ROCKET WAR UPDATE, Day #5 & 6: What is Hamas trying to accomplish? Will Netanyahu order an invasion?

IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz (left), PM Netanyahu (center), and Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon (right) are assessing what Hamas is trying to accomplish, and whether an IDF invasion of Gaza is the only way forward.

IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz (left), PM Netanyahu (center), and Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon (right) are assessing what Hamas is trying to accomplish, and whether an IDF invasion of Gaza is the only way forward.

(Washington, D.C.) — Why did Hamas start firing rockets at Israeli civilians in mid-June, and why have they intensified their attacks in July? What are their goals? What are they trying to accomplish? And would an Israeli ground invasion of Gaza be effective in restoring calm and degrading Hamas’ capabilities, or make matters worse?

These are critical questions the Netanyahu war council is asking at this moment.

A few thoughts:

Hamas has been severely weakened in recent years.

  • The leaders of Hamas have done a terrible of running the government in Gaza.
  • They’re not providing efficient and effective services for the Palestinian people, creating jobs and economic growth, or building a healthy, well-functioning society.
  • They’ve been deeply affected by the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the rise to power of Egyptian general Al-Sisi — the Egyptian military hates Hamas and thus has been fighting terrorist groups in the Sinai, destroying smuggling tunnels between the Sinai desert and Gaza, intercepting shipments of Syrian and Iranian missiles and arms headed for Gaza, and slowly strangling Hamas.
  • Hamas’ tactics of attacking Israeli civilians year after year after year has caused most of its Arab allies around the region to grow weary or even opposed to the terror group.
  • They still have the backing of Iran and Turkey, but overall external funding for Hamas has been drying up.
  • And the Israelis have been doing a better job intercepting arms shipments to Hamas, and isolating the group internationally.

Hamas’ first plan to reassert itself was to create a “unity” government with Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

  • Hamas agreed to the deal with Abbas and his Fatah party earlier this year, shortly after peace talks broke down between Abbas and Netanyahu.
  • The goal of Hamas leaders — most of whom live in Gaza and have had very little access to the West Bank — was to gain new legitimacy in the West Bank and allow their allies to come “above ground” so that they could eventually gain popular support there and overthrow Abbas and seize power for themselves, just like they did in Gaza in 2006 and 2007.
  • Abbas tried to paint the deal as evidence of Hamas becoming more reasonable — he said this new unity government would reject violence, and that the deal was evidence that the Palestinian Authority could unify differing factions in the West Bank and Gaza and be ready for statehood.
  • But many of Hamas’ radical members bristled at the thought of a deal with Abbas — they said they were still committed to jihad and to annihilating Israel, not creating a two-state solution.

Now Hamas leaders have reversed course — they decided they looked weak by making a deal with Abbas and chose to rebrand themselves as true jihadists.

  • It’s hard for Hamas to recruit violent, angry young men to the cause if they aren’t showing active armed resistance to Israel.
  • Hamas leaders see the success violence jihadists like ISIS are having in Iraq and Syria and don’t want to be left in the dust.
  • So much of this rocket war is an internal re-branding effort to look tough and recruit new members and divert the attention of the Palestinian people of Gaza from how poorly Hamas is running basic services in the Gaza Strip — better to get people unified by focusing on their enemy Israel.

Hamas leaders know they cannot defeat Israel militarily, but they believe they can defeat Israel in the court of global public opinion.

  • By firing rockets at Israel, Hamas gets Israel to shoot back.
  • By using Palestinian civilians as human shields, Hamas increases the chance that Palestinian civilians — especially women and children — will be killed by Israeli forces.
  • The more Palestinian civilians who die, the better for Hamas leader, because by getting Israel to kill a growing number of Palestinians Hamas believes Israel will seem more and more like the evil aggressors and international public opinion will turn harshly against Israel.

The big question for Israeli leaders now is how to stop Hamas from firing rockets without getting sucked into the Hamas trap and appearing as the “bad guy” on the international stage.

This, in large part, is why Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his war council are being so cautious about a massive ground invasion of Gaza. Yes, Netanyahu knows it may take IDF ground forces to capture Hamas terror leaders and operatives, find all or most of the rocket launches and stockpiles of rockets and other arms, and bring a final end to these relentless rocket attacks on Israeli civilians. However, if he can use air power to accomplish many or most of his goals, Netanyahu would far prefer this. He doesn’t want to get sucked into a war in Gaza on Hamas’ terms.

I’m not saying he won’t order a large ground operation, possibly soon. I’m just pointing out that while many Israeli political leaders and commentators are urging him to move harder and more decisively into Gaza, Netanyahu is trying to carefully gauge how much can be accomplished from the air. Remember, he was an IDF special forces commando. He knows the IDF’s capabilities and the difference between air power and “boots on the ground.” But remember that he also lost his older brother, Yonatan, in a special forces operation in Entebbe, Uganda. He knows the grief families suffer when a soldier falls in the line of duty, even when the mission is essential. He is trying to decide at this moment if a ground operation is essential.

Here’s some of the latest reporting from Israel on the internal debate under way inside the Netanyahu war room.

“As rocket fire from Gaza almost completely stopped for several hours Saturday morning, the IDF completed preparations for an initial ground incursion into the Strip and now only waits for orders from the prime minister and defense minister,” reports Ynet News. “It’s been revealed to Ynet that even amid the fight between senior government officials there is almost complete consensus that a ground operation in Gaza is necessary in order to deal a devastating blow to the infrastructure of terror – a blow that will have long term affects.”

“However, Major General Amir Eshel, commander of the IAF, is trying to convince the Chief of Staff and Defense Minister that the Air Force can accomplish the same goals itself, destroying Hamas’ rocket manufacturing capabilities and striking smuggling tunnels used by terror cells,” the Israeli news service adds. “The Air Force commander claims that the methods of attack, quality intelligence, the ability to hit multiple targets in a short amount of time and precision guided weapons, can be effective no less that a large scale ground offensive which is bound to involve heavy losses and many errors.” 

“Eshel’s opinion has been at least partially adopted and the prime minister, defense minister and chief of staff are giving the IAF free reign to act according to the strategy that he has presented,” notes Ynet. “Along those lines the IDF continued the full pace of attacks on Friday night and Saturday morning and even increased the attack on the houses of Islamic Jihad and Hamas commanders all over the Gaza Strip.”

Let’s keep praying an invasion won’t be needed. Let’s pray all this will end very soon, and let’s pray for the Lord to show mercy to Israelis and Palestinians on both sides. Thanks.

The Big Picture:

Since the start of the operation, according to the IDF blog.

  • over 809 rocket have been launched at Israel. 
  • 635 of those rockets hit Israel
  • approximately 145 rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system. 
  • The IDF has targeted over 1320 terror targets, with both naval and aerial capabilities.

Saturday, July 12 — Day #5

Summary of the day, according to the IDF blog:

  • More than 129 rockets were fired from Gaza towards Israel.
  • At least 117 rockets struck Israel.
  • 9 rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system.
  • The IDF hit 120 terror targets in the Gaza Strip.


ROCKET WAR UPDATE, DAY #4. Also, Why won’t Abbas order his security forces to stop the rocket fire, or even publicly condemn the attacks on Israel?

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

(Washington, D.C.) — I’m sorry to report there is no evidence the rocket war is letting up. To the contrary, the rockets are still flying, and Israel is clearly preparing to invade Gaza. So please keep praying for things to calm down, and praying for the Lord to comfort and protect Israelis and Palestinians.

Here are the latest developments:

  • On Friday, 140 rockets were fired at Israel, 27 of which were intercepted by the Iron Dome.
  • Since the beginning of “Operation Protective Edge,” at least 680 rockets and missiles have been fired from Gaza at Israel.
  • 520 have hit Israel
  • 140 were intercepted by the Iron Dome system.
  • The IDF has struck approximately 1,002 terrorist targets in Gaza

Early Friday morning, Israel was also hit by three rockets fired from Lebanon. To its credit, the Lebanese Army later captured a terrorist who was preparing to launch two more rockets at Israel.

Geopolitically, the biggest development of the day was what didn’t happen. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas still hasn’t publicly, clearly, and convincingly condemned the rocket fire by Hamas, Islamic Jihad or his own Fatah faction. Nor has he ordered Palestinian security forces to stop the terrorists from firing these rockets at Israel.

Why not?

In June, Abbas did publicly condemn the firing of just a few rockets from Gaza at Israel. Why is he now refusing to condemn or stop the firing of more than 680 rockets at Israel in July? I grieve for the Palestinians in Gaza who are suffering so much. But this suffering is being brought about by terrorists who have hijacked the Gaza Strip to use it as one massive rocket launcher against Israel. And the Palestinian government refuses to do anything about it.

Meanwhile, Abbas is calling Israel’s actions an act of “genocide.” Why? He certainly wants to identify with the suffering of those who have been killed and their families. That’s understandable. But to charge Israel with genocide is so over the top one wonders why Abbas is reaching so far. At this point, approximately 100 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed so far. Now, to be clear, many of those were terrorists. Some were civilians. That is true. But many of these were civilians who refused to leave buildings used by terrorists that the Israelis were about to strike, despite warnings by the IDF (via text messages and phone calls) to leave immediately or risk being fired upon.

Every death of an innocent person is tragic, and my heart breaks for those who have lost loved ones, whether they were innocent or guilty. But let’s be fair — this is not genocide. This is not a systematic effort to exterminate the Palestinian people. And Israel has vowed to stop attacking Hamas as soon as Hamas and the other terror groups stop firing at Israeli civilians. As the New York Times reported yesterday, Israel is going to extraordinary lengths to prevent civilian casualties. Meanwhile, the terrorists are purposefully firing rocket at innocent civilians in order specifically to cause civilian casualties.

“The most striking aspect of ongoing Arab reactions to the latest Hamas-Israeli clashes is an act of omission: the Palestinian Authority (PA) and President Mahmoud Abbas are not calling for Hamas to stop firing rockets into Israeli cities,” notes David Pollack of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “This contradicts Abbas’s recent declarations that the new PA government and its Hamas backers would honor past PA commitments regarding nonviolence against Israel. A new statement from Abbas’s office claims that “the Palestinians have the right to defend themselves by all legitimate means” against ‘Israeli escalation.’ In today’s latest twist, Abbas and the PA are not just calling for Israel to stop its airstrikes against Hamas targets inside Gaza. According to several plausible press reports, they are also threatening to haul Israel before the International Criminal Court for the ‘war crime’ or ‘genocide’ of responding to Hamas rocket attacks. PA messaging, moreover, makes no effort to distinguish between the Hamas ‘political leadership’ — which signed the reconciliation agreement with the PA’s ruling Fatah Party and may have attempted to restrain the initial rocket salvos — and the Hamas ‘military wing,’ which some PA officials privately blame for trying to torpedo reconciliation by firing indiscriminately at Israel.”

I don’t pretend to understand completely the motives of Abbas and his government. And I’m not saying Netanyahu and his government are saints and doing everything right. But I am praying for all of them anyway. I am praying the Lord bless and show mercy to the Palestinian people, as well as to the Israelis. I am praying the Lord draws people on both sides to Himself, and I’m praying for pastors and Christian leaders on both sides to be strong and brave and to have wisdom to know how to bless their people with Christ’s mercy and unconditional love.

Here is the latest  minute-by-minute update on the war for Friday and Thursday, according to the IDF blog:

Friday, July 11

9:58 PM: Four rockets were fired from Gaza to Beer Sheva. One hit a house, injuring a woman. Two were intercepted by the Iron Dome, and one hit an open area

9:23 PM: A short while ago, the Israel Air Force targeted the rocket launcher in Gaza that fired at central Israel about two and a half hours ago.

9:20 PM: A few minutes ago, the Iron Dome intercepted two rockets over Beer Sheva and one rocket over the Tel Aviv metropolitan area.

8:56 PM: Moments ago, two rockets were intercepted over the Tel Aviv metropolitan area.

7:16 PM: Initial report: An anti-tank missile fired from northern Gaza lightly wounded two IDF soldiers patrolling the security fence.

6:43 PM: The Iron Dome intercepted one rocket over the Tel Aviv metropolitan area.

4:55 PM: Over 70 rockets were fired at Israel since midnight, out of which 53 hit Israel and 18 were intercepted.

4:02 PM: Two rockets fired from Gaza struck Beer Sheva

2:00 PM: IDF Chief of Staff: Terrorists in Gaza made a grave mistake by attacking the people of Israel. They are bringing disaster upon themselves.

8:00 AM: A rocket fired from Lebanon hit an open area near Metula a short time ago. In response, IDF forces opened fire at the source of rocket fire

3:28 AM: Rocket sirens sounded in the Haifa area, located more than 140 km (87 miles) from the Gaza Strip.

Thursday, July 10 

Updated summary of the day:

  • More than 192 rockets were fired from Gaza towards Israel.
  • At least 141 rockets hit Israel.
  • 44 rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system.
  • The IDF struck 210 terror targets in the Gaza Strip


Here’s our new Joshua Fund video update on the rocket war in the epicenter. Please share with others.

Watch the latest video update at

Watch the latest video update at

(Washington, D.C.) — The Joshua Fund is working to educate Christians around the world as to what is happening in the epicenter amidst this latest rocket war, and trying to mobilize believers to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem,” as the Bible commands.

With your prayers and generous financial support, The Joshua Fund team in Israel is also providing food and other humanitarian relief to the poor and needy — both Jews and Arabs — and doing our best to bless and care for those who are living in the rocket zone.

Here’s the most recent video I did for TJF, explaining the latest developments and sharing some prayer requests. It runs a little over six minutes.

Please watch it by clicking here — please also share it with others to encourage them to pray and get involved in this important work.

Thanks so much and may God bless you and your family as you bless Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus, according to Genesis 12:1-3.



Growing evidence Israel is preparing for massive ground operation in Gaza. Here’s the latest.

Israeli tanks heading towards Gaza.

Israeli tanks heading towards Gaza.

UPDATED: (Washington, D.C.) — On Day Four of “Operation Protective Edge,” there are growing calls by Israeli security experts, political leaders and commentators for a massive ground operation inside Gaza to arrest thousands of terrorists, capture weapons and ammunition, and bring the rocket fire to an end.

Let us pray this isn’t necessary. There enormous risks and downsides for both sides on so many levels. But it’s important to understand this is being actively discussed.

Prime Minister Netanyahu and his Cabinet have made no decision to do so thus far.

But clearly preparations are being made. The IDF has called up 40,000 reservists. Tanks and other mechanized units are moving towards the border of Gaza. Palestinians living near Gaza’s border with Israel are being told by Israel to leave the area at once.

This could be a bluff, a way to convince Hamas and Islamic Jihad to stand down or risk being overwhelmed by Israeli forces. In November 2012, I was in Israel when another rocket war occurred. Netanyahu deployed IDF forces to Gaza’s border and threatened invasion, and Hamas backed down and stopped firing rockets.

However, this is the third major round in the rocket wars in the last five years. There was 2009’s “Operation Cast Lead,” and 2012’s “Operation Pillar of Defense.”

Now there is a growing sense in the Israeli military and political establishment that air power alone won’t be enough, and that ground operations may be the only way to truly quiet things down for the long haul.

For example:

  • Avi Dichter, the former internal security and homefront defense minister‎, Shin Bet security agency director, and Knesset member, today argued that the time has come for a “strategic campaign” against Hamas that will likely last a year or two. “Without destroying the terrorists’ military infrastructure in Gaza we will continue living from one round of shooting to the next, as the time in between rounds decreases and the range of the rockets increases,” writes Dichter. “They have already dragged half of our population into a war of attrition. Our airstrikes are approaching the point of decreasing effectiveness, when they will no longer stop or reduce the amount of shooting at Israel. Hamas terrorists and their leaders are acting according to their capabilities, not according to our logic. The time is ripe to switch from tactical operations (Pillar of Defense, Cast Lead, Protective Edge) to a strategic campaign which will dramatically diminish the terrorists’ ability to hurt us. This campaign is not something that should last for just a month or two — rather a year or two. There is absolutely no reason to abandon the Israeli public to more years of living under fire. We defeated suicide terrorism and we will be able to eradicate rocket terrorism. Arresting thousands of terrorists in Gaza and continuing the airstrikes will produce the intelligence required to reformat terrorism in Gaza. This is what our civilian and military leaders need to do.”
  • Maj. Gen. (res.) Uzi Dayan, a former IDF deputy chief of general staff and former head of the National Security Council, writes: “Is it possible to defeat a terrorist group? Can these objectives be achieved using military force? The answer to both questions is yes. A terrorist group with a territorial base can be deterred by threatening its hold on that base. The destruction of Hamas governing infrastructure and the targeted killing or expulsion of Hamas leaders are attainable goals. Will this require a ground operation? Will such an operation involve the loss of troops? Yes and yes. Every military commander knows the challenge is to fulfill the mission and protect soldiers, in that order. Our sensitivity regarding the lives of soldiers is an asset, but when it becomes the main consideration, this undermines the main mission of the IDF — providing security to the citizens of Israel.”

Please keep praying for calm, for the Lord to protect Israelis and Palestinians on both sides, and for the Lord to draw people in the epicenter to Himself. Please pray, too, that a ground operation won’t be needed and that the fighting will stop soon.

In the meantime, I’ll do my best to keep you posted on the latest developments on this blog, and on Twitter.


ROCKET WAR UPDATE: Terrorists using longer range rockets against Israel than ever before. Israel warning Gazans by phone calls, text messages & leaflets of impending attacks.

(Washington, D.C.) — “Zionists, wait and see stabbing attacks everywhere. Wait for suicide attacks on every bus, café and street. Wait for the rage and for revenge for Gaza, wait for the flames of the West Bank and inside you [Israel]…”Zionists, [we] can reach you above ground and below it. So start counting the number of coffins you’ll need in these months.” This is the message of a new Hamas propaganda video, just released.

The terrorists in Gaza are using longer ranger rockets and missiles than ever before (source: IDF blog)

The terrorists in Gaza are using longer ranger rockets and missiles than ever before (source: IDF blog)

As Hamas ratchets up their rhetoric, here is a quick briefing on the latest developments in the rocket war:

  • Since July 1st, Palestinian terrorists in Gaza have fired more than 469 rockets and missiles have been fired at Israel.
  • Today, Thursday, at least 120 rockets have been fired at Israel.
  • On Wednesday, 105 rockets were fired at Israel.
  • Please download the “Red Alert” app to your iPhone or iPad to be informed every time rockets are fired at Israel. This is a great tool to stop and pray for Israelis and Palestinians every time the sirens go off — click here for more details.
  • The terrorists are using rockets and missiles with a much longer range than ever before — they are not only able to hit Tel Aviv, but they are striking targets as far north as Caesarea.
  • These longer range weapons are coming from Syria and Iran.
  • The terrorists are not firing at military targets.
  • Rather, they are randomly shooting at Israeli cities and towns, trying to hit civilians.
  • Thus, most of these attacks are double war crimes — that is, the terrorists are firing at innocent civilians which is a war crime; and often they are shooting at Israeli civilians from schools, hospitals, apartment buildings and other civilian facilities, which is another war crime.
  • Remarkably, the Israelis are continuing to send the people of Gaza food and fuel during this conflict — the IDF reports that 1,228 tons of food were trucked into Gaza from Israel on Wednesday, along with 290,000 liters of fuel.
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered the IDF to call-up 40,000 reservists for a possible invasion of Gaza — but no final decision has been made and let’s pray that’s not needed and things calm down quickly.
  • In a particularly disturbing development, the armed faction of the Palestinian political party known as “Fatah” has announced that it, too, is firing rockets from Gaza at Israel — Fatah is the party led by Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority.
  • The IDF has attacked about 780 Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets in the Gaza Strip so far, striking rocket launchers, buildings housing missiles and other weapons, and the homes and vehicles of terrorist commanders.
  • No Israelis have been killed in the fighting so far, though there have been injuries.
  • Several dozen Palestinian terrorists and some civilians have been killed in Gaza and others have been injured.

That said, the Israelis are taking special precautions to minimize civilian deaths in Gaza.

Here are excerpts from a New York Times story, “Israel Warns Gaza Targets by Phone and Leaflet”:

  • Israel [has a] policy in which occupants of a building about to be bombed or shelled are given a brief warning in Arabic to evacuate.
  • The Israelis have used such telephone calls and leaflets for years now, in a stated effort to reduce civilian casualties and avoid charges of indiscriminate killings or even of crimes against the rules of war.
  • During Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in late 2008, the Israelis often used telephone calls and leaflets to tell occupants to leave before striking.
  • In some cases, the Israelis fired missiles without explosive warheads onto the roof to get Palestinians who had gathered there to leave.
  • But often, as in the Khan Younis case on Tuesday, people die in any case, because they ignore or defy the warnings, or try to leave after it is too late. And, of course, sometimes bombs and missiles do not hit the building at which they are aimed.
  • The Israelis also regularly drop leaflets over Gaza urging citizens not to cooperate with terrorism and to stay away from border zones….
  • Israel also uses leaflets in Arabic, some of them intended as warnings and others as propaganda. On Tuesday, many were dropped over northern Gaza near Israel. One said that “the terrorist elements, tunnel owners and arms smugglers know very well that the continuation of the terror operations, the smuggling of arms and the digging of tunnels constitute a lasting target for the operations of the Israel Defense Forces.”
  • “However,” it said, “they continue working from the areas you live in and take you as cover.”
  • The leaflet urged residents not to allow their houses to be used as cover for digging tunnels or smuggling weapons, and provided an email address and phone number for people to report on such activities around them, saying, “Don’t stand idle as the terrorist elements use you.”


  • Please pray that the fighting will stop soon.
  • Pray for calm on both sides of the border.
  • Pray for healing and comfort for those who have been wounded in the conflict, and for comfort for the families and friends of those killed.
  • Pray for the Lord to comfort the millions of innocent civilians on both sides who are constantly running into bomb shelters.
  • Pray for wisdom for leaders on both sides, and for international leaders trying to bring about a cease fire.
  • Pray for Israeli and Palestinian followers of Christ and their pastors as they seek to be a blessing to their people and to be a light for the Gospel in the darkness.
  • Please pray, too, for The Joshua Fund team as we seek to be blessing to Jews and Arabs amidst this crisis


MINUTE BY MINUTE: Thursday, July 10

“In order to restore quiet to the region and stop Hamas terrorism, the IDF has commenced Operation Protective Edge,” reports the IDF blog. “The operation has one goal: to stop Hamas’ incessant rocket attacks against Israel’s civilians. Since the start of the operation, over 469 rockets have been fired towards Israel and the IDF has targeted approximately 780 targets, with both naval and aerial capabilities.”

Update: 8:00 PM: IDF keeps border crossing open all day despite 120 rockets being fired from Israel 

6:10 PM: 4 Rockets Fired at Jerusalem; 2 intercepted and 2 land in a open field. 

Update: 4:40 PM: The IDF targeted 3 Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists in Gaza: Mahmoud Walud, Hazm Balusha & Alla’a Abd Al-Nabi. Al-Nabi was a senior PIJ terrorist who was responsible for launching rockets capable of reaching Tel Aviv.

4:10 PM: Iron dome intercepts rockets of Ashkelon

Update: 4:00 PM: Palestinian terrorists in Gaza have fired 96 rockets at Israel today, and 442 in the past 3 days.

2:00 PM: 20 rockets were fired from Gaza; the Iron Dome intercepted 8 of them above the Shfela area (Judean foothills).

11:30 AM: More rocket sirens in Tel Aviv

10:00 AM: Initial report: At least 3 rockets have hit residential communities in the Negev.

9:18 AM: The Iron Dome intercepted a rocket above the Israeli community of Netivot.

8:15 AM: The Iron Dome system intercepted at least one rocket above Tel Aviv.

8:00 AM: IDF targeted three PIJ terrorists involved in rocket manufacturing in northern Gaza.

7:52 AM: Earlier this morning, the IDF targeted three Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists who were involved in the manufacturing of medium-range rockets. A hit was identified.

6:20 AM: Since midnight, 8 rockets have been fired at Israel by Hamas terrorists and the IDF has hit 54 terror targets in the Gaza Strip.

4:00 AM: Yesterday, 90 rockets hit Israel. An additional 24 were intercepted by Iron Dome.

1:33 AM: Two rockets intercepted over Beer Sheva. An additional rocket landed nearby.

12:57 AM: In the past 24 hours, more than 105 rockets were launched from Gaza towards Israel. In response to the continued rocket fire, the IDF struck 326 targets across the Gaza Strip including concealed rocket launchers, terror tunnels, training bases, military compounds, weapons storage and manufacturing facilities, and additional sites utilized as control centers by senior Hamas terrorists.


Are there any moderate Palestinian leaders who truly want peace? Yes. Meet one: Salam Fayyad.

aspen-friedmanFayyad(Washington, D.C.) — As I watch the current crisis, I am deeply concerned for Israeli civilians, especially those who live in the south. But my also heart breaks for the Palestinians, especially those who live in Gaza.

Both sides are suffering. Both sides are feeling pain. And as a follower of Jesus Christ, I want to find ways that Christians can bless and care for and show compassion to both sides.

At the same time, I admit that I find myself asking difficult questions:

  • Why did Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority (PA) recently make a peace agreement with Hamas, a terrorist organization affiliated with the Radicals of the Muslim Brotherhood?
  • Why isn’t the PA deploying security forces in Gaza to stop the Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists to stop the rockets from being fired at Israel, and thus ending the need for Israel to retaliate?
  • Why isn’t the PA taking the lead in fighting the terrorists and retaking control of Gaza and making it quiet, calm and safe?
  • Why after nine years since Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip and handed full control over to the PA have the Palestinian leadership not turned Gaza into a model of freedom and opportunity, rather than a place of such suffering and sadness and a base camp for terrorism?

At the moment, I don’t see clear answers to these questions. That doesn’t mean I will stop having compassion on the Palestinian people. To the contrary, I feel even more compassion because I don’t see their leaders making wise choices to truly help their people. Rather, I see the Palestinians in Gaza as sheep without a shepherd, feeling harassed and helpless.

Sometimes I find myself wondering, along with many Americans: Are there moderate Palestinians out there who don’t want war but truly seek peace? Are there any Palestinian leaders who are true Reformers, who don’t simply want to talk about making peace, but are serious about building competent security services who will make and enforce true peace? Are there Palestinian Reformers who are serious about creating an economic and civil infrastructure in the West Bank and Gaza capable of blessing the Palestinian people and establishing the foundation upon which peace with Israelis can be built?

Fortunately, I believe the answer is yes. The problem is such people currently have little or no political power right now.

In recent years, I have come to know many Palestinian Arab Christians — pastors and lay leaders — and I can assure you they don’t want war with Israel. Some are political. Most aren’t. They’re mostly Revivalists who believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the main hope for their people. At the same time, they truly want a peaceful environment where they can serve the Lord and make disciples and care for the poor and needy and raise their children and build a future without this terrible scourge of violence. We don’t agree on all matters of theology, or geopolitics. But that’s okay. They love Christ. They love His Word. They are serving Him faithfully. Indeed, they have suffered for His name, and they are seeking peace for their people, and for their neighbors. I admire and appreciate them for that. May their tribe increase.

I have also met a Palestinian officials and business leaders who I also believe truly seek peace. I know first hand that it is not accurate to believe that all Palestinians are cheering this rocket war with Israel. Just the opposite is true. Many Palestinians are grieving what is happening, as are Arabs elsewhere in the region. Jordan’s King Abdullah II, for example, and his government are true moderate Arab Reformers. They don’t want this war. They have made peace with Israel and they want peace and dignity for the Palestinian people, as well as for the Israelis.

One leader I have not yet met, but would like to, is a man named Salam Fayyad. You may not have ever heard of him, but it’s worth your time to learn about him and listen to his views.

Fayyad is a Palestinian. An economist. A moderate. A Reformer. Until not long ago, he served as the Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Before that, he served as the PA’s Finance Minister. To read several excellent columns and articles about his ideas and his work, please click here, here, and here.

On July 3rd — as the latest rocket war intensified — Fayyad participated in a conversation with New York Times columnist Tom Friedman at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado. It was a fascinating conversation, and I commend it to your attention. You may not agree with everything he says. But it’s important to listen to an interesting, principled, experienced Palestinian husband, father, and leader who cares deeply for his people and wants to create a calm, peaceful, prosperous environment for both Palestinians and Israelis.

You can watch the video by clicking here — it lasts about an hour.

Please pray for Dr. Fayyad, for his family and his colleagues. Among other things, please pray that he and other Reformers like him would have increasing influence in the Palestinian society.

As an evangelical Christian, I know that the Scriptures teach that true, lasting, comprehensive peace will never come to the Middle East or the rest of the world until the Lord Jesus Christ — whom the prophet Isaiah described as the “Prince of Peace” — returns to establish His kingdom and reign from Jerusalem. What’s more, I realized that Bible prophecy indicates that in the last days leading up to the return of Christ, the Middle East and nations around the globe will experience “wars and rumors of wars,” along with “revolutions” and “kingdoms rising against kingdoms and nations against nations.”

But I also know that the Bible commands believers not to wait for that final, perfect peace, but to seek peace here and now.

  • “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem,” we read in Psalm 122:6.
  • “Depart from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it,” we read in Psalm 34:14 and 1 Peter 3:11.
  • Jesus said in Matthew 5:9, “Blessed are the peacemakers.”
  • The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 14:19, “So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.”
  • “Love your neighbors as yourself,” said Jesus in Matthew 19:19.
  • “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” Jesus said in Matthew 5:44.

The Bible is clear that governments are instituted by God to establish justice and protect people from all enemies, foreign and domestic. So followers of Christ should want all people to be governed by honest leaders who can establish safety, security and environment of hope, growth and opportunity. This is all part of our Biblical commitment to seeking peace, making peace, and not letting ourselves become cynical when peace efforts falter.

As people who love Christ and care about the people of the epicenter, we must start by praying for peace. But let us not stop there. Now, more than ever, we need to be seeking peace in the epicenter. Because people on both sides are suffering and God loves the Arabs and the Jews.



Short video: What does the term “epicenter” mean & why is it important?

epicenter-videoI often use the term “epicenter” when talking about the Middle East.

In 2006, I wrote a non-fiction book with that title. Later, we released an updated paperback version, Epicenter 2.0. We also produced a documentary film by that name. And The Joshua Fund also hosts regular Epicenter Conferences.

  • What does the term “epicenter” really mean?
  • What is its Scriptural basis?
  • Why is it important?

The Joshua Fund recently posted a 4;26 minute video clip of me explaining the term — you can watch it by clicking here.

Feel free to share it with friends, as well.




Palestinians fire barrage of rockets at Jerusalem & Tel Aviv. One hits house near Jerusalem. Latest developments….

Gaza-2rocketsfiredatnightPalestinian terrorists in Gaza intensified their offensive on Tuesday, firing a barrage of rockets and missiles at Israel all day, including longer-range rockets at Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Final IDF tally for Tuesday: 146 rockets were fired at Israel from Gaza, 29 of which were shot down.

Israel’s Channel 7 news is reporting that a house near Jerusalem was hit, though no one was injured.

At the same time, the Israeli Air Force says they have hit 200 Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets in Gaza.

The IDF is calling up 40,000 reservists in preparation for a possible invasion of Gaza, though Netanyahu and his Cabinet have not made any final decisions.

Here is the latest coverage from the Times of Israel:

  • Three explosions are heard in Jerusalem after Code Red sirens blare in the capital.
  • Sirens are also heard in Binyamina and Kibbutz Ma’agan Michael in northern Israel, Rishon Lezion in central Israel and Beersheba and Ashdod in southern Israel.
  • After a rocket was shot down over Tel Aviv earlier today, a second siren is heard in the city, followed by two explosions and a third siren.
  • Israel just underwent a massive volley of some 30 rockets, with sirens blaring in southern Israel and as far north as Binyamina, as well as in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
  • Several rockets were reported shot down by Iron Dome, but shrapnel from an interception causes damage to a wedding hall in Ashdod where nuptials are taking place. No injuries reported.
  • In Jerusalem conflicting reports indicate rockets may have been shot down or impacted outside the city. Residents report hearing a series of three explosions.
  • After two rockets take Tel Aviv by surprise and are shot down by Iron Dome, residents of the city complain that they can’t hear the Code Red alerts warning of an incoming projectile.
  • Though the sirens sound in other cities adjacent to Tel Aviv or near it, the alarms do not always sound inside the city, leading residents to voice their concern.



Escalation: 100+ rockets fired at Israel since midnight. IDF calls up 40,000 reservists for possible ground operation in Gaza

Rockets fired at Israel from Gaza.

Rockets fired at Israel from Gaza.

(Washington, D.C.) — My heart is breaking over the escalating violence between Israelis and Palestinians as the situation goes from bad to worse, hour by hour.

  • In recent days, Palestinian extremists kidnapped and murdered three Israeli teenage boys.
  • Then Jewish extremists kidnapped and murdered an Arab teenage boy, apparently burning him alive.
  • Meanwhile, Palestinian extremists in Gaza began firing rockets at Jewish and Arab civilians in southern Israel.
  • More than 220 rockets have been fired at Israel since July 1st. And just since midnight, more than 100 rockets were fired at Israel.
  • Israel’s “Iron Dome” system is shooting down many of them.
  • The Israeli Air Force is striking Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets in Gaza.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Netanyahu and his government authorized “Operative Protective Edge” to ratchet up attacks on the terrorists in Gaza. The IDF is calling up 40,000 reservists for a possible massive ground invasion of Gaza.

Please keep praying for Israelis and Palestinians along the lines I suggested in my last post.

At the same time, here are the latest developments, as reported by the Times of Israel:

  • “Israel launched a major operation against Gaza in the early hours of Tuesday morning, dubbed Operation Protective Edge, following heavy Hamas rocket fire over the preceding days,” the Times of Israel reports. “The fast-escalating situation in the south comes in the shadow of spiking Jewish-Arab tensions in Israel over the brutal killings of four teenagers — three Jews and one Arab — by extremists.”
  • Army figures show that since midnight [Tuesday], terrorists in Gaza have fired 130 rockets at southern Israel, while the Israeli air force has struck 150 terror-related targets in Gaza.
  • The Central and Northern commands have called up thousands of reserve soldiers, Ynet reports.
  • Earlier, Israel approved an IDF request to call up as many as 40,000 reserve combat troops.
  • IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz asked for the additional troops earlier in the day.
  • The additional forces are slated to replace active duty battalions on other fronts, freeing them up for a possible ground incursion into the Strip as part of Operation Protective Edge.
  • Channel 2′s Roni Daniel quotes a “very, very senior” IDF officer as saying that Operation Protective Edge will last a “very, very long time.”
  • The officer says a ground operation “is certainly being considered,” while Daniel himself assesses that “a ground operation will certainly be necessary.”
  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with the heads of regional council affected by the rocket fire from Gaza, telling them that they should prepare for a “long and determined campaign against Hamas until quiet returns.” The mayors Netanyahu speaks with hail from Sderot, Ashkelon, Be’er Sheva, Kiryat Malachi, Hof Ashkelon, Ofakim, Yoav, Shaar Hanegev, Merhavim, Gan Yavne, Sdot Negev and Be’er Tuvia.
  • Maj. Gen. (ret) Yaakov Amidror, a former national security adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, says in a conference call with journalists that there is only one aim to the current operation: to stop the rocket fire on Israeli cities and citizens. He says that Israel could conquer Gaza “and clean it from all the facilities and terrorists of Hamas,” but that such an operation would take months and does not now seem to be among the immediate goals of the current government. If the security situation continues to deteriorate, though, he says —  “if we do not find a solution through this exchange of fire, and Hamas will not understand what we can do, we will not have any other choice but the big operation, which we don’t want.” Saying that for Hamas every civilian street and building is a target, Amidror asserts that the organization, which has several thousand rockets with a range of up to 40 kilometers and hundreds with an 80-kilometer range, could continue launching “forever.”



“Red Alert” app notifies you every time rocket is fired at Israel so you can pray.

RedAlert-appAs the security situation in southern Israel deteriorates rapidly, we need to be praying without ceasing.

  • More than 220 rockets have been fired at Israel by Palestinian terrorists in Gaza since July 1st.
  • On Monday evening alone, more than 100 rockets were fired at Israel.
  • At one point, they were coming in at about one per minute.

Let us, therefore, pray faithfully: 

  • for the Lord to restore calm on the Israeli/Gaza border
  • for Palestinian leaders and security forces to move decisively to arrest those committing these war crimes, firing at innocent civilians
  • for Israeli leaders to have wisdom to know how best to protect their citizens
  • for safety for Israelis and Palestinians caught in the crossfire
  • for the Lord to comfort people on both sides, reveal His Word to them, and draw them to Himself

This morning, Lynn and I learned about an app called “Red Alert.” We both installed it on our iPhones. It alerts us every time a rocket is fired at Israel. It also tells us what city or town is being targeted.

We’re using it to pray for Israelis and Palestinians each time the alert goes off.


It’s a free app, and you can get it on iTunes – here’s the link. I’d encourage you to download it and use it to pray every time the siren sounds. Please let other people know about this and encourage them to download the app and use it to pray, as well.


>> Learn more about The Joshua Fund ( This an organization my wife and I founded in 2006 to educate and mobilize Christians to bless Israel and her Arab neighbors in the name of Jesus, including caring for the poor and needy with food and other humanitarian relief. Read our 2013 Donor Report. Please pray for our team, especially as they care for people in the rocket zone. And please prayerfully consider making a generous, tax deductible, secure, on-line contribution.

>> I’ll be speaking at The Family Leadership Summit in Iowa on August 9th. Please click here for details and to register.