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What happened in Israel? The Hamas attack, its grim toll and what’s next, explained

(JTA) — Saturday was a day of bloodshed unprecedented in Israel’s history. 

Beginning in the morning of a Jewish holiday, hundreds of militants broke through the barrier between Israel and Gaza and spread into more than 20 locations, killing 300 Israelis on the streets, in their homes and at an outdoor festival, taking some 100 hostage and injuring more than 1,800. 

In a country whose chronology is punctuated with wars, terror attacks and military offensives, Saturday stood out in its horror. Nothing like this has ever happened in Israel, and Israelis are comparing the day to 9/11 — and asking how their vaunted military could have been so unprepared for such a major assault. 

Nearly a day after they invaded, the militants — sent by the terror group Hamas — appear to have been mostly but not entirely cleared out of Israeli territory. But the fighting is just beginning. While the day’s grim tally is not yet clear, a huge number of Israelis have been taken hostage in Gaza, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is promising an unmitigated war on Gaza, which has seen repeated rounds of conflict with Israel over the past 15 years. 

“Hamas has launched a cruel and evil war,” Netanyahu said in a televised address. “We will win this war, but it will carry a very heavy price. This is a difficult day for all of us.”

Is this the worst Israel-Hamas fighting?

Hamas, a Palestinian terror group, has launched attacks on Israeli civilians for decades and has governed the Gaza Strip for more than 15 years. During that time, it has launched barrages of missiles at Israeli cities on the Gaza border and beyond, sending residents fleeing for shelter, and Israel has responded with airstrikes and offensives that have killed thousands of Palestinians in the coastal strip. 

Israel launched ground invasions of Gaza in 2008 and 2014. The most recent major round of conflict between the two sides took place in 2021. 

But Hamas has never attacked Israel as it did on Saturday. While it has previously built a network of tunnels to infiltrate Israel, Saturday’s invasion was on a much larger scale. Militants broke through a barrier built by Israel, attacked by sea and began killing people in 20 different cities and towns. Makeshift bands of Israeli civilians battled the Hamas operatives while the Israeli military belatedly mobilized.

The militants also took a large number of hostages back to Gaza, in addition to holding hostages in a kibbutz cafeteria and a private home in Israel. 

They captured two ambulances and an Israeli tank. They took control of the police station in the border city of Sderot for some 20 hours. They overran an Israeli military base.

A portion of the violence, and many of the graphic videos circulating on social media, came from an all-night party near the border, where revelers fled Hamas, but where some were taken captive into Gaza. 

Along with the ground invasion, Hamas sent volleys of missiles at targets across the country.

By the end of the day, the official death toll had reached 300 — including many civilians and the commander of the Israel Defense Forces’ Nahal Brigade, one of the most senior Israeli military officials to be killed in recent years. 

That is a stark contrast with the rocket fire which — due in part to Israeli warning and missile defense systems — has historically had a low civilian death toll. Saturday was one of the bloodiest days in the history of israel. 

How has the IDF responded?

Israeli-Palestinian violence has escalated all year, but the epicenter of that fighting has been in Jerusalem and the West Bank, not Gaza. A flareup of fighting between Hamas and Israel earlier this year ended after five days. 

But as the day progressed, it became clear that Hamas’ attack took Israel by surprise. Residents of the small cities and kibbutzim on the border, absent any help by the IDF, resorted to forming armed bands and attempting to clear out the Hamas fighters themselves. A senior local official was killed while trying to defend his town. 

A day after the attack started, it appeared the IDF had regained control over the area. But that was after 24 hours that included news no Israeli expected to hear: that Hamas had taken control of an army base and police station; that it had captured military and medical vehicles; and that it had taken hostages to Gaza. 

The invasion came as Israel’s government has been occupied with other matters, including a contentious effort to weaken Israel’s court system and a possible diplomatic accord with Saudi Arabia. The future of those initiatives is unclear. Instead, exactly 50 years after Israel was caught by surprise by the invasions that began the Yom Kippur War, the country was once again asking how this could have happened. 

“These days there’s no king in Israel,” Haaretz reporter Amir Tibon posted online, quoting a Bible verse meant to evoke a sense of disorder. “Take care of yourselves.”

What will happen to the hostages? Does Israel negotiate for hostages?

According to Israel’s Foreign Ministry, 100 Israelis have been taken by Hamas and brought into Gaza. If that number, or anything of its magnitude, is accurate, it would be many more than the group has ever captured. 

Hamas kidnappings have, in the past, led to Israeli military operations and to at least one prisoner exchange. 

In 2006, Hamas took one soldier, Gilad Shalit, hostage. Israel sent troops into Gaza following his capture but was unable to recover him. Soon afterward, the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah took two other Israeli soldiers captive in an incident that launched the 2006 Lebanon War.

Five years later, in 2011, Shalit was freed in an exchange with a controversial legacy: Nearly 1,000 Palestinian prisoners were released in return for the soldier. Indirect negotiations between Israel and Hamas led to the deal.

Three years after that, in 2014, some of the Palestinian prisoners released in the Shalit deal were involved in another kidnapping of Israelis — the abduction and subsequent murder of three Israeli teens in the West Bank. That incident led to the 2014 Gaza War, which saw Israel invade the territory and lasted 50 days. 

If Hamas has abducted 100 Israeli civilians and soldiers, it will be another element of Saturday’s violence with no precedent in history, though in 1976, Palestinian hijackers took more than 100 hostages at Entebbe Airport in Uganda. Nearly all of those hostages were freed in a famous operation in which the only Israeli soldier to die was Yoni Netanyahu, the current prime minister’s brother.

What will happen next?

Little is clear except that Israel’s leaders have promised a large-scale war in Gaza. 

“The IDF will immediately activate all of its capabilities to destroy Hamas’ abilities,” Netanyahu said Saturday. “We will forcefully avenge this black day they have forced upon Israel and its citizens.”

That almost certainly means a ground invasion of Gaza, which promises to bring more death and destruction. Israeli airstrikes on Gaza have already reportedly killed more than 200 people, and masses of reservists have been called up. 

It is too soon to tell how long the coming war will last or how wide-ranging it will be. The last ground invasion of Gaza, in 2014, lasted 50 days and ended with more than 70 Israelis and more than 2,100 Palestinians dead. 

To conduct the new campaign, centrist Yair Lapid, the leader of Israel’s parliamentary opposition, has called for Netanyahu to form an emergency government that would include centrist parties as well as his current religious and far-right partners. Such an emergency government was also formed during the Six Day War in 1967. 

An emergency government including opposition parties would likely spell an end — or at least a significant pause — for the issue that until Saturday was causing widespread strife in Israel: the government’s judicial overhaul. A government with centrists would not approve such an overhaul, and it is less likely to move forward in the middle of a war. Protests against the overhaul have likewise been put on pause. 

What this means for Israel’s talks with Saudi Arabia is also unclear, but any deal between the two countries was meant to include Israeli concessions to the Palestinian Authority — something Israel would likely be less inclined to agree to while fighting in Gaza. 

“At this moment, I won’t address who is to blame or why we were surprised,” Lapid said in a video message. “This is not the time or the place. We will stand united against our enemies. Israel is at war.”

The post What happened in Israel? The Hamas attack, its grim toll and what’s next, explained appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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UN Committee Says Not Enough Evidence to Declare a Famine in Gaza

Egyptian trucks carrying humanitarian aid make their way to the Gaza Strip, amid the ongoing conflict in Gaza between Israel and Hamas, at the Kerem Shalom crossing in southern Israel, May 30, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Amir Cohen

The United Nations Famine Review Committee (FRC), a panel of experts in international food security and nutrition, has cast doubt on the notion that the northern Gaza Strip is suffering through a famine.

In a report released earlier this month, the committee responded to a claim by the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) — a US-created provider of warning and analysis on food insecurity — that a famine was likely underway in northern Gaza. FEWS NET said that northern Gaza began experiencing famine in April and projected that the embattled enclave would endure famine until at least July 31.

The FRC rejected the assertion that northern Gaza is experiencing famine, citing the “uncertainty and lack of convergence of the supporting evidence employed in the analysis.” The panel carries out evaluations of humanitarian conditions on behalf of the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), an international famine monitoring initiative. 

The FRC added that there is not sufficient evidence to confirm the existence of a famine within northern Gaza and called for more humanitarian access into the warzone, providing experts an opportunity to give an accurate assessment of the conditions. 

“The very fact that we are unable to endorse (or not) FEWS NET’s analysis is driven by the lack of essential up-to-date data on human well-being in northern Gaza, and Gaza at large,” the report stated. “Thus, the FRC strongly requests all parties to enable humanitarian access in general, and specifically to provide a window of opportunity to conduct field surveys in northern Gaza to have more solid evidence of the food consumption, nutrition, and mortality situation.”

However, the panel warned that Gaza is still enduring “extreme human suffering” and called for the “complete, safe, unhindered, and sustained” transport of aid into the enclave.

The report represents a course-reversal for the FRC, which claimed that Gaza likely surpassed the “famine thresholds for acute malnutrition” in March. The FRC now contends that civilians in Gaza are experiencing improved humanitarian conditions as a result of increased aid flowing into the war-torn enclave.   

“Since the FRC review conducted in March 2024, there seems to have been a significant increase in the number of food trucks entering northern Gaza,” the report read.

“The FEWS NET analysis acknowledges that humanitarian assistance in the area has increased significantly, finding that caloric availability from humanitarian assistance increased from 9 percent in February to 34 percent  to 36 percent in March and 59 percent to 63 percent in April. The opening of alternative routes to the Rafah and Kerem Shalom crossings, the authorization of commercial truck entry, as well as airdrops, allowed for an increase of food availability,” the report continued.

Several aid agencies, media outlets, and politicians, as well as pro-Palestinian activists, have repeatedly accused Israel of inflicting famine on Palestinians since beginning its military operations in Gaza following Hamas’ Oct. 7 slaughter of over 1,200 people throughout southern Israel. Josep Borrell, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, accused Israel of using starvation as a “weapon of war.”

Despite these allegations, data produced by the United Nations showed that Israel allowed more than 100 food trucks to enter Gaza per day in March, an increase from the daily average of 70 trucks before the war. Moreover, many trucks transporting aid into Gaza have been hijacked and seized by Hamas terrorists, increasing the difficulty of distributing food to civilians.

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Hundreds rallied outside Toronto school board offices to protest a racism report that doesn’t mention antisemitism

Hundreds of people filled the lawn in front of the Toronto District School Board (TSDB) to oppose a proposed anti-discrimination policy being voted on by trustees that would include recognizing anti-Palestinian racism—while failing to acknowledge rising antisemitism in schools. The report, entitled Combating Hate and Racism: Student Learning Strategy, was received without any amendments by […]

The post Hundreds rallied outside Toronto school board offices to protest a racism report that doesn’t mention antisemitism appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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French President Denounces ‘Scourge of Antisemitism’ After 12-Year-Old Jewish Girl Raped

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during a press conference in Paris, France, June 12, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday denounced the “scourge of antisemitism” and called on schools to hold discussions on racism and hatred of Jews after three boys were charged with raping a 12-year-old Jewish girl in a Paris suburb.

The young girl told police that she was approached by three boys who raped and beat her in the northwestern Paris suburb of Courbevoie on Saturday in an incident that French authorities have described as a hate crime. According to French media, the assailants called the victim a “dirty Jew” and uttered other antisemitic remarks during the brutal gang-rape.

A police source told AFP that one of the boys asked the young girl questions about “her Jewish religion” and Israel, citing the child’s statement to investigators.

The boys — two aged 13 and one 12 — were arrested on Monday and indicted on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Macron’s office said the president asked French Education Minister Nicole Belloubet “to organize a discussion in all schools on the fight against antisemitism and racism, to prevent hate speech with serious consequences from infiltrating schools.”

The rape of the unnamed 12-year-old girl has caused outrage throughout France and among the Jewish community.

Elie Korchia, president of France’s Central Israelite Consistory, told BFM TV that the girl was raped “because she is Jewish,” adding, “We have never seen antisemitism that extends so far in all areas of life.”

Courbevoie Mayor Jacques Kossowski echoed that sentiment in a statement released on X/Twitter, saying, “The rape was carried out with antisemitic intent.”

Eric Ciotti, leader of Les Républicains, also condemned the “rise of antisemitism” in France, which he argued was “fueled by the alliance of the far left.” He added that “we must act as a bulwark” against antisemitism.

Marine Le Pen, leader of the right-wing National Rally party, decried the rape on social media. She noted “the explosion of antisemitic acts” in France since Oct. 7.

The recent gang-rape came amid a record surge of antisemitism in France in the wake of Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel. Antisemitic outrages rose by over 1,000 percent in the final three months of 2023 compared with the previous year, with over 1,200 incidents reported — greater than the total number of incidents in France for the previous three years combined.

In April, a Jewish woman was beaten and raped in a suburb of Paris as “vengeance for Palestine.”

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