UPDATE, 12/27: Over the past three days — amidst Christmas week in the Holy Land — radical Islamic terrorists in Gaza have fired more than 100 rockets, missiles and mortars at Israeli Jews living in the southern border towns of Sderot, Ashdod and Ashkelon. Since December 19th, nearly 200 rockets have been fired at Israel from Gaza. By God’s grace, Israeli casualties have been minimal, despite the barrage. Only one Israeli has been killed in the attacks so far. But two Palestinian children — sisters aged 5 and 13 — were killed when a Hamas rocket landed on a house in Gaza rather than Israel.
Overnight, the IDF launched a series of aistrikes at Hamas targets to try to stop the missile and rocket onslaught. One report indicates that Israeli warplanes fired upwards of 30 missiles at Hamas targets. Israel’s Channel 2, however, reported that “60 planes were involved in the attack, and nearly 100 targets were hit.” Hamas leaders say at least 150 Palestinians were killed in the airstrikes, and some 300 were wounded. Those casualty figures have not, however, been verified as of 10am eastern time Saturday. Hamas leaders declared, “This is war!” Other Hamas leaders are vowing to “unleash Hell” on Jewish Israelis.
Israeli officials are threatening a full ground invasion of Gaza if the rocket attacks from Hamas don’t end. A new poll finds that 60% of Israelis support an invasion to stop the rocket attacks.
“Is it the spirit of Islam to kill innocent children?” Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Thursday morning. ” To shoot rockets at kindergartens and at civilians? I do not think that this is the spirit of Islam. Hamas, which does this against the spirit of Islam, is the main reason for your suffering – for all of ours. I say to you in a last-minute call, stop it. Stop it. You the citizens of Gaza, you can stop it. I know how much you want to get up in the morning to quiet, to take your children to kindergarten or school, the way we do….Hamas must be stopped – and so it will be. I will not hesitate to use Israel’s strength to strike at Hamas and Islamic Jihad. How? I do not wish to go into details here.”
Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni — currently running for Prime Minister in the Feb. 10th elections — said in Cairo: “Enough is enough. When there’s shooting, there’s a response. Any state would react that way.” Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak — also running for Prime Minister — also sounded tough, saying, “whoever harms the citizens and soldiers of Israel will pay a heavy price.”
Are these threats of a full ground war for real? If so, casualties on both sides could mount quickly and a humanitarian crisis could explode. But full scale war is not a foregone conclusion. Olmert, Livni, and Barak have been threatening to invade Gaza for the last several years, as more than 6,000 rockets, missiles and mortars have rained down on some half a million Israelis living near the Gaza border. Yet they have never followed through on their threats.
This is a key message point of opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been urging Olmert to launch an invasion and stop the violence immediately rather than merely repeat empty threats. “I do not know of a country that would be hit by this many missiles and not do anything,” Netanyahu said Wednesday. “We must stop being hit and attack in order to renew our deterrence capability and our national honor.” Netanyahu is currently leading in the polls in his own bid to be Prime Minister, in part because Israelis see him as stronger on defense than Livni and Barak. But should the current government launch an aggressive and effective assault on the Hamas terrorist infrastructure in Gaza, this could dramatically help Livni and Barak in the polls and cause Netanyahu to lose ground.
Please be praying for Israel’s current political and military leaders to have the wisdom and courage to the right thing to protect their citizens. Pray, too, that the Lord would raise of up more leaders in the Jewish State who will be like the “sons of Issachar” described in I Chronicles 12:32, men who “understood the times and knew what Israel should do.” Pray for the Israeli families who are suffering in many ways due to the relentless barrage of rocket fire from Gaza. Meanwhile, please pray for Palestinian leaders to effectively confront the Hamas radicals and shut down their terrorist operations. Please pray for all the Palestinian families who are victims of both war and terrorism. And please don’t forget to pray faithfully and consistently for evangelical Christians on both sides of the border and around the world to know how best to help Israelis and Palestinians who are caught in the crossfire and suffering as a result. The Joshua Fund is currently providing aid to citizens in the Israeli town of Sderot and will continue to do so, as the Lord provides funding and open doors.