It is just after midnight on Friday morning here in Israel. To put it bluntly: Thursday was a very difficult day for Israelis in the south and Palestinians living in Gaza. Consider this: the Palestinians have fired nearly 700 rockets, missiles and mortars over the past 36 hours. The Israelis have bombed more than 70 terrorist sites in Gaza in just the past hour. Tonight, the big news here is that the terrorists have fired missiles at Tel Aviv, Israel’s biggest and most populated city. Air raid sirens have been going off. People are anxious. This is the first time Tel Aviv has been the target of missile attacks since the Gulf War with Saddam Hussein in 1991. What’s more, three Israelis were killed in a direct rocket strike earlier today, and 54 have been wounded. Now the IDF is calling up 30,000 reserve soldiers to prepare for what could be a massive ground invasion.
As I explain in Israel At War, the onslaught by Hamas and its allies in Gaza is being driven by Iran. It is the mullahs in Iran who arm, fund and encourage the Palestinian terrorist movement and no one is happier to see Hamas unleashing its evil fury on Israeli towns, villages and cities more that the Ayatollah Khamenei. The big question is this: How far are Israeli leaders prepared to go to shut down the Gaza threat, before they turn towards a possible war with Iran to neutralize Iran’s nuclear threat. Will this conflict go just a few more days? Or are we talking weeks. That’s not yet clear, though officials in Jerusalem are telling their people this is just the beginning.
Events here are dominating discussions wherever you go. I just had dinner with Israeli friends who kept the TV on for much of the evening to keep track of the latest developments, particularly the nearly unprecedented attacks on Tel Aviv. They know families whose fathers and sons are being called up to prepare for an invasion of Gaza. We’re all praying that doesn’t have to happen, but Israeli officials are warning this is just the beginning of “Operation Pillar of Defense,” not the end. “Difficult days are ahead,” said IDF spokesman Brigadier-General Yoav Mordechai Mordechai. “We must be strong in both defense and offense. At the end of the day we will be measured by what we have achieved; not by what we said we would achieve.”
Over the past several years, The Joshua Fund has been privileged to provide funds for the purchase of much needed equipment for a medical center in the south where the rockets have been aimed. This morning we received word that the medical center has been placed on its highest state of emergency due to the rockets being fired from Gaza. Patients are being evacuated to other facilities, all elective procedures have been cancelled, and doctors and nurses are on site to handle the wounded. As of earlier today (Israel time) the medical center was treating 20 injured patients and preparing for more. As you pray for the Lord to intervene, please also remember the doctors and nurses who are presently dealing with the wounded. Please continue to pray for Jews and Arabs on both sides of the conflict. The Lord God loves them both. He has a plan for them both. Let’s pray for peace and security. Let’s also pray for wisdom for leaders on both sides and for the Lord to comfort and heal the dozens who are wounded and the millions who are traumatized on both sides. Please pray for the believers here as they continue to love their neighbors and pray for and comfort their neighbors, and continue to preach and teach the Word of God. Please mobilize others to pray. Remember: at its core, this is a spiritual battle. The violence is a physical manifestation of a spiritual war that is going on in the heavenlies. We need you to be interceding for Israel and the Palestinians in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
That said, here are the latest developments you should know about:
- Air raid sirens went off repeatedly in Tel Aviv tonight. At least two — and possibly three — missiles were shot from Gaza at Tel Aviv. This is the first time since the 1991 Gulf War with Saddam Hussein that missiles have been fired at Israel’s largest city and commercial capital.
- As of 11pm Thursday night local time, Palestinian terrorists have fired at least 665 rockets, missiles and mortars at Israeli civilians since Wednesday morning. Hamas has fired 527. Islamic Jihad has fired 138. Remember: each rocket fired involves two war crimes — firing from innocent Palestinian civilians, and firing at innocent Israeli civilians.
- As of midnight Thursday, Israel has hit 340 targets in Gaza since launching Operation Pillar of Defense on Wednesday, according to the Jerusalem Post.
- Israel hit more than 70 targets just between 10pm and 11pm local time on Thursday night.
- Israel’s “Iron Dome” system has shot down more than 100 rockets and missiles fired out of Gaza at southern Israel since Wednesday. A report at 11:41pm local time said the number is 130.
- 3 Israelis have been killed so far. “Three people — two men and a woman — were killed and an 8-month-old baby was critically injured Thursday morning after a rocket blasted into a four-story building in Kiryat Malachi in southern Israel. Six people suffered from shock,” reports the Times of Israel. “The names of the victims were cleared for publication late Thursday afternoon. Aharon Smadga, 49, Itzik Amsalem, 24, and Mirah Sharf, 26 will all be buried Thursday evening. Sharf was reportedly pregnant.”
- 16 Palestinians — including the top commander of the Hamas military wing — have been killed.
- 54 Israelis have been wounded.
- Some 200 Palestinians have been wounded (primarily because Hamas stores its weapons and missile launchers in and near schools, mosques, hospitals, apartment buildings, and other civilian areas)
- The IDF is in the process of calling up 30,000 reservists to prepare for a possible ground operation into Gaza.
- 10:41 PM local time — UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon notifies Israeli government of an upcoming visit to Jerusalem, Cairo, and Ramallah, to take place on Tuesday, following the escalation of the situation in the Gaza Strip.
- 7:35 PM — White House Press Secretary Jay Carney says President Obama condemns the rockets fired at Israel; “there is no justification for these cowardly acts.”
- Egypt sending PM to Gaza, denounces Israel assault
- New e-book – Israel At War: Inside The Nuclear Showdown With Iran — now available on Kindle, Nook, other formats (includes sneak preview of material from forthcoming Damascus Countdown novel)
- Help The Joshua Fund care for the poor and needy in Israel, teach the Word of God in the epicenter, educate and mobilize Christians around the world to bless poor and needy Israelis, train pastors and ministry leaders in Egypt, strengthen the believers in Syria, and assist with those being affected by this new war in southern Israel — please prayerfully consider a generous, tax deductible financial contribution to The Joshua Fund.
- Come with The Joshua Fund and me to Israel for the 2013 “Prayer & Vision Tour” and the 2013 Epicenter Conference — click here for more details and to register
- Follow Joel on Twitter — @joelcrosenberg