Expert warns of Israel-Iran war as Gaza invasion risks escalation spiral

Dr Tobias Borck on the implications of the current conflict between Hamas and Israel

With Israel having mobilised hundreds of thousands of troops close to the Gaza, a UK-based expert has warned military action risks an “escalation spiral” – and a war with Iranian proxies.

Israel’s military today told hundreds of thousands of civilians living in Gaza City to evacuate ahead of a likely Israel ground offensive, with the directive came after what the United Nations said was a warning they received from Israel to evacuate 1.1 million people living in northern Gaza within 24 hours.

Tension is surging after the terrorist attacks on Israel launched by Hamas on Saturday, which have so far claimed the lives of more than 1,000 Israelis.

Tobias Borck, a senior research fellow for Middle East Security at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) it was very difficult to predict what would happen next.

In a clip uploaded to the think-tank’s website, he said: “I think the situation on the ground is very dynamic, but I think what we can say for certain is that we have a deeply hurt traumatised and angry Israel now reacting.”

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Mr Borck outlined two main alternative scenarios in terms of what would unfold in the next few weeks and months.

He explained: “The first scenario is that the conflict remains largely contained to Gaza and southern Israel.

“That means there will most likely be a ground offensive by the Israeli military in the Gaza strip that will be a extremely destructive and bloody campaign.”

Nevertheless, scenario one would see the conflict contained within a relatively small area, Mr Borck said.

However, he continued: “Scenario two is that in reaction to that ground defences other groups and in particularly Hezbollah, and perhaps some other Iranian-backed groups in Syria, become involved in this conflict fully.

“We have seen some skirmishes along the Israeli Lebanese border, some skirmishes even across the Syrian border, but nothing of a major scale yet.

“But in the second scenario, I think there’s a real possibility of an escalation spiral that leads to a widening of this conflict.”

It was important to emphasise that what was seen at the weekend and ever since was the outcome of Palestinian-Israeli conflict first and foremost, as opposed to regional disputes.

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However, Mr Borck added: “That said, what is going to happen over the next few weeks over the next few months is going to have regional implications on Israel’s immediate neighbours.

“Lebanon in particular where, as I said, Hezbollah is one potential combatant in this conflict going forward, in Syria too, but also for countries like Egypt, which of course shares a border with the Gaza Strip.

“The Hamas attack on the seventh of October as a sign of what can happen when conflicts are not addressed when underlying tensions are not addressed.

“When root causes of conflict to remain unaddressed, the destructive potential is enormous.”

Suffering in Gaza has been rising dramatically with Palestinians desperate for food, fuel and medicine and the territory’s only power plant shut down for lack of fuel.

The morgue at Gaza’s biggest hospital overflowed as bodies came in faster than relatives could claim them.

US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin on Friday, a day after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was in Israel to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

At least 2,800 lives on both sides have died since Hamas launched its incursion last weekend.

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