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Gaza War Diary: 21 FEBRUARY 2024

I, as much as anyone, tend to think in generalizations. But then a story comes along that makes you understand the complexity of human life, nudging your frozen heart to thaw a little.

Abu Hamid Arar , a Bedouin from the Negev, was in his car with his wife on October 7 when he was targeted by Hamas terrorists. Despite being wounded and his wife – mother of nine – being killed, Arar risked his life to warn IDF troops of the impending danger, saving numerous soldiers and civilians. Today, Arar’s bravery and selflessness was recognized by Israel’s Minister of the Interior Moshe Arbel, who granted Arar, who was born in the Gaza Strip, permanent residency status in Israel.

“This day … we show the world that we are engaged in a battle against evil, against darkness, and that our partnership as sons of Abraham is strong and courageous,” Arbel said. “Putting your life on the line minutes after they murdered your wife in cold blood in front of you, and saving the lives of dozens of soldiers – your actions and your words touched everyone’s hearts. The Ministry of the Interior thanks you and declares you an integral part of the State of Israel.”

Very moving.

The battle in Gaza is nonstop. The IDF has been targeting Zeitoun, the largest neighborhood in Gaza City, where many of the Hamas terrorists came from. Artillery fire, aerial bombardment, and tanks all taking part. Residents were warned in advance what was coming. Another elite terror tunnel was discovered and IDF soldiers entered, blew off the armored doors and engaged in direct combat with terrorists hiding there. Afterwards, it was blown up.

The question on everyone’s mind of course, is where is Sinwar. I saw a video with two little Gazan sisters sitting outside digging, the younger with a spoon the older one with a shovel. “What are you doing?” their father asks. “Looking for Sinwar,” the little one answers, only to be interrupted by her sister who asserts that she’ll never find him with a spoon. “I’ll find him,” she says, brandishing her shovel.

Comedy shows in Israel have been having great fun “interviewing” Sinwar in his tunnel: “Where have you been all this time?” he is asked. “I have no idea, I wish you’d tell me,” he answers.

I have deliberately not been covering the military activity on the Lebanese border, because it’s just too much to take in all at once. But now it seems, the gloves are off, and the IDF is targeting Hezbollah military targets in the middle of Lebanon, and in Damascus, which must be unsettling to the leadership who thought they were controlling the rules of the game. No rules, no game.

The need for this kind of escalation is clear. Farmers in Metullah, whose orchards have been tended by five generations of the same family, expressed their heartbreak that their trees are dropping their lovely fruit on the ground and have not been tended for months. “In all the wars, we have never left our land,” the farmer said. “We want to go home.”

There is increased expectation that there will be a resumption of hostage-release talks. The idea is that these talks will take place in Paris. The French, in an attempt to bolster Israeli confidence in the reliabilty of the go-betweens after the discovery of dozens of unopened cartons of medicine meant for hostages were found in Nassar Hospital, were at pains to assure Israel that 45 of the hostages had received the medicines sent for them. Israel has made it clear that if Hamas continues its unrealistic demands, it is not coming to Paris for any talks. Apparently, Hamas in Gaza is pressuring the leaders outside Gaza to lower their expectations and demands, sending a message to that effect to a Hamas representative in Cairo. The negotiations , they stress, are not for a permanent ceasefire, but a partial, humanitarian pause where hostages would be released.

Minister of Defense Gantz has been criticised in Israel for expressing optimism,without any basis in reality, that negotiations can be restarted, because no answer has yet been forthcoming from Cairo. I am personally not convinced. All we’ve heard so far is this from senior Hamas official Mardawi: “What is happening in Cairo is not part of the negotiations. The enemy has no choice but to accept our demands.”

In the meantime, militarily, plans are already in motion for an invasion of Rafah, and I expect that sooner or later it’s going to happen, whether or not there is a temporary ceasefire. It has to.

For those of us who are not hip-hop fans, and can do without revenge lyrics and obscenities, here is another popular song in Israel that will move your hearts. Click here to view the video.

ENGLISH TRANSLATION:

The Tanach teacher is in Givati / the language teacher in Intelligence
The neighbor upstairs is a construction contractor / but has already been in the reserves for a month
The lawyer is a military operations officer doing shifts in the brigade
Her brother – a senior hi-tech man –  is now a sniper on Gaza rooftops
The tough bank branch manager is a sergeant in Judea and Samaria
Doron, the owner of a toy store, is now a Division Commander of an artillery battery
And our Amedi* who sings mostly in Caesarea, is an engineering soldier bravely recovering after
being wounded in the heart of Gaza
True, everyone here looks ordinary, but / we are a nation of superheroes
In everyone there is always a hidden soldier / ready to save the world
The bus driver who is always on time / is now the commander of an artillery battery in the south
near Nir Am
And there is a student at the Technion / in the middle of a bachelor’s degree
Who’s been on reserve duty for a month as a captain in the Galilee
A paramedic who’s a model / and an electrician who is a magician
There is Yoni, a gifted saxophone player who is first and foremost a metalsmith
And all of them have a secret closet / or a large well-equipped box
Where they keep always ready their sets of uniforms and a spare outfit for reserves
True, everyone here looks ordinary, but / we are a nation of superheroes
In everyone there is always a hidden soldier / ready to save the world
And it doesn’t matter if it’s in the middle of life or in the middle of a soccer game
Everyone will drop everything in a second if the flag calls to them
This is not a parallel universe or a Marvel reality
This is simply our story – the story of Israelis

*Idan Amedi,an Israeli singer-songwriter and actor who rose to fame on a popular talent show in 2010.

Click here to view the video.

Music by : Hatikva 6/Superheroes
Lyrics by : Imre Glickman and Asaf Peri
English Translation by: Naomi Ragen

Click here to view the video.


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