Good Sunday morning.
In today’s special edition of the Daily Kickoff, we report on the ongoing attack against Israel by terrorist groups that began in the early hours of Saturday morning.
Reports emerged slowly on Saturday morning — a day after the 50th anniversary of the start of the Yom Kippur War — appearing for many across Israel in cell phone alerts as rocket barrages began to strike Israel’s south and videos of Hamas convoys driving through Israeli towns along the border with Gaza were posted to social media, Jewish Insider Executive Editor Melissa Weiss writes.
From there, more sinister reports — terrorists entering homes in the early morning hours, of shootings at bus stops, of kidnappings of men and women, young and old, civilian and uniformed.
Amid active firefights more than 24 hours after the start of simultaneous air, land and sea invasions, more than 600 Israelis are reported dead and an unknown number captured. As of press time, there are more Israeli civilians in Gaza — being held hostage — than at any time in the prior 18 years. Several dozen hostages being held in communities in Israel have been freed.
The images posted online are horrifying: an elderly Jewish woman taken into Gaza and forced to pose with a gun in her lap. A half-naked young woman whose lifeless body was being paraded through the streets. A mother and her two young children surrounded by Hamas terrorists as they’re being taken into Gaza. Couples screaming for each other as they were separately dragged away. Men in their underwear, barely awake at 8 in the morning on Shabbat, being pulled from their homes. Some of the most haunting of the day’s images were videos taken from an outdoor rave, where partygoers danced unaware of the Hamas paragliders slowly coming into focus as they descended upon the party. Casualties from the rave, which brought revelers from around the world, are expected to be in the hundreds.
On Friday night, many of those killed or captured were having Shabbat dinner with their families, celebrating Simchat Torah. Today, their families are planning funerals and posting desperate messages on social media trying to find their loved ones. Many relatives of the kidnapped found out about their loved ones’ abductions from images posted to social media.
With the Netanyahu government planning a large military offensive in Gaza, Israelis, Diaspora Jewry and the global community will face a war of dueling narratives. In times of quiet, Israelis are encouraged by the Western world to make peace with a neighbor whose charter calls for Jews to be pushed to their death into the sea. In times of war, Israel is condemned when it destroys the weapons storage facilities that contain thousands of rockets and explosives earmarked for its destruction.
Looming over the weekend’s events is the role played by the governments — such as Iran, Qatar and Turkey — that serve as financial backers to Hamas and other Palestinian groups backing terrorism. Shortly after the attacks began, video began to circulate of Hamas officials, including Ismail Haniyeh, watching TV coverage of the attacks from Doha.
“Turkey has been the external headquarters for Hamas for more than a decade now,” the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Jonathan Schanzer told us Sunday morning. “[Hamas] military leader Saleh Al-Arouri shuttles in and out with regularity. Arouri yesterday openly boasted of the dozens of hostages in Hamas’ hands.”
In the coming days, the Israeli public and officials will have to reckon with the apparent failure of Israel’s security establishment to have detected the pre-planned invasion, and its inability to shore up Israel’s security in the hours following the first attacks. Much like that fateful day 50 years and one day prior, Israel’s top military brass were caught off-guard by the multipronged attack.
And much like in the fall of 1973, Israeli politics and society seem poised to change forever.
operation swords of iron
IDF battles to take back control of Hamas-captured Israeli towns
Twenty-four hours after Hamas terrorists launched an air, sea and ground invasion of Israel, the Israeli Defense Forces were still completing efforts to take back control of southern Israeli towns and territory, IDF Spokesperson Lt. Col. Richard Hecht told journalists on Sunday morning. Israeli officials said they have identified 29 invasion points and estimated that hundreds of terrorists had entered Israel. While the army had overpowered them in most areas, including in the border town of Sderot, eight points of combat remained active Sunday morning. In most places, Hecht said, security forces were combing the areas to confirm they were clear, Jewish Insider’s Ruth Marks Eglash reports.
IDF strikes: Overnight, Hecht said, the army struck some 400 targets inside Gaza, including tunnels and other infrastructure belonging to Hamas, as well as points along the border fence where the terrorists had broken through on Saturday. In addition, the military was focused on evacuating all the Israeli residents that live in communities around the Gaza Strip as a precaution ahead of a fuller operation in Gaza.
Hostage crisis: “Israelis are waking up to a terrible morning, many people have been killed and there are others who have been kidnapped and taken into Gaza,” he said. “Not only soldiers but also civilians, grandmothers, mothers, toddlers, whole families and dead bodies. Yesterday was a very hard day,” Hecht continued. “But we also saw a lot of bravery, with fathers, ex-soldiers, who went down and tried to fight to free those who had been kidnapped. We even had one of our retired generals go down to the south to rescue his kids and grandkids.” Hecht said that the army had set up an operation center to deal with the civilians who have been taken hostage and the army also added the names of some of the soldiers who had been killed to their official website.
putting politics aside
Netanyahu, opposition discuss emergency unity government
Israeli Opposition Leader Yair Lapid and National Unity Party leader Benny Gantz expressed willingness to set aside their differences with the ruling coalition and form a unity government with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in the hours after the start of the deadliest attack on civilians in Israel’s history. The efforts began with a joint message from all of the Zionist parties in the opposition on Saturday morning, as reports of Hamas’ terror attacks in Israel’s south began to spread, Jewish Insider’s Lahav Harkov reports.
United front: In a joint statement, Lapid, Gantz, Israel Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman and Labor leader Merav Michaeli said, “We are all united against terror and must strike it with a firm and determined hand…In days like these, there is no opposition and coalition in Israel. We will give full backing to security forces to respond forcefully against terror and its proxies.”
1967 precedent: By evening, Netanyahu met with Gantz and Lapid separately to brief them on the situation, and the prime minister offered each to join an emergency government, according to a statement from Netanyahu’s Likud party. If there is an emergency government, it would have a precedent in the 1967 Six-Day War, which Likud cited in its statement to the press on the meetings between Netanyahu, Gantz and Lapid.
U.S. officials, lawmakers across political spectrum offer support for Israel amid Hamas terror assault
U.S. officials and lawmakers have reacted with a unified voice in speaking out against the massive Hamas terror attack on Israel on Saturday, offering strong support for Israel and its defense and condemnation of the attacks, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
President’s remarks: “The United States stands with Israel. We will not ever fail to have her back. We’ll make sure that they have the help their citizens need, and that they can continue to defend themselves,” President Joe Biden said in remarks from the White House on Saturday afternoon. “When I spoke with [Israeli] Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu this morning I told him the United States stands with the people of Israel in the face of these terrorist attacks. Israel has the right to defend itself and its people — full stop.”
Schumer’s statement: “The terrorist attacks by Hamas on the people of Israel are absolutely horrific. The U.S. stands with Israel in its unwavering right to defend itself. I stand ready to ensure Israel has the support to do so,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said in a statement. “My prayers are with the dead, reported hostages, and hundreds injured.”
Speaker saga: Concern is growing in Washington that the current lack of a House speaker could create issues for the U.S.’ response to the situation. The powers of the acting speaker pro tempore, Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC), are largely untested and many believe that he does not have the authority to bring bills to the House floor. It’s also unclear whether he is even authorized to attend an intelligence briefing on the situation.
In near universal display, U.S. Jewish groups express solidarity with Israel, launch fundraising drives
In a near wall-to-wall display of solidarity, American Jewish organizations from across the political spectrum came out in support of Israel following an unprecedented assault by Palestinian terrorists from the Gaza Strip on Saturday morning, releasing statements and launching fundraising campaigns despite the attacks taking place on Shabbat and Shemini Atzeret, eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross reports.
CoP statement: “American Jewry stands shoulder to shoulder with the people of Israel and the brave men and women of Israel’s security services,” the heads of Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations said in a statement. “We grieve with those who have lost loved ones and pray for the injured and those taken hostage by terrorists.”
Crisis funds: The surprise assault was, without parallel, the deadliest single attack on Israeli civilians in the country’s history. As of Sunday morning, more than 24 hours after the initial assault, armed terrorists were still inside Israeli communities, with Israeli forces working to rescue residents. In the wake of the attacks, a number of Jewish federations created “crisis funds,” to raise money for projects related to the war. The Jewish Agency for Israel, which operates the Fund for Victims of Terror, has called for donations and is already in contact with the Jewish Federation of North America — its primary donor — and other funders. “There is tremendous desire to give,” the head of the fund, former Knesset member Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin, told eJP.
Jewish institutions in U.S. on high alert in wake of war
While Israel’s National Security Council urged its citizens to cancel celebrations scheduled for the remaining days of Sukkot, U.S. security organizations said that holiday festivities will continue as usual but that they are increasing security measures as hate crimes targeting diaspora Jews tend to spike when there is conflict in Israel, Haley Cohen reports for Jewish Insider.
Heightened threat level: Richard Priem, COO of the Community Security Service (CSS), an organization that has trained more than 3,000 volunteers around the U.S. to protect synagogues and other Jewish institutions, told JI that the group has sent detailed guidance for the coming days and weeks as they are anticipating a heightened threat level on American Jews. “We’ve learned that whenever something like this happens, we need to be more alert,” Priem said.
Taking precautions: Mitch Silber, the executive director of Community Security Initiative, a joint program of UJA-Federation of New York and the Jewish Community Relations Council of NY, said in a statement, “While there is no evidence of any related threats in metro New York, given that Saturday and Sunday are the concluding days of the holiday of Sukkot, we are advising Jewish institutions in the greater New York area to raise their level of vigilance. As we have seen during past conflicts between Israel and Hamas, there have been spontaneous eruptions of violence directed at Jewish communities that were triggered by conflict in the Middle East.”
Going Forward in Gaza: In The National Review, former White House advisor Elliott Abrams considers how Israel could respond to the weekend attacks by Hamas. “Israel now faces extremely difficult choices. The idea of a modus vivendi with Hamas is dead. Gaza will now need to be treated like Hezbollah-controlled Lebanon or like Iran itself. The border will obviously need greater fortification. But should Israel seek to reoccupy Gaza? That seems to me a very unlikely outcome — for all the practical reasons Prime Minister Sharon took Israeli forces out of there in 2005. What then can be done? Create large buffer zones on the Gaza side of the border? Destroy more of Hamas’s own infrastructure in Gaza? Restrict further the dual-use materials Hamas is able to import?” [NationalReview]
Fallout for Israel’s Military:The Atlantic’s Graeme Wood reflects on the planning, execution and repercussions of Hamas’ cross-border invasion. “Shooting thousands of rockets at a time takes planning and covert logistical support. Coordinated commando raids take forethought as well. Failure to foresee these actions is enough to get Israeli generals and spies fired and relieved of command. A single hostage hidden away in some tunnel in Gaza can paralyze Israel for years. Now there are reportedly dozens, in addition to the kidnapped human remains and, of course, the dead, at least 100 Israelis as of this writing. Governments fall over failures of this scale. The Israeli right, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has long argued that it was responsible for the relative peace that has prevailed for the past decade or so. That peace is now over. … The recriminations have just begun. But they might still be too early. So far the geopolitics of this war are only starting to be understood. Hamas has backers — Iran and Syria foremost among them — and unlike the flat-footed Israelis, they are likely to have had plenty of time to think through how the war will unfold. Hamas would not jeopardize its sponsorship by launching a war without consultation—in particular, a war whose tactics (hostage-taking, parading corpses) were calculated to enrage Israel and its friends.” [TheAtlantic]
Ties to 9/11: In the Free Press, Noah Pollak draws comparisons between Hamas’ multi-front attack on Israel and the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the U.S. “The meaningful similarity is the feeling of national humiliation, vulnerability, and fear provoked by the attack: the most powerful country in the Middle East, with an intelligence service that can assassinate Iranian nuclear scientists at will, with F-35s and spy satellites, was just bested by men who simply jogged across the border with rifles. Americans after 9/11 did not feel that their country was weak — we felt the bewilderment and rage of vulnerability despite our strength. This is what Israelis are feeling today. I have been up all night on group chats with my old friends in Israel, most of them IDF veterans, and their mood is grim and outraged, with much of the anger directed toward their own leaders. As the story evolved from rocket attacks to border incursion to invasion to hostage-taking to ISIS roaming the city of Sderot, we felt waves of the kind of disbelief mixed with horror I hadn’t felt since seeing the Twin Towers collapse live on television. The questions this attack poses are very simple: How could this happen? How did Israeli authorities fail so completely?” [FreePress]
Around the Web
Americans in Israel: Secretary of State Tony Blinken said the U.S. is working to verify reports of Americans who are missing or believed to have been killed in the weekend attacks; Blinken told ABC News that one of the kidnapped Israelis is a Holocaust survivor.
X-ed Out: The U.S. Office for Palestinian Affairs deleted a post on X that called on Israelis to “refrain from violence and retaliatory attacks” in response to the invasion by terrorist groups.
Desert Destruction: An IDF soldier who attended an overnight rave near Kibbutz Re’im along the Gaza border described his attempts to flee the scene when Hamas terrorists descended on the dance party.
Whiplash of Emotions: The Shalem Center’s Daniel Gordis reflected on Saturday’s events, the full extent of which he did not know until after sundown.
Giving Blood: Blood donation centers across Israel paused collections after being overwhelmed by volunteers and collecting thousands of units of blood.
Terror in Egypt: Two Israelis and an Egyptian tour guide were killed by an Egyptian police officer at a historical site in Alexandria.