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Hope in Difficult Times

Friday, June 21, 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. Sign up HERE if you would like to receive this Prayer Update by e-mail.

IDF Green-lights ‘Operational Plans’ for Lebanon

by JNS

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Israeli soldiers during a military drill in the Golan Heights

Wednesday, 19 June 2024 | The Israel Defense Forces’ [IDF] Northern Command has approved operational plans for a war against the Hezbollah terrorist group in Southern Lebanon, the army announced on Tuesday.

The plans were “authorized and validated” by Northern Command head Maj. Gen. Uri Gordin and Maj. Gen. Oded Basiuk, who leads the military’s Operations Directorate, the IDF said.

As part of a situational assessment held at the Northern Command base in Safed, the two commanders also took several decisions “on the continuation of increasing the readiness of troops in the field.”

Iran-backed Hezbollah has attacked northern Israel nearly every day since joining the war in support of Hamas on October 8, killing more than 20 people and causing widespread damage. Tens of thousands of Israeli civilians remain internally displaced due to the ongoing violence.

The Iran-backed terrorist group ramped up its attacks last week. On Thursday, it claimed to have launched some 150 rockets and 30 drones in its “largest and most comprehensive attack” since the start of the war. Two people sustained light wounds and the attacks caused widespread destruction.

Following a two-day lull in hostilities earlier this week, Hezbollah resumed its attacks on Tuesday afternoon, launching three “suspicious aerial targets” toward towns in the Upper Galilee, the IDF said.

Also on Tuesday, Hezbollah published video captured by a surveillance UAV [unmanned aerial vehicles] of the Haifa Port, one of Israel’s most important commercial shipping gateways.

According to local media, the incident took place last week and the IDF made the decision not to intercept the drone as it did not pose a threat and due to the fear that interception fragments could hurt civilians.

Also on Tuesday, US presidential envoy Amos Hochstein spoke in Beirut following talks with government officials, including Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, a powerful ally of Hezbollah.

“The conflict along the Blue Line [the de facto border] between Israel and Hezbollah has gone on for long enough,” Hochstein said after the meeting with Berri. “Innocent people are dying, property is damaged, families are shattered and the Lebanese economy continues to decline. The country is suffering for no good reason. It’s in everyone’s interest to resolve it quickly and diplomatically,” he added.

During a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in Jerusalem the previous day, Hochstein rejected Jerusalem’s earlier demand that any diplomatic deal to end the conflict in the north be based on the implementation of UN Security Resolution 1701—which was adopted to end the Second Lebanon War in 2006 and calls for a demilitarized zone from the Blue Line to the Litani River some 18 miles [28 km.] to the north.

Instead, he said it should include a range of options, including moving Hezbollah six miles [9.6 km.] from the border. He stressed that the US was concerned about further escalation and called for calm on both sides.

The intensifying aggression is driving the Middle East towards a wider escalation that could have catastrophic consequences for Lebanon and the region, IDF Spokesman Brig. Gen. Daniel Hagari warned on Sunday.

According to Hagari, because of Lebanon’s refusal to comply with Resolution 1701, the IDF will take “the necessary measures to protect its civilians until security along our northern border with Lebanon is restored.”

The October 7 massacre “cannot—will not—happen again on any one of Israel’s borders. Israel has a duty to defend the people of Israel. We will fulfill that duty at all costs,” concluded the military spokesman.

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

Photo Credit: Michael Giladi/Flash90/jns.org

Prayer Focus
Intercede for this increasingly volatile region where attacks have taken place nearly every day since October 8 and tens of thousands of Israelis have been displaced. Pray for Maj. Gen. Uri Gordin, head of the Northern Command, along with IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant as they plan and lead Israel’s military defense of the northern border with Lebanon.

Scripture

Blessed be the LORD my Rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle.


- Psalm 144:1

Iran Surges Ahead with Nuclear Program, Tripling its Capacity to Enrich Uranium

by Ynetnews

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Iran has embarked on a massive expansion operation at its nuclear sites (illustrative).

Thursday, 20 June 2024 | Iran has embarked on a massive expansion operation at its Fordow uranium enrichment facility, the most fortified nuclear site in its arsenal, the Washington Post reported Wednesday evening. This development could potentially triple or even quadruple the production of enriched uranium at Fordow, providing Iran with new avenues to rapidly develop nuclear weapons, should it choose to do so. The report is based on confidential documents and analyses by nuclear weapons experts.

This revelation comes on the heels of the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] confirming recent new construction activities at Fordow, just days after Tehran officially notified the agency of its intention to significantly upgrade this facility and expand production at its primary uranium enrichment site near Natanz.

A technical analysis of the newly obtained information, as conveyed to the Washington Post, suggests that the expansion at Fordow alone could enable Iran to accumulate enough nuclear fuel for several atomic bombs each month. Although Fordow is smaller than Iran’s other two enrichment sites, it holds particular significance due to its underground location deep within a mountain, making it nearly impervious to aerial bombardment.

According to data held by the IAEA, Iran has so far amassed approximately 300 pounds [136 kg.] of highly enriched uranium. American intelligence officials indicate that this amount could be converted into nuclear weapon fuel within days or weeks. Additionally, it is estimated Iran possesses most of the technical knowledge required to assemble a basic nuclear weapon, although developing a nuclear warhead capable of being mounted on a missile might take another year or two.

The report emphasizes that while Iran’s enriched uranium stockpile has been steadily increasing since 2018, when US President Donald Trump withdrew from the nuclear agreement, leading to its collapse, the full implementation of Iran’s expansion plan for Fordow could significantly enhance its capacity to produce fissile material. This material can be used both for nuclear power plants and, with further processing, for nuclear weapons.

European diplomats revealed that, in private communications to the IAEA last week, the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization disclosed that Tehran is installing close to 1,400 centrifuges at Fordow, a process it intends to complete within four weeks. If successful, this move would effectively double the number of active centrifuges at Fordow in less than a month, while simultaneously increasing the number at Natanz.

“According to diplomats with access to classified IAEA documents, Iran’s expansion plan includes the installation of equipment far more advanced than the centrifuges currently producing most of Iran’s enriched uranium,” the Washington Post reported.

Documents indicate that only the advanced IR-6 model centrifuges will be installed at Fordow, a significant upgrade from the IR-1 centrifuges currently in use. Nuclear weapons expert David Albright notes that 1,400 such advanced devices would increase Fordow’s output capacity by 360%. Once fully operational, these advanced centrifuges could produce about 320 pounds [145 kg.] of uranium per month at a level sufficient for nuclear weapon production. Conservatively estimated, this amount is enough for five nuclear bombs, and within two months, the quantity could reach 500 pounds [226 kg.]. “Iran will quickly achieve a nuclear breakout capability at a deeply buried facility, a capability it has never had before,” Albright explained.

IAEA inspectors who visited Fordow on Thursday observed technicians beginning to install the IR-6 centrifuges, lending credibility to the expansion plan. According to Albright’s calculations, the IR-2M centrifuges to be installed as part of the expansion at Natanz could increase the output capacity there by 35%.

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

Photo Credit: Hossein Heidarpour/Tasnim News Agency/Wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Ask the Lord to confuse Iran’s plans to expand its Fordow facility and significantly increase the amount of uranium that can be enriched there. Pray that Israeli and Western leaders will have the wisdom to determine a response that will effectively put a halt to any development of a nuclear warhead and the means to deliver it to Iran’s stated targets: Israel and then the West.

Scripture

Confuse them, Lord, divide their tongues, for I have seen violence and strife in the city.


- Psalm 55:9 NASB

Israel Lends a Helping Hand to Small Farmers Affected by the War

by Janet Aslin

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Fresh Israeli radishes

Tuesday, 18 June 2024 | When the Jewish people began returning to the Land of Israel in the late 1880s, they found a desolate countryside that had been badly neglected under the Ottoman Turkish Empire. There was little evidence that their return would result in the thriving agricultural areas we see today. Hard work, ingenuity and the blessing of the Lord began to fulfill these words written by the prophet Isaiah thousands of years ago: “the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose” (Isa. 35:1).

Then tragedy struck on October 7, 2023. When the Hamas terrorists flooded over the border, they left behind them not only the horror of death and kidnapping but also devastation and destruction of fields and farming equipment. The economic base for many of the small kibbutzim (collective communities) along the Gaza border is agriculture. Israel’s southern region provides much of the produce enjoyed by the rest of the nation. Cherry tomatoes, found in grocery stores the world over, were originally developed in the Negev region. There are fish farms, olive groves and a diversity of vegetables grown.

The northern agricultural area of Israel has also been affected by the conflict with Hezbollah in Lebanon. Fields in close proximity to the border can come under fire and are therefore dangerous from a security standpoint. Wildfires caused by shrapnel from Hezbollah missiles and drones are also causing much damage.

In a recent article for CTech, Israeli journalist Shani Ashkenazi wrote, “The farmers of the Gaza Envelope and northern communities were supposed to celebrate this week during the Shavuot harvest festivities in agricultural settlements. However, this Shavuot finds Israeli agriculture in the greatest crisis in its history. Many fields in the north have been abandoned due to the severe security situation, last week’s massive fires in the north caused significant damage to orchards and vineyards, many foreign workers have left the country and are afraid to return. When the war ends, the recovery period will begin, but the damage to agriculture is expected to affect the crops for years to come.”

Two non-profit organizations have stepped in to help farmers financially. Ogen, a non-profit social lending organization, has partnered with Leket, the national food bank, to help with immediate cash needs of Israelis operating small farms. Called the “Farmers’ Immediate Relief Track,” it provides a 3% fixed interest rate loan of up to NIS 300,000 (US $80,500) to qualifying applicants. The loans have a five-year term and includes mentorship from industry experts.

The second program that Ogen provides targets those who need to make sizeable capital investments. The “Long-Term Agricultural Relief Track” “offers prime-rated loans of up to NIS 1 million ($268,500) over a decade,” according to the Times of Israel.

Although the war continues, there have also been hopeful signs as far as the foreign labor force. After October 7, Thailand banned its citizens from coming to work in Israel. However, in late May, Israel’s Ministry of Agriculture published an article stating that Thailand has reversed that decision and workers are starting to return, including some of those who fled after the October 7 massacre.

While hi-tech careers may be flashier, there is something solid and satisfying about having dirt under your fingernails and bringing forth food from the land. The battlefields of Gaza and northern Israel are not just those where there are tanks and guns. The fields and greenhouses of Israel are also on the front lines. Thankfully, there are organizations in Israel like Ogen and Leket which are reaching out in assistance during these critical times.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, June 18, 2024)

Photo Credit: udi Steinwell/Wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Ask the Lord to continue to fulfill His word that the Land of Israel would once again be tilled and sown (Ezek. 36:8–9). Thank Him for bringing His people home to that Land and for its fruitfulness now that they are again farming the soil their ancestors cared for. Pray for the complete restoration of fields damaged by war as well as encouragement for the Jewish families who are involved in agriculture.

Scripture

But you, O mountains of Israel, you shall shoot forth your branches and yield your fruit to My people Israel, for they are about to come. For indeed I am for you, and I will turn to you, and you shall be tilled and sown.


- Ezekiel 36:8–9

Jerusalem Will Not Commit to Ending War Until Hostages Released

by Joshua Marks ~ JNS

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Israeli troops are conducting operational activities in the Gaza Strip.

Monday, 17 June 2024 | Jerusalem will not commit to ending the war in Gaza until Hamas releases all of the hostages held by the terrorist group, according to a senior Israeli official.

The official told the Ynet website that the captives must be freed in the first and second phases of the proposed cease-fire agreement approved by the United Nations Security Council [UNSC] on June 10.

The US-drafted resolution is aimed at reaching a three-phase cease-fire deal to end the Israel–Hamas war in the Gaza Strip. Noting that Israel has accepted the cease-fire proposal, the resolution calls for Hamas to do the same and for both sides to “implement its terms without delay and without condition.”

However, the official noted that “Hamas made substantial changes to dozens of items in the outline” originally presented by US President Joe Biden late last month.

The terror group is demanding an end to the war and full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza. Jerusalem’s war goals still stand—the defeat of Hamas as a military and governing power in Gaza, the return of all of the hostages and ensuring that Gaza can never again threaten Israel.

More than 250 people were abducted to Gaza during Hamas’s October 7 invasion of the northwestern Negev, during which thousands more were killed and wounded, with numerous atrocities documented.

One hundred and twenty hostages remain in Gaza, of whom 116 were abducted on October 7. The other four were captured earlier. The figure includes both living and deceased hostages.

“The mediators should focus on advancing negotiations based on the outline accepted by the UNSC and the American president,” the official said.

“There can be no negotiations over any other proposal, which Israel has already approved. The proposal includes two critical components: a cease-fire and an end to the war and they must be agreed upon through this specific proposal.”

The official cited Hamas’s violations of past agreements as the reason Israel will not commit to ending the war prematurely.

“To ensure the agreement leads to the release of all hostages, including men and the bodies of the deceased in the second phase, leverage must be maintained on both sides,” he said.

For its part, the terror group claimed its response aligns with Biden’s proposal. “Hamas and the [Palestinian] groups are ready for a comprehensive deal that includes a cease-fire, withdrawal from Gaza, reconstruction of what was destroyed and a comprehensive swap deal,” Hamas politburo chief Ismail Haniyeh said in a televised speech on Sunday.

Meanwhile, the parents of one of the four captives rescued from Gaza by Israeli special forces on June 8 are speaking out.

In an interview with Ynet published last week, Andrey Kozlov’s parents said that the hostages suffered abuse in captivity: “They [Hamas] tied their hands, punished and used psychological terror.”

His mother Yevgenia further detailed the abuse: “Andrei told us that the abductees, for example, could not sit with their legs facing the terrorists. Their captors would punish them if they drank the wrong water or if they took it from the wrong place…They told them, ‘You are animals, you are donkeys, you are stupid, you are dirty.’ Andrey now knows these words in Arabic, he learned curses in Arabic.”

They thanked the Israel Defense Forces, Israel Security Agency and the police for the complex rescue operation and paid tribute to Chief Inspector Arnon Zamora of the Border Police’s “Yamam” counterterrorism unit, who was mortally wounded during the mission.

Source: (Excerpt from an article originally published by the Jewish News Syndicate on June 17, 2024. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: IDF/jns.org

Prayer Focus
Intercede for Israel’s leaders, especially Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who are under intense pressure from global leaders to end the war before the utter defeat of Hamas. Pray that Israel’s government will trust the Lord and stand firm in the face of this opposition.

Scripture

The LORD is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation; He is my God, and I will praise Him; my father’s God, and I will exalt Him.


- Exodus 15:2

Israel: Dozens of Hostages Held in Gaza Remain Alive

by JNS

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Pedestrians pass by images of Israeli hostages held by Hamas terrorists at “Hostage Square” in Tel Aviv.

Tuesday, 18 June 2024 | Many of the 120 hostages who remain in Hamas captivity in the Gaza Strip are believed to be alive, a senior Israeli official involved in ongoing negotiations with the terrorist organization said on Tuesday.

“Dozens are alive with certainty,” the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to not being authorized to speak to the press, told AFP. He claimed the vast majority of the captives are being held by Hamas, and not by other terror groups in the coastal enclave.

The official told the wire agency that Israel cannot end the conflict with Hamas before a hostage deal is reached, because the terror group could “breach their commitment…and drag out the negotiations for 10 years” or more.

“We cannot leave them there for a long time; they will die,” he said, adding that Hamas’s persistent demand that the Israel Defense Forces [IDF] leave Gaza as a precondition for a deal remains unacceptable to Jerusalem.

The reason for this is that “during the first phase, there’s a clause that we hold negotiations about the second phase. The second phase is the release of the men and male soldier hostages,” the official explained.

The official said the Israeli government had green-lit US President Joe Biden’s proposed deal, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has claimed does not call for a permanent end to the war.

“We expect, and are waiting for, Hamas to say ‘yes,’” he declared, while warning that the IDF would continue to fight the terror group in Gaza in a “different” but “no less intense fashion” if it again rejects a truce deal.

On Monday, an official in Jerusalem told Ynet that Israel will not commit to ending the war until Hamas releases all of the captives.

The official said that the hostages must be freed in the first and second phases of Washington’s proposed cease-fire agreement, as approved by the United Nations Security Council on June 10. However, he noted that Hamas made “substantial changes to dozens of items” in the outline.

The terror group is demanding an end to the war and full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza, he said, adding that Jerusalem’s war goals still stand: the defeat of Hamas as a military and governing power in Gaza; the return of all of the hostages; and the guarantee that Gaza can never again pose a threat to Israel.

More than 250 people were abducted to Gaza during Hamas’s October 7 terrorist invasion of the northwestern Negev, during which thousands more were killed and wounded, with numerous atrocities documented.

One-hundred and twenty hostages remain in the Strip, of whom 116 were abducted on October 7 (the other four were captured earlier). The figure includes both living and deceased hostages.

Source: (This article was originally published by the Jewish News Syndicate on June 18, 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
Pray urgently and earnestly for the release or rescue of the Israeli hostages who remain alive after nearly nine months of captivity. Include the families who are going through unbelievable agony as they wait for word of the fate of their loved ones, knowing that some are no longer alive. Ask the Lord for creative strategies that can be implemented successfully.

Scripture

A prayer of the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed and pours out his complaint before the LORD. Hear my prayer, O LORD, and let my cry come to You. Do not hide Your face from me in the day of my trouble; incline Your ear to me; in the day that I call, answer me speedily.


- Psalm 102:1–2

Nasrallah Threatens Cyprus, Invasion of the Galilee

by Joshua Marks ~ JNS

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Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah

Thursday, 20 June 2024 | Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah threatened an invasion of Israel’s Galilee region and an attack on Cyprus during a televised address on Wednesday concerning the terror group’s war against the Jewish state.

It marked the first time that the Iranian proxy steeped in Lebanon has directly threatened the Eastern Mediterranean island nation.

Nasrallah said Cyprus would be considered “a part of the war” if Nicosia continued to allow Israel to use its airports and bases for military exercises.

According to the Cyprus Mail, it is believed that the airports and bases refer to the Royal Air Force Akrotiri, a permanent military base that supports ongoing operations in the region and support for the Sovereign Base Areas on Cyprus.

“Opening Cypriot airports and bases to the Israeli enemy to target Lebanon would mean that the Cypriot government is part of the war, and the resistance will deal with it as part of the war,” he said.

Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides responded to Nasrallah’s threat, saying these “statements that do not reflect reality. Cyprus remains uninvolved in any military conflict, and positions itself as part of the solution—not as a problem,” the Cyprus Mail reported.

Christodoulidis added that “our humanitarian corridor is evidence of our commitment to peace and stability,” in an apparent reference to humanitarian aid shipments to the Gaza Strip via a Mediterranean Sea route established in recent months, with the vessels departing from the Port of Larnaca.

Nasrallah warned that Israel, not Hezbollah, should be fearful and that nowhere in Israel would be safe in the case of a wider war, which he said that Hezbollah is not seeking, with the terror army fighting with “no rules” and “no ceilings.”

The terror group has been pounding northern Israeli communities since joining the war in support of Hamas just one day after the October 7 terrorist attacks. Tens of thousands of Israelis have been evacuated from border communities, and the Hezbollah rockets and drones have resulted in dozens of deaths and injuries, in addition to widespread physical destruction and of late, major fires, on the Israeli side.

Israel has responded with airstrikes on Hezbollah terror targets and operatives throughout Lebanon. However, the conflict has not blown into a full-scale war.

“An invasion of the Galilee remains on the table if the confrontation escalates,” Nasrallah proclaimed.

He added that the terror group would continue to support Gaza until a “complete and permanent cease-fire” is in place.

‘Preparing for Every Scenario’

Meanwhile, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Israel Defense Forces [IDF] Chief of the General Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi held an operational situation assessment with IDF’s Northern Command together with the head of the Northern Command and commander of the Israeli Air Force.

According to a statement by the Defense Ministry, they addressed developments in the northern arena, Gallant emphasizing thwarting the threat from drone attacks and efforts to eliminate senior Hezbollah officials.

“We are achieving readiness on land and in the air, strengthening our intelligence systems and preparing for every scenario,” Gallant said.

He also reminded that “we must all remember that Hezbollah started a war against us on October 8”—a day after Hamas infiltrated the Gaza border and assaulted communities in southern Israel, murdering 1,200 people and kidnapping as many as 250. “We have an obligation to change the situation in the north and to ensure the safe return of our citizens to their homes, and we will find a way to achieve this.”

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

Photo Credit: Mohammad Kassir/Shutterstock/jns.org

Prayer Focus
Bring Nasrallah’s arrogant threats before the Lord, calling on Him to enter the battle and defeat those who are against His chosen people. Pray that the government of Cyprus will not allow this blackmail to turn them against Israel, a longtime friend.

Scripture

This they shall have for their pride, because they have reproached and made arrogant threats against the people of the LORD of hosts. The LORD will be awesome to them, for He will reduce to nothing all the gods of the earth…


- Zephaniah 2:10–11a

Jewish Teen Gang-raped in Paris in Anti-Semitic Attack

by Ynetnews

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A Jewish teen and her parents reported the rape to the French police (illustrative).

Wednesday, 19 June 2024 | Three boys ages 12 to 14 were arrested on suspicion of the anti-Semitic rape of a 12-year-old girl, French media reported on Tuesday evening. One issue behind the attack appears to be that the girl hid the fact that she was Jewish from a former boyfriend.

The girl and her parents arrived at a police station in the Hauts-de-Seine district, which includes the western suburbs of Paris, to file a complaint about the alleged rape, the daily LeParisien reported. The girl claimed that she was raped in an abandoned hangar during the weekend.

According to the complaint, the three boys beat the girl and shouted anti-Semitic epithets about her religion and then raped her. A medical examination confirmed that she had been raped.

According to the report in Le Parisien, the girl’s ex-boyfriend accused her of hiding from him that she was Jewish. In addition, anti-Semitic comments and images, including a burnt Israeli flag, were found by the investigators on the smartphone of one of the suspects. One of the boys said that the girl spoke out against the Palestinians.

The three are suspected of the crimes of rape under aggravated circumstances, sexual assault under aggravated circumstances and, possibly, threatening to kill their victim. Media in France reported that at least one of the boys confessed to the attack.

Source: (This article was originally published Ynetnews on June 18, 2024. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Daniel Stockman/ File Upload Bot (Magnus Manske)/Flickr/Wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Cry out on behalf of this very young girl who was brutally raped just because she is Jewish. Pray that the wickedness, hatred and anti-Semitism that provoked this attack will not be covered over because of the ages of the perpetrators. Pray that there will be genuine repentance not only in the three boys who committed the rape but also in the society that turned a blind eye to anti-Semitism in its midst.

Scripture

Though his hatred is covered by deceit, his wickedness will be revealed before the assembly.


- Proverbs 26:26

Israel Slams the UN’s Explanation for Omitting Hamas’s Use of Human Shields from Report

by Mike Wagenheim ~ JNS

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Virginia Gamba is the special representative of the UN Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.

Wednesday, 19 June 2024 | The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Jewish state’s mission to the UN reacted harshly to a UN official’s claim that a limited word count was responsible for the exclusion of Hamas’s usage of human shields from a controversial blacklist that included Israel.

Virginia Gamba, special representative to UN Secretary-General António Guterres for Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC), briefed reporters last Thursday about the annual CAAC report, which is also known as the “list of shame.”

JNS asked Gamba why the report she compiled contained only one sentence on Hamas’s use of human shields, which is central to the terrorist group’s military strategy and to understanding the casualty toll of Gazan children in Israel’s war against Hamas.

“If we put everything in the annual report on every situation, it will have at least 1,000 pages,” Gamba told JNS. “We have to choose very carefully what makes it to the report or not, if the figures must go there, as much context as possible.”

“But we have always been deterred from putting into context each one of these paragraphs because of word count,” the UN official added. “Perhaps by saying it here, I will be heard.”

Gamba said that she asked for waivers on the word count for her annual report, which is dictated by UN Security Council resolutions and other restrictions and which she called “inappropriate.”

“It is mostly a financial issue and an issue of a standard across the UN system,” she said. “I’m not saying that if I had more room, you would have more answers.”

The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs didn’t buy that explanation.

“As was evident in the press conference and as was stated by Israel time and again, the CAAC report is riddled with methodological problems, double standards and inaccuracies,” the ministry stated.

“Limited word count and budget restrictions are a pale excuse for the UN’s basic failure, of making a grotesque and false moral equivalency between Hamas and the Israel Defese Forces [IDF],” the ministry stated. “This is yet another glaring example of the moral bankruptcy the UN has reached under Secretary-General Guterres’s leadership.”

‘Hamas Has Been Exploiting Palestinian Children’

Gilad Erdan, Israel’s UN ambassador, stated that “the fact that the secretary-general doesn’t care that Hamas uses children as human shields and wants them to be killed and ignores that Hamas has been exploiting Palestinian children for terror attacks says everything one needs to know about his bias and hatred of Israel.”

“The secretary-general’s illegitimate report, which doesn’t focus on Hamas’s use of children as human shields, is fundamentally distorted,” Erdan added. “All the secretary-general has done is incentivize terrorists around the world to involve children in their terror attacks.”

“Sadly, more children will be killed because of the secretary-general’s distorted and immoral approach,” the Israeli diplomat said.

JNS also asked Gamba about part of the report on children maimed by tear gas inhalation, which appeared to apply only to the Jewish state. Such inhalation appeared to account for the majority of the alleged Israeli maiming violations, but, JNS noted in its question, does not seem to fit the report’s definition of maiming. JNS also asked about other alleged violations related to access to medical care, which the report seemed to leave unexplained.

Gamba did not address reporting of tear gas violations directly. She told JNS that there are co-chairs of the working group, or task force, assigned to each country on matters related to the CAAC report and it is up to them to report violations to her. Those reports use what she admitted are outdated guidelines.

“The monitoring and reporting methodology is unique in that it is a standard, it is old,” she said. “It is from 2005, but it has to be kept very strictly and it is very strictly done.”

Regarding the reporting of denial of medical care, Gamba told JNS that she ordered clearer technical reporting guidelines to be used in the future and that Israel had been cooperative with her in improving the process throughout last year.

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

Photo Credit: Mark Garten/UN Photo/jns.org

Prayer Focus
Pray that the UN Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC) Report will continue to receive scrutiny in the media and the UN’s anti-Israel bias will be clearly shown. Pray that Israel’s Foreign Ministry and Gilad Erdan, her ambassador to the UN, will find ways to publicly refute the erroneous claims in the CAAC Report.

Scripture

He who justifies the wicked, and he who condemns the just, both of them alike are an abomination to the LORD.


- Proverbs 17:15

Rescued Hostages Suffered ‘Severe Psychological Abuse’ in Captivity

by David Isaac ~ JNS

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Rescued hostages Andrey Kozlov, Almog Meir Jan and Shlomi Ziv arrive at the Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan.

Friday, 14 June 2024 | While Israeli security officials have requested that the four hostages rescued by the Israel Defense Forces [IDF] on Saturday keep their experiences secret, some details have nevertheless emerged.

The four—Noa Argamani, 26, Almog Meir Jan, 21, Andrey Kozlov, 27, and Shlomi Ziv, 40—appeared to be in good health when first seen on camera on June 8, the day of the raid.

But two days later, Dr. Itay Pessach of the Sheba Medical Center revealed they were in a “state of severe malnutrition.”

“They all suffered from all types of abuse—physical abuse and mental abuse, and for a long time,” he said. “We’ve heard stories that are beyond anything you can imagine.”

Details will take time to come out. More than a month passed before the full picture emerged of what hostages had endured following an earlier prisoner swap. It turned out they suffered torture, sexual abuse, lack of food and medical care.

In a Wednesday interview with Channel 12, Kozlov’s girlfriend, Jennifer Master, revealed that Kozlov couldn’t join the interview due to his weakened condition.

“He blames himself for being kidnapped…He just came back a fragile and different person,” she said.

“They were subjected to very, very severe psychological abuse, more than the physical,” she added.

As an example, terrorists would tell him that his government wanted him dead, she said.

In terms of physical punishment, terrorists would pile blankets on him during the hottest part of the day and lock him in the bathroom if he forgot to knock before requesting to be let out.

Although they had only been together for three months prior to his kidnapping by Hamas, Master became a spokesperson for his release at demonstrations and in media interviews.

That Kozlov was originally from Russia didn’t help him at all. In fact, it worked against him. The terrorists said that the other hostages were born Israelis but he had chosen to come to Israel, which made him more guilty in their eyes.

“Why did you come to Israel? Don’t you know it’s an occupation,” they would tell him, she said.

Kozlov was held together with Jan and Ziv the entire eight months. They became close friends and that helped them through the captivity.

“Sometimes the terrorists abused us but we remained strong and supported each other very much. We are very united,” Jan told Channel 12 in an earlier interview.

Jan’s uncle said the three “hadn’t seen the sun for eight months.”

Argamani was held separately. Little is yet known of what she went through.

All four had been at the Nova music festival near Kibbutz Re’im, where 364 of the 1,200 people killed by Hamas terrorists on October 7 met their end. Kozlov was working security at the event.

Sadly, Jan’s father, Yossi Meir, 59, died only hours before his son was rescued. Reports said he had “died of grief” due to his son’s capture and had lost 44 pounds.

Argamani’s mother, Liora, who suffers from terminal cancer, had her final wish fulfilled when she was reunited with her daughter.

“Unfortunately, her mother is in very poor condition,” Noa’s father, Yaakov, told Ynet.

“She barely looked at Noa. They met after eight months, but it was very difficult.”

He said he believed that his wife understood, however. “There was a kind of response. Liora understood but simply couldn’t express her emotions or say what she had longed to tell Noa when she finally met her.”

Source: (This article was originally published by the Jewish News Syndicate on June 13, 2024. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90/jns.org

Prayer Focus
Rejoice and give thanks for the physical rescue of four hostages from captivity. Pray now that they will be delivered from the lying words and falsehoods they were subjected to while in the hands of Hamas terrorists.

Scripture

Rescue me and deliver me from the hand of foreigners, whose mouth speaks lying words, and whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood.


- Psalm 144:11

Israeli Defense Exports Hit Record US $13 Billion in 2023

by JNS

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An Arrow 3 interceptor being launched during a flight test in central Israel

Wednesday, 19 June 2024 | Israeli defense exports reached a record US $13.073 billion in 2023, according to the Israeli Defense Ministry. Defense exports have doubled over the last half decade, with over a third (36%) of the export agreements over that timeframe having been signed last year.

“Israel continues to succeed in its international cooperation and industrial defense exports even during a year marked by war,” said Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Monday. “This is a reflection of the capabilities and creativity of our industries and our people,” he added.

While Israel’s military industries are primarily focused on providing the country’s defense establishment with the capabilities to support the Israel Defense Forces [IDF] and protect citizens, “they are also continuing to pursue areas of cooperation and exports to international partners,” he said.

2023 was the third consecutive record-breaking year for defense exports, with Israel’s various defense industries signing hundreds of significant contracts worldwide. Notably, the export of air defense systems reached a significant milestone, accounting for 36% of the total deal volume, up from 19% in 2022.

Significant tiers of defense exports included: missile, rocket and air defense systems (36%); radar and electronic warfare (11%); weapon stations and launchers (11%); manned aircraft and avionics (9%); ammunition and armaments (8%); observation and optronics (5%); vehicles and armored personnel carriers (5%); intelligence, information and cyber systems (4%); drones (4%); C4I and communication systems (4%); satellites and space systems (2%); and maritime systems and platforms (1%).

The exports went to Asia and the Pacific Region (48%); Europe (35%); North America (9%); Latin America (4%); Abraham Accords countries (3%); and Africa (1%).

Agreements over US $100 million accounted for 40% of all deals, from US $50–100 million 17%, up to $50 million 23% and agreements up to US $10 million 20%.

The ministry said it has led a national effort to strengthen security-strategic relations worldwide, expand defense exports to new markets, remove bureaucratic barriers and reduce regulation.

“Nations worldwide are recognizing the success of Israeli defense systems, especially in air defense, appreciating their crucial role in safeguarding citizens,” said Defense Ministry Director-General Maj. Gen. (res.) Eyal Zamir.

“Since the onset of the war, the Ministry of Defense has invested tens of billions of dollars in domestic procurement. This strategic approach is expected to further boost our global defense export,” he added.

Source: (This article was originally published by the Jewish News Syndicate on June 17, 2024. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Avichai Socher/jns.org

Prayer Focus
Give thanks for the creativity of Israelis in designing systems that are used to defend her citizens and for the global marketplaces where she has been successful. Pray that any initiatives to boycott sales of Israeli military hardware will fail but that 2024 will also be a record-breaking year of sales.

Scripture

God shall bless us, and all the ends of the earth shall fear Him.


- Psalm 67:7