Sunday, June 23, 2024

Is Israel developing cold feet to invade Gaza?

Courtesy: New Arab

Would Israel invade Gaza?

They could but it would involve an existential issue for Israel and put the United States out of West Asia’s equation for a long, long time. 

Israel would invade Gaza ostensibly to clean-out Hamas but how do you do that when they are embedded within 3 million Palestinians? 

Besides, the hell which is raining from Israeli skies on Palestinians has created an “infrastructure of rubbles” from where it’s very difficult to flush Hamas out in entirety. 

The Arab world, as it is, is bristling with anger at millions of Palestinians going without power, food or fuel supplies as Israel has enforced a land, sea and air blockade. 

Not to say in the eyes of the Israelis, Palestinians are no better than “human animals.”

Egypt has tried to to supply humanitarian help but as their press has reported, Israelis are bombing such a help. (Hello US, the humanitarian champion!).

The only crossing Egypt has is through the Rafah border which is under severe Israeli strikes from the sky. 

Worse, Israeli has targeted the road to the crossing twice, rendering it useless. 

Further, Israeli media itself has reported that if Egypt tries to send a convoy of trucks in aid to Gaza via Rafah, Israel has warned it would be bombed. 

Egypt of course could try to send the aid through sea which is fraught with immense danger since it’s blockaded by Israel and protected by the dreaded USS Gerald Ford and its squadron: By 2017 it was the world’s largest aircraft carrier and the biggest warship ever constructed. 

Now this equation is further muddled for be it Lebanon, Syria, Turkey or even Russia, they all are moved by the idea to help the beleaguered Palestinians.

Turkey has let it be known that it would like to offer humanitarian help to Palestinians and Russia it appears is game for it. 

It’s now learnt that Vladimir Putin and Turkish strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan had a telephonic call after Israel’s air strikes on Gaza where they agreed to mutually help each other in various fields.” Erdogan was more specific: That the discussion involved what “initiatives can be taken to meet humanitarian needs.” That “targeting civilian settlements is worrying and Turkey doesn’t welcome such moves.”

So if Turkey sends a humanitarian help through sea, and Russia offers help from its Tartus base on the Syrian coast, and by the Russian air force in Khmeimim, we are looking at a situation where Israelis or the US Gerard Ford could either relax the blockade or try to take the challenge on. 

Not that this hasn’t happened before. In 2010, Turkey had sent humanitarian aid and construction material through a flotilla to help Palestinians in Gaza. Like today, Israel then also had blockaded the Gaza Strip. In the clash that followed, nine people were killed. The ships were towed to Israel. 

A UNHRC report subsequently had deemed the blockade illegal and stated that Israel’s actions were “disproportionate” and “betrayed an unacceptable level of brutality” with evidence of “wilful killing.”

If humanitarian help comes from Egypt or Turkey or from say Lebanon and Syria, and if it’s stopped by Israeli-US presence, it would likely escalate into a major Middle East war. 

Hezbollah has already stated it would attack Israel if it makes a ground invasion of Gaza. As is known, countless tunnels from Egypt supply food, fuel, arms and other stuff to Palestinians in Gaza. It’s impossible for Israel to shut them all out. 

The Arabs are livid, not just by the humanitarian crisis unfolding for millions of Palestinians as also by referring them as “human animals” by Israel’s defence minister. 

Enter Russia Into The Picture

Russia would be pivotal if Middle East rises against the Israeli-US nexus. 

Vladimir Putin till recently had shown an affinity for Israel but it all is changing. When Russia is fighting an existential battle, it won’t appreciate that weapons to Ukraine are being supplied by Israel.  

Besides Israel is friend to the United States which wants to destroy Russia forever. Further, Russia has a sizeable, some 16 million,  Muslim population. It needs to stand with Muslims in this acute crisis in Middle East, not to say the ever-present oil factor. Saudi Arabia, UAE,  Iran and Egypt are now BRICS member and Russia is a major catalyst in this multipolar grouping. 

Putin wasn’t cutting corners in his public speech in Kremlin while welcoming Iraq’s prime minister Muhammed Shia al-Sudani. He blamed the United States for “not considering the fundamental interests of the Palestinian people…the need to implement the decision of the UN Security Council on the creation of an independent, sovereign Palestinian state.”

A few hours later the Russian foreign ministry was letting it out that “regular negotiations were being held with the leaders of Egypt, United Arab Emirates, The Arab League, Iran and Turkey—not with Israel.” Further, “the statements of American politicians and public figures calling for ethnic cleansing in the region look monstrous.”

And then came Russia’s warning, in the voice of spokesperson Maria Zakharova, to the US navy force in eastern Mediterranean: “So far we are seeing the situation developing along the path of escalation. There is a great risk in involving third forces in the conflict. And this is fraught with long-term consequences for the region and the world.”

So that’s it: If Israel makes a ground invasion of Gaza, Hezbollah—one of the top armed forces in the world—has promised to intervene.  If humanitarian help is offered and the Israeli blockade prevents it, backed by the United States, it could involve many more nations in the conflict, including Syria, Lebanon, Turkey and Iran. In that situation, Israel would find itself hemmed in from all corners. 

Sure, in the past Israel, has prevailed in such stand-offs against Arabs. But then there was no Hamas or Hezbollah and Russia wasn’t such a major player in Middle East, a power viewed favourably by the Muslim pole as it were. Israel would open itself to serious consequences and so would the United States. 

We know Israel has summoned 300,000 reservists. But it also now appears Israel is revisiting its plan to invade Gaza on ground. Israel’s ambassador to Russia, Alexander Ben Zvi has said in an interview: “When will it begin (the Gaza invasion)? Right now certain work is being done so as not to take any hasty steps. It is necessary of course to analyse things thoroughly. What is needed? How it should be done? I can not rule out that it would not happen either. It is possible it would happen. I don’t know, it is to be decided at the army level.”

So here we are. On the edge of a catastrophe. What has happened is horrific. What could unfold would be Armageddon.

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