Monday, January 26, 2009
Well it looks as if the EU High Representative Javier Solana is heading to the Middle East to help cement a permanent cease-fire between Hamas and Israel. His goal is not simply a cease fire, but a comprehensive peace agreement and a two state solution between Israel and the Palestinians.
It also appears as if Solana and many other world leaders are trying to convince Hamas and Fatah to unify again under Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and form a Palestinian unity government by late February. I would assume that this would be done, so that a two state solution would be easier to negotiate and enforce.
Of course like I have said in earlier posts it appears as if the EU is ready and in position to help enforce security measures with troops and with other military means. The article posted below states, "Several EU countries, including Britain and France, also are offering naval vessels and monitors to help Egypt curb the smuggling of weapons into Gaza. The EU already has observers on standby in the region and is ready to send monitors back to Rafah, Egypt's most strategic crossing point into Gaza, if the current cease-fire is maintained."
BRUSSELS, Belgium: The European Union's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, said Monday he is heading to the Middle East to join international efforts to cement a permanent cease-fire between Hamas and Israel.
The move comes as the EU steps up humanitarian aid to ease the suffering of the Gaza Strip's 1.4 million residents.
Solana said he probably will spend the whole week in the region and meet with U.S. President Barack Obama's new Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo on Tuesday.
"We want a permanent cease-fire, and for that everybody has to cooperate, and I hope very much the initiatives taken by the Egyptians ... will provide results," Solana said.
Meanwhile, EU Development Commissioner Louis Michel announced €58 million ($74 million) in emergency aid Monday for Palestinians affected by the Israel-Hamas conflict. Michel was in Gaza on Monday to evaluate future aid needs.
The Israeli assault meant to crush Hamas rocket squads ended Jan. 17 with an estimated 1,300 Palestinians dead.
Around €32 million ($41.7 million) of the aid package will go to alleviate immediate needs such as shortages in drinking water, food and medical supplies. Another €20 million ($26 million) will go to projects in the West Bank, the remaining €6 million ($7.8 million) to Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.
The European Commission last month approved €3 million ($3.9 million) in emergency aid for Gaza.
In Brussels, EU foreign ministers discussed a package of diplomatic and practical measures that European countries could take to advance Middle East peace efforts. Their goals include halting arms smuggling into the Gaza Strip and promoting a unity government between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier announced plans to send five German border experts to help their Egyptian counterparts patrol their Gaza border more effectively. The German experts would provide technical support for operating night-vision equipment needed to find smugglers' illegal tunnels into Gaza.
Several EU countries, including Britain and France, also are offering naval vessels and monitors to help Egypt curb the smuggling of weapons into Gaza.
The EU already has observers on standby in the region and is ready to send monitors back to Rafah, Egypt's most strategic crossing point into Gaza, if the current cease-fire is maintained. An EU monitoring mission at Rafah operated sporadically from 2005 to 2007.
Egypt's Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said Sunday he is optimistic that Egyptian-mediated talks will be able to forge a Palestinian unity government under Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas by late February, when an international donor conference to rebuild the Gaza Strip is expected to be held.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
It appears that the Obama administration has made themselves very clear on what their Middle East policy will be. It is also clear what the new administrations stance will be when it comes to the nation of Israel. Mr Obama proclaimed that the US would “actively and aggressively seek a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians.”
Obama appears to be pressuring Israel towards peace and also appears to be hinting that an International force would be sent to monitor the Gaza crossing to prevent arm smuggling and help with foreign aid. He said “As part of a lasting ceasefire, Gaza’s border crossings should be open to allow the flow of aid and commerce, with an appropriate monitoring regime, with the international and Palestinian Authority participating.”
I have heard from many sources that the monitoring regime would mainly consist of forces from within the EU. In my humble opinion, I think we will look back at the Gaza war and the US election and say these events were big deals and helped substantially in triggering a comprehensive Middle East peace deal. Due to the fact that the Bush administration consistently defended Israels right to defend themselves without international help, this change in US policy and the gaza war could be the final pieces to the puzzle.
The next few months are going to be very interesting.
President Barack Obama urged Israel on Thursday to open its borders with Gaza.
The plea came in a speech that signalled the new US administration’s shift from Bush-era policy on the Middle East and the world as a whole. In a high-profile address on his second day in office, just hours after he signed an executive order to close the centre at Guantánamo Bay, Mr Obama proclaimed that the US would “actively and aggressively seek a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians” in the wake of this month’s Gaza war.
“The outline for a durable ceasefire is clear: Hamas must end its rocket fire: Israel will complete the withdrawal of its forces from Gaza: the US and our partners will support a credible anti-smuggling and interdiction regime, so that Hamas cannot re-arm,” the US president said.
“As part of a lasting ceasefire, Gaza’s border crossings should be open to allow the flow of aid and commerce, with an appropriate monitoring regime, with the international and Palestinian Authority participating.”
Mr Obama and Hillary Clinton, secretary of state, also announced the appointment of George Mitchell, as the US special envoy for the Arab-Israeli conflict and Richard Holbrooke, former US ambassador to the United Nations, as representative for Afghanistan-Pakistan.
The moves signalled another shift from the foreign policy of the Bush administration, which had resisted appointing a high-profile envoy for Middle East peace.
Although Condoleezza Rice, who finished her tenure as secretary of state this week, brokered a 2005 deal to allow open border crossings to Gaza, access was often shut down, with Israel citing security concerns and Hamas launching rocket attacks. The issue is set to test the authority of the new administration as it begins to grapple with the Middle East conflict.
Before Mr Obama gave his speech, an Israeli official said there would be tough conditions for any lifting of the blockade, which he linked with the release of Gilad Shalit, a soldier held captive by Hamas since 2006.
“If the opening of the passages strengthens Hamas we will not do it,” the official said.
“We will make sure that all the [humanitarian] needs of the population will be met. But we will not be able to deal with Hamas on the other side. We will not do things that give legitimacy to Hamas.”
Under its ceasefire, Hamas has given Israel until Sunday to open the borders. Much of Gaza’s civilian infrastructure has been destroyed during the three-week Israeli offensive and, without building materials and other supplies, there is little hope of rebuilding the water, sewage and power networks as well as private homes and key government buildings. But many foreign donors share Israel’s concerns that the reconstruction efforts should not be led by Hamas, or enhance the group’s legitimacy.
“Let me be clear: America is committed to Israel’s security and we will always support Israel’s right to defend itself against legitimate threats,” Mr Obama said.
But in comments referring to the Gaza conflict he added: “I was deeply concerned by the loss of Palestinian and Israeli life in recent days and by the substantial suffering and humanitarian needs in Gaza. Our hearts go out to Palestinian civilians who are in need of immediate food, clean water, and basic medical care, and who’ve faced suffocating poverty for far too long.”
He called on Arab governments to “act on” the promise of a Saudi-led 2002 Arab peace initiative by supporting the Palestinian Authority headed by President Mahmoud Abbas “taking steps towards normalising relations with Israel, and by standing up to extremism that threatens us all.”
Sunday, January 18, 2009
I recently was able to watch the Movie, "Prince Caspian". It was good. I took a few nuggets away from the movie that I believe transfer to our spiritual lives. What really struck me were the scenes that included "Aslan". If you haven't watched these remakes of the CS Lewis books, Aslan plays the character of Christ, in the form of a lion.
First off, the imagery of Christ as a Lion is simply powerful and amazing. My favorite scene (if you haven't watched the movie yet, I don't think this will ruin it for you) is when Lucy is going to find Aslan to seek his help in the pending battle. Lucy is being chased by two of the bad guys when Aslan shows up and eniliates one of them. As Lucy greets Aslan, this massive Lion rolls on his back embracing the young child. And in a matter of 20 seconds within the movie we see both the Power of Christ and His grace.
As we tredge on with life, I want to remind and encourage you that Christ is not only the lamb that was sacrificed for the world to find redemption to the Father but He is also the Lion.
Revelation 5 (New International Version)
The Scroll and the Lamb1Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. 2And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, "Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?" 3But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. 4I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. 5Then one of the elders said to me, "Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals."
I'm sure this opens up several other questions but I simply wanted to point out that Christ, the Lion, is victorious.
So often in our culture today those in power, earthly power, show their human weekness. In everything from being corrupt to simply not being impartial or generous. However the power of Christ, the Lion is to cause us to be in awe and respect.
That is the same Lion that is walking with the Kings and Queens of Narnia, just talking about the events of the day and spending time together, later in the movie. What an awesome image, walking with Christ and just spending time together, quality time.
I hope the next time you are at the zoo, or on Safari in Africa that you have the opportunity to hear a Lion roar. Until then, keep you faith and be reminded that Christ will return to set things right.
I'd love to hear from you, the anaologies of seeing Christ as a Lion brings to your mind. I certainly believe authors like CS Lewis can help us grasp the character of Christ in new ways through their creative story telling.
So, please share your thoughts.
There is some very interesting and exciting news to report to you today. It is being reported that a very large natural gas reserve has been discovered off the coast of Israel near the town of Haifa. This find will meet Israel's natural gas needs for at least the next 15 years and will vastly reduce their dependence on foreign sources.
To say this is big news would be an understatement. Not only does this have future positive economic ramifications for Israel but possibly prophetic implications as well. Let me explain. We know from reading Ezekiel 38-39 that the Gog/Magog war begins with God putting hooks in the jaw of Gog. These hooks will cause Gog to devise an evil plan and will cause him to gather a coalition of Islamic nations to attack Israel to gather spoil and plunder the land. Most scholars say that Gog is the name of the leader and Magog is the country of Russia.
Here are a few Scriptures to review.
2. "Son of man, set your face toward Gog of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him
3. and say, `Thus says the Lord GOD, "Behold, I am against you, O Gog, prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal.
4. "I will turn you about and put hooks into your jaws, and I will bring you out, and all your army, horses and horsemen, all of them splendidly attired, a great company with buckler and shield, all of them wielding swords;
11. and you will say, `I will go up against the land of unwalled villages. I will go against those who are at rest, that live securely, all of them living without walls and having no bars or gates,
12. to capture spoil and to seize plunder, to turn your hand against the waste places which are now inhabited, and against the people who are gathered from the nations, who have acquired cattle and goods, who live at the center of the world.'
13. "Sheba and Dedan and the merchants of Tarshish with all its villages will say to you, `Have you come to capture spoil? Have you assembled your company to seize plunder, to carry away silver and gold, to take away cattle and goods, to capture great spoil?' "'
Many prophetic scholars through the years have speculated that the "spoil" that causes Gog to attack Israel is oil or natural gas. The problem is that until today Israel did not contain any oil or natural gas reserves worth talking about.
Is today's news the beginning of the hook in the jaw that leads to the Gog/Magog war?
Huge gas reserves discovered off Haifa
Jan. 18, 2009
Sharon Wrobel , THE JERUSALEM POST
A historic natural gas reservoir found offshore from Haifa is poised to meet Israel's natural gas demand for about 15 years and reduce the country's dependence on gas imports from Egypt and offshore from Gaza.
The discovery of the natural gas field 90 km. offshore from Haifa, known as Tamar, was made by a US-Israel consortium including the Delek Group, through its subsidiaries Delek Drilling and Avner Oil Exploration, Isramco Negev 2, Dor Gas Exploration and US oil operator Noble Energy Inc.
Preliminary estimates indicate that the Tamar field might contain over 88 billion cubic meters of gas.
"If the Tamar site opposite the Haifa coast succeeds in producing the significant quantities of natural gas predicted, we are talking about a revolution which will have an impact on the Israeli economy for the coming generations," said Dan Halman, CEO of Halman-Aldubi Group. "The vast reservoir is poised to bring down electricity prices, reduce the country's dependence on gas from foreign countries, in particular from Egypt, and thereby turn Israel from a gas importer into a gas exporter."
Yoav Burgan, analyst at Leader Capital Markets, believes in the possibility of long-term deals resulting from the Tamar well which could generate a potential value of $15.5 billion.
However Halman cautioned that despite the optimism it was too early to celebrate.
"Big celebrations are still premature," said Halman. "It needs to be remembered that the drilling is complicated and production possibilities are not yet completely clear. In addition, gas transportation is a much more complex and expensive process compared with oil transportation."
Similarly Yuval Zehira, head of the research department at IBI Investment House, raised doubts over the economic viability of the project.
"For the time being it remains very difficult to assess the profitability of the project given that we don't have figures regarding the initial cost of drilling, production costs, the time it will take to sell the gas, and at what price, and the effect of competition with Egyptian gas," said Zehira. "At this point it seems that the project is more of a strategic asset than an economic one."
The Tamar prospect, located under 1,676 meters of water, was drilled to a total depth of about 4,900 meters. Production testing at Tamar will be performed after the well is completed.
Gal Reiter, analyst at Clal Finance Batucha estimated that the production tests would cost about $20 million and should be completed in about three weeks.
Noble Energy, which operates the well with a 36% working interest, and its Israeli partners said that they might keep the rig to drill two additional wells in the basin.
"This is one of the most significant prospects that we have ever tested and appears to be the largest discovery in the company's history," said Charles D. Davidson, CEO and chairman of Noble Energy Inc.
Following the announcement of the discovery, shares of Delek Drilling, which holds 15.6% of the Tamar prospect, jumped 41.7%, and shares of Avner Oil Exploration, which holds another 15.6%, surged 21.4%. Both companies are owned by billionaire Yitzhak Tshuva. Shares of fuel exploration company Isramco, which owns 28.7%, leaped 123.8%.
Friday, January 16, 2009
The fighting in the Gaza Strip continues to rage as both the Israelis and the Palestinians have rejected the latest cease fire agreements. It appears as if Israel is very serious about not agreeing to a cease fire that returns things to the way they used to be before this latest conflict began. The Palestinians continue to talk tuff, but it is obvious that they are getting weaker by the day in Gaza.
It appears however, that negotiations for a cease fire continue, with Israel being more open to one if there are international monitors on the ground making sure that Hamas lives up to there side of the bargain. The EU has mentioned many times that they would be willing to be part of this monitoring. If this were to occur and the international monitors were actually able to keep Hamas from shooting rockets into Israel and able to stop the rearming of Hamas, then we may enter a period of time where a comprehensive Middle East peace treaty is possible.
That is a big if in my opinion, and in order for that to have any chance I believe Israel will have to inflict Hamas with additional crippling damage before they agree to a truce. Another important thing to remember, is that with Obama taking office next week along with his more sympathetic ear towards Hamas, Israel really one has a few more days to accomplish there mission in Gaza before the friendly tone from America changes. So I think the next few days will be very active, with a move towards a truce either right before Obama is sworn in or right after. It should be an interesting weekend.
Hamas rejects Israeli cease-fire terms
By Michael Slackman and Isabel Kershner
Friday, January 16, 2009
CAIRO: As the war in Gaza entered its 21st day and the quest for a truce resumed here and in Washington, the senior leader in exile of Hamas rejected Israel's terms for a cease-fire and Israel rejected a call by the leader of the United Nations for Israel to stop its assault.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Friday in Washington that the United States had agreed to a range of measures, including providing international monitors, to help Israel stem the smuggling of weapons into the Gaza Strip, a step that could open the way for a cease-fire. A memorandum of understanding was hastily drafted for the signature of Rice and the Israeli foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, who is visiting Washington.
The agreement will give the Israeli government confidence to agree to open border crossings in Gaza, a senior U.S. official said on condition of anonymity. That could allow both sides to sign on to an Egyptian-sponsored cease-fire proposal, the official said.
Under the agreement, the United States will provide technical assistance and monitors to crack down on the network of tunnels through which Hamas moves components for rockets and missiles from the Sinai Peninsula into Gaza.
"The fighting must stop," Secretary General Ban Ki Moon of the United Nations said at a news conference in Ramallah, West Bank, calling for Israel to consider a unilateral cease-fire. "We have no time to lose."
Mark Regev, the spokesman for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, dismissed Ban's call, according to news reports.
"I don't believe that there's a logical expectation in the international community that Israel unilaterally cease fire while Hamas would continue to target cities, trying to kill our people," he said.
The Hamas leader, Khaled Meshal, told an unusual Arab gathering in Doha, Qatar, "I assure you, despite all the destruction in Gaza, we will not accept Israel's conditions for a cease-fire."
In a speech broadcast across the Arab world and widely followed in the Middle East and elsewhere, he said Hamas was not ready to quit, even though three weeks of fighting has claimed around 1,100 Palestinian lives.
"Resistance in Gaza has not been defeated," he said. "It has suffered harm but it has not been defeated."
Israel has long insisted that a cease-fire should be long-term and sustainable, preventing Hamas from firing rockets at Israel or rearming. Meshal, who is based in Damascus, told the meeting that Hamas would accept a cease-fire only if Israel withdrew its forces from the Gaza Strip, lifted its blockade and reopened border crossing points.
Meshal made the keynote address on Friday, securing a significant platform in his rivalry with Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, which controls the West Bank, while Hamas controls the Gaza Strip. In his speech, Meshal said settlements with Israel in the past had not brought solutions for Palestinians' problems.
According to Egyptian officials who know details of the cease-fire negotiations, Hamas has been plagued by internal bickering, with the Syria-based leadership hewing to a tougher line on concessions from Israel, while the Gaza-based leadership has been more eager to halt the fighting and more flexible in negotiations.
Gaza residents said Friday that the fighting seemed less intense than on the previous day, when Israeli forces shelled the headquarters of the UN Relief and Works Agency and other buildings in Gaza. Israel said the strike was in response to enemy fire.
Isabel Kershner reported from Jerusalem. Reporting was contributed by Taghreed El-Khodary from Gaza; Steven Erlanger and Ethan Bronner from Jerusalem; Neil MacFarquhar from the United Nations, New York; Mark Landler from Washington; and Alan Cowell from Paris.
Sunday, January 11, 2009
as promised here is the second installment of my own thoughts on how believers are responding to our current economic times.
While the situation is very real and shouldn't be taken lightly, I'm concerned that American Christians have on some levels begun to replace their faith in God with faith in Country.
Now, don't get me wrong, I'm a patriotic guy. However, are we now looking to government and human leaders to make our day to day lives and even more our future "comfortable" and secure?
Lets look at Psalm 49
5 Why should I fear when evil days come,
when wicked deceivers surround me-
6 those who trust in their wealth
and boast of their great riches?
7 No man can redeem the life of another
or give to God a ransom for him-
8 the ransom for a life is costly,
no payment is ever enough-
9 that he should live on forever
and not see decay.
10 For all can see that wise men die;
the foolish and the senseless alike perish
and leave their wealth to others.
12 But man, despite his riches, does not endure;
he is [c] like the beasts that perish.
13 This is the fate of those who trust in themselves,
and of their followers, who approve their sayings.
14 Like sheep they are destined for the grave, [d]
and death will feed on them.
The upright will rule over them in the morning;
their forms will decay in the grave, [e]
far from their princely mansions.
15 But God will redeem my life [f] from the grave;
he will surely take me to himself.
16 Do not be overawed when a man grows rich,
when the splendor of his house increases;
17 for he will take nothing with him when he dies,
his splendor will not descend with him.
18 Though while he lived he counted himself blessed—
and men praise you when you prosper-
19 he will join the generation of his fathers,
who will never see the light of life .
20 A man who has riches without understanding
is like the beasts that perish.
But this scripture, as well as a host of others, make it very clear that riches in this world are worth nothing in our eternal existence.
Our current economic situation leaves us with two basic choices.
Do we focus on what we don't have and still want or do we focus on what God has blessed us with, starting with salvation through His Son's death?
The nature that we were born with, a sinful nature, would have us focus on what we have, materialism.
God's focus is on bringing His creation back to Him, whatever it takes to get our attention.
Does he have your attention?
Friday, January 9, 2009
The push towards a one world global economic order received another push today as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicholas Sarkozy called for a new economic body similar to the UN's Security Council.
It is clear from this article that the EU is clearly trying to push the US aside when it comes to the worlds economics. By creating a new economic body similar to the UN's Security Council it would effectively limit the power that the US would have on the global economy. I believe it would also hugely increase the power and influence of the EU.
We shouldn't be surprised that this is being talked about, because we know that in the future their will be a beast that rises out of the sea that will have 10 horns and a little horn that will arise soon after. The 10 will then willingly give up their power and authority to the little horn. This final picture of the beast, will the help of the False Prophet will institute the Mark of the Beast and at that time no one will be able to buy or sell without the Mark.
We know it is coming, and I believe today we took another small step closer towards it.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicholas Sarkozy have warned the US not to block attempts to build an international financial regulator, calling for a new economic body similar to the UN's Security Council.
"I've always in my political life been a supporter of a close alliance with the United States but let's be clear: in the 21st century, a single nation can no longer say what we must do or what we must think," said Mr Sarkozy at an international symposium in Paris on Thursday (8 January), shortly before US president-elect Barack Obama enters office.
The French leader had originally called the Paris meeting - "New World, New Capitalism" - a global "summit," but limited his ambitions after few international leaders deigned to attend.
"We'll take our decisions on 2 April in London," he went on, referring to an upcoming meeting of the G20. "Perhaps the United States will join us in this change."
Ms Merkel, also in attendance at the conference, echoed the French president's warning to Washington.
"No country can act alone in this day and age, not even the United States, however powerful they may be," she said, Deutsche Welle reports.
She said that hopes that out of the economic crisis, governments can construct a new architecture for managing global capitalism.
"Our response [to the economic crisis] must be more than a few rules," she said. "The crisis is an opportunity to create an international architecture of institutions."
Global economic charter
The chancellor said the world needs an "economic council" in the United Nations as well as the existing body that deals with security matters.
"It is possible that alongside the [UN] Security Council, we could also have an economic council," she said, adding that alongside the UN Charter, an economic sustainability charter "for a long-term reasonable economy" should be drafted establishing rules for global financial governance.
"Our response must be more than a few rules," she added. "The crisis is an opportunity to create an international architecture of institutions."
The centre-right German leader also warned businesses there was no returning to laissez-faire approaches by governments once the crisis has passed.
"Once everything is going better, the financial markets will tell us: 'you politicians don't need to get involved because everything is working again'," she said, according to the Guardian. "I will stay firm, we must not repeat the mistakes of the past."
Mr Sarkozy warned that capitalism could collapse if it is not restructured. "Either we re-found capitalism or we destroy it," he said. "Purely financial capitalism has perverted the logic of capitalism ...it is amoral. It is a system where the logic of the market excuses everything."
Former UK prime minister Tony Blair, a co-sponsor of the symposium, echoed the European leaders: "what is unavoidable in the longer term is a recasting of the system of international supervision."
"We have mid-20th-century international institutions governing a 21st century world," he added. "The reform of the IMF, the World Bank, the financial regulatory system [is] long overdue."
The meeting came as Germany announced it is to inject a further €10 billion into Commerzbank, in return for a 25 percent stake in the bank, while France offered another €10.5 billion for its six main banks.
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
It looks like a possible second front in the current war in the Middle East has opened up tonight as rockets have landed in Northern Israel from Lebanon.
It is unsure at this time as to which group is responsible for these rockets. Was it Hezbollah? Not sure yet, but if it was then this war could intensify quickly.
Stay tuned as this could heat up real fast.
Israel Battered by Rockets From Lebanon and Gaza
Thursday , January 08, 2009
BREAKING NEWS — As many as five rockets fired from Lebanon exploded in northern Israel on Thursday, the first since the Jewish state launched an offensive in Gaza two weeks ago, Israeli police said.
The rockets reportedly struck around the town of Nahariya, 5 miles south of the Lebanese border and wounded at least one person.
Israeli forces immediately returned fire, blasting mortars across Lebanon's border after the attack. A military spokesman said Israel fired five artillery shells aimed as "a pinpoint response at the source of fire."
Israeli defense officials said the military had been on alert for rocket attacks by Lebanon's Hezbollah militia since Israel intensified its battle against Palestinian rocket squads in Gaza, on Israel's southern flank. At the same time as Thursday's northern barrage, six rockets from Gaza hit towns in southern Israel.
Hezbollah had no immediate comment. The heavily armed group is a strong ally of Hamas, but has held its fire during the Israeli offensive in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.
For more click the link...
Monday, January 5, 2009
The new $700 million embassy in Iraq is finally complete and ready for operation. From the many reports and pictures that I have seen this new embassy is quite impressive. It is described as a fortress like compound and it is by far the largest US embassy in the world. In fact it is 10 times larger than any current American embassy and it is also 6 times larger than the current UN complex in New York. It also employees over 1000 people.
Why so big? Why so extravagant? Does one country really need that amount of space for it's embassy in a relatively small country such as Iraq?
Is it possible that this new embassy is the city that is prophesied to come in Revelation 17?
Revelation 17:4-5, 18
4. The woman was clothed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a gold cup full of abominations and of the unclean things of her immorality,
5. and on her forehead a name was written, a mystery, "BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH."
18. "The woman whom you saw is the great city, which reigns over the kings of the earth."
Obviously the ancient City of Babylon is one of the more talked about city's in the Bible. Does this original ancient city make a reappearance during the end times? I have to admit I am not sure about the exact location of the city that Revelation 17 is referring to. I have read many opinions from respected theologians and it is fair to say that there are a lot of differing answers to this question. This may be one of those passages that gets figured out in the future when more facts are on the ground.
Having said that, today's news is beyond fascinating.
By CHELSEA J. CARTER, Associated Press Writer Chelsea J. Carter, Associated Press Writer
Mon Jan 5, 1:39 pm ET
BAGHDAD – The United States inaugurated its largest embassy ever on Monday, a fortress-like compound in the heart of the Green Zone — and the most visible sign of what U.S. officials call a new chapter in relations between America and a more sovereign Iraq.
U.S. Marines raised the American flag over the adobe-colored buildings, which sit on a 104-acre site and has space for 1,000 employees — more than 10 times the size of any other American Embassy in the world.
"Iraq is in a new era and so is the Iraqi-U.S. relationship," Ambassador Ryan Crocker proclaimed.
In perhaps an unintended sign of the new relationship, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki did not attend Monday's ceremony because he was traveling in Iran, a country the U.S. has accused of aiding and arming Iraqi militants.
Explaining the opening of such a large embassy three years before the U.S. must finish withdrawing its 146,000 troops from Iraq, Crocker told The Associated Press that it is vital for the U.S. to remain involved in nonmilitary ways.
"I think we have seen a tremendous amount of progress," Crocker said before the ceremony, "but the development of this new Iraq is going to be a very long time in the making, and we need to be engaged here."
Crocker said Baghdad was looking to the West for the first time since the Army's 1958 revolution that toppled Iraq's monarchy and set the stage for the ascendance of the Baath party, which dominated Iraq until the 2003 invasion.
"Iraq has defined itself in general hostility to the West and the United States. You now have a fundamentally different state and society taking shape that values those relations, that values those contacts, that wants its children educated in American and other Western universities. And we need to be there as a partner to ensure that those relationships are solidly built and well maintained," he said.
"We will be engaged in different ways as security continues to improve and as Iraqi security forces are more and more in the lead. But that engagement over the long term is key," he added.
The veteran diplomat has served many years in the Middle East, where a lack of U.S. resolve in Lebanon 20 years ago opened that country to meddling from Iran and Syria.
The inauguration of the $700 million embassy came just days after a security agreement between Iraq and the United States took effect, replacing a U.N. mandate that gave legal authority to the U.S. and other foreign troops to operate in Iraq.
Under the new security agreement, U.S. troops will no longer conduct unilateral operations and will act only in concert with Iraqi forces. They must also leave major Iraqi cities by June and the entire country by the end of 2011. Another accord mapped out the bilateral relations.
Crocker said that since 2003 invasion, "perhaps no single week has been more important than this past week. On Dec. 31 we left the Republican Palace."
U.S. diplomats and military officials moved into the embassy on Dec. 31 after vacating Saddam Hussein's Republican Palace, which they occupied when they captured Baghdad in April 2003. The palace will now seat the Iraqi government and al-Maliki's office.
For nearly six years, the grandiose and gaudy palace, with its gold-plated bathroom fixtures, wall paintings of Scud missiles and enormous chandeliers, served as both headquarters for occupying forces and the hub for the Green Zone — the walled-off swath of central Baghdad that was formally turned over to the Iraqi government on New Year's Day.
The new embassy's exact dimensions are classified, but it is said to be six times larger than the U.N. complex in New York and more than 10 times the size of the new U.S. Embassy in Beijing, which at 10 acres is America's second-largest mission.
Reinforced concrete surrounds the new compound, which provides housing for hundreds of staff who had been living in makeshift quarters with aluminum walls that provided little protection from mortar rounds that were fired daily into the Green Zone a year ago. "It is from the embassy that you see before you that we will continue the tradition of friendship, cooperation and support begun by the many dedicated Americans who have worked in Iraq since 2003," U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte told guests at the ceremony in the complex's courtyard.
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a longtime Washington ally, praised President George W. Bush's decision to invade Iraq in 2003 and topple the regime of Saddam Hussein, who was executed two years ago.
"The building of this site would not be possible without the courageous decision by President Bush to liberate Iraq," said Talabani, a Kurd. "This building is not only a compound for the embassy but a symbol of the deep friendship between the two peoples of Iraq and America."
But as U.S. and Iraqi officials lauded progress in the country, Baghdad was rocked by a second day of violence that saw four car bombs explode in various parts of the city, killing four people and wounding 19.
Though violence has plummeted around Iraq in the past year, with attacks dropping from an average 180 a day to just 10, horrific bombings still plague the capital. Many recent attacks have targeted pilgrims during ceremonies commemorating the death of a much revered Shiite saint.
On Sunday, a suicide bomber killed at least 38 people at a Shiite shrine just four miles north of the new embassy.
Iraqi officials said the bomber was a man disguised as a woman. Initial reports said the attacker was a woman concealing a bomb under her black cloak. At least 17 of the dead were Iranian pilgrims.
In response to that attack, Iraqi authorities banned female pilgrims from entering the district for ceremonies on Tuesday and Wednesday.
This is going to be part 1 of a thought rambling around in my head for the past week or so. And at first you might ask what does this have to do with prophecy but just give me a minute to get this thought out and I'll bring it back to the focus of our blog.
I'm truly wondering if believers should be so focused on our current economic situation which is being called everything from a recession to a "bad" economic time.
I'm not trying to be critical of the Christian leaders around me, as I believe they have a pure motivation in leading, yet I'm getting a bit tired of hearing at church about how believers should respond to this current economic situation. Let me explain; as we look through scripture and even our own personal testimonies, when does God show up in the largest and most clear ways? In times of crisis, when the world is collapsing around us.
So, even if we had no suggestion of living through events that could be the fulfillment of prophecy shouldn't those who believe in Jesus Christ be optimistic that God is going to show up in a way that will glorify Him here in 2009?
We also see a direct example of what this should look like for the believer in Philippians.
Philippians 4:10-13 (New American Standard Bible)
God's Provisions10But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last (A)you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity.
11Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be (B)content in whatever circumstances I am.
12I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going (C)hungry, both of having abundance and (D)suffering need.
13I can do all things through Him who (E)strengthens me.
So, if "we" (believers in America at large and our church leadership) were in tune with the possible fulfillment of the prophecies which clearly predict more natural disasters, political crisis, wars, famines, and an even deeper financial crisis than we are experiencing now how would that change our message? Shouldn't it be something along the lines of "Hold on to your Savior tightly because this could be a situation that demands all of the faith we can muster! With our focus being squarely on who Christ is and what he promised would happen before he returned!"
I hope we are not making a mistake by sulking over what is clearly a concerning situation for Americans and most of the developed world. It would be a pitty to miss out on what God is doing in so many places that have been living in political and financial turmoil for decades.
More to come.
Saturday, January 3, 2009
I found a small article with an interesting tid bit. Javier Solana is traveling to the "region" of Israel/Gaza in an effort to pursue Peace Talks. This could be a spring board for Mr. Solana to gain even more clout in the Middle East.
I hope they continue to report about the political happenings of the next few days but one thing is clear, most of the details of these talks behind closed doors are now being kept quiet.
Here is the small article.
Paris - French President Nicolas Sarkozy received Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on Thursday for urgent talks on trying to end the latest Gaza Strip crisis. The talks were already overshadowed by an Israeli rejection of a call by the European Union for a 48-hour truce in the hostilities. Sarkozy is to travel to the Mideast region starting next Monday to continue his mediation efforts, with visits to Cairo, Ramallah and Jerusalem, Elysee Palace said. The French president had already been scheduled to visit French forces in southern Lebanon, and now is to expand the itinerary to try to help mediate in the Gaza crisis, officials noted. Besides Sarkozy, a top-ranking EU delegation led by chief diplomat Javier Solana is expected to travel to the region.
Friday, January 2, 2009
Happy New Year everyone. This year appears to be starting off with a bang.
It appears as if Israel is poised to launch a major ground offensive in the coming hours or days into the Gaza Strip. It is beginning to sound like Israel is very serious about completely destroying Hamas and it's capabilities to launch rockets into Israel.
All of this has occured while up to this point Hizbullah, Syria and Iran have remained on the sidelines. One has to wonder if this major ground offensive by Israel into Gaza will cause these other countries and this terrorist organization of Hizbullah to act militarily. I think we will find out real soon how they will respond which could lead to some major fireworks in the Middle East.
One other thought for today. Is it possible that the reason Israel is so bent on destroying Hamas is because they know there is no possibility for peace with the Palestinians and peace in the rest of the middle east as long as the terrorist group Hamas is around? Could this all be part of a master plan that sets up a major peace agreement in the coming months after Hamas is destroyed? Remember, Palestinian leader Abbas and his political group Fatah are for a comprehensive peace agreement with Israel and have been trying to negotiate one for over a year. Hmmmm..... could be, but it is still way to early to tell. Something to look out for though.
Israel is poised to launch a major ground offensive into Gaza tonight after allowing hundreds of foreigners living in the devastated territory to evacuate.
After a week of air strikes that have killed at least 420 Palestinians and left scores of buildings in rubble, the Israeli army was set to fling hundreds of troops and tanks into a blitz to stamp out Hamas’s military wing, The Times understands.
Despite the looming onslaught, more Hamas rockets – which have so far killed four Israelis – were fired into southern Israel today.
The Islamist group vowed that its attacks, which have lasted for years and which finally provoked the massive Israeli campaign, would not stop.
“I call on the resistance to continue pounding Jewish settlements and cities,” said Sheikh Abdelrahman al-Jamal at the funeral of a hardline Hamas political leader killed, together with his four wives and 11 children, in an Israeli air strike on his home.
“We will remain on the path of jihad until the end of days.”
The funeral was held outdoors because an earlier air raid had smashed the mosque where the service was due to take place. Israel said the building had been used to stockpile weapons.
Among the mounting Palestinian death toll today were three young brothers, aged between seven and 10, who were killed in one of the 30 or so strikes carried out by Israeli warplanes across the strip.
All along the border, Israeli tanks and troops have turned fields into makeshift camps from which to launch their offensive into Gaza. The Government has already mobilised more than 6,000 reserve troops and has given the green light to call up almost 3,000 more.
Artillery barrages were also being fired into the strip while aircraft dropped bombs on open ground that the army will need to cross, and where Hamas has placed mines and dug tunnels to allow its guerrillas to outflank the invaders.
Support for Operation Cast Lead is sky high in Israel, with polls showing that almost 85 per cent of the public backing the campaign.
There is also majority support for expanding it into a ground campaign, despite the dangers of high casualties in an urban battlefield against highly trained and motivated guerrillas waging war on their own turf. Almost 42 per cent of Israelis wanted the army to move in, while 39 percent favoured a continued air campaign.
Hamas has an estimated 15,000 fighters who have used the 18 months that they have controlled the strip to hone their skills and transform a militia into a small army. Hamas’s military wing has been waiting for a ground offensive to face the Israeli army in open combat, despite Israel’s vast military superiority.
The onslaught has provoked large anti-Israeli demonstrations around the world, with protest rallies held today in India, Indonesia, Turkey and Australia.
But Hamas’s call for a “day of wrath” in the Palestinian territories produced only a lukewarm response in the face of clampdowns by Israeli security forces.
Several thousand protesters marched through the West Bank city of Ramallah, while in East Jerusalem youths threw stones at Israeli security forces and some 50 women demonstrated outside the Friday prayers at al-Aqsa mosque.
The demonstrators directed their anger principally at their own Palestinian leaders, and heads of Arab countries whom they felt had not done enough to stop Israel’s seven-day incursion into Gaza.
“Abbas is with the Jews, not with the Arabs. If he really was supporting and working in favour of our Arab brother’s in Gaza, this wouldn’t have happened,” said Um-Mahr, a 66-year-old resident of East Jerusalem.
Akram Jwaeibis, 58, said Arab leaders today were afraid to do more than voice criticism of the Israeli government’s actions. “Most of them just talk. That is why we are waiting for Nasrallah. Or Haniyeh to do something more than talk.”
Diplomatic efforts to contain the crisis were growing after Israel’s surprise offensive in the days after Christmas caught the world off guard. “We are working toward a ceasefire that would not allow a re-establishment of the status quo ante where Hamas can continue to launch rockets out of Gaza,” said Condoleezza Rice, the outgoing US Secretary of State.
“It is obvious that that ceasefire should take place as soon as possible, but we need a ceasefire that is durable and sustainable,” she said.
A high-level European delegation is due in the region at the weekend, as were Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, and Tony Blair, the international community’s envoy to the Middle East.