Increased Military Action in Gaza
Almost three years ago, Israel pulled out all of its citizens (9,000) who were living in homes in settlements in Gaza, as well as all of its military units. Shortly after that the Hamas movement took over the government of Gaza. Since that time, to the disappointment of Israel, the Hamas government has continued terrorist actions and Jihadist propaganda against Israel.
Last Wednesday, 27 of February, Hamas began increasing missile attacks on Israel. In the five days from Wednesday to Sunday, until the time of this writing, 183 missiles were shot from Gaza into Israel, including 20 Grad missiles, several of which even reached the city of Ashkelon (population: 120,000).
Israel was faced with a dilemma. We could not just let the attacks continue. No country in the world would allow another country to fire missiles into its population centers. Yet to reoccupy all of Gaza would lead to a much larger number of casualties and to a nearly impossible situation to control afterward. The government decided on a firm, but moderate operation into Gaza to deter the rocket attacks.
In the middle of the night between Friday and Saturday, the Givati division of the IDF entered Gaza, primarily to the area of Gibaleah, opposite the Israeli town of Sederot, which received most of the rocket attacks. The Israeli attacks were aimed at destroying the following targets: 1.) Hamas headquarters and leaders, 2.) weapons warehouses, 3.) missile firing sites, 4.) trucks carrying weapons, 5.) Hamas active military units.
One of the difficulties in the fighting is that Hamas purposefully fires its missiles toward Israeli population centers, and locates its own weapons units in the midst of their own Palestinian population. Hamas propaganda blames Israel for atrocities and at the same time, calls for its own civilians to assembly and stand in as "human shields" in areas that are likely to be military targets.
In one instance, Israel blew up a truck with 160 missiles in it, located in a populated neighborhood of Gibaleah. In the recent fighting, hundreds have been injured on both sides, thousands struck with "shock" from the bombings. Militarily, of course, the Palestinians have suffered much greater losses; 3 Israelis have been killed and approximately 100 Palestinians. Gazan civilian conditions are tragic.
Israel's military goals are to use force to stop the terror and the bombings, yet to do all that is reasonably possible not to injure innocent civilians.
In our congregation on Shabbat, we dedicated a good period of time to interceding for the situation. Prayers ranged from military victory for Israel to mercy for the Palestinians. Interestingly, some of the prayers offered for mercy for the Palestinians came from young Israelis with first hand battle experience; while some of the prayers for decisive Israeli victory over the terrorism came from Israelis with much experience in helping and supporting Palestinians.
The warfare here ranges from military issues to spiritual ones, and can be quite complicated. Here are a few discernments to help us sort out the issues:
1. Arabs (Palestinians) – are a people group that God loves like all people; and we love them as well. We pray for their salvation, support humanitarian and evangelistic efforts, and demonstrate reconciliation with Palestinian Christians.
2. Islam – is a religion based on the teaching of Muhammed and his followers. We believe that to be false teaching. Islam as a religion must be dealt with by correct biblical teaching and education.
3. Jihad – is an attitude within Islam that calls for destruction of western civilization and of Israel in order to achieve its goals of Islamic takeover. It comes from a demonic spirit, in my opinion, that is connected to what the book of Revelation refers to as the "beast".
4. Terror – is a method of killing innocent victims to create an atmosphere of fear in order to influence people toward political or religious goals. Terror was at first a kind of criminal activity, but has increased over the years to a full military offensive. Terrorism must be fought with strong and decisive police and military action.
5. Hamas – is an extremist Islamic organization, that has now become the head of the government of Gaza. Their election, putting them in the place of representing the people of Gaza, has made the situation more difficult. Since their coming into power, they have encouraged not only hatred to Israel but persecution of the small evangelical Christian community that was left in Gaza.
There are many Messianic Jews in the Israeli army, several from our congregation. We pray for their safety. Just this evening I received a report of a pastor's son who was shot in the calf, but the bullet went straight through without causing major damage.
How are we to pray?
- For the Israeli army to destroy terrorist infrastructure,
Note 1: Why and Why?
Since Israel has a stronger military force, why don't they just go in and wipe out the enemy forces in Gaza? They could do this easily. The answer is that, despite international propaganda, the Israeli people and government do not want to see innocent people killed. They are holding back their power for humanitarian reasons.
Note 2: Military force and the Gospel
When people reject us, we respond with love, blessing in return. We do not reject Arabs for being Arabs – God forbid, that would be racism. We do not use force on Muslims because they are Muslims. We use force on criminals, murderers, terrorists and tyrants – whatever their religious or ethnic background. We do not use force against people for spiritual goals; we use force when they break the law. In that respect we treat terrorists as we would any form of organized crime or despotism.
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