Darkness falling over Turkey. Israel tells its citizens to leave Turkey immediately as ISIS threat to Jews & Christians grows.

Joel-Istanbul

I’ve been to Turkey at least a half dozen times over the years and have always loved it there. Just last October, I traveled to Istanbul for a series of meetings. I visited the Blue Mosque and various locations that I’d written about in The Third Target, including the area of restaurants and cafes where I’d set a fictional terrorist attack that nearly kills my main character, J.B. Collins, the New York Times foreign correspondent.

I’m so glad I went, but it’s going to be awhile before I go back. Turkey is fast turning from a moderate, peaceful democracy — indeed, long model of tolerance in the Islamic world since the fall of the Ottoman Empire in the early 1920s — into a dangerous dictatorship under President Erdogan, an increasingly tyrannical Islamist. What’s more, Turkey is becoming both a transit point for ISIS and al Qaeda and other jihadists, and even a target of Radical Islamic terrorism.

On March 20th, for example, a suicide bomber with links to ISIS blew himself up in the heart of Istanbul, killing four and wounded 36 people. Among the dead were three Israelis, including two with dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship. Eleven more Israelis were among the wounded. It was just one of many recent attacks.

Intelligence agencies are warning that Jews and Christians could be targeted with more terror attacks soon. Now the Israeli government is warning its citizens to leave Turkey immediately.

Soon, I plan to write more about the darkness falling over Turkey, a country I love dearly and one where I’ve taken my wife and children repeatedly over the years.

For now, here’s more on the warning issued to Israeli citizens:

“The Counter-Terrorism Bureau at the Prime Minister’s Office on Monday issued a travel warning calling on the public to avoid visiting Turkey and urging Israelis currently there to leave as soon as they can,” reports the Times of Israel.

The warning, which raised the terror risk in Turkey from level 3 (basic concrete threat) to level 2 (high concrete threat), came in the wake of a terror attack in central Istanbul on March 19, in which three Israelis were killed and several others wounded,” the Times noted. “That attack, the PMO said in a statement, underscored the threat emanating from Islamic State cells that seek to attack tourism sites and proved that IS has ‘high capabilities of carrying out further attacks.'”

“Terrorist infrastructures in Turkey continue to advance additional attacks against tourist targets – including Israeli tourists – throughout the country,” the statement added. Israelis in Turkey should “leave as soon as possible.””

On Saturday, Turkish police warned of possible Islamic State attacks against Christians and Jews. “IS has been blamed for four of six bombings that have rocked Turkey in the past eight months, including a double suicide attack at a peace rally in the capital, Ankara, in October that left 103 people dead,” noted the Times.

“The police have warned that IS group members may have scouted out places of worship as well as consulates and embassies, saying that churches and synagogues especially in Ankara, as well as foundations belonging to non-Muslims, should be on their guard,” the article noted. “Israel has not stated definitively whether last Saturday’s blast had deliberately targeted Israelis. It has praised Turkey for its handling of the aftermath of the bombing. The Israeli victims of the attack were Yonathan Suher, 40, Simha Dimri, 59, and Avraham Goldman, 69. Suher and Goldman were also United States citizens.”

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We didn’t always celebrate Easter. Here’s how my parents & I became followers of Jesus Christ.

GardenTomb

What a joy and undeserved honor it is to celebrate Easter in the Holy Land, where Jesus of Nazareth traveled and taught and healed and loved His neighbors and His enemies.

Unfortunately, too few Jews and Arabs in this region get as excited about Easter as I do. Amongst six million Israeli Jews, about two million Israeli Arabs, and another four million-plus Palestinian Arabs, only about 30,000 are born again believers that Jesus is the Messiah who died on the cross and rose again from the dead on the third day, according to the Scriptures. The good news is wonderful news — but not enough people in this part of the world know it or believe it.

Then again, my family and I weren’t always excited about Easter. There was a time when we hadn’t heard the Gospel. And even when we did hear about God’s free gift of forgiveness and hope and eternal life, we didn’t all immediately believe it. My parents and I understand what it’s like to be lost, and to feel lost, and to genuinely have no idea that God loves us and wants to adopt us into His royal family.

Today, I’d like to share with you our spiritual journey. In this hour-long audio message (divided up in 5 to 10 minute segments on YouTube), I explain the process my parents went through to come to faith in Jesus Christ, how I later came to faith in Christ myself, and later how I experienced a powerful spiritual revival in my junior year of high school that completely transformed my life. I hope it will encourage you in your own spiritual journey, and that it will be something you can share with family and friends to help and encourage them, as well. Thanks and God bless you.

  • My spiritual journey — part 1 — how becoming the author of The Last Jihad triggered people asking me a critical question
  • Part 2 — how my Jewish grandparents escaped from Russia, my father’s Jewish upbringing, my mother’s Gentile heritage, and how they met
  • Part 3 — my mother’s spiritual journey
  • Part 4 — my father’s spiritual journey, and then how I came to faith
  • Part 5 — how I learned I was Jewish, and then my crisis of faith in high school
  • Part 6 — the conclusion of my story, and so what? Why should this matter to you?

(Photo: The (empty) Garden Tomb in Jerusalem.)

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Amidst the enormous tensions in the Middle East, now is a good time to celebrate Purim. Here’s why.

Purim

Amidst all the trauma and tension in the Middle East, let’s stop for a moment and focus on some good news — the Biblical story of God supernaturally preventing genocide and saving His people.

This week, we celebrate Purim. This is the ancient Jewish holiday we read about the Book of Esther in the Old Testament. It celebrates the remarkable story of how the Lord used two faithful believers — Mordechai and Esther — and a movement of prayer and fasting to save the Jewish people from an evil Persian regime determine to annihilate them.

Several years ago, you may recall that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu presented President Obama a decorated copy of an Esther Scroll telling the Biblical story. They discussed the parallels between ancient times and today.

There are many remarkable parallels, as I describe here in a video blog.

Here are four ways you can celebrate this year:

  1. Learn – Jewish families around the world read the Book of Esther as a family to remember all the details of this amazing story, and Christians should, too. To read the Book of Esther on-line, please click here. To read notes of a message I gave to the National Religious Broadcasters convention in 2010 on “Israel, The Iran Threat, and Modern Day Lessons From The Book of Esther,” please click here. Or perhaps you might watch the video blog we made above for The Joshua Fund.
  2. Pray– We are to praise the God of Israel that He saved and redeemed the Jewish people. We are also to thank Him that He also saved so many Persian (Iranian) people who turned to the Living God at the end of the story (many people miss this part). Especially this year we should follow Mordechai and Esther’s example by praying and fasting for the redemption of the Jewish people amidst the current tensions with an evil Persian regime that wants to annihilate them. Let us also be praying faithfully for the Persian people to be saved and redeemed, as well.
  3. Give — On Purim, the Lord encourages us to give food and other gifts to the poor. As we read in Esther 9:20-22, “Then Mordecai recorded these events, and he sent letters to all the Jews who were in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, both near and far, obliging them to celebrate the fourteenth day of the month Adar, and the fifteenth day of the same month, annually, because on those days the Jews rid themselves of their enemies, and it was a month which was turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and rejoicing and sending portions of food to one another and gifts to the poor.” May we be faithful to the Lord in giving to the poor and needy and vulnerable, as well.
  4. Go — As you celebrate Purim with family and friends, start praying about going on a tour of Israel, and perhaps Jordan, as well. Come visit the Biblical sites of the Holy Land, walk where Abraham, Isaac and Jacob walked. See the places where our Lord Jesus Christ loved and served people and preached the good news of the Kingdom of God. Study the Scriptures in the places where so many of them were written, and discover how to be a blessing to Jews and Arabs (and Persians!) in our day. After all, Christ commanded us to love our neighbor, and to love our enemies. What better way to do that than to come visit the epicenter where it all began!

May the Lord bless you, and all of Israel, and all of the Persian people this Purim season.

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ISIS claims responsibility for Brussels bombings. Here’s the latest.

Brussels“A wave of bombings that killed at least 30 people in Brussels were carried out by Isis militants, the group has claimed,” reports the UK Independent.

Two minutes ago, Reuters published a similar story that ISIS has claimed responsibility for the horrific attacks in the city that is headquarters for the European Union and NATO.

“In a statement released through one of its propaganda outlets, the so-called Islamic State said ‘explosive belts and devices’ were used,” the Independent noted on its website.

“Islamic State fighters opened fire inside Zaventem Airport, before several of them detonated their explosive belts, as a martyrdom bomber detonated his explosive belt in the Maalbeek metro station,” a spokesperson said. “The attacks resulted in more than 230 dead and wounded.” The group also said Belgium was targeted as “a country participating in the international coalition against the Islamic State.”

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The Obama administration (finally) accuses ISIS of genocide. Here’s the latest.

genocide-graphic

It finally happened today. After months of calls by religious leaders and Mideast lfor the White House and State Department to call the ISIS slaughter of Christians, Muslims and Yazidis what it really is — genocide — the administration finally did so.

Now, of course, the question is: How serious is the administration going to be about crushing ISIS and stopping the genocide once and for all?

One step at a time, apparently.

“The Islamic State is committing genocide against Yazidis, Christians and Shiite Muslims in Iraq and Syria, Secretary of State John Kerry declared on Thursday, a historic announcement that nonetheless is unlikely to spur greater U.S. military action against the terrorist network,” Politico reported.

“The declaration is a rare one — the U.S. has a record of trying to avoid the term ‘genocide,’ which carries with it political, moral and some legal obligations,” the article noted. “The only other time the U.S. has used the term in an ongoing conflict was in 2004, when it described the atrocities in Sudan’s Darfur region.”

More excerpts from the Politico article:

  • The Islamic State “is genocidal by self-proclamation, by ideology and by actions, in what it says, what it believes and what it does,” Kerry said in an appearance before reporters on Thursday morning. “Naming these crimes is important, but what is essential is to stop them.”
  • Kerry’s decision was welcomed by lawmakers and faith-based advocacy groups who have lobbied for months to ensure that Christians would be included among the genocide victims of the Islamic State, which is also known as ISIS, ISIL or Da’esh. Kerry’s inclusion of Christians also defuses a potential Republican attack line during this year’s presidential campaign, even though Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton has already declared she believes the Islamic State is committing genocide against Christians.
  • Earlier this week, the House of Representatives unanimously passed a non-binding resolution declaring that the Islamic State was committing genocide against a range of groups including Christians. Congress had given Kerry until Thursday to make his determination, but on Wednesday, the State Department said he would need more time, making his announcement a bit of a surprise.
  • Still, administration officials have long warned that a declaration of genocide does not mean that the U.S. is legally obliged to step up its military involvement in the battle against the Islamic State in Iraq or Syria. The U.S. already is leading a coalition of dozens of countries who are backing up Iraqi forces battling the jihadists. U.S. Special Forces also are on the ground in Syria carrying out operations against the group, whose members subscribe to a severe form of Sunni Islam.
  • Advocates of using the term genocide, however, insist that it is important because it could help galvanize the international fight against the terror network, possibly spur potential recruits to stay away from it, and in the long run help bring perpetrators to justice in international tribunals.

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As top officials warn ISIS will attempt “direct attacks” in U.S. homeland in 2016, ISIS launches chemical weapons attack in Iraq injuring 600. Here’s the latest.

ISIS-flag

There is a real and growing and chilling concern among top intelligence officials that ISIS is steadily developing the ability to launch massive, genocidal attacks against its enemies using chemical weapons. Whether ISIS is planning such attacks inside the U.S., in Europe or only within the Middle East, is not yet clear.

Ghastly attacks of precisely this sort are the premise of my two most recent novels, The Third Target and The First Hostage. When I began researching and writing the series, however, there was no actual evidence that ISIS possessed — or had access to —  weapons of mass destruction. But the situation is changing for the worse.

Last month, CIA director John Brennan admitted on “60 Minutes” that he now fears chemical attacks by ISIS.

Also last month, James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, told a security conference in Munich that ISIS has chemical weapons and wants to use them against the United States. “It is pretty clear that they [ISIS] have used this [chemical weapons] numerous times,” Clapper said. “It is very clear aspirationally they would like to do more and it is a concern to us in the United States because the indications are that they would like to use chemical weapons against us.”

Meanwhile, Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told Congress that ISIS “will probably attempt to conduct additional attacks in Europe, and attempt to direct attacks on the U.S. homeland in 2016.”

Now, just this week, we’ve learned that ISIS has just launched two attacks in the city of Kirkuk using chemical weapons. At least 600 Iraqis have been injured by the attacks. One little girl is dead. Hundreds of other Iraqis have fled for their lives. Iraq’s Prime Minister is vowing revenge for the attacks.

Recently, U.S. special forces captured ISIS’s chemical weapons chief. “Sleiman Daoud al-Afari was snatched close to a month ago in the town of Badoosh, north-west of the Isis stronghold of Mosul,” reported the UK Guardian. “A senior Iraqi official said he was an industrial engineer in former dictator Saddam Hussein’s military and had been a member of Isis throughout all its earlier incarnations.” This week, U.S. forces handed over the terrorist to the Iraqi government.

U.S., Iraqi and Kurdish forces have been attacking ISIS chemical weapons production facilities. It is likely that knowledge of these facilities came from intel provided by al-Afari.

But the risk is increasingly high that ISIS is planning “enormous and spectacular attacks” in Europe, the U.S., in Israel or in a Sunni Arab country, as a top British security official recently warned.

Excerpts from the Los Angeles Times story on this week’s chemical weapons attack in Iraq:

  • The Islamic State group has launched two chemical attacks near the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, killing a 3-year-old girl, injuring some 600 people and causing hundreds more to flee, Iraqi officials said Saturday.
  • Security and hospital officials say the latest attack took place early Saturday in the small town of Taza, which was also struck by a barrage of rockets carrying chemicals three days earlier.
  • “There is fear and panic among the women and children,” said Adel Hussein, a local official in Taza. “They’re calling for the central government to save them.” Hussein said a German and an American forensics team arrived in the area to test for the presence of chemical agents.
  • The wounded are suffering from infected burns, suffocation and dehydration, said Helmi Hamdi, a nurse at the Taza hospital. He said eight people were transferred to Baghdad for treatment.
  • U.S. and Iraqi officials said U.S. special forces captured the head of the ISIS unit trying to develop chemical weapons in a raid last month in northern Iraq.
  • The U.S.-led coalition said the chemicals ISIS has so far used include chlorine and a low-grade sulfur mustard which is not very potent….
  • The coalition began targeting ISIS’ chemical weapons infrastructure with airstrikes and special operations raids two months ago, Iraqi intelligence officials and a Western security official in Baghdad told the AP.
  • Airstrikes are targeting laboratories and equipment, and further special forces raids targeting chemical weapons experts are planned, the officials said….

Congress to Obama: Label ISIS attacks against Christians “genocide.” Here’s the latest.

ISIS-genocide

“The evidence is in, and it’s chilling — the Islamic State is intentionally waging a war of genocide against Christians in Iraq and Syria. The jihadists are systematically trying to exterminate the Christian population in both countries by forcing followers of Jesus Christ to convert to their brand of Apocalyptic Islam or enslaving them, murdering them, starving them, and/or driving them out of the region.”

Readers of this blog may recall I wrote this in a January 23 column, “ISIS waging war of genocide against Christians in the Mideast. New UN report provides chilling details.”

To its shame, the Obama administration still refuses to name what ISIS is doing against Christians, Muslims and Yezidis genocide. The administration is legally mandated to make a determination by March 17th on whether what ISIS is doing is genocide, notes the U.K. Daily Mail.

To its credit, the U.S. House of Representatives on Monday overwhelmingly approved a bipartisan resolution declaring it genocide. It passed 383 to zero.

“The House of Representatives on Monday unanimously passed a resolution labeling the ISIS atrocities against Christian groups in Syria and Iraq ‘genocide,’ a term the State Department been reluctant to use about the attacks and mass murders by the terror group,” reported CNN.

Let us pray that the Senate soon follows suit, and the President, as well. Let us also pray that the U.S. government will demonstrate bipartisan resolve to strengthen our alliance with Sunni Arab nations like Jordan, Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirates and intensify military action to crush ISIS and liberate northern Iraq.

As I portray in The Third Target and The First Hostage, the leaders of the Islamic State believe they are required by Allah to commit genocide to accelerate the coming of the Mahdi, the establishment of their Caliphate, and the End of Days. They must be stopped immediately before their savagery expands and they strike inside the U.S. homeland.

Here are excerpts from the Fox News story:

The House approved a resolution Monday that declares the Islamic State is committing genocide against Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East — putting even more pressure on the Obama administration to do the same ahead of a deadline later this week.

The resolution passed the House with a unanimous vote of 383-0.

The resolution came to a vote just days after the release of a graphic new report by the Knights of Columbus and In Defense of Christians on ISIS’ atrocities. The report made the case that the terror campaign against Christians and other minorities in Syria, Iraq and other parts of the Middle East is, in fact, genocide.

“When ISIS systematically targets Christians, Yezidis, and other ethnic and religious minorities for extermination, this is not only a grave injustice—it is a threat to civilization itself,” Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., said in a statement. “We must call the violence by its proper name: genocide.”

The resolution was voted on ahead of a congressionally mandated March 17 deadline for Secretary of State John Kerry and the White House to make a decision on whether to make such a declaration. The measure is an effort to force the administration’s hand on the issue, as the administration has so far declined to take an official position.

There is a similar measure in the Senate that has yet to be voted on.

“Christians, Yezidis, and other beleaguered minority groups can find new hope in this trans-partisan and ecumenical alliance against ISIS’ barbaric onslaught,” Fortenberry, who is co-chairman of the Religious Minorities of the Middle East Caucus and represents America’s largest Yezidi community, said in the statement.

The measure also received the backing of House Republican leadership, with Speaker Paul Ryan calling on the Obama administration to take action in light of recent attacks against Christians. “Last week, ISIS militants killed 16 people, including four Catholic nuns, at a retirement home in southern Yemen,” Ryan said in a statement Monday. “This is the latest in a string of brutal attacks committed by ISIS against Christian and other minorities. Yet the administration has still not called this what it is: A genocide.”…..

….In addition to the genocide resolution, the House also voted on a measure to create an international tribunal to try those associated with atrocities by the Assad regime, ISIS and related groups. The measure passed in a vote of 392 to 3. The no votes came from Reps. Justin Amash, R-Mich, Thomas Massie, R-Ky., and Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii.

At least three presidential candidates — Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz on the Republican side, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side — have called on the administration to designate ISIS atrocities against Christians as genocide…..

As VP Biden arrives in Israel, new wave of terror attacks unleashed leaving American tourist dead, many wounded. Here’s the latest.

MDA-emergencysceneUPDATED: (Central Israel) — An American tourist is dead, his wife is badly wounded, an Israeli man has been critically wounded, and many more have been injured in a fresh wave of terror attacks in Jerusalem, the port city of Jaffa near Tel Aviv, and the West Bank in the last 48 hours.

The American has been identified as Taylor Force, a 29 year old graduate student at Vanderbilt University, a U.S. Army veteran who graduated from West Point, and a native of Lubbock, Texas. Taylor’s wife, who was visiting Israel with him, was also reportedly severely wounded in the stabbing attack in Jaffa.

Please be praying for the Lord to restore calm and order, for healing and comfort for the victims and their families, and wisdom for Israeli and Arab leaders. Please also share this article with others and mobilize them to pray, as well.

UPDATES:

“In all, twenty-nine Israelis and four foreign nationals have been killed in a wave of Palestinian terrorism and violence since October,” reported the Times of Israel. “Some 180 Palestinians have also been killed, around two-thirds of them while attacking Israelis, and the rest during clashes with troops, according to the Israeli army.”

After a severe wave of terror attacks across Israel and the West Bank last Fall, things have actually been noticeably quieter here in recent months. But these attacks have suddenly shattered the relative calm. See below for the latest developments.

The brutal attacks coincide with the arrival of Vice President Joe Biden in Israel on Tuesday afternoon in a bid to re-start peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians. The VP met with former Israeli President Shimon Peres late Tuesday afternoon, just blocks from where the attack on the American tourist was occurring. Today, the VP is meeting in Jerusalem with Prime Minister Netanyahu and later with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin. Later today, Biden will head to Ramallah to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Tomorrow, Biden heads to Jordan to meet with King Abdullah II. On Monday, the VP was in the United Arab Emirates.

THE FIRST ATTACK ON WEDNESDAY: “The first attack took place on Golda Meir Boulevard in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramot where shots were fired on an Egged bus,” the Jerusalem Post reported. “Passengers reported seeing two men in a car who opened fire on the bus. A citizen, noticing the commotion, exited his car and ran towards the scene and fired his weapon. The terrorists fled the scene. Three people were lightly injured in the attack and were transferred to the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem. Several people were treated for shock at the scene.”

THE SECOND ATTACK ON WEDNESDAY: “Shortly following the bus attack, an additional shooting attack was reported near the New Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City,” reported the Post. “MDA paramedics at the scene treated a man in his 50s who was listed in critical condition with bullet wounds to his upper body. The victim was evacuated to Hadassa University Medical Center on Jerusalem’s Mount Scopus. Two terrorists were shot and killed by security forces.”

THE THIRD ATTACK ON WEDNESDAY: “In the third attack of the morning, a terrorist attempted to stab a soldier at the Salfit checkpoint near the settlement of Ariel in the West Bank according to the IDF spokesperson,” the Post added.

THE TERROR ATTACKS IN JAFFA ON TUESDAY: “An American tourist was killed and at least 10 people were injured Tuesday evening when a Palestinian man carried out a stabbing spree in Jaffa,” reported the Times of Israel. “Five of the injured were described as being in critical condition. The terrorist stabbed his victims in at least three locations in an attack that lasted some 20 minutes.”

“The American fatality was later identified as 29-year-old Taylor Force, from Lubbock, Texas, a graduate student at Vanderbilt University,” the Times reported.

“Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital said it received six victims, one in critical condition, two in moderate condition and two suffering from lighter wounds. The hospital’s medical director confirmed that one of the victims was a pregnant woman. Another of the victims was an Arab Israeli — Jaffa is a mixed city with a sizable Arab population — and one a Palestinian man who was residing in Israel illegally, police reported.”

“It was the third serious attack of the day, coming on the heels of a stabbing in Petah Tikva and a shooting in Jerusalem,” the Times noted, adding that “the Hamas terror group released a statement praising the attacks as ‘heroic operations’ and saying they prove that the wave of violence that began in October has not ended.”

“Hamas celebrates the martyrs that have ascended through these operations, and confirms that their pure blood will, God willing, be the fuel for escalating the intifada,” the group wrote on its website.

“Before Tuesday, twenty-nine Israelis and three foreign nationals had been killed in a wave of Palestinian terrorism and violence since October,” reported the Times.

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ISIS planning “enormous and spectacular attacks,” UK anti-terror chief warns.

ISIS-flag

Islamic State want to inflict an ‘enormous and spectacular’ terrorist atrocity on Britain and may have people trained to a paramilitary level to carry out attacks,” reports The (UK) Guardian, based on comments by Britain’s anti-terror chief.

“Mark Rowley, a Metropolitan police assistant commissioner, said terrorists still wanted to kill soldiers or the police and now posed a real danger of attacking western lifestyle targets,” the Guardian reported. “Privately, counter-terrorism officials see no sign of ISIS’s internet propaganda campaign being thwarted by community and government efforts and believe the group still has the same ability to attract devotees.”

Here are more excerpts from the story:

  • Police have stepped up their planning for a marauding gun attack since the Paris attacks in November, in which concertgoers, diners and other revellers were killed.
  • Rowley, who leads on counter-terrorism for Scotland Yard, told a media briefing on Monday that the nature of the threat from ISIS, which he calls Daesh, was changing.
  • “In recent months we’ve seen a broadening of that, much more plans to attack western lifestyle. Going from that narrow focus on police and military as symbols of the state to something much broader. And you see a terrorist group which has big ambitions for enormous and spectacular attacks, not just the types that we’ve seen foiled to date.”
  • Previously, ISIS had been thought to be trying to incite individuals to stage small-scale attacks, possibly using knives or vehicles. It had been hoped that tougher laws had made the planning and execution of larger-scale “spectaculars” next to impossible.
  • But after the Paris attack and alleged plotting in Europe, Rowley and other counter-terrorism chiefs fear that Isis has the capability and intent to stage a mass-casualty attack in the west….
  • There were a record 339 arrests under counter-terrorism laws in 2015, 77% of which were British nationals, 14% were female and 13% were aged 20 and under….

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BREAKING NEWS: In 11-hour battle, Jordanian forces destroy ISIS sleeper cell planning major terror attacks to destabilize the kingdom. Here’s the latest.

Jordan-securityforces2In the most-sweeping anti-terrorist operation inside Jordan’s borders in years, government security forces have uncovered, attacked and destroyed an ISIS cell in the northern city of Irbid. The evidence strongly suggests the cell was planning major terrorists attacks against government and civilian targets to destabilize the kingdom.

Jordanian intelligence operatives were reportedly watching the cell for the past two weeks. Officials ordered a preemptive strike on the jihadists late Tuesday night before the cell could carry out its plans.

It was another reminder that ISIS leaders are, in fact, plotting to attack Jordan and overthrow King Abdullah II — as I write about in my two recent novels — and that as Christians we need to be actively, faithfully, consistently praying for the people and leaders of Jordan, including the King.

The Apostle Paul commands us, “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (I Timothy 2:1-4)

Let us, therefore, pray for the Lord to grant security and stability of this moderate Arab nation and protect them from the savagery of the Islamic State and other jihadists. Let’s pray for the Lord to show His grace and mercy to every citizen of Jordan and the many refugees who have fled there from the Syrian and Iraqi wars, seeking a safe haven in a time of great darkness and a region on fire. Let’s also pray for the Christians in Jordan, as they seek to be a blessing to their nation in every possible way, including as a faithful witnesses of the hope and forgiveness and good news found in Christ Jesus.

Reports indicate the ISIS fighters put up fierce resistance when cornered. “The terrorists refused to surrender and put up strong resistance using automatic weapons,” a spokesman for the General Intelligence Directorate told the BBC, adding “those killed were wearing explosive belts.”

The BBC also reported that “weapons, ammunition, explosives and detonators were also found at the scene.”

The battle in Irbid — which is close to the Syrian border and about 50 miles north of the capital city of Amman — reportedly lasted eleven hours.

The attack on the ISIS sleeper cell took place just days after Jordan’s King Abdullah II met in Washington with President Obama, which I wrote about yesterday. During his meetings, the King warned of the steadily rising threat that the Islamic State poses to the Hashemite Kingdom and the fact that ISIS is trying to recruit jihadists from among the 1.3 million-plus Syrian refugees now residing in Jordan.

Eight ISIS terrorists were killed. Twenty-two more were immediately arrested. This provided intelligence that led to at least 13 other ISIS terrorists being arrested in short order in different parts of the country.

One Jordanian soldier was killed during the intense operation. At least three others were wounded.

“Nearly 4,000 Jordanians belong to jihadists groups,” mostly the Islamic State, reported Agence France Presse.

“More than 400 Jordanians have been killed fighting in jihadist ranks in Syria and Iraq since 2011,” added the AFP report.

I have a special place in my heart for the people and leaders of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. I’ve been there at least a half dozen times and have dear friends in Jordan.

So much of Bible history took place on East side of the Jordan River. The Scriptures teach us that Moses and the children of Israel lived there and traveled through there. The Hebrew prophet Elijah was born and raised on the East side of the river, and went back to heaven there in a chariot of fire. The prophet Elisha was given the mantle of ministry on the East side of the river. John the Baptist lived and ministered there. The Lord Jesus was likely baptized on the East side.

What’s more, there are many — and sobering — prophecies in the Bible about the future of the country we now call Jordan in the “last days.”

I hope, therefore, that you’ll join me in praying regularly and faithfully for the Jordanians. God loves them dearly. Shouldn’t we?

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