Rattle in the North

Hello Everyone,

Earlier today Israel was rattled in the north of the country.

Two projectiles were fired from within Syria and landed in the Israeli controlled area of the Golan Heights.

After identifying the origin of the fire, the IDF returned artillery fire at the source of the projectiles.

An IDF spokesperson verified that the rounds made direct hits on the location in Syria.

Reports of injuries or damage in the attack were not readily made available.

The Syrian news agencies reported on that the Israeli artillery fire hit a Syrian military base where soldiers from the Syrian government were present.

Prior to the attack, rocket alert sirens went off in the area which included the Mt. Hermon ski area.

The rockets did in fact fall in Mount Hermon area, prompting the Israeli Army to clear the area.

There has been no claim of responsibility for the attack.

It comes amidst heightened concerns after an alleged Israeli Air Force strike nine days ago that killed approximately 13 men in a convoy of vehicles.

Seven were believed to be Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon.

The other six were reportedly Iranian, including a senior military general.

Brian Bush Middle East Correspondent LeSEA Broadcasting

Happy 2015

Hello Friends,

I wish you all a fantastic New Year ahead full of God's provisions, mercies, joys and protection.

It's been rough over here in the Middle East in 2014 - and frankly 2015 doesn't look much better...

But isn't it good to know that God has no beginning or end - He is eternal, and offer's us a new beginning through His Son the Lord Jesus Christ and His redemptive work He did here in the Middle East.

Thank you for starting off your New Year with LeSEA and this blog - it's my pleasure to help keep you informed of the goings on her in the Holy Land!

May the Lord Bless us all,

Brian Bush Middle East Corespondent LeSEA Broadcasting

Merry Christmas!

Hello Friends,

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas - from here in the Holy Land where it all happened.

Jesus was a real baby, who - being God Himself, grew up and lived a life without sin so that He could sacrifice Himself through death upon the cross in order to give us the gift of salvation.

Share the Good News of God's greatest gift to man - The Baby found in Bethlehem - our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Brian Bush Middle East Corespondent LeSEA Broadcasting

My Favorite Christmas Hymn

Hello Friends,

Living here in the Holy Land is unique...

And at this time of Christmas the one Hymn that keeps going in my head, year after year, is Hark the Herald Angles Sing.

It was written by the brother of John Wesley (the founder of the Methodist church),Charles Wesley, in 1739.

I loved singing it as a boy - and I love the words and their truth.

From me to you - I share them now:

Merry Christmas Eve Tomorrow!!

Hark the herald angels sing "Glory to the newborn King! Peace on earth and mercy mild God and sinners reconciled" Joyful, all ye nations rise Join the triumph of the skies With the angelic host proclaim: "Christ is born in Bethlehem" Hark! The herald angels sing "Glory to the newborn King!"

Christ by highest heav'n adored Christ the everlasting Lord! Late in time behold Him come Offspring of a Virgin's womb Veiled in flesh the Godhead see Hail the incarnate Deity Pleased as man with man to dwell Jesus, our Emmanuel Hark! The herald angels sing "Glory to the newborn King!"

Hail the heav'n-born Prince of Peace! Hail the Son of Righteousness! Light and life to all He brings Ris'n with healing in His wings Mild He lays His glory by Born that man no more may die Born to raise the sons of earth Born to give them second birth Hark! The herald angels sing "Glory to the newborn King!"

Brian Bush Middle East Corespondent LeSEA Broadcasting

Ebb and Flow

Hi Everyone,

The situation with Islamic State seems to be ebb and flow...

Kobani – where much of the worlds attention, has seemed to fall into a stagnant situation, with neither side able to muster an offense.

Before Kobani – was the incident of the exodus of Yazidi and other minorities to Mount Sinjar.

Since those tragic scenes, people on the mount have ironically been safe- yet held captive because IS forces encircled the Mount.

However, these last few days Kurdish forces have made a significant victory in breaking that siege.

Thousands of displaced people now have a potential way off the mountain and try to reach family and friends – predominately in Kurdistan where most fled back in August when the siege began.

The US who is leading coalition forces against IS says that the terror group has been weakened and are losing moral. Yesterday several high-ranking IS fighting figures were killed in Coalition bombings in Iraq.

But with the success in the north – the large area of the Anbar province is not bringing good news.

Iraqi forces have been encircled on a base by IS and lost in a mere four hours what took them two weeks of fighting to gain.

This is a blow to the steps forward made by the Iraqi military.

Soldiers complained that they lacked Coalition air support and were forced to pull back to Ain al-Asad airbase.

Some of the deadliest fighting has taken place in the region and more than half a million people have been forced to flee their homes.

The Iraqi forces were hoping to gain control of a supply route run between IS in Syria, and IS on the outskirts of Iraq's capital Baghdad.

Now, with these men trapped on this major base, it becomes a desired target for IS to regain it's military prowess - a potential major victory for the Islamic State.

Brian Bush Middle East Correspondent LeSEA Broadcasting

Resolution Pressure

Hello Everyone!

Today US Secretary of State John Kerry is meeting with an Arab League delegation discussing their push at the UN Security Council for a timeline on an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines.

A Palestinian draft resolution being circulated by Jordan at the UN calls for the Israelis to leave the occupied territories - the territory of the proposed future Palestinian state - by November 2016.

Much of the world sees a sense of urgency for moving the peace process between the Israelis and the Palestinians forward.

Israel's Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu met with Kerry yesterday, asking him not to allow the resolution to to advance at the UN.

In response to Israeli pressure, France, the UK and Germany have drafted their own version for a UN resolution. It essentially says more of the same from the past, deflecting the issue rather than asserting concrete steps, calling for a return to negotiations with a view to achieving a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians to live side by side in peace.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov altered his schedule and flew into Rome to hold an unscheduled meeting with Kerry on the topic as well saying, "I am convinced that the Middle East settlement issues need to be solved urgently and we must not allow the situation to deteriorate".

Israeli relations with the Palestinians worsened after the conflict with Hamas in Gaza this past summer and amid growing unrest in Jerusalem, due in part to extremist Jewish circles seeking to gain access to Islam's third holiest site, the Haram El-Sharif to pray and worship.

Further settlement expansion, particularly around Jerusalem and in densely populated Arab Muslim neighborhoods, have further exasperated the tension.

Arab League ministers want the US to abstain from vetoing the proposed resolution at the Security Council, as the US usually exercises it's veto power on behalf of it's ally Israel.

There are other Western diplomats who feel the Arab draft, particularly with its deadline for withdrawal, is unbalanced.

But with the West dependent upon Arab countries in the fight against the Islamic State and other instabilities across the Muslim world, it seems the resolution is certainly getting a closer scrutiny this time around and is placing pressure upon America and Israel to alter their course of tactics concerning the Palestinians.

Brian Bush Middle East Correspondent LeSEA Broadcasting

Christmas Joy

Hi Everybody,

I hope you are doing well today – we are having more rain which is good for us here in Israel – but of concern to those cleaning up the huge oil spill down south near Eilat.

There are many bleak things happening across the Middle East – and even here in the Holy Land.

And here we are just under two weeks away from Christmas and, being around the Old City and also having visited Bethlehem – there isn't much up to account for Christmas joy.

Having lived here more than twenty years I can see the difference – it is simply less expression.

In thinking about this, it could be related to the diminishing Christian presence in the greater land of the Bible.

It could be that Muslim shopkeepers who sought to exploit the holiday cheer wish not to identify with such any more for the dominance of extremism.

Perhaps too, it could be the reality that there are less and less Christian children for whom the seasonal cheer brings much needed joy.

Our family is mindful of the celebration of Emmanuel – God with us!

And I chose to say "Merry Christmas" as I interact with individuals.

The dynamics are different between America, and peoples push to remove Christian joy under the veil of offense, and the Middle East, with the rise of the Jihadist and the identification of the infidel as Christian.

For me, the Angle of the Lord made an announcement – Peace on Earth – Good will toward men...

For me, the Sheppard's reported what they heard and saw...

For me, the Wise men rejoiced seeing the star after leaving their conversation with Herod, which guided them to the Babe born in Bethlehem.

Because for me, the Bible is true and trustworthy with what it said has happened and what that means for me and for you!

I'm excited to learn, share, and be joyful – these are great human gifts – but can't hold a candle to the gift of Jesus born within ones heart by the Holy Spirit.

It's nice to share gifts – don't be ashamed to share the gift of joy this season!

Merry Christmas from where it all happened!

Brian Bush Middle East Correspondent LeSEA Broadcasting

Last Day In Session

Hello Everyone!

So what did Israel's Knesset, one of the shortest in the state's history lasting 670 days, do on it's last day in session.

According to some – a few dirty tricks.

Things got a little physical as the defense establishment in Israel walked away almost 1.5 billion dollars richer at the end of the night.

Various Members of the Knesset protested the alleged 'hijacking' of funds, most of which could have been used by other ministries like education and public services.

Campaigns for the March 17 election began in earnest late Monday night when the Knesset voted 93-0 to dissolve itself and initiate the race for the next parliament.

The problem for most is that this was all done without the proper procedure and such public projects that had been vetted and approved for receiving budgetary assistance in the proper way are now left high and dry.

People cried foul, calling the move a "cynical exploitation of security issues" as the Chair of the committee said the money was going to help pay for the summer's conflict with Hamas in Gaza.

The Knesset also passed a controversial law meant to prevent what Israel calls "infiltration" of African migrants into Israel. The measure additionally addresses those who are here as refugees to leave.

Israel's High Court of Justice struck down two previous passing's of the Law.

International human rights activists have sharply criticized Israel's detention, jailing, and expulsion of asylum seekers to it's land.

Interior Minister Gilad Erdan defended the bill against those who describe it as xenophobic among other things saying, "The argument here is between two political groups: Those who see Israel, first and foremost as the one and only nation-state of the Jews, and the Left bloc, who, unfortunately, are willing to endanger this."

This outgoing Knesset, after Mr. Bibi Netanyahu's coalition made improving the ability to govern a top priority, didn't seem to make good on it's mantra.

Brian Bush Middle East Correspondent LeSEA Broadcasting

Ex-Wife of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

Hello All,

This week has carried a particularly intriguing story.

It comes out of Lebanon, with Lebanese authorities detaining a woman with her son, first thought to be the wife of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

The arrest came a few weeks ago when the woman tried to enter Lebanon from Syria – apparently with fake documents.

So called "foreign intelligence apparatus" was involved in her apprehension – as she would be a high value target. Many versions of just who she was were circulating from regional sources, including Iraq and Lebanon.

It turns out that the woman was married to Baghdadi for three months six years ago, and has a daughter by him.

She was traveling with her daughter, and two sons.

Lebanese security used DNA from both the woman and the daughter with her, along with DNA from Iraqi authorities of Al-Baghdadi to ascertain the match.

The two boys with her are from a previous marriage. It turns out, in fact, that she is now married to a Palestinian, and is actually pregnant with his child.

Her family is a known terror source with her father and brother being active in Al-Nusra Front.

She was in custody at the beginning of the year and released in an Al-Nusra prisoner exchange for Greek Orthodox Nuns whom the group kidnapped. 120 prisoners were swapped, and this woman was part of that exchange,

One Lebanese official has said she is a "powerful card" in negotiations with IS and Al-Nusra, who are currently holding more than 20 Lebanese soldiers and police hostage.

They are threatening to kill them unless militants are freed from Lebanese jails.

Islamic State has not commented on the affair.

Al-Nusra has condemned her being held.

Make no mistake, authorities are pleased to have the chance to glean information from her as they seek to learn more about the self proclaimed Caliph - Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Brian Bush Middle East Correspondent LeSEA Broadcasting

Pope Francis's Visit to Turkey

Hello Everyone,

Pope Francis made a trip to Turkey this past weekend.

The three-day visit aimed to promote religious dialogue in the country.

Pope Francis said that to counter fanaticism and fundamentalism, there must be interfaith dialogue.

The leader of the worlds 1.2 billion Catholics also renewed his call for peace in the Middle East, saying the region had "for too long been a theatre of fratricidal wars".

In keeping to his attention to the poor and destitute, he urged more help for refugees from the conflicts in Syria and Iraq.

Turkey has within it's borders an estimated 1.6m refugees, mostly in its south, after Islamic State rolled it's way through Syria and Iraq in a blitzing assumption of lands to form it's self declared Caliphate.

This is the fourth visit by a pope to the 99% Muslim Turkey. Pope Benedict was the last to do so, inadvertently causing a storm over quotes from comments about Islam back in 2006.

Pope Francis sought to get Muslim leaders to "deepen the understanding and appreciation of the many things which we hold in common".

As well as seeking to build bridges between Christianity and Islam, Francis spent significant and symbolic time with the Bartholomew I, Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarch of the world's 310 million faithful.

There were mutual prayers and declarations – but the occurrence with the most impact was perhaps Pope Francis bowing into the arms of Patriarch Bartholomew, and in so doing, asking for his blessing. This, in terms of the historical Churches, was an extraordinary display of Christian unity, and courage in leadership for the two men.

But it was Pope Francis's comments condemning Islamic State that captured the headlines. Several times he referred to Christianity in the Middle East and the fact that Muslim extremism and the Islamic State are driving Christians out from their historical homes.

In Sunday morning's Mass, the pope said Islamic State was committing a "profoundly grave sin against God" and called for inter-religious dialogue and action against poverty to help end the conflicts in the region.

Brian Bush Middle East Correspondent LeSEA Broadcasting

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