Wednesday, October 11, 2023

The Israel-Hamas War: stories of courage, stories of terror

We are finding out more now about the horror that Israelis experienced as Hamas was hunting and killing them - the stories are incredible, some courageous, others terrifying.
The New York Times has a major article today about what Israeli soldiers are now finding after the Hamas terrorists ran back to Gaza - Hamas Leaves Trail of Terror in Israel:
They were killed waiting for the bus, dancing at a festival, doing morning chores and hiding as best they could. Searching bullet-riddled houses, streets and lawns, Israeli soldiers are still finding them.
The soldiers, retaking control of the kibbutzim, towns and settlements near the Gaza Strip that came under attack by Palestinian terrorists over the weekend, have recovered body after body after body.
Hamas gunmen, hitting more than 20 sites in southern Israel, killed more than 1,000 people, including women and children, and abducted an estimated 150 more people... Palestinian gunmen attacked Israeli civilians in all the mundane places of a Saturday morning in southern Israel — at an outdoor festival and in their homes, on familiar roads and in the middle of town — places where soldiers and the police were as surprised by the violence as neighbors, families and friends.
From tweets by Gadi Shamia comes these stories of courage:
Yair Golan

If you don't live in Israel or consume Israeli media, you don't know who Yair Golan is. He is a 61-year-old retired Major General in the Israel army and a former parliament MP. Spend a minute to read this story.
Yesterday, when IDF and the police were in complete chaos, Golan put on his old uniform, took his weapon, and drove into the war zone multiple times to rescue civilians under fire. He rescued two young adults hiding under a bush after 260 of their friends were murdered at an outdoor party. He answered a call from a journalist that his son was hiding under fire and simply said, "Give me his location, and I will bring him back home." An hour later, the son called his father from Golan's car.
Golan collected a small crew and went in and out of the war zone, rescuing dozens of people while exchanging fire with Hamas terrorists. He is 61, he could have stayed home, but he chose to risk his life for people he does not know.
Golan is one of the strongest voices from the Israeli left and was constantly attacked by the right wing in Israel. But when the time came, he was first fighting the barbaric attack. The same brain wiring that supports peace, is often the same wiring that drives people to do the right thing.
A true hero.
By the way, he is not the only one. Major General Noam Tivon, also 61, drove from Tel Aviv, joined the troops on the ground and rescued his son and grandkids. He stayed and help the troops fight the terrorists that were still there.
Another family's story from this tweet:
Adar and Itai Berdichevsky

Adar and Itai Berdichevsky from Kfar Aza hid their 10-month-old twins in a mamada (air-raid shelter), while they waited for the militants in the house to divert the terrorists' attention from the children.
Both served in the army, both were officers, there were weapons at home, and the guys did not give up and, wounded, shot until the last bullet while they had strength left...
Adar and Itay died. On the threshold of their house lay the corpses of 7 terrorists.
The kids were alone in the room for 13 hours.
They are safe, surrounded by love and care.
They were found by Itaya’s brother and father Adar, who had been fighting the terrorists all this time, saved dozens of people, but were unable to get to their loved ones in time.
From The Atlantic, an incredible story about how a family survived: ‘We’re Going to Die Here’ A firsthand account of tragedy and heroism from the slaughter that left more than 900 Israelis dead By Yair Rosenberg
...I’m in the room with my wife, and I hear the gunfire directly outside my window, as well as shouting. I understand Arabic. I understood exactly what was happening: that Hamas has infiltrated our kibbutz, that there are terrorists outside my window, and that I’m locked in my house and inside my safe room with two young girls, and I don’t know if anyone is going to come to save us.
... I also called my father. My father is a retired general. He’s 62 years old. He lives in Tel Aviv. And my parents told me, “We’re coming. It’s an hour-and-20-minute drive.”
... Only many hours later, when my father arrived, did I learn what had happened that day to my parents, which is an incredible story by itself.
My parents started driving from Tel Aviv. They arrived in the town of Sderot, which is the largest town in the border area. When they get there, they see people walking barefoot on the road. These are survivors from a music festival nearby, where the Hamas people came early in the morning and massacred more than 200 people, people who came to a music festival. My parents put the survivors in their car and took them farther away from the border. They’d already gotten to the border area, but they’re seeing people who need help, so they take them away. And then they turn around and they continue driving toward our area.
They stop in a nearby community that is close to the border, but not as close as we are. And my father convinces a soldier who is standing there and looking for a way to help to come with him to Nahal Oz, to my kibbutz, in order to kill terrorists and save families. They drive toward the kibbutz, but along the way, they see a military force being ambushed by Hamas fighters. They get out of the car. My father is retired; he doesn’t have military-grade weapons. In Israel, unlike in America, citizens cannot buy AR-15s, and I’m glad for that. But my father has a pistol with him, and he and this other soldier join the soldiers who are fighting the Hamas cell, they help kill them, and now they’re very close to my kibbutz. They’re five minutes from the entrance to my kibbutz, but two of the soldiers are wounded. And again, my father has to turn around. He puts the wounded soldiers in his car with the help of that other soldier who joined him, and they go back to where my mother is.
My mom takes the wounded soldiers with her in their car to a hospital. My father sees another retired former general, Israel Ziv, who’s closer to 70 than 60. But Israel put on his uniform and came like a regular soldier down south to try to help. My father tells him, “Israel, I don’t have a car. My wife is taking the wounded soldiers to the hospital to save them. I need to get to Nahal Oz, where my family is barricaded. My granddaughters are there. Take me to Nahal Oz.”
These two guys over the age of 60 are driving in a regular car. It’s not even a Jeep or something. It’s not an armored vehicle. It’s just a car, like people take on the New Jersey Turnpike on their way to work in the morning. They’re driving now on the road where half an hour earlier there was a deadly ambush of soldiers. They both have weapons. My father took weapons from the wounded soldiers, who gave them to him because he told them, “I’m going back in.”
They reached the entrance to the kibbutz. And when they get there, they meet a group of soldiers from special forces who are about to begin the very dangerous process of going from house to house in our community to try to engage the terrorists and release the people who are barricaded. By that point, I have no idea that all of this is happening. We are in the safe room. The terrorists are still outside. And we have no cell reception. We have no phone battery. We’re just waiting in the dark.
But we start hearing gunfire again—and this time, it’s two kinds of guns. And we realize there is a battle. We realize that there is an exchange of fire. And I tell my wife, “He’s coming. My father is coming. They’re fighting. He’s with these soldiers.” They didn’t come immediately to our house. They went from house to house, neighborhood to neighborhood, inside our community. I don’t remember how long it took.
We were just hearing the gunfire getting closer and closer. The girls had fallen asleep, but now they woke up. I think it’s 2 p.m. They haven’t had anything to eat since last night. There’s no light, and we don’t have cellphones anymore, so we can’t even show them our faces, and there’s one sentence that is keeping them from falling apart and starting to cry—I’m telling them: “Grandfather is coming.”
I tell them, “If we stay quiet, your grandfather will come and get us out of here.” And at 4 p.m., after 10 hours like this, we hear a large bang on the window, and we hear the voice of my father. Galia, my oldest daughter, says, “Saba higea”—“Grandfather is here.” And that’s when we all just start crying. And that’s when we knew that we were safe.
From the transcript of a CNN interview between reporter Nic Robertson and IDF general Itai Veruv who
ROBERTSON: And when you get here what -- what do you find? You've just been showing us.
VERUV: I didn't fight here. I fight in Gaza. I fight in other kibbutzes and places. And what I saw, hundreds of terrorists, is full armor, full gear, with all the equipment and all the ability make a massacre, go from apartment to apartment, from room to room and kill babies, mothers, fathers in their bedrooms.
ROBERTSON: You were telling me some of them -- when you went in, their hands were tied together.
VERUV: They locked themselves in the protection (ph) rooms or the bottom (ph) of the house. And people are out with their children, and they kill them. They kill babies in the front of their parents and then kill the parents. They kill parents, and we found babies between the dogs and the -- and the family that killed before him. They cut head of the people.
Here is General Veruv speaking to reporters: The music festival was another scene of horror:
There is also a larger context to all this. We are starting to ask, what will happen next? And we are starting to realize how difficult the future will be for Israel.
At Daily Kos, Markos makes some useful comments - War Update: Not all civilian deaths in war and conflict carry equal moral weight
... In war, civilians are often collateral damage. It isn’t good and it isn’t right, but it’s a consequence of military action. There is a clear difference between military action and deliberately targeting and killing civilians without regard to military value or strategy.
If Ukraine targets the Kerch Bridge in occupied Crimea and civilians die, that is a tragic consequence of a military operation. In fact, in past strikes, Ukraine has intentionally struck the bridge at night, when civilian traffic was lowest, to minimize that collateral damage.
Same with American military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan. A frightful number of civilians were killed, but the vast majority died as a result of military action. That’s why we opposed those wars: Because we knew civilians would suffer. And we were exponentially more horrified by Donald Trump’s pardon of four Blackwater mercenaries who massacred Iraqi civilians, or the Navy SEAL who did the same, because war might be hell, but there is a special place in it for those who directly target the innocent.
War casualties aren’t a math equation or a simple tally of the dead on a ledger. There is a clear moral distinction between civilians dying as collateral damage, and explicitly being targeted.
...Hamas lost the moral high ground when it murdered hundreds of Israeli and other civilians. Now threatening to murder civilian hostages (or doing so already), Hamas is merely doubling down.
It should be no surprise, for a people suffering so much, that Hamas might be the worst thing inflicted on the Palestinian people. For all the attempts to blame Gaza’s plight on Israel, the reality is that Egypt itself has blockaded its border with Gaza, while the (corrupt) Palestinian Authority in the West Bank refuses to allow entry to Gaza residents. Hamas is an authoritarian terrorist organization. It took power in Gaza after the 2006 elections, then made sure no elections have been held ever since.
Next, some useful comments from intelligence expert Wesley Wark - Recovering from a terrible intelligence failure. The demands now faced by Israeli intelligence
...what Israeli intelligence faces going forward is an enormous task. The list of demands placed on Israeli intelligence agencies, still reeling from the shock of the Saturday morning Hamas attack, is massive and will only grow. It must support the clearing of the border areas with Gaza. It has to keep a close watch on the possibility of other attacks breaking out in the West Bank or launched by Hezbollah from Lebanon.
...One of the most challenging missions for Israeli intelligence will be efforts to pinpoint the location of hostages, reportedly numbering some 150, taken back into Gaza by militants. They will have been dispersed throughout the Gaza strip and embedded with civilian elements to provide greater protection. Families of those taken hostage are putting great pressure on the Netanyahu government to somehow come to their rescue.
Because of the challenges of engaging in urban combat with a well-armed and determined foe, fighting on home territory and buoyed by the success of their initial assault against Israel, what the Israeli military needs from its intelligence services is a decisive edge. Blanket coverage of Hamas’ military wing of course, but above all, intelligence that can help the Israeli military achieve its own surprise against Hamas, and not play out previous indecisive campaigns. That surprise can only be achieved through determination of the weak points of Hamas’ defences and knowledge of Hamas’ military planning in response to an Israeli invasion. What Israel will need is something on the order of the allied intelligence superiority which made possible the D-Day landings in Normandy in 1944. It may not be able to achieve that degree of intelligence mastery.
Intelligence rarely wins wars. But Intelligence can help lose them.
Finally, historian Timothy Snyder writes about Terror and Counter-Terror. A reflection on Hamas and Israel.
 ...For the victim, terror is about what it is. For the terrorist, it is about what happens next. 
Terror can be a weapon of the weak, designed to get the strong to use their strength against themselves. Terrorists know what they are going to do, and have an idea what will follow. They mean to create an emotional situation where self-destructive action seems like the urgent and only choice. 
When you have been terrorized, the argument that I am making seems absurd; the terrorists can seem to you to be raving beasts who just need punishment. Yet however horrible the crime, it usually does not bespeak a lack of planning. Usually part of the plan is to enrage.... 
In evaluating what Hamas has done, it is important to remember that the atrocious crimes are not (or are not only) ends in themselves. They are utterly horrible and deserving of every condemnation, but they are not mindless. 
Unlike Israelis, who are shocked and feel they must urgently act, Hamas has been working out this scenario for years. The people carrying out the bestial crimes follow a plan that anticipates an Israeli reaction. 
Classically, a terrorist provokes a state in order to generate so much suffering among his own people that they will take the terrorist’s side indefinitely. 
I won't claim to know what Hamas expects from Israel, nor what Israel should do. That would be a matter for people with the languages and expertise to read and analyze the documents and the data. 
My point is that it is always worth asking, in such situations, whether you are following the terrorist's script. If what you want to do is what your enemy wants you to do, someone is mistaken. 
It might be your enemy. 
But it also might be you. 


Anonymous said...

We must never forget.

Brian Dundas said...

Is this probable? Yes. Is it terrorism? Yes. Is it despicable? You bet.

Just be careful of the fog of war, everyone. Why at this early date are we so reflexively willing to accept the early reports of the same media that unanimously agreed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (hat tip: they DID NOT) and then, thus, the ensuing war that cost hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives for which GW Bush, having started a war of aggression on false premises is now the cute old guy who paints pictures of his cat instead of suffering the fate of African tyrants who get locked up in the Hague?

Please check your biases at the door people. Propaganda is a thing. We have seen it historically on all sides. Reporting it is one thing. Beware the moral conclusions and opinionating until the real story comes out!!!

Cathie from Canada said...

Yes, I agree. X has been particularly terrible with their spam videos etc.
The article I linked to from the New York Times seems to have been written by a crew of reporters and video experts who went through all of the videos posted on social media and found the stories that they think were verified as correct - there have been a lot of videos posted online that turned out to be from other events or from video games.
And every war features accusations of atrocities, like soldiers killing babies. But in this case the accusations against Hamas about how they killed whole families in Israel communities seem to be proven, at least according to the reporters who have been touring these towns now. I thought Kos nailed it in his article from a few days ago, when he said the atrocities show how the Hamas terrorists are demonstrating a profound contempt for Israelis, just like the Russians have demonstrated their contempt for Ukrainians.

Brian Dundas said...

Right. But, again, caution. And also perspective. Kos, who I love, discounts
plus/minus tallies of dead from war as not being equal. (BTW Far far more Palestinians have died since '48. Exponentially more.) He dismisses this because at he looks at it from the US centric prism of power. The 0.1 human he counts for each death from "valid and morally superior military action" , 1, is actually 1 human! And, 2 perhaps more importantly, Palestine has no army, no navy, no planes and thus cannot commit the kind of "moral" killings Kos outlines. Please think about that.

Again, perspective here. And God bless the victims in Israel and Gaza.

e.a.f. said...

Read your post regarding the two retired Generals, Grandfathers. Saw the item also on the news.

So far CBC is doing a better job than MSNBC and CNN. The American news outlets appear to be doing a lot of talking but not saying much. CBC has a couple of reporters on the ground, who have been reporting on wars and the middle east for a very long time. With all the talking the /american media is doing you don't really know for sure about anything until you either have independent varification or untainted video.
There are a lot of agendas out there right now and some who want to take advantage of the situation.

Its interesting thst two retired Generals got to the fight but the regular military was missing in action. When you consider the Raid on Entebee took a week to plan and execute you do have to wonder who was sleeping at the switch and why the delay in response. The raid was to last 90 minutes. The military adnd the politicians both had plans but the military got it done first. Back in the day, O.K. being old I can remember Moshe Dyan and a number of other Generals and high ranking military figures. As I recollect you saw them frequently with their counter parts in the political end of business. My take on the "f..k" up is the politicians think they know what they're doing but don't. It is doubtful that any meaningful consultations are going on with the military and Bini most likely thinks he knows it all. He isn't. He's a thug and a bully with criminal allegations made against him. He also is trying to destroy Israeli democracy with the take over of their Supreme Court. Sort of reminds me of Trump.
Bini's current act of annoucing Israel's retribution will be remembered for generations of the Palestinians,. The man is nuts. That is not how you run a successful war. It might be best if he left the room, went on vacation to Florida and let the military and a group of balanced politicians deal with the issues at hand. Killing people who are not involved in the whole mess accomplishes nothing. Killing children is a war crime. Just because Hamas killed children doesn't meant Bini gets a pass for doing the same. I'm not against war, but killing non combatants and kids is just not on.

There is a lack of communication between the government and the citizens. When Bini went out to day, people yelled at him and not because they were happy with him. This most likely will end his political career and it can't happen fast enough for me. While he was trying to take control of the Supreme Court of Israel, Hamas was planing and working towards an invasion of Israel and murdering Israeli's.

Cathie from Canada said...

Yes, e.a.f., its going to be quite a story once they sort out what happened.
I have been reading several items tonight about the IDF - poor staffing levels, distracted by Lebanon and West Bank, thought the wall would be sufficient, etc. - and also stories about how massive the force of Hamas terrorists really was, like 1,500 men attacking the kibbutz communities.
That said, I wonder whether there will be a long-term impact or whether, as happened in the US after 911, everything will just be swept under the rug and it will become unpatriotic to even ask questions about what went wrong.