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Hamas-Israel conflict: Which nation can be the mediator?

Hamas-Israel conflict: Which nation can be the mediator?

After a brutal terror attack on Israeli territory last weekend by the militant Hamas group, considered a terrorist group by the EU, US and other nations, that left over 1,200 people dead, conflict in the region appears to be escalating.

This week the Israeli air force says it has dropped 6,000 bombs on the Gaza Strip, which, at just over 40 kilometers (25 miles) long, is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. Due to the massive airstrikes, there are now over 1,500 people dead in Gaza. In its attempts to free around 100 hostages being held by Hamas inside Gaza, Israel has also imposed a siege on the around 2.2 million inhabitants of Gaza, an area it has controlled entry to since 2007.

On the Israeli-Lebanese border, the militant Hezbollah group has fired rockets into Israel in support of Hamas. In the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Israeli settlers have been attacking Palestinians.

Region must lead negotiations

“There are clear fears across the Middle East that the region will become mired in a broader war,” Sanam Vakil, director of the UK-based think tank Chatham House’s Middle East and North Africa program, wrote in a briefing this week. A war that could draw in Palestinians elsewhere in Israel, neighboring Jordan and Egypt, Lebanon and even Iran, Vakil suggested. “Gulf Arab countries also fear their domestic security will be affected by cascading violence,” she added.

At the same time, there have been some attempts by the international community to arbitrate. Various countries have stated they want to help facilitate the return of the hostages to Israel, to provide a humanitarian corridor for Palestinian civilians under attack and to negotiate an eventual cease-fire.

The US, European nations, Russia and China have all said they would be keen to help.

However, Vakil argued, it is Middle Eastern countries that must take the lead. “The part played by the US, China and other international actors may well still be significant. But [regional] countries should lead,” she noted.

In fact, they must. In March, in what was seen as a diplomatic coup by many, China brought avowed enemies Saudi Arabia and Iran closer together. And the Chinese say they would be ready to assist here too. However, to do so, they have already conceded they’ll need to work with Egypt.

The US is also an integral partner in any talks because of that country’s close ties to Israel — but in order to contact Hamas, it too must rely on others.

Unwilling Egypt

Israel’s neighbor Egypt is intimately involved because it presides over the only other border crossing, apart from Israel’s, that Gazans can use to leave their blockaded territory.

This week, Egypt’s authoritarian leader, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, emphasized the need to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza. The Egyptian foreign ministry noted that their Gaza border crossing, Rafah, was open again, having been bombed by Israel earlier in the week.

Read the complete article here.

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