May 10, 2013 2 Comments
April 2, 2013 Leave a comment
The memorial service for the 13 SA National Defence Force soldiers, who died in a gun battle with Seleka rebels in the Central African Republic nine days ago, will be held at the Swartkop Air Force Base in Pretoria on Tuesday.
Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula handed over the bodies of the deceased soldiers to their respective families last week Thursday. SANDF spokesperson Xolani Mabanga says funeral arrangements will also be announced on Tuesday.
“I would like to emphasise that there is a senior official that has been appointed in SANDF that will be in charge of each and every family, for the preparation of the funeral and all the administration,” says Mabanga.
It is ill-advised or ill-informed of the DA to call a joint sitting
Meanwhile, the African National Congress’ chief whip’s office says calling for a joint sitting of Parliament to force the withdrawal of troops from the Central African Republic, will not yield any results, this after the Democratic Alliance urged President Jacob Zuma to convene an urgent joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament to discuss the matter.
However, the ANC’s chief whip’s spokesperson Moloto Motapo says only Parliament’s joint committee on Defence can make such a recommendation to either the National Assembly or the National Council of Provinces.
March 25, 2013 1 Comment
Bangui – South African soldiers in the Central African Republic are seeking safe passage to the airport after taking heavy losses during fighting with Seleka rebels, Reuters reports.
The agency said at least nine SA soldiers were killed.
“I saw the bodies of six South African soldiers. They had all been shot,” a Reuters witness said. Later, he saw three more bodies in burned-out South African military vehicles.
Amy Martin of the UN’s humanitarian agency, OCHA, told the BBC World Service that the SA troops had retreated to their barracks and were seeking safe passage to the airport.
Seleka spokesperson Eric Massi said the rebels had broken through a line of South African soldiers during their push into the city.
Around 400 South African troops were deployed in the country as military trainers.
Regional peacekeeping sources said the South Africans had fought alongside the Central African Republic’s army on Saturday to prevent rebels entering the capital.
They took substantial losses and have asked for French support to load their troops and take off,” said the source.
Meanwhile, AFP reported on Sunday night that widespread looting had broken out in the CAR capital.
Homes, shops, restaurants and cars were all fair game for looters in scenes repeated across the city.
“There’s a lot of looting by armed men. They break down the doors to go looting and then, afterwards, the people come and help themselves too,” said Nicaise Kabissou, who lives in the city centre.
Massi had promised on Saturday that the rebel coalition “will have zero tolerance for any looting, exaction or settling of scores”.
But that warning went unheeded on the ground.
January 19, 2013 Leave a comment
… Every day there are small reminders, and here was one: Julia would hang the ornament because her father, Lt. Col. Paul J. Finken, died in Iraq six years ago, killed by a roadside bomb on the final patrol of his yearlong deployment.
The moment capsulized one family’s self-guided journey through loss. Over six years, Mrs. Finken and her daughters, ages 14, 12 and 10, have struggled through different phases of mourning, sometimes together, sometimes on individual calendars. But the one constant has been their determination to remember, without letting memory become a millstone.
“I don’t want to squeeze the life out of the memories, because I want them to still be precious and mean something,” Mrs. Finken said. “I also don’t want the memories to drag us down. Because memories can do that sometimes.”
Since 2001, about 4,800 children have lost a parent and 3,650 adults have lost a spouse to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. For most, finding that balance between holding on to lost loved ones — and releasing them — will be the key to recovery…
Read on in the NY Times here.
December 4, 2012 2 Comments
Plans by the Israeli Government to build a military base on the Mount of Olives, have been condemned by Christian, Jewish, Muslim and secular commentators.
The area, which includes the site at which Jesus is believed to have been arrested, has sacred and historical significance in Christianity, Judaism and Islam. It is also in East Jerusalem, Palestinian land that is occupied by the Israeli army.
According to the Israeli Ministry of the Interior, the building will cover 42,000 square metres and house colleges for training Israeli soldiers. Israeli citizens have until mid-December to object to the plans, although momentum is building for an international campaign.
Israel’s Ministry of the Interior declared, “The site that was eventually chosen is the optimal one, in view of its proximity to the university on the one hand and the possibility to contribute to the life of the city on the other”.
But Hagit Ofran of the Israeli group Peace Now insisted, “The location, at one of the most sensitive and disputed areas in Jerusalem, is a little more than provocative”.
She added, “One can’t think of Mount of Olives as real estate. It is important for the three monotheistic religions.”
At the base of the Mount of Olives is the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus was arrested prior to his crucifixion by the Roman imperial authorities. According to Luke’s Gospel, the Mount of Olives was also the site of Jesus’ final meeting with his disciples before his ascent to heaven.
There has been a Jewish cemetery on the Mount for over 3,000 years. A number of Jews have chosen to be buried in it in the belief that the resurrection of the dead will begin there when the Messiah comes.
Within Islamic teaching, a thin bridge will connect the Mount of Olives and the Haram A-Sharif (the Dome of the Rock mosque) at the end of days.
Ofran said, “On top of all this holiness, the Mount of Olives is under dispute between us and the Palestinians, and we will have to solve this dispute only through an agreement. Bringing the military academy to this spot is quite insensitive and if I may add, not so smart, of our government.”
Israeli peace campaigners have accused their government of fast-tracking the planning process for political reasons.
Daniel Seidemann, an Israeli lawyer specialising in conflict resolution, said, “I have received a number of phone calls from foreign governments saying, ‘What can you possibly be thinking? You are engaged in an act of self-ostracism.’”.
British Quaker Hannah Brock, who has previously worked on human rights issues in Bethlehem, has worked with other campaigners to set up a petition calling on the Israeli government not to go ahead with the plans.
She points out that the site is on occupied land, and adds that she would oppose a military base by any army or government on such a sacred and sensitive site.
She told news reporters, “A military college is yet another poignant and potent reminder of the militarisation and militarism of this ‘Holy Land’: the threats of violence, the visibility of machines that can hurt, maim and kill people, and the willingness to use them. The contrast in this place where Jesus was gathered up to heaven couldn’t be more stark.”
November 17, 2012 2 Comments
The Israeli prime minister’s speech before the United Nations in September is a must-read for anyone who cares about the defence of freedom in the Middle East, and the wider war against Islamist terrorism. Netanyahu laid out in stark terms what he views as an epic “battle being waged between the modern and the medieval,” between the forces of freedom and “the medieval forces of radical Islam.” As Netanyahu declared at the UN General Assembly:
The forces of modernity seek a bright future in which the rights of all are protected, in which an ever-expanding digital library is available in the palm of every child, in which every life is sacred. The forces of medievalism seek a world in which women and minorities are subjugated, in which knowledge is suppressed, in which not life but death is glorified.
These forces clash around the globe, but nowhere more starkly than in the Middle East. Israel stands proudly with the forces of modernity. We protect the rights of all our citizens: men and women, Jews and Arabs, Muslims and Christians – Israel wants to see a Middle East of progress and peace. We want to see the three great religions that sprang forth from our region – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – coexist in peace and in mutual respect.
Yet the medieval forces of radical Islam, whom you just saw storming the American embassies throughout the Middle East, they oppose this. They seek supremacy over all Muslims. They are bent on world conquest. They want to destroy Israel, Europe, America. They want to extinguish freedom. They want to end the modern world.
Militant Islam has many branches – from the rulers of Iran with their Revolutionary Guards to al Qaeda terrorists to the radical cells lurking in every part of the globe. But despite their differences, they are all rooted in the same bitter soil of intolerance. That intolerance is directed first at their fellow Muslims, and then to Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, secular people, anyone who doesn’t submit to their unforgiving creed. They want to drag humanity back to an age of unquestioning dogma and unrelenting conflict. I am sure of one thing. Ultimately they will fail. Ultimately, light will penetrate the darkness.
As Hamas’ rockets rain down on Israel, even striking Tel Aviv and threatening Jerusalem, Netanyahu’s words ring true. This is a confrontation between the freest country in the Middle East, and brutal terrorists blinded with hatred who seek to advance their goals by murdering civilians and indiscriminate terror. The thugs of Hamas share the same goal as the Mullahs in Tehran, who provide the bombs, weapons and resources used to sustain a huge terrorist enterprise – i.e., the destruction of Israel and its replacement with an Islamist state.
Hamas’ Iranian-supplied missile stockpile in Gaza is now estimated to be 10,000 strong. For the Israelis, this is a war of survival in an intensely hostile region. They deserve the full support of the United States, Great Britain, and the Western world, which must stand shoulder to shoulder with a close friend and ally. As Hamas’ offensive illustrates, Israel is the front line of a global conflict between the forces of freedom and the forces of tyranny and barbarism.
This is not just Israel’s war, it is ours too. The threat Israel faces from the Jihadists is the same threat the West faces on the streets of London, Paris, Washington or Berlin. Al Qaeda, which has had significant ties in the past to Hamas, will be closely watching the outcome of Israel’s military campaign. An emphatic defeat for Hamas will be a huge blow not only to the Islamist dictatorship in Tehran, but to the followers of Bin Laden as well.
November 16, 2012 Leave a comment
Last night I was watching CNN and Jenny (5) said, “What are those? Rockets?” It was footage of the fighting between Hamas and the IDF. I answered (without thinking about it), “Yeah, they’re firing rockets at Israel,” and then quickly added, “But not here.”
So soldiers are being mobilized and it looks like foot soldiers will be going into Gaza.
In truly worrying news, a rocket from Gaza recently reached the suburbs of Tel Aviv, which is the hub of the entire country. That little coastal strip from Tel Aviv up through Haifa is where most of the population of this little country lives. (Israel is about the size of New Jersey, incidentally.) If the guys in Gaza get better missiles from Iran (which is where they are coming from) then you will start to see serious casualties on the Israeli side, and the government will not permit that.
In the past Egypt could more or less be counted on to make smuggling arms into Gaza hard. No more…
Meanwhile, the fighting in Syria is spilling over into the always-unstable country of Lebanon. And fighting among the various parties (and there are several, not just two) in Syria recently made the Israeli army fire the first warning shots in decades in the Golan cease-fire area. It appears that the Syrians had not intended to cross the cease-fire line, fortunately.
Our neighbors in Jordan, which has the reputation of being a stable country, have recently eliminated fuel subsidies, which has caused massive protests over there. A line has been crossed, in fact, in that some people are openly calling for the abdication of King Abdullah. If he does not abdicate, force will have to be used to suppress dissenting voices. If he does abdicate the monarchy will be abolished, or a sibling of his will become monarch. Either way, Jordan will go the way of Egypt and become much more Islamist-leaning in its politics and foreign relations.
In my e-mail inbox this morning I had a message from the US Embassy-consulates are closed today and the embassy hours have been reduced. Also, diplomats may not travel through the West Bank because of the instability in both Israel and Jordan. Jordan, meanwhile, is trying to figure out what to do with tens of thousands of refugees from Syria. Jordan does not even have enough food or water for its own population.
We have been living in the Middle East now for many years, and I’m quite used to the occasional instability or violence. But it was always isolated to this or that area. The instability is too widespread now. I’m not an alarmist, but I don’t see how any of this ends up happily. That having been said, I do not feel our family is in any imminent danger, I am glad to say.
Would you please pray for peace in the region? Pray that the local churches would be part of the solution and not just close their eyes and ears to these difficulties? And pray for us, that in the midst of all of this we would be people of light and hope and witnesses to the grace of our Creator and the love of our Redeemer.
November 15, 2012 1 Comment
Here’s a post from one of our favorite Israeli bloggers, on life under the Iron Dome, and her take on the recent rocket activity and retaliation:
In a pinpoint strike, Israel has assassinated Ahmed al-Jabari – equivalent to the Chief of Command of Hamas. al-Jabari died as he lived – a man of hatred and violence. I do not mourn his passing, nor do I celebrate it. That is not what Jews do. It is said that as the ancient Egyptians were drowning in the Red Sea as the Jews crossed into Sinai on their way to the land that God had promised them – that the angels themselves celebrated and danced. And they asked God why he was not celebrating too. God answered that he could not celebrate while his creations were dying.
Read more on A Soldier’s Mother.