War in the Middle East: Israel steps up ground offfensive

The Israeli military has stepped up its ground operations in the Gaza Strip. Army spokesman Daniel Hagari reported on Tuesday that it had engaged in fierce battles with members of the radical Islamic Hamas in the north of the Gaza Strip. And at least 50 people were killed in an attack on the Jabalia refugee camp in the same region. Commentators stress the complexity of the situation.

Polityka (PL) /

This will be a long war

Polityka does not expect the Israeli ground operation to be over quickly:

“Even if there is no major resistance, in order to find the Hamas fighters the Israeli forces must first effectively isolate part of the Gaza Strip and then search it thoroughly. ... This is a task that will take months, if not years. If their opponents don’t show themselves, it will be very difficult to distinguish them from the inhabitants. Once the situation becomes dynamic, dramatic dilemmas and questions of collective responsibility will inevitably re-emerge. Israel neither has the right nor will it allow itself to raze Gaza to the ground. This will therefore necessarily be a selective and protracted operation.”

Marek Świerczyński
Dagens Nyheter (SE) /

Protecting civilians is in Israel’s interest

The Israeli forces should show more consideration for the people living in Gaza, Dagens Nyheter urges:

“Israel must take steps to protect civilians, even if this makes the war against Hamas more difficult. Humanitarian aid must be allowed into Gaza, even if it means that some of it ends up in the hands of the organisation. It is also in Israel’s interest to show the Palestinians that it is Hamas they are after, not them. The focus must be on the overarching goal of creating security for Israel. This requires Israel to act with precision, to be reasonable, and in that way to rebuild if not support, then at least understanding for its actions in the outside world.”

NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

They fell right into the trap

Hamas is already the winner politically speaking, notes NRC columnist Luuk van Middelaar:

“Precisely because thousands of Palestinians have already died in Gaza, the terrorists are winning the battle for public opinion in the Arab world and far beyond. With its bloody terrorist attacks on Israel on 7 October, Hamas laid a political trap, and Israel and the US fell right into it. ... No one knows how Netanyahu intends to eliminate the enemy with a ground offensive without at the same time sowing hatred and resentment that create new Hamas fighters over three generations. ... Hamas has succeeded in reigniting the Palestinian issue as fuel for its own cause. ... Under the flag of revolutionary resistance it is mobilising millions of Muslims worldwide.”

Luuk van Middelaar
Latvijas Avīze (LV) /

Western democracies in a dilemma

Western countries’ support for Israel is not necessarily shared by their populations, Middle East expert and journalist Imants Frederiks Ozols points out in Latvijas Avīze:

“We don’t know if we can count on the people in our Western states to stand for the same policies as their governments. For example, we as a Western government are in favour of Israel because we see that Israel has been attacked, and not the other way round. At the same time, however, the people on our streets are against it. ... This is a very big problem in France, Germany and the US, for example, where there are huge Muslim communities and where Muslim money has an extremely big influence on business structures.”

Imants Frederiks Ozols
Tages-Anzeiger (CH) /

Countless civilian casualties expected

The Tages-Anzeiger observes parallels with the actions taken against the Islamic State in Iraq:

“Apparently the idea was to adopt a similar approach to that of the American military in October 2016 when it liberated the Iraqi city of Mosul from Islamic State rule. IS fighters were hiding in tunnels and caves, just like the Hamas terrorists in Gaza today. The US soldiers proceeded slowly, using a mixture of commando operations and drone strikes. Gradually, they were able to destroy IS. But this success did not come without a price. There were many civilian casualties; it is estimated that between 9,000 and 11,000 civilians died.”

Arthur Rutishauser
Večernji list (HR) /

Operations with a US signature

Washington’s influence is evident in the way the Israeli operations are being carried out, Večernji list concludes:

“The initial plans of the Israeli invasion caused concern among US officials, who were critical of the fact that there were no clear and achievable military objectives and that there was insufficient willingness on the part of the Israeli army to launch such an operation. The Israeli army’s incursions into Gaza are now being described as smaller and more focused than what the Israeli army had initially presented to [US Defense Secretary Lloyd] Austin and other senior military officials. The US proposed to Israel a new type of attack in Gaza, with precise operations against Hamas targets carried out by special forces rather than an all-out invasion.”

Hassan Haidar Diab
The Irish Times (IE) /

Don’t forget the hostages

The Irish Times considers the UN’s call for a ceasefire entirely justified:

“It is made more necessary by Israel’s weekend launch of a ground campaign. Intense international diplomacy supporting Israel’s entitlement to self-defence against Hamas terrorism cannot disguise the urgency of the call. A truce would ease negotiations on releasing the Israeli hostages seized by Hamas. That could create political space for a longer-term ceasefire and in time for preparation of an international conference on the Israeli-Palestinian question.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Expansion scenarios

La Repubblica outlines two scenarios which could trigger an expansion of the conflict involving Iran:

“First, an escalation of the conflict in the Gaza Strip with massacres and/or the expulsion of a large part of the population to the Sinai area. ... At this point, Hezbollah could hardly stand idly by. Israel would march into Lebanon and Tehran would be forced to choose between destroying its close actors or intervening to protect them. Washington could then intervene to save Israel. Second, Iranian attacks on American infrastructure, especially in Iraq and Syria, could intensify. Biden might then be forced to reconsider and show the world that the US remains number one and ready to fight if attacked.”

Lucio Caracciolo