Iran Has Israel Surrounded

People stand by a torched vehicle, reportedly set ablaze by Israeli settlers, in the village of Turmus Ayya near the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah on June 21, 2023.

Iran Has Israel Surrounded

Why Israel’s terror problem isn’t going away—and where it is leading.

Fighting between the Israel Defense Forces (idf) and Palestinian terrorists in the West Bank escalated this month. Repeated raids have seen terrorists arrested and shots fired against Israeli civilians.

Yet Jerusalem feels safe. I’m writing from a comfortable office in downtown Jerusalem. I regularly visit the Temple Mount and al-Aqsa Mosque area, and haven’t seen anything alarming.

The fighting and terror in the West Bank this past week felt like a world away. For those who live outside the region, it feels even more remote.

It shouldn’t. Unrest among Palestinians is not a local social problem. Neither is it the result of charismatic hate preachers or recruiting militias. It’s a proxy war. The nerve center of Palestinian terror is actually a foreign source. It’s the Islamic Republic of Iran.

It’s no secret that Iran wants to, as its former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad once said, “wipe [Israel] off the map.” That is why Israelis have so much consternation at Iran’s rogue nuclear program. But Iran has attacked Israel for years by sponsoring terrorist proxy groups.

One of Israel’s most notorious regional foes is Gaza. The tiny enclave sandwiched between Israel and Egypt is governed as a de facto state by the terrorist group Hamas. The idf estimated in 2021 that Hamas has about 30,000 men under its command. It also estimated Hamas’s arsenal includes about 7,000 rockets and hundreds of guided missiles. Hamas also operates in Israel proper, the West Bank and Lebanon. In 2021, Hamas infamously started a brief war when over 4,000 rockets aimed at Israeli civilians took to the skies.

Hamas is well organized and capable of running its own government. It may have the appearance of a lone actor, but Hamas is more dependent on Iran than meets the eye. Iran supplies Hamas with money, weapons and other goods via smuggling routes through the Red Sea and North Africa.

It’s hard to put an exact figure on how much money Iran supplies Hamas with. For obvious reasons, these kinds of statistics aren’t easy to come by. But an “unnamed Arab source” told Israeli media in 2019 that Iran—at least at the time—agreed to supply Hamas with $30 million a month. In a 2022 interview with Al Jazeera, prominent Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh touted $70 million worth of support from Iran for missile and defense systems development.

Hamas isn’t the only Palestinian terrorist group bankrolled by Iran. So is Palestinian Islamic Jihad (pij), Gaza’s second-most influential terrorist group. Its military arm has, according to 2020 estimates, about 15,000 people. Estimates suggest pij has about the same size arsenal as Hamas, between 6,000 and 8,000 rockets, according to the Foundation of the Defense of Democracies. Here is a quote from the idf’s website to give a sense on how serious pij takes its “holy war”:

The Islamic Jihad invests heavily in the next generation of terrorists. Over the years the Islamic Jihad has run “summer camps’’ for children, which draw as many as 10,000 participants per session in both Gaza and [the West Bank]. The camps’ activities include wielding AK-47s, planting landmines, and mock operations to kidnap Israeli soldiers. Suicide bombers who massacred Israeli civilians are also glorified as heroes in the camps.

pij is more under Iran’s control than is Hamas. Ramadan Shalah, one of pij’s leaders, stated once that “the Islamic Jihad is but one fruit of the fruitful tree of [Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei.” And this level of dependency is found in pij’s funding. In 2003, security forces confiscated $3 million sent from Iran to pij. The United States claimed two decades ago that Iran gives pij a million dollars for every terrorist attack against Israel. Iran also trains pij (as well as Hamas) in missile construction.

The terrorist group that may get under Israel’s skin most is Hezbollah. Unlike the others, this organization isn’t based in Gaza or the West Bank, but primarily in Lebanon. The idf calls Hezbollah “our most complicated adversary.” Hezbollah is unique in that it is also a political party in a democratic state (or at least as democratic as a state can be in the Middle East). Hezbollah is currently a part of Lebanon’s government. It has the backing of at least a part of the Lebanese state apparatus.

Hezbollah has an incredibly formidable military. Analysts estimate it has 130,000 rockets and missiles in its arsenal. This includes ballistic, antiair, antitank and antiship missiles. Hezbollah boasts of having roughly 100,000 fighters. The Center for Strategic and International Studies calls Hezbollah “the world’s most heavily armed non-state actor.” Hezbollah also has significant activities abroad, attacking Israeli and Jewish targets well away from the Middle East. An infamous example was the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Iran is by far the main reason Hezbollah is so dangerous. A 2021 U.S. State Department report said that Iran provides Hezbollah “with the bulk of the group’s annual operating budget, an allocation estimated in recent years to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.” Iran also provides Hezbollah with weapons and training.

These are Israel’s main Iran-backed foes in the Middle East. But they’re not the only ones. Iran still props up Syria’s government amid the Syrian civil war. It sponsors several militias in Iraq that could attack Israel through means like drone strikes. And Iran’s own Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (irgc) operates throughout the Middle East.

Iran’s tentacles are also bringing the war closer to Israel’s home base. Israel is facing a surge of attacks from terrorist groups within the West Bank. These include Hamas, which previously did not have as big of a stronghold in the West Bank. In an April 18 speech, irgc leader Hossein Salami gave a speech about Iranian involvement in the West Bank: “Israel is today being attacked by missiles from Syria, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, and the flames of wrath are spreading from the West Bank. … [I]nvisible hands have armed the West Bank, and you [now] see modern automatic rifles and automatic weapons in the hands of the Palestinians.”

Khamenei has called for Iran to arm the West Bank since 2014, so Salami’s comments may not be new revelation. But claiming Iran has “invisible hands” pulling the strings in West Bank terrorism can’t be comforting for Israelis. Considering Israel controls entry into and out of the West Bank, this is an impressive feat. Also, considering the West Bank is in close proximity to Israel’s major population centers, an Iranian takeover of the West Bank would be extremely dangerous.

On April 20, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant warned that Israel could face a large-scale attack by Iran in the near future. “We operated for years under the assumption that limited conflicts could be managed,” he said, “but that is a phenomenon that is disappearing. Today, there is a noticeable phenomenon of the convergence of the arenas.” Before, Israel’s enemies would attack independently of one another. But because Iran now controls most of Israel’s serious foes, this is changing. Israel’s enemies now have the same boss who is telling them to work together.

If this Iranian sponsorship were to be cut off, Israel’s terror problem would disappear. Places like Gaza and Lebanon are corrupt, impoverished and in no state to support strong terrorist organizations on their own. And there aren’t many outside actors willing to give as generous support to terrorist groups as Iran is. Not only is Iran serving as a lifeline for terrorist groups, it is also turning them into an existential crisis for Israel.

Iran is pushing like this for various reasons. The Iranians consider Jerusalem, the holy city for the three major Abrahamic religions, to be rightfully theirs and want to get control over it. The particular branch of Islam Khamenei espouses, Twelver Shiism, also believes more global chaos will bring the return of their version of the messiah closer.

One news source ties in the “time of the end” with chaos in Jerusalem. It’s a source most do not consult but has an unparalleled track record of predicting events. That source is the Holy Bible. And it has everything to do with what is happening in Israel right now.

A prophecy in Daniel 11:40 reads: “And at the time of the end shall the king of the south push at him: and the king of the north shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, and with horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter into the countries, and shall overflow and pass over.” This prophecy is concerned with two regional power groupings: “the king of the north” and “the king of the south.” The context in the rest of the prophecy shows the king of the north in verse 40 to be a modern, united Europe (see here for more information). The king of the south is a pushy, provocative power to the south of Europe. Verses 42-43 show it has a proxy empire throughout the Middle East and Africa. Since the early 1990s, Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry has pointed to Iran as the fulfillment of this prophecy.

The prophecy flows into Daniel 12:1, which discusses “a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time.” The clash between the two kings of Daniel 11:40 is the opening event of this time of chaos. But what is Iran’s “push”?

Mr. Flurry writes in his booklet The King of the South: “This push no doubt revolves around Jerusalem and biblical Judah (called Israel today)—just as the clashes in the time of the Crusades did. … The most precious jewel of Iran’s plan is to conquer Jerusalem.”

We’re seeing Iran push to get closer and closer to Jerusalem. Iran may not have its own battalions stationed next to Jerusalem, but it doesn’t need to. It already has most of Palestinian terrorism firmly under its thumb. Every terrorist attack, every idf raid, every missile launched from Gaza or Lebanon showcases this. In this sense, Iran has Israel surrounded.

Iran is getting bolder and pushier. It won’t be long before it launches the push to go after Jerusalem.

But there is good news in all of this. The same Bible that prophesies of Iranian attacks and global chaos prophesies of the solution to these problems. God in His Word promises to put a stop to war and terrorism once and for all—and He will do so in the near future.

To learn more, request a free copy of The King of the South.