This past weekend has seen Jews all over the world celebrating their divine deliverance from genocidal murderers in Persia (modern-day Iran) as described in the Biblical Book of Esther. According to Esther 9:18-32 the Jewish people celebrate two days of Purim in memory of this great event. Persia was the world superpower in those days, and Haman’s decree (if successfully carried out) would have slaughtered the children of Jacob throughout the entire Exile. Nothing more, nothing less – the very survival of the Jewish people was at stake.
Biblical Hebrew reckoning counts days from sunset to sunset, based on God’s pattern in Genesis 1:5, on the very first day of Creation. The eve of Thursday March 8 was the first night of the Feast of Purim, extending to Friday evening. On Friday afternoon, Israeli security services obtained pinpoint intelligence concerning a major jihadi leader named Zuhair al-Qaisi (nom de guerre Abu Ibrahim), the Secretary General (SG) of the Palestinian terror group the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC).
This group has been responsible for a number of deadly attacks, including:
- numerous rocket attacks (www.idfblog.com/2012/03/10/popular-resistance-committee)
- the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit (June 25, 2006) from Israeli territory near Gaza and his underground imprisonment for five and a half years in Gaza (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gilad_Shalit)
a bomb and machine-gun ambush of Israeli passenger buses and private vehicles on Route 12, a road running parallel to the border with Egypt near Eilat (August 18, 2011) where 8 civilians were killed and over 30 injured. This was a joint operation with Gaza’s Islamic Jihad (IJ) terror group. Israel struck back at IJ and PRC that same evening (again with pinpoint intelligence), killing Kamal al-Nairab , the former SG of the PRC. PRC and IJ rocket squads responded with massive barrages – nearly 120 Gazan rockets struck Israeli cities and kibbutzim (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Palestinian_rocket_attacks_on_Israel,_2011). The IAF responded to these rocket attacks with numerous attacks on rocket launching sites, arms depots and terror leaders (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011_southern_Israel_cross-border_attacks).
On Friday March 9, the eve of the second day of Purim, at approximately 1700 Al-Qaisi’s VW was struck by an Israeli missile in the Gaza suburb of Deir al-Hawa, instantly killing him and his aide Mahmoud Hanani. Al-Qaisi was considered a ticking bomb by Israel. He had been in the final stages of planning another mega-terror attack similar to his previous work in August 2011. In a change of strategy from August 2011, Israel’s Shabak (General Security Services or GSS) decided this time not to wait until the PRC attack was on its way. They recommended a pre-emptive strike against Al-Qaisi, hoping to decisively foil the imminent Islamic terror plans.
“Opening the doors of hell”
As Al-Qaisi was being buried, the PRC’s an-Nasser Salah ad-Din Brigades promised a “seismic response” to the assassination. “The enemy by targeting Abu Ibrahim has opened the doors to hell and the continuous revenge for all our martyrs, and the response will be commensurate with the size of this heinous crime.”
Over the past 72 hours more than 180 rockets have been fired from Gaza. The targets have been civilian cities, towns, kibbutzim and farms (www.idfblog.com/2012/03/10/israel-under-fire-gaza/). At all hours of the day or night, Israelis in the Negev (southern) region, in Ashkelon and Ashdod, have had their ears seared by the cold wail of air raid sirens. Depending on the distance to the Gaza Strip, one has between 15 and 60 seconds to move resolutely to one’s personal bomb shelter or reinforced room. Within a few more seconds comes the crump of a Grad missile (Russian for ‘hail’) as it strikes the ground. These 122 mm steel missiles have a range of over 40 kilometers (over 25 miles) and are approximately 3 meters (9 feet) in length.
Here is an example of the destructive damage that these missiles can cause. A Grad fell at 3pm Sunday in Beersheva, landing in a schoolyard that should have been full of Israeli schoolchildren. Thankfully, the IDF Home Command had decided to close all schools for the past few days. The concrete walls of the playground building were totally ripped up by metal shards and explosives. If schoolchildren had been there, scores would have died and a major land invasion of Gaza would now have been underway (www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/para/hamas-qassam.htm).
One of the bright spots in this conflict is a new Israeli anti-missile system called Iron Dome (ID). Israel finds itself on the cutting edge of anti-missile development. Due to the challenges from a potentially nuclear Iran, an extensive Syrian SCUD arsenal equipped with VX and Sarin nerve gas, a vast Hezbollah armada of Katyusha and al-Fajr long range rockets in Lebanon, and the Qassam, Grad and Katyusha rockets of Hamas, IJ and PRC groups in Gaza, Israel has invested heavily in developing its anti-missile technology and armory (http://global-security-news.com/2011/09/28/israel-and-the-iron-dome-system-a-lesson-for-the-united-states/ ; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iron_Dome).
Three Iron Dome batteries are positioned in the defense of three Israeli cities – Beersheva, Ashkelon and Ashdod. They do double duty, covering the airspace of smaller towns like Omer, Lehavim, Rahat, Kiryat Gat, Kiryat Malachi, Gan Yavne, Sderot, Netivot and Gedera. When one Gazan missile’s trajectory is determined to be heading to a population center, two Iron Dome missiles are fired at that one incoming Grad. Since Grads approximately $250 per unit, while the Iron Dome (ID) missiles run approximately $100,000 per shot, finances are evidently not the determinative issue here.
The ID anti-missile system has done an amazing job of shooting down enemy missiles, achieving a success rate of over 90%. Over 52 rockets have been intercepted at this moment (Monday March 12 1500 hours). Nevertheless, in order to avoid civilian casualties, over 200,000 schoolchildren and students have stayed home for two days straight. One million Israelis are living in range of active rocket fire, moving rapidly into bomb shelters several times a day (and night!).
- Pray for the IDF Iron Dome teams, whose split second decisions affect hundreds of lives.
- Pray that the Iron Dome systems will work properly and function smoothly.
- Pray for angelic protection to push missiles out of the way.
Who’s minding the store?
The infighting between different terror groups in Gaza is not easily understood. Hamas is a Muslim Brotherhood franchise, calling for the total destruction of the Jewish people and their state through jihad. They are supported by Sunni Egypt and Shi’ite Iran, and receive military training from Lebanon’s Shi’ite Hezbollah. This Sunni Islamic group is regularly described as ‘moderate’ in Western media.
Though Hamas is the official Gazan government and has the largest storehouse of armaments, their main Palestinian enemy is actually the Palestinian Authority (PA – formerly Arafat’s PLO), who are equally committed to jihad terror, but less radical in their Islamist ways. When Hamas grabbed power in Gaza, they immediately began to torture and kneecap PA loyalists, or even throw them off tall buildings. The Sunni PA receives support from many Islamic countries, as well as from the EU and the USA.
Islamic Jihad is a Sunni terror group which receives significant support from Shi’ite Iran. Its rocket forces are as big as or perhaps even larger than Hamas’ storehouses. As relations warm between Sunni Hamas and Sunni Egypt, Shi’ite Iran is concerned that Hamas will soon no longer obey Teheran’s orders. As a result, Iran has been cultivating and arming Islamic Jihad in Gaza to be the Persians’ wild card, catalyst and hired gun. This is the strategic reason why Islamic Jihad is vying for popular Gazan support by placing itself at the head of all radical attacks on Israel.
Hamas is aware that ‘tough guy’ Islamic Jihad could sway Gazan hearts away from Hamas, yet it does not prefer to step into an all-out war with Israel at precisely this moment. The last time this happened (Operation Cast Lead, December 27, 2008 – January 21, 2009; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaza_War), Israel shook Hamas’ power structure to its core. So Hamas prefers to unofficially let IJ escalate attacks on Israel while pretending to remain uninvolved. If IJ manages to catalyze a war, then Hamas can enter the fray, asserting control over the order of battle. This same scenario played itself out in August 2011 and December 2008, and it is being repeated in Gaza in exactly the same way right now.
Hamas has been slowly preparing for another jihadi conflict with Israel, but would prefer to hold off on major hostilities until the Muslim Brotherhood has solidified its control over Egypt’s government. At the same time, Islamic Jihad is foaming at the mouth, taking advantage of the opportunity afforded by the PRC incident to pull out the stops in its rocket wars. The PA is watching from the sidelines. And while Gaza melts down, modern Iran (once known as Haman’s Persia) is throwing kerosene on the fire, hoping to distract world attention from the atomic smoke seeping out from under the door of its nuclear labs.
- Pray that God will continue to cause disorganization and division in the camp of the enemy
- Pray that loss of life will be minimal in these exchanges
Smoke on the mountain
Hamas, IJ and PRC have one thing in common – they are channeling arms into new terror training camps scattered across the Sinai desert, close to the border with Israel. Egypt is turning a blind eye to events in Sinai, while terror camps prepare commando groups for lightening raids into Israel – to kidnap Israeli soldiers, kill civilians, and then hightail it safely back to Egyptian territory. This is what the PRC pulled off in August 2011, which resulted in intense exchanges of fire, involving Gazan Islamist rockets (on the one side), and IAF jets responding with missiles (on the other).
These three Gazan terror groups are hoping that present hostilities will set fire to the entire length of the Egypt-Israel border and cause these two countries to come to blows. From the jihadi perspective, a good Islamist war against Israel could even ignite an explosion, a chain reaction of international jihad.
In the Spring of the year
Israel’s chief strategists have been quietly observing the gathering strength of Gaza’s terror groups – the rocket forces, the preparations in Sinai, and the smuggling in of advanced weaponry from China, Iran and Libya (including long range rockets that can reach Tel Aviv). A decision has been taken by Israel’s top brass that Gaza’s terror storehouse of weapons must be severely downgraded. Such a goal cannot be achieved only from the air, as military strategists have sadly learned on other fronts.
How can we pray?
The entire Middle East region is very ‘dry’ and highly combustible. Any one spark could set off a conflagration.
- Pray that God would not let events explode before their time
- Pray that the God of Jacob would grant Israel’s leaders the wisdom, discernment and boldness regarding the what, the how and the when
- Pray for protection of the IDF soldiers (including believing soldiers) facing jihadi terror, for Israel’s civilians facing jihadi rocket attacks, and for those in Gaza’s civilian population who are not supporters of terror
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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