The Platform

Israeli Merkava Mk near Gaza. (IDF)

The global mood, as reflected by the UN General Assembly’s recent resolutions, leans increasingly toward urging Israel to adopt restraint.

As 2024 approaches, the ever-intensifying conflict between Israel and Hamas looms large, stoking concerns of a full-blown ground war in Gaza. The shadow of a potential humanitarian disaster deepens with the apprehension of a surge in civilian casualties should such a ground operation materialize.

With each passing day, Gaza bears witness to a mounting toll: according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, over 8,000 lives have been tragically extinguished, mostly women and children. The count of those injured has soared past well over 20,000, while thousands of souls remain unaccounted for beneath layers of rubble and debris. On the Israeli side, the death toll stands at a concerning 1,400, a figure that encompasses not only its citizens but also foreign nationals present in the region.

In parallel, the occupied West Bank has its own tales of sorrow: 130 Palestinian lives have been lost, and injuries are mounting, with over 1,500 reported. The tragedy has also touched American shores with a reported 27 American lives tragically ended in Israel. As for the fate of the around 200 individuals captured by Hamas militants, only a fortunate four have seen the light of freedom so far.

History will likely remember this as the bloodiest clash in the five confrontations that have taken place between Gaza and Israel.

The human cost is mirrored by the deteriorating living conditions for Gaza’s 2.4 million inhabitants. A staggering half of Gaza’s residents, translating to nearly one million Palestinians, have been compelled to vacate their homes in the wake of the escalating violence.

Yet, Israel’s military operations aren’t confined solely to Gaza. The Israel Defense Forces have extended their operations into the occupied West Bank and made incursions into Syria, and even Lebanon, where they’ve squared off against the formidable Hezbollah. These engagements have resulted in the unfortunate death of 58 individuals in Lebanon, a mix of Hezbollah combatants and innocent civilians. Israel, for its part, has registered four fatalities, which includes one non-combatant.

Lebanon’s socio-political fabric is also undergoing a transformation with 29,000 of its citizens now displaced, as detailed by the International Organization for Migration.

The reverberations of this conflict have the potential to spread throughout the Middle East. Israel’s indications that any ground assault on Gaza will surpass previous engagements in its ferocity have elicited stern warnings from the Arab Gulf states. Just a day ago, on October 28, nations like Saudi Arabia and Oman expressed deep reservations over Israel’s potential ground incursions into Gaza. The Gulf Cooperation Council has added its voice to the chorus, calling for a halt to the escalating military operations in Gaza.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan didn’t mince words on October 29, addressing a significant pro-Palestinian rally in Istanbul. He asserted, “The main culprit behind the massacre unfolding in Gaza is the West.” Such pronouncements led to a frosty diplomatic response, with Israel recalling its diplomatic corps from Turkey.

As Israel grapples with Hamas, it must also contend with the looming specter of larger skirmishes, particularly with the influential Hezbollah in Lebanon and potentially Syria. There have already been confirmed IDF strikes against Hezbollah strongholds in Lebanon.

Global capitals from Europe to the Arab world have witnessed a swell in pro-Palestinian rallies. The West, in particular, observes the unfolding situation with mounting concern.

The labyrinthine complexity of the situation means that the U.S. is navigating these waters with deliberate caution. With the specters of past conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq still hovering, the implications of deeper engagement in the region are not lost on Washington. It’s worth noting that both Russia and China appear inclined toward backing resistance factions aligned with Iran. The global mood, as reflected by the UN General Assembly’s recent resolutions, leans increasingly toward urging Israel to adopt restraint.

The only solution to the conflict is the implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. A two-state solution can bring peace to the region. Short of that, nothing else will work. The Gaza Strip is essentially an open-air prison where Israel controls all aspects of life there. Additionally, fighting has surged in the past two years. The violence has been driven by frequent Israeli military raids in Palestinian towns and cities, which Israel insists are a necessary response to a rising number of attacks by Palestinian militants on Israelis.

In essence, the ramifications of this current conflict extend well beyond its immediate locus, influencing the geopolitical dynamics of the broader Middle East. The unfolding days and decisions made by influential parties will shape its eventual denouement.

Sohail Mahmood is an independent political analyst focused on global politics, U.S. foreign policy, governance, and the politics of South and West Asia.