Israel Desk – Situation in Israel/Gaza


Israeli Ambassador addresses UN Security Council on Gaza war

While most of the world rushed to condemn Israel for the deaths of Palestinians in Gaza, Gilad Erdan, the Israeli Ambassador to the UN gave a calm and factual account of what is happening to the Security Council on May 16th. He put the blame for the situation on Hamas, the Islamist terrorist organisation that rules Gaza. Here are some of the main points of his talk.

3000 + rockets have been fired into Israel from Gaza, killing Jewish and Arab civilians.  Israeli civilians have 30 seconds to reach the bomb shelters when the sirens go off.  Children and women are huddled together in fear as Hamas rockets land around them. 

Hamas is firing its rockets while hiding behind Palestinians’ houses, schools and hospitals, using the civilians as human shields.  Some of its own rockets have misfired and landed in Gaza, killing their own people. 

For a month before the missile war began Hamas was inciting Arabs to attack Israeli Jews, escalating the tension in Jerusalem as a pretext to start a war.  Throughout the month of Ramadan Arabs began violent attacks on Jews which they filmed and put on social media.   

They used an issue around a property dispute in the Jerusalem suburb of Sheikh Jarrah to stir up local and international condemnation of Israel, accusing them of trying to evict Arabs from their homes where they have lived, since Jews were evicted from them at the time of the first Arab Israeli war in 1948. This case has been going on for a long time over property rights in the area, with conflicting views within Israel concerning it. In Israel the judiciary is independent of the government which does not generally interfere in the courts, although the government has now intervened to request a delay in settling it.

Hamas has used this as a propaganda ploy to justify rocket attacks on Israel.  It has also moved to incite violence on the Temple Mount, site of the former Jewish Temple, where now the Muslim shrines of the Dome of the Rock and al Aqsa Mosque stand.  Palestinian extremists used the Al Aqsa Mosque to stockpile weapons and launch violent attacks with fire bombs and rocks against Jewish worshippers and Israeli police. The Israeli police had no choice but to intervene to keep the peace and ensure freedom of worship. Images of the police action were beamed around the world with the accusation that this was an attack by Israel on the third holiest Muslim place during Ramadan.

Israel then attempted to de-escalate the situation by re-routing the Jerusalem Day march (to commemorate the unification of Jerusalem in 1967) and stopping Jews from going on to the Temple Mount.

Hamas then fired missiles at Jerusalem. Israel responded by hitting back at Hamas targets in Gaza. The ambassador asked the delegates what would they do if missiles were fired at their capital cities, Moscow, Beijing, Paris or London? 

Hamas has built a huge network of terror tunnels in Gaza, underneath schools, homes and civilian areas.  It hides behind its civilian population and is guilty of a double war crime, making random attacks on Israeli civilians and using its own civilians as a human shield.

Any attempt to compare Israel’s actions with Hamas is morally wrong. Hamas targets civilians. Israel targets terrorists. Israel makes every effort to avoid civilian casualties. Israel uses missiles with precision strikes against terrorists, taking steps to prevent civilian casualties. It makes phone calls and sends text messages to get people out before it makes its strikes on Hamas. 

Israel sees every civilian death as a tragedy. Hamas sees every civilian death as a victory in its campaign of jihad.  Israel uses its missiles to protect its children. Hamas uses its children to protect its missiles. It doesn’t care about who dies as long as there is terror and destruction.

As Israel defends itself, Hamas has been calling on Arabs to attack Jews. Hamas since the start of this round of fighting has also been calling on Palestinians in the West Bank to take to the streets and clash with Israeli security forces. Now Fatah, the ruling party in the Palestinian Authority has joined with this call. There have been numerous attacks by Israeli Arabs on Jewish citizens within Israel in mixed Jewish – Arab towns like Lod and Acre. This has included deliberate burning of synagogues, homes, businesses and cars. The mayor of Lod compared the attacks to Kristallnacht, the night of broken glass, when the Nazis attacked the Jewish population in 1938, setting off the awful progress towards the Holocaust. Sadly there have also been attacks by Jewish citizens on Arabs in revenge. 

Prime Minister Netanyahu strongly condemned this saying that all violence is unacceptable.  Israel is a country with the rule of law, and the police are working to arrest those responsible.

In conclusion, the Ambassador said that Israel seeks peace and has made agreements with four Muslim countries in 2019. In 2005 Israel withdrew from Gaza, uprooting Jewish hoping to bring security. Instead it brought terror to Israel and an Islamist dictatorship to Gaza. He spoke out strongly against the equivalence made between the actions of Israel as a democracy that respects life and seeks to defend itself against aggression and the actions of Hamas, the terror organisation that seeks the destruction of Israel. He told the Security Council that if they fail to condemn Hamas, they will strengthen a radical terror group who aims to overthrow the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and whose charter calls for Israel to be wiped off the map. 

He called for the demilitarisation of Gaza and for any funds from outside to be invested in the well being of its people not in a terror organisation that seeks the destruction of Israel.

What can Israel do about Hamas?

The current situation arises from a conflict between Hamas and the (slightly more moderate) Palestinian Authority (PA). Hamas wants to gain political power in the West Bank and replace Palestinian President Abbas. Abbas has been told by the US and the EU that he must hold elections for the PA parliament. These have not taken place for 15 years. Abbas does not want to hold elections because of his fear that Hamas will win.

Abbas demanded that Israel should allow Jerusalem Arabs to vote in the PA election.  He knew that Israel would refuse (because this would be interpreted as a signal that the Israelis are willing to divide Jerusalem and hand over half of their capital city, Jerusalem, to the PA).  When Israel refused, Abbas cancelled the elections.  This was a ploy because he does not want to hold elections which he would probably lose to Hamas. As Israel also fears that Hamas might win an election in the West Bank it was quite happy for the elections to be postponed. 

Hamas then used the situation to present itself as the defender of Jerusalem and increase its support amongst West Bank Arabs. After it forcefully took over Gaza in 2007 it has never ceased to try to take over the West Bank and unify the Palestinian Arabs in a single entity that would reject the Oslo Peace Agreement and seek the destruction of Israel and its replacement with a Palestinian state ‘from the river to the sea’ (i.e. from the Jordan to the Mediterranean). It is fuelling the conflict, forcing Israel to react, then presenting itself as the defender of Jerusalem.

Hamas is heavily funded from Qatar and backed by Turkey. It has a military wing with as many as 35,000 members, armed with some 15,000 rockets, which include Qassam rockets with a range of 15 kilometres; Grads with a range of 55 kilometres; Fajr rockets, also known as J80 or M75, which have a range of around 100 kilometres; and long-range M302 rockets that have a range of 200 kilometres.  Some of these projectiles are industrial-made Iranian or Chinese rockets, though many are manufactured as part of Gaza’s weapons industries.

A rival terror group, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), operates in Gaza backed by Iran. The PIJ has some 10,000 operatives with some 10,000 rockets, most of them up to a range of 45 kilometres.

Faced with this threat, Israel has four fundamental options at its disposal.

The first is to accept temporary ceasefires that do not last long. Under this scenario, Hamas’s decision to use its firepower to gain political points or extort Israel could occur again quickly.

The second option is to deal a severe blow to Hamas and PIJ’s capabilities and roll them back by years. An intense round of fighting that relies on Israel’s firepower and intelligence capabilities, supported by limited ground manoeuvres, could in theory restore Israel’s deterrence, but it remains unclear for how long.

A third option is a full ground offensive to topple the Hamas regime and seize the whole of Gaza. The IDF is perfectly capable of doing this, despite the fact that it would involve extremely challenging urban warfare scenarios that would be costly in the lives of its soldiers and would lead to worldwide condemnation.

Should Israel choose to topple the Hamas regime, it would find itself in an extremely unenviable situation with two additional fundamental choices. The first is to rule the Strip and occupy roughly 2 million hostile Palestinian residents. The second is to search for someone else to rule Gaza; the idea that Fatah would be able to take on that role is highly unlikely.

Should Israel leave Gaza and no regime take power, the territory could become a Somalia-like failed state zone, brimming with jihadist gangs that would be impossible to deter for any amount of time.

A fourth possibility, however, could involve the idea of a broad assault on Hamas’s military wing, but keeping its police force and political wing intact. This could potentially enable the IDF to withdraw and not see Gaza disintegrate into failed state chaos, even if it remains hostile. Under such an option, Hamas could survive and begin to rebuild its capabilities, though it would take it years to recover.

The current situation is extremely dynamic and changing hour by hour.

Information from JNS – Jewish News Service.

The wider crisis

As the violence spreads, Israel is now also facing the nightmare scenario of civil unrest in its towns where there is a mixed Jewish Arab population. Islamist, as well as criminal elements, are encouraging Arab youths to attack Jewish people and property in a cycle of violence which could rip the country apart. 

They are also encouraging attacks on Israeli forces in the West Bank.  Meanwhile there have been incidents on Israel’s borders with Lebanon and Jordan, with attempts to breach the fence from Lebanon and cross into Israel. The nightmare scenario is Hezbollah becoming involved, backed by Iran and firing its 150,000 missiles from Lebanon into Israel.

Iran has played a vital role in helping Hamas develop its arsenal and use of missiles. It is now sensing that it has a moment to get revenge on Israel for its successful attacks on Iranian targets. Also the new US administration is willing to talk with Iran about reviving the nuclear deal drawn up by Obama in 2015 and then cancelled by Trump. Iran sees this as an opportunity to extend its power and influence into the Middle East and supply it with funds for its support of terror in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen. 

Turkey, which supports Hamas, is also entering the fray seeking to extend its influence in the region. President Erdogan would like to regain Turkey’s former Ottoman Empire status when it controlled most of the Middle East including Jerusalem. President Erdogan has called on Russia to demand an ‘international protection force’ to shield the Palestinians from Israel. On 12th May he said ‘the international community should give Israel a strong deterrent lesson’ and pressed for the UN Security Council to intervene with determined and clear messages to Israel.

Israel is clearly in a very dangerous situation. Clearly a peace force involving Turkey would be like pouring petrol on the flames. Turkey opposes Israel and has in the past called for an Islamic army to be raised up to regain Muslim control over Jerusalem. If Israel does send in ground troops and re-occupies Gaza this could also prompt Turkey to move for such a force to be sent in. 

The situation is stirring up strong anti-Israel and anti-Semitic feeling around the world. Muslim opponents of Israel, with their left-wing allies, have staged demonstrations in the UK and around the world. On 16th May a convoy of cars flying Palestinian flags drove by the Jewish area of Golders Green in London with a loud speaker calling for attacks on Jewish people, including a cry to ‘rape Jewish women.’  The police have made arrests over this incident. Demonstrators chanted the Islamic cry ‘Khaybar, Khaybar the army of Muslims is on the march O Jews’. This refers to the battle of Khaybar of in the time of Mohammed when the Muslims killed the Jews in 628. Jewish people are terrified at the prospect of anti Israel feeling spreading in Britain and Europe and leading to attacks on Jews living here.

Prophetic significance

The involvement of Turkey, Russia and Iran in the situation could be seen as a signpost towards the Gog and Magog War of Ezekiel 38-9. These countries are all involved in the alliance of nations coming against Israel in the last days from the direction of the north.  If the conflict spills over into Lebanon and Syria it is very possible that this could see such an invasion alliance coming against Israel. 

The centrality of Jerusalem in the crisis reminds us that Zechariah 12-14 tells us that Jerusalem will be a burdensome stone burdening all nations in the last days, a focus of attention of the whole world, which will lead to the final war before the Messiah returns to bring peace to the world. 

President Biden has offered some support for Israel’s actions in Gaza, acknowledging Israel’s right to defend itself. French President Macron has also extended support to Israel and urged for a return to peace in Gaza. 

We are reminded that there is no real solution to this conflict. However a temporary peace may come first (Daniel 9.27), when the antichrist arises as the wonder worker offering peace and safety. This will not bring peace but the final time of Jacob’s trouble (Jeremiah 30) or the Great Tribulation (Matthew 24) and the return of the Lord Jesus to the earth.

Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; But in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, Even until the consummation, which is determined, Is poured out on the desolate.”

Daniel 9.27

However these prophecies come to pass, we are assured that there is one in the Heavenlies who will keep Israel until the time of Messiah’s return. Meantime, we must pray for the peace of Jerusalem and stand by Israel and Jewish people in their need.

4 Behold, He who keeps Israel

Shall neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper;

The Lord is your shade at your right hand.

The sun shall not strike you by day,

Nor the moon by night.

The Lord shall preserve you from all evil;

He shall preserve your soul.

The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in

From this time forth, and even forevermore.

Psalm 121.4-8

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:

6 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:

“May they prosper who love you.

Peace be within your walls,

Prosperity within your palaces.”

For the sake of my brethren and companions,

I will now say, “Peace be within you.”

9 Because of the house of the Lord our God

I will seek your good.

Psalm 122.6-9

This article was written on May 17th. Obviously, the situation is changing day by day so please bear this in mind if the situation has changed by the time you read this.