This report contains details of Saturday and Sunday’s events, a brief analysis, and specific prayer requests.

 

Ø  The Israeli cabinet declares a unilateral cease-fire late Saturday evening

Ø  22 Hamas rockets and mortar attacks after Israeli cease-fire declaration

Ø  IDF begins partial redeployment Sunday afternoon

Ø  On Sunday afternoon Hamas announces gradual cease-fire

Ø  Majority of Israelis opposed to cease-fire

Ø  Double press conferences of 6 European leaders (Sharm eh-Sheikh, Jerusalem)

Ø  The Obama factor

 

Background to the present hostilities

 

Hamas or ‘The Islamic Resistance Movement’ (for deeper background on Hamas and all archived newsletters on the war see www.davidstent.org, under “words”, newsletters February 2006, June 2007) 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.

 

IDF activity

 

Throughout Saturday IAF planes bombed 100 smuggling tunnels on the Gaza-Egyptian border, as well as targets throughout the Strip. Firefights between IDF and Hamas gunmen erupted throughout Gaza. Booby-trapped buildings and homes were disarmed or blown up by IDF sappers.

 

On Sunday 170 truckloads of humanitarian aid (including fuel, food and medicine) were allowed through IDF checkpoints from Israel into Gaza.

 

Unilateral Israeli cease-fire

 

Just after 2300 Saturday night Prime Minister Olmert announced that the cabinet had authorized a unilateral cease-fire, which would come into effect on Sunday at 0200.

 

Olmert said, “Our targets, as defined when we launched the operation, have been fully achieved, and more so”. Defense Minister Ehud Barak said, “We’ve met our military objectives”. On Sunday morning Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General Gabi Ashkenazi added “The objectives set for the operation have been achieved in full”.

 

Fine-print on the cease-fire

 

There are some troubling aspects to this cease-fire which are not being emphasized in the news.

 

PM Olmert added, “This is not a ceasefire with Hamas … These understandings do not guarantee a ceasefire of Hamas’ rocket attacks on Israeli civilians”.

 

DM Barak said, “Hamas may fire at (IDF) forces and the home front”.

 

Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said, “No-one expected (Hamas) to stop firing immediately after the ceasefire had gone into effect”.

 

C.O.S. Ashkenazi added, “We have created conditions to fundamentally change the security realities in southern Israel”. Note the fluid and amorphous (and extremely non-military!) definition that does not allow for clear or definable benchmarks in judging military success. No wonder; that strategic aim was devised by the cabinet and given to the IDF just prior to the Operation’s inception.

 

Hamas responses

 

Hamas’ immediate response to Olmert’s ceasefire declaration was to fire 22 rockets into Israel over the next 18 hours. Cities hit included Ashdod, Ashkelon, Beersheva, Kiryat Gat, Netivot and Sderot. IAF strikes took out some of these rocket launchers and cells.

 

Hamas released reports on Sunday morning that IDF choppers were firing on civilians near a Palestine Bank branch in Jabalya. These reports were immediately picked up by world media. Only later, after a few hours, did the facts come out: six hours after the Israeli ceasefire declaration, Hamas gunmen fired on IDF soldiers, who returned fire and called in tank and IAF reinforcements.

 

Hamas spokesman Osama Hamdan responded to the ceasefire with these words: “Either we hear what we want or the result will be continuing the confrontation”.

 

Abu Ubeida, Hamas spokesman for Izz ed-Din al-Qassam, stated “Do what you like, but the manufacturing of holy weapons is our goal. Bringing arms into Gaza is not smuggling. The natural situation would be for all Arab and Muslim countries, along with the rest of the free world, to formally allow weapons into the Strip… Meanwhile, we believe it is our right to bring arms in any way we find fit.”

 

Though Hamas had secretly communicated to Egypt that it would accept a ceasefire, Hamas sources declared with bluster, “Rocket fire is intended to send the message that we are the ones who decide when there is a ceasefire, not some unilateral decision in Israel”.

 

Ayman Tahu, Hamas spokesman in Cairo, declared at 1431 on Sunday that Hamas would accept a limited ceasefire: “Hamas and the factions announce a ceasefire in Gaza starting immediately and give Israel a week to withdraw.” From the tenor of these words it sounds like Hamas had pummeled Israel into submission and not vice-versa.

 

Gaza’s “victorious” Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh spoke from his secret bunker hidden under Shifa Hospital, declaring that “the enemy has failed to achieve his goals” and that Hamas had pulled off “a popular victory”. Hamas’ sponsor Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced that “this is only the beginning of victory,” while Mushir al-Masri, Hamas spokesman in Gaza said “We are in a powerful, victorious position. Israel will soon learn that the balance of power has changed in Hamas’s favor.”

 

In an unintentionally dry comment on Sunday, Hamas sources added, “The Palestinian organizations have no intention of drawing IDF fire that could harm Palestinian populations”.  There might be some Gazans who are thankful that this statement was made although, since it came after a ceasefire and after 22 days of Hamas’ totally opposite strategic war policy which made use of Gazan civilians as human shields, it is probably a moot point.

 

David Horovitz, Editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post, notes that Hamas will never “fundamentally change a mindset that emphatically places the destruction of Israel above the well-being of Palestinians”.

 

Egyptian responses

 

Egypt, like Johnny Cash, is trying to “walk the line” between scorning and yelling at Israel (on the one hand) and insisting that it is a viable peace partner with Israel and America (on the other hand); between placating Islamist popular forces which could overthrow or assassinate President Mubarak (on the one hand) and arresting and imprisoning Hamas’ sister organization in Egypt the Muslim Brotherhood (on the other hand).

 

On Saturday Mubarak (who already had spoken with Israeli representatives and knew that Israel would declare a ceasefire within a few hours) proclaimed, “I demand Israel today stop its military operations immediately. I demand from its leaders an immediate and unconditional cease-fire and I demand from them a full withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Strip”.

 

On Sunday Egyptian security sources announced that they had detained 620 members of the Muslim Brotherhood, the largest roundup of MBers in recent months. The arrests were due to pro-Hamas demonstrations and “membership in illegal organizations”. It seems that Mubarak considers the MB to be a threat to Egypt’s stability, but feels that Israel should not at all be heavy-handed in dealing with its own home-grown MB organization – Hamas.

 

At the Arab Economic Summit in Kuwait on Sunday, Mubarak spoke approvingly of Islamist armed resistance (to the State of Israel), saying “We support the right to resistance, but feel it should be responsible. We believe that resistance, like the decision to start a war, should be responsible, and should be subject to profit and loss calculations. There are factions that admit the balance of power leans very much in Israel’s favor, and it will take many years to reach a balance of power. Should the Palestinian people wait that long?”

 

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit commented on the Memorandum of Understanding signed between Israel and the United States (which is supposed to impede Hamas smuggling of rockets through Egyptian territory) in these words: “We have no commitment towards this memo whatsoever”. The US and Israel can “do what they wish with regard to the sea or any other country in Africa, but when it comes to Egyptian land, we are not bound by anything except the safety and national security of the Egyptian people and Egypt’s ability to protect its borders”. Aboul Gheit reiterated that no weapons were being smuggled into Gaza from Egypt; he again stated that Hamas was rearming by sea. It seems that the Foreign Minister feels that the Israeli Navy is simply falling down on the job.

 

Aboul Gheit added that Israel is the main obstacle to an Egyptian sponsored peace, and that “Israeli intransigence” is due to that Jewish state being “drunk with power and violence”.

 

Israeli responses

 

A poll taken by the War and Peace Index after the first week of fighting showed that 90% of Jewish Israelis surveyed believed that this war should continue until it has achieved its goals – total cessation of rocket fire and terror attacks, and a total halt to smuggling of weapons into Gaza. Polls taken Sunday indicated that approximately 40% of Israelis are in favor of a ceasefire. This is due to the fact that the two main objectives listed by the cabinet were not totally achieved.

 

Knesset Member (MK) Avigdor Lieberman commented, “The Israeli people cannot live in peace while Hamas is in control of Gaza. Any armistice will surely be used by Hamas to prepare for the next conflict.” He stated that what was needed was “crushing Hamas’ motivation to fight us”; “Past experience shows us that ceasefires become deathtraps”.

 

SHABAK (Israeli FBI) Chief Yuval Diskin stated that “if Israel doesn’t deal with the problem of the Philadelphi route (ed., the smuggling tunnels), the situation will go back to the way it was within a number of months”.

 

MK Yuval Steinitz (former Chairman of the following Israeli Government Committees – Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee; Subcommittee for Intelligence and Secret Services; and Joint Security Committee Between the Knesset and the US Congress) said, “I fear that the main objectives of the IDF operation in Gaza have not been met. It is not clear what mechanism will prevent the arms smuggling into Gaza or why we can rely on Egypt”.

 

Likud whip MK Gideon Sa’ar added; “We assume Hamas will continue to arm itself, and we will find ourselves in another conflict with the organization in the near future after it has obtained long-range rockets”.

 

The Jerusalem Post’s David Horovitz says that “a definitive result has not been achieved” in this war.

 

Former Prime Minister MK Bibi Netanyahu noted that “the IDF has dealt Hamas a severe blow, but unfortunately the job has not been completed. Hamas still controls Gaza and will continue to smuggle improved rockets through the Philadelphi route. We cannot show any weakness in the face of the Iranian-backed Hamas terror and must act with an iron fist to defeat the enemy”.

 

Televised interviews with two mothers whose sons were recently killed in Operation Cast Lead revealed that both mothers were opposed to stopping the operation, and both felt that their sons would have wanted the operation to continue until the rockets are stopped, Hamas control over Gaza is broken, and Staff-Sergeant Gilad Shalit (kidnapped by Hamas and held incommunicado for nearly 940 days) is freed.

 

An article in Yediot Aharonot (Israel’s leading Hebrew paper) noted that “many soldiers in the field” see the unilateral ceasefire as “a missed opportunity to crush Hamas”.  “We could have done a lot more. There’s a feeling the operation ended too early” said soldiers.

 

Avi Farhan, a resident of Sderot (who had been evacuated from Yamit in 1982 under PM Begin’s Camp David pullout, and again from Gaza in August 2005 under PM Sharon’s disengagement) commented, “We have witnessed a unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and we’ve seen what has happened since then. Now they decide on a unilateral ceasefire with no one asking what part Egypt has played so far in the smuggling of all the weapons to the Gaza Strip. All we want and demand is to let the IDF win. We don’t want decisions to be made now for election considerations and other political considerations”.

 

European responses

 

Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said, “Hamas must halt rocket attacks on Israel and the smuggling pf weapons into the Gaza Strip”.

 

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, UK PM Gordon Brown, Spanish Premier Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi and Czech PM Mirek Topolánek all flew in for a whirlwind series of press conferences and photo opportunities at Sharm esh-Sheikh, Egypt and Jerusalem, Israel.

 

British PM Gordon Brown said, “We are prepared to provide British naval support to stop arms trafficking … At the same time, we’re prepared to provide European support for monitoring at the (Gaza-Egypt) crossings”. Considering that Hamas’ rockets enter Gaza by land through Sudan and Egypt, even the Royal Navy may find that assignment somewhat challenging.

 

EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Walner declared that the “ceasefire should be followed by the withdrawal of all Israeli troops from the Gaza Strip”.  Would it have been too much to have hoped for some comment about peace being somehow connected to Hamas no longer attacking Israel?

 

France‘s Nicolas Sarkozy stated, “Israel should state immediately and clearly that if rocket fire will stop, the Israeli army will leave Gaza. There is no other solution to achieve peace.” French Foreign Ministry spokesman Eric Chevallier added that “an international conference should be quickly organized” for launching “a dynamic for negotiations” on creating a Palestinian state. Middle East Quartet envoy Tony Blair said that the Arab initiative for peace between the Palestinians and Israel is “not dead” but requires a new endorsement of the two-state solution from all parties involved.

 

Most Israelis do not think that now is a good time for peace, and that a continuing Hamas presence in Gaza will do nothing to aid tranquility in the region. And of course, from a biblical perspective, the dividing up of the land of Israel (as Blair and Sarkozy et al advocate) is a rather dangerous assignment for any world power to attempt.

 

The Obama factor

 

Having surveyed the significant glitches and strategic problems inherent in a unilateral ceasefire, one must ask what compelling reason might there be in favor of ending Operation Cast Lead so suddenly. The compelling reason is the calendar date of January 20 – the Inauguration Ceremony of President Barak Hussein Obama, soon the 44th President of the United States of America.

 

According to senior Israeli cabinet officials, Israeli PM Olmert decided to withdraw from Gaza prior to the inauguration “as a gesture to the incoming President”, not wanting to “embarrass” President Obama as he takes office. These senior officials added that the cabinet reached its decision approving a unilateral ceasefire because political considerations began to outweigh the military considerations. As well,  intense international pressure to stop the fighting was brought to bear on Israel.

 

Ø  As we pray for the continued safety of Israel and the defeat of her enemies, we need to lift up Israel’s political and military leadership, asking for the God of Jacob to grant them courage, strength, clarity, discernment and revelation, and for the fear of God to triumph over the fear of man.

 

Riots and anti-Semitism

 

A Saturday demonstration in Paris organized by EuroPalestine brought 2,600 demonstrators marching towards the Israeli Embassy before they were stopped by the local gendarmerie. Israeli and US flags were burned, and for good measure the windows of a nearby McDonald’s were shattered. London, not to be outdone, witnessed the shattering of a local Starbucks shop window on January 10 in an anti-Israel demonstration. These two rather powerful examples of political activism spilling into pseudo-revolutionary violence find their common ground in pogrom-like anti-Semitism. An excellent and penetratingly prophetic piece of writing by Liat Collins of the Jerusalem Post is recommended to you in this regard (http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1232100170492&pagename=JPArticle%2FShowFull).

 

On Sunday, 200 violent Beirutis were stopped with water cannons and tear gas as they attempted to cut through the barbed wire perimeter surrounding the US Embassy.

 

Also on Sunday Indonesian Islamist cleric Abu Bakar Bashir (founder of Islamist terror group Jemaah Islamiah – see www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/para/ji.htm), called for a jihad against Israel in his sermon to 500 at a local mosque in Bekasi, east of Jakarta: “The war in Palestine isn’t a war between one country and another, it is a religious war. The Jews try to destroy Islam, and so Muslims must join, to fight in their own capacity”.

 

On Saturday a Berlin court struck down an administrative ban on demonstrators using Hamas flags, clothing and banners, but felt constrained to prohibit calls to murder Israeli or Jews at public demonstrations. Recent demonstrations in Germany have been marked by calls to “kill, kill Israelis”, “kill, kill Jews” and “Juden raus!” (“Jews out!”, a Nazi slogan). Though Hamas is on the European Union’s list of terrorist organizations (September 2003), freedom of speech for anti-Semites won the day in Berlin. 

 

In an article in the German Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger entitled “Vom Wegsehen und Vergessen” (“About averting one’s gaze and forgetting“), political commentator Tobias Kaufmann notes that in today’s Germany “blatant anti-Semitism is blossoming. Germany is currently experiencing perhaps the largest anti-Jewish manifestations since World War II. Jews are called child-murderers, and Israel is compared with the Third Reich”.

 

Precedents, jihad and Arab shame

 

Three thoughts in closing:

 

1. Israel took unilateral steps in its withdrawal from West Bank cities (1994) after which Yasser Arafat’s PLO filled the vacuum; in its withdrawal from Lebanon (2000) after which Hizbollah filled the vacuum; and after its withdrawal (“disengagement”) from Gaza (2005) after which Hamas filled the vacuum. In each case terror was subsequently directed against Israeli civilians as the relinquished territory became a jihadi base for killing Israelis. Unilateral withdrawals have an abysmal track record in this part of the Middle East.

 

Ø  Pray for Israel’s leaders to have the veil of fear lifted from their eyes and hearts vis-à-vis the displeasure or opposition of the nations.

 

2. Islamic jihad is a powerful spiritual force. Most Westerners are far too secular to appreciate this, and have ignored jihad to their national detriment. Until the power of jihadi Islam is broken over the Middle East and Central Asia, there will be no peace for the Western world and no peace for the Middle East. That, and not  a Palestinian state, is the real deal-breaker.

 

Ø  Pray that the God of Israel will cause the anti-Christ religion of jihadi Islam to collapse, and for a new harvest to take place throughout the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

 

3. Embedded deep with the Arab and Islamic culture is a life-and-death polarity between honor and shame (highly recommended is The Closed Circle: An Interpretation of the Arabs, by David Pryce-Jones; Ivan R. Dee Publishers, Chicago 1989). Leaders in the Arab world know that their survival depends on their supporters’ honoring them, and these leaders’ demise is directly connected to the level of shame they tolerate. So Hamas boasts that it has won the recent war, because if it admits the truth (that it has been decimated by Israel, a non-Islamic power) it will lose its status, its influence and eventually its head in Gaza. Mubarak refuses to stop smuggling on Egypt’s Gaza border because he knows that if he allows foreign forces to operate on Egyptian soil, he will be targeted by Osama Bin Laden and his followers – as another apostate Arab ruler who has allowed the “Western infidel” to obtain another foothold on Islamic soil.

 

Ø  Pray for deliverance and salvation for President Mubarak of Egypt, for the Hamas leadership, and for Mahmoud Abbas and the leadership of the Palestinian Authority. While you’re at it, pray for the salvation of many Hizbollah adherents, and for many Syrian and Jordanian seekers of truth.

 

Ø  And end your prayers with one penultimate prayer for the salvation and deliverance of Israel and the Jewish people!

 

In Messiah Yeshua,

 

Avner Boskey

 www.davidstent.org

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