After several days of intensive bombing of targets in the Gaza Strip, Israel’s next move is awaited. The clash with the radical Hamas movement, which killed over a thousand people during its weekend incursion into Israeli territory, brings numerous risks. One of them is the danger of spreading the conflict.
What you will also hear in today’s episode at 5:59
- Where could the conflict between Israel and Hamas escalate?
- What role does Iran play in the conflict?
- What are the possibilities for the future arrangement of the Gaza Strip?
“The worst is yet to come,” says American analyst William Wechsler about the situation in Israel after the Hamas attack. The priority for the Israeli side now – apart from the immediate military goals – is the need to ensure that the conflict does not spread into a regional war.
According to the expert, spreading the conflict on multiple fronts is one of the priorities of the radical movement. “Hamas simply cannot achieve its goals without expanding the war. That’s his strategy,” notes Wechsler, who is director of Middle East programs at the Atlantic Council, a Washington think tank.
He considers the option of involving the Lebanese Hezbollah, which is militarily much stronger than Hamas, to be particularly dangerous. “Since the war between Hezbollah and Israel in 2006, Hezbollah, with the help of Tehran, has built a much larger and more sophisticated weapons arsenal,” Wechsler says, noting that Hezbollah has a number of longer-range precision-guided missiles. If he decided to join the war, it would probably significantly change the nature of the conflict.
Ordinary Palestinians will take it
Palestinian authorities say that 900 people have already died in Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip. Wechsler anticipates that ground operations will follow the bombing. And, according to him, it will demand even more victims among civilians. “Obviously, the ones who pay the most for this are the ordinary people of Gaza, many of whom do not support Hamas and what it has done. It’s a really depressing reality,” says the analyst.
At the same time, the American expert admits that Israel lacks a vision of what to do after the end of the immediate military phase of the war: “However, everyone agrees that Gaza cannot return to the status quo in the future – that is, to the rule of Hamas, which will once again control the area with its iron fist fist. Israel does not want to allow such a situation anymore. But the question is what will happen instead.’
Pressure on Hamas
According to William Wechsler, a new element in the dynamics of the conflict is the number of Israeli hostages that the militants took to Gaza. “There will certainly be special operations, strikes and raids. It is very likely that there will be situations where Israeli forces try to free the hostages and Hamas murders the kidnapped people. Or it could happen that Hamas murders the hostages and publishes the act on the Internet,” the analyst explains, adding that, according to him, it is not clear in advance how the Israelis will handle such situations and how they will react to them.
He reminds that among the hostages there are also citizens of countries other than Israel. According to him, their governments and the international community must put pressure on their release. “However, there is only a narrow circle of countries that have an influence on the Hamas movement. It is, for example, Egypt, which was already part of the negotiations to reach a ceasefire in the past, and is at the same time an ally of Israel against Hamas. Qatar has a significant influence on Hamas, having provided the movement with financial resources for years. Of course, Iran has the greatest leverage over Hamas, which treats the movement as its extended arm,” concludes Wechsler.
In the 5:59 podcast, you will also hear what the American invasion of Iraq in 2003 can warn Israeli politicians and planners, or what the weekend’s bloodshed showed about the capacity for action of the Hamas movement. Play the entire episode in the player at the beginning of the article.
Editor a koeditor: Matej Válek, Robert Candra, Karolina Tremko
Sound design: David Kaiser
Sources of audio samples: ČT24, TV Nova, Český rozhlas Radiožurnál, Twitter – Middle East Observer (@ME_Observer_), TW – Vojtěch Gibiš (@GibisVB)
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