Shalom from Israel! Despite the nearly constant roar of F-16 fighter jets taking off and landing at a nearby airbase, it has been a very productive week of ministry here. The work on CONNECT has been progressing well. Certainly, there have been problems, delays, and additional costs, but that is true of any project of this type. If you want to see the latest that’s been happening with CONNECT, check out this short update video and the video of the CONNECT sign going up on the building. It’s so exciting to see, and it just continues to stimulate my mind toward the many and varied ministry activities we will be able to carry out in this facility.
It has been a very busy seven days in the Middle East, so for this week’s edition of the newsletter I’d like to dig right in.
The Middle East
Israel is winning the war in Gaza. Don’t let the media tell you otherwise. On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have destroyed 17 of 24 Hamas battalions. Thousands of buildings used to house terrorists and their war materiel have been demolished, and kilometers of underground tunnels are being blown apart weekly. A massive number of weapons, from explosives to rockets to automatic rifles to handguns, have been found and confiscated.
Still the work is not yet done. The IDF has yet to capture or eliminate Yahya Sinwar, Hamas’s chief in Gaza, who is currently on the run from one hiding place to another. It is without question that he has surrounded himself with a human shield of Israeli hostages. There are still thousands of Hamas terrorists in Khan Yunis and down in Rafah. Although, today, Rafah has one fewer after Majdi Abd al-Aal, commander of the special forces of Hamas police in the area, was taken out in a targeted killing. The work in Khan Yunis, then down toward the Egyptian border, will continue until the threat is completely neutralized.
Despite defeat after defeat, Hamas seems to think they are winning. That is the only explanation for their ridiculous response to the Qatar, US, and Egypt-brokered ceasefire proposal. While verbally giving a generally positive response, they then issued a counterproposal that, according to the Lebanese Al-Akhbar newspaper, essentially stated: 1) we want all IDF soldiers out, 2) let’s go back to how it was before we slaughtered your people, with the same borders and international guarantees that you’ll stay on your side from now on, and 3) we don’t want Jews up on the Temple Mount anymore. In return, we’ll give back your hostages over a 135-day period. How could Israel say “no” to such a gracious offer?
Alas, it seems that Israel will, in fact, say “no”. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told US Secretary of State Antony Blinken that it is quite obvious that Hamas’s answer “was drafted in a way that will make Israel reject it.” Based on Netanyahu’s statements of the last week, Israel’s counterproposal to Hamas would be more along the lines of “surrender or die.” If that sounds harsh, then remember what these vicious animals did on October 7. If you need your memory jogged, watch the video that Israel presented to the International Court of Justice. However, let me give you my strongest warning before you do. Murder, mutilation, rape, beatings, kidnapping – all were part of Hamas’s actions that day. Still today, over 100 days later, 136 hostages are being held. However, of that number, we know that at least 31 have perished in captivity. Israel cannot afford to let the Hamas terrorist organization continue to exist.
Hundreds of Israelis are fed up with their country sending humanitarian aid into Gaza. Taking matters into their own hands, they are blocking the transports of this aid. It is not because they want to take vengeance on the Gazan civilians. It’s because they recognize that a majority of the aid sent ends up in the hands of the terrorists. Netanyahu recently estimated 60% of humanitarian aid is taken by Hamas, but many believe the number to be as high as 80%. The Gazans themselves tell of this theft, often carried out by Hamas soldiers who liberally use clubs to beat back those who are in need.
The West Bank
The fighting continues daily in the West Bank as the IDF seeks to root out Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). Many people think the greatest threats are in the south and in the north, but I believe it is quite possible that an October 7-like massacre could come from the West Bank. First, the will is there. Most Palestinians in whatever part of the region they are in support Hamas. Second, the ability is there. The West Bank has been heavily weaponized through smuggling over the years. If there were an attack, there would be no shortage of guns or ammunition. Finally, the hostile attitude of the U.S. and Europe against Jews living in the West Bank emboldens the Palestinians living there, giving them an excuse to attack. The terrorist groups must be eliminated from the area.
Lebanon and Syria
Rockets flew from Syria toward Golan at the beginning of the week, leading Israel to target a site in Homs belonging to pro-Iranian militias. In Lebanon, rockets and projectiles are daily being fired across the border at Israel. In return, Israel is regularly flying sorties into Lebanon, particularly in the southern portion. In the past months, according to spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the IDF has eliminated 200 Hezbollah terrorists and destroyed 120 observation posts, 40 weapons depots, and 40 command centers. It is essential that the IDF soften Hezbollah’s infrastructure in the south of Lebanon before Israel’s northern border war begins.
On a bright note, Argentina’s new president Javier Milei has come to Israel, meeting with President Isaac Herzog on Tuesday and Prime Minister Netanyahu on Wednesday. When he first arrived, Milei immediately announced Argentina’s intention to move the country’s embassy to Jerusalem. Milei’s visit has included an emotional trip to the Western Wall, and many diplomatic talks about expanding the economic relationship between the two countries. Thank you, President Milei and Argentina, for showing yourselves to be great friends of Israel!
The Riyadh government has spent much effort trying to repair the damage caused by the United States when it was leaked to the media that Saudi Arabia was willing to soften its position toward Israel, even while the Gaza conflict continues. This rumor was then reaffirmed by US Secretary of State Blinken. The accusation brought great embarrassment to the Saudis, who are, in fact, pursuing a stronger relationship with Israel but in an extremely quiet manner. This leak to the media forced Riyadh to come out with a strong denial, stating that a relationship with Israel will not be normalized without a Palestinian state.
US Bases in Iraq and Syria
The US launched a retaliatory strike against Iran-supported militias in Iraq and Syria on Saturday in response to the deadly attack on American troops last week. Eighty-five targets were hit using 125 precision weapons, killing nearly 40 people. On Monday, however, the militias were back in action, conducting a drone attack at the American base at Al-Omar oil field which killed six US-allied Kurdish fighters.
Last night, the US took more decisive action against Kataib Hezbollah, the Iran-backed militia responsible for the January 28 attack on an American base that left three US soldiers dead. A missile fired from an American drone destroyed a car traveling in eastern Baghdad. Among the three killed in the vehicle was Abu Baqir Al-Saadi, the commander of Kataib Hezbollah’s operations in Syria and the man directly responsible for the deadly attack that killed the three American troops. Al-Saadi is the most senior person to be killed on Iraqi soil since the targeted eliminations of Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in January 2020. Also killed in last night’s strike was Arkan Al-Alawi who oversaw the sending of UAVs from Iraq to Israel.
As positive as it is to have those two Hezbollah terrorist commanders removed from the playing field, Iran couldn’t have asked for a better US reaction. First, no Iranian was killed or asset damaged on Iranian soil. The loss of Soleimani four years ago was devastating to Iran, because he was a Persian who headed the IRGC’s Quds Force. In contrast, Al-Saadi and Al-Alawi were not Iranian but Iraqi. Thus, while their skills may be missed, they are still only expendable Arabs to Iran. Second, the assassinations took place in Iraq violating Iraqi sovereignty. This gives the Iraqis an excuse to kick the Americans out and the pro-Iranian terrorist militias a reason to seek revenge against US troops and assets. Once again, Iran’s Persian hands remain clean, while their Arab minions spill their blood to further Tehran’s agenda.
Saturday saw the US and the UK hitting back hard against the Houthi infrastructure in Yemen. Struck were 36 targets in 13 sites in retaliation for the near daily missile and drone attacks by the Houthis against shipping in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. The government in Jordan is in hot water after it was discovered that it was participating in a “land bridge” to get necessary goods to Israel. Ships docked in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and their contents were loaded onto trucks. Those trucks were then driven across Saudi Arabia, through Jordan, and into Israel, thus bypassing the Houthi blockade of the Red Sea.
Turkey has finally given its okay to Sweden’s joining NATO. That should clear the path, right? Hold on a minute. Hungary is still dragging its feet. While some say that it is an internal political issue with President Viktor Orbán’s party saying that Sweden has lied about the quality of their democracy, others say it is Orbán himself who is blocking the way. They claim that the president, channeling his inner Rodney Dangerfield, feels that Hungary “don’t get no respect” from Sweden. Orbán, however, tweeted that he’d talked with the NATO secretary-general and expressed his support for Sweden’s membership. Whatever the real story is, Hungary needs to get it figured out.
Throughout the Old Testament, recurring prophecies and insights are revealed regarding a future on earth where there is no war, no overlooked injustices, and an overall theme of restoration – an era in which the Creator serves as King. In addition to the prophets speaking of this and Jesus’ disciples anticipating it, the apostles reinforced it. What is the Millennium? Is it something to come or something that’s being experienced now? Is it something to be taken literally? Tune in to “Life in the Millennium” on Friday at 12:00 PM PST for Pastor Mike Golay’s exciting journey through the Scriptures for answers to these questions and more!
Discovering Daniel – so much of what is taking place in the Middle East ties in with the Old Testament book of Daniel. This book, a prequel of sorts to my bestselling Revealing Revelation, is available for preorder leading up to its May 7, 2024 release.
After the amazing success of our Alaska Cruise conference in 2023, we are preparing to take our teaching back on the water! For these opportunities, we will be presenting our Discovering Daniel & Revealing Conference in two very different venues. The first will be a cruise through the Mediterranean, which will take place from October 19-29, 2024. Our second opportunity to present these teachings will be on the waters of the Caribbean on January 18-25, 2025. Registration for both cruises is currently open! Make sure to register soon, as we anticipate these events to fill up quickly.
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Thank you for your constant prayers and your faithful support of Behold Israel. This could be a very trying year around the globe. With your help, we will be able to assist people in making sense of the craziness around them by filtering it through a biblical lens. God is in control, and together we will make sure the world is reminded of that wonderful truth.
Awaiting His Return,
Photo credit: By Palestinian News & Information Agency (Wafa) in contract with APAimages, CC BY-SA 3.0, link
Amir, a Jewish Christian, is the founder and president of Behold Israel, a news site to correct the scarcity in trustworthy reportage on issues and events impacting Israel, and to resolve the uncertainty about who or what to believe.