Two more hostages released, 210 remain in captivity via BICom
Hostages: Two elderly Israeli women Yocheved Lifshitz (85) and Nurit Cooper (79) both from Kibbutz Nir Oz were released last night.
- The Red Cross received them after they crossed into Egypt. They were then brought by helicopter to Ichilov hospital in Tel Aviv where they were reunited with their families after 17 days in captivity.
- Hamas said the release was achieved thanks to Egyptian-Qatari intervention and they were chosen due to their advanced age and bad health.
- However both their husbands, 85-year-old Amiram and 83-year-old Oded – who were kidnapped along with them – remain in Hamas captivity.
- Israel thanked Egypt and the Red Cross for their assistance in bringing about their release.
- Following their release Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke once again with President Biden who congratulated Netanyahu on the release and repeated his commitment to bring about the release of all the hostages. At the same time, the president stressed the need to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza.
- Eti Uziel the hospital’s chief nurse, told Channel 12 News, “We were very excited. They looked fine. Their medical condition is okay. They’re speaking. At first, we took them off the helicopter and we brought them to their families. It was a very moving meeting. Now we’re going to let them rest a bit with their families and afterwards we’ll do a full physical examination. They’ll spend the night here. We’re glad that they’re here with us.”
- Yesterday a third convoy of food water and medical supplies entered Gaza from Egypt. A forth is expected to enter today.
- In addition the UN is supplying 30 bakeries in southern Gaza with free flour.
Aerial attacks continue: The IDF confirmed that over the last 24 hours, it “struck over 400 terror targets and killed several Hamas commanders and numerous operatives preparing attacks.”
- The IDF described, “a wide-scale operation to dismantle Hamas' terrorist capabilities” in which it “struck dozens of Hamas gunmen setting up to fire rockets and carry out terror attacks against the Israeli home front. Over the last day, IDF fighter jets struck dozens of terror infrastructure and Hamas staging grounds…furthermore, an IDF aircraft struck a Hamas operational tunnel shaft which gave terror operatives quick access to the coastline.”
- In addition, “IDF aircraft struck command centres used by Hamas operatives and staging grounds.”
- Despite the intensity of air strikes Hamas continue to fire rockets albeit at a slower pace, mainly short range rockets at the (almost empty) communities closest to the border. Most communities have been evacuated, but in some Kibbutzim a small number of members have stayed behind mostly to look after the animals.
In the north: Hezbollah continues to target the military and civilian sites close to the border.
- Attacks include anti-tank missiles, rockets and drones.
- In response the IDF is continuing to strike military targets belonging to Hezbollah. According to the Spokesperson’s office this included “a military compound, a military post, and an observation post used by Hezbollah.” The strikes were in responses to the continued rocket and anti-tank missile launches from Lebanon.
- Yesterday the IDF struck eight Hezbollah cells, seven before they even launched rockets.
- According to Hezbollah 32 of their fighters have been killed so far. Israel estimates the number to be much higher.
Context: Israeli appears poised to launch a ground incursion into Gaza.
- There is strong public support for the move, despite the understanding that it is highly likely that IDF soldiers will be killed.
- In parallel there are Israeli media reports that the delay in launching such an operation is exacerbating the crisis of trust between the government and the military as well as within the government itself.
- Disagreements between the political echelon and military reportedly relate to disagreements over the IDF’s readiness, the timing of a ground operation, and the government approving specific goals of the war. There are also reportedly tensions between Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defence Minister Gallant
- In response to these reports the prime minister, defence minister and IDF Chief of Staff released a joint statement that they are, “working in close and full cooperation, around the clock, to lead the State of Israel to a decisive victory over Hamas. There is total and mutual trust between the Prime Minister, the Defence Minister and the IDF Chief-of-Staff; the unity of the goal is clear. The media is requested to show responsibility and refrain from false reports that only harm our unity and our forces.”
- At the same time, the delay leaves a window of opportunity for a deal to free hostages. Reports suggest that work is underway to negotiating to release hostages that hold dual citizenship and / or Israeli women and children. This places Israel in a difficult moral dilemma, supporting their release, but by default neglecting their own citizens.
- Lifshitz and Cooper are the second pair of hostages released after two US citizens Judith Raanan and her 17-year-old daughter, Natalie were released. The pair from Chicago were visiting for the Jewish holidays. However six members of their extended family remain hostages inside Gaza.
- The cabinet and IDF have decided that Gaza remains their primary focus with Lebanon secondary.
- So far 120,000 Israelis have been displaced from the south and the north. With all of Israel’s hotels full there is growing pressure to find those in need with temporary accommodation. It is anticipated that if the war expands, more people will be evacuated.
Looking ahead: Israel continues to call for a full evacuation of Gazan civilians from the northern Gaza Strip, whilst there is growing anticipation of a ground incursion.
- French President Macron is the latest leader to visit Israel. He arrived this morning and will meet with French citizens who are relatives of hostages and people who were killed in Hamas’s assault.
- Afterwards he will travel to Jerusalem to meet with President Herzog, Prime Minister Netanyahu, Defence Minister Gantz and Leader of the Opposition Lapid.