According to the most recent intelligence reports, former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s gesture for peace – disengagement from Gaza – may have set the stage for the next phase of war.

A senior IDF officer said this week that the weapons Hamas is smuggling into Gaza have become significantly more sophisticated now that they have a free hand to do so without Israeli interference. Since the Gaza takeover by Hamas, it has reportedly smuggled in 20 tons of explosives via the Philidelphia Corridor from the Sinai into the Strip. According to the officer, Israel currently has a limited time frame to address the findings.

“There is today an opportunity since the world has not yet become accustomed to the new Hamas entity, and Hamas has not yet fully completed strengthening it’s military capabilities,” according to the Jerusalem Post, quoting the unnamed official.

“The Gaza Strip is a boiling pot, the fire underneath is fueled by economy and ideology, and the lid over it is Israel. Hamas is currently not acting against Israel because it is not in the group’s interest, but one must not mistake this with the organization’s ultimate goals.”

Hamas has gone from being a terrorist group to becoming a full-fledged army, with four brigades made up of battalions and platoons. They are in possession of anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons, Katyusha rocket battalions, and Hamas boasts an infantry numbering more than 13,000 recruits.

It is Israel’s nightmare scenario: a fully-equipped enemy military force in Hamas, another fully-equipped Hezbollah military force in Lebanon, and an increasingly belligerent regime in Syria poised for war.

Meanwhile, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has repeatedly promised to wipe Israel from the map, has traveled to Damascus for meetings with Syria’s Bashar Assad, who was sworn in this week for another seven-year term as Syrian president.

In addition to meeting with Assad, Ahmadinejad is also planning to meet with Hamas and Hezbollah officials.

Israel has every reason to be concerned. Asked about the possibility of another war breaking out in the region, the Iranian president replied, “We hope the summer will bring victories to the region’s nations and failures to their enemies.”

The Iranian president called on the region’s states to be alert in the face of Israel’s attempts to rehabilitate itself after what he defined as its “failure” in the Second Lebanon War.

Ahmadinejad warned that Israel may take action to compensate itself for those failures.

“The Zionist regime has lost its ideology of existence and will therefore try to compensate for its failures,” Ahmadinejad told the Syrian press. “This issue should lead to a state of high alert among the region’s nations, particularly among the Palestinians and Lebanese.”

Nowhere in the Middle East is there a nation on a higher state of alert than Israel.

However, according to the Bible, it is Damascus that should be worried. I realize I have written about this prophecy recently, but the situation in that area seems to be moving into the perimeters of its predictions so rapidly, that it bears repeating.

The Prophet Isaiah was given a burden concerning the city of Damascus, which he recorded in Isaiah 17:1:

“The burden concerning Damascus. Behold, Damascus is taken away from being a city, and it shall be a ruinous heap.”

Damascus is the oldest continuously inhabited city on earth. Many historians date the city back to the dawn of human civilization.

Damascus has been conquered many times; by the Assyrians, the Persians, the Seleucids, the Romans, Byzantines, Omayyeds, Seljuks, Mamelukes and the Ottoman Empire.

But through all its long history, Damascus has never been destroyed. It has never been ‘taken away from being a city’ and it has never been left a ‘ruinous heap.’

The prophet Isaiah says the destruction of Damascus is tied to some catastrophe that befalls Israel:

“And in that day it shall come to pass, that the glory of Jacob shall fade, and the fatness of his flesh shall grow lean.”

But, says Isaiah, “gleaning grapes shall be left in it, as the shaking of an olive tree, two or three berries in the top of the uppermost bough, four or five in its outmost fruitful branches, says the LORD God of Israel.”

Israel will suffer much, Isaiah prophesies, but it will survive. “In that day shall his strong cities be as a forsaken bough, and an uppermost branch, which they left because of the children of Israel: and there shall be desolation.”

Israel’s catastrophe comes, according to the prophet, as part of a catastrophe that involves many nations. A major war between Israel and Syria and its allies fits Isaiah 17:13 like a glove:

“The nations shall rush like the rushing of many waters: but God shall rebuke them, and they shall flee far off, and shall be chased as the chaff of the mountains before the wind, and like a rolling thing before the whirlwind.”

Moreover, the destruction of Damascus will be virtually instantaneous. Says Isaiah 17:14:

“And behold at evening time trouble; and before the morning he is no more.”

The time of this ancient prophecy’s fulfillment truly appears to me to be soon.

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