Field reporter and former U.S. Marine Julio Rosas, who has been in Israel since last Wednesday, is sharing details from the ground as the war between Hamas and Israel continues.

“Just before I signed on to join this podcast, there was—I got alerts on my phone that there were rockets being launched further to the south of us, and so that is currently the biggest threat,” said Rosas, author of “Fiery But Mostly Peaceful: The 2020 Riots and the Gaslighting of America,” as he joined us for an interview on “The Daily Signal Podcast.”

“Also, there are some infiltrations attempts still being made, not obviously on [as] big of a scale as the initial attacks, but this is still—it’s a pretty active area,” said Rosas.

Rosas was in Sderot, Israel, at the time of the interview.

“The more north you go in Tel Aviv, which is where most of the flights go into right now, things are kind of normal. I would say that not as many businesses are open during normal hours,” added Rosas. “And also just the fact, again, rockets get fired all the way as far north over there.” 

Rosas, who said he was also in Northern Israel, shared that “[i]t’s kind of the same story where the towns along the Lebanese border have been evacuated.” 

Rosas continued:

There’s not that many people there left, and it’s concerning because there’s still a lot of kind of minimal fighting between the [Israel Defense Forces] and Lebanese and Hezbollah kind of back and forth.

So that’s one of the reasons why Israel hasn’t gone fully into Gaza yet, is because they want to make sure that their northern and eastern regions are prepared for any response that they make here down south. 

Rosas joined today’s episode of “The Daily Signal Podcast” to discuss what he’s hearing from locals about the Israel-Hamas war, what he wants Americans to know about what he’s seeing on the ground in Israel, and how the situation has changed since he arrived in the war-torn country.

Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript: 

Samantha Aschieris: Joining today’s episode of The Daily Signal Podcast is Julio Rosas, who is currently on the ground reporting in Israel. Julio is the author of “Fiery But Mostly Peaceful: The 2020 Riots and the Gaslighting of America.” Julio, thanks so much for taking the time to join us today. 

Julio Rosas: Yep. Thanks for having me, Sam. 

Aschieris:  First and foremost, Julio, where are you right now? 

Rosas:  Right now, I’m just on the edge of a town called Sderot. It is one of the bigger towns in the southern region of Israel. This was one of the many towns that were attacked two Saturdays ago by Hamas terrorists. Right now, it is virtually empty of its civilian population just because at certain points it’s a mile, half a mile, away from the northern Gaza Strip. And so, obviously, the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] is signaling that that’s where much of the military operations are going to be taking place. Just like they told people in Gaza to move south, they got Israelis out of this area as well. 

Aschieris: Now, it looks like it’s nighttime there. I think it’s about six o’clock, if I’m correct. What was your day like today? Tell us a little bit more about what it’s been like on the ground and just give us an insight into what it’s been like. 

Rosas: Well, it’s been interesting. This is my first time in Israel. This is my first time in the Middle East at all, so, obviously, it’s quite an interesting time to learn the lay of the land. But really the biggest thing right now, the biggest threat is rocket attacks from Hamas. Just before I signed on to join this podcast, I got alerts on my phone that there were rockets being launched further to the south of us. That is currently the biggest threat.

Also, there are some infiltration attempts still being made—not obviously on as big of a scale as the initial attacks, but it’s a pretty active area. The more north you go in Tel Aviv, which is where most of the flights go into right now, things are kind of normal. I would say that not as many businesses are open during normal hours and also just the fact, again, rockets get fired all the way as far north over there. 

Further north, I was in Northern Israel; it’s kind of the same story where the towns along the Lebanese border have been evacuated. There’s not that many people there left, and it’s concerning because there’s still a lot of minimal fighting between the IDF and Lebanese and Hezbollah back and forth. So, that’s one of the reasons why Israel hasn’t gone fully into Gaza yet is because they want to make sure that their northern and eastern regions are prepared for any response that they make here down south. 

Aschieris: How long have you been in Israel and how has the situation changed since when you first arrived to what you’re currently experiencing? 

Rosas: I got here last Wednesday, last Wednesday afternoon, and I would say the biggest difference right now is, it definitely seemed like Israel was going to begin their ground operations into Gaza two nights ago, three nights ago, just because there was a lot of troop movement, a lot of equipment being moved around, literally right here on this highway, right behind me, and the area was locked down a little bit more. The Israeli border police were definitely stepping up their presence. That’s not really the case right now, and I think another reason why Israel hasn’t gone into Gaza is because they’re still trying to figure out how many hostages are in Gaza right now and trying to figure out where they are.

And that’s one of the things that’s kind of complicating the situation—is obviously, not only do you have to worry about civilians being caught in the crossfire in Gaza, but their own citizens and foreign citizens and actually. … I’m just getting an alert now. More rockets have been launched, not where I am, at least I’m seeing. … Yeah, no, actually to the north of us, but I can hear it in the background. 

They’re trying to figure out where everybody is. They’re trying to identify the bodies because there’s still a lot of bodies that were so disfigured, whether through burning or through just total desecration, they’re still identifying or still trying to identify over two weeks later or nearly two weeks later. Obviously, as soon as they can see who’s alive and who isn’t, then they can have a better idea of where everybody is at.

Now, on top of that, you do have President Biden coming to Israel, so it’s pretty safe to assume that Israel will not be going into Gaza while President Biden is in town just because they don’t want to put him at risk. But he’s also going to be going around the region as well, not just Israel. I think it might take a little bit more time just based off those known factors, and, obviously, there’s the unknown factors for them. But the biggest difference right now is they’re definitely trying to get everything in place before they do a ground operation. 

Aschieris:  Just speaking of President Biden’s visit on Wednesday, have you spoken with anyone on the ground about the president’s visit? Are they in favor of it? What are you hearing from locals? 

Rosas: Generally, I’ve seen evidence of Israelis being appreciative of President Biden. In Tel Aviv, there’s these kind of giant digital billboard signs with Biden, with the American flag, Israeli flag, it says “Thank you.” I have seen actually bumper stickers with American and Israeli flags saying, “Israel loves Biden.” I would say generally they are appreciative of Biden because he has continued the support that America has been providing them for a long time, so it’s kind of funny when they ask me what I think about Biden and I said, “Well, actually on other issues, he’s not great. Our economy sucks.”

And they’re like, “Wait, really?” I was like, “Yeah, just don’t get me started.” From their perspective, they like him because he has continued to show the historic support for Israel. 

Aschieris: I also wanted to ask you just generally speaking, have you been talking to the locals? What are you hearing from them about the war? 

Rosas: From their perspective, the shock is now kind of over because obviously an attack on that scale was just not supposed to happen, right? They have all the security infrastructure, they technically have the personnel to address an attack like that, but because it was on the eve of one of their biggest holidays, Yom Kippur, obviously, it was a little bit of a complacency issue on their end.

The head of their intelligence agency has said that it’s his fault. We tried to do operations to minimize Hamas’ operational capabilities and clearly, we didn’t do enough, and clearly, we clearly failed on that end. There is a large sense of betrayal with which they view both the intelligence agencies, and it’s actually—obviously, the circumstances are different—but it kind of mirrors Americans’ feelings towards our own intelligence community and how we don’t really have that much faith in them because they seem to keep missing terrorists and they seem to be focusing on the wrong things and people that are not threats and they’re letting these other threats fester. We’re really seeing that now with all the pro-Hamas supporters in America, and it’s kind of like, “Wait, what?” 

It’s one thing to be pro-Palestine, but it’s another thing to basically say, yes, we’re Hamas and we support what they did. They [the Israeli people] have confidence in the military, they have confidence that they will be able to adequately address the current situation, but then it’s a question of, “OK, so then what’s going to happen after this is done?” The other question is, when is it going to be done? And I think this is going to be another long-haul conflict, kind of like with Ukraine and Russia. 

Aschieris: Now, I wanted to also ask you about more of your reporting that you’re gathering on the ground, the videos that you’re posting to your X [formerly Twitter] page, to your Substack. What do you want Americans to know about what you are seeing on the ground? 

Rosas:  What I would want them to know is that, it’s kind of weird saying it because it’s obvious, but this is very much a real conflict in the sense that, yeah, it’s longstanding. Yes, there have been things done in the past on both sides that are not OK, in terms of … we just had the IDF strike a Reuters journalist team not too long ago in Lebanon. Obviously, that was not a good thing.

You have people on the left saying that they keep focusing on the Palestinian people, but they’re not demanding Hamas to release the hostages. AOC [Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez], Rashida Talib, members of “The Squad,” they’re all saying, well, we just need a ceasefire. And, it’s like, well, there could be a ceasefire if Hamas releases the hostages that they took.

Now, Hamas has said, “Well, yes, we have some hostages, but other groups and other people”—whatever that means—”also have their own hostages.” As we’ve seen through new videos, it wasn’t just card-carrying members of Hamas who attacked these Israeli towns. There were regular civilians, so to speak, who joined in on the frenzy, and they also followed the fighters and took part in the looting and destroying the kibbutzes and the towns.

Like I said, that complicates things because they’re obviously dealing with this conflict that has been longstanding—a huge issue for a long time, both domestically here and internationally back home. So, I would say definitely check the sources on whatever information they’re sharing, because even for someone that’s here, it is still kind of hard to figure out what is actually accurate and what is being kind of like a ruse or not making it seem what it actually is.

So, it’s tough, don’t get me wrong. We saw that with Russia and Ukraine and all the kind of stuff that was being spread around—and OK, it wasn’t really true. That’s been happening for a long time here, but it’s really intensified, obviously, within the past week and a half. 

Aschieris: I wanted to ask you about one specific video that is on your X page. I’ll leave a link to it in the show notes so our audience members can take a look at it. … You are running, and gunshots can be heard. What was going on in that video? Tell us a little bit more about that video.

Rosas: Well, the gunshots—one was actually here, right at this spot—and like I said, there are still infiltration attempts by Hamas into Israel, and so that’s why there’s actually all these roadblocks around the area just because that is a threat. It sounded like a heavy weapon, like a mounted machine gun, being used at that time, and it was actually a spot not too far away from where I was. But there was a rocket that was fired over us, and the Iron Dome missile intercepted it right above where myself and a few other people were. So, we had to go into the bomb shelter nearby—not because of the rocket per se, but because of the shrapnel that was now falling from the sky.

And, that’s what I’m saying—that’s a fact of life here. You have to always be aware of where the nearest bomb shelter is, and if there isn’t one, how can you make yourself as small as possible to avoid catching anything?

And, yeah, it’s a new dynamic for sure. It’s new for me. I’ve never had to grow up dealing with that. And it’s funny because I was on the highway driving south and I was playing my music kind of loud as I normally do and I saw, all of a sudden, people pulling over to the side of the road. And at first, I thought it was for an emergency vehicle like back in the states, but then I turned my music off, and that’s when I could hear the air raid sirens going off, and I said, “Oh, OK, maybe I shouldn’t play my music so loud.”

Everything was fine where we were, and I think the rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome, but again, that just shows that that’s something that you have to be aware of when you’re out here. 

Aschieris: Absolutely. Julio, just before we go, I wanted to ask, why was it important for you to go over there to Israel and document what’s happening? 

Rosas: Well, it’s kind of like I said before: Whenever there’s a conflict of any kind, there is always the fog of war, and that’s a term for a reason. And, that especially, like I was saying, is true for this one because both sides have their supporters that are willing to spread whatever.

And being here on the ground, it helps me do what I’ve always done, which is be on the ground somewhere and make sure that I do my part to distribute as much accurate information as I can and as I know it to be true.

That’s why I decided to leave Town Hall and go independent through Substack, which people can subscribe to and support, because that’s what it takes. That’s what it takes. You have to do the dirty work. You have to be out here for hours on end. You have to wear all this equipment—and my helmet’s down there, too. Just because if you don’t and you have to rely on certain sources, that’s not always going to be the case in terms of accuracy. It’s just a matter of wanting to do it.

Obviously, I want to be out here, but it’s just something that I have a passion for. I don’t know why I like running towards danger, but I do, and it serves a purpose, so, I figured why not do something I love to do?

Aschieris: Well, Julio, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us today. One final question for you. If you could leave our audience with any final thoughts. 

Rosas: I would say that for me, I’m not here to push one thing or the other in terms of yes, the U.S. should get involved, or no, the U.S. should not get involved. I mean, we’re already involved to a certain extent. I don’t think we’ll get to boots on the ground in terms of troops here, but I mean, you never know. These things can spiral out of control very quickly.

As always, I would just ask people to pay attention. I’m not saying to become obsessed like I am technically right now at this moment, but just try to be as best informed as you can because it’s very easy. And, as I’ve already seen, people were blaming the IDF for striking this civilian convoy in Gaza heading south, and that wasn’t true. There’s no evidence to support that, and, actually, there’s more evidence that Hamas had a suicide bomber in that convoy to punish people who were trying to leave.

And yet people already had their narratives by the time people were really looking into it. I would just say, as with anything, definitely verify before you go spouting off on whatever, make sure that whatever you’re sharing is accurate, as much as you know it to be, and to really make sure that you don’t get sucked into just automatically reacting. Because, no matter what the case is, automatically reacting and saying your piece on something, it can be OK, but other times, it can come to bite you back. So, I would just say, just be careful. 

Aschieris: Well, Julio, thank you so much for joining us. We so appreciate you taking the time. Please stay safe out there. I will be in touch, checking in on you, and again, I’ll make sure that we have a link to both your Substack and your X page in the show notes so people can follow your reporting. Thank you so much. 

Rosas: Yep, thanks for having me. 

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