The State of the Nation: Seven Long Months of War.

Apache patrolling Gaza's Northern Part in the sunset.

Malte Ian Lauterbach reports on the situation in Israel and the Middle East, the events of recent weeks regarding the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, protests against Netanyahu, and renewed Israeli airstrikes on Damascus.

Almost seven months have passed since Hamas overran the south of Israel on October 7th, committing unprecedented murders, looting, unspeakable acts of violence, and taking hundreds of hostages. More than 1300 people lost their lives – undoubtedly one of the darkest days for Israel in decades. The events of October 7th shocked Israel and the world – not only because of the brutal violence but also due to the complete surprise with which the attacks occurred. This is the actual impact of terrorism – the unpredictability, the spontaneity, followed by a loss of trust in one's own security.

With bulldozers, hang gliders, divers, and the quasi-obligatory Hilux pickups for militias, more than a thousand fighters crossed the border into Israel. Between them and the major Israeli cities stood about half a dozen soldiers – many had been withdrawn to the West Bank to protect Israeli settlers during months of deceptive peace.

More than 300 soldiers, police officers, and private security personnel died in desperate battles in the early hours. It will probably never be entirely clear how many lives they saved. In Sderot, Hamas even took over a police station and killed all the recruits inside. After heavy fighting, it lay completely in ruins 18 hours later. A resident of Sderot told Berlin Story News: 'Like in a movie – there isn't a stone left standing on another!' The morning after, Israel experienced a global wave of solidarity; the Brandenburg Gate was lit up in blue and white, and thousands gathered for vigils, even in Germany. After seven months, little of this initial solidarity remains. Seven months of sporadic fighting have made large parts of Gaza uninhabitable. More than 33,000 people have died so far, according to the Ministry of Health in Gaza, controlled by Hamas – these statements cannot be independently verified, but overlap with observations of international experts and Berlin Story News's own analyses. According to its own statements, Israel's military has killed more than 12,000 Islamist fighters (these numbers cannot be verified either).
The population of Gaza, which was mainly supplied by imports even before the war, faces malnutrition due to widespread famine. Small children lack essential food – in many cases, death by starvation is imminent.

While hundreds of trucks enter the Gaza Strip daily, deliveries are always dangerous, often leading to deadly confrontations. Civilians were caught in the crossfire between Islamist fighters and the Israeli army earlier this year. More than a hundred people died in the firefight and resulting panic.
Egyptian convoys are also frequently attacked – just recently, an Egyptian truck driver was killed by targeted stone-throwing. Israel is accused of artificially delaying the trucks at the border – the complex security checks, which frequently detect smuggled goods, sometimes take hours. It's a dilemma – because this is how weapons enter the country, which are later used to attack Israel. In November, the Palestinian Jihad released videos showing rockets built from water pipes funded by EU money. It was probably one of these rockets that hit a hospital in Gaza in October, killing and injuring hundreds of people.
But rejecting these aid deliveries based on seemingly arbitrary rules poses a greater risk to Israel 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. Clean water is particularly scarce due to months of ongoing war – clean water is a rarity, and cholera outbreaks occur repeatedly in overcrowded refugee camps. For three months now, the plants have been waiting in the Israeli-Egyptian border area for documents and approvals.
Various authorities pass 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,' the ambassador explained.

Especially since the International Court of Justice demands that Israel allow aid deliveries to flow unhindered, the time has come to swallow the “bitter pill” and weaken the elaborate security checks, according to US sources from the Department of Defense. Especially because heavy weapons are much more likely to be smuggled from Sinai into Gaza.
The problem here is that the food deliveries often end up on the black market – criminal gangs hijack the trucks, steal the cargo, and sell it at exorbitant prices in Rafah. Any civilian control of the institutions in Gaza ever had long since collapsed – exactly what I warned about back in November.

That's why a multinational coalition of NATO members and the Arab League is airdropping supplies to the Gaza Strip. The problem here is the lack of precision – airdrops often land in the Mediterranean. The other problem is that the heavy pallets are not without danger – just recently, a Saudi Arabian pallet that failed to release its parachute crushed a family.

These pallets often fall into the hands of the same criminal gangs – so US military rations (MRE – Meal, Ready To Eat) are sold on the black market for 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 a purely mathematical one – even if, similar to the Berlin airlift, food were continuously dropped, the entire transport capacity of all US aircraft would not be enough to supply the people in the Gaza Strip with food. An estimated 60% of Gaza's population are currently at risk of hunger – a figure that is rising.

To solve at least this logistical problem, the US military is constructing a gigantic pier to quickly bring large quantities of supplies ashore. The necessary ships will arrive in the Mediterranean in the coming months. Satellite images from the Gaza Strip already hint at the preparatory measures.

The pier particularly enables supply without long-term involvement of US troops, especially since the US fears another “Forever War,” akin to the war in Afghanistan, in Gaza.

These are the advantages over traditional landing ships because in the past, ships of the Amphibious Ready Group – a US Marines aircraft carrier group – provided disaster relief by placing 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 US would rather avoid – how should troops respond when under fire? American casualties would mean an immediate end to humanitarian aid for the Gaza Strip. The scenes from “Black Hawk Down,” the film based on the real events of the Battle of Mogadishu, have deeply ingrained themselves in the collective memory of Americans. Because this, too, had evolved from a humanitarian mission.

It is clear – the situation in the Gaza Strip is critical and is unlikely to improve significantly in the coming months. And more than 120 hostages, many of them women and young children, are still in the hands of Hamas. They are friends and children, parents and spouses of people in Israel. And so the war will continue until all 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.

Innocent people continue to die in Israeli airstrikes – “serious mistakes” were made, as Defense Minister Gallant insisted on Tuesday

morning, after Israeli drone strikes killed seven volunteers from the NGO “World Central Kitchen.” World Central Kitchen has been providing food to civilians in the Gaza Strip for a few weeks. They coordinate every step with the Israeli army, every movement is reported to the military, and their vehicles are clearly marked. How the deadly attacks could have occurred is currently entirely unknown. After the deadly attacks, the NGO suspended its work for the time being. I had met World Central Kitchen in the past at the Polish-Ukrainian border; there they have been providing food and clothing to Ukrainian refugees since the outbreak of the war.

For weeks, negotiations have been ongoing in Paris, Qatar, Tel Aviv, and Cairo for another ceasefire. The negotiations often stall – either due to Hamas's demands, which Israeli diplomats describe as “absurd” – such as Hamas wanting to exchange 50 hostages for all Palestinians imprisoned in Israel, including many who have committed serious crimes.

Such an exchange would be catastrophic for Israel – two of the architects of Hamas terror have been freed in such “exchanges” in the last twenty years. The other hostages released so far were exchanged for Palestinian women and youths imprisoned for lesser offenses.

The war that began in Israel's border region on October 7th has already had global repercussions. Israel and Jewish life are once again threatened worldwide, with the number of anti-Semitic attacks multiplying, especially in Germany alone.

The regional war that Hamas wanted to provoke has not yet occurred. Despite significant fighting in the Israeli-Lebanese border region (BSN reported continuously) and frequent airstrikes on Iranian militias in Syria, there has not yet been the feared massive escalation. Just yesterday, airstrikes on Iranian embassy buildings in Damascus killed leading members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. The list of the dead reads like a who's who of terrorist militaries. Among the dead are two Iranian generals, a senior leader of the Palestinian Jihad, and several Iranian “advisors,” under whose supervision and guidance Islamist militias committed massive war crimes in Syria.

In Israel itself, support for Netanyahu's government and the war it continues to erode. Massive protests erupt on the streets of Tel Aviv time and again; Similar to the protests over judicial reforms, there are also street blockades on major highways – former freed hostages and their families criticize Netanyahu and demand ongoing ceasefires. According to the latest statistics, less than a quarter of Israel's population still trusts the Netanyahu government – ​​an all-time low since the outbreak of the war.

Even in the “emergency government” established after October 7th, cracks are appearing, and disagreements are growing. At the beginning of October, Israeli President Yitzak Herzog warned of the danger of division; now it has been resurfaced. Gideon Sa'ar, former Deputy Prime Minister of the previous government, unexpectedly resigned from the war cabinet, citing the increasingly deepening domestic political rifts. The situation is similar to Benny Gantz – the star of the previous 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 the subscription of ultra-Orthodox Jews.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews have a special status in Israel, as they are not required to serve in the army or perform civilian service if enrolled in a Torah school during the recruitment period. The official explanation is that they would “fight with the scroll, not with the M-16.” This fact is highly controversial in Israel and is repeatedly part of the debate. Many ultra-Orthodox had threatened to leave the country if the new conscription law came into effect; so far, no mass exodus has been reported. Also, the collapse of the government threatened by the Orthodox Shas party has not yet occurred.