Could Israel’s attack on Gaza engulf the entire Middle East? It is a question many are asking, with the threat of a third intifada a real prospect.
Discontent is at boiling point. Clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces have multiplied in recent days, particularly in Ramallah and Hebron in the West Bank.
For the Hamas leadership, however, the violence is no surprise. Hamas representative Ayman Daragmeh said: “The current situation in Gaza requires an Arab and Palestinian stand. Statements condemning Hamas and holding it responsible don’t help the Palestinian people and are inappropriate given the number of casualties”.
Perhaps more worrying for Israel was yesterday’s support for a third intifada by Hizbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah. In front of thousands in Beriut he backed a Hamas call to arms.
Nasrallah said he was ready to respond to Israeli action. It is a threat the Jewish state will not take lightly, especially after its last fight with Hizbollah in 2006.
Iran has also reacted angrily. Yesterday it declared a national day of mourning, with thousands taking to the streets to denounce the Israeli bombardment.
Despite Hamas, Hizbollah and Iran all joined as one against Israel, its government says it had no alternative.
Israeli government spokesman Avi Pazner said: “For eight years we have tried everything. We tried to make truces, we have tried targeted operations, we have evacuated the Gaza Strip, we have tried everything. Nothing has worked. Unfortunately, we face a fierce and fanatical opponent who does not understand that we want to simply live in peace.’‘
Many fear Israel’s action will not only strengthen ties between Hamas, Hizbollah and Iran, but also lead to an escalation in violence. That view is shared by peace and anti-war demonstrators on either side of the political divide.