ISRAEL (SBDR) – On Oct. 7, 2023, Hamas militants launched a surprise attack on Israel. Israel’s security cabinet officially declared war Saturday (Oct. 7) night after the Hamas terrorist attack unleashed a barrage of thousands of rockets into southern Israel along with ground attacks. It is Israel’s first declaration of war since the Yom Kippur War in 1973. 

The Israeli death toll has surpassed 800 people with at least 2,200 more injured since beginning of Hamas offensive. During Saturday’s incursion, Hamas fighters reportedly captured women, children, and the elderly. Israeli military officials confirmed that a “substantial” number of Israelis were abducted Saturday without giving an exact figure. 

In a counterattack, Israel struck 426 targets in Gaza, blasting residential buildings to the ground, including a 14-story tower that held dozens of apartments as well as Hamas offices in central Gaza City. Israeli forces fired a warning just before the strike. The counterattacks have claimed over 550 Palestinian lives in Gaza and close to 2,900 wounded, the Palestinian Health Ministry said. 

More than 123,000 Palestinians have been displaced in Gaza, mostly to schools. Israeli civilians in adjacent cities and towns are either staying in underground shelters or have relocated. A general strike was announced in the West Bank, resulting in the closure of all markets, shops and education facilities. 

The Israeli government has cut off all electricity, water, fuel and goods to Gaza. Gaza is one of the most densely packed places in the world, an isolated coastal enclave of almost 2 million people crammed into 140 square miles. Governed by Hamas, the territory is largely cut off from the rest of the world by an Israeli blockade of Gaza’s land, air and sea dating back to 2007. Egypt controls Gaza’s southern border crossing, Rafah.  

Battles continue in multiple areas of Israel near the Gaza border overrun by the Hamas attack on Saturday, in the north along the Lebanon border, and rocket and missile fire continue to strike Israeli and Palestinian communities.  

Major international airlines have temporarily suspended flight service to Israel due to the security situation in Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.  The conflict has potential to be a prolonged campaign and heighten tension throughout the Middle East. 

Current Response:

Send Relief has been in communication and has released funds to assist Baptist reps in relief efforts and trauma care for those suffering in the region from the tragic effects of war and displacement. Currently, there are no opportunities for volunteers to respond. 

The best current way for Southern Baptists to respond is by praying and giving. Those wishing to help can give by visiting Send Relief’s website. 

 Approved prayer requests:
  • Pray for the ongoing conflict in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.
  • Pray for peace and an end to the conflict. Pray for healing for those who are injured and grieving from this trauma. 
  • Pray for believing brothers and sisters to look to God as their source of safety, security, and peace. Ask that their faith will shine brightly during this dark time. 
  • Pray for wisdom and discernment for leaders and parents as they make potential life and death decisions. 
  • Pray for the lost. Pray that those who have an incomplete view of God’s goodness and grace will come to know Jesus as Savior.  
  • Pray for Send Relief as we partner with Baptist representatives to provide compassionate relief aid and trauma care to those suffering in this time of violence and conflict. 

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Matthew 5:43–44 (ESV) 

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