JVMI's Weekly Middle East Update

Your source for on-the-ground news in Israel, from Israeli sources — with commentary from Rabbi Jonathan Bernis, CEO of Jewish Voice Ministries

If you were living in Israel and traveled one of her northern highways in February, you might have witnessed convoys of missile-defense batteries headed toward Lebanon.

In the seconds that followed, you may have flashed back to the disturbing sounds of tunneling activity under your hometown and cringed at the terror attacks you know to radiate from those tunnels.

Would you fear war was imminent? Could you protect your loved ones?

Indeed, the drumbeats of war are rumbling louder, and Israelis are hearing them with dread in their hearts.

Since the February 10 downing of a Syria-launched Iranian drone – followed by Israel’s retaliatory strikes that Iran and Syria condemned – Israel has been preparing for what has been called a potentially very violent war with Iran-backed Hezbollah. Some U.S. media report that Israel is about to square off with Iran and Hezbollah in Syria.

Hyperbole aside, why were those missile-defense batteries traveling north on Israel’s central highways, and who are the players?

The Hezbollah-Iran-Syria Triad

Hezbollah, translated from Arabic as the Party of Allah, was formed in Lebanon by two Shia Islamist clerics in the 1980s with the goal of eliminating Israel. It has grown to an influential political and military force and was declared a terrorist organization by the U.S (1997) and the European Union (2013). Hezbollah finances attacks against Israel and her allies by trafficking drugs worldwide. Hezbollah also uses a sprawling network of sophisticated tunnels to stage assaults against Israelis.

Iran, also intent on eliminating Israel, supplies Hezbollah with advanced weaponry. Under the guise of defeating ISIS, Iran has used Syria’s civil war to boost its own presence in the area and further threaten Israel. Iran moves armaments from Syria to fill Hezbollah’s warehouses and underground bunkers, and these armaments are located just over the border from Israel in Lebanon.

Thanks to these relationships, Israel authorities estimate Hezbollah has up to 150,000 rockets and missiles with precision targeting that could pummel any Israeli city – and Hezbollah regularly threatens to do just that. Hezbollah also has trained its fighters to infiltrate Israeli communities near Lebanon to either slaughter residents or take them hostage.

Put simply, those missile-defense batteries on Israel’s highways warn of a war that many in the international military, political, diplomacy and security communities believe is inevitable – and will be devastating for both Lebanon and Israel.

Israeli Military Warns: War is Looming

Citing battlefield victories by Syria’s dictator Basheer Assad and his allies, Iran and Hezbollah, a senior Israel Defense Forces (IDF) general said in February that a war in Lebanon is more likely in 2018.

“The year 2018 has the potential for escalation [of military conflict], not necessarily because either side wants to initiate it, but because of a gradual deterioration,” said the IDF’s Maj. Gen. Nitzon Alon. “This has led us to raise the level of preparedness.”

The Iran-built drone that penetrated Israeli airspace from Syria is under evaluation by the Israeli military. It was deemed more sophisticated, dangerous and unlike any previously encountered, making emergency preparation a vital concern. Additionally, with ISIS all but contained, Iran and Syria are showing signs of pivoting their war efforts toward Israel.

How Israel is Preparing

For decades, Israel has undertaken strikes against Hezbollah leadership with the goal of thwarting a build-up of a paramilitary infrastructure. Israel has fostered relationships with local rebel groups within Lebanon to buttress defenses along the border with Israel. The country has boosted its air defenses in the north, and it regularly trains for air defense with the U.S. This year’s exercise is scheduled for March 4-15 and will simulate a massive ballistic missile attack.

In an attempt to avoid war, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appealed to Russia’s Vladimir Putin to rein in both Iran and Hezbollah, but with minimal success.

The Conflict Could Mushroom

Iranian, U.S. and Russian forces are near Israel, which makes a broader conflict more likely than in previous wars between Israel and Hezbollah. If Israel requested U.S. military help to impede Hezbollah rocket and missile strikes, it could trigger U.S. contact with both Iranian and Russian forces. In fact, at least one British news outlet has Iran and Israel “inching toward a full-blown conflict” that some have even said could spark World War III.

Your Urgent Prayers are Vital Now

This is a powder keg situation that requires your immediate and prayerful intervention. Please pray with us that:

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The shofar is the trumpet of Bible times. Blasts from the shofar announced the beginning of holy day celebrations such as Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. It was also used by ancient Jewish people at the beginning of battle. Israel's battle against the city of Jericho, led by Joshua, resulted in the walls of Jericho falling down at the thunderous sound of many shofars blowing at once repeatedly.

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To the Jew first and also to the Nations,

Jonathan Bernis
Jewish Voice Ministries International