Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News
As the days have turned into weeks, Israel’s battle against the Hamas terrorist group in Gaza has continued to grow both in intensity and international effect.
Thursday night, reports from across the media have it that Israeli forces have fully encircled Gaza and have ratcheted up their efforts to dismantle the group responsible for having brutally murdered thousands of Israelis and taken hundreds more hostage.
“We are hitting its military machine,” Mark Regev, a senior adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said during an appearance on CNN. “Our goal is to destroy Hamas’ military machine and to dismantle its political control over Gaza.”
To that end, Israeli forces have taken to bombing Gaza by air while engineers on the ground sweep the Gaza infrastructure for bombs and other hazards to make safer the passage of ground troops, who will be forced to canvas the area in search of Hamas hideouts and strongholds.
But the Israeli blockade has also crippled humanitarian efforts in Gaza.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) reports that Israeli airstrikes have hit multiple UN-run schools at which civilians had sheltered.
“Over the last few hours, I received reports that three of our schools sheltering about 20,000 people have been hit,” agency chief Philippe Lazzarini said. “This reportedly has led to the deaths of more than 20 people in Jabalya, and also one person at the beach camp.”
Lazzarini added that the agency’s fuel reserves in Gaza were spent, meaning that the transportation of aid and completion of medical services has been effectively stopped. Public services of all descriptions have, Lazzarini said, “completely collapsed.”
Concurrently, the Israeli security cabinet has announced that it would be sending Palestinian workers from Gaza back into their home area.
“Israel is severing all contact with Gaza,” a statement from the government press office reads. “There will be no more Palestinian workers from Gaza. Those workers from Gaza who were in Israel on the day of the outbreak of the war will be returned to Gaza.”
Israel has also struck at least one refugee camp, an attack that resulted in the death of one of the leaders of the Oct. 7 attack but which also resulted in about 50 Palestinian deaths.
UNRWA reports that just under just over 8,700 people have been killed in Gaza since Oct. 7, including 1,100 children.
HAMAS HAS BACKERS, PROMISES TO CONTINUE ATTACKS
Hamas, though, is not without its supporters. Iran-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon continues to fire rockets into Northern Israel in solidarity with Hamas.
The Gaza-based terror group has also shown little desire to cease its fight against Israel.
Wednesday, the Daily Mail reported that a former Hamas foreign minister, Ghazi Hamad, had vowed to affect the ‘annihilation’ of Israel and repeat attacks similar to those of Oct. 7 “again and again.”
“Israel is a country that has no place on our land. We must remove that country,” Hamad said.
The greatest fear for international onlookers is that the conflict will grow to include other sovereign nations rather than just their proxy groups.
American warships remain in the region, what is to date the most forceful international step to contain the fighting.
But Israel has never been short on enemies in its region and civilian casualties are giving Israel’s detractors an obvious platform.
Even Israel’s closest allies can’t turn a blind eye to the deaths of noncombatants and children, even if the problem is being exacerbated by Hamas hiding among these populations.
BIDEN ADMINISTRATION SEEKS TO COOL SITUATION, REMOVE AMERICANS
Thursday, both Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin departed for Israel, both with a clear message that Israel should work to protect civilians.
“The problem for [Israel] is that the criticism is getting louder, not just among their detractors, but from their best friends,” CNN quoted a senior Biden administration official as saying.
Lloyd, Blinken, and the U.S. contingent are hoping to sell Israel on the fact that international support and potential funding will be crippled if the civilian toll, both in terms of death and suffering, continues to grow.
The Biden administration is pushing Israel to institute strategic pauses to its attacks to allow humanitarian aid to be distributed and preserve civilian life.
United Nations officials have called for a ceasefire.
Simultaneously, the Biden administration is seeking to protect the lives of American citizens caught in the middle of the fight.
President Joe Biden confirmed on Thursday that 74 Americans have been evacuated from the Gaza Strip. That brings the number of Americans rescued to 79. But that number will increase dramatically in the coming days as at 400 Americans have been approved to evacuate Gaza into Egypt.
U.S. FUNDING BILL CLEARS FIRST STEP, LIKELY DOOMED
Thursday night, news broke that the House of Representatives had passed a bill that would send $14 billion to Israel. But the likelihood this bill finds its way to the president’s desk, or he signs it, is remote.
“Tonight, a bipartisan group of members voted to send immediate aid to Israel, our greatest ally in the Middle East,” new Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-La.) posted on X, formerly Twitter. “Our supplemental package, which is fully offset, provides Israel with advanced weapons systems, supports the Iron Dome missile defense system, and replenishes American domestic defense stockpiles. This is necessary and critical assistance as Israel fights for its right to exist.”
Johnson added, “With antisemitism on the rise both domestically and abroad, it’s imperative that the U.S. sends a message to the world that threats made against Israel and the Jewish people will be met with strong opposition. The Senate and White House cannot let this moment pass, and I urge them to act swiftly and pass this bill as the House did today.”
The bill passed 226-196 in a largely party-line vote. However, it was a result that showed Israel remains one of the few topics that divide both the left and the right.
Two Republicans, one of whom was Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie, voted against the bill and a dozen Democrats voted in favor of it.
The vote was largely ceremonial as President Biden has promised to veto the bill should it clear the Senate, which it almost certainly will not.
Biden and the Democrats, as well as some Republicans in the Senate, want a broader bill that includes funding for Ukraine and the southern border.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has already said the Democrat-run Senate will pass such a bill and send it to the House.
Another tick against the House bill is the fact that Johnson structured it in such a way that the funding for Israel would come at the expense of the IRS.