Explosion in Gaza as ground operations began Thursday night.
Hamas is storing rocket launchers, rockets and weapons in tunnels under Gaza. They’re also digging tunnels under Israel for terrorists to use to enter Israeli villages.
UPDATED AT 11:30am EASTERN, FRIDAY: (Washington, D.C.) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Friday his government’s intention to expand the scope of the IDF ground campaign in Gaza.
The top priority is not so much to topple Hamas but to restore calm. To do that, Netanyahu says, one vital thing Israel must do is identify and destroy the labyrinth of tunnels and underground warehouses that Hamas and other terror groups are using to store rockets, launchers and other weapons under Gaza, as well as the tunnels Hamas is digging under Israel.
“We decided to launch the action after we tried all the other ways, and with an understanding that without this operation the price we will have to pay later would be much higher,” Netanyahu told reporters.
Netanyahu, speaking at the opening of an emergency cabinet meeting in Tel Aviv, said that “since there is no way to deal with the tunnels only from the air, our soldiers are doing it now from the ground,” reported the Jerusalem Post.
“The supreme consideration guiding us is to restore security to the civilians and quiet to the state. There is not a more moral army than the IDF, and we do not want to harm even one innocent civilian. Not even one. We are operating only against terror targets.”
On Thursday, just before the ground war commenced, Israeli forces spotted a group of heavily-armed Hamas terrorists emerging out of a tunnel into Israeli territory, heading towards and Israeli village. IDF forces fired on the terrorists and prevented a major disaster that surely would have ensued if the terrorist had reached their destination.
Please pray this will all end quickly. Please pray for calm to be restored. And please pray for mercy for Israelis and Palestinians. It is so painful to see the suffering and trauma on both sides. The Bible commands us to pray for peace — let us be faithful.
LATEST DEVELOPMENTS IN THE WAR:
Total of 20 tunnels under Gaza now found by IDF — “Givati Brigade soldiers have found 13 of Hamas’s tunnel shafts in the Gaza Strip, Ynet reports. This discovery brings the total to over 20 tunnels found in the past day.” (Times of Israel)
Overall summary of first 10 days of Operation Protective Edge: Over 1497 rocket were launched at Israel, 1,093 of those rockets hit Israel, approximately 301rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, and the IDF targeted over 2,037 terror targets, with both naval and aerial capabilities.
Thursday update on rocket war: More than 158 rockets were fired from Gaza towards Israel, at least 118 rockets struck Israel, 34 rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, the IDF accepted the UN request for a 5 hour humanitarian window.
Please pray this will all end quickly. Please pray for calm to be restored. And please pray for mercy for Israelis and Palestinians. It is so painful to see the suffering and trauma on both sides. The Bible commands us to pray for peace — let us be faithful.
Israel: Gaza tunnel attack foiled ahead of truce–“Israel thwarted an attack by more than a dozen militants who sneaked in from Gaza through a tunnel on Thursday, the military said, just hours before Israel and Hamas were to observe a five-hour humanitarian pause in fighting. The incident came as Israel and Hamas continued to exchange fire for a 10th day, but Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a military spokesman, said it would not endanger the United Nations-brokered break in fighting. Lerner said 13 militants were identified at the tunnel’s opening some 250 meters (820 feet) inside Israel, near a kibbutz, and were struck by Israeli aircraft. He said the military believed at least one militant was killed in the strike and that the remaining fighters appeared to have returned to Gaza through the tunnel. Lerner said the attack “could have had devastating consequences” and said the militants were armed with “extensive weapons,” including rocket-propelled grenades.” (AP)
The Israel Defense Forces ground operation in the Gaza Strip began after the inner cabinet met in secret on Thursday night in Tel Aviv. In a deceptive maneuver intended to give the impression that no significant expansion of the military operation would happen in the next 24 hours, Israeli officials told reporters the security cabinet would only be meeting on Friday morning.
A senior official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the cabinet ministers had already approved the ground operation when it met Tuesday night, after the Egyptian cease-fire initiative fell through. At the meeting, cabinet members were briefed in detail on the various stages of the operational plans. As the meeting concluded, the ministers authorized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense minister Moshe Ya’alon to decide on both the nature of the ground operation and its timing.
The same official also said that despite the authorization, the ground operation was delayed in order to give the Egyptians another opportunity to forge a cease-fire. On Wednesday, Shin Bet security service chief Yoram Cohen, Netanyahu’s envoy for the peace process Isaac Molho and the head of the Defense Ministry’s political-military affairs department, Amos Gilad, traveled to Cairo.
The Israeli delegation shared the iftar, the meal breaking the daily Ramadan fast, with Egyptian intelligence chief Gen. Mohammed Ahmed Fareed al-Tohami and his senior advisors. After meeting for a few hours, the delegation returned to Israel. The message Cohen, Molho and Gilad brought back was that Hamas is only increasing its demands, hardening its position toward a possible cease-fire.
“We found out that we, the Egyptians and [Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas] are more or less in the same place regarding the need for a cease-fire,” said the senior official. “But we also found out that Hamas is playing a totally different ballgame. We felt that they’re forcefully trying to sabotage the Egyptian attempts and mediation, and escalate the conflict.”
After the Israeli delegation returned to Israel on Thursday morning, pessimistic about the chances for a cease-fire, the decision to begin a ground operation on Thursday night began to take shape. The decision was bolstered by the fact that Hamas did not even honor the six-hour, UN-initiated humanitarian cease-fire on Thursday.
In the lead-up to the ground operation, the Prime Minister’s Office made what seemed like a series of attempts at disinformation in the media. On Thursday afternoon, the BBC and Reuters reported that a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas would go into effect at 6 A.M. Friday. Phone calls from dozens of reporters who called the PMO to confirm the reports went unanswered.
Cabinet ministers told journalists who asked about the cease-fire reports that they had no information about the developments.
Later on Thursday evening the media were told the inner cabinet was scheduled to convene at 11 A.M. Friday to discuss the situation. In fact, the security cabinet was meeting to hear updates about the imminent ground operation. Immediately afterward, about half an hour before the operation began, Israel informed the United States of the decision to expand the operation and invade the Gaza Strip.
After the ground incursion began, the PMO released a statement saying the operation would initially focus on destroying terror tunnels from the Strip to Israel.
The statement also said the decision to expand the operation was made after Israel accepted the Egyptian proposal and Hamas rejected it. “Operation Protective Edge will continue until it achieves its objective – to restore quiet and safety to Israelis for a long time to come, while significantly harming the infrastructure of Hamas and other terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip,” the statement said.
“Israel began a ground invasion into the Gaza Strip on Thursday night, saying it would target tunnels that infiltrate its territory after cease-fire talks failed to de-escalate the air war that has raged for 10 days,” reports the New York Times. “The military released a statement at 10:39 p.m. saying the goal of the operation was to ‘establish a reality in which Israeli residents can live in safety and security without continuous indiscriminate terror.'”
“In light of Hamas’ continuous criminal aggression, and the dangerous infiltration into Israeli territory, Israel is obligated to act in defense of its citizens,” a statement from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s office said, reported the Jerusalem Post.
“The statement said that Operation Protective Edge, now in its 11th day, will continue until its goals are reached: restoring quiet for an extended period of time, and delivering a significant blow to Hamas and the other terrorist organizations in Gaza,” noted the Post. “Prior to the commencement of the ground invasion, the IDF launched a massive wave of combined air and artillery strikes on Thursday night. The ground invasion comes hours after a Hamas assault squad of thirteen highly armed terrorists attempted to carry out a massacre of civilians at Kibbutz Sufa, near the border, before being blocked by the IDF. Infantry, Armored Corps, Engineering Corps, artillery, and intelligence units are taking over various areas in Gaza, and are all working with one another and the air force. They are operating in northern, central, and southern Gaza, where Hamas has dug an extensive terrorist tunnel network. The IDF’s Southern Command is overseeing the ground offensive.”
The IDF was planning to take over areas in the Strip and work to locate and destroy the terror attacks in these areas. The army also prepared additional stages of operation, including getting all the way to the Gaza beach.
“This step is being carried out as a continuation of the objectives achieved so far, and to deal a further serious blow to the Hamas terrorist organization and improve the security situation,” the IDF spokesman said, adding that the army was “calling in more reservists to advance the next stages.”
Residents living near the Gaza border have been instructed to enter bomb shelters and safe room, as a heavy barrage of rockets was fired at southern and central Israel.
“The IDF Home Front Command has taken the necessary steps in all relevant areas, and residents of those areas are called upon to heed defensive instructions as they issued by the media,” Almoz said.
The order to take action Thursday night received Cabinet approval after Israel agreed to an Egyptian proposal for a ceasefire on Tuesday but Hamas rejected it and continued firing rockets at Israeli cities. Nor did Hamas respect the humanitarian ceasefire initiated by the United Nations earlier Thursday, and continued to fire at Israel during the truce.
“In light of Hamas’ incessant criminal aggression and dangerous infiltration into Israeli territory, Israel must act to protect its citizens,” a statement from the PMO said.
“Operation Protective Edge will continue until it has achieved its purpose – restoring quiet to the citizens of Israel for an extended period, with significant damage to the infrastructure of Hamas and other terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip,” the statement went on to say.
UPDATED: (Washington, D.C.) — With the Hamas war on Israel on-going, I’m being asked by pastors and other Christians whether it’s safe to visit Israel right now, or even to take a tour group over there.
Here are a few thoughts:
First and foremost, this is a matter for prayer — ask the Lord for wisdom according to James 1:5, and He will give you His answer. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”
If you don’t feel peace about going, that’s fine. If the Lord doesn’t give you the green light to go, don’t.
That said, if the Lord does give you peace and a “green light” to go, obey Him.
Now is actually a very important time for Christians to visit Israel — to pray for peace, to demonstrate Christ-like love for Israelis and Palestinians, to better understand what’s happening, and to encourage the believers in the Land.
What a great witness and blessing it is to people in the epicenter when followers of Jesus Christ are willing to come visit them at this critical time!
[UPDATE: Even with the news of Israel’s ground operation in Gaza, we are still planning on going to Israel in a few weeks.]Lord willing, my family and I are planning to go to Israel in a few weeks. It’s a long-planned trip, we’re excited to go, and we’re eager to pray with and serve those in the Land, and we’re not going to let this rocket war stop us. That said, if the Lord tells us to cancel or postpone the trip, we will. But right now, we feel very peaceful about proceeding.
We know many others who are traveling to Israel these days and haven’t had any problems. One of The Joshua Fund’s board members and some of our senior staff were just there last week and had experienced no significant difficulties or dangers. We also know other tour groups that are there right now or are heading over there soon and everything is going well.
There are certainly risks, and it’s important to be honest and clear-minded about them.
But remember that most of the rockets fired from Gaza land in fields and don’t injure people or damage buildings.
What’s more, the Iron Dome is shooting down 90% of the rockets that are at risk of falling on populated areas.
And despite this rocket war, it is very important to note that most Israelis and Palestinians are functioning day to day without being affected by the rockets. They’re working and shopping and going to parks and doing errands and carrying on quite normal lives. Sure, they are talking with friends and neighbors about the conflict. They’re praying. They’re watching news coverage. They’re mourning over loved ones or countrymen who have been injured or killed. But life hasn’t come to a stand-still. They’re not paralyzed. Those in Gaza and southern Israel are living in extremely difficult circumstances, to be sure. They’re living in a severe conflict. But most Israelis and all the Palestinians in the West Bank are carrying on with their lives as they typically would.
For example, we have Joshua Fund staff in Israel. By God’s grace, they are operating fine day to day. Their humanitarian relief work has become more challenging in the south because of the rockets. But their day-to-day activities haven’t become paralyzed personally or professionally.
For visitors to Israel, it wouldn’t be advisable to travel down in the south of Israel at this point — but most tour groups don’t head south — they travel to Jerusalem and the north of the country to see the Sea of Galilee, and Caesarea, and Armageddon, etc. Yes, a few rockets have been fired from Lebanon and Syria towards the north, but they were immediately shot down.
Only one Israeli has been killed in this rocket war so far, and he was visiting troops right on the border of Gaza.
Remember: every hotel and public building has bomb shelters. There are also very effective air raid systems. Tour guides and bus drivers are very experienced and know exactly how to keep you safe and secure. So you’ll be in good hands.
Note to pastors: I’d encourage you to go forward with your tours to Israel if they are coming up soon. But you might consider offering people 100% refunds if they don’t feel peaceful about going. Even if you take a smaller group over, that’s good. You’ll have people traveling with you who want to be there, who truly want to learn the history of Israel and the region, and who want to pray faithfully for peace and be a blessing to Jews and Arabs. What a great trip that would be!
A final thought for now: in addition to visiting Israel, consider spending several days in Jordan. I was just there in early May. It’s a beautiful, fascinating, historical country, filled with rich Biblical history. Jesus was there. John the Baptist was there. So were Moses and Joshua, and Elijah and Elisha, David and his mighty men, and so many others. It’s safe and intriguing and worth taking your family and tour group. To read more about my trip, please clickhere.
I hope that’s helpful. May the Lord grant you grace and wisdom as you consider a trip to the epicenter.
Abbas is also actively engaged in the behind-the-scenes discussions, offering to put Palestinian Authority security forces on the Gaza-Egyptian border to prevent weapons smuggling if a cease-fire is established.
Israeli generals are coming to the reluctant conclusion that air strikes alone may not be enough to restore calm.
The IDF is warning 100,000 Gazans to evacuate their homes immediately, presumably because more devastating air strikes — and ground operations — will commence shortly.
The IDF is calling up 8,000 more reservists to add to the 40,000 soldiers already positioned close to Gaza.
Israeli special forces units are already reportedly operating inside of Gaza.
Israel suffered its first war-time casualtyon Tuesday, as a 37 year old man was killed by a direct mortar attack while bringing food to Israeli soldiers near the border.
Clearly, we need to keep praying for calm to be restored soon. After all, so much pain and so much damage has been caused by this latest rocket war so far.
Here’s the latest on possible invasion developments:
“A senior Israeli military official said Wednesday the likelihood of a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip was ‘very high,’ and that ‘if you want to efficiently fight terrorism you must be present, boots on the ground,'” reports the New York Times.
“The official, who has been briefing Israeli ministers who make strategic decisions, said his assessment was based on ‘the signals I get’ and the diminishing returns of aerial bombardment after nine days,” noted the Times. “He said an Israeli takeover of Gaza is ‘not a huge challenge,’ estimating it would take ‘a matter of days or weeks,’ but that preventing a more dangerous devolution in the coastal enclave would require an occupation ‘of many months.'”
“Every day that passes makes the possibility more evident,” the official told a handful of international journalists in a briefing at the military’s Tel Aviv headquarters. “We can hurt them very hard from the air but not get rid of them.”….
“The stark assessment came as Israel bombed 60 targets, most of them in northern Gaza, after warning 100,000 residents to evacuate their homes by 8 a.m. via leaflets, text messages, and automated telephone calls,” the Times added. “The Palestinian death toll reached at least 205 by late afternoon, including four children killed in a strike on the seashore. The lone Israeli casualty, a 37-year-old man killed by a mortar round as he distributed food to soldiers Tuesday night near the Erez crossing, was eulogized by Israel’s president-elect, Reuven Rivlin, at an afternoon funeral.”
Here’s The Big Picture to date:
Over 1261 rocket have been launched at Israel, reports the IDF blog.
984 of those rockets hit Israel
Approximately 228 rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system.
The IDF has targeted over 1,752 terror targets, with both naval and aerial capabilities.
(Washington, D.C.) — What are the latest developments in the rocket war between Hamas and Israel from a geopolitical perspective? What about from a Biblical perspective? Here are podcasts from three radio shows I’ve done in recent days on the crisis. Hope you find them helpful, and please feel free to share them with others.
With events moving so rapidly in Israel and the Arab world — and the United States facing enormous economic, foreign policy, and spiritual challenges — it is vital that we truly understand the times from a Biblical perspective. What’s more, we need to understand what God is asking of each of us, and be faithful to the task.
To these ends, I’ve been asked to speak at two events next month and I hope you can attend at least one of them.
On Thursday evening, August 7th, I’ll be speaking in the Denver, Colorado area.
The topic of my address will be, “The future of America, Israel and the Middle East in the light of the Scriptures.”
The occassion will be the annual fundraising event for Ministry Architecture, Inc. This is the ministry my parents (Len and Mary Rosenberg) started around 14 years ago to provide architectural services for evangelical Christian ministries operating in developing countries who need orphanages, training centers, medical missionary hospitals, and other facilities to show the love of Jesus. Before I speak, my folks will share a bit about the exciting work God is doing through this ministry in countries in Africa and Asia. Then I will discuss the latest developments in the epicenter. And I’m especially looking forward to your questions as that is my favorite part of the evening.
The event will take place at Calvary Chapel South Denver in Littleton, Colorado, from 7:30pm to 9:30pm. Doors will open at 6:30pm. A contribution of $25 per person is requested to help support Ministry Architecture. Contributions are tax deductible. Registration is required, and you can register at www.ministryarchitecture.com. Please join us — I hope to see you there!
The Summit will be held Saturday, August 9th in the Stephens Auditorium in Ames, Iowa, from 10am to 5:30pm.
“The Family Leadership Summit is designed to educate and mobilize the conservative base regarding worldview application and issues that impact the family,” notes the website. “The Summit will provide Iowans the opportunity to hear top conservative national leaders, gathered together in one place, cast their leadership vision.”
(Washington, D.C.) — Early this morning, the Israeli security cabinet voted to accept Egypt’s cease fire proposal.
Hamas leaders, however, promptly rejected the proposal as a “joke.” Instead, they fired a barrage of 47 rockets at Israel just as the Israelis stopped their combat operations.
Senior Israeli government sources say Hamas’ rejection clears the way for Israel to launch new attacks against the terrorists in Gaza. They also say it provides broad international legitimacy for Israel’s defensive efforts because Israel is being seen by world leaders as reasonable while Hamas is clearly the aggressor.
UPDATED AT 7pm EASTERN TIME, MONDAY: (Washington, D.C.) — Egypt has proposed a cease-fire between Israeli and Palestinian militant forces in Gaza which, if accepted by both sides, would go into effect on Tuesday morning at 9am local time.
At this point, it’s impossible to say whether either side is ready to stop. A lot could happen overnight that could change the dynamic one way or the other.
That said, according to Egyptian Foreign Ministry sources cited by Haaretz, these are the proposed terms:
The cease-fire will start at 9 A.M., meaning Israel will stop aerial, naval and ground operations against the Gaza Strip and promise not to engage in a ground offensive or harm civilians.
At the same time, all the Palestinian factions will hold their fire.
Crossings between Gaza and Israel will be reopened, and restrictions on the passage of commodities and people will be eased, in return for a halt to hostilities.
Within 48 hours after the cease-fire, Israeli and Palestinian delegations will arrive in Cairo for continued indirect talks to discuss the details of the truce and its implementation. Egypt will receive guaranties from both sides, and promises to implement the outline.
At the same time, Netanyahu and his war council are making final preparations to authorize a major ground operation in Gaza. The Prime Minister has not made a final decision, but some top military and political advisors are telling him a cease fire would be unwise. They argue Israel needs to move into Gaza, capture scores of terrorists, locate and destroy stockpiles of rockets, and make sure another rocket war cannot happen for a long time to come.
One big question right now: How effective has Israel’s air campaign been in Gaza to date? The Israeli media is filled with contradictory assessments.
The Jerusalem Post is citing sources that Israel’s air war has been incredibly effective at degrading the terrorists’ capacity to wage the rocket war. “The IDF has destroyed around a third of Hamas’s rocket arsenal, half of its rocket production facilities, as well as a large portion of homes used as command and control centers by Hamas brigade and battalion commanders,” reports the Post. “Hundreds of storage facilities hidden underground have also been destroyed. While the IDF’s firepower has been highly effective, Hamas and Islamic Jihad’s firepower has been rendered nearly totally ineffective due the Iron Dome air defense system.”
The Times of Israel, however, is citing sources that indicate Israel’s air campaign has not been terribly effective. “Israel’s Operation Protective Edge, nearly a week old, has been hobbled by insufficient intelligence, an unwillingness to inflict mass harm on Gaza’s civilian population, and Hamas advancements based on takeaways from the last major armed conflict in 2012, according to current and former officials,” reports the Times.
“They still have almost 90 percent of their rockets,” said Yaakov Amidror, a former national security adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The Times adds: “Amidror, who believes that an invasion of Gaza would prove useful in the long term — sparing lives on both sides — said that Israel has not hit Hamas rocket stores, rocket development capacity, and senior personnel for two reasons: a lack of detailed intelligence; and an understanding that, based on the location of the arms and personnel, ‘the collateral damage would be enormous.’….Hamas, aware of Israel’s Achilles’ heel, he continued, placed much of its rocket stores under tall, civilian buildings. ‘Even if we ordered all of the residents out of the buildings,’ he explained, ‘the collateral damage would be massive.’ The secondary explosions, in the middle of a dense urban area, would kill many innocent civilians.”
Please keep praying for an effective end to the conflict soon. Let’s be praying especially for those Palestinian families in Gaza who have been traumatized by this rocket war, and are caught in the crossfire. “Israeli airstrikes in Gaza have so far left 184 people dead and 1,287 wounded in seven days, according to Palestinian emergency rescue services,” reports the Times of Israel. “The death toll now exceeds that of Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012.”
(Washington, D.C.) — In just the past week alone, Palestinian terrorists in Gaza have fired over 1,ooo rockets at Israeli civilians. In recent days, rockets have been fired at Israel from Lebanon and Syria, too. While there have been some injuries, not a single Israeli has been killed by these attacks so far. How is this possible?
Thank God for the “Iron Dome.” So far, Israel’s seemingly-miraculous anti-rocket defense system has:
shot down more than 200 rockets, successfully destroying 90% of the targets it’s been fired at
saved countless Israeli lives in the process.
bought time for Israeli leaders not to have to invade Gaza precipitously, but to be able to gather more and better intelligence on the enemy, mobilize the army, train for a possible invasion, move to the Gaza border, and prepare for a major ground operation in a disciplined, patient, prudent way — and on the timetable of Israel’s civilian leaders, not that of the terrorists.
given Israeli citizens comfort and encouragement that despite this terrorist onslaught, their government is working hard — and effectively — to protect their lives.
allowed the world to see the evil of these Palestinian terrorists who just keep shooting at innocent Israeli civilians with absolutely no prospect of military victory over Israel.
To be clear, the Iron Dome system is not fired at every single incoming Palestinian rocket. It is only activated when the IDF’s super-fast computers calculate the incoming rocket would hit a home, office, factory, or other occupied building or populated place. If the enemy rocket is determined to likely hit just a field or park or fall into the sea or hit some other “harmless” location, the Iron Dome doesn’t fire. Among other things, this ingenious approach saves Israel a lot of money. Each Iron Dome rocket costs an estimated $50,000.
The Israelis developed this unique technology of shooting down a rocket with a smaller, faster rocket with the help of U.S. taxpayer funding. Here are some recent articles, if you’d like to learn more:
Israel says Iron Dome scores 90 percent rocket interception rate (Reuters)
Let’s thank the Lord for those who built and those who run the Iron Dome system. Let’s keep praying an invasion won’t be needed. Let’s pray all this conflict will end very soon, and keep praying for the Lord to show mercy to Israelis and Palestinians on both sides. Thanks.
approximately 201 rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system.
The IDF has targeted over 1,474 terror targets, with both naval and aerial capabilities.
Monday, July 14 — Day #7
1:00 PM: A boy was lightly wounded from shrapnel after a rocket fired from Gaza struck Ashdod.
11:15 AM: TheIron Dome shot down a Gaza rocket above Ashkelon.
1:22 AM:Ashort while ago, several rockets were fired from Lebanon at Israel. One hit an open area. IDF immediately responded towards the source with artillery fire. UNIFIL has been notified of the severity of the incident.
12:32 AM:Rocket sirens sounded in northern Israel.
12:26 AM:Iron Dome just intercepted seven rockets above Ashkelon.
Sunday, July 13 — Day #6
More than 130 rockets were fired from Gaza towards Israel.
At least 102 rockets struck Israel.
22 rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system.