The US NSA Jake Sullivan has said that the US is seeing elevated risk of the Israel-Hamas war widening into a regional conflict. However, with 800 plus US bases around the world, a wider war appears to be the precise aim of the US without getting directly involved with Iran or another Middle East country and keeping the escalation at a level to keep the US mainland unaffected.
Egyptian President Abdelfattah El-Sisi had been resisting Israeli and American pressure for allowing Palestinians to evacuate through Rafah into the Sinai. He also affirmed that Egypt rejects “the forced displacement of Palestinians from their land.” Given the fact that the US had earlier imposed the Muslim Brotherhood regime on Egypt, Sisi naturally fears that a large refugee encampment in Sinai would drag Egypt into a military confrontation with Israel since Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood are intimately linked.
The Israeli plan is to move the Gaza population into a refugee camp in the Sinai desert of Egypt. This has the support of the US, which also seeks a regime change in Palestine. According to Israeli media, Israel (in conjunction with the US?) has offered Cairo easing of Egypt’s debt, especially what Egypt owes to the IMF. In December 2022, the IMF had approved a $3 billion loan to Egypt and Egypt’s overall external debt presently stands at $164.73 billion. The debt-relief offer to Egypt comes at a time when the US itself is trying to avoid recession through continued borrowing and its external debt, highest in the world, stands at $33.04 trillion.
The US House of Representatives has recently passed an Israel-only aid bill of $14.3 billion. There is no mention of Ukraine. Now Egypt is allowing foreigners and wounded Palestinians in Gaza to cross the Rafah Crossing into Egypt. American citizens were among the first lot of more than 400 foreign nationals and injured Palestinians allowed to enter Egypt. However, Egypt is unlikely to accept 2.2 million plus Gazans refugees, which would be a permanent one-way move. Neither will this be acceptable to the Middle East countries including Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey.
Hillary Clinton visiting Pakistan as US Secretary of State had once warned Islamabad for “breeding snakes in the backyard”. This applies to Israel as well. Israel has allowed suitcases holding millions in Qatari cash to enter Gaza through its crossings since 2018, in order to maintain its fragile ceasefire with the Hamas. Israel also held indirect negotiations via Egypt, and allowed Hamas to receive infusions of cash from abroad. In early 2019, Netanyahu reportedly said in a Likud faction meeting that those who oppose a Palestinian state should support the transfer of funds to Gaza (read Hamas), because maintaining the separation between the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza would prevent establishment of a Palestinian state.
Israel has completed encirclement of Gaza City from all sides and is continuing bombing and ground operations including tackling some tunnels. Israel has justified bombing hospitals saying these have tunnels underneath. Repeated bombing of the refugee camp in Gaza has been severely criticized by the UN but according to the White House, the POTUS Joe Biden does not believe Israel is flouting international humanitarian law in Gaza. UNICEF has said more than 3,500 children have been killed in Gaza, not including the two Israeli strikes on the Jabalya refugee camp, and over 6,800 children have been injured since the start of the Israel-Hamas war on October 7.
The Hamas attack on October 7 killed 1400 in Israel. Since then, over 9,000 have been killed in Gaza and 22,000 injured till November 2. However, all calls for ceasefire and negotiations, including by the UN and the Pope, have been rejected by Netanyahu. It is also quite clear that the US does not want a ceasefire either in Gaza or Ukraine though Biden has been calling for “pause” to facilitate aid supplies.
The makings of a wider war are already taking shape. The US has struck military targets in Syria stating these are linked to Iran and saying US troops came under fire in Syria and Iraq. Iran’s Foreign Minister, Hossein Amirabdollahian has said linking Iran with the Hamas attack on Israel is baseless and that Iran doesn’t want the conflict to spread elsewhere in the Middle East. The Houthi have officially sided with Hamas and an IDF F-35 fighter has shot down a Houthi cruise missile launched from Yemen.
Russia has held a meeting with Iranian and Hamas officials. China has condemned Israel’s senseless bombings of civilians and has removed Israel from its global maps altogether. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called for a regional response to Israel, which he would support. South American countries have cut diplomatic ties with Israel and withdrawn their ambassadors. North Korea’s Kim Jong Un has pledged support for Palestine. Two US carrier groups are already in the region and Chinese warships are headed there as well.
The US is sending military hardware including additional air defence systems, drones and Special Forces to Israel via Jordan and mercenaries may follow. While the IDF and Hezbollah have been exchanging fire, ‘Imam Hussein Brigades’ of Iran’s IRGC have arrived in southern Lebanon and according to Syrian sources, tens of thousands of volunteers are staging inside Syria near the border with Lebanon and the Golan Heights. This would become another major front for Israel. Hezbollah also has a network of tunnels which caused Israel tank casualties during a ground invasion a few years back.
The level at which the IDF has begun to tackle the Hamas tunnels is not known but possibly this would have contributed to the 16 IDF casualties on November 2. How would the IDF deal with the 500-km Hamas tunnel network remains to be seen but there is speculation about using fuel-air explosives and even a low-yield nuclear device. According to a recent report in the Daily Star, the head of Israel’s Space and Satellite Administration, Avi Berger admitted that Israel is already capable to shooting “electromagnetic beams” from space at any given target on Earth. Could Israel use this in Gaza, like America’s space-based kinetic weapon ‘Rod of God’ fired on China’s Tianjin Port in 2015 that killed 114 people and instantly destroyed six city blocks on the edge of Tianjin City?
Evidence that Israel is preparing to ethnically ‘cleanse’ Gaza and expel its population into Sinai is growing by the day:A leaked document from the Israeli intelligence ministry sets out how the expulsion into Sinai can be implemented; a ‘Peace Policy’ known as the ‘Greater Gaza Plan’ approved by the US since at least 2007 in the George W Bush era that requires transferring Palestinians into Sinai.
Testifying at the Senate Appropriation Committee, US Secretary of State Blinken publicly declared that the Biden Administration’s project is to bring back Palestinian Authority to Gaza from where it was ousted in 2007 by Hamas in legislative elections. Concurrently, Netanyahu has been lobbying EU nations, seeking support for expulsion of Gaza’s Palestinians into Sinai.Also, Israeli officials have openly declared since Oct 7 the need to drive Gaza’s population into Sinai.Israel’s public policy of turning Gaza into ‘a place where no human can live’ is being executed on ground. The question is how will the Middle East and the rest of the world react or simply let this happen? And, would China take advantage with its focus on Taiwan and satellite imagery showing heavy concentration of PLA opposite Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh?
The US apparently feels that Arab unity will not translate into any decisive action on ground and the Biden Administration will control and dominate the two-state solution – regime change in Gaza. But where is the Palestinian state planned – in the Sinai desert? Moreover, the US confidence in its ability to dominate the two-state solution appears akin to its confidence to ‘kill’ Russia through Ukraine. Washington appears to be eager to take on Iran disregarding the Chinese statement of defending Iran should the latter be attacked.
There is speculation that expansion of the Hamas-Israel war into a regional one will also lead to terrorist attacks in the US mainland. But the Biden Administration would unlikely be bothered about this. After all, only 2996 persons died in the 9/11 attacks whereas 35,000 persons have already died in gun violence in the US this year up to October 28, 2023.