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The Long Road Home

Friday, January 26, 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.

Israel Mourns 21 Soldiers Killed in the Worst Incident since October 7

by Yoav Zitun ~ Ynetnews

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In the worst incident since October 7, 21 soldiers were killed during operations in Gaza yesterday (illustrative).

Tuesday, 23 January 2024 | At least 21 soldiers were killed in the Gaza Strip on Monday when they were preparing to blow up buildings near the border to prevent their repeated use by Hamas to fire into Israeli communities.

The tragic incident took place while a cluster of buildings some 600 meters [650 yd.] from the border fence on the Gaza side, designated for demolition, were rigged with explosives ahead of demolition in an effort to create a buffer zone cleared of any structures or people who could pose a threat.

An initial probe reveals the explosion occurred when a combined force of infantry, armored and engineering troops worked to prepare a secure area in the center of the Gaza Strip in advance of the end of the war.

“Around 4 in the afternoon, at least one terrorist, presumably emerging from a tunnel and hence undetected, fired an anti-tank missile at a tank securing the operation, resulting in the death of two soldiers in the tank and injuries to two others. Meanwhile, an RPG [rocket-propelled grenade] was launched by the cell toward a complex of two adjoining houses occupied by dozens of soldiers as part of the operation,” the Israel Defense Forces [IDF] said. “Initial estimates suggest that the anti-tank fire in the building triggered several explosives planted by the force inside, causing the complete collapse of the dual-building complex.

“The IDF systematically demolishes Palestinian buildings that enable surveillance and firing capabilities toward Israel, leading to the destruction of hundreds of buildings to date. The 8208th Reserve Battalion has been operationally engaged in recent weeks around the central Gaza Strip, working on defense tasks and reshaping the border area on both sides of the fence. The IDF is set to appoint a special investigative team to examine the circumstances of the incident to prevent its recurrence.

The IDF has used hundreds of tons of explosives and mines in the war to demolish tunnels, Hamas bases, terrorists’ homes and complex targets throughout the Gaza Strip,” the military said in a statement.

The army has so far identified 10 reservists who were killed in the attack: Sgt. Maj. (res.) Matan Lazar, 32, of the 261st Brigade’s 6261st Battalion, from Haifa, Sgt. First Class (res.) Hadar Kapeluk, 23, a squad commander in the 261st Brigade’s 8208th Battalion, from Mevo Beitar, Sgt. Maj. (res.) Sergey Gontmaher, 37, of the 261st Brigade’s 8208th Battalion, from Ramat Gan, Sgt. First Class (res.) Elkana Yehuda Sfez, 25, of the 261st Brigade’s 8208th Battalion, from Kiryat Arba, Sgt. First Class (res.) Yoval Lopez, 27, of the 205th Brigade’s 9206th Battalion, from Alon Shvut, Master Sgt. (res.) Yoav Levi, 29, of the 261st Brigade’s 8208th Battalion, from Yehud-Monosson, Sgt. First Class (res.) Nicholas Berger, 22, of the 261st Brigade’s 8208th Battalion, from Jerusalem, Sgt. First Class (res.) Cydrick Garin, 23, of the 261st Brigade’s 8208th Battalion, from Tel Aviv, Sgt. Maj. (res.) Rafael Elias Mosheyoff, 33, of the 261st Brigade’s 6261st Battalion, from Pardes Hanna-Karkur, Sgt. Maj. (res.) Barak Haim Ben Valid, 33, a squad commander in the 261st Brigade’s 6261st Battalion, from Rishon Lezion.

“This is the war that would determine the future of Israel for decades to come,” Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said. “The death of the soldiers commands that we achieve our objectives in the war.”

Source: (This article was originally published by Ynetnews on January 23, 2024. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: IDF Spokesperson Unit/Wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Thank the Lord for these and all of the brave young men and women who are willing to face death every day in the fight for the sanctity of human life, the safety of the Jewish people and the sovereignty of the God of Israel. Pray for these families as they mourn the loss of their loved ones and for the entire nation that mourns along with them. Also cry out to God for the safety of each soldier. May every step be protected, every action anointed, every strategy successful until every hostage and every soldier is safely home.

Scripture

At Your rebuke, O LORD, at the blast of the breath of Your nostrils. He sent from above, He took me; He drew me out of many waters. He delivered me from my strong enemy, from those who hated me.


- Psalm 18:15b–17a

A Child’s Drawing, Caged Cells and Mattresses: A Glimpse at the Tunnel where Hostages Were Imprisoned

by Yoav Zitun, Nina Fox ~ Ynetnews

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The IDF has found numerous tunnels built by Hamas under civilian homes (illustrative).

Tuesday, 23 January 2024 | In their search of the tunnel, the troops encountered terrorists and engaged in a firefight. When the troops entered said tunnel, they discovered the terrible conditions in which Hamas had imprisoned the captives.

The tunnel was uncovered in the center of residential Khan Younis and is accessed from inside the home of a Hamas terrorists. Military intelligence estimates the cost of building the tunnel to be in the millions of shekels, and believe it is part of an underground maze of tunnels dug by Hamas beneath the city.

Troops found drawings made by six-year old hostage Emilia Aloni, who was freed in November after being held for 54 days.

“We saw five caged cells where we believe up to 20 hostages were held at various times, without any daylight, hardly any air, a lack of oxygen and terrible humidity,” the Israel Defense Force Spokesperson said. Some of those held there had been released while others are still held captive by Hamas and were moved elsewhere.

Images from the tunnel show what appears to be a hot water heater, electrical infrastructure, mattresses on the floor, blankets, fan, water bottles, trash and a what appears to be a kitchenette with a sink and some dishes, including pots, pans and plates. There was also canned food, cooking oil and cleaning detergents.

In one of the compartments, behind bars, was a matrass and behind it a toilet and sink and a bottle of orange soda thrown on the floor. In another image, what appear to be clothes are seen, likely used by the hostages.

After troops completed their search, it was destroyed.

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

Photo Credit: IDF/Matanya/Wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Cry out to the Lord for His presence to be deeply felt by every hostage, regardless of their ages. May they hear His voice, experience His love and feel His nearness and His peace despite their horrendous circumstances. Also implore Him for their soon release.

Scripture

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.


- Psalm 23:4

Why Did Hamas Change its Tune?

by David Isaac ~ JNS

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Hamas continues to lie in the face of mounting evidence of their horrific attack against thousands of innocent civilians.

Wednesday, 24 January 2024 | Hamas on Sunday released a statement denying its members committed atrocities on October 7.

The denial is a complete reversal for the terrorist group and a total disavowal of its own footage, after it supplied GoPro cameras to its operatives so that they could capture for posterity their horrific deeds on that day.

“Avoiding harm to civilians, especially children, women and elderly people, is a religious and moral commitment by all the Al-Qassam Brigades’ fighters [Hamas military wing],” Hamas stated in the 16-page document, claiming it only targeted Israeli military sites.

“We reiterate that the Palestinian resistance was fully disciplined and committed to the Islamic values during the operation and that the Palestinian fighters only targeted the occupation soldiers and those who carried weapons against our people,” it added, saying that its members were “keen to avoid harming civilians” and that any such targeting was by accident.

The claim is astonishing given the hours of footage taken by the organization’s members in which they’re seen shooting innocent Israelis throughout October 7.

Around 1,200 persons, mostly civilians, were killed that day and 253 were forcibly taken to Gaza to be held in abysmal conditions, living on starvation diets and denied medical care.

The first batch of medicine destined for the remaining hostages entered the Gaza Strip last week. Israel is still waiting for proof that the medicines reached the captives.

Hamas continues to hold 136 hostages, although a few dozen of them are believed to have died.

Avi Hyman, spokesman for Israel’s National Public Diplomacy Directorate, remarking on Hamas’s recent denial, told JNS on Monday that “Hamas is only fooling themselves, if anyone at all.

“What we saw on October 7 was, in the words of the German chancellor [Olaf Scholz], a new type of Nazi. But the thing about the Nazis is the Nazis tried to cover up their crimes at the end of the war, whereas Hamas were Nazis with GoPros. They were filming the whole thing,” Hyman said.

“Why they would think that today, 108 days later, we would believe this nonsense is absurd. But again, we know who Hamas is. We know that they butcher babies and we know they butcher the truth,” he said.

Fear and Pressure

Hamas’s about-face, from proudly streaming its atrocities to denying it ever carried them out is driven by two things—fear and pressure brought on by successful Israeli PR—Mordechai Kedar, a senior research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, told JNS.

First, Hamas is scared. “Israel is determined to carry on the war whatever the price in order to get rid of Hamas. And in Khan Yunis, apparently the Israel Defense Forces [IDF] has had some successes and they are afraid that the IDF will wipe them out,” Kedar said. “They’ll now say whatever they think will help them.”

Second, the Hamas statement is an acknowledgment that Israel’s public relations battle has been working.

Israel used clips that Hamas’s own men uploaded to Telegram against it. Israel made a “movie of horrors,” based in part on footage from terrorists’ GoPros, Kedar said, along with other footage taken from dash cams of victims, cellphones and security cameras.

Israel has shown the 40-plus minute video far and wide.

Nonetheless, many people will still believe Hamas’s latest lie, said Kedar, noting that when he appears on Arabic media, he’s told even by the moderators that “Israel has no proof.

“I tell them that those terrorists actually burnt the bodies of girls they raped in order to erase all evidence,” he said.

Such deniers aren’t just in the Islamic world but also in the West, Kedar said. Supporting his assessment, the Washington Post on Sunday reported that “October 7 denial is spreading” in online forums.

Howver, “A small but growing group denies the basic facts of the attacks, pushing a spectrum of falsehoods and misleading narratives that minimize the violence or dispute its origins. Some argue the ambush was staged by the Israeli military to justify an invasion of Gaza,” the Post reported.

“Hamas is trying to inflate those rumors that Israel is lying about the whole thing,” Kedar said. “It totally goes against reality.”

Source: (Excerpt of an article originally published by the Jewish News Syndicate on January 23, 2024. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Tomer Persico/Wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Pray that people will not be fooled by Hamas’s “about face.” Pray that the overwhelming evidence of their guilt will be seen and believed, convincing people of the truth of what happened and shaming those who have supported the slaughter of innocent Jews. May they be convicted of their own anti-Semitism and moved to stand against evil.

Scripture

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful.


- Psalm 1:1

Gazans against Hamas: Palestinians Protest against Terror Overlords

by Einav Halebi ~ Ynetnews

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Palestinians in Gaza have openly protested against Hamas for subjecting them to the suffering of war with Israel (illustrative).

Thursday, 25 January 2024 | Israel Defense Forces Arabic Spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Avichay Adraee posted on Wednesday footage of a rare protest against Hamas near the Shuhada al-Aqsa Hospital in Deir al-Balah, central Gaza Strip.

“Hamas–ISIS leaders, led by Sinwar, listen to the cries of your people, your children and your wives expressing their anger over the situation you caused in Gaza,” he wrote in a post on X (formerly Twitter) to which the video was attached.

“They demand you return the Israeli hostages to end the war so they can return home. Will these cries and demands reach the hideouts of Hamas leaders?”

Source: (This article was originally published by Ynetnews on January 23, 2024. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: عشاق الرسم و التصوير/Wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Pray that the Lord will protect those Gazans who are taking action against Hamas at great danger to themselves. Pray that they will be seen and their voices heard around the world, helping to bring the truth to the cesspool of lies that surrounds this conflict.

Scripture

Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD, but those who deal truthfully are His delight.


- Proverbs 12:22

Majority of US Voters Support Israel in War with Hamas, Poll Show

by Kate Norman

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The majority of the American population sides against the terrorist organization Hamas (illustrative).

Thursday, 25 January 2024 | A large number of US voters side with Israel in its war with Hamas, according to a Harvard CAPS-Harris poll published last week, with 80% of those polled supporting Israel over Hamas.

The poll was conducted online among 2,300 registered voters of varying ages, ethnicities, genders and political affiliations to gage their reaction to the Israel–Hamas war following the October 7 massacre.

Of those polled, 67% said they were following the events in Israel and Gaza either somewhat or very closely.

Eighty percent said they support Israel over Hamas, with the numbers growing as the age range gets older. Of those aged 18–24, 57% support Israel, and 70% of those aged 25–34, 73% of those aged 35–44, 80% of those aged 45–54, 90% of those aged 55–64 and 93% of those 65+ agree.

Eighty-three percent said they believed the Hamas attack against Israel on October 7 was a terrorist attack, particularly those of the older generations. Of those aged 18–24, 74% said they thought it was a terrorist attack, and 71% of those aged 25–34, 81% of those aged 35–44, 82% of those aged 45–54, 90% of 55–64 and 94% of those 65+ agreed.

Three out of four people polled said the attacks on the Jewish people were genocidal and could not be justified. Some 66% of people between 25 and 34 agreed, while the other age ranges saw a higher percentage: 75% of those 18–24, 71% of those 35–44, 75% of people 45–54, 78% of those 55–64 and 80% of people aged 65 or older.

Thousands of Hamas terrorists poured into Israel on the morning of October 7 and brought unimaginable horrors with them, killing some 1,200 people and kidnapping 240, with the casualties and captives consisting largely of women, children, babies and the elderly.

According to the poll, 75% of US voters believe Hamas’s actions on that day were not justified by the grievances of the Palestinian people.

The age categories here show larger differences of opinion. Of those aged 18–24, only 54% believe the October 7 massacre was not justified. Of the 25–34 category, only 58% believe it was not justified. Sixty-four percent of those aged 35–44 agree, as well as 78% of those aged 45–54, 87% of those between 55 and 64, and 92% of people 65 and older.

Some 69% said they believe Israel is trying to avoid civilian casualties in its war against Hamas. Thirty-four percent said they believe Israel is committing genocide in Gaza, while 66% disagreed and said they believe Israel is just trying to defend itself and defeat Hamas. Those who agree that Israel is trying to defend itself includes 43% of those between 18 to 24, 50% of people between 25 and 34, 55% of those between 35 and 44, 67% of those between 45 and 54, 77% of those between 55 and 64, and 85% of those 65 and older.

Furthermore, three out of four voters said Hamas would commit genocide against the Jewish people in Israel and therefore there can be no negotiating with them for peace. Some 67% said that Hamas is only dedicated to destroying Israel and cannot be negotiated with.

Two out of three voters said they would only support a cease-fire after all the hostages have been released and Hamas is removed from power, but the numbers varied greatly among different age groups.

Of those between 18 and 24, 63% said they would only favor an unconditional cease-fire that leaves everyone in place, and 54% of those between 25 and 34 agreed.

Meanwhile, 58% of voters between 35 and 44 said they only favored a cease-fire upon the release of the hostages and the removal of Hamas. Some 69% of those between 45 and 54, 78% of those between 55 and 64, and 90% of those 65 and older agreed.

Of the voters, 79% believe that Hamas should be removed from its position of running the Gaza Strip, but they are split on who should take over. Thirty-one percent believe the Palestinian Authority should take over the Gaza Strip, 30% believe Israel should take control, and 39% believe Gaza should fall under the administration of a new authority set up by Arab nations.

Also, 76% of the voters believe Hamas was acting with the support of Iran, while 26% believe the terrorist group is acting alone.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, January 25, 2024)

Photo Credit: Matanya/IDF/Wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Praise the Lord for the statistics that show that Israel has significant support among the people of the United States. Pray that they will show that support by speaking out on Israel’s behalf, praying for Israel and giving to organizations like Bridges for Peace. But in this election year in the United States, pray that they will vote for those candidates who will maintain the strong relationship that has existed between the two countries and will give Israel whatever American support is needed to reach their goals in this conflict.

Scripture

“Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may your mother’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be everyone who curses you, and blessed be everyone who blesses you!”


- Genesis 27:29 ESV

Israel Navigates Tehran’s Multiple Fronts as Regional Tensions Rise

by Baruch Yedid ~ JNS

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An Israel Air Force fighter jet in the skies of Israel.

Tuesday, 23 January 2024 | In a recent press conference, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hinted at Israel’s involvement in countering Iranian influence across various fronts.

The comment shed a little light on what Israel’s security establishment and media refer to as the “multi-arena campaign,” a complex geopolitical challenge that Jerusalem finds itself entangled in.

Asked by a reporter why Israel was attacking Iran’s proxies and not Iran, Netanyahu replied, “Who told you that we do not attack in Iran?”

Israel, traditionally discreet about such operations, is now openly acknowledging its involvement in a multi-arena campaign. Declarations by Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and military Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi affirm Israeli activities in Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and the Red Sea.

“Israel is gradually finding itself facing a multi-arena campaign, as evidenced by a series of assassinations attributed to it,” a high-ranking source in the Israeli security establishment said.

In Lebanon, the most recent events include the assassination of two members of Hezbollah’s security unit in Southern Lebanon as well as the elimination of Ali Haderaj, who was responsible for coordinating between Hezbollah and Hamas. The highest profile strike was the January assassination of Saleh al-Arouri, killed at the Hamas headquarters in southern Beirut’s Dahiya district, a Hezbollah stronghold.

Syria has also witnessed a surge in attacks attributed to Israel. On Saturday, an air strike attributed to Israel killed five Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps figures. Most senior among them was Gen. Sadegh Omidzadeh, who held the Iranian intelligence file in Syria.

Iran’s extensive network of militias in Iraq, including the popular Hashd al-Shaabi (“Popular Mobilization Forces”), Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq (“League of the Righteous”) and Badr Brigades groups, poses a significant challenge. Fueled by Iranian funds and influenced by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, these militias are actively marking Israeli cities and strategic targets as part of Iran’s broader regional strategy. Their primary goal is safeguarding Iran’s land bridge that allows Tehran to move weapons across Iraq to eastern Syria, and from there, to Lebanon or even Mediterranean ports.

These Iraqi militias have fired missiles at Israel and are responsible for numerous attacks on US bases. Since October 7, 70 US servicemen have been wounded in escalating rocket attacks on bases in Iraq and southeastern Syria.

Most complex of all, however, is Yemen, where the Iran-backed Houthis vowed in early December to target any Israel-bound ship in the Red Sea, regardless of its ownership. However, the majority of vessels attacked have not had any apparent connections to Israel.

According to Sky News Arabia, joint American and British operations against Houthi strongholds in Yemen resulted in the death of at least 75 terrorist operatives, including members of Hezbollah and advisers from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Recent reports indicate Iran and Hezbollah’s collaboration in assisting the Yemeni Houthis in establishing a Red Sea outpost, providing weapons, drones, missiles, intelligence and personnel.

The ongoing war in the Gaza Strip is putting pressure on Jordan, as Iran’s proxy militias seek access to Israel’s eastern border. Jordan’s 1994 peace treaty with Israel is deeply unpopular, and an Islamist takeover of the kingdom would add another arena for Jerusalem to deal with.

Source: (This article was originally published by the Jewish News Syndicate on January 22, 2024. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Anthony Hershko/TPS/jns.org

Prayer Focus
Beseech the Lord that Israel’s goal of completely dismantling Hamas will be met despite the fact that the war continues to expand to multiple fronts. Ask the Lord to protect the peace treaty with Jordan and pray that Jordan will not succumb to pressure to open Israel’s eastern border to her enemies. Also thank the Lord for the support from America and the UK in dealing with the Houthis. Pray that support will be unwavering.

Scripture

“Hear, O Israel, today you are drawing near for battle against your enemies: let not your heart faint. Do not fear or panic or be in dread of them, for the LORD your God is he who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory.”


- Deuteronomy 20:3–4 ESV

Raisi: Iran and Turkey Agreed to Support Palestinian Terror

by Akiva van Koningsveld ~ JNS

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Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi (left) during talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the Presidential Complex in Ankara, Turkey.

Thursday, 25 January 2024 | Iran and Turkey have agreed to back terrorist organizations fighting against Israel, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi proclaimed on Wednesday following talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Speaking alongside Erdoğan at the presidential palace in Ankara, Raisi said, “In the talks we had with the Turkish president…we both agreed to support Palestine. We both agreed to support the Islamic resistance in Palestine,” according to Tehran’s semi-official Student News Agency.

“We must seek the formation of a just [world] order…and surely our cooperation with Turkey and with other countries can be very effective in this regard,” stated the Iranian leader. “We have no doubt that measures should be taken against the Zionist regime [Israel].”

Raisi also accused the US of supporting Israeli “crimes” and repeated Tehran’s appeal for Muslim countries to cut ties. “What is happening in Palestine and Gaza is a crime against humanity…and the US and the West are supporting these crimes,” he charged.

For his part, Erdoğan said the two had discussed issues relating to Israel, Syria, the South Caucasus and Afghanistan.

“Regarding the Palestinian issue, both Turkey and Iran have a common position,” he noted.
“We talked about Israel’s inhumane attacks on Gaza and the need to end these attacks and to take important steps in this regard. Regarding the Palestinian issue, we reiterated our support once again and we will increase our cooperation in this regard,” concluded Erdoğan.

The Iranian regime’s official IRNA news agency reported that, as part of Wednesday’s visit, Erdoğan and Raisi signed 10 partnership agreements, including in the field of energy cooperation.

Iran has tripled its enrichment of uranium to 60%, reversing a slowdown earlier in 2023, the International Atomic Energy Agency recently reported. Uranium enriched to 60% purity is just a short technical step away from 90%, considered weapons-grade.

On January 14, the Islamic Republic declared Hamas’s victory over Israel at an event in Tehran, marking 100 days since the terrorist group’s deadly October 7 terror onslaught on the country’s northwestern Negev region.

Hamas terrorists killed more than 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and wounded thousands in the October 7 attacks. In addition, terrorists took some 240 people hostage.

“Palestine has emerged victorious and the Zionist regime and its allies have bitten the dust,” said Raisi, adding: “Peace talks were of no use, the end of Israel is inevitable.

“The Palestinians have raised the level of war from a fight using stones to a war using missiles and drones. We have also declared that we will support Palestine and the resistance groups,” he affirmed.

Two months ago, Erdoğan told his country’s parliament that the Jewish state would soon be destroyed.

“Right now, I am openly saying with clear conscience that Israel is a terrorist state,” said the Islamist leader.

“Hey Israel: You have an atomic bomb, a nuclear bomb. And you are making threats with this. We know this. And your end is near,” he continued.

“You can have as many nuclear bombs as you want, but you’re on your way out,” added Erdoğan.

After a long diplomatic cold spell, ties between Turkey and Israel had warmed, but they have slid backwards as Erdoğan continues to side with Palestinian terror groups. Erdoğan has long been a champion of the Palestinian cause and his government harbors members of Hamas.

The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs said in a 2021 report that Hamas’s headquarters in Istanbul has directed hundreds of terrorist attacks against Israelis and laundered millions of dollars.

“Turkey collaborates with terror organizations on both the ideological and operational levels. Terrorists working on Turkish soil establish infrastructures and plan terror attacks against Israel,” the report noted.

In the wake of its ground operation against Hamas in Gaza, Israel’s National Security Council raised its travel warning to Turkey to the highest level, urging all Israelis there to leave the country immediately.

Source: (This article was originally published by the Jewish News Syndicate on January 25, 2024. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: IRNA/jns.org

Prayer Focus
Ask the Lord to destroy the growing alliance between Turkey and Iran. Pray that Turkey’s ability to support terrorism will be ended and Erdogan’s prediction that Israel is headed for destruction will come to nothing.

Scripture

Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in his heart; there is no fear of God before his eyes. For he flatters himself in his own eyes that his iniquity cannot be found out and hated. The words of his mouth are trouble and deceit; he has ceased to act wisely and do good. He plots trouble while on his bed; he sets himself in a way that is not good; he does not reject evil.


- Psalm 36:1–4 ESV

The Heroic Role of Women in the War

by Kate Norman

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Women all over Israel have defended their country saving countless lives (illustrative).

Wednesday, 24 January 2024 | When thousands of Hamas terrorists poured into Israel on October 7 to murder, kidnap and rape, the Jewish state had to respond with all hands on deck. From that day until now, women have played an important role in Israel’s response to the October massacre.

An off-duty paramedic in December saved a crew member in a tank convoy who was injured in an attack by an anti-tank missile.

Yuval Hizkiya was riding a tank convoy on December 13 to exit Gaza and attend the funeral of her cousin who had died the in Gaza the day before, the Times of Israel reported. The convoy came under fire from terrorists armed with anti-tank missiles.

The tank’s gunner, Elisha Loewenstern was killed. The loader, Shachar Shiloni, and the tank commander, Cpt. Tom Tzafrir, were both injured.

The loader Shiloni lost his leg in the attack, and Hizkiya sprang into action to tend to his wounds and keep him conscious. She dragged him behind a wall, the Times of Israel reported, and applied a tourniquet to stop the bleeding while at the same time shooting periodically to fend off terrorists on the other side of the wall.

Hizkiya told Channel 12 news that she emptied her magazines firing at the oncoming terrorists.

The rescue squad still hadn’t arrived, so Hizkiya told the tank commander Tzafrir to keep Shiloni awake while she went to see what was holding up the rescue, Shiloni told Channel 12.

Forty minutes later, a rescue helicopter arrived and evacuated Hizkiya and Shiloni, though the doctor on board was tentative about whether Shiloni could survive the blood loss.

But three days later, he regained consciousness and immediately underwent rehabilitation. Any time Hizkiya gets leave from Gaza, she visits her patient, the Times of Israel reported.

Women were swept up into the war from the beginning.

When terrorists stormed into Israel on the morning of October 7 to attack 20 southern Israeli communities, Israel’s security forces were caught off guard.

An all-female company of tank operators made history as the first female armored crew in Israel to take part in battle. They were woken up at 6:30 that morning at their base near the Egyptian border and ordered to swing into action.

Jumping in their tanks and armored Humvee, the group took to the civilian highway and sped north to defend the communities under attack.

The women encountered terrorists along the way and engaged them, protecting the border and preventing more terrorists from entering Israel.

One of the unit’s officers, identified as “Michal” told Channel 12: “They told me there were terrorists in all the trees around me, so we just started firing. We started firing bunker busters at the terrorists that were up close, and then mortar shells at those further away.”

She added that she could see the terrorists fall, confirming their hits.

They quickly had to master the weapons system on the Humvee they were driving, another commander, Hila, told Channel 12, even though they had received no training on it. “Within 10 minutes,” she said, “we’d all become experts: how to run it, how to fire, how to slam the brakes.”

They left one tank at Kibbutz Holit and traveled with another to Kibbutz Sufa to defend them from the onslaught.

Going headfirst into battle, their unit fought terrorists for some 17 hours that day, according to their commander, Col. Shemer Raviv.

“I feel like it’s exactly what we trained for,” a commander called Tamar told Channel 12. “We just did what our brains and our hands knew how to do.”

Tamar added: “You keep saying ‘heroines’ and ‘historic’…I don’t feel like a hero. I feel like I’m a soldier that was given a job, and I did my job. I think anyone would have done that.”

In another story of heroism on that dark day in October, 22-year-old Eden Nimri, the commander of an all-female “Sky Riders” drone unit, fended off Hamas terrorists for hours—in her pajamas.

When Hamas terrorists stormed their military outpost near Kibbutz Nahal Oz—less than a mile from Gaza—Nimri and her team rushed to defend a bomb shelter where other unarmed female soldiers were taking shelter.

Nimri fell in battle by drawing the fire of the Hamas squad, allowing the other soldiers to escape.

The morning of October 7, a Hamas naval fleet stormed the beach of Bahad 4, which shares a maritime border with Gaza, and is a training base for new military recruits.

The few seasoned officers on base—including three women—fended off the terrorists for hours, maintaining complete control of the base and saving more than 90 recruits, Israel21c reported.

The events of October 7 darkened Israel, bringing death, loss and sorrow. But countless heroes—both men and women—have stood up to defend the Jewish state from her enemies.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, January 24, 2024)

Photo Credit: Matanya/Wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Pray for the courageous women who are members of the IDF and fighting this war alongside their male counterparts. Pray for parents whose daughters are on the battlefield, children whose mothers are driving tanks and armored Humvees and husbands whose wives are commanders in a deadly war against ultimate evil. Pray that the Lord will protect these brave and humble women until He has again restored them to their families.

Scripture

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”


- Joshua 1:9 ESV

‘If You Are Reading these Words, Something Probably Happened to Me’

by Ilya Egorov ~ JNS via Israel Hayom

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Master Sgt. (res.) Elkana Vizel with his family

Thursday, 25 January 2024 | Among the 21 soldiers who died in Monday’s building collapse in the central Gaza Strip was Master Sgt. (res.) Elkana Vizel, 35, a resident of Bnei Dekalim in southern Israel. Vizel, married to Galit and a father of four, worked as a teacher at the Naom School in Bnei Dekalim, where his wife also works.

On Tuesday, just hours after he was killed, it emerged that he had prepared a letter ahead of time for the event of his being killed in action.

“If you are reading these words, something probably happened to me. First of all, in case I was captured by Hamas, I demand that no deal be made to release any terrorist in order to release me. Our overwhelming victory is more important than anything, so please—just press ahead with all the force until our victory is as overwhelming as possible,” Vizel wrote in the letter that was retrieved with his body.

The letter continues: “Maybe I fell in battle. When a soldier falls in battle it is sad. But I ask you to be happy. Don’t be sad when you part from me. Sing a lot, hold each other’s hands, and strengthen one another. We have so much to be excited and happy about—we are the generation of Jewish redemption! We are writing the most meaningful moments in the history of our people and the whole world. So please be optimistic. Keep choosing life all the time—a life of love, hope, purity and optimism.”

He continues with the theme of celebrating life rather than mourning his death: “Look into the eyes of your loved ones and remind them that everything they experience in this life is worth it and that they have a lot to live for. Live! Don’t stop for a moment the intensities of life! I was wounded in ‘Operation Protective Edge [against Hamas in 2014].’ I had the choice to stay behind, but I don’t regret for a moment returning to be a fighter. On the contrary, it’s the best decision I ever made.”
Itamar Vizel [Elkana’s twin] wrote on Facebook on Tuesday: “The heart refuses to believe the words I’m writing. My twin brother Elkana Vizel is no more. He fell heroically in battle yesterday in the Gaza Strip.”

Elkana’s friend Shuki Shomron wrote on Facebook: “Rabbi Elkana taught with me at the school in Bnei Dekalim. A very sweet and talented man, kind-hearted and an excellent friend. I was also privileged to go running with him sometimes, just him and me in the beautiful hills of our area.”
Vizel was buried on Tuesday afternoon in the military cemetery on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem.

Source: (This article was originally published by the Jewish News Syndicate via Israel Hayom on January 24, 2024. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Courtesy of the family/jns.org

Prayer Focus
Pray for Elkana Vizel’s wife, his four children, his students and all of his friends and family members. Pray that the Lord will comfort them in their grief and praise the Lord for the beautiful message that he left behind. May his memory be a blessing, may he be honored as a hero and may his words be an encouragement and strengthening to many at this very dark time.

Scripture

The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the LORD, but gracious words are pure.


- Proverbs 15:26 ESV

Prayer Focus
Praise the Lord for Vahid Beheshti and his daring actions in attempting to tell the nations the truth about the threat that Iran presents to the entire world and for his support for the nation of Israel. Pray that the nations will heed his words and with the Lord’s help, move forward to put an end to Iran’s reign of terror.

Scripture

For it was the LORD’s doing to harden their hearts that they should come against Israel in battle, in order that they should be devoted to destruction and should receive no mercy but be destroyed just as the Lord commanded Moses.


- Joshua 11:20 ESV