Much has happened in the past two days. Unfortunately, everything points to longer, more intense fighting over an expanding area.
It's after 11 pm on Friday so my brain isn't as working as well I would like, but I will try to list the most important points. Even as a I write a military transport helicopter is flying low over the house. This is very unusual on a Sabbath eve, and even more disturbing since we are not in the south where the missile firing and fighting is.
This morning started normally with rocket fire into Israel. School has already been cancelled for anyone within 25 miles (40 kilometers) from the border with Gaza. On one hand it meant children weren't travelling out in the open. On the other, it meant that most of them were home in houses / apartments without accessible bomb shelters.
At about 10 a.m. a ceasefire went into effect while the Prime Minister of Egypt made a solidarity visit to Gaza. During the 2 hours he was in Gaza Israel did not attack any targets inside of the Gaza Strip. In return, Hamas was not supposed to shell Israel. Israel made no attacks during those two hours; Hamas' interpretation of "cease" was more flexible. During the PM's visit more than 100 rockets and missiles were fired from Gaza into Israel - all aimed at civilian targets. In addition, during the visit there was a continuous firefight along the Israel-Gaza border between Israeli and Hamas soldiers.
Egypt was the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel. That was in 1979 and I was a kibbutz volunteer in the northern Negev when that happened. A couple of years later Egyptian president Anwar Sadat was assassinated by the Muslim Brotherhood for his efforts. Jordan is the only other Arab country to sign a peace agreement with Israel. In any event, technically Egypt is an ally of Israel. Once the Arab Spring happened and the Mubarak regime fell, everything changed. The treaty still exists on paper, but on the ground things are very different. The Muslim Brotherhood is now in power, and many of the leaders have been calling from day one to end the treaty with us. Egypt has also - against the terms of the treaty - moved soldiers and tanks into northern Sinai, on Israel's southern border "in order to fight against Beduin smugglers" who con trol the area. Beduin smugglers do control the area, and they also work hand-in-glove with Al-Qaida training camps in Sinai. Both groups are rivals of the Muslim Brotherhood. Egypt has also received massive financial and military aid from the US. Their army is well-equipped and well-trained. Both the Egyptian President (the head of government) and the Prime Minister (a more ceremonial position) are members of the Muslim Brotherhood and both hate Israel.
This morning the prime minister visited Gaza. He toured a hospital and some of the sites which Israel has hit in the past three days. Then he gave a press conference which chilled me to the bones. I watched in live in Arabic with simultaneous translation into Hebrew. The president is young and clean-cut and charismatic.
During his speech he referred several times to the "Muslim nation / people", referring to the entire Arab world (in other worlds, a caliphate). Each time was in reference to the Muslim Nation coming to Palestine to protect it against the terrorist Zionists and their murderous attacks against innocent Palestinians. In addition, he called upon each country with a Muslim leader to supply men and resources to fight against the Zionist state in order to "restore" Palestine and to return it to its proper capital of Jerusalem. He also promised that Egypt would do everything in their power to help the people in Gaza fight against Israel. Remember, this is a legal ally of Israel, even if it meant negating the treaty.
The Egyptian PM did three things in this speech which I consider to have dangerous implications not only for Israel, but for the world:
1) He inferred that Egypt was at the head of what will become a greater Arab political entity (what centuries ago was the caliphate);
2) He called on all Arab and Islamic countries to fight in a jihad against Israel;
3) He stated officially that Egypt would provide men and resources to help Hamas fight Israel (including equipment supplied by the US), and at the same time junk their peace treaty with Israel.
At one point during his speech he held up a bloody hand, stating that this was blood from the son of a Shahid (a martyr - or in other words, a terrorist who had been killed), and that this child's blood would be the symbol for the fight against Israel. If this was indeed blood, it means that he deliberately painted himself with blood.
A couple of hours later President Morsi of Egypt also gave a speech, repeating much of what his PM had said, also promising to send physical support to help the Palestinians in Gaza fight "the aggressor". For the first time since this operation began, a missile was fired into Israel from Sinai, which belongs to Egypt.
Earlier this evening Iran issued an official statement in which they also promised to send money, arms and possibly men to help the Gazans in their "noble struggle against the Zionist aggressors."
Tunisia and Turkey (also a former ally) did the same. The only thing between Israel and Turkey is Syria. All the Syrian towns along Israel's border are now under the control of al-Qaida.
Nasralla, the head of Hisballa in southern Lebanon, has also held a mass rally calling for Israel to be wiped out.
The initial call-up of 14,000 Israeli reserve soldiers went up to 30,000 this morning, and up to 75,000 this evening. In short, things are not looking good.
There has been a break of a few hours since I started this letter. It is now 2 in the morning on Saturday. Military helicopters are flying over my house, heading east. East means the Golan Heights and the Syrian border.
I have to be at church in a few hours (we meet on Saturday here in Israel), so I need to try and get some sleep. I'll try to write more before I leave.
It is now 3:30 in the morning on Saturday, the sabbath. Half an hour ago the army called to give my son Bryan his emergency call up. He doesn't live at home, but in Eilat, so they will get hold of him there. In a few hours he will be back in uniform. I don't even want to think about what awaits him. I just know that I will never forget the look in his eyes when he came back from Lebanon.
We would appreciate your prayers.