The Hamas incursion from Gaza into Israel and the subsequent attack of Israel on October 7, 2023, led to the death of more than 1,200 people, and 200 hostages taken to Gaza, resulting in more than 17,000 Palestinians dead and more than 6000 of them children in Gaza. The atrocities have been met with international condemnation, but support for Israel has come especially from the United States. President of the US, Joe Biden travelled to Israel on October 18 to meet with the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu and offered full support to the latter.
Since then, the United States has sent warships and aircraft into positions adjacent to Israel along with 2,000 troops to provide intelligence and surveillance. But David Petraeus, who oversaw the CIA(Central Intelligence Agency) and commanded forces in Iraq and Afghanistan post-9/11 along with Biden has urged Israel not to make the same mistakes the US made during its "War on Terror." These errors are frequently attributed to violations of human rights, inadequate post-war planning, and the establishment of Imperialist states in Afghanistan and Iraq. David also mentioned, “Like the other two conflicts, the fight against Hamas has no military end and must be waged diplomatically.”
This must be taken into consideration as soon as possible, as Israel's ground assault of Gaza endangers over two million lives and regional escalation becomes a clear possibility. Israeli air strikes have taken place in the West Bank too along with sniper kills resulting in 242 deaths with 52 of them being children.
Israel has been conducting devastating air strikes on Gaza resulting in more than 17,000 Palestinians dead and more than 6000 of them children in Gaza. The UN and other relief organizations assert that there is nowhere safe for civilians in Gaza as a result of Israeli attacks in ostensibly safe locations in the southern part of the territory. These acts cast doubt on the conditions in which Gazans have been forced to live-in widely regarded as being an “open-air prison,” and the distinction between military and civilian targets under international humanitarian law during a protracted counter-insurgency campaign.
A humanitarian truce was led by Qatar where fighting was paused and hostages were exchanged between both sides. which had begun at 7 am local time on Friday. The first group of captives held in Gaza were released on Friday afternoon, with Palestinian prisoners also set to be released as part of the deal. Since then more than 100 of the hostages and 240 Palestinians have been released according to the deal. The truce ended on 1 December 2023 and the fighting resumed immediately.
Middle East Factor
The possibility of Regional escalation is a looming grim reality. Given the alternatives and larger objectives in regional and regime survival, Iran is unlikely to openly interfere in the Gaza conflict. However, in Yemen, the Houthis, who are affiliated with Iran, have previously threatened the Israeli town of Eilat on the Red Sea. Qatar is in a prime position in this conflict as they have close relations with Hamas and have been successful in reaching a humanitarian pause for the exchange of prisoners and hostages. Egypt and Jordan affirmed their unified position rejecting the policy of collective punishment in siege, starvation or displacement of Palestinians.
When the UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres made similar remarks, saying “It is important to also recognise the attacks by Hamas did not happen in a vacuum. The Palestinian people have been subjected to 56 years of suffocating occupation,” Guterres said “But the grievances of the Palestinian people cannot justify the appalling attacks by Hamas. And those appalling attacks cannot justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people,” Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, called for the UN chief to resign immediately on October 24.
Much more international cooperation will be required, and pressure will be especially acute on the Gaza-Egypt border, the Rafah crossing as the Israeli invasion progresses in the north. The Israeli military has already cut off water and fuel and ordered the evacuation of 1.1 million people from northern Gaza.
The talks on normalization have been slowed by negotiations on arms, US security provisions, and civil nuclear components. Saudi Arabia will be keen to prevent additional escalation, particularly in the Gulf given its recent gesture of diplomatic relationship with Israel and to maintain its relation with the USA. Although fighting in East Jerusalem and around the Al Aqsa mosque will greatly complicate matters, negotiations are currently said to be frozen rather than cancelled. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Of Saudia Arabia has recently reemphasized Palestinian statehood based on 1967 borders in line with Saudi leadership of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative.
US Waning Influence in the Middle East
Decades of US policy in the Middle East might be overturned by Israel's "collective punishment" of Gaza, especially if Iranian proxies or surrogates join the fight or create new fronts in the Gulf or the Levant. The unquestionable support from the US for Israel's aggression on Gaza to eradicate Hamas has had a devastating impact on the civilian population which has already killed thousands along with them children.
The US along with Israel is being held responsible for delivering such an unproportionate response and has asked Israel to tone down the aggression which Israel has ignored repeatedly, On 8 December 2023, the US vetoed a United Nations Security Council's resolution for a humanitarian ceasefire in the ongoing conflict in Gaza.
In the vote under Article 99, 13 members voted for a ceasefire, the UK abstained, and the US voted against a ceasefire, effectively vetoing the cessation of military action in Gaza.
However, in past years there has been a fading influence of the US on Middle East soil and the other main actors in International politics have started spreading and reaching their influence on the region, which can have a very adverse effect on the US in the coming years.
A historic peace deal between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the two largest countries in the area, was mediated by China in March, hastening the end of hostilities between the Houthi rebels and Saudi-led forces in Yemen. Similar to this, Russia has been instrumental in mending the rift between Saudi Arabia and Syria, which has made it possible for Damascus to rejoin the major Arab League alliance of neighbouring states after a 12-year absence.
The US should take some major steps to protect its ties with Middle Eastern countries. and should take a series of steps to stop the conflict before it escalates into a more complex situation that may jeopardize numerous US interests, be it Military, Oil and Gas production in the Middle East and further erode regional and global security.
The Biden administration needs to leverage its standing in Israel to persuade the government to pursue Hamas with the utmost caution to protect the larger Gazan populace. It should, at the least, see to it that supplies of food, water, electricity, and medical supplies are restored and that Israel fulfils its duties as an occupying army under international humanitarian law.
To prevent conflict from spreading and maintain stability along borders, the US should collaborate closely with the Palestinian Authority, Israel, Jordan, Qatar, Egypt and any other third parties that may be required to bring about a ceasefire.
The Biden administration could then collaborate with other UN Security Council members to build a workable multinational force to guarantee Israel's withdrawal from Gaza, establish border security between Gaza and Israel, and ensure that Hamas' weapons are decommissioned.
When combined with other forms of US diplomacy, it may potentially stifle some of the immediate backlash from Arab leaders regarding Israeli tactics during the conflict, thwart Netanyahu's policy of increased settlement expansion in the West Bank, and ultimately advance the US's long-overdue role in bringing about peace in the Middle East.
What steps will the major international actors take in the coming days during this conflict?
Will the US be successful in maintaining its position or will it lose its weight in the Middle East?