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GAZA WAR UPDATE, Day #11: As IDF ground forces advance, one goal is to identify & destroy Hamas tunnels. Here’s the latest. Updated at 11:30am eastern Friday.

In Uncategorized on July 18, 2014 at 12:51 pm
Explosion in Gaza as ground operations began Thursday night.

Explosion in Gaza as ground operations began Thursday night.

Hamas is storing rocket launchers, rockets and weapons in tunnels under Gaza. They're also digging tunnels under Israel for terrorists to use to enter Israeli villages.

Hamas is storing rocket launchers, rockets and weapons in tunnels under Gaza. They’re also digging tunnels under Israel for terrorists to use to enter Israeli villages.

UPDATED AT 11:30am EASTERN, FRIDAY: (Washington, D.C.) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Friday his government’s intention to expand the scope of the IDF ground campaign in Gaza.

The top priority is not so much to topple Hamas but to restore calm. To do that, Netanyahu says, one vital thing Israel must do is identify and destroy the labyrinth of tunnels and underground warehouses that Hamas and other terror groups are using to store rockets, launchers and other weapons under Gaza, as well as the tunnels Hamas is digging under Israel.

“We decided to launch the action after we tried all the other ways, and with an understanding that without this operation the price we will have to pay later would be much higher,” Netanyahu told reporters.

Netanyahu, speaking at the opening of an emergency cabinet meeting in Tel Aviv, said that “since there is no way to deal with the tunnels only from the air, our soldiers are doing it now from the ground,” reported the Jerusalem Post.

“The supreme consideration guiding us is to restore security to the civilians and quiet to the state. There is not a more moral army than the IDF, and we do not want to harm even one innocent civilian. Not even one. We are operating only against terror targets.”

On Thursday, just before the ground war commenced, Israeli forces spotted a group of heavily-armed Hamas terrorists emerging out of a tunnel into Israeli territory, heading towards and Israeli village. IDF forces fired on the terrorists and prevented a major disaster that surely would have ensued if the terrorist had reached their destination.

 Please pray this will all end quickly. Please pray for calm to be restored. And please pray for mercy for Israelis and Palestinians. It is so painful to see the suffering and trauma on both sides. The Bible commands us to pray for peace — let us be faithful.





ISRAELI INVASION OF GAZA BEGINS. IDF calls up 18,000 more reservists. Behind-the-scenes details. Here’s the latest. Updated at 8:30pm eastern Thursday.

In Uncategorized on July 17, 2014 at 8:30 pm
Israeli tanks and ground forces are now moving into Gaza.

Israeli tanks and ground forces are now moving into Gaza.

UPDATED AT 8:30PM EASTERN THURSDAY: (Washington, D.C.) — It has begun.

The Israeli Defense Forces have commenced a massive ground operation in Gaza. Israeli leaders have concluded they need to deal a devastating blow to Hamas, and air strikes aren’t enough.

The cabinet authorized the IDF to call up 18,000 more reservists to assist with the ground operation.

Please pray this will all end quickly. Please pray for calm to be restored. And please pray for mercy for Israelis and Palestinians. It is so painful to see the suffering and trauma on both sides. The Bible commands us to pray for peace — let us be faithful.


  • The Israel Defense Forces ground operation in the Gaza Strip began after the inner cabinet met in secret on Thursday night in Tel Aviv. In a deceptive maneuver intended to give the impression that no significant expansion of the military operation would happen in the next 24 hours, Israeli officials told reporters the security cabinet would only be meeting on Friday morning.
  • A senior official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the cabinet ministers had already approved the ground operation when it met Tuesday night, after the Egyptian cease-fire initiative fell through. At the meeting, cabinet members were briefed in detail on the various stages of the operational plans. As the meeting concluded, the ministers authorized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense minister Moshe Ya’alon to decide on both the nature of the ground operation and its timing.
  • The same official also said that despite the authorization, the ground operation was delayed in order to give the Egyptians another opportunity to forge a cease-fire. On Wednesday, Shin Bet security service chief Yoram Cohen, Netanyahu’s envoy for the peace process Isaac Molho and the head of the Defense Ministry’s political-military affairs department, Amos Gilad, traveled to Cairo.
  • The Israeli delegation shared the iftar, the meal breaking the daily Ramadan fast, with Egyptian intelligence chief Gen. Mohammed Ahmed Fareed al-Tohami and his senior advisors. After meeting for a few hours, the delegation returned to Israel. The message Cohen, Molho and Gilad brought back was that Hamas is only increasing its demands, hardening its position toward a possible cease-fire.
  • “We found out that we, the Egyptians and [Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas] are more or less in the same place regarding the need for a cease-fire,” said the senior official. “But we also found out that Hamas is playing a totally different ballgame. We felt that they’re forcefully trying to sabotage the Egyptian attempts and mediation, and escalate the conflict.”
  • After the Israeli delegation returned to Israel on Thursday morning, pessimistic about the chances for a cease-fire, the decision to begin a ground operation on Thursday night began to take shape. The decision was bolstered by the fact that Hamas did not even honor the six-hour, UN-initiated humanitarian cease-fire on Thursday.
  • In the lead-up to the ground operation, the Prime Minister’s Office made what seemed like a series of attempts at disinformation in the media. On Thursday afternoon, the BBC and Reuters reported that a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas would go into effect at 6 A.M. Friday. Phone calls from dozens of reporters who called the PMO to confirm the reports went unanswered.
  • Cabinet ministers told journalists who asked about the cease-fire reports that they had no information about the developments.
  • Later on Thursday evening the media were told the inner cabinet was scheduled to convene at 11 A.M. Friday to discuss the situation. In fact, the security cabinet was meeting to hear updates about the imminent ground operation. Immediately afterward, about half an hour before the operation began, Israel informed the United States of the decision to expand the operation and invade the Gaza Strip.
  • After the ground incursion began, the PMO released a statement saying the operation would initially focus on destroying terror tunnels from the Strip to Israel.
  • The statement also said the decision to expand the operation was made after Israel accepted the Egyptian proposal and Hamas rejected it. “Operation Protective Edge will continue until it achieves its objective – to restore quiet and safety to Israelis for a long time to come, while significantly harming the infrastructure of Hamas and other terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip,” the statement said.


“Israel began a ground invasion into the Gaza Strip on Thursday night, saying it would target tunnels that infiltrate its territory after cease-fire talks failed to de-escalate the air war that has raged for 10 days,” reports the New York Times. “The military released a statement at 10:39 p.m. saying the goal of the operation was to ‘establish a reality in which Israeli residents can live in safety and security without continuous indiscriminate terror.’”

“In light of Hamas’ continuous criminal aggression, and the dangerous infiltration into Israeli territory, Israel is obligated to act in defense of its citizens,” a statement from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s office said, reported the Jerusalem Post.

“The statement said that Operation Protective Edge, now in its 11th day, will continue until its goals are reached: restoring quiet for an extended period of time, and delivering a significant blow to Hamas and the other terrorist organizations in Gaza,” noted the Post. “Prior to the commencement of the ground invasion, the IDF launched a massive wave of combined air and artillery strikes on Thursday night. The ground invasion comes hours after a Hamas assault squad of thirteen highly armed terrorists attempted to carry out a massacre of civilians at Kibbutz Sufa, near the border, before being blocked by the IDF. Infantry, Armored Corps, Engineering Corps, artillery, and intelligence units are taking over various areas in Gaza, and are all working with one another and the air force. They are operating in northern, central, and southern Gaza, where Hamas has dug an extensive terrorist tunnel network. The IDF’s Southern Command is overseeing the ground offensive.”


  • The IDF was planning to take over areas in the Strip and work to locate and destroy the terror attacks in these areas. The army also prepared additional stages of operation, including getting all the way to the Gaza beach.
  • “This step is being carried out as a continuation of the objectives achieved so far, and to deal a further serious blow to the Hamas terrorist organization and improve the security situation,” the IDF spokesman said, adding that the army was “calling in more reservists to advance the next stages.”
  • Residents living near the Gaza border have been instructed to enter bomb shelters and safe room, as a heavy barrage of rockets was fired at southern and central Israel.
  • “The IDF Home Front Command has taken the necessary steps in all relevant areas, and residents of those areas are called upon to heed defensive instructions as they issued by the media,” Almoz said.
  • The order to take action Thursday night received Cabinet approval after Israel agreed to an Egyptian proposal for a ceasefire on Tuesday but Hamas rejected it and continued firing rockets at Israeli cities. Nor did Hamas respect the humanitarian ceasefire initiated by the United Nations earlier Thursday, and continued to fire at Israel during the truce.
  • “In light of Hamas’ incessant criminal aggression and dangerous infiltration into Israeli territory, Israel must act to protect its citizens,” a statement from the PMO said.
  • “Operation Protective Edge will continue until it has achieved its purpose – restoring quiet to the citizens of Israel for an extended period, with significant damage to the infrastructure of Hamas and other terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip,” the statement went on to say. 


  • Israeli army to request cabinet to green light the recruitment of 18,000 more reserves in case the ground operation in Gaza is expanded.
  • Chief of Staff Lieut. Gen. Benny Gantz says that “we’ll launch a joint ground-aerial assault, using full force. We’ll continue to expand the fire all over the Gaza Strip.”
  • IDF Spokesperson Moti Almoz said that the IDF has entered the second phase of the operation, which will last for however long is necessary.
  • “Large ground forces, assisted by massive backing from the air force and the navy, are currently taking over areas in the Gaza Strip and acting against tunnels and other targets,” he said.
  • Almoz addressed Gaza Strip residents and called on them to evacuate the areas where the IDF is operating. (Gili Cohen, Amos Harel)


Is it safe and wise to visit Israel? A few thoughts. (My family & I are still moving forward with our long-planned travel to Israel in August)

In Uncategorized on July 17, 2014 at 3:27 pm

israel-westernwall>> In early August, I’ll be speaking on the latest developments in Israel & Mideast at events in Denver, Colorado & Ames, Iowa in August. Please click here to learn more and/or to register to attend.

UPDATED: (Washington, D.C.) – With the Hamas war on Israel on-going, I’m being asked by pastors and other Christians whether it’s safe to visit Israel right now, or even to take a tour group over there.

Here are a few thoughts:

  • First and foremost, this is a matter for prayer — ask the Lord for wisdom according to James 1:5, and He will give you His answer. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”
  • If you don’t feel peace about going, that’s fine. If the Lord doesn’t give you the green light to go, don’t.
  • That said, if the Lord does give you peace and a “green light” to go, obey Him.
  • Now is actually a very important time for Christians to visit Israel – to pray for peace, to demonstrate Christ-like love for Israelis and Palestinians, to better understand what’s happening, and to encourage the believers in the Land.
  • What a great witness and blessing it is to people in the epicenter when followers of Jesus Christ are willing to come visit them at this critical time!
  • [UPDATE: Even with the news of Israel's ground operation in Gaza, we are still planning on going to Israel in a few weeks.] Lord willing, my family and I are planning to go to Israel in a few weeks. It’s a long-planned trip, we’re excited to go, and we’re eager to pray with and serve those in the Land, and we’re not going to let this rocket war stop us. That said, if the Lord tells us to cancel or postpone the trip, we will. But right now, we feel very peaceful about proceeding.
  • We know many others who are traveling to Israel these days and haven’t had any problems. One of The Joshua Fund’s board members and some of our senior staff were just there last week and had experienced no significant difficulties or dangers. We also know other tour groups that are there right now or are heading over there soon and everything is going well.
  • There are certainly risks, and it’s important to be honest and clear-minded about them.
  • But remember that most of the rockets fired from Gaza land in fields and don’t injure people or damage buildings.
  • What’s more, the Iron Dome is shooting down 90% of the rockets that are at risk of falling on populated areas.
  • And despite this rocket war, it is very important to note that most Israelis and Palestinians are functioning day to day without being affected by the rockets. They’re working and shopping and going to parks and doing errands and carrying on quite normal lives. Sure, they are talking with friends and neighbors about the conflict. They’re praying. They’re watching news coverage. They’re mourning over loved ones or countrymen who have been injured or killed. But life hasn’t come to a stand-still. They’re not paralyzed. Those in Gaza and southern Israel are living in extremely difficult circumstances, to be sure. They’re living in a severe conflict. But most Israelis and all the Palestinians in the West Bank are carrying on with their lives as they typically would.
  • For example, we have Joshua Fund staff in Israel. By God’s grace, they are operating fine day to day. Their humanitarian relief work has become more challenging in the south because of the rockets. But their day-to-day activities haven’t become paralyzed personally or professionally.
  • For visitors to Israel, it wouldn’t be advisable to travel down in the south of Israel at this point — but most tour groups don’t head south — they travel to Jerusalem and the north of the country to see the Sea of Galilee, and Caesarea, and Armageddon, etc. Yes, a few rockets have been fired from Lebanon and Syria towards the north, but they were immediately shot down.
  • Only one Israeli has been killed in this rocket war so far, and he was visiting troops right on the border of Gaza.
  • Remember: every hotel and public building has bomb shelters. There are also very effective air raid systems. Tour guides and bus drivers are very experienced and know exactly how to keep you safe and secure. So you’ll be in good hands.
  • Note to pastors: I’d encourage you to go forward with your tours to Israel if they are coming up soon. But you might consider offering people 100% refunds if they don’t feel peaceful about going. Even if you take a smaller group over, that’s good. You’ll have people traveling with you who want to be there, who truly want to learn the history of Israel and the region, and who want to pray faithfully for peace and be a blessing to Jews and Arabs. What a great trip that would be!
  • A final thought for now: in addition to visiting Israel, consider spending several days in Jordan. I was just there in early May. It’s a beautiful, fascinating, historical country, filled with rich Biblical history. Jesus was there. John the Baptist was there. So were Moses and Joshua, and Elijah and Elisha, David and his mighty men, and so many others. It’s safe and intriguing and worth taking your family and tour group. To read more about my trip, please click here.

I hope that’s helpful. May the Lord grant you grace and wisdom as you consider a trip to the epicenter.



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