Over the past few days, Egypt has brokered attempts to reach a ceasefire. Israel accepted the terms, while Hamas rejected them and continued (and even boosted) their rocket fire against Israeli civilians. Yesterday one Israeli, Doron Hanin (37-year old father of three) was killed by Hamas mortar fire into Israel as he was distributing chocolates and candy to IDF soldiers near the Erez checkpoint north of Gaza.
World media and even some Christian ministries are increasingly zooming in on Gazan casualties in line with Hamas’s war propaganda hopes.
What are the latest developments? What do the Scriptures say about these events? How can we pray?
The stillborn ceasefire
On Sunday and Monday of this week, various countries tried to be the first to lead a diplomatic charge – which country would get the credit for brokering a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. Turkey and Qatar (who have staunchly supported Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood) tried their hand, but were cut off at the pass by Egypt, who holds the cards in any Gazan solution due to its strategic and historical role bordering Gaza.
Egypt sees Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) as its mortal enemies. It overthrew MB President Morsi one year ago, re-establishing traditional army control over the Arab world’s most influential country. The USA had unwisely encouraged the Muslim Brotherhood over the years, undermining then-ally President Hosni Mubaraq, and withholding support for Egyptian President Sisi when he overthrew the MB. Because of this, Egypt has a score to settle with the USA, and Egypt’s speed in pushing through a ceasefire proposal (before Secretary of State John Kerry could arrive in Cairo) was its end-run intended to humiliate the American envoy.
Sisi holds the keys to Gaza’s gates and bars. Food, medicine, household goods – all of these can only flow through Egypt. Sisi has no desire to help Hamas since Hamas and the MB are sworn enemies of the current Egyptian government. He would actually prefer for Hamas to twist slowly in the wind on a long rope. Sisi’s Egypt will not allow Hamas to operate arms smuggling tunnels, as did Morsi. These tunnels served to bring in Iranian, Syrian and Chinese rockets now being used in the war, as well as the cement and steel necessary to build rockets locally.
Sisi took a gamble two days ago, assuming that Hamas would have no choice but to accept the Egyptian ceasefire proposal. It was either that or face continued Israeli air raids – because Hamas declared that it will not stop its rocket attacks on Israeli civilians.
Hamas bluntly refused Sisi’s cease-fire even though it knew that this refusal alienates Hamas’ only lifeline to the Arab world. But of course, Hamas is committed to destroying Israel, destroying the Jewish people and destroying Sisi’s government. For them this is clear Islamist teaching which cannot be moderated. See http://davidstent.com/hurtling-through-the-fog-of-war-a-messianic-perspective-on-the-new-hamastan/ . Their refusal is seen by their constituency as a sign of Muslim machismo.
Hamas’ leadership is spread between three countries. Khaled Mash’al (the present Hamas Politburo leader) lives in Qatar and holds to the most hardline position. Mousa Abu-Marzuq (www.investigativeproject.org/profile/106), the number two man in Hamas, lives in Cairo and bridges connections between Mash’al and Egypt. Former Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh lives in Gaza and oversees day-to-day Hamas operations. Mohammad Deif (www.idfblog.com/hamas/2012/01/21/mohammad-deif/), commander of the terror operations group Iz ad-Din al Qassam, lives under deep cover in the Gaza Strip. To this mix must also be added the Qatari-based spiritual advisor of both Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yusuf_al-Qaradawi).
There is some jockeying for power and disagreement of tactics among these men, and the tentative agreement by one or two of them regarding the ceasefire did not carry the day for the others. So rocket fire from Gaza continues.
“Among the divisions of Reuben there were great searchings of heart” (Judges 5:15)
The body politic in Israel is divided on how to deal with the Hamas menace. The common people – those who do reserve duty, whose sons and daughters serve in the IDF, and those who are on the receiving end of Hamas rockets – have perspectives which are more crystallized and determined than Israel’s ruling party.
The Left side of Israel’s political world advocates a comprehensive peace agreement with the Arab world, one which would involve setting up a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza and the division of Jerusalem. The Israeli Right believes that a Palestinian state would be a clear and present danger to Israel, and promotes instead a limited autonomy in the West Bank under Israeli control, and no division of Jerusalem.
There are two views on the Right regarding a solution to the Gaza quandary. One advocates retaking the area and decisively cleansing the Strip of jihadi gangs, rockets and terror tunnels. The other view is attempting to bring about a short-term ceasefire and a temporary cessation of hostilities. Previous such attempts (2009, 2012) have lasted for up to one year before the drizzle of rockets gradually turned into a torrent.
Recent polls suggest that 93% of Israelis do not want an inconclusive ceasefire, and over 50% are in favor of a land incursion into Gaza. Former National Security Advisor, Head of the Research Department of Israeli Military Intelligence, and Major General Ya’akov Amidror was interviewed on Channel Ten a few days ago and cleared away a lot of media fog (Israeli TV; www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/182727).
He explained that so far, Israel has never launched a crushing blow on Hamas’ ability to launch rocket attacks. The only way to completely stop jihadi rocket fire from Gaza is for the IDF to retake the Strip. In his estimation it would take 3 to 13 days to retake the Strip, and between six months and a year to eradicate Hamas’ terrorist military infrastructure. The price of such an operation would be dozens of IDF casualties, and so the question that needs to be asked is “How much is Israel willing to pay for quiet in the south.”
Amidror added, “I think eventually there will be no choice. If we cannot force Hamas to ask for a ceasefire by attacking from the air, we may have to go into Gaza.”
- Pray for wisdom, discernment and God’s strategies for Israel’s leaders as they daily attempt to read the pulse of events and make decisions which will affect the region in profound ways.
Hamas propaganda wars
In a recent article by Ben-Dror Yemini (“‘Human rights activists’ at Hamas’ service”; (www.ynetnews.com/Ext/Comp/ArticleLayout/CdaArticlePrintPreview/1,2506,L-4542761,00.html) he notes that in October 2013, former Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh delivered a thanksgiving address in Gaza: “We put our trust in the support of the liberals in the world…Greetings to all the civil society organizations and human rights organizations.” He set forth the “Palestinian national strategy” which will include “an armed struggle and a PR struggle in all regional and international arenas.”
Western media zooms in on Gazan casualties, repeatedly airing the blood and gore of war without serving their followers by explaining actual context. This is like waving a red flag in front of a bull. A strong response is guaranteed, but the bull is missing out on what is really happening. It is vital that certain basic facts be remembered:
- Hamas has fired over 1,027 rockets into Israeli civilian areas. No rockets have been fired into military areas. Every one of those rockets was meant to kill Israeli civilians.
- It is therefore hypocritical crocodile tears that Hamas is crying as it appeals for the world’s sympathy.
- The fact that Hamas has only inflicted one civilian casualty so far is not for lack of trying. It is Hamas’ goal and strategy to kill as many civilians as possible.
- The Iron Dome defense network and highly disciplined Israeli civilian response has greatly protected Israeli lives.
- The prayers of the saints and God’s gracious protective hand continue to be game changers in this combat zone.
- Hamas’ strategy is to place its rocket launchers in civilian areas and to force their own citizens to remain there as human shields. This is the contextual cause of nearly all of Gaza’s casualties. Hamas has not built air raid shelters for its own people, preferring the media PR that results from Gazan casualties.
- Gazan casualties do make for good press, and sway public sympathy in favor of Hamas, turning world opinion against Israel as it defends itself from jihadi terror rockets
- If Hamas had stopped the rocket fire, there would have been an instantaneous Israeli ceasefire. Indeed, yesterday Israel ceased fire for six hours, waiting to see if Hamas would desist. Hamas however continued and even increased its rocket fire.
There is a well-known proverb in Arabic, “First he hits me, and then he cries.” This is Hamas’ modus operandi, and they have used it time and again to make marionettes out of a gullible world media. First Hamas fires rockets into Israel from civilian areas, and then it protests when Israel takes out those rocket launchers, calling this a crime against humanity.
Not all wars are only won on the battlefield. Some are won on television screens.
The Bible’s view on disproportionate casualties
The Western world is not as connected to normal processes of living and dying as were believers in Bible days. Rare is the Westerner who has slaughtered and skinned an animal, or who has had to defend his own family from bloodthirsty invaders. Today beef can be purchased wrapped in a sesame-seed bun and boxed in Styrofoam from a fast-food restaurant. Wars take place in movies, or in a universe far away, or on the other side of the world. It is assumed that real enemies play by the rules, and every conflict can be solved by throwing money and humanitarian aid at the combatants.
But in King David’s time perceptions were different. YHVH the God of the Hebrews was not depicted as a Renaissance poet strumming a lute, but as a divine Warrior. “YHVH is a warrior! YHVH is His name!” (Exodus 15:3). His mighty power was recounted as having caused the death of many Egyptian soldiers at the Red Sea (Exodus 15:1-18). At Messiah’s Second Coming that same warrior spirit will be dramatically manifested (Revelation 19:11-21).
In David’s day the Greek Philistines (from whom today’s Palestinians have unknowingly borrowed their name) had invaded the Land promised by everlasting covenant to the Jewish people and had squatted there. Their military strategy involved attacking and seizing Jewish communities, and then controlling the strategic choke-points of the Via Maris, the Way of the Sea.
YHVH (Israel’s Warrior God) explains to Moses that He will help Israel to win her battles against her Philistine and Arab enemies with disproportionate results:
- “Five of you will chase a hundred, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand, and your enemies will fall before you by the sword” (Leviticus 26:8)
- “One of your men puts to flight a thousand, for YHVH your God is He who fights for you, just as He promised you” (Joshua 23:10)
- “YHVH shall cause your enemies who rise up against you to be defeated before you; they will come out against you one way and will flee before you seven ways” (Deuteronomy 28:7)
- “Do not fear them, for YHVH your God is the one fighting for you” (Deuteronomy 3:22)
A cut above average
When the young warrior David was challenged by King Saul to bring him a dowry present worthy of one who wanted to marry the king’s daughter Michal, Saul told David to bring him the foreskins of 100 Philistine warriors. It was assumed in those days that Philistines were not circumcised, that they were the enemies of Israel, and that cutting off their foreskins involved killing them first.
David doubled Saul’s dowry price: “David rose up and went, he and his men, and struck down two hundred men among the Philistines. Then David brought their foreskins, and they gave them in full number to the king, that he might become the king’s son-in-law. So Saul gave him Michal his daughter for a wife” (1 Samuel 18:25-27).
Priority in crisis
This double achievement is very much in line with Israel’s calling. According to Apostolic teaching, the Jewish people have gifts and calling which are irrevocable (Romans 11:28-29). These include the divine calling to be the firstborn or oldest son among the nations (Romans 9:4; Exodus 4:22-23, etc.). This firstborn status involves receiving a double portion of discipline and of blessing (Romans 1:16; 2:5-11).
YHVH explains that His dealings with Israel are sovereign and holy, and He reserves the right to give them a priority status over that of all the other nations. The prophet Isaiah explains poetically, “For I am YHVH your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I have given Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in your place. Since you are precious in My sight, since you are honored and I love you, I will give other men in your place and other peoples in exchange for your life” (Isaiah 43:3-4).
- Though this way of thinking is foreign to many followers of Yeshua, this is because many believers in Yeshua think in ways which are foreign to the God of the Bible. The conflict between Israel and Hamas is being used by the God of Israel to shine light on this foundational part of His character and His ways.
The ghost of Vietnam
The trauma that the USA experienced in Southeast Asia has left its mark on a whole generation. Scratch the surface of most Westerners and, apart from a brief fling after 9/11, you will discover doubt, cynicism and revulsion about the use of military force, and even willingness to violently express opposition to the thought of armed combat.
Yet in the prophetic scriptures God promises to raise up an army of Jewish men and women in the Last Days – soldiers who will step into military formation on the Day of His power (Psalm 110:1-3). This will be the greatest military force the world has ever seen (Ezekiel 37:9-14).
The world responds to Israel’s valiant attempts to fend off jihadi armies of bloodthirsty terrorists with jaded antagonism. This reveals the hardness of many hearts in this generation to the ways and strategies of the God of Jacob.
- Pray for YHVH the Warrior God to bring His Jewish people into the fullness of their calling and gifts as a mighty army
- Pray for the blunting of the enemy’s weapons and goals
- Pray for the salvation of the Jewish people through revelation of Messiah Yeshua
- Pray for the protection of Gazan civilians caught in the crossfire between terrorists and the IDF
- Pray for the revelation of Yeshua to many in Gaza, and for salvation and protection to all innocents there
- Pray for eyes to be opened among the nations of the world regarding the reality of YHVH’s fighting for Israel in our day
Your prayers and support hold up our arms and are the enablement of God to us in the work He has called us to do!
In Messiah Yeshua,
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