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IDF Chief Says War Entering New Phase as US 'Cowboy Volunteers' Help Fill Israeli Farming Gap

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JERUSALEM, Israel – The Israeli military says it has expanded its operation in southern Gaza, and U.S. officials say the bulk of the fighting may be over by January.

Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi says a new phase of the military campaign has begun.

"In the last few days, we have moved to the third phase of the ground operations," Halevi explained. " We have secured many Hamas strongholds in the northern Gaza Strip, and now we are operating against its strongholds in the south."

Israeli forces are fighting now in Khan Younis, the capital of Hamas in the southern Gaza Strip. The Biden administration reportedly expects the current phase to be over by January, but officials warn Israel the window of time they have to continue the operation is closing.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu again emphasized that Gaza must be demilitarized after the war, and only the IDF can be trusted to do it.

"In order for Gaza to be demilitarized, there is only one force that can enforce that demilitarization. That force is the Israeli military. No international force can be responsible for this," Netanyahu insisted. "We’ve seen what happens in other places when international forces were brought for the goal of demilitarization. I’m not ready to close my eyes and accept any other arrangement."

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Netanyahu also railed against United Nations organizations for not speaking up about the sexual violence committed by Hamas on October 7th.

"I say to the women's rights organizations, to the human rights organizations, you've heard of the rape of the Israeli women, horrible atrocities, sexual mutilation – where the hell are you?" the prime minister asked. "I expect all civilized leaders, governments, nations, to speak up against this atrocity."

On Monday, the Israeli embassy sponsored an event highlighting the sexual abuse Israeli women suffered as the massacre took place.

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Meanwhile, as the fighting between Israel and Hamas terrorists begins its third month, it's straining much of the country's economy. Given the number of military reservists supporting the fight, local farms are short on manpower.

That's where a group of American volunteer cowboys has stepped in, traveling to Israel on their own dime to help fill the gap.

One of them, Ezekiel Strain, told CBN News, "So many people being called up to join the army that they can't they can't harvest their vegetables and stuff. Yeah. So, I mean, a lot of the dads and men have been called up (as) reserves and they go to fight in Gaza. There's just not enough people around right now to take care of all the crops; so we're here to help fill that gap however we can."

Another cowboy volunteer, Luke Gutzler, told us, "Once I got the call, I dropped everything and headed right over. Israel is in trouble and needs help, so it was an easy decision to buy a plane ticket and get here as fast as I could." He added, "I think it's important for people from other nations to stand in solidarity with Israel, especially during difficult times like this."

Joshua Waller from HaYovel Ministries has worked in Samaria for decades. He said, "The farmers here are suffering big-time. So, because we've worked in the area for 20 years, obviously, we're not going to leave our farmers. We've got 120 farmers in this region we've helped."

Despite the help in the farming sector, the strain on Israel's economy has extended from the fields to other industries, including hi-tech, finances and trade.



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CBN News Middle East Bureau Chief

CBN News Middle East Bureau Chief In a time where the world's attention is riveted on events in the Middle East, CBN viewers have come to appreciate Chris Mitchell's timely reports from this explosive region of the world. Mitchell brings a Biblical and prophetic perspective to these daily news events that shape our world. Chris first began reporting on the Middle East in the mid-1990s. He repeatedly traveled there to report on the religious and political issues facing Israel and the surrounding Arab states. One of his more significant reports focused on the emigration of persecuted Christians