Gaza: Israel’s Next Regional War – OpEd


Israel’s war on Gaza is turning into a regional war while the Americans and the West are aiding and abetting the conflict without foreseeing its devastating consequences.

Israel may now be fighting on as many regional fronts as possible. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his military establishments have already said this would be a long war and are prepared for it.

The Israeli army is now fighting the people of Gaza under the pretext of eradicating Hamas. Hamas in turn, and its Islamic cohorts, Islamic Jihad, are launching missiles and rockets on Israeli settlements, towns, cities. Since 7 October these factions and Hezbollah dropped as many as 150,000 rockets on Israel with figures rising daily. 

Widening the conflict 

Meanwhile, the Israeli government and army said its prepared to open up a northern front with Hezbollah from the early days of the conflict when the Shiite organization started launching rockets on Jewish settlements built along the border with Lebanon.

Despite the fact a large number of Israelis have been evacuated – in the case of Kiryat Shmona whose population was completely evacuated and lies empty just like most of the 25 settlements, Kibbutzim, towns surrounding Gaza – Netanyahu started to feel somehow robust especially since US president Joe Biden said he would provide him with $14 billion and 2000 American soldiers to serve as “ancillary staff”. 

And as a result, the Israeli army is slowly widening its northern front, frequently striking Hezbollah targets inside southern Lebanon and whose fighters are maintaining stiff resistance in return. Israel as well is threatening the government of Lebanon to bring Hezbollah to heed.

But that’s not all.

From the start Israel has shown hawkish stances, saying it was ready for a protracted conflict even if it turns into a regional one. To the surprise of many – and just as it was bombing Gaza right, left and center – in the first six days of the conflict it dropped 6000 bombs on Gaza at 4000 tons of explosives – it started striking at targets in Syria. Though this was mainly at the Damascus and Aleppo airports. 

Traditionally, and at least over as many years, Syria became Israel’s shooting practice range. However, its recent missile strikes at the airports is clearly intended to show that Israel would continue its missile strikes to stretch its military capability and send as strong a message to Hezbollah, who for all intense and purposes, has become embroiled in the bloody fight on Gaza. 

A bloody nose 

Right from the start, it’s clear the attacks by Hamas on 7 October in which it killed over 1400 Israelis and captured 200-250 Jews who have since been taken as hostages not to mention the 300 Jewish soldiers killed so far – has been a shock to the Israeli government, its army and military establishment.  Israel sees it as a major intelligence failure and many say this is why Netanyahu has ordered the army to maintain a bombing – carpet-bombing campaign on Gaza with more than 5,700 killed and 13,000 injured in the first two weeks of the present conflict. 

Their bombing campaign however, has become a double-edged sword for them, because along with Hezbollah, the Houthis all the way from Yemen, warned they will target Israel if it doesn’t stop bombing Gaza. And to prove good on its word, it fired its first missiles – according to American sources – but which were intercepted by the US Carney naval ship off the coast of Yemen. 

Both American and Israeli intelligence sources said they believed such missiles were aimed at southern Israel. Since then, this has become credible news judging from the fact the Houthis targeted Abu Dhabi in early 2022 through ballistic missiles, an air distance of around 1200 kilometers between the two countries. The distance between Yemen and Israel is about 2.2 thousand kilometers. Though ending in failure, these missiles may become regular as the conflict continues. 

In addition, Islamic extremist groups already started targeting American bases and interests in Syria and Iraq. In the former, they launched drone attacks on north east Syria, where America also controls the Conoco oil field and at the Tanf military base in the south of the country. 

As well, in Iraq American interests are being targeted. The Harir military base in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq as well as the Ayn Al Asad in the Anbar province in the west of the country have become subject to frequent attacks. Since then, the Americans vowed to respond but it could become unsettling if this becomes a normal state of affairs from now on and what started as a local conflict could trigger into a global one. 

The message that is being sent to the Americans by these groups is loud and clear: Stop providing aid to Israel in its bloody onslaught on Gaza or else! And this maybe may be the start of a long and protracted war as Israel keeps uttering they will invade Gaza and Hamas says they are ready for.

International community 

The international community is split. There are those who see the war as tragic that should be stopped and these include Arab countries and Russia, China as well as others. However, it becomes more complicated for countries like the United States, Britain and Europe who at one level wholeheartedly support Israel but are trying to play a middle-of-the-road role with regards to the human sufferings in Gaza, but they are as yet to criticize Israel but have a claimed bigger picture. Many would say also, they are entangled in a process of soul-searching anguish.

They claim they fear for the people of Gaza especially on the humanitarian front as Israel has cut off the Strip’s water supply and its electricity, and nothing has been allowed to enter Gaza since 7 October but this apprehension is being downplayed because of what is seen as the sore-wounds of the Hamas invasion into the Israeli settlements.

Today Gaza stands on the point of starvation and more mass deaths. But it is thank goodness for the opening of the Rafah Crossing the allowing of humanitarian aid which is starting to trickle through! The border has not received anything since that fateful day and the shops have almost run out of food. And many still speak of spikes in death as electricity to hospitals are cut off, fearing the worst is about to happen.

Western hostages 

The West, which is much more than what can be said about the Israeli conscience as their air force is bombing bakeries, schools, mosques and churches, don’t want to shove its support to the Jewish state too much also because of the hostages Hamas continues hold like the 27 US citizens as well as others. Thus, according to many analysts, countries like the United States are pushing Israel not to start its Gaza land invasion for instance, because of the repercussion that will have on releasing its citizens. Hamas has already told the world about 20 of the foreign hostages it holds have been killed by Israeli bombing of different Gaza neighborhoods; as well, they are using these people as a sort of trump card. For instance, they have already started to release a few of them, including two Americans and an Israeli (at the time of writing).

Plus, America maybe worried about the regional situation. The Arab public in the region is up-in-arms about the bombing of Gaza and the mayhem and destructions they see on their television screens on a daily basis. As well, Arab governments like Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and even Saudi Arabia and Gulf states, are worried and have been appealing for ways and means to force Israel to stop the bombing and deescalate but so far to no avail. Talk of a ceasefire is still meaningless. 

It is this fluid situation that is of major worry because of its slippery-slope elements: The wider public, the extreme groups, some of whom are supported by Iran, although it is denying complete responsibility about knowing of the Hamas actions, and of course there is the global angle. 

The US has already said its sending two warships to stand as near the Israeli coast as possible. Britain is doing the same. And in response, Russia said it would act to support its interest in the region, already having a military base and troops in Syria and then there is the question of China who up till now has taken a backward approach but is active in its behind-the-scenes diplomacy. Beijing just announced it has six naval ships in the Mediterranean but its Ministry of Defense is denying they are there because of the latest developing conflict.   

Thus, on the face of it, and despite the blind support western governments are offering to Israel they fear the internal Israeli-Palestinian angle and regional context that could be pushing the globe into even darker days of extremist Islamic revitalization, upsetting an already shaken regional order and eventual “global” war. 

Dr. Marwan Asmar

Dr. Marwan Asmar holds a PhD from Leeds University and is a freelance writer specializing on the Middle East. He has worked as a journalist since the early 1990s in Jordan and the Gulf countries, and been widely published, including at Albawaba, Gulf News, Al Ghad, World Press Review and others.

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