June 11, 2012
SHALOM FROM JERUSALEM,
Below are two items that I think most of you will find interesting, and hopefully informative as well. The first is a letter that was published last Friday in the weekly Jerusalem Post Magazine. It concerns the role of "democracy" in the turbulent Middle East. The columnist mentioned is also the magazine's editor. Below the letter is a longer article about the possible prophetic implications of the escalating violence in Syria and increasing prospects of a larger war in the region. I realize that some of my subscribers are not religiously inclined, so you may want to skip that if so. As with all of my writings, feel free to copy, post or pass it along as you wish, however please with attribution. The possibility of a regional war seems to grow every day, as even the UN chief noted last week, so we do certainly appreciate your prayers at this time. My monthly Israel news update will be sent out in two weeks time.
Sir--Israel Kasnett's column on the war in Afghanistan was a good summary of the many serious challenges facing the United States and Israel in the ongoing "war on terror." However I question his contention that Israel "would clearly benefit from the presence of democratic countries on all its borders."
Israel already has one neighbor that holds regular democratic elections, Lebanon. Despite this, the country has been racked by constant sectarian strife and occasional civil war. Since 1982, Lebanon has hosted Hezbollah, one of the most dangerous terrorist organizations in the world.
I received mostly negative feedback when I wrote a commentary for World Net Daily on the eve of the 2003 war in Iraq, warning that President Bush's declared goal of promoting Western-style democracy there was not necessarily a good thing. I pointed out that Algeria had tried to go the democratic route in the early 1990s. When the militant Islamic Salvation Front won the first election round, the army stepped in, sparking off a decade of bloodshed that took 160,000 lives. Last year, Islamists won the first democratic elections in Tunisia and they are now taking over Egypt--both as a result of the "democratic process." Will the Muslim Brotherhood be better for Israel? If unfettered elections were held in neighboring Jordan, Muslim militants would probably prevail. When the Palestinians held parliamentary elections in early 2006, it was the radical Hamas movement that triumphed.
The sad fact is that all of Israel's neighbors are Islamic dominated states comprised of "voters" who would most likely follow the same paththat Egypt is currently embarked upon, to Israel's clear peril.
David Dolan is an American author and journalist who has reported from Israel since 1980.
WAR IN THE MIDDLE EAST
BY DAVID DOLAN
With the Middle East spinning around at present faster than a Hanukkah dreidel, some have been writing to seek my opinion on the possible prophetic implications of the escalating warfare in Syria and the dramatic Muslim Brotherhood advance in Egypt. Although I am a journalist by profession, having reported the news from Israel and the region since the early 1980s, I also have a longtime personal interest in eschatological biblical prophecy. This is evidenced by my authorship of two prophetic novels, THE END OF DAYS and MILLENNIUM: THE LORD REIGNS. I also touched upon some prophetic themes in my 2001 book, ISRAEL IN CRISIS: WHAT LIES AHEAD? Plus there is the fact that the essence of all biblical prophecy is nothing less than news that has not yet transpired. It is history (His story) revealed before it has actually unraveled on the world stage. In other words, it is hardly divorced from the news.
In particular, I have been getting inquiries concerning the possible connection of the growing Syrian conflict with prophecies found in Isaiah 17, Psalm 83 and Ezekiel 38-39. As some of you will know from reading the aforementioned books, or other articles or public talks I've given over the years, I have long felt that Isaiah 17 is most likely the next major end-time biblical prophecy that will unfold in the turbulent Middle East. This prophecy seems to be echoed by a similar one found in Jeremiah 49, verses 23-27, which tells of a future time when "panic" would grip the Syrian capital city, Damascus, as its "young men fall dead in her streets" and the city's walls are "set on fire."
As most of you will already know, Isaiah's prophecy begins with the total destruction of Damascus, which the seer foretells will become completely uninhabited with only "flocks" of animal wandering around in its ruins (17:1-2). Located fifty miles inland from the Mediterranean Sea east of Lebanon, the historic city is home today to nearly two million people, with another half million living in its suburbs.
Isaiah's stark prophecy goes on to speak of Israel suffering greatly during the same time frame, implying that an intense war between the two longtime enemy countries stands at the heart of the jarring oracle. It mentions that while Damascus will be "removed from being a city" and "sovereignty" will disappear from it as well (17:1,3), the "glory of Jacob will fade, and the fatness of his flesh will become lean" (17:5). As bad as that sounds, the Hebrew prophet is foretelling that Israel will NOT be destroyed as Damascus will be, but instead "gleanings will be left in it like the shaking of an olive tree" (6). So many "olives" will be shaken off the Tree of Israel, but by no means all of them. Isaiah uses the olive tree analogy later on in Chapter 24, which speaks of the final judgment of the world, giving further evidence that Isaiah 17 is also an "end time" prophecy.
Note that in the very first verse, the great Hebrew prophet wrote that, "Damascus is about to be removed from being a city." So was this prophecy fulfilled in or near his time on earth, meaning around the 8th century before the birth of Christ? There is no evidence at all to suggest this was the case. In fact, Israel's sufferings during that era were largely due to internal wars and invasions from the Persian and Babylonian empires, not conflicts with Damascus per se. Although historians say the renowned Syrian capital city has been conquered at least 17 times during recorded history, it has never been destroyed and abandoned as Isaiah foretold would one day take place. So why did the prophet write that the city's demise was "about to" take place? Many scholars believe, as I do, that this is what is widely known as the "prophetic tense." This occurs elsewhere in prophetic biblical literature when something extremely important and life changing is described as either being imminent when it is not actually looming in an historic timeline, or as if it had already occurred, which is an even more dramatic prophetic voice to employ.
The potential for a massive armed conflict between Israel and Syria at this time is quite obvious. I was struck by the comments from a senior Israeli army commander recorded in last Friday's Jerusalem Post newspaper and other Israeli media outlets. Addressing his troops at the end of major military exercise held in the Jordan Valley to prepare for possible war with Syria and Lebanon, Nahal Brigades commander Colonel Yehuda Fuchs said "We are prepared for war, which draws closer with every day that passes." This came two days after air raid sirens were sounded all over Jerusalem last week as part of a three day drill to test the capital city's readiness for a major missile attack. While I knew from the news that such action would take place, many others missed that information, causing some momentary panic as the loud rising and falling wailing went on for around two minutes just before 5:30 in the afternoon.
An earlier commentary by one of Israel's most respected columnists, Chemi Shalev, focused on the depth of conflict that is at the center of the current fighting inside Syria. Writing for the Ha'Aretz (The Land) newspaper on June 1, he pointed out that the escalating conflict is mainly about the survival of the minority Alawite Assad regime in the face of majority Sunni Muslim attempts to topple it. He noted that the two rival Islamic groups have been viciously battling each other for many centuries. With each contemporary Alawite atrocity (the sect is an offshoot of the Shiite wing of Islam), the chances that Assad will obey Hillary Clinton's repeated demands, echoed by many other Western officials, to immediately give up power fade ever further into the waning sunset, he wrote. The Syrian dictator and his cronies are not about to forget what happened last year to Hosni Mubarak or to the late Muamar Kadaffi. Shalev opined instead that the international demands are mainly forcing Assad and his cronies into a corner (which I agree is the case), and the only way out might be an attack upon Israel. He warned that the vicious Syrian regime has a huge army at its disposal--at least 300,000 men, about twice the size of Israel's fulltime forces--and one of the world's largest chemical weapons arsenals, plus a massive stockpile of long, medium and short range missiles, mostly supplied by Russia.
This leads Shalev to conclude that Syrian strongman Bashar Assad may choose what he calls the "doomsday option." He wrote that "Faced with his own political demise and convinced that his people may face murderous retribution, it is not too outlandish to imagine a scenario in which Assad comes to believe that a conflict with Israel or an all-out regional war is his best remaining option. He is, one should never forget, capable of wreaking havoc and destruction not only on most Israeli cities but also on Turkey, Cyprus, Jordan, Iraq and Saudi Arabia--and this before one factors in Hezbollah, with its 50,000-plus stockpile of rockets and short range missiles, and Iran, which views the Assad regime as an irreplaceable strategic asset and which may also come around to viewing a regional conflagration as a way of overcoming crippling sanctions and growing isolation."
As I often point out when speaking to audiences around the world, Israeli leaders have long made clear that they will not be the first to introduce weapons of mass destruction onto the regional stage. However they then make equally clear that they will be the second to do so if such weapons are used in any significant way against the tiny state of Israel, just 280 miles from north to south and less than 30 miles across in most places. Of course, this is meant to be a deterrence to such a heinous non-conventional attack, not a threat to launch one out of the blue. Still, Israeli leaders mean it when they say they will not sit idly by while their determined enemies attempt to "complete what Hitler began," as the late Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini often put it. The implication from Isaiah's prophecy, buttressed by Jeremiah, is that Damascus will be destroyed by something akin to powerful nuclear warheads, which would leave deadly radiation in their wake. This would preclude human occupation for some time afterwards, but not the influx of animal flocks that would naturally be unaware of the lingering deadly nature of invisible radiation.
Are we on the verge of the fulfillment of Isaiah 17? Obviously no human being can say for certain, at least not without a revelation from the ultimate Author of the prophecy, the God of Israel. I do not claim to have such a revelation. However having studied this prophecy for over 35 years, and given my work as a journalist for three decades in this roiling region at the center of the world, I would say the prospects are now quite high. Would this be the possible opening scene in another prophecy found in Ezekiel 38 and 39 as some suggest? I personally do not think so, since that prophesied invasion is said to be led by a great power located to the "far north" of Israel, which many, including myself, assume to be Russia. The increasingly autocratic Putin government does not seem ready to intervene militarily at this time to save Assad's widely condemned regime.
Israel is said to be "living securely" in its land (Ezk 38:8) when the massive invasion takes place, which it is clearly not doing at present, with preparations for massive missile strikes from Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas and possibly Syria, ongoing. Also the main goal of the invasion foretold by Ezekiel's pen is revealed to be the destruction of Israel, which does not seem to be in the current interests of the Kremlin. Putin and his comrades surely know that any such Russian invasion would undoubtedly spark off a worldwide nuclear showdown with NATO nations, not to mention with Israel itself. More than that, the massive invasion forecast by Ezekiel, also involving Libya and possibly Sudan along with Iran, ends with the salvation of all Israel and the divine ingathering to Israel of all Jews living outside of the Jewish state (Ezk 39: 27-28). These seem to be occurrences set to unfold at the conclusion of the prophesied end-time "Great Tribulation," also know as the time of Jacob's Troubles, and not at its beginning. Note also how closely the description of what occurs to the invading armies in Ezekiel's prophecy dovetails with what is predicted to occur in the New Testament book of Revelation at the end of the final battle of Armageddon.
Psalm 83 is said to involve eight regional enemies of Israel who "conspire together" to destroy the Jewish state. I noted in Israel in Crisis that seven of the ten named conspirators were located in what is today the Arab country of Jordan, along with northern Saudi Arabia. This indicates to me that as long as the pro-Western Hashemite royal family rules from Amman and holds onto the late King Hussein's 1994 peace treaty with Israel, this prophecy is not ready to be fulfilled.
However with over 100,000 Syrian refugees now pouring into the small, financially troubled country, and with revolution and upheaval sweeping most parts of the Arab world, the chances for instability and political chaos in Jordan increase every day. The ascent of the extremist Muslim Brotherhood to power in Egypt (amazingly facilitated by the US and other Western powers) surely strengthens radical Islamic Arab forces everywhere in the region, with the stepson Hamas movement--which is very popular with many Jordanians who claim Palestinian descent--increasingly active in the country. It should also be noted that even if the Assad regime is somehow overthrown in Syria despite strong support from Russia, Iran and Hezbulloh, any replacement Sunni Muslim government seems increasingly likely to be at least as hostile to Israel as Assad has been, meaning the seeming military clash alluded to in Isaiah 17 would remain an active possibility at any time. Of course, a military strike by Israel and/or the United States and its allies upon Iran's multiple nuclear sites--increasingly likely as defiant Tehran digs in its heels--could spark off a regional war that ends with the destruction of Damascus. Only time will tell, but with the way things appear at present, it might not be a long time!
As I've written before, I suspect that Psalm 83 might be the Arab world's ultimate response to an Israeli destruction of Damascus, which is one of Islam's holiest cities on earth. However it is certainly possible that some future war will begin with Isaiah 17 and then be quickly followed by the joint anti-Israel attack plan unveiled in Psalm 83 (which historians also say never took place in ancient times), or vice versa. Only the Good Lord knows for sure. One thing is certain…the Middle East is currently reeling like it has not done since at least 1973. That being the undeniable case, thank you for your prayers, and may the will of the Sovereign Lord be done on earth even as it is in heaven!
DAVID DOLAN is a Jerusalem-based author and journalist who has lived and worked in Israel since 1980.
June 2012 Report
SHALOM FROM JERUSALEM,
Turmoil continues to intensify in the quaking Middle East, where Palestinians launched over 150 rockets and mortar shells into Israel in June as warfare escalated in Syria and the Muslim Brotherhood won the presidential election in Egypt. We are just getting news reports that a Syrian army general and other senior soldiers have defected today to Turkey. The prospect that Israel could get drawn into the fighting in Syria is growing as the Iranian-backed Hizbullah militia is reportedly preparing to transfer SCUD missiles into Lebanon—an action Israel will probably attempt to interdict. All the details are below. As one friend of mine put it, "birth pangs are turning into hard labor."
I was interviewed by CBN news on my roof here in Jerusalem ten days ago, which is viewable at the link below. I spoke about the then-impending Egyptian presidential election and the ominous situation in Syria. We are conducting another interview today, which will be included in the next program. It is scheduled to be posted on the same site around the end of June. I have been invited to speak at a prophecy conference in Wisconsin in early September, and in the Seattle area in late October. Details are on my web site, www.ddolan.com
FRESH TURMOIL ROCKS THE MIDDLE EAST
By David Dolan
The tense Middle East continued to quake during June, with regional violence and turbulence spreading to portions of southern Israel as fighting escalated in Syria and the Muslim Brotherhood won a foreboding presidential victory in Egypt. After several months of relative quiet, a new wave of Palestinian rocket attacks was launched mid-month aimed mainly at Israeli civilian centers in the vicinity of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. Hundreds of thousands of area residents were forced to take shelter as air raid sirens sounded in several cities and towns, warning of incoming rockets. School classes were cancelled along with many public events. Several Israelis were wounded by Palestinian rocket shrapnel.
IDF military helicopters and jets went into action in response to the bombardments, killing around 15 Palestinians in the week-long clashes, including a man they said was behind an earlier terror attack along Israel’s border with the Sinai Peninsula. That attack, which left an Arab Israeli worker dead, sparked off the latest round of conflict. Over 100 rockets and mortar shells were fired over a three-day period before an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire was supposed to go into effect. However over 50 additional rockets were directed at Israeli cities after that, most likely fired by Iran’s main Palestinian ally, the Islamic jihad group. Suspecting that Iranian leaders were trying to goad Israel into another major conflict to deflect them away from attacking Iranian nuclear targets, Israeli defense officials nevertheless warned of a possible new ground offensive in the Gaza Strip if radical Hamas leaders—whose movement was born in 1988 out of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood group—did not enforce the declared truce.
The Palestinian attacks came as fresh political chaos rocked neighboring Egypt and warfare escalated in Syria. The American-trained Egyptian military basically took back the reigns of governmental power on the eve of the mid-June presidential election by canceling the results of the earlier parliamentary vote won by two Muslim fundamentalist parties. The military leaders also made clear that they, and not any future parliament, would oversee the drawing up a new Egyptian constitution. The Islamic parties strongly objected to the dramatic moves, calling them a virtual military coup. Hundreds of thousands took to the streets in protest. Days later, both the Muslim Brotherhood candidate for president, Muhammad Morsi, and his rival Ahmed Shafik claimed victory in the presidential race. Israeli officials were said to be extremely concerned when it was announced that Morsi had defeated Shafik in the election, significantly moving forward the march of militant Islam in the quaking region. Hamas supporters danced in the streets of Gaza City after the election results were announced. Earlier a senior Muslim Brotherhood official called for Israel’s total destruction, vowing the militant group would help make that happen.
To the north, a United Nations official used the term "civil war" to describe the escalating conflict in Syria. Several mass civilian killings were blamed on the Assad regime. Human Rights groups say the death toll in the 16 month-old conflict is now over 14,000. Syrian dictator Bashar Assad denied his forces were responsible for the latest atrocities, claiming the horrendous slaughters of men, women and children were occurring at the hands of unnamed "enemies of the state."
Officials from NATO countries announced they would hold an urgent meeting to discuss Syria’s downing of an F-4 Phantom Turkish warplane off of the northern Syrian coast on June 22. The Assad regime claimed the jet had strayed into Syrian airspace near its Latakia seaport, where Russian naval forces are stationed. The Turkish Muslim government denied this charge while strongly denouncing the Syrian action. This came after various Middle East analysts warned that the intensifying fighting in Syria could spread to other regional countries. More armed clashes broke out in Lebanon between supporters and opponents of the embattled Syrian regime. Meanwhile tens of thousands of Syrian refugees continued to pour into neighboring Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon. A Syrian air force pilot defected with his MIG jet to a Jordanian air force base in the north of the Hashemite kingdom. Several top Assad government officials were said to be preparing to defect to the rebel side of the mushrooming civil war.
The possibility that Israel could get drawn into the Syrian conflict was highlighted by news reports saying Israeli officials have warned they would not allow the Shiite Lebanese Hizbullah militia to transfer SCUD missiles from Syria into Lebanon. Hizbullah leaders are apparently concerned that the SCUDS could fall into the hands of mainly Sunni Muslim forces fighting the Assad regime. A rebel military-style attack was launched earlier in the month against a Syrian air force base near the border with Jordan, not far from the Golan Heights. Israeli military forces were placed on full war alert in the north as the internal fighting in Syria ominously spread to the border area.
The brutal Syrian regime denied Iranian media reports claiming that a massive war exercise would soon be held in Syria involving Russian, Chinese and Iranian military forces. The Kremlin also denied the reports, which came just before Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Israel for a short visit. American and European leaders made clear during June that they might be compelled to enter the conflict if mass civilian slaughters continue. Press reports said the CIA is helping to smuggle weapons to the "Free Syrian Army" from Turkey. Meanwhile UN monitors operating in the crumbling country were ordered back to their bases after armed attacks were launched against them. The UN said civilian thugs working for the Assad regime were most likely behind the assaults, along with at least most of the mass slaughters. Russia denied American government claims that it was sending new defense helicopters to the besieged Assad regime. However the Kremlin later announced that additional Russian warships were en route to two Syrian Mediterranean ports to supposedly "protect" Russian citizens working in the war-torn country
With the headlines dominated by the jarring news from Egypt, Syria and the fresh Palestinian rocket attacks, the crisis with Iran continued to simmer on the back burner. A new round of international talks, this time in Moscow, failed once again to persuade the defiant Iranian clerical government to halt its apparent rush towards developing nuclear weapons. It was not even clear if any further meetings would be held. Israeli officials again warned that the defiant Shiite Muslim regime is simply using the talks as a cover while racing to reach its goal to be in a position to quickly produce nuclear weapons. Media reports in late June said American military forces were being beefed up in several Arab Gulf states opposite Iran.
Two other domestic news items received extensive coverage in Israel during the month. One was the government’s decision to begin deporting some of the African migrants that have entered the country illegally over the past six years. Officials say at least 60,000 migrants, mostly young men, have entered the country, with some estimates reaching double that number. While some Israeli groups opposed the deportation moves, surveys showed that a large majority of Israelis support the action, especially in light of a growing crime wave involving some of the migrants who are mostly living in south Tel Aviv. The second item was a serious riot in the center of Tel Aviv, which took place after police stopped leftwing "social justice" Israeli protestors from setting up a new tent camp in the center of the city. Hundreds of protestors responded one day later by smashing windows in three city banks and shutting down the main Ayalon freeway for half an hour. Unrest then spread to Jerusalem where protestors held an unlicensed demonstration in the heart of city, blocking light rail trains from running on Jaffa Road. Analysts warned that additional violent encounters between anarchist protestors and security forces were likely this summer.
ATTACKS ON THE BORDERS
An Israeli soldier was killed by a Palestinian who infiltrated from the Gaza Strip on the first day of June, setting off a month of intense violence in the area. Sergeant Nethanel Mushyashvili from Ashkelon was shot dead by an armed terrorist who broke through Israel’s security fence. The soldier, 21, was a member of the Golani brigade. The attacker was then killed by other Golani troops patrolling in the area. Israel tanks and helicopters were sent into action, entering territory near the site of the attack and also in the southern portion of the Gaza Strip where it was believed the infiltrator had come from. Israelis living in nearby communities were ordered to stay indoors near their bomb shelters in case the Palestinians responded with rocket attacks. Some reports said the infiltrator had hoped to take at least one soldier hostage.
Early in the morning on June 18, Arab Muslim terrorists attacked two Israeli work crews constructing the new security fence along Israel’s porous Sinai border with Egypt. The attackers, later identified as Egyptian and Saudi citizens, fired rocket-propelled grenades and other explosive devices at the civilian workers, killing Saed Phashpashe, an Arab Israeli from Haifa, and wounding several others. Israeli army units rushed to the scene and entered into armed combat with the Muslim squad. The army later announced that "several terrorists" were killed in the encounter. The next day, an Arab group calling itself the "Shura Council of the Mujahideen in the Holy Land" said it had carried out the terrorist attack. Israeli security sources said the group, probably linked to Al Qaida, is based in the southern Gaza Strip.
In response to the unprovoked attack, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak ordered the air force into action against several targets in the Gaza Strip. This came after the Premier issued a statement saying the terrorist assault would not halt work on the border fence. "This barrier is meant both to prevent terrorism and also to prevent the entrance of infiltrators. Its construction is of supreme national interest." Officials say the security fence should be fully constructed by the end of this year. The term "infiltrators" is used by the government to describe the illegal African migrants—most of them Muslims—that have crossed into Israel in recent years.
Israeli aircraft struck several targets in the southern Gaza Strip soon after the border terrorist attack, killing a number of Palestinians. When the Palestinians responded by firing rockets and mortar shells at Israeli civilian centers around the coastal zone, the IDF launched further air force strikes, killing or wounding a number of Palestinians the army spokesman said were members of various terrorist cells. The spokesman said one of the planners of the Sinai border assault named Aleb Armilat was among the dead. His superior, identified as Muhammad Rashdan, was reportedly seriously wounded in the strike. Palestinian groups, especially Islamic Jihad, then stepped up rocket attacks, many of them aimed at the nearby Israeli coastal city of Ashkelon. This was followed by the firing of a more powerful, longer-range Iranian-supplied Grad rocket at the Negev Desert city of Beersheva. The Israeli Iron Dome anti-rocket system was put into action two days after a rocket struck a border police base in Ashkelon, wounding four Israeli border policemen working there, one of them seriously. The system successfully destroyed a rocket that advanced Iron Dome computer projections showed was heading to a built up area of the coastal city. The system was deployed again later in the week, destroying ten more rockets in flight. However another rocket struck a factory in the hard-hit town of Sderot, seriously wounding a male Israeli worker.
HAMAS OWNS UP
The Hamas movement, which usually claims its forces are not involved in rocket attacks, took "credit" for some of the firings. Probably emboldened by developments in neighboring Egypt, it was the first time the ruling Palestinian group had done so since April 2011. This admission prompted further IDF air strikes on Hamas militia positions. The IDF spokesman said several Palestinian were killed as they were preparing to fire rockets or mortar shells, or in some cases right after they had done so. On the morning of June 19, military helicopters spotted a group of militiamen planting roadside bombs just inside of the Gaza border security fence, apparently in anticipation of a possible IDF military move into the area. Several more Palestinian men were killed or wounded in that encounter. Later several non-combatants died when a wall collapsed after the IDF struck a nearby rocket launcher. Defense Minister Barak and other senior government officials made clear Israel was not afraid to launch a full-scale ground operation into the Gaza Strip if necessary. Vice Premier Silvan Shalom of the Likud party warned that "The more things deteriorate, the closer we come to a decision we don't want to make."
On the evening of June 20—a day which saw over 60 rockets directed at Israel—the so-called "military wing" of Hamas announced it had agreed to accept an Egyptian proposal to halt its fire if Israel would also do so. A statement posted on the Hamas web site said "Responding to the Egyptian efforts, we and the armed resistance announce our commitment to stop this round of confrontation as long as the occupation stops its aggression." Of course, it was a terror attack on unarmed civilian workers, planned by militant Palestinian Muslims in the southern Gaza Strip, which set in motion the so-called Israeli "aggression." As usual, IDF military strikes were directed at carefully pinpointed terrorist targets while Hamas and its cronies deliberately lobbed most of their rockets and mortar shells at Israeli civilian communities.
The IDF spokesman’s office said the weapons arsenal under overall Hamas control includes many Iranian-produced Fajr-3 Grad rockets featuring more powerful explosive heads and longer ranges than older Palestinian-made Kassam rockets. The office added that longer range Katyusha and Grad rockets are being smuggled all the time into the Gaza Strip from Egypt, along with new anti-tank missiles and heavy mortars. Some of the weaponry is thought to be coming from the large arsenal once controlled by slain Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. The office reported that during the past six years, rocket fire from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip has killed 44 Israeli civilians and injured nearly 1,700 others, some of them children.
Several Israeli commentators noted that the latest rocket barrage was barely reported by the international media, being especially ignored by television and radio networks like the BBC and CNN which are viewed all over the world. Some opined that if Israeli leaders feel forced to respond to continuing rocket fire by sending ground forces once again into the Gaza Strip—an option they are hardly pining for—that story would be heavily reported. In New York, Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Ron Prosor, handed a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, noting that "the lives of about a million Israelis are being paralyzed" by the ongoing Palestinian rocket and mortar fire.
TROUBLE ALL AROUND
While focused on the rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip, Israeli officials were also closely monitoring the jarring developments in neighboring Syria and Egypt during June. Military analysts noted that while the dramatic news coming out of Cairo has very grave implications for the future, the expanding civil war inside of Syria has the potential to directly involve Israel in a new military conflict at virtually any moment. Israel’s Channel 10 network reported on June 16 that concern is mounting that the Lebanese Shiite Hizbullah militia might be preparing to try to move advanced weaponry, including SCUD missiles, into Lebanon from Syria. It added that the move would come in order to protect the weapons from falling into Sunni Muslim hands if the Assad regime is overthrown, as many predict will eventually occur. Veteran military reporter Alon Ben-David narrated the news story as video pictures showed some SCUDS being recently moved from the Syrian capital Damascus to undisclosed locations. It was not revealed how Channel 10 obtained the footage. Other reports said the missiles were moved to two air force bases outside of the city. Analysts said the SCUDS are actually owned by Hizbullah, which reportedly purchased them from the Syrian regime using Iranian money two years ago. An attempt to smuggle them into Lebanon at that time was met by public Israeli warnings that such transfers would not be allowed to take place.
Analysts warn that any fresh Hizbullah attempts to smuggle heavy weapons into Lebanon could easily spark off another round of conflict with the Muslim militia, which has received copious amounts of new weaponry since the 2006 war in clear violation of the UN-backed ceasefire which ended that conflict. Some say extremist Hizbullah leaders might not be terribly worried about any IDF interdiction since the militant group could then blame Israel for starting any subsequent full-scale conflict. This is precisely what occurred when the Israeli government ordered a first strike in 1967 after Egypt blockaded the southern port city of Eilat and moved troops into the Sinai Peninsula after signing a war alliance with Syria, both then backed by the powerful Soviet Union
The disturbing Channel 10 report came just a few weeks after regional media outlets said Sunni Muslim rebel forces brazenly attacked a Syrian air force base known as As Suwayda. It is located near the city of Daraa some ten miles east of the Golan Heights on the Syrian border with Jordan. The main highway from Damascus to Amman runs through the city. Thousands of refugees continue to pour through Daraa every week on their way to seek refuge in Jordan. Arab media reports said that on the morning of June 3, heavily armed rebel forces fired mortar shells at the air force base, setting scores of warplanes and assault helicopters on fire. They also reportedly managed to destroy some of the aircraft runways at the base. Israeli analysts say the strategic base is extremely important to the besieged Assad regime, being the closest to Israeli military forces stationed on the nearby Golan Heights. The attack came just days before Israeli Armed Forces Chief Benny Gantz expressed concern that Sunni Muslim terrorists might take advantage of the chaos in Syria to aim their weapons at IDF troops in the area. "We may face terrorist attacks on the Golan border fence," he told reporters while visiting the area.
The armed rebel assault near Daraa was significant for another reason. The Syrian uprising against the Assad regime actually began in the city in early March 2011. Syrian security forces arrested a number of children, all belonging to the same family, after some of them wrote anti-Assad slogans on a local school wall. When government officials refused to release the children, who ranged in ages from 9 to 15, anti-regime protests began outside a neighborhood mosque, calling for government reforms and an end to corruption. Syrian forces opened fire on the protestors, leaving four dead. Anti-Assad demonstrations and deadly government suppressions of them have continued in the city almost every day since then, as they have all over the fracturing country, leaving an average of 100 Syrians dead now every day.
Just a few days before the reported rebel action in the south of Syria—apparently conducted by military defectors—over 100 civilians were slaughtered in several villages near the town of Houla, north of the city of Homs in western Syria. The UN said among the dead were 49 children and 34 women. A UN probe concluded that the victims had been "summarily executed in two separate incidents." They added that survivors of the massacre testified the perpetrators were members of a pro-Assad group popularly known as the Shabiha, which is an Arabic word that roughly translates as "thugs." Like Hitler’s "brown shirts," they are known to be doing the dirty work of the regime. The Syrian dictator claimed the attack was part of an "external war using domestic tools," which analysts said was probably a reference to some Al Qaida members thought to be fighting with the rebel Muslim forces. For the first time since the Syrian revolt began in March last year, PM Netanyahu condemned the Assad regime over the slaughters, calling for "the international community to act in the light of continuous Syrian atrocities."
Several other mass killings took place in the war torn country during June; the largest in the city of Hama where the UN said 70 people were murdered. Admitting his peace plan had totally fallen apart, UN and Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan warned, "If the situation doesn’t change, Syria faces all-out civil war." Others said it is now evident that such a conflict is already well underway. This seemed to be confirmed when UN monitors attempting to check on the Hama slaughter came under armed attack as they approached the city, prompting the UN mission chief to order all his monitors back to their bases until further notice. He added that the situation does indeed now appear to have escalated into a full-blown civil war.
American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned the Russian government during June that its refusal to sanction UN action against Syria would add explosive fuel the conflict, which she added "could morph into a proxy war in the region." She also accused Moscow of supplying the embattled Assad regime with arms, including attack helicopters. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov denied the allegation, claiming his country was only sending back older Syrian helicopters that had been refurbished in Russia. Later in the month, the Kremlin announced it was sending more warships and military personnel to two naval bases it operates out of on the Syrian Mediterranean coast. Military analysts said while they were officially being dispatched in order to prepare to evacuate Russian citizens working in Syria, they would obviously act as a major deterrence to any Sunni Arab, NATO, or other foreign intervention in the conflict. This came after regional media outlets claimed that US President Barrack Hussein Obama had vetoed a French-Saudi proposal to bomb Assad’s palace in order to either kill him or drive him from power.
Meanwhile the British newspaper Daily Telegraph reported on June 21 that unnamed "senior Syrian government officials" are quietly preparing to defect to the country's opposition if rebel forces manage to destabilize the Assad regime. "We are seeing members of Bashar Assad’s inner circle make plans to leave," an unnamed senior American official told the newspaper. The report said the Syrian officials have already been in contact with opposition leaders, while quietly transferring their private money to overseas banks.
With regional birth pangs becoming stronger and more frequent with every passing day, we can only look to the Holy One of Israel who promised long ago that a day will come when "Violence will not be heard again in your land, nor devastation or destruction within your borders. But you will call your walls salvation, and your gates praise (Isaiah 60:18).
DAVID DOLANis a Jerusalem-based author and journalist who has lived and worked in Israel since 1980.
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How does one really see the deeper informational side to Scripture? We recommend “footsteps” as the source for seeing the the truly functional details in Scripture.
G. Fruchtenbaum, Th.M., Ph.D.1982. Footsteps of Messiah - A Study of the Sequence of Prophetic Events. (Second ed. 2003)
THE FOOTSTEPS OF THE MESSIAH
A Study of the Sequence of Prophetic Events
Dr. Fruchtenbaum gathers the many pieces of the prophetic puzzle and places them in sequential order with the result summed up by Dr. Charles Ryrie in his foreword: "Those who read this book cannot help but be instructed and stimulated by his work." Footsteps is detailed, thorough and scholarly, yet written in a style that the average reader can easily understand. With a wealth of wisdom drawn from his Jewish background and extensive research, the author even tackles the "problem passages" to provide a comprehensive overview of the entire range of prophetic truth.
Over thirty years of teaching Eschatology since the original writing of this book has given Dr. Fruchtenbaum further reflections on some passages. He has added five new appendices to the book.
Obtain this book via Amazon.com (click on book icon above), or order direct from
Hardcover (880 pp.) ... $35.00