Compassion

Helping Israel combat kite terror

Friday, July 13, 2018

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Every week, we post from 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.

Gaza Border Communities Living under Fire

by Ilse Strauss

The nature reserve that was burned by Hamas arson terrorism

Friday, 06 July 2018 | Ilan Isaacson has one job: getting the people living in his region ready for the next war. The responsibility is enormous. He is, after all, the security chief of the Eshkol region—the only regional municipality in Israel with the dubious honor of sharing a border with both the Gaza Strip and the Sinai region of Egypt. This makes him the man in charge of overseeing the safety arrangements of nearly 16,000 men, women and children in the crosshairs of terror groups Hamas in the west and ISIS in the south.

Under normal circumstances, Isaacson and his team work 12-hour days to ensure their one job is done. They have to. The alternative is unthinkable. “When war comes, our people must be ready to face anything, be that waves of rockets or 30 terrorists pouring out of a terror tunnel ready to kill,” he explains. Tragically, the people under his care have ample opportunity to practice their safety procedures. Even during official times of so-called peace, the Eshkol region’s 32 towns, kibbutzim [communal settlements] and communities bear the brunt of Hamas rocket attacks and infiltration and kidnapping attempts.

Three months ago Hamas added another tactic to its terror arsenal: droves of burning kites and balloons loaded with charcoal, petrol, Molotov cocktails or detonators sent over the Israeli border to burn up thousands of acres of agricultural fields, forests and a nature reserve. Overnight, Isaacson’s 12-hour work day turned into a round-the-clock shift.

From a strategic and security position, the Eshkol region is one of the most significant plots of real estate in Israel. It is, after all, the junction where Israel, the Gaza Strip and Egypt meet. The area is indeed a hub of activity. Communities lay dotted between wheat and barley fields, grazing cattle, olive groves and vineyards. Tractors and trailers piled high with produce share the road with armored personal carriers, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) jeeps, pick-up trucks and station wagons.

We meet with Isaacson at the entrance to Kissufim, a kibbutz hugging the Gaza border. The community boasts a state-of-the-art dairy, a number of chicken coops, rolling citrus groves and acres of avocado orchards. Our meeting spot overlooks a field that used to be lush and green two weeks ago. Now all that remains are ashes, charred skeletons of trees and the acrid stink of soot. Just the day before, Isaacson shares, the region battled 20 blazes. He points out two columns of smoke spiraling white on the horizon. Compared to the tally from the day before, two fires seem a step up. But it is only 10:00 a.m. The terror group has a lot of daylight left.

Hamas’s innocent toys turned terror weapons have proven highly destructive, explains Isaacson. In less than 12 weeks, arson terrorism has burned up more than 3,000 acres of agricultural lands and has caused Israel tens of millions of shekels in damage. Crops have been lost, irrigation systems melted, wildlife killed and forests and natural reserves charred.

In the beginning, Isaacson remembers, Hamas used only kites. The IDF soon became adapt at stemming the burning droves. “We managed to spot—and stop—someone about to launch a fire kite at 600–700 meters [.37–.43 mi.].” Then Hamas changed the ballgame by turning from kites to incendiary balloons. “It’s almost impossible to spot someone launching a balloon. And even if it wasn’t, Hamas uses women and children to do their dirty work. The terrorists prepare the fire balloons and then hand them to civilians to launch, knowing we won’t target women and children.”

The kites and balloons—many of them brightly colored, heart-shaped or adorned with cute cartoon characters like Hello Kitty—are considered acts of terrorism. The effects of the terror arson, Isaacson holds, are fourfold. “First, there are the trees, many which are 20 or 30 years old. The entire history of the modern State of Israel tells of our commitment to planting trees in the Land. Trees are life. Now the fires have destroyed so much of what we have planted over the years.”

Then there is the wildlife, he continues. Over the past three months, flocks of turkeys and scores of reptiles and other small animals have suffocated or burned to death. “Third, we have the constant smoke and smell. The fires have wrapped the entire area in a blanket of soot and ash particles. Last but not least, there are our fields. The south of Israel is known for its agriculture. Now, the livelihood of many of the farmers here simply burned up. For things like wheat, it is less problematic. The farmers will probably get compensation and next year there will be a new crop. But things like passion fruit and avocadoes are a different matter. Passion fruits take three years to harvest. Each one of the fruits must be hand pollinated. Some of the avocado trees are 10 to 15 years old. We cannot live with things that have taken us decades to grow simply being burned up in minutes.”

The first few days of kite terror gave Isaacson and his team a crash course in securing their communities against Hamas’s latest destruction tactic. As soon as the fires started raging out of control, the security chief put out a call for lightweight firefighting trailers capable of maneuvering in small spaces and along narrow roads where conventional fire trucks cannot reach. Isaacson wanted each community to have the means to quench a blaze as soon as it started, thus saving valuable crops and millions of shekels in damage. Bridges for Peace was the first to answer this call and provided a trailer for two communities. “Now our security officers can put out a fire during the critical first few minutes before it rages out of control and burns up everything,” he smiles.

According to Isaacson, the timing of Hamas’s new terror tactic is no coincidence. “They realized that missiles and mortars no longer have the desired effect, thanks to the Iron Dome. Their terror tunnels have been discovered and are being destroyed. The construction of Israel’s new underground barrier will also mean zero chance of infiltrating Israel and slaughtering civilians. They’ve spent millions of dollars on rockets and tunnels, all of it wasted. So they had to come up with something else. And they did. Compared to rockets and tunnels, kites and balloons cost nothing.”

Isaacson is quick to point out that this does not, however, not mean that Hamas has ceased sending waves of rockets Israel’s way. “In the last three weeks alone, we’ve suffered three separate missile attacks. The first one had nearly 160 rockets and the last 33. Seven struck inside two of our kibbutzim, one 5 meters [16.4 ft.] from a kindergarten. Shrapnel from a rocket obliterated the side of a family home. Because the family was in their bomb shelter, they were safe.”

Asked how he prepares his people for such attacks and Isaacson was quick to answer. “Not in a day. It is a process. It takes preparation and planning. We have 15 seconds to make it to a bomb shelter before the rocket falls. So we’ve placed them bomb shelters every few meters around the kibbutzim—at every bus stop, kindergarten, home, school and playground—at every 15 second interval. Can you imagine how many bomb shelters that is?”

Life on the Gaza border has ingrained a consistent awareness of safety into those who call the Eshkol region home. “Everywhere we go, whatever we do, we make sure that we put ourselves in a position where we can make it to safety in time. I recently went to the US with my kids. Their first question when we arrived there was, “Dad, where is the bomb shelter?” They weren’t in a panic or even expecting an attack. It is just a way of life. You know where your closest bomb shelter is. Always.”

Isaacson is fully aware of how the international community perceives the situation on the Gaza border and that Israel is usually cast as the villain. To a degree, he understands the perception. “If you see a picture of an Israeli tank standing in front of a Palestinian boy with a slingshot, it is difficult to picture us as the good guys.” That is why it is so important to know the truth, he adds.

Only someone who has spent time walking in the Gaza border communities’ shoes, facing rockets, fires, terror tunnels and thousands of violent rioters ready to storm the border has the right to comment on the situation, Isaacson believes. “If anybody wants to tell our story, they must speak from personal experience. Unless you know first-hand what is going on, you cannot condemn us. So my invitation to people around the world is this: come to Israel. Take a vacation and come see for yourself. Spend a week here and then make up your own mind. It is as simple as that.”

Isaacson is not unsympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians. “What is happening in Gaza is tragic. Two million Palestinians are oppressed and held hostage by 300,000 Hamas terrorists. But what Hamas and the 2 million Palestinians in Gaza need to understand is that we are not leaving here.”

There is a solution to the problem, Isaacson holds. Addressing the terror group, he invites, “Put down your weapons. Embrace life. Shun death. Terrorism is not going to help you. It will only keep you in poverty and war. The whole world will come alongside you to help you. Gaza can be a wonderful place. If you just put down your weapons.”

Source: (Bridges for Peace, 06 July 2018)

Photo Credit: Michio Nagata/bridgesforpeace.com

Prayer Focus
Intercede for the communities on the Gaza border that face terror tunnels, rocket attacks and fires started by balloons. Pray for God’s guidance in their preparations to face these threats. Thank Him for Israel’s willingness to pursue peace with the people of Gaza.

Scripture

Through God we will do valiantly, for it is He who shall tread down our enemies.


- Psalm 60:12

Expert: Iran is Fueling Israel’s Conflict with Hamas to Protect its Proxies in Syria

Protests at the Israel-Gaza border (illustrative)

Thursday, 12 July 2018 | Iran has been seeking to escalate tensions along Israel’s southern border with Gaza, with the goal of “deterring” Israel from taking decisive action either in its north or south, an expert on Lebanon argued in an essay published Monday in Tablet.

Tony Badran, a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, noted that various factions in Gaza have, in recent weeks, fired rockets into Israel and that these attacks should not be viewed as accidental, but rather “as part of a coordinated Iranian strategy.”

Iran, for its part, has been seeking to establish a military presence in Syria, something Israel cannot tolerate. So “over the past year especially, the Israeli Air Force has been bombing Iran’s military infrastructure in Syria at will.” Iran does not have the military capabilities to deter Israel directly.

Even as Iran and its allies continue to capture southern Syria for the Assad regime, they have been careful to operate only on the border with Jordan, not on the border with Israel because that would carry “the risk of Israeli action, especially since the Iranian-led militias are embedded with whatever remains of Assad’s military, and there is documentation of their participation in the offensive.”

Iran isn’t anxious to attack Israel through Lebanon, as that would lead to the devastation of Hezbollah’s home base.

And while Russian President Vladimir Putin doesn’t seem serious about his insistence that no non-Syrian forces should remain in Syria, he is doing nothing to prevent Israel from attacking Iranian assets in Syria.

This leaves Iran with one option to protect its assets in Syria.

“The purpose of all the activity in Gaza, therefore, is to tie down and distract Israel, and then look to divide its forces between two active fronts, in the hope of deterring them from truly acting on either,” Badran observed. “If successful, Iran will have set up fronts on Israel’s borders with Gaza, Lebanon and Syria.”

Israel, on the other hand, will not allow the establishment of an Iranian military presence on its border. Nor will Israel tolerate “low-intensity conflict on their borders as a norm.”

“We have just one option,” Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Shimon Shapira, an Israeli scholar of Hezbollah and Iran, told Badran. “And that is to act with force, overtly and covertly, against the Iranian presence in Syria. Consenting to or accepting the Iranian presence, be it direct or indirect, in the end will lead to a war with Iran in Syria and in Lebanon.”

Where are the building threats from Iran leading?

Badran concluded by noting that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently said that “if there needs to be” conflict with Iran, “it is better now than later.”

Source: (This article was originally published by The Israel Project, in its publication The Tower on 11 July 2018. Time related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See the original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Twitter/AFP news agency

Prayer Focus
Glorify Israel’s Defender, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Pray that the enemy’s plans and strategies to harm Israel will be thwarted. Ask the Lord to grant wisdom to PM Netanyahu and the leaders who make decisions regarding Israel’s defense.

Scripture

You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in Your word.


- Psalm 119:114

Assad’s Huge Victory and What it Means for Israel 

by Ron Ben Yishai

Syrian rebels demonstrate against the government (illustrative).

Tuesday, 10 July 2018 | The capture of areas in the Daraa province and the Jordan border crossing south of it serves as an important psychological victory for Syrian President Bashar Assad and the Russians. It’s important because it is a serious blow to the morale of the Sunni rebels, who are withdrawing on almost all fronts anyway, and Daraa is a symbol for them. This is where the rebellion started seven years ago, this is where they stood their ground despite repeated assaults by the regime’s army, Iranian militias and Hezbollah. That is why the fall of the province will chip away at the rebels’ motivation to keep fighting.

There are only two provinces left in Syria under rebel control—the Idlib province in the north, which is holding strong mostly thanks to the Turkish forces nearby that support it, and the area east of the Euphrates River that the Syrian Kurds control with heavy American assistance.

The Daraa province lasted a long time thanks to the supply and reinforcements it received from Arab nations—among them Saudi Arabia and the Gulf nations—through Jordan. Jordan also allowed the Americans and the British to support the Syrian rebels with advisors and aid from its territory. Now, all of that is over.

The Syrian army, which was advancing on two axes, took over the border crossing with Jordan, closing the door on a land aid route important to the rebels in the south and southwest of Syria. The rebels in Quneitra have now been cut off from their main supply artery from Jordan, and the Syrian Golan Heights are almost certainly going to fall like a ripe fruit into the hands of the Assad regime.

Israel will continue providing humanitarian aid as long as it can to rebels and refugees in the Golan border area, but nothing more. The closing of the supply chain and Jordanian reinforcements essentially doomed the rebels in the Syrian Golan, and they too will soon have to sign a surrender mediated by the Russians.

Minor Hezbollah presence

From Israel’s point of view, the new situation created in southern Syria holds several consequences, not all of them necessarily negative.

One of them is the fact that only small forces of Hezbollah and Shi’ite Iraqi militias sent by Iran took part in the conquering of Daraa and the villages surrounding it. The militia and Hezbollah fighters who did take part in the campaign were dressed in Syrian army uniforms, but did not operate as part of the army’s divisions, rather as small cells and teams sent into action when the need arose for certain expertise.

Their small numbers show the Russians were attentive to Israel’s demands and warnings, and demanded the Iranians to have minimal involvement in the proper fighting. The same applies to Hezbollah’s presence in the fighting areas.

In returning for Assad and the Iranians obliging this demand, the Russians likely committed to fill the gap left by the pro-Iranian militias on the ground with aerial bombardments. The strikes were what eventually led the rebels in Daraa to surrender to the demands of the Russians—who also mediated a cease-fire and forced the rebels to turn in their heavy weapons.

Another point worth mentioning is that the Daraa area was the center of operations in south Syria of organizations affiliated with Al-Qaeda. First they were called Jabhat al-Nusra, and now they’re called Jabhat Fateh al-Sham. The conquering of Daraa eliminates the base of operations for organizations affiliated with global jihad [Islamic war with unbelievers], which almost took over the Quneitra border crossing in Israel. Jabhat Fateh al-Sham may still have presence in the Syrian Golan, but it is now isolated and likely facing surrender.

There is also a pocket of ISIS in the southern Golan Heights, at the Israel-Jordan-Syria border area, but it too is now isolated and cut off from reinforcements, and so its fall is only a matter of time.

All of this is good news from an Israeli point of view. The IDF [Israel Defense Forces] may have been able to deter the global jihad groups that entrenched in southern Syria and the Syrian Golan, but they still posed a threat, which is now diminishing.

Concern that spillover might lead to escalation

The bad news for Israel concern two aspects. The first is the possibility the Syrian army will take advantage of the fact that UN peacekeeping forces have withdrawn from several positions in the demilitarized zone on the Syrian side of the Golan border, violating the 1974 Disengagement Agreement, which prevents the presence of the Syrian army and heavy weaponry on the border.

There’s concern Assad would try to pull a fast one and try to enter an area he wasn’t allowed to be in before with heavy weaponry and tanks. If the Syrian regime does this under the auspices of the Russians, a new situation would be created in which the IDF would find itself in direct conflict with Syrian forces stationed only one kilometer [.6 mi.], or less, away from Israeli communities.

In such a situation, Israel would have to keep large forces in the Golan Heights on a permanent basis to prevent the possible infiltration of an Iranian or Hezbollah terror force into Israel under the auspices of the Syrian army forces.

Another negative aspect is the possibility that when Assad sends his forces to fight in the Golan Heights, the fighting will “spill over” into Israeli territory. The IDF, in accordance with its policy, will respond with force for every shell bombardment and any infiltration of aircraft—if there are any—into our territory, and such situations have the potential to escalate.

Serious friction can always get out of control and escalate into a conflict, a military campaign or a serious war. Israel has no interest in that. At the same time, Israel also has a clear interest in the Syrian army not approaching the border, with or without a spillover.

Then there is also the humanitarian aspect. Israel has an interest in continuing the positive humanitarian connection with the residents of the villages and towns in the Syrian side of the Golan Heights.

Israel has no desire to become involved in the fighting but the IDF and the State of Israel does have a clear interest in influencing the residents’ consciousness in order that they cease to see Israel as a hostile element. This may have military, intelligence and perhaps in the distant future, diplomatic implications.

The Russian interest

The picture would not be complete without pointing out that Russia currently has an important interest in winning over Israel’s goodwill so that the IDF does not impede it or resist the renewed control of the Syrian regime’s army over the Syrian side of the Golan Heights. The Russians want to reach a long-term agreement that will bring about an end of the war in Syria, they want to renew Assad’s control over his country and to that end they need Israel not to intervene.

Therefore, Putin was quick to invite Netanyahu to watch with him the semi-final of the World Cup as a gesture of honor and prestige to soften the expected Israeli resistance to the Syrian army’s control of the areas near the border with Israel. Putin also seems to be accepting Israel’s demand that the Iranians cease to entrench their army in Syria. But unlike Israel, which is demanding an immediate withdrawal of Iran and its proxies, Putin wants it to take place gradually.

In the meantime, there is no agreement on the issue, but the Russians believe that they will come to an understanding with Israel. They know very well that Israel would be willing to offer a lot more than the Americans and the Kurds, who occupy a quarter of the territory of Syria to the east of the Euphrates with the Turks who hold a huge chunk of Syrian territory, in order to prevent the creation of the state of Kurdistan in Syria and in order to prevent the total collapse of the Sunni rebels in the Idlib province.

The picture is a complicated one and the war in Syria has still not yet been decided, but the fall of Daraa was the beginning of the end and Israel must prepare for the day after.

Source: (Ynetnews originally published this article on 08 July 2018. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: KurdWatch.org/wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Bring Israel’s borders before the Lord and ask Him to draw a hedge of protection over and around them. Pray that the current situation in southern Syria will not spill over to the Golan Heights. Lift up the Israeli communities in the north that God will fill their hearts with peace.

Scripture

For I, says the LORD, will be a wall of fire all around her, and I will be the glory in her midst.


- Zechariah 2:5

Expert Warns Major Earthquake Expected Soon in Israel

by Itay Blumenthal, Ahiya Raved and Inbar Tvizer

Collapsed building caused by an earthquake (illustrative)

Monday, 09 July 2018 | A former senior IDF [Israel Defense Forces] colonel who served in the Home Front Command has warned that a major earthquake is expected to rip through Israel in the near future and has urged the general public to follow the authorities’ advice and prepare accordingly.

It is unclear exactly when the earthquake is going to occur but after a series of tremors felt across the country over the past 72 hours, it a question of when rather than if, according to Col. Gili Shenhar (Ret.).

“In our area earthquakes happen. The last major earthquake struck in 1927, and the one before was in 1836, so we understand that every 100 years a serious earthquake strikes,” added Shenhar.

He also warned the public against becoming complacent, emphasizing that a major earthquake is significantly different to the tremors felt over the last few days.

“A 5.0 magnitude earthquake is 30 times stronger than a 4.0 magnitude tremor. People need to understand the difference in the multiplication. A 6.0 or a 7.0 earthquake might lead to the collapse of buildings and infrastructure. An earthquake is an unexpected event, therefore we need to prepare for it beforehand,” explained Shenhar.

During an inspection by the Education Ministry at the Kaduri Elementary School in the Lower Galilee, it was found that the main building of the school was damaged in the latest earthquake.

Head of the Lower Galilee Regional Council, Moti Dotan, said the building in question is over 60 years old.

“The supervisor decided the building was too dangerous, especially in light of the possibility of another earthquake. We’ve told the parents that at the beginning of the next school year we’ll move to a temporary building. At the end of the day everything’s for the best and the school will get a new building,” concluded Dotan.

As part of the Uri project, the Home Front has trained over 74,000 school students all across the country to act as first responders in case of an earthquake until the arrival of professional rescue teams. In addition, employees of local authorities have also been trained to provide help in the immediate aftermath of a major earthquake.

In Tiberias, which is close to the earthquakes’ epicenter, dozens of buildings located in old neighborhoods have been upgraded by the Ministry of Construction and Housing in cooperation with Amidar and the Neighborhood Restoration Project.

In the northern city of Sefad, which is also close to the epicenter, no measures have been taken over the past few years to upgrade the older structures despite the promises from the government to invest.

The Mayor of Sefad Ilan Shohat said the Defense Ministry promised to invest NIS 5 billion [US $1.38 billion] in upgrading strategic locations in the north especially the Rebecca Sieff Hospital.

However, according to Shohat an upgraded hospital would not help if hundreds of thousands of local residents were injured when their buildings collapse.

“If the state does not provide financing and encourage contractors to upgrade buildings, we’ll be exposed to wide-scale property damage and loss of human life that would cost the government hundreds of times more than what they would have invested in the infrastructure upgrade,” vented Shohat.

Residents of the Haifa Bay are worried by the proximity of Petrochemical Enterprises to the geological split in the area.

Dr. Revital Goldschmidt from the Environmental Research Center in Haifa says that in light of recent earthquakes and a tense security situation, local residents are demanding from the government to implement the recommendations from the Shafir report.

“The recommendations include shifting the dangers out of the metropolis and putting an end to the expansion of petrochemical industries. It is inconceivable that despite the recommendations that indicate the presence of fuels and fuel plants in urban areas is dangerous, the state is advancing a plan to expand the industry, damaging both security and health, deeper into the Haifa metropolis,” Goldschmidt explained, adding that the presence of petrochemical industries in the city can be lethal in the event of an earthquake.

“Imagine if an earthquake causes landslides or a rift that rips open infrastructure with explosive and flammable materials in a dense urban area when electricity and water are already out and giant fires, which would start as a result—in addition to the ‘usual collapse of buildings’—couldn’t be extinguished,” Goldschmidt asserted.

Emergency preparedness experts say that the Israeli public, despite being accustomed to emergency situations such as war, is not prepared for a major earthquake and wouldn’t know how to act once it happens.

“In Israel we don’t have experience with strong earthquakes so it’s difficult to imagine how it would look and what would happen,” said Dr. Carmit Rapaport, Director of the Institute for Regulating Emergency and Disaster Situations at the Academic Center for Law and Business, and the Academic Center of the Program for Coping with Emergency Situations at the University of Haifa.

Dr. Uri Frieslander, former general manager of the Geophysical Institute, said it is hard to predict the nature of a possible major earthquake based on the tremors Israel has experienced this week.

“Three earthquakes have been felt over the last week but actually over 30 tremors have been registered by seismic devices. Most of them could not have been felt so no one talks about them. It’s hard to predict what will happen following the earthquake that took place on Wednesday, but the concentration of tremors in the Sea of Galilee proves that there is renewed activity along the split where African and Arabian plates meet,” concluded Frieslander.

Source: (Ynetnews originally published this article on 06 July 2018. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Angelo_Giordano/pixabay.com

Prayer Focus
Lift up the Home Front Command and their responsibility to prepare Israeli communities for the very real possibility of a major earthquake. Pray that their educational efforts will be successful and bear good fruit in due time. Intercede specifically for all the children that are training to be first responders.

Scripture

To give prudence to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion. A wise man will hear and increase learning, and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel.


- Proverbs 1:4-5

Report: Germany Working to Promote Israel-Hamas Prisoner Exchange Deal 

by Elior Levy

Gaza rocket hit southern Israel during Operation Protective Edge

Friday, 06 July 2018 | Germany is mediating indirect negotiations between Israel and the Hamas terror group regarding a possible prisoner exchange deal that may see the return of IDF [Israel Defense Forces] soldiers Lt. Hadar Goldin and Staff Sgt. Oron Shaul, who were killed during Operation Protective Edge, according to a report Thursday by Al-Hayat newspaper.

The two soldiers’ remains have been held by Hamas since they were killed in the 2014 operation. The deal may also include the return of Israeli citizens Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed in exchange for the release of Palestinian prisoners jailed in Israel.

According to the report, German envoys made several secret visits to the Gaza Strip and met with Hamas officials to discuss the possibility of implementing the prisoner exchange deal.

A German diplomatic delegation has been in contact with Israel and the Palestinian Authority. In addition, a new German mediator was appointed for the task and is operating to promote the deal from Berlin.

It is unknown whether the German mediator is making any headway on the matter. Egypt is also said to be involved in the mediation process and monitors its progress.

In recent days it was reported that Israel is holding talks with Hamas about humanitarian issues gripping the Strip.

The Qatari Ambassador to Gaza Mohammed Al-Emadi confirmed on Sunday evening for the first time that Israel is holding indirect discussions with Hamas in an effort to formulate a solution to the humanitarian crisis in the Strip that will include infrastructure projects and creating new job positions.

“We demanded from the Israelis and the Americans the removal of the blockade on the Gaza Strip and we emphasized that. We are working on this but have not yet reached a result,” the Qatari diplomat stated without elaborating on what Hamas had offered in return.

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman recently struck an agreement with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades to begin plans to build a seaport for Gaza that will operate in Cyprus and will be supervised by Israel, according to a report on Channel 2 News last week.

According to the report, within two weeks work teams will be established and within three months, the blueprint for the construction of the seaport will be presented which will include an Israel supervision apparatus to ensure that the Gaza-ruling Hamas organization is unable to exploit the new port for smuggling weapons into the Strip.

In addition, Cyprus confirmed that the US is formulating an aid package meant to alleviate Gaza’s humanitarian crisis conditioned by Israel’s demand to retrieve the remains of the soldiers and Israeli citizens held captive by Hamas.

Tzur Goldin, Hadar’s twin brother said in a Ynet interview that “the return of the captives and missing persons must be “a condition in any humanitarian agreement.”

“We’re not talking about taking food and sustenance from the residents of Gaza, but any solution that could better the situation, to create a different security agenda,” he asserted.

“We have to send a message to Hamas: the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers will not result in the release of Palestinians prisoners or in terrorists’ victories, but rather, Hamas will release all kidnapped captives and think twice about doing it in the future. A humanitarian agreement in return for the humanitarian return of the captives.”

Humanitarian actions cannot be one-sided, he argued, adding that “they have to come from both side.”

Source: (Excerpt of an article originally published in Ynetnews on 05 July 2018. Time related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See the original article at this link.) 

Photo Credit: Natan Flayer/wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Give thanks to the Lord for Germany’s effort to mediate negotiations between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. Continue to ask for a miracle in God’s time that an agreement will be reached that will see a return of the Israeli soldiers’ bodies and a release of the Israeli citizens held captive.

Scripture

He delivers and rescues, and He works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, Who has delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.


- Daniel 6:27

Israel Named 8th Most Powerful Nation in International Survey 

by Joshua Spurlock

Israeli flag

Tuesday, 10 July 2018 | They may be small, but thousands of people around the world apparently believe the State of Israel has a lot of power. The Jewish state been named the 8th most powerful nation in the world—and the most powerful nation in the Middle East—by US News and World Report as part of their 2018 “Best Countries” rankings. The United States and Russia were the top two, ahead of China and several European nations. Israel followed right after Japan, placing ahead of Saudi Arabia.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu contrasted his nation’s size with those superpowers ranked right before them. “Even though we are barely 1% of some of these countries, and have a smaller population than all of them, we are there thanks to the citizens of Israel, thanks to the statesmanship,” said Netanyahu on Monday in comments from his office.

The rankings by US News and World Report—done in conjunction with Y&R’s BAV Group and The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania—included a global survey of more than 21,000 people according to the news group’s website. The “Power” category considered attributes such as alliances, military strength and political influence. Israel’s top scoring “Power” category was its military.

Netanyahu highlighted their importance in the world’s affairs by pointing to his upcoming meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, as well as “close ties” with United States President Donald Trump and other leaders.

Netanyahu wasn’t the only Israeli promoting the country’s ranking. Prime Minister’s Office Spokesman Ofir Gendelman shared his proud moment in a Twitter post. “Compared to other countries, Israel is the 100th country in size of population and 152nd by size of land, but it is the 8th most powerful country in the world due to its military, economic and diplomatic power. A great achievement for a great yet small country. So proud,” tweeted Gendelman.

Netanyahu also took time to thank the Israeli people for meriting the high ranking.

Said the Israeli leader, “In the end, the strength of the State of Israel stems from the talents, commitment, initiatives and faith of the citizens of Israel. So thank you to our marvelous people; it is well represented here.”

Source: (The Mideast Update originally published this article on 09 July 2018. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today.)

Photo Credit: PublicDomainPictures/pixabay.com

Prayer Focus
Offer thanksgiving to the Lord for the wisdom He has granted His people Israel. Praise Him for helping them excel and turning them into a force to be reckoned with even amidst their continued struggle for peace. Ask God to touch the hearts of Jews scattered around the world to be sensitive to Him calling them back to the Land.

Scripture

When the LORD brought back the captivity of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing. Then they said among the nations, ‘The LORD has done great things for them.’


- Psalm 126:1-2

Sketch of Israel’s Flag Becomes Syrian Girl’s Symbol of Gratitude

by Yoav Zitun

Drawing made by the Syrian girl treated for diabetes in an Israeli hospital

Wednesday, 11 July 2018 | Last week was one of the busiest weeks since the launch of the IDF’s [Israel Defense Forces] Operation Good Neighbor two years ago, as fierce fighting in the Syrian southwestern city of Daraa precipitated the flight of hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees to the Israeli and Jordanian borders.

The two phones on the desk of Lt. Col. A, who oversees the operation, almost never cease to ring. On one line he tends to constant requests from Syrian liaison officials for humanitarian aid to citizens who have fled the fighting near Daraa. On the other line, IDF military personnel are regularly keeping him apprised of the situation in the field.

Lt. Col. A, who served in the West Bank [Judea and Samaria], says he didn’t encounter such expressions of gratitude—including warm handshakes from Syrians—from the many Palestinians he encountered over the years who received humanitarian assistance from the IDF.

Hung on the walls of his office are pictures of his children. Opposite, is a framed picture of a Star of David that was drawn by a 9-year-old Syrian girl who suffered from severe diabetes and was taken to the Ziv Medical Center in Sefad for treatment last year.

When she returned to Israel for a medical inspection, she came across Lt. Col. A. by chance. While they were taking, the girl asked to draw an Israeli flag for him, and she did so with help from her mother, who growing up was fed a daily diet of Israel-hatred.

For the 9-year-old, drawing the Star of David proved a difficult task, but she was eventually able to complete the sketch, and add her own huge expression of warmth for the country with a little green heart drawn above, alongside her and the officer’s names.

In recent months, quite a few such drawings have been given to IDF soldiers by Syrian children who discovered that their only place of refuge from a brutal regime proved to be a country they had been indoctrinated to loath. The drawings are perhaps the only way these children have to convey their gratitude for the Israeli hand that extended in their hour of need.

Despite the fighting in the ongoing Syrian civil war now being waged in the Syrian side of the Golan Heights, and the expected fall of rebel-held villages adjacent to Israel’s northern frontier into the hands of President Bashar Assad’s forces, the IDF has given no indication of any intention to abort Operation Good Neighbor, which was launched in June 2016 by the 210th Division of the Northern Command.

“There won’t be support rallies for Israel by the border, but in another 15 years, a 19-year-old Syrian man who was operated on in Israel will see the two scars from the bullet he was hit by, and he will remember who saved his life, and he will tell his children too,” one officer from the Bashan Brigade, which carries out much of the humanitarian efforts on the border, told Ynet.

“It took time before we built trust with them. The first delivery of food that we sent them, they burned, because according to their customs, it is forbidden for an individual to accept help with food. So we began with food for babies and from there we sent sacks of flour weighing 25 kilograms [55 lbs.] to bakeries and that opened the door to other kinds of food,” the officer explained.

“There were also cases when they told us that our bulgur (wheat groats) didn’t taste good, but that was alright,” he quipped. “It testified to the level of trust that had been formed. Now we send—mainly to the people who have fled—food that doesn’t need to be cooked, like cans of beans, corn and hummus.”

“Designing reality, creating influence” is the motto behind Operation Good Neighbor, which appears to be bearing fruit. At the end of last week, dozens of tons of food and medical supplies were sent across the border to the Syrian side of the Golan Heights.

At the same time, four Syrian children and two adults who were seriously wounded in the fighting in Daraa received medical treatment in Israel. As the fighting continues, the IDF is expecting more to come.

Refugees from Daraa, the city in which the rebellion against Assad began seven years ago, have heard about Israel’s humanitarian efforts long ago, with many of the area’s children receiving treatment from the IDF.

Most of the equipment that the IDF sends into Syria is donated by Israeli and foreign aid organizations and is estimated to be worth around NIS 275 million [US $75.4 million] per year. Just the food sent to Syria last year was budgeted at NIS 10 million [US $2.7 million], at the IDF’s expense.

“Since 2013, around 4,000 wounded Syrians have entered Israel. Some 1,300 children and 6,500 adults were treated at the clinic we established with the Americans on the border,” the officer said proudly. “Some 25,000 Syrians have received food and clothes from us, and our help has had an impact on 250,000 Syrians who live on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights.”

“We made it clear that we would not get involved in the war, and that we would continue supporting them with humanitarian aid later on as well. There are a few scenarios we’re examining (if Assad regains control of the area), including the continuation of the aid through alternative avenues rather than directly,” the officer explained.

“This area will continue to be dangerous and that’s where terrorists come in. That’s why we have an interest in ensuring that life in the Syrian part of the Golan Heights is reasonable.”

Lt. Col. A’s bag, which he carries to all of his meetings, contains a letter from a 35-year-old Syrian woman written in Arabic after she was treated in Israel.

“I am grateful to the people of Israel and to the IDF for helping us and giving us medical supplies and food. I hope that the borders between us will one day be purely geographical. Yours, a stranger in my country.”

Source: (Ynetnews originally published this article on 06 July 2018. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: www.embassies.gov.il

Prayer Focus
Praise God for changing the lives, hearts and attitudes of young Syrian children through Israel’s Operation Good Neighbor. Give thanks for the relationship Israel is busy building one day, one extended hand of rescue and one person helped at a time. Pray for the soldiers who are involved with this operation.

Scripture

So it shall be in that day: the great trumpet will be blown; they will come, who are about to perish in the land of Assyria, and they who are outcasts in the land of Egypt, and shall worship the LORD in the holy mount at Jerusalem.


- Isaiah 27:13

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