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Israeli assault on Gaza threatens wider Middle East conflagration
With each day that passes, Israel’s attempt to justify military aggression as a response to the capture of an Israeli soldier becomes less credible. Tel Aviv has signaled not only its intention to bring down the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority (PA), but also its readiness to inflict massive destruction to Gaza’s infrastructure and heavy civilian casualties in order to do so.
Already its assault has involved military raids in the West Bank to seize top Palestinian politicians and lawmakers and a provocative flight by four Israeli fighter planes over the summer palace of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while Assad was in residence. An Army spokeswoman said the flyover was intended as a warning “because the Syrian leadership supports and harbours terrorist leaders, among them Hamas, the kidnappers of the soldier.”
Israel claims that the raid that led to Corporal Gilad Shalit’s capture was masterminded by Hamas political leader Khaled Meshaal, who is exiled in Damascus. The government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has threatened Meshaal’s assassination.
Such an action would be tantamount to a declaration of war against Syria. This would dovetail with the ongoing efforts by Washington to undermine Assad’s regime and, together with the attacks on the Occupied Territories, ratchet up tensions between the US, Israel and Iran. Israel has made repeated threats of a military strike against Iran since September last year.
There is support for such an option amongst hard-line neo-conservatives in Washington, who have long insisted that only a broader military offensive targeting Iran and possibly Syria can extricate the US from the quagmire in Iraq and succeed in establishing America’s undisputed hegemony over the Middle East and its oil supplies.
The US administration likely signed off on an Israeli offensive in Gaza when President Bush met with Olmert at the White House in late May, in what was described as a “strategy session” dealing with the Palestinian Authority, Iran’s alleged nuclear ambitions and the US occupation of Iraq.