Roi Yanovsky is the head of the investigative desk at Channel 13 News. He was on reserve duty for a hundred days following the October 7th attack. With his permission, we translated his point of view as a commander in Gaza.
- Gaza is perceived as a backward area, the “most densely populated in the world” that has been under Israeli “siege” for years. There is no bigger lie than that. Gaza is a modern, beautiful and developed city – with large and well-equipped houses, wide boulevards, public areas, a promenade by the sea, and parks. It looks much better than any other Arab city from the Jordan River to the sea, much more like Tel Aviv than Kafr Qasim or Um al-Fahm. And of course, it is very far from being the “most crowded in the world”.
- If this is what a siege looks like, let me live under siege – the houses are full of goods and food from all the countries of the Middle East, the latest furniture, advanced electrical equipment, and whatnot. There are also luxury mansions that would not shame Savyon and Kfar Shmaryahu. There is no shortage of wealth in Gaza. Generally speaking, the majority of the homes I stayed in were substantially larger than my Tel Aviv flat. The sentence “If only they had a chance at a good life, they wouldn’t fight Israel” is simply irrelevant to Gaza.
- The most common thing in the houses in the Gaza Strip: a map of the Land of Israel – under the heading “Map of Palestine”. There is no mention of Israel or Israeli communities or towns at all. And it is found in almost every home, in every school, and any public institution, the goal of erasing the State of Israel is neither hidden nor concealed, it is almost everywhere. The historical distortion of this map, which has been taught since birth (mandatory borders of territories that were never all designated for an Arab state), is the subject of another discussion that only highlights the distorted perception of reality among the residents of Gaza.
- In all the neighborhoods we were in, there are ready-made Hamas combat zones – weapons, tunnels, IEDs, rocket launching sites, all inside residential buildings, some of which are also primed, with gaps in the walls prepared for movement between buildings, and so on. Gaza residents who live in the combat zones know this; they have received countless warnings to evacuate. Long before the IDF entered. IDF leaflets are everywhere. Those who have decided to remain in the combat zones are either Hamas members in various positions or people who have consciously decided to remain in areas used by Hamas for fighting, at their discretion.
- Hamas members rarely walk around armed. They are neither stupid nor dupes. They know they won’t be shot if they move around under the guise of a “civilian.” They prepare their weapons ahead of time at the entrances to buildings and arm themselves only a moment before attacking. Therefore, the fighting is much more complex than in any other arena, and anyone who tries to judge from the outside why soldiers shot X or did not shoot Y should enter Gaza for a week or two and return with insights.
- The circle that facilitates Hamas’ activity is much larger than its tens of thousands of terrorists. Hamas’ ideology can be found in almost every home, in pictures, and in propaganda materials. Hamas in Gaza is like Messi in Argentina.
- Hamas’ buildup to this level requires active assistance from the population. There is no way that the residents of the compounds where we located rockets and weapons did not know that the site serves as a launching pad where they try to massacre Israelis every day. And I find it hard to believe that the parents in the kindergarten where we found a terror tunnel shaft did not know of its existence. Who chooses to send their children to a kindergarten that serves as a terrorist infrastructure?
- Hamas’ strongest weapon is lies and propaganda. It’s its fuel. This is how you reinforced the lie of the “siege” for years, and this is what is being done now with the pictures of innocent victims and the killing of “journalists” who turn out to be terrorist operatives. Gaza is the only place in the world where 500 fatalities are reported half an hour after an explosion. Even in earthquakes and heavy disasters, rescue forces take several days to identify and estimate the number of fatalities, but the Palestinian Health Ministry knows the damage within a minute after the explosion. It is ridiculous, and the fact that the world media quotes the numbers as the living words of God is pathetic.
I would attribute the same level of credibility to reports this week of a “famine” in Rafah.
Roi Yanovsky on X: https://twitter.com/Roi_Yanovsky