The Bible Teaching Ministry of David Hocking
“The Word of our God shall stand forever” Isaiah 40:8

Archive for August, 2013


Friday, August 30th, 2013

Dr. Paul Wilkinson has been in a serious accident. He was riding his bicycle and was hit by two cars that ran a red light. He sustained a broken hip and other serious injuries that required surgery for 7 hours. He is now in recovery and should be moved to a regular room fairly soon.

Paul’s parents are extremely distressed over this, but, before going into surgery, Paul was able to tell his mum that God would use it all to the good. Paul’s folks have been greatly touched by the tenderness and love of the folks at Hazel Grove Church when they had a funeral for Paul’s grandfather – their hearts are very soft right no. If the accident brings his folks to saving faith, we all know how thrilled Paul would be and find it all worthwhile in God’s plan and purpose.

Dr. Wilkinson expects to be at the Pre-Trib Research Center conference in Dallas, Texas, in December.

Thanks for praying!


Friday, August 30th, 2013

by Elad Benari (Arutz Sheva News)

The Obama Administration apparently views Israel as one of the top spying threats facing its intelligence services, according to leaked documents which were exposed Thursday.

A secret budget request obtained by The Washington Post from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden lumps Israel alongside U.S. foes Iran and Cuba as “key targets” for U.S. counterintelligence efforts.

According to The Hill, the document leaked by Snowden suggests that Israel does not believe U.S. assurances that its interests are aligned with Israel’s on crucial issues such as Iran and peace talks with the Palestinian Authority.

“To further safeguard our classified networks, we continue to strengthen insider threat detection capabilities across the Community,” reads the FY 2013 congressional budget justification for intelligence programs. “In addition, we are investing in target surveillance and offensive CI [counterintelligence] against key targets, such as China, Russia, Iran, Israel, Pakistan and Cuba.”

The White House and the Israeli Embassy did not respond to requests for comment.

The revelations come as no surprise to Georgetown University’s Paul Pillar, who retired as the national intelligence officer for the Near East in 1995 after a 28-year career in U.S. intelligence.

Israeli spying, he told The Hill, has remained a major threat since U.S. citizen Jonathan Pollard received a life sentence in 1987 in a massive spying case that gravely strained relations between the two countries.

“Israel should be assumed to continue to have an aggressive intelligence collection operations against the United States,” Pillar said. While much information is collected through traditional political contacts, he said, “I would personally have no doubt that that is supplemented by whatever means they can use to find out as much as they can about what we’re doing, thinking, deciding on anything of interest to Israel, which would include just about any Middle Eastern topic.”

The issues of continued Israeli construction in Judea and Samaria and Obama’s strong interest in reaching a negotiated settlement to avoid a confrontation with Iran over its nuclear program, Pillar said, are two issues where U.S. and Israeli interests “certainly diverge.”

Spying, he said, could give Israel “warning indicators” before any public decisions, and enable the country to put its “political machine in action” and get the United States to reconsider.

“If I were in Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s shoes and had his perspective,” Pillar said, “I would spare no effort to try to collect every bit of intelligence I could, in secret as well as openly.”

He said the public revelations won’t impact U.S.-Israeli relations.

“Everything is trumped by political realities,” Pillar said. “Don’t expect any statement by the White House press secretary tomorrow that says, ‘Oh my gosh, we are really upset with the Israelis for trying to spy on us’. You’re never going to hear anything like that, because politically it is hazardous for basically any American politician – and certainly an incumbent American Administration – to underscore … the divergence of U.S. and Israeli interests.”

The leaks by Snowden have thus far mostly strained the United States’ relations with Russia.

Snowden is wanted by the United States on espionage and other charges after he gave journalists classified documents detailing the NSA’s far-reaching electronic and telephone surveillance programs.

On August 1, Snowden was granted temporary asylum in Russia. He is free to stay in Russia until at least July 31, 2014, and his asylum status may be extended annually upon request.

Snowden leaked classified information to the Guardian and Washington Post pertaining to alleged NSA eavesdropping on telephone calls and emails of private citizens, then fled from his home in Hawaii, to a Moscow airport, via Hong Kong. After staying in the airport for more than a month, the Russian government decided to grant him political asylum.

U.S. President Barack Obama reacted angrily to Russia’s move and, in response, cancelled a planned G20 meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.


Friday, August 30th, 2013

by Elad Benari (Arutz Sheva News)

United States President Barack Obama is prepared to move ahead with a limited military strike on Syria, administration officials told the New York Times on Thursday, even with a rejection of such action by Britain’s Parliament, an increasingly restive Congress, and lacking an endorsement from the United Nations Security Council.

Although the officials cautioned that Obama had not made a final decision, all indications suggest that the strike could occur as soon as United Nations inspectors, who are investigating the August 21 attack that killed hundreds of Syrians, leave the country. They are scheduled to depart Damascus on Saturday.

The White House is to present its case for military action against Syria to Congressional leaders on Thursday night, reported the New York Times. Administration officials assert that the intelligence will show that forces loyal to President Bashar Al-Assad carried out the chemical weapons attack in the suburbs of Damascus.

The intelligence does not tie Assad directly to the attack, officials briefed on the presentation said, but the administration believes that it has enough evidence to carry out a limited strike that would deter the Syrian government from using these weapons again.

Obama, officials said, is basing his case for action both on safeguarding international standards against the use of chemical weapons and on the threat to America’s national interests posed by Syria’s use of those weapons.

Administration officials said that threat was both to allies in the region, like Turkey and Israel, and to the United States itself, if Syria’s weapons fell into the wrong hands.

Obama’s rationale for a strike creates a parallel dilemma to the one that President George W. Bush confronted 10 years ago, when he decided to enter into a far broader war with nearly 150,000 American troops in Iraq — one that the Obama administration says differed sharply from its objectives in Syria — without seeking an authorizing resolution in the United Nations.

In that case, the officials said, Bush was seeking to overthrow the Iraqi government. In this one, they argue, Obama is reinforcing an international ban on the use of chemical weapons, and seeking to prevent their use in Syria or against American allies.

Russia and China, Syrian allies and permanent members of the Security Council, have so far refused to support any military action against Assad. But Obama, his aides say, has reached what one called “a pragmatic conclusion” that even the most ironclad evidence that chemical weapons were used would not change Russia’s objections.

“We have been trying to get the UN Security Council to be more assertive on Syria even before this incident,” Benjamin J. Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, said Thursday in an interview. “The problem is that the Russians won’t vote for any accountability.”

One central piece of the White House intelligence, officials say, is an intercepted telephone call in which a Syrian commander seems to suggest that the chemical attack was more devastating than intended. “It sounds like he thinks this was a small operation that got out of control,” one intelligence official said Thursday.

Rhodes and other aides insist that there are major differences from the decision that faced Bush in 2003. “There is no direct parallel with 2003, given that the United States at that time had to prove the existence of weapons of mass destruction in a country where we were going to do a military intervention aimed at regime change,” Rhodes said, according to the New York Times.

The White House said on Thursday that the United States is looking at a response to Syrian use of chemical weapons that is “very discrete and limited”.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Obama’s potential response to Syria’s August 21 chemical weapons attack stood in stark contrast to the Iraq experience.

“What we’re talking about here is something very discrete and limited,” he said.

Obama seemed determined earlier in the week to strike in Syria as a warning to Assad for crossing the red line of using chemical weapons, but on Wednesday the American President told PBS that he had not yet decided whether to carry out such a military strike.


Friday, August 30th, 2013

by Ari Soffer (Arutz Sheva News)

French President Francois Hollande gave a boost Friday to US hopes of forging an international coalition for possible strikes against Syria after British lawmakers rejected any involvement in military action.

The White House had signalled Thursday that President Barack Obama, guided by the “best interests” of the United States, was ready to go it alone on Syria after deadly chemical weapons attacks last week. But Russia, the Syrian regime’s most powerful ally, warned any military strikes would “deal a serious blow to the entire system of world order”.

UN arms experts began a final day of inspections of the sites of the suspected gas attacks before they leave the war-battered country on Saturday to report their findings to UN chief Ban Ki-moon.

Faced with an impasse at the UN Security Council and the British parliament’s shock rejection of any punitive action against the Syrian regime, the United States has been forced to look elsewhere for international partners.

While Germany and Canada ruled out joining any military strikes, Hollande – whose country was a strident opponent of the war on Iraq, but which under Hollande embarked on a military intervention of its own in worn-torn Mali – said the British vote would not affect his government’s stance.

“France wants firm and proportionate action against the Damascus regime,” Hollande said in an interview with Le Monde newspaper, hinting an attack was possible by Wednesday.

US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said the White House respected the British vote and that it was still seeking an “international coalition that will act together against Syria’s regime.

“We are continuing to consult with the British as with all of our allies. That consultation includes ways forward together on a response to this chemical weapons attack in Syria,” he said in the Philippines.

The British rejection also came after the failure of an 11th-hour effort by British diplomats to win UN backing for action against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime at a meeting of the permanent members of the Security Council.

“It is clear to me that the British parliament, reflecting the views of the British people, does not want to see British military action. I get that and the government will act accordingly,” Cameron said.

His government was defeated by just 13 votes in its bid for a “strong humanitarian response” to Syria’s alleged use of chemical weapons against its own people in the August 21 attacks.

Key Syrian allies Russia and Iran have warned against any Western intervention, saying it risked sparking a wider conflict in the already volatile Middle East.

But the military buildup was continuing in the region regardless, while in Damascus the mood was heavy with fear as security forces make preparations for possible air bombardments.

US warships armed with scores of cruise missiles are converging on the eastern Mediterranean, and US military officials have said they are ready to launch a powerful barrage against regime targets.

US National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said Obama’s decision-making “will be guided by what is in the best interests of the United States.

“He believes that there are core interests at stake for the United States and that countries who violate international norms regarding chemical weapons need to be held accountable,” she said.

Envoys from the permanent Security Council members – Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States – met Thursday for the second time since Britain proposed a draft resolution to permit “all necessary measures” to protect Syrian civilians, but no breakthrough was reported.

Earlier in the week, reports had suggested a Western strike was imminent, but questions have been raised about the quality of the intelligence linking Assad to the gas attack.

Some members of Congress voiced support for limited, surgical strikes, while urging transparency from the administration and continued close consultations.

“It is clear that the American people are weary of war. However, Assad gassing his own people is an issue of our national security, regional stability and global security. We must be clear that the United States rejects the use of chemical weapons by Assad or any other regime,” said Nancy Pelosi, the minority leader in the House.

Assad’s ally and main arms supplier Russia has blocked all attempts to toughen sanctions against Damascus or authorise outside force to punish or unseat the regime.

Deputy Russian Prime Minister Gennady Gatilov said Friday his government opposes any resolution “indicating the probability of the use of force” or “that could be used for military action against Syria”.

Syria is in the 29th month of a vicious civil war in which more than 100,000 people have died and about three million more have become refugees or displaced, according to UN figures.

As the stand-off continued, the team of UN inspectors were in the final day of their investigations into the gas attacks that activists say killed more than 350 people, including women and children.

A UN spokesman said Thursday that the team had collected “considerable” evidence and will brief the UN secretary general soon after they leave Syria on Saturday.

Ban has appealed for the inspectors to be allowed to complete their work before the major powers decide any follow-up action.

Assad, whose regime strongly denies using chemical weapons and instead blames “terrorist” rebels, has remained defiant in the face of the threats.

“Syria will defend itself in the face of any aggression,” he said on Thursday, vowing “victory” for his people.

Meanwhile, responding to threats by Syrian officials that the regime or its proxies will retaliate to a western attack by striking Israel, the Iron Dome missile defense system was deployed in Tel Aviv on Friday, as part of a wide range of security preparations, according to reports.


Thursday, August 29th, 2013

by Elad Benari (Arutz Sheva News)

United States President Barack Obama said on Wednesday that he has not yet made a decision regarding a military strike in Syria.

Speaking to PBS NewsHour, Obama stressed he has “no interest” in “any kind of open-ended conflict” in the civil war torn country.

“I’ve not made a decision. I have gotten options from our military, had extensive discussions with my national security team,” he said.

“So let me talk about what’s at stake here. I think we all understand terrible things have been happening in Syria for quite some time, that the Assad regime there has been killing its own people by the tens of thousands, that there are sectarian arguments that have spilled over into bloodshed and have escalated over the last couple of years. And although what’s happened there is tragic, and although I have called for Assad to leave and make sure that we got a transitional government that could be inclusive in Syria, what I’ve also concluded is that direct military engagement, involvement in the civil war in Syria, would not help the situation on the ground,” said Obama. “And so we’ve been very restrained, although diplomatically, we’ve been very active; we’ve been providing a lot of humanitarian aid to people who’ve been displaced by the war.”

“But what I also said,” stressed Obama, “was that if the Assad regime used chemical weapons on his own people, that that would change some of our calculations. And the reason has to do with not only international norms but also America’s core self-interest. We’ve got a situation in which you’ve got a well-established international norm against the use of chemical weapons. Syria has one of the largest stockpiles in the world of chemical weapons.”

“This is a volatile country in a very volatile region. We’ve got allies bordering Syria. Turkey is a NATO ally, Jordan a close friend that we work with a lot. Israel is very close by. We’ve got bases throughout the region. We cannot see a breach of the non-proliferation norm that allows, potentially, chemical weapons to fall into the hands of all kinds of folks,” he added.

The President stressed that “the international norm against the use of chemical weapons needs to be kept in place. And nobody disputes – or hardly anybody disputes that chemical weapons were used on a large scale in Syria against civilian populations.”

“We have looked at all the evidence, and we do not believe the opposition possessed nuclear weapons – or chemical weapons of that sort,” he said. “We do not believe that, given the delivery systems, using rockets, that the opposition could have carried out these attacks. We have concluded that the Syrian government in fact carried these out. And if that’s so, then there need to be international consequences.”

“So we are consulting with our allies. We’re consulting with the international community. And you know, I have no interest in any kind of open-ended conflict in Syria, but we do have to make sure that when countries break international norms on weapons like chemical weapons that could threaten us, that they are held accountable,” said Obama.

The interview with PBS was made as speculations continue on whether Obama will order a strike in Syria because of last week’s chemical attack.

The White House said, according to a Tuesday report in the Wall Street Journal, that the goal of any action would not be regime change in Syria but to respond to the alleged use of chemical weapons, which it argues presents a national security issue to the United States.

Meanwhile, the United States and Britain have come under pressure to delay military intervention in Syria, with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon urging both countries to hold fire.

Speaking at a press conference at The Hague, Ban called to give UN inspectors more time to examine the scene of the chemical weapons attack near Damascus last week.

He said that the inspectors needs at least four days to conduct tests, and further time to finish analyzing the results. Once that is done, the matter should be taken to the UN Security Council, he added.


Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

by Reza Kahlili
Reza Kahlili, author of the award-winning book “A Time to Betray,” served in CIA Directorate of Operations, as a spy in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, counterterrorism expert; currently serves on the Task Force on National and Homeland Security, an advisory board to Congress and the advisory board of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran (FDI). He regularly appears in national and international media as an expert on Iran and counterterrorism in the Middle East.

Iran is threatening to launch a massive missile strike against Israel if the United States attacks Syria for using chemical weapons against its own people, which could touch off a full-blown war in the region.

“The day of reckoning is near,” according to Hossein Shariatmadari, the chief editor of Keyhan newspaper, an outlet controlled by Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The editor recalled the U.S.-led attack on Baghdad on March 20, 2003, and President George W. Bush’s boast to reporters seven days later that the “Iraq war is over.” But when the last U.S. soldiers were leaving Iraq in December 2011, nearly 4,500 Americans had been killed and the war had cost America trillions of dollars.

Shariatmadari said that Washington, instead of open war against Syria, has been waging a proxy war against the Assad regime with the help of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan and Egypt. He said now it is ready to directly confront Syria militarily, one of the members of the Resistance Front along with Iran and Lebanon’s Hizbullah. However, despite Syrian rebels receiving financial and military support from those Middle East countries, not only has the Assad regime not been overthrown but it has opened a “new chapter for the Resistance where it formed the forces of ‘defense of Homeland,’ a force similar to the Basij militias (in Iran).”

Iran has long drawn a red line around the Assad regime. And Hizbullah fighters in Lebanon, Israel’s neighbor, are armed with thousands of missiles. The three members of the Resistance Front have a joint war room.

“Because of the failure of the intended proxy war, America and some Arab and European countries are preparing to attack Syria on the false claims that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons,” the editor said. “However, America can certainly start the war but it won’t be the one to end it.”

Shariatmadari said that Israel is the “Achilles’ heel of America and its European allies and without a doubt with the start of an attack on Syria, thousands of missiles will rain down all over the occupied lands (Israel), which will destroy its critical facilities as it was obvious that its missile defense system (the Iron Dome) could not prevent missiles reaching Tel Aviv.”

He also warned Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey and others who support attacking Syria that they themselves will come under attack from Syria.

“Muslims should welcome the news of an attack on Syria as it will provide the long-awaited opportunity for revenge, which should destroy the enemies of Islam,” Shariatmadari concluded.

Seyed Reza Taghavai, the head of Iran’s Policy Council of Friday Prayers, hinted that Khamenei is guiding the events in Syria, Lebanon and Gaza despite Iran publicly saying that it has nothing to do with them, Fars News Agency reported Monday. “People stand tall because of (Khamenei’s) guidance and in Syria where it has resisted against the unbelievers,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Islamic regime’s reporting agency published images of commanders of the Zolfaghar Battalion fighting in Syria. It said that the Zolfaghar and Abolfazle Abass battalions are mostly made up of Iraqi and Lebanese Shiites in fighting the Syrian rebels.

Iran’s Quds Forces have long trained Shiites to fight alongside Assad’s forces in Syria. Many of these fighters enter Syria through Iraq.

Last week an alleged chemical weapons attack targeted the outskirts of Damascus, which so far has taken the lives of more than a thousand civilians. The attack was later confirmed by the United States and European countries, who called for a response. The Obama administration has hinted in recent days that there will be a military response to using chemical weapons, which Secretary of State John Kerry called “a moral obscenity.”

Meanwhile, Foreign Policy magazine reported today that U.S. eavesdropping confirmed the existence of the chemical attack.

“Last Wednesday, in the hours after a horrific chemical attack east of Damascus, an official at the Syrian Ministry of Defense exchanged panicked phone calls with the leader of a chemical weapons unit, demanding answers for a nerve agent strike that killed more than 1,000 people,” the magazine reported.

“Those conversations were overheard by U.S. intelligence services,” Foreign Policy said in a statement. “That is the major reason why American officials now say they’re certain that the attacks were the work of the Bashar al-Assad regime – and why the U.S. military is likely to attack that regime in a matter of days.”


Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

By David Dolan

Regional chaos continued to spread during August as Egypt edged closer to all out civil war while fighting raged in Syria and car bombs left many dead in two Lebanese cities. Israeli air force jets struck a target in Lebanon for the first time in seven years after four rockets were fired into northern Israel. This came soon after chemical weapons reportedly killed hundreds of people in a rebel-held suburb of Damascus. The atrocious attack was widely condemned around the world, increasing the prospects that Western powers will soon intervene in an attempt to halt the carnage in war-torn Syria. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proclaimed that the world, and especially Iran, is watching to see how international leaders will react to the alleged chemical weapons attack that was apparently carried out by the embattled Assad regime.

The new Egyptian army-led government which seized power in Cairo last month struggled to contain growing Muslim Brotherhood protests all over the teeming Arab country, which led to clashes in many places that left many people dead and wounded. Two minivans were ambushed by supporters of ousted Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi in the Sinai Peninsula on August 19, leaving 25 off duty policemen dead in an execution style operation. Earlier Muslim Brotherhood supporters sacked scores of Coptic Christian, Catholic and Evangelical churches all over the country, leaving many in ruins. Islamic leaders are upset over widespread Christian support for the July 3rd military action that action that deposed Morsi.

Egypt’s main international backer, the United States, wrestled with what to do in the wake of what many American legislators called “the military coup” that toppled the controversial Muslim Brotherhood leader. Among the most vocal advocates for cutting off all annual US economic support was former Republican presidential candidate John McCain, who has also called for American arms to flow more freely to rebel forces in Syria. However while publicly deploring the Egyptian military action that topped Morsi, US President Barrack Obama fell short of calling it a coup. Under American law, all foreign aid must be severed following any coup taking place in a US-backed country around the globe.

Face to face peace negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and Israel resumed during August for the first time since Ehud Olmert served as Prime Minister during the past decade. While both sides said the initial round of talks, held in Jerusalem and Ramallah, made very limited progress, analysts said just the fact that they were taking place at all was a significant move forward. However the prospects that the negotiations will be rocky at best was buttressed by the fact that both sides put forth positions that had earlier been rejected by the other side. Among them was the continuing Palestinian Authority insistence that PM Netanyahu halt all Jewish home construction in the disputed territories north and south of Jerusalem and in the eastern half of the capital city itself before serious bargaining can actually take place. Israeli officials made clear this was not on the horizon. Meanwhile the Israeli Premier came under more scathing criticism for agreeing last month to release over 100 Palestinian security prisoners as a sweetener to get the peace talks rolling.

One of Bashar Assad’s closest regional allies, the Shiite Lebanese Hizbullah militia, suffered a major blow in mid-August when a car bomb exploded in southern Beirut, killing scores and leaving around 200 wounded. The victims were mainly Shiite Muslims who dominate the area. Hizbullah leaders later blamed Israel for carrying out the powerful terrorist blast, but Israeli officials insisted they were not involved. This came as IDF military forces remained on full war alert along Israel’s tense borders with Lebanon and Syria. At the same time, Iran’s new President made clear his government has no intention of curbing the rogue state’s uranium enrichment nuclear program.

Three of Israel’s four direct Arab neighbors, Egypt to the south and west and Syria and Lebanon in the north, are now experiencing violent internal upheaval that threatens to spill over into the small surrounded Jewish State. In fact, enemy rockets were fired at Israeli civilian centers in the north and south during August, striking the popular southern resort city of Eilat and near the northern city of Haifa and surrounding areas. This came as the country of Jordan, adjacent to Israel’s long eastern border, struggled to cope with a continuing wave of Syrian war refugees flooding into the small, financially strapped Sunni Arab country.

While the situation in Syria and Iran’s outlawed nuclear development program remain at the top of the Israeli government’s growing Middle East watch list, the escalating crisis in Egypt also received significant attention from government and military leaders during August. Although it was quite evident in Israel that the Netanyahu government and the country’s military brass are not unhappy that the American-backed Egyptian army ousted Muhammad Morsi from power in early July, the anticipated violent backlash from his Islamic fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood group and its millions of supporters during the month produced grave concern in Jerusalem. Many analysts said the outcome of the current struggle in Egypt between supporters of the new interim military government and its opponents may determine which direction smaller Arab countries in the region head in during the coming months and years. Despite the fact that it took them several weeks to get their act together, the large Muslim Brotherhood movement and its Islamic supporters took to the streets en masse during August, employing violence against government security forces on several occasions. Nearly a thousand Egyptians were killed or wounded as the street protests spread.

Meanwhile over 40 churches and other Christian sites were assaulted by violent Muslim mobs during the month, leaving many in ruins. An unknown number of Coptic Christians were killed or wounded as the lawlessness spread. The Coptic Pope, Theodoros II, who was elected to that position only one year ago, was among many public figures that endorsed the Egyptian military action to topple Morsi, who had assumed dictatorial powers last November before backing off a bit under widespread public protests. The Coptic Christian community in Egypt is thought to number at least 10 million souls, with some saying the actual number is closer to 14 million people, most of them under the age of 30. Tens of thousands of Roman Catholics and Protestants can also be found in Egypt.

A well-known Egyptian scholar, Samuel Tadros, said the recent Muslim attacks upon Christian institutions and congregations in Egypt are the worst since the 14th century. He noted that media reports during August said over 40 churches had been looted and totally destroyed by angry Muslim mobs, while another 23 had been attacked and heavily damaged in one week alone in mid-August. He noted that Coptic and Catholic officials reported that 160 Christian-owned buildings all over Egypt had been targeted as well. In one small town, three trembling Roman Catholic nuns were reportedly paraded by Muslim militants like prisoners of war after the assailants burned their Franciscan school to the ground. The pro-Morsi mobs had earlier torn a cross off of the school gate and replaced it with an Islamic flag featuring passages from the Koran. An on the scene observer told the New York Times that the assaulters, numbering in the hundreds, then entered the school compound’s church and “lashed out so ferociously that marble altars were left in broken heaps on the floor.” In another attack, two Egyptian security guards working on a Christian-owned tour boat plying the Nile River were burned alive by marauding Muslim thugs. Analysts said news of the vicious attack, widely reported in Europe, dealt another death blow to the collapsing Egyptian tourism industry, which is one of the large Arab country’s most important sources of economically vital foreign revenue. The Roman Catholic Bishop of Luxor was trapped inside his home for nearly three weeks by Islamist mobs chanting “death to the Christians” night and day outside his door. He later told reporters his local congregants were running out of food and other living supplies because they were too afraid to leave their homes. In the town of Minya, an Evangelical church was attacked by pro-Morsi supporters who said they plan to convert it into a mosque. A nearby Bible Society office was ransacked and destroyed, as was another office in the southern city of Assiut. Egyptian Bible Society General Director Ramez Atallah called the destructive assaults “attacks against the state by a violent minority,” which he added “are attempting to destabilize the nation.”

In early August, the new interim Egyptian government led by former army general Abdel Fattah Sisi issued a stern warning that it would come down hard on the Muslim Brotherhood movement if the attacks upon Christian and other targets did not immediately cease. Instead, Muslim militants marched down the main streets of many villages and towns, spray painting large black “X’s” on shops and businesses owned by fellow Muslims and bold red marks on Christian-owned buildings. In ugly scenes reminiscent of pre-war Nazi Germany, Islamic fundamentalist gangs then went on the rampage, sacking all of the red-bearing buildings. This in turn helped spark off the major government campaign to end the violence, which media outlets said led to the deaths of nearly 1,000 Morsi supporters by the end of the third week of August. On August 20th, Egyptian authorities arrested the overall leader of the Muslim Brotherhood movement, Muhammad Badie, who is officially known as the “Supreme Guide” of the Sunni Muslim group. Wearing his usual gray tunic, the 70 year old clerical leader was apprehended at his apartment in Cairo. He joined Muhammad Morsi and other senior Muslim Brotherhood leaders, including chief financial strategist Khairat Shater, who are being detained by the new interim military government. Badie’s son, Ammar, was subsequently killed during a violent protest rally in Cairo.
Popular support for the new government’s actions sharply increased after Muslim Brotherhood supporters ambushed two minivans transporting dozens of policemen to their outposts in the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula. Officials said 25 policemen lost their lives in the attacks near the border town of Rafah, while several others were badly injured. Security forces all over Egypt were then ordered to step up their suppression of pro-Morsi protest rallies, which have often sparked off violent mob attacks upon nearby police and army positions in many locations.
The dramatic and highly controversial Egyptian military action came just days after Sunni Muslim terrorists linked to Al Qaida fired several rockets at the southern Israeli coastal city of Eilat, prompting the Netanyahu government to shut down the international airport there for the second time this month. The Iron Dome anti-missile system, which was recently deployed near the resort city, was also ordered into action. The head of the Egyptian army’s Strategic Center, Major General Alaa Ezzidine, later told reporters that military leaders are currently working on a plan to reign in growing lawlessness in the strategic Sinai Peninsula, which links Africa to Asia near to where the Suez Canal connects the Indian Ocean to the landlocked Mediterranean Sea. He said it “includes intensifying the movement of military patrols in sites which jihadists have taken advantage of in the past, along with providing more weapons to curb the existing ambushes.”

Western leaders were in a quandary as to how to respond to the military takeover of Egypt, which some termed excessive if not brutal. The Egyptian military’s main international backer, the United States, denounced the army crackdown. In Washington, President Barrack Obama ordered the cancellation of joint “Bright Star” military exercises that annually bring American and Egyptian forces together each September to test their ability to cooperate in times of war. After supporting the ouster of deposed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011, the American Commander in Chief once again blasted last month’s military coup and subsequent suppression of pro-Morsi demonstrations. While vacationing in Martha’s Vineyard on the Massachusetts Atlantic Ocean coast, President Obama said the United States “strongly condemns the steps that have been taken by Egypt’s interim government and security forces. We deplore violence against civilians. We support universal rights essential to human dignity, including the right to peaceful protest.” While adding that the American administration “wants to sustain our relationship with Egypt, our traditional cooperation cannot continue as usual when civilians are being killed in the streets and rights are being rolled back.” Similar statements came from London, Paris and other Western capital cities. Few noted that Islamic militants had played a large role in provoking the increasingly harsh Egyptian military crackdown, especially by ambushing government security forces in the Sinai Peninsula. Several Muslim groups blamed Israel for somehow instigating the turbulence in Egypt in an attempt to destabilize the region, and if Israel needed any more trouble along its roiling borders. Israeli Middle East analysts generally supported the Egyptian military action, noting that the influential Arab country had been plunging back into chaos for nearly a year as a result of the inept Morsi government, which was fanning sectarian flames in Egypt and threatening to sever the 1978 Camp David peace treaty with Israel. Had the army not stepped in, a total collapse of Egyptian society may have been on the horizon, they said. Many also criticized Obama for his lukewarm support at best for the Egyptian military leadership, which has played a vital role in keeping the controversial US-brokered Camp David peace treaty in force for three and a half decades. “Obama has once again revealed his ignorance of Middle East issues and America’s essential security interests in the region,” said one analyst interviewed on Israel television. Another went even further, saying that as he did in his Cairo speech during his first term in office, the American leader with a Muslim middle name has revealed his underlying sympathy for Islamic jihadist groups that have openly declared holy war against Israel and the West. American Republican Senator John McCain was among many voices in Washington calling upon the Obama administration to immediately cut off all foreign aid to Egypt forthwith. Currently the United States provides 1.3 billion American dollars each year, almost all of it flowing to the military. Analysts say around 80% of the army’s annual weapons procurements are funded by Uncle Sam. However the new Egyptian interim regime expressed indifference to the threatened aid cutoff, with new Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy announcing he is currently reviewing the American aid provide to Egypt. He said he wants “to determine what is useful and what is not, and what is being used to pressure Egypt, and whether this aid has good intentions and credibility.” Analysts said the comments probably reflect the interim government’s growing conviction that Saudi Arabia and other wealthy gulf Arab Sunni Muslim states will quickly open their government coffers to support the Egyptian military in its quest to restore order to the highly influential country. They point out that the last thing the sheikdoms need right now is uprisings led by Al Qaida-linked Muslim militants who are encouraged by America’s tepid support for the Egyptian army crackdown. With American taxpayer aid to Egypt now at risk of being imminently severed, the Virginia-based Defense News media outlet reported that both US and Israeli government officials have signaled their desire to increase the amount of annual support given by the United States to Israel in order to insure the Jewish state’s continuing survival in an extremely hostile Muslim neighborhood. Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to Washington, told the American media outlet that the Netanyahu government “is looking at a holistic Mideast picture, which includes the growth of missile arsenals in Lebanon and Gaza; the strategic situation in Sinai; the Syrian situation as it impacts us and other countries, including Jordan, and the fact that all this is going on in an age of sequestration.” Since 1985, the United States has provided Israel with three billion dollars in annual aid, three-fourths of which must by law be spent in the United States to purchase weapons, army uniforms and other military items, meaning most of the US aid quickly returns to the country where it helps bolster America’s wobbly economy.

While naturally focusing on the intense crisis plaguing neighboring Egypt, Israeli government and military officials were forced during the month to refocus on the blood soaked warfare raging in nearby Syria and growing violence in Lebanon. Military analysts say the embattled Assad regime now controls less than half of the mostly Muslim country, mainly around the capital Damascus and the southern border area with Jordan and the Mediterranean coastal zone dominated by the small Alawite sect that is allied with the Shiite wing of Islam. Mostly Sunni Muslim rebel forces now control around 50% of the country of almost 21 million people, which is three times larger than Israel’s current population but less than one-third of Egypt’s over 80 million residents. A third zone of control lies in the northeast corner of the country, where Kurdish forces have set up a virtual autonomous mini-state in recent months adjacent to Kurdish areas in neighboring Turkey and Iraq.
The Syrian crisis roared back into the Israeli headlines when it was reported on August 20th that forces loyal to Syrian dictator Bashar Assad had fired chemical agents into a neighborhood south of Damascus under the control of opposition fighters. News reports said at least 350 people, most of them civilian noncombatants, had perished in the horrendous assault. Other reports claimed more than 1,000 people had been killed, with thousands more injured. The regime quickly denied that it had deployed the deadly weapons that are known to exist in the government’s large military arsenal. Television outlets around the world broadcast gruesome scenes of some of the victims, many of them children, squirming for life in the wake of the apparent chemical assault, said to be the largest since Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein gassed some internal opponents and Iranian troops toward the end of his war with Iran waged in the 1980s.
Almost exactly one year to the day after he declared that significant use of chemical weapons would trigger an American response, President Obama indicated that he would order some form of military response to the attack. However it was not clear what action the American government would take in the face of the deadly assault, given that all opinion surveys show the American public is fed up with seemingly never ending wars in the region stretching back to 2001. Analysts said at the very least, Obama will probably begin to enforce a no fly zone over Syrian skies, which would mean stepped up US involvement in the two and a half year old internal war but not any actual boots on the ground. US warships were ordered to head to the eastern Mediterranean region late in the month as the President met with his national security team to discuss the deteriorating situation. Syrian officials warned the entire Middle East would be set ablaze if Western forces intervene in the conflict.

In London, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the British government “believes that this was a chemical attack by the Assad regime. The only possible explanation of what we’ve been able to see is a chemical attack…there is no other plausible explanation for casualties so intense in such a small area on this scale.” Hague stressed the insidious attack was “not something that a humane and civilized world can ignore.” He urged the Assad regime to grant visiting UN weapons inspectors quick access to the site of the reported chemical attack in order to verify widespread evidence that Syrian government weapons were indeed deployed against hundreds of the country’s own citizens. Local anti-government activists were busy gathering up evidence of the apparent massacre to hand over to UN monitors who were in Syria to investigate earlier reported chemical attacks in the north of the country.

Israeli PM Netanyahu spoke about the atrocity at the opening of his weekly cabinet meeting on August 25th. He told his government ministers that Israel is ready to respond militarily against the Assad regime if that becomes necessary. “First, this situation cannot continue. Second, it is forbidden for the world’s most dangerous regimes to have the most dangerous weapons in the world. And thirdly, we expect this to end, but we remember the ancient adage of our sages: ‘If we are not for ourselves, who will be for us’ – that is to say, our finger, our hand, will always be on the pulse. Our finger is responsible, and when needed it is also on the trigger.”

Four rockets were fired from Lebanon into Israeli territory in mid-August, triggering a quick Israeli military response. The target was said to be a base near the Mediterranean coast south of Beirut that is used by a pro-Syrian Palestinian PLO faction, the Popular Front group. Another group linked to Al Qaida, the “Brigades of Abdullah Azzam,” claimed it had carried out the attack. It was the first time that Israeli air force jets bombed positions in the unstable Arab country since the Second Lebanon War ended in August, 2006. Enemy rockets struck two unnamed Israeli communities near Haifa the third week of August, thankfully without causing any significant damage or human casualties. A crater was created in a road where one of the rockets landed and exploded. Israel’s sophisticated Iron Dome anti-missile system was ordered into action after computers projected a rocket would strike a heavily built up area, probably inside of Haifa’s city limits. The fourth rocket landed short of its target outside of Israeli territory. One week before the attack, a massive car bomb exploded in a Hizbullah-controlled Shite suburb of the Lebanese capital city, killing 20 people and wounding around 200 others. Later in the month, two powerful car bombs exploded next to two Sunni Muslim mosques in the northern city of Tripoli, killing over 40 people and wounding at least 500 others. Local officials blamed Shiite forces loyal to Syrian dictator Bashar Assad for the attacks.

With turmoil and bloodshed flooding the region, few Israelis paid much attention to the renewed peace talks with the Palestinian Authority that began during the month. Opinion surveys showed very few Palestinians or Israelis believe the American-sponsored negotiations will make significant progress in overcoming the many obstacles that still lie in the way of a final peace accord between the longtime foes. With the Middle East apparently inching ever closer to all out regional war, it is good to recall that the Lord God of Israel is watching over His chosen people whatever comes their way. Therefore they can join King David in gladly proclaiming that “Some boast in chariots and some in horses, but we will boast in the Name of the Lord, our God” (Psalm 20:7).


Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

by Maayana Miskin (Arutz Sheva News)

Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon had a harsh message for Syria on Tuesday evening, following a Syrian minister’s threat to attack Israel if the United States targets the Assad regime.

“In the face of the threats against Israel, let us clearly say: whoever dares to test us, will feel the might of the IDF,” Yaalon declared.

“We hear threats aimed at Israel, even though Israel is not a part of the bloody conflict in Syria, or other conflicts in the Middle East,” he continued.

“The enlightened world now understands the forces it faces, the axis of evil that begins in Tehran, passes through Damascus and settles in Beirut, the meaning of which is crimes against humanity,” he said, adding, “Innocent civilians are slaughtered by the monstrous regime of Bashar Assad.”

IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, too, related to the tension on the Syrian border. “Those who seek to do us harm will find us sharper and tougher than ever,” he warned. “Our enemies should know that we are determined, and prepared, to defend our citizens.”

“The nations of the world have a moral and ethical responsibility in the face of the horrific crimes perpetrated against our innocent neighbors, just on the other side of the border,” he added.


Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

by Elad Benari (Arutz Sheva News)

A senior official in the Syrian army warned the United States and its partners on Tuesday that waging a full-scale war on Syria would be reciprocated with an immediate attack on Tel Aviv.

“If Damascus comes under attack, Tel Aviv will be targeted too and a full-scale war against Syria will actually issue a license for attacking Israel,” the Syrian army source told the Iranian Fars news agency.

“Rest assured that if Syria is attacked, Israel will also be set on fire and such an attack will, in turn, engage Syria’s neighbors,” he added.

The source also warned the U.S. and other Western states that if Syria grows weak, certain irresponsible groups will be formed which will endanger Israel’s security.

“Therefore, weakening the central government in Damascus will actually start growing attacks on Israel and will create insecurity for that regime,” he claimed.

“Thus, a U.S. attack on Syria will herald frequent strikes and attacks on Israel, not just by Damascus and its allies in retaliation, but by extremist groups who will find a ground for staging their aspirations,” he concluded.

The comments come amid growing speculations that U.S. President Barack Obama and other Western countries are planning to respond in some form to a deadly chemical attack in Syria last week, which killed hundreds.

Senior U.S. officials told NBC News on Tuesday that the United States may launch strikes against the Syrian regime “as early as Thursday.”

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem vowed on Tuesday that his country will defend itself in case of any Western military strikes against it.

“We have two options: either to surrender, or to defend ourselves with the means at our disposal. The second choice is the best: we will defend ourselves,” Muallem said in a televised news conference.

Muallem’s warning follows a threat by a top Syrian official if his country was attacked by western states it would react by attacking Israel.

Speaking to an Arabic-language radio station, Syria’s Deputy Information Minister Halaf Al-Maftah said that Israel would face a coalition consisting of Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria in the event of any attack against Assad. In addition, terrorist groups in Syria and Lebanon would attack Israel with full force, he warned.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warned on Tuesday that Israel will strike back “fiercely” if Syria attacks it.


Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

by Arutz Sheva

The Qatar-based Al Jazeera network quoted members of the Opposition in Syria Wednesday as saying that there has been another poison gas in attack on civilians in Damascus. About 20 people were hurt in the attack, they claimed.

The report has not been confirmed by other sources and Opposition claims in the two-year-old civil war have often turned out to be untrue or exaggerated. It was cited by IDF Radio.

There was also a report Wednesday of a loud explosion near President Bashar al-Assad’s palace. Voice of Israel public radio said there were no reports yet of casualties.

U.S.-based Foreign Policy magazine reported on Tuesday about the intelligence information that apparently convinced the U.S. that the forces of Bashar al-Assad were indeed behind the chemical attack a week ago that killed hundreds of civilians.

“Last Wednesday, in the hours after a horrific chemical attack east of Damascus, an official at the Syrian Ministry of Defense exchanged panicked phone calls with the leader of a chemical weapons unit, demanding answers for a nerve agent strike that killed more than 1,000 people,” Foreign Policy reported.

“Those conversations were overheard by US intelligence services,” the magazine said. “That is the major reason why American officials now say they’re certain that the attacks were the work of the Bashar al-Assad regime – and why the US military is likely to attack that regime in a matter of days.”

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