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Friday, February 14, 2020

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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.

 

Report: Hamas Halts Balloon Bomb Attacks as Part of Gaza Agreement

by Elior Levy

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IDF troops are deployed to spot explosive balloons from Gaza (illustrative)

Thursday, 13 February 2020 | The Hamas terror group, which runs the Gaza Strip, has decided to halt the use of explosive-laden balloons to attack Israel, a Palestinian newspaper reported Tuesday.

According to Al-Quds newspaper, which is affiliated with the Fatah [leading secular Palestinian political] movement, a message was sent Tuesday morning to all cells carrying out balloon attacks, following a meeting in Gaza between the Hamas leadership and Egyptian mediators trying to negotiate a long-term ceasefire arrangement between the terror group and Israel.

Despite the report, a balloon carrying a small explosive landed Tuesday morning outside a kindergarten at Kibbutz [collective community] Sa’ad in the Negev.

A police sapper neutralized the small explosive charge and there were no injuries or damage.

The balloon was spotted by parents taking their children to kindergarten, which opened as usual.

The Egyptian delegation arrived in Gaza on Monday morning and met with Hamas leaders then.

They gave Hamas a message from Israel that if there were not quiet in Gaza, Israel would deliver a tough blow to the organization, something that Egypt is warning would have both American and international support.

Hamas, for its part, made clear to members of the delegation that it was not interested an escalation but that there would not be quiet on the border so long as there were delays in reaching an understanding and implementing relief measures for the Gazan population.

Hamas also warned Israel that an assassination or another rash military step would lead to a major and extensive round of fighting.

The group’s leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, skipped the Monday meeting with the Egyptian delegation due to growing fears within the terror group that Israel was planning to assassinate him.

The terror group has recently beefed-up security around Sinwar during all of his public appearances, which have now halted almost entirely.

Before entering Gaza, members of the Egyptian delegation held meetings with Israeli officials, including the National Security Council, the Shin Bet [Israeli internal security] service and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories.

The meetings were believed to be less focused on a long-term arrangement and more on trying to avoid another cross-border flare up in the wake of the recent tensions between the two sides.

Hamas apparently has also asked the Egyptian officials, who were set to tour the border between Egypt and Gaza, for logistical assistance in protecting the border fence.

The border has become somewhat volatile in recent months due to infiltration attempts made by Islamic State-affiliated groups from the Sinai Peninsula into Gaza.

Source: (Excerpt of article originally published by Ynetnews on February 11, 2020. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Zev Marmorstein, IDF Spokesperson's Unit/flickr.com

Photo License: flickr.com

Prayer Focus
Pray that these negotiations will proceed according to God’s will. Ask the Lord for quiet on the Gaza border, for an end to incendiary devices and rocket fire, and beseech Him for a long-term solution to violence and the hatred that precipitates it.

Scripture

The way of the LORD is strength for the upright, but destruction will come to the workers of iniquity.


- Proverbs 10:29

Violence Soars in Judea and Samaria

by Yoav Zitun

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IDF soldiers in Jenin

Friday, 7 February 2020 | With a new wave of violence shaking up the West Bank [Judea and Samaria] and Jerusalem in the last 24 hours, the most alarming security incident occurred in Jenin. A Palestinian city which has, over the past decade, turned from a terror hub into a relatively calm economic stronghold in the area.

The security services opted for overnight Wednesday to conduct a partial demolition of a house belonging to the family of a terrorist who killed Rabbi Raziel Shevach in January 2018. Although the house had been demolished in the past, the structure was rebuilt, prompting the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] to raze parts of the building for the second time.

Troops from the IDF’s Nahal Brigade, backed by snipers and soldiers from the Combat Engineering Corps, arrived at the site late night Wednesday and into Thursday.

Prior to arriving at the scene, the forces apparently received intelligence information that a militant group was active in the area and might try to ambush the troops.

No one, however, anticipated being trapped by heavy gunfire right from the first minutes of the operation.

According to initial reports from the soldiers at the scene, at least four masked groups, wearing all black, began firing at them with AK-47 and M-16 assault rifles as soon as the troops arrived in the area.

The gunfire was accompanied by a 200-strong mob hurling rocks, Molotov cocktails, and explosives at the soldiers.

The IDF snipers, who took positions on the roofs of buildings in the neighborhood, began firing back at the militants leading to a violent exchange that lasted almost two hours.

In addition, explosives—somehow planted under the military’s vehicles—began detonating during the battle. According to the initial inquiry, the fight ended at around 3:30 am, when Israeli forces were finally evacuated from the area.

The inquiry says the two Palestinians killed during the incident were armed men. One of them was a member of the Palestinian security forces, but his level of involvement in the fight remains unclear.

According to the testimonies of some IDF troops who took part in the operation, the Palestinian exited the nearby police station on several occasions, brandishing his weapon and standing at a fair distance from the militants.

However, a video emerged showing the policeman being shot at the entrance to the station, surrounded by his fellow officers, all armed with AK-47s. None were seen shooting back.

The incident is still under the investigation and Israeli security forces continue to hold talks with the Palestinian security officials in order to fully understand the circumstances and try to calm the situation.

Source: (Ynetnews originally published this article on February 6, 2020. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: IDF Spokesperson's Unit/idf.il

Photo License: IDF Spokesperson's Unit

Prayer Focus
Thank God that the IDF soldiers involved in this incident were able to be evacuated. Pray that the perpetrators of this attack will be found and face the consequences of their actions. Ask the Lord for His peace to reign in Judea and Samaria.

Scripture

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens, and Your glory above all the earth; that Your beloved may be delivered, save with your right hand and hear me.


- Psalm 108:5–6

US Tells Israel to Delay Applying Sovereignty to Communities in Judea and Samaria

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David Friedman, US Ambassador to Israel

Tuesday, 11 February 2020 | What happened: US Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, yesterday warned Israel to wait to apply sovereignty to West Bank [Judea and Samaria] settlements. Friedman alluded to the work of a joint US–Israel mapping committee and said: “Any unilateral action in advance of the completion of the committee process endangers the [Trump] plan and American recognition” of the settlements.

  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had promised, when US President Donald Trump launched the plan for Israel and the Palestinians on January 28 that he would apply Israeli sovereignty over all West Bank settlements “within days.”
  • That process appears to have been delayed, at least until after Israel’s March 2 election, drawing harsh criticism from Netanyahu’s right-wing allies and settler leaders.
  • Defense Minister Naftali Bennett said: “There will never be a better moment for applying sovereignty over our land.” A prominent West Bank settler leader criticized Friedman, writing: “With all due respect, our prime minister is Benjamin Netanyahu, not David Friedman. The era of the high commissioner—who was British—is over.”
  • After an increase in violence late last week, Jerusalem and the West Bank were relatively quiet over the weekend. Friday prayers at Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa Mosque passed peacefully, while demonstrations in the West Bank were scattered and small-scale, although in certain locations violent. One Palestinian demonstrator was killed by IDF [Israel Defense Forces] fire in the central West Bank on Friday afternoon.
  • Israel announced yesterday that it was stopping all agricultural exports from the Palestinian Authority [PA] to foreign markets as a result of an escalating trade war between the two sides. The PA had initially halted beef imports from Israel in September, triggering an Israeli boycott of beef and other imports from the PA.

Context: The US veto on Israel imminently applying sovereignty to West Bank settlements complicates Netanyahu’s political position with his right-wing base less than a month before election day. However, the prime minister has attempted to frame the implied US recognition as an achievement in itself, saying: “We don’t want to endanger this, we are acting responsibly and judiciously.”

  • The delay has helped decrease tensions on the ground in the West Bank after last week, although the tit-for-tat trade war could undermine the Palestinian economy in the West Bank. According to figures publicized by the AP, Palestinian vegetable exports to Israel were worth [US] $88 million last year, comprising over two-thirds of all Palestinian vegetable exports.
  • In Gaza, violence continued Sunday night as one rocket was fired at southern Israel, drawing reprisal Israeli airstrikes on a Hamas training compound and military facilities. Rockets and explosive-laden balloon clusters have been launched at Israel for weeks.
  • Netanyahu warned on Sunday that he would take “devastating action against the terrorist organizations in Gaza” if the fire continued, adding (in an allusion to the November targeted killing of Baha Abu al-Atta): “We will not accept any aggression from Gaza. Only a few weeks ago, we targeted the senior Islamic Jihad commander in Gaza, and I suggest that both Islamic Jihad and Hamas refresh their memories.”

Looking ahead: A delegation from Egyptian intelligence visited the Gaza Strip Tuesday, raising hopes of an end to the current low level conflict between Israel and Gaza—which began early last month after Hamas political chief Ismael Haniyeh visited Iran for the funeral of Qassem Soleimani, drawing Egyptian anger.

Source: (Excerpt from an article originally published in BICOM on February 10, 2020. Time related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See the original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: U.S. Embassy Jerusalem/Matty Stern/flickr.com

Photo License: flickr.com

Prayer Focus
Pray for PM Netanyahu as he navigates this political minefield. Beseech the Lord for great wisdom for him so that his decisions will be in line with the will and timing of God.

Scripture

Your ears shall hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it.”


- Isaiah 30:21a

Fugitive Iranian Judoka, Israeli World Champion Meet at Last

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Israeli Judoka and World Middle-Heavyweight Champion Sagi Muki

Wednesday, 12 February 2020 | Israeli Judoka and World Middle-Heavyweight Champion Sagi Muki on Monday shared on social media a photo of himself alongside Iranian Judoka Saeid Mollaei.

Muki added a friendly message in the caption of the photo, which shows both athletes posing together at the Paris Grand Slam 2020 in France.

“Friend for life,” the world champion wrote. “Two world champions but before that two good friends.”

Twenty-seven-year-old Mollaei had fled [from Iran] to Germany after he was instructed by the Iranian authorities to withdraw from competing to avoid a potential contest against Muki in the semi-final of the 2019 World Judo Championships in Tokyo in August.

This incident has led the International Judo Federation to suspend the Iran Judo Federation (IJF) from all activities held by the international organization.

Muki and Mollaei’s long-awaited meeting took place after the two exchanged messages of praise on social media during the past few months.

In November, Muki congratulated his Iranian counterpart after he made his competitive debut under the IJF Refugee Team at the Judo Grand Slam in Osaka, Japan.

Mollaei commented on Muki’s post, calling the Israeli his “best friend.”

“Hi muki very very thank you and good luck for you all time my best friend.”

These comments followed an interview Mollaei gave to German news outlet Deutsche Welle in September, where the Iranian cited Muki as a friend and shared his hope to establish a friendship with the Israeli outside of competitive settings.

“I am friends with Sagi Muki, as I am with all other athletes. He supports me and I thank him for this,” said Mollaei. “I hope that we can one day extend our friendship…It doesn’t matter who wins, what matters is friendship.”

The Iranian has since been granted Mongolian citizenship last December in a bid to represent the Asian country in the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.

Source: (Excerpt of an article originally published by Ynetnews on February 10, 2020. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: BAswim/wikimedia.org

Photo License: wikimedia.org

Prayer Focus
Thank the Lord for the friendship that exists between these two men. Pray that their ongoing relationship will be an example to other athletes whose nations use athletics as a tool to propagate anti-Semitic hatred. May they become true ambassadors for peace and goodwill.

Scripture

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!


- Psalm 133:1

Abbas Uses UN as Stage to Slam “Deal of the Century”—Again

by Kate Norman

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PA President Mahmoud Abbas speaking at the UN Security Council yesterday

Wednesday, 12 February 2020 | Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas has been saying no to US President Donald Trump’s peace plan to solve the Israeli–Palestinian conflict essentially since its release was announced—and he declared “a thousand times” no immediately after the “Deal of the Century” was released late last month. He took the same message before the United Nations Security Council yesterday, adding a few extra declarations of hope for peace for the sake of the diplomatic body.

“I came to all of you today to affirm the Palestinian position which rejects the American–Israeli deal,” Abbas proclaimed before the council.

President Trump’s peace plan allows for the establishment of a demilitarized Palestinian state with a capital in the outskirts of eastern Jerusalem, while Israel will apply sovereignty to the majority of the Jordan Valley and Israeli communities in the biblical heartland of Judea and Samaria. Abbas and his PA entourage have indulged in a policy critics call rejectionism, boycotting the US since President Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in December 2017.

“It legalized what is illegal: settlement building and confiscation and annexation of Palestinian lands,” Abbas stressed before the international forum. “I affirm here, that it is necessary that this deal or any part of it not be considered an international reference for negotiations.”

This play came just a day after the PA pulled a resolution to bring before the council formally rejecting the peace plan at the last minute, most likely due to lack of sufficient support to put the resolution through with a majority vote.

“This deal carries within it dictates, reinforcement of the occupation, annexation by military force and anchoring of an apartheid system,” Abbas added, sprinkling in a few more anti-Zionist buzzwords.

Minutes after Abbas finished his diatribe, US ambassador to Israel Danny Danon was given the floor to respond—and used it to wallop the Palestinian leader, criticizing Abbas’s continuing policy of “rejectionism.”

“Complaining instead of action—that is not leadership,” Danon said. “Abbas says he wants sovereignty for the Palestinian people, but he has done everything to avoid it. The call for sovereignty has become a battle call, rather than an actual goal, a way to keep the conflict alive.”

The Israeli ambassador also criticized the international community for its staunch habit of standing with the Palestinians against multiple attempts to negotiate peace, including with the US-sponsored peace deal, insisting on so-called pre-1967 borders.

“They apply preconditions that directly contradict previous agreements between the sides,” Danon asserted, noting an agreement in the past between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to leave future borders up for negotiation. “Why should he negotiate for us, when you’re negotiating for him?”

Then Danon lowered the boom, asserting that no peace agreement will ever be reached under Abbas’s reign in Ramallah. “Abbas refuses to be pragmatic [and] refuses to negotiate…Only when he steps down can Israel and the Palestinians step forward,” the Israeli ambassador continued. “He will never be a partner for real peace.”

The American ambassador approached Abbas with a more placating tone, despite the whole meeting revolving around criticism of the American-made peace proposal.

“If you choose the path to peace,” US ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft told Abbas, “America and many other countries will—we will be there.”

She highlighted the UN’s monotone history of addressing the conflict by issuing hundreds of one-sided resolutions condemning the Jewish state, which after several decades has failed to establish peace.

“With this record of failure this spectacular, it would be folly to suggest that this time was well spent, and that what is needed now is more of the same,” she argued.

“President Abbas, I heard you, I heard you speak of hope, I heard your words about the importance of hope,” she added. “To keep hope alive, there must be willingness to compromise, to engage in good faith.”

The American ambassador also pointed out that the peace plan is a starting ground for negotiations—not the final outline, and can therefore be altered as needed.

The deal of the century, Craft said, “is an opening offer. It is the beginning of a conversation—not the end of one.”

Source: (Bridges for Peace, February 12, 2020)

Photo Credit: FRANCE 24 English/YouTube/screenshot

Prayer Focus
Israelis long for peace while the Palestinian people suffer at the hands of leaders who refuse to work toward that end. Ask the Lord to remove any and all existing hindrances to a peaceful negotiation and bring the parties to the table.

Scripture

I am for peace; but when I speak, they are for war.


- Psalm 120:7

Palestinian Leader Claims: All of Israel is Palestine

by Nan Jacques Zilberdik and Itamar Marcus

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Senior Fatah official Tawfiq Tirawi

Thursday, 13 February 2020 | Abbas’s Fatah [leading secular Palestinian political party] is not only saying adamantly “no” to US President Trump’s peace deal, they also insist that all of the State of Israel is “Palestine.” Senior Fatah official Tawfiq Tirawi made this clear in a recent speech when he defined “Palestine” as stretching from “the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea.” Tirawi defined “Palestine” as “waqf,” which is an inalienable religious endowment in Islamic law, and therefore it is forbidden to accept non-Muslim rule over it. He further threatened that any Palestinian leader or official who would agree to a “Palestine” covering only the West Bank [Judea and Samaria] and the Gaza Strip and not including all of Israel would be in danger and “not be able to walk 1 meter [3.2 feet] in the streets of our Palestinian cities among our people.”

Abbas’s Fatah stressed this uncompromising ideology further, stating that the Palestinian Authority [PA] isn’t “the end of the journey,” thereby implying that Fatah will not be content with a “Palestine” of the size of the PA. A post [by Fatah Central Committee on Facebook] further urged violence by referring to Abbas’s call for “popular resistance”—a term Palestinian Media Watch [PMW] has shown to be referring to everything from peaceful protest to terror.

In addition, Fatah posted photos from “Palestine,” which included several places in Israel. Text explained that the photos were from “Palestine.”

Fatah leaders say to the international audience that they want a “Palestine” on the 1967 lines, but to Palestinians they stress that they will never accept Israel in any borders. PMW has exposed PA and Fatah leaders repeating the slogan that “Palestine reaches from the River to the Sea.”

In response to US President Trump’s revelation of his peace plan, the PA and Fatah have stressed that “Palestine” includes all of Israel. Numerous times PMW has documented that this is one of the corner stones of what the PA teaches children. A recent example of children being taught not to accept Israel’s existence in any borders is a video posted by Fatah, which shows Palestinian schoolchildren marching in place and waving Palestinian flags while standing in a formation in the shape of the PA map of “Palestine” that presents all of Israel as “Palestine” together with the PA areas.

Fatah’s Information and Culture Commission also stressed that Palestinians reject Trump’s plan and will accept nothing less than “all of Palestine”—which includes all of Israel.

PMW reported that Fatah official Tirawi in a speech instructed PA Security Forces “not to pursue” Palestinian terrorists but instead go after “collaborators” with Israel and “real estate agents” who facilitate the selling of land to Jews.

Source: (Excerpt from an article originally published in Palestinian Media Watch on February 11, 2020. Time related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See the original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: palwatch/YouTube/screenshot

Prayer Focus
Pray that the malicious lies being propagated by Palestinian leadership—as well as their use of historical revisionism—will be exposed for what they are to the international community and to the Palestinian people themselves.

Scripture

Thus says the Lord GOD: “I will gather you from the peoples, assemble you from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel.”


- Ezekiel 11:17

Israel’s New Answer to Drone Threats: Laser Beams

by Yoav Zitun

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The Drone Dome can be mounted on a vehicle for quick maneuverability

Thursday, 13 February 2020 | Israel has added another layer of defense against aerial threats with a new laser defense system revealed Wednesday by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Corporation, a supplier of weapons systems to the IDF [Israel Defense Forces], which has completed a series of successful tests for a defense system against UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles].

During these tests, the system named Drone Dome successfully tracked and shot down with its high-power laser several UAVs and drones during both daylight hours and during the night.

“Today we completed a series of successful experiments with the most advanced system in the world for combating UAVs,” said Brig-Gen (Ret.) Shahar Shohat from Rafael’s aerial defense division.

“During these experiments, we examined and demonstrated the system’s vast capabilities against a single and even multiple aerial targets.”

The Drone Dome aerial defense system is meant to deal with the threats of UAVs, drones and other unmanned aerial aircraft threats against military and civilian targets such as airports or other strategic infrastructures.

The system, according to Rafael, has already been sold to several of their clients around the world, among them the British army.

Drone Dome is part of Israel’s multi-level aerial defense network, which includes the Iron Dome, David’s Sling, and the Spyder defense systems; all used to protect against rockets, missiles, and unmanned aerial vehicles with various range capabilities.

Drones present unique challenges that set them apart from traditional airborne threats, such as missiles or warplanes.

They can fly below standard military radar systems and use GPS technology to execute pinpoint attacks on sensitive targets for a fraction of the price of a fighter jet.

They can also be deployed in “swarms,” which can trick or elude conventional defense systems. Even small off-the-shelf drones can be turned into weapons by rigging them with explosives or simply crashing them in crowded areas.

A series of drone strikes across the Middle East, including an attack in September last year on a Saudi oil field and processing plant that jolted international markets, have underscored the devastating effects of small, unmanned attack aircraft.

Elsewhere in the region, Israeli warplanes last August struck what Israel said was an Iranian-trained Hezbollah squad that was preparing to launch a group of drones toward Israel from Syria.

In September 2019, an unmanned aircraft crossed into Israel from the Gaza Strip and dropped explosives on a military vehicle, causing minimal damage and no casualties, the second such attack within that year.

Source: (Ynetnews originally published this article on February 12, 2020. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd/YouTube/screenshot

Prayer Focus
Thank the Lord that Israel continues to use its resourcefulness to create defensive weapons to protect the land and its citizens. At the same time, pray that Israelis will be firm in their belief that it is the Lord God of Israel Himself who is their shield and their defender.

Scripture

Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the LORD our God.


- Psalm 20:7

In Historic First, Netanyahu and Saudi Crown Prince to Meet

by Kate Norman

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The Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman

Monday, 10 February 2020 | Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other world leaders are in talks to schedule a meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in Egypt, most likely before Israel’s March 2nd election, Arab diplomatic sources told the Jewish News Syndicate (JNS).

“In recent days there have been very intensive discussions between Washington, Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia to arrange a summit meeting in Cairo as early as the coming weeks, even before the election in Israel, which aside from the host, Egypt, will be attended by the United States, Israel, Saudi Arabia and also the leaders of the United Arab Emirates, Sudan, Bahrain and Oman,” one of the sources told JNS.

The upcoming meeting is being brokered by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, whose team has been the go-between for Israel and Saudi Arabia over the past few months, Israel Hayom reported.

Jordan was also invited to attend, but the Hashemite Kingdom requested that the Palestinian Authority (PA) also receive an invitation. Israel and the US reportedly agreed, but the Palestinian leadership declined, in accordance with its policy of boycotting the US, whom it has accused of an Israeli bias in declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel, moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Israel and most recently in releasing US President Donald Trump’s “Deal of the Century,” which the PA has referred to as the “slap of the century.”

“[PA President Mahmoud] Abbas and the leadership in Ramallah would adhere to their boycott of Washington and to freezing diplomatic ties with Israel,” a PA official told Israel Hayom.

Saudi Arabia, under the influence of its young prince, is undergoing a reformation and opening to the outside world. The crown prince approved in October 2019 for tourists—including Israelis—to visit the Arabian kingdom, where it was previously only open to Muslim pilgrims visiting Mecca or people traveling for work.

This modernization comes with condemnation from the kingdom’s hardline Islamic Arab neighbors, who criticize the nation, and especially Prince Salman, for their strong ties with the United States and increasing normalization with the Jewish state. The crown prince has close ties to Jared Kushner, special adviser and son-in-law of US President Donald Trump. Kushner also acts as the president’s Middle East advisor and is the architect behind Trump’s “Deal of the Century.”

Source: (Bridges for Peace, February 10, 2020)

Photo Credit: CBS This Morning/Screenshot/Youtube

Prayer Focus
Again, pray for great wisdom for PM Netanyahu as he works to build relationships with Arab nations. Thank the Lord for those countries who are willing to work with Israel to bring peace and stability to the region. Pray that they will be successful and other nations will join them in their efforts.

Scripture

Who is the man who desires life, and loves many days, that he may see good? Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit. Depart from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.


- Psalm 34:12–14

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