Israel – The State of the Nation: Seven Long Months

Israeli attack helicopters patrol the Gaza Strip at sunset.

Malte Ian Lauterbach reports on the situation in Israel and the Middle East, the events of the last few weeks on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, the protests against Netanyahu and renewed Israeli air strikes on Damascus.

Almost seven months have passed since Hamas overran southern Israel on October 7th, carrying out unprecedented murder, looting, committing unspeakable violent crimes and taking hundreds of hostages prisoner. More than 1300 people died - undoubtedly one of the darkest days for Israel in decades. The events of October XNUMX shocked Israel and the world - not only because of the brutality of the crimes, but also because of the complete surprise with which the attacks took place. That is the real impact of terror - the unpredictability, the spontaneity, the subsequent loss of confidence in one's own safety.

More than a thousand fighters crossed the border into Israel with bulldozers, hang gliders, divers and the Hilux pickup trucks that are almost mandatory for militias. There were about half a dozen soldiers between them and the major Israeli cities - Through long months of deceptive peace, many were there to protect the Israeli settlersn the West Bank has been withdrawn.

More than 300 soldiers, police and private security guards died in desperate fighting in the early hours of the morning. How many lives they saved will probably never be entirely clear. In Sderot, Hamas even took over a police station and killed all the recruits inside. After heavy fighting, it was completely in ruins 18 hours later. A resident of Sderot reported to Berlin Story News: “Like in the movie – no stone is left standing on another here!” The morning after, Israel experienced a global wave of solidarity; The Brandenburg Gate was illuminated blue and white, and thousands also met in Germany for vigils. After seven months, little of this original solidarity remains. Seven months of fighting, with only brief interruptions, have made large parts of Gaza uninhabitable. Seven long months.

More than 33.000 people have died so far, reports the Ministry of Health in Gaza, which is controlled by Hamas - so these statements cannot be confirmed independently, but overlap with observations by international experts and Berlin Story News' own analysis. Israel's military says it has killed more than 12.000 Islamist fighters (these numbers cannot be verified either).
The population of Gaza, which was already fed mainly by imports before the war, is threatened with malnutrition due to widespread famine. Small children are missing out on important food - in many cases they are at risk of starvation.

Although hundreds of trucks enter the Gaza Strip every day, the deliveries are always dangerous and deadly clashes often occur. At the beginning of the year, civilians were caught in the crossfire between Islamist fighters and the Israeli army. More than a hundred people died in the firefight and the resulting panic.

Drone footage of the disaster. Source: IDF Spokesperson, shared in accordance with Copyright clause.
Drone footage of the disaster. Source: IDF Spokesperson, shared in accordance with Copyright clause.

Egyptian convoys are also repeatedly attacked - just recently an Egyptian truck driver died when stones were thrown at him. Israel is accused of artificially holding up trucks at the border - the complex security checks that repeatedly discover smuggled goods sometimes take hours. It's a dilemma - because this is how the weapons come into the country with which Israel will later be attacked. In November, Palestinian Jihad released videos showing rockets made from EU-funded water pipes. It was probably one of these rockets that hit one of Gaza's hospitals in October, killing and injuring hundreds of people.

But rejecting these supplies based on seemingly arbitrary rules endangers Israel more than a few improvised rockets and smuggled batteries ever could. Recently, the Brazilian ambassador told me about attempts to deliver solar-powered desalination plants to the Gaza Strip. Water in particular is a scarce commodity due to the ongoing months of war - clean water is a rarity and cholera breaks out again and again in the overcrowded refugee camps. The systems have been standing in the Israeli-Egyptian border area for three months now, waiting for documents and approvals.
Different authorities shift responsibility back and forth between each other.
“We had no formal explanation, but there is no authorization for anything but food and medicines to get inside Gaza.” Explains the ambassador.

Particularly because the International Court of Justice is demanding that Israel allow aid deliveries to flow unhindered, the time has come to swallow the “bitter pill” and weaken the elaborate security controls, according to US Defense Department sources. Particularly because heavy weapons are much more likely to be smuggled into Gaza from Sinai.
The problem here is that the food shipments delivered in this way usually end up on the black market - criminal gangs take over the trucks, steal the load and sell it for exorbitant prices in Rafah. Any civilian control that Gaza's institutions ever had has long since collapsed - exactly what I warned about back in November.

That's why a multinational coalition of NATO members, but also the Arab League, supplies the Gaza Strip with air drops. The problem here is the lack of precision - airdrops keep landing in the Mediterranean. The other problem is that the heavy pallets are not without danger - recently a family was killed by a Saudi Arabian pallet whose parachute had not deployed.

Of course, these pallets often end up in the hands of the same criminal gangs - the US military rations (MRE - Meal, Ready To Eat) are sold on the black market for the equivalent of up to 10 euros each. Such a ration provides a person with the necessary calories and nutrients for a whole day.

The final problem is purely mathematical - even if food were continuously dropped, similar to the airlift over Berlin, the total transport capacity of all US aircraft would not be enough to supply the people of the Gaza Strip with food. It is estimated that up to 60% of Gaza's residents are currently at risk of hunger - and the number is rising.

To at least solve this logistical problem, the US military is building a gigantic pier to quickly bring large quantities of supplies to shore. The necessary ships will arrive in the Mediterranean in the next few months. Satellite images from the Gaza Strip already indicate the preliminary construction work.

In particular, the pier enables supplies without long-term interference by US troops, especially because the US fears another “forever war”, i.e. an operation in Gaza similar to the war in Afghanistan.

These are the advantages over classic landing ships, because in the past, ships from the Amphibious Ready Group - an aircraft carrier group of the US Marines - had provided disaster relief by placing the ships on the beach. However, due to the unstable situation in the Gaza Strip, such a maneuver would not be safe and would lead to debates that the USA is reluctant to have - how should troops govern when they come under fire?

American wounded or even dead would mean an immediate end to humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip. The scenes from “Black Hawk Down,” the film based on the real-life events of the Battle of Mogadishu, are etched deep into the collective memory of Americans. Because this too had developed from a humanitarian mission.

It is clear that the situation in the Gaza Strip is critical and is unlikely to improve in the next few months. And there are still more than 120 hostages in Hamas's hands, many of them women and small children. They are friends and children, parents and spouses of the people of Israel. And so the war will continue until all the hostages are freed and – as Netanyahu demands – Hamas is defeated. One lesson of the “Forever Wars” should be that in the war against terror, terror itself usually wins.

Innocents keep dying in Israeli air strikes - “serious mistakes” are being made, as Defense Minister Gallant asserted on Tuesday morning. after Israeli drone strikes killed 7 volunteers from the World Central Kitchen NGO. World Central Kitchen has been providing food to civilians in the Gaza Strip for a few weeks now. They coordinate every step with the Israeli army, every movement is reported to the military, their cars are clearly marked. How the fatal attacks came about is currently completely unknown.

After the deadly attacks, the NGO has temporarily suspended its work. I had met World Central Kitchen on the Polish-Ukrainian border in the past; There they have been providing Ukrainian refugees with food and clothing since the outbreak of the war.

For weeks, negotiations have been underway in Paris, Qatar, Tel Aviv and Cairo for another ceasefire. The negotiations keep stalling - be it due to Hamas' demands, which Israeli diplomats portray as "absurd" - Hamas wanted to exchange 50 hostages for all Palestinians arrested in Israel, including many who have committed serious crimes.

Such an exchange would be catastrophic for Israel - two of the architects of Hamas's terror were released in such "swap deals" in the last twenty years. The other hostages released so far have been exchanged for Palestinian women and teenagers who were in prison for minor crimes.

The war that began in Israel's border area on October 07th has long since had global effects. Israel and Jewish life are once again threatened worldwide; in Germany alone the number of anti-Semitic attacks has multiplied.

The regional war that Hamas wanted to provoke has not yet occurred. Despite significant fighting in the Israeli-Lebanese border area (BSN reported continuously) and frequent air strikes on Iranian militias in Syria, the feared massive escalation has not yet occurred. Just yesterday, air strikes on the Iranian embassy building in Damascus killed leading members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. The list of those killed reads like a who's who of terrorist militias. Among the dead are two Iranian generals, a senior leader of the Palestinian Jihad and several Iranian "advisers" under whose supervision and advice Islamist militias committed massive war crimes in Syria.

In Israel itself, support for the Netanyahu government and the war it is waging continues to crumble. There are always massive protests on the streets of Tel Aviv; similar to during the protests over judicial reforms There are also road blockages on the major highways here - former, freed hostages and their relatives criticize Netanyahu and demand continued ceasefires. According to the latest statistics, less than a quarter of Israel's population continues to trust the Netanyahu government - an all-time low since the outbreak of war.

Even in the after The “emergency government” founded on October 07th is crumbling, Disagreements are getting bigger and bigger. At the beginning of October, Israeli President Yitzak Herzog warned of the danger of the split; now it has found its footing again. Gideon Sa'ar, former deputy prime minister in the last government, resigned from the war cabinet relatively unexpectedly, citing ever-growing domestic political rifts.

It was similar to Benny Gantz - the star of the last government and probably one of the most powerful men in the current cabinet, who threatened to resign if the government did not reach an agreement on conscription for ultra-Orthodox Jews.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews have a certain special status in Israel because they are not required to serve in the army or do community service if they are enrolled in a Torah school during the recruitment period. The official reason for this is that they would fight “with the scroll, not the M-16.”

This fact is highly controversial in Israel and is always part of the debate. Many ultra-Orthodox had threatened that if the new recruitment became law, they would leave the country if necessary. The law came into force at the beginning of the week - so far no mass exodus has been reported. The collapse of the government, which the orthodox Shas party had threatened, has not yet occurred.