Operation Swords of Iron – Update No. 5

  • Prime Minister Netanyahu addressed the nation last night saying, “We didn’t want this war. It was forced upon us in the most brutal and savage way.”
  • “The savage attacks that Hamas perpetrated against innocent Israelis are mindboggling: slaughtering families in their homes, massacring hundreds of young people at an outdoor festival, kidnapping scores of women, children and elderly, even Holocaust survivors. Hamas terrorists bound, burned and executed children.”
  • Adding: “Hamas is ISIS and just as the forces of civilization united to defeat ISIS, the forces of civilization must support Israel in defeating Hamas.”
  • Israel has now confirmed the death toll has risen to 900, with over 2,600 injured.
  • The Israeli Airforce has continued its bombing campaign, striking 1,290 Hamas targets inside the Gaza Strip. The strikes have focused on Hamas’s capacity to fire rockets and other military assets.
  • Nevertheless, rockets have continued to be fired into Israel, though since last night at a less intense rate. Overall, there have now been over 4,500 incoming rockets directed at Israel.
  • Meanwhile, a Hamas military spokesman yesterday warned that “any targeting of civilian homes without advanced warning will be met regrettably with the execution of one of the enemy civilian hostages we hold, and we will be forced to broadcast this.”
  • IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi spoke last night with his US counterpart, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Charles Brown. They agreed to fully coordinate and to prepare for severe scenarios in the event of a multiple-theatre war. A US Aircraft Carrier is expected to arrive in support soon.

Northern front: Hezbollah fired mortars on Israeli border positions yesterday morning, while in the afternoon four armed men infiltrated Israeli territory and killed two Israelis troops, one of whom was Lt. Col. Alim Abdullah, 40, the deputy commander of the 300th “Baram” Regional Brigade and from the northern Druze village of Yanuh-Jat.

  • Two of the infiltrators were killed while the other two fled to Lebanon.
  • The IDF responded by bombing positions in southern Lebanon, reportedly killing three Hezbollah operatives. Hezbollah retaliated with an anti-tank missile fired at an IDF vehicle and with more mortar fire on Israel. No further Israeli casualties were reported.
  • The direct source of the attacks out of Lebanon is thought to be Palestinian – Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). However, their moves will have needed to be authorised by Hezbollah.
  • By engaging Hezbollah operatives on Lebanese soil, Israel is departing from a tradition which has lasted since the end of the 2006 Lebanon War.

Context: The Israel government has articulated its goals as “stripping Hamas of its capabilities”, with Minister Avi Dichter telling Army Radio that the aim was “denying or destroying the military terrorist infrastructure used by Hamas and Islamic Jihad and damaging Hamas’s governance in Gaza.”

  • Dichter added: “Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza as governmental organisations and mainly as military organisations won’t remain after this war.”
  • The IDF has called up 300,000 reserves who await their deployment.
  • Israel has now confirmed it is in full control of the border area, with growing anticipation that there will be a ground incursion into the Gaza Strip. However, its scale and depth are unclear, with plans being formulated by the head of the Southern Command.
  • A ground offensive in Gaza has not been launched since Operation Protective Edge nearly ten years ago.
  • While IDF doctrine has always provided for the prospect of a multi-front war, an escalation of the conflict with Hezbollah presents a task of an altogether different magnitude than fighting Hamas. The Lebanese group is considerably better trained, equipped, and resourced.
  • As a further element of Israel’s response, Defence Minister Yoav Gallant yesterday said of Gaza that “there will be no electricity, no food, no fuel, everything is closed.”
  • Dealing with a massacre and mass casualties on such a scale, it was untenable for Israel to continue supplies as normal into the Gaza Strip.
  • It is hoped that pressure will be brought to bear on Hamas to release the hostages.

International support: Israel continues to receive wide and unequivocal backing from its international allies. In a joint statement yesterday, the US, UK, France, Germany, and Italy said that “our countries will support Israel in its efforts to defend itself and its people against such atrocities. We further emphasise that this is not a moment for any party hostile to Israel to exploit these attacks to seek advantage.”

  • The Palace of Westminster was last night lit with the colours of the Israeli flag. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak also attended a service at Finchley United Synagogue last night, where he said “I am unequivocal… there are not two sides to these events. There is no question of balance. I stand with Israel. We stand with Israel. The United Kingdom stands with Israel.”
  • Ten British Jews are believed to be among the dead and missing.
  • Around 5,000 people attended a vigil for Israel near Downing Street last night. Senior members of all three main UK political parties were present, along with the Chief Rabbi.

Looking ahead: Efforts are underway within the international community to resolve the hostage situation. A spokesman for the Qatar foreign ministry said his country has been holding talks with all sides and has suggested a proposal for a first step: female Palestinian prisoners in Israel for female Israeli prisoners in Gaza.

  • Meanwhile, sources involved in talks between Prime Minister Netanyahu and National Unity Party Chairman MK Benny Gantz have talked up the prospects of the forming of a national unity government, with a final decision expected this afternoon following coalition meetings. Maariv polling shows 80 percent of Israelis in favour of a unity government.