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Every week, we post from 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.

The Secrecy is Unveiled: A Race to Destroy Iranian Facilities in Syria 

by Yoav Zitun

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The IDF has been trying to eradicate the Iranian presence in Syria (illustrative)

Friday, 7 September 2018 | The IDF revealed on Tuesday that as of the beginning of 2017, more than 200 Iranian or pro-Iranian targets were attacked across Syria.

An entire system of pilots, officers, analysts and officials has been working around the clock to execute the strikes.

The attacks included the dropping of 800 bombs and missiles by the Israeli Air Force—an amount that adds up to half used in a “real” war. Some were launched to long ranges. In almost all such operations that are meant to take place under the radar, all participants know very quickly or even in real time whose fist gave the punch, hundreds of kilometers from Israel.

And so, one of the purposes of these inter-war attacks is to send a message of power through the Middle Eastern arena, alongside establishing Israeli deterrence, postponing the next war and preventing Israel’s enemies from arming themselves with advanced weapons.

Behind heavy secrecy, that was lifted yesterday, the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] has been trying to eradicate Iranian presence in Syria even at the cost of an incident that could trigger a war on the northern border. This agenda is led by Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, who was the commander of the northern border in years when Hezbollah was growing stronger.

According to the IDF, the Iranian plan to establish its presence in Syria was discovered two years ago by intelligence officials. Back then, the Russian blitz on the rebels was strengthening Assad, and in Tehran leaders were already looking forward to what is to come after the war.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guards concocted a multi-year plan to establish military naval and air bases in Syria. These bases were supposed to include, according the IDF, thousands of soldiers and local Shiite militias serving as an army to fight against the “Zionist enemy.”

The “Yamanite model” of this plan, which is already enabling the launching of missiles to Riyadh, is proving successful for the Iranians. They have an old-fashioned army, but also advanced technologies and intelligence capabilities, alongside drones and an ambitious missile program.

The IDF’s recommendation for government officials was clear—to eradicate any Iranian move in the Syrian arena, without claiming responsibility. Secrecy had been maintained until February of this year. Then, circumstances led to the surfacing of this covert confrontation, when an Iranian drone penetrated Israel and was shot down above Bik’at HaYarden by an Apache helicopter.

The IDF then openly attacked the T-4 base in the Tadmor region in Syria from which the drone was launched. Shortly after an Israeli F-16 was shot down over the Galilee by Syrian antiaircraft missiles.

The confrontation between Israel and Iran became public, violent and dangerous, reaching its highest point of intensity three months later during Operation House of Cards when more than 50 Iranian targets were destroyed in Syria.

Israel’s “excuse” for this vast operation—its largest operation executed in Syria since 1974—was the launching of 32 rockets at the northern Golan Heights.

Following the Israeli blow, the Quds Forces led by Major General Qasem Soleimani convened for a situation assessment.

However, it was a brief lull, and ever since then Tehran has been galloping through Syrian territory while attempting to dodge Israeli intelligence.

Evading tactics included smuggling weapons through civil flights, entrenching on Syria and Iraq’s border and acquiring Syrian knowledge about precision-guided missiles.

In addition, it was reported Tuesday night that fighter jets had bombed targets around Wadi al-Uyun in the Hama area in Syria. Syrian media attributed the bombardment to Israel.

The IDF has a reason to be pleased regardless of its efforts against Iran. US forces have been pushing Iranians out of the 55-kilometer [34,2-mi] strip along the Syrian–Iraqi border around the Euphrates river. They are also more vigorously active against Iranian moves in the region.

However, Russia is competing with Tehran over reconstruction contracts for war-torn Syria, and has thus pushed Iranian forces to at least 80 kilometers [50 mi.] from the Israeli border.

According to the IDF, it is “executing these operations a few times a week, also throughout Cyber tools. The Iranians understand that they have poor infrastructures and an intelligence gap. Our response to their entrenchment in Syria has come a year to a year and a half earlier than they had planned.”

“Still”, the IDF report read, “Iraq is more important to Iran then Syria, since 64% of the Iraqi population is Shiite, and they are thus organizing more militias there.”

Source: (Excerpt of an article originally published by Ynetnews on 5 September 2018. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: martin florek/shutterstock.com

Prayer Focus
Pray that Israel will have the wisdom needed to continue leveraging Iran’s limitations against them, weakening their position throughout the region.

Scripture

Many are they who say of me, “There is no help for him in God.” But You, O LORD, are a shield for me, my glory and the One who lifts up my head.


- Psalm 3:2–3

In Response to Renewed Violent Riots, Israel Strikes Two Hamas Posts in Gaza

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Palestinians hurl fire bombs across the Gaza border in recent riots.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018 | Israel struck two Hamas posts in the Gaza Strip, as Hamas renewed violent riots at the border with Israel, The Times of Israel reported Friday.

An estimated 7,000 Gazans participated in the riots. Some threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at Israeli troops. The IDF [Israel Defense Forces] reportedly used live fire against rioters, who attempted to breach the border fence.

Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry claimed that one teen was killed in the violence, and 94 people, overall, were injured.

The IDF struck one of the Hamas posts after a grenade was thrown at the Israeli troops, and the other after rioters damaged what was described as military infrastructure.

Two fires were started in Israel as some rioters flew incendiary balloons over the border. It was the return to a tactic that had not been used much in recent weeks.

These were the first riots since the Trump administration announced that it would end all aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which provides aid to Palestinians, but has refused to reform, despite warnings from the administration.

Rioters staged mock executions of [US] president Donald Trump, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli defense minister Avigdor Lieberman. Pictures of the riots showed Gazans burning effigies of Trump or stomping on images of him.

Yahya Sinwar, the head of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, said that the renewed riots were meant to pressure Israel in ongoing ceasefire negotiations.

Earlier this week, Sinwar acknowledged that the impetus for orchestrating the violent riots was to divert attention from internal Palestinian conflicts.

Source: (This article was originally published by The Israel Project, in its publication The Tower on 7 September 2018. Time related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See the original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Israel Defense Forces @IDF spokesperson/Twitter

Prayer Focus
Ask the Lord to intervene and put a final end to the on-going Gaza riots while protecting Israel from succumbing to pressure to enter into an unwise ceasefire agreement.

Scripture

The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry. The face of the LORD is against those who do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.


- Psalm 34:15–16

Israel Building Wall to Prevent Hezbollah Infiltration of Northern Border

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Hezbollah’s chief, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, threatening Israel (Illustrative)

Thursday, 13 September 2018 | Israel unveiled an 11 kilometer (7.5 mi.) , 9 meter (29.5 ft.) high wall that it has erected along its border with Lebanon as part of its efforts to prevent terrorist infiltrations by the Iranian-backed terrorist group, Hezbollah, from the north, The Times of Israel reported.

A senior military officer who briefed reporters added a warning to Hezbollah saying that any terrorist who infiltrated into Israel “will not come back alive.”

Israel is preparing to defend itself against a Hezbollah unit, Radwan, which was formed about seven years ago, with the specific purpose of infiltrating into Israel and carrying out terror attacks there. The goal wouldn’t just be the actual destruction the unit would cause, but also the symbolism of having terrorists carry out attacks inside Israel.

Hezbollah’s chief, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, in May of last year, spoke of attacking Israel “within its territory.”

Another challenge facing the Israel Defense Forces [IDF] on Israel’s northern border is differentiating between Hezbollah and members of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF). “We see them working together, traveling in the same jeeps,” the officer said. “Sometimes we see Hezbollah soldiers in LAF vests.”

The close cooperation between the two forces raised questions as to whether the IDF would target the LAF in any future conflict with Hezbollah. In 2006, the LAF largely did not join Hezbollah in its war against Israel. However, the senior officer said that if, in a future conflict, the LAF did participate, then “it’s not a question” that Israel would target them.

The goal of the fence being built is to prevent snipers from targeting Israelis from Lebanon, as well as to prevent infiltrations. The wall is outfitted with sophisticated cameras and sensors to detect any attempts to cross the border.

The IDF did not say if this fence had a component underground to prevent subterranean infiltrations. Though there have been rumors that Hezbollah has been making attempts to tunnel under the border, the senior IDF officer dismissed those reports as “just rumors.”

Hezbollah, according to the officer, “plans to do here,” what it learned from fighting in support of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Despite this, he thought it was unlikely that Israel would face a two-front war in the north, because “the last thing Assad needs is a war,” as he seeks to rebuild his country after a seven-year civil war.

In a June 2016 essay, law professor Willy Stern explained that while Hezbollah has the manpower and weapons arsenal “of a nation-state… its tactics are those of a terrorist organization.” The destruction inflicted upon Lebanon in the event of war will therefore be massive, despite the fact that the IDF wages war in a cautious way to minimize civilian casualties. “The IDF’s warnings certainly go beyond what the law requires, but they also sometimes go beyond what would be operational good sense elsewhere,” noted Michael Schmitt, chairman of the Stockton Center for the Study of International Law at the US Naval War College. “People are going to start thinking that the US and other Western democracies should follow the same examples in different types of conflict. That’s a real risk.”

Israeli military officials in May 2015 told the New York Times that Hezbollah has “moved most of its military infrastructure” in and around Shiite villages, which “amounts to using the civilians as a human shield.” One senior military official added that Lebanese civilians are “living in a military compound,” noting: “We will hit Hezbollah hard, while making every effort to limit civilian casualties as much as we can… We do not intend to stand by helplessly in the face of rocket attacks.”

Source: (Excerpt of an article originally published by The Israel Project, in its publication The Tower on 6 September 2018. Time related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See the original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Screenshot/Youtube/PressTV

Prayer Focus
Pray that the wall along the northern border will serve its purpose, keeping infiltrators out and shielding Israelis from sniper fire. Cry out to the Lord for the protection of innocent civilians on both sides of the border.

Scripture

“The LORD will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before your face; they shall come out against you one way and flee before you seven ways.”


- Deuteronomy 28:7

British MP of Palestinian Descent Condemns “anti-Semitic” Posters, as Labour Party Investigates Infiltration by Iran

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UK Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran

Thursday, 13 September 2018 | A British Member of Parliament [MP] of Palestinian Arab descent has denounced the defacing of bus-stops in London with “Israel is a racist endeavour” posters as “blatantly anti-Semitic,” The Jewish Chronicle reported Thursday.

Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran, who represents Oxford West and Abingdon, told the BBC: “I’m a Palestinian… The fact that this has come from a group that purportedly is speaking for Palestinians, I take great offence at myself, because I think it is blatantly anti-Semitic.” She clarified that “there are extremes in the Israeli government… But to say that an entire country is racist is entirely wrong.”

Moran was responding to comments made by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, a close ally of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who stated that “It is not at all anti-Semitic to describe a state as racist.”

The posters were meant to mock the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism, which Labour reluctantly adopted in full last week with a caveat vowing “free speech” on Israel. The IHRA definition, which gives calling “a state of Israel… a racist endeavour” as an example of anti-Semitism.

London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, on Thursday ordered the signs to be taken down and described them as “offensive.” A spokesman for Corbyn refused to condemn the posters because Labour was not officially involved in the campaign by Palestinian activists.

The party, meanwhile, has come under fire again, after an Iranian state-owned TV station, which had its license revoked in Britain in 2012 over claims that editorial decisions were being made in Tehran, carried footage of a local party meeting passing a vote of no confidence in the Enfield North MP, Joan Ryan.

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Ryan said that Iranian journalists from Press TV had “infiltrated” the party and had targeted her because of her support for Israel: “I’m horrified that they’ve infiltrated the Labour party in this way and I think it needs to be investigated, because it is incredibly serious.”

Source: (This article was originally published by The Israel Project, in its publication The Tower on 11 September 2018. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See the original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Conor McKenzie/wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Thank the Lord for the courage and wisdom of British MP Layla Moran. Pray that the anti-Semitic voices in the British government will be silenced once and for all.

Scripture

You shall destroy those who speak falsehood; the LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.


- Psalm 5:6

US Announces Closure of Palestinian Mission in Washington in Dispute over Peace Plan

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Israel applauds the US decision to stand against the Palestinian’s refusal to negotiate. (Illustrative.)  

Wednesday, 12 September 2018 | The White House announced Monday that it is closing the Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) diplomatic mission in Washington over what US officials say is the Palestinian leadership’s refusal to participate in the peace process and attempts to get an international court to prosecute Israel for alleged war crimes, The Times of Israel reported.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) repeatedly has reiterated its unwillingness to engage with a US-led regional peace initiative, which enjoys the support of Arab states, as well as to negotiate with Washington’s envoys, including senior adviser Jared Kushner, US special representative for international negotiations Jason Greenblatt and US ambassador to Israel David Friedman.

“The United States will always stand with our friend and ally, Israel,” National Security Adviser John Bolton said during a speech to the Federalist Society. “The Trump administration will not keep the office open when the Palestinians refuse to take steps to start direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel.”

He added: “The United States supports a direct and robust peace process, and we will not allow the ICC (International Criminal Court), or any other organization, to constrain Israel’s right to self-defense.”

The Hague-based ICC was set up in 2002 with jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Bolton, however, described the ICC as “unaccountable” and warned that, “If the court comes after us, Israel or other US allies, we will not sit quietly.”

The US State Department confirmed Monday that it was ordering the closure of the PLO office. “We have permitted the PLO office to conduct operations that support the objective of achieving a lasting, comprehensive peace between Israelis and the Palestinians since the expiration of a previous waiver in November 2017,” said State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert.

She described the move as part of a widening US pressure campaign on Palestinian officials amid stalled Middle East peace prospects. “The PLO has not taken steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel,” Nauert said.

“To the contrary, PLO leadership has condemned a US peace plan they have not yet seen and refused to engage with the US government with respect to peace efforts and otherwise. As such, and reflecting congressional concerns, the administration has decided that the PLO office in Washington will close at this point.”

The move was praised in Israel, where the prime minister’s office said the US was taking a clear stance against the Palestinian refusal to negotiate. “The Palestinians’ appeal to the ICC and their rejection of negotiations with Israel and the US are not the way to achieve peace, and it is good that the US is taking a clear stance in the matter.”

The Palestinian leadership has been openly hostile to any proposal from the administration, citing what it says is a pro-Israel bias. Saeb Erekat, a senior Palestinian official, charged in a statement on Sunday that “the US is willing to disband the international system in order to protect Israeli crimes and attacks against the land and people of Palestine as well as against peace and security in the rest of our region.”

The State Department announced earlier this month that the US is ending funding to the UN [United Nations] agency for Palestinian refugees, known as UNRWA [United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East], demanding a comprehensive reform program. The US said in a written statement that it “will no longer commit further funding to this irredeemably flawed operation.” The decision cuts nearly $300 million of planned support.

Source: (This article was originally published by The Israel Project, in its publication The Tower on 11 September 2018. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See the original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Benjamin Netanyahu @netanyahu/Twitter

Prayer Focus
Thank the Lord for giving the US government the wisdom and courage to hold Palestinian leadership accountable for their actions. Pray that the PA’s refusal to engage in any kind of meaningful pursuit of peace will cause other western nations who have supported them to realize that Israel has no partner for peace.

Scripture

Hear a just cause, O LORD, attend to my cry; give ear to my prayer which is not from deceitful lips. Let my vindication come from Your presence; let Your eyes look on the things that are upright.


- Psalm 17:1–2

Palestinian Pressure behind Paraguay Embassy Move from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv

by Elior Levi and Itamar Eichner

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President of Paraguay, Mario Abdo Benítez

Wednesday, 12 September 2018 | The Palestinians have revealed their persuasion efforts leading to the Paraguayan leadership’s decision to move its embassy from Jerusalem back to Tel Aviv.

Israel believes that the decision was made due to Arab pressure and a promise of future investment deals in the country.

The decision was made two weeks [ago], when the Palestinian foreign minister, Riyad al-Maliki arrived in Paraguay for an official visit aimed at convincing the Asunción leadership to move their embassy back to Tel Aviv, while taking advantage of the country’s change of government.

Al-Maliki said that he had already received an official promise from [the] new president of Paraguay, Mario Abdo Benítez, and the new foreign minister, Luis Alberto Castiglioni that the move would take place quietly in early September.

The Palestinian foreign minister returned with the happy news to Ramallah and briefed Palestinian [Authority] president Mahmoud Abbas on the Paraguayan promise, stressing that the matter must be kept secret until Paraguay publicly announces the decision to move its embassy back to Tel Aviv.

After the official announcement, Al-Maliki issued a statement in which he acknowledged Paraguay’s move and commitment to international law and UN [United Nations] Security Council resolutions. He stressed that the return of the embassy to Tel Aviv is in Paraguay’s interest, which will allow the country to maintain stable ties with Arab countries.

Following the announcement, the Palestinian Foreign Ministry hailed Paraguay’s decision as “a new Palestinian diplomatic achievement.”

“Minister al-Maliki exerted a big effort during his meeting with the new president who instructed his foreign minister to arrange the issue,” the Palestinian foreign ministry added.

Paraguay’s decision caused a stir in Israel. Hours after the Latin American nation made the announcement, Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the closure of Israel’s embassy in Paraguay and the return of the Israeli ambassador.

“Israel views with great severity the unusual decision by Paraguay that will strain the ties between the countries,” Netanyahu posted on Twitter.

Explaining the new Paraguayan move, the country’s foreign minister, Luis Alberto Castiglioni, said: “Paraguay wants to contribute to an intensification of regional diplomatic efforts to achieve a broad, fair and lasting peace in the Middle East.”

Referring to Israel’s response, Castiglioni said that the reaction was “disproportionate.”

Paraguay president Abdo, who took office last month, defended his decision as part of an effort to support “broad, lasting and just peace” among Israelis and Palestinians. “Paraguay is a country of principles,” Abdo added on Twitter.

Israeli officials estimate that pressure from Arab countries, and possibly a promise of future investment in the country, are the reasons behind Paraguay’s decision.

Source: (Excerpt of an article originally published by Ynetnews on 6 September 2018. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: wikimedia.org 

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Pray that Paraguay will again change its mind and stand with Israel. Ask the Lord to protect other international governments from succumbing to the intimidation and manipulation of Arab leadership whose aim is the destruction of Israel.

Scripture

It is a joy for the just to do justice, but destruction will come to the workers of iniquity.


- Proverbs 21:15

US Ambassador to Israel at 9/11 Memorial Confirms to Everyone US and Israel “Stand Together”

by Joshua Spurlock

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The 9/11 Living Memorial Plaza in Israel

Wednesday, 12 September 2018 | The only memorial outside the United States that names all of the victims of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks is in Israel. In view of that, it’s not surprising that US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman highlighted the special bond between the countries at the recent annual ceremony marking 17 years since the attacks.

“In this beautiful plaza, at this inspiring location, we remind the families of those lost and we confirm to people everywhere, that we stand together—Americans and Israelis—and that together we continue to heal and to build, in a spirit of solidarity and commitment to the future,” said Friedman in comments published in a Jewish National Fund (JNF) press release. The memorial was held on September 6, due to 9/11 falling on the Biblical holiday of Rosh HaShanah (also known as the Jewish New Year) this year.

Friedman is a strong proponent of US–Israel ties, and at a recent toast for Rosh HaShanah reiterated that sentiment. “This year, let us dedicate ourselves to building upon our great accomplishments, to making the US–Israel relationship even stronger, and to bringing peace, prosperity and security to the region,” said Friedman in a Twitter post recapping the Rosh HaShanah event.

American leaders regularly mark Jewish holidays, and Israelis have made a special effort to remember with the Americans the worst terror attack in US history.

In 2009, the JNF’s Israeli and American branches built the 30-foot-high [9 meter] bronze 9/11 memorial, which is in the form of an American flag shaped into a Jewish memorial flame used to honor loved ones who have died. Israel is a strong promoter of the importance of naming victims—most famously in the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum—and so the JNF noted the unique listing of all the 9/11 victims in the memorial “reflects the shared values between Israel, the United States and the entire free world for peace and unity, and against terror.”

Yair Lootsteen, Vice Chairman of the JNF—which in Israel is known as the Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael–Jewish National Fund (KKL–JNF)—expressed a similar view to Friedman. “This monument holds with it a commitment to all the victims, survivors and their families. It is a commitment to plant and grow, in a place where some wished to disrupt, uproot and tear apart,” Lootsteen was quoted as saying in the press release.

“Here we choose, each year, to take an oath in the name of those who have lost their lives—to do all we can to build a better future for the next generations.”

Source: (The Mideast Update originally published this article on 9 September 2018. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today.)

Photo Credit: Dr. Avishai Teicher /wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Thank the Lord for the strong bond of friendship that exists between the United States and Israel, two nations founded upon the biblical principles. Ask the Lord to protect the relationship and to use it as an example to other nations of the world.

Scripture

Indeed He says, “It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, that You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.”


- Isaiah 49:6

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