Israel is at war again. A four-day truce turned into eight, as the combatants took turns releasing prisoners — with Hamas releasing hostages captured in its October 7 raid, and Israel releasing three times as many security prisoners. But, on Friday, instead of delivering all the promised hostages to Israel, Hamas delivered another barrage of rockets.
Hamas “has not met its obligation to release all of the women hostages today and has launched rockets at Israeli citizens,” lamented Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Hamas also took credit for a terrorist attack on Thursday — during the ceasefire — in which two Palestinians opened fire at a bus stop in Jerusalem, killing four people and wounding five.
Netanyahu promised, “Upon the resumption of fighting, we emphasize: The Government of Israel is committed to achieving the goals of the war: Releasing the hostages, eliminating Hamas, and ensuring that Gaza never again constitutes a threat to the residents of Israel.” The IDF responded to Friday’s missile barrage with 200 airstrikes on Hamas targets in Gaza.
Despite their overwhelming military superiority and rapid success in dismantling the Hamas command-and-control node at the Al-Shifa Hospital, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) face even more difficult tasks ahead. The IDF must press southward into southern Gaza, where Hamas militants have hunkered down behind even more civilians, after residents of northern Gaza fled southward through Israel’s humanitarian corridor to avoid the fighting. The presence of extra civilians — an estimated two million people — makes it easier for Hamas to hide behind them, and harder for Israel to destroy Hamas with minimal civilian casualties.
Additionally, just because Israeli forces occupy an area does not mean Hamas resistance there has been eliminated. The IDF is still proceeding neighborhood by neighborhood to clear out Hamas fighters in Gaza City. In a Saturday airstrike, the IDF killed Wissam Farhat, an architect of the October 7 terror attack and commander of Hamas’s Shejaiya battalion — Shejaiya is a “neighborhood” of nearly 100,000 people in Gaza City. On Sunday, an IDF Arabic-language spokesman posted pictures of the remaining commanders of the Shejaiya battalion and warned them to surrender, “this is a final notice. You are all targets.”
In addition to above-ground resistance, the IDF must also clear out Hamas’s intricate network of tunnels, which allow militants to hide from surveillance and airstrikes, shelter behind protective barriers, and appear at any point at will. The IDF said Sunday they have discovered more than 800 tunnel shafts in the Gaza Strip leading to hundreds of kilometers of tunnels, leading to Hamas’s “strategic assets,” as well as schools, mosques, and playgrounds.
Before their forces push southward, Israel is trying to go the extra mile to protect civilians. In one spectacular move, the IDF dropped leaflets over the Gaza Strip to warn civilians to leave homes in a “dangerous battle zone” east of Khan Younis, a Hamas stronghold, according to the Associated Press.
In the same report, the Associated Press did everything possible to give readers the impression that Israel was the party responsible for ending the ceasefire. “Airstrikes hit houses and buildings in the Gaza Strip minutes after a weeklong truce expired,” said the very first sentence. The second paragraph recorded, “militants in Gaza resumed firing rockets into Israel” with no mention of the timeframe, leading readers to infer this occurred in response to Israel’s bombing. Not until paragraph 13 — after the fifth inserted picture — did the AP admit that Hamas launched rockets before the ceasefire ended. Even after including such an admission, the article brazenly maintained, “Israel and Hamas traded blame for ending the truce.”
It sounds like the AP is still sore about Israel bombing their Gaza headquarters in 2021. The AP’s offices were located in the same building as Hamas’s military intelligence unit, a fact of which the international fact-gathering conglomerate claimed to be unaware.
The AP’s insinuations are simply misleading. But don’t take my word for it. Take the word of U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the lead diplomat pressuring Israel to give Hamas an off-ramp. “It’s important to understand why the pause came to an end,” he said Friday from Dubai. “It came to an end because of Hamas. Hamas reneged on commitments it had made.”
“In fact, even before the pause came to an end, it committed an atrocious terrorist attack in Jerusalem,” Blinken added. “It began firing rockets before the pause ended, and as I said it reneged on the commitments it made in terms of releasing certain hostages.”
Blinken is no warmonger out for Palestinian blood. In a recent conversation, he insisted, “You can’t operate in southern Gaza in the way you did in the north.” Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant responded, “The entire Israeli society is united behind the goal of dismantling Hamas, even if it takes months.” Blinken shot back, “I don’t think you have the credit for that.” Apparently, the U.S. Secretary of State would rather negotiate with terrorists than see our ally defeat them.
On this point, Blinken is not going rogue from his boss. President Biden has begun dictating Israel’s military tactics for them. Ostensibly, U.S. diplomatic pressure on Israel pretends a concern for Palestinian civilians. But the best outcome for Palestinian civilians is where Israel is given a free hand to stamp out the brutal extremists who rule and terrify them. The true effect of U.S. demands would be to ensure the survival of Hamas.
“Israel is the only responsible actor in this conflict. Therefore, it is the only party that can be shamed and cajoled out of pursuing its own national-security imperatives,” wrote National Review’s Noah Rothman. “And yet, the 10/7 massacre was so vicious — such a paradigm-altering event — that Israel, too, is no longer as responsive to the hectoring it routinely receives from comfortable quarters in the West as it has been in previous rounds of fighting.”
After suffering a surprise attack comparable to 9/11 or Pearl Harbor, Israel is committed to destroying Hamas, and no outside pressure is going to stop them.
It’s not like Israel has a choice. Last week, Hamas’s top leader Yahya Sinwar threatened that the October 7 massacre “was just a rehearsal.”
Israel faces enemies elsewhere, too. On Israel’s northern border, the IDF has exchanged cross-border fire with Hezbollah, a terror group operating out of Lebanon. The Yemen-based Houthi terror group has also fired missiles at Israel, which have been intercepted by the IDF and the U.S. Navy. Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Houthis are Islamist terrorist groups supported and financed by Iran’s extremist regime, which is committed to the destruction of Israel. Iran maintains a network of terror group proxies across the Middle East.
Israel is not alone in facing these enemies. From October 17 to November 30, U.S. bases in the Middle East sustained 74 attacks from Iranian proxies, Pentagon Deputy Press Secretary Sabrina Singh said in a press briefing. On Sunday, the Houthis fired missiles in the direction of a U.S. destroyer and nearby commercial vessels in the Red Sea. “The way things are stacked up right now, Israel and the United States are intertwined in terms of how this plays out,” said Shalom Lipner, who served in the Israeli Prime Minister office from 1990-2016.
Israel is at war, and the U.S. is at war right alongside them.
Joshua Arnold is a senior writer at The Washington Stand.
EDITORS NOTE: This Washington Stand column is republished with permission. All rights reserved. ©2023 Family Research Council.
The Washington Stand is Family Research Council’s outlet for news and commentary from a biblical worldview. The Washington Stand is based in Washington, D.C. and is published by FRC, whose mission is to advance faith, family, and freedom in public policy and the culture from a biblical worldview. We invite you to stand with us by partnering with FRC.