CITY’S BAN ON CHRISTIAN CHURCH ‘UNCONSTITUTIONAL’

Cross

The action was filed this week by the Alliance Defending Freedom over the action by the city of Monroe, North Carolina, to not allow a church to have worship services at its newly rented and renovated building.

That’s even though another church had been in that space previously.

What happened was that the city adopted a new, and “unconstitutional” zoning code that bars the group called “At the Cross Fellowship Baptist Church.”

If the church were a library, it would be allowed there. Or a museum. Or another nonprofit group.

“The government can’t discriminate against churches simply because they are religious,” said ADF Senior Counsel Erik Stanley, director of the ADF Center for Christian Ministries. “At the Cross Fellowship Baptist Church is being told they are unwelcome – in the same part of the community where city officials would allow a library, art gallery, or museum. Zoning laws like Monroe’s are unconstitutional and violate federal law.”

The background is that the church’s leaders visited the site, at 1617 W. Roosevelt Blvd., with a goal of finding a location they could use.

“The property owner informed them that another church had occupied space in the same building in the recent past. In January 2018, the church entered into an agreement to rent the 1,500-square-foot property and proceeded to renovate it,” ADF reported.

But when it asked for a certificate of occupancy, the city said the rules had been changed and no church would be allowed in that location.

The regulations allow for “education, training, or resources of a public, nonprofit, or charitable nature,” the ADF said.

But it identifies churches as not allowed.

The action by the ADF attorneys that now has been filed is At the Cross Fellowship Baptist Church v. City of Monroe in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina.

“The city has treated the church on less than equal terms with similarly situationed nonreligious assemblies and institutions, substantially burdened the church’s free exercise of religion, and infringed on the church’s rights to free speech, peaceable assembly, and equal protection,” the complaint states.

WND’s attempt to obtain a comment from the city because it was closed.

“The city’s unequal treatment and discrimination against the church, through ordinance O-2017-13 and its officers, agents, servants, employees, or persons ating at their behest or direction, has caused the church to suffer damages,” the complaint explains.

The lawsuit asserts the city is violation the church’s equal terms rights, nondiscrimination requirements, the Free Exercise Clause, free speech, and other constitutional provisions.

It asks that the city be told to treat the church fairly and equally.


U.S. Warns Iran After It Moves To Step Up Uranium-Enrichment Capacity

The Iranian nuclear center at Natanz is shown in March 2015.

The United States warned that Washington will not allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons after Iran announced plans to increase its uranium-enrichment capacity.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued the warning on Twitter late on June 6, saying, “We’re watching reports that #Iran plans to increase its enrichment capacity. We won’t allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon.”

Pompeo added that “Iran is aware of our resolve.”

Pompeo’s statement came after Iran said a facility to build advanced centrifuges will be completed in a month at its Natanz nuclear center as part of its plans to increase its uranium-enrichment capacity, under orders from Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, if a landmark 2015 nuclear deal with world power collapses.

“After the supreme leader’s order, we prepared this center within 48 hours. We hope the facility to be completed in a month,” Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, said on June 6 in an interview broadcast on state television.

Khamenei and other hard-liners in Iran have questioned whether Iran should continue honoring the nuclear deal after U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision last month to withdraw from it and reimpose U.S. sanctions on Iran.

In making the move to step up its nuclear enrichment capacity, Iran told the IAEA, the UN’s nuclear watchdog, that it was staying within the provisions of the accord.

The nuclear deal was designed to set strict limits on Iran’s uranium enrichment and other nuclear activities in return for the lifting of international sanctions.

The other signatories to the accord — Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany — have said they remain committed to the deal so long as Iran is honoring the agreement.

Four Iranian Christians Set to Begin Ten-year Prison Sentences

Four Iranian Christians Set to Begin Ten-year Prison Sentences

The four Iranian Christians who saw their ten-year prison sentences upheld by an appeal court earlier this month are expecting to have to report to prison any day now.

Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, and fellow Church of Iran members Yasser Mossayebzadeh, Saheb Fadaie and Mohammad Reza Omidi could receive a call within the next 24 hours to report at the prison gate in their home city of Rasht, Mansour Borji from the London-based advocacy organisation Article 18 told World Watch Monitor.

The four Christians were convicted of “promoting Zionist Christianity” and running house churches and appealed their sentences before the Revolutionary Court on 14 December last year but were unsuccessful.

Nadarkhani and Omidi, in addition to their jail terms, were also sentenced to two years’ internal exile, which they are to serve in the south of Iran, on the opposite side of the country from their homes near the Caspian Sea.

 

Four other Christians who also received lengthy sentences are still waiting the outcome of their own appeals, which were heard in the Revolutionary Court by the same judge, Judge Hassan Babaee, who, according to Article 18, “doesn’t have a good track record in dealing with Christians arrested for their Christian activities”.

Borji said this is partly because judges can’t be independent, as sentences are dictated by intelligence officials.

“Iranian Christians are concerned about the unjust verdicts issued against Pastor Victor Bet-Tamraz, and three other Christians who were sentenced alongside him, Amin Afshar Naderi, Kaviyan Fallah Mohammadi and Hadi Asgari“, Borji said

“We are following the appeal process closely and ask all Christians worldwide, and the key members of the international community to join us in calling for these convictions to be overturned. The Iranian government has to be reminded of its obligations under international law and its own constitution, to end its harassment of peaceful Christian community”, he added.

Pastor Bet-Tamraz was sentenced to ten years in jail in July last year for “acting against national security by organising and conducting house-churches”. The three converts were also given ten years, though Amin Afshar-Naderi was given an additional five years for “insulting the sacred” (blasphemy).

Shamiram Isavi Khabizeh, the wife of Victor Bet-Tamraz, was given a five-year sentence of her own in January, while their son, Ramil, is also facing charges.

Miles Windsor from Middle East Concern recently said prison terms are getting longer for Iranian Christians.

“Whilst Christians have consistently been put in prison for their faith in Iran in considerable numbers, the length of the sentence has seemed to have increased in the recent year or so,” he said.

‘ONGOING VIOLATIONS OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM’

Although Iran’s constitution acknowledges Christians (excluding converts from Islam) as one of the recognised religious minorities allowed to operate in the country “within the limits of the law’, in practice the government continues to harass and imprison Christians and other religious minorities, noted the US State Department’s 2017 International Religious freedom report, which was released last month.

It is illegal for Muslim citizens of the Islamic republic to change or renounce their religious beliefs.

The country has been on the State Department’s list of Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) since 1999, “for having engaged in, or tolerated, systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom.

In 2017, over a dozen Christians – most of them converts to Christianity – were given prison sentences of between 10 and 15 years for “acting against national security”.

Iran is 10th on the 2018 Open Doors World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to live as a Christian.

So Many Catastrophes, So Little Time: Nakba Day Is Over, Here Comes the Naksa

Tomorrow, Tuesday, June 5, 2018, will mark the 51st anniversary of the second most devastating catastrophic even in “Palestinian” Arab history, a date Jews and gentiles the world over mark as the beginning of the miraculous 1967 Six Day War. Naksa Day – in Arabic Yawm an-Naksa, meaning “day of the setback,” mourns Israel’s victory which, 19 years after the initial shock of seeing Jews defeating the local and the invading Arab armies, has destroyed the armies of Egypt, Jordan and Syria, killing hundreds of thousands and tripling Israel’s size in less than a week.

The Naksa riots tradition began in 2011, with border demonstrations started on May 15 to commemorate Nakba Day—the catastrophe of 1948-49 that resulted from the Arabs’ 1947 refusal to divide the land and share it with a Jewish state. Instead, they vowed to throw the Jews to the sea and ended up losing a great deal more land than they would have had they agreed to the 1947 deal.

Several groups of Arab rioters attempted to breach Israel’s borders from the Palestinian Authority, Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, and Jordan. At least a dozen people were killed when they tried to breach Israel’s border from Syria.

Filled with patriotic fervor, on June 5, 2011, more protesters gathered on Israel’s border with Syria and, according to the Syrians, 23 of them were killed and 350 wounded by live fire from Israeli forces. Israel suggested these figures were exaggerated, citing 12 known injuries. IDF spokesman Gen. Yoav Mordechai accused Syria of creating a provocation at the border to distract from its violent crackdown on the Syrian uprising which had just begun. Of course, 600,000 dead later, 23 victims are often just another day at the Syrian civil war.

Israeli tanks speeding through the Sinai desert, June 1967

Al Jazeera maintains that “the fifth day of June 1967 is a day the Arabs are still viewing as a remarkable day in their modern history, a day where the armies of three Arab countries could not stand up to the Zionist occupation army, met a terrible defeat, and let Israel occupy the Gaza Strip and the West Bank and the rest of the Jerusalem, as well as the Syrian Golan Heights and Sinai, to become the dominant force in the region, deepening the notion of their having an invincible army.”

“The defeat of the Arabs in the June 1967 war, which was followed by the death of Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1970, constituted the decisive blow that ended nationalism,” said Fawaz Gerges, a professor of international relations. “The Arabs have lived for years under the dreams of cultural glory and strength, but their defeat them within a few hours at the hands of the emerging Jewish state led to the collapse of the foundation myth of Arab nationalism, embarrassing their guardian – Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser, which led to dispelling the promise of a bright future.”

“Today, fifty-one years after the setback, the Arabs are still unable to recover all that they lost in the 1967 war or to make radical changes in the political and military situation imposed by this war on the region,” Al Jazeera argues, adding, “But it is also clear that Israel was forced to leave the Gaza Strip in 2005, And is still suffering from the headache of the accumulation of the strength of the Palestinian resistance, which, although exhausted by the repeated Israeli attacks, Israel could not eliminate. Instead, the Palestinian resistance exhausted the occupation in various forms, so that we can say that Israel is no longer able to write the last chapter of the conflict on this earth.”

That is the Arab mindset then, 51 years after the Six Day War and 70 years after Israel’s independence. On Tuesday, when they no doubt will rush the Gaza fence again, in their minds they will be chipping away at the Jewish State’s ability to remain the decisive force in this arena.

We pray for the certainty and bravery of our soldiers and bless them that they will fire at the terrorists and take them down in what, in the end, will be yet another round on our way to prove to our Arab neighbors that they simply don’t stand a chance to defeat us.

God bless our soldiers.

India: 2017 saw 20% increase in atrocities against Christians,

Tehmina Arora addresses conference (World Watch Monitor)

Amid growing extreme Hindu nationalism in India, dozens of speakers have called for concerted action to uphold the country’s constitution and fundamental rights, at a conference to mark four years of government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“There is a grave threat to plurality,” Professor Ganesh Narayan Devy, a scholar on India’s religious and linguistic diversity, told the 25-27 May ‘Citizens’ Conclave’ on ‘Building an Inclusive India’ in New Delhi, attended by over 800 delegates from across the country.

“They [Hindu nationalists] demonise and attack us: 2017 saw a 20 per cent increase in the number of atrocities against Christians,” Tehmina Arora, a lawyer and director of rights group ADF India, told the conference.“We are living at a time when you are questioned about the food you eat, about the god you worship and branded as anti-national for expressing a different view [contrary to Hindu nationalism],” said Devy.

On the status of Christian minorities, she added: “When you go to police, they hardly cooperate and often refuse to register complaints. There is a growing culture of impunity. We could file only 25 criminal cases, as against the 240+ incidents reported in the year.”

Instead, she said that anyone who is accused of converting Hindus “will be beaten up”. “You [can be] taken to a police station when you pray!” she added.

A pastor having a birthday party was recently arrested and accused of converting Hindus in southern Karnataka state, even though it is not a state which has an ‘anti-conversion law’ in place.

“Even I could be accused of ‘conversion’ for addressing this house [with many non-Christians],” Arora said, pointing to the “worsening intolerant atmosphere” during the government under the BJP, known for pursuing a Hindu-nationalist agenda.

She cited the instance of more than 50 villages in central Chhattisgarh state passing resolutions banning the Christian faith soon after the BJP government assumed office on 26 May, 2014.

Archbishop lambasted for call to prayer 

“Look at the fuss over the [Delhi] archbishop’s call for prayer for the nation. Churches are for prayer and, if the Christians cannot pray, what can they do?” Arora asked.

Indian media has been gripped by a vicious debate on the “patriotism” of Christians after Catholic archbishop Anil Couto of Delhi sent out a pastoral letter to his community to launch “prayer for the nation”. Not even half a per cent of New Delhi’s 20 million population are Catholics.

“We are witnessing a turbulent political atmosphere, which poses a threat to the democratic principles enshrined in our constitution and the secular fabric of our nation. It is our hallowed practice to pray for our country and its political leaders all the time, but all the more so when we approach the General Elections [in 2019],” wrote Archbishop Couto.

“Let us begin a prayer campaign for our country from 13 May, 2018,” said the letter, encouraging Christians to fast and pray every Friday by “foregoing at least one meal … and offering penance and sacrifices for our spiritual renewal and that of our nation”.

Some major media networks responded by accusing the archbishop, and Christians in general, of being “against Modi”.

Asserting that “minorities are safe in India”, Rajnath Singh, home minister of the country, cautioned on 21 May that “no-one should speak to mobilise the people of the country on the basis of religion”.

But journalist Teesta Setalvad said the media “have an agenda”. “The archbishop’s letter is discussed for hours in the media. What crime has he committed?” she asked.

“There is deprivation in the media. The archbishop is portrayed as anti-national,” added Rajdeep Sardesai, one of the pioneers of TV journalism in India.

“Space for dissent is shrinking”, Sardesai said, adding that many of those “waging such campaigns” were “taught in Christian schools by priests and nuns”.

“The silent majority has been silent for too long. We must speak out and often. Silent majority is not an option any more… You have to challenge them and debate them. We need new alliances,” he said.

‘Politics of hatred’

Modi was the Gujarat Chief Minister during the 2002 anti-Muslim riots, when more than 1,000 people were killed. Harsh Mandar, who quit the elite Indian Administrative Service to protest at the BJP government’s alleged connivance in the 2002 attacks, pointed out that violence against religious minorities has since been “getting worse”.

“Your identity is a source of great fear – for the minorities,” said Mandar.

Anti-minority violence is “based on hatred”, said Ram Puniyani, columnist and social activist. After he visited Kandhamal, in Odisha state, scene of the worst case of anti-Christian violence in India’s history, he returned to the state capital, Bhubaneswar, where he said some Hindus told him “it is good that Christians have been taught a lesson”. “This is the politics of hatred,” he told the conference.

Shabnam Hashmi, co-ordinator of the Conclave of over 50 speakers from across the country, pleaded with delegates to take its message to the far corners of the nation: “The challenge before us is clear. We have to speak up and take the message to the masses.”

The conference discussion about Indian media coincided with a report by the BBC’s South Asia correspondent, Justin Rowlatt, noting that a sting operation by a news organisation called Cobrapost “claims to have revealed a deeply engrained bias towards the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) within many of India’s leading media groups, as well as a willingness among some of the country’s most senior media executives and journalists to take money in return for pushing a political agenda”.

Cobrapost alleged that some of the country’s leading news organisations were willing to “not only cause communal disharmony among citizens, but also tilt the electoral outcome in favour of a particular party – and all in return for cash”, Rowlatt wrote. However, he warned that “undercover stings of this kind are notoriously unreliable. The footage can easily be taken out of context or edited to change the meaning of a conversation or misrepresent its real nature”.

Feminist group: ‘Transsexual activists are silencing us’

Women are speaking out after Twitter blocked them for “speaking the truth” about transsexualism.

The social networking giant has censored tweets which state what the women say are “basic, incontrovertible biological facts”, claiming the content goes against its “hateful conduct” policy.

Fair Play for Women has now written an open letter to Martha Lane Fox, a peer who also sits on the board of Twitter, asking her to help stop their views being silenced.

Violent threats

The letter speaks out against a “concerted attack on women’s free speech”.

“The words we use to describe ourselves, our bodies, our biology and our experiences as women are becoming unsayable”, the group wrote.

“Online, women are threatened with violence for saying things that should not be controversial, but have become so.

“For saying that males cannot become females. For saying that women do not have penises. For saying that women’s spaces such as refuges should be safe havens for women only.”

‘Dangerous dogma’

Fair Play For Women describes itself as “a group of ordinary women who are concerned that in the rush to reform transgender laws that women’s voices will not be listened to”.

The campaigners aim to speak out “against the dangerous dogma of trans ideology”.

They say: “Women must not be shamed or silenced for speaking the reality.”

Bullies

The letter asks Baroness Lane-Fox to use her influence at Twitter to “stand up for women when we are being deprived of a platform from which to speak the truth”.

“Stop allowing bullying men to police our language, threaten us and abuse us. Stop silencing women for speaking the truth.”

Lady Lane-Fox is yet to respond.

Transsexual opposition

Two weeks ago, the Government announced it will launch a consultation on removing safeguards in the Gender Recognition Act in the coming weeks.

The proposed changes are likely to include making it easier to change legal sex by allowing people to ‘self-identify’ their gender.

While the Government continues to push liberalisation, some transsexual people are against changing the law.

In a letter to the Guardian, 17 transsexuals said they were “deeply concerned” about the proposals.

Pentecostal Leader T. F. Tenney is called Home

T. F. Tenney

Pentecostal leader T.F. Tenney died on Friday, June 1. Tenney was a well-known United Pentecostal Church leader and the district bishop of Louisiana.

“I don’t have words to say what TFTenney has meant to me and cherise and our family. Today he went Home to be with Jesus. Jesus was the magnificent obsession of his life. To his dear wife Thetus, and his son Tommy and daughter Teri and many grandchildren our hearts and prayers are with you. He was a spiritual Giant to me and I will forever be grateful God put us together. Greatness is the only word I can think of to describe this man,” Franklin says in his post.

In 1952, Tenney was elected Louisiana District youth secretary. From 1952 until his death, almost without exception, Tenney held some position within the United Pentecostal Church International. The UPC Louisana district confirmed the news on its Facebook page.

“With heavy hearts, we share the news that our beloved Bishop TF Tenney has passed from this life to be forever with Jesus. Bishop Tenney has been a valiant and faithful soldier of the Lord, leading and serving this district, the UPCI and churches around the world. He will be greatly missed by all of us, but we rejoice with this mighty man of God as he has met his Savior. Please keep his wife, Sis. Thetus & their family in your prayers,” they said in their statement.

According to Focused Light, Tenney was born and raised in DeRidder, Louisiana. At the age of 15, in 1949, he began his ministry and at age 19 assumed his first pastorate in Monroe, Louisiana. He attended Apostolic Bible Institute. In 1992, he received an honorary doctorate from ABI.

From 1960-1976, he held several administrative positions. From 1976-78, he returned to DeRidder, Louisiana to serve as pastor of his home congregation. In 1978, he was elected District Superintendent (Bishop) for the state of Louisiana, charged with the oversight of approximately 300 churches and 800 ministers and pastors. He held this position for 27 years – until his recent retirement and re-launch into full-time mobile ministry.

He has been a radio speaker, both on a nationally broadcast radio program and a local daily program. He is a respected writer and regular contributor to various religious periodicals. He is the author of eleven books, to date: Pentecost–What’s That?, The Flame Still Burns, The Main Thing, Advice to Pastors and Other Saints, Beyond the Sunrise, Some Things I Wish I’d Known, Secret Sources of Power, More Power to You, and “The Lord Said…” Or Was That Me?, Things I Wish I Could Forget, and his most recent release, Water From An Old Well.

Tenney’s life was forever changed when, at 16, he sneaked into a Pentecostal church to hear a nun give her testimony:

He had never heard such preaching—and from a woman! It simply was not done that way in the Baptist church. Yet, feeling something he could not escape, he found himself back there the next night. He did not understand their doctrine. He did not understand their worship. He did not understand their lifestyle. But he could deny what he felt. The connection had been made. The Holy Spirit was drawing and before school started in the fall, Tom Fred Tenney was a new man in Christ.

Almost immediately he felt called into ministry and service. Opportunities were given for him to speak at youth rallies and fellowship meetings. Remembering those early days of his experience, he says, “I felt that you had to do whatever the Word said and whatever leadership told you to do.”

Apostolic Archives reports Tenney’s mentor and spiritual father was a great Christian, George L. Glass Sr., a man of prayer and of the Word. Consequently, Tenney made a commitment to prayer and to the Word. He promised the Lord he would pray for at least an hour and read three chapters of the Bible every day.

“Some nights I was up until two or three o’clock in the morning, keeping my vow-especially when I got to the 119th Psalm! It wasn’t just a cursory reading, but it was looking into the Scriptures, searching everything I could find on the subject. Things that God gave me then—when I was 16, 17, 18 years of age—are still with me today,” Tenney said.

According to a Facebook video, Tenney gave a prophetic word during a service on May 27.

“I hear it from the everlasting hills. The lightning of God is flashing from sky to sky,” Tenney said. ” I see its illumination. Then the voice that I hear is like none other, and it’s the voice of God. The things that God has told you shall come to pass. I know you’ve heard it before, but you’re going to hear it again: the greatest revival in the history of the church, a revival that’s going to affect this city, it’s going to affect this parish, it’s going to affect this state, it’s going to affect this nation, and you’re going to be a part of it, because it’s coming to pass to the glory of God. He’s made it wonderful. … There’s no other name in the heavens. … His name is [crowd shouts Jesus].”

 

Univ. of Oregon to sever ties with Israel?

anti-Israel flag BDS anti-Semitic

To the disappointment of Jewish students and Israel supporters, the student government at a northwest university last week passed a BDS proposal requesting the school divest itself of organizations with ties to Israel.

The University of Oregon joins Barnard College and George Washington University in passing its own boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) resolution. (See a related story.)

“In the last meeting of the school year, the resolution was introduced. And this is the one last thing the … student president wanted to pass before they left office,” Noa Raman of the Israel education group StandWithUs tells OneNewsNow.

Raman says more than 900 students signed petitions against Student Government President Amy Shenk’s proposal. Nonetheless, it passed by a vote of 12-6, with one abstention. But the school has already indicated that it will not act on the resolution.

“The Oregon Hillel executive director [Andy Gitelson] has been in communication with the administration, and they already stated that it’s looking like they won’t put it into action,” Raman reports.

She strongly believes a proposal will be introduced next fall to try and reverse this decision.

Recent School Shootings Have Led to Increase In Homeschooling

Recent School Shootings Have Led to Increase In Homeschooling

The Texas Home School Coalition has seen an increase in interest in home schooling following the recent school shootings.

Texas Home School Coalition says it has been busy for months with inquiries after this year’s shootings in Parkland, Florida and Santa Fe, Texas.

“When the Parkland shooting happened, our phone calls and emails exploded,” said coalition president Tim Lambert. “In the last couple of months, our numbers have doubled. We’re dealing with probably between 1,200 and 1,400 calls and emails per month, and prior to that it was 600 to 700.”

Parents say they are also concerned about the environment of schools.

“One of the things we’ve seen definitely an uptick in the last five years is the aspect of violence. It’s the bullying. That is off the charts,” said Christopher Chin, president of Homeschool Louisiana.

“I think what happens with these school shootings is they’re the straws that broke the camel’s back,” Chin said. “I don’t think it’s the major decision-maker, but it’s in the back of parents’ minds.”

Brian D. Ray, president of the National Home Education Research Institute in Salem, Oregon, says there are three main reasons why parents choose homeschooling: to provide religious instruction or different values, dissatisfaction with the school’s curriculum, and worries about the school environment.

“Most parents homeschool for more than one reason,” he said. “But when we ask families why do they homeschool, near the top nowadays is concern about the environment of schools, and that includes safety, pressure to get into drugs, pressure to get into sexual activity. It includes all of that.”

However, not everyone agrees that homeschooling is the answer.

“Even though it seems we may be protecting them, we may be sheltering them instead of teaching them to work and find a solution for the issues and not necessarily running away from them, because these things are going to happen,” said Takisha Coats Durm, lead virtual school teacher for the Madison County School System in Huntsville, Alabama.

The U.S. Department of Education estimates there were 1.69 million homeschool students in the spring 2016, but states don’t track those numbers.

Ray says that number is spring 2016 was 2.3 million.

“My bottom-line summary is that it’s been growing at an estimated 2 to 8 percent per year, and that’s compounded,” he said.

MIDDLE EAST 2 hours ago Gaza preschoolers seen performing mock execution of Israeli soldier

A shocking video recently surfaced that allegedly shows a play at a preschool in the Gaza Strip where children dressed up as commandos and performed a mock hostage-taking situation and execution of an Israeli soldier.

First reported by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), the video purportedly was recorded during a ceremony in May at the Al-Hoda preschool in the self-governing Palestinian territory.

In the play, a group of commandos – including a camouflaged sniper and soldiers in body armor – busted into an Israeli building on “Al-Quds Street.” They pulled out two “hostages” – one dressed in traditional ultra-Orthodox Jewish attire and the other as an Israeli Defense Force soldier – before mock-killing the IDF soldier.

The entire five-minute performance featured loud explosions and sound effects of gunfire. As a finale, the hostage was whisked off stage, while one of the commandos displayed a sign in Arabic and Hebrew that read, “Israel has fallen.”

The play was followed by a demonstration of military formations by the children, while a speech by the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat played in the background.

Fox News was unable to confirm the veracity of the content, but a spokesperson for MEMRI said they found the footage while monitoring the Internet for Palestinian videos.

“Unfortunately we have seen many videos like this from the region over the years,” Steven Stalinsky, MEMRI’s executive director, told Fox News in an email.

MEMRI asserts that the Al-Hoda school is affiliated with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group and has held similar performances in the past.

According to the Council on Foreign Relations, “The Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) is an Islamic, Palestinian nationalist organization that violently opposes the existence of Israel.” The group was designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department in 1997 and is believed to almost entirely funded Iran.

Attempts to contact Al-Hoda by Fox News were unsuccessful.

The video comes at a time of heightened tension between Israelis and Palestinians.

Clashes at the Israel-Gaza border left dozens of Palestinians dead and hundreds wounded on the same day that the Trump administration officially opened the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem last month.

Earlier on Sunday, the Israeli military struck Hamas militant sites in Gaza early Sunday in response to the resumption of rocket fire toward Israel, which threatened to unravel an informal cease-fire that had held since a flare-up of violence last week.

Israel has also been battling fires triggered by kites rigged with incendiary devices, or attached to burning rags, launched by Palestinians in Gaza that have damaged forests and burned southern agricultural fields.

Palestinian protesters run for cover from teargas fired by Israeli troops during a protest at the Gaza Strip's border with Israel, Friday, April 6, 2018. (AP Photo/ Khalil Hamra)

 (Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

The military said it hit 15 Hamas targets, including military compounds, munition factories and naval forces. The strikes came after militants broke days of calm along the volatile frontier by firing projectiles toward Israeli communities.

Last week, Gaza militants fired dozens of mortar shells and Israel struck back, in the most violent exchange between the two sides since the 2014 war.

Despite the flare-up in violence, neither Israel nor Hamas appear interested in a full-blown conflict, and both exercised restraint. Militants in Gaza did not fire long-range rockets at Israel’s major cities, as they did in 2014, and Israeli airstrikes were focused on unmanned military targets.

Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since the Islamic militant group seized control of Gaza in 2007.