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Friday, February 5, 2021

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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.

Israel Conducts Secretive Iron Dome Tests, Achieves “Significant Milestone”

by Joshua Spurlock

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Israel conducted successful tests of a “new and upgraded” Iron Dome missile defense system (illustrative).

Tuesday, 2 February 2021 | A “new and upgraded” Iron Dome missile defense system has been successfully tested by Israel’s Missile Defense Organization and achieved a “significant milestone” in the weapon’s development—but the Israelis weren’t forthcoming with many details about what that accomplishment is.

The press release put out by Israel’s Ministry of Defense only said the test campaign included “a number of scenarios simulating advanced threats with which the Iron Dome is expected to contend during times of conflict—whether on land or in the sea.”

The vague and apparently secretive tests come as Israel faces an ongoing threat from Iran, who may be motivated to launch militaristic or terrorist attacks. The Islamic Republic was outraged over the assassination of nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh last November, January marked one year since Iranian spymaster General Qassem Soleimani was killed by the United States, and the Iranians continue to escalate their nuclear crisis with the world powers in a blackmail effort to convince the US to alleviate sanctions.

With that in the background, Twitter posts from Israel’s Defense Ministry and Defense Minister Benny Gantz offered no additional details on the latest Iron Dome test campaign beyond the press release. However, Gantz did tweet on the tests, saying in a Hebrew post translated by Google: “Glad to update that we have successfully completed a complex series of experiments in an advanced version of Iron Dome. The security system will continue to be on guard around the clock and everywhere.”

A video included with the press release showed test drones being intercepted by the Iron Dome around Israel’s coast, and the press release noted that the new Iron Dome would be installed on the Navy’s Sa’ar 6 corvettes and “be central to the defense of Israel’s economic waters.”

The Times of Israel, in their coverage of the tests, said the Defense Ministry was unwilling to make additional comments about the testing targets and [provide] more detailed information about the tests. The Times of Israel report said that the Sa’ar 6 corvettes are assigned to defend Israel’s natural gas platforms in the Mediterranean Sea.

The latest tests follow live-fire tests announced by Israel in December of the David’s Sling missile defense system and Iron Dome’s ability to intercept cruise missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

Source: (This article was originally published by The Mideast Update on February 1, 2021. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today.)

Photo Credit: Kobi Gideon / GPO/flickr.com

Photo License: Flickr

Prayer Focus
Praise the Lord that the Iron Dome will be “on guard around the clock and everywhere,” including protecting Israel’s coastal boarder. At the same time, beseech the Lord that such equipment will never have to be used and pray that all Israel will recognize the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as their Shield and Defender.


The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised; so shall I be saved from my enemies.

- Psalm 18:2–3

Israel, Kosovo Establish Diplomatic Ties Via Virtual Ceremony

by Itamar Eichner

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Kosovar Foreign Minister Meliza Haradinaj-Stublla

Tuesday, 2 February 2021 | Israel and Kosovo’s foreign ministers signed a historic agreement to establish diplomatic relations in a virtual ceremony on Monday.

Kosovo and Israel agreed on mutual recognition last September at a summit of Kosovo–Serbia leaders at the White House in the presence of then-President Donald Trump.

Kosovo agreed to open its embassy in Jerusalem, making it only the third country to open a diplomatic mission in the capital, after the United States and Guatemala, and the first Muslim-majority country to do so.

Serbia also announced it would move to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, a promise it has yet to follow through on.

Most countries conducting diplomatic relations with Israel set their embassies in Tel Aviv as opposed to Jerusalem to avoid criticism by the Palestinians, who seek the east part of the city as the capital of a future state.

Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and his Kosovar counterpart Meliza Haradinaj-Stublla agreed to hold the ceremony virtually due to travel restrictions meant to rein in the spread of COVID-19, including the closure of Ben Gurion Airport.

This was the first time two countries officially established diplomatic ties remotely.

Kosovar Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti and US State Department representative to the Balkan region, Matthew Palmer, also joined the ceremony.

“Today we are making history. We are establishing diplomatic relations between Israel and Kosovo—a moment that many have been waiting for,” Ashkenazi said at the ceremony.

“This is an opportunity to strengthen the relationship with the Kosovar people, who themselves hold warm ties with Israel,” he added.

Ashkenazi also thanked the US for its part in promoting the agreement.

Haradinaj-Stublla said that Kosovo has waited for a long time to establish ties with Israel, calling the ceremony “an important day on which we celebrate a new chapter for both our countries, who share a common fate.”

“Today Israel has become the 117th country to recognize Kosovo as an independent and sovereign state,” she said.

Haradinaj-Stubll also thanked Israel for offering asylum to some 100 Kosovar refugees who escaped to the country during the 1999 war with Serbia and noted Kosovo’s efforts to save Jews from Nazi persecution during World War II.

“Today we are writing a golden page in the history of both our peoples and nations,” she said. “We invite Israeli companies to come and invest in Kosovo, and we are expecting many years of friendship. Shalom and toda raba [Greetings and thank you in Hebrew].”

After both diplomats concluded their statements, Ashkenazi unveiled a plaque that will be placed at the entrance of the future Kosovar embassy in Jerusalem, which will be on display at the Foreign Ministry until the mission’s official opening in July.

Kosovo, with a population of 1.9 million, has declared its independence from Serbia in 2008 unilaterally. It has received recognition from most Western countries but was never accepted into the United Nations due to Russia—a close Serbia ally—vetoing its membership.

Source: (Excerpt of an article originally published by Ynetnews on February 1, 2021. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Bundesministerium für europäische und internationale Angelegenheiten/commons.wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Thank the Lord for this historic agreement, as Kosovo becomes the first Muslim-majority country to establish a diplomatic mission in Jerusalem. Pray that the faithfulness of the Lord of Hosts will be revealed as he pours out His blessing on this relationship, strengthening both countries and creating bonds of friendship.


“And all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a delightful land,” says the LORD of hosts.

- Malachi 3:12

US Secretary of State Says Iran’s Breakout Time Could be “Matter of Weeks”

by Joshua Spurlock

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken

Wednesday, 3 February 2021 | Time is running out to stop Iran from producing enough nuclear fuel for a nuclear weapon, with the United States Secretary of State saying that Iran’s continued lifting of restrictions on their nuclear program could get them within weeks of that dangerous goal.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in an interview on Monday with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell republished in a State Department press release, said that Iran had already gotten within months of having enough enriched uranium for a bomb.

“Based on public reports, the time that it would take Iran to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon is down to, we think, a few months,” Blinken said on the Andrea Mitchell Reports program. “…And it’s a problem that could get more acute, because if Iran continues to lift some of these restraints imposed by the [international nuclear] agreement, that could get down to a matter of weeks.”

Blinken was referring to repeated steps by Iran in recent months to withdraw from restrictions under the nuclear deal with the major world powers. That deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), exchanged sanctions relief and economic benefits to Iran for self-imposed limits on Iran’s nuclear program—including their ability to produce enriched uranium.

The JCPOA was thought to introduce enough roadblocks to push out Iran’s nuclear fuel timeline to more than a year. However, flaws within the deal—such as sunset clauses that lift restrictions at arbitrary timeframes and the failure to address Iran’s missile program and support for terrorism—led former US President Donald Trump to pull America out of the deal and re-impose crippling sanctions on Iran.

With US President Joe Biden in power, and following his role as vice president under then President Barack Obama who helped craft the JCPOA, the expectation is that the US will rejoin the accord. However, Blinken said that they are waiting on Iran to first resume their obligations under the JCPOA, at which point the US would as well in the form of sanctions relief.

Blinken also noted that even with Iran’s progress towards having enough nuclear fuel for a bomb, the full process of building a nuclear warhead takes separate additional research and development. Blinken told Mitchell that’s a “timeline that’s probably different” from the mere months to achieving the bomb’s fuel.

“But the bottom line is they are getting closer to the point where they would be either a threshold nuclear power or actually a nuclear power. And that is profoundly against our interests,” said Blinken.

It’s also strongly against Israel’s interests. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has lobbied the Biden administration to not restart the failed JCPOA deal as is and has warned again and again about the dangers of a nuclear Iran.

In a series of posts on Netanyahu’s official Twitter feed as the world was set to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day, he said, “There are those who aspire to destroy the State of Israel and say so openly, on a daily basis, and this is the regime of the ayatollahs in Iran…they intend to try and destroy us—inter alia—by developing nuclear weapons.”

Netanyahu went on to state his country’s stance on Iran’s malignant plans. He tweeted, “When somebody says that they intend to destroy you—take it seriously and organize to prevent this destruction. This is what we are doing around the clock and this is the first and most important goal of the State of Israel.”

Source: (This article was originally published by The Mideast Update on February 2, 2021. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today.)

Photo Credit: U.S. Embassy Moldova/flickr.com

Photo License: Flickr

Prayer Focus
Pray that the Biden administration will act with great wisdom in deciding whether or not to rejoin the JCPOA. Pray that PM Netanyahu’s warnings will be heeded, and ask the Lord to intervene on Israel’s behalf, bringing an end to the Iranian nuclear threat altogether.


And the LORD God of their fathers sent warnings to them by His messengers, rising up early and sending them, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place.

- 2 Chronicles 36:15

Report: Israel Strikes Hezbollah Targets in Syria

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Syrian news said the strike took place in southern Syria close to the Golan Heights. Pictured: The Israel–Syria border

Thursday, 4 February 2021 | Syrian state television said Wednesday evening the country’s air defenses responded to “Israeli aggression” in what appears to be an attack on Hezbollah targets in the area.

The alleged attack came hours after Lebanon’s terror group said it had fired an anti-aircraft missile at an IDF [Israel Defense Forces] drone in Lebanese territory. Israeli military confirmed the missile fire but said the drone was not hit and continued its operation in the country.

The Syrian news agency Sana said the attack took place in Quneitra province in southern Syria close to the Golan Heights, with echoes of explosions heard in the area.

Earlier on Wednesday, two Iranian cargo planes affiliated with the Iranian Air Force and the Revolutionary Guard landed in Damascus and a few hours later returned to Tehran. In addition, a Syrian Air Force cargo plane made its way from Tehran to Latakia.

About two and a half weeks ago, Syria reported that Israel carried out an attack near the city of Hama in the west of the country.

According to reports, a barrage of missiles was fired from the direction of the city of Tripoli in Lebanon and explosions were heard in the area near the city. A Syrian military source claimed that most of the missiles were intercepted.

Source: (Excerpt of an article originally published by Ynetnews on February 3, 2021. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Sarah Yoder/bridgesforpeace.com

Prayer Focus
Pray that the world will recognize that Israel’s actions are defensive, not the result of “Israeli aggression.” Also pray that Israel’s actions will be effective, thwarting the intentions of Hezbollah and Iran to establish an Iranian presence on Israel’s border.


I will lift up my eyes to the hills—from whence comes my help? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.

- Psalm 121:1–4

Israel Thwarts Palestinian Terror Attack in Judea and Samaria

by JNS

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The Gush Etzion Junction

Monday, 1 February 2021 | A Palestinian terrorist was shot and killed on Sunday morning during an attempted stabbing attack at the Gush Etzion Junction in Judea and Samaria, the Israeli military reported.

“A terrorist armed with [an improvised spear] reached the Gush Etzion Junction and tried to stab Israel Defense Forces [IDF] soldiers operating in the area. One of the soldiers responded by shooting and neutralizing the terrorist. There were no casualties to our forces,” said the IDF in a statement.

“I was standing at the northern hitchhiking station at the Gush Etzion Junction to protect the civilians there. I saw a suspect walking on the road who began advancing quickly towards me and civilians at the location. I saw that he had drawn a knife, so I shot and neutralized [him],” said Corporal E. of the IDF’s Nahshon Battalion. “I have been deployed here with my comrades in the battalion for about a month. We remain alert at all times to avoid cases like this. We will continue to protect the residents of Gush Etzion and our home[land].”

Security camera footage shows a man with a hoodie approaching, drawing a bladed weapon and running towards the bus stop, and a soldier then firing at him.

The Gush Etzion Junction has been the site of numerous terrorist attacks, the most recent of which occurred on January 5, when a terrorist wielding a meat cleaver was shot dead by a civilian on the scene.

Source: (This article was originally published by JNS on January 31, 2021. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: דוידוד/wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Beseech the Lord for an end to these terror attacks and constant threats to IDF soldiers and the people of Gush Etzion. Cry out to Him, asking Him to reveal the truth to those Palestinians who have been brainwashed to think terror is necessary and acceptable, turning their hearts toward Him.


And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin…”

- Exodus 34:6–7a

US Commander for the Middle East Visits Israel

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US General Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., the Commander of the US Central Command for the Middle East

Monday, 1 February 2021 | What happened: US Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., the Commander of CENTCOM—the US Central Command for the Middle East—arrived in Israel last week for a two-day visit.

  • It is the first high-level visit by a top American official since US President Joe Biden was sworn in.
  • General McKenzie participated in a panel led by the Chief of the General Staff.
  • Last week, he planted a tree alongside IDF Chief of Staff Kochavi, to celebrate the 15th Shvat, the Jewish new year for trees [Tu BiShvat].
  • IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen Aviv Kochavi said: “Military and strategic relations between the US and Israel have, for many years, been a critical component in establishing Israel’s national security and its advantage over its enemies, wherever they are. This partnership has a key role to play in dealing with our common threats, especially the Iranian threat.”
  • Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz spoke with his American counterpart, Lloyd James Austin III, in an introductory call last week. Gantz highlighted the importance of confronting Iranian aggression to ensure regional stability and underlined the centrality of ongoing dialogue and strategic coordination at every level of interface between the two defense establishments.
  • Austin reaffirmed the strength of the US–Israel defense relationship and reiterated the US commitment to maintaining Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge.

 Context: In the last days of [former] President Donald Trump, the US moved Israel from the jurisdiction of the European Command (EUCOM) in the US military to the Central Command.

  • The switch was made as relations between Israel and several Arab and Muslim states have normalized in the past year.
  • Israeli officials have long said the move to CENTCOM is of strategic significance for Israel and will allow for closer coordination and cooperation with the US military, particularly with a focus on Iran.
  • There is concern that Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu could clash with President Biden, as he did with President Obama over the Iranian nuclear issue.
  • However, last week a senior Israeli official told Walla Newsthat Netanyahu prefers a dialogue and does not want to clash with the new US administration. The sources posited that there was a fundamental difference, when the Obama administration engaged in a secret channel of dialogue with the Iranians behind Israel’s back, whereas Biden has shown goodwill and has said from day one that he intends to consult with Israel before making any decisions on the Iranian issue.
  • Another factor is Netanyahu’s strong personal relationship with Biden for four decades.
  • The IDF is also strongly opposed to the US returning to the JCPOA agreement. In a speech earlier this week, Chief of Staff Kochavi said such a move would be a strategic mistake and announced that he was preparing military operations against Iran’s nuclear facilities.
  • Amos Yadlin, former head of Military Intelligence, wrote in Foreign Affairs yesterday that the Biden administration should first pause Iran’s nuclear activity with an interim agreement, and then enter into another round of talks to vastly improve the current JCPOA. In the interim, Washington should coordinate efforts among regional partners to expose and interdict Iranian shipments of materiel to proxies and disrupt planned attacks. In addition, the White House should promote cooperation between Israel and the Gulf states on missile defense.

 Looking ahead: Israel’s integration at CENTCOM will strengthen intelligence-sharing on operations in the Middle East with long-standing allies such as the UK and France.

  • It will also create the conditions for the beginnings of military and defense cooperation with the states that have recently normalized their relations with Israel, such as the UAE and Bahrain.
  • Talks between the US and Israel over Iran are expected to begin within the next few weeks. It is believed that Netanyahu will send Mossad Head Yossi Cohen to Washington to provide Israeli red-lines on Iran’s nuclear program.

Source: (Excerpt from an article originally published by BICOM on January 29, 2021. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: DoD photo by Tech Sgt. Vernon Young Jr./flickr.com

Photo License: Flickr

Prayer Focus
Thank the Lord for the strong strategic relationship between the US and Israel. Beseech the Lord that it will continue and strengthen, and pray for the upcoming talks regarding Iran. Ask the Lord to give Israel’s representative great wisdom and eloquence in communicating Israel’s positions, warnings and red lines.


A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver. Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold is a wise rebuker to an obedient ear.

- Proverbs 25:11–12

IDF Takes on 13 Nations in International Cyber-defense Drill

by Hanan Greenwood~Israel Hayom via JNS

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An IDF soldier competes in the international drill.

Tuesday, 2 February 2021 | Five teams representing various branches of the Israel Defense Forces [IDF] recently completed a first-of-its-kind international competitive cyber drill, in which they competed against nearly 60 teams from 13 other countries.

The competition, held last Thursday under the auspices of the US Army’s Cyber Center of Excellence, pitted IDF personnel against each other as well as against the international teams.

With a focus on security and defense, the competition presented challenges designed to mimic real-time situations and check the teams’ ability to work under a time crunch and cooperate.

The IDF noted that this was the first drill in which cyber-defense teams from different branches of the military had worked together under the IDF’s Cyber Defense Directorate, which was established last year. The goal of the new directorate is to unite all the IDF’s cyber defenses into a single, key defensive element.

According to the IDF, the drill offered a challenging new training opportunity that could help keep the Israeli military’s cyber defenses sharp.

The IDF team didn’t win, however. The cyber laurels went to the team from Taiwan.

Source: (This article was originally published by Israel Hayom via JNS on February 1, 2021. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: IDF Spokesperson's Unit./jns

Prayer Focus
Thank the Lord for Israel’s participation in this unique drill. Pray that the lessons learned from such a training opportunity will be implemented and valuable in securing Israel’s cyber-defense systems.


Blessed be the LORD my Rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle—my lovingkindness and my fortress, my high tower and my deliverer, my shield and the One in whom I take refuge.

- Psalm 144:1–2a