Israel’s spillover seems imminent: From a perception of invincibility to a reality of uncertainty.
By Elijah J. Magnier:
In a rapidly evolving situation, tensions between Lebanon and Israel boil over. Reliable sources have indicated that the northern front, which has seen skirmishes in the past, is on the verge of all-out war. This comes amid the ongoing conflict in Gaza, which presents Israel with the daunting challenge of potentially fighting on two fronts at once.
Hezbollah, the Shia political and militant group based in Lebanon, has reportedly increased its level of mobilisation. The move marks a significant shift in the group’s strategy, indicating its intention to engage in battle alongside Palestinian factions in Gaza actively. Such a coordinated effort aims to stretch the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) thin and exploit the element of surprise.
This development marks a significant escalation in the dynamics of the region. While skirmishes and exchanges of fire have always been expected on the Israeli-Lebanese border, a full-scale engagement involving Hezbollah would mark a new and worrying phase in the conflict.
Hezbollah’s decision to actively support the Palestinian cause in Gaza by opening a second front against Israel is unprecedented. It underlines the group’s commitment to the Palestinian cause and willingness to confront Israel directly. This move could potentially alter the balance of power in the region and have significant implications for the broader Middle East.
The international community will undoubtedly be watching closely as events unfold. The prospect of Israel being drawn into a two-front war poses significant challenges, both militarily and diplomatically. The involvement of Hezbollah, backed by Iran, adds another layer of complexity to an already complicated geopolitical situation.
As the situation unfolds, diplomatic channels are hoped to be activated to prevent further escalation and possible large-scale loss of life. The international community is urged to intervene, mediate and seek a peaceful solution to prevent the region from descending into a protracted and devastating conflict.
In the wake of recent tensions, a stark realisation has dawned on Israel and its allies: completely subduing the Palestinian factions in Gaza may be more of a mirage than a feasible goal. The harrowing statistics speak for themselves: over 2,800 Palestinians, a significant proportion of civilians, have lost their lives, and a further 8,800 have been injured. Yet the rocket attacks continue unabated, daily, with some reaching as far as Haifa and Eilat, cities some 240 kilometres from Gaza.
This relentless onslaught has caused unease among Israeli settlers, leading to concerns about Israel’s future stability. In response, Tel Aviv has escalated its offensive, hoping to cripple Hamas, destroy Gaza and restore a semblance of security that seems increasingly elusive.
There has been a seismic shift in the Israeli public’s confidence in its military, a sentiment not seen since the October 1973 war. The Al-Aqsa flooding operation has left many in Israel, from settlers to military experts, questioning the effectiveness of their armed forces. Despite boasting cutting-edge military technology, Israel’s defence systems were caught off guard by a significant incursion by Hamas’s elite forces, leading to successful attacks on 11 military centres and 20 settlements.
This series of events has shaken the foundations of Israel’s military doctrine. A statement by the commander of Israel’s central region admitting the army’s failure to protect its citizens has sent shockwaves throughout the nation. This admission is particularly poignant given Israel’s historical context, in which the migration of settlers from all over the world to Palestine, with only the Jewish religion in common, has played a crucial role.
Israeli law includes provisions that allow for confiscating Palestinian homes if the original owners emigrated during the Nakba in 1948. In addition, there are homes in settlements that many international observers, including the United Nations, consider illegal because they are built on land that belongs to Palestinians or was donated or is under the custody of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, particularly about the Holy Land.
Israel’s position on UN Resolution 194 and its policy on the return of Palestinians has long been controversial. Despite this, Israeli officials have attracted settlers from all backgrounds, promising them security in the ‘Promised Land’.
In light of recent events, Israel is desperate to rebuild its image as an ‘invincible army’. But the task seems Herculean, significantly when a mere group of 1,200 elite Palestinian fighters could challenge such a formidable but unmotivated force. Disillusionment is rife among the settlers, with many expressing dwindling faith in the Israeli army’s ability to protect them.
While Israel appears united behind its military, internal polls paint a different picture. A significant proportion of the Israeli population reportedly blames Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the current turmoil, seeing his government’s hardline policies spark the Palestinian uprising.
Israel’s aggressive military actions in Gaza, which have resulted in alarming casualties, including the deaths of at least 700 children, have drawn international concern. Still, nothing has been done to stop what is a violation of international law and a crime against humanity. The strategy of displacing 1.3 million residents from areas such as Beit Lahia, Beit Yahoun and Jabalia in northern Gaza has been met with scepticism and criticism on the international stage. The Israeli military’s actions have not been limited to targeting militants. It has reportedly not hesitated to attack convoys of displaced civilians. Some 430,000 people have fled northern Gaza in fear of the intense bombardment. Despite Israeli safety assurances, these displaced people faced threats as they moved south towards Rafah.
Some analysts believe this strategy aims to recreate a situation reminiscent of the 1948 Palestinian exodus and potentially facilitate any Israeli military ground operations by ensuring that areas are devoid of civilians.
According to the Israeli request, such a large-scale displacement of 1.3 million civilians within a 24-hour window is practically unfeasible, as pointed out by Josep Borrell, Vice-President of the European Commission. But what’s more striking is the lack of strong condemnation by Borrell and other European leaders of Israel’s potential violation of international law and United Nations resolutions.
The reluctance of many European leaders, except a few, such as Norway, to openly criticise Israel is apparent. A powerful Zionist lobby in Europe may influence this reluctance, pressuring governments to maintain a favourable stance towards Israel regardless of its actions. Emboldened by this international silence, Netanyahu’s government has adopted an even more aggressive stance in Gaza.
As for the imminent Israeli ground assault on Gaza, the challenge of neutralising the estimated 30,000 to 40,000 Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters in Gaza is monumental. The cherished image of Israel’s “invincible army” has been tarnished, and it is now seen by many as a force that inflicts significant civilian casualties with its air force. The impact of Operation Al-Aqsa Flood on Israel’s global image and attractiveness to potential Jewish immigrants is profound and far-reaching.
The situation in Gaza remains fluid and complex. Israel’s plans to tighten its blockade and possibly evacuate settlements near Gaza point to a possible imminent ground incursion. The unwavering determination of the Palestinian resistance, coupled with the concern of the international community and the support of major powers such as the US, UK, France and Germany for Israel, makes the situation even more volatile.
The humanitarian crisis in Gaza is escalating at an alarming rate. Hospitals are overwhelmed, and the health infrastructure is on the verge of collapse. The potential for water contamination is another major threat. Members of the Israeli government have refused to be ‘lectured’ by the world community and insist on depriving the 2.3 million people of Gaza of all means of survival, in total disregard of international law and the Geneva Convention.
The international community has only expressed concern about Israel’s actions, with many accusing it of violating international law to the point of committing war crimes. However, major powers such as the US, UK and Germany have primarily supported Israel regardless of the gravity of its actions. This support has made the situation in Gaza precarious, especially as Israeli ministers have vowed to crush the Palestinian resistance.
In a related development, US President Joe Biden faced controversy over his initial claim to have seen images of beheaded children. The White House later clarified that the information came from Israeli sources and that there was no hard evidence. This revelation has led to speculation that the US may not rely on its intelligence or military assessments in Israel when formulating its stance on the Gaza conflict. Instead, critics argue that the US may be trying to divert attention from Israel’s intense bombardment of Gaza City, which has caused significant civilian casualties and hindered the delivery of essential supplies such as food and medical aid.
Israel’s Energy Minister, Israel Katz, has taken a firm stance on the issue, in line with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He reportedly said Israel would not listen to outside criticism and would block aid convoys into Gaza. He also stressed that Gaza would be deprived of essential services such as water, electricity and fuel if its prisoners were not released. The unfolding situation underlines the complex geopolitical dynamics and the profound humanitarian consequences for the people of Gaza.
Amid this chaos, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s international and domestic political manoeuvring underlines the situation’s complexity. The unity of the current Israeli government is expected to be short-lived, with ideological differences likely to resurface after the crisis and end Netanyahu’s premiership. The presence of dozens of Israeli prisoners in Palestinian hands will increase the likelihood of Netanyahu’s ouster.
The illogical Israeli demand to release over 130-150 Israeli prisoners and corps (over nine died in the Israeli bombardment) is indeed reminiscent of previous conflicts involving Gaza, where similar situations arose, and Israel’s conditions were not met. The broader international response has raised eyebrows, particularly from influential figures such as US President Joe Biden and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. Their perceived support for actions that could amount to war crimes under international law, such as targeting civilians and depriving them of essential resources like water, food and electricity, sets a worrying precedent. Critics argue that such a stance could encourage similar actions in other conflicts, such as the ongoing situation in Ukraine or future wars.
But the situation in Gaza is particularly dire. Statements by Israeli officials, such as Defence Minister Yoav Galant’s declaration of intent to decimate the city and his classification of all Hamas members and officials as legitimate targets, point to a protracted and intense conflict. The main concern amidst this military posturing is the humanitarian aspect. Gazans are caught in the crossfire, and the city’s infrastructure is under immense strain. The international community is grappling with ensuring the survival of Gaza’s civilian population during this escalating conflict.
The ongoing conflict has exposed specific vulnerabilities in Israel’s defences, which Palestinian factions exploit. The limitations of the Iron Dome missile defence system and internal coordination problems within the Israeli Defence Forces have raised serious concerns about a limited or full-scale ground invasion of Gaza.
The current conflict has confounded many expectations. The “Jerusalem Flood” or “Al-Aqsa Flood” has focused global attention on the plight of the Palestinians. The long-term impact of these events on the region’s psyche is undeniable. But the question remains: How far will this war go? How many countries will be involved, and will it engulf the entire Middle East? The coming week will provide many answers.