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

 

Ø  The IDF began its ground invasion of the Gaza Strip

Ø  Over 50 Hamas terrorists and one Israeli soldier killed.

Ø  Close to 100 Hamas Katyusha rocket attacks continue against Ashdod, Ashkelon and Sderot.

 

Background to the present hostilities

 

Hamas or ‘The Islamic Resistance Movement’ (for deeper background see newsletters February 2006, June 2007 at www.davidstent.org, under “words”) is linked with the Muslim Brotherhood, a world jihadi group ideologically connected to Osama Bin Laden.  Hamas has fired over 10,000 rockets and mortars against civilian targets in Israel over the past 8 years. Sporadic firing of rockets against Israel continued during a recent temporary “cessation of hostilities”, and that season was used by Hamas to build up forces and weaponry in preparation for the present continued attacks on Israel.

 

Two weeks ago Hamas refused to extend even that partial cease-fire and began intensive rocketing Israeli kibbutzim, towns and cities on the average of 40-50 attacks a day. On Saturday December 27 at 11:30 am Israel Air Force jets attacked Hamas forces in Gaza, finally responding to years of Hamas rocket attacks.

 

Ground invasion begins

 

The first news of the ground invasion broke at 4:44 pm Saturday with IDF artillery batteries firing into the Gaza Strip for the first time in three years. Within 75 minutes troops from Engineering and Armored Corps, Paratroopers, Golani and Givati infantry; Special Forces, Military Intelligence – at least four brigades worth – were entering into Gaza. The IDF’s military spokeswoman Major Avital Leibovitch, said, “The objective is to destroy the Hamas terror infrastructure in the area of operations. We are going to take (ed., out) some of the launch areas used by Hamas.”

 

Army Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi had met with his troops before the invasion and stated, “I have complete faith in you, the commanders and fighters. I count on you, I trust you, and I’m backing you. The people of Israel could not have asked for a better team of commanders and fighters.”

 

Israeli tanks, APCs and infantry broke into the Gaza Strip from four directions – Bet Lahiya and al-Atattra in the North (near Erez crossing); Bet Hanun and Jabalya (Northeast); Karni crossing (central, South of Gaza City); and Kerem Shalom crossing (South, toward Rafiah).  

 

IAF planes dropped leaflets in Gaza on Saturday afternoon which read: “Area resident, as result of the acts undertaken by terror activists in your area against Israel, the IDF is forced to respond immediately and operate in this area. For your own safety, you are asked to leave the area immediately.”

 

Miltary developments

 

Within less than 24 hours more than 150 tanks had broken through to the shoreline south of Gaza City, effectively cutting the Strip in half and preventing resupply to Hamas’ central command holed up in Gaza City. That city has been surrounded by IDF troops, though counter-terror operations have not yet begun in the alleys of Hamas’ unofficial capital. Engineering Corps are blowing up networks of tunnels and rocket launcher sites throughout Gaza.

 

A naval blockade of 30 km (approximately 20 miles) has been placed on Gaza by the Israeli Navy. The land invasion has been focused on North Gaza, for that is where the majority of the Grad rockets have been fired against Beersheva, Ashdod and Ofakim.

 

IDF troops have been capturing Hamas gunmen who will be used in a prisoner exchange for Gilad Shalit, the Israel soldier kidnapped by Hamas and in captivity for 924 days to date.

 

Over 40 Hamas gunmen have been killed. One Israeli soldier, Golani Staff-Sergeant Dvir Emanuelof,  22, of Givat Ze’ev, died after being wounded in a mortar attack on Sunday close to 9 am. Twenty-five other IDF soldiers have been lightly wounded by mortar or sniper fire, and five have been seriously wounded. All have been medevac’d to Soroka Hospital in Beersheva.

 

Ø   Pray for the Israeli Special Forces, infantry, tanks and artillery who are involved in the fighting. Ask God to send angelic warriors to stand with them, to protect them and to grant them victory (Judges 5:20).

 

Ø  We ask you to pray for the military leadership of the IDF regarding the decisions they are making concerning the ground operation – that God will grant them His strategies, wisdom, courage and discernment, as He did to the prophets and armies of Israel in Elisha’s day (2 Kings 6:8-12).

 

Ø  Pray especially for the more than 30 believing Messianic soldiers participating in these battles (Galatians 6:16). Ask God to strengthen them, grant them victory, and strengthen their families with His power, love and confidence.

 

Responses to invasion

 

The Iranian Speaker of Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani said on Sunday, saying “The Zionists have encountered a strong opposition on the part of the brave Palestinians and have suffered a great blow”. This was an extremely clumsy attempt at disinformation, in light of actual facts on the ground.

 

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger expressed support for Israel’s ground operation in Gaza on Sunday, declaring that “every nation has the right to defend itself against terrorism and cold-blooded attacks on its people. Israel is no different and is right to defend itself against the unceasing violence of rocket attacks launched by Hamas.”

 

Egyptian President Mubarak and Jordan’s King Abdullah II (the only two Arab countries to have official peace treaties with Israel) called on the UN Security Council to order a ceasefire in Gaza. The palace said that “Jordan is furious and will take whatever means necessary to stop the aggression.” Jordanian Prime Minister Nader Dahabi said that his country will re-examine its relations with Israel. Behind the scenes both countries see Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood as a clear and present threat to their governments. But publically they feel the social and political pressures of the Middle East, and have taken an official stand opposed to the incursion.

 

According to the Iranian news agency IRNA, a senior Iranian military official called for an oil embargo – that Islamic nations should cutback on oil exports to countries supporting Israel. On Friday Saeed Jalili, Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, met in Damascus to discuss strategic plans with Syrian President Bashar Assad, Hamas Politburo head Khaled Mashal, and Islamic Jihad Secretary General Ramadan Salah (see Psalm 83).

 

In Sakhnin, Israel a large anti-Israel demonstration of 10,000 was addressed by Sakhnin Mayor Mazen Ghnaim who declared, “Long live Palestine, whose capital is Jerusalem, and long live the shahids (ed., jihad martyrs)!”

 

Ø  Pray for the Islamic world and for Israel’s Arab communities – that they would choose to bless and not curse the Jewish people and state (Genesis 12:3; Psalm 120:5-6).

 

IAF attacks

 

More than 800 targets have been destroyed to date in IAF sorties. On Sunday IAF successfully targeted Hamas senior military leaders Hussam Hamdan, Muhammad Shalpuch and Muhammad Hilou in the Khan Yunis area, responsible for overseeing rocket attacks on Beersheva and Ofakim. Bridges connecting North and South Gaza have been destroyed as well.

 

According to Hamas sources, there have been approximately 550 Arab fatalities and over 2,200 with various injuries to date. U.N. sources said that more than 60 fatalities were civilians. Certainly Hamas has many civilians who live beside or on top of Hamas facilities, ammo dumps and command-and-control (C3) centers. They are for all intents and purposes Hamas’ human shields.

 

Ø  Pray for the Israeli pilots who need to make split second decisions where many lives could hang in the balance. Pray that God would give them the necessary accuracy, wisdom and discernment. Pray for the salvation of many Gazans (physically and spiritually) during this time of trial.

 

Answers to prayer re rocket attacks

 

Hamas fired more than 40 rockets on civilian targets on Saturday and 50 on Sunday, focusing on Ashdod, Sderot and Ashkelon. There were no Israeli fatalities, and only a handful of people were injured, though many are suffering from shock. In one miraculous answer to prayer, a Grad struck a wooden house in Netivot, which was totally demolished. The old woman inside the house was lightly injured with a shrapnel scratch on her knee. Keep praying!

 

Ø  We thank the God of Israel that He is granting an amazing measure of protection to His people (see Leviticus 26:8; 1 Samuel 18:7; Psalm 91:7) and encourage you to pray for the safety and peace of Jerusalem and the salvation of the Jewish people (Psalm 122:6; Romans 10:1).

 

Up to Saturday night, 57 Israelis have been wounded in rocket attacks, 350 suffered shock, and 4 were killed. Over 440 arrests have been made of violent demonstrators in the Arab sector, of which more than 140 were minors.

 

Hamas execution of fellow Arabs

 

On Saturday night and all day Sunday, Hamas’ Internal Security Apparatus oversaw the shooting of at least 75 Palestinian Authority supporters in the legs, whole others had their hands broken – all this to prevent them from supporting the Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas. Wisam Abu Jalhoum, a Fatah activist from the Jabalya refugee camp, was shot in the legs by ISA agents for allegedly expressing joy over the IDF air strikes on Hamas targets. More than 35 Palestinians imprisoned in Hamas jails on suspicion of collaborating with Israel were summarily executed over the weekend.

 

Ø   Pray for mercy on the people of Gaza; that the God of Israel would grant them deliverance from evil leaders and safety and salvation amidst the storm.

 

Truth is stranger than fiction

 

On December 19 2008 Hamas refused to extend the tottering cease-fire and began to rocket Israeli kibbutzim, towns and cities. On the evening of January 3 2009 IDF forces entered the Gaza Strip.

 

Those two dates eerily echo two other significant dates in the life of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the author and finisher of Israel’s “disengagement” (read “retreat”) from Gaza in August 2005.

 

On December 19 2005 PM Sharon had his first stroke and on the night of January 3-4 2006 he experienced his second and final stroke.

 

It is sobering – it brings on the fear of the Lord – to realize that, as the Author of history would have it, three years later to the day of Sharon’s two strokes, the disastrous Gaza disengagement plan has found itself sovereignly turned upside down.

***written by Avner Boskey www.davidstent.org

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