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  • Ari Sacher

Gaza Frustration



Gaza Frustration:

More than eight months have passed since more than twelve hundred Israelis were murdered in the massacre of October 7. Israeli troops have been fighting in the Gaza Strip since November. According to the media, Israel is now preparing to enter and to destroy the city of Rafah, the final stronghold of Hamas. The imminent Rafah invasion is taking a toll on Israel’s relations with her allies, particularly with the United States. The U.S. has explicitly warned Israel that if the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) enters Rafah, the U.S. will withhold shipments of  offensive weaponry that Israel deems critical to accomplish her military goals. And yet, Israel remains undeterred. The Israeli government asserts that without entering Rafah and uprooting the last remaining Hamas terrorists along with its leadership, who are holed up in tunnels deep below the surface, the entire war will have been for naught. Hamas will return to power, the hostages will languish and die, and Israel will continue to live under the threat of more October 7s. 


The problem with Israel’s assertion that Rafah is the “last stronghold” is that, like a phoenix, Hamas seems to be retaking power in areas that Israel had previously captured. The IDF, which only a few months ago had only one brigade remaining in the Gaza Strip, consisting of less than 20% of the soldiers it had stationed in Gaza earlier in the year, now has three brigades: One in the southern end of the Gaza Strip, in Rafah, one in the center, and one in the north. Fierce combat is taking place in areas that Hamas had been “uprooted from” only a few months ago. Israeli soldiers are once again dying in familiar places like Beit Hanoun, Jabalya, and Dir el Balach. Worse, the rocket fire that had been staunched by the IDF has resumed with a vengeance. Not only are rockets falling on the usual places in the Gaza envelope, like Sderot, Kerem Shalom, and Alumim, but far away places like Ashqelon and even Beer Sheba – a distance of 40 km from Gaza – are once again sustaining regular rocket fire. Here is a snapshot from last week:

Sunday:

16:00 Color Red in Sderot

17:05 Color Red in Sderot

20:06 Color Red in Sderot


Monday

8:50 Color Red in Miflasim (adjacent to Sderot)


Tuesday

14:04 Color Red in Sderot


Wednesday (morning)

9:04 Color Red in Sderot

10:00 Color Red in Sderot


One can begin to understand why the residents of Sderot, who were evacuated from their homes on October 8, are choosing to remain in hotels even though the IDF has told them that it is safe to return home. One video I saw yesterday makes this point ever so poignantly: A security camera shows two children gleefully jumping into a swimming pool into their father’s waiting arms to escape the summer heat. Suddenly, the alarms go off. The father grabs both his children in his arms and rushes inside to safety. Home, sweet home.


A palpable feeling of frustration is gradually becoming prevalent among Israelis. We all understand that the IDF is engaged in an existential war. We all understand that there are sacrifices that must  be made, but the feeling of déjà vu is so pervasive that it cannot be denied. The media is having a field day, posing ”difficult questions” to the government and to the IDF, calling into question their capability to defeat Hamas. (This is the Israeli media I am referring to. If you thought that Israeli-government-bashing was limited to the Qatari Al Jazeera network that was thrown out of Israel a month ago, think again).  I myself began to feel a creeping sense of depression, and so I spoke with a friend of mine from work who serves his reserve duty in military intelligence. Since October 7, he has spent most of his time five floors below street level. I bared my soul and told him what I was feeling, and he had some crucial insights. He addressed the "frustration" in the media regarding Hamas' attempts to return and renew its control of the territory in areas where the IDF had already won hard-fought battles.


It should be remembered that the Gaza Strip is what he called a "closed bathtub." Economists would say that Gaza has limited and non-renewable resources. This is especially true considering the IDF is now sitting on the Rafah crossing and preventing any kind of cross-border traffic of arms, fighters, and hostages into and out of Egypt. The number of terrorists in Gaza is absolute, and every terrorist who is killed does not return to fight another day. There is no replenishment of terrorists because the IDF has destroyed all of Hamas’ training camps. While “Joe Gazan” can pick up a gun and join the fight, he fights as a ragtag partisan and not as a trained, disciplined soldier. 


Not only is the supply of fighters limited, so are the means of warfare and the terrorist infrastructure. Every piece of infrastructure that the IDF destroys in the Gaza Strip is subtracted from the warstock of Hamas. Hamas no longer has the ability to produce weapons or any other kind of terrorist infrastructure. It has no supply from the outside. While terrorists still fire short-range mortars into Israeli border communities, all of the longer-range rockets still being fired into Israel are launched automatically from prepositioned sites. The factories that were used to produce these rockets have long since been destroyed by the IDF.


The inevitable conclusion is that the IDF must continue to destroy terrorist infrastructures and terrorists. The accomplishments are not lost even if the terrorists move freely around inside the "closed bath" area. Hamas is living on life support. They have a limited supply of oxygen. When that oxygen runs out, the last Hamas terrorists will either surrender or suffer the consequences.

  

And then my friend said something that hit me full force in the gut. He told me that we need a tremendous amount of patience. That's how things work in the Middle East, he said. He who has patience wins. He who wants everything now plays into the hands of his enemy. Time is on our side, he said. We must use it to our advantage. Anyone who wants to see Hamas terror eradicated now – peace now, victory now, cease fire now – is playing into the hands of our enemies. Hamas is acting as if they have all the time in the world. Only if Israel remains patient and only if her allies, particularly the U.S. remain equally patient, can Israel win this war. 


Good Things,

Ari Sacher

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