For us, 2023 will always be defined by the October 7th Hamas infiltration into southern Israel, the ensuing massacre of 1200 people and the abduction of 240 hostages, including Jews and Muslim beduins, babies and grandparents, young people at weekend music festival, foreign workers from Thailand and the Philippines, and agricultural students from Tanzania. Among those indiscriminately slaughtered by Hamas were Palestinians from Gaza who were out working in the fields of their Jewish employers.
Hamas took over the leadership in Gaza in 2007, in violent coup against the Palestinian Authority who had been the autonomous Arab rulers of the West Bank and Gaza since 1994. With the aid money Hamas received to improve the conditions of the citizens of Gaza, their leadership stockpiled tens of thousands of missiles, and built hundreds of kilometers of fortified tunnels for their terrorist adherents.
In the past 15 years, Hamas and Islamic Jihad have frequently fired missiles on Israeli towns and cities, resulting in limited Israeli military responses in 2008, 2009, 2012, 2014 and 2021. Israel considered routing out Hamas with a military incursion into the heart of Gaza to route out Hamas to be too costly – in terms of the lives of Israeli soldiers and Gazan civilians who would die in the crowded alleyways of the densely populated neighborhoods in Gaza. Hamas had built up its military capabilities inside hospitals, schools, mosques and civilian residences.
There was the erroneous hope that if the international community continued pumping enough aid into Gaza, Hamas would moderate into a peace-loving governing body who would look after the needs of the people of Gaza. As recently as May 2023, when the Gaza-based Islamic Jihad group fired missiles into Israeli towns, pundits noted that Hamas had not joined in the firing – a sure sign that they were on the way to moderation. Israel began increasing the number of permits given to Gazans to find employment in Israel (there were 17,000 Gazans employed in Israel at the time of Hamas’ massacre). The Israeli security establishment was lulled into complacency and was not expecting an imminent Hamas attack. Following the brutal slayings, beheadings and rape by the Hamas terrorists on October 7, the perpetrators posted videos documenting themselves joyously murdering families in their beds and slaughtering hundreds of young people at a party in the forest. There was no longer any illusion that Hamas could be moderated by economic prosperity. Israel set as its goals 1) the removal from power of the Hamas leadership who had planned the massacre, and 2) the return of the hostages.
Hamas has it in its power – every day – to stop the Israeli campaign in Gaza by surrendering its leadership and releasing the hostages. There were seven days of complete ceasefire in late November, when Hamas agreed to release 10 women and minors every day. For every day they agreed to release hostages, Gaza received 200 trucks of humanitarian aid and the release of 30 Palestinian prisoners held is Israeli prisons. The hope was that Hamas would continue to release the remaining women and children as well as other groups, such as elderly men (in their 70s and 80s) and civilian hostages kidnapped from their homes and from the music festival. However on the eighth day of the cease-fire no further lists of hostages were provided by Hamas. The military efforts to route out the Hamas leadership resumed, although the trucks of humanitarian aid continued to enter Gaza.
There have been numerous world bodies (the EU, the UN and national leaders) who have called for an immediate ceasefire, but we have yet to hear anyone state the obvious – that the power to stop the fighting rests squarely on the shoulders of the Hamas leadership, who can any day agree to release the remaining hostages and abdicate from power. However, since the Hamas leadership cares nothing for the people of Gaza, and are only intent on their drive to destroy Jews, the war continues (see, for example, article 7 of Hamas’ publicly available charter).We pray for those who have lost loved ones; for the safety of Israeli and Palestinian civilians; for the hostages still in Gaza; for the IDF soldiers who are risking their lives to route out Hamas; for the complete dismantling of Hamas in Gaza, Lebanon and elsewhere in the world; and for each of these groups to may come to know Jesus.
Article 7: The Day of Judgment will not come about until Moslems fight Jews and kill them. Then, the Jews will hide behind rocks and trees, and the rocks and trees will cry out: 'O Moslem, there is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him."