17.01.2024 Author: Alexandr Svaranc

Gaza Conflict Moves Into 2024

Gaza Conflict Moves Into 2024

The New Year always brings with it new hopes for a better life, allows us to evaluate the past year and set up goals for the next year. The modern world is going through a number of crisis processes with particularly acute military hotspots in Europe and the Middle East. Unfortunately, U.S.-led Western powers divide the global North and South in their own way and continue to pursue war, not peace, with their policy of interference in regional processes.

As for the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Tel Aviv does not intend to stop its active offensive operations that are destroying the Palestinian enclave in the Gaza Strip. The daily toll of Palestinian deaths and injuries continues to rise, reaching about 22 thousand in three months of war.

Despite the growth of anti-government sentiment in Israel triggered by dissatisfaction among the masses with the policies of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (including both Bibi’s previous policy of supporting Hamas against Fatah in Ramallah and the unresolved issue of the release of Israeli hostages from Hamas captivity), Tel Aviv continues to wage a bloody war in Gaza. Israeli intelligence services, on the one hand, negotiated with mediators in Qatar, Egypt and Norway to achieve another truce in the combat zone for an “all for all” prisoner swap, and Hamas, on the other hand, is calling for an armistice to resolve the hostage issue.

Meanwhile, the Mideast conflict is not just moving into 2024, but is also changing its shape, gradually growing and involving neighboring countries. Given the growth of pro-Palestinian sentiment not only in the Middle East, but also far beyond the region, we are seeing the emergence of new threats against Israel not only in the diplomatic arena (where Turkey is particularly active), but also on the battlefield. It should be recognized that the pro-Iranian forces in Lebanon, Yemen, Syria and Iraq are the most militant representatives of the “axis of resistance” to Israel.

In the second half of December 2023, Yemen’s Houthis effectively blocked the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden with their naval attacks on Israeli-linked merchant ships, forcing many oil tankers and container ships to bypass this sea route and the Suez Canal. The US had to redirect its naval vessels (destroyers) to repel Houthi attacks, and then the US announced the establishment of a 10-nation naval task force to make the Houthis respect the maritime order. However, the declared US military coalition has not yet demonstrated its solidity. Meanwhile, the Houthis began to use ballistic missiles to test American aircraft carriers, which many link to Iranian facilities.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said attacks by Yemeni rebels on ships in the Red Sea increased the risk of a full-scale war in the Middle East.

Lebanese Hezbollah continues to strike selected targets in the northern regions of Israel, diverting some of the IDF forces and resources. Accordingly, Israel is forced to take retaliatory actions to neutralize Hezbollah’s efforts in southern Lebanon. Israeli military drones are targeting Hezbollah and Hamas military installations, communications and units stationed in Lebanon.

Thus, on January 2, 2024, the IDF struck Beirut for the first time since 2006. According to Turkish media, an Israeli strike on a Hamas office in southern Beirut killed four people (including one of Hamas’s most senior officials, Saleh al-Arouri). The Israeli side carried out a similar pinpoint operation at the end of December 2023 in Syria to eliminate the IRGC’s Chief Coordinator in Damascus, General Reza Mousavi, and other Iranian officers.

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict has increased attacks (mainly rocket attacks) on US military bases stationed in the Middle East (primarily Syria and Iraq). Thus, on November 26, 2023, Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh said that US forces had been attacked approximately 66 times in Iraq and Syria since October 17 and US personnel had sustained approximately 60 injuries. And although the Americans do not yet see significant damage to their interests from these attacks, the Pentagon intends to take adequate measures if they continue.

Meanwhile, in the United States, Republican Senator (South Carolina) Lindsey Graham has repeatedly urged the United States authorities to strike vital Iranian oil refining facilities and the IRGC headquarters in connection with military provocations of pro-Iranian forces (Lebanese Hezbollah and Yemeni Houthis) against Israel. “They have oil fields, they have a Revolutionary Guard headquarters you can see from space,” said the American senator. L. Graham proposes to “blow it off the map.”

The United States openly threatens Iran with the destruction of its oil infrastructure in order to put Tehran out of the global oil business. The latter forces Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi to accuse the United States of inciting new wars and massive violations of human rights. Furthermore, although Iran’s oil business fell under a powerful roller of American sanctions, it nevertheless found its market in key Asian countries. Accordingly, a strike on oil fields in Iran is also detrimental to the interests of such “Asian tigers” as China and India.

In response to the above-mentioned military actions of the Israeli intelligence services and the IDF against the Houthis, Hezbollah and the IRGC, Israeli territory may be hit by inland missile and other targeted strikes, thereby delaying the end of the conflict in Gaza.

Meanwhile, Turkey, which diligently avoids a direct military clash with Israel in favor of Palestine, again emphasized its diplomatic moves against Tel Aviv during the New Year holidays. Recep Erdogan drew parallels between Benjamin Netanyahu and Adolf Hitler. Turkey again held solidarity rallies (marches) in support of Hamas and Palestinian independence. Ankara and Tel Aviv have both refused to reopen their diplomatic missions in the two countries while Netanyahu and Erdogan rule there. In response to Erdogan’s accusations of Israeli genocide of Palestinians in Gaza, Netanyahu accused Turkey of committing genocide against the Kurds.

Meanwhile, the confrontation between Turkey and Israel takes place not only in the world diplomatic arena, but also within the framework of “secret diplomacy”, that is, the confrontation between the intelligence services. Thus, on January 2, the TRT Haber television channel reported a major success of Turkish counterintelligence against the intelligence and subversive activities of the Mossad. In particular, 34 people (mostly foreigners) were detained in eight provinces of Turkey (including Istanbul and Ankara) on suspicion of spying for Israel.

According to the Turkish prosecutor’s office, the suspects were going to “attack Palestinian activists living in Turkey on the instructions of the Mossad”. Total planned to detain about 46 people, but at the time of the counterintelligence operation, 12 of them managed to escape abroad. Searches were conducted at 57 addresses.

Turkey is ramping up its rhetoric against Israel, but it is not crossing the “red lines” of a military confrontation with the US-backed Jewish state. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan still hopes for a deal with the United States on the Swedish issue. In particular, Ankara is expecting the delivery of 40 modernized F-16 Block 70 fighter jets, which were promised by President Biden in a telephone conversation with Erdogan in exchange for the ratification of Sweden’s membership in NATO. It is no coincidence that Akif Çağatay Kılıç, the Turkish President’s Foreign Policy and Security Chief Advisor, expects progress over Sweden’s membership in NATO.

The Turkish President understands that despite the appointment of pro-American pragmatists (the duo Mehmet Şimşek and Hafiz Gay) to the financial bloc of the government, no economic miracle has occurred. On January 2, the Turkish lira exchange rate against the US dollar was 29.47 lira, interest rates of the Turkish Central Bank exceeded 45%, inflation set a new anti-record of 65%, and Turkish banks ended up with a short-term debt of $84 billion (that is, 10 % of the country’s GDP).

Accordingly, Turkey will continue to pursue active diplomacy in the Palestinian direction in 2024, but will not confuse Karabakh with Israel. The Middle East crisis requires the intervention of more serious forces to stop the fighting and resume the peace process.

As before, these forces remain outside the reach of the Middle East and represent an important part of the UN Security Council. And if in the twentieth century such forces were two great countries, two world centers of power and two poles – the USA and the USSR, today this two is complemented by China. Without coordinating its positions with Russia and China, the United States is unlikely to be able to independently resolve the growing Middle East crisis in the coming New Year of the Dragon 2024.


Aleksandr SVARANTS, Doctor of Political Sciences, Professor, exclusively for the internet journal “New Eastern Outlook”.

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