The ongoing fight between Gaza and Tel Aviv is the most destructive battle between the Israelis and the Palestinians, since the Gaza War in 2014. The loss of hundreds of innocent lives and the physical damage of infrastructure and individual properties is only one crack of the destruction. The greater damage is the indirect costs of the impairment of Middle East peace potential and re-empowering Islamist extremists and terrorist organizations.
On the first week of May, which also was the last week of the Muslim holly month of Ramadan, a conflict over property between four Palestinian families and an Israeli settler, in Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, echoed into a cluster of protests in Jerusalem. Quickly, the peaceful protests turned into violent riot, which led to clashes between the Palestinian protesters and Israeli policemen. Overnight, the whole scene escalated into an actual war of drone and missile attacks between Gaza and Tel Aviv that has been going on, for over a week.
According to latest statics by the Palestinian Ministry of Health, published on May 17th, the death toll in Gaza claimed a total of 197 lives, including at least 58 children and 34 women, while at least 1,235 Palestinians have been injured. Meanwhile, the Israeli Aviation has been striking residential buildings and individual properties in Gaza. So far, nine buildings were brought to the ground, including a 12-storey building that housed media offices owned by major regional and international media organizations. The Israeli military justified destroying the buildings by saying that they were cover spaces for Hamas meetings and intelligence activities.
On the other side, the Israeli military announced that 9 Israelis, including one soldier, and two women, have been killed by Hamas fired missiles. According to official statistics from the Israeli government, Hamas fired more than 2000 missiles at Tel Aviv, but about 400 of them fell short and landed inside Gaza. Apparently, Hamas deliberately fired this large number of missiles at condensed intervals to confuse the Israeli Iron Dome missile defense system. However, the system managed to intercept more than 50% of the missile attacks by Hamas, according to Israeli military statements. On a side note, it is surprising how and when Hamas managed to procure this large number of missiles. That is perhaps an interesting topic to investigate after the current episode of war ends.
The world is following the tragic events with a lot of concern, but a few are actually intervening to end the war or control the damage. The United Nations and the international community have already condemned the violence and called for ceasefire. The Arab League and its member states, collectively and separately, condemned the violence and called for peace. Egypt, the immediate neighbor of Gaza and Israel, took a step further by sending medical aid to Gaza and phone calling the waring parties, in an attempt to de-escalate the conflict. Egypt has also opened Sinai for Gaza civilians seeking shelter and medical aid, despite the risk this may entail on Sinai security.
On the popular level, many Egyptians are disturbed and confused by the war happening next door. They are sympathizing with the innocent Palestinian civilians being killed and injured in such large numbers. But at the same time, they refuse to support Hamas, which had been killing Egyptian soldiers in Sinai, between 2013-2015, in avenge for the removal of the Muslim Brotherhood from power.
In fact, the only party that is benefiting from the current war is the Islamist extremists of the Middle East. That includes Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the violent terrorists of Daesh (ISIS), Al-Qaeda, and other minor violent extremist groups. Most of these groups base their legitimacy in the eyes of their followers, recruits, and financers over portraying the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a religious war between Muslims and Jews. The re-appearance of violent scenes from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on TV stations and social media platforms, all over the Middle East, is re-empowering those extremists by giving them a space to bring their dangerous rhetoric of “Islam versus Judaism” to the forefront, once again.
This re-emergence of terrorist and extremist Islamist groups over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a threat to all the efforts that has been exerted, in the past three years, to achieve the Middle East peace. The promising potential of the Abraham accords signed, last year, between Israel and some Arab countries, is now under the threat of failure or at least freeze. The historical news of the inclusion of an Arab Islamist party in the coming Israeli government has become impracticable. And, the urge to change the Palestinian political leadership, through free and fair elections, has diminished under the heat of war. That is the real damage caused by the current episode of war between Gaza and Tel Aviv. This will hurt the entire region and will require decades to fix its dire consequences.
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