VFI News April 16, 2022

Happy Passover!

We would like to wish all of our readers a happy Passover! Passover begins at sundown today, as Jewish families in Israel and around the world will gather to celebrate with the traditional Seder. This is a time when we remember the Exodus, and how God delivered His people from bondage in Egypt. If you are celebrating, we pray that you have a blessed week.

The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt. - Exodus 12:13

Iran-Backed Militias in Iraq Reportedly Smuggling Weapons to Arm Russia in Ukraine

Iranian-backed militias in Iraq are smuggling weapons to arm Russia in its invasion of Ukraine.

RPGs, anti-tank missiles, and Brazilian-designed rocket launcher systems have made their way from Iraq to Ukraine, according to the report, which cited members of the Iranian-backed militias as well as regional intelligence services familiar with the matter.

An Iranian-made Bavar 373 missile system was also donated to Moscow by Iranian authorities.

RPGs and anti-tank missiles belonging to the Hashd al-Shaabi Shia militia group were transported from Iraq to Iran on March 26 where they were collected by Russian authorities who then shipped them to Russia by sea. Hashd al-Shaabi also dismantled Brazilian-designed Astros II rocket launcher systems on April 1 for shipment to Russian forces.

The reported weapons transfers represent the latest progression in Russia’s relations with Iran as Moscow finds itself increasingly isolated and struggling to keep up on the battlefield as Western sanctions continue to pile up.

US officials said that Russia has also been leaning on China to send its own military aid for use in the Ukraine invasion. (TOI / VFI News)

When you go out to war against your enemies, and see horses and chariots and an army larger than your own, you shall not be afraid of them, for the Lord your God is with you, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. And when you draw near to the battle, the priest shall come forward and speak to the people and shall say to them, ‘Hear, O Israel, today you are drawing near for battle against your enemies: let not your heart faint. Do not fear or panic or be in dread of them, for the Lord your God is he who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory.’ - Deuteronomy 20:1-4

The articles included in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of Vision for Israel. We try to provide accurate reporting on news pertinent to Israel, the Middle East, the diaspora, and Jewish issues around the world—and we hope that you find it both informative and useful for intercessory prayer.

Israel Says Iran Has Nearly Enough Uranium for a Bomb, as Talks Remain Stuck

Iran is close to having enough enriched uranium for a weapon as negotiations to return to the 2015 nuclear deal remain stuck, a diplomatic source said on Wednesday, April 13.

The Islamic Republic is very close to having a significant quantity of enriched uranium – meaning enough to produce one bomb and a redline set by Western parties to the talks.

While Iran is not yet enriching uranium to weapons-grade material at 90% purity, larger quantities of uranium enriched to a lower purity can be enough for a bomb. Jerusalem’s assessment is that Iran is close to having a significant quantity of uranium enriched to 60%.

Negotiations for the US and Iran to return to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action ended weeks ago, with Iran making a demand outside of the nuclear agreement, for its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to be removed from the US Foreign Terrorist Organization list.

Washington has not yet officially responded to the demand, but a State Department spokesperson said last week that US President Joe Biden views the IRGC Quds Force as a terrorist organization.

Thus far, none of the Europeans’ proposals for a compromise or alternative agreement between the Americans and Iranians have been accepted by the Iranians, who have made removing the IRGC’s FTO (foreign terrorist organization) designation the sine qua non of an agreement.

Israeli officials have also asked European interlocutors to ensure that another of Iran’s demands not be met and that the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) open investigations of possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program not be closed for political reasons, which could set a dangerous precedent. IAEA Secretary-General Rafael Grossi did not agree to close the probes but the matter is expected to be discussed in an IAEA board meeting in June. (JPost / VFI News)

“God, we ask that You would stop the attempts of the Iranians to enrich uranium to weapon-grade and that You protect Israel and the world from nuclear warfare.”

Regional Alliance Needed Against Iran

Defense Minister Benny Gantz called for a regional alliance and an expansion of intelligence cooperation in order to make up for a lack of inspections of Iran’s nuclear project.

Speaking at a Washington Institute Policy Forum, Gantz said that Iran is continuing its uranium enrichment, and is close to 90% that is suitable for nuclear weapons “once they decide to reach it.”

He told the audience that while he understands America’s need for an agreement, the loopholes in the deal need to be closed because “if you don’t close the open loopholes, you will have serious problems down the road.”

Pointing to the war in Ukraine, where Western countries are using economic and political pressure on Russia but are being “very careful” with military options because Moscow has nuclear capabilities, Gantz warned that this is not something Israel wants with Iran.

Thus if a deal is not reached, “we will have to move to Plan B,” he said. “We must make sure we are increasing our intelligence cooperation, and create an intelligence coalition that operates against Iran and compensates for a lack of inspection capabilities.”

In addition to strengthening ties with regional countries, Gantz said that Israel “will have to increase offensive capabilities, intercept regional activities carried out by Iran in other countries, increase our defensive capacities, and communicate with the Iranian society held hostage by the regime in the long run.”

Israel took part in a drill with neighboring countries several months ago based on scenarios that included drones and other aerial threats. Increasing Israel’s cooperation with Gulf countries that are geographically closer to Iran will allow the IDF to stop threats even further from its borders. (JPost / VFI News)

Iranian Americans to Biden: Don't Remove IRGC from Terror List

A group of more than 500 Iranian American scientists, scholars, and engineers, on Tuesday, April 12, urged US President Joe Biden to not remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) from the list of foreign terrorist organizations as nuclear talks stall, Fox News reports.

Iran has demanded sanction relief and the removal of its top military branch from the US list of designated terrorist groups as a condition for its return to the 2015 nuclear deal.

The letter, led by University of Connecticut professor and Dean of the School of Engineering, Kazem Kazerounian, and signed by another 501 Iranian officials, says the IRGC not only "safeguards" Iran’s dictatorship but impedes any progress of human rights advancements.

Kazerounian argued that the nuclear talks should not only be about ensuring nuclear stability but should also target issues surrounding human rights.

Last month it was reported that the Biden administration is considering removing terrorism sanctions from the IRGC as part of negotiations to restore the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

The Pentagon's top general recently said he was opposed to removing the IRGC from the US terror group list. (INN / VFI News)

“God, we ask that You help the world see the terror and evil of IRGC, and protect Israel from harm.”

Hineh Lo Yanum (Psalm 121:4) by Barry & Batya Segal

This psalm is a celebration of God's constant and continued protection of His people. Though we may slumber and rest, our God is constantly vigilant and watching over us. We must trust Him as our protector, and rely on Him alone for our reassurance. Though worldly entities may seem tempting, the only stronghold that is always diligent is God's love.

EU Continues to Support NGOs Designated Terrorist Affiliates

The European Union and Palestinian NGOs have been working together to offset losses caused by Israel designating six of the NGOs as terrorist groups, under the guise of battling the “shrinking space for civil society organizations” among Palestinians, according to a document obtained by The Jerusalem Post.

“EU and member states have continued to engage with the six designated organizations collectively showing solidarity both at a technical level and [head of missions] level,” the minutes of a January 21 meeting between the EU Representative to the Palestinians and other European officials with Palestinian civil society leaders said.

The meeting took place following Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s decision in October to ban six Palestinian organizations – Addameer, Al Haq, Bisan Center, Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCI-P), Union Of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), and the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees (UPWC) – due to their affiliations with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a designated terrorist group in Israel, the US, the EU and elsewhere.

Contracts with Al Haq and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, which ran an EU-funded project with some of the banned NGOs, were suspended because of Israel’s accusations last year, even before the official designation.

They were cleared by the European Anti-Fraud Office, but the suspension of funding, direct and indirect, remained in place. The full investigation would likely take six more months, the document published in January stated.

The meeting with the EU Representative and the PNGO conference did not mention Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s presidential decree restricting the activity and finances of Palestinian civil society organizations. However, PNGO has called Abbas’s moves to freeze Palestinian NGOs’ bank accounts “a vicious attack.” Al Haq said the decree “infringes on the pillars of transparency and openness to civil society.” (JPost / VFI News)

Islamists ‘Mercilessly Killing Christians’ in Democratic Republic of the Congo

Islamic extremists raided the village of Masambo in the northeastern province of North Kivu in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) early this month.

The raid by jihadists from the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a group allied to the Islamic State, is just one episode in a flood of Islamist violence across North Kivu and its neighboring province of Ituri, The Barnabas Fund noted in an email Tuesday, April 12.

In May 2021, DRC President Felix Tshisekedi declared the two provinces to be in a “state of siege,” a situation that continues to this day.

A church leader in neighboring Uganda, the birthplace of the ADF, declared that the jihadists are “mercilessly killing Christians” and many people are fleeing the DRC and seeking refuge in western Uganda. Africa News notes that in December, Uganda sent more than 1,000 soldiers to aid Congo’s army in their fight against ADF rebels in the region.

The Barnabas Fund, a charity that assists persecuted Christians, requested prayers for Christians in northeastern DRC, “asking for the Lord’s hand of protection over them.”

“Pray that Islamist extremism and other forms of violence in this troubled region will be brought to an end. Pray also for churches in western Uganda as they seek to help thousands of refugees who have fled across the border,” the group asked. (BB / VFI News)

“God, we ask that You protect your people, and stop senseless violence and killing around the world.”

Housing Lottery in Israel Sees Huge Demand for Discounted Apartments

The first lottery under this government’s new housing discount scheme closed last week, with 119,207 households registering a million bids to compete for 10,000 properties that will be built nationwide. Households were allowed to bid in up to three localities and for all the units in the lottery in those localities.

The housing units are located in 150 projects across 31 localities in Israel. Households had to be first-time buyers and go through a validation process. Under the new “Target Price” (Mekhir Matara) scheme, those who are successful get a chance to buy newly built apartments at below-market prices.

The most popular locations — those entering the lottery could specify which parts of the country they are interested in — were Or Yehuda, Ashdod, Be’er Yaakov, Rishon Lezion, and Tel Aviv-Jaffa, according to a ministry announcement on Monday, April 11. The lowest demand was for housing units in Beit She’an, Dimona, Turan, Karmiel, Nazareth, and Kiryat Shmona.

The lottery was extended by a week because levels of interest were so high, allowing more households to qualify to enter. The lottery process itself has strict, computerized systems which involve no human contact. The results are produced in a closed room, in the presence of the lottery committee.

The Mekhir Matara scheme has replaced the Mekhir Lamishtaken (Buyers’ Price) program that ran from 2015. It too was aimed at first-time buyers but tried to incentivize lower-cost properties by putting forward discounted land for development outside central Israel.

Mekhir Matara offers successful lottery winners a 20% discount, or up to NIS 300,000 ($93,700), on the purchase price with some additional incentives in certain areas.

Housing and Construction Minister Ze’ev Elkin said he was delighted by the response to the new program. The number of people participating “proves the longing of young couples in Israel for help from the state in buying an apartment at a discount of hundreds of thousands of shekels,” Elkin said.

Aviad Friedman, director-general of the Housing and Construction Ministry, promised that additional lotteries through the year would offer at least 20,000 more housing units through the Mekhir Matara scheme. He said, “we are working around the clock to increase this number. At the same time, we are working on additional channels to increase the number of housing units for long-term rent.”

Lottery results will be announced in May, with the winners contacted, while registration for the next lottery of additional new housing units will open in June.

Target Price, like programs before it, is aimed at making homeownership more accessible in a housing market that is seeing spiraling costs amid sky-high demand and inadequate supply. (TOI / VFI News)

My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places. - Isaiah 32:18

Israeli Mathematics Team Places 9th in the World

The Israeli team at the European Girls' Mathematical Olympiad (EGMO) made their country proud this week, with each of the four members of the team bringing home a medal.

This year's EGMO occurred in Hungary, with 56 countries participating, a total of 222 contestants overall. The Israeli team ranked ninth overall, and the team captain, Nogah Friedman, ranked third in the world.

Their success is particularly meaningful given recent initiatives to involve more women in Israel in STEM and hi-tech. To that point, President of the Weizmann Institute Professor Alon Chen said, "I hope that this achievement will lead more girls to show interest in scientific professions."

The competition took place over the course of two days. Each day, the students took a 4.5-hour exam consisting of three extremely challenging questions in Algebra, Combinatorics, Geometry, and number theory.

2022 marks Israel's seventh year participating in the EGMO, which itself began in 2012. This year's Israeli delegation won four medals: Friedman, from Rehovot, won gold; Noga Labin from Tel Aviv won bronze; Ya'ara Shulman and Tamar Pe'er from Herzliya also won bronze medals.

Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton offered congratulations to the victorious young women saying, "you are a great [source of] pride to the Israeli team, to the Israeli education system, and to the entire country. This unprecedented achievement you have reached is inspiring, and I hope it will bring in many more students who will want to follow the same path." (JPost / VFI News)

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace. - 1 Peter 4:10

The suggestions, opinions, and scripture references made by VFI News writers and editors are based on the best information received.

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