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War on Children

Friday, March 15, 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.

Security Forces Strive to Prevent Ramadan Terror Surge

by Yaakov Lappin ~ JNS

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Muslim worshipers attack Border Police officers on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem during Ramadan in 2021.

Monday, 11 March 2024 | The Israeli defense establishment and Israel Police are preparing for a range of security scenarios during the traditionally tense Muslim Ramadan [one of the Five Pillars of Islam when stringent disciplines are observed] month, which begins on the evening of March 10, give or take a day, as the war against Hamas in Gaza rages on.

Thus far, Hamas has failed to ignite Judea and Samaria with violence, and it views Ramadan as a new opportunity to do that—both in eastern Jerusalem and in Judea and Samaria. It will likely try to stress religious fundamentalist themes to call on Palestinian masses to take part in violent disorders, and rally under the banner of the “Al-Aqsa Flood” (the name Hamas gave its October 7 attack).

Hamas hopes to get hundreds of thousands of Palestinians on the streets to take part in rioting. The Israel Defense Forces [IDF] is well aware of this intention and is preparing accordingly, with stepped-up numbers of battalions operating in Judea and Samaria.

In Judea and Samaria, the Israel Security Agency [Shin Bet], the IDF and Border Police have been busy conducting large numbers of security raids to disrupt terror cells before they mature into deadly attacks.

For example, on Tuesday, security forces apprehended a high-ranking terrorist in Balata near Nablus, following intelligence that he was planning an imminent attack with fellow suspects, the IDF said.

On the same day, a terrorist stabbed an Israeli at the Yitzhar Junction, before being shot dead by soldiers on the scene.

The IDF Central Command, which has jurisdiction over Judea and Samaria, has been busy with severe waves of terror attacks that long preceded October 7 and the war it started. The wave of terrorism stretches back to March 2022 and includes a spate of attacks within Judea and Samaria and in the larger State of Israel.

A defense source told JNS in recent days the security forces in Judea and Samaria are in the midst of an intense effort to combat terrorism, including raids and arrests.

The long-lasting wave of terror, the source said, is being fueled by the weakening of the Palestinian Authority [PA], with some areas in Judea and Samaria being no-go zones for its security forces, such as Jenin and the Balata camp.

Meanwhile, a surge of weapons has flooded Judea and Samaria, entering mostly from the Jordanian border, but also some stolen from IDF bases, and some produced in local Palestinian workshops.

On top of this combustible mix, terrorist organizations remain highly motivated to conduct attacks. Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad [PIJ] are attempting to orchestrate terrorism from abroad, though the IDF’s operations have significantly hampered this effort in Gaza, the source stated.

Iran is investing money to get weapons into the hands of terrorists as well and tries to help direct and carry out attacks, alongside Hamas and PIJ.

If this were not enough, the source described large-scale incitement to violence underway among the Palestinian public, fueled further by scenes from Gaza. These influences can produce “lone wolf” terrorists who attack with knives or other weapons, while the threat of organized cells exists as well.

The IDF describes organized cells as part of “terrorist infrastructure” and is engaged in nightly raids to thwart it, whether in Hebron, Bethlehem or anywhere else in Judea and Samaria. The cells usually receive instructions, weapons and money from outside of Judea and Samaria.

Since October 2023, the IDF and Shin Bet have thwarted around 250 terror cells in Judea and Samaria.

Armed groups of localized terrorists, who receive assistance from established terror factions and from Iran, usually spring up where the PA is especially weak, the source said, turning camps into terrorist hornet’s nests.

They build observation command rooms and plant explosives under roads, which the IDF routinely neutralizes during security raids. These areas are filled to the brim with weapons and explosives. In such places, a hierarchy often emerges, with a commander taking charge and building greater capabilities. Such groups are responsible for many attacks, the source said.

The Lions’ Den group in Nablus is a well-known example of this kind of threat. In Jenin, the group there calls itself The Camp’s Sons, or the Jenin Brigade.

In effect, the war in Gaza has significantly enabled the IDF to step up its security raids in Judea and Samaria, since the Central Command no longer has to alert the Southern Command, which is responsible for Gaza, about potential terrorist casualties in raids—casualties that, before the war, could have sparked a subsequent rocket escalation from Gaza.

The Shin Bet announced on Monday that it thwarted a terrorist cell from the Hebron area that produced about 100 explosives and planned to carry out attacks inspired by the Islamic State organization. The announcement is a reminder that ISIS is also a threat in the area.

“The IDF and the Shin Bet’s intensive counterterrorism efforts in Judea and Samaria prevent an escalation in the security situation and allow us to focus on fighting in Gaza and Lebanon and to achieve important results,” IDF Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Herzl Halevi said at the training program on March 1.

Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fuchs, head of the Central Command, added, “Readiness for an escalation is fundamental. There may be an incident, whether real or not, that could lead hundreds of thousands to take to the streets, and this needs to be anticipated and prepared for in every respect.”

Israel Police Prepares For a Range Of Scenarios

The Israel Police, meanwhile, has been busy for several weeks making its own preparations leading up to Ramadan as it coordinates with the IDF and the Shin Bet.

The police have been planning for a large variety of scenarios. The issue of whether or not a cease-fire will take hold in Gaza will likely influence events on the ground as well as the situation on the northern front.

The police will have to deal with large numbers of Muslim worshippers arriving at the Temple Mount, Arab Israelis and Palestinians, all at the same time.

Police are also seeing heightened levels of online incitement relating to events in Gaza on social media platforms such as TikTok, Instagram and Telegram. This incitement includes bots from countries like Malaysia, Indonesia and Pakistan, and to a lesser degree, from Gaza, due to internet disruptions in the Strip.

Preparing for various scenarios has been the police’s top priority in the period leading up to Ramadan, as well as for the Border Police. The Border Police has deployed backup reserve battalions since the start of the war, and many of those battalions remain in active service.

A portion of those battalions will reinforce the Jerusalem area. Jerusalem’s Old City is a tightly packed area, where hundreds of thousands of worshippers are packed in during an average Ramadan period, creating many potential scenarios for police to consider.

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

Photo Credit: Jamal Awad/Flash90/jns.org

Prayer Focus
Pray that Hamas will continue in its failure to ignite violence in Judea and Samaria. Pray that the thousands of demonstrators Hamas is expecting in the streets will never materialize. Also ask the Lord for His favor to guide Israel’s security forces as they work to prevent violence from erupting during Ramadan.


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

- Proverbs 10:29

Heaviest Rocket Barrage Fired on Northern Israel since the War Began

by Yoav Zitun, Alexandra Lukash, Sharon Kidon, Lior Ben Ari and Shimon Elbaz ~ Ynetnews

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Hezbollah terrorists launched a massive rocket attack on northern Israel (illustrative).

Wednesday, 13 March 2024 | Over 100 rockets were launched from Lebanon at the Galilee and the Golan Heights in what appears to be one of the heaviest barrages since the war began. Some 70 rockets were fired at 7 a.m. towards the communities in the Upper Galilee. Some rockets were intercepted while others fell in open fields. No injuries or damage were reported in the attack.

An hour later, another barrage, this time some 30 rockets, targeted Israel’s north in what appeared to be an attempt to challenge the Iron Dome missile defense system and breach its protection.

The Hezbollah affiliated Al-Manar television channel reported an Israel Defense Forces [IDF] artillery attack on South Lebanon in response to the rocket fire and that Israel was also conducting air strikes on Hezbollah targets. The IDF confirmed strikes were made in response to Hezbollah’s fire.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah met in Beirut with a delegation of Hamas officials led by Khalil al-Hayya, deputy to the terror group’s leader Yahya Sinwar. In a statement, the meeting was said to have been about developments in Gaza, the West Bank [Judea and Samaria] and the fronts supporting negotiations for an end to the “aggressions in Gaza.”

Source: (This article was originally published by Ynetnews on March 12, 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 great wisdom for Israel’s military leaders as they deal with the ever-increasing Hezbollah attacks in northern Israel. Pray for the safety of communities in the north and cry out to the Lord for internal strife among Palestinian leaders that will result in an end to the relationship between Hamas and Hezbollah.


For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity.

- Proverbs 2:6–7 ESV

Are the Children of Gaza Border Communities a Lost Generation?

by Sima Kadmon ~ Ynetnews

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A bittersweet family reunion following the release of hostages from Gaza.

Thursday, 14 March 2024 | A group of kids aged 9, 10 and 11 years old sitting together in a kibbutz [collective community] near the Gaza border should be no different from any other such gathering. Kids are kids, after all. In this group, there are sounds of chatter, but it is muted. There is no racket, shouting or laughter.

They are quiet as they sit on the grass in Kibbutz Gvulot listening to Gadi Yarkoni, mayor of the Eshkol Regional Council. One boy has his head down, two little girls sit close, holding each other. They seem to be scared to let each other go.

Yarkoni speaks to the children, not the adults that are there too. He is so gentle and sensitive, and speaks with such respect to the 250 kids who had just returned to the Gaza border area after long months of living in hotels. They are back to begin the rest of their lives.

“We’ve all experienced a shattering event on October 7,” he says. “Since then there is no joy that does not mix with sadness. There is no way to look forward without looking back at what we had left behind. The biggest and most important thing for us is to care for our hostages—children, adults, our grandmothers and grandfathers—who were abducted from their homes.”

Here, near the Gaza border, there is no question about whether or not to use the word “hostages” around such young children. Here the kids know everything. Some have had family members murdered or held captive in the Hamas tunnels. Most have had experiences that have cut deep into their souls.

“Do you hear the noise at night?” Yarkoni asks them. “Those are soldiers who are fighting day and night. The noise is a good thing and it means we can go on.

“And the happy part,” Yarkoni continues, “is that we have all returned home and back to school, which starts here, in tents. And that with the help of people who are making it possible for us to return here as a united group. We can once again laugh and love and help each other. We will swim in the pool, play ball, skip rope. We are allowed to laugh, smile and fight because we have won and will win more when we are all back in our communities.”

But it is too soon to talk about laughter and there is no certainty about how many of the kids will actually return to school or be counseled by the therapists and counselors who will be present there in the makeshift structures that were hurriedly erected.

Zionism 2000, founded by businessman and philanthropist Ronny Douek, identified immediately after the October 7 massacre that the children’s physical and mental health was an urgent, pivotal problem with long-term effects. “If we don’t take care of these kids there will be a lost generation here,” Douek said at the time.

Within days of the massacre, he met with Yarkoni and with Alon Davidi, mayor of Sderot. The NGO invested millions and created infrastructure to provide kids with social centers to replace those they had at home. Mobile structures were brought to provide classrooms and recreation areas for more than 10,000 displaced children from the south who were housed in hotels near the Dead Sea or in Eilat. Within two weeks, the number of children using those facilities doubled and they also provided non-formal activities in the afternoon and evening hours.

On Tuesday, when the new school was inaugurated, Douek repeated his promise to the kids, their families and everyone there that he and his organization will not leave them as long as they are needed.

So many good people have joined the effort and all are focused on helping these children who have been so traumatized on October 7, when their lives were upended, never to return.

During the event, one boy cried. His father currently is being held captive in Gaza. Yarkoni says his priority is bringing back the children’s trust. They have even lost trust in their own parents, who promised them they would be safe. But then they were subjected to the massacre. “We cannot be happy,” Yarkoni says. “We don’t have the moral right to be.”

He hopes that by the start of the new school year in September, the kids will be back in their old school, which is less than 5 kilometers [3 mi.] from the border with Gaza. There are 2,500 registered pupils there from elementary school through high school, but 11 of the communities in Yarkoni’s council still cannot return because work to rebuild them was not yet done.

Driving with Yarkoni in the region proves his point. Nir Oz is a ghost town. What hits you is the silence, the deathly silence. The homes are burned. They look like a scene from a disaster film. It seems that if you just touch them, they will crumble and fall.

Some 80% of Kibbutz Nir Oz’s homes have been destroyed. It will take years to rebuild. The kibbutz members moved to Kiryat Gat, a town farther north. “We will be dealing with the threat from Gaza for 100 years more,” the kibbutz head of security says. “We just think there will be a political solution but there is none. There is life, reality, not more.”

Source: (Excerpt from an article originally published by Ynetnews on March 13, 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
Plead with the Lord for Israel’s children. Pray that they will not, in fact, become “a lost generation,” but that His intervention will bring healing and trust into their lives. Cry out to Him that He will use this incomprehensible tragedy to make this generation stronger, more grounded and more committed to Him and to Israel than any in the past. Pray for His presence to surround and comfort them during this very vulnerable time as they return to the scene of horror and begin the rebuilding of their lives.


The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.

- Zephaniah 3:17 ESV

Dutch PM Hopeful Pledges ‘Full Support’ for Israel

by JNS

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Dutch PM hopeful Geert Wilders (left) meets with Israeli President Isaac Herzog in Amsterdam.

Tuesday, 12 March 2024 | Geert Wilders, the leading candidate to become prime minister of the Netherlands, on Monday pledged his “full support” for the war against Hamas terrorism, speaking during a meeting with Israeli President Isaac Herzog in Amsterdam.

“I just had a great meeting in Amsterdam with the President of Israel,” Wilders tweeted on Monday morning. “I told him I am proud that he visits the Netherlands and that Israel has, and always will have, my full support in its fight against terror.”

Wilders’s Party for Freedom (PVV) won a landslide victory in the November 22 general election, possibly paving the way for the most pro-Israel government in the European nation’s history. PVV won 38 of the 150 seats in the House of Representatives, giving him a chance to lead talks to form a new ruling coalition and possibly become prime minister.

Herzog traveled to the Netherlands on Sunday for a visit focused on bringing about the release of the 134 hostages still held in the Gaza Strip, as well as raising awareness of the global rise in antisemitism in the wake of Hamas’s October 7 terrorist invasion of the northwestern Negev.

Herzog also spoke at the opening of the National Holocaust Museum in the capital city. The ceremony in Amsterdam’s Portuguese Synagogue was held in the presence of King of the Netherlands Willem-Alexander, outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte and representatives of Austria and Germany.

In his address, Herzog noted that his late father, Israeli President Chaim Herzog, helped liberate the Netherlands as an officer in the British Army during World War II.

“Friends, I am deeply grateful to everyone that has supported the establishment of this new Holocaust Museum,” Isaac Herzog said.

“At this pivotal moment in time, this institution sends a clear, powerful statement: Remember. Remember the horrors born of hatred, antisemitism and racism. And never again allow them to flourish. Unfortunately, ‘Never Again’ is right now,” Herzog added.

Herzog was joined by the family of Maj. (res.) Yitzhar Hoffman, who was killed in action in the northern Gaza Strip on January 31. The Hoffman family was saved during the war by Dutch Christians, who were later recognized as Righteous Among the Nations by Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Remembrance Center.

As Herzog spoke, some 2,000 anti-Israel protestors gathered outside the Holocaust Museum, chanting slogans calling for the destruction of the Jewish state. Police said 13 people were arrested.

“Hamas fans attack a police van while our king gets heckled and the Israeli president is insulted at the opening of the Holocaust museum in Amsterdam. Why did we ever let that scum into our country? They don’t belong here!” Wilders said on Sunday.

Wilders lived in Israel for two years during his youth and has visited the country more than 40 times. After he graduated from secondary school, he spent a year as a volunteer at Moshav Tomer in the Jordan Valley.

Source: (This article was originally published the Jewish News Syndicate on March 11, 2024. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Geert Wilders/X/jns.org

Prayer Focus
Thank God for Geert Wilders and his outspoken support for Israel during this time of tenuous backing from the nations. Pray that his bid to become Prime Minister of the Netherlands will be successful, that his government will be effective in dealing with anti-Semitism, and that it will serve as an example to other nations of the blessings to be found in standing with Israel.


Oh, that You would rend the heavens! That You would come down! That the mountains might shake at Your presence—as fire burns brushwood, as fire causes water to boil—to make Your name known to Your adversaries, that the nations may tremble at Your presence!

- Isaiah 64:1–2

Freed Hostage Describes Horrors of Captivity: ‘They Told Us Israel Doesn’t Want Us’

by Ynetnews

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Israelis pen messages of hope for the quick release of the hostages.

Thursday, 14 March 2024 | The Shalva gala held in New York City last week witnessed a stirring display of emotional resilience and hope as Yoav Engel, father of Ofir Engel, who endured 54 days in captivity after being kidnapped to Gaza, made a poignant appearance.

Shalva is a non-profit organization established to support and empower individuals with disabilities and their families in Israel. The “Color Our World with Hope” 34th Anniversary Dinner was held at Gotham Hall in Midtown Manhattan and was attended by 500 people who support the organization.

Yoav, also the manager of the Shalva sports center, expressed profound gratitude, acknowledging the unwavering support of Shalva’s community during his son’s ordeal. “Without the wonderful people of Shalva who stood by me the whole time my son was in Gaza, I wouldn’t have made it,” he said.

Standing beside his father, Ofir recounted the harrowing experience, shedding light on the challenges faced during captivity. “They told us that they don’t want us in Israel, that the families don’t want us and that we won’t be back even in another year,” he said.

Engel, a resident of Kibbutz Ramat Rachel, was at his girlfriend Ofir’s home in Kibbutz Be’eri on October 7.  He described his abduction together with Ofir’s father, Yossi, expressing the sheer terror he experienced. Reflecting on his ordeal in Hamas captivity, he shared the physical and emotional toll it took, including the heart-wrenching loss of Yossi, who was murdered in captivity.

Yoav’s poignant message resonated deeply, as he urged the event’s attendees to hold on to hope for a brighter tomorrow. “We need to believe that anything is possible and to never give up hope for a bright future,” he said.

The Engel family was presented with the Spirit of Hope Award by Shalva’s CEO Yochanan Samuels.

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

Photo Credit: Lizzy Shaanan Pikiwiki Israel/wikimedia.org

Source: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Pray for Ofir Engel and his family as Ofir struggles with the physical and emotional trauma of his captivity and the loss of loved ones while in Gaza. Ask the Lord to bless him with deep healing, courage and confidence as he shares the horrors of his time as a hostage. Also pray that the Engel family’s message of hope will encourage other families who await the return of their loved ones.


For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

- Jeremiah 29:11

Twelve Major Attacks Foiled in Jerusalem since Start of 2024

by JNS

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Israel Border Police officers patrol in Jerusalem’s Old City during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Wednesday, 13 March 2024 | Since the beginning of 2024, Israeli security forces have already foiled 12 major Palestinian terrorist attacks in Jerusalem, the Israel Police announced on Tuesday.

The total number of large-scale attacks foiled in the capital city since Hamas launched its war against Israel some five months ago stands at 38, the police noted.

Jerusalem District Police Commander Supt. Doron Turgeman told reporters during a briefing on Tuesday that Israel is this year facing a “particularly complex Ramadan [one of the Five Pillars of Islam when stringent disciplines are observed]” and vowed “zero tolerance” for Hamas’s ongoing efforts to expand the Gaza conflict to Jerusalem.

Ramadan, which kicked off over the weekend, has historically been a high-alert period for Israelis, with Palestinian terror groups using the Muslim holy month as an opportunity to incite violence.

Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’s Doha-based “political” leader, late last month urged the Iran-led “Axis of Resistance” to step up attacks on Israel during the holiday, while calling on Palestinians in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria to storm the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City.

The “Axis of Resistance” includes Hamas, Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Houthis and other Iran-backed terror groups in the region.

In the two weeks preceding Ramadan, police officers arrested 21 residents of eastern Jerusalem on suspicion of incitement, Turgeman revealed on Tuesday. So far, six of them have been charged.

Earlier this week, security forces found six explosive devices during the arrest of a suspect in Jerusalem’s Arab-majority neighborhood of Beit Hanina. An investigation was launched to determine whether the suspect had terrorist or criminal motives.

“The Jerusalem District Police will continue to enable Ramadan prayers as usual, but continues to operate at all times to thwart and deal decisively and swiftly with incitement, violent disturbances and terrorism of all kinds,” according to a statement.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided last week after meeting with security officials that Muslim worshippers can enter the Temple Mount “similar to the numbers in previous years” during Ramadan.

In the past, Jerusalem has permitted Palestinians and Israeli Arabs to visit the Temple Mount during Ramadan, and security brass supports maintaining that policy amid the war with Hamas in Gaza.

Security personnel have been deployed to the Old City in large numbers in preparation for possible violence. Hundreds of police officers will be positioned in key points during the holy month, which ends on April 8.

Source: (This article was originally published by the Jewish News Syndicate on March 12, 2024. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90/jns.org

Prayer Focus
Praise the Lord for the excellent work of Israeli security forces in thwarting major terror attacks in Jerusalem and for their ongoing efforts to prevent the expansion of the Gaza conflict to the Holy City. Pray for the Old City of Jerusalem where thousands of Muslim worshippers will gather during Ramadan, posing a much more significant potential threat of terror activity.


In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: “Do not fear; Zion, let not your hands be weak. The LORD your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save.”

- Zephaniah 3:16–17a

Iran Stirs Terrorism in Judea and Samaria Amid Ramadan Tensions

by Elisha Ben Kimon ~ Ynetnews

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Defense Minister Yoav Gallant warned troops of the Commando Brigade’s elite Duvdevan Unit of a tense time ahead.

Tuesday, 12 March 2024 | Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Monday warned of a strong Iranian push to smuggle weapons and other military resources into the West Bank [Judea and Samaria] to fuel terrorist attacks during Ramadan [one of the Five Pillars of Islam when stringent disciplines are observed].

Speaking to troops of the Commando Brigade’s elite Duvdevan Unit, the defense chief said that Tehran is “linked to everything happening in the West Bank and is trying to push weapons, ammunition, guidance, information, deception processes and perception into it.”

Gallant emphasized that these developments significantly increase the responsibility on forces specializing in counterterrorism. “There is great pressure, and it will be tested in the coming days, during Ramadan. There will also be additional tests. It could be local issues, and if something emerges on Temple Mount, it could trigger a chain reaction,” he said.

“Today, it must be assumed that we will face escalation during Ramadan. You will be tasked with heavy duties, and it must be assumed that you may also encounter certain places within organized frameworks, even if you do not have precise intelligence.

“You need to be prepared and take whatever actions you can to carry out the missions. The principle must be to go after whoever needs to be brought in by any means possible; if you can stop him, do so, if not, engage in combat and eliminate him – that’s how it ends.

“Five months after the start of the war, it is clear that Hamas miscalculated its assessment of the situation regarding what Israel knows how to do and what it is willing to sacrifice. They thought they would intimidate us, that they would weaken us, that they would inflict costs that would bring us to the brink of collapse, that our allies would abandon us. None of these things had happened.”

Source: (This article was originally published by Ynetnews on March 11, 2024. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today.)

Photo Credit: IDF Spokesperson's Unit photographer/wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Pray that Iran’s ability to smuggle weapons and other military resources into Judea and Samaria will be prevented and their plans to perpetrate an escalation of hostilities during Ramadan will fail. Pray that Israel’s counterterrorism forces will be prepared for whatever scenario presents itself. Also cry out to the Lord for His protection and direction as these young soldiers are tasked with protecting Israel during this volatile season.


Consider my enemies, for they are many; and they hate me with cruel hatred. Keep my soul, and deliver me; let me not be ashamed, for I put my trust in You. Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for You. Redeem Israel, O God, out of all their troubles!

- Psalm 25:19–22

IDF Reservists Struggle to Adapt after Gaza: ‘I Still Feel the Sadness’

by Amelie Botbol ~ JNS

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IDF reservist Sam Sank on the battlefield in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip

Thursday, 14 March 2024 | “I am not exaggerating when I say that I lived through several near-death experiences. Bullets went over my head, explosions near me. I am lucky to have come out of Gaza without being injured,” Sam Sank, 33, from Tel Aviv, told JNS on Tuesday.

“Even saying that makes me feel a little guilty because so many didn’t return alive, some I knew personally. While I am happy for myself, I still feel the sadness,” he added.

Sank, an only child born and raised in London, moved to Israel at the age of 18 and joined the Paratroopers Brigade. He was one of approximately 360,000 reserve soldiers mobilized after Hamas terrorists invaded the northwestern Negev on October 7 and murdered some 1,200 people.

“I woke up to the sound of rocket sirens, turned on the news and quickly realized that Israel was at war. At 4 p.m., I was on base with my gun and equipment, ready to be deployed,” Sank said.

On October 9, Sank was sent to Kibbutz Kfar Aza to fight the terrorists who had carried out a killing spree there and were still on the loose inside the community.

“Seeing the atrocities inflicted upon the kibbutz [collective community] was a memorable experience for all the wrong reasons,” he said.

On December 3, Sank entered the Gaza Strip. He would spend the next two months there.

“We started out on the outskirts of Khan Yunis, in a rural environment and moved towards the center of the city. We spent the last week next to the refugee camps, a very dangerous and highly populated area,” he said.

From October 7 onwards, Sank was able to communicate his thoughts to his friends and family members via a WhatsApp newsletter set up and managed by his mother, Jacalyn Sank DaCosta, 57, from London.

Sank left Gaza on January 28 and informed the army of his desire to permanently hang up his boots.

“In the army, I was very open to my fellow soldiers and officers about wanting to end my miluim [reserve duty] career. I felt that way before October 7 but experiencing being at war once is enough for a lifetime,” he said.

For Sank, the first few days after being released were particularly difficult.

“I found being in Tel Aviv overwhelming,” he said. “I left my day-to-day responsibilities for four months and when I came back I suddenly had to be responsible again.

“Inside [Gaza], I had to complete my mission, stay alive and take care of myself, but I did not have to worry about work, maintaining a home or caring for my dog Pablo,” Sank continued.

Upon his official release on February 12, Sank decided to spend a month abroad.

“Being away helped with the transition. Immediately after being released [from reserve service], my friends wanted to see me. I just needed my space. I wasn’t ready to see anyone yet aside from my very close loved ones,” he said.

Now, back in Israel, he finds the feeling of normalcy most strange.

“It’s as if nothing ever happened. It’s not that I want people to treat me differently or ask about it all the time, but it’s how normal everything is that feels strange for me. What was it all for?” he wondered.

“It makes me think of a friend in my squad who was killed. I think of him more since I’m back than I did before. My head is here rather than with the rest of the soldiers in Gaza and it doesn’t sit right with me,” he continued.

Since the beginning of Israel’s ground operation targeting Hamas’s terrorist infrastructure in Gaza on October 27, 249 soldiers have been killed in action. In total, 590 IDF soldiers and reservists have been killed since October 7.

Sank said that most soldiers, himself included, did not leave Gaza feeling victorious. Instead, they are disappointed that 134 of the 253 Israelis and foreign nationals Hamas abducted to Gaza on October 7 are still in captivity.

“It was our job to release them, which we were unable to do. We did good work and fulfilled our missions but overall we felt quite disappointed,” he said.

Sank said he could not understand the widespread criticism and misconduct allegations towards the Israel Defense Force [IDF].

“I can only speak about my experience and the things I saw. My time in Gaza was recorded on my GoPro camera, which I had with me the entire time. It speaks for the way I conducted myself,” he said.

Since October 7, Sank has been vocal in the media, sharing his story and trying to depict Israeli soldiers as humans with real emotions going through the chaotic experience of war.

His media appearances led Sank to receive hate mail and be subjected to online abuse. After his release, he traveled to New York where he attended a Jewish comedy standup event with his girlfriend, Amit, and was ambushed by pro-Palestinian protesters.

“They did not know who I was or what I had done. If they did, it could have made them angrier. They followed us down the street, calling me a baby killer and a Nazi, saying they hope I die,” Sank said.

“I was genuinely more scared and felt more traumatized by this incident in New York than I felt in the entire time I spent in Gaza,” he added.

While he is concerned about the situation in places including London, New York and Paris, saying they do not seem to be safe places for Jews at the moment and even bring back memories of the Holocaust, Sank is not planning to retreat from his hasbara [public diplomacy] activities.

Sank said, “I will continue to advocate for Israel in every part of my life.”

Military Intelligence

On October 7, about 9 miles [14.4 km.] from Tel Aviv, Asaf Nissan, 34, a Channel 14 television producer and a reserve military intelligence officer, was spending the Simchat Torah [rejoicing in the Torah] holiday in Petach Tikvah, at home with his wife, Chen, 31 and baby daughter Danielle.

“As an intelligence officer, I could not do much on October 7. I was on standby. On October 9, I left my car in Herzliya and was taken on an armored bus to Sde Teman, a logistical base [located between Beersheva and the Gaza Strip],” Nissan told JNS on Wednesday.

“We were updated on the situation. There was talk of entering Gaza once devastated Israeli towns and villages were cleared of terrorists. We needed to make sure that they did not leave any bombs, mines or anything they could use against us,” he added.

As an intelligence officer who assists combat units remotely, Nissan provided intel to soldiers on the battlefield. Being at the intelligence post has its challenges in a constantly changing environment; intelligence officers must be alert at all times. Nissan spent a total of 109 days on reserve duty.

“I could not come home at all at first. My daughter is only a year and 10 months old. My wife had to handle everything by herself. She was sleeping at her parents’ house, had to wake up in the middle of the night and keep the baby occupied during the day,” he said.

“Later, because they drafted more people, we had enough manpower to figure out a proper schedule. I could come home twice or sometimes three times a week,” he added.

Reserve soldiers receive their full salaries from their employer, which is reimbursed by the National Insurance Institute. Nissan said he even received a 40% bonus while being away.

As a television producer, he did not feel he could completely disconnect even when he left the base.

“I never stop being updated about the war. I live it day in and day out. There isn’t really any sort of distance,” Nissan said.

“In my mind, I am always ready. If something happens in the north, I will go back, it’s not even a question,” he added.

Source: (Excerpt of an article originally published the Jewish News Syndicate on March 14, 2024. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Sam Sank/jns.org

Prayer Focus
Pray for the reservists who are attempting to find “normalcy” in their lives while dealing with their specific type of trauma. Having witnessed horrific atrocities that they could not prevent, pray that their feelings of helplessness and disappointment will be replaced with renewed confidence. Pray for Sam Sank as he attempts to re-establish himself without guilt or regret, and ask the Lord to strengthen him as he advocates for Israel.


But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”

- Isaiah 43:1–3a

Hamas Fakes Casualty Figures: ‘The Numbers are not Real’

by JNS

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The death toll data of Gazan civilians seems to be grossly miscalculated by the Gaza Health Ministry.

Wednesday, 13 March 2024 | The Hamas terrorist organization is disseminating fictitious figures for casualties in the current war in Gaza. That’s the conclusion of a deep dive into the data published in Tablet magazine in a March 7 report titled “How the Gaza Ministry of Health Fakes Casualty Numbers.”

“The numbers are not real. That much is obvious to anyone who understands how naturally occurring numbers work. The casualties are not overwhelmingly women and children and the majority may be Hamas fighters,” writes Abraham Wyner, a professor of statistics and data science at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and the report’s author.

For those familiar with “Pallywood,” the term coined to describe the Palestinian industry of faking everything from casualties to Israeli attacks, the fact that Hamas produces phony numbers will seem self-evident.

But the casualty numbers matter. They are the foundation on which today’s anti-Israel propaganda is built, justifying demands for a “cease-fire” that leaves Israeli hostages in captivity and accusing the Jewish state of “genocide.”

Even US President Joe Biden has come to embrace the numbers. He first expressed healthy skepticism, given the fact that the Gaza Health Ministry is essentially Hamas. Biden said on October 25, when the casualty number stood at about 6,500, “I have no notion that the Palestinians are telling the truth about how many people are killed.”

Now, the president repeats the 30,000 figure, which has subsequently passed 31,000. “You cannot have another 30,000 dead as a consequence [of pursuing Hamas],” Biden told MSNBC in an interview on Sunday.

When looking at Wyner’s analysis, those 30,000 are at least “suspicious.”

Wyner started from the premise that if the Hamas numbers are fake, there may be evidence “in the numbers themselves” to show it.

“While there is not much data available, there is a little and it is enough: From October 26 until November 10, 2023, the Gaza Health Ministry released daily casualty figures that include both a total number and a specific number of women and children,” he writes.

He first looked at the total number of deaths. What he found was that the daily reported casualty rate increases with “metronomical linearity”—a “regularity…[that] …is almost surely not real.”

This unnatural, clockwork-like increase can best be seen in the first graph included with the report. It’s built from data aggregated by Wyner and provided by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs [OCHA] based on Gaza Ministry of Health figures.

“One would expect quite a bit of variation day to day. In fact, the daily reported casualty count over this period averages 270 plus or minus about 15%. This is strikingly little variation. There should be days with twice the average or more and others with half or less,” Wyner observes.

“Perhaps what is happening is the Gaza ministry is releasing fake daily numbers that vary too little because they do not have a clear understanding of the behavior of naturally occurring numbers,” he writes.

Secondly, Wyner notes that child casualties should track with women casualties. The reason concerns the daily variation in strikes on residential buildings and tunnels.

“Consequently, on the days with many women casualties, there should be large numbers of children casualties and on the days when just a few women are reported to have been killed, just a few children should be reported,” he writes.

But the numbers don’t show that correlation, a “second circumstantial piece of evidence suggesting the numbers are not real.”

He also says that the daily number of women casualties should be “highly correlated” with the number of male casualties because “of the nature of battle.

“The ebbs and flows of the bombings and attacks by Israel should cause the daily count to move together. But that is not what the data show. Not only is there not a positive correlation, there is a strong negative correlation, which makes no sense at all and establishes the third piece of evidence that the numbers are not real,” he notes.

Wyner reports other anomalies, such as contradictory numbers on October 29 and 28 that suggest 26 men came back to life.

The Gaza Health Ministry also claims that about 70% of the casualties are women or children, a total “far higher than the numbers reported in earlier conflicts with Israel,” he says.

Another warning sign, which Wyner says has been noted elsewhere, is that if 70% of the casualties are women and children and 25% of the population are adult males, then Israel isn’t doing a very good job eliminating Hamas fighters.

“This by itself strongly suggests that the numbers are at a minimum grossly inaccurate and quite probably outright faked,” he said noting that on February 15, Hamas admitted losing 6,000 of its fighters, “which represents more than 20% of the total number of casualties reported.”

“Hamas is reporting not only that 70% of casualties are women and children but also that 20% are fighters. This is not possible unless Israel is somehow not killing noncombatant men, or else Hamas is claiming that almost all the men in Gaza are Hamas fighters.

“Taken together, what does this all imply? While the evidence is not dispositive, it is highly suggestive that a process unconnected or loosely connected to reality was used to report the numbers,” he says.

“Most likely, the Hamas ministry settled on a daily total arbitrarily. We know this because the daily totals increase too consistently to be real. Then, they assigned about 70% of the total to women and children, splitting that amount randomly from day to day. Then, they in-filled the number of men as set by the predetermined total. This explains all the data observed,” Wyner hypothesizes, in attempting to make sense of the numbers.

Wyner says the truth may never be known but that the total casualty count of civilians is likely “extremely overstated.”

Noting that Israel puts the number of terrorists killed in Gaza at 12,000 [with another approximately 1,000 killed inside Israel on and immediately after October 7], Wyner concludes, “If that number proves to be even reasonably accurate, then the ratio of noncombatant casualties to combatants is remarkably low: at most 1.4 to 1 and perhaps as low as 1 to 1.

“By historical standards of urban warfare, where combatants are embedded above and below into civilian population centers, this is a remarkable and successful effort to prevent unnecessary loss of life while fighting an implacable enemy that protects itself with civilians,” he writes.

Source: (Excerpt of an article originally published the Jewish News Syndicate on March 12, 2024. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90/jns.org

Prayer Focus
Cry out to the Lord that more and more solid evidence of Hamas’s attempts to disseminate false figures for casualties in the war will be found and made known to the international community. Pray that the nations will recognize how disingenuous Hamas is and, at the same time, how remarkable and successful the efforts of the IDF are to prevent unnecessary loss of life while fighting an implacable enemy that protects itself with civilians.


For there is no truth in their mouth; their inmost self is destruction; their throat is an open grave…Make them bear their guilt, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against you.

- Psalm 5:9a–10