six close relatives (four young children and their parents) of our friend Doron Almog, Chairman of the Executive of the Jewish Agency for Israel, were murdered in their home by the terrorists. Almog sent the following message to Jewish communities:
“We are in the midst of a war on the state of Israel. A war that was forced upon us by complete surprise, much like the Yom Kippur war. It is a very complex situation that we have never seen before. In all my years in Israel and in the IDF, I never believed that we would reach such a terrible scenario, in which hundreds of innocent civilians are on the front line, many of them murdered and kidnapped, including babies, children, women and the elderly. We are exposed to videos and pictures that show an unprecedented level of brutality of the enemy.
“These are horrific scenes from dark times. Yesterday evening I was informed that six of my family members were murdered in Kfar Gaza: Chen Almog Goldstein, Nadav Goldstein, their daughters: Yam and Agam and their sons: Tal and Gal. The grandfather of the family, Chen’s father, Giora Almog who for over 30 years raised generations of children in the kibbutz, just two weeks ago presided over the memorial service for the five members of our family who were murdered at the Maxim Restaurant in Haifa 20 years ago.
“We are facing a long military campaign, the extent and severity of which we still do not know, so I am asking you to stand by our side and as much as you can. The State of Israel is the state of the entire Jewish people. Those in Israel and those in Jewish communities everywhere.
“Our strength is in our unity” is now not just a slogan.
“I see you and your wonderful dedication. The WhatsApps, the phone calls, the messages, the reporting for duty and the solidarity – it is incredibly moving. The sense of shared responsibility, love and togetherness inspire pride and hope.
“Am Yisrael Chai.”