Explainer: The latest developments on Israel’s war with Hamas

March 15, 2024

Israel’s war with Hamas began on Oct. 7, 2023, when an attack on Israel by the Palestinian militant group marked a significant escalation in the long-standing conflict between the two groups. This attack was characterized by its scale and coordination, differing markedly from previous skirmishes or individual acts of aggression. As a result of these attacks, the Israeli military responded with air strikes and ground operations in Gaza.

Here is an update on what has recently happened in the war.

Ongoing military operations escalate in Israel’s war with Hamas

The ongoing military operations between Israel and Hamas have intensified with Israel conducting major bombing and ground campaigns in Gaza following deadly attacks by Hamas on Oct. 7. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have expanded ground operations in the Gaza Strip, calling for evacuations in the northern region as they push into Gaza with tanks and troops.

These incursions have included localized raids, large-scale tank raids, and major ground incursions, leading to a near-total internet and cellular blackout in Gaza. The IDF’s actions have been met with vows of resistance from Hamas. The situation remains fluid, with Israel ramping up strikes and expanding ground operations while facing challenges in the conflict zone.

Israel’s overarching objective is:

The strategy involves a combination of military actions, diplomatic efforts, and rebuilding initiatives to address the complex challenges posed by the conflict with Hamas in Gaza.

Cease-fire negotiations break down

For several weeks, the United States, Qatar, and Egypt have been engaged in negotiations to broker a deal between Hamas and Israel. This agreement proposes that Hamas would release approximately 40 hostages. In exchange, a six-week truce would be established, certain Palestinian prisoners would be freed, and there would be a significant increase in aid delivered to the geographically isolated region.

Despite these efforts, Hamas demands commitments for a more permanent cease-fire and a full Israeli withdrawal from Gaza for the release of all remaining hostages. But U.S. authorities have expressed doubts regarding Hamas’ genuine interest in reaching an agreement. Their skepticism stems from Hamas’ reluctance to comply with several requests that the U.S. and other nations consider reasonable. This includes the refusal to disclose the names of the hostages they propose to release.

The situation remains complex, with ongoing negotiations and tensions as both parties hold firm to their positions. The Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which started on March 10, has added pressure as it often sees heightened Israeli-Palestinian tensions over access to holy sites in Jerusalem. The talks are set to resume, but a truce before Ramadan failed to materialize.

Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu have been engaged in heated debates over the issue of invading Rafah. Biden has warned against Israel attacking Rafah, considering it a “red line” (i.e., a point beyond which no further advance will be accepted) due to the potential humanitarian consequences. Despite this, Netanyahu has expressed his intention to proceed with the invasion, emphasizing the need to prevent future terror attacks like the one on Oct. 7.

The White House has clarified that Biden did not set explicit red lines but reiterated concerns about civilian casualties and the need for protections for those in Rafah. The rift between Biden and Netanyahu has raised questions about U.S. weapons support to Israel, with potential implications for arms usage restrictions if Israel proceeds with the Rafah operation.

The debates reflect a broader disagreement between the two leaders, with Biden criticizing Netanyahu for his handling of the conflict and emphasizing the importance of minimizing civilian casualties. Despite these tensions, the U.S. administration remains committed to supporting Israel while also advocating for humanitarian aid delivery into Gaza to address the escalating crisis.

U.N. finds ‘convincing’ information that hostages taken by Hamas faced sexual abuse

Recent reports from the United Nations have revealed “clear and convincing” evidence of sexual abuse against hostages in Gaza, with indications of ongoing sexual violence. The UN team found reasonable grounds to believe that conflict-related sexual violence, including rape and gang rape, occurred during Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack in Israel.

The report highlighted instances of various forms of conflict-related sexual violence against hostages taken to Gaza and suggested that such violence may still be ongoing. Despite Hamas denying these allegations, the UN report detailed incidents of rape, sexualized torture, and cruel treatment against captives. The findings underscore the urgent need for a cease-fire to protect those still in captivity and address the humanitarian crisis in the region.

Gaza in risk of famine 

The Gaza Strip is facing a catastrophic-level food crisis with an increasing risk of famine, a widespread condition in which many people in a country or region are unable to access adequate food supplies.

Israeli airstrikes have destroyed vital food infrastructure like bakeries and flour mills, exacerbating the situation. Reports indicate that at least 576,000 people in Gaza, a quarter of the population, are one step away from famine, with aid trucks being looted and overwhelmed by hungry individuals. The dire conditions have led to severe food insecurity, with 1 in 6 children under the age of 2 in northern Gaza suffering from acute malnutrition and wasting

The World Food Programme (WFP) has warned that a famine is imminent in northern Gaza if critical food supplies cannot be brought in sufficient quantities due to ongoing hostilities and restrictions on aid deliveries. The UN and aid agencies are facing significant obstacles in providing essential supplies to Gaza, including crossing closures, restrictions on movement, and challenges in delivering aid due to unrest and damaged infrastructure.  

U.S. plans to build for a sea port to deliver aid into Gaza

A new plan for a sea port to deliver aid into Gaza involves the construction of a temporary port on Gaza’s Mediterranean coast by the U.S. military. Biden announced this initiative during his State of the Union speech, aiming to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid by sea to Gaza. This initiative comes amidst challenges in aid delivery into Gaza due to bureaucratic obstacles and insecurity at land crossings, prompting a shift toward alternative routes like sea and air drops.

The operation will be based on the island of Cyprus and will not involve the deployment of U.S. military personnel in Gaza. U.S. officials will collaborate with U.N. and humanitarian aid organizations to distribute the aid. While the temporary port will initially be military-run, there are plans for it to transition into a commercially run facility in the future. The operation is set to take several weeks to plan and execute, with required U.S. forces already in the region or soon moving there.

Southern Baptists continue relief efforts in Israel’s war with Hamas

Southern Baptists, particularly through organizations like Send Relief, have been actively engaged in providing aid and relief efforts in the Israel-Hamas conflict. SBC involvement includes:

Through decades-long partnerships with local Christians, churches, and ministries in Israel and the region, Southern Baptists have been able to collaborate effectively in delivering aid. Working closely with Baptist Village, they have provided refuge for hundreds of individuals in need of urgent assistance. 

Currently, Send Relief has released funds to support Baptist representatives in their relief efforts and trauma-care initiatives for those affected by the conflict. Southern Baptists are urged to continue supporting these relief efforts through prayer and donations to Send Relief. Their focus remains on addressing the immediate needs of those impacted by the conflict and providing essential aid, support, and comfort during this challenging time in the region.

Additionally, Southern Baptists have been encouraging prayers for:

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24