Hamas Offensive: Keep Conflict with Israel from Expanding, Becoming Protracted

Palestinian Islamist organization Hamas has attacked Israel, and Israel has begun to retaliate. There are concerns that this could destabilize the region and harm the global economy. Both sides are strongly urged to exercise restraint.

Hamas has fired thousands of rockets into Israel from the Palestinian territory of Gaza, which the group effectively controls. In addition, Hamas fighters have entered southern Israel and shot at civilians, reportedly taking dozens of people into Gaza as captives.

The death toll on the Israeli side has reached several hundred. This senseless violence is unacceptable. Hamas must immediately cease its military actions and free the hostages.

Hamas has engaged in large-scale battles with Israel in the past. However, a cross-border attack like the latest one is unusual, as it exploited holes in Israel’s defenses.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that Israel is “at war” and launched massive airstrikes on Gaza. The prime minister has also called in tens of thousands of reservists and is poised to continue the offensive for a long time in an effort to weaken Hamas.

In Gaza as well, hundreds of people have reportedly died. There must not be a string of tragedies in which the general public suffers from a cycle of retaliation.

Hamas, which rejects Israel’s existence, is supported by Iran and the Lebanon-based Shiite Islamist group Hezbollah. Iran has expressed support for the Hamas attacks.

If Iran or Hezbollah becomes involved in the conflict, the fighting will turn into an even greater quagmire. The escalation of tensions could possibly cause oil prices to rise.

The U.N. Security Council was to hold an emergency meeting to discuss how to respond to the situation. First, the council should demand both sides implement an immediate ceasefire and work to calm the situation. Japan, as a current member of the council, must also strengthen its diplomatic efforts on the issue.

The latest incident has thrown cold water on the ongoing moves for reconciliation between Israel and the Arab states that have been backing the Palestinians.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has established diplomatic relations with Israel, and Saudi Arabia has expressed a desire for the normalization of ties. It is believed that Arab states have shelved solving the Palestinian issue, emphasizing economic relations with Israel, which excels in high tech.

This time, however, Saudi Arabia has been restrained in its criticism of Hamas, stressing that Israel’s hardline policy toward Palestinians is behind the move. This is in contrast to Western nations, which have condemned the Hamas attacks as terrorism.

Should the historically complex Palestinian question be left unaddressed, realizing the stability of the Middle East solely from the viewpoint of “pragmatism” is demonstrably difficult.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 9, 2023)