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Returning to a Home at War

Friday, March 1, 2024

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Every week, we post seven to ten news stories from Israel with a suggested prayer focus and scripture for each one, guiding readers how to pray for Israel’s most urgent needs. This Prayer Update is also sent to over 18,000 subscribers every Friday by e-mail. Please contact us at intl.office@bridgesforpeace.com if you would like to receive this Prayer Update by e-mail.

Gallant: Hamas and Iran Plotting ‘Second Phase of October 7’ during Ramadan

by Akiva van Koningsveld ~ JNS

Israeli soldiers in the Gaza Strip

Wednesday, 28 February 2024 | Iran-backed terror groups are plotting to turn the Islamic holy month of Ramadan [one of the Five Pillars of Islam when stringent disciplines are observed] into the “second phase of October 7” and set the Middle East on fire, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant charged on Tuesday.

“The main goal of Hamas is to take Ramadan, with an emphasis on the Temple Mount and Jerusalem, and turn it into the second phase of their plan that began on October 7. This is the main goal of Hamas, and it is being amplified by Iran and Hezbollah,” Gallant said following a situational assessment at the Israel Defense Forces’ [IDF] Central Command, which is responsible for Judea and Samaria.

“We cannot let them have this, and that means we need to do everything we can to bring calm to the area,” Gallant continued.

“We must not give Hamas what it failed to achieve during the beginning of the war and [let it achieve] ‘unity of the battlefields,’” he added, in reference to the terror group’s attempts to spark a multi-front war.

The violence has continued to escalate in the months since Hamas started a war with its murderous rampage across the northwestern Negev on October 7. A total of 41 Israeli airstrikes have been carried out in Judea and Samaria since the start of the war, as well as more than 200 counterterror operations in Palestinian towns.

Since October 7, around 3,250 Palestinian terror suspects have been captured in arrest raids throughout Judea, Samaria and the Jordan Valley, including more than 1,350 who are associated with Hamas, the IDF said Tuesday.

In the Gaza Strip, IDF forces are closing in on the position of Hamas terror leader Yahya Sinwar, the Washington Post reported on Tuesday, citing current and former Israeli officials familiar with the intelligence.

Sinwar is believed to be hiding in the vast tunnel systems underneath the southern Gaza city of Khan Yunis, where he has reportedly surrounded himself with a large number of living hostages, the officials confirmed.

“It’s not about locating him, it’s about doing something” without risking the lives of the hostages, one senior Israeli official told the newspaper.

However, the operation in Gaza cannot conclude until Sinwar is captured, killed or removed from power, officials stressed to the Washington Post.

Last month, the army launched a massive assault in Khan Yunis, killing scores of terrorist operatives, including company commanders. During previous operations in Khan Yunis that took place in the first weeks of the Gaza offensive, more than 300 tunnels had already been located.

Soldiers of the Maglan and Egoz commando units continue to operate in the western part of the city, the IDF revealed on Tuesday, noting that troops are killing and arresting “dozens” of Hamas terrorists every day.

In Khan Yunis, troops found loaded weapons under beds in civilian homes, as well as rockets, grenades, launchers, explosive belts, shoulder missiles and other terror equipment.

Hamas started the war on October 7 when it led a mass attack on the northwestern Negev, killing 1,200 people, wounding thousands more and kidnapping 253. Israel conducted an aerial campaign against Hamas in the weeks after the massacre, which paved the way for the ground offensive that started on October 27.

Source: (Excerpt of an article originally published by the Jewish News Syndicate on February 27, 2024. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: IDF/jns.org

Prayer Focus
Cry out to the Lord that Yahya Sinwar will be found and captured with no harm to the hostages that are believed to be with him. Pray that they will be safely returned to Israel, and ask the Lord for rest, peace and healing for each of them and their families. Also plead for all of Hamas’s plans for Ramadan to be thwarted by the IDF.

Scripture

But the LORD your God will give them over to you and throw them into great confusion, until they are destroyed.


- Deuteronomy 7:23 ESV

Report: US Increasingly Wary of Israeli Military Push into Lebanon

US President Biden’s administration has voiced concerns about Israel’s likely military operation in Lebanon (illustrative).

Thursday, 29 February 2024 | US intelligence officials and senior members of the Biden administration expressed concern over a possible Israel Defense Forces [IDF] incursion into Lebanon if diplomatic efforts to remove Hezbollah terrorists from the border fail, CNN reported on Thursday.

“We are operating in the assumption that an Israeli military operation is in the coming months,” one senior Biden administration official said. “Not necessarily imminently in the next few weeks but perhaps later this spring. An Israeli military operation is a distinct possibility.”

“I think what Israel is doing is they are raising this threat in the hope that there will be a negotiated agreement,” the official told the network. “Some Israeli officials suggest that it is more of an effort at creating a threat that they can utilize. Others speak of it more as a military necessity that’s going to happen.”

Following the IDF’s strike on Baalbek deep within Lebanese territory earlier this week, concerns have emerged in Washington regarding the expansion northward of raids on Hezbollah targets into Lebanon’s more populated areas, with fears that this could “eventually grow to a ground component as well.”

IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Herzi Halevi met with senior military commanders on Tuesday and said Hezbollah must be pushed away from the border with Israel and must no longer pose a threat to civilian life there.

“It’s clear that the first thing we need to do is push back the enemy. Then, create a very strong barrier, establish strong intelligence gathering capabilities, position strong forces in the area as well as a strong civilian emergency response unit, and ensure there are bomb shelters and safe areas in homes and communities,” Halevi said.

On Wednesday, at least two Hezbollah operatives were killed in a strike on Damascus that was attributed to Israel.

Source: (This article was originally published by Ynetnews on February 29, 2024. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Pray that Israel will be successful in pushing Hezbollah back past the desired 6-mile or 9.6-kilometer limit through the negotiated agreement Israel hopes for. Beseech the Lord that this situation will be resolved without opening a full-on front on the northern border and pray that ongoing plans to strengthen the border will be successful in eliminating the threat to civilian life.

Scripture

You are my King, O God; ordain salvation for Jacob! Through you we push down our foes; through your name we tread down those who rise up against us.


- Psalm 44:4–5 ESV

US ‘Cautiously Optimistic’ about Paris Cease-fire Deal

by Itamar Eichner and Daniel Edelson ~ Ynetnews

Matthew Miller

Wednesday, 28 February 2024 | At the Paris summit, Israel agreed that it would free 404 security detainees in a swap for 40 individuals held captive, with an average exchange rate of 10 security prisoners for each hostage returned. The proposed deal, still pending Hamas’s approval, includes the release of seven women previously part of an initial exchange agreement, with 21 prisoners to be freed in return (three prisoners for each woman).

Additionally, the exchange will see the liberation of 15 men over the age of 50 in exchange for 90 prisoners (six prisoners for each older man), 13 ill individuals for 156 prisoners (12 prisoners for each sick captive released) and five female soldiers for 90 prisoners, which includes 15 convicted murderers with severe sentences. The deal also involves the release of 47 prisoners who were rearrested after being freed in the Gilad Shalit exchange due to terrorist activities.

Matthew Miller, a spokesperson for the US State Department, commented on the ongoing negotiations for the prisoner exchange, telling reporters that the US is actively working to finalize the deal. He expressed optimism about the possibility of reaching an agreement but highlighted that final consent from Hamas is necessary. Miller noted progress in the talks but did not provide specifics on the advancements made.

Hamas sources have told Saudi publication Alsharq Al-Awsat that the current proposal is unsatisfactory and requires amendments. They acknowledged progress but also said that gaps exist. The sources suggested that while the prisoner issue could be resolved, the withdrawal from Gaza and the return of Gazans to the northern part of the Strip are obstacles in reaching an initial agreement. They indicated that a deal is not imminent unless the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] fully withdraws from central Gaza, clears the Netzarim axis that divides Gaza in half and allows residents to return.

According to Reuters, Israel has also agreed to significantly increase humanitarian aid to Gaza, allowing 500 trucks to enter daily. Plans include the entry of 200,000 tents for temporary housing and the construction of 60,000 homes. Israel will permit international entities to immediately start rebuilding hospitals in Gaza and facilitate the entry of essential equipment. Additionally, Israel will enable the import of heavy machinery to remove debris in the Strip. In Paris, Israel agreed to cease aerial intelligence collection over Gaza and to allow a phased return of non-draft age residents to northern Gaza.

Huge Gaps Remain

Miller’s remarks followed a statement by US President Joe Biden, who on Monday night expressed his hope for a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip in the next week. “My national security adviser told me that we are close. We are close, but it’s not over yet,” Biden said.

These comments were made by Biden while he was holding an ice cream cone upon his departure from the NBC studios in New York where he appeared on “Late Night with Seth Meyers.”

In addition, Biden disclosed that Israel had consented to a cease-fire during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan [one of the Five Pillars of Islam when stringent disciplines are observed], from March 10 to April 9, to facilitate the release of the hostages. While he did not explicitly call for an end to hostilities, he indicated that Israel had not ruled out a ground operation in Rafah, noting that Israel had promised to relocate the displaced population prior to taking action.

Responding to Biden’s statements, a source from Hamas spoke to Reuters on Tuesday morning, claiming that Biden’s optimistic outlook was premature and not aligned with the actual conditions on the ground. “There are still large gaps that need to be bridged before there is a cease-fire,” the source said.

Meanwhile, Israeli officials on Tuesday morning expressed confusion over the president’s confidence, stating they are uncertain “what the American president’s optimism is based on.” ABC News also reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was “surprised” by Biden’s declaration.

Sources familiar with the matter say that the US is doing everything in its power to stop the war and to try to reach a normalization agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia. The Americans are also pressing for the prisoner exchange deal to come into effect before Ramadan, fearing escalation during this period and the expansion of the war to other fronts.

The Americans want to extend the cease-fire for additional reason. They want to use the calm in Gaza to promote their political arrangement between Israel and Lebanon and to prevent a war with Hezbollah. However, Israel has announced that, during the cease-fire in Gaza, it will not refrain from acting against Hezbollah, and it seems that it is even increasing pressure on the terrorist organization to force it to agree to stay about 6 miles [9.6 km.] away from the border.

Source: (Excerpt of an article originally published by Ynetnews on February 28, 2024. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: United States Department of State/wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Cry out to the Lord for wisdom and resolve as the nations put increasing pressure on Israel. Beseech the Lord that any agreement that is reached will in no way hinder Israel’s abilities to completely dismantle Hamas, eliminate the terror threat in the south and achieve the release of the remaining hostages.

Scripture

The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations.


- Psalm 33:10–11 ESV

Meet the IDF Reservist Who Flew Home to Fight Hamas in Plane’s Washroom Seat

by Etgar Lefkovits ~ JNS

Itay Kahana (center) and comrades during reserve duty in Samaria

Tuesday, 27 February 2024 | When a 27-year-old Israeli university student vacationing in Thailand on October 7 was determined to fly home to join his military reserve unit, he was given an unusual seat on the sold-out and overbooked El Al flight to Tel Aviv: the plane’s restroom.

“I felt for the first time that it was a war for our existence and that we need to be here to protect our country,” Itay Kahana recounted in an interview with JNS on Sunday after completing nearly five months of reserve duty. “I had no second thoughts,” he added.

From Paradise to Firefight

On that fateful autumn morning, Kahana had completed a diving course on a Thai island and was lunching on Chicken Pad Thai on the beachfront when he and two friends got word via social media apps on their phones of the Hamas massacre underway in Israel. He quickly understood the situation was dire.

“It was the most surreal situation possible,” he recalled. “In one second, we went from enjoying ourselves on this paradise beachfront to complete and total shock.”

Concerned that the existence of the State of Israel was at stake, Kahana, who had no return ticket, bought a domestic flight from the southern Thai tourist island of Ko Pha-ngan.

The airport was flooded with Israelis trying to get back home. Still, nearly all the flights to Tel Aviv were canceled, except for the direct flights on El Al and a connecting route via Dubai, which had been flagged as a security risk due to the outbreak of war.

Kahana, who received an emergency call-up order from his Israel Defense Forces combat unit, desperately tried to get on an El Al flight for three days. For 72 hours, he went back and forth from the airport to the city to sleep.

Finally, on the third day, 20 minutes before the midnight flight, an El Al stewardess told a group of reservists that she was taking 25 of them on the plane even though it was overbooked, he recounted. Five were seated in the cockpit, five in the airline stewards’ seats and 15 in the plane’s washrooms.

“Of course, with my luck, I got the washroom seat,” he said with a grimace.

During the eight-hour flight, Kahana walked the aisles, where other reservists were sleeping on the floor, and only had to take his assigned seat during takeoff, landing and times of turbulence. If he were in his washroom seat, he would redirect passengers to other restrooms unless it was for a quick freshening up.

The mood on the overnight flight was dour. He met a seated traveler, whom he had earlier seen in the Far East, whose farmer father was murdered during the Hamas invasion.

In the morning, he landed in Israel at war.

Kahana, who lives in a village near the central Israeli city of Rehovot, raced to his military base, not knowing if he would be sent to Gaza or to the northern border where Hezbollah was raining down missiles.

In the end, he was stationed near Ariel in Samaria amid concerns that Palestinians in other regions would join in on the violence. The day after he deployed, his unit engaged in an intense firefight with Palestinian gunmen near the village of Huwara, a hotbed of violence outside Nablus.

“A day before my flight, I was getting a Thai massage, and two days later, I was being sprayed by an automatic weapon with 40 bullets at a distance of 100 meters [328 ft.],” he said.

No Regrets

As he completes his reserve service next week and returns to civilian life and his university studies, Kahana said he would have made the same decision to immediately return home—select plane seat notwithstanding—“in a heartbeat.”

“We need to be here to protect our country,” he said. “Also, just being here, we showed our enemies that they don’t break our spirit.”

He is looking forward to his next trip abroad to relax after things calm down, preferably with an upgrade.

Source: (Excerpt of an article originally published by the Jewish News Syndicate on February 25, 2024. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Courtesy/jns.org

Prayer Focus
Thank God for the many young Israelis like Itay Kahana who are wholly committed to putting their lives on hold to defend their country. Beseech the Lord for their safety, courage and a soon decisive victory. Also pray for His supernatural protection as they battle pure, unadulterated evil.

Scripture

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth! That your beloved ones may be delivered, give salvation by your right hand.


- Psalm 108:5–6a ESV

New IAF Iran Unit Focusses on Preparations for Long-range Operations

by Yaakov Lappin ~ JNS

An IAF F-35 stealth fighter aircraft flying in Israeli airspace.

Thursday, 29 February 2024 | A recently established Iran Unit in the Israeli Air Force [IAF] is dealing with preparations for potential long-range Israeli air operations.

The unit was established in January at the IAF’s operational headquarters, Israel’s Walla! news site reported on February 19.

The unit is a reflection of the IAF’s defined responsibility to be prepared for a future order to mount strikes on sites in Iran such as nuclear facilities and missile bases.

IAF planners face a complex and extensive challenge that demands meticulous planning across several areas: intelligence gathering, ammunition selection, choice of aerial platforms and refueling capabilities. The scale and scope of such an operation are vastly different from short-range operations against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

A solo Israeli strike and a joint Israeli–American strike are both possible scenarios, though the US under the current administration appears deeply adverse to direct military action against Iran.

The F-35 fighter jet, with its stealth capabilities and vast intelligence-gathering abilities, appears to be the natural candidate for taking the lead in such a strike. In September, Israel formally requested to procure a third F-35 squadron, which would bring the total number of such jets in the IAF to 75. Israel currently has 36 of the 50 jets it has ordered from manufacturer Lockheed Martin.

The IAF, in addition to striking Hamas targets in Gaza and Hezbollah targets in Lebanon on a daily basis, has reportedly also been highly busy in Syria, combating Iranian efforts to build weapons or smuggle them to Hezbollah.

A series of high-level Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps officers, including Sayyed Razi Mousavi, the IRGC’s Syria commander, were killed in airstrikes in and around Damascus in recent months.

Nevertheless, despite the ongoing war and associated activities, Iran remains its own critical arena, due to its conventional and unconventional capabilities. Iran is home to the Middle East’s largest and most varied missile arsenal, a portion of which can strike targets in Israel.

Meanwhile, Iran’s nuclear program is moving ahead at an alarming rate.

On Tuesday, the Associated Press reported that Iran has further increased its overall uranium stockpile, citing a report by the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency watchdog. As Iran continues to bar International Atomic Energy Agency access to its nuclear sites, as of February 10, it had amassed 5,525.5 kilograms [12,182 lbs.] of enriched uranium—more than 1,000 kilograms [2205 lbs.] more than was documented in the IAEA’s last quarterly report, released in November 2023.

Of that, 121.5 kilograms [267.8 lbs.] has been enriched to 60%, representing a decrease of 6.8 kilograms [14.9 lbs.] since the last report in November 2023, according to Reuters.

The decrease is reportedly the result of Iran having diluted some of its 60% enriched uranium in recent weeks with lower-grade material.

The Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security estimated in January that Iran could build a crude nuclear weapon within six months.

For weaponization to occur, the Iranians would need to conduct simulations, testing, convert uranium into metallic components and integrate all of the parts into a weapon. This would include the need to place them on missile warheads or bombs, and a possible underground nuclear test.

This means that the IAF must ensure immediate operational readiness.

Already in 2022, the IAF made long-range strike capabilities against Iranian nuclear sites as its top priority.

Iran’s nuclear sites—the most famous of which are the Natanz and Fordow uranium enrichment sites—are not only far away but also heavily fortified, with advanced air-defense systems. In Fordow’s case, the facility is built deep inside a mountain.

In 2020, the Israel Defense Forces formed the Strategy and Third Circle Directorate (a reference to countries in Israel’s “third-circle” periphery, with Iran being the focal point). The directorate was formed due to the need to create a comprehensive, holistic view of threats that begin on Iranian soil and reach the borders of Israel, rather than narrowly viewing developments in isolation from one another.

Source: (This article was originally published by the Jewish New Syndicate on February 29, 2024. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: IDF Spokesperson's Unit/jns.org

Prayer Focus
Praise the Lord for the Strategy and Third Circle Directorate and their commitment to readiness. Pray that the Iran Unit will find solutions to the complex challenges they will face should strikes on Iranian sites become necessary. Pray that the Lord will reveal strategies that will keep Iran’s nuclear program from “moving forward at an alarming rate.”

Scripture

“No weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed, and you shall refute every tongue that rises against you in judgment. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD and their vindication from me, declares the LORD.”


- Isaiah 54:17 ESV

Gazan Anger at Hamas Spirals: ‘May God Take Revenge on Sinwar’

by Einav Halabi ~ Ynetnews

As the war continues, Gazans voice their outrage against the terrorist organization, Hamas (illustrative).

Friday, 23 February 2024 | Gazans increasingly blame terror organization for the territory’s devastation.

A group known as Gaza’s Liberators has recently begun to openly challenge Hamas’s rule over the Palestinian enclave as the living conditions in the territory continue to worsen and as the terrorist organization refuses to cede power amid the war against Israel.

Opposing Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar’s reign, the group has been disseminating anti-Hamas materials throughout the Gaza Strip, calling for public protests against Hamas.

These materials have been primarily distributed in displaced persons’ encampments scattered around the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah, where over a million Gazans have sought refuge from fighting elsewhere in the territory.

It is unclear who is behind the “rogue” group. Speculation in Gaza suggests that the orchestrators could be members of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’s rival Fatah faction remaining in the Strip or other opponents of the terrorist group backed by external forces. The group has recently been gaining traction in various parts of the Gaza Strip.

Demonstrations against Hamas in the Gaza Strip are becoming increasingly vocal, with protesters calling for the release of Israeli hostages and an end to the war. They are also criticizing the group’s leaders, pointing out that these figures and their families are not affected by the ongoing hostilities with Israel.

Gaza’s Liberators has published videos of protests in the northern Gaza Strip, with added commentary, such as, “May God take revenge on Sinwar, the dog who ravaged Gaza.”

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the group called to stop the war while jibing at Hamas’s leaders who reside outside of the Gaza Strip and are unaffected by the war.

“One word is what we need—help—and climb down the ladder. Save what’s left of us from the onslaught of the Jews. Save us, the defenseless and oppressed. We don’t have planes to protect us. We have no shelters, no tunnels and no Qatari and Turkish hotels like you do. It’s your duty now to not let words and speeches lead you to places you don’t want to be in,” the statement read.

Another statement read, “A message to the people of Hamas—you have neither the right nor the permission to force the defenseless to die in your place from bombings by planes and tanks. We do not have tanks to protect us or F-35 jets, as we are not in the era of the Prophet Muhammad. Therefore, for God’s sake, stop relying on Quranic verses in places that are not yours.”

Israel Defense Forces Arabic Spokesperson Lt. Col. Avichay Adraee also shared clips from the protests on X and quoted chants from one of the demonstrations, saying, “Sinwar tell Haniyeh that the people are the victims. Go away, Sinwar! Listen, listen, Haniyeh, go back to Turkey. Listen, Listen, Hamdan, go back to Lebanon.”

“Gazans recognize the reason behind the tragedy in the Gaza Strip and the consequences of the destruction and terror wrought by Sinwar and his gang,” Adraee added in the post.

These aren’t the first protests against Hamas in Gaza. In recent weeks, Adraee has been sharing numerous videos depicting similar protests where residents boldly call for the overthrow of Hamas and openly criticize its top officials.

According to Adraee, these are spontaneous demonstrations by residents of the Gaza Strip, expressing their frustration with Hamas leadership, which “has led them to disaster.”

Source: (This article was originally published by Ynetnews on February 22, 2024. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Wafa/Wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Praise the Lord that Gazans are beginning to recognize who their enemy actually is. Pray for their protection as they speak out and demonstrate against Hamas. Also pray that their frustration will lead them to cooperate with Israel in defeating the terrorist entity that has been oppressing them for decades. Pray that their courageous actions will lead international leaders and the media to the same conclusion.

Scripture

Do justice to the afflicted and needy. Deliver the poor and needy; free them from the hand of the wicked.


- Psalm 82:3b-4

London Police: ‘From River to Sea’ Projected on Big Ben ‘Not Criminal Offense’

by JNS

Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament in London

Friday, 23 February 2024 | London’s Metropolitan Police Department is aware that “from the river to the sea”—an anti-Semitic slogan that calls for genocide against Jews—was projected on Big Ben, one of the world’s most iconic landmarks. Yet it didn’t do anything about it.

“This is a chant that has been frequently heard at pro-Palestinian demonstrations for many years and we are very aware of the strength of feeling in relation to it,” the London police department wrote.

“While there are scenarios where chanting or using these words could be unlawful depending on the specific location or context, its use in a wider public protest setting, such as last night, is not a criminal offense,” it added.

“People need permission from both the Commons speaker and Westminster City Council planners to legally project onto the side of the Houses of Parliament,” the Daily Mail reported.

“Absolutely appalling,” the European Jewish Congress wrote. “This anti-Semitic chant is a rallying cry used by Hamas terrorists calling for the destruction of the State of Israel.”

Source: (This article was originally published by the Jewish News Syndicate on February 22, 2024. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Freepik/jns.org

Prayer Focus
Shame on those who gave permission for this genocidal warcry to be emblazoned on an historic landmark like Big Ben. Pray for increasing voices to be raised against anti-Semitism and that these voices will be heard in the United Kingdom and the rest of the world. Beseech the Lord that Christians would recognize their responsibility to courageously fight this evil and ask the Lord for His supernatural protection to surround every Jewish community in the world as violent anti-Semitism sweeps the globe.

Scripture

Behold, all who are incensed against you shall be put to shame and confounded; those who strive against you shall be as nothing and shall perish.


- Isaiah 41:11 ESV

From Russia with Hate: Online Campaign Working to Foment Israeli Division

by Raphael Kahan ~ Ynetnews

Russia has launched cyber campaigns spreading anti-Israel propaganda (illustrative).

Friday, 23 February 2024 | According to a study unveiled Thursday by Israeli firms Sentinel One and ClearSky, cyber investigators have uncovered a campaign of disinformation and propaganda orchestrated by Russia. This campaign is linked to a Russian entity known as APT28 or Fancy Bear, which is believed to be under the control of the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency, similar to Israel’s Intelligence Directorate. The operation, named Doppelgänger NG, serves as an extension of a campaign with a similar moniker that targeted Western nations like the UK, France and the US two years ago.

The essence of this campaign lies in messages designed to foster division, incite and propagate messages favoring Russia or aligning with Moscow’s objectives. While the earlier campaign was detected and neutralized, the Russians have now resurrected it with fresh objectives. This campaign is distinct from the one revealed in November that was utilized to malign Israel and Jews on social platforms, as reported by Ynet.

The campaign’s key narratives revolve around harsh criticism of Western nations and endorsing Russia’s stance on the Ukraine conflict, assertions about Israel’s escalating international isolation, portraying left-wing advocates as more perilous than terrorists and leveling accusations of collaboration between Ukraine and Hamas. However, there’s also an effort to sway Israeli public sentiment by depicting Israel as facing economic decline due to military skirmishes, as articulated to Ynet by Migo Kedem, the senior vice president of Research at SentinelLabs.

Are Israeli Authorities Aware Of The Campaign?

“It’s not entirely clear if the authorities have been alerted to this activity. Nonetheless, the fight against such campaigns necessitates a joint effort from governing bodies, social media corporations, and an alert public capable of spotting manipulative tactics.”

The campaign has been under surveillance by researchers since November 2023. It has been found to primarily target audiences in Israel and the US, as well as certain European nations, notably Germany and France, which are seen as Russia’s principal opponents in the context of the Ukraine conflict. The Russians employ a variety of deceptive or fictitious websites in conjunction with social media bots, with the sole aim of spreading links to these sites. The list of fake sites includes one that masquerades as the Walla website and another posing as a liberal site. Moreover, fabricated websites have been created specifically for the purpose of circulating false news under the moniker “Omnam”.

Some of the headlines discovered in the fabricated articles include statements like, “CIA agents disguise themselves as terrorists…Could they possibly empathize with them?” or “The US once again stirs division within the Israeli government and society.”  A headline from the site posing as liberal dramatically reads: “Hostage swapping—a trap devoid of hope.” The made-up site Omnam features headlines like: “The perils of waging war against the Houthis” or “South Africa’s legal action—a disgrace to the memory of the Holocaust.”

This strategy of Russia is characterized by an amalgamation of traditional military power, cyber onslaughts, information warfare, propaganda, exertion of economic stress, political sabotage and the use of proxies to fulfill geopolitical aims. It involves obfuscating Russia’s involvement and consistently denying it. Non-state factions, militants, hackers and bots are employed. The weapons used cause disruption, creating chaos and fostering confusion and mistrust, all aimed at undermining the social unity of adversaries, as described in the reports.

These firms assert that the Kremlin earmarks the targets of the campaign, which are then subjected to information warfare maneuvers. These maneuvers include, but are not limited to, efforts to sway US elections, undermine the unity of the EU, and curtail Western backing for Ukraine. Moreover, Russia leverages societal chaos to further the objectives of its allies, with Syria and Iran being prime examples in this scenario.

Russia has executed campaigns of this type across the globe, with varying degrees of success.

Source: (Excerpt of an article originally published by Ynetnews on February 23, 2024. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: MoD/MOD/Wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Pray that the sites responsible for this campaign of disinformation will be shut down and their “information warfare maneuvers” brought to a halt. Pray that as war rages on the ground, Israel will be victorious in the propaganda war as well.

Scripture

You destroy those who speak lies; the LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.


- Psalm 5:6 ESV

Israeli Foreign Minister Slams UN ‘Experts’ Call for Arms Embargo

by Joshua Spurlock ~ Middle East Update

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Kantz condemned the UN’s cooperation with Hamas terrorists in a social media post (illustrative).

Monday, 26 February 2024 | Israel had strong words against the United Nations [UN] over the weekend after the UN Human Rights Council published an article by various so-called “UN experts” calling for an arms embargo against Israel, the article which also barely referenced Hamas. The embargo call comes as the UN has been under intense scrutiny for its own failure to curb—or, in some cases, directly participate in—Hamas terrorist activity.

In a post to X (formerly Twitter) on Saturday, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz wrote in response to the embargo call: “Since the October 7 massacre, the @UN has cooperated with Hamas terrorists and is trying to undermine Israel’s right to defend itself and its citizens. Ignoring the war crimes, sexual crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Hamas terrorists constitutes a stain that cannot be erased on the UN as an organization and personally on the UN Secretary-General @antonioguterres himself.”

The UN article, published to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights [OHCHR] website on Friday, cites many “UN experts” who are members of the UN Human Rights Council’s voluntary independent monitoring group. These “experts” allege in the article that Israel is “likely” to violate international humanitarian law with weapons transferred to them by other nations, and therefore, such weapons provisions should stop.

Among the experts behind the report is a known anti-Israel terrorist sympathizer, Special Rapporteur for the Palestinian Territories Francesca Albanese. The Times of Israel cited a long list of controversial statements from Albanese over the years, including anti-Semitic comments about the “Jewish lobby” controlling the US and a post to X that indicated justification for Hamas massacring Israelis on October 7 by noting that attack was “in response to Israel’s oppression.”

The report published to the UN OHCHR website praised a February Dutch court order for the Netherlands to stop exporting parts for F-35 fighter jets to Israel, as well as moves by Belgium, Italy, Spain and Japan’s Itochu Corporation to cease arms exports to Israel. They also highlighted the European Union’s discouragement of arms transfers to Israel.

The article, which repeatedly lists allegations against Israel without context, makes no mention of Hamas’ use of human shields and only briefly references “grave violations of international law” that include taking hostages and “indiscriminate rocket fire” by Hamas. No specific mention is made of the slaughter of Israeli civilians nor of the number of Israelis murdered or kidnapped.

The UN-promoted arms embargo report comes as the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees [UNWRA] has been exposed in media reports as not only failing to report Hamas’ building a facility under the UNWRA Gaza headquarters and using it as a de facto human shield, but actually for having members of UNWRA participate in the October 7 crimes against Israel. These reports include articles by the Times of Israel and the Washington Post.

“No one in @UNRWA can claim “I did not know” when your workers murdered, raped and kidnapped Israelis! We cannot turn a blind eye to UNRWA’s hypocrisy any longer,” Director of the Digital Diplomacy Bureau in Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Amb. David Saranga posted to X on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant emphasized in a call with his American counterpart on Thursday that Israel is committed to acting according to international humanitarian law. According to a recap of Gallant’s call with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Gallant said, “The Israel Defense Forces is operating professionally, in a complex environment against a brutal terrorist organization that embeds its military infrastructure and operatives among the civilian population and sensitive civilian institutions such as hospitals.

“We have successfully dismantled the Khan Younis Hamas brigade. Our operations in Khan Younis reflect our policy since the start of the war—working precisely, distinguishing between terrorists and civilians, and facilitating the delivery of humanitarian aid despite numerous threats.”

Source: (This article was originally published by the Jewish News Syndicate on February 25, 2024. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today.)

Photo Credit: ששון תירם /Wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Pray that the United Nations as an organization will be held accountable for its horrific anti-Israel bias and its support of terrorism. Pray that the members of UNWRA who actually participated in the October 7 massacre will be forced to face the consequences of their actions. And pray against any kind of arms embargo that would weaken Israel’s ability to reach its objectives. At the same time, pray that the Lord will remind Israel’s leaders that it is Him that is their shield and defender and the One who will guarantee their victory.

Scripture

O God, do not keep silence; do not hold your peace or be still, O God! For behold, your enemies make an uproar; those who hate you have raised their heads. They lay crafty plans against your people; they consult together against your treasured ones. They say, “Come, let us wipe them out as a nation; let the name of Israel be remembered no more!” For they conspire with one accord; against you they make a covenant.


- Psalm 83:1—5 ESV

IDF Approves New Jewish Community in Judea

by JNS

Israel approved the construction of another Jewish community in Judea.

Thursday, 29 February 2024 | On Tuesday, the Israel Defense Forces [IDF] approved the establishment of a new Jewish community in Judea, Mishmar Yehuda, located near Kedar in northeastern Gush Etzion.

OC IDF Central Command Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fox signed the paperwork setting the town’s boundaries on Tuesday night.

“This is an enormous gift for the residents of Gush Etzion,” said Gush Etzion Regional Council head Shlomo Ne’eman, who also heads the Yesha Council, the umbrella group for Judea and Samaria localities.

“It is our best answer to terrorism and to those who want to deprive us of our ancestral land. This is our answer to extremists who want to remove us from the place where our forefathers tread. This is also our answer to the world’s nations,” said Ne’eman.

“We will continue onwards and strengthen Gush Etzion with more residents, schools, roads and kindergartens. Together we will triumph,” added the Yesha Council head.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who is also a minister in the Defense Ministry in charge of civilian affairs in Judea and Samaria, praised Fox’s decision.

“We will continue the momentum of settlement throughout the country; congratulations to Gush Etzion, congratulations to the settlement and congratulations to the State of Israel,” Smotrich said in a statement.

The Jewish population in Judea and Samaria grew by almost 15,000 people last year, according to a report released earlier this month.

As of January 1, 517,407 Jews lived in the area, which Israel liberated during the 1967 Six-Day War, up from 502,991 on the same date in 2023. Last year’s growth amounts to a 2.87% increase.

The Jewish population in Judea and Samaria has grown 15.11% since 2019, when 449,508 Jews lived in the area, according to the document. The report projects the Jewish population in the area to reach 613,554 by 2030; 706,233 by 2035; and 1,020,506 by 2047.

Source: (This article was originally published by the Jewish News Syndicate on February 29, 2024. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90/jns.org

Prayer Focus
Pray for Mishmar Yehuda, the newest community in Gush Etzion, and the complexities its builders will face. Pray for the growing population in Judea and Samaria as they are forced to deal with the constant threat of terrorism from their neighbors and are often vilified by the international community.

Scripture

Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me.


- Psalm 138:7 ESV