Conflicts: New Alliances, Old Enmities: Gaza and the Middle East

Conflicts: New Alliances, Old Enmities: Gaza and the Middle East

The fate of the Palestinians is deeply rooted in the collective conscience of many countries in the Middle East. The Gaza war has now opened up this old wound.

A tangled web of conflicts, new alliances and old enmities stretches through the Middle East. The war between Israel and Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, since October 7th has shaken up the region. Not only because of the threat of expansion to neighboring countries, but because the fight for the rights of the Palestinians has long been at the center of politics for many of them.

There are now question marks behind rapprochements with Israel. The countries’ connections to the Gaza war at a glance:


Egypt plays a key role in trying to mediate between Israel and Hamas. Representatives from Cairo succeeded in doing this even after the Eleven-Day War in 2021. Because Egypt controls the only non-Israeli border crossing into the Gaza Strip, it is also concerned about large flows of Palestinian refugees into its own country. Hamas’s connections with extremists in North Sinai could further deteriorate the security situation there. There is also concern that Israel could shift responsibility for the coastal strip to Egypt. The population is largely on the side of the Palestinians.


Lebanon is home to Israel’s declared archenemy, Hezbollah, which is supported by Iran. The Shiite organization has built a kind of state within a state and is significantly more powerful than Hamas. Their goal and mission: resistance against Israel. Since the beginning of the war, there has been repeated shelling on the Israeli-Lebanese border, which has claimed lives on both sides. An escalation cannot be ruled out. Hezbollah maintains close ties to Hamas and has clearly positioned itself on the side of the “Palestinian resistance.” A war would plunge the country, paralyzed by a power vacuum at the top of the state and a massive economic crisis, into an even deeper crisis.


In Syria, Israel frequently attacked targets even before the war began to prevent Iran – allied with Syria’s government – and militias loyal to Iran from increasing their influence there. Israel has escalated attacks, including on airports in Damascus and Aleppo. The Syrian Foreign Ministry spoke of an “alarming pattern of belligerence.” US troops stationed in Syria have been attacked with drones and missiles at least nine times since the start of the war, and the US military responded with air strikes. As Israel’s most important ally, the USA has become even more of an enemy for pro-Iranian fighters in the region than before.


These attacks have also increased in Iraq: There the USA counted at least 14 attacks on its troops. Militias loyal to Tehran have great influence in Iraq, and the old discussion about the withdrawal of US troops – currently around 2,500 soldiers – has reignited. The powerful militia Kataib Hezbollah recently said that Americans are “evil people” and will “feel the fire of hell” if they do not leave the country. Contact with Israel has been punishable in Iraq since the summer of 2022, including travel to or relationships with Israel or the spread of “Zionist ideas” on the Internet. There is a risk of life imprisonment or the death penalty.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia stays very much in the background except for general statements about the war. This is also due to the complicated situation: the country is dependent on Israel’s ally the USA for its own security, but is also an important protective force for the Palestinians. While King Salman has made a lifelong commitment to protecting them, his son and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is said to view their concerns as secondary. There are therefore mixed signals coming from Riyadh. The possible normalization with Israel, which would follow rapprochements with Israel by the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco in recent years, is now on hold.


Many hopes are pinned on Qatar in an attempt to achieve a ceasefire or the release of more hostages. The small and very rich emirate is said to have supported the Gaza Strip with more than 2.1 billion US dollars, and its relations with Hamas go back to the 1990s. After the terrorist attack on October 7th, which has now left more than 1,400 Israeli dead, pressure is increasing on Qatar to break away from Hamas and also to stop hosting Hamas boss Ismail Haniya. The USA has so far accepted this attitude towards Hamas, which the West classifies as a terrorist organization, with its ally Qatar.


Yemen is 1,600 kilometers away, but the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels there could still pose a threat to Israel. There have already been a few attempted attacks on Israel. The Houthis’ arsenal, constantly expanding and proudly displayed at military parades, also includes long-range combat drones that can outwit even radars. “They are symbolic attacks, but important messages from Iran that its allies can attempt attacks on Israel from various locations and even hit US targets,” said expert Magid al-Madhaji from the Sanaa Center for Strategic Studies to the Emirati newspaper “The National “.


In Iran, Head of State Ayatollah Ali Khamenei praised Hamas’ major attack on Israel after a few days, but rejected any involvement. The USA and Israel in particular accuse Tehran of having supported Hamas for years and of being at least indirectly responsible for the attacks. The country should have no interest in a wildfire. Just a few weeks before the start of the war, there were cautious rapprochements with the USA following a prisoner swap. And Hezbollah in Lebanon, Tehran’s most important ally in the Middle East, has not yet entered the conflict with full force. Tehran is also likely to benefit from the anger in the Arab world against its arch-enemy Israel.


Turkey and Israel had actually only gotten closer again after years of ice age. Accordingly, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed caution shortly after the bloody Hamas attack and appeared to be seeking a mediator role. But as the number of victims in Gaza rose, Erdogan’s rhetoric also became sharper. He accused Israel of “genocide” against the Palestinian people and accused Israel’s government of war crimes. The number of Palestinians killed in the Gaza Strip has risen to 8,525 since the start of the war, according to the Hamas-controlled health authority. Israel has now withdrawn all diplomats from Turkey.

Source: Stern

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