War in the Middle East: Israel expands ground offfensive

The Israeli military intensified its ground operations in the Gaza Strip over the weekend. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke of the war entering a "second phase". The aim, he said, was to destroy the military and political capabilities of radical Islamic Hamas, which in its attack of 7 October killed more than 1,400 people in Israel. Commentators observe the situation in the region with concern.

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