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The War in Gaza – five weeks on

Barbaric attack by Hamas on 7th Oct 2023 led to 1,200 Israeli deaths & 240 hostages – the deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust. Israel launched “Swords of Iron” to:

  • Destroy Hamas terrorist organization & infrastructure
  • Release all Israeli hostages

In relentless Israeli operation, over 11,000 have been killed, 3,000 missing & 28,000 injured in Gaza. Israel asked civilians to leave North Gaza. Of Gaza’s 2.3 million people, >1.4 million are displaced. 101 UN personnel & many aid workers have died. 45% buildings are destroyed/damaged. Hospitals in Gaza are shut or collapsing.

In every major hostility between Israel & Hamas – 2008, 2012, 2014, 2021 & 2023 – deaths in Palestinian territories outnumber those in Israel by a large margin. The number of deaths in Gaza Strip has surpassed total Palestinian deaths in last 15 year resulting from conflicts with Israel.

Pro-Palestine rallies have been organized across the world. Many point out that the barbaric acts of Hamas do not justify collective punishment for Palestinians. Several countries have broken or suspended diplomatic relations with Israel.

Localized war; oil cool: Despite violence in the West Bank, provocations by Hezbollah & Yemeni Houthis, and targeting of US assets in Iraq & Syria, the war in Gaza remains localized. Oil prices have cooled owing to weak demand from China & robust US stockpiles. Neither Iran nor its proxies have given any indication of spreading the war.

No to Ceasefire, Yes to Humanitarian Pause: Calling it battle of civilization vs barbarism, Bibi Netanyahu, despite global pressures, has said NO to ceasefire until all hostages are released. Brief humanitarian pauses for aid or release of hostage may continue.  Quantum of aid through Raffa crossing will be a function of capacity of aid agencies & of Israeli security carrying out screening of trucks & cargo entering Gaza.

Post-war Scenario

As the war rages on in full fury, diplomacy, led by the US & Qatar, is in overdrive. The US support to Israel is likely to continue .Even for the powerful IDF, destruction of Hamas & its infra will take time. It has built extensive underground network of tunnels & is deeply embedded in the civilian population, residential areas, hospitals, mosques & schools.

After the war, Israel will continue its military presence in Gaza. Any civilian authority will have to cooperate with Israel on two counts – demilitarize Gaza and de-radicalize Gaza, indicated Netanyahu.

Possible (not probable) scenarios include a prolonged urban guerilla warfare, major escalations in the West Bank or (intended or accidental) spread of the war beyond Gaza.

Saudi Arabia, which has no love lost for Hamas or Iran, may take longer to normalize relations with Israel. UAE’s ties with some Arab countries may come under strain.

As per the UN Secretary General, the best-case scenario is a reinvigorated Palestinian Authority assuming governance of Gaza with a “transition” plan (would be required as it will be difficult of Palestinians or Arab allies to accept Israeli troop presence) that guarantees the security of Israel and in return, Israel seriously negotiating a two-state solution with the support of the international community. The role of the US would be critical. The stand of Israel’s neighbors, key Arab states, and regional powers (incl Iran & Türkiye) would be important.

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