(Netanya, Israel) — UPDATED: We urgently need Christians around the world to pray for peace and to mobilize your family, friends and churches to pray and fast. The situation here is rapidly going from bad to worse. It is nearly midnight here, and the battle between Hamas and Israel has been intensifying hour by hour throughout the day.
Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian terror organizations — backed by Iran — are firing rockets, missiles and mortars at innocent civilians in Israel, along the southern border. Each act is a war crime. The Iranian-backed terrorists are also firing from behind innocent civilians in Gaza, often from hospitals, mosques and schools. Thus, each act is actually two war crimes. In just the past several hours, the terrorists have fired more 50 times at Israel. That’s more than 100 war crimes. Since Saturday, they have fired at Israeli civilians more than 200 times. That’s more than 400 war crimes. Yet the world is paying very little attention and doing little to stop the terrorist attacks. Israel, therefore, is moving swiftly to defend herself.
Please pray for the Lord to intervene and stop the violence. Pray for wisdom for the leaders to know how to bring calm and security. Pray for the Lord to protect and comfort those injured and traumatized on both sides — Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs — because the Lord loves both. Please pray for the Christians living in the crossfire to be brave and courageous as they ride out this terrible storm. Pray, too, for the believers to humbly serve those in need, provide humanitarian relief as needed, encourage and comfort with their neighbors with the Word of God, and to point people to the only Prince of Peace, the Lord Jesus Christ.
You can track events most closely by following me on Twitter — @joelcrosenberg, but here are the latest developments.
CONTEXT: Israel doesn’t occupy Gaza. Israel withdrew all its forces from Gaza in 2005. Yet Israeli towns along its southern borders have been hit with hundreds of rockets and mortars in recent months, while the world has remained silent. More than 1 million Israeli civilians have been under constant threat of attack. Schools are closed. Businesses are closed. People are living in fear. Children can’t sleep. It has become an unsustainable situation. So on Wednesday, the IDF killed of the top Hamas military commander — Ahmed Jabari — who had masterminded myriad attacks on Israel, had been in charge of the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, and oversaw the firing of thousands of rockets and mortars at Israel. See video of the airstrike that killed Jabari. The Israeli Air Force on Wednesday also bombed at least 20 terror facilities in Gaza. Hamas terrorists vowed revenge, saying Israel has “opened the gates of Hell” and that it plans a massive retaliation.
- 12:15 AM local time — I’m listening to a Hamas official being interviewed live on CNN international who is justifying the rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza because Israel is “an occupier.” But Israel doesn’t occupy Gaza.
- 11:54 PM local time — Iron Dome battery intercepts Gaza rocket over Ashkelon (Haaretz)
- 11:39 P.M. — National Security Minister Avi Dichter in Be’er Sheva: We have no intention to end this round of fighting and suffer more hits in the next. During Operation Cast Lead we didn’t have Iron Dome batteries. This time, we do (Gili Cohen)
- 10:52 P.M. local time — Security Cabinet authorized the IDF to draft reservists and expand Gaza operation (Barak Ravid)
- 10:17 P.M. — Summary of Gaza rocket fire toward Israel’s south: 60 rockets were fired on Wednesday from Gaza at Israel’s south; 48 toward Be’er Sheva, Dimona and Ofaqim; 12 toward Ashdod, the Lachish area and Sha’ar Havegev Regional Council; Iron Dome batteries intercepted 17 rockets (Haaretz)
- 10:12 PM — Netanyahu and Barak hold press conference to announce “Operation Pillar of Defense” and says IDF preparing to massively escalate. “Today we sent a clear message to the Hamas organization and to other terrorist organizations, and should the need arise, the IDF is prepared to broaden the operation,” Netanyahu said at a joint press conference with Defense Minster Ehud Barak. “We will continue to do everything to protect our citizens.” Netanyahu blamed Hamas for escalating its attacks against civilians, and added that Israel was “not prepared to make peace with a situation in which Israel’s citizens are menaced by the terror of rocket fire. “No country would agree to such a situation; Israel is not prepared to reconcile itself to such a situation,” said Netanyahu.
- 9:41 P.M. — United States Embassy in Tel Aviv issues security message for U.S. citizens in Israel, advises them to pay close attention to news reports and follow civil defense guidance provided by the Home Front Command (Allison Kaplan Sommer, Haaretz)
- 8:55 PM — “Sirens wailed in the city of Beersheba Wednesday night as residents across the city took shelter from incoming rockets fired from the Gaza Strip. The attacks came in the wake of the assassination of Hamas military chief Ahmed Jabari, which marked the commencement of Operation Pillar of Defense against terror targets in the Gaza Strip. The Iron Dome system downed some 17 rockets over Beersheba and towns surrounding the Gaza Strip. All in all, over 50 rockets were launched by Palestinian terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip, Wednesday evening including 17 long-range Grad rockets that were fired at Beersheba….Residents within range of rocket fire from Gaza were requested to remain within 15 seconds of a shelter. School was called off for Thursday throughout the south, including in Beersheba, Ashdod and Ashkelon. The police raised alert levels amid fears of terror attacks.” (Times of Israel)
- 8:38 P.M. — Benjamin Netanyahu: The IDF is ready for action; we will continue doing everything in order to protect our citizens. If necessary, we will expand operations (Haaretz)
- 7:42 P.M. — President Shimon Peres speaks to U.S. President Barak Obama on the phone, says Israel is not interested in raising the height of the flames, but for five days, rockets have been fired toward us and mothers and children are unable to sleep in peace at night. Ahme Jabari stood behind many terrorist activities (Barak Ravid)
- 5:36 P.M. — IDF Spokesman: Israeli military ready for ground operation in Gaza, should there be need for an incursion (Barak Ravid)
- 5:26 P.M. – Palestinians say Hamas military wing chief in Rafah, Raed al-Atar, killed in IDF strike (Haaretz)
- 4:06 P.M. — Top Hamas commander Ahmed Jabari in car hit by Israeli airstrike (Haaretz)
- New e-book – Israel At War: Inside The Nuclear Showdown With Iran — now available on Kindle, Nook, other formats (includes sneak preview of material from forthcoming Damascus Countdown novel)
- Help The Joshua Fund care for the poor and needy in Israel, teach the Word of God in the epicenter, educate and mobilize Christians around the world to bless poor and needy Israelis, train pastors and ministry leaders in Egypt, strengthen the believers in Syria, and prepare for a possible major new war in the epicenter — please prayerfully consider a generous, tax deductible financial contribution to The Joshua Fund.
- Come with The Joshua Fund and me to Israel for the 2013 “Prayer & Vision Tour” and the 2013 Epicenter Conference — click here for more details and to register
- Follow Joel on Twitter — @joelcrosenberg