War Day 201: Hamas Release Hostage Video, Prepare Rafah Evacuation

War Summary, Day Two Hundred and One: Today Hamas published a cruel propaganda video of Israeli-American hostage 23-year-old Hersh Goldberg-Polin, the IDF has conducted all necessary preparations for an offensive in Rafah, and Maj. Gen. Aharon Haliva, the head of the Military Intelligence Directorate, has decided to resign over his role in the failures that led to Hamas’s October 7th onslaught.

By Mrs. Bruria Efune

War Summary, Day Two Hundred and One:

133 held captive in Gaza.
112 hostages freed.
12 hostage bodies rescued.
37 hostages confirmed murdered in Gaza.
1,492 Israelis murdered.
261 fallen soldiers in the battle in Gaza.
7 fallen soldiers in Northern Israel.
4 fallen soldiers in Judea & Samaria.
11,600+ injured.
13,530 estimated rockets fired at Israel.
102,100 Israelis displaced from their homes.
1 Jewish nation united in prayer, charity, and good deeds.

Top Headlines:

  • Hamas released a video of hostage Hersh Goldberg-Polin
  • A few pinpoint operations launched in North and Central Gaza
  • The IDF is ready for the Rafah operation
  • The ICC may be moving towards arrest warrants for top Israeli officials
  • Biden signs on aid to Israel
  • Car ramming attack and attempted shooting in Jerusalem fail
  • Escalation in the north
  • PFLP praises American university students for their support

Hostage Updates:

Today Hamas published a cruel propaganda video of Israeli-American hostage, 23-year-old Hersh Goldberg-Polin, whose mother Rachel Goldberg-Polin has been bravely and prominently campaigning for his release.

Hersh was taken hostage from the Nova Festival, after his left arm was blown off by a grenade, from the elbow down. In the video his injury is very visible, and badly treated. It’s unknown when the video was taken, but in it, he says he’s been held for around 200 days. Hersh talks coherently in the video, but is clearly saying what he is told to at gunpoint, with similar talking points to other hostage videos.

Hamas videos like this one are a form of psychological warfare, and the IDF asks that people do not view or share them. Hamas also delivered various other messages today, including a claim that a large number of hostages are being held in a location that’s impossible for anyone to reach, and that they’re willing to free 40 hostages only as part of a deal that includes a complete IDF ceasefire and withdrawal from Gaza. This comes as Hamas is fearful of an imminent IDF entry into Rafah.

In response, IDF spokesman, Lt. Col. Daniel Hagari said: “Until Hamas releases our abductees, the IDF will continue to persecute Hamas everywhere in Gaza. No stone will be left unturned in our efforts to locate our abductees.” 

Political officials made it clear that the efforts to find an outline for a hostage deal that would be consistent with Israel’s interests have not stopped at any stage. However, in the War Cabinet there is a unanimous agreement among all members, that the military operations should not be delayed any longer even if there is a window for a deal. “If the possibility of a deal develops we will stop, but until that happens there is no intention to delay what is planned,” a political source told Israel Hayom.

There are two main groups representing families of hostages, and they each responded differently to the video of Hersh. The larger one is the Family of Hostages Forum, who immediately took to the streets in demonstrations in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, calling for an immediate deal to release the hostages. The second is the Tikva Forum, who asked that “the media not to cooperate with the Nazi propaganda videos,” and that Netanyahu and the war cabinet focus and use military pressure to bring the hostages home. Giving examples, the Tikva Forum said: “There are many pressure levers to return the hostages that have not been used, such as the annexation of territories from the Gaza Strip, the cessation of “humanitarian” aid, the occupation of the Philedaplhi route, and more.”

Gaza Front Updates:

Hamas fired rockets four times over the last two days onto Sderot and Zikim on the Northern Gaza border, and Kissufim on the Central Gaza border. Most rockets were intercepted, but large shrapnel from one hit a home in Sderot. No physical injuries were reported, but several people were treated for shock.

The IDF announced the name of one hero who fell in battle in Northern Gaza:

Sgt. First Class (res.) Salm Alkreshat, 43, from the Bedouin community of Abu Rabia.

Alkershat was a soldier in the tracker’s unit, which is historically a Bedouin unit with expertise in finding changes or prints in outdoor terrain which may lead to infiltrators.

There was heavy action in Gaza over the last two days, including over 50 airstrikes in the last day alone, which were carried out based on recently gathered intelligence on the locations of tunnel shafts, munitions storage, and rocket launchers across Gaza.

In Northern Gaza’s Beit Hanoun, a new pinpoint operation was launched just before Pesach (Passover) began, in which troops from Netzach Yehuda and the trackers unit are locating and destroying new and remaining Hamas sites and infrastructure. Salm Alkreshat was killed on the first day of this operation. In nearby Beit Lahiya, from where a series of rockets were launched at Sderot and Zikim, the IDF carried out airstrikes against a large number of targets. A pinpoint operation is likely to begin in Beit Lahiya as well, any moment.

In Central Gaza, the Nachal Brigade, who are continuing to operate along the Netzarim Corridor (which divides the north and south of Gaza), launched a new surprise pinpoint operation in the Central Gaza area today, in which they located Hamas weapons and eliminated terrorists, calling in airstrikes for backup. In a separate action, the IDF used an airstrike to tale out several terrorists who were hiding near a civilian shelter in Bureij.

In Southern Gaza, the Air Force struck rocket launchers, which were primed for an attack on Israeli civilians and nestled right alongside civilian shelters in Gaza. The IDF waited until it was safe and wouldn’t harm sheltering Gazans before carrying out the strike.

A senior IDF defense official told Reuters that the IDF has conducted all necessary preparations for an offensive in Rafah, and is now waiting for government approval to go ahead.

Amongst those preparations, the IDF has moved a large number of tanks and other armory to bases near Southern Gaza, and has set up a large tent city near Khan Younis for evacuees from Rafah. According to an Axios report, the head of the Shin Bet security agency, Ronen Bar, and IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, visited Egypt today and met with Egypt’s intelligence chief and other senior security officials to discuss the upcoming Rafah operation. Earlier, Egypt had strongly warned Israel against operating in Rafah, where more than a million displaced Gazans are sheltering. Egypt seems to have warmed up to the operation, perhaps because they completed reinforcements on their border along Rafah.

The Rafah operation will likely begin with civilian evacuations, which some estimate can take up to a month, though it may be done in sections as was in Khan Younis. During evacuations, IDF intelligence units will use face-recognition AI and other methods to filter out any Hamas or PIJ terrorists who attempt to flee with civilians. After evacuations, heavy airstrikes can be expected to clear out areas before any troops move in on ground.

The IDF is preparing to send two reserve brigades, who until now were stationed along Israel’s northern border, to enter battle in Gaza under the 99th Division. These brigades have undergone training in recent weeks specifically geared toward their upcoming mission in Gaza, including learning techniques and gaining insights from previous Gaza operations.

Al Jazeera quoted Hamas sources to spread a claim of a mass grave dug by the IDF in Nasser Hospital, in Khan Younis. The IDF says these allegations are completely false, and the mass graves were there before troops entered the hospital. What did happen was that IDF troops respectfully opened the mass grave to search for possible bodies of hostages, and closed it back up after.

The IDF announced that Maj. Gen. Aharon Haliva, the head of the Military Intelligence Directorate, has decided to resign over his role in the failures that led to Hamas’s October 7th onslaught. He will step down once a replacement is appointed.

Ahead of cabinet discussions on “the day after” management of Gaza, an internal document from Brigadier General Roman Gofman, Netanyahu’s incoming military secretary, was leaked. In the document (which is entirely his own opinion and is contrary to recommendations of the IDF and the current position of the War Cabinet) Gofman recommends Israeli control of Gaza and its residents even after the war.

Gaza Humanitarian Efforts Updates:

According to the last update, on April 23rd, which is consistent with the recent daily average:

220 aid trucks were distributed within Gaza, 141 of which contained food.
231 pallets containing tens of thousands of packages of aid were airdropped into northern Gaza.
A total of 52 trucks from the private sector were coordinated to Northern Gaza.
4 tankers of cooking gas and 3 tankers of fuel designated for the operation of essential infrastructure in Gaza, entered Gaza.
26 bakeries are currently operational in Gaza, providing over 5 million breads, rolls, and pita breads daily.
So far, 3,204 injured and sick individuals and 725 escorts have been evacuated from Gaza.

Activists from Order 9 continue attempts to block the entry of aid to Gaza, lately focusing on the trucks coming through Israel from Jordan. The protesters demand that the aid, which is largely controlled by Hamas, be stopped until the hostages are released and Hamas surrenders.

Germany announced their intention to renew cooperation with UNRWA, after they stopped working with the aid organization due to the involvement of its employees in the October 7th massacre.

American Involvement Updates:

Israel’s top political reporter, Amit Segal of N12, reported that the ICC may soon move to put out arrest warrants for senior Israeli political and military leaders, including Prime Minister Netanyahu. Quoting “very senior officials associated with the International Criminal Court in The Hague,” Segal says that these intentions would not be possible without U.S. support. The Prime MInister’s Office has reportedly held very serious discussions on the topic over the last weeks, and built emergency plans to combat accusations at The Hague. Netanyahu also asked the British and German Foreign Ministers for help on the topic during their recent visits.

Such a move by the ICC during the fog of war is unprecedented, and directly points to intense behind-the-scenes political pressure on Netanyahu to end the war before removing Hamas from Rafah—especially in light of the fact that Israel did not start the war, and has the lowest recorded ratio of civilian to militant casualties in urban warfare.

Hugh Hewitt, Washington Post columnist and Salem Media radio host, said that the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mike Johnson, received an assurance from the national security adviser of the Biden administration, Jake Sullivan, that no sanctions would be imposed on IDF soldiers. According to the report, when Johnson heard about the intentions to sanction the Netzach Yehuda Battalion, he immediately called Sullivan and voiced his strenuously objection. The political system in Israel believes that the report is true.

At the same time, today U.S. President Biden signed an aid package of $17 billion to Israel, and today met with with four-year-old Abigail Idan, whose parents were killed on October 7th, before she was taken hostage with her neighbors, and was released in late November.

Northern Front Updates:

Hezbollah has been firing very heavily on residents of Northern Israel, with both missiles and drones. The attacks also slightly increased from the usual range, with one siren in Tzfat (Safed) right before Pesach began, and another in the daytime along the beaches in the Kiryot area, right before Haifa. Most attacks were intercepted, but some hits were made causing damage in various areas along the northern border, including on two homes in Avivim, a chicken coop in Margaliot, and damage which caused a fire and lead to a power outage in the area.

The IDF also greatly increased in airstrikes against Hezbollah targets, including 40 airstrikes on Wednesday evening alone, though limited to the Southern Lebanon area. Airstrikes targeted Hezbollah weapons depots and other assets. The Saudi “Al-Hadth” network reported that the airstrikes were largely on Hezbollah tunnels.

There were also a number of Hezbollah terrorists eliminated, including Hussein Azqul, a central Hezbollah terrorist who the IDF says was a member of the elite Radwan force’s aerial unit, and was “heavily involved in the activities of the [air defense unit] and took part in the planning and execution of a variety of terror activities.” He was eliminated along with Muhammad Attiya, who was also a member of the Radwan forces, and also involved in launching attacks against Israel.

Following an assessment at the Northern Command, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced that “half of the Hezbollah commanders in south Lebanon have been eliminated… and half of them are in hiding and abandon south Lebanon due to IDF operations.”

Gallant said that the main goal of operations in the north is to enable the 80,000 evacuated residents of the north to return home safely, and that the IDF is “dealing with a number of alternatives in order to establish this matter, and the coming period will be decisive in this regard.”

IDF troops remain deployed along the Lebanon and Syrian borders, from where they track Hezbollah movements, shell positions along the border, and use methods to ambush Hezbollah terrorists.

Houthi War Front Updates:

On Wednesday, the U.S. Central command reported that a coalition ship intercepted an anti-ship missile launched by Iranian-backed Houthi terrorists in Yemen. The missile was likely aimed at a U.S.-owned ship called MV Yorktown, but didn’t cause any harm or damage. Later, U.S. Central Command forces destroyed four attack drones over Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen.

Judea and Samaria Updates:

On Monday, three people were lightly wounded in a car-ramming attack in Jerusalem. After driving into people, two terrorists jumped out of a car, with a makeshift Carlo submachine gun, and attempted to shoot at people, only to find that their gun was jammed. They then dropped the weapon and hid in a nearby closed shop, where police later found and arrested them.

Also on Monday, the Shin Bet and IDF found and arrested the terrorist who murdered 14-year-old shepherd, Benjamin Achimeir, near Duma, on April 12th.

Today a female Palestinian terrorist attempted to stab soldiers near Kiryat Arba, but was eliminated by troops before she could do any harm.

The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, which is Fatah’s military arm in Judea and Samaria, released a video announcing a return to suicide attacks.

Iranian Front Updates:

AFP (French news agency) quotes an intelligence source and a source close to Hezbollah, to say that the Iranian regime has withdrawn all its forces from Southern Syria and Damascus as a result of Israel’s alleged attack. While the IRGC still maintain a presence in other areas of Syria, this is seen as a significant accomplishment on Israel’s part.

International Updates:

PM Netanyahu released a video statement condemning the “antisemitic mobs which took over leading universities,” and decried their attacks on Jewish students and faculties, and their calls for the destruction of Israel and America. Netanyahu said the situation is reminiscent of what happened in Germany in the 1930s, and that the lack of condemnation from several university presidents is shameful. Noting that antisemitism is always the canary in the goldmine, Netanyahu called on all Jews and non-Jews alike to stand up against it before it’s too late.

On the other end of the spectrum, the PFLP (Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine), which the US State Department designated as a foreign terrorist organization in 1997, released a statement praising the “Liberated Encampment Zones” at Columbia and other campuses, and condemned any efforts to shut them down, while referring to protesters as “our students in American universities.”

General Updates:

While Israelis are usually amongst the most travel-happy, and leave Israel in large numbers for vacations over Pesach break, Israel Hayom reported that there was a significant decrease in departures this year, as many Israelis decided to specifically stay in Israel due to the war. The result was a 15% increase in local shopping for Pesach needs.

Israeli air defenses downing Hezbollah explosive-laden drones off the coast of Acre Tuesday morning

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