Is the al-Ahli hospital bombing a turning point in the Israel war?

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Is the bombing of al-Ahli hospital in Gaza “a new turning point” in the war against Israel?

October 19, 2023 -

Iranian protestors attend an anti-Israel rally as they hold up posters of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Iranian and Palestinian flags, at Enqelab-e-Eslami (Islamic Revolution) Square in Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2023. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Iranian protestors attend an anti-Israel rally as they hold up posters of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Iranian and Palestinian flags, at Enqelab-e-Eslami (Islamic Revolution) Square in Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2023. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Iranian protestors attend an anti-Israel rally as they hold up posters of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Iranian and Palestinian flags, at Enqelab-e-Eslami (Islamic Revolution) Square in Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2023. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

“This war, which has entered a dangerous phase, will plunge the region into an unspeakable disaster.” This was the warning of Jordan’s King Abdullah II after an explosion Tuesday in the courtyard of Gaza’s al-Ahli hospital killed hundreds of people. It is made all the more ominous by his nation’s moderate political stance and longstanding peace agreement with Israel. After the blast, the king canceled a planned summit between President Joe Biden, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

Hamas immediately blamed an Israeli airstrike for the tragedy. However, Israel, the US government, and independent security experts said yesterday that preliminary evidence shows the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) were not responsible and points instead to a failed rocket launch from Gaza by Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), a local militant group.

Nonetheless, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh called on Arabs and Muslims worldwide to protest against Israel and claimed the explosion will mark “a new turning point.” Early response across the Muslim world indicates that he may tragically be right:

  • The Jordanian government announced three days of mourning after the hospital explosion, which it called the “Israeli massacre.”
  • Hezbollah called for a “day of rage against the enemy” after the blast. Hundreds of demonstrators threw stones at the French and US embassies in Beirut, chanting “death to America” and “death to Israel.” The government closed schools yesterday.
  • Iran, which has warned of “preemptive” attacks should Israel proceed with a ground offensive on the Gaza Strip, condemned Israel for the “heinous attack.”
  • Syria stated that it holds Western countries, especially the US, “responsible for this massacre.”
  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the explosion “the latest example of Israel’s attacks devoid of fundamental human values.”
  • Saudi Arabia stated that it “condemns in the strongest possible terms the heinous crime committed by the Israeli occupation forces.”

Is Israel facing an “existential threat”?

Could the al-Ahli hospital bombing indeed be a “turning point” in this tragic conflict?

Palestinians are understandably shocked and grieved by the death and devastation so many are suffering from the explosion. As the atrocities of October 7 rallied Israelis against Hamas, could this rally Palestinians against Israel? Could we see another intifada (“uprising”) in the West Bank incited by Hamas and PIJ there?

Will this bring Hezbollah, with an estimated 130,000 rockets capable of striking all parts of Israel, more fully into the war? Iran’s foreign minister has warned that the group could destroy Tel Aviv “tower for tower” and identified Israel’s nuclear reactor as a potential target. According to the Jerusalem Post, there is a “growing concern” in Israel that “Hezbollah is waiting for the moment that most IDF ground forces are committed to Gaza to open a full front with the IDF in the north.”

Will Iran, which backs Hezbollah and Hamas and has been warning of “new fronts” opening against Israel, mobilize its jihadist forces in Syria and Iraq? In other words, will we see the multi-front war against the Jewish state that a former Israeli security advisor called an “existential threat”?

“Israel was born in battle”

Israel has been here before.

In Conflict: The Evolution of Warfare from 1945 to Ukraine, retired Gen. David Petraeus and historian Andrew Roberts describe Israel’s 1948 War for Independence in fascinating detail. They note that the war began when the infant nation was invaded by “five armies comprising over twenty thousand well-equipped Arabs from Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Transjordan (later Jordan), and Saudi Arabia.”

When the war was over, some six thousand Jews had died—1 percent of the entire population of the country—but they had gained 30 percent more territory than they had been allotted by the United Nations Partition Plan the Arabs had previously rejected. While “the whole country remained within Arab artillery range, and the state’s wasp-like waist was only nine miles to the sea at its narrowest,” the nation survived.

Petraeus and Roberts quote Chaim Herzog, the head of military intelligence for the IDF in their War for Independence and a future president of the nation: “Israel was born in battle.”

We can and must join them.

Seven biblical prayers

This is not just a military, cultural, and sociological conflict—it is a spiritual war. Those who committed unspeakable atrocities on October 7, and those who would join them to destroy the Jewish people and nation, are influenced by Satan, who “comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10).

So, let’s join this battle on our knees as we “wrestle against . . . the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).

Specifically, I encourage you to offer seven biblical prayers in these days, asking God to:

  • Give leaders on all sides wisdom leading to peace through righteousness (Proverbs 3:5; James 1:5; 3:18).
  • Protect noncombatants and provide for their needs (Psalm 121:7–8; Zechariah 7:10).
  • Protect and strengthen Christians and churches throughout the region as they share their faith and serve with compassion (1 Peter 4:10).
  • Give victory to Israel over those who would annihilate her (Deuteronomy 20:4; Isaiah 54:17) while giving the Palestinians a new future with justice and peace (Amos 5:24).
  • “Comfort all who mourn,” both Jews and Palestinians (Isaiah 61:2–3)
  • Help all in the region to “repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations” (Isaiah 61:4)
  • Reveal his Son to Muslims and Jews in miraculous ways that lead them to faith in him as Lord (cf. Acts 9:1–19; 1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9).

What if this crisis is a “new turning point,” not for escalating conflict but for spiritual awakening? What if it shows those on all sides that they need the hope found only in Christ?

What if, as a consequence of this horrific war, the One who was born in this ancient land is born again in millions of hearts?

Let us pray fervently that it may be so, to the glory of God.


NOTE: What if your kids or grandkids woke up every morning hungry for time alone with God? In My Time with God, kids ages 6–12 will spend 20 days learning what it means to spend time with God in his word. Featuring a daily verse, a short devotional, an activity, and a prayer, My Time with God will help your child grow closer to the Lord. Request your copy–or copies–of My Time with God today. (This devotional is from Christian Parenting, another brand of Denison Ministries.)

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