The Israel-Gaza conflict rages on, now into its fourth day, with Israel announcing control over the Gaza border. Observers worldwide, particularly from China, are urging global leaders, especially from the US and the West, to reassess their position on Palestine. They advocate that sidelining Palestine will only exacerbate the situation, risking another full-blown war in the already turbulent Middle East.
Retaliations and Repercussions: The Situation Intensifies
In response to a Hamas attack over the weekend, Israeli forces have been relentless in their bombardment of Gaza City. The continuous airstrikes have isolated the Gaza Strip, cutting off essential supplies, including food. The Israeli military’s activation of a staggering 300,000 reserve soldiers and subsequent blockade on the Gaza Strip are ominous signs that suggest a potential ground invasion. This might be in response to the deadliest Hamas offensive in recent memory.
The toll of this conflict is tragic and continues to mount. The latest figures, as of Tuesday, indicate nearly 1,600 fatalities across both factions. Gaza’s Health Ministry detailed that of these, around 687 Palestinians died, and over 3,700 were injured due to Israeli airstrikes.
Global Leaders Respond: Support and Criticisms
On Tuesday, the leaders of five major nations – France, Germany, Italy, the UK, and the US – unified their stance, extending their unwavering support to Israel while condemning the Hamas onslaught. Their joint statement acknowledged the rights and aspirations of the Palestinian people. Still, it has drawn flak on social platforms, with many accusing them of double standards regarding Palestine. Concerns arise that biased support from the US and specific Western nations might intensify the conflict.
Liu Zhongmin, a noted expert from the Middle East Studies Institute of Shanghai International Studies University, commented on the geopolitical dynamics. He highlighted that as long as the US and several European countries perceive Israel as an ally and Hamas as a terror group, their diplomatic and rhetorical support will lean heavily towards Israel. Liu also hinted at the potential dangers if this conflict widens.
In a symbolic show of support to Israel and possibly to deter Iran and Hezbollah in Lebanon, the US has dispatched weapons and warships to Israel. Liu suggested that while the US might be scaling back its Middle Eastern engagements, it would still bolster Israel with arms and intelligence.
However, the European sentiment may differ. Even though some EU leaders lean towards Israel, widespread empathy for Palestinians suggests that a long-term one-sided approach might not be universally accepted. Recent disagreements within EU member nations on halting aid to Palestine post the Hamas attack on Israel is evidence of this internal divide.
Concerns of Escalation: What Lies Ahead?
The escalating conflict has the international community on edge. Liu opines that the Israeli government might aim to assure its citizens by retaliating strongly against Hamas. Yet, they’re in a predicament. The intertwined relationship between Hamas and Gaza’s local community makes complete eradication nearly impossible. And, if the Israeli retaliation leads to significant civilian casualties, they would face intensified global criticism.
The looming danger of another Middle East war is palpable. Factors like Israel’s thirst for retribution, Hamas’s desperate defense, or the entanglement of other nations could be the catalysts.
On Tuesday, there were no indications of any ceasefire. Furthermore, rising tensions on Israel’s northern frontier became evident when Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group, retaliated against an Israeli strike by launching rockets into Israel.
The ongoing crisis in Gaza is under the international microscope. Sun Degang, a Middle East expert from Fudan University, emphasized that the priority should be to deter additional entities from joining the conflict. He warned of the grim humanitarian consequences if Israel conducts a substantial ground invasion into Gaza.
With the deteriorating situation, the UN, international aid agencies, and health experts are voicing concerns over the humanitarian crisis in Palestinian territories. As per the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, approximately 6% of Gaza’s inhabitants, roughly 137,000 individuals, are seeking refuge in UN-administered facilities.
China, observing the escalating tensions, has emphasized the urgent need for a ceasefire. Expressing its willingness to mediate and stabilize the Middle East, the Chinese Foreign Ministry voiced its concerns on Tuesday.
The Underlying Issue: Palestine’s Marginalization
This recent surge in Middle East violence underscores the consequences of the long-term neglect of the Palestinian issue by the US and other Western nations. Analysts argue that any strategy to harmonize relations between Israel and Arab countries will crumble unless the Palestine issue is addressed.
There are murmurs that a potential US-mediated diplomatic agreement between Saudi Arabia and Israel might be jeopardized due to the escalating situation.
Sun Degang shed light on the historical significance of the Palestinian issue. He remarked that the US’s approach to the issue, especially its efforts to foster Israel-Saudi Arabia relations, might be an attempt to consolidate a united front against Syria and Iran