Category: Israel

Dec 05

The new peace partners and the next war

Analysis: A new kind of peace is taking shape before our eyes between Israel, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. No longer cold, indifferent and hostile, peace is hiding in the highest places of the government echelons. Together, the new peace partners are learning to assess the dimensions of the next conflict, which will likely be the worst we’ve ever experienced.

Smadar Perry |Published:  29.11.17 , 23:32

An old friend called me from Jordan on Monday. Help me out of the imbroglio, he requested. I have an urgent personal issue, and I must get to Tel Aviv. I need no explanation from my friend: the Israeli Embassy in Amman has been under lock and key for four months now, and there is no one to issue him an entry visa and stamp his passport.

Here’s a reminder: King Abdullah is angry with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for failing to end the security guard affair. The Jordanian street is furious over the unsolved death of two citizens. Israel promised to hand over the investigation report and bring the guard to justice. The king and the street have lost their patience.

A solution has already been found for hundreds of passports that got stranded in the empty embassy building, including passports from Egypt which were sent to Amman after the Israeli Embassy in Cairo was shut down. In Jordan, new documents were issued. In Cairo, anyone wishing to visit Israel is required to first of all present “the yellow note.” The process of obtaining that note, in the general security service’s offices, is deterring. No one wants their name and address to be listed, as someone may pay them a visit at night to inquire why they are rushing to Tel Aviv. No one wants to “get caught in normalization” either.

A new kind of peace is taking shape before our eyes. It’s no longer cold, indifferent and hostile peace, but peace hiding in the highest places of the government echelons. Leader vis-à-vis leader, in Egypt’s case, and apparatus vis-à-vis apparatus, in Jordan’s case.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announces at his own initiative that he talks to Netanyahu, and the prime minister makes a comment about “an interesting conversation with the Egyptian president.” As for the angry king of Jordan, the street no longer has to launch protests against signs pointing to normal relations. Everything is concealed, and Israel is drifting away.

Now, a third partner is entering the picture. The young crown prince from Saudi Arabia, who is imposing a new political, economic and maybe even social order. As far as he’s concerned, the sky’s the limit. Who should we believe: Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, who is scattering statements about covert contacts and cooperation, or Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, who is firmly denying this, and insisting that such things never happened?

I’m going to guess that had there really been no contacts, the Saudi minister would have allowed himself to keep quiet. There are too many signs stacking up on the ground that there is, in fact, a dialogue going on at a high rank. Riyadh and Jerusalem are connected by a whole lot of interests under the rug, led by the Iranian threat. I’m willing to believe the Saudi foreign minister when he insists that we have yet to reach the path of open relations. The test will take place soon: will the Saudis issue entry visas for the Israeli chess team, and how will be greeted, if at all?

The new peace draws the boundaries of the “good guys” camp versus the “bad guys” camp in our neighborhood, between the moderate Sunni-Muslim axis and the evil Shiite axis, as Iran has already succeeded in settling in four capitals: Baghdad, Damascus, Sanaa and Beirut. The Revolutionary Guards are not on an annual field trip; they have come to gain strongholds.

The moderate axis is learning how to walk on eggshells. If a conflict breaks out in one of the places, the next war will be the worst and toughest war we’ve ever experienced, with weapons we never dreamed of, soaked with blood and destruction. It won’t be a war between states. It will be a war within the Muslim camp which everyone is now trying to curb, and Israel—being stuck in the middle—will have trouble evading it.

Together, the new peace partners are learning to assess the dimensions of the next conflict. We should take note of the warnings from one side (Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah) and the “all clear” signals from our side. No one is planning to initiate an adventure in Lebanon against the Iranians and Hezbollah’s missile arsenal. No one in Riyadh, Cairo and Amman will assume responsibility for taking the first step against Iran, when no one knows where and how it will end. And peace? It will remain in its new, covert place, moving away from the civil level, because the leaders are busy.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=8871

Dec 01

VP Mike Pence Tells People To Get Ready For President Trump To Move US Embassy To Jerusalem As Promised

US Vice President Mike Pence made the comment in remarks at Israel’s Mission to the United Nations at an event celebrating the 70th anniversary of the United Nations’ vote calling for the establishment of a Jewish state. How’s that for a blockbuster announcement?

by Geoffrey Grider November 28, 2017

President Donald Trump is actively considering “when and how” to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, Vice President Mike Pence said on Tuesday.

“Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem. And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it.” Zechariah 12:2,3 (KJV)

US Vice President Mike Pence made the comment in remarks at Israel’s Mission to the United Nations at an event celebrating the 70th anniversary of the United Nations’ vote calling for the establishment of a Jewish state. How’s that for a blockbuster announcement? (If you’re reading this via email, please click here to watch Pence video.)

This campaign promise of Donald Trump is the reason why I decided to vote for him back when he was a candidate back in 2016. Refresh your memory by watching it here.

The fact that said this at an event commemorating the 70th anniversary of the reestablishment of the nation of Israel is not just perfect timing, to me it seems to be God’s timing. And it is what we here at NTEB have been saying all along. If any big fulfillment of Bible prophecy is going to happen in the foreseeable near future, it will be on or around the 70th anniversary of Israel being back in the land.

On May 14, 2018, Israel will have been officially regathered, in fulfillment of Bible prophecy, for exactly 70 years. In 70 AD, Israel was destroyed by the Romans and the Temple stones toppled to the ground exactly as Jesus said it would happen. When you subtract 70 AD from 2018 AD, where does that leave you? It leaves you square in 1948 AD.

THE TIMING OF THE PRETRIBULATION RAPTURE OF THE CHURCH AS FOUND IN THE SONG OF SOLOMON

What might we expect come the Spring of 2018? Well, the Bible gives many references that the Rapture of the Church will take place in the Springtime. The numbers 7 and 70 refer to the time of Jacob’s trouble, which takes place immediately following the Rapture of the Church.

Am I calling for the Rapture this Spring? No, I am not. But I am telling all Bible believers to keep their spiritual eyes and ears wide open as we get close to April/May of next year. Seeing in the Bible how God has worked in the past, if prophecy is going to be fulfilled in a major way, then something will happen on the 70th anniversary of Israel’s regathering.

“For thus saith the LORD, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place.” Jeremiah 29:10 (KJV)

Is God preparing to once again visit His people, and start dealing with them again? Maybe so, but if so, He will have to remove the Church first. That’s what my ‘rightly divided’ Bible tells me.

AS THEIR 70TH ANNIVERSARY OF BEING REGATHERED APPROACHES, IS THE LORD PREPARING TO VISIT ISRAEL?

Are you ready for what comes next?

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=8862

Nov 29

Have Sodom and Gomorrah been found?

Archaeologist calls discovery near Dead Sea a ‘no-brainer’

Published: 18 hours ago

Is the Bible’s account of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah just a myth?

Not likely, says an archaeologist who believes, following 12 years of sifting sand near the Dead Sea in Jordan, that he has found the ruins of the largest twin cities in the area, one that fits all the criteria of the Bible account.

Steven Collins, a professor of biblical studies and apologetics at Trinity Southwest University, says a “monstrous” site in Tall el-Hammam in the southern Jordan Valley, which lies eight miles northeast of the Dead Sea, perfectly matches the biblical descriptions of the “city of sin,” destroyed in a day by fire and brimstone.

Collins began exploring the rubble in 2005 and eventually concluded that it is indeed the site inhabited by Lot who was saved by Abraham from judgment of the dominant city-state of the era.

“When we explored the area, the choice of Tall el-Hammam as the site of Sodom was virtually a no-brainer since it was at least five to 10 times larger than all the other Bronze Age sites in the entire region.”

The site is a large mound, or tel, that he believes represents the ruins of the two cities. The team of researchers has since found high and thick defensive walls, gates, towers, plazas and ramparts as well as a palace in the upper city.

As one would expect, life in the city appears to have come to a sudden halt near the end of the Middle Bronze Age period before being abandoned for 700 years.

“Tall el-Hammam seemed to match every Sodom criterion demanded by the text,” said Collins.

Based on the excavated site, despite the heavily fortified defensive capabilities, the city seems to have come to a sudden, inexplicable end – just as the Genesis account in the Bible says.

For millennia, the ancient cities have been used as metaphors for vice and homosexuality.

Collins said the city was likely abandoned after an earthquake, while other experts suggested an asteroid may have been to blame.

In 2008, mysterious circular clay tablets were identified as a witness’ account of an asteroid that destroyed the cities. Two rocket scientists – Alan Bond and Mark Hempsell, who spent eight years trying to solve the mystery – believe that the tablet’s symbols give a detailed account of how a mile-long asteroid hit the region, causing thousands of deaths and devastating an area of more than 386,000 square miles. The impact, equivalent to more than 1,000 tons of TNT exploding, would have created one of the world’s biggest-ever landslides.

The clay tablet, called the Planisphere, was discovered by the Victorian archaeologist Henry Layard in the remains of the library of the Royal Palace at Nineveh.

The duo used computers to recreate the night sky thousands of years ago and pinpointed the sighting described on the tablet by a Sumerian astrologer, pinpointing the likely date to before dawn June 29 in the year 3,123 B.C.

What does the Bible say about Sodom and Gomorrah? There are references in Genesis and the New Testament as well.

Genesis 19 is a detailed account of two angels who visited the city in an effort to save Lot and his family and were confronted by a gang threatening to sexually assault them. The angels had been dispatched by God at the urging of Abraham, Lot’s uncle.

The angels gathered Lot’s family and took them out of the city, saying: “For we will destroy this place, because the cry of them is waxen great before the face of the Lord; and the Lord hath sent us to destroy it.”

The angels cautioned Lot’s family not to look back once they had been safely removed from the cities.

“Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven,” it says in Genesis 19:24-26. “25 And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground. But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.”

Genesis 13:13 explains that the people of Sodom “were wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly.”

The prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos and Zephaniah all refer to the judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Jesus referred to Sodom and Gomorrah in Matthew 10, explaining to His disciples that when they visited towns to share the good news and met resistance to shake the dust off their feet before leaving:

“Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city,” it says in verse 15.

Jesus is also quoted in Matthew 11:23 as pronouncing judgment on the Galilee town of Capernaum with a reference to Sodom. The ruins of Capernaum have since been excavated and it remains a popular tourist site today.

2 Peter 2:6 quotes the apostle as saying the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes remained as an example to “those that should live ungodly” in his day.

Likewise, Jude 7:7 says: “Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.”

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=8856

Nov 29

Netanyahu said to warn Assad: We’ll strike if you let Iran set up bases in Syria

In latest sign of PM’s mounting concern, Israeli TV says he has conveyed stark message to Syrian president via third party

By TOI staff 26 November 2017, 9:42 pm 5

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned Syrian President Bashar Assad that Israel will intervene militarily in the Syrian civil war if Assad gives formal permission to Iran to establish a military presence in Syria, Israeli TV reported on Sunday night.

Netanyahu conveyed the message to Assad via a third party, Hadashot news (formerly Channel 2) veteran Middle East analyst Ehud Yaari reported.

The warning specified that Israel will depart from the policy of non-intervention it has maintained throughout the six years of the civil war to date, Yaari said, if Assad “invites Iranian forces to establish themselves in Syria via an agreement of any kind.” Iran has provided significant logistical, technical, training and financial support for Assad’s regime and forces, as well as deploying military advisers and some combat troops in Syria. It also arms, trains and funds Hezbollah, the Lebanese terror group that has sent thousands of gunmen to fight alongside Assad’s troops.

Thus far, Israel has provided medical and humanitarian aid to victims of the war across its border, has hit back when gunfire has crossed the border, and has used air strikes to target weapons stores and convoys intended for the Hezbollah terrorist organization. But, to date, “there was no direct targeting of the Syrian Army or of Assad,” Yaari noted.

The report noted tellingly that this non-intervention contrasted with previous Israeli policy. In 2006, for instance, Israeli jets broke the sound barrier flying over Assad’s presidential palace in Latakia, in what was seen as a warning to him against supporting Palestinian terrorist groups.

The reference to any formal Syrian “invitation” or “agreement” with Iran, the TV report elaborated, stems from the fact that Iran and Russia have been discussing future arrangements for Syria, under which all foreign forces would have to leave the country, except those which are present by agreement with, or invitation from, Assad. Russia’s forces are engaged in Syria on the basis of such an invitation, and Netanyahu’s aim in issuing the warning “is to deter Assad from issuing” a similar invitation to Iran.

The Iranians, the TV report noted, want to build “a naval base, possibly for submarines, an air base and arms factories for precision weapons.”

Earlier this month, the BBC, citing a Western security official, reported that Iran was setting up a permanent base on a site used by the Syrian army near el-Kiswah, 14 kilometers (8 miles) south of Damascus, and 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the Israeli border.

Satellite image of alleged Iranian base in Syria from October 2017 (Airbus, Digital Globe and McKenzie Intelligence Services/BBC)

The TV report came days after Netanyahu was quoted telling French President Emmanuel Macron in a phone call that Israel sees Iranian activity in Syria as “a target” for its forces, and may carry out strikes against Iranian objectives if its security needs require it.

According to a transcript of their November 19 phone call reported by Israel’s Channel 10 TV, Netanyahu told the French leader that “from now on, Israel sees Iran’s activities in Syria as a target. We will not hesitate to act, if our security needs require us to do so.”

Macron reportedly attempted to reassure the Israeli leader and dissuade him from “hasty” action.

But Netanyahu was adamant, reportedly saying, “The goal must be to minimize Iran’s influence, not only in Lebanon but also in Syria… Israel has tried up until now not to intervene in what is going on in Syria. But after the victory over Islamic State, the situation has changed because the pro-Iranian forces have taken control… From now on, Israel sees Iran’s activities in Syria as a target. We will not hesitate to act, if our security needs require us to do so.”

Netanyahu vowed in a speech last week that Iran would not be allowed to gain a regional foothold. “We have made it clear many times that we will not accept nuclear weapons in Iran’s hands, nor will we allow the establishment of Iranian forces near our border, in the Syrian region in general, or anywhere else,” he said.

Underlining the rising tensions, an Iranian military commander declared on Thursday that any future war in the region would result in the annihilation of Israel. Ali Jafari, the commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, told Iranian reporters that “any new war will lead to the eradication of the Zionist regime.”

On November 21, Netanyahu also spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin by phone about a ceasefire deal in the Syrian civil war and the Iranian presence near Israel’s borders, the Prime Minister’s Office said. “The conversation lasted about half an hour and dealt with Syria, and Iran’s attempt to entrench itself in Syria,” Netanyahu’s office said in a statement. “Netanyahu insisted on Israeli security and reiterated his opposition to Iran’s entrenchment in Syria.”

The call was the latest in a series of high-level contacts between Israel and Russia, amid a dispute between the countries over allowing Iran and Shiite militias backed by Tehran to maintain a foothold in Syria near the Israeli border.

On October 17, Netanyahu met with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in Jerusalem, where the two men discussed the Islamic Republic’s attempt to establish itself militarily in Syria. “Iran needs to understand that Israel will not allow this,” Netanyahu told Shoigu, according to his office.

According to an unnamed Israeli official, under the Syrian ceasefire deal, militias associated with Iran would be allowed to maintain positions as close as five to seven kilometers (3.1-4.3 miles) to the border in some areas, Reuters reported two weeks ago.

The Israeli Air Force has carried out numerous airstrikes in Syria on weapons convoys bound for the Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group, though it rarely acknowledges individual raids.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=8854

Nov 29

After Mosque Attack Exposes Egypt’s Terror Weakness, Israel Offers to “Lend a Hand”

By JNS November 27, 2017 , 11:30 am

“Yehoshua established friendship with them; he made a pact with them to spare their lives, and the chieftains of the community gave them their oath.” Joshua 9:15 (The Israel Bible™)

By: Adam Abrams

After terrorists killed more than 300 people during prayers at a mosque in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula last Friday, experts say that weaknesses in the Arab country’s counter-terrorism operations will likely lead to increased Israeli-Egyptian security cooperation.

The terror attack, which occurred at the al-Rawdah mosque in the northern Sinai town of Bir al-Abed, was one of the deadliest in recent memory in Egypt. While no organization has claimed responsibility for the attack, the terrorists hoisted Islamic State flags.

Despite ongoing efforts to secure the Sinai by Egypt’s military, Islamic State-affiliated terrorists have waged an insurgency in the region, perpetrating a succession of deadly attacks on Egypt’s security forces and civilians.

Last Friday’s attack “brings Israel and Egypt [closer] together,” said Prof. Joshua Teitelbaum, a senior research fellow at Bar-Ilan University’s Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.

“Egypt and Israel have a common goal in crushing these [terror groups] operating in the Sinai, for two reasons,” Teitelbaum told JNS.org. “[Sinai-based terrorists affiliated with Islamic State] have attacked Israel in the past, mostly with mortar or rocket fire to Eilat. Israel also cares about the security of the Egyptian regime [and views it] as a bulwark of pragmatic stable countries in the region, along with Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Jordan. So Israel will do what it can to help Egyptian security.”

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi declared a nationwide three-day mourning period following the attack, while the country’s air force initiated strikes to eliminate terrorist hideouts in the northern Sinai on Saturday night.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said regarding the attack that terrorism “will be defeated even more quickly if all countries work against it together,” while Israeli Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz said Israel “stands shoulder to shoulder with Egypt and other countries in the region and the international arena in the war against radical Islamic terror.”

“The Israeli defense establishment expressed its sympathies and, as always, is willing to lend a hand to any country in order to help fight terror,” said an Israeli security official on Sunday.

According to Egyptian media reports, armed terrorists using all-terrain vehicles planted bombs outside of the mosque, then detonated them and opened heavy fire on more than 500 worshippers as they attempted to flee. The terrorists also set the worshippers’ vehicles ablaze and used them to block escape routes.

Experts say the terrorists’ ability to plan and carry out such a large attack is indicative of underlying flaws in Egyptian security, intelligence-gathering and counter-terrorism efforts.

“If several terrorists can be packed in SUVs and just drive up to a mosque and start shooting at them, then the Egyptian control of the Sinai leaves a lot to be desired. Egypt has never had great control of the Sinai,” Teitelbaum said.

The attack “reflects several characteristics of the ISIS Sinai Province’s current posture,” said Assaf Orion, a senior research fellow at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies, referring to Islamic State’s Sinai affiliate.

“Substantial capacity to execute large-scale attacks, freedom of movement across the area of operations and a high level of operational security allowed [the terrorists] to mount a surprise attack of this scale,” Orion, the former head of the Strategic Division in the IDF General Staff’s Planning Directorate, told JNS.org. “All of these tenets may indicate possible shortcomings in the counter-ISIS efforts in intelligence, early warning and operational posture and response on the defenders’ side.”

Experts and officials fear that Islamic State’s recent loss of its self-declared caliphate in Syria and Iraq has prompted the terror group to turn its attention to other lawless areas of the Middle East, such as the Sinai.

Orion said Egypt and Israel are “well aware” of the threats posed by Islamic State’s Sinai affiliate to each country’s civilians and security forces.

“Their mutual commitment to stand against terrorism, secure their common border and buttress the [1979 Israeli-Egyptian] peace treaty are well-known and often declared, and severe common threats are a stimulant to stronger common responses,” said Orion.

Following last Friday’s attack, Orion expects to see “heightened counter-ISIS efforts by the Egyptian Armed Forces in the Sinai, with Israel willfully concurring to Egyptian military capabilities and activities, which are originally limited by the peace treaty’s security annex.”

Orion added that Israel likely is already “actively coordinating with the Egyptian neighbors through their military liaison system.”

“Let’s not forget, Israel controlled the Sinai from 1967 to 1982,” said Teitelbaum. “It still has a lot of contacts there and a lot of amassed knowledge [about the area], so I’m sure it’s sharing what it knows.”

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=8850

Nov 27

Analysis: Russia-Iran-Turkey meeting is message to US

By Seth J. Frantzman

November 19, 2017 06:33

Moscow, Turkey and Iran are all sending symbolic messages to Washington that the Americans are out in the cold and the post-ISIS era may well be dictated by regional powers.

4 minute read.

SYRIAN RESIDENTS react to a shelling in the eastern Damascus suburb of Ghouta on Friday. (photo credit:REUTERS)

Turkish, Russian and Iranian diplomats will meet in Antalya on Sunday in the run-up to a major get-together in Sochi on November 22. The meeting is supposed to focus on Syria, but its real purpose is part of a larger effort by Moscow to illustrate its influence in the region.

Moscow, Turkey and Iran are all sending symbolic messages to Washington that the Americans are out in the cold and the post-ISIS era may well be dictated by regional powers.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the meeting was intended to find out “how we can restore stability and peace in Syria.”

According to Hurriyet Daily News, the foreign ministers from Moscow, Ankara and Tehran will meet in Antalya, followed a few days later by a meeting in Sochi between Vladimir Putin, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Hassan Rouhani that is being billed as a “trilateral summit.”

Turkish officials, this year, have been increasingly critical of US policy.

Erdogan accused the US of not keeping its promises regarding the withdrawal of its partnered forces, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) from areas liberated from Islamic State.

“Unfortunately, the current administration also tells us it is in cooperation with the SDF, the new name of the YPG. They shouldn’t do this.

We were here before them and we know perfectly well who is who in this region,” Erdogan said.

In comments that reflect the official Turkish view, Ibrahim Kalin, a special adviser to the Turkish president, wrote in the Daily Sabah: “There is growing assessment that the US is using both Daesh and the YPG as an excuse to remain in eastern Syria as a potential counter-weighing force against the Russian-Iranian presence.”

Turkey sees the YPG as the “Syrian branch” of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) and, thus, a terrorist organization. In his piece, Kalin referenced claims that the US-led coalition and SDF allowed hundreds of ISIS fighters and their families to leave Raqqa in October.

“[This shows] once again the utter poverty of the policy of having one terrorist organization fight another,” he wrote.

Kalin says Turkey demands that “Syria’s territorial integrity must be maintained” and that foreign fighters for the regime and the YPG must leave Syria: “A transitional government should be established to include all Syrian stakeholders and prepare the ground for free and fair elections.”

He argues that the YPG “cannot be part of any political solution,” and that Assad “is not the person to lead Syria to a democratic and all-inclusive rule.” The meeting in Sochi is supposed to address these issues, alongside the talks that have taken place in Astana and Geneva.

The Russians, according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, see the summit as including the “guarantors of the process of political settlement and stability and security that we see now in Syria.”

The Sochi meeting comes just a week and a half after Putin met US President Donald Trump in Danang, Vietnam.

“The presidents agreed that there is no military solution to the conflict in Syria,” a joint statement read on November 11. The statement called for the implementation of UNSCR 2254, which would involve constitutional reform and “free and fair elections under UN supervision.”

The statement emphasized the importance of communication in eastern Syria between US and Russian forces and “deconfliction” efforts. It also mentioned the southwest Syrian cease-fire agreed to with Jordan.

It was a practical statement, whereas the Sochi meeting is seen to be an important diplomatic step with wider regional implications.

Russia, Iran and Turkey all differ on the Syrian conflict, but over the last year it appears their relationship has trended toward a more harmonious one and the Americans have been left out in the cold.

Turkey and Iran grew closer over the Qatar crisis in July and over the Kurdistan independence referendum in northern Iraq in September. Turkey and Russia also surmounted the crises of the 2015 shooting down of a Russian Su-24 by Turkey.

The Trump administration faces political problems at home over the relations his former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn had with Turkey and his former campaign chair Paul Manafort had with pro-Russian elements in Ukraine. This, to some extent, ties his hands on relations with Moscow and Ankara.

In addition, Ankara is outraged at the increasing presence of the US in eastern Syria and inferences that it intends to stay for the long term.

Trump already has rolled out a robust policy to confront Iran in the region, a policy that, as yet, has no practical elements to it but is thought to have empowered the Saudis in their moves in Lebanon and the Gulf.

What the Americans don’t have is a post-ISIS strategy for Iraq, Syria and the region.

The trilateral summit enshrines the inability of US strategy to make headway. Iran, an enemy of the US is sitting with Turkey, a NATO ally, alongside Russia. Washington’s allies in eastern Syria should be concerned.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=8844

Nov 20

Iranian military force taking shape right under Israel’s nose

Analysis: Just 30 kilometers from the Israel-Syria border, Iran is recruiting young Shiite locals to create the 313th Battalion, which is receiving equipment, training and high salaries from the Revolutionary Guards, as well as help from Hezbollah operatives.

Dr. Yaron Friedman|Published:  14.11.17 , 23:24

In the past months, there has been a lot of talk in the media about a possible threat to Israel, if and when Iran establishes permanent bases in Syria. Just last Friday, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) reported that Iran was building a permanent military base in Syria, very close to Damascus and 50 kilometers from the Golan Heights.

Meanwhile, however, without any public declarations, Iran is quietly recruiting young Syrians to establish a battalion just 30 kilometers from the Israeli border. Meet the Iranian force taking shape right under Israel’s nose.

The 313th Battalion: Waiting for the ‘messiah’

Opposition organizations in southern Syria, one of the rebels’ last strongholds, revealed recently that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards have set up headquarters in the Christian village of Izra in the Daraa Governorate (near the Syria-Jordan-Israel tripoint), to recruit Shiite and possibly members of other pro-Iranian minority groups.

The alleged Iranian base as documented last month in Syria (Photo: Digital Globe, McKenzie intelligence Services, BBC)

The number 313 is known in Lebanon’s Shiite sector as a magic number. According to tradition in this branch of Islam, 313 is the number of fighters that will arrive with the Mahdi, the Shiite “messiah.” The founders of the 313th Brigade (which is still the size of a battalion) gave it both a messianic number and a messianic name, Ansar al-Mahdi (supporters of the messiah).

The feeling of victory among the Shiite militias supporting the Iraqi and Syrian armies against the Islamic State (ISIS), the “Sunni Satan,” has created a sense of euphoria and an expectation for the arrival of the messiah among Shiite religious circles. Now, Iran is interested in leveraging the Shiite revival in Iraq and in Syria for a battle against “the Zionist enemy.”

 

Most of the information about the new battalion hasn’t reached the press yet, but it can be found in the Facebook and Twitter accounts of locals who fear for the fate of the Sunni majority in the Daraa Governorate. According to their reports, the Revolutionary Guards are recruiting members of minority groups, primarily from Shiite villages in the region (such as Busra al-Harir, Namar Khirbet Ghazaleh and al-Shaykh Maskin). They are well-equipped, receive an army uniform and are trained by officers from the Revolutionary Guards. They are also assisted by Hezbollah operatives in the towns of Izra and the nearby al-Shaykh Maskin.

Competition with Syrian army and Russians

Iran’s direct recruitment effort in southern Syria aims to compete with the Syrian army and its Russian patrons. The Iranians, who are operating in the region under the nose of the Syrian army’s 12th Brigade, are persuading young locals to join the new battalion by offering a higher-than-average salary (about $200 a month). The young men are joining the battalion to evade regular and reserve service on the war fronts in Bashar Assad’s army, where they would likely have to sacrifice their lives.

The 313th Battalion’s training is also held “close to home” in the same area. Another way of tempting the young locals to join the battalion is by providing them with documents and certificates with the Revolutionary Guards symbol. These papers are sort of VIP certificates, which allow the battalion members to pass through the infamous crossings and roadblocks—Syrian army checkpoints where car drivers are extorted and threatened.

Sources report that the 313th Battalion’s recruitment headquarters have been set up in a youth center in southern Izra, and that some 200 people have already enlisted. Many of the recruits are people who left organizations that support the Syrian regime in a bid to improve their conditions.

 

This is basically the first time Iran directly recruits Syrian citizens. Up until now, the Iranian militias were made up of foreigners: The Lebanese Hezbollah, the Afghan Fatemiyoun and the Iraqi Najabaa.

The idea behind the initiative is to prepare the ground by creating a sort of “Syrian Hezbollah” in case Russia accepts one of the opposition’s main conditions for an agreement in Syria—a removal of all foreign forces from the country. This way, Iran will be able to keep running a Shiite organization in Syria by remote control.

Abu Tawfik al-Diri, the Free Syrian Army’s military coordinator in the area, said in an interview to a Jordanian paper that he believes the purpose of the new battalion is to serve as an Iranian wing cooperating with Hezbollah against Israel.

 

Jordanian concerns

In Jordan, concerns are growing over an Iranian presence in southern Syria which could threaten the Hashemite Kingdom as well. Mohammad Sabra, a legal adviser to the Syrian opposition who is taking part in the Geneva talks, said in an interview to the Jordanian press that the Iranian presence in southern Syria was a violation of the agreement to ease tensions in Daraa, which was reached by Jordan, the United States and Russia on July 7.

Furthermore, the Iranian recruitment contradicts the Hamburg agreements between the US and Russia, that the militias must not get any closer than 35 kilometers from the Jordanian and Israeli borders. Jordan’s official stance is similar to Israel’s: The kingdom won’t accept the presence of Iranian militias on its border.

Project 313: A continuation of previous operations

Hezbollah’s attempts to create a front against Israel in the Golan Heights have failed several times before. The year 2015 seemed like the end of the Iranian project in southern Syria. It began in January with the assassination of Jihad Mughniyeh, who was in charge of creating a Hezbollah front against Israel in the Golan, and ended in December with the assassination of Samir Kuntar, the terrorist who tried to recruit the Druze in al-Suwayda to Hezbollah.

But Iran used the Russian intervention in the past two years, which led to a changeover in the civil war in Syria, to its advantage. The current formation of the Iranian 313th Battalion is essentially the second stage after the creation of what the Syrians refer to as the Shiite “triangle of death.”

 

Last year, about 500 Hezbollah fighters in southern Syria took over the triangle area between southern Damascus, Quneitra and Daraa. Hezbollah committed ethnic cleansing against some 40,000 residents in that area, mostly Sunnis. Most of them fled following the battles with the rebels and are now not allowed to return under the excuse that it’s a “closed military zone.”

New demographics working in favor of Shiites

The departure of millions of refugees from Syria and the death of hundreds of thousands of residents changed the country’s demographic structure. Until 2011, the Alawi rulers made up 11 percent of Syria’s population and the Shiites made up 2 percent. Among the minorities loyal to the regime, the Christians made up 10 percent and the Druze 3 percent. Ten percent of the population are Muslim Kurds. The Sunni Arabs—most of the opposition’s supporters—made up about 64 percent of the population in 2011.

 

Some of the wealthy Sunnis living in the western cities supported the Assad regime because of the benefits and economic monopolies they received from the regime in Damascus.

Due to the fact that most Syrian refugees (more than 5 million) and the people who died (more than half a million) are Sunnis, the number of Sunni Arabs in the country recorded a considerable decline (down to perhaps 50 percent). This dramatic change gives the Syrian regime and Iran a stronger control base. These numbers are joined by the thousands of Shiites “imported” by the Iranian forces from Iran, Afghanistan and Iraq to western Syria, as well as Hezbollah members from Lebanon. This is the demographic infrastructure for Iran’s expansion in western Syria.

Shiite deployment in Syria

According to open sources (primarily Arab media and social networks), Iran has three military bases in Syria today: One in the south, the main base in the Damascus airport; another one not far away, in the Set Zaynab area in the Damascus suburbs; and a third one in the north, in Jabal Azzan near Aleppo.

Hezbollah has four bases along the border with Lebanon: In Al-Qusayr, in al-Zabadani, in the Qalamun Mountains and in southern Sargaya.

Apart from these seven Shiite bases, Iran is now trying to reach an agreement with Russia to open a naval base in northwestern Syria and build air bases in other areas in the country.

The two Iranian bases in Damascus, only 70 kilometers from the Golan Heights, could be a serious threat to the State of Israel’s security in the near future. The 313th Battalion, which is currently taking shape 30 kilometers from our border, is a close and imminent danger.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=8835

Nov 13

Does New Evidence of Ancient Desert Structures Strengthen ‘Sinai in Saudi Arabia’ Theory of Exodus?

By Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz November 8, 2017 , 12:30 pm

“For the Israelites had traveled in the wilderness forty years, until the entire nation—the men of military age who had left Egypt—had perished; because they had not obeyed Hashem.” Joshua 5:6 (The Israel Bible™)

The mysterious structures are visible from above in the Saudi Arabian desert. (Google Earth)

An archaeologist using Google Earth imagery to investigate areas of the Saudi Arabian desert revealed evidence of structures not visible from ground level that some believe are signs the Children of Israel strayed far from the Sinai after leaving Egypt.

Dr. David Kennedy, an archaeologist at the University of Western Australia, has been flying over the lava fields in the Jordan desert for the last 40 years, studying remains of structures visible only from the air. He long suspected many more of these existed in the Saudi Arabian desert but government restrictions prevented him from conducting aerial searches.

“We tend to think of Saudi Arabia as desert, but in practice there’s a huge archaeological treasure trove out there and it needs to be identified and mapped,” Dr. Kennedy said. “You can’t see them very well from the ground level, but once you get up a few hundred feet, or with a satellite even higher, they stand out beautifully.”

Dr. Kennedy believes these 400 or so structures he refers to as “gates” may have been built by nomadic tribes at least 2,000 years ago and maybe as far back as 9,000 years ago.

Patterns of Evidence, a website that investigates archaeology in a Biblical context, considered whether this new find could be brought as proof for the theory that the Children of Israel spent some time in the Saudi Arabian desert after leaving Egypt. This theory also maintains that Mount Sinai is located in located in northwest Saudi Arabia, which was the ancient land of Midian where Moses lived after fleeing Egypt.

Though neither Dr. Kennedy nor Dr. Al-Saeed suggested any possible connection between the discovery and the Biblical Exodus, Patterns of Evidence noted that there has been conjecture from other sources that these structures were made by the Children of Israel in their 40-year desert sojourn. In fact, the exact route of the Exodus and the location of Mount Sinai is the focus of an ongoing debate among scholars.

One theory is that the 40-year wandering did pass through Saudi Arabia and Mount Sinai is there, possibly a mountain called Jebel al-Lawz (mountain of almonds) or Jabal Maqla (burnt mountain), one of the tallest mountains in the Arabian peninsula and notable for its blackened peak, both located in northwestern Saudi Arabia on the border with Jordan. Access to these mountains is restricted by the government and it is forbidden to photograph them.

The theory is based on the premise that Mount Horeb and Mount Sinai are synonymous, and Moses’ first encounter with the God of Israel was at the same location where the Children of Israel later received the Torah.

Now Moshe, tending the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian, drove the flock into the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of Hashem. Exodus 3:1

There is a dispute among Biblical scholars as to whether the two mountains are indeed one and the same. This would place Mount Sinai in Midian, i.e. the Saudi Arabian Peninsula, a premise which seems to be supported later in the Bible.

Hashem our God spoke to us at Horeb, saying: You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Deuteronomy 1:6

Flavius Josephus, a first-century Roman-Jewish scholar, wrote that Sinai “was the highest of mountains in the city of Midian”, which is just outside the town of Al Bad in northwestern Saudi Arabia, seeming to support the Saudi Arabian Sinai theory.

David Rohl, an Egyptologist who worked with Patterns of Evidence to prove an earlier timeline for the Exodus, discounted the possibility that the sites in Saudi Arabia were connected to the Israelites’ desert journey.

“The walls discovered by the archaeologist belong to the late Neolithic when the Arabian peninsula had a much wetter climate, the Neolithic Wet Phase,” Rohl told Breaking Israel News.”These are agricultural or cattle enclosures from much earlier than the time of Moses.”

As an Egyptologist, Rohl prefers a version of the Exodus that more closely resembles the Biblical narrative.

Simcha Jacobovici, an Emmy-winning investigative journalist who has made several documentaries on Biblical archaeology, also discounted any connection between the new find and the Exodus from Egypt.

“This is absolutely not connected to the Children of Israel in the Desert,” Jacobovici said unequivocally to Breaking Israel News. “I think the exit from Egypt happened precisely where the Bible says it happened, and the path did not lead to Saudi Arabia. It simply makes no sense.”

When confronted by the theory that the Exodus passed through Saudi Arabia, making the location of Mount Sinai in closer proximity to Mecca than Israel, Jacobovici responded simply, “By definition, Mount Sinai has to be in the Sinai, or it’s not Mount Sinai.”

The story behind the discovery is as compelling as the discovery itself. In 2004, Dr. Abdullah Al-Saeed, a neurologist and amateur archaeologist in Saudi Arabia, explored a lava field known as Harrat Khaybar. He noted the loose stones stacked three feet high in long straight lines but without the essential aerial views, he couldn’t understand their significance and his investigation stalled.

In 2008, Dr. Al-Saeed was viewing the same sites on updated Google Earth Images and was shocked by what he saw: clearly defined rectangular enclosures. He launched an expedition and studied the site extensively, then sent his data to Dr. Kennedy for consideration.

“The question we always discuss while investigating them is, why here? Why in this stony, frightful, rugged land?” Dr. Al-Saeed wrote in his letter to Dr. Kennedy. While Dr. Kennedy was intrigued, he could not offer an answer to his colleague’s questions.

“We would have loved to fly across into Saudi Arabia to take images. But you never get the permission,” Dr. Kennedy said in an interview with the New York Times. “And then along comes Google Earth.”

Using this readily available technology, Dr. Kennedy was able to identify 400 previously undocumented stone structures in the Saudi Arabian desert. Though the investigation into the mystery of these structures is just beginning and is hampered by political realities, the existence and quantity of these structures paints a very different picture of the region in ancient times, indicating a substantial population in a region that is now uninhabitable desert.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=8819

Nov 08

Major Rabbi: Texas Church Shooting Is Battle in “War on Prayer and God”

By Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz November 6, 2017 , 11:30 am

“The death of His faithful ones is grievous in Hashem’s sight.” Psalms 116:15 (The Israel Bible™)

The horrific mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, killing 26 people while they were praying in their church on Sunday, brought death directly into a house of worship, waging what one rabbi called an “attack on prayer and the Creator.”

At 11:30, 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley approached the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas and shot two people outside the church. He then entered the small building and, in the middle of their prayer service, opened fire with a Ruger AR-556 semi-automatic rifle. At least 27 people were killed and 20 injured in the small church.

The victims ranged in age from five to 72 years old, with the pastor’s 14-year-old daughter and a pregnant woman reportedly among the dead. The shooting was the deadliest mass killing at a place of worship in modern American history, and the most fatal shooting in Texas.

Kelley was confronted by an armed civilian and fled the scene in a car. Two men drove in pursuit of Kelly until he veered off the road and stopped. When police arrived, they verified that Kelley was dead inside his car, though as of now it is unclear whether he committed suicide or was killed by those pursuing him.

Rabbi Yosef Berger noted that a mass murder in a church during prayer on this scale is unprecedented, indicating that the world is about to undergo a major transition.

“The world is entering a new period leading up to the Moshiach (Messiah) and the old rules no longer apply,” Rabbi Berger told Breaking Israel News. “The laws of nature have been cancelled out and we are seeing a time when natural disasters are commonplace. Rules of how people act, even in the worst of circumstances, have changed.”

The rabbi said that the norms pertaining to bloodshed in the End of Days will change drastically. He cited Rabbi Moses Ben Maimon, a Spanish Torah authority from the twelfth century known by the acronym Rambam.

“Rambam hinted at this when he wrote that in the days of the Messiah, three more cities of refuge will be added to Israel,” Rabbi Berger said.

The Torah commands the Jews to establish cities of refuge for those who kill inadvertently to escape revenge from the relatives of their victims. In later days, which Rabbi Berger understands to be those of the Messiah, Israel is commanded to add three new refuge cities.

If you faithfully observe all this Instruction that I enjoin upon you this day, to love Hashem your God and to walk in His ways at all times—then you shall add three more towns to those three. Deuteronomy 19:9

Rabbi Berger believes that this teaching has a direct relevance for the Texas shooting because it indicates that “killing, intentional and unintentional, will become far more commonplace in the days before Messiah.”

“The message is clear,” Rabbi Berger concluded. “We can no longer rely on the rules of man or even the rules of nature. We need to rely only on heaven above.”

Rabbi Chaim Amsalem, a former Knesset member for Shas, decried the act, saying that it cut across all boundaries of religion and was an assault on a basic universal tenet of humanity.

“Any murder is vile,” Rabbi Amsalem told Breaking Israel News. “But to kill people while they are praying to heaven, and it doesn’t matter if it is a church, mosque or synagogue, is an attack on the Creator they are praying to.

“To kill people while they are praying, while they are directing their hearts to God, it is an intentional attack on prayer and can only be done by someone who has no fear of God.”

The rabbi drew a Biblical parallel. “If people like that exist, the world cannot exist,” he explained. “That is precisely why God destroyed the world in the flood. The world before the flood could not go on because it was entirely full of violence and totally empty of God-fearing people.”

The investigation in Sutherland Springs is ongoing and officials are hard-pressed to find a possible motive. Kelley was a former U.S. Air Force member who, according to Defense Department records, was sentenced to a “bad-conduct discharge, 12 months confinement, and two reductions in rank to basic airman” after he was court-martialed in 2012.

With a dishonorable discharge and court martial in his record, it would be illegal for Devin Patrick Kelley to purchase or possess a firearm like an AR-15 in the United States, according to the Gun Trust Lawyer.

An outpouring of support came from Israel for those affected by the shooting.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted a condemnation of the “savagery” and pledged Israel’s spiritual support.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin tweeted condolences from Spain.

Interfaith leader Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, condemned the killing and called for a response of religious unity.

“Terror that penetrates into a house of prayer is a cruel and terrible terror, a terror that seeks to cut down the faithful lives of innocent people,” said Rabbi Eckstein in a statement.

He emphasized the need for interfaith support at this time. “In such difficult moments, all members of the Jewish and Muslim faith must transcend the gaps and condemn any attack, in order to ensure that such shocking events will not recur again,” the rabbi added.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=8806

Nov 01

Astronomy Study Confirms Biblical Account of Joshua’s Sun-Stopping Miracle

By Abra Forman October 31, 2017 , 12:30 pm

“Yehoshua addressed Hashem; he said in the presence of the Israelites: ‘Stand still, O sun, at Givon, O moon, in the Valley of Aijalon!’” Joshua 10:12 (The Israel Bible™)

The Biblical patriarch Joshua ‘stopped the sun’ on October 30, 1207 BCE by way of a solar eclipse that may have been the first recorded in history, Cambridge researchers announced Monday.

In a paper published in the scientific journal Astronomy and Geophysics earlier this month, researchers from England’s Cambridge University confirmed a theory first suggested by Ben Gurion University researchers last January: that Joshua’s miraculous ‘stopping of the sun’ during battle to allow the Israelites more time to defeat their enemies was actually an annular solar eclipse.

They even pinpointed the exact date – the afternoon of October 30, precisely 3,224 years ago.

In the Biblical account, Joshua led the Israelites into battle with the armies of five kings in order to help the besieged Gibeonites, with whom they had signed a pact. As the Israelites began to gain the upper hand, Joshua prayed for the sun and the moon to stand still in order to complete the defeat. His prayers were answered.

And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the nation had avenged themselves of their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jashar? And the sun stayed in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day. Joshua 10:13

The Cambridge researchers understood this passage as an important historical account.

“If these words are describing a real observation, then a major astronomical event was being reported,” said paper co-author Professor Sir Colin Humphreys from the University of Cambridge’s Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy. “The question for us to figure out is what the text actually means.”

The British researchers used the original Hebrew Bible to better understand the exact connotations of the verse.

“Modern English translations, which follow the King James translation of 1611, usually interpret this text to mean that the sun and moon stopped moving,” explained Humphreys. “But going back to the original Hebrew text, we determined that an alternative meaning could be that the sun and moon just stopped doing what they normally do: they stopped shining.

“In this context, the Hebrew words could be referring to a solar eclipse, when the moon passes between the earth and the sun, and the sun appears to stop shining.”

He added that the interpretation was supported by the fact that the Hebrew word meaning ‘stand still’ shares a root with a Babylonian word describing eclipses found in ancient astronomical texts.

While historians have long suspected that Joshua’s feat was an astronomical phenomenon, none were able to date the possible eclipse because they were only looking for total eclipses. However, Joshua’s eclipse was annular, meaning that rather than obscure the sun entirely, the moon’s passage in front of the sun was too far away to cover it completely and left a characteristic ‘ring of fire.’

With the help of the Merneptah Stele, an Egyptian artifact which independently confirms the Israelites’ presence in Canaan, historians have dated Joshua’s entry into the land to between 1500 and 1050 BCE. Using complex calculations, the researchers determined that the only annular eclipse visible from the Canaan during that period took place in October of 1207 BCE. The path of this eclipse passed directly over Canaan.

The researchers were thus able to date the exact hour of Joshua’s miraculous feat: between 3:27 PM and 4:53 PM in local time (determined by sundial).

Though there may be a scientific explanation for the Biblical miracle, this in no way refutes its divinity, Rabbi Arieh Trugman told Breaking Israel News when the Israeli research was announced early in the year.

“Despite the fact that in many different areas people want to pit science against Torah, what is much closer to the truth is that in most cases there is no conflict between science and Torah,” said Rabbi Trugman. “It is very common to find many areas in which there exists an amazing confluence of  secular knowledge and Torah wisdom.”

The Cambridge researchers also noted that should the date be accepted by general historians, it could help clarify the dates of pharaonic reigns, including that of Ramses the Great.

According to the calculations and verified with Egyptian records, the reign of the pharaoh Merneptah began in 1210 or 1209 BC, dating the reign of his father, the famous Egyptian pharaoh Ramesses the Great, to 1276–1210 BC, plus or minus one year, the researchers determined.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=8796