U.S. President Joe Biden wrapped up a short trip to Israel on Wednesday, 12 days after Hamas launched a surprise attack on the Jewish state.
During the eight-hour stint, Biden promised an unprecedented aid package to Israel, in addition to a deal to get limited humanitarian aid into Gaza from Egypt.
“I come to Israel with a single message: You’re not alone. As long as the United States stands- and we will stand forever- we will not let you ever be alone.”
The president also remarked on the bombing of a hospital in Gaza, announcing the White House’s position that it believes the Palestinian Islamic Jihad was behind the strike, and not Israel. Following Biden’s departure from the Middle East, rocket fire from Israel’s north and south intensified and the fighting raged on.
Hamas and Hezbollah launch rockets into Israel
Hamas, Hezbollah, the PIJ, and other terrorist organizations have launched rocket and projectile barrages toward the Jewish state for years. Indeed, Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system was designed to respond to these constant bombardments and protect Israeli lives.
While hearing air raid sirens and frequenting bomb shelters and safe houses may not be a new thing for Israelis, it is different after October 7. Twelve days ago, Hamas militants breached numerous security fences and borders separating Gaza from Israel and carried out the most brutal and disturbing pogrom against the Jewish people since the Holocaust. While some militants paraglided into a peaceful music festival filled mostly with young adult party-goers and killed at least 260, other terrorists invaded Kibbutzim, where they tortured, sexually violated, mutilated and burned alive hundreds of men, women, children, and babies.
Did Hezbollah Get Involved?
Following this horrific assault, the Israeli government vowed to wipe out every last remnant of Hamas in the Gaza Strip. For 12 days, Israel has launched dozens of airstrikes targeting Hamas personnel, assets, and facilities. Hamas and its affiliated groups have also launched relentless rocket and projectile barrages targeting civilian centers in Israel. Immediately following the outbreak of war, American and Israeli officials were concerned that Hezbollah could exploit the region’s instability and initiate war from the north. The U.S. has deployed two carrier strike groups to the eastern Mediterranean as a deterrent.
While Lebanon-based, Iran-backed Hezbollah has been restrained over the last two weeks, there has been an uptick in rocket fire from Israel’s north. Once Biden departed Israel on Wednesday, nine rockets were launched from Lebanon, setting off sirens in Kiryat Shmona and other nearby communities. According to The Times of Israel, four were intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system.
As detailed in the article, “Shortly before the rocket sirens, the IDF said one of its tanks shelled two anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) launch positions in southern Lebanon, where the military identified an attempt to carry out an attack. A third ATGM launch site was struck following a missile attack on the northern town of Metula. At the same time, the IDF said projectiles were also launched from Lebanon at the contested Mount Dov area, where there are a number of military posts and no towns.”
Over the last 12 days, at least five Israeli soldiers, as well as 13 Hezbollah and five Palestinian fighters have been killed in the exchanges of fire between Lebanon and Israel. Earlier this week, the IDF evacuated civilians from more than two dozen towns that border the north.
Militants in Gaza are also continuing to barrage Israel with rockets and other projectiles. On Wednesday, one video depicting a misfired rocket launched by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad circulated widely. While Hamas and mainstream media outlets immediately blamed the IDF for the misfired rocket, which appears to be the cause of the Alahali Hospital strike in Gaza City, this video indicates otherwise.
Calls for a Cease-Fire
U.S. lawmakers such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib have pressed Israel to issue a cease-fire with Hamas. However, this sentiment dismisses the reality on the ground. The IDF cannot simply throw their arms up and allow Gaza-based groups to continue to launch hundreds of barrages targeting population centers in Israel. Hamas has yet to make any real moves concerning the 200 to 250 hostages that remain in Gaza’s underground tunnel systems. Perhaps if the terror group began releasing hostages, Israel would have more cause to restrain its strikes and barrages.
Maya Carlin, a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, is an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel. You can follow her on Twitter: @MayaCarlin.