×

Debit/Credit Payment

Credit/Debit/Bank Transfer

The Long Road Home

Friday, February 23, 2024

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

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.

Israeli Killed, Eight Wounded in Terror Shooting Outside Jerusalem

by Charles Bybelezer ~ JNS

Police at the scene of a terror shooting outside of Ma’ale Adumim in Judea.

Thursday, 22 February 2024 | An Israeli was killed and eight others were wounded on Thursday morning in a terrorist shooting on the Route 1 highway near Ma’ale Adumim, 4.3 miles [6.9 km.] east of Jerusalem in Judea.

Magen David Adom paramedics treated the victims on the scene, including three in critical condition with gunshot wounds to the upper body. Two other Israelis were moderately wounded and the rest were lightly hurt.

Five of the victims were evacuated to Shaare Zedek Medical Center and another was taken to Hadassah Medical Center, both in Jerusalem.

Security forces and armed civilians shot and neutralized two Palestinian terrorists at the scene, according to police. An additional terrorist was located and neutralized following a search.

The three terrorists had opened fire on vehicles waiting in traffic to pass through the az-Za’ayyem checkpoint en route to Jerusalem.

Police said the terrorists were armed with assault rifles and a grenade.

They were identified as residents of the Bethlehem area.

“The traffic jams at the checkpoints have turned into death traps,” said Gush Etzion Regional Council Mayor and Chairman of the Yesha Council Shlomo Ne’eman.

“We should restrict the movement of those who are carrying out attacks and allow the residents of Israel to move around their country safely,” he added.

Earlier this month, Israeli Border Police officers thwarted a stabbing in Al-Eizariya, located close to Ma’ale Adumim on the outskirts of the eastern part of the capital. Officers stopped a Palestinian suspect for questioning, who then drew a knife and attacked them. The officers opened fire in response, killing the terrorist. No other injuries were reported.

On December 31, two Israelis were wounded in a Palestinian stabbing at the Mishor Adumim industrial zone in Ma’ale Adumim.

In August, six Israelis were wounded in Ma’ale Adumim when a 20-year-old Palestinian from Al-Eizariya (also known as Bethany) opened fire with a handgun outside the main shopping mall in the city. An off-duty Border Police officer shot and killed the terrorist, who was found to have also been armed with a knife.

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: Chaim Goldberg/FLASH90/jns.org

Prayer Focus
Pray for a shield of protection to surround the community of Ma’ale Adumim as terror attacks seem to be happening there with some regularity. Also pray for the victims and families of this most recent attack. Ask the Lord for speedy and complete healing for the injured, especially those in critical condition, and for comfort for the loved ones of the Israeli who was killed. Also ask the Lord for an immediate solution to the danger posed by traffic jams at checkpoints.

Scripture

But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You; let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them; let those also who love Your name be joyful in You. For You, O LORD, will bless the righteous; with favor You will surround him as with a shield.


- Psalm 5:11–12

US Wants Hostage Deal before Ramadan

by Itamar Eichner and Einav Halabi ~ Ynetnews

US President Biden hopes to return the hostages to Israel before the Muslim month of Ramadan (illustrative).

Thursday, 22 February 2024 | The Biden administration is increasing efforts to bring about a cease-fire in Gaza ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan [one of the Five Pillars of Islam when stringent disciplines are observed], due to begin March 10. American officials believe the release of the hostages, who have been held in inhumane conditions for the last 138 days, would result in a pause in the fighting and perhaps end the war, according to a CNN report.

Washington is concerned that an Israeli military assault during the holy month would only increase regional tensions. The officials said Israel was explicitly warned against attacking Rafah where 1.5 million refugees currently are concentrated and that ensuring their safety is an impossible task.

Meanwhile, Israeli officials said representatives would most probably join the Paris summit on Saturday to advance negotiations on a hostage release agreement.

Officials involved in the discussions said it is unclear whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will prefer a pause in the fighting over a military operation in Rafah that would advance the objective of destroying Hamas.

“It does not seem like Netanyahu is willing to make any deals at the moment,” a senior Israeli diplomat said.

He added that, in the meetings in Cairo last week, the Israeli delegation headed by Mossad chief David Barnea was only prepared to discuss the humanitarian aspects of a deal and that no technical team was sent with Barnea, indicating there was no real intention of negotiating a new deal.

Reliable sources told Ynet on Wednesday evening that the Hamas leadership based in Qatar had contact with the terror leaders in Gaza after a break in communications that caused delays in talks with the mediators in Egypt and in Qatar on a future agreement because Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar could not be reached.

The message from Gaza is that negotiations should concentrate on a partial, “humanitarian” deal and not a comprehensive solution to the hostage crisis and the war. Hamas leaders in the Strip also said that the terror group was willing to consider lowering the number of Palestinian prisoners it is demanding in exchange for hostages, reducing its demands for international assurances to rebuild Gaza and changing the demand for a complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Strip and an end to the fighting.

Earlier, War Cabinet member Benny Gantz said there were initial signs of progress toward a new agreement. “I would like to assure the families of the hostages, who show such strength of spirit, that we are leaving no stone unturned to fulfill our mission, which the government is responsible for. There are attempts to advance a new outline and initial signs that progress is possible,” he said.

Source: (Excerpt of an article originally published by Ynetnews on February 21, 2024. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: US Embassy Tel Aviv/Wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Cry out to the Lord for these negotiations and any decisions that are made. Beseech Him for a decision that is perfectly in line with His will. Pray that the Biden administration will remain true to its promises of support, and ask the Lord for strength and resolve for Prime Minister Netanyahu as the nations attempt to force him into agreements that are detrimental to the future of the nation of Israel.

Scripture

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me! For my soul trusts in You; and in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge, until these calamities have passed by.


- Psalm 51:1

‘A Rat Hiding Underground’: Gaza Residents Turn on Sinwar

by Einav Halabi and Hadar Adi ~ Ynetnews

Gazans call Yahya Sinwar a rat for hiding underground with his family like a coward.

Friday, 16 February 2024 | Despite fear of Hamas reprisals among Gaza Strip residents, unusual criticism has emerged on social media in response to a video published by the Israel Defense Forces [IDF] on Tuesday evening, showing the terrorist group’s leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar fleeing with his children through an underground tunnel under the city of Khan Younis in the territory’s south.

“This rat, Yahya Sinwar, quickly ran to hide underground,” wrote Mustafa Asfur, a resident of the Strip, on social media platform X (formerly Twitter). Asfur has a significant number of followers on the platform, and the IDF Arabic spokesperson’s account was quick to share his comments.

“He built tunnels to hide in for him, his children, his wife and those who surround them. He left the men, women, and children of his people to struggle with death above ground while he enjoyed himself with his family below.

“Didn’t you say that one day you would go home on foot, without guards, and challenge the occupation to assassinate you? Where are you today? The occupation is at your doorstep—so go out and confront them instead of dying while you’re underground like a rat. You are a cowardly leader who sacrifices his country and his people for himself.”

Another reaction to the video that generated much attention on X came from a Gaza resident named Ghassan. “My dear Sinwar, you and your family are hiding while the rest of the people are dying as usual. Oh right, I forgot that UNRWA [United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees] is the one who is required to protect the people. Curse be upon the cleanest among you,” he wrote, referring to an interview senior Hamas figure Musa Abu Marzouk gave to Russian network RT in Arabic in late October in which he said that the elaborate subterranean tunnel system the group constructed under Gaza was meant to protect its fighters—and not the residents of the Strip. “It is the responsibility of the United Nations [UN] to protect them,” Abu Marzouk told the interviewer.

Wissam Al-Khalidi, a member of the Palestinian National Council, also expressed his dismay at the video. “This psychopath, called Sinwar, is hiding in the tunnels with his family while there are over 2 million innocent souls above the surface of the destroyed earth. Does this satisfy Allah, Sinwar?” he wrote.

Source: (Excerpt from an article originally published by Ynetnews on February 15, 2024. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: David Nekrutman/Isaiah Projects

Prayer Focus
Thank God for increasing Gazan voices that are being raised against Hamas. Pray that they will be heard by the international community and will embolden others to speak out. Ask the Lord to give them courage, protection and strength as they continue to reveal the truth of their dissatisfaction with Hamas’s reprehensible leadership.

Scripture

Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD, but those who act faithfully are his delight.


- Proverbs 12:22 ESV

US, Arabs ‘Rushing’ Plan to Establish Palestinian State

by Joshua Marks ~ JNS

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah

Friday, 16 February 2024 | The Biden administration is preparing to make a major push for Palestinian statehood if a Gaza ceasefire agreement being negotiated in Cairo this week takes effect.

According to the Washington Post, the US and its Arab partners are “rushing” to finalize the plan to establish a Palestinian state—a plan that could be announced in the next few weeks with hopes that a deal to release the remaining 134 hostages held by Hamas terrorists in Gaza in exchange for a six-week pause in fighting takes effect before Ramadan [one of the Five Pillars of Islam when stringent disciplines are observed], which begins on March 10, give or take a day.

There is an urgency to reach an agreement because Jerusalem is readying for a major offensive in Rafah, the last Hamas stronghold in the Gaza Strip. At the same time, Israel is working on an evacuation plan for the 1.5 million civilians sheltered in the city ahead of the battle.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday issued a statement saying that Jerusalem did not receive any new proposal from Hamas on releasing the hostages.

“This week we freed two of our hostages in a brilliant military operation. As of now, we have freed 112 of our hostages in a combination of strong military pressure and tough negotiations. This is also the key to freeing more of our hostages: Strong military pressure and very tough negotiations,” the prime minister said.

“Indeed, I insist that Hamas drop its delusional demands,” he continued.

In addition to the US, the participants planning the pathway to a Palestinian state are Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the Palestinians. Notably, Israel is not involved in these discussions, according to the Post.

US officials told the Post that actions under consideration include a unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state by Washington at the start of the process.

Other issues reportedly being discussed by the US and Arab countries are the permanent evacuation of many Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria and a Palestinian capital in eastern Jerusalem. Also being discussed is the reconstruction of Gaza after the war and uniting Gaza and the Palestinian areas of Judea and Samaria under one form of governance and security mechanism.

The Americans and Arabs want to discuss their plans with European leaders during policy meetings at the 60th Munich Security Conference, which kicks off Friday.

There is widespread opposition to the establishment of a Palestinian state in Israel, particularly after the October 7 massacre, which many see as a reward for the Hamas terrorist attack and an incentive to commit more atrocities.

A February survey found that more than half of the Israeli public opposes the creation of a Palestinian state as part of a deal that would end the war against Hamas and normalize relations between Jerusalem and Riyadh.

When Israelis were asked whether they support the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, 66% of Jewish respondents said they opposed such a move, while 27% expressed support for the creation of a “Palestine.”

This opposition to a Palestinian state extends to the Israeli leadership; Netanyahu has been a longtime vocal opponent of the idea.

“Everybody who talks about a two-state solution—well, I ask, what do you mean by that? Should the Palestinians have an army? Should they continue to educate their children for terrorism and annihilation? Of course, I say, of course not,” the premier told ABC News in an interview on Sunday.

“The most important power that has to remain in Israel’s hands is overriding security control in the area west of the Jordan [River],” he stressed.

Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich on Thursday rejected the reported US–Arab plan to recognize a Palestinian state in the next few weeks.

“We will in no way agree to this plan, which actually says that the Palestinians deserve a reward for the terrible massacre they did to us: a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital,” tweeted Smotrich, the head of the Religious Zionism Party.

“The message is that it pays very well to massacre Israeli citizens,” he continued. “A Palestinian state is an existential threat to the State of Israel, as was proven on October 7!”

Meanwhile, tensions are boiling over between Netanyahu and Biden over Israel’s pending Rafah military offensive and the overall direction of the Gaza campaign, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.

While Biden has made public statements criticizing Israel’s conduct in the war, including calling it “over the top,” his administration has no intention to slow down arms sales to the Jewish state, according to the Journal.

The two leaders held a “tense” phone call on Sunday over the looming Rafah invasion, and in late December Biden reportedly abruptly ended a call with Netanyahu, declaring the conversation “over” and hanging up. US and Israeli officials said that Biden was angry during the December 28 call and almost yelled during a restive exchange about civilian casualties and Washington wanting to shift the war to a more targeted phase.

Source: (Excerpt of an article originally published by the Jewish News Syndicate on February 15, 2024. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Chuck Kennedy/US State Department/jns.org

Prayer Focus
Cry out to the Lord for His intervention to prevent this outrageous plan from going forward. Pray that many voices will be raised against the unthinkable idea of rewarding terrorists with statehood. Remind the Lord that it is unconscionable that leaders of the free world would even contemplate such a thing, and beseech Him that any such plans will fail.

Scripture

Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me; You will stretch out Your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and Your right hand will save me.


- Psalm 138:7

PA Used US $280 Million Sent by Israel to Pay Terrorists

by JNS

Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas

Monday, 19 February 2024 | Almost NIS 1 billion shekels [US $278 million] in yearly tax revenue that Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority [PA] goes toward Ramallah’s “Pay for Slay” policy, under which it disburses monthly salaries to terrorists and their families, legal documents indicated on Sunday.

The information was revealed during a hearing brought by the parents of Dalia Lemkus, who was stabbed to death by a Palestinian terrorist at a bus stop near the town of Alon Shvut in Judea almost 10 years ago.

The terrorist, a Palestinian Islamic Jihad member from Hebron, was convicted in 2015 to two life sentences, in addition to paying NIS 4 million [US $1.1 million] in compensation to the victims’ relatives.

Lemkus’ parents subsequently took enforcement action against the PA, the Palestine Liberation Organization [PLO] and the Israeli Finance Ministry, noting that terrorist Maher al-Hashlamoun receives a monthly “salary” of NIS 12,000 [US $3,300] from Ramallah for the murder.

Jerusalem collects NIS 600 to 700 million [US $164–194 million] in tax funds on behalf of the PA every month under the terms of the Oslo Accords, signed with PLO terrorist Yasser Arafat in the 1990s.

“As it appears from the material submitted to the court and as it has been proven, the PA pays terrorists and their families huge sums every month; probably close to NIS 1 billion [US $278 million] a year,” Israel’s Enforcement and Collection Authority, the agency tasked with implementing court rulings, said on Sunday.

The organization’s decision also confirmed that the “Martyrs’ Fund” is enshrined in PA law, granting convicted terrorists or their families a “right” to receive payment from Ramallah.

The Enforcement and Collection Authority ordered the PA to pay Lemkus’ parents NIS 276,000 [US $76,500] in garnished “wages” for the period August 2021–June 2023, local media reported.

Since Hamas’s October 7 massacre in Israeli communities near Gaza, the PA has added thousands of Palestinians to its list of people who qualify to receive terror stipends, an Israeli watchdog reported last month.

PA officials announced that 3,550 terrorists imprisoned in Israel will receive payouts, as will the families of over 20,000 slain “martyrs,” the Jerusalem-based Palestine Media Watch [PMW] said.

The figure for the prisoners was announced on the Telegram channel of the PA-funded Prisoners’ Club. The number of “martyrs,” which includes terrorists killed while carrying out attacks, was reported in Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, the official PA daily newspaper, on January 10.

Of the 3,550 terrorists slated to receive payouts, 661 are Hamas terrorists from Gaza. The remainder are Palestinians arrested in almost daily Israeli counterterror operations throughout Judea and Samaria.

“The nearly 67% rise in the number of prisoners will initially cost the PA an additional US $1,331,000 per month [NIS 4,970,000], adding US $16 million to last year’s expenditure of US $161 million [NIS 600,000,000] on terror salaries,” PMW reported.

PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said on Sunday that international leaders gathered in Germany for the 60th Munich Security Conference are too focused on the Hamas atrocities of October 7.

“Palestinian suffering did not start on October 7. Palestinians have been suffering for the last 75 years…We need an end to the struggle. Don’t deal with the cosmetics. You should deal with the roots of the problem, which is Israeli occupation,” said Shtayyeh.

Source: (This article was originally published by the Jewish News Syndicate on February 18, 2024. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Hadas Parush/Flash90/jns.org

Prayer Focus
Pray that Mohammad Shtayyeh’s attempt to take the focus off the October 7 massacre by blaming the victims—in this case, innocent Israelis who were murdered or taken into captivity—will fail. Pray that not another penny will fall into the hands of the PA to be dispersed among terrorists and murderers as part of the disgusting “Pray for Slay” program.

Scripture

For there will be no future for the evil person; the lamp of the wicked will be put out.


- Proverbs 24:20 NASB

Hezbollah Dug Network of Tunnels in Lebanon that Is More Dangerous than Hamas’s

by Tamar Sebok ~ Ynetnews

The terrorist organization Hezbollah has been digging extensive tunnels in Lebanon for over 30 years.

Tuesday, 20 February 2024 | An investigative report in the French newspaper Libération claimed Sunday that Hezbollah has been digging hundreds of kilometers of underground tunnels in Lebanon for over 30 years, some of them reaching depths of 40 meters to 80 meters [131 ft. to 262 ft.], using North Korean technology. The report noted that the tunnels are more complex and dangerous than those in Gaza, and the explosion of some of the tunnels could cause earthquakes or landslides.

According to journalist Laurence Defranoux, the digging began in the 1980s but accelerated in the late 1990s to accommodate members of the Shiite terror organization in case of an Israeli operation in Lebanon. The report claims Israel dropped white phosphorus bombs in southern Lebanon after the Hamas attack on October 7 to burn vegetation and expose the entrances to the tunnels. According to reports, 12 such shafts were discovered and destroyed.

A military source told the newspaper that the Israel Defense Forces [IDF] uses motion detectors, optical fibers connected to the 4G network, robots, drones and other sources of information to map the tunnel network.

“The first tunnels were dug by Palestinian groups in the 1960s, and Hezbollah expanded the network in the 1980s and especially in the late 1990s,” said General Olivier Fasso, who served as a liaison officer for the United Nations [UN] in southern Lebanon and is now a researcher at the French Institute for Strategic and Operational Education (IFESO). The tunnels developed mainly after the 2006 war.

Tal Beeri, head of the Alma Security Research Center’s research department, told the Times of Israel that in January, the institute exposed civilian companies dealing with agriculture and construction for the Shiite sector in southern Lebanon, under Jihad Construction’s supervision. These tunnels were dug by Hezbollah operatives manually using air hammers or hydraulic equipment, which is quieter to operate.

Each worker is estimated to dig about 15 meters [49 ft.] per month. The Lebanese environmental organization Green without Borders has also been included on the US sanctions list, accused of providing a “cover” for digging underground warehouses and tunnels for storing weapons.

The report on the tunnels was published by Alma as early as 2021. The report indicates that some tunnels pass through strategic points in southern Lebanon and connect them to Beirut and the Beqaa Valley.

The length of the tunnels is estimated to be hundreds of kilometers long, with one of the largest at 45 kilometers [27.9 mi.] in length. Some of the tunnels are very narrow and intended for infiltrating terrorists into Israel, while others are wider and intended for Iranian ballistic missile batteries such as the Fateh-110.

In the report published in 2024, the Alma center reported on tunnels filled with explosives dug beneath strategic points, which have remained intact and unused for several years. An explosion in these tunnels could cause earthquakes and landslides, a tactic used since the early days of World War I.

Israel has already discovered six such tunnels in 2018 along the Blue Line border (running between Rosh Hanikra and Mount Dov), with a depth of 40 meters [131 ft.]. According to Fasso, who visited these tunnels, “It’s reasonable to assume that Israel located them using acoustic and seismic sensors. It would take weeks to dig through the rock to insert cameras inside.”

“They were still being constructed then,” Fasso also said. “We saw drilling machines, electrical cables and ventilation systems, and it was possible to walk upright in them. The military destroyed them by using either explosives or via sealing them with concrete.”

Fasso added that Lebanese authorities deny the existence of the tunnels, the largest of which are located under farms and private factories, allowing heavy digging equipment to be brought in without attracting unwanted attention.

“Hezbollah buys land and turns some of them into so-called nature reserves. We believe they set up training camps or weapon caches in them and probably included shafts leading to these tunnels. Israel, which was present in the area, managed to limit this spread until 2000, but Hezbollah reorganized from 2006 and had another 18 years to arrange this territory,” Fasso noted.

An Israeli military source told Libération that the IDF as well as military experts and strategists, oppose operating in Lebanese territory, as they may “encounter a well-prepared underground army, hence the ultimatum given by the Israelis to Hezbollah in January will likely be postponed to February.”

The IDF addressed the worries of residents on the northern border concerning the threat of Hezbollah’s tunnels. At the end of December, IDF Northern Command Chief Maj. Gen. Ori Gordin said that IDF soldiers are “conducting extensive searches to locate terrorist infrastructure of all kinds, above and below ground. If a threat is found, we won’t keep it secret.”

Source: (This article was originally published by Ynetnews on February 19, 2024. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

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

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Pray for the IDF’s accuracy in tracing and mapping Hezbollah’s tunnel network and “locating terrorist infrastructure of all kinds, above and below ground.” Pray for Israel’s success in eliminating all these threats to the citizens of northern Israel, and cry out for God’s protection if the IDF encounters an “underground army.”

Scripture

“Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.”


- Deuteronomy 31:6

Again Wielding Veto, US Strikes down UN Ceasefire Resolution

by Mike Wagenheim ~ JNS

Israelis protest against UNRWA, which has been directly linked to Hamas terrorism, at their offices in Jerusalem.

Wednesday, 21 February 2024 | The US again used its veto power at the United Nations [UN] Security Council to thwart a call for the imposition of a ceasefire on Israel.

Washington stood alone on Tuesday in voting down an Algeria-drafted resolution that demands an immediate humanitarian halt to hostilities in Israel’s war against Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip, along with the return of hostages still being held captive in Gaza since October 7 and the unimpeded flow of humanitarian aid into the Strip.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the UN, told the 15-member council that the Biden administration is engaged in ongoing negotiations to bring about a six-week pause in the fighting. If adopted, the resolution on the table on Tuesday would “negatively impact those negotiations,” she said.

“Demanding an immediate, unconditional ceasefire without an agreement requiring Hamas to release the hostages will not bring about a durable peace,” she said. “Instead, it could extend the fighting between Hamas and Israel, extend the hostages’ time in captivity—an experience described by former hostages as ‘hell’—and extend the dire humanitarian crisis Palestinians are facing in Gaza.”

The UK abstained from the vote, which was 13-1. Nine votes were needed for passage, but the US, as one of the body’s five permanent members, can veto any Security Council resolution.

France supported the Algerian resolution, but its ambassador, Nicolas de Rivière, sided with Washington’s view that it is “incomprehensible” that the council has not directly condemned Hamas’s massacre. South Korea also expressed wishes for an explicit condemnation by the council of Hamas’s attacks.

“A majority of us also agree that it’s time for this council to condemn Hamas,” Thomas-Greenfield said.

Russian envoy Vassily Nebenzia accused Washington of covering for Israeli crimes and serving to “rule out” a two-state solution, furthering a degradation of ties between Moscow and Jerusalem. Zhang Jun, the Chinese UN ambassador, chided the US veto, saying it “sends the wrong message” and undermines council consensus.

Gilad Erdan, the Israeli ambassador to the UN, asked the Chinese envoy to push for the release of the hostages, including Noa Argamni, so that the latter’s mother, a terminally ill Chinese-Israeli citizen, can see her daughter again before she passes.

Erdan blasted the resolution’s supporters, saying its passage would only achieve the survival of Hamas and be a “death sentence” for Israelis and Gazans.

A ceasefire is the “epitome” of kicking the can down the road, which “means immunity for baby killers and rapists” and allowing Hamas to regroup and rearm, Erdan said.

He also took the global body to task for its “ostrich tactic” of burying its collective head in the sand when it comes to Hamas’s terror activities in Gaza. Erdan cited Israel’s longstanding, unheeded warnings about Hamas’s infiltration into UNRWA [United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees], the refugee agency under fire for its ties to October 7 massacre participants and the use of its facilities by Hamas.

“This is why every report, statement or number provided by the UN cannot be trusted,” Erdan said. “In Gaza, Hamas is the UN, and the UN is Hamas.”

Thomas-Greenfield used much of her microphone time on Tuesday to push for a freshly drafted, US-led resolution, which calls for a temporary humanitarian ceasefire “as soon as practicable,” along with several provisions in line with the Algerian resolution about hostage release and scaling up humanitarian aid.

The US draft specifically condemns Hamas’s massacre, including its documented sexual violence.

“The US text also makes clear that Hamas has no place in future governance of Gaza, nor does Hamas represent the dignity or self-determination of the Palestinian people,” Thomas-Greenfield said.

She added that the draft would clarify the council’s disapproval of a major Israeli military offensive in Rafah under current circumstances.

The Israeli government and military say Rafah remains the final Hamas stronghold in Gaza and a military operation there is needed to root out the terror group.

“This is not, as some members have claimed, an American effort to cover for an imminent ground incursion,” Thomas-Greenfield said. “It is a sincere statement of our concern for the 1.5 million civilians who have sought refuge in Rafah.”

Speaking to the media after the meeting, Thomas-Greenfield said the Algerian resolution’s passage would have left hostages captive with no incentive for Hamas to release them.

Source: (Excerpt of an article originally published by the Jewish News Syndicate on February 20, 2024. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Chaim Goldberg/Flash90/jns.org

Prayer Focus
Thank God that the US once again used its veto power to thwart the passage of yet another blatantly anti-Semitic, anti-Zionist resolution. Pray that the Security Council will focus its efforts on condemning Hamas and that Thomas-Greenfield’s voice will be heard.

Scripture

The God of my strength, in whom I will trust; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge; my Savior, You save me from violence.


- 2 Samuel 22:3

IDF Reveals Videos of Bibas Family just after Abduction on October 7

by Charles Bybelezer ~ JNS

Kfir Bibas, who turned 1 in Hamas captivity, is the youngest hostage held in Gaza.

Tuesday, 20 February 2024 | Israel Defense Forces [IDF] Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari revealed on Monday videos of Shiri, Ariel and Kfir Bibas taken in Khan Yunis in the Gaza Strip, just after they were kidnapped from their home in Kibbutz Nir Oz during Hamas’s October 7 massacre.

“Seeing this young mother clutching her babies surrounded by a group of armed terrorists is horrifying. But it is also a call to action: That we must bring the hostages home,” said Hagari.

“We are very concerned about the condition and safety of Shiri and the children, and are making every effort to obtain more information about their fate,” he added.

Hagari said the videos were taken at a terrorist outpost belonging to the Mujahideen Brigades [armed wing of the Palestinian Mujahideen Movement].

“Those who have the audacity to question our need to operate in Gaza but don’t have decency—the basic decency and humanity—to release the hostages, first of all, they all should take a good look at this terrified mother, Shiri, clutching her babies. Until Hamas releases our hostages, we will leave no stone unturned,” added Hagari.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a video statement on Monday, saying, “The video of the Bibas family in Gaza is heart-wrenching and reminds us whom we are dealing with.

“We will bring these kidnappers of babies and mothers to justice. They won’t get away with it,” he added.

In November, the “military” wing of Hamas announced the deaths of then-10-month-old Kfir, his brother Ariel, 4, and his mother, Shiri, 32.

In response, the IDF only said it was “assessing the accuracy of the information.”

Shortly thereafter, Hamas released a propaganda video showing father Yarden Bibas, 34, who was also abducted on October 7 and remains in Gaza, seemingly confirming that his family had been killed.

The IDF denounced the propaganda video as “psychological terror.”

Netanyahu on Sunday urged the international community to increase pressure on Qatar to bring about the release of the remaining 134 hostages held in Gaza.

“Qatar can press Hamas as no one else can. They host Hamas leaders. Hamas is dependent on them financially,” Netanyahu said in an address to representatives of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations visiting Jerusalem.

The remarks come as weeks-long, on-again off-again American-backed hostage negotiations through Qatari and Egyptian intermediaries have stalled over Hamas demands. About 100 of the captives are believed to be alive.

Qatar—home to a major US military base—hosts Hamas leaders in luxurious exile and, with past Israeli accord, has long funded the terrorist group in Gaza.

“The release of hostages can be achieved through strong military action and tough negotiations—very tough negotiations. That tough position has to involve the exertion of pressure,” Netanyahu insisted on Sunday. “And the exertion of pressure is not merely on Hamas itself, but on those who can exert pressure on Hamas, beginning with Qatar.”

If the remaining hostages are not freed before Ramadan [a month of fasting practiced by the Muslim world], which starts on the evening of March 10, the IDF campaign against the terror group will continue, including in the city of Rafah in southern Gaza, Minister-without-Porfolio Benny Gantz, who serves on the war cabinet, pledged on Sunday.

“Let me be clear; we are operating in Gaza not out of revenge for October 7 but out of a clear conviction to secure our future—the future of Israel’s next generations. He emphasized that we will continue fighting in any scenario until we achieve our goals,” he emphasized.

Source: (Excerpt of an article originally published by the Jewish News Syndicate on February 19, 2024. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Hostages and Missing Families Forum/jns.org

Prayer Focus
Pray against the “psychological terror” tactics that Hamas is using and ask the Lord to give peace and rest to those whose family members and loved ones are still in captivity. Also pray that the video of the Bibas family will serve only to strengthen the resolve of the nations to support Israel in dismantling Hamas and bringing the hostages home.

Scripture

The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD shall preserve you from all evil.


- Psalm 121:5–7a

Israel Slams Brazil’s Libelous Comparison of IDF to Hitler

by Joshua Spurlock ~ Middle East Update

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva

Tuesday, 20 February 2024 | A range of Israeli officials on Sunday condemned the libelous claim of Brazilian President Lula da Silva, who earlier that day compared Israel’s defensive war in Gaza to the genocidal actions of Adolf Hitler. The controversy’s timing was shrouded with a disturbing level of irony, coming less than 24 hours after Israeli President Isaac Herzog highlighted for the world the pro-Nazi ideology of Hamas that “hails the Holocaust.”

Herzog on Sunday expressed outrage at Silva’s comparison of Israel to Hitler—especially against the backdrop of Hamas’s philosophy and massacre of 1,200 Israelis on October 7. “Just yesterday, I presented to the world at the Munich Security Conference a book found in Gaza praising and glorifying Hitler’s ideology and the Holocaust,” said Herzog. “Israeli soldiers are fighting a cruel terrorist organization which has as its stated goal the annihilation of the Jewish state…And yet, there are still leaders who atrociously accuse the state of the Jewish people of the evil of Hitler’s deeds.

“I utterly condemn such accusations and the immoral distortion of history and call on all world leaders to join me in condemning such actions unequivocally.”

After previously calling Israel’s military actions a “genocide,” Silva said, “What is happening in the Gaza Strip with the Palestinian people does not exist at any other historical moment. In fact, it existed when Hitler decided to kill the Jews.”

Dani Dayan, chairman of the Yad Vashem World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Israel, said in a press release that it was “extremely disappointing that the Brazilian leader, a country of significant stature, would resort to distorting the Holocaust and propagating anti-Semitic sentiments in such a blatant manner.”

Calling Silva’s comments deeply hateful and displaying ignorance, Dayan said, “Drawing false comparisons between the defensive actions of a sovereign nation protecting its citizens from a terrorist incursion, which resulted in the tragic deaths of over 1,200 innocent [people], and the heinous atrocities committed by the Nazis, who systematically exterminated 6 million Jews, is unacceptable.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday said Silva “should be ashamed of himself.”

“By comparing Israel’s war in Gaza against Hamas, a genocidal terrorist organization, to the Holocaust, President da Silva has disgraced the memory of the 6 million Jews murdered by the Nazis and demonized the Jewish state like the most virulent anti-Semite,” Netanyahu said.

In his comments, Silva only briefly referenced Brazil’s past condemnation of Hamas, who are actually following in the Nazi’s footsteps. During Herzog’s presentation the day before, the Israeli president showed the world a book written by Hamas co-founder and former Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Mahmoud al-Zahar entitled “The End of the Jews.”

An Israeli press release recapping Herzog’s comments noted the chapters in the book include titles such as “The World’s Burning Hatred for the Jews, “The General Corruption of the Jews,” and “Reasons to Expel the Jews.” The book cover depicts a dagger drawing blood from a Star of David and hands—which the Israeli press release identified as Jews—drowning in a sea of blood.

Said Herzog, “This book was written by Dr. Mahmoud al-Zahar, one of the founders of Hamas, a well-known political figure of Hamas. This book, first of all, says we should not recognize the fact that there are Jews and Jewish people, but most predominantly, it hails the Holocaust. It hails what the Nazis have done and calls for nations to follow what the Nazis have done.”

It’s not just Zahar. Hamas’s founding charter also calls for the eradication of the State of Israel. Herzog noted that Hamas’s hatred extends to the goal of destroying the Jewish people, a hate expressed in the murderous attack on October 7.

Source: (Excerpt of an article was originally published by the Middle East Update on February 18, 2024. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today.)

Photo Credit: Joshua Spurlock ~ Middle East Update Palácio do Planalto/Wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Beseech the Lord for an end to this libelous propaganda, calling evil good and good evil. Pray that others around the world, Christian leaders and so-called friends of Israel, will raise their voices, recognizing that fighting the propaganda war is a critical part of “Never Again.”

Scripture

For the fool speaks folly, and his heart is busy with iniquity, to practice ungodliness, to utter error concerning the LORD, to leave the craving of the hungry unsatisfied, and to deprive the thirsty of drink.


- Isaiah 32:6 ESV

Israel Welcomes Gazan Who Saved Lives on October 7

by Hadar Gil-Ad ~ Ynetnews

Israel welcomes Gazan Hamid Abu Ar’ar as an Israeli citizen after his act of bravery that saved several IDF soldiers on October 7 (illustrative).

Thursday, 22 February 2024 | Interior Minister Moshe Arbel on Wednesday granted resident status to Hamid Abu Ar’ar, father of 9 from a Negev Bedouin village and former Gaza resident, who risked his life to save dozens of soldiers on October 7.

“I work in agriculture, and on that Shabbat [the Sabbath], my wife drove me to work,” recalled Ar’ar. “We reached a junction and stopped to yield. The terrorists arrived on motorcycles and started shooting at us. My pregnant wife was killed on the spot, and I was injured in the leg. Our seven-month-old baby, who was with us in the car, suffered shrapnel wounds on the shoulder, and there was another person with us who worked with me and was also killed.”

For hours, Ar’ar had to hide with his infant son. “It took me a while to realize that these were Hamas terrorists who infiltrated Israel,” he said. “We called Magen David Adom and the police, but no one reached us. They told us to hide. There was an electrical cabinet there; I took my baby and we hid inside for five and a half hours. He cried all the time because he was hungry and tired.”

“After five and a half hours, Hamas terrorists arrived and were right next to us,” he recounts. “I heard them planning how to attack the soldiers. Minutes later, I heard people speaking Hebrew and approaching us. I peeked and saw Israel Defense Forces [IDF] soldiers. I was afraid of getting shot in the crossfire, but I realized I had nothing to lose—so I decided to make a move to save the soldiers and our lives.”

“The terrorists started shooting toward the soldiers, and the soldiers didn’t know where the gunfire was coming from,” he said. “I stripped off my clothes and walked toward the soldiers naked, with my baby in my arms, and warned them. I told them there were four terrorists there and explained to them where they were. We waited for another hour and a half until they extracted us from there.”

After the traumatic event, as he mourned his murdered wife, Ar’ar, who is not an Israeli citizen, had to face another fear—being deported from Israel and forced to leave his children. “That’s my biggest fear. Their mom is gone. Will I have to leave them, too?”

Following a thorough assessment and upon receiving recommendations from an advisory committee, Interior Minister Moshe Arbel granted Hamid permanent resident status. The evaluation submitted to the minister by the committee stated, “The applicant experienced a terror incident of the utmost severity known to the State of Israel, with his pregnant wife brutally murdered by despicable terrorists before his eyes. In such a case, Israel cannot remain indifferent and must intervene, especially considering that it involves a family of nine young children, Israeli citizens who have been orphaned by their mother’s death, with the applicant being their sole pillar of support.”

Arbel addressed Ar’ar, acknowledging, “The courageous act you performed, risking your life mere moments after the cold-blooded murder of your wife. In doing so, you saved the lives of numerous IDF soldiers.”

“Your actions and words have touched the hearts of us all,” he said. “The citizens of Israel and the IDF soldiers are all deeply grateful to you. The Interior Ministry recognizes and declares you an inseparable part of the State of Israel. I see it as my privilege to present you with your ID card. The news that you and your children are an integral part of the Israeli identity is a momentous one for the country and all its citizens.”

Source: (This article was originally published by Ynetnews on February 21, 2024. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Geagea/Wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Praise the Lord that Hamid Abu Ar’ar is receiving permanent residency as a reward for his courageous actions to save the lives of IDF soldiers. Pray that the Lord will comfort him as he mourns the loss of his wife and deals with the traumatic events of October 7. Pray for healing for him and his son, and ask the Lord to bless him as he begins the difficult process of rebuilding a life for himself and his family—but this time as valued members of the people of Israel.

Scripture

“Blessed is he who blesses you, and cursed is he who curses you.”


- Numbers 24:9b