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The Long Road Home

Friday, February 9, 2024

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

Four Months of War in Gaza: Targets, Triumphs and the Road Ahead

by Yoav Zitun ~ Ynetnews

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The war in Gaza has now passed the four-month mark.

Thursday, 8 February 2024 | The IDF [Israel Defense Forces] on Wednesday marked four months since the beginning of the war against Hamas, and three-and-a-half months since the beginning of ground operations in the Gaza Strip, which included a pause of nearly 10 days as part of a temporary cease-fire for the release of hostages.

The army has achieved several impressive milestones. However, they have yet to achieve one of their primary goals: eliminating senior Hamas officials. Here is an overview of the first four months of the war.

Tactical Achievements

Currently, the IDF is focusing its operations exclusively in Khan Younis, targeting the western battalion of the local brigade, which is the last remaining in the area not yet neutralized. The 98th Division, which has been spearheading operations in Gaza’s largest city for roughly two months, anticipates that this objective could be reached within a week.

This accomplishment would conclude the second phase of ground operations in the southern Gaza Strip. Subsequently, the focus will shift to the third phase, which began last month in the northern Gaza Strip and resulted in the elimination of about 300 terrorists, primarily in Gaza City.

In the remaining days of the operation in Khan Younis, 98th Division forces will continue to pursue two primary objectives: targeting and eliminating senior Hamas officials, including terror leader Yahya Sinwar and military chief Muhammad Deif, who remain at large, and intensifying efforts to locate and rescue hostages.

The IDF asserts that only through substantial military pressure from ground forces will Hamas be compelled toward another hostage exchange deal. In practice, daily discoveries of items and clues are progressively leading forces closer to the hostages’ locations, even though, to date, those who have been located were found deceased.

The primary objective of the IDF during the first two phases of ground operations was to undermine Hamas’s command and control capabilities and its military infrastructure, both above and below ground. This strategy stems from the understanding that without these capabilities, the terrorist group cannot carry out combat operations, ranging from launching rocket barrages and border attacks to conducting raids on Israeli border towns in the Western Negev.

Therefore, the focus has predominantly been on the tangible, material aspect of Hamas as a military entity, specifically its military industry responsible for developing and producing hundreds of thousands of various types of weapons.

The IDF successfully located, uncovered, investigated and demolished these targets, despite the lack of advanced intelligence or adequate awareness of most underground bases and the extensive tunnel network before October 7. The bulk of information about them was acquired in real-time by infantry, armored and engineering forces.

However, beyond the daily tactical successes achieved by soldiers on the ground, a strategic victory remains elusive. The government has yet to address the “day after” scenario, specifically who will govern the two million Gazans once IDF forces withdraw.

Hamas has seemingly filled the vacuum, indicating a return to governance in areas from which the IDF has pulled out.

Unseen Scope of Use of Reservists

The IDF has embarked on its longest ground operation in hostile territory, despite the slow pace and limited scope compared to operations in southern Lebanon. Reserve units, previously considered low priority by the General Staff, such as the 252nd Division, have been instrumental to the operation, working alongside elite regular divisions like the 98th, which are tasked with deep mission engagements.

The deployment of reserve battalions for essential missions in the Gaza Strip has surpassed the expectations and planning of any Southern Command general or General Staff officer.

The IDF swiftly revised its war objectives from aiming to eliminate or destroy Hamas to dismantling its operational capabilities. According to IDF estimates, roughly 17 out of 24 Hamas battalions have been dismantled, leaving mainly local squads of Hamas terrorists active in the field.

The battalions not yet dealt with by the IDF are located in areas where the operation has deliberately not been conducted, including Deir al-Balah and Nuseirat in the central Gaza Strip, and Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. Rafah, known for its volatile nature, is situated on the arms smuggling route from Sinai along the Philadelphi Corridor, extending southeast to the border triangle with Israel.

The IDF has formulated a strategic plan for Rafah to counter the local Hamas brigade, which likely harbors senior Hamas officials who have sought refuge there. However, it was shelved for the remainder of the year. Implementation hinges on two prerequisites: Egyptian approval, potentially necessitating concessions to Palestinians in the Strip such as enhanced humanitarian aid or Israeli agreement for an official Palestinian entity to govern the Strip in lieu of Hamas, and the relocation of approximately one million Gazans from densely populated displaced persons camps in the north to Rafah.

Another, albeit secondary, condition is international legitimacy, spearheaded by the US, to reassume control over the Strip forcefully. The IDF has received an exceptional level of international support to date, especially following the October 7 atrocities. Assuming a prolonged cease-fire as part of a potential hostage negotiation is established for a month or two, it will be essential to “recharge” international backing for operations in the Strip.

This effort might be complicated by US concerns regarding the IDF-established buffer zone, which resulted in the demolition of thousands of Palestinian homes and the appropriation of farmland; Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s refusal to plan for the “day after” and transfer authority to “moderate” factions other than Hamas; and the influence of the government’s far-right flank on most decisions, including demands to reconstruct and repopulate the Gaza Strip with Israelis. These factors may challenge the renewal of support from the Western world, which, for now, has not urged Israel to hold its fire.

A Low Price, Compared to the Past

The IDF has reported 226 casualties in ground operations, a significantly lower figure than the high numbers suggested by a senior political figure during Operation Protective Edge in 2014. This leak from a classified briefing aimed to undermine public support for a ground operation against Hamas by highlighting the potentially high cost in lives, thus affecting perceptions of success or victory. Compared to past wars, such as the 121 deaths in the 34-day Second Lebanon War, the casualty rate in the current operation is relatively low.

IDF Forces at the Gaza Border

In the aftermath of the October 7 attack, senior Cabinet officials hesitated to launch a major ground war, with discussions leaning toward a limited operation against Hamas. Defense Minister Yoav Gallant advocated for a full-scale incursion, marking the first IDF presence on Gazan soil in three to four decades, even predating the 2005 disengagement.

Thus, the IDF initiated an operation prioritizing “the security of our forces comes before speed,” advocating for cautious and deliberate actions. This approach emphasized targeting terrorist infrastructure like bases, firing positions, launchers and military factories while avoiding exhaustive searches for every tunnel and terrorist, given their vast numbers and tactics of blending with civilians or going underground.

The field commanders’ strategic and innovative tactics, coupled with technological deceptions and unprecedented firepower, significantly contributed to the operation’s success. Additionally, the advanced evacuation and medical treatment capabilities, unparalleled globally, played a crucial role in managing the approximately 2,000 wounded, including nearly 500 in serious condition, effectively reducing potential casualties.

The home front’s resilience was another critical factor. Despite Hamas’s rocket attacks on major cities and the devastating invasion on October 7, the Air Force’s advanced defense systems, public adherence to Home Front Command instructions and effective countermeasures against Hamas in Gaza helped restore normalcy. This allowed Ben Gurion Airport to resume operations and the economy to remain active. However, it’s essential to remember that Gaza, as Israel’s secondary adversary, presents ongoing challenges, while the West Bank [Judea and Samaria] has remained relatively quiet for the time being.

Source: (Excerpt from an article originally was published by Ynetnews on February 7, 2024. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Israeli Defense Forces Spokesperson's Unit/wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Praise the Lord for the progress that the IDF has made toward its goal of eliminating Hamas and for the lower numbers of IDF casualties than expected. Pray for His supernatural protection for all soldiers and security personnel, and beseech Him for ongoing quiet in Judea and Samaria.

Scripture

He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he causes me to stand on the heights. He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze.


- Psalm 18:33–34 NIV

Home Front Command Ponders Preparing Country for War in North

by Yossi Yehoshua ~ Ynetnews

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The tensions between Hezbollah and Israel have been on the rise, raising public suspicion of another arena of war opening up.

Friday, 2 February 2024 | In recent weeks, tensions between Israel and Hezbollah have been steadily rising, raising concerns over the potential escalation of the conflict. While the intensity on the northern border may not have drastically changed, it is becoming increasingly apparent that this situation has the potential to spiral out of control. Both sides may not be actively seeking an all-out war, but the growing suspicion and mistrust between them is palpable.

Adding to the escalating tensions, last weekend reports surfaced in Lebanese media suggesting that Israel was preparing for an attack against Hezbollah. Such publications, whether based on truth or not, have the power to create additional strain and anxiety. They can impact the preparedness and response of Hezbollah as an organization, potentially pushing them into an emergency mindset.

At present, an announcement has been made regarding the Home Front Command’s consideration of a unique campaign aimed at enhancing preparedness for potential conflict in Lebanon. While it is crucial to ensure the readiness of the Israeli public, this decision has the potential to generate speculation on the opposing side, particularly considering Israel’s lack of interest in war and its pursuit of diplomatic solutions, much like Hezbollah.

Over the years, various proposals have been put forth for communication campaigns involving the Home Front Command, akin to the ones familiar to us for preparing bomb shelters or creating protected spaces within homes. These proposals included hypothetical scenarios that outlined the possession of 150,000 rockets by the terrorist organization in Lebanon, the capacity to launch over 4,000 rockets daily during regular combat, precision missile capabilities, attack drones and more. Some of these capabilities are currently being observed along the northern border.
Ultimately, after careful consideration, the Chiefs of Staff, to whom these proposals were presented, made the decision not to instill fear in the public.

The Home Front Command is currently grappling with the challenging decision of whether to launch a campaign to prepare the public for the possibility of war. The dilemma lies in the understanding that such a campaign, even in the absence of concrete intelligence indicating Hezbollah’s intention to initiate hostilities, could increase preparedness while simultaneously instilling panic among the public.

It is crucial to remember that we’re no longer in October 6 when examining the weighty question at hand. With the Israel Defense Force’s [IDF] active presence in the Strip, the firing toward southern communities has significantly decreased, and in recent weeks, the majority of the attacks have been directed toward the northern communities.

Since the war broke out, residents have gained a deep understanding of the potential repercussions of a conflict in the north. Hundreds of thousands have already taken the initiative to evacuate or seek refuge elsewhere, fully aware of Hezbollah’s capabilities and the responsibilities that come with a full-scale conflict.

Throughout the ongoing war, the Home Front Command has taken reasonable measures to equip citizens with the necessary tools to confront missile and rocket attacks, infiltration attempts and terrorist incursions. Remarkably, the number of casualties on the home front has remained remarkably low compared to the sheer volume of missiles fired towards Israel. This undoubtedly reflects the public’s attentiveness to instructions, which play a critical role in safeguarding the home front.

It is important to emphasize that the official guidance provided by the Home Front Command regarding war preparedness carries significant weight. Not only does it have the potential to induce public panic, but it can also result in shortages in the market and undermine the public’s trust, which is a delicate aspect of the relationship between the authorities and the military. As a result, the IDF conducts daily assessments and continuously evaluates the defense policy for the home front.

Major General Rafi Milo of the Home Front Command shoulders a significant responsibility as he formulates a recommendation for the next course of action. Given the sensitivity of the matter, such a campaign would also require approval from Chief of Staff Herzi Halevy and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. Moreover, it is essential to acknowledge that any such campaign must include the coordination of expectations regarding the consequences for Hezbollah and the state of Lebanon resulting from the war.

Source: (Excerpt of an article originally published by Ynetnews on February 1, 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 Home Front Command and other decision makers as they prioritize the safety of the Israeli people while balancing that need with the other complex issues involved. Pray that their next courses of action will be in line with God’s will.

Scripture

I delight to do Your will, O my God, and Your law is within my heart.


- Psalm 40:8

Hamas Officially Demands End to War for Hostages’ Release

by Akiva van Koningsveld ~ JNS

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Israelis protest for the release of civilians held hostage in the Gaza Strip.

Wednesday, 7 February 2024 | The Hamas terror group on Tuesday night announced its long-awaited response to a proposed hostages-for-ceasefire deal with Israel, in what Jerusalem said amounted to a rejection of the outline.

Hamas said it “dealt with the proposal in a positive spirit, ensuring a comprehensive and complete ceasefire, ending the aggression against our people, ensuring relief, shelter and reconstruction, lifting the siege on the Gaza Strip and completing a prisoner exchange.

“We value the role of our brothers in Egypt, Qatar and all countries that seek to stop the brutal aggression against our people,” Hamas added.

The Ynet news site cited senior officials in Jerusalem as saying that while Hamas claimed it agreed to the framework as negotiated by Doha and Cairo, it was demanding “impossible conditions” from Israel.

“In any case, Israel will not stop the fighting. Hamas’s response amounts to a negative answer,” the officials said, adding that the Prime Minister’s Office was still drafting an official response to mediators.

Israel has repeatedly rejected proposals for a long-term or permanent ceasefire and maintains that it will continue in its goal to eradicate Hamas and ensure that Gaza can never again pose a threat to the Jewish state.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who is scheduled to arrive in Israel on Wednesday, said the Biden administration was reviewing Hamas’s response and stressed it was “essential” to go ahead.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done. But we continue to believe that an agreement is possible and indeed essential, and we will continue to work relentlessly to achieve it,” Blinken stated following meetings in Doha.

According to official figures, 136 hostages remain in Gaza. At least 32 of the remaining captives are confirmed to have died, the New York Times reported earlier on Tuesday, citing Israel Defense Forces officials.

Jerusalem was also assessing unconfirmed reports indicating that at least 20 additional captives may no longer be alive, the officials said.

Hamas abducted more than 240 people during its bloody rampage across the northwestern Negev, in which some 1,200 people were murdered and thousands more wounded.

One hundred and five hostages, mostly women and children, were released last year as part of a ceasefire deal, which Hamas broke when it refused to hand over the last group of captives.

Hamas is refusing a new deal along the lines of the November agreement, Saudi Arabia’s Al Arabiya previously reported. As part of that deal, Israel released hundreds of female and teenage Palestinian security prisoners, in addition to pausing its military campaign in Gaza.

The terrorist group is demanding that Israel release more Palestinian security prisoners in exchange for each of the remaining hostages. Hamas is reportedly insisting that Israel free terrorists arrested on October 7.

Hamas is also seeking guarantees for the complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip and a total end to the war—a stance that is incompatible with Israel’s stated goal of destroying the terrorist group.

“The efforts to free the hostages are continuing at all times,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told journalists on Sunday. “However, we will not agree to every deal, and not at any price.”

A recent survey by the Tel Aviv-based Institute for National Security Studies found that 61% of Israelis believe that the war must continue until Hamas is destroyed, even if that means not all of the hostages will return.

According to a snap poll conducted by Israel’s Channel 12 last week, 50% of Israelis oppose a deal that would see an extended pause in the fighting in Gaza and the release of thousands of Palestinian terrorists. Only 35% support the terms of the reported agreement, with the rest undecided.

Source: (This article originally was published by the Jewish News Syndicate on February 6, 2024. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90/jns.org

Prayer Focus
Cry out to the Lord for the safety and the return of the hostages. Beseech Him, however, for ongoing courage on the part of Israel’s decision makers, allowing them to move forward in the directions they deem necessary without being pressured into making unwise and unsafe decisions. Pray for the US administration and their ongoing support for Israel’s need to proceed until Hamas is no longer a threat.

Scripture

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.


- Psalm 1:1–2 ESV

Argentina’s President in Israel on Wartime Solidarity Visit

by Etgar Lefkovits ~ JNS

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President of Argentina Javier Milei is a great supporter of Israel.

Tuesday, 6 February 2024 | The President of Argentina Javier Milei arrives in Israel on Tuesday, becoming the first Latin American leader to come to the Jewish state since the war against Hamas in Gaza began and opening a new chapter in bilateral relations.

The three-day solidarity trip, which is one of his first tours abroad since taking office two months ago, signals a major shift in Argentina’s foreign policy towards the United States and Israel after decades of backing Arab countries.

The presidential trip will include a visit to a kibbutz [collective community] on the border with Gaza, which was hard-hit by Hamas terrorists during the October 7 massacre, meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Isaac Herzog, who will accompany him on the tour of Kibbutz Nir Oz, along with a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem and a stop for prayer at the Western Wall.

An unabashedly public Philo-Semite [a non-Jew with tremendous and outspoken interest in, respect for and appreciation of the Jewish people and Judaism] who studies with a rabbi, Milei has pledged to move the Argentine embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, although economic woes at home, where inflation topped 140% last year, are clearly front and center on his government’s to-do list.

In a further sign of friendship, Milei has appointed his rabbi, Axel Wahnish, who is accompanying him on the visit, as Argentina’s next ambassador to Israel.

Netanyahu invited Milei to Jerusalem in a congratulatory phone call in December, calling him a “true friend” of Israel.

An iconoclast and political outsider, Milei was elected in November amid a burgeoning economic crisis and skyrocketing inflation that has long beleaguered the large South American country. A week after his election victory, he visited the United States for government meetings, stopping at the grave in New York of the late Lubavitcher Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson in his third such visit last year.

Milei has said that he would work to have Argentina designate Hamas as a terrorist organization, noting that Argentines were among the hundreds of people from scores of nations taken hostage by Hamas on October 7. During his tour of southern Israel, he will meet with Argentina-born farmers who were held by Hamas in Gaza.

“I want to emphasize our complete solidarity with the people of Israel following the terrorist acts committed by the terrorist organization Hamas,” Milei told then-Foreign Minister Eli Cohen in a meeting in Buenos Aires along with relatives of hostages being held by Hamas in Gaza. “I support Israel’s full right to defend itself against those terrorist attacks.”

His staunch support for Israel both ditches decades of unequivocal backing for Arab countries in the predominantly Catholic Latin American nation under both left- and right-wing governments and contrasts with neighboring Brazil, whose leftist leader, President Lula da Silva, has been highly critical of Israel’s war in Gaza.

After he visits Israel, Milei, who is taking a commercial flight to the country, will travel to the Vatican for meetings with the pope as well as with the Italian premier and to attend the beatification ceremony for a nun.

Source: (This article originally was published by Ynetnews on February 6, 2024. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons/jns.org

Prayer Focus
Thank God for Argentinian President Javier Milei! Pray for strengthening of the relationship between Israel and Argentina, and praise the Lord for President Milei’s plans to move the Argentine embassy to Jerusalem. Praise God for the president’s love for Israel and for his deep respect for Judaism. Pray that his ongoing relationship with Israel will only deepen those feelings, opening the door for great blessings to fall on Argentina and on Israel.

Scripture

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! For there the LORD commanded the blessing—life forevermore.


- Psalm 133:1, 3b

The Newly-elected ICJ Court President’s Anti-Israel History

by JNS

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The International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands.

Wednesday, 7 February 2024 | The International Court of Justice [ICJ], the primary judicial arm of the United Nations based in The Hague, announced on Tuesday that Nawaf Salam was elected president of the court.

A judge and former Lebanese ambassador to the United Nations, Salam has been a member of the ICJ since 2018. He was one of the judges who heard South Africa’s case against Israel, accusing the Jewish state of genocide in Gaza.

Salam has a history of anti-Israel comments on social media.

“Unhappy birthday to you,” he wrote on June 5, 2015, tagging Israel and noting “48 years of occupation.” Some four months later, he wrote that “Israel must stop violence and end occupation.”

“When we criticize and condemn Israel it is never because of the Jewish character of the majority of its population,” he claimed on January 22, 2015. On the same day, he wrote that “Portraying the critics of Israel’s policies as anti-Semites is an attempt to intimidate and discredit them, which we reject.”

On September 10 of the same year, he added, “Palestine’s full membership in UN and ending Israel’s occupation remain long overdue.”

Source: (This article originally was published by the Jewish News Syndicate on February 6, 2024. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons/wikimedia.org

Prayer Focus
Ask the Lord to work a miracle in the heart of Nawaf Salam, causing him to recognize the legitimacy and importance of the State of Israel and recant his anti-Semitism. Pray that going forward, his decisions will be influenced by truth and not anti-Zionist hatred.

Scripture

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


- Proverbs 12:22 ESV

US Hits Iranian Revolutionary Guards as Middle East Conflict Expands

by Joshua Spurlock ~ The Mideast Update

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US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin

Monday, 5 February 2024 | In response to an attack that killed three American soldiers, the United States on Friday struck more than 85 targets in Iraq and Syria used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and affiliated militias to attack US forces.

Commenting on the strikes, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin warned, “This is the start of our response.”

The retaliation comes as the US and United Kingdom continue to attack Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi group that is threatening international shipping and Israel.

On Friday, the Israeli Arrow missile defense system shot down a surface-to-surface missile that “approached Israeli territory in the area of the Red Sea,” the IDF said on X. Yemen’s SABA news agency, affiliated with the Houthis, claimed credit for firing a “number of ballistic missiles” at Israel. Neither the IDF nor SABA reported any damage from the attack.

As Israel responds in Gaza to Hamas’s unprecedented terror massacre on October 7 that murdered 1,200 Israelis—mostly civilians—Iran and its proxies continue to broaden the conflict that now includes Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, shipping in the Red Sea and US armed forces in the region. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant recently called for a global coalition to address the Iranian threat.

Gallant briefed a delegation United Nations ambassadors last week on “Iran’s aggression against Israel via 7 different arenas.” He stated that Israel is determined to act against any threat, while also highlighting the important role of the international community in countering Iran’s regional aggression.

The US is acting in that role, with President Joe Biden calling for “additional actions to hold the IRGC and affiliated militias accountable for their attacks” on US and Coalition Forces.

The initial series of US strikes killed at least 18 members of “Iranian militias,” according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Austin said further retaliation “will unfold at times and places of our choosing. We do not seek conflict in the Middle East or anywhere else, but the President and I will not tolerate attacks on American forces.”

The American targeting of Iran-affiliated sites comes after a drone launched by an IRGC-backed militia killed three US soldiers stationed in Jordan on January 28.

Meanwhile, the US and UK on Saturday hit 36 more Houthi targets in response to the Iran-backed group’s attacks on international shipping in the Red Sea. According to the US Defense Department, the “precision strikes are intended to disrupt and degrade the capabilities that the Houthis use to threaten global trade, and the lives of innocent mariners, and are in response to a series of illegal, dangerous, and destabilizing Houthi actions.” The Houthis have reportedly launched more than 30 attacks at commercial and naval vessels since November.

The current conflict began as an unprovoked attack against Israel by Hamas, but Iran was likely involved since the beginning, and now continues to stoke the flames to prevent the progress of peace in the Middle East.

Source: (Excerpt from this article was originally published by the Mideast Update on February 4, 2024. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today.)

Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/secdef/50960365597/Wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Pray for the success of the US and UK forces as they continue to respond to attacks by Yemen’s Houthis who are threatening international shipping. Cry out to the Lord for an international response to Iran’s regional hostility as they have now expanded their aggression against Israel to seven arenas.

Scripture

Deliver me from my enemies, O my God; protect me from those who rise up against me; deliver me from those who work evil, and save me from bloodthirsty men.


- Psalm 59:1–2 ESV

Anti-Semitic Incidents in January Rose 171% Globally from Previous Year

by JNS

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A sign from a rally in New York City against anti-Semitism.

Thursday, 8 February 2024 | The Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM) has released its monthly report of anti-Semitic incidents, finding 468 running across a spectrum of actions and motives.

Comparing last month’s total to January 2023, CAM reports an increase of 171%, making a daily average of 15.1.

The largest share of the incidents (65.3%) were Israel-related with 16.25% as expressions of “classical” anti-Semitism; 8.97% as Islamist in motivation; and the rest as Holocaust denial, minimization, distortion or unattributable categories.

Types of incidents included vandalism (68 incidents), physical threats (52) and the majority—329, or 70%—as hate speech.

The organization cited such examples as a man who tried to stab Jews at a kosher supermarket in London and anti-Israel protesters yelling “shame on you” at pediatric cancer patients whose place of treatment had received a donation from a Jew.

CAM also noted that a neo-Nazi podcaster had said Jews should be “absolutely annihilated” and that Turkey, which has come out strongly against Israel over its war with Hamas in Gaza, had seen an uptick in anti-Semitic incidents.

Source: (This article originally was published by the Jewish National Syndicate on February 7, 2024. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Penler/Shutterstock/jns.org

Prayer Focus
Plead with the Lord for an end to the global rise in anti-Semitism. Pray that the nations will take decisive action against those who are guilty of these hate crimes. Also beseech Him for an end to the incitement that constantly pours forth from media sources around the world.

Scripture

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


- Psalm 119:114

UN Envoy: ‘Things Happened Here that I Have Never Seen Before’

by Itamar Eichner ~ Ynetnews

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Pramila Patten couldn’t sleep after viewing the footage of the Hamas attacks on October 7.

Wednesday, 7 February 2024 | According to Pramila Patten, the under-secretary-general of the United Nations and Special Envoy for Sexual Violence in Conflicts, she has been unable to sleep for a week since viewing the 47-minute video compiled by the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] of the atrocities committed on October 7. The scenes continue to haunt her. “Only after I saw the video did I understand things that I didn’t understand before in terms of the magnitude of the disaster that happened.”

Patten was invited by the Foreign Ministry to visit Israel along with Israel’s UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan to provide her with a firsthand experience of the extent of the atrocities that took place.

“Patten’s visit was especially important to us so that there would be international recognition of the suffering and the horrendous sexual crimes committed against Israeli women and girls on October 7 by the monsters of Hamas,” Erdan said. “It is equally important for the world to understand who we are fighting against. The disregard and indifference demonstrated by the UN and its women’s organization is a disgrace that cannot be allowed to continue.”

Paten departed after the conclusion of an intense eight-day visit. Throughout her stay, she gathered evidence of the incidents of sexual and gender-based violence perpetrated by the terrorists. She came with a delegation of 10 experts from the fields of medicine and law, many of whom will remain after she has left for at least another week to continue the crucial task of gathering evidence on the crimes committed.

During her visit, Patten met doctors and psychiatrists from the Ministry of Health, professionals from the Ministry of Social Affairs who specialize in providing support to sexual violence victims, and met with President Isaac Herzog and his wife Michal. She also had the opportunity to meet with representatives from civil society organizations.

To gain a deeper understanding of the horrific events that unfolded, Patten toured locations where the massacres occurred. In Be’eri, she was accompanied by Or Yalin, a survivor of the massacre, and Yossi Landau, a member of ZAKA

Expressing her profound shock, Patten described her experience as unlike anything she had witnessed elsewhere in the world. “The world outside cannot understand the magnitude of the event,” she said. “I myself also internalized the magnitude of the event just by being here myself.”

She acknowledged the sense of betrayal and abandonment felt by the Israeli people in the UN response to the massacre and the war that ensued. In each meeting she attended, Patten consistently expressed her solidarity, empathy and sympathy towards Israel. She recognized the profound pain, anger and frustration that Israel experienced due to a perceived lack of understanding and attention from the international community regarding the atrocities committed against them.

In late February, Patten is expected to release a special report on the extent of sexual violence throughout many countries, with a specific chapter dedicated to Israel.

Source: (This article originally was published by Ynetnews on February 5, 2024. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Foreign and Commonwealth Office/wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Pray for Pamila Patten as she deals with her own trauma after discovering the depth of evil involved in the October 7 carnage and thank the Lord for her public acknowledgment of the magnitude of the events of that day. Thank Him for her recognition of the failure of the UN and other international agencies to respond appropriately to atrocities committed against Israeli men, women and children. Pray that her involvement will influence the UN and other international entities to accept the truth.

Scripture

“For Zion’s sake I will not hold My peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest.”


- Isaiah 62:1a

Hamas Religious Scholars: Jewish Men, Women, Children All Fair Game

by Einav Halabi ~ Ynetnews

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According to Hamas religious scholars, Israeli children are fair game and should be slaughtered alongside their mothers and fathers.

Tuesday, 6 February 2024 | IDF [Israel Defense Forces] Arabic spokesperson Avichay Adraee posted on Monday photos of a booklet of religious rulings by Hamas-affiliated clerics found by IDF soldiers in the southern Gaza Strip city of Khan Younis which justifies the killing of all Jews, including men, women and children.

The booklet, issued by the Shura Council, the institution advising the Islamist terrorist organization on religious matters, was signed by Ahmad Bahar, the chairman of the council, who was killed in an IDF strike. The contents of the booklet, distributed among Hamas terrorists, unequivocally contradict the narrative the terror organization itself seeks to promote.

According to the IDF spokesperson, the book compiles articles, religious rulings and guidelines for terrorists on how to act and treat the enemy, hostages and when they are permitted to kill. Among other things, it says, “There is no difference between men, women, the elderly and children—all can be attacked.”

Last month, Hamas released a manifesto in both English and Arabic, purportedly justifying its actions on October 7. In the document, Hamas claimed it had no intention of harming innocent civilians and, contrary to evidence, that the terror organization does not target hostages. Furthermore, Hamas asserted that the terrorists were not permitted to kill non-combatants during the invasion.

Source: (This article originally was published by Ynetnews on February 5, 2024. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: McCoy Brown/BFP

Prayer Focus
Pray that the international community will be outraged by Hamas’s blatant duplicity as they now claim to be totally innocent of wrongdoing on October 7. Cry out to the Lord that the contents of this booklet which encourages the killing of Jews, whether men, women, children or the elderly, will be widely circulated. Pray that the nations where support is beginning to wane will truly recognize the importance of continuing to stand with Israel until this evil is done away with.

Scripture

Do not take me away with the wicked and with the workers of iniquity, who speak peace to their neighbors, but evil is in their hearts. Give them according to their deeds, and according to the wickedness of their endeavors; give them according to the work of their hands; render to them what they deserve.


- Psalm 28:3–4

South African Leader: “If Israel Isn’t Indigenous, There’s No Indigenous Nation on Earth”

by Ilse Strauss

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Regent Xami Thomas, leader of the Khoi Kingdom of Southern Africa, acknowledged the Jewish people as indigenous to Israel.

Monday, 5 February 2024 | “I want to apologize to the people of Israel for the horrible thing the South African government did. We are sorry.”

Regent Xami Thomas, leader of the Khoi Kingdom of Southern Africa, delivered this message to a packed audience in the heart of Jerusalem on Thursday night.

The crowd cheered their approval. This was, after all, words of support from the citizens of the nation that had dragged Israel to the International Court of Justice on accusations of genocide.

Thomas was not done though. “The government does not represent all the Khoi or all the people of South Africa. The allegations are without any substance. We were horrified…”

Then came the clincher. “Anybody who says that Israel isn’t indigenous doesn’t know what they’re talking about. If Israel isn’t indigenous, there’s no indigenous nation on earth.”

The South African leader’s words carried significant weight considering the current relationship between Jerusalem and Pretoria. Yet for a chance, his voice of solidarity with the Jewish state was one among a multitude offered to the audience.

Thursday night marked the official opening of the world’s first embassy for first nations. And delegations from the South Pacific, North America, Canada and, of course, South Africa, had come to Jerusalem for the inauguration. Various others sent recorded messages.

The Indigenous Embassy in Jerusalem does not represent a specific state or country. Rather, it embodies the voices of indigenous leaders and their people from across the world and will serve as a hub of information and a helping hand in the Promised Land. But perhaps more importantly, the embassy—and those it represents—stand as a symbolic chorus of support. It affirms that although Israel faces opposition from many sides, these indigenous leaders and their people recognize the Jewish people as one of them: an indigenous people in their indigenous land, the Land of Israel.

The guest list for the evening included ambassadors, several tribal chiefs, a princess and a king. One by one, the indigenous leaders—all committed Christians who love and support Israel—took to the stage, bringing messages of hope, love and encouragement to the Jewish people.

The representatives from Hawaii asked the indigenous leaders to stand and stretch out their hands over the audience of Israelis as they sang the Aaronic Blessing in Hawaiian. The delegation from Puerto Rico accompanied themselves on traditional instruments as they too sang blessings over Israel. A representative for the queen of Tonga read the Song of Moses from Deuteronomy 32:1–43. And Thomas encouraged the audience with the promise that those who are with Israel are more than those who stand against her (2 Kings 6:16­–17).

Add to that the piercing call of a ram’s horn resounding every so often, the rhythmic beat of tribal drums and indigenous leaders decked out in bright traditional garb dancing to popular Jewish melodies, and you get what the master of ceremonies called the most joyous inauguration ever.

The Indigenous Embassy in Jerusalem is the brainchild of Dr. Sheree Trotter, co-founder of the Indigenous Coalition for Israel, who worked with Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum and the Friends of Zion Museum to make it a reality.

According to Hassan-Nahou, it is only fitting then that the world’s first indigenous embassy should be in Jerusalem, the city that colonial powers have tried to wrench from its indigenous people for generations.

“The main narrative of our haters is to try to separate the Jewish people from the Land of Israel. This is their strategy. This is their tactic,” she said. “First Peoples understand that the very definition of indigeneity is to be formed as a people in a land. The Jewish people became the Jewish people in this land. It is only by miracle that we survived out of this land, and it is only by a miracle, by tenacity, by much hard work and blood, sweat and tears that we returned. And now the strategy is to separate us from the land in which we were created.”

Referencing Zechariah 8:22, Hassan-Nahou concluded, “May this embassy be a forerunner for the day when all tribes and nations will come up to Jerusalem.”

The newly inaugurated embassy—the State of Israel’s 100th and the fifth to choose Jerusalem over Tel Aviv as its location—will be based in the Friends of Zion Museum in downtown Jerusalem. It boasts the buy-in from indigenous peoples from the four corners of the world, including American Samoa, Australia, Canada, Cook Islands, Fiji, Hawaii, Native American chiefs, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Tahiti, Taiwan and Tonga.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, February 5, 2023)

Photo Credit: McCoy Brown/BFP

Prayer Focus
Praise God for the opening of the Indigenous Embassy. Pray that it will be a place of strengthening relationships between Israel and first-nation people groups around the world. Pray for God’s blessing as these people represent indigenous populations from the four corners of the earth and bring with them a sincere desire to support and encourage Israel and to pray for all the challenges Israel faces.

Scripture

Yes, many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the LORD. “Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘In those days ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.’”


- Zechariah 8:22–23