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

 

Ø  The IDF engages Hamas gunmen around Gaza City and Jabalya

Ø  Total of over 150 Hamas terrorists killed, more than 100 taken prisoner

Ø  More than 30 Hamas rocket attacks against Negev cities and Gedera

Ø  Four “friendly fire” Israeli casualties

Ø  Hamas uses civilians as shields

Ø  Egyptians, U.S. and French work toward possible cease-fire

 

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.

 

On December 19 2008 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 Israel Air Force jets attacked Hamas forces in Gaza, finally responding to years of Hamas rocket attacks. On January 3 2009 a land invasion of Gaza was initiated.

 

Air, naval and ground operations

 

On Tuesday the IDF continued to focus on three goals: destruction of Hamas’ terror infrastructure (weapons caches, rockets and rocket launcher pads); killing Hamas gunmen; and taking prisoners (for on-site intelligence in real time and in preparation for a prisoner exchange). Prime Minister Olmert restated the two goals that are keeping the military operation going –  no smuggling of weapons into Gaza from Egypt, and no terror of any kind against Israel.

 

Over 150 Hamas terrorist have been killed. Over 100 have been taken prisoner and are undergoing questioning in Israel.

 

IAF (Israel Air Force) planes hit 40 targets on Tuesday, eliminating Ayman Siam, head of all Hamas rocket and artillery forces in Gaza. Navy gunships succeeded in eliminating a combined group of 6 terrorists (Hamas and Islamic Jihad) near Dir el-Balah in central Gaza.

 

Heavy house-to-house fighting is occurring in Saja’iya, al-Atattra and Jabaliya (north & central Gaza). Intensive close-quarters combat is occurring on many fronts. The IDF is dealing simultaneously with attempted ambushes by Hamas gunmen, rooftop snipers, roadside IEDs, mortars and kidnap attempts. Engineering Corps are disarming booby-trapped tunnels, houses, mosques and schools. In one case a child’s doll on the ground concealed the entrance to a booby-trapped tunnel.

 

Two amazing answers to prayer occurred. In one case a Hamas suicide bomber leaped into a squad of soldiers but his bomb-vest failed to detonate. He was captured and disarmed. In another case, a unit of Givati infantry went in to relieve themselves inside an abandoned school building, and noticed wires leading to a booby-trapped row of cannon shells. They were able to escape before the trap was sprung. A third instance involved Paratroopers who managed to kill a Hamas suicide bomber dressed in an Israeli army uniform who had infiltrated their ranks.

 

Ø    Pray for the Israeli Special Forces, infantry, tanks, artillery and engineers 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).

 

The next step in this operation will involve enfolding the reserve soldiers recently called up, and then intensifying the attack on Hamas strongholds.

 

Ø  Pray especially for the close to 50 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.

 

Friendly fire

 

Monday night saw two tragic cases of friendly fire, where Israeli tank crews mistakenly fired two shells at the troops they were supposed to be protecting. In the first case three soldiers of Golani Brigade’s 13th Battalion were killed (including an Israeli Druze Arab) and 24 wounded near Saja’iya, including the Brigade Commander Colonel Avi Peled. He oversaw the evacuation of all the wounded before he would leave the battlefield. Within a few hours he checked out of the hospital and went back to his command at the front. In the second case a deputy company commander was killed by friendly tank fire near al-Atattra. Friendly fire unfortunately has accompanied most battlefields throughout history (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friendly_fire).

 

Ø  Pray that the God of Israel will grant exceedingly clear communication between battle units, and that He would guard the IDF from further friendly fire tragedies.

 

Tuesday morning saw the IDF’s sixth fatality, Staff-Sergeant Alexander Mashvitsky (21) of Beersheva, a combat engineer in a recon unit, killed in a firefight in the northern part of Gaza City.

 

Rocket attacks

 

Hamas fired more than 30 rockets, striking Gedera, Beersheva, Sderot, Netivot and surrounding kibbutzim and farms. To date they have succeeded in killing four Israelis, but this is not for lack of trying. Their intentions are murderous, and they are aiming specifically at civilians, whereas the IDF and IAF are trying to avoid all civilian casualties.

 

Hamas forces have lost operational oversight of Gaza. The leadership is hidden in bunkers and cannot communicate with ordinary Gazans. Armed gangs of Izz ed-Din al-Qassam gunmen roam the streets, hijacking humanitarian aid trucks and kneecapping anyone who resists. They are forcing children to accompany them as they fire rockets and mortars, hoping that Israeli forces will hold their fire. Families are prevented from fleeing the area, and terrorists often take refuge in apartment stairwells.

 

IAF unmanned drones presented videos on Israeli TV Tuesday night showing Hamas gunmen setting up and firing mortars and rocket launchers on school grounds, beside homes and next to UN properties. Hamas figures that it will win either way – either the IAF will hesitate to strike, but if not, the civilian “collateral damage” can be used to turn Arab and world opinion against Israel.

 

Civilian shields

 

The Arab world is no stranger to human shields, and Israel has had plenty of first-hand experience in these matters in Lebanon and in the West Bank. On Tuesday three incidents reveal that Hamas is using civilian shields as a matter of standard operational strategy.

 

The UNRWA al-Fahoura school in Jabaliya has been an abandoned building for some time. On December 31 Israeli UAV’s captured video footage of Hamas terrorists operating mortar shells against Israeli troops from the sidewalk less than a meter away from classrooms. Other up-to-date intelligence revealed that Hamas terrorist were hiding out in the building. On Tuesday afternoon tank shells were fired at the building, killing many Hamas operatives, including verified Hamas operatives Imad and Hassan Abu-Askar.

 

Unfortunately a number of refugees had meanwhile taken shelter in that building, and some of the 42 fatalities included these people. However, Israeli intelligence estimates that 70% of the fatalities were Hamas operatives. In the fog of war it is impossible to ascertain exact numbers at this point. What is clear is that Hamas is using civilian peacetime buildings and civilian shields to hide behind as it targets the IDF.

 

The Arab media have been repeating footage of these fatalities all day, showing propaganda clips which are Nazi-like in their demonizing of Israel and the Jewish people. A tidal wave of hatred is sweeping across the Muslim world. A few hours ago, referring to the Gaza operation, Dr. Ayman Zawahiri (Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man) called on Muslims to “hit the Zionists and crusaders (ed., Westerners and Christians) wherever and in whichever way you can”.

 

Fighting to the last Palestinian

 

Year ago Abba Eban once quipped that the Arab world would fight Israel “to the last Palestinian” – in other words, the Arab world was happy to use the Palestinians as cannon fodder but did not themselves want to dirty their own hands with dangerous combat. The Islamic Republic of Iran (Shiite Islam) is using Hamas (Sunni Islam) in a similar way, while the Hamas High Command is content to sit in bunkers under Gaza’s burning soil, or in palaces in Damascus, while their gunmen on the ground engage in kamikaze attacks on the IDF.

 

The reason most rational armies refuse to build bases in civilian areas is because they want to avoid civilian casualties. Hamas however operates under different codes of military conduct. It sees civilian casualties as a powerful propaganda bonus that will shock the world into siding with Hamas – and thus unwittingly support Hamas’ clearly stated publicized strategy to destroy Israel.

 

War involves fast and aggressive actions and responses. It is not a kind sport. In the fog of war, any sources of attack must be immediately and devastatingly destroyed. Hamas knows this, and that is why it sets up its rockets between homes and in schools, why it stores it ammunition in mosques and hospitals. It is courting overwhelming response. This is a cynical and damnable strategy, but the world media are all too gullible in these matters.

 

Life for Gazans right now is very hard. No schools are operating, and no police enforce law and order. There is no garbage removal or television. Electricity comes on every other day for a few limited hours if at all, and this means that the water supply is also sporadic. Food is available on the black market, much of it being humanitarian aid stolen by Hamas gunmen and sold for a tidy profit. Cell phones are charged at night from car batteries. The ICRC (Red Cross) head of operations Pierre Kraehenbuehl stated Tuesday that he sees a “fully blown” humanitarian crisis developing in Gaza.

 

Ø   Pray for the inhabitants of Gaza – that God would rescue them from evil leadership and bring physical rescue and deliverance to many.

 

True and false cease-fires

 

Hamas is hoping that world outcry will force Israel to suspend its operations, and that Hamas will be allowed to keep its arsenal of rockets while freely continuing to smuggle in fresh weaponry through the Egyptian border. Egypt bears a huge degree of blame for the current war, as it has blithely allowed Hamas to import weapons into Egypt and has watched as Hamas smuggles them into Gaza through tunnels dug in sovereign Egyptian soil. Some Israeli politicians unwilling to upset the governmental apple cart have downplayed Egypt’s criminal role in this process, all in the interests of a counterfeit peace process.

 

Any cease-fire must insure that these weapons can no longer pass, and that Hamas can no longer terrorize Israel. Political pressure to force anything different on the Jewish state would bring a direct curse on the Jewish people (see Genesis 12:3).

 

Ø   Pray that any cease-fire will be grounded in justice and will prevent Hamas from holding onto terror or power (Isaiah 8:9-10). Pray for your country’s leaders, that they will be a blessing and not a curse to Israel at this moment of crisis.

 

World responses

 

According to London’s Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat, Hizbollah forces in Lebanon have been placed on their highest level of alert.

 

President Mubarak of Egypt has dropped broad hints to his aides that it is important for Israel to defeat Hamas. A victory for Muslim Brotherhood offshoot Hamas would severely weaken Mubarak’s hold on power in his own country.

 

On Tuesday Venezuela expelled the Israeli ambassador and all embassy personnel for “state terrorism” and causing a Palestinian “holocaust”. The Israeli Foreign Ministry commented: “Israel will continue to defend itself before its enemies including Hamas and Iran, with which Venezuela has created strong ties … Venezuela needs to choose which side it is taking in this war. It must choose between those who fight terror and those who support it. It’s not surprising that Venezuela is once more clarifying to the world which side it is on.”

 

Israeli basketball team Bnei Sharon was forced to flee the court and hide in their changing rooms, in a scheduled match with Turk Telecom. Hundreds of screaming fans yelled “Allahu akbar” and Killer Israel”, throwing shoes and punches at riot police who were protecting the Israeli players. Before the game was cancelled, an Israeli flag was set afire by a pro-Islamic group.

 

Correction: “Day Ten” newsletter quoted a media figure for an anti-Israel demonstration in Istanbul which turned out to be inaccurate. The correct number of demonstrators was 200,000 (and not 700,000).

 

On Tuesday Israeli President Shimon Peres addressed a group of EU foreign policy leaders and the Foreign Ministers of Sweden, France and the Czech Republic with frank words, “Europe must stop playing this double game with Israel . Not one of you would sit with your arms crossed in the face of missiles being fired at your country”.

 

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).

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

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