In the midst of an all-out war between Israel and Hamas, it is a challenge to understand the intricacies of what is happening. The situation is ever evolving and is complex, with numerous events unfolding simultaneously and critical details emerging on various fronts.
Israel finds itself entangled in a multifaceted struggle with Hamas. Israel’s goals include seeking out terrorists and destroying the Hamas infrastructure, locating the hostages, shoring up security, and protecting Israeli soldiers and her citizens. The conflict involves not only military operations but also complex political, humanitarian, and diplomatic considerations.
To gain a comprehensive understanding, let us delve into how Israel is navigating this challenging terrain. The details of Israel’s strategies, tactics, and decision-making processes provide critical insights into Israel’s approach to handling the complexities of this war.
The Hostage Situation
On October 7th, Hamas took 240 hostages captive. Between November 24th and 31st 110 hostages were released, including 81 Israeli women and children, one Russian Israeli man, and 24 foreign nationals.
Ohad Lapidot, the Canadian Israeli father of Tiferet Lapidot, who was murdered at the Supernova festival, told Community that during the painful ordeal, he was heartened by our nation’s unity in a tangible way: “It was really important to see the love, the support, and the solidarity of Jewish people… Keep your chins up, I’d say.”
Lapidot was pleased to see how many rallies there were around the world, but although rallies help morale, he believes that “social-media warriors” play an integral part in the war effort, too.
“Public opinion is important. We have the tools with us, and we have to keep telling the truth – that we are under Nazi-like barbarian attacks and we should defend ourselves,” he said.
Lapidot told Community that he experienced the strength of Jewish achdut when strangers, both in Israel and the Diaspora, offered to help.
While touring in North America to tell his story, he met a man who kept a photo of Tiferet in his siddur and prayed for her. “I don’t know his name. We’ve never met before, but I do know he’s Jewish and he’s family,” Lapidot said. “I lost my daughter, and he believes he lost a niece.”
Difficult Truths About the Hostages’ Conditions and Release
The liberation of the hostages came at a high price. Israel made the difficult decision to release over 230 Palestinian security prisoners – meaning each one was convicted of committing violent crimes and acts of terror – and agreed to halt military operations temporarily, and facilitate daily humanitarian aid and fuel deliveries to Gaza.
After the hostages’ release, disturbing revelations about their captivity emerged. Eylon Levy, an Israeli government spokesperson, condemned the conditions where the hostages were held in what he called “Hamas terror dungeons.”
In his November 29th briefing, Levy detailed, “Our children were serially abused. The hostages were not held in reasonable conditions.” Twelve-year-old Eitan Yahalomi was forced to watch videos of the October 7th massacre. Sisters Dafna and Ella Elyakim endured psychological torment, while elderly women hostages experienced significant weight loss and medication deprivation, indicative of the severe conditions and neglect.
While the release of hostages brought relief to many, it also highlighted the ongoing heartache for those still separated from their loved ones. In a December 6th update, IDF Spokesperson Daniel Hagari reiterated the critical mission to rescue the remaining hostages. “Our intelligence has been closely monitoring the hostages’ situation, confirming that every minute in Hamas captivity poses a life-threatening risk,” he stated.
Levy reported on December 10th, “137 hostages from October 7th remain in Hamas captivity in Gaza, along with four others taken before the massacre. Twenty hostages from October 7th were killed by Hamas, which is now holding their bodies.”
The IDF’s Offensive Strategy – Tactics That Are Turning the Tide Against Hamas
The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have executed a series of strategic maneuvers that have disrupted Hamas’s leadership and infrastructure and have caused an unforeseen outcome – the surrender of numerous Hamas operatives.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, speaking at a Hanukah event with Nahal Brigade troops in the south, said, “We are seeing every day more and more terror operatives killed, more and more terror operative wounded, and in recent days we’re seeing terrorists surrendering – a sign of the disintegration of their system.” He noted the rising toll of casualties and “white flags” among terror operatives.
As Yair Pinto of TBN Israel reports, this significant change is the result of the IDF’s carefully designed strategic military operations, characterized by precision and an unwavering commitment to national defense.
December 14th saw dozens of terrorists – weapons laid down – emerge from the Kamal Adwan Hospital, surrendering to the IDF. On December 15th, Senior Hamas official, Mousa Abu Marzook, made an unexpected statement: “respect the recognition of Israel.” His comment alluded to following the PLO’s stance on Israel’s existence, in order to head the Palestinian Authority in the future to end the internal Palestinian conflict. However, later he backtracked.
Khan Yunis School Site – Not Only for Learning
The IDF’s 55th Brigade battled terrorists in a school located in Khan Yunis in southern Gaza on December 14th, as reported by the IDF Spokesperson. The military operation was initiated based on intelligence indicating suspicious activities within the school, where terrorists had launched attacks on IDF soldiers. During the raid, Israeli forces confronted a terrorist cell armed with firearms and rocket powered grenades (RPGs), resulting in a firefight that led to the elimination of the terrorists.
Further exploration of the school revealed an underground combat complex. An airstrike was executed to dismantle the complex, targeting its physical structure and control and observation centers utilized by Hamas. Throughout the ground offensive in Gaza, Israeli forces consistently discovered terrorist infrastructure, such as tunnels and weapons storage, within and adjacent to civilian areas, including schools, hospitals, and homes.
Israel’s Complex Approach to Complicated Warfare
The IDF’s approach involved a three-stage operation. Initially, aerial strikes targeted key Hamas locations to disrupt their operational strength. This was followed by efforts to neutralize explosives and traps, clearing the way for ground operations. The final phase saw infantry, tanks, and engineering units strategically encircling and targeting Hamas-controlled areas to dismantle their terror infrastructure.
One of the critical challenges for the IDF in this urban warfare scenario, as Pinto points out, is distinguishing civilian structures from those used by Hamas fighters. “Identifying a normal house from a terror house in the Gaza Strip is an almost impossible task,” Pinto explained, emphasizing the IDF’s innovative efforts to minimize civilian casualties.
In Jabalia, the IDF neutralized about 200 underground terror tunnels. In Beit Hanoun the IDF dismantled 40 terror tunnels and over 240 Hamas positions. In Khan Yunis, the IDF’s operations focused on ensuring civilian safety, with targeted strikes carried out after civilian evacuation.
These strategic advances, particularly in the southern Gaza Strip, and the use of advanced technologies, like the flooding of Hamas terror tunnels with sea water, have significantly weakened Hamas, leading to the surrender of many of their militants.
Furthermore, the IDF’s strategic scope extended beyond Gaza. In Yemen, a joint operation with the United States targeted Houthi positions, uncovering the use of advanced Iranian-made missiles. Along Israel’s northern border, engagements with Hezbollah demonstrated the effective use of the Iron Dome system and subsequent strikes that have diminished Hezbollah’s capabilities.
The IDF’s operations demonstrate a blend of strategic insight, technological innovation, and a commitment to reducing civilian casualties. These operations shed light on the complexities of modern warfare and the challenges Israel faces in its ongoing conflict with Hamas.
Political and Humanitarian Considerations
Former Knesset member (Yesh Atid) Rabbi Dov Lipman pointed out that as the war progresses, the biggest challenges for the IDF are to destroy Hamas, while not hurting the hostages, and minimizing civilian casualties.
“We have the power to carpet bomb Gaza and destroy Hamas. But we cannot forsake the hostages, and we are the most sensitive army in the history of the world to civilians being harmed. This means we have to use our ground troops to carefully go through the buildings and deal with the tunnels, which leads to our soldiers being killed and injured. It’s a really complicated situation,” said the founder and CEO of Yad L’Olim, an organization that helps new immigrants to Israel.
“The U.S. support has been remarkable. Their support of our military effort and their involvement with the hostage releases has been really important. I just hope that it continues,” he told Community.
“We will have to fight in southern Gaza and this will lead to civilian casualties. The U.S. has already shown displeasure with that and I hope we don’t reach a breaking point in which they pressure Israel to stop before the job is done.”
After the War Is Over
Once the war is over, Lipman is uncertain as to who, or what, will oversee Gaza.
“I don’t know. It can’t be Hamas. That’s for sure. I believe we will have our forces there for quite some time. There will have to be some kind of international effort with the IDF still having the ability to enter and deal with security issues.”
Despite the uncertainty and turmoil, Lipman said he’s heartened to see so many Jews outside of Israel lend their support. “I have been so inspired by the response of Diaspora Jewry. The amount of donations that people are giving, the number of people who are coming to Israel to volunteer, and the number of rallies, prayer gatherings, group acts of kindness, have been remarkable. Those should continue.”
His organization is “bombarded with requests” from soldiers who need equipment, materials, and clothing, in addition to requests from evacuated families.
What Israelis Worry About
Oded Revivi, Mayor of Efrat, said that the October 7 attack “breached so many understandings” that have led people to ask whether they are ultimately safe or protected. “Are those who are responsible for their protection able to protect them? And if not, what do they need to do in order to protect themselves? That, I would say, is the biggest concern right now.”
Efrat residents have not been displaced, “so that is not a relevant worry,” Revivi said. They are, however, “definitely worried about their beloved ones who are at the front line now. They’re definitely worried about employment and income sources because in times like this everything gets jeopardized. But I would say the number one concern is the lack of sense of security.”
Lipman said that Israelis are currently most concerned about the hostages and the soldiers. “Everyone has family members who are fighting. Everyone is close to someone who has family in captivity. It’s a painful and anxious time for all. The economic issues are somewhere in the back of our minds and will come to the fore at some point. But right now it’s our brothers and sisters.”
In terms of the battle against Hamas, Revivi acknowledges that Israel faces outside pressures from those who may not grasp the entirety of the challenges.
“As time goes by, it is evident that it’s going to take longer than the international community would have liked. The amount of civilian casualties involved is definitely something which the international community and Israel are concerned about. Israel does its best to spare innocents, yet still has to eliminate these horrific terrorists, so that they do not repeat their brutal acts. That’s why the challenge is, ‘how do we gain more time to conclude what we actually need to conclude?’”
“If you compare it [the October 7th massacre] to what the Americans wanted to do after 9/11, so you understand the severity of the attack, and you understand how long it takes for a country to basically protect itself from acts like this repeating.”
Meanwhile, Revivi is thankful for the U.S. government’s support, when that friendship is most needed. “Support we’re gaining from the American administration is definitely heartwarming and definitely allowing Israel to carry out what we need to do. I only hope that that support will carry on, and will stay at the same level so we can really complete the mission.”
“I think the Diaspora Jews have been absolutely amazing … by their support, by their unity, by their generosity, and by their concern as to what’s happening in Israel. I think it’s been a very long time since we saw such unity in Israel, and also amongst the Jews in the Diaspora,” he said.
“That is definitely very heartwarming. I can also say that people in Israel are looking at the rise of level of anti-Semitic attacks happening in the Diaspora, and we’re definitely very worried about your safety, and your welfare, in the countries that you live in, including the United States.”
As Israel grapples with the challenges posed by terrorism, we see the journey to root out these threats is long and arduous. Our nation’s unwavering commitment to its security remains resolute, embodied by the brave men and women of the IDF.
It is imperative for us to unite in solidarity and offer our heartfelt prayers for the safe return of the hostages. They serve as a poignant reminder of the human toll exacted by acts of terror. As we extend our thoughts and prayers for them, we must also extend our gratitude to the dedicated IDF fighters who sacrifice so much to safeguard us and our nation.
Now the Jewish community must remain vigilant, recognizing that efforts to aid Israel are of paramount importance. Solidarity, cooperation, and a collective commitment will ensure that Am Yisrael stays united. Together, let us keep Israel in our thoughts, prayers, and actions.