How did the war in Israel start?

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How did the war in Israel happen? Israeli intelligence failures and spiritual warfare

October 10, 2023 -

Palestinians celebrate by a destroyed Israeli tank at the Gaza Strip fence east of Khan Younis southern Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023. (AP Photo/Hassan Eslaiah)

Palestinians celebrate by a destroyed Israeli tank at the Gaza Strip fence east of Khan Younis southern Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023. (AP Photo/Hassan Eslaiah)

Palestinians celebrate by a destroyed Israeli tank at the Gaza Strip fence east of Khan Younis southern Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023. (AP Photo/Hassan Eslaiah)

“The Middle East region is quieter today than it has been in two decades.” So said President Biden’s national security advisor just one week ago. Then came Hamas’s surprise attack on Israel that “could represent a paradigm-shifting moment as big as 9/11,” according to the Atlantic. At this writing, more than fifteen hundred people have been killed since the attacks began early Saturday. How did the war in Israel start?

One reporter starkly described the attacks: “The operation was of unprecedented scale, involving thousands of personnel and pieces of equipment, from hang gliders to bulldozers and rockets. Such an effort demands weeks if not months of preparation, and all of it took place under the nose of an Israeli intelligence service that has a deserved reputation as one of the most effective in the world.”

How did such a massive operation remain a secret from one of the most advanced intelligence agencies in the world?

“A huge failure of the intelligence system”

According to Reuters, a “careful campaign of deception” enabled “the worst breach in Israel’s defenses since Arab armies waged war in 1973.” The attack followed two years of subterfuge that kept Hamas’s military plans under wraps while convincing Israel it did not want a conflict. According to a source near Hamas, Israel was led to believe it was containing Hamas by providing economic incentives to Gazan workers. All the while, the group’s fighters were being trained and drilled, often in plain sight.

For example, Hamas constructed a mock Israeli settlement in Gaza where they practiced a military landing and trained to storm it. They even made videos of their maneuvers. At the same time, they convinced Israel that they were more concerned about ensuring Gaza workers had access to jobs across the border. An Israeli army spokesman said, “They caused us to think they wanted money. And all the time they were involved in exercises/drills until they ran riot.”

Hamas also refrained from military operations against Israel when Islamic Jihad, another Gaza-based Islamist armed group, launched its own assaults or rocket attacks. They apparently used couriers to communicate rather than modern devices to avoid detection. And they were aware of Israel’s ability to infiltrate and monitor Islamist groups, so many Hamas leaders were left unaware of the plans. While training, the one thousand fighters deployed in the assault had no inkling of the exact purpose of the exercises.

This while Israel turned its attention to normalizing relations with Saudi Arabia and dealing with mass demonstrations over proposed judicial reforms. Israeli troops were well below full strength in the south near Gaza since some had been redeployed in the West Bank to protect Jewish settlers following a surge there with Palestinian militants. Today’s Wall Street Journal reports that this escalation now appears to have been a calculated move to distract attention from the planning in Gaza. Hamas exploited this distraction and timed its attack to coincide with the Jewish Sabbath and a major religious holiday.

It sent a barrage of three thousand rockets from Gaza coordinated with incursions by fighters who flew hang gliders over the border. These fighters secured the terrain so an elite commando unit could storm the fortified electronic and cement wall Israel had built to prevent infiltration. The fighters used explosives to breach the barriers, then they sped across on motorbikes. Bulldozers then widened the gaps so more fighters could enter in four-wheel drives.

The result was what a former national security advisor to Prime Minister Netanyahu called “a huge failure of the intelligence system and the military apparatus in the south.” (For more, please see the website paper I posted yesterday, “Hamas and Radical Islam: What Christians need to know.”)

“Paint the dragon red”

A dear friend used to advise me to “paint the dragon red.” In other words, wage spiritual warfare by first recognizing what the Enemy is doing so we can counter him in the Spirit. We can know that the devil is ultimately behind the attacks we’ve been discussing today, for three biblical reasons.

One: Satan loves to deceive.

The devil is a “liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44) whom Scripture calls “the deceiver of the whole world” (Revelation 12:9). He “disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14) and has “blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4).

Two: Satan hates the people of God.

The devil has been in conflict with God from his fall to the present (cf. Revelation 12:7–9). He cannot attack our Father, so he attacks his children. And he has been attacking the Jews, God’s “chosen people” (Deuteronomy 14:2), for millennia. Long before the Holocaust, they were subject to genocides from the Egyptians, Canaanites, Assyrians, Babylonians, and Romans. It is no coincidence that the Qur’an calls the Jews “apes and swine” (5:60; 2:65; 7:166). Or that Hamas targeted them for slaughter last Saturday.

Three: Satan loves to kill.

Jesus warned that our enemy “comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10). The atrocities committed by Hamas against innocent civilians, including the apparent deaths of Israeli hostages in their custody, are shocking beyond words. Several legal and security experts said such horrific violence constitutes war crimes. Satan is rejoicing today.

Four biblical ways to wage spiritual warfare

Here is the battle being waged behind the conflict in the news: “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).

This means that while Israeli forces counter Hamas and Western nations rally to Israel’s support, you and I need to wage this battle on our knees. Please join me in praying specifically for:

  • Wisdom for Israel’s leaders, that they would respond in ways that bring justice without widening the conflict (James 1:5).
  • Protection for Israel’s soldiers, that they would defeat their enemy without loss of life to themselves or innocent civilians (Psalm 46:1).
  • Security for Israeli and Palestinian civilians caught in this conflict, remembering that God loves each of us—Jews and Gentiles—as if there were only one of us (cf. Galatians 3:28).
  • Spiritual awakening for all involved in this conflict, that Jews and Muslims would turn to the one true Messiah and find the “abundant” life he alone provides (John 10:10).

C. S. Lewis counseled, “Look for Christ and you will find him, and with him everything else.”

Will you accept and extend his invitation today?

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