This is a brief analysis of the war, followed by a report of details of today’s fighting, and then specific prayer requests.

 

The war with Hamas began at 11:30 am Israel time on Shabbat (Saturday) December 27 – the sixth day of Hanukkah (the Feast of Dedication). The Operation was given the military name ‘Cast Lead’ or Opheret yetzuka in Hebrew, referring to the leaden dreidels (sevivon or spinning tops) played with on Hanukkah. These festive tops were once made of molten lead poured into a metal mold, and a popular Hanukkah children’s song refers to a dreidl made of “cast lead”. As God would have it, this war will be identified in the annals of Israeli history as the Hanukkah war.

 

Israelis have a lot of experience with war, and many significant wars are connected with certain Jewish holidays. The Yom Kippur War of October 1973 began on the Day of Atonement. The First Gulf War ended in 1991 on the first day of Purim, the Feast of Esther. The Second Intifada broke out on The Feast of Trumpets in 2000. On the Ninth of Av (Tisha b’Av) in 586 BC and 70 AD, both Jewish Temples were destroyed in Jerusalem. God is still speaking to Israel and the nations by using His prophetic calendar and His feast days (see Leviticus 23:2, 4), and this includes minor feasts like Hanukkah (see Daniel 11:29-35 and Hebrews 11:34-38).

 

Background to this war

 

After Israel withdrew or retreated from the Gaza Strip in August 2005, that region was taken over by the Islamist group Hamas (‘The Islamic Resistance Movement’; for deeper background see newsletters February 2006, June 2007 at www.davidstent.org).  This group is linked with the Muslim Brotherhood, a world jihadi group ideologically connected to Osama Bin Laden.

 

Hamas refuses to recognize the state of Israel. Hamas calls and plans for Israel’s military destruction. Over the past three years it has fired more than 10,000 Qassam or Grad rockets and mortars against civilians only – towns, farms and cities within Israel. And over the past week it fired between 36 and 80 rockets per day into kibbutzim, small villages and large towns. Last Saturday I went to visit some believers on a kibbutz bordering on Gaza, and during my 30 minute visit five rockets fell close by.

 

The government of Israel has strangely tolerated a buildup of these rocket attacks over the past three years. Though originally then-Prime-Minister Ariel Sharon soothingly promised Israelis that the disengagement from Gaza would bring peace, and if even “one rocket were fired” Israel would reconquer the Gaza Strip, the 10,000 rockets fired starkly contradict the soundness and wisdom of his policies. Part of the recent tolerance is due to the fact that the Kadima party Sharon founded is still in office, and these officials owe their political positions to these failed policies.

 

Over the past few weeks Israel has repeatedly warned Hamas and surrounding countries that if the rocket attacks continue, it will decisively and powerfully respond. These Israeli warnings have gone unnoticed by the world’s media, as have the rocket attacks. No country that is worthy of the name would allow terrorists to rocket their civilian populations for so long without an overwhelming response. For both Israel and Hamas, that day of response has come.

 

The surprise attack

 

As Palestinian rocket attacks have increased, Israel has spent the past year culling intelligence in preparation for a decisive counter-attack. Hamas command and control (CC) centers, arms depots, senior residences, training camps, rocket launcher sites and Qassam factories – all were located and charted.

 

On Saturday at 11:30 am 64 Israeli fighter jets and attack helicopters attacked and destroyed 50 strategic Hamas sites in 3 minutes and 45 seconds. A half hour later, another sortie of 20 plans hit 50 more sites, including underground launchers and bunkers. 95% of the hits were ‘alpha’, meaning exact strikes with no collateral damage.

 

Strategic targets

 

Over 240 strategic sites have been hit in the past 40 hours. One site hit was the Hamas police compound, where 80 gunmen were gathered. At other ammo dumps and command centers at least another 50 terrorists were killed. At other smaller CCs a total of 92 terrorists were killed.

 

On Sunday Israeli jets struck and destroyed 40 underground tunnels used by Hamas to smuggle in significant amounts of weapons, explosives and anti-tank/anti-aircraft missiles in a 3 minute 20 second sortie. This area is called the Philadelphi Corridor, and was surrendered to Hamas by Israel due to significant U.S. State Department pressure in 2005. Over 700 tunnels have been dug, and most are still operative.

 

Up to this point Hamas rocket squads have managed to fire more than 70 rockets at Israel, and Israel’s Military Intelligence believes that Hamas has the ability and reserves to fire up to 200 rockets daily for quite some time.

 

On Sunday one Hamas rocket traveled 37 kilometers, hitting Gan Yavne a bedroom community east of Ashdod. This means that other towns including Gedera and Beersheva (where we live) are in possible range of Hamas rockets. The Home Front Command has ordered public bomb shelters to be opened in these twons beginning Monday morning. Pray for the Israeli civilians in rocket range of Hamas mortars and rockets (Qassams and Grad rockets, capable of reaching Ashkelon, Ashdod, Kiryat Gat and Beersheva).

 

The question of casulaties

 

The casualty rate in Gaza has now reached 300 (most of these terrorists), with over 1,000 wounded.

 

The IDF takes great pains to avoid civilian casualties, while Hamas deliberately locates its centers and fires its rockets from within civilian centers. Hamas rockets only target civilians, while the IDF tries very hard to only target terrorists. Due to the immediate proximity of civilians to rocket launchers and Hamas headquarters, there have certainly been some civilian casualties.

 

Israeli army intelligence has warned and even done mass telephoning of Gazan civilians, urging them to stay away from potential target areas. Though civilian casualties are deeply regretted, they are known in military parlance as collateral damage. General William Tecumseh Sherman once remarked (based on his American military experiences) that “war is hell”. We agree, even though it is sometimes necessary.

 

The Palestinian terror groups unfortunately see these casualties in a positive light – as helpful grist in their propaganda mills. They immediately tell the world media that Israel is targeting civilians and causing massacres.

 

One prime example of this tactic was during Operation Defensive Shield (March 2002), triggered by Hamas terrorists who killed 30 Jews (including Holocaust survivors) and injured 140 at a public Passover meal in Netanya Israel. IDF troops retook control of major West Bank cities which had become suicide bomber havens. The army took great pains to avoid civilian casualties, suffering many fatalities in this process. Nevertheless, the Palestinian media accused Israel of a bloodthirsty massacre of over 500 civilians in Jenin. That number was eventually dropped to approximately 56 terrorists, most in uniform, and  7 or 8 civilians (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Defensive_Shield).

 

One 58 year old Jewish man was killed this Saturday in his apartment by a Hamas rocket, and 10 Israelis have been wounded. We thank God for the protection He has granted so far to Israelis, and we strongly encourage you to pray for continued safety!

 

Prayer requests

 

Ø  Pray for the leadership of Israel – that the God of Israel will give them clarity, strategy, courage and discernment (2 Kings 6:8-12)

Ø  Pray for Gaza‘s leadership – that God would frustrate their plans, operations and strategies (Psalm 83:4, 9-15)

Ø  Pray for the civilian population of Gaza, many who support the terror – that God in His mercy would reveal Himself to many as their Savior and Prince of peace (Jonah 3:8-9)

Ø  Pray for the peace of Jerusalem and the salvation of the Jewish people (Psalm 122:6; Romans 10:1)

Ø  Pray for the struggling tiny community of believers in Gaza, some who have been tortured or martyred by Islamists in recent days

Ø  Pray for the Jewish believers in the Negev area bordering on Gaza, some who contend with daily rocket attacks

written by Avner Boskey – www.davidstent.org

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