Thirty days after Operation Al-Aqsa Flood destroyed Israel’s psychological deterrence, Washington and Tel Aviv continue to take dangerous steps toward expanding their Gaza war into a regional conflagration.
Two weeks ago, both the US and Israel had begun to walk back slightly from their initial goal of “eliminating Hamas entirely” – a target many felt was unrealistic and unachievable.
But now, Tel Aviv has reiterated its goal of eradicating the Palestinian resistance in its war on the Gaza Strip, and the US is providing complete cover for the brutal Israeli campaign.
The scale of Israel’s bombardment is akin to Washington’s air campaigns in Vietnam, Korea, and Cambodia, and in the early days of its Iraqi “Shock and Awe” invasion. This level of destructive bombardment is historically unprecedented over a geographical area of only 365 square kilometers.
To describe the situation more precisely, the bombs dropped by Israel on the Gaza Strip outweigh the nuclear bomb with which the United States struck the Japanese city of Hiroshima in World War II. In the past few weeks, Gaza has endured the pain of 25,000 tons of explosives – compared to the 15,000 tons of the Hiroshima bomb, according to the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor.
Over 10,000 civilians – including 4,000 children – have been killed by indiscriminate Israeli firepower. An additional 2,200 Palestinians are missing under the rubble, half of whom are children.
Despite this, US officials publicly state that their allies in Tel Aviv have been careful not to cause civilian casualties, and that they continue to caution Israel not to inflict more civilian deaths in Gaza.
But actions speak louder than words, and Washington’s behaviors are thunderously in support of escalating the violence. To date, despite last weekend’s dazzling display of regional shuttle diplomacy by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the US refuses to strike a ceasefire agreement. Washington has also convinced its Arab allies to agree to continue the war – for now.
Arab regimes that have normalized relations with Israel – Egypt, Jordan, the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco – have not yet suffered the public wrath of their citizens who vehemently oppose Israel’s aggression on Gaza. Washington and Tel Aviv have thrown these Arab allies some crumbs to help them ward off mass domestic dissent. For instance, Blinken gave Jordan’s King Abdullah II a “hall pass” to airdrop aid supplies to the Jordanian hospital in Gaza on Sunday. This meaningless gesture followed last week’s recalling of Jordan’s ambassador from Tel Aviv: two actions in the span of one week suggests a lot of heat from the street in some Arab capitals.
But, in actuality, Jordanian air defenses are deeply involved Israeli and American systems in countering Yemeni and Iraqi missiles heading toward the occupied territories of Palestine.
During his whirlwind visit to key West Asian capitals, Blinken also carried with him more threats to the pro-Palestine regional Axis of Resistance, reiterating the warning that the US military, deployed in West Asia, the Red Sea, Persian Gulf, and the eastern Mediterranean, would counter any attempt to go to war.
This, while Washington is amassing even more land, air, and naval forces in the region to deter Israel’s enemies. The deployment of two aircraft carriers with a group of battleships each; four other naval groups; fighter and bomber aircraft; Patriot and THAAD air defense systems; and reinforcing all regional US military bases with more troops – and today, a US military announcement that a nuclear submarine has been dispatched to the “Middle East.”
All the Pentagon’s reinforcements to protect Israel’s unrestrained war on Gaza – which have not stopped since the Hamas-led resistance operation on 7 October – have apparently not been enough to deter the Axis of Resistance. And there is practical evidence of this:
First, Blinken visited the Iraqi capital wearing a bulletproof vest, where he went to convey his threats to the country’s myriad resistance factions. As soon as he departed from Baghdad airport, the Islamic Resistance in Iraq carried out more than one bombing of US bases in Iraq and Syria.
Second, rocket launches and drones continue from Yemen toward Israeli military bases in occupied Palestine, which are countered by US missile defense systems from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt before Israeli missile defenses are. Despite the US threats to Yemen’s Ansarallah resistance leadership, the rocket barrages have not stopped and will continue “until their targets are hit,” as announced by Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah in his long-awaited speech last Friday.
‘Hamas should win,’ says Nasrallah
Nasrallah was speaking on behalf of the region’s Resistance Axis alliance to which he belongs. During his speech, he directly laid out his alliance’s two main goals in the current war: first, a ceasefire; second, “the resistance in Gaza should win, and Hamas should win.”
Many in the Arab world and beyond interpreted Nasrallah’s speech as cautious and deescalatory. But his second goal belied his calm tone, representing a very high bar in this war. While Israel and the United States have set as their mutual goal the total defeat of Hamas and its rule in Gaza, Hezbollah and its alliance have set as their goal the Palestinian resistance’s ultimate victory.
Nasrallah then threatened the United States, saying that the resistance had prepared “what is necessary” to confront its naval fleets. As Tel Aviv well knows from decades of analyzing his speeches, the Hezbollah leader never exaggerates his military capabilities. And this was as clear a message as possible that the US military mobilization did not deter the Axis.
The Israeli leadership has declared that its war on Gaza will be a long one, and that it has no intention of striking a ceasefire deal. By providing full cover for Israeli atrocities, the US has triggered an escalation of attacks by the Resistance Axis on various fronts, according to confirmation from Axis sources.
The possibility of the war expanding into other geographical fronts against US military bases and interests now increases exponentially. Washington’s military buildups in West Asia are an incentive to fuel the war, rather than the “deterrent” Americans believe will prevent the conflict from expanding.
These American deployments only serve to embolden the Israeli leadership, providing them with full license to expand and intensify their killing field in Gaza – not just in massacring civilians with impunity, but in destroying a swathe of infrastructure that will ensure much of the territory remains uninhabitable.
In the meantime, the Palestinian resistance has no plan to surrender, as this will make the unparalleled Israeli devastation wreaked on Gaza meaningless. The Axis of Resistance will do everything in its significant power to prevent an Israeli victory in this war, which means that the region is headed toward a state of major war, beyond any “low-paced escalation” scenario that Tel Aviv or Washington anticipates or thinks it can control.
‘Ground Operation’ has only just begun
In short, the only thing preventing a regional war today is an American-Israeli decision to stop the bombing of Gaza.
There are several ways in which to help speed up this decision – one is to ensure that the Israeli army pays a heavy and unbearable price during its ground operations in the Gaza Strip. So far, ten days into their ground war, the occupation forces have not yet entered Gaza’s most populated areas, where they will encounter heavy troop losses. The excuse from Tel Aviv is that northern Gaza – where its army has entered with a plan to sever it from the south – still contains 400,000 Palestinian residents. So, Israel’s military has increased the frequency and intensity of bombardments in the north to force the displacement of the area’s remaining residents.
Despite these Israeli precautions, Hama’s Al-Qassam Brigades has been confronting the invading forces, inflicting heavy losses on troops and armored vehicles alike. The closer the occupation army gets to populated areas, the easier the targets they become for the resistance.
To paint a clearer picture of this battlefield reality, a Fox News correspondent who accompanied Israeli soldiers to the front line revealed that, despite Israel’s carpet bombing campaign over Gaza, its army has only penetrated one mile into Palestinian territory. In other words, the ground operation is still in its infancy, and has barely scratched the surface of losses it can expect to incur.
In the midst of this escalation, the US is now trying to buy time by proposing a “humanitarian truce” to allow the Israelis to organize their ranks, which are constantly exposed to attacks from the resistance. For this reason, Washington has re-intensified the Qatari mediation aimed at achieving a prisoner exchange between Hamas and Israel.
According to well-informed sources, the negotiations are currently limited to approving a truce for a period of 48 hours. During the proposed two-day period, the Egypt-Gaza Rafah border crossing will be opened for the entry of all humanitarian aid stuck in Egypt, and all Palestinian women and children prisoners in Israeli detention centers will be exchanged for the women and children captured by Hamas on 7 October, regardless of their nationality.
This mediation, if successful, is unlikely to pave the way for a protracted ceasefire – it will act as a break for the belligerents and allow Washington to organize a public relations “success” for the Biden administration.
Neither side will come up for air for too long. The US naval fleets and military aid transfers to the region are a guarantee that Israel’s war on Gaza will continue and preempt a major escalation in West Asia, from which the US and Israel will try to impose a new fait accompli that “integrates Israel into its surroundings” via normalization and other initiatives.
But West Asia is no longer exclusively the US or Israel’s playing field, and in recent decades, Washington has only ever been surprised by unforeseen circumstances in its myriad regional interventions. Today, those adversaries have never been stronger or more in lockstep.