Shalom from Israel! The mood in my country is tense. While the operation in Gaza is going exceedingly well, we know that the big war has yet to commence. The conflict with Hezbollah must come, and it will come. When it does, it will be brutal for the entire nation. Hezbollah is much better armed, much better financed, and much better trained than Hamas. The Iron Dome and our other air defense systems can only do so much against the thousands of rockets that will come racing across our northern border. I fully expect that by the time it is all said and done, the skyline of Tel Aviv will look different, as will many other parts of the country.
The hardship many families are feeling most now, and expect to only get worse, is the separation of spouses from one another and parents from their children. My wife and I already have one of our children who has been called up into the military. We expect that number to rise to three of our four within the next several months. Many have been away from home since the beginning of the conflict, and the resulting closing of businesses and the accompanying financial hardships have been devastating.
Once again, the months ahead will be a difficult time, but a necessary one. We cannot live any longer with the constant threat from a belligerent and active terrorist army just across our border. Again, this will not be a war with Lebanon, but it will be a war in Lebanon. Hezbollah is fully entrenched in that country, and they have so infiltrated the nation’s government and leadership infrastructure that the large percentage of Lebanese citizens who desperately want them out have no power or authority to do anything about it.
The war in Israel’s north will likely not remain just in Lebanon. The many terrorist militias that are based in Syria make it probable that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) will have a dual-northern front. Already, Israel’s military has moved four divisions, or approximately 100,000 soldiers, to the north. This is four times the usual number.
Many of Israel’s allies are pressuring us toward an end of hostilities, as are some growing oppositional voices within the nation. I wish we could oblige, but we cannot. If we allow our enemies the peace and the time needed to retrench and rearm, they will undoubtedly one day reengage. And this time they’ll come back even stronger than before. We can’t allow that to happen.
Please pray for wisdom for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his leadership team. Pray the same for the generals leading the actions of the IDF. And pray for safety for those of us who will be on the receiving end of the Hezbollah missiles, as well as for the innocent Lebanese citizens who are trapped in the war zone created by Hezbollah.
The Middle East
Israel went into mourning on Monday after the IDF experienced the greatest one-day loss of life since the war began. A group of reservists were setting explosives to bring down a building used by Hamas when an RPG was fired at them. The projectile exploded detonating the charges they were working with. The resulting blast brought down the building on top of them, as well as levelling the building next door. Twenty-one soldiers lost their lives. A second RPG was fired at a tank that was guarding the reservists, killing two more soldiers. We are a small country, and we feel deeply the loss of every soldier taken in the line of duty. I, for one, did not sleep at all the night I heard the report.
The Battle of Khan Yunis continues to rage. The taking of this hometown to many of the Hamas leaders is strategically essential if the IDF is going to get a strong foothold in central Gaza. The tunnel system is vast and contains the headquarters for most of the terrorist leadership who have surrounded themselves with a human shield of our 136 hostages. The action here is more difficult than that in Gaza City and its surrounding areas because there are still many Gazan civilians taking shelter in the area. The IDF must be very precise in their actions and their military intelligence must be strong if they are to effectively take out the terrorists without harming non-combatants. The difficulty of their task is enhanced by the many members of Hamas who operate without uniforms. These terrorist soldiers will come up from tunnels unarmed and dressed as civilians. Once on the street, they will grab up one of the thousands of weapons that are stashed throughout the city and open fire.
But what makes this war the most difficult is that the IDF is fighting a new type of warfare that no military has had to deal with in history. As we continue the difficult above ground war, we are simultaneously having to fight the near impossible battle below ground in the maze of tunnels where 20,000 well-trained terrorists are hiding. This is what is taking so long. We must operate one step at a time, heel to toe, always looking ahead, to the sides, and behind. Yes, we are closing in on them from all sides and eventually we will get them. But this type of warfare absolutely requires caution and patience! Sadly, our television studios are full of military commentators who complain that the IDF is just treading water and moving nowhere. But these men are just failed former generals who, in most cases, are responsible for the situation that we are in. Unfortunately, their idiotic rhetoric is responsible for creating unease and doubt toward the IDF and the government in the hearts of many whose loved ones have been called to put themselves in harm’s way.
Both Hamas and Israel have reportedly offered terms that would end the conflict. The offer by Hamas promised a release of all remaining hostages in return for an end of the war, a complete withdrawal of the IDF from Gaza, a release of all Palestinian detainees including those convicted of terrorist murders, and a guarantee that Hamas could run Gaza unhampered by Israel. In other words, they want Israel to surrender. Israel, on the other hand, promised an end to the war if Hamas would permanently exile six senior members of their leadership and release all the Israeli hostages. Hamas refused.
When it comes down to it, Hamas is reeling. Israel has killed or disabled 60% of the organization’s fighting force in just 110 days. All that’s left for them is to play a waiting game. They know that global opinion is rapidly shifting to their side. The longer they survive, the better they believe their final terms will be.
Lebanon and Syria
Although a full-out conflict has not yet broken out on Israel’s northern border, there is still activity daily. Hezbollah regularly fires dozens of rockets directed at Israeli towns and villages. Israeli strikes, using jets, missiles, and drones, against the terrorist organization’s infrastructure and against the terrorists themselves are a near daily occurrence. As mentioned above, both sides are training and preparing for the war that is coming.
To the east of Lebanon in Syria, terrorist militias prepare for their opportunity to race south across Israel’s border. This second front in the coming northern conflict is purely a product of Iran, which arms and funds these violent bands. As proof of Tehran’s activities in Syria, a Saturday missile strike in Damascus, courtesy of Israel, killed Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) intelligence chief for Syria and four other IRGC members. The Persian ayatollahs are not strong enough to come at Israel directly, so they use disposable Arab minions to do their dirty work.
An interesting development has arisen along the Syrian/Israeli border, this one originating out of the far north. Russia has been gradually decreasing their presence in Syria, as more and more troops are needed in Ukraine. However, the Russian Air Force has now begun flying patrols along the “Bravo Line” which divides the Golan Heights between Syria and Israel. Although the Russian military has been in Syria since 2015, this is the first time that its jets will be flying regular patrols along Israel’s northern border.
The US and Israel
Following talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, US President Joe Biden stated that the prime minister was not opposed to a potential two-state solution. This seemed to come as news to Netanyahu, who the next day posted on X, “I will not compromise on full Israeli security control over all the territory west of Jordan – and this is contrary to a Palestinian state.”
Not surprisingly, the prime minister’s response sent the United Nations into a tizzy. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres posted his response on X the next day, “The refusal to accept the two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians, and the denial of the right to statehood for the Palestinian people, are unacceptable.” Hey, Tony, aren’t you the guys who just gave the Presidency of the UN Conference on Disarmament this year to Iran? Talk about unacceptable!
The pressure the U.S. is placing on Israel for an end to the war and a subsequent two-state solution is driving a wedge between two historically strong allies. What is most aggravating is that the two-state hard sell is purely political in nature. This present administration sees an election coming up, and the incumbent desperately needs this win. His international track record has been atrocious as is evidenced by how many global militarized conflicts have erupted since he has taken office. If the current resident of the White House remains in office for another term, the relationship between the United States and Israel will likely be irreparably damaged.
The US and the Houthis
Remember four years ago when there was spreading peace in the Middle East? That’s true no longer. U.S. bases in Syria and Iraq are under daily attack. The New York Times estimates that 70 members of the United States military have been injured by pro-Iranian militias in the 140 attacks that have taken place since the war between Israel and Hamas began. Washington has responded to these assaults with airstrikes, which so far have not been enough to stop the terrorists.
Now the U.S. has taken on the Houthis in what the American military has dubbed Operation Poseidon Archer. The U.S. military is incredible, and I have great respect for those who are serving. Unfortunately, they are being sent into a conflict against a horde of flat-out crazy people. Seriously, the Houthis walk around barefoot, every one of them stoned out of their minds on khat, a chewable narcotic leaf. They are very difficult to defeat because they don’t think rationally. Just ask the Saudis who have been fighting them for the past eight years.
According to the Houthis, their goal is to close the three major waterways in what they call the Al-Aqsa Triangle – the Bab-el-Mandeb, the Strait of Hormuz, and the Suez Canal. Doing so would cut Israel off from much needed oil and gas from Qatar, UAE, and Saudi Arabia. This is an overly sophisticated plan for this terrorist group, so it’s no surprise to find their puppet strings leading up to the hands of the Iranian ayatollahs. Of the 75 dead in last week’s U.S. and British airstrikes on the Houthis in Yemen, nine were foreign advisors. Three of these were members of Iran’s IRGC and six belonged to Hezbollah.
The Iranian Octopus
This brings us now to what I call the Iranian octopus. In every bad situation taking place in the Middle East, you can find a radical Iranian Islamist tentacle. Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza and the West Bank, the terrorist militias in Syria and Iraq, the Houthis in Yemen, every one of them is attached to the main cephalopod body in Tehran.
The previous U.S. administration had Iran quelled. The sanctions were strong and the threats against any untoward actions were real. Then the new president came into office, and within a month-and-a-half he had rescinded the sanctions, allowing billions of dollars to flow into the Iranian economy. Since that time, the ayatollahs have felt emboldened to spread their evil influence throughout the Middle East causing conflict and instability.
A lack of proximity and political power limits Israel as to what they can practically do to Iran without inducing enormous geopolitical consequences. As a result, we are forced to deal primarily with the symptoms that exist on the other side of our borders. The United States, however, has the strength and clout to deal with the disease. But instead of pressuring Tehran to shut down the attacks coming from Yemen, Iraq, and Syria, the American administration is spending all its efforts trying to track down drugged-up Houthis in the ports of Sanaa. You don’t stop an octopus by cutting off a tentacle. You’ve got to go after the body.
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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From killing the 850 prophets of Baal & Asherah, to fleeing to the desert in fear for his life, Elijah was known as the “troubler” of Israel. How can the killing of these prophets be justified? This is just one of the questions I address in my teaching “The Timeless Days of Elijah” premiering Friday, January 26, at 12:00 PM PST. What message was God trying to convey to His people through Elijah? What message is God communicating to you?
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.
With each passing day, the progress on CONNECT grows! My son commented to me a few days ago that he had left the CONNECT site on a quick errand, and by the time he returned three new walls were up. Please continue to pray as this project continues during this difficult time in my country.
And please continue your prayers for Israel. Undoubtedly, God is watching over and caring for His people. Ask that He hurries the conclusion to this necessary war, so that we can once again have peace in our nation. God bless you!
Photo credit: By Tasnim News Agency, CC BY 4.0, link
Awaiting His Return,
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.