The year 2008 ends with Israel and the Palestinians engaged in their bloodiest warfare in more than 20 years. When Hamas militants fired as many as 80 rockets and mortar shells across the border in a single strike, the Israelis had finally had enough. On Saturday, Israeli warplanes and combat helicopters pounded the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, killing at least 300 people.
The fighting in the Gaza strip is a minor taste of what we could be seeing in the coming new year of 2009. Because Gaza is an isolated refugee camp without the capabilities of producing major weapons, the conflict should remain limited to that strip of land. However, there is the danger that news reports of the carnage could trigger fighting elsewhere.
Israel faces far greater danger from three other fronts. In addition to the operations in Gaza, Israeli war planners have to deal with Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, Syria bordering the Golan, and regional neighbor Iran.
Hezbollah is said to have tens of thousands of rockets that can go deep into Israel. So far, they have not engaged Israel since the 2006 war. Since Hezbollah has three times the weaponry it had in the last conflict, one should roughly expect a three-fold increase in the carnage for any future war.
Last week, a new flare-up was narrowly avoided. Lebanese army troops happened to discover seven Katyusha rockets set up with timers that were on the verge of firing into Israel. The rockets were dismantled in the nick of time.
Syria has made several threats to Israel that it might use force to win back territory it lost in the 1967 Six-Day War. Although there has been no border tension, Syria has been raising concerns by rapidly building up its military.
Despite all the danger on Israel's immediate border, Iran is the Jewish state's top concern. Tehran is rapidly working on a nuclear program. Given that the Iranian leadership has recklessly threatened to destroy Israel, there is painfully little time to stop Iran from firing an atomic bomb.
The level of urgency went up this week at the news of Russia's sale of S-300 long-range missiles to Iran. This weapons would be very useful in defending against an airstrike on its nuclear facilities. Pentagon consultant Dan Goure says the delivery of the system "scares every Western air force." According to Goure, the report of S-300 delivery could prompt a premature Israeli air attack.
There have been some contradictory reports about whether Russia has been supplying S-300s to Iran. Moscow denies delivering S-300 missiles; however, the Interfax news agency quoted an unnamed military source as saying the Russian defense ministry was preparing to hand the S-300s over for delivery to Iran.
Barack Obama is famously on record for wanting to have negotiations with Iran's leadership as a way to defuse the threat. Obama's desire for talks has many prophecy watchers wondering if Israel will act before Obama takes office. As the old saying goes, it's always easier to ask for forgiveness than for permission.
Something will soon have to be done to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear capability. Terry and I agree that it is highly doubtful that a nuclear armed Iran would take part in the Gog-Magog attack. Israel is such a tiny nation, one well placed nuclear strike and the Jewish state would be finished. With Iran quickly approaching the point of no return, a military or diplomatic solution will need to occur very soon.
"Thou shalt ascend and come like a storm, thou shalt be like a cloud to cover the land, thou, and all thy bands, and many people with thee. Thus saith the Lord GOD; It shall also come to pass, [that] at the same time shall things come into thy mind, and thou shalt think an evil thought: And thou shalt say, I will go up to the land of unwalled villages; I will go to them that are at rest, that dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates, To take a spoil, and to take a prey; to turn thine hand upon the desolate places [that are now] inhabited, and upon the people [that are] gathered out of the nations, which have gotten cattle and goods, that dwell in the midst of the land. Sheba , and Dedan, and the merchants of Tarshish, with all the young lions thereof, shall say unto thee, Art thou come to take a spoil? hast thou gathered thy company to take a prey? to carry away silver and gold, to take away cattle and goods, to take a great spoil?" (Ezek. 38:9-13).