Newspaper editors and reporters knew when their stories went to print just after midnight Tuesday morning that 10 soldiers had been killed in fighting in and near Gaza Monday, but they were only allowed to report on five of them.
Even without being able to report on the full extent of IDF losses, the papers take a somber tone, hinting at the higher death toll (which was released for publication at 6 a.m. as most papers were arriving at their destinations) and noting Israel’s insistence on keeping up the fight in the face of continuing attacks and an international ceasefire push.
Both Yedioth Ahronoth and Israel Hayom run pictures of the five soldiers killed (four in a mortar attack in a staging area outside Gaza and one in the southern Strip), with the epithet “Hard day,” made even harder given the information they were not allowed to publish. Haaretz’s main headline notes the intense gunbattle after a group of militants popped out of a tunnel inside Israel to attack soldiers late Monday afternoon, a reference to the five people killed in that attack but not yet cleared for publication.
Israel Hayom sums up the national feeling with the headline “Biting our lips and fighting.” Columnist Yoav Limor notes the crossroads Israel’s leaders are facing, whether to widen the fight and take care of Hamas once and for all (or so they hope) or to destroy the tunnels and skedaddle out of Gaza.
“Israel was caught last night between its gut and its head,” he writes. “The gut is demanding a serious response to the three incidents arising directly from the chutzpah of Hamas, which broke the very ceasefire it asked for, and the head wants to focus on the goal laid out for the operation – destroying the tunnels – without widening the fighting, and getting into a dangerous spiral with the international community.”
In Yedioth Ahronoth, Yossi Yehoshua notes that the events of Monday were the proverbial game-changer, and (much as he wrote a day before the ground operation kicked off) it’s now time for the leadership to tell the army to go all the way, or get off the can.
“The IDF has been deployed in unprecedented numbers around Gaza for three weeks now. The whole standing army is there and it all leads to just one conclusion: war on the enemy. The inability of political leaders to decide between a ceasefire or widening the operation is hurting the IDF and as we saw yesterday costing lives. The risks in this situation are clear: harm to the deterrent effect, soldiers in staging areas turning into sitting ducks, soldiers that are inside are tired after seven weeks of operations since the kidnapping of the three teens, and, on top of that, the army is losing the element of surprise for a continuing operation. One senior officer said yesterday that if the pressure on the prime minister is too great and overall considerations lead to a ceasefire he should just pull out the troops, but if not, he should release the spring and let the IDF fight and win.”
In Haaretz, Amos Harel leans toward the latter option, writing that Monday put the possibility of a ceasefire as distant as ever, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is most likely to push for a widened operation.
“Monday naturally put an end to the illusion of a lull in the fighting. But the root of all these attacks was the humanitarian truce over the two previous days. Israel had hoped that the lull, agreed upon to mark the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, would allow the IDF to continue destroying the terror tunnels without much interference, even as it halted its airstrikes,” he writes. “Instead, it seems that Hamas exploited the opportunity to move terror cells closer to the IDF defense line within the Strip. The Hamas attacks eradicated any chance for a period of calm. By evening the IDF was warning residents of the northern Gaza strip to leave their homes. Since the areas in question are deeper into Palestinian territory than the areas evacuated previously, the intention seemed clear: Israel is planning to expand its ground operation.”
The dreaded knock
Israel Hayom runs a personal essay by the wife of a soldier sent to fight in Gaza, recounting the hardest moments of her life as she got the dreaded knock on the door from two uniformed soldiers late Friday night:
“I quietly took a few steps back, turned around and went back into my bed. I covered myself and dreamt that they were not here. That this was a mistake, that I just need to fall back asleep. But the knocks grew stronger. I took a deep breath and said to myself ‘This is the time to stand up.’ I went back down the stairs, this time my heart beating even stronger and my hands completely shaking. I opened the door and looked at the soldier and asked him not to speak. Not to deliver the news I don’t want to hear. He started to speak and the words flew by, I couldn’t pay attention. And so he raised his voice: ‘But Dina, he’s alive. He’s only injured.”
While this story has a relatively happy ending, 53 others in Israel have not since this conflict began. Yedioth reports that one of the four soldiers killed in a mortar attack Monday, Staff-Sgt. Eliav Kahlon, had called his father just a few hours before and mentioned that mortar shells are falling around them all the time. “When his worried father asked how he protects himself he answered ‘I lay down under a truck.’ A few hours later he was hit by the mortar round of death. Kahlon, who was supposed to get out of the army in a few weeks, served in the armored corps in combat support,” the paper reports.
Haaretz, after two days of joining the rest of the country in bashing American mediation efforts, throws Washington a bone, with a lead editorial supporting Obama, and yes, John Kerry, for working toward a ceasefire.
“Netanyahu and his cabinet ministers, who lash out periodically at representatives of the US government, ought to remember that Obama and Kerry are not our enemies,” the paper writes. “One can argue about the degree of sophistication and skill they’ve displayed during the current crisis, but there is no reason to doubt their friendship and desire to bring an end to this round of violence on terms favorable to Israel – even if not only to Israel.”